Category: films


one of my oldest memories is krullsettling down on a sunday afternoon to watch a piece of tacky 80s sci-fi or fantasy. films like Tron, The Dark Crystal and Willow are all films that i have faint memories of sitting down to watch between the ages of 5 and 10, only for them to disappear from my consciousness until years later when some rattle at the back of my head made me pick them up again. Krull was always one of the most mysterious of these films, for the simple fact that i’d try and describe it to people, “it’s got a big castle and they shoot lasers and ride around on horses!” only to get blank looks back, people obviously doubting the memory of a five year old viewer. i managed to tear the knowledge from someone on a long forgotten message board a few years back, leading me to finally get hold of the DVD and watch it again. this afternoon, i decided to relive those sunday afternoons of old and curled up in a chair to watch it.

krull actors

David Battley (left), Freddie Jones (second left), Liam Neeson (third left) and Alun Armstrong (right)

now this is probably the point at which (if you hadn’t read the title of this post, anyway) you might expect me to confess its utter rubbishness, ‘best left as a fond memory!’ i hear you cry. well actually no! because while i can watch it now with a far more critical eye, it hasn’t actually lost any of that magic which made me think about it year on year through the 90s. looking at the cast list now, it reads like a who’s who of british actors, yet in 1983, this was a breakthrough role for many of them. Liam Neeson and Robbie Coltrane have probably gone on to have the most successful careers, but Alun Armstrong (New Tricks), Todd Carty (Eastenders), Freddie Jones (Emmerdale) and the gorgeous Lysette Anthony (Corrie, Hollyoaks and others) all star, along with David Battley, bassist in Eric Idle’s comedy band The Rutles. for the proper geeks like me, we even spot Ken Marshall in the lead role, who later went on to star as Commander Eddington in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine.

as has been noted in countless reviews of the film, a cross between The Lord of the Rings and Star Wars, we see the heroes embark on their epic quest to rescue the captured princess, battling against cyborgs and clones, while encountering giant spiders and seers. there’s something quite quaint about the basic special effects, though the faceless slayers provide an element of horror, with their inhuman wails upon dying remaining as clear in my memory as the day i first sat down to watch the film on that rainy sunday afternoon. krull filmupon reaching the lair of the The Beast, the heroes start dropping like flies, with most of them meeting a grizzly end at the hands of slayers. this fantastic (meant in the literal sense) yet slightly naff world, coupled with the appearances of many a future soap star, is why it remains such a favourite of my youth though. there’s something quintessentially British about the film that makes it charming even now, and while it doesn’t really stand up to its yank counterparts of the time (Star Wars, Blade Runner, E.T., Star Trek II, Dune were all american contemporaries), it’s one of those films i can’t help loving. having snored through a viewing of Blade Runner the other day in yet another attempt to see what the fuss is about recently, there’s no doubt which one i’d rather be watching. sure, it’s technically inferior in almost every way, but that’s not necessarily what i want from a film every time. Krull is funny, it’s exciting, it doesn’t take itself seriously, and it contains just the right amount of british silliness to make it a classic in my eyes. i might be alone in that, but meh, i’ve never been a trend setter.

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Back to the Future marathon

so i had a spare afternoon, with Back to the Futuremy study done for the day, and what i really needed was a heavy dose of 80s sci-fi. wasn’t feeling in the mood for anything too deep and the trilogy box-set has been staring at me from the shelf for ages. the lure of a six hour geek fest was too good to turn down, so i settled in for the afternoon and made myself comfortable. it’s easy to forget quite how good these films are until you watch them again. they’re like lots of those 80s sci-fi franchises, like robocop, terminator etc that form a big part of my early years, yet i never seem to go back to them enough. anyhow, it was time to go back, back to the future! or do i mean back to the past? whatever.

the first film in the trio is, in my opinion, the best of the lot. structurally, it’s just so perfect, with the classic ideas of the dysfunctional family, the mad scientist, libyan terrorists, marty’s mission to make his parents fall in love coupled with his ultimate goal of returning home, culminating in the epic lightning storm at the climax. not only is the story perfectly planned out, but it’s shot beautifully and the cast absolutely nails both the comedic and dramatic elements of the script. the rapport michael j fox and christopher lloyd enjoy shows that the late decision to replace eric stoltz with fox after 5 weeks of shooting, really was the right decision.

delorean time machine

the coolest time machine ever?

although, in my opinion, part one is the perfect film, part two is where it starts to get really clever and interesting for the geeks. the way the separate timelines interact with each other in part two is simply genius. as we see events from the first film unfolding in the background of the second film, we get that hint of realisation in our mind that turns us into active instead of passive consumers of the film. while part one delivers us a ready made classic, part two gives us something a little bit more challenging, that we have to work at a little ourselves to really get complete audience satisfaction. what’s also great about this film is we get the classic ‘what the 80s think the future is going to look like’ thing. generally, it’s done really well, and even the slightly naff bits are done with that bit of 80s coolness which you’re just about able to get away with nowadays, the power nike boots for example.

doc's new time machine

though this one runs it close...

moving onto the final film, the one many people consider the weakest, i was really hoping it wasn’t going to disappoint like some of my friends had suggested. luckily, it did no such thing, and the change of setting to the wild west is a welcome one that enables them to film a great cowboy romp, with lovely little touches like the confrontation between marty and buford tannen reminiscent of a classic spaghetti western. i actually enjoy part three more than part two, as it follows the structure of the first film a lot more closely. yet again, lloyd and fox utterly excel in their roles, with the comic moments providing some of the biggest laughs i’ve had in ages. i think what i find so charming about the whole trilogy is the way they are interwoven so closely with each other. whether that’s through the interlocking timelines, or simple cinematic details such as the spinning numberplate after each of the delorean’s first and last trips through time. tiny things like that, coupled with the amazing storyline, add up to make it such a beautifully constructed trilogy, combining just the right amounts of excitement, comedy and every now and then, tragedy too.

this post isn’t really intended as a review, though i could probably proselytise for a lot longer than i have already on the films. for a really great article that goes into much greater depth on the films, i recommend visiting this piece… 52 Reasons Why BACK TO THE FUTURE Might Just be the Greatest Film of all Time i guess i just wanted to let you lot know how great i think this film is. it forms a pretty big part of my early childhood sci-fi memories, and it feels so good to be able to go back to something like that and think, ‘wow, this is actually even better than i remember it’. totally high on life after this particular six hour marathon.


i started writing this blog entry in March, and it’s only taken me 7 months to finish it. suffice to say stuff happened that meant i didn’t pay as much attention to the blog as i should have done. shameful i know. anyway, i’ve finally got back in the mood for it, and with me starting a uni course recently, i might be a bit better at writing the odd blog about something which takes my fancy. inspiration is a bitch sometimes. on my course, there are even a couple of sci-fi novels, so if you’re very lucky(!), you might even get me copying an essay or two onto my blog! anyway, on with the robots…

it’s not often i get to talk about two of my favourite things in the same piece, but in this case, my robot of the day has a slightly more cultured background than first appears. Robby the Robot, first appeared in the 1956 film Forbidden Planet (and after that, numerous other tv and film appearances), which is of course an adaptation of Shakespeare’s The Tempest. that means that Robby, one of the earliest and most iconic examples of robots on film, was based on the Shakespeare character Ariel. it may only be me, but i reckon that’s pretty cool. of course those who might be familiar with Forbidden Planet, probably know that it also starred Leslie Nielsen as Commander John J. Adams in his breakthrough movie role, and it’s worth checking out for this alone.

the film’s poster features Robby in an iconic pose, menacingly carrying a classic 50s pin-up girl. this pose has been copied and adapted ever since, yet ironically, this was not a scene in the movie. Robby was in fact a friendly robot, with the only instance of him carrying someone being the rescue of an injured male character. nevertheless, Robby became a huge star, appearing in Lost in Space, The Twilight Zone, The Man from U.N.C.L.E., Wonder Woman, Gremlins, The Simpsons, Futurama and even as a prop in a Doctor Who episode. i could probably go on and on about Robby, going through all of his appearances, but it might get boring after a while. to you anyway. suffice to say, that Robby is one of the original, one of the best and one of the most recognisable robots in the world today. that’s he’s inspired by a character in one of my favourite Shakespeare plays just makes him even more ace.

my first thought when i heard this, was ‘oh my god, this is the most awesome news i’ve had all year’ (you can tell it’s been a rubbish year for me so far). the second thought i had, was ‘this could be really really shit’. of course, my third thought, was ‘who cares, this is going to be the best thing to happen in ages!’. as you might be able to tell, i’m pretty damn happy that one of my favourite cult films ever – Tron – is getting a sequel only 28 years after the original came out, in the form of Tron Legacy. you can watch the trailer if you click this link here!

i can’t remember when i first got to watch the film, but seeing as it was released a year before i was born, i’m guessing it was on tv at some point in the late ’80s.  for years it was one of those films that were just a vague memory from my childhood, i couldn’t remember the name of the film, and i could barely remember what happened in it, apart from the super cool bike chase sequences and the laser frisbee fights. it was only years later when trying to describe this obscure film from my childhood to a flatmate at uni (after years of baffling anyone i mentioned it to), that they said casually, ‘oh, you mean Tron, yeah, it’s ok’. finally after all these years, i could actually go into a shop and seek out this lost film from my childhood. a similar story surrounds my quest to find Krull, after years of wondering what the hell that awesome film i saw in 1988 was, with only the flimsiest of details to describe it to blank-faced friends.

anyway… onto Tron Legacy. the good news is that they’re retaining some of the characters and actors from the original, with Jeff Bridges and Bruce Boxleitner reprising their roles as Flynn and Tron, although the setting comes over 20 years into the future of the original, as Flynn’s now grown-up son discovers the computer system his father disappeared into years earlier. the film even has John Hurt and Michael Sheen making appearances, and as if the film couldn’t get any better, Daft Punk are doing the soundtrack, and rumoured to be performing cameos in the film itself. from the trailer, it looks like the futuristic, electro-neon feel of the original film has been maintained, with the now dated (though advanced for 1982) special effects given a makeover for the year 2010. it’s too early to be making predictions or reviews at this point, but with the news that Tron Legacy will be presented in 3D digital and Imax 3D, i’m fairly sure that it’s going to be a massive hit, and i actually can’t wait until its december release date, later this year.

Hot Rod was always my favourite transformer. when i was growing up, my two brothers had huuuuuge collections of transformers toys, with one collecting autobots and the other collecting decepticons. all i was left with was a couple of small crappy toys that had sparks fly out of the back of them as you dragged them across the floor (which were obviously pretty cool, but nowhere near as cool as massive robot toys that turned into guns, sports cars and fighter planes). unfortunately, when transformers was still being published by marvel comics, i was just a little too young to be getting into them, so all my memories come from the toys and the 1986 animated transformers movie, which i somehow managed to procure a pirate copy of at the age of 7.

i’ll probably alienate most of the people reading this now, but i always thought Optimus Prime was a bit of a dick. i mean, for a start, he just turned into a big truck. Galvatron/Megatron turned into massive guns! and  Hot Rod’s sports car was infinitely more kickass than either Prime or Ultra Magnus’ freight trucks. added to this, Prime was killed by being chucked over a cliff by Megatron and proceeded to hand leadership over to the biggest pussy on the autobot side. it was only once Hot Rod came to the rescue and relieved Ultra Magnus of his duties that everyone was saved from being screwed over by the planet eating robot, Unicron.

apparently, one of his catchphrases was “action is my middle name”, which is pretty cool, as long as you forget that another one was the slightly more rubbish “wisdom will always defeat firepower”. like most transformers, he could fire lasers out of his arms, but he also had a retractable saw blade in his arm , which let’s face it, pisses all over anything Ultra Magnus or Optimus Prime had. in fact, the only downside to his whole character, was when he had to take on the crappy name of Rodimus Prime, upon taking over leadership of the autobots. but then again, i guess crappy names kind of go with that job.