Monday, 31 October 2016

The Babadook

Year of Release:  2014
Director:  Jennifer Kent
Screenplay:  Jennifer Kent, based on the short film Monster by Jennifer Kent
Starring:  Essie Davis, Noah Wiseman, Hayley McElhinney, Daniel Henshall, Barbara West, Ben Winspear
Running Time:  94 minutes
Genre:  Horror

This genuinely creepy Australian film focuses on single mother Amelia (Davis) whose husband died taking her to the hospital to give birth to her now six year old son, Samuel (Wiseman).  Amelia spends her days working in a retirement home and looking after her son.  She has very few friends, the only person she is really close to is her sister, Claire (McElhinney) who has no understanding of what she is going through.  Sam suffers from insomnia and is obsessed with imaginary monsters, which he has built homemade weapons to fight.  One night Amelia reads to Sam from an anonymous pop-up book called Mister Babadook which describes a monster called The Babadook which torments an kills people once they become aware of it's existence.  Amelia is deeply disturbed by the book's unsettling story and graphic imagery, and Sam is terrified, convinced that the Babdook is real.  Amelia soon comes to believe that he may be right.

This film is less a ghost story and more a harrowing examination of a woman's mental breakdown.  Amelia is a deeply unhappy woman, lonely, unsatisfied at work, living soley for her troubled son, unable to get over the death of her husband.  Essie Davis provides a powerful performance as Amelia, haunted by far more than ghosts.  To be properly scary a horror film has to connect with real primal fears, and this does: a fear of growing mad, a fear of a parent harming their child, and a child's fear that their parent may stop loving them or even hurt them.  It's also a film about grief and how to live with it.  The Babadook itself, a pale-faced monster with a tall stovepipe hat and sharp claws is barely shown in the film, and bears some resemblance to the concept of the "Shadow People" of urban legend.  The overwhelming, shadowy creature can be seen in purely symbolic terms.  Taking place almost entirely in a creepy, run-down house, prone to electrical failures, the scares are mostly character driven and slow-burning.  It conjures a strange fairy-tale atmosphere, particularly in it's use of old cartoons, and Georges Melies silent fantasies that Amelia watches on TV.  Jennifer Kent originally wanted to film the movie in black-and-white, and uses a kind of washed out palette with muted colours, making everyone look haunted.  This is one of the most genuinely frightening horror films of the past few years and I would think taht some viewers, particularly parents, will react to it on a very primal level.

    Noah Wiseman and Essie Davis hunt The Babadook

Sunday, 30 October 2016

Galaxy of Terror

Year of Release:  1981
Director:  Bruce D. Clark
Screenplay:  Marc Siegler and Bruce D. Clark
Starring:  Edward Albert, Erin Moran, Ray Walston, Taaffe O'Connell, Robert Englund, Grace Zabriske, Sid Haig
Running Time:  81 minutes
Genre:  Horror, science-fiction

The crew of the spaceship Quest are sent to a remote planet to investigate the disappearance of an earlier craft.  The rescue team soon discover a strange alien pyramid , and are attacked and gruesomely killed one by one by strange creatures, corresponding to their individual fears.

This is one of numerous rip-offs of Alien (1981) that seems to infest cinema in the early 1980s, on their way to clogging up the bargain basement racks of video stores the world over.  Produced by B-movie maestro Roger Corman on an obviously low budget, this film is graphically gruesome in a  way that would be funny, if it wasn't for a notorious scene where a female crewmember (played by Taffee O'Connell) is stripped, sexually assaulted and killed by a giant slime covered maggot-like monster.  The film is oddly constructed, with what should be an essentially simple plot complicated by bizarre subplots that are either never properly developed or just dropped entirely.  The eclectic cast includes Erin Moran (Joanie from Happy Days) alongside genre stalwarts such as Grace Zabriske (Twin Peaks), Sid Haig (House of 1,000 Corpses) and Freddy Krueger himself Robert Englund.  The film's strength is it's imaginative production design, from future director James Cameron, who also worked as the Second Unit Director, in fact echoes of the spaceship sets in this film can be seen in Cameron's Aliens (1986).

This isn't the worst of the Alien rip-offs, but your best sticking with the original.  The sex scene is exploitative, and many people may find it very offensive, so proceed with caution.

Robert Englund faces a Galaxy of Terror

Saturday, 29 October 2016

Doctor Strange

Year of Release:  2016
Director:  Scott Derrickson
Screenplay:  Jon Spaihts, Scott Derrickson and C. Robert Cargill, based on the character created by Steve Ditko
Starring:  Benedict Cumberbatch, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Tilda Swinton, Benedict Wong, Rachel McAdams, Mads Mikkelsen, Michael Stuhlbarg, Benjamin Bratt
Running Time:  115 minutes
Genre:  Fantasy, science-fiction, action, superhero

This is a film based on the Marvel Comics character and is part of the ongoing Marvel Cinematic Universe franchise.  In New York City, Doctor Stephen Strange (Cumberbatch) is an acclaimed neurosurgeon, until he is badly injured in a car accident.  Unable to return to surgery because of nerve damage to his hands, Strange is confronted with the loss of his purpose in life.  Desperate to heal his hands by any means necessary, Strange's quest leads him to Kathmandu, Nepal, where he enconters the Ancient One (Swinton), and her followers, known as "Masters", including Mordo (Ejiofor), who Strange befriends, and stern librarian Wong (Wong).  The Ancient One takes Strange on as a pupil, training him in mystical practices and sorcery.  However, Stange soon becomes aware of the dark side of sorcery, when a renegade (Mikkelsen) threatens to unleash dark and terrible forces.

This is very much a superhero origin story and follows a path that we have seen many times before.  There is also the problem that Strange's powers and the film's mythos are quite complex and so there is a lot of exposition necessary.  However in the confines of this, the film manages to work.  It's smart, funny and full of action.   Cumberbatch has a lot of charisma and makes the, at times, pretty unlikable Strange an interesting and amusing character, however no one else really gets a chance to shine, being there to provide  exposition or conflict.  The character of the Ancient One in the comics is a Tibetan man, the film swaps the gender and, controversially, the ethnicity of the character, in another example of Hollywood whitewashing.  Another problem is that Rachael McAdams is completely underused as Strange's colleague and love interest, and really has more or less an extended cameo.

However the film has a lot going for it, and is well worth seeing on the biggest screen you can find.  For one thing it is possibly the closest thing you can get, legally, to a full on psychedelic trip.  The special effects are absolutely stunning, with buildings and entire cities becoming beautifully complex, floating, changing Rubik's cubes (ask someone who remembers the 80s).  It has a distinct look and style, and may be too oddball for some True Believers.  Speaking of which, look out for the obligatory cameo from Stan Lee, and remember to stay until the end of the credits.

           Benedict Cumberbatch is Doctor Strange

Friday, 21 October 2016

"Rivers of London" by Ben Aaronovitch

Year of Publication:  2011
Length:  392 pages
Genre:  Fantasy, crime

Police Constable Peter Grant is a rookie in London's Metropolitan Police, and is tasked to guard a headless corpse discovered on the street, and ends up taking a witness statement from a ghost.  He is approached by Chief Inspector Thomas Nightingale, who shows him a secret side to London, a world of magic, ghosts and vampires.  Becoming Nightingale's magical apprentice, Peter finds himself working with Nightingale to police the supernatural world of London.  Peter soon finds himself embroiled in a family feud between two human personifications of the River Thames.  However, London finds itself gripped by a bizarre series of unexplained violent attacks, and Peter has to solve the mystery before it claims the lives of his friends.

This novel is a thoroughly entertaining blend of urban fantasy and police procedural.  It manages to work as both, it's detective story elements are suspenseful and intriguing and the fantasy elements are gripping, and the two blend together well.  It's sometimes dark but, told through the first person perspective of Peter Grant, there's a strong vein of laconic humour running through the book.  It's an imaginative tale, with well-drawn characters and an engaging protagonist.  Sometimes uneven in tone, it tends to veer between light comedy and quite graphic horror, this is still a well-written, fast moving tale that appeal to both fantasy fans and thriller fans looking for something different.


Saturday, 15 October 2016


Year of Release:  2016
Director:  Ron Howard
Screenplay:  David Koepp, based on the novel Inferno by Dan Brown
Starring:  Tom Hanks, Felicity Jones, Omar Sy, Ben Foster, Sidse Babett Knudsen, Irrfan Khan
Running Time:  121 minutes
Genre:  thriller, adventure
In present day Florence, Italy, Professor Robert Langdon (Hanks) wakes up in a hospital bed with concussion, bizarre apocalyptic visions and no memory of the past couple of days.  He immediately finds himself being hunted by hired killers and, along with a hospital doctor Sienna Brooks (Jones), goes on the run.  The two find themselves embroiled in a plot by a scientist who intends to "save" humanity from it's overpopulation crisis, by wiping out billions of people with his deadly "Inferno" virus.

The above is not a spoiler.  We learn about the Inferno virus before the opening credits have finished.  This will be familiar ground to fans of previous Dan Brown adaptations, such as The Da Vinci Code (2006) and Angels and Demons (2009).  It's structured like a scavenger hunt, with Langdon and Brook deciphering clues secreted in ancient works of art and Dante's The Divine Comedy which sends them to the next clue.  The outcome is never really in doubt, and the film drags in it's first hour, but it does pick up pace, and the ending is quite exciting.  The story is of course completely ludicrous as the plots and double-crosses mount up.  However the idea of Langdon being incapacitated and not able to make full use of his greatest asset, his mind, in initially interesting but it rapidly fades away.  The villains are also intriguing in that they genuinely believe they are doing the right thing, although I suppose that is true of most people.

The film is well-cast, with Tom Hanks as appealing and engaging as ever, and Felicity Jones and Sidse Babett Knudsen providing strong support.

 Tom Hanks and Felicity Jones search for clues in Inferno

Friday, 14 October 2016

"The Bricks That Built the Houses" by Kate Tempest

Year of Publication:  2016
Length:  399 pages
Genre:  slice-of-life

The novel follows the lives of a group of 20-somethings in London:  Becky is an aspiring dancer, working as a waitress and part-time masseuse. Harry sells drugs to rich people in clubs and at parties, while dreaming of setting up a bar/restaurant/performing arts venue/community center.  Harry is in love with Becky, but Becky is dating Pete, Harry's jealous, bitter, unemployed younger brother. They struggle with dead-end jobs, complex friendships and relationships, violent maniacs, politics and angry drug-dealers, all the time trying to pursue their dreams and escape the emptiness of their lives in south-east London.

Kate Tempest is an acclaimed poet, rapper and playwright, this is her first novel.  The prose is deft with some beautiful passages, and a strong ear for dialogue.  The novel moves between past and present, detailing the early lives and backgrounds of the characters.  The book treats it's characters  with real compassion, even when they make bad choices.  It also portrays a powerful portrait of inner-city British life.  This is a passionate, engaged, relevant novel, written with real heart.  Some of the storylines conclude a little too neatly at the end, but this is a minor criticism.  It's a great book.


Monday, 10 October 2016


Year of Release:  2011
Director:  Nicolas Winding Refn
Screenplay:  Hossein Amini, based on the novel Drive by James Sallis
Starring:  Ryan Gosling, Carey Mulligan, Bryan Cranston, Christina Hendricks, Ron Perlman, Oscar Isaac, Albert Brooks
Running Time:  100 minutes
Genre:  crime, thriller

Ryan Gosling stars as the unnamed Driver, a mechanic and part-time movie stunt driver who occasionally moonlights as a getaway driver.  Living a quiet, solitary existence, his only friend is his employer / manager Shannon (Cranston).  However, the Driver soon finds himself drawn to his neighbor Irene (Mulligan) who lives alone with her son, Benicio (Kaden Leos), her husband, Standard (Isaac), is in jail.  However when Standard is released and forced into taking part in a robbery, the Driver has to take extreme measures to protect Irene and Benicio.

Nicolas Winding Refn is a fantastic visual stylist, and here he turns Los Angeles into a seductive, neon-drenched netherworld.  Despite being set in the present day, the film has a kind of retro, 1980s feel about it, accentuated by Cliff Matinez's pulsating synth score, but the Driver himself could almost be a Western hero, the Clint Eastwood-style Man With No Name.  Certainly, with his silk jacket emblazoned with a scorpion logo on the back, the blank-faced Gosling turns in an iconic performance with very little dialogue, communicating a lot with just a quick look and the twitch of his mouth.

Mostly, this is a slow-moving film, but it is punctuated with sudden bursts of graphic violence (warning:  the violence is pretty shocking, especially as it often erupts so suddenly).  The storyline is fairly predictable, although this isn't really a plot driven film, it's a mood piece.  Also Carey Mulligan really isn't given much to do at all, and the other principal female character, Christina Hendricks' Blanche, has barely any screen-time at all.  However, Bryan Cranston is striking as the always unlucky Shannon.

It may be too slow and too brutal for some, but it is a ride worth taking.

Carey Mulligan and Ryan Gosling in Drive    

Saturday, 8 October 2016

When Marnie Was There

Year of Release:  2014
Director:  Hiromasa Yonebayashi
Screenplay:  Masashi Ando, Keiko Niwa and Hiromasa Yonebashi, based on the novel When Marnie Was There by Joan G. Robinson
Starring:  Sara Takatsuki. Kasumi Arimura
Running Time:  103 minutes
Genre:  drama, fantasy, animation

This animated film is an adaptation of the popular children's novel When Marnie Was There by Joan G. Robinson, transposing the setting from 1960s Norfolk, England to modern day Japan.  Anna Sasaki (Takatsuki) is an introverted 12 year old, who suffers an asthma attack at school.  Her worried foster mother sends Anna to spend the summer with relatives of hers in the country, believing that the air will do Anna some good.  Anna becomes fascinated by a dilapidated old mansion across the marshes, known as The Marsh House.  One night Anna meets a mysterious girl called Marnie, who lives at the Marsh House.  The two form a firm friendship, and Anna learns some secrets about Marnie and about herself.

This was made by Japan's legendary Studio Ghibli, and was their last film before the studio went on a hiatus following the retirement of studio head Hayao Miyazaki and may be their final film.  If it does prove to be their last film, this is a wonderful farewell.  It doesn't reach the heights of their best work, but it is visually stunning, and has enough emotion and sense of wonder to provide a more than worthwhile addition to the studio's peerless roster.  It is a surprisingly dark film that touches on very bleak subject matter, such as bullying and parental neglect, and considering it's aimed at children, it may be disturbing for some.  The story spins an intriguing mystery, and deals with the connections among family and friends, and past and present.  

       When Marnie Was There

Thursday, 6 October 2016


Year of Release:  1984
Director:  David Lynch
Screenplay:  David Lynch, based on the novel Dune by Frank Herbert
Starring:  Kyle MacLachlan, Francesca Annis, Jurgen Prochnow, Jose Ferrer, Kenneth McMillan, Sting, Sean Young, Everett McGill, Dean Stockwell, Patrick Stewart, Virginia Madsen, Max von Sydow
Running Time:  131 minutes
Genre:  science-fiction

This adaptation of Frank Herbert's 1965 science-fiction novel is generally considered a disaster, and right off the bat I have to say that it's really not that bad.  The story is set in a distant galaxy and involves two feuding families from two different planets:  The Atreides from the planet Caladan, ruled by patriarch Duke Leto (Prochnow), with his concubine Lady Jessica (Annis) and their son Paul (MacLachlan); and the Harkonnens from Geidi Prime, ruled by the sadistic and grotesque Baron Vladimir (McMillan) and his nephews, Feyd-Rautha (Sting) and the Beast Raban (Paul Smith).
The Atreides and Harkonnens are both desperate for control of the desert planet Arrakis (nicknamed Dune), a world devoid of natural water, riddled with deadly, giant subterranean sandworms,  and sparsely populated by a mysterious people known as the Fremen.  Arrakis is however vital, because it is the only source of the "spice melange", the most valuable substance in the universe, which can extend life and expand consciousness.  It's most important property is the ability to "fold space" thereby making interstellar travel possible.

This is a deeply frustrating film because there is a lot about it that is really great, and so much that is really bad.  It's worse problem is that it tries to condense Herbert's long, complex novel, which involves an intricate back-story into a too short a time, and this isn't a short film.  In the event much of the film's dialogue is purely exposition to advance the plot, with a lot of voice-over narration to explain what the hell is happening.  However it is a visually stunning film, with some of the most striking sets and production design that I have seen, and it does create a number of unique worlds and at it's best creates a genuine sense of wonder.  It also hasn't dated too much, except for some special-effects shots, and the very 1980s soundtrack by Toto and Brian Eno.  Watching it is a unique and unforgettable experience, with Kenneth McMillan creating, in Baron Harkonnen, one of the most memorable screen villains in history.  In fact, the Harkonnen scenes are genuinely nightmare fuel.  Again most of the good-looking characters are heroic, and evil is depicted by physical ugliness.  Francesca Annis is impressive as Lady Jessica, who provides the emotional heart of the film, but otherwise there are a lot of great actors standing around in fantastic costumes and sets, struggling to make an impression.

David Lynch famously repudiated the film, and dislikes even discussing it in interviews, and given the fact that he has never made any secret of the fact that he dislikes science-fiction, he was kind of an odd choice to direct it, but there is a lot of Lynch in it's visuals and style.

You may love it or you may hate it, but it is such a striking and unique experience, it is well worth checking out.

 Kyle MacLachlan versus Sting, while Patrick Stewart looks on in Dune                  

Tuesday, 4 October 2016

Hell or High Water

Year of Release:  2016
Director:  David Mackenzie
Screenplay:  Taylor Sheridan
Starring:   Jeff Bridges, Chris Pine, Ben Foster, Gil Birmingham
Running Time:  102 minutes
Genre:  thriller, crime

This neo-Western crime thriller tells the story of the Howard brothers, divorced father Toby (Pine) and violent, ex-con Tanner (Foster) who embark on a string of bank robberies throughout Texas, always targeting branches of the same bank, in order to stop the foreclosure of their family's farm, and also to take revenge on the bank.  they are pursued by a pair of laconic Texas Rangers:  Marcus Hamilton (Bridges) and Alberto Parker (Birmingham).

This is similar in style to Coen Brothers films such as Blood Simple (1984) and No Country for Old Men  (2008), but it stands up on it's own, and is probably the best thriller of the year.  The film is suspenseful, exciting and often very funny.  The audience is on the side of the troubled Howard brothers, and Toby Howard's desire to provide for his children but we're also in no doubt about the wrongness of their actions.  While Toby is calm, collected, reasonable and abhors "unnecessary" violence, Tanner is a violent maniac with a hair-trigger temper and at the very least terrorizes any number of innocent cashiers.  Jeff Bridges is at his best as the wisecracking, ageing and world-weary Texas Ranger, and his relationship with his Native American / Mexican partner Alberto is genuinely touching.  There is a real sense of a long-standing friendship there.  They insult each other  and crack wise on each other constantly, but there Bridges and Birmingham play it with real heart.  Chris Pine also deserves praise for his portrayal of the essentially decent  Toby Howard.  The film takes place among washed out, sunbleached Texas landscapes, full of dying small towns, and houses and farms either foreclosed or selling up, and endless billboards advertising quick cash loans, providing contemporary social relevance.   It's also very much a guy film, there are very few key roles for women, and Tanner Howard is portrayed as a violent misogynist.  The film's haunting score is provided by Nick Cave and Warren Ellis.

Ben Foster and Chris Pine in Hell or High Water

Monday, 3 October 2016

From Up on Poppy Hill

Year of Release:  2011
Director:  Goro Miyazaki
Screenplay: Hayao Miyazaki and Keiko Niwa, based on the manga From Up on Coquelicot Hill by Tetsuro Sayama and Chizuru Takahashi
Starring:  Masami Nagasawa, Junichi Okada, Keiko Takeshita, Yuriko Ishida, Jun Fubiki, Takashi Naiko, Shunsuke Kazama, Nao Omori, Teruyuki Kagawa
Running Time: 91 minutes
Genre:  animation, comics, drama, coming of age, romance

This animated film from Japan's legendary Studio Ghibli, is set in Yokohama, in 1963.  Sixteen year old Umi Matsuzaki (Nagasawa) balances schoolwork with helping to run the boarding house where she lives with her younger sisters and her grandmother.  At school, she meets Shun Kazama (Okada) who writes for the school newspaper and is heavily involved in a student campaign to save a large ramshackle building which houses the school's various clubs, from demolition.  While at first she dislikes Shun, Umi becomes drawn into the campaign to save the building, and she and Shun draw increasingly close.

This is a gentle, nostalgic, romantic, coming-of-age drama.  In contrast to better known Studio Ghibli films, such as My Neighbor Totoro (1988), Kiki's Delivery Service (1989) and Spirited Away (2001) this features no supernatural or fantasy elements whatsoever.  Co-scripted by acclaimed writer/director Hayao Miyazaki, from a 1980s manga, it was directed by Hayao Miyazaki's son, Goro, whose previous directorial credit was Tales From Earthsea (2006).  This is not one of the best Studio Ghibli films, but it is still a more than respectable addition to their hallowed filmography.  It's a gentle, sweet film, devoid of conflict, depicting a kinder world in lush vibrant colours, however it doesn't ignore some of the darker aspects of 1950s and 60s Japan.  While some of the animation isn't as polished as some of the other Ghibli films, and towards the end there is maybe one plot contrivance too many, this is still a great film for children and adults.

"There's no future for people who worship the future, and forget the past." - Shun Kazama (Junichi Okada)

From Up on Poppy Hill

Sunday, 2 October 2016

Strangers on a Train

Year of Release:  1951
Director:  Alfred Hitchcock
Screenplay:  Raymond Chandler, Whitfield Cook and Czenzi Ormonde, based on the novel Strangers on a Train by Patricia Highsmith
Starring:  Farley Granger, Ruth Roman, Robert Walker, Leo G. Carroll, Patricia Hitchcock
Running Time:  101 minutes
Genre:  crime thriller

Guy Haines (Granger), an amateur tennis star, wants to marry senator's daughter Anne Morton (Roman), and pursue a political career.  First of all, though, he has to get a divorce from his unfaithful wife, Miriam (Laura Elliott).  On a train he chances to meet charismatic psychopath Bruno Anthony (Walker).  The two fall into conversation, and Bruno proposes that they "swap murders", he will kill Guy's wife, if Guy will kill Bruno's hated father.  His theory being that if there is no connection between the murderer and the victim, than there is much less chance of the killer being caught.   Bruno succeeds in killing Miriam, and then tries to force Guy to complete hi side of the bargain.

This film, based on the debut novel of celebrated crime author Patricia Highsmith, has an arresting premise that has been reused several times in movies and television shows.  It features one of the most memorable set pieces in Hitchcock's work, the prolonged stalking and murder of Miriam at a  fairground, the murder itself being shown as a reflection in Miriam's discarded glasses.  It also works with the cat and mouse game between Guy and Bruno, as Bruno stalks Guy and tries to convince him to fulfill his side of the deal.      It's at it's weakest in the family scenes with Guy and his girlfriend Anne, and her father (Leo G. Carroll).  Anne is kind of a dull character who is really only there as a love interest, and her father has nothing to do at all, he's kind of a sober, wet blanket who is only there to dispense sage advice.  As Anne's kid sister, Barbara, Patricia Hitchcock (the director's daughter) provides most of the humour.  Farley Granger is good as the everyman caught in a vortex of suspicion and paranoia as he becomes a murder suspect while being stalked at every turn by the implacable Bruno.  As the charming but ruthless murderer, Robert Walker brings a  touch of humour to Bruno, who is one of Hitchcock's most sinister villains.  From the very strange relationship he has with his doting mother, to his relentless pursuit of Guy, Bruno is a very ambiguous character. He is also as obviously gay as a character could be back in 1951
This is a suspenseful tale, stylishly told. If the pacing slows down towards the middle it is more than made up for with a thrilling climax.  Look out for Hitchcock's cameo as a man exiting a train carrying a double bass early in the film.

    Farley Granger and Robert Walker are Strangers on a Train

Saturday, 1 October 2016

The Man Who Fell to Earth

Year of Release:  1976
Director:   Nicolas Roeg
Screenplay:  Paul Mayersberg, based on the novel The Man Who Fell to Earth by Walter Tevis
Starring:  David Bowie, Rip Torn, Candy Clark, Buck Henry, Bernie Casey
Running Time:  138 minutes
Genre:  science-fiction, satire

A mysterious man, Thomas Jerome Newton (Bowie), comes out of nowhere an sets up a hugely successful electronics conglomerate, World Enterprises, using revolutionary technology.  In reality, Newton is a humanoid alien in disguise, who plans to use the profits he earns through his company, which he has set up with patents on his advanced alien technology, and the inventions he has developed with it, to construct a huge spaceship to ship water back to his home planet which is dying due to severe drought.  Newton does indeed become fabulously wealthy, however he soon becomes corrupted by human vices such as alcohol, television, sex and money.

This fascinating film is a science-fiction movie like no other.  It's long, frustrating, fascinating, beguiling, pretentious, funny, dark and wonderful  by turns.  It also works as a satire on modern American life.  The imagery, which is heavy on symbolism, is largely taken from outside the science-fiction genre.  This was David Bowie's debut feature film and it is the role he was born to play.  With his quiet performance as the pale, emaciated alien everything about him is otherworldly, even before he reveals his true appearance (hairless, with yellow cat's-eyes and no genitals).  Candy Clark also impresses as sweet, lonely hotel maid Mary-Lou, who falls for Newton.  As with many Nicolas Roeg films, this is full of rich, striking often surreal images and a barrage of cinematic tricks, although it's a lot more linear than many of his other works of the period.  The several brief flashback scenes to Newton's homeworld are the most traditionally science-fiction elements of the film, and create the sense of a genuinely alien world with very few props and effects.
It is also a scathing satire on human weakness, corruption and cruelty, as the delicate alien embraces and becomes victimised by the darker side of human nature.  This is a film that would probably never get made now, it's too slow, too cerebral, too allegorical, too dark, too sexual and too obscure for modern day Hollywood science-fiction.

You may not enjoy this film, but you should certainly see it, at least once.

   David Bowie is The Man Who Fell to Earth