August 13, 2009

Watchable Films

I watch quite a lot of films, and have restricted my TV viewing now to mostly just crime/SF TV series like "The Wire" or "Lost", and movies.

Realising that I write here much less than I used to (blame Twitter/Facebook), I thought I'd do a quick post about films that I've watched several times, and always seem to watch again if they turn up on TV late at night. These are not necessarily the best films in the world, just ones that can stand repeat viewings, and never seem to get boring.

Most watched is probably The Fifth Element

Closely followed by The Matrix

Anything with Clint Eastwood or Bruce Willis is likely to stop me switching off/over - Die Hard is the best Christmas movie ever made.

The Princess Bride is so full of great dialogue that you can step in and out at any section and really enjoy it.

Well, that's my short list. Notable mentions to any Zucker brothers' films, (Airplane etc) as well.

Posted by se71 at 04:22 PM | Comments (0)

March 07, 2009

Watchmen

Watchmen - The Movie Review

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The short version - it's excellent, but is definitely for adults only unfortunately.

I'm not going to review the graphic novel by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons, even though one of my copies is signed by the artist. Scandalously, I don't consider myself properly qualified, having only read it for the first time last year. I picked it up so many times in Forbidden Planet over the preceding two decades, but the price tag always made me hesitate, and say to myself "I'll just wait and get it in the sales". The sales did finally arrive, and I ended up with two copies - one signed one for the shelf, one to read.

Why all the preamble then? This is a movie review, not a comic review. The reason is so that you understand that I don't actually have a lot of the emotional investment that many other reviewers have. Comic fans 'love' this book, have been waiting a very long time, for something that the author has said was unfilmable, to reach the screen. They will tell you that the ending is different, maybe they won't like the omission of the comic within the comic story "Tales of the Black Freighter". Maybe they've lived with the characters so long that the actors will never live up to their expectations. I have none of those misgivings, and yet, unlike the majority of cinema goers, I have actually read it, so I think I'm in quite a small category of people who only quite liked the comic.

With the story fairly fresh in my mind, I went into the first day screening with some trepidation that inevitable changes would have been made to fit such a dense work into only two and three quarter hours. But Watchmen is uncompromising, and in my opinion, included everything important - everything I remember anyway.

So - to the movie. Imagine if there really were a group of masked heroes, fighting crime on the streets of New york. Heroes like Batman, not Spiderman. These people use their fists to beat up the bad guys, with a few handy tools and a flying ship, but mostly just their fists. Then imagine further that they were driven underground by an anti-vigilante movement, and most of them have retired. The action takes place in an alternate universe where this has already happened, and it's 1985, and the world is in the middle of the cold war. Richard Nixon is in his fifth term as President, and his finger is hovvering over the armageddon button.

Once masked man, Rorschach, discovers that someone is killing off his ex-colleagues, and starts to investigate. He gets a pretty poor reception along the way from his old gang, but we get a chance to see each of them with flashbacks filling in the backstory. These shifts in time, along with the alternate universe setting, and Dr Manhattan's concept of knowing the past and the future as one time, make it a pretty challenging experience, but every scene is so full of interest that even if you don't fully understand it, it's still enjoyable to watch. I've done some reading around this, and I missed a ton of references I'll only fully discover with a DVD and director's commentaries; I'm looking forward to that. (One example is a tiny scene, where a masked hero saves Batman's parents from murder at the back of an opera theatre - so this universe has no Batman).

Dr Manhattan, I mentioned him above, is the only real superhero in the film. He is a man turned superman, with massive powers over time and space. He has lost most of his humanity and is so apart from it that he doesn't seem to understand right from wrong any more. He is also blue, and naked most of the time.

Jackie Earle Haley is a revelation as Rorschach - the prison scenes are my most memorable, and his line "I'm not locked in here with you, YOU'RE locked in here with ME" summed up his anger, persecution complex, and egotistical personality so well. In the book we don't get to see him say this directly, it's much better in the film. I also loved The Comedian - a great character, must have been so much fun to play. I was a little disappointed with a couple of the others - Night Owl II was a bit too wishy-washy at times, so that when it came time for him to be hard it was less believable. And Carla Gugino I felt was wasted, all that old person makeup.

I was completely surprised by how much music there was in the film. Quite a few scenes dispensed with any dialogue and just ran a full 3-4 minute song - from Dylan's "The Times they are a changing" for the opening titles, to Nat King Cole's "Unforgettable", from Phillip Glass to Wagner. In most cases, I really liked the songs, and it was great to hear them loud in a cinema, but they didn't work as soundtracks to the film. They jarred me out of the scenes, out of the action, and made me think about the song. This isn't a soundtrack's job, you should hardly notice the music unless it's wrong.

If you've seen '300' you'll already be familiar with the ultraviolence of his fighting scenes - we get them here too.
We also get sex, and some hints at violent sex as well. And of course a huge blue naked man walking around. Was this necessary, or gratuitous? Tough call, but I would have cut a bit, and left more to the imagination. I would have made the film a '15' certificate - the '18' is going to kill the audience figures, and even the DVD rentals, and wasn't necessary. It's a shame that so many people who would have loved this film are not going to be allowed to see it, and it would not have hurt artistically I think. If a film is definitely horror, or definitely soft porn, then include everything you need and give it an '18', but maximise your audience unless there is an overwhelming need not to.

Phew, nearly finished. Conclusion - Zack Snyder has made a remarkable film, that looks fantastic. He has taken the comic, and had storyboarding help from the original artist in crafting the scenes, and it all works. It looks authentic, and I can't see any fan of the original, or anyone else, knocking it for this. It's fairly long, but I wanted more, as it's fascinating from beginning to end. I loved it, and would encourage everyone to go and see it - we need more of this kind of cinema, so we should support the people who make it.

Posted by se71 at 07:20 PM | Comments (0)

September 12, 2007

Kingpin

Kingpin

I think I've mentioned before my aversion to watching The Farrelly brothers films. The always look so tastless from the previews. I'm not always averse to a bit of tastelessness, but seldom seek it out.

Feeling sore and tired from a long day that started with me falling off my bike, I settled down alone to watch TV and this film came on. I've just been bowling coincidentally, so a bowling film didn't seem like a bad idea.

This is a story of a promising young bowler Roy Munson (Harrelson), who naively gets betrayed by a more experienced professional Ernie McCracken (Murray) and loses his bowling hand in a revenge attack by some bowlers they hustled. Sounds amusing yet? Years later he is a seedy drunken salesman and comes across an Amish man Ishmael (Randy Quaid) who is a great bowler. He decides to teach this man to win, and they set off to Reno for a £1 million competition. On the road trip they hook up with gangster's moll Claudia (Vanessa Angel).

There is quite a bit of grossout humour, but it's all fairly censor friendly and only merits the movie getting a 12 rating. It really is very funny, like the running gag where Roy holds out his false hand to show people the prize bowling ring which he wears, and they misinterpret and say "It's a rubber hand". Hmm, honestly, it's funnier in the film. The Amish people are stereotypical cutouts - and of course they build a barn which is a movie certainty. Bill Muray is fantastic as the folically challenged Ernie - his bizarre comb-over hairstyle should get it's own billing in the credits.

The whole is greater than the sum of the parts. The humour is good natured, the story surprisingly touching in many ways, and I was really quite surprised to like it quite so much.

Posted by se71 at 09:15 AM | Comments (0)

January 15, 2007

Guilty Pleasures

No, don't get too excited, despite the title this is just another post about my book/film/TV/music interests.

I'm currently reading a book by Dean Koontz called "The Husband". Koontz is a phenominally prolific and successful author, but he's unlikely to win many literary prizes. I feel kind of guilty reading the books, a bit like eating McDonalds food, but now and then I can't help myself and purchase one or the other and devour them greedily. I literally (sic) can't wait to get a break from whatever else I'm doing to find out what happens next.

See also my review of "Odd Thomas", which I notice now has two sequels I will have to read.


This is a placeholder post where I might add other guilty pleasures - what are yours?

Posted by se71 at 03:50 PM | Comments (0)

November 29, 2006

Careers in Soaps

This story on BBC News suggests that young people do not get good career role models from characters in soap operas.

I'd have thought (*) this was self evident. Soap characters really aren't good role models for anything.

Relationships - always having affairs to spice up the story, broken homes the norm.

Work - in the laundarette, market trader, bar staff and other McJobs etc etc

Health - pies and chips, always in the pub

Drugs - always drinking alcohol, harder drugs frowned upon though

Sport - Err, never for these couch potatoes

Technology - the kids play on consoles, actually understanding a PC would be unheard of

Literature - tabloids


God I'm so depressed now, just thinking about it.

(*) caveat - I gave up soaps over 10 years ago, please tell me I'm wrong and it's all much better now.

(meant to finish this article off, but never did, so posting it finally, as is)

Posted by se71 at 02:39 PM | Comments (0)

November 28, 2006

The Karate Kid

I saw this movie when it first came out in 1984 - it's a great coming of age story about the underdog taking on a big challenge. I seemed to remember it was fairly family friendly, so when my kids started pestering me to see it (the "Wax On/Wax Off" motto is famous still!) I popped into the local HMV to see if I could pick up a copy on DVD. To my surprise it's rated a '15'. I wracked my brains, and still couldn't think why this might be, so bought it anyway. I needn't have worried. This film definitely needs a reclassification - I can only think of the one occurrence of a fairly mild swear word as a reason it might conceivably miss out on a PG rating.

Ralph Maccio plays New York teenager Daniel who is uprooted by his single mother to California. As he tries to make friends, he falls for a girl called Ali (a very early role for Elizabeth Shue). She is an ex-girlfriend of the leader of a group of kids who attend the local karate school. This guy doesn't like Daniel muscling in on his girl, and soon Daniel is bullied, beaten up, and depressed with his new life.

In steps Mr Miyagi, the caretaker of his apartment block. Miyagi, played by the late Pat Morita in a career defining performance, turns out to be a karate expert. He says he will teach Daniel how to beat the bullies in a karate competition. His unorthodox tutoring methods are priceless and the centerpiece of the film.

This is classic '80s fodder, not to be missed. Did I mention it's pretty funny too.

Notes: Checking on IMDB I find that in 2005 this film was reclassified as a 12 in the UK. This is still too much.

I also see that Ralph Macchio was born in 1961 - this makes him probably aged 22 when the movie was shot - he definitely doesn't look that old.

Posted by se71 at 10:33 AM | Comments (0)

November 07, 2006

Flickr Interestingness

I've been ego surfing on Flickr via Scout, and discovered that one of my photos from last year has made it into their interesting page for that day.

Here's the intersting page and here is the individual photo.

The Buncefield explosion in Hemel Hempstead was one of the most interesting things to happen that day, and quite a few shots of that made it into the 500 photo shortlist.

I'm unreasonably pleased about mine being there though :-)

Have a look yourself - maybe you've got some intersting photos too! Let me know.

Posted by se71 at 10:54 AM | Comments (0)

June 22, 2006

Sin City

This is primarily a review of the movie, though some references to the graphic novels is inevitable. Why? Well, becasue they are practically identical. Never before has a live action film crossed over from the printed page with such complete accuracy. In fact, I'd even go so far as to say that if you've seen/read one of them, you can honestly claim to have read/seen the other too. My previous short review of "The Hard Goodbye" is here.

This movie is based on three separate graphic novels, with short, interconnected introduction and conclusion sections. Unfortunately the lack of continuity shows. There is an attempt to get all the characters together near the end, to make it look like one story, but it doesn't really fool anyone. And one of the stories starts and ends the film - well, actually, it sort of goes A B C D B A. (B - That Yellow Bastard, C - The Hard Goodbye, D - The Big Fat Kill, A - bookend sections). I guess as director I'd have done the same thing, rather than just show the stories consecutively.

However everything does take place in one city, Sin City, where the laws of physics don't seem to work the same way. People can survive falling from tall buildings, and live through appalling gunshot wounds, and even biology is different, with one character turning a luminous yellow after drug treatments. Each of the stories has a main hard man, nothing stops him getting justice, that is, his personal brand of justice. He doesn't mind a bit of maiming, torture and killing, to get revenge. Each of the stories has a tough woman too, though not so tough she doesn't need rescuing by the hard man. Oh, and she is always very attractive, and quite often wears very little or no clothing.

So we are safely in 18 certificate territory. You have been warned.

What we get are detective stories in the Philip Marlow vein, but with a lot more oomph to appeal to a jaded generation that has seen it all and can take it. Bruce Willis is a cop nearing retirement who saves a young girl from a violent rapist, but gets sent to prison becasuse the man he catches is actually the son of the corrupt governer. Mickey Rourke is an ugly man with mental problems, and he scours the city trying to avenge the murder of a prostitute who was kind to him. Finally, Clive Owen is the third tough guy, protecting a group of prostitutes from the corrupt police force. Owen doesn't quite have the meanness of the other two, he doesn't quite convince us that he could take the punishment Willis and Rourke take and keep going, but he comes very close.

The women, as secondary characters, are all the whore with a heart of gold type. They trust their man to help them, but are tough when needed. The film has been branded as sexist, as the women all appeal to male fantasies and need protection from the men. To a large extent this is true, but it's not the whole story. Jessica Alba plays a smart, tough woman, who is self reliant and resourceful. Carla Gugino as Rourke's parole officer only really has one flaw, she believes that the cops are the good guys.

I loved this film - it's fast and furious, violent but darkly funny. It has a magnificent 'look', black and white computer generated backgrounds, with only some bright splashes of colour, maybe in someone's eyes, or their red lipstick. It's not for the faint-hearted, but if you like this kind of thing, then it's one for the DVD collection, as you can easily enjoy it again and again.

Posted by se71 at 10:05 AM | Comments (0)

May 08, 2006

The Sultan's Elephant

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I thoroughly enjoyed watching "The Sultan's Elephant" at the weekend, and if about 4000 photos so fat on Flickr are anything to go by, then I'm not the only one. Here are mine by the way.

This is a piece of street theatre, with massive puppets parading through the streets of London over four days (4th - 7th May 2006). It's an ambitious work, which took years to build and plan, and was a resounding success.

I cycled over to The Mall on Friday evening to see it after work, and caught a glimpse as the Sultan went in to attend a private party in Pall Mall (that description from the official timetable).

On Sunday I took the family up for another look. We saw the little girl riding her scooter, and then getting into the rocket and disappearing. It was very crowded, and a great spectacle. We also of course saw the eleven metre high elephant spraying a happy crowd with water.

I love London for stuff like this.

Posted by se71 at 02:52 PM | Comments (0)

April 07, 2006

Grey's Anatomy

Grey's Anatomy

I wonder what came first? The idea to do yet another medical drama, or the rather poor pun that is the name of this series.

The main star is of course called Grey - Meredith Grey. In the opening episode she starts her first day along with another selection of newly qualified doctors in a busy hospital. They is the usual cultural and personality mix required by US serials; token black, asian and female characters. If we need a poor sap who is a bit useless, well let's make it a white male, wouldn't want to antagonise anyone would we? Grey is of course pretty, vulnerable but strong willed, and intelligent. When a patient is misdiagnosed, she is the only one around who has read the manual properly on that illness.

One of the bosses is a tyrant, though with a heart of gold obviously. Amusingly Grey has had a drunken one night stand with another of the senior doctors there. It's all a bit Scrubbs really, but twice the length with slightly fewer laughs. Everyone is good looking, and the cases are tragic, but it's not about the patients, it's about the doctor's relationships.

I've never seen E.R. which means I cannot do much of a comparison, but I think it will be a bit lighter in tone, with less blood.

Channel 5 are showing it directly after House which is an altogether more serious program. I found myself laughing more however at Hugh Laurie's anti-hero, he is just so fantastic in that role. The laughter is the cynical kind though, Grey's anatomy is much jollier.

Apart from all this falseness and predictability, or maybe even because of it, I found myself liking 'Grey's Anatomy' quite a lot. I like it's PG rating, I feel comfortable wasting an hour being entertained, but not challenged too much. It's not essential viewing, but I have a feeling I'll end up watching it quite a lot, especially if it's always on after 'House'.

Update: Just found out that there is a new TV show viral marketing technique - blogging. So while this show was first going out in the U.S., someone pretending to be a nurse at the hospital wrote a blog about what was going on. Clever. Here it is, it's called seattlegracegossip.

Now all we need is someone with better programming skills and more time than me to grab that data, and repost it to a new blog at the right stage in the show for us watching in the UK.

(see also the blog from the barman across the street, and also a blog by the writers of the show. They have more blogs than I do! )

Posted by se71 at 02:14 PM | Comments (0)

April 05, 2006

Cutting out the deadwood in my music collection

I listen to a lot of albums, on CD, and on my computer and on MP3 players. I've always known that some of them have tracks that are less than perfect. I always persevere, persistently listening to not only every track, but also to them in the correct order (the closing bars in any song give me a Pavlovian response to the opening bars of the next one).

When I'm tempted to skip a track, I think back to the album Rumours by Fleetwood Mac. I borrowed this from my friend Richard Moore when I was at school. I listened to it and really liked it, but told him the next day that the track 'Songbird' was a bit poor and let the whole thing down. He assured me that I was wrong, that I should keep listening, and that I'd change my mind. Of course - he was completely right. 'Songbird' is a fantastic song. It's not flashy like the Lindsey Buckingham tracks, not smouldering sexy like the Stevie Nicks ones, it's a pure love song and a perfect ending to side one (yes, it was vinyl in those days). I could have given up, and determined never to make that mistake in the future.

As I'm getting older though, the amount of music I have seems to be growing exponentially and almost overwhelming me. I have decided that it is time to cut out the deadwood in my collection. I don't want to make any mistakes, so extensive listening is required before the incisions start. But we all have albums that we play which start well, meander a bit, and your ears lose interest, then maybe a really good track makes you sit up and notice again. I think it's time to stop wasting all that time listening to junk.

I've already started to make some value judgements on the CDs in my collection. I'm listening critically and asking myself the question "Would I be disappointed if I never heard this track ever again?" It's surprisingly easy, even on old favourite CDs, to say "No!". Those filler tracks are heading towards the bit-bucket of history.

It would have been fairly difficult a few years ago to actually put into practice any cull like this. It's not practical to lift the needle on vinyl, and on analog cassette the APSS (Automatic Programme Search System) functions similarly meant you had to get up and go over to the deck to press the buttons (and even then they were likely to skip past a good song, or stop at a quiet bit in the bad one).

Even with CDs it's a bit of a pain to extract tracks. I suppose I could burn a new copy of the CD with the bad songs removed and put it in the jewel case, and then file the original away somewhere. But that's a lot of effort and will realistically never happen.

No, the best thing to do is to make sure all my playlists in whatever software player I have reflect my tastes. In fact, I can keep the old playlist with all the tracks, and have a new one with just the tunes I like. I do switch around a lot between applications like Winamp, iTunes and Music Match, but I think a lot of them support the .M3U format so that's the one I'm going to try.

I'll keep you posted on my progress.

Note:
Of course, I've pretty much written off several albums already (100th Window, The Dreaming, Beaucoup Fish, Hometime, Vapor Trails.

Note 2: books and films are also on my hitlist...

Posted by se71 at 02:10 PM | Comments (0)

March 30, 2006

Up The Line - Robert Silverberg

It seems a great idea - have a time travel story where the hero goes back to Byzantium about one thousand years ago and falls in love with his great, great, multi great, grandmother. Robert Silverberg is a renowned science fiction writer, so I wondered why I hadn't seen this one on the shelf any time. I picked it up in the local second-hand store however, and soon discovered why it's out of print.

Although this novel does explore the interesting concepts of the paradoxes of time travel, it was written at a time, the early 1970s, when there was far too much graphic sex in science fiction. The writers of the day all seemed to assume that the future would be full of liberated women, walking around practically naked, and under the influence of new recreational drugs that made them open to advances from any man around. Maybe that's the way society looked like it was going in a world before AIDS. LSD was hip, the psychedelic scene and the popstar lifestyles of people like the Beatles encouraged this freedom of expression. Perhaps people thought this future was inevitable, like flying cars and three course meals in a pill. But now we can look back and see how it all panned out, and it just hasn't happened that way. A lot of the fiction therefore looks outdated and embarassing at best, but this one is also quite unpleasant. Either it's that, or someone must have hit me with the politically correct stick, because in the book I found that the casual attitute to incest, under age sex, and rape, was so unpleasant that I had problems enjoying the rest of the story. It's for this reason I think it must have fallen out of favour with publishers.

It's a shame about the X rated nature of this book, because there is actually a good story hidden inside. Judson Elliot gets a job as a Time Courier. He takes groups of tourists back in time to witness famous events in history - and specialises in Byzantium. Whilst on a trip one of his party escapes into time and starts changing history. Judd and the other couriers have to do a lot of hopping around the centuries to try and find him and put things right. Of course, there is a Time Police force they have to try and keep all this activity hidden from. It's quite fun, and completely impossible, to try and keep track of all inconsistencies that time travel would create.

"The grandfater paradox" is very famous - what would happen if you killed your own grandfather before he had met your grandmother? You would therefore not be born. But if you weren't born, then you couldn't go back and kill your grandfather. So you'd be born again. Would this create some kind of loop? In this book the added complication of going back in time and actually being your own grandfather is explored.

If people really could go back and see Byzantium, surely all these tourists would eventually fill up all the available viewing spots.
If you could travel anywhere in time, why not go back and buy a nice property and some slaves and spend your vacations there. These issues are examined, but of course no conclusion is reached. The chances for disaster are so great that even supposing Time Couriers and Time Police really existed, I do not believe they would be able to control things at all.

So the time travel bits are good, the Byzantium history lessons are a bit too detailed and overlong, and the morals are disturbing. Overall, I wouldn't really recommend this to anyone but a stereotypical frustrated teenage boy - he could read this on the bus-ride to rent "American Pie" or "Porky's".

Posted by se71 at 05:21 PM | Comments (0)

March 27, 2006

The Flintstones

The Flintstones on IMDB

This is the 1994 movie of the favourite children's cartoon TV series. John Goodman plays Fred Flintstone, in a curious stone age world where all our modern inventions exist, but are mostly made of rocks, and are either man - or dinosaur - powered.

Everyone knows and loves the Flintstones, so it must have been a brave decision to make a live action movie. People could really hate it if it spoiled their memories. But with executive producers Stephen Spielberg, and the original series producers William Hanna and Joseph Barbera on board, they had as good a chance of success as it was possible to get. It should be noted however that one of the writers, Stephen E. De Sousa, had another go the following year with a movie adaptation of the comic book character Judge Dredd; this was a bit of a critical and commercial disaster. Success at these things is not guaranteed.

But they did succeeded, and made a fun movie that is faithful to the original series, and made a lot of money. Fred uses his feet to propel his car. The waste disposal is an odd looking creature sitting under the sink eating the garbage. They even included the opening and closing titles from that program, with a huge dinosaur ribs dinner toppling the car over, and a computer generated pet sabre-toothed tiger being put out on the doorstep for the night.

The plot is very poor however. It's much too complicated, and actually very dark for a kids film. Fred causes his best friend Barney to lose his job and get evicted from his home, and the pair of them almost get lynched from a tree - they even have nooses round their necks at this point. The dark tones though are easily missed by children as the action is non-stop, and there is always another funny invention, or great special effect to see.

The supporting cast are all really good. Elizabeth Taylor is great as the mother-in-law, and it's a shame she hasn't been in any big movies since (just the TV movie "Those Old Broads"). Rick Moranis as nerdy Barney, and Rosie O'Donnell and Elizabeth Perkins are Betty and Wilma all emulate their two dimensional namesakes to perfection. The most amusing character is Halle Berry vamping it up as Fred's devious secretary. It's always fun to watch a major star in an early embarassing role.

So don't worry if you loved the cartoon and think you'll hate this. The characters are just the same, the crazy stone-age inventions are all there. Ignore the dopey plot, and you'll enjoy this movie a lot.

Posted by se71 at 12:12 PM | Comments (0)

The Traveller - John Twelve Hawks

This is a great book, and I didn't realise until very near the end that the story had a long way to go and couldn't possibly finish properly before the back cover arrived. Happily, it's revealed in a postscript that there are another two in the proposed trilogy on the way.

If you feel paranoid about personal privacy, as I do, then you will love the vindication this novel provides that we're all headed for a hellish time in a few short years. It is set in a near future world, where the agents of The Vast Machine are using computers to monitor us and control us. If we think we are being watched all the time, then we will behave. There are a lot of methods to do this, like tracking our cell phones to see where we go, also our credit card purchases, and face recognition systems attached to CCTV cameras. Most authors would make a good novel out of this, but Hawks goes a bit further, and turns a future thriller into a science fiction story too.

In this world, there are people who can project their essence, their 'Light' to other dimensions. These people are called Travellers. The Vast Machine are a shadowy intelligence organisation. They want to control the world, and think these people can help them. I'll not give away the 'how' here, but it's an even more outrageous concept. Maya is a person who has tried to live 'off the grid', out of sight of the Vast Machine. She is a Harlequin, one of another group of people, but these ones are dedicated protectors of Travellers. They are conditioned from birth to be experts in fighting and other skills necessary to survive in a hostile world and keep the Travellers safe.

Maya finds out about pair of brothers who might be Travellers. Gabriel and Michael are sons of a known Traveller, and the gift is sometimes passed down to children. She disguises herself and heads to America from her home in England to try and find them to protect them.

There are hints of other recent media in here - 'The Matrix' and 'The Da Vinci Code' being the most prominent, and the combination of real life privacy concerns in a post 9/11 world, along with the mysticism of the Traveller idea, is an uneasy mix. It just about works however, and is an exciting and stimulating thriller.

I recommend this to anyone who thinks that removal of privacy by the government to help stop terrorism is fine. If you have nothing to hide, why should you worry? Well, you might worry when all this information gets into the wrong hands.

I'm very much looking forward to the next installments.

Posted by se71 at 10:56 AM | Comments (1)

March 24, 2006

War of the Worlds

*** Spoilers ***

This is quite a good film, but misses the mark in several ways to stop it being great.

First, it's a science fiction story, and yet the science just isn't explained at all. Even some fanciful hocus pocus would be enough, but there isn't a character smart enough, or with enough imagination, to even make up a reason why the aliens would stay buried underground for millions of years.

Next, though some of the special effects are good, some look really low-tech to me. The scene where Ray is captured by a tripod looks like it was made as the money was running out. And the red weed didn't look biological at all. Maybe this was a deliberate ploy - I've read that this might be the case - less glossy, more real. It doesn't work.

The worst thing though is the pace. There are a few long scenes - the arrival of the marticns, the drive out of the city, the boat, hiding in the cellar. The links between them happen sometimes with no build up, and no warning. Suddenly things are different, and everyone accepts the new situation far too readily. This is particularly true near the end - the final scenes were just too abrupt. We could have done without some of the character buildup earlier on to make way for a bit better plot development.

Actually, the really, really, worst thing is Tom Cruise trying to sing a lullaby. What editor let that one though? I nearly cried, it was so painful.

There were some good points though. It is genuinely scary in places. This has turned out to be a better horror film than science fiction, with some sustained suspense. The mobs look real and menacing. People die, lots of people, and the army are powerless. All this comes across as real; a powerful enemy would not be overcome easily, or at all, by the conventional weapons we have. Tom Cruise is not bad in the role of Ray, but I was never really convinced by him. There is a lot made of his character progression from absent father, to hero, but I don't see it. He just reacts to situations, and is the same person at the end as at the start. He's just a normal father who loves his children but can't relate to them, and hates his ex-wife. If any character changes during the movie, it's his son, who finally grows up a bit and shows his dad some respect. Dakota Fanning as the daughter looks scared and screams a lot - she's a better actress than this film allowed her to be. Go and watch 'Dark Skies, the TV series, she is much younger there, but much better.

As a long time fan of the Jeff Wayne musical version of this book, I was always hoping for Richard Burton to come on as narrator and let us know what was happening. I also wanted to hear Wayne's fantastic music. John Williams' score was forgettable, and the aliens made a noise that sounded just like the dinosaurs in Jurassic Park - odd that! And Morgan Freeman doesnt have a resonant enough voice to add the gravitas that was needed. Wasn't James Earl Jones available?

If you've read the book, you'll have fun working out which bits they have used, and what they changed. It's all set in the United States of course, and is present day instead of 19th century England. I guess that's understandable. But the artilleryman and the preacher are combined into the Tim Robbins role, and their madness and motives are not clearly conveyed in his character. The boat 'Thunderchild' is there, but Ray's dash across the country to find his ex-wife is implausable, whereas the hero's search for his missing Carrie in the book is really emotional. I have no idea why they decided to change the way the aliens arrived on Earth - what was wrong with a series of spaceships?

It's certainly not boring, it's a good length, and it'll have you on the edge of your seat in places. But it's a missed opportunity to tell the story clearly. Spielberg, once more, is far too busy trying to tell us about dysfunctional families. This is something that I think 'E.T.' and 'Close Encounters' both also suffered from, and it's a shame he's done it again here.

Posted by se71 at 05:58 PM | Comments (0)

David Gilmour - On An Island

Oh dear, where to start?

I really quite liked "The Division Bell"; was it really twelve years ago? It wasn't anywhere as good as a Pink Floyd album with Roger Waters on board, but it had it's moments. It was worthy of a sixty- eight city tour, and I went to see them in Earl's Court. They were big, loud, and very entertaining.

If you were expecting more stadium filling rock from Gilmour on this release, then you will be sorely disappointed. Only one track, "Take a Breath", actually gets the BPM count above comatose. It's the only one that shows any real sign of life, but even it isn't very exciting.

"Red Sky At Night" sounds like some kind of mini "Shine on you Crazy Diamond" reprise. "This Heaven' has it's moments, a bit smokey jazz club maybe. "The Blue", and in fact a lot of the work here, harks back to a very early album Pink Floyd did in 1972 called "Obscured By Clouds". This track sounds especially like 'Mudmen' from that CD.

The title track "On An Island" is the best song. We all want to hear Gilmour playing his trademark electric guitar sound, and it has a fairly decent bit in the middle here, and an extended solo at the end. The guitar is always there on the album, but he is just strumming with no real passion. All the other tracks are very slight, flimsy. I can hum the complete solo at the end of "Comfortably Numb" from memory - that's not going to happen with any of the work on display here.

Nearly every track make you feel as if you've stumbled upon a small band having a private jamming session in their back garden on a summer's afternoon. The music floats over you, not unpleasantly of course, it sounds nice. I think it might work well as the soundtrack to one of those nature documentaries that are so popular right now. After such a long wait for new material however, I think we deserved a bit more. "Obscured By Clouds" incidentally was a soundtrack album.

The thing that is really lacking however, the one thing that might lift the music out of this torpor and turn it into something meaningful, is the lyrics. There are words of course, well, except on the three forgettable instrumental tracks. The problem is that they are meaningless sentimentalities about how it's nice to sit by the sea, or drink some wine, or look into a child's eyes. Chris de Burgh would have thrown these lyrics out as being too syrupy and cliched. This is about as far away from "The Wall" or "Dark Side of the Moon" as it's possible to get.

A great vocalist could probably do something with the material, but Gilmour, and Waters for that matter, were never good singers. Pink Floyd had fantastic thought provoking lyrics. They practically invented the concept album. They sneered, and shouted, and screamed - they didn't actually do any singing at all really. But Gilmour thinks he can get away with it now, and his voice is just not up to it.

I think the problem is that Gilmour is just to rich and too happy. Hhe doesn't need the money, doesn't need the adulation of the fans. He has nothing left to prove. Stop being so damned nice Dave! Get some decent drums back, where was Nick Mason for this one? In fact, now you've made friends with Waters again after Live8 (that was a great performance), why don't you all go back into the studio and have one more go at a real Pink Floyd album. Waters is a bit of an egomaniac, too political sometimes, too outrageous, but together you are a perfect complementary team. You can reign him in, and he can push you to new musical heights. Get back into the studio, fight a bit, argue with each other and swear once more you'll never work together again, but don't actually split till the music is recorded.

I'd hate for you to keep on making this kind of material, so please make more effort, and I'm sure you can still rock us properly at least one more time.

Posted by se71 at 10:53 AM | Comments (0)

March 20, 2006

Lists Of Bests

Those people at Robot Co-op have been busy again, and have integrated yet another cool site into their existing environment. We've had All Consuming, 43 Things, 43 Places, 43 People, and now we have Lists of Bests.

I must admit to being a bit obsessive recently (shouldn't that be, like, forever? Ed.) with making lists. I like to know what CDs I have, what books I've read, what countries I've visited. This new site lets me create personal lists of these things, or use a list which the site term as 'definitive', a predefined list that everyone should be able to agree on.

I had a mental list of movies I never want to waste my time watching. There was nothing like this on the site, so I set one up here. This is never going to be definitive, so I set up a personal list, I hope you dislike my choices. But other people can also use it, or make a copy of it for their own purposes. They can also compare their version of the list against mine, or another user's list.

The definitive lists are things like 'Oscar Winning Movies', or 'Books by Douglas Adams'. You can have fun seeing how many items on the list you can tick off. Another example is a thing BBC did called The Big Read a couple of years ago. The British the public voted for their favourite books of all time. I determined that I'd try and read all novels in the top 100, and here is that list, and here is my progress through it.

I got so carried away the other day that I created a few definitive lists myself that I felt were needed. Here they are:

Albums claimed to have sold 50 million or more units (a bit of a cheat this - there is only one in the list)

Albums claimed to have sold 40 million or more units

Albums claimed to have sold 30 million or more units

Albums claimed to have sold 20 million or more units

The lists can be anything really, and a very popular one for some strange reason is about food - '50 things to eat before you die'. I'm 77% of my way through that one without even trying :-)

All the sites I mentioned above are linked to Lists of Bests. This interconnectedness is great. You have say, a list of books, and you check off the ones you've consumed (not physically 'eating' books of course, that would be absurd!). The line with the book on it goes green to indicate the change, and the item is added to your All Consuming account. You can also say whether you liked it or not at this stage. When you logon to All Consuming you can then see an overall view of everything you have selected on the Lists of Bests site - like this. In this way you can build up a nice record of everything you read/watch etc. And if you add them into All Consuming first, they also magically appear in any lists you browse on the Lists Of Bests site. Cool!

There are many other features too, like comments, and listing things you want to consume but haven't yet, and things you are currently consuming. It all fits together very neatly, and looks great too with the new Web 2.0 style of allowing updates to be handled right inside the web page with no long winded redrawing of the whole page.

The sites all use the same logon, with single sign-on too, so create your self a free account and have a play. It's quite addictive though, and you may get lost in there for several hours. You have been warned.


Posted by se71 at 03:21 PM | Comments (0)

March 15, 2006

I Still Know What You Did Last Summer

*** Spoilers for both this film and 'I Know What You Did Last Summer' ***

I Still Know What You Did Last Summer

Jennifer Love Hewitt is back, accompanied once more by her on-screen on-off boyfriend, Freddie Prinz Jr, as hapless teenagers Julie and Ray. You do not want to be friends with these people, you're likely to wind up dead.

The action takes place one year exactly following the first film. It should therefore really be called 'I Still Know What You Did The Summer Before Last Summer", but I guess even though it's more accurate, it's a bit of a mouthful.

Recapping that original film, you'll remember that a group of kids are driving home from the prom and knock down a man on a deserted road. They stop, put him in the boot of their car, and then dump him in the sea. But he's not dead, and one year later, on the anniversary of prom night, he starts leaving them ominous notes saying "I Know What You Did Last Summer". Death and mayhem ensue, Julie and Ray however manage to survive, and 'kill' this man. He's easy to spot by the way, he has a hook which he uses to dispatch his victims with, and wears a fisherman's slicker (that's a coat) and waterproof hat even when it's not raining.

Julie is now still having nightmares about this. But she helps her friend Karla win a radio competition for her and three friends to go to a remote island in the Bahamas, and jumps at this as a chance to get away from it all. Ray can't go, so she takes Ben instead, a boy from school who really fancies her. Brandy takes her boyfriend Tyrell, who appears to be there just to keep the swearword count unreasonably high. Meanwhile, back on the mainland, Ray is attacked by Slicker Man and only just escapes with his life. Somehow he realises that Julie will be in danger, so he makes his way to the Bahamas alone, by boat (he's a fisherman too, in case we'd forgotten).

The usual slasher film things start happening on the island, and a storm starts for good measure too. Will Julie survive? Will any of her friends survive? And will Ray get there in time to save them?

There is a bit of misdirection, and a couple of neat twists near the end, but this is really just an excuse to make a bit of sequel cash. The performances are good, lots of screaming of course. The murders are grizzly, but get a bit repetitive; there are only so many ways you can use a hook to kill people I suppose. It's not anywhere near as good as the original, but it you liked that one, then this is also quite fun and not overly long or pretentious. Worth a viewing.

Posted by se71 at 09:27 AM | Comments (0)

March 14, 2006

Chicken Little

When a computer generated animated movie used to come out it was a big deal. Does anyone else remember examining the dust blowing around in Toy Story 2, or Sully's fur in Monsters Inc? Now, only a few years later, they seem to be ten-a-penny. I can't imagine a big Hollywood release getting away with being just old style flat images any more.

Chicken Little is the latest effort from Disney, and it does look good. They haven't gone overboard on the CGI tricks however, and have produced a more rounded, less textured world, which will appeal to the younger target audience. It's pretty obvious that many Pixar films unashamedly target adults, especially computer geeks, as well as the kids This one only has a few in-jokes for the grown-ups, like a scene from an Indiana Jones film, and some obvious War of the Worlds imagery.

The story starts out as fairly standard fare. Young Chicken Little lives with his dad in a single parent family - mother is missing, presumed dead from the way dad still has her photo on the wall. What's going on these days with families - Nemo had no mother, and Lilo had no parents at all!

He causes a panic in the streets when he tells everyone the sky is falling, and his dad makes him feel bad by not believing him. The rest of the film is an attempt by Chicken Little to prove to his dad that he was right, and to get him to realise he should be a better father. This is really handled quite badly in my opinion, over sentimental, with kids acting far older than their age. One of Chicken's friends, Abby Mallard, is even some kind of psychology expert.

None of these complaints will really bother the children watching however. Chicken's friends are a lovable bunch of misfits. There is some mild peril to keep it exciting, and it all works out for the best in the end.

There are a lot of songs in this movie, and it's mostly all feel-good stuff. Even depressing sounding titles like "The End of The World As We Know It" by R.E.M have a bouncy melody. Some are by original artists, and some are voiced by the characters, but interestingly there are no brand new titles, it's all old songs, or cover versions. I kept expecting Chicken to speak with a Woody Allen voice, and his dad really ought to have been Dan Goodman. If you like playing 'spot the voice' in animated films then you'll have a bit of a struggle as none of these are instantly recognisable, except perhaps a certain starship captain.

Overall, a fun kids film, though a bit annoyingly sentimental for adults.

Posted by se71 at 11:17 AM | Comments (0)

February 28, 2006

Dan Brown and copyright

Dan Brown is being sued for using ideas from a non-fiction book in his work of fiction novel - "The Da Vinci Code".

This is so weird; I really hope it gets thrown out of court quickly for the idiot money-grabbing ploy it is. Anything else will really destroy the speculative fiction genre.

The authors of a book called "Holy Blood - Holy Grail" say that Brown used their idea as a basis for his novel. Well, Doh! He actually mentions their work in the text, so that's a bit of a given. What we need to understand about this case is not that Brown was trying to deceive the public into thinking it was his own idea - he was taking a well established theory, and turning it into a novel. This is something science fiction authors do all the time. Isaac Asimov and other authors read about research into tachyons, sub-atomic particles that appear to travel backwards in time. They have been used as the basis of many time travel stories - should those scientists have been allowed to sue everyone for an idea?
Science is always coming up with outlandish theories, space elevators, life under the oceans of Jupiter's moons, asteroids hitting the earth. The climate change theories recently gave us the movie "The Day After Tomorrow" and the novel from Michael Crichton "State of Fear" - should royalties be due to these scientists? And in science, as with most other areas of study, was only one person responsible for the theories. Not likely.

Dan Brown didn't try to pass off the theories as his own, and the "Holy Blood - Holy Grail" authors got a healthy dose of publicity for their own outlandish book when "The Da Vinci Code" took off. They should be paying Dan Brown, not the other way round. Ideas cannot be allowed to be protected in this way. If anything comes of this case, expect a slew of further cases from the science realm, and the death of speculative fiction.

Update:
So the courts actually made the correct decision and threw this case out. The more I think about it though, the more I believe that the whole thing was a publicity stunt for the authors and publishers of both books. And the film of the book comes out in a few months too...

Posted by se71 at 08:47 AM | Comments (0)

February 01, 2006

Google Adsense

I've set up Google's Adsense on this site, and my other blogs too. In case you don't know what that means, it's a way of placing advertisements on my website to generate income for me. Everytime someone clicks on an advert, I think I get a small amount of money.

Currently there is a small ad in the top banner, but that's just because I don't know how to change my site's HTML and CSS well enough to put it down the side yet. Watch that space.

It's great fun watching the ads that Google generates for me. Google look at my page content, and try to match the adverts to the subject matter. I'm even tempted to try and write things here to deliberately try and force particular types of ads :-)

Another interesting feature about having adverts that you haven't chosen yourself on your website, is the possibility that something dodgy will show up. Maybe I'll write about politics, and a link to join the BNP will appear. Friend and fellow blogger Dave Cross pointed out to me that I can remove these from my list - but that makes the assumption that I actually see them.

Anyway, I've started planning my retirement, now that the money has started to roll in - I'm half way to my first dollar already !

Posted by se71 at 10:24 AM | Comments (0)

December 15, 2005

Extras

The British Comedy Awards were last night.

What a load of rubbish.

I'm sorry Ashley Jensen, but you were hardly amusing at all in Extras. You're probably a decent enough actress, and maybe with a funny script you'd be OK, but this show was weak. You only got the award because Ricky Gervaise wrote the thing and he's still the golden boy of UK comedy after the success of The Office. Tasmin Grieg or Catherine Tate deserved this much more.

Little Britain, well, it was funny in the beginning, but the same jokes don't work the 20th time. Matt Lucas is a talented performer, bringing something new to each character - David Walliams however really only does about two accents, badly.

X-Factor is a piece of crap, with piss poor performances every week. Why are people still watching this totally scripted 'live' show. Those water throwing episodes are so clearly setup, and just designed to keep gullable viewers hooked. All the presenters should be ashamed of themselves for inflicting this crud on us. And as for Ant & Dec's Saturday night show, I'd really rather have Noel Edmonds and Mr Blobby back.

Oh, it's so easy to criticise.

Especially when the funniest British program on TV for the last 15 years, "Have I got News For You", didn't even get a look in.

I'm embarassed too, that the three nominations for International comedy show (Curb Your Enthusiasm, Kath & Kim, and The Simpsons) are all miles better than anything we do here in Britain.

Posted by se71 at 11:57 AM | Comments (0)

December 02, 2005

MP3 Players

When I go home tonight, I'll be carrying five MP3 players. How did this kind of thing happen, only a few years ago this would have been absurd.

The first two aren't really my fault - I have a personal laptop that stays in the office during the week and is taken home at weekends. It's used for email and other personal documents that I don't want on my employer's network. It's obviously multimedia enabled and plays MP3s. The second laptop is my company loaner. I have to take it home every day to support the systems I administer for my job. Due to the way we have security set up I'm not allowed to use my personal laptop for remotely connecting to the firms network. It plays MP3s too.

I bought a new phone recently, and thought I'd get one that was business-like but also fun. the Nokia 6230i was recommended. As well as making calls and writing texts, it's also a 1.3Mp camera, a calendar, alarm clock, web browser, radio, and also amongst other things, an MP3 player.

Being a bit gadget mad, I couldn't resist the new Sony PSP. I waited for years to buy a portable device that plays games and movies for a reasonable price. This one has a great screen, browses the web, can do a nice slideshow of my photos, and also plays MP3s.

The fifth and final MP3 player is actually branded as such. It's an iRiver 390T with a built in radio and voice recorder. It's the smallest and lightest and the only one that takes proper batteries. I like it as it has a long battery life, and I never have to carry a charger for it.

So on my person the tally goes:

5 MP3 players
3 MP3 encoders
2 radios (4 if you count laptop internet radio)
4 web browsers
4 calendars
4 voice recorders

Funny thing is, I'll probably just sit quietly and read a book.

Posted by se71 at 10:41 AM | Comments (0)

November 13, 2005

NaNoWriMo Update

NaNoWriMo, apart from being really hard to type, is also really hard to do.

I've done about 5000 words in 2 weeks, so the target of 150,000 is looking a bit unrealistic - this year.

I think I need to try and lower the quality of what I'm writing a bit (if that is possible :), so that I can churn it out faster. One problem I'm having already is remembering what a character is like so that I don't contradict myself. I can't stand internal inconsistencies in stories.

Check out my author profile page

I guess I should stop blogging about it and get back to it though...

Posted by se71 at 01:10 PM | Comments (0)

July 22, 2005

London Underground Temporary Notice


DSC02719
Originally uploaded by se71.
I took this photo of a sign at Waterloo last night, and wanted to put it into an appropriate Flickr Pool. I couldn't find one I liked, so I thought I'd see what the process of setting one up was.

The result is here.

Posted by se71 at 01:19 PM | Comments (0)

June 20, 2005

Wimbledon

Isn't Wimbledon great?

The quality British newspapers obviously think so. Deprived of the chance to put Jordan/Jodie/Abby or similar glamour model on their front pages (because nothing they do is actually news of course) we must usually look at Tony Blair, Gordon Brown or Prince Charles.

Now Wimbledon is here, it's a chance for a large colour photo of a young blond woman on the cover. Maria Sharapova, last years women's champion, is said woman. The Daily Telegraph managed another photo on Page 5, and a long interview and second large full colour photo in the sports section.

Admittedly she is quite easy on the eye, and though comparisons might be made to Kournakova, the former newspaper's darling won on looks but disappointingly never came close to Sharapova's achievement on court. She is consigned to history, and now we have a new tennis glamour queen. It's also interesting that the top women's player Davenport, and the Williams sisters, didn't even get a look in today, not even one photo in the special Wimbledon supplements. Obviously not quite pretty enough.

I'm not complaining you understand, G8 leaders and Royalty get enough exposure the rest of the year. I'm just amused that both the Times and Telegraph needed to justify their photos with a minor story about a stalker being banned from Wimbledon. I wonder what the justification will be next time.

Posted by se71 at 09:36 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

June 17, 2005

DVD Recorder

Yee-haa. I am now the proud owner of a DVD HDD Recorder. It's made by LG and is an RH7500 with an 80b disk drive for recording TV programs and doing that clever tine-slip thing where you can record live TV, and pause it and watch it again and stuff. Exciting. Maybe now I'll also finally get round to putting all my home video on DVD - it should be much simpler than the pain I've had on my PC trying to do it. Will post back my conclusions once my 14 day trial is over and I've decied whether to keep it or take it back to the shop, Richer Sounds.

Update

This DVD recorder definitely goes in my list of best buys ever. It does everything it claimed to do, has recorder faultlessly and played back everything I've thrown at it. It records from Camcorder vie Firewire and I can back this up to DVD. I can record a whole TV series on it's large harddrive.

The ultimate test was this weekend. I downloaded a .AVI file off the internet that I wanted to watch. I even had some problems with my PC and had to download a new CODEC to get Windows to play the file. Then I couldn't make it into a movie DVD because I had no AVI -> MPEG converter, and no time to search for one. So I just copied the file natively to a data DVD-R disk. I'm not even sure why I tried the disk in the LG player, as I was convinced it wouldn't work, and I had left the remote control in another house as an added complication. But it 'just worked'. Excellent player.

Posted by se71 at 04:50 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

May 17, 2005

Lucian Freud

There is a painting of a female nude in my copy of Metro newspaper today. I'm no artist, and it's easy of course being a critic, but it looks to me like something a spotty teenager might produce. The woman looks very plain, she is posed awkwardly, the colours are very drab, and her nakedness leaves nothing to the imagination.

Reading the article below, I discover that this painting is actually of the artist's daughter Bella, and is believed to be worth about $2 million. The mind boggles.

This picture is horrible. It's ugly, seedy, and leaves a bad taste in my mouth. If this is modern art, then I think it's being bought for perverse reasons rather than any actual aethstic ones. If I have a picture on my wall, I want to actually enjoy looking at it.

Posted by se71 at 11:19 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

May 01, 2005

The Scream

The BBC are reporting that the iconic painting "The Scream" by Edvard Munch may well have been destroyed. This is of course terrible news, it's a fantastic piece of work. I got to thinking though that maybe we don't really need the physical picture any more. I have never been to see it, and never really planned to. The internet has made it available for everyone to view at any time, so is the paint and canvas something we should mourn?

There are some works of art that cannot be represented in pixels on a screen. The exhibits in the Tate Modern Turbine Gallery are always huge, always multi-dimensional and multi-sensual, and have to be experienced. They are fleeting, and once they have gone, that's it, you cannot experience them again. Pieces of sculpture, again three dimensional art, it still not something a computer can convey properly. Maybe when we have holographic projecters (like R2D2's on Star Wars, but better quality), we can walk around a representation of Rodin's Thinker and get a good impression of it. I don't really think it will really be good enough though, sculpture should be touched in my opinion.

I can see The Scream any time, I can print it out, I can buy a print and put it on my wall for very little money. The original may be gone, but the image will never be forgotten, and while a poster is not 100% as good, I think it's close enough for most of us.

Posted by se71 at 12:48 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

April 13, 2005

THHGTTG Movie

I never thought I'd see a big budget film version of The Hitch-Hiker's Guide To The Galaxy, but it's actually happened, and is on it's way to our screens on 29th April.

I'm prepared to be completely disappointed. I hope I'm not. Prepare for the worst and then you can only be pleasantly surprised is my motto in this case.

But like "The Likely Lads" trying to avoid seeing the football results before watching the replay on TV in the evening, I'm really hoping nothing slips out about it before I get a chance to see it.

In this brave new world of interweb connected blogs and online discussions, I'm thinking that news is going to leak out, unless I block myself off completely, and I can't do that.

This is complicated by the fact that I don't mind the good news leaking out. When the Lord of the Rings films were released, there was unreserved joy from fans of the book, so I knew I wouldn't be disappointed. But if I hear nothing, I'm going to have to assume that countrary to the proverb, "No news is bad news" !

Posted by se71 at 04:13 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

April 05, 2005

24

I watched the first series of 24 on DVD, and have to say enjoyed it quite a lot.

I started watching the second one on TV, missed one episode, then didn't like to keep going and decided I'd get the DVD of that too.

In the meantime, I had disturbing thought.

There are only 365 days in a year, and I'm about to spend a whole one of them sitting in front of a TV watching a single show.

When you look at it like that, it's a pretty big commitment. And now they've made three and four. And a computer game. Am I really happy spending almost a whole week of my life on this? I've decided no.

We all vegg out in front of the TV. Chances are I'll watch at least 2 or 3 hours TV nearly every day. It's not generally a singular activity though, it's a family thing, and gives us a shared cultural background. Thankfully I cut out soaps and sport completely about 10 years ago, as those things really do drain your time, and keep you away from what I'd call 'real' content. I tend to like films, short series, or long series like CSI and Law and Order where it doesn't matter if you miss an episode, they are all pretty much self contained.

This all leads into a much broader issue of time management. Actively choosing what you do with your time, rather than letting it just slip by. Setting up goals, and working towards them.

So if your goal is "Never miss an episode of Eastenders", and you've actively chosen that as something you'd rather do than the other myriad of options, then so be it, that's fine. However if you've just fallen into it as a habit, then perhaps it's time to stop and think about that old chestnut phrase:

On your deathbed, will you look back at your life and say "I wish I'd watched more Eastenders" :-)

Posted by se71 at 10:40 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

March 27, 2005

Dr Who

Dr Who is back. I'm still confused about the 'Who' bit, as he never introduces himself that way - just "The Doctor".

Anyway - happily, after several months nail-biting anticipation, it's really very good.

Having followed Christopher Ecclestone's career since Shallow Grave, I was worried about his suitability for this role. I've always found him a bit serious and introverted. He seems to have completely changed however, both as an actor and off screen too (The Johathan Ross interview spent quite some time discussing his sticky out ears for example). He is much less serious. There is humour and self deprecation that makes him likeable. And yet, his past roles are helping this one. We can see that he can be hard when he needs to be, is capable of cruelty (he doesn't tell Rose her boyfriend might still be alive). So even when the program veers into slapstick with a disembodied arm trying to strangle the Doctor and Rose, the danger is not diminished completely.

The story this week was pretty weak. It was about an alien race trying to take over the Earth by animating all the plastic (especially showroom dummies for some reason) to kill humanity. Rose is a worthless young woman with a crap job, a useless boyfriend, and no future. She lives with her equally unambitious mother, and no father (of which more in later time-travelling episodes). The Doctor bumps into her a few times in his attempts to save the world, and eventually she shows her only talent (gymnastics) to save him and the world. They head off in the TARDIS time machine for next week's adventure

But the story wasn't important, it was just a vehicle to get the stars together, and most importantly, draw in a new generation of viewers. I am able to report that it worked for my two children, who weren't so scared they had to hide behind a cushion, but did find it exciting and fun. The new Doctor is very different from past incarnations, which is a good thing as he'd become far too much of a dandy. Billy Piper as Rose is actually convincing as his bimbo airhead assistant (who'd have thought it!)

The action gets more serious in later episodes, which is as it should be. The special effects are much better than before - not Hollywood standard, but not embarassing. And there are going to be Daleks!

I'm very much looking forward to the rest of the series.

Posted by se71 at 08:13 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

March 23, 2005

What we've given the world lately

We're exporting quite a few TV shows to the US at the moment. Here are a few and some links from the BBC:

The Office
Pop Idol (American Idol)
Who Wants To Be A Millionaire
The Weakest Link
Strictly Come Dancing


They are all bound to be terrible, even The Office is a remake. What must the Americans be thinking of us.

Posted by se71 at 04:43 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

July 01, 2002

Snow Falling On Cedars

Courtroom Drama in US postwar American/Japanese community

Ethan Hawke plays a newspaperman in small town America just after WW2. The town has a large Japanese community, and we discover that before the war he had had a japanese girl as his first love. The war broke them up, and afterwards she married a Japanese man. Hawke is still obsessively in love with her, and when her husband is accused of murder his detective work uncovers information that could save him. At the eleventh hour, Hawke does finally divulge the information, earning the girls gratitude, and perhaps releasing his demons.

So this is a story about lost love, but there are two other main plot themes. It's also a story about prejudice, and a murder mystery. When Japan entered the Second World War by bombing Pearl Harbour, all Japanese people living in the US came under suspicion. Many thousands were relocated to concentration camps, but some Japanese men entisted in the army and fought on the side of the Allies. Even before the war Japanese people were not allowed to own land, and this is what initiates the murder case. The japanese man tries to buy some land that had been promised to his father but taken back and sold to someone else for a higher price when he was sent to a camp during the war. He feels betrayed, and when one night the land owner is drowned in his own fishing net with his head bashed in, the japanese is suspected of the murder. As he had been at the scene and left incriminating evidence there, things don't look too good for him. The community are still suspicious of Japanese people, and so in their prejudice want him to be guilty. Hawkes information reveals that it was just a tragic accident all along

It's a very slow, atmospheric film, told mostly in flashback. Like the book on which it is closely based, this is a lot more about feelings than story, but this isn't a bad thing. That's not to say the story isn't good, it unravels organically up to the satisfying climax. The scenery is fantastic, and the music, though slightly overpowering in places, blends in well.

AE.1

Posted by se71 at 06:15 PM | Comments (0)