Under the Skin

Scarlett Johansson turns up in all sorts of weirdness. I quite respect her for that. There’s no doubt she could cruise from one major budget gentle drama to the next but she definitely has a nose for the weirder films. She turns up in everything from The Avengers to Vicky Christina Barcelona. And she was great in Luc Besson’s Lucy. She’s not bad here either, embracing her alien-in-a-transit-van-scouring-Scotland-to-devour-lonely-men role. You can say many things about her, but typecast is certainly not one of them!

And I wanted to love this. On paper its striking all the right notes. Aliens! A bit of horror! Scarlett Johansson! And it does start well. The preying upon lone men is a neat twist on the usual slasher movie niche – suddenly it’s not the dishevelled girl with smudged make-up who’s the obvious victim but the electrician, who lives alone and is just heading to the shops. It’s disarmingly different and quite interesting for it. Sadly, it just never really picks up and gets going. The first half hour or forty minutes whizzes by but then it just splutters and peters out. Questions are left unanswered but, far from being intriguing, I’m struggling to care. Who is this alien? Why are they here? What are they doing? … Who cares? It just fails to really grab you and get you involved.

A disappointing film. Lots of potential but little to show for it.

Drinks
Renaissance Stonecutter, a hearty ‘Scotch ale’ – very appropriate for the film. I didn’t know what to expect with this one but it was tasty. Big and red and fruity, I definitely want to give this another try,

The Matrix

It’s The Matrix. The Matrix. I don’t know if there’s any point writing any more words – those two say plenty.

It’s obviously a stone-cold classic. Its unforgettable action sequences influenced heaps of other action films and games, the memorable quotes stick pretty hard in your head (“I know king-fu”) and it was just so damn cool. Let’s pretend that they never made any more, that they never spoilt the legacy of the film with the crappy sequels, and focus on that one film: it’s a beautifully well-rounded sci-fi action movie. It’s got enough explosions, kicks to the head and machine-gun fire to keep the action fan happy. It’s got enough dystopian, pseudo-philosophical gibberish to keep the sci-fi fan happy.

I grew up watching The Matrix on VHS. I remember re-winding it to watch Neo and Trinity demolish the guards on repeat (“We need guns. Lots of guns”). Somewhere beyond the end of the feature was a documentary on how they filmed ‘bullet-time’. I watched it till the tape was worn. I’m obviously a long way from being able to form sensible critical opinions on this film: I love it and I’m very grateful to the Leeds International Film Festival for screening it on the massive great screen in the town hall.

Drinks
I don’t know. It was something tasty I got from the beer place in the Corn Exchange. But in my Matrix excitement I completely forget what.

Aliens

It’s Aliens. Aliens. One of the most iconic sci-fi films you could hope for. I first saw this one at a midnight screening at the Hyde Park Picture House. We went on a whim after seeing the flyers in the Hyde Park Social and I loved it. From Ripley’s general kick-ass demeanour, through Newt’s ability to be the only not-totally-irritating-child in the history of cinema to the fantastic, unforgettable, astonishing aliens this is a classic on every level.

And its so well paced. A week into film festival viewing I’ve got little tolerance left for wasted minutes. Any film that nudges towards the 2 hour mark and can’t easily justify it gets a mark down in my book. I’ve seen great stories told in 69 minutes. Why do you need 2 hours? But the 2 hours of Aliens flies past at breathless pace.

I don’t think there’s any point me adding any more words here. If you’ve seen it, you know what I mean. If you haven’t, stop reading now and go and see it!

Drinks
Brewdog Punk IPA. Its sold everywhere now. The hipster in me instinctively sneers at this – it seems somehow less interesting – but this isn’t them selling out, this is them winning. They never set out to be small time artisan batch-brewery, they set out to take on the big guns at their own game and make better beer. So really, seeing Brewdog on the shelves of Tesco is a good thing.