Saturday, December 3, 2011

New Initiative Shows Initiative

Two things happened this weekend.

Well that’s not true, a lot of things happened this weekend. Especially if you acknowledge the admittedly unlikely notion that there are more people in the universe than me. (crazy, I know!) Even if only two things happened to each of them this weekend, (and if so, the human race in general is quite boring, unless the two things were #1: Captured international Spy-Ring. #2: Ate pancakes. Best weekend ever!) that’s still a whopping 14 billion things that happened this weekend. And if you add in the possibility of life elsewhere in the universe, then that’s a simply mind boggling amount. But more on that in a moment.

The two things I was referring to specifically in this case where relating to this blog. I’ve decided that I’m really just not that interested in discussing my life on a daily basis. This is not to say that I have anything against people that do (Hi, other people! *waves*) It’s just that I don’t really have the cool exciting adventure filled life that justifies it. I don’t really have misadventures like “Today the car on the front of me on the freeway crashed into the car in front of him! And then a third guy drove up and he got out and mugged the first two drivers. Then they were all eaten by a tyrannosaur who did a little dance.”

That has yet to happen.

Neither do I have the self confidence to write about everydayness. “I went to the, like, Starbucks and asked for a gingerbread latte and instead they almost gave me a caramel latte because the G looked like a C on the cup!? OMG! And I didn’t get my free cookie. FML.”

That actually did happen today on the way home from church, just with less three letter acronyms. Or TLA’s, if you will. For the record I don’t really define the lack of a free cookie as a life is over moment. Although I really would like a cookie now. Damn it.

If I were to accurately write out my life it would follow some variation of “Went to work. Work went well. Went home. May or may not have done some side work. Played video games. Went to bed. Blogged in my sleep.” And you know what? I’m cool with that. I perfectly content to have a mostly routine lifestyle, it’s comforting and easy to manage. It also means I get to play video games, so you know, win/win.

But it’s not what I want to write about. What I want to write is stories. I absolutely adore stories. And given this whole writing every day thing is to encourage creativity, it would be really nice to actually be writing a story instead of “today I got the wrong coffee” entries.

“So, why not do that,” you ask? Well it’s funny you should mention that...

So, starting right now, I am happy to present the ongoing adventures of “Dear Space Diary.” There’ll be a new entry every day whenever real life doesn’t intervene, and much like Dickens and radio serials of old, will be an ongoing continuing narrative until an ending presents itself, or my hands drop off. You know, either/or.

In usual disclaimer I should mention that this will very much be a live, unedited and stream of consciousness type of story. I know how it starts and I know a few places it’s going, but part of the fun is I’ve no idea how it’s going to get there. I’m looking forward to finding out.

I just got into RSS feeds (I know, 15 years late to the party, shh), and thanks to the wonders of Google related projects being smart, this blog is subscribeable (officially not a real word) by going to Google Reader or pretty much most other RSS thingies and entering in the site should get the entry subscribed, meaning you’ll be notified when new updates are published.

There’ll still be random personal stuff whenever the mood takes me, or if that dancing anti-mugging tyrannosaur ever turns up, but not on a regular basis. I figure I can talk about my life when I want to rather than a schedule, as let’s face it, it’s my life. Back off. Get your own life. Unless you’re Batman. In which case, want to swap? Actually, now I think about it, Batman’s life isn’t actually all that fun. Fun to watch sure, but I don’t really want to lose my parents, go a little crazy, and get beaten up. Just sayin’.

Have a good one,

P.S. The other thing that happened this weekend is that I got so excited about this idea yesterday that I completely forgot to write a blog entry. Whoops. Hence Double Entry.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Stuff About A Blog About A Blog About Stuff

5 days in and I‘m actually struggling on what to write about. While this could be taken as an ominous sign given that I’m attempting to write 400 words a day (not more, not less, exactly 400 words, title not included) and I’m already having trouble, it’s actually a pretty good sign that things are going well at the moment. Easiest thing to write about is hardship, or problems, or “man I’m so annoyed by what happened on the way to that thing!” and the fact that I have none of those is probably a good thing. Sure makes it hard to write a blog though.

So am I writing a blog about not writing blog? Yes I am. Either that’s selling out, or thrillingly post-modern and avant-gard.

The blog has been a bit patchwork this year, given I went a grand total of 51 weeks without updating (Very carefully jumping in before it was more than a year). On reflection as a friend pointed out I think that was because I was trying to write too much at a time. First world problems and all that (although that phrase somewhat annoys me. Yes they’re miniscule compared to real problems that less fortunate people have to deal with on a daily basis, but on a purely psychological point of view, being told you should feel guilty for worrying about your problems is a very slippery slope…), but nonetheless was a challenge.

Then I did my collection of movie rants, but really I want more out of keeping a blog than just reviewing movies. If I really wanted to review movies (and that could be cool) I should probably set up a movie review site. And then review movies.

Then, based on another friend’s rather neat idea to maintain productivity by writing something every day, I thought I would give it a shot myself. And so here we are, 4 days later, and I can’t think of anything to say. I’m not overly concerned, as I said, it means things are good, and that’s not to say a hilarious escapade won’t occur to provide fuel for tomorrow. My blog today eventually came about because, as I struggled to write my very first sentence, I suddenly got a text from my friend N3rd.Girl. It read “RANDOM INSPIRATIONAL TEXT”, and cheered my up immensely. And, you know, it worked!

…I totally sold out.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

A Bit of a Twitter Twit

I’ve been trying hard to get back into Twitter, though it’s kind of debatable if I ever was into Twitter in the first place. Still, first time for everything. The concept of Twitter does interest me greatly. Being required to say what you have to say in only 140 characters (which I’ve already exceeded in this post) is an intriguing challenge, but I’ve actually found it rather hard, though not for the reasons I expected. The issue is not trying to fit what I wanted to say into 140 characters, it was finding anything to say at all.

Allow me to elaborate.

It’s not that my life is bereft of interesting moments (my phone alone seems to account for a large proportion to them), but rather because, a) a lot of them don’t feel worth dedicating to a public space (probably should chalk that one up to self-esteem), and b) I’ve already said them.

See, although I’m hardly the most prolific of updaters, I’m already on Facebook, and recently joined Google+ as well. And as the bulk of my friends are on Facebook, that’s where my updates normally go. I generally double post to Google+ as well, but there’s only a few people there as it hasn’t really taken off yet, which is a shame because as a system I greatly prefer the way it functions. It’s got a slick and clean interface, and the ability to share specific posts with specific people quickly and easily is a major improvement over Facebook, its ticker, and its convoluted Top News algorithms. And Google’s privacy policy. That’s an improvement too. But in pure “The point of posting stuff is to have it read,” Facebook is definitely the winner currently, despite my reservations. By the time my thoughts trickle down to twitter I generally feel like I’ve already said it, which is a shame. I like twitter; it’s a really good way of sharing information. So I do need to try harder, because I want to be more involved. And if my dreams of company and business plans come to fruition, it’s an essential communication tool with customers (and, if you’re not very good at it, a hilarious one too).

I did also try MySpace, but only briefly. My experience can be summed up as follows. -Opened MySpace account. -Received 200 invites in 48 hours from bands I didn’t know. -Closed MySpace account.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

We're going to the zoo, zoo, zoo. Yes that's right, three zoos.

I haven’t been to the zoo in a very long time. Maybe I should do something about that.

I seem to remember being very fond of Melbourne Zoo as a child, we went an awful lot according to my memory. The exhibits were a little hit and miss, though this is not so much the fault of the zoo as the animal kingdom in general. Don’t get me wrong. Animals are incredible and do some pretty amazing things. Just look at, well, any David Attenborough documentary. But they also spend a very large amount of time just sitting around, eating, and the logical follow through of eating. Especially in a zoo, where – let’s be honest – they don’t really have much else to do.

Giraffe’s were pretty cool, as were elephants, but frankly they smelled and spent most of their time upwind, so I was always pretty glad when we moved on. The reptile house and nocturnal house featured some very interesting creatures but had the chief failing of being filled with creatures that a) spent a lot of time hiding, and b) were pretty damn good at it. So it was not so much “look at that lizard” as “look at that patch of dirt.” It was pretty exciting when we did see a snake or a jerboa, though (fortunately never in the same cage, that would end badly). Actually, even when it was “look at that lizard” it was engaging only in the short term. Ever a pragmatist even then, my internal response was generally “Ok, so I’ve looked at the lizard, now what?” Don’t get me wrong, I liked lizards, but I could only spend so long staring at one before I start wondering what’s in the next enclosure.

By far the most boring thing at the zoo was the monkeys though. They really weren’t doing anything interesting, and mainly just sat around looking depressed and giving off very strong vibes of “I don’t want to be here,” and generally the feeling was mutual. It probably sounds like I didn’t enjoy my zoo trips but I really did. They were great fun, I just honestly wanted to spend less time on each of the animals than my parents expected or hoped.

They say the average time a person visiting the Louvre spent looking at the Mona Lisa was 11 seconds. I feel roughly the same way about Chimpanzees.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Burn, baby, burn (do do doo doo)

It’s far too hot today. Actually that’s really not true, it’s a paltry 33 degrees, and it’s going to drop to 20 tomorrow. It’ll get much hotter in summer itself. In fact, people often remind me, many places around the world are regularly in the 40s all year around. This is nothing.

That’s perfectly valid, and an excellent point, though I did have 3 points in response.

1. What is happening elsewhere is mostly irrelevant to what is happening here. Just because boxers get punched in the fact on a daily basis, doesn’t make it any less painful if you punched me in the face right now. (Please don’t.)
2. I don’t live in those places, largely for those reasons.
3. Shut up.

While the heat does in fact bother me a great deal (my ideal weather is a clear 10 degree today), in an oddly paradoxical (or hypocritical depending on your cynicism) turn, I actually don’t notice it all that much, and regularly wear jumpers well into the high 20s. Theories have been put forward by my friends as to why. One is that I may have a lower internal body temperature than most, meaning it takes a hotter temperature to make an impact. The other theory is that I’m just weird.

No matter which theory floats your philosophical boat, the fact remains that for most of the year I am able to wear a jumper comfortably, sleep under a doona, and wear jeans or other long pants all year through. But when the heat does make an impact, it hits hard, leaving me feeling extremely uncomfortable and, (if I can speak candidly) sweating profusely. In all honesty I probably continue to wear a jumper for a little longer than I should after this point. Partly I feel a little self-conscious in only one layer, but mainly I just genuinely prefer and feel more comfortable wearing multiple layers. On an overseas holiday I had to wander dressed in jumper, scarf, gloves, overcoat and hat, and have never felt more properly dressed in my life. So when it comes to Summer’s eventual 45 degree days, when I am reduced to a t-shirt and jeans and still end up feeling way, way too warm, it’s a particularly unpleasant experience for me.

Throw in bushfires, floods (often at the same time), and dead pets, and you’ll hopefully understand why I hate summer.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Well, you could be having a heart attack… but you’re not.

I was sick last week for the first time in about three months (which is a bit of a record. Take THAT, immune system) and ended up having to take three days off to recover. I was fairly confident it was only a cold and so bed rest was all that was needed, but packed myself off to the doctor anyway, partially to compensate from the massive guilt I feel whenever I have to take time off work, and partially because as a non-medical person I couldn’t rule out the possibility that I was about to drop dead. The former was adequately dealt with, but the latter was spun out for longer than it had to be thanks to my Doctor, who I have taking to call “Worst Case Scenario Doctor.”

For the record, and to avoid the same thing happening to anyone reading this, I am entirely fine, and my doctor is, in fact, very good at what he does, which is why I keep going to him. He will inevitably correctly diagnose the problem, offer a few suggested solutions, and has been very helpful in suggesting supplements such as probiotics and fish oil capsules, which, while clinically unproven, have seen a massive improvement to my overall wellbeing and immune system. What he does first though is list every single possible and terrible thing that could be wrong with me, but isn’t.

Previously, when seeing him due to a family history of a particular gene causing higher probability of blood clots, decided it was best to test me for EVERY possible cause of blood clots. The resultant 6 vials of blood they took caused me to faint and go into shock. Incidentally, I have no increased chance of blood clots.

Last week’s particular example involved him giving me a small lecture about heart attacks, key symptoms to watch out for, and crucial steps to take if I ever thought I was having a heart attack. After a short and worrisome pause he then added that I wasn’t having a heart attack, wasn’t showing any signs of having a heart attack apart from some mild chest pain (which was in the wrong spot for it to be a heart attack) and, given my age and recent improvements to weight, was extremely unlikely to get a heart attack.

He then took my blood pressure and wondered why it was rather high…

Monday, October 31, 2011

Movie Review Smorgasbord Round-up Extravaganza - The Complete Collection Part 13: The Three Musketeers (2011)

One of my fondest film memories is "The Three Musketeers," the 1993 Live Action Disney version to be precise. Funny, rollicking, and very tongue in cheek, it in many ways set the tone and style of Pirates of the Caribbean which followed a decade later.

There were a great many things about the 1993 production that went over my head as a child. I didn't know who Oliver Platt was, for starters, an oversight I have now gloriously rectified through his roles in Love and Other Drugs and the West Wing.

I also didn't know who Tim Curry was, but I have rectified that as well thanks to Clue, Rocky Horror, and the Gabriel Knight games.

I didn't know who Charlie Sheen was either, though I kind of wish I could return to those happy days.
And I didn't know, though I suppose I should be too surprised that it was really rather different than the original novel by Alexandre Dumas, but that's kind of okay, because I've read the original novel and exciting it was not. I'm perfectly aware that some allowance must be made for translation and time but there's only so many allowances you can give someone before they need to start considering a part time job.

The Disney film however was excellent good fun and highly recommended to all.

So I was a little curious to see the most recent adaptation of The Musketeers, as the rather exciting trailers seemed to indicate that it was extremely unfaithful to the original story, featuring airships, pyrotechnics aplenty, and a general action hero spy tone that seemed very unlike the original tale.

And so I was rather surprised to discover that although it did indeed contain all these things, it oddly enough still manages to be rather closer to the original text than it's far more plausible older brother from 1993.

Allow me to elaborate.

The original tale largely focussed on D'Artagnan and his musketeery friends on a quest to return a set of diamonds to the queen and quash rumours of her infidelity to prevent a war with England.

The 1993 film decided this was all a bit silly and focused instead on political machinations, secret treaties, and protecting the king at all costs, who is a bit naive but ultimately grows to be a brave and noble ruler.
The 2011 film goes right back to the diamond heist, but with some important edits.

All three share the same villain in the form of Cardinal Richelieu, and all three ultimately deal with defeating his plans.

It's at this point however that both films start to deviate from the original in some very strange but ways. To best illustrate this, I think it's time for a quiz. Multiple choice of course.

For each of the story points below, guess which one is the 2011 film, which the 1993 film, and which is the original novel by Dumas.

1: The Three Musketeers Go on a quest to retrieve a stolen item. It is:
a) A treaty that secretly allies England with the Cardinal against the King.
b) Diamonds stolen by Lord Buckingham from the Queen, and must be returned to disprove rumours of infidelity, which were falsely created by the Cardinal.
c) Diamonds given to Lord Buckingham by the Queen, and must be returned to disprove rumours of infidelity, which are entirely true.

a) 1993 (exciting!)
b) 2011 (also exciting!)
c) Dumas (...what?)

2: What happens to the Countess De Winter?
a) Athos wants to kill her, but she kills herself by throwing herself off the side of their boat to prevent him living with the guilt.
b) Athos doesn't want to kill but rather capture her, but she kills herself by throwing herself off the side of their boat, but not before revealing the Cardinal's plans in a moment of remorse.
c) Athos wants to kill her, and does, after holding a fake trial to justify it.

a) 2011 (good)
b) 1993 (better)
c) Dumas (...what??)

3: What happens to the Cardinal?
a) His plans are foiled, he gets punched in the face and is presumed dead and drowned.
b) His plans are foiled, but he is so impressed by the musketeers that he offers them a job. They tell him to get stuffed.
c) His plans are foiled, but he is so impressed by the musketeers that he offers them a job. D'Artagnan accepts.

a) 1993 (Ha ha! Take that, Cardinal!)
b) 2011 (Ha ha! Take THAT, Cardinal!)
c) Dumas (Ha ha! Take THAT, ... wait, WHAT???)

As it turns out, by rewriting large slabs of the original tale, both managed to in fact improve it immensely, and it becomes a tale of honour, adventure, and rollicking good times in France. Instead of, you know, a musketeer going to steal a gift to an English nobleman back for a woman who's cheating on her husband, and then taking a job with the very person who set them up in the first place.

Yeah... D'Artagnan's a jerk.

But as for the 2011 film itself, it manages to be good fun. By hyping up the spy movie aspect of it, and turning the action up to 11, they have managed to create an enjoyable farce of an adventure, with many quotable lines and a fun time to be had by all.

It's not without its faults. It seems to be trying very hard to be other things. The Cardinal is trying very hard to be John Malkovic, Aramis is trying very hard to be Orlando Bloom (which is amusing given Orlando Bloom is in fact in the movie and is himself not trying all that hard to be Orlando Bloom), Athos is trying very hard to be Alan Rickman, and the entire film is trying rather hard to be the Princess Bride. (sometimes quoting it outright).

Milla Jovovic is also trying very hard to be Milla Jovovic, which is a shame given that's not who she's playing.

It also is a very silly film. This is in no ways a bad thing, except when it comes across as too silly. Most of it is excellently restrained but there are a few silly walks and faces, funny voices and lines where you can almost hear the director standing behind the camera yelling "BE SILLER!". If you're going to be silly, you should at least take it seriously.

But those faults aside it was great fun, and sadly there are very few films you can say that about these days. I still prefer the 1993 film, but this one is definitely worth a look, especially if you're looking for a film that is closer to the original plot (but still with many incidental deviations), but cuts out most of the unbelievably stupid bits.


4 out of 6 stars.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Movie Review Smorgasbord Round-up Extravaganza - The Complete Collection Part 12 - Real Steel

Films like showing the future a lot. It makes sense. You get to have cool special effects, you can muck around with things that couldn't be done in a contemporary film, and you're not locked down by current day settings or events. In a way you have a near infinite supply of options ahead of you.

So it's curious then that for all the myriad of options the future presents, how narrow our cinematic vision of the future can be. And not really just the cinema, but books, games, comics, paintings and particularly elaborate graffiti all restrict their futuristic depictments to (mostly) just two trains of thought.

Allow me to elaborate.

Your first vision of the future is the shiny one. The future is good, for the most part. This is your Star Wars prequels (I know, that's actually set a long time ago, but sod it, it's futurustic tech, your argument is invalid), your I, Robot and Bicentennial Man, your Spider-Man 2099s, your Speed-Racers. The future is bright and sleek, very neony. Your coffee machine has artificial intelligence, your flying car flys itself, and your mobile phone is a swiss army knife of technology. There are problems to be sure (it wouldn't be interesting story if there weren't problems) but the world itself is complete and, depending on your point of view, flawless.

Then there's your dystopia. The future sucks. Poverty and homlessness reigns supreme, and while there's flying cars and neon, it hasn't really done a lot of good. This is your Blade Runner and your Firefly, your 1984 and your Deus Ex. Quite often dystopias include elements of shiny world, but generally only to highlight the rich vs poor dynamic that most of these stories rest upon.

Most futuristic films jump into one of these two extremes, with not much of the middle ground.

And then there is Real Steel, a futuristic movie which manages to sidestep this dynamic altogether.

Real Steel is a father son movie. And you have seen it hundreds of times before. Lets run through a quick checklist.

It features a washed out former boxer who has fallen from his prime and now has hit rock bottom, with debtors after him. In the opening moments he even sinks as low as to fight bulls in a rodeo in an attempt to make a quick buck, but his arrogance and mouth stand in his way, as they have for years.


Without warning he is forced to babysit his estanged son for the summer after his ex-girlfriend dies and - other than the money he coerces out of the boys foster father -wants nothing to do with him.


The boy it turns out is just as stubborn as he is, and absolutely insists on coming with his dad on his latest venture.


Together they have many wild adventures, the kid helps the dad rejuvinete his boxing career, and they start to gradually grow closer.


But moments before the boxing match that could change everything, and just when you think they're going to form a genuine connection, the dad dumps the kid with his foster parents and gives up on the match.


The dad has a change of heart and races accross america to reunite with the kid and they go into the final match together, and while they don't win, they learn that the most important thing, is your family.


All pretty straightforward so far. And while it did manage to hold my attention through to the end, on a purely narrative level I can't say anything other than it's fairly rudimentary but in some ways pleasingly simple story. It is refreshingly to the point. We KNOW the dad is going to come back to the kid, so it's nice it only takes about three minutes for him to do so rather than having to wait for bloody half an hour before he finally does what we all knew he was going to do. Still, storywise it doesn't really add anything new.

So how is this a futuristic film, you ask? Oh, sorry, did I forget to mention the giant robots?

Yes, Real Steel isn't about your boring old mano a mano two gloves two fists boxing. This is about ROBOT boxing. Steel, bolts, metal, voice and motion control, no holds barred decapitation and plenty of leaking robot fluids.

This is where Real Steel starts to get a little interesting. Despite being set in the future, it is actually rather grounded and realistic in it's portrayal of days yet to be. There are giant robots and some flashy phone tech, to be sure, but in most other respects the people of the future kind of just got on with things. We see rodeos, alleyways, old buildings, skating rinks and many a country roadside. And they're all pretty much the type of things you'd see today, just with the occasional giant robot, but even they are restricted entirely to the boxing matches. People still wash their own clothes and do their own work. This is a society of humans, not futuristic beings.

And even the robots are pleasantly real, with a subtle and restrained design. Heck, most of them ARE real. In an excellent piece of advice from Steven Speilberg (executive producing for the umpteenth time this year), with the exception of the boxing matches themselves, all of the robots are real, built things, which lends an authenticty to the acting you don't often see these days as the actors get to interact with things that are actually there.

The boxing matches are pure special effects of course, but are motion captured, meaning actual boxers went out and did that. I presume they didn't decapitate each other, but you never know.

Real Steel definately succeeds in it's decidely different representation of the future and it's real effects, but I can't recommend it on story grounds, and as a narrative nut, that's a bit of a deal breaker. But if you're at the cinema and trying to decide on what to see, it is worth your consideration.

3 out of 6.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Movie Review Smorgasbord Round-up Extravaganza - The Complete Collection Part 11 - Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes

The Planet Of the Apes bothers me. I don't actually mean the books or films (although they do), or indeed the idea that we will one day be overthrown and inevitably destroyed by our simian overlords. That doesn't bother me because either a) It'll never happen, or b) I'll be long dead before it does, or c) it's stupid. No, when I say The Planet Of The Apes bothers me, I mean literally those words in that order. And not really those words itself, as a title goes it's a pretty cool and foreboding sounding one. This has more to do with the sequels.

Don’t get me wrong, I understand the importance of brand recognition, but simply picking an exciting sounding verb or noun and lobbing "The Planet Of The Apes" on the end does not an effective title make. Let’s go through the list.

The Planet Of The Apes - Good Title. Good. There is a Planet. There are Apes on it. I like it. Succinct.

Beneath The Planet Of The Apes - All well and good, though technically if the title was accurate the film would take place in space slightly below the planet, and would be silent, full of floating dead monkeys, and rather short. "Inside The Planet Of The Apes" doesn’t quite have the same ring to it I agree.

Escape From The Planet Of The Apes - While technically an adequate description, the actual escape takes place in the first five minutes or so of the film, and the rest of our time is spent on Earth in the 1970s. The actual Planet of the Apes itself won't make an appearance for another umpty-thousand years. A more accurate title would be "The Oppression Of Some Talking Apes From the Future On Earth In the Present... Of The Planet Of The Apes."

I said accurate. I didn't say good.

Conquest Of The Planet Of The Apes - This is where the title starts getting silly. We're still on present day Earth, well present day Earth 20 years ago. Based on the amusing premise that if all the world's cats and dogs were wiped out, humanity would naturally start keeping monkeys as pets (at least until the Rabbit and Guinea Pig Union stepped in) - and then snowballing from there to all humans secretly want to be fascists - the film is notable in that IT ONCE AGAIN DOES NOT TAKE PLACE ON THE PLANET OF THE APES. I'm fully aware (SPOILER) that it's going to BECOME The Planet of The Apes, it is not yet that planet. Conquest of Earth is a perfectly good title, or even better something like "Pets, Unite!" or "We Have Nothing To Lose But Our Collars" or "Let My Monkeys Go", though once again, no brand recognition.

Battle For The Planet Of The Apes - WE'RE NOT. ON. THE PLANET. OF THE APES! The Planet Of the Apes in fact never appears again in the series, unless you count the remake (Don't. Just don't.) We're certainly a bit closer to it being A Planet Of Apes in this one, but we're still on Earth. Really. The Planet Of The Apes is an entirely inaccurate suffix.

You did get points for having guerrilla gorillas though.

You'll notice I haven't really talked about the qualities and good points of the movies. If they were there I would talk about them. That's a little cruel, the first one has some excellent points, but "short" and "undull" are not among them.

This all brings us to the actual point of this blog entry: Rise of the Planet Of the Apes.

Allow me to elaborate.

Rise Of the Planet Of the Apes is a reboot of sorts for the series, acknowledging the original and some of the sequels, while completing breaking others, specifically Conquest Of the Battle Of The Apes. Since Conquest was the "Let's Oppress Apes Because I Miss My Cat" movie this is probably a good thing. It does also fix the infinite time loop from Escape of "Talking Apes arrive on Earth, Talking Apes have baby, Baby Overthrows Humanity, Nothing Happens For Two Thousand Years, Planet Explodes, Talking Apes escape and travel back in Time, Talking Apes arrive on Earth, Repeat Until You're Bored", as now Caesar the Ape (named I believe for the salad, although possibly not.) is the secret child of a laboratory ape instead of the secret child a time travelling talking ape.

The film was actually rather enjoyable and definitely the only one out of the series so far that I would venture to describe as "good" or "fun", but it does suffer from many minor and some rather major plot holes or logic missteps, as well as a few odd choices.

Focussing on the fun of the scenario over plausibility is one possible explanation. Writing the script on Swiss cheese is another. Some of these are trifling. A high tech and expensive science laboratory which submits apes to regular testing and 24 hour surveillance that is somehow unable to spot a chimpanzee giving birth (I'm no zoologist, but I'm pretty sure this would be a lengthy and potentially messy process), is an example of the former. A drug that enhances the neural pathways of the brain but which also mysteriously changes your bone structure, gives you good posture, and grows vocal chords is rather more of a worry. Rather like Revenge of the Sith, instead of allowing that the passage of time will create change in people and their environments, Rise prefers to get all of the changes out of the way right now, and then the characters presumably just twiddle their thumbs for the next two thousand years until the next movie starts.

Contrary to this, though, the film counteracts it's George Lucas syndrome very effectively with the hints of the eventual fate of the human race. Without beating you over the head with it, the film creates an effective and plausible reason that humanity will die out over time that isn't just Man Those Apes Are Smart. It also is perhaps the first time ever I have seen an end credit sequence actually further the plot in a meaningful (and rather ominous) way.

But, far more importantly: A planet does not rise. Particularly if you are on it. At no point during the film did a planet rise over the horizon, or indeed, go up in any capacity. Some apes might rise. They could certainly do that. Perhaps an entire planet's worth. But not a planet. A planet just sort of spins.

Also, and I really can't stress this enough, IT'S NOT THE PLANET OF THE APES YET.

3 out of 6 stars.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Best Laid Blogs

"The best laid plans of mice and men" is an expression that has always puzzled me. Mice, as far as I'm aware, are not known for their planning and strategic outlook on life, nor are they known for their collaborations with humans. in fact, their interactions could be almost exclusively limited to "I am your pet, love me, love me." and "Ha ha, I'm in your wall, eating your plasters. Oh wow, that piece of cheese on the spring loaded trap looks mighty tasty..."

But, like an inevitable steel bar hurtling down upon a rodent skull, real life has come crashing down on attempts to ressurect this blog.

Allow me to elaborate. About the blog, not the mouse.

About six weeks ago I decided it was high time to start writing blog entries again as it had been almost a year since the last update, due largely to a healthy dose of other projects and procrastination. This tied in rather nicely with a newly begun scheme of mine to go to the cinemas at least once a week, as it allowed me to return to the reviews I had been doing up until September last year.

This began well enough, a movie and a blog both occurred, and I was all set to repeat this the following Friday with another movie. But at the last moment (and I mean, LITERALLY at the last moment), the world intervened. Which is my elaborate way of saying we got robbed.

I was in the act of walking into the cinema, holding a choc top and a freshly torn ticket stub, and took my phone out to turn it off when I noticed I had a missed call from my mother. Ringing her back I discovered that our househad been broken into and by initial appearances, my room had been pretty much cleaned out.

Suddenly I didn't really feel much like watching a film. So I ate my choc top (hey, a choc top's a choc top), went home and assessed the damage. As it happens it could have been worse. They had gotten in by breaking a lock on a window, and NOT by going through the front door, meaning I was not a horrible person and had not in fact left it open by mistake. (pretty impossible in any case as I was not the last person to leave the house, but hey). Most of my room was untouched, but I did lose my television and my laptop.

Although I did end up seeing the film the week after, this all left me in rather an off colour mood for a good week or so, and I found myself uninspired to write, so the blog remained untouched. I did have something to look forward to however, as my holiday to Perth to see my father was rapidly approaching, and I was looking forward to some rest and family time. What's more, I could use the peace and quiet to catch up on the blog entries, as my brother had kindly loaned me his laptop for the duration.

Which couldn't connect to the internet.

Nonetheless it was an excellent holiday away, full of family, relaxation, and far too much coffee (the withdrawal of which I am currently suffering through as I write). I am now back in Melbourne, and getting stuck into various projects that I'm looking forward to completing over the next few months. One of those is this blog. If only I had time to write an entry.

Oh wait.

PS. Barring more real life happening, expect a film review soon.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Movie Review Smorgasbord Round-up Extravaganza - The Complete Collection Part 10: Cowboys & Aliens

And, friends, we once again return to the town of blogville, blogsylvania, narrowing avoiding the unspoken tragedy that is "not updating your blog in a year" by "updating the blog the week before you haven't updated it in a year," or the Oh Crap I Knew I'd Forgotten Something method of blog writing.

A great deal has occurred since last we wrote. Or at least, since I wrote. You don't write. You just sit here and read everything I've written down, without taking the time to write back. Not even one letter at Christmas. You bastard. But that great deal is a story for another day. As a brief recap, I'm still working at the same office, having been kicked out of the project I was in, asked BACK into the project I was in, promoted, sidemoted, and then promoted again in a slightly different way.

I'm still working on games (though the hl2 project has been sidelined until we know more about how to make projects in hl2) and we are currently focusing on smaller scale project that is making great progress and nearing the completion of the pre-alpha stage. I don't know what you'd call that. Noughtpha or something.

I'm still single, though not the same single I was last time. C'est la vie, as you say. If you're French. I'm not French. So I don't say it. Except I did. Chew on that, paradoxes.

But I didn't come to talk to you about that, I came to talk to you about Cowboys shooting Space Ships with Ray Guns.

Allow me to elaborate.

A week ago I decided that I'd quite like to get into the habit of seeing a movie once a week as a nice little tradition for myself. Sure enough, one week later, I found myself at the cinema. My choices for the evening were a movie about aliens overthrowing humans that were cowboys, or a movie about apes overthrowing humans that were jerks. Cowboys and Aliens won because it was on first. Good odds on Rise of the Planet of the Apes next week.

Cowboys and Aliens is directed by Jon Favreau, a man I had never heard of until I rather excitedly saw his name in the credits for Iron Man, and then rather less excitedly saw his name in the credits for Iron Man 2, a film that proved that more of the same thing can be a bad thing. More of EXACTLY. THE SAME. THING.

Perhaps being rather embarrassed when he realised that he'd accidentally grabbed the wrong script on the way to the film shoot for Iron Man 2, Favreau decided to drop out of Iron Man 3 and instead make Cowboys and Aliens, a film that tries as hard as it possibly can to not be Iron Man. Here's a quick comparison:

Cowboys and Aliens (C&A): Gruff silent hero that can beat the crap out of anything with his bare hands.
Iron Man (IM): Wise cracking talkative hero that can beat the crap out of anything with his bare futuristic power suit covered hands.

So far so good.

C&A: YeOlde Western Type Times with horses and shotguns.
IM: Modern Times with fast cars and fast women (I've never understood that expression. Surely the women are considerably slower than even most reasonably priced cars. I mean, I saw a woman running pretty fast the other day, but she wasn't THAT fast...).

Still on track.

C&A: Evil Aliens.
IM: Evil Jeff Bridges.

Yup, we're on to something.

C&A: Vague under explained motives for villain with a convenient and somewhat contrived resolution.
IM: Vague under explained motives for villain with a convenient and somewhat... bugger.

One rather definitive point in Cowboys' favour is it undeniably gets the point. The film opens, Daniel Craig wakes up in a field with no memory and a strange device strapped to his arm. Then he shoots some cowboys. Then he gets arrested. Then aliens attack. All in the first 20 minutes. No time wasting exposition here!

Somewhat refreshingly, you go into Cowboys and Aliens and will see EXACTLY what you expect. There are cowboys, and there are aliens. They shoot each other a lot. And if that's all you're after, this film will serve you well. I don't think anyone is going to a film called Cowboys and Aliens and expecting Shakespeare. And if you were, which Shakespeare have you been reading, because I must have missed that one.

Great it is not, but Fun it is not isn't.

...wait, what?

Rating: 2.5 out 5.