January 02, 2007

Movie tie-in games

Movies made into games are notoriously bad. Here's a Flickr group of movies that people would LIKE to see made into games for the Nintendo DS...

September 14, 2006

What utter rubbish

Shannon and I were going to go to the cinema tonight. Here's what is on: Beerfest | CRANK | LITTLE MAN | PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN 2 | Pulse | Right At Your Door | Talladega Nights | THE SENTINEL | THE WICKER MAN | YOU ME AND DUPREE. I hadn't really heard of any of these movies. I quit following what was coming out when I moved back to the UK from the US, partially because of the delay in release dates here.

So i read a couple of the summaries of these movies. The first, Beerfest:

'American brothers Todd and Jan Woodhouse travel to Germany to scatter their grandfather’s ashes. Once there however, they stumble across ‘Beerfest’; the ultimate challenge in beer drinking. Their German cousins are less than impressed at their arrival and attempt to throw them out of the tournament. The brothers have other ideas however, and return with a group of drinkers to take part in the event.'

The second, Pulse:

'A computer hacker receives a strange and mysterious message from his computer, leading to a group of students having to fight for their lives as the alien signal slowly begins to tap into their email and mobile systems, with the intent of killing them. Unable to escape from the bug the students have to pull together to rid the world of the evil source of power.'

What utter rubbish. As for the rest.

Crank is about a guy that has to keep his adrenalin levels high or he will die. Little man is about dwarf who pretends to be a baby. Pirates of the Caribbean 2 is..well. more Pirates of the Caribbean. Right at Your Door is about the spread of 'toxic ash' from a bomb in LA. It's utter, utter rot. That leaves me with Will Farrell being Will Farrell, Owen Wilson being Owen Wilson and the Sentinel, which may be the only hope but looks like it's been a disaster with reviewers.

Is it any wonder that ticket sales keep sliding at the cinema? If anyone from the movie industry is out there, I'd like this to be really clear to you: You are losing money not because of the 'digital revolution', but because you are releasing utter shite targeted at pre-adolescents. I have a brain. Please help me use it.

April 28, 2006

Graphic Novels

Those of you who are remotely into the more serious end of comics, titles like The Watchmen, Ghost World, From Hell etc. , will love this book. Amazon.co.uk: Graphic Novels: Stories to Change Your Life is beautifully structured. Each chapter deals with a theme, going in depth on the relevant "classic" graphic novels, and then suggesting related ones. It's a great source for new matinal to read. Can't recommend it enough. . . if you're into that kind of thing.

March 21, 2006

Gattaca revisited

Shannon and I watched Gattaca on DVD last night. We'd both seen it before, much closer to its 1997 release date, and enjoyed it enough to want to buy it and see it again. A second viewing, though, makes it seem a lot more prescient then it was back then. 9 years is a long time for a movie to stew. All the references to DNA profiling ring more true now that biometric passports, cloning and the testing of babies for gene defects are more of a reality. Very spooky, and it makes it an even better movie. 8/10

March 14, 2006


I'm playing ICO on the Playstation 2 at the moment. This game was originally released in 2001, but was an under-the-wire cult hit. Thanks to the popularity of Shadow of the Colossus, a recent hit by the same design team, Sony decided to re-release ICO and give it a second chance.

Glad they did. This game is beautiful and imaginitive and I highly recommend it. It takes place in a large stone prison, and your only goal is to escape, leading a girl called Yorda to safety too. The game is mostly made up of large 3D puzzles to solve, with very little violence, apart from the odd bashing of some cloud-like ghosts with a big stick. The interaction with Yorda is very elegantly executed, with you leading her by the hand, calling to her to follow you, persuading her to jump across chasms and so on. If you want a game that's beautiful, creative and different I'd really recommend you give it a go. 9/10.

December 17, 2005

King Kong

Just got back from seeing Peter Jackson's King Kong. I'm a little disappointed, to be honest. It has some AMAZING sequences, watching CGI creatures fight, seeing the imaginary streets of New York tinged with snow and some genuinely emotional interaction between a 25 foot gorilla and its "love interest". Ultimately, though, I think Jackson got a little away with himself and was too generous (or selfish) with his editing. One of the side effects of being such an incredible director and having too much leeway with the final cut. 15 minutes of the boat scene and 15 minutes of the dinosaurs and other bits in the menagerie could have gone easily, I think. And maybe a few less chest beating sessions would have taken some of the pain out of my back from sitting too long. And the worst last line since Four Weddings and a Funeral left me with a bit of a bad taste in my mouth.

May 29, 2005

Neil Stephenson's Baroque Cycle

I've just started in on The Confusion, the second part of the Baroque Cycle. This follows Quicksilver, the first part of the trilogy, which sweeps through the UK and the rest of Europe in the time of Newton, weaving a great historical novel with lessons in the origin of science, finance and politics. I'm really loving the books, and the feeling that I'm enjoying myself and learning at once. Plus, I love any novel that gives me a new picture of London in another time.

One thing that's bothering me is how difficult it is to find these books. Neil Stephenson, who is based in Seattle, is well known for his science fiction, particularly the novel Snow Crash. But the Baroque Cycle is a historical novel, with not a whiff of Sci-fi. The cover of the books say they should be categorized in "Novel, science" and "Novel, hostoric". Despite that, these three books are ALWAYS in the Science Fiction section. This bothers me because it makes it less likely that readers who only browse the "real" fiction, and avoid the sci-fi and fantasy corners like the plague, will get any exposure to these great books.

I griped about this to Books Etc, an English book seller, and they explained that their customers didn't like to have one author in two different sections. Yeah. We're really dumb that way.

May 01, 2005

Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy

I've just been to the Vue cinema in Staines to watch the movie extravaganza remake of the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy.

I'm a big fan of the book, the old BBC Radio 4 series, and the original BBC TV series and I came out of the cinema hugely dissappointed. I thought that although the movie was big budget (in a British way) it was lazy and missed a lot of Douglas Adams' dry, observational humor by a mile. Too much slapstick and not enough irony. Even Stephen Fry, as the voice of the Guide, seemed to avoid delivering anything remotely witty, instead delivering his lines like too much dry fact.

I went along with Shannon, who has never been exposed to this material before, and not suprisingly she came out totally unamused and bemused. The director really expected too much knowledge from the audience. This may be well loved material but it's not the Lord of the Rings, is it? For example the movie kept on making reference to the towels that Ford insists everyone carry with them at all times, but never goes on to show the part where the Guide explains why towels are so indespensible. Strange decision.

I think I need to get the DVDs of the BBC TV series to remind myself of what I enjoyed about this material so much.

April 27, 2005

Shaun of the Dead

Go rent (or buy) Shaun of the Dead. Set in the suburbs of London, it's a very amusing take on zombie movies. Subtle and stupid English humor coupled with the unsubtle use of a cricket bat helps keep the undead at bay.

January 31, 2005

Million Dollar Baby

We're trying to catch up with our Oscar watching before February's results are in. Million Dollar Baby is the 3rd of the 5 nominees that we've seen (along with the Aviator and Finding Neverland, both of which I'll try and get back to blogging later).

I have mixed feelings about this movie, although overall I think it's good. The performances were strong. Hilary Swank, particularly, is totally believable and the lank-hair-look suits her. Clint Eastwood starts out as...Clint, but really does soften up into something unexpected. Morgan Freeman is a little disappointing of only that he does what he does so solidly, bit repetitively. A little too "Shawshank" in this.

The story's slow but believable, and just when you think it might get too predictable at the end, it gets much more challenging to watch. 8/10

January 29, 2005

London Theatre

It was weird this week to see two musicals on consecutive nights. Shannon and I went to Blood Brothers on Monday with Matt, then Mary Poppins on Tuesday.

Blood Brothers is pretty universally lauded, but it felt like it was coming to the end of its life on our visit. The theatre was half empty and the show felt dated, musically. The performances felt tired, and generally lacked energy. Only saving grace was the role of Mrs Johnstone. Whoever was playing that role (Siobhan McCarthy?) really held the whole thing together with a tough set of songs and a part that really dominated. The rest was not great. 5/10

Mary Poppins was in a different league. Without a doubt the best musical I've ever seen. I can't really fault it. The set was amazing. A full sized, articulated dolls house that morphed into a park and rooftops for songs with Bert.

The choreography was imaginative and VERY well rehearsed. The lead rolls were really well cast and drew you effortlessly into their world. The kids, particularly, were great. The whole thing had an energy which probably reflects how recently it opened. A show that, unlike Blood Brothers, is at the beginning of its life. 9.5/10

January 25, 2005

Oscar nominations

Here are the nominees, in a convenient, printable form.

'fraid I just don't think the Aviator is a good enough film to lead the pack with 11 nominations. And the only other one I've seen in the Best Picture list, Finding Neverland, doesn't leave me that excited either. I mean, the Aviator is a fine film, but it all felt very fake to me, and I can't stop thinking that Leonardo looks like a boy, even when he's made up to look older. And I got a bit stuck on the cuteness of Finding Neverland, when the reality of the story is so tragic.

And no "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind" in either best actor or best movie. Damn the short memory of the academy! At least Kate Winslet got a nomination.

January 21, 2005

Fixing the Polar Express

I thought this article that includes examples of why thecharacters in the movie the Polar Express look wrong and some examples of how to fix them, was great. The whole thing is a great discussion about how too-real can look fake.

January 11, 2005

Lost in La Mancha

Last night Shannon and I watched the DVD of Lost In La Mancha. It's a documentary that tells the story of Terry Gilliam's 10 year attempt to make a film based on the story of Don Quixote.

It's heart-breaking to watch the series of events that bring the production to its knees. None of them are Gilliam's fault or under his control, but his obstinacy about not accepting US funding, as a matter of principal, does put the whole effort on a knife edge at its outset, both financially, and because of the language problems throughout the european crew.

Still, Gilliam doesn't come across as the out of control maveric that he's portrayed to be, and the few bits of real footage of the movie that you do see in the documentary really make you hope that he does eventually get the thing produced.

The footage is the highlight of the documentary, really. And the DVD extras, particularly the interview with Gilliam, are great. You have to admire him for letting a documentary team have unlimited access to him during such a fraught production (he agreed, for example, to have a mic on at all times).

January 05, 2005

Movies to watch from 2004

Sitting watching Film 2004 (now 2005), with the viewers choice of the 10 best movies of 2004. Here are the ones I've not seen:
Shaun of the Dead

And these are the ones I want to see that came out in the US in 2004, but unfortunately skipped a year to make it to the UK:
Garden State
Vera Drake

The New Deal
Thanks to [fresh electronic delivery] for the pointer to The New Deal, a short proof of concept animation currently looking for backing to be made into a full length movie. The visual style is great. I love the fake low-polygon look.

January 04, 2005

December 08, 2004

The Magic Numbers
I went and saw The Magic Numbers at the Borderline in London last night. A band with beautiful vocals, excellent songwriting and a real joy about what they're doing. They're on the edge of releasing an album and deserve to be huge. If you get a chance to see them, highly recommended. 9/10.

November 19, 2004

Movie of the Watchmen
Ain't It Cool News is reporting on the selection of Paul Greengrass as the director for a movie version of the Watchmen graphic novel. Hadn't even realised they were making a movie. And I wonder if it can be done without too much dumbing down. It's a pretty complex story, with a lot of flashbacks and weirdness.

November 02, 2004

The Daily Show
On Lisa Rein's Radar: Daily Show Comedy Clips Archives. This seems to definitely be the place to get clips of past Daily Shows with Jon Stewart. What a resource!

November 01, 2004

Now THAT'S calorie counting
The Joy World Pacific $28,000 calorie counter. "By placing a food item in the unit, one can get the protein, sugars, and fat content of any food. The unit runs on Windows, although it was initially intended for Linux."


September 27, 2004

Just saw Hero, a martial arts movie very much in the vein of Crouching Tiger. This time, Jet Li takes the staring role (and does a great job at it - much better then his Western efforts to date), and the beautiful vidography seen in Tiger is ramped way up. Stunning color palettes signify different parts/versions of the story in reds, whites, greens and blues.

The story itself is set during the Emporer Qin's rise to power (pronounced Chin). This is the same emporer that had the Terracotta Warriors made, and it was interesting having seen something of that era when Shannon and I were in Xi'An on our honeymoon.

Anyway, beautifully shot and choreographed, although with performances that perhaps weren't quite as engaging as in Tiger (maybe this is just because the feel is now more familiar).

September 25, 2004

Wimbledon (2004) - I was actually pleasantly suprised by this movie. If you don't have any expectations over, say, a romantic comedy starring Hugh Grant then it's pretty good. You can't help but like Paul Bettany and Kirsten Dunst, and their chemistry definitely seems to be better than that between Hugh and a certain Ms Roberts.

September 22, 2004

The Woman in Black
Yesterday evening Shannon and I went and saw The Woman In Black at the Fortune Theatre in London. This is pretty much the first non-musical theatre production that we've seen since we moved back to the UK.

I think we were both suprised both by the standard of the performance, and the fact that it was actually scary. The build up of tension, and the trick of people leaping out of the darkness suddenly, that works so well for movies like Halloween also works wonderfully well for this show set in the 20s (ish).

It didn't hurt that we had two rows of 15 year olds behind us, and the girls screamed at pretty much anything. Still, very much worth seeing, and with only 2 performers and the most basic of stage design it leaves a lot to the imagination (which is good).

August 24, 2004

The Stepford Wives
Shannon and I walked out of this one trying to decide if it was the worst film we had ever seen. Then we remembered the Next Best Thing. But it was close. Very close. Bad comedy. Bad writing. Bad acting. Bad timing. Awful. Did I mention that I didn't like it? Do yourself a favor and see the original, which is a beautifully paced and acted DRAMA.

August 04, 2004

Freaks and Geeks
Freaks and Geeks - I know we're kind of late to this party, since the show was cancelled in 1999, but Shannon and I have really been enjoying the DVD of Freaks and Geeks. I remember reading the amazingly positive reviews of this show, which is set at a high school in 1980, and then the wierdness of the cancellation. A total shame. We're dreading getting to the end of the 6th disk.

May 26, 2004

Troy reminded me of Star Wars Episode One. There's this fantastic cast up there, but for some reason they seem to have lost the ability to act. Is this what blue screens do?

April 20, 2003

Birthday weekend
My birthday weekend, which was all very nice. I was highly spoilt by Shannon. We stayed downtown in the ACE hotel, right in the heart of Belltown, in Seattle. Yes, Kirkland is only 15 minutes drive away, but staying downtown really makes us feel like we've been somewhere.

Dinner and a movie. This time Bend It Like Beckham, which has been doing pretty well over in the UK.

I enjoyed it. It had shades of My Big Fat Greek Wedding, but only the good shades. The family members felt a little more 3D, and fleshed out, although they still felt stereo-typical. The film managed to cram in every axis of diversity possible, including racial, gender and sexual, which was quite a feat for what is really a fun, family movie. The football action was good, although the Saving Private Ryan-style camera work (very choppy, with every other frame missing) made it hard to spot any skill.

Finally, after an easy-going Sunday, we met Rob and Agnieszka for a very fine dinner of Pow Wok Lamb, 7 Flavored beef and more at Wild Ginger.

April 10, 2003

Rivers and Tides
Just returned from the Seven Gables Cinema in the University District. This is such a strange little place, like an old residence. Single screen, which is covered most of the time by a painted curtain depicting a "romantic" scene entitled the Last Castle. The walls are covered in curtains, and the seats are old, faded, with bursting seams.

I went to see Rivers and Tides, a film about Andy Goldsworthy. To generalize terribly, he basically walks out of the door to his home every day, with no idea what he's going to build, and goes through this high-patience, highly torturous process of interpreting the land around him with natural, found objects, in the process creating breathtakingly beautiful scultures. The film captures his process well, and shows the scales at which he is capable of working, and the depth of thought around even the simplest ideas. In fact, all the ideas look simple, but you come away knowing there's no way in a thousand years that you could create them.

April 06, 2003

Spirited Away
We saw Spirited Away today at Bella Botega. This is Miyazaki's latest, and better I think then Princess Mononoke. It's an incredibly imaginative film, beautiful, softly paced, and incredibly drawn. I came away feeling a little like I was missing a huge amount because of my obvious lack of knowledge for all the cultural and spiritual references that I assume most Japanese have, and that (I think) the movie is full of. But it's still highly accessible, and doesn't seem its 2 hrs and 20 minutes.

April 04, 2003

The box office
I love what this page says about the state of the box office. Scroll down near the bottom and compare the Current High Scores table with the Weekend Box Office table. As I'm looking at it, there are 15 films currently in release with a score of 85/100 or more. And the top weekend grosses have scores respectively of 45/100 (Head of State), 38/100 (Bringing Down the House), 44/100 (The Core) and 30/100 (Basic). That's democracy in action. People voting with their feet.

March 25, 2003

The Pianist
Just returned from seeing the Pianist, by Roman Polanski. This is a harrowing, deeply personal, unsettling movie that is truly amazing. You just walk out wandering how the situations it depicts could ever have been possible, and how the utter disregard for life could have come about. Adrien Brody and Polanski totally deserved their Oscars, and in light of seeing this I'm stunned that Chicago could ever have been considered a better film. Hollywood weirdness.

March 22, 2003

Saw Chicago on Thursday night. I can see that it's good. That the acting is good, and that all the set pieces feel exciting, and that the music doesn't drag on, and that Catherine Zeta-Jones and Richard Gere do a great job (yes, even Gere!), and that the dancing feels amazing, and it's cool the way they cut from reality to fantasy. But for some reason I didn't really get engaged. I didn't sympathize with anyone (John C Reilly even felt a little wooden to me), and I know that's probably deliberate. Anyway, I'll watch the Oscars and watch it wipe the floor with everyone, and I guess that's ok.