Alien Invasion at the Centre for Life

Saturday my friend D and I went to The Centre for Life to see the exhibition of costumes and props from alien-related movies and TV shows. Despite the fact I have walked past this place literally hundred of times – my mum lived just up the road – I have never been in, so felt this was a perfect excuse to visit.

The centre isn’t massive, and is obviously geared towards families, so a lot of it I was happy to ignore (a crowded talk on the science of chocolate, featuring experiments on Easter Eggs, was proving popular as we passed). The exhibition itself wasn’t massive – you could walk the whole thing in a few minutes – but both D and I were happy to freak out over the Aliens props, and both of us got a thrill from standing next to a surprisingly louche Stormtrooper.

We also took a trip to the Planetarium to see a short film about the moon, and marvelled at the giant version of the same suspended just outside it (a touring artwork by Luke Jerram). Although not a cheap experience – our tickets, which gave access to the whole centre, were £11 – it’s definitely worth a visit if you have kids, as they put on lots of activities.

Bonus points for having a cafe that doesn’t gouge a captive audience on prices (the nice staff even gave me another token for the coffee machine when I wasted my first by not being able to figure out how it worked – what can I say, I really needed that coffee!) and for having disabled toilets clearly labelled with the message ‘not all disabilities are visible’ – which I think is a tactic more places should employ.

And I got to see a Stormtrooper!


Cocktails and Captain Marvel

Thursday, my friend M and I went to see Captain Marvel. It was my first trip to a mainstream cinema since I moved back – the Gate, in Newcastle – since unlike the Picturehouses I was used to in Brighton (where I saw pretty much all my movies) the Tyneside Cinema doesn’t show all the big films. I liked the Gate – the neon decor makes you feel a bit like you are in Tron, and when it’s quiet it feels a bit post-apocalyptic, but the seats were comfy and the screen was huge. (So much so that I had misjudged and booked seats far too close to the screen – we were both a bit woozy by the end.)

The film was also great – like most of the Marvel origin movies, it took too long to get going, but once it hit its stride it was enormous fun. Goose the cat rules!

Before the film, we had cocktails in Bealim House, on Gallowgate. An old stationers, so close to my heart already, they specialise in gin, though of course I had to try their espresso martinis, my usual drink, and they did a decent job of that (plus, there was a two-for-a-tenner offer on. Bargain!)

Walking to the film, though, I realised there was another pub I should have tried…


Tyneside Cinema

As I said in my previous post, I made my first trip to see a film at the Tyneside last night. It really is a delight of a cinema, and boasts not just one but several great cafe / bars, one of which hosts free movie screenings. Expect more posts, as I joined their membership scheme!

They also stock some beers that I feel my friend Linda over at Raven in A Graveyard might approve of.

Chile comes to Newcastle: Nae Pasaran at the Tyneside Cinema

I’ve been in the Tyneside Cinema bar and cafe a few times since my return, but have been keen to actually start going to see films there again, and a screening of Nae Pasaran seemed a good opportunity to start. A documentary about the solidarity between Glasgow workers and Chilean citizens post-Pinochet’s coup, it hit a number of my sweet spots: working class stories, Glasgow (I miss you guys!), smart documentaries, and Chile – a subject I became interested in when I did some of the subtitling on Adrian Goycoolea’s fascinating film Viva Chile Mierda, which looks at the coup and its aftereffects through the lens of how it affected his extended family.


It was a sold-out screening in one of the smaller screens I hadn’t been in before, the Roxy (hell, which didn’t even exist when I last went), and was attended by the director Felipe Bustos Sierra (with a Q&A I skipped out of – I can’t take one more ‘well, it’s more a comment than a question’ moment at one of these things, charming as the director himself seemed.) The film itself, based on the Scottish ‘blacking’ of Hawker Hunter jet engines at their East Kilbride factory so the Chilean military couldn’t use them against their own people, was a joy – passionate, funny, moving, humbling, and with a social message that is still as relevant, if not more so, now as it was then. Both the Scotsmen and the Chileans were dignified, wry and fascinating, and there were some real ‘I have something in my eye’ moments.


I didn’t love the almost total lack of female voices in the film – I get that it was, primarily, about working men, but feel like there could have been more commentary from either the women affected in Scotland (the spouses of men who were risking their livelihoods / faced potential violence for a stance they didn’t know would have any impact) or in Chile, since women tend to be at the sharp end of any political struggle, albeit often in unacknowledged roles, and it would have been nice to hear a little more from those voices.


But that aside, it’s genuinely worth your time and money – see it if it comes anywhere near you. (And do check out Adrian’s rather more female-populated film, if you fancy: it’s fascinating and free to watch at this link.)

Odeon Memories

Walking back to the Metro today, I walked past Stacks, the super trendy new restaurant/bar/culture thingy that just opened opposite the Tyneside. If this was a cool lifestyle blog, I would have been already and taken pictures and reported back – I briefly considered going just for the sake of writing about it, before remembering this isn’t a cool lifestyle blog, it’s the meanderings of a middle aged Geordie who hates crowds and always wants a seat. So, maybe I’ll go on a week day, when it’s less busy, but until then all I can say is it looks kinda nice when you walk past.

But it is also sort of heart-breaking, because it stands on the site of what was once the Newcastle Odeon, and, when that got torn down, an awful lot of my memories went with it. The Odeon was a lovely cinema – one of the old-fashioned movie palaces filled with crimson drapes, not a new, soul-less multiplexes – and it played a seminal role in my movie-going youth.

It should have been the place I saw my first film, except my mum got the timings for Bambi wrong and we ended up across the road at the Tyneside watching The Amazing Mr Blunden instead. But, that mix up aside, it was the scene of many firsts over the years.

It was there when, on a trip when she had actually got the times right, that I realised my mum was an Actual Human Woman with Real Feelings, as she got increasingly flustered over Christopher Reeve’s Superman. ‘He’s so handsome! And tall! And handsome!’

It was the cinema where I saw Star Wars for the first time. And where I saw the remastered Star Wars for the first time. And where I saw the remastered remastered Star Wars for the first time. And where I saw the Phantom Menace for the first time, but let’s skip over that. (It was there I realised a relationship would never work, when my then-boyfriend turned to me as the lights on Empire went down and asked, ‘So, Darth Vader is the bad guy, yeah?’. Funnily enough I went to see one of the reissues with Caution Spoilers – who now WRITES ABOUT FILM, people – and she was similarly ill-informed, but friendship is clearly stronger than romance: the boyfriend is long gone, she’s still around).

It was there I queued for Return of the Jedi (the first time) for FOUR HOURS. Nowadays I wouldn’t queue for four hours if Chris Hemsworth was handing out hugs and tenners.

It was there I saw a Sunday morning preview screening to Desperately Seeking Susan that I had won tickets to, and me and my friend C were the only non-rabid fans there – everyone else was in full lace gloves and crucifixes mode. They took a picture of the queue and it ended up in the Evening Chronicle.

It was there that, on another trip with Caution Spoilers, we went to see Scream. At the very start of it she turned to me and said, ‘I don’t know why I agreed to this, I hate horror’. Which was a surprise to me, as I thought it was her idea. “I hate horror too!” I exclaimed, and we both sat there, petrified, for the whole movie. (I also spent the next few days in terror as CS, with whom I was sharing a flat at the time, went away on business almost immediately afterwards, leaving me to check our bathroom for psychos alone. And I was doubly freaked as I went into work the day after the movie and a colleague exclaimed, ‘Oh! You’re alive!’ ‘Um, why wouldn’t I be?’ I asked, slightly perplexed. ‘It’s just I dreamt you were murdered,’ she explained, cheerily. ‘And it’s funny cos my dreams usually come true…’  Well, THANKS.)

It was there, also, I learned from bitter experience that the worst film for a first date – I’m not kidding, the absolute worst, most terrible, most awful movie ever for a first date – was David Cronenberg’s Dead Ringers.

On second thoughts, maybe I’m glad they knocked it down.


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