Aliens: Ripley’s Back Believe It or Not

Released in 1986, the xenomorph returned to the silver screen under the vision of budding Canadian Director James Cameron, who got his start with Piranha II: The Spawning (seriously look it up).

Cameron’s incarnation of the Alien universe is different to the atmospheric space horror that Ridley Scott brought to life, bursting through some poor souls chest and into our collective consciousness. Cameron made Alien into an action-movie. That’s not a bad thing.

We return to Ripley (played by the wonderful Sigourney Weaver), who has been floating around in statis for 57 years. She’s rescued and unfortunately, no one really believes her stories of aliens and blowing up ships for legitimate reasons. The audience can really join in with the Socratic irony of the this, the enraging knowledge that THERE’S ALIENS and no one really believes her. Oh how wrong they were.

Ripley, along with a rag-tag group of marines, is sent to investigate a colony that has gone erily silent. This is where elements of Cameron’s Aliens take hold, where horror shifts gracefully (or not so) into action. Ships, guns and plenty of flame throwers make this ride into the Aliens universe intense in a whole other way, and the ending….oh boy.

Cameron isn’t just explosions and one-liners, he continues to explore the themes set out by Scott in the previous film. Ripley’s distrust of androids and the uncanny valley that comes with that territory is explored further with her interactions with Bishop (Lance Henriksen), a staple of science fiction, with good reason.

The extent of mega corporations power in the future, the ineptitude of those in power, survival and the horrors of things we do not know. Aliens is favourite amongst science fiction fans, because it explores these themes, and at the same time…it’s an adventure.

Ellen Ripley, is the real star of this, not the xenomorph (sorry Giger). Ripley is possibly the start of a long line of amazon-heroines. Sarah Connor, Xena, Buffy…the list goes on. But Ripley was at the forefront, and Weaver’s performance in this well rounded/written character cements her as an icon. This stock character is a firm favourite of mine, and Ellen’s true grit ensures no acid-spitting alien is going to take her down.

Please watch this film. It’s essential.

Stand out performance: Carrie Henn as Newt.

If you like this you should also watch;

  • Starship Troopers
  • Piranha II: The Spawning
  • Event Horizon

Henry Stocks-Fryer

The Creature From the Black Lagoon: A Fishman Out of Water Story

Creatures of the Night: Saturday 24th February 10.30 PM


The Creature From the Black Lagoon, the title is typical of the science fiction films of the  1950s, especially, Jack Arnold, director of this motion picture. The title does exactly what it says on the tin. Same with Jack Arnold’s other films (which I encourage our readers to see), The Incredible Shrinking Man (one of his best), Tarantula and It Came From Outer Space.

Originally filmed in 3D (a fad which went away eventually…), Arnold takes the audience on a trip deep into the Amazon. The suspense of the piece is carried on masterfully by the director, the constant looming presence of the creature is felt, Jaws before Jaws.

The exploration of evolution, and of the future is a theme in this film. Constant references to the world of tomorrow, and how science can help humanity advance, its pro-science leading man and woman, help cement it as a film ahead of its time. Gil-Man, the creature, is not the only star player in this piece, Richard Carlson alongside the beautiful Julie Adams, bring a classic Hollywood charm to the film.  Carlson’s character (David) is a forward thinking sort, at conflict with his less noble intentioned coworkers. Julie Adams performance as Kay as one to watch out for, playing the girlfriend and coworker of David. A character in her own right (instead of the atypical damsel in distress), bringing a refreshing change to the two dimensional female leads of B-movies. Of course it is not all about scientific discovery, as we see Gil-Man become infatuated with Kay, and his various attempts to carry her off to his lagoon lair bring further drama to this tense film.

We can see that Jack Arnold wanted to portray David and Kay as the future, of what society and people should be striving towards. They are still imperfect, but they are getting there).

Future meets ancient past as the intrepid science team stumbles into the black lagoon, disturbing the Gil-Man, and prompting him into action against these intruders. There are no true bad guys in this film, which makes it all the more well rounded. There’s no cartoonish villain twirling a comic moustache. Gil-Man might be a tragic monster, more akin to Frankenstein’s Monster than Dracula. Although he is not a monster of human creation, merely left behind by evolution….

This is one of my favourite monster-horror films, and was the start of the 50’s sci fi film binge (recommended list below). The atmosphere, the well rounded characters, the action and of course, the design of the monster it(him?)self all come together to create an iconic piece of cinema.

Come join us at the Hyde Park Picture House, Saturday 24th February 10.30pm. Popcorn is essential.

Further viewing, if classic sci-fi is your thing, check out the following;

  • The Incredible Shrinking Man
  • Forbidden Planet
  • The Day the Earth Stood Still.
  • Attack of the 50 foot Woman. (so bad it’s good)

Henry Stocks-Fryer

An Update on The Picture House Project

Last Saturday there was a session to bring people up to date with the latest developments on The Picture House Project. Bill Walton went along to find out what’s been happening so far…

About forty people turned up to hear the exciting, latest refurbishment plans and to contribute their ideas.

Wendy Cook (the cinema’s general manager) set out the complexity of bringing together so many interests such as our current audiences, the wider community, film makers, funders and partner organisations, plus paid staff and volunteers. Further the project has to be achieved within a strict budget, while respecting the fabric and design of our historic building. And it has to provide a sound financial basis for the Picture House to prosper over the next ten decades!! Discussion on cinema activities will take place at a future meeting.

Eilidh Henderson (the Project’s lead architect) gave a detailed slide presentation of progress. She clearly likes developing the potential of existing buildings and gives a very high priority to maintaining the warm, friendly atmosphere of the Picture House. I can only give a flavour of the progress without showing the presentation. Eilidh pointed out that with such a complex project the result won’t be completely right for everyone!

More detailed drawings and plans will be available shortly on the project website,

Clearly. a huge amount of expertise and imagination has gone into relating design to accessibility, safety, conservation, maintenance and running costs, film screening and acoustics, community use, and the fabric of the building. The architects also aim to allow different approaches to be tried out over time with scope for adaptations in future years.

There was a lot of discussion about how the refurbished Picture House will fit into the local area. The cinema is a civic building which needs to be distinctive (hence the potential use of glass and some white brick in the extension) while blending in with the redbrick surrounding terraces. The architects have taken into account the appearance both in the daytime and at night, the outward views on to the neighbourhood from inside the new windows, the colours and architectural lines of nearby buildings, and how to best link the extension to the historic entrance.

There will be a ramped entrance, with a larger foyer extending out to the pillars. This will allow several points of sale for tickets and refreshments. It is hoped that audience habits will change over time with more people arriving early or staying on in the cafe, reducing queues. The second screen in the basement will allow improvements to programming. There will be cafe and meeting space (which is not a through route), and improved facilities for staff. The interior design will have a cinematic theme, and use a colour scheme based on the building’s history. There was some discussion about the pros and cons of unisex toilets.

The design will soon be going to the (sympathetic) Leeds Council planners for approval. It is hope that the final plans as part of a full project plan will go to the Heritage Lottery Fund in June, and that construction work will start in Spring/Summer 2019. The building work will take about a year, largely because of deepening the basement, and will give the opportunity to develop additional audiences while using other venues.

The Picture House Project – Public Update, Saturday 10th February

After a busy month spent thinking about subterranean excavations and their ramifications we would like to refocus our thoughts on the bigger picture and as such I am pleased to invite you to a special update session on our Heritage Lottery Fund supported refurbishment project on Saturday 10th February.

The session will include a presentation by the project’s lead architect, Eilidh Henderson of Page\Park. This presentation will explore the design development process undertaken by the team including understanding the way in which audience and stakeholder consultation has been fed into the process to date. Following Eilidh’s talk we will be open to questions and comments.

Doors will open at 2.30pm with the presentation set to begin at 3pm and run for approximately 30 minutes followed by up to an hour for questions and comments.

This session is open to everyone so do please feel free to forward details on to any friends/colleagues. In order to manage numbers I have set up an Eventbrite page which will allow you to reserve a space.  Of course you are also welcome to turn up on the day and we will fit in as many people as possible, it’s hard to judge in advance what numbers we’re going to expect.

For more details about The Picture House Project please visit:

For more details about Page\Park please visit:

Wendy Cook

Keswick Film Festival

Keswick FIlm Festival Poster

As well as serving on the committee for the Friends I’m also involved with Keswick Film Club and in a few weeks their 19th Film Festival will be taking place. I grew up near Keswick and the film club played an important part in developing my love for art house cinema. I’ll be heading back to the Lake District town for the festival and would easily recommend a visit to see some great films in an idyllic location.

There are many films from LIFF in the programme so a great chance to catch up with some you may have missed or just want to see again. The Rider (a wonderful surprise for me and I may see it again), Sami Blood, Blade Of The Immortal, Dark River, The Square and, like Leeds, the festival will be closing with Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri.

There are films you (probably) won’t have seen yet. Director Simon Hunter will open the festival with Edie, starring Sheila Hancock as an 84 year old who is determine to climb a mountain. A Fantastic Woman has been wowing festival audiences and critics around the world and François Ozon’s L’Amant Double has yet to get a UK release date. We also have one of the first screenings of John Hurt’s final film, That Good Night. John was the patron of the festival and visited a number of times, his wife will be introducing the film.

We’re also delighted to be showing Ken Russell’s Clouds Of Glory, thought for many years to have been lost. Commissioned by Melvyn Bragg for Granada TV, this is Ken Russell’s interpretation of the lives and loves of Coleridge and Wordsworth and was filmed locally. The screening accompanies a talk, Cumbria On Film, exploring how the region has been used for films over the years including Withnail & I and The Force Awakens.

There are also talks on director George Stevens (with screenings of Shane and Woman Of The Year) and “Scared Stiff in the 1960” before a late night screening of the original Night Of The Living Dead.

There are many more films and more guests and I haven’t even mentioned the short film competition which I’m most heavily involved with.

The festival runs from Thursday 22nd to Sunday 25th February, tickets are £6.50  and passes for the whole weekend are £55 (concessions are available). It mostly takes place in two venues so you can see about half of the entire programme if you get a pass.

And it’s not just about the films, Keswick is great place to visit (especially at this time of year?) and it’s only a few hours away from Leeds.


The Post, USA 2017

From today and on Sunday January 28th at 5.00 p.m. with a Q&A

You can see the Academy Award nominated film and be involved with a Question and Answer session with Granville Williams at this special screening. Granville is an experienced writer on the Newspaper and Media Industries and is the Editor of ‘FreePress’ from the Campaign for Press and Broadcasting Freedom.  He writes;

The Post in an honourable addition to Hollywood films (All The Presidents Men (1976), Good Night, and Good Luck (2005), Spotlight (2015)) which portray journalists and journalism in a positive way, as opposed to grubby hacks chasing squalid, sensational headlines .

When I see films like these I wonder why UK film directors haven’t tackled such subjects. Couldn’t the dogged work of Guardian journalist, Nick Davies, as he probed and finally exposed the industrial scale of phone-hacking at Murdoch’s ‘News of the World’, be a suitable subject?

The credits for The Post say it is ‘based on a true story’ and whilst I can quibble with the way the film modifies some of the facts about the way the Washington Post’s publisher, Katharine Graham, finally came to back publication of the Pentagon Papers, I think the film captures perfectly how enmeshed she was in the Washington elite and the political and commercial pressures on her to take an easier route, and not publish the papers.

I will talk more about this in the Q&A session following the 5.00pm showing of the film on Sunday 28 January at the Hyde Park Picture House. Here I just want to develop a couple of points about two aspects of the film.

One is the way that Spielberg focuses on the old hot metal printing press scenes and the workings of the Linotype machines assembling the lines of type for the stories. It’s very evocative.

In 1975 after Watergate there was a ferocious strike by printers which set her and the newspaper on a conservative course. Graham devoted dozens of pages in her autobiography ‘Personal History’ to vilifying Post press operators who went on strike in 1975. She stressed the damage done to printing equipment as the walkout began and “the unforgivable acts of violence throughout the strike.”

John Hanrahan, a Newspaper Guild member at the Post, wouldn’t cross the picket lines and never went back. He pointed out,

“The Washington Post under Katharine Graham pioneered the union-busting ‘replacement worker’ strategy that Ronald Reagan subsequently used against the air-traffic controllers and that corporate America — in the Caterpillar, Bridgestone/Firestone and other strikes — used to throw thousands of workers out of their jobs in the 1980s and the ’90s.”

The other point is on the role of Ben Bagdikian in the film – he’s the journalist who gets access to Daniel Ellsberg and persuades him to hand over 4000 pages for the Post to use. He was national editor on the Post, a man who the editor, Ben Bradlee, in his autobiography, ‘A Good Life’, describes as ‘thorny’. Bagdikian had a big influence on me, and others interested in media reform. He wrote a key book ‘The Media Monopoly’  (1983) which warned about the chilling effects of corporate ownership and mass advertising on US media. Fifty corporations owned most of the US media when he wrote the first edition. By the time he wrote ‘The New Media Monopoly’ (2004) it had dwindled to five.

NB A couple of friends who have already seen the film thought it helps if one is clear about ‘The Pentagon Papers’. You can check this out on Wikipedia.


Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Showing multiple times daily from Friday 12th January

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Misouri

Let’s face it. 2017 was a crap year for most of us. So many outrages, and “the authorities” so slow to act. But wait! Three Billboards gives us a champion. Watch irrepressible Mildred Hayes (Frances McDormand) use her visceral rage to shame “them” into action. “Them” is the local police or anyone else who gets in her way. Woody Harrelson, Sam Rockwell and the rest of this superb cast had better watch out!
The issue is that Mildred’s daughter, Angela, was raped and murdered seven months ago. Have the police got any leads? Have they Hell! Maybe a few billboard messages will get them off their fat butts.
Mildred Hayes: What’s the law on what ya can and can’t say on a billboard? I assume it’s ya can’t say nothing defamatory, and ya can’t say, ‘Fuck’ ‘Piss’ or ‘Cunt’. That right?
Red Welby (Caleb Landry Jones): Or… Anus.
Mildred Hayes:  Well I think I’ll be alright then.
This film deservedly won the Audience Award for new feature films at this year’s (2017) Leeds International Film Festival. It’s another triumph for In Bruges (2008) director Martin McDonagh. Ebbing, Missouri is as complex a community as any other. We get to see not only the anger but also the humour, kindness, sadness and violence of small town life. And naturally Ebbing is not exempt from Midwestern prejudices.
Mildred Hayes: So how’s it all going in the nigger-torturing business, Dixon?
Officer Dixon (Sam Rockwell): It’s ‘Persons of color’-torturing business, these days, if you want to know. And I didn’t torture nobody.
And if Mildred Hayes doesn’t like this review, I’m keeping well out of her way …

Bill Walton

Our 2017 Highlights

We asked our blog contributors for their highlights of the year and this is what they came up with.


My highlights from the films shown at the Picture House are:

  • Elle, France 2016
  • I Am Not Your Negro, USA, 2016.
  • Lady Macbeth, UK, 2016
  • The HandmaidenSouth Korea, 2016
  • Lover For A Day, France
  • Kedi, Turkey, 2016
  • Thelma, Norway
  • Loving, USA, 2016
  • Detroit, USA
  • Human Flow, Germany

and from the film festival at different venues

  • Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri (Showing at Hyde Park from January 12th), USA
  • Mutafukaz, France/Japan
  • The Teacher, Slovakia/Czech Republic, 2016

On a different day I could have included Neruda, Loveless, 20th Century Women or Human Flow.


My top 10 of 2017, sticking to films that got a general cinema release this year:

  1. Certain Women (USA, dir. Kelly Reichardt)
  2. Le Parc (France, dir. Damien Manivel)
  3. Toni Erdmann (Germany, dir. Maren Ade)
  4. Machines (India, dir. Rahul Jain)
  5. Cameraperson (USA, dir. Kirsten Johnson)
  6. Moonlight (USA, dir. Barry Jenkins)
  7. By the Time it gets Dark (Thailand, dir. Anocha Suwichakornpong)
  8. The Untamed (Mexico, dir. Amat Escalante)
  9. Dina (USA, dir. Antonio Santini & Dan Sickles)
  10.  A Ghost Story (USA, dir. David Lowery)


The new films that impressed me this year, in the order of when I saw them, are

A special mention for Casey Affleck in

And of the classics from the past,

  • Cloud-Capped Star / Meghe Dhaka, India 1960, really impressed me.


I restricted this list to things I saw for the first time at the Picture House, otherwise the list could also have included Paddington 2, The Last Jedi, Blade Runner 2049 and Dunkirk.

  • Manchester by the Sea, USA, 2016
  • A Monster Calls, UK, 2016
  • 20th Century Women, USA, 2016
  • mother!, USA
  • The Florida Project, USA
  • Good Time, USA
  • A Ghost Story, USA
  • My Life As A Courgette, Switzerland/France, 2016
  • JackieUSA, 2016
  • Bad Genius, Thailand

I’m a bit disappointed that my list is mostly English language films but a lot of the ‘foreign language films’ released this year such as A Man Called Ove, The Handmaiden and Toni Erdmann I saw at LIFF30 so haven’t included here.

Films of The Year Catch Up

As the year comes to an end we’re starting to think about the cinematic highlights of 2017 and we’ll be posting some of our favourite films in a few weeks’ time. As I started to think about my own list I realised that I’ve missed a lot of films that are showing up in other end of year lists. So here, in no particular order, is a top ten list of (possibly) the best films I didn’t see this year:

  • In Between
  • The Beguiled
  • Elle
  • I Am Not Your Negro
  • Lady Macbeth
  • Personal Shopper
  • A Quiet Passion
  • The Levelling
  • My Cousin Rachel
  • The Party

I’m going to try and catch up with some of these (Elle and A Quiet Passion are both on Netflix and I Am Not Your Negro and Lady Macbeth are included in Amazon Prime) which do you recommend I should see first? Also do let us know what your favourite films are and we can include them in our end of year round up. If you need a reminder of everything that has been shown at the Picture House this year, we have a list here.


Loving Vincent, UK / Poland 2017

                                                      There is one more screening on Saturday 23rd at 5.15 p.m.           with subtitles for the hard-of-hearing,


The last screening of this title was sold out, an uncommon feat at the cinema. It is the recipient of a number of Awards including Best Animated Feature Film Award at the 30th European Film Awards in Berlin. Comments have focused on the sheer visual beauty of the images.

This is an animated feature and it has used a set of distinctive techniques:

“Each of the film’s 65,000 frames is an oil painting on canvas, using the same technique as Van Gogh, created by a team of 115 painters.”

The film also uses live action sequences. These are mainly flashbacks within the narrative.

Van Gogh is one of the most prized [and expensive] painters in European Art and he has a presence in popular culture as well. His personal life and tragic demise have fed into this celebrity. The narrative in this production takes the form of an investigation. A young man, charged with delivering Van Gogh’s final letter, delves into the final days of the artist. Thus the film explores both the personal and the artistic.

The director is a Polish animator Dorota Kobiela with her first feature. Her co-director is Hugh Welchman, who normally works as producer,. The film relied on funding from the Polish Film Institute, an institution with a long and illustrious history.

The production was shot on a digital camera and is in colour and the academy ratio. [IMDB gives 1.33:1 but thus us usually masked to 1.37:1].  The film used a number of ac actors as ‘models’ for the paintings and they also appear in the ‘live action’ sequences. The British release has an English language soundtrack, dubbed by the credited actors and other voices. .

Van Gogh has enjoyed frequent representations on film. There is Lust for Life (USA 1956), directed by Vincente Minnelli with Kirk Douglas playing the artist. Some of the relationships in the film seem a little facile but the artist and his work are well presented. Then there is Vincent and Theo (France, Netherlands, UK, Germany, Italy) a film by Robert Altman with Tim Roth as Van Gogh. Roth makes excellent casting for the tortured artist. And there are several well made documentaries.