31/December/2009

It's amusing how there's so much build-up to Christmas, and then once it's over there's still six days to go before the new year starts. I'm actually waking up on some days and thinking "wait, is it not 2010 already?" I'm still unsure how it's going to be pronounced. Will it be twenty-ten or two-thousand-and-ten? I'm of the personal belief that it remains two-thousand-and-something until the last two digits become more than two syllables. Only one more day until we officially find out!

 

I watched Pathfinder. The new version. Indians versus Vikings!

I'd like to give my western audiences a heads-up by saying that here in the UK we're a bit behind the times on regarding the proper politically correct term for the heroic ethnic group presented in the movie. I mean, Indian has always been an awkward term to me because, hurf, there's the place called India. I know jack about American history and therefore I don't know if there's actually a legitimate and valid reason behind that or if it's just people being ignorant. Then again, Native American has always sounded weird to me too since it springs to mind the likes of "African American," which indeed can be accurate, but far too often it ditches original heritage and all those factors in favour of "hey, all people with this skin colour must come from that place!" I know a white fellow who came from Africa and he loves riling people up with that. True story.

So, Pathfinder! Normally in the second paragraph I provide a summary of the story, and indeed, Pathfinder has a story, there's no problem there. The problem is that it's not very clear. There's the obvious bare essentials consisting of "this Viking kid is adopted by the Native Americans and has to resolve his issues with his kind before he can be accepted as one of their own, thus ensues Viking killing rampage!" But there's a variety of mild twists, such as the hero leading the Vikings to a certain place which requires trekking through some treacherous frozen territory and other whatnots, but there's not really a lot of exposition. A lot of times the movie suddenly cuts to the same characters in a wildly different location without so much as an establishing shot, and the movie greatly emphasises its atmosphere and gratuitous action scenes over actually getting to know the characters or their motivations. There's dialogue, but a vast majority of it is in the original native dialect of each folk, with subtitles only showing up periodically, though sometimes it cuts back to English for no discernible reason, creating a very jarring effect.

That's my main beef with the film. It really dumps a lot of emphasis on the detailed action and the beautiful scenery, and there's no denying that the movie is wonderfully shot. It does get rather Batman Begins on me at times where it cuts so much or is zoomed so close on the characters that you can't really tell what's happening, but it most certainly doesn't break the film. But it tries to actually cram in a story as well, but given how little attention is actually paid to it, I personally felt the movie could've gotten by with just no speech at all. That, or taking the Quest for Fire route and only having the original non-English dialect, making the actions and emotions carry the story.
But at the end of the day, the film is along the lines of Beastmaster where you do literally watch it for the atmosphere, action and basic story, and everything else is surplus to requirements. Pathfinder does kinda foil even that due to how it often felt the movie could've ended several times already around the 40 to 60 minute mark, but they kept it going. It ain't bad, but it kinda felt like a lot of effort put into something that could've been better, y'know.

 


28/December/2009

Is it just me, or has Christmas television gotten crappier each year? I didn't see a single thing on the 25th that looked appealing, and although Channel4 delivered the goods a couple of weeks ago by showing Jingle All The Way, it usually works best when it's paired up with other interesting material, y'know. Then again, I don't really watch television anymore, so I guess I'm just complaining for the sake of complaining. Wouldn't be the first time!

I can't help but find it amusing how Microsoft's spellchecker has no qualms with "crappier."

 

So I got playing some Call of Duty: World At War co-operative online today. Did I ever mention getting my Xbox 360 online? Yeah! The game's quite fun offline, but even more fun online because whoo co-operative gameplay, though the teams I'm paired with are often dolts. On quite a few occasions I was paired up with a group of children with squeaky Mickey Mouse voices and whined about being burned alive. It's a relief you can revive allies because otherwise I don't think I'd be good enough to get any points at all, nor would anyone else get very far.

 


23/December/2009

After only four performances, the barrel of laughs that is The Great Dame (or The Continued Adventures of Space Aladdin) draws to a close. The Sunday show was rather rocky, but everyone was totally on peak form for the final performance, both the performers and the audience interaction. I really meant to phone up a couple of people about it, but I didn't get around to it. And it's not even until the show ends that I talk about it. I'm a terrible promoter, aren't I? (good thing that wasn't my role! I served only as voluntary camera guy and prompter for my dad with the satisfaction of a job well done as my fee)

I've no idea if I've mentioned it before, but since I keep repeating all my opinions several times anyway, I think plays and stage shows are pretty rad! There's a certain flavour about seeing a show right in front of you with real people that makes it that more fun and unique, though it has always kinda depressed that when it's over, it's over, there's no true way you can fully experience it again. The Men of the Hour will still be performing other works, but it's not very likely to see Space Aladdin chewing the stage again. He lives on in our hearts, but it's not the same if he's high fiving the audience.

So, yeah, it's about panto dying and the destined one, Harry Brown, a drunken, washed-up, old actor (played by my dad, no less) is the only one that can "get the band back together" (word-for-word quote!). Edmund the Bastard, the man who's played every bastard and villain in other ninety million productions (should the narrator be trusted!) does whatever he can to end pantomime once and for all so he can just have some bloody peace. It's very silly and really just an excuse to meet fairy tale characters and see them in bad shape, and who can argue about that?

The first performance was very dry; the cast hadn't got a rehearsal and despite being all about audience participation, there were only about four people that actually shouted the required responses, but the last one was positively beautiful. Everyone was in peak form, the audience were wonderfully cooperative, and someone managed to get their stuffed meerkat doll a minor supporting role. And, seriously, high-fiving the audience. If that ain't a good a show, I don't know what is!

As much as I love stage shows and pantomimes, it's always kinda awkward writing about them because, well, who else is going to know about it? When I comment on a game or movie there's the hope that unless you live in some ass-backwards part of the world then stuff like that is usually going to be accessible by some means, but pantomimes are accessible to only people in the country, the general area, and those who actually know about the damn thing in the first place. I think it goes without saying that ramblings like this have a fairly limited audience. So how about a few photos to round things out?

Space Aladdin chewing the stage and Harry Brown with his trousers down. If it wasn't a public performance, a photo like this would probably be adequate blackmail. Also yes I have posted a picture of my dad in his underpants on the internet. If it weren't for his permission I would probably be going to hell!

Exciting sexual tension between Cinderella and Space Aladdin! Harry Brown sleeps through this whole scene in a drunken slumber, also with his trousers down.

Edmund the Bastard shoots the audience with a water pistol after being informed he can't poison our drinks. Don't ask about the guy in the harem girl outfit. Just don't.

Cinderella and the Babes in the Wood, Pete and Paul, watch on as Space Aladdin is tasked with defusing the Acme Infinity Bomb.

 

A pretty wild night, I'd dare say!

 


20/December/2009

SNOOOOOW

 

WHOOOOOOOO

 

And this time it was mildly sunny, making for some very nice photo opportunities!

 

Of course, that also meant people had reason to actually go for walks, so there wasn't much in the way of untrampled snow around, unfortunately. Still, a nice bit of light and shadow makes everything prettier, I personally feel.

 

And I met a very friendly robin who was very cooperative with me and my photoshoot, though they weren't as great as last year's photos as this is where the bright light became a nuisance. Oh well.

 

GANNON graffiti (Do ya like waffles?)

Also, hey, have I mentioned this before? Ten years ago this would've gotten me a letter-of-the-month reward in Nintendo Official Magazine and maybe a copy of Cruis'n USA as a prize or something, but now the most reaction I'd get is "huh, how about that." Oh, the fickle nature of our modern times. Well, that and how video game related graffiti seems pretty hip and happening these days if the internet hasn't lied to me.

 


18/December/2009

Talking about pop culture and film reviews is all fine and well, but I'm in the mood to mix things up, and right now, I'm up for a little bit of depressing talk.

I've had at least three or four dreams over this year wherein my granddad (affectionately nicknamed "Pop") is just... there. Sometimes in a hospital bed, sometimes at his home; his health appears inconsistent between the dreams, but the fact remains that he's alive and still in chipper form, giving me sass about my beard and whatnot. Acting like he'd never gone.

I tend to go out of my way to avoid talking about my personal life in much detail, partly because I've said plenty of stupid things before that are pretty embarrassing (I've mentioned those decade-old drawings plenty of times by now, haven't I?), and partly because... who cares? Blogs with comments can at least make a conversation out of it and support regarding problems or whatever, but I've still bummed around with this crude and uncomplicated format so not much would ever actually come of it. Plus I'm of the belief this blog is for entertainment and mini-rambles and not about me telling you my life's story. Email me if you think otherwise!

But, yes, I never mentioned it at all (and in retrospect it's kind of morbidly amusing looking back and seeing the mundane crap I talked about amidst all the unpleasantness), but the end of last year and beginning of this year were rather hectic with a few family deaths in a short period of time. In November 2008, my granddad passed away. He'd been in and out of the hospital for a while, even in a nursing home for a month or two, and I think he realised what poor health he was in and was planning to try and do something about it, but he was struck with a bad cold and, well, that took it out of him. It was unfortunate - I had no doubts he would be gone soon, but he was hoping to turn things around even if just to extend his time and he always remained in upbeat form when I saw him. My brother was getting married in November, and Pop wanted to be there to see it.

He passed away just five days before.

My brother was hit rather bad with it, as he and I were both very close to Pop. Steve was the grandson Pop could talk spiritually with and give him all the life lessons, while I was the grandson he could crack wise with. Steve told me that during any time in his life he was depressed, he could just visit Pop and talk it over and he'd feel much happier afterwards; now that he was gone, crap, what would he do now? The wedding went pretty smoothly so it's not like it devastated us.

It wasn't nice to see him go, but at the same time I wasn't sad over his death. I mentioned before in Just four months after that my uncle died, and then my other granddad passed away two months afterward. I never really knew the two of them too well, and that is why their deaths left a mark on me. When I woke up to the news of Pop's death, my reaction was more of a wistful sigh, sad to see him go but glad that I got to spend many great times of my life with him. For my uncle and granddad, I was upset I never got to know them well enough, but at that point there wasn't really much I could do besides move on. It's pretty awkward describing stuff like that without coming across as an emotionless bastard. I guess the basic premise is that Pop left a big impact on me to still be floating about my mind, whereas my uncle and granddad were merely people I observed but never knew well.

I just found it interesting, personally.

 

 


17/December/2009

Watched Abbott & Costello Meet Frankenstein. I've always wanted to find more old-timey comedy duo films, as I fondly recall years ago either ITV or the BBC would show Laurel & Hardy shorts during the Summer, and I came across this movie while looking through old VHS tapes for stuff to salvage.

I'm a bit of a philistine when it comes to cult movies! I mean, I'm aware of Bela Lugosi and his marvellous European Dracula voice, but I've never actually seen his actual work as Dracula before - the closest I got was that episode of Sledge Hammer where the Lugosi knock-off gets fired that was dedicated to the ol' fella. So seeing him and the traditional Wolfman actor with Abbott and Costello thrown in for free was a pretty rad deal! Despite the title, Frankenstein doesn't actually steal the spotlight as it's mostly Dracula you see, and you've got to feel sorry for whoever played the Wolfman - Dracula at least gets a sensible role and fine input to the story, whereas the Wolfman spends most of his time angsting over his status as a werewolf, and then when he transforms he trips over branches, runs into trees and becomes a non-threatening doofus. Frankenstein just kind of sits around most of the time and doesn't get as much screentime as the other two monsters, though he essentially is the reason behind the story for the titular duo to get involved. I thoroughly enjoyed the movie, the slapstick and feuding between the characters refined to a high calibre, and even the atmosphere and action was still engaging! It's a great comedy yet it's also suitably spooky as well - exaggerated wailing and reactions aside, being caught between Frankenstein's monster and a duel between Dracula and the Wolfman is not a place you want to be. Vincent Price as the invisible man was a fine bonus.

 

I also watched the first episode of Conan the Adventurer. My dad's been hankering for it since he admits years and years ago he would get home early from work solely so he could watch it. I come from a family of Robert E. Howard nerds, y'see. I've only read one of his works and it wasn't even about Conan, so while I'm pretty neutral on the author, Conan's pretty awesome and I've always had a soft spot for the cartoon. I'm kinda surprised at how packed the first episode is! Maybe I'm just so used to anime where it takes a good few episodes for things to start rolling, but they establish Conan's backstory, the origins of his equipment and horse, his motive, the villain and his evil intentions, and then finally land him in hot water for the quest to be continued in the next episode.

 


16/December/2009

I made apple crumble! I think fruit is the bee's knees and the only thing that stops it from being 100% incredible is that I can't make a warm meal out of it; that's normally where vegetables step in, but screw those guys, you can't eat them raw. At least, I can't eat them raw. They taste like absolute ass to me, personally, but fruit is awesome. The term "cooked apples" just seemed to be swimming about my head lately, and apples are indeed the source of the sugary treat toffee apples (which also taste like ass to me. I throw the term around despite never actually consuming a literal buttock, or if you want to twist the term around, consuming a donkey), but I was looking for something that was a little less like dropping napalm on my teeth. So, hey, why not throw butter, sugar and oats on top of a pile of apple slices?

I enjoy cooking, but I'm such a fussy pickle that I rarely enjoy anything I make, and indeed, the apple crumble was just too sweet for my liking. Everyone else I know loved it, so despite my disappointment with it, at least someone enjoyed it. Story of my life!

 


13/December/2009

So, yeah, I got an Xbox 360! Two days ago! I'm kinda surprised I haven't even mentioned it outside of the Flying Omelette forums either

Got it and five games for 128 - The Orange Box, Call of Duty: World at War, Grand Theft Auto 4, and two shitty sports games. I wasn't really expecting to get much mileage out of the console until I'd gotten it online, but those first two games are surprisingly awesome, especially since I wasn't expecting anything actually entertaining from Call of Duty. I'm completely terrible at it, but it's an immersive game and I'm loving the brutal difficulty. Or at least the brutal learning curve. Half-Life 2 is thoroughly enjoyable, though so far Portal has left no impact on me whatsoever. I assume it's because I missed the hype and had to endure a year or more of all the cake-related memes, and now I'm lashing back with complete disinterest. Interesting concept and physics, no doubt, but it's just not interesting me.

Grand Theft Auto 4 is remarkably crap, though. I've only played GTA3 and Vice City, and while Vice's awkward geography and crappy missions didn't take long to bore me, they were at least pretty decent. GTA4 is just clunky and awkward and seems so remarkably slow. Walking is awkward, attacking is awkward, and man, the level of awkwardness just driving a car is beyond belief. Whoever described the cars as driving like "dicks with bricks for wheels" was totally on the ball.

So, yeah, just thought I'd mention!

 


10/December/2009

Watched The Omega Man. I watched House of the Dead 2 a week ago (as suggested by its coverage on Random Action Hour!) and I was like, jeez, I need something good to watch next week after that shitheap. So, hey, why not get in a Charlton Heston movie?

It's one of three movie adaptations of I Am Legend, a book I'm aware of and know numerous plot points to, but otherwise know nothing about it. Basically, the Cold War screws the entire world over via nuclear fallout and everyone either dies or gets mutated; some people don't go so fast, but eventually they become part of The Family, a society of pale-skinned dudes in black cloaks who believe they were punished for society's reliance on science, art and technology, and their goal is to create a new and better society; not that it's actually elaborated upon very well, nor is it approached in a very even handed manner. You can't say our culture is wrong in a Hollywood production! The titular Omega Man is this fella whose name I forget who's immune to the plague and he steals stuff and shoots the infected by day, and plays chess with a mannequin by night. He meets a bunch of people who also aren't infected and he has aspirations of using his blood as an antidote to the infection, but then his plan goes tits up and he dies. Oh well!

The movie is very, very 1970s. Obviously because that's when it was made - puffy, curly hair is the rage, clothing is stylish and colourful, you've got a sassy black woman as the mandatory love interest, and man, that music! The movie begins with him driving down the streets of an entirely lifeless city, and the carefree vibe it presents has this corny 70s music accompanying it, obviously because it's very fitting, but I wasn't quite expecting the same kind of instrumentation to stay with it the whole way through. Action scenes have funk music playing throughout, tense scenes have gratuitous additions of tambourine into the mix - I'm never the kind of guy to complain about something old being inherently unenjoyable because it's old, and the movie was certainly entertaining, but I couldn't help but find it very corny half of the time. The 70s looks like a pretty rad time, but when it cuts into my atmosphere it just cramps my style, man.

But what the movie does well is atmosphere. It's rather slow-going, even for a mere 90 minutes, but it gives us an everyday insight into the man who has been heckled by the infected masses for two years and what he does to keep sane. The plot does take a new direction once the other uninfected individuals show up and focuses more on creating a cure and it does kinda drag there as either outcome isn't going to be too amazing - either they cure things enough and leave, live happily ever after and resume boring lives; or the cure doesn't work and the situation hasn't changed. From the sounds of it the book has an interesting plot regarding the infected, them wanting to create a fresh, new, positive society but have the misfortune of having some bad elements to iron out that appear malicious to the hero, but it's not out-and-out evil, y'know. The movie has no such subtlety and their plot is rendered rather flat; the group the hero meets up with do say they had originally known The Family before they got too malicious, but we never really explore their history, we never see how or why the infected automatically become involved in them, and judging from what's-her-name's infection it's like automatic mind control or something.

I think I've realised my opinion is changing as I write this. I was very intrigued and enjoyed it when I watched it, although acknowledging there was a fair amount of padding, but writing this a few hours afterwards I can't help but think "man, for an hour and a half they could've made a better, deeper plot." Awkward! I'd like to think a repeat watching could solve matters, but I'm not sure.

 


08/December/2009

This has been an exciting, rip-roaring week of blog entries, hasn't it? Pity they were all erased by Mecha Phil Mitchell when Galvatron and I had to do battle with Ignition Entertainment and their army of sentient copies of Animal Snap. Maybe I'll recap it sometime.

 

Saw 2012. Yeah, the end of the world - now you can watch it in movie format! It always kind of amuses me how media about the downfall of society, humanity, and all that we hold dear manage to be so popular, but I can't say I'm complaining.

I don't think there's much point recapping the story as if you try to do so with any movie by Roland Emmerich you just prompt a bunch of people who know things to debunk how un-scientific the story is, but basically oh god the world's coming to an end we're so fucked. So while an average American family go through some rough-and-tumble adventures teamed up with the husband's Russian associates, the government dump techno babble on us about the shifting of the contents, the altering of the earth's magnetic field and discombobulating of everything that makes Earth make sense. It doesn't really need to make sense as the destruction of the Earth seems to exist solely to put our heroes in mild peril, while every other citizen on the streets is as dead as toast. Basically the goal is for them to reach an ark, which is a big ol' boat that'll make everything A-OK after the fan is thoroughly shitted over, and there's some wacky misadventures along the way. In summary, y'know.

(By that logic, Godzilla is "giant monster goes for a dandy stroll through a city, births more kids than a horny Catholic and the military get all tangled up trying to clean up the mess." Does anyone really need me to summarise movies anymore? All I seem to do is make them sound terrible or make horrible offensive remarks in the process.)

If you liked Independence Day, Godzilla or any of Emmerich's other films, then 2012 offers the same basic deal - lots and lots of rampaging and death-tallying and CGI action sequences that I would like to describe as epic if the internet hadn't saturated that word of all its value. The intensity of the family's escapes are astounding, and the simple sight of the world's continents falling apart is pretty awesome. If you didn't like those other movies... then unless you imagine the crew behind the movie getting killed by tsunamis or volcano eruptions, I doubt there'll be much enjoyment available. But, yeah, seeing stuff get wrecked is enough to amuse me, I'm afraid, so it was a good two and half hours for me!

Naturally, I have nitpicks. For being the end of the world, it's fairly optimistic! Okay, it's more the readjustment of the world (shit goes haywire, everyone would die, but things conveniently return to some form of sanity by the end of the running time so humanity can repopulate themselves, so how about that), but when the characters barely escape the complete destruction of a city or the crashing of a jet, you can't help but find the optimistic music playing in the background a little contrasting. An entire city with a population of millions was just entirely decimated, but the five people we're focusing on survived! The poor Russian pilot of the jet has a brief moment of optimism before the plane plummets off the side of a cliff and explodes; I can't help but find it wacky, y'know? Maybe I'm just an extreme pessimist, but seriously, if I hadn't inevitably been the first person to die in a moronic manner, I would only treat each lucky escape as only a brief glimmer of light, and the rest of the time I would expect death at any second. The world is fucking ending. This isn't a tangible threat like Godzilla or aliens where, hey, maybe if we throw enough missiles we can live happily! And at least those ones had some pattern to them and were mostly about America, so the rest of the world could get off just fine - everywhere is being screwed over and there's nothing anyone can do about it.

Hence, of course, why the arks are such a big deal. They're initially referred to as "ships," and when you hear that word in a semi-science fiction film, you can't help but think space ship. Mercifully, the film restricts itself to some loose degree of reality and they're just hugeass submarine slash boats; when so much of the protagonist's survival relies on them flying around on planes, I was almost worried that the solution was taking to the sky in those huge things, but no, it's just boats. Phew! I'm sure there's all kinds of ridiculousness regarding the science behind how they work, but personally, my main beef was why the hell does it have a glass windshield? A glass windshield right at the front of the main command centre! Obviously they need to see where they're going, but the ship has the most ridiculously advanced camera system in existence, allowing them to zoom in to crazy levels of detail, find a single person in an instant despite an assumed huge number of rooms and floors, and the government can watch the dramatic story of the family in the waterlogged corridor in the exact same way we can, dramatic close-ups and everything. If they've got something that boss, why not use it instead of a windshield? They've already got similarly advanced and detailed real-time map readouts too, so it's not like it would be over budget. Given how much bumping and scraping the exterior of the ship takes it wouldn't be without flaw, mind you (lose the cameras and you'll have no idea where you're headed!), but surely the windscreen should be protected in some way? A barrier to raise up over it, have it lower down so any breakage wouldn't completely endanger all the essential commanding crew, something...? It only exists for the dramatic moment of a rock hitting the screen, but still. The U.S.S. Enterprise may have a glass windshield (in space!), but at least after one redshirt got sucked out it would spring up a force field. These arks do not have such a feature.

Also, the climax of the film is a bit of a confusing mess. Thanks to the family sneaking on board and a Chinese guy losing his leg in the hydraulics, the gate of an ark doesn't fully close and until it's shut they can't start the engines, but the tsunami hits, sending them on a collision course with Mount Everest! The problem is that you lose track of what's meant to be important - there's a lot of cutting back and forth and several events taking place, such as the Chinese guy getting his leg attended to, the Russian kids being taken aboard (their dad, who had an awesome gravelly voice and the fattest lips I've ever seen, doesn't make it onboard =( ), the husband swimming to the hydraulics and fixing it up, the kid following after, the wife fretting, the areas being sealed off and the Russian woman being trapped, the government guys walking around going WHAT IS GOING ON HERE - it all gets kinda frenetic and you can really no longer tell what's meant to be important. Most of the time is spent with the husband fixing the hydraulics, but I couldn't help but feel it was time that could've been spent on more visually interesting events. It's reasonably satisfying, but the more traditional action sequences earlier in the movie are just a bit more filling, personally.

The brief scene of the geologist fellow (none of the names are very memorable! I have to refer to everyone by ethnicity or their role!) recommending the husband's book to the president's daughter intrigued me, what with my fascination with history and culture. It's like a similar scene in Red Dwarf where Lister has to burn collections of fine literature that, in their time, is millions upon millions of years old simply so he can stay warm - humanity can make such exquisite pieces of art that survive long enough to be remembered forever as masterpieces, but there's likely countless pieces that didn't last long enough to our time. Works like Anne Frank's diary could very well have been burnt without a glance, but that they didn't makes them all that more special. Given the geologist's mention of how the book only sold under five hundred copies yet it will be remembered simply because it was taken aboard, I was expecting something dramatic like the husband to drown while fixing the hydraulics, thus cementing his status as a hero and subsequently making his book incredibly popular and considered a masterpiece, but nope, there's gotta be a happy ending - especially after the other not-husband guy was killed in a completely throwaway manner. Seeing beautiful landscapes and outstanding architecture get reduced to waste and rubble by the violence of nature is kinda tragic, though I suppose you can't say that without kind of desensitizing the simple fact that a crazily huge amount of the Earth's population, both human and beast, are wiped out. Ooer.

Yeah, enjoyable flick! Not sophisticated watching, but if you like things going to hell in a hand basket, it certainly ain't a bad choice. 

 


02/December/2009

Overhead conversations in the workplace: "Pythagoras, what a cock. He was just making shit up. What kind of friendless fuck goes around doing that?"