Serenity Wins Film of the Year

Serenity

Tonight, the BBC’s Film 2005 announced the results of their annual poll for film of the year, and I have to say I am rather surprised – in top spot was Serenity, the movie version of Firefly that I blogged about in October.

I thought it might appear, as the film also came top in the SFX poll. However with it’s poor showing at the box office, and the fairly broad base of viewers to the show – it’s a general film programme, not specifically sci-fi, and the more general Total Film poll put it at number 19. Anyway, as we got to Batman Begins at number 2 I’d all but given up hope that it was even going to appear. Perhaps the most telling moment of it’s win was when Jonathan Ross asked his two studio guests if they had seen it – them having discussed most of the other films in the chart, and neither of them had. Perhaps it’s win will boost the DVD sales when it is released on February 27th, and maybe turn it into a bit of a sleeper hit.

King Kong

Today we took advantage of the lack of snow here, and took a trip up to London to see King Kong, Peter Jackson’s remake of the original 1933 movie.

The trip very nearly didn’t get started, we turned up in pretty good time for the train, leaving about fifteen minutes before the train was due. However we had to go from Wokingham, due to the main line through Woking being closed for maintenance over the Christmas and New Year period. When we got to Wokingham there was one ticket window open, and a queue pretty well out the door, and at the front two people buying an annual season ticket, and not having filled out the relevant form correctly. It is worth noting at this point that through all of this one of the other staff members on the station was very slowly sweeping the platform – quite why he couldn’t open the other ticket window and help clear the backlog I don’t know. Anyway, once they had finished, including one return push to the front of the queue, the tickets for the next few people were sold pretty quickly, until with the train rolling in, and us still two from the front of the queue, the next person again asked for an annual season ticket. At this point rather than participate in the potential lynching that seemed to be brewing in the queue behind us, we decided to take the risk, and try and buy the tickets on the train, which thankfully was pretty straightforward.

We decided to go see the film at the Odeon Leicester Square, on the same digital screen on which we had seen Star Wars earlier in the year. This time around the stalls and royal circle were almost full when we bought tickets, so instead we opted for the rear circle where we could still get seats in the centre of the block. To some extent this proved to be a better location, as with the size of the screen, with a seat in the stalls you can’t actually take in the whole screen as it’s just so big!

The film was excellent. Although it has been criticised for it’s length, we thought that despite a run time of about three hours, it didn’t really seem too long. Compared to the original version , and the 1976 remake there was a lot more backstory before the action reaches Skull Island. The bulk of this film is actually the chase across the island, leading ultimately to the capture of Kong, although even in the New York finale there is time for some restbite, with a great sequence with Kong playing on the ice in Central Park. In fact through all the film the use of CGI rather than stop frame animation has allowed new or enhanced scenes, with multiple dinosaurs including a spectacular dino-stampede, and some scenes with giant insects that had Beth jumping out of her seat.

This actually brings me on to perhaps the biggest difference between this film and the earlier versions, the fact that through modern CGI techniques there is actually an actor – Andy Serkis – who ‘plays’ Kong. What this gives is much more of a character to the giant ape, and much more believability to the whole thing than the stop frame animation of the older versions can ever give. This together with the significantly increased screen time that he gets as a character gives a much more satisfying result. One other noticeable change is that Kong actually remains the same size during the whole movie – in the original he is noticably significantly bigger when climbing the Empire State Building.

The other important difference between this and the previous remake, which again helps with the believability is that Jackson returns the film to it’s original 1930’s timeframe, rather than reworking the plot for a modern setting. To some extent the idea of a barely known island is a lot more believable in a 30’s setting than in age when people are orbiting the planet from space!

All in all we thought it was a great film, and although as a technical achievement the special effects of the original film should be noted, in terms of telling a story, the 2005 version is by far the best.

Anyway, after seeing the film, we decided to have a meal before we headed home. As usual, the restaurants around Leicester Square were crazy with long waits for a table everywhere, so we took a wander down to the Texas Embassy where we had been for the recent Geek Dinner and sample their regular menu. We were lucky, as a table for two was available as we walked in – there were a number of bigger parties with just as long wait as up around Leicester Square. We were not disappointed with the food either, and despite the location, the price was comparable with a good restaurant around Reading. Certainly somewhere we will go back to another time.

The Christmas Invasion Closing Theme

In my review of The Christmas Invasion, one of the changes I mentioned was the new orchestral version of the theme, with the missing part of the theme (commonly described as the middle eight) restored, however on the showing in our region, the continuity announcer talked over the top. Looking at the comments on the Whomix site amongst others it seems I wasn’t alone.

However, reading Behind the Sofa Again this morning they linked to an article on Sci-Fi heaven that provides the closing theme, without the announcer, taken from ‘a source at the BBC’.

I have to say, that as with the orchestral theme that was produced for the 1996 US co-production, (and I know I’m at odds with a lot of fans in saying this) I do like having a real orchestra playing the theme. In fact in general I tend to prefer the sound of a real orchestra – especially real brass – on most things, as it is a sound that even with todays pretty advanced synths, still hasn’t been properly captured. Anyway, you can find the new version of the theme here.