Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Shock News - Potter star actually has a life!

I read a news article today which stated that Daniel Radcliffe, the star of the Harry Potter movies had "admitted" that he hadn't read the final book yet. What I couldn't get over is that word "admitted" as if it's a capital crime to have gone the three whole days since it's release without reading it. Does the media have the impression that it's everyone's deepest desire to find out what happens in this tome? The article went on to describe how poor Radcliffe just hadn't had time as he had been watching the England cricket games. Daniel, Daniel...don't make excuses for it....YOU DON'T HAVE TO READ IT AT ALL! Surely having lived and breathed Harry Potter for the last 7 years it just might not be at the top of the list of things to do with your life.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Ironning out those fantastic creases

Poor old Jeremy Irons. Now I'm a great admirer of a lot of this guy's acting, but he does just seem to kiss his brains goodbye when it comes to choosing which fantasy movie to be a part of. Back in the 80's there were a string on cheesy fantasy movies, but as they were in vogue at the time, films such as Hawk the Slayer, Ladyhawke and Krull gained a cult following and a certain cache. Sadly Jeremy Irons wasn't in them. Several years later after the brief period in which it was OK to like fantasy films was well and truly over, he starred in Dungeons and Dragons a terminally awful attempt to cash in on the geek following the role playing game had (yes I know I was one of those geeks in my teens……and twenties…enough about that). Then we had a brief attempt at it again in the 90's with Willow which did OK but finally in the good ol' naughties, The Lord Of The Rings arrived! Suddenly fantasy is cool again and it's time for Hollywood to churn a few more out. Up pops Jeremy Irons again and Eragon is born. Oh dear, oh dear! At least this time he's not alone in his shame with the likes of John Malkovich and Robert Carlisle also being drawn into the mess. The critics at least seem to let Rachael Weiss off saying her voice over part as the dragon was the only good bit of acting in the movie, but I must admit even that wasn't exactly inspiring.

I think the problem is that in the 80's fantasy was just getting going as a genre and the public (well teenage boys at least) were happy for anything they could get. Now in the 21st century everyone is much choosier about what they'll watch. The Lord Of The Rings worked because Steve Jackson had a passion for the material and gathered around him others with the same passion. He also had a piece of fiction to work with that had been born out of years and years of work by Tolkein to create a rich and complete fantasy world that had it's own coherence. The results were spectacular to say the least.

In Eragon, we have the a Hollywood stampede of "Quick lets get another fantasy film out to pick up the void LOTR left" so we straight away lack the passion for the source material. And the source itself, is a book written by a boy in his late teens who wasn't even a twinkle in the milkman's eye when Hawk The Slayer came out. The, by now, horrendously overused "farm boy becomes hero" plot is the basis for 90% of all fantasy fiction so it has you yawning from the word go, and the villains are just as stereotyped. This is a child’s attempt at writing a novel, and it's been very successful as a novel because the audience it taps into do want more and more of the same stuff. In a book your imagination can flesh the characters out a bit. In the film your left with the same Evil King (our star wars Emperor) with the same sorcerous side kick (aka Vader) on the dark side and the same farm boy (Luke) aided by the same hero of old (Kenobi). The names all change for Eragon but the setup is the same. The added twist of plot is the bond between the Rachael Weiss’s Dragon "Saphira" and our hero Eragon. Unfortunately this departure from a "known" plot device, just smacks of plagiarism for any who know and like the Anne McCaffrey books for which the "Impression" bond between dragon and rider that occurs at hatching and gives the pair their telepathic link, is the central theme of her Dragonriders of Pern series. It is such an obvious rip off it surprises me I've not seen it mentioned before.

So with such flaky source material, a Hollywood push, and no help from a good scriptwriter, the curse of Jeremy Irons doing fantasy has been well and truely established. Sadly I have a feeling that Eragon, the movie may have put a nail in the coffin of fantasy movies for another decade or so.

On the other side of the coin, I do have to acknowledge that a) Jeremy Irons did do the best possible with the woeful material he had to work with, so this post is not a condemnation of his acting, and b) I'm told that the book is much better than the film…well, it couldn't be much worse.

Friday, July 20, 2007

The "Everything I say is a lie..." conundrum, revisited

There is a little movie I was watching called "The Rocket Post" which is not a bad film, if a little formulaic, about a German Rocket scientist who was working on Scarp in the Outer Hebredies in 1934 trying to develop a rocket to take mail to and from the main island of Harris. The sub plot follows the standard outsider is mistrusted, earns the locals trust, falls for the local girl and everyone joins together in the end to achieve the goals. Call me a big girl's blouse if you like, but I enjoy that sort of movie.
Anyway, this one had the extra little twist of the looming war with Germany and deals with the implications of a German scientist working for the British in the 30's. What struck me as odd though was the fact that the film opens with the words "based on a true story", and indeed a quick Wikipedia lookup of Gerhard Zucker reveals he was doing just as the film says developing a rocket post on Scarp in 1934. A bit of poetic license is of course taken with the love interest and in reality both his attempts at a rocket launch failed whereas the film depicts him succeeding in the second launch. Also the final outcome of the Gerhard differs from film to reality (won't tell you in case you actually want to watch it ever) but in the main it has to be said that this was indeed based on true events and a real historical person.
So why is this odd? Well, for once I actually sat watching the credits (as the end music was quite a good bit of Clannady/Enya style Celtic stuff), and when it rolled down to the very last bit of the credits the odd bit came along.....110 minutes after seeing "based on a true story" written on the screen, I see "All characters and incidents protrayed, and names used in this film are entirely ficticious. Any resemblance to real events or persons, living or dead is entirely coincidental". Odd? Well no actually, it's just plain lying!
It just struck me as amusing that a company would be so worried about being sued that they'll print a complete howler of a pork pie to cover themselves. Which is effectively lying to cover yourself in case you are lying.....!

Thursday, July 12, 2007

The Devil take your arithmatic!

As I looked at my blog site today it struck me that I've now had 666 hits on the blog - the number of the beast. But it turns out that the famous quote in revelation "six hundred threescore and six" [King James Version or some such] is translated from the three Greek letters "χξς" that represent the number 666, and in some texts it's written as "χις" which in fact adds up to 616. Other texts refer to 665 too, so given that it's "he who has wisdom" that can calculate the number of the beast, it seems that a lot of these early biblical scolars weren't too wise at all as there seems to be a lot of answers to the same calculation. So definitely zero points for them as none of them even showed their working out...basic stuff for any schoolboy in a maths exam!

Still, it's all more work for the devil's tattoo artist as Damien comes back for a new head decoration depending what the current scholarly community think.

Monday, July 09, 2007

The ABCs of modern terrorism

Now it always went without saying that terrorists were grossly stupid in thinking that blowing up a shopping mall or some such was likely to achieve any political ambition, but the depths which both the terrorists and the media seem to plumb when it comes to clear thinking seems incredible.
A) My ambition is to kill lots of infidels, so I spend years training to be a doctor , get myself a job in the UK hospitals where I could easily slaughter loads of defenseless patients...... and then I get into a car full of propane and drive into a brick wall to incinerate myself! Our family fortune survey says... X!
B) I am a concerned news presenter that has found out that a small amount of anthrax could easily be dispersed as an aerosol over London and kill millions. It hasn't been done yet and the general public have never even considered the threat. So I broadcast the possibility on prime time TV which firstly scares a lot of people and secondly gives the idea to the terrorist (who just like the rest of us had never even considered doing it until this TV show! 10 out of 10 for an enthralling documentary... minus several million for good thinking!
C) I'm a zealous terrorist but I'm just wanting to scare people....honest. So I make up a device with highly dangerous chemicals and fuses to look just like a bomb and get on a tube train..... with it hidden in a backpack so no one can see it. Oh that is until all the chemicals leak and the fuse detonates itself only, which burns the back of the backpack wearer without setting of any explosive. Where to start? Is the stupidity in trying to scare people with a fake bomb that no-one knows is there? Is it just incompetent stupidity in making a crap bomb? Or how about the real stupidity in thinking anyone in the whole of creation would believe you were not trying to blow the thing up in the first place!

Of course what we really miss are the good ol' days of the gentleman terrorist. Remember the IRA? They used to phone you up before hand to tell you when and where the bomb would go off! As Patrick Kielty says, they were a better class of murdering scumbags.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Land of the Free

A recent news article (click here for article) describes how one Lewis Libby, a former White House aide, has been let off his prison sentence for lying and obstruction of justice in a CIA investigative. Apparently although after trial the court had decided that he deserved 2 years in jail, good ol' President Bush has stepped in and commuted the spell in prison because he says it's "too harsh".
So here's the way it goes.... You're head of the state and so "the buck stops here", but it never does because you've always got a fall guy in the ranks below you. And then when the fall guy takes the heat, you step in and bypass the legal system to get them off their sentence!?
Call me old fashioned, but just as leaders of state should not be above the law (even though it seems they are), I don't think they should be able to nominate friends and cronies to be above the law either.

Monday, July 02, 2007

What's in a name?

There's been some recent news items on the ease with which people can change their name which seems to throw into disarray all sorts of things such as (always a hot topic) tracking paedophiles. Having had a little think about this it's left me baffled as to how any tracking systems or databases could have worked even if people couldn't change their names. Just thinking about myself with a fairly common name (I am constantly getting mail for my namesake in another part of my company) does this mean I could have been confused with anyone else with the same name on the paedophile register? Surely people must be tracked by something other than just their name, like a social security number or something? In which case should it matter how easy it is to change a name as long as it's not possible to get a new social security number to go with it?