Alien Street Art

Saw this recently in the wonderful treasure trove of art that is Brick Lane, and thought it was cute – big-headed aliens. I can’t imagine there’s much of a message here, (apart from ‘Take us to your leader’) and it looks quite playful.

Have you seen any street art lately? Where did you see it?


Harlequin Oddities Found About Town: A Stargate Under City Bridges

This week is about Escape, and with it came a new discovery for me only a couple of days ago – I found a Stargate hidden under the bridges of London, furreals! Finally I know where all the homeless people go to at night (why else would they sleep under this bridge? They’re waiting for us to all leave first), not to mention all those insomniacs who go out for noodles and come back six hours later –  they jump through these portals. (you have to set the right code first or you’ll end up in a wasteland of angry Jaguar-headed baddies).

As you can see, one portal is to jump through, and the other one is to come back from, just don’t lose any body parts on the way back. Bit like those twelve princesses who dance all night and come back with tattered shoes – except you come back with an alien head or something.

Who needs TV and video games to escape, eh?

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Harlequin’s TEAPOTS & TEASETS #1: The Alien Teapot

This blog really wouldn’t be complete without some mention of tea sets. Or teapots at the very least. So I’d like to start off with a series of teapots (and tea sets) which have caught my eye and made my day a little more sunshiny. I have a weakness for handsome teapots (they make me weak at the knees) although god knows why, I don’t even drink tea. I’m like those mad old women who collect hundreds and hundreds of gloves which they’ll never wear. Although just to clarify, I don’t actually collect teapots, I’m quirky but I’m not rich enough to be THAT eccentric.

Anyways here goes, this is a wonderful alien-flying-saucer teapot I stumbled across, which I absolutely *loved*. It’s astonishing just how many alien teapots there are (just Google and see), but this has got to be among the top five (the knitted one-eyed tea-cosy in another site also features in my top-five count).
Just imagine, a hot cup of tea delivered by a grumpy looking alien fresh from the teabags of Jupiter. Or something.
And it doesn’t come much cooler than that, does it?

Available to buy online (although it doesn’t come cheap!)

’80s Nostalgia and Adventure meets 21st Century Monsters

Super 8 (12A)
Directed by Zack Snyder

From the director of Cloverfield, Lost and the Star Trek remake comes another monster-adventure-alien-y genred movie, this time in the form of the anticipated Super 8. Following the adventures of young hero Joe Lamb and his friends, in the midst of making their own ‘Super 8’ camera directed zombie film, when they find themselves plunged into the middle of impressive train crashes and explosions, government cover-up, and of course, a rampant monster on the loose. Harking back to the glory adventure days of films of the ‘80s, the film follows the same giddy adventurous delights of watching those Spielberg films from our childhood involving aliens, treasure-hunting and childhood friends (think E.T, The Goonies and Close Encounters). Yet Abrams tries to sculpt this out with more than just the escapades of these young tweens: adding emotional background drama and presenting the bonds of childhood friendship in a way that makes us want to put down our iPads, touch-screen phones and Xboxes and instead reach for our bikes and just go looking for healthy, old-fashioned adventure in the outskirts of town.

There are all sorts of plot devices which weave into the story here, Joe’s emotional recovery from the death if his mother, his resulting strained relationship with his father, his friendships with the other young boys, his budding romance with Alice (played by an admirable Elle Fanning), and of course, the fact that both alien-monster AND the government are out to get them.
So can this be seen as a type of coming of age drama? It could be argued that this adventure-style approach is a rite of passage, not just for the young characters in the film, but for us as viewers, re-introducing us to something we all watched as youngsters back in the pre-digital-age days when there were only four television channels and we all remembered watching the same show on the same channel.
Complete with amiable humour (“Stop talking about production value, the Air Force is going to kill us!”) and jump-in-your-seat monster moments, the film endeavours to never let the focus leave the youngsters of the films, leaving us rooting for the good guys and their loveable tricks.

There are a few downsides to the genre of this movie, however; Abrams can be said to rely a little too much on the style of a Boy’s Own adventure that we all know and loved from the ‘80s. It is no accident that main character Joe looks a teensy-weensy eerie bit too like Elliot from E.T – we get that the film tries to recreate the Spielberg magic and excitement – and yet it all begins to feel a little, at times, too far-fetched and video game-ish a narrative amongst the sophisticated special effects and complicated storylines of today’s films. Although Abrams does try to merge the two generations of eighties genre and twenty-first century graphics, this begins to feels a little anachronistic at times, making the film feel less genuine.

Another criticism is that there does not feel like there is enough of a back story for the monster – it just simply appears in the boys’ lives in a way that seems half-heartedly explained. Admittedly the film is not about the alien-monster in its entirety, yet this leaves us with the feeling that there is no no REAL sense of mystery, Abrams tries to generate this mystery by not letting us get a good look at the monster, so that we are left in suspense as to *what* could possibly be behind the massive scale government cover-up in Super 8, yet this is not much of a mystery to us, and you can see where his directing style is similar to his previous films like Cloverfield, which follows a similar pattern of obscure flashes of monster’s feet and cameras panning away to the sky.

However, there is brilliant acting from all sides; the main character may look like a dimpled Elliot escaped from an E.T sci-fi convention, yet this is no way means that his acting ability is undermined. The appeal of Super 8 lies in its pure joy in watching boys being boys, and being a youngster, exploring the outside world and its dangers, with the emotions and feelings as acted by the characters feeling quite genuine, even if the concept of the story does not resound as solidly. Despite the ambiguity of the ‘mystery’ behind the film, this is still a fair watch, we may not completely feel as if we have been transported to those magical living-room days of watching holiday films of our childhood, but it does comes pretty close when we watch these young adventurers.

Furry Aliens with Big Chompy Glow-In-The-Dark-Teeth

Directed by Joe Cornish

Based in South London, Attack The Block is a seemingly low-budget debut directed by man-of-the-moment Joe Cornish. Low budget the film may have been, but low-quality it certainly is not. The film depicts a teen gang who are forced to unite with their own mugging victim (“Why did you rob a poor person?! Them nurses don’t get paid shit!”) in order to defend their tower block
from oncoming alien invasion, and is, in my opinion, an absolutely hilariously brilliant film.  With the tagline ‘Inner City versus Outer Space’, Cornish draws on from action-filled American alien films from the ‘90s and ‘80s (presumably harking back to his earlier years), and at the same time parodies the clichés of the same period, encompassed in the basic concept of large, hairy aliens with bitey teeth. And did I mention that they have glow-in-the-dark teeth? Combining inner-city, street London patois with middle class vernacular, and hooded, mixed cultured ‘yoofs’ with middle-class white adults, we see how representations of youths, colour and urban landscape are turned on their heads, forcing both characters within the plot as well as the viewers to face their preconceptions and redefine them. But it is the humour which really marks out Attack the Block as a memorable and intelligent gem, using the street-smart of the teenagers without patronising their common sense. With comments such as: “…‘You can get bare pea for that alien ting, maybe we should call the tabloids’…. ‘Nah bruv, The Sun will just make it look like dem page 3 girls, allow that shizzle’ ” being chimed out amidst alien attack and thundering action, Cornish succeeds in avoiding the route where the younger characters are pushed to the background by the ‘adults’, choosing instead to benefit from the fearless yet loveable personalities portrayed by Moses (played by John Boyega) and his gang. Also added to the mix is National-Geographic-obsessed stoner Ron, portrayed by the ever amusing Nick Frost, showing how the film grounds itself in British humour without becoming snobby or obscure. However the film also succeeds in reflecting a darker side to the film in the drug-dealing Hi-Hatz, and the dangers of gang culture, showing how Cornish does not choose to ignore the negative image of South-London, but rather seeks to throw light on the way that youngsters can become trapped in this lifestyle.

“Them tings…… I’m gonna merk them!”

Intertwining indignant slang and comical bravado throughout the film, there are several one-liners targeted at a multi-audience, with references to contemporary culture (“Call the police!” “You’re better off calling the Ghostbusters love!”), heart-warming friendship, and fresh action involving all parties “tooling up” to save the council estate tower block, all the while having to make sure that they’ll “be home before ten Mum!”.

For those of you who were impressed by the radioactive-looking chompers onscreen, you’re not the only one, as someone has already taken to selling T-Shirts of the things! And that’s not the only range of merchandise that has generated from the movie, as a game has been released for the iPhone which actually looks quite curious (I’m mainly interested in finding out whether any of the game-characters can hide in the bins like their movie counterparts!)

This is a film that I would definitely recommend to all, it is a sparkling addition to British cinema and, although seeming as if it plays along with the image of ‘hoodies’ and street culture at times, it successfully sheds light on the idea of solidarity, loyalty, and looking out for your mates.