Favourite blogs for ChrisBlog

My favourites » The Story of Hamid-o

April 09, 2011

Time to do some Spring cleaning

Haven't been on the old Warwick blog for a while and looks like spammers have been having a field day! Time to do some Spring cleaning.

November 02, 2010

KeepBritainBiking's November Photo Competition

Writing about web page http://www.keepbritainbiking.com/conversations/topics/november-photo-competition-0?utm_source=warwickblogs&utm_medium=Blog&utm_campaign=November%2BCompetition

KeepBritainBiking is running a competition this November to find the most funny/interesting/unusual photograph of your motorbike and/or you. Against a beautiful sunset atop a mountain? Excellent. Dressed as Cousin It with Superman as a passenger? Perfect. The prize for the winner is a £500 Panasonic Lumix Camera and Accessories set - so go ahead and enter!

October 06, 2010

Gamu Nhengu to be deported?

Gamu Nhengu facing deportation after X-factor rejection

Gamu Nhengu - X-factorGamu Nhengu was last week famously rejected by everyone's favourite Newcastle charm, Cheryl Cole. It came as a big surprise for those with a secret guilty love for the reality show, because she was such an excellent singer. Cheryl's since faced accusations of racism (not sure I'd agree), but now Gamu's facing a bigger heartache than Cheryl's bad judgement: deportation.

The UKBO has refused Gamu's mother permission to remain in the UK and it looks like Gamu and her mother will soon be forced out of the UK. It's a sad situation but the problem isn't necessarily with the immigration officials - they're merely enforcing the law - the problem is with the law itself.

I doubt Gamu will be seeing a reprieve unless the X-factor judges renege on their decision and invite her back, presumably with accompanying visa benefits.

October 01, 2010

Finally, UK government inaction over Phorm is seeing consequences

Writing about web page http://www.guardian.co.uk/technology/2010/oct/01/eu-online-privacy

Most of you probably will have no idea what Phorm is. What is Phorm? It's a near-insolvent US company which used to specialise in making money from spyware and which turned its attentions to targeted advertising based on monitoring browser habits.

The short of it is that the EU is fed up with UK inaction with regards to obeying EC Privacy Directives and is now taking the UK to the European Court of Justice.

About time. 

(Source: The Guardian

Facebook to finally update its horrible photo system

Writing about web page http://bit.ly/facebphotos

Facebook is finally going to update its photo system. After several years of being not very good at all, it's going to get a nice update which will include:

1) uploading/downloading photos of up to 2048 pixels (width/length);

 2) bulk tagging (yay!); and

3) lightbox (meh)

Only downside appears to be ads, but I don't mind that so long as they're not overly intrusive.

May 31, 2010

iPad cellular data trouble? Read on.

Just a brief note today - I had problems with the iPad's cellular data (3G) on o2. I couldn't find a way to set up an account to start a 3G service. But I found the solution and it was an easy one: plug your iPad into iTunes and update. I'd already plugged it in the first time I used it without any update so it may be new. You'll get an update to your cellular data settings which will give you the option of setting up an account.

Easy peasy.

May 16, 2010

Ridley Scott's Robin Hood: Wasted Opportunity

Writing about web page http://www.robinhoodthemovie.com

Movie image
Robin Hood (2010)
2 out of 5 stars

I'm a fan of Ridley Scott. He's both a great and a terrible director, as much in terms of his choices of what to direct as how to direct. He's got one of the most varied careers I've seen ranging from great and interesting sci-fi (Alien) to exciting action (Gladiator) to absolutely atrocious (G I Jane). He's also a clever director. Over the last few years he's tackled some important issues, events and mythologies. To his credit, he tries to expand beyond the usual Hollywood tripe-history and cram cultural, religious and social context into a mytho-historical framework. He never really succeeds in entirety but at least he tries. And even where his films aren't great, they're usually enjoyable. Black Hawk Down was not a great movie. It was clumsy, overtly pro-American and almost racist in its disregard of the killing of hundreds (or thousands) of Somalis, while focusing on the poignant deaths of the American few. But it was a good waste of time. Kingdom of Heaven improved the formula with some great performances (and some muddled and terrible, thank you Orlando Bloom) and an attempt to at least analyse beyond the usual black and white simple expositions.

Something prevalent throughout his career is the feeling that he's made his films under an immense production burden and that he often takes compromises. cf Kindom of Heaven with Kingdom of Heaven: Director's Cut (or Blade Runner et al). It really is no different here. Robin Hood belongs to nearly everyone's repertoire of favourite myths and fairy tales. It revolves around the perfect and very nearly plausible protagonist of Robin Hood; an aristocrat who is utterly selfless, who loses his wealth and is reduced to a life of subsistence. It's not the perfect story of class-warfare but it is a wonderful dream. And it's been realised as some equally-wonderful movies. Who can forget Errol Flynn's performance in The Adventures of Robin Hood. Disney's even made a version with some lovable characters.


So Ridley Scott's made a version. And he tries ever so hard. And the result sees him stumbling over the elements as he pieces them together. The result is a horrible mish-mash. Russell Crowe is completely miscast and his attempts at effecting an English accent are annoyingly distracting. The first few minutes we hear him he's leaping from a Yorkshire accent to something of a bit more Geordie flavour. A BBC Radio 4 presenter suggested it might have sounded somewhat Irish, prompting a humourless walkout by Crowe (see video/embed) Cate Blanchett as Maid Marion is something we could have almost done without. OK, we get it. You like strong female leads. We like strong female leads. Weaver is wonderful in Alien and though G I Jane is an awful movie, we appreciate the sentiment. But Marion in this film almost destroys the historical cohesion. One minute she's ploughing a field with the peasants, the next she's saving their lives with her drawn sword and then she's riding into battle with a group of children. Is he saying something about the Children's Crusade? Is he nodding to Blanchett's ElizabethI don't know. It's just unlikely, distracting and needlessly lengthening what is already a lengthy story. It also continually attacks any hint of plausibility. 

Even the comic relief is somewhat off. Robin Hood's merry men (in this case  Scarlett, Little John and A'Dayle) hail from Wales, Scotland and Ireland! A United Kingdom? Of course not. Any Welshman out there care to tell me when the Welsh felt happy serving in an English army? Not sure it would have been in the 13th Century. Friar Tuck is out on the sidelines desperate for a little bit of filmtime but relegated to some minor light-hearted bee stings.

Don't get me started on the script. 'Every Englishman's home is his castle'. Really Ridley? Really? Punning on the word 'night'? A million History and English Literature students everywhere  facepalm in unison.

What about the context of the film? Like everything else it's a muddle. Saxon 'Robin Longstride' takes the role of Saxon-sympathising Robin of Loxley when he's killed returning King Richard the Beerheart's crown from France. Deep breath. He then falls in love with Maid Marion who swoons over him while 'Sir Godfrey' is busy rampaging throughout the country to turn the northern barons against the newly-crowned and duplicitous King John in preparation for a French invasion spearheaded at Dover. It's up to Robin to foment English patriotism to rally the people around not so much the King as the country in order to ensure that King John signs the Magna Carta which is more-or-less framed as being the equivalent of the constituion of the United States. It really wasn't, Ridley. I presume this is something thrown in to make sure Americans pay attention for the last half of the movie, but I could be wrong.

So why is it a wasted opportunity? Because it ticks a hell of a lot of boxes. Great cast? Check. Huge budget?  Check. Amazing locations? Check. Great plot/screenplay? Ooh er.

PS - major piece of transition missing just before the end of the film. See if you can spot it! 

I really wanted to like this film. I convinced my friends to come watch it with me, stupidly picking it over the acclaimed Four Lions as our weekend cinematic foray. I came out more disappointed than the other two. I can only hope that if another is made, it's with a much, much better script.  

May 06, 2010

Pedigree Adoption Drive

Writing about web page http://www.pedigreeadoptiondrive.com/adopt/home/

Hey guys,

Pedigree's launched a dog adoption drive and as part of this they'll be giving £1 to the Pet Plan Trust for every view of their YouTube video (embedded and linked here). They'll also give 50p to charity for each 'like' of their facebook profile here http://www.facebook.com/wearefordogs.

So come on, get clicking and give something for practically nothing to an excellent cause!!

December 23, 2009

Review: James Cameron's 'Avatar'

Writing about web page http://tieyourcamel.co.uk/movies/review-james-camerons-avatar

About four months ago I was invited to watch a long preview of James Cameron's hugely expensive'Avatar'</a>. I predicted it would be 'Pocahontas in Space'. I continued:

Civilised-but-crippled (just physically?) white man gets out of his depth in an alien world, has his life saved by a native woman (with a strange accent!), slowly assimilates into their culture and way of living managing inexplicably to better the natives at their own way of life before, for some reason, the white civilised culture (with token ethnic characters) tries to 'save' or attempts to eradicate the native population.  

It turns out I was exactly right. If you're looking for a highly-original plot, Avatar's not the film for you. But then Cameron's speciality isn't really originality; it's the ability to take a cliche and make it fun, exciting and interesting. And I have to admit that I was misguided in my expectations. I thought the film would be terrible. I was wrong. It's an awesome cliched monster of a film that is best enjoyed in a cinema with a big screen.

So what is it really all about? A former marine, Jake Sully (Sam Worthington), gets roped into working with the 'Avatar Program' on an alien world ('Pandora' - what will happen when we open up this box I wonder!). The program's a corporate-bought scientific exploration into the planet's native flora, fauna and 'indigenous'. Sully's role? To replace his brother (and save the company money regrowing an 'Avatar') and to use his marine expertise to safeguard the science crews. He also has another mission: to spy on the indigenes to find a way to remove them from their central home-place; a giant tree called 'the Mother Tree'. In this he's enlisted by a hard-ass Patton-type character, Colonol Quaritch (Stephen Lang) and Mr Big Corporate Parker Selfridge (Giovanni Ribisi). 

Nothing original here. Cold-hearted Sully, uncaring cog in the colonial machine lives with the indigenes for a while and 'goes native'. He realises how awesome their way of life is and does all he can to protect it. He bests the natives at their own game and becomes a demi-God/chieftain in the process. We've seen it all before: Pocahontas, Dances With Wolves, The Last Samurai etc. 

The dialogue is not great and at times it's pretty atrocious. The actors manage to lift the film above its hideous script and the awkwardness sometimes becomes more convincing when delivered by any of the 'Na'vi' or Sam Worthington. Subtlety isn't really present in this film's themes. The indigenes are more in tune with the environment than the colonisers who view them as savages? Well I never! I have expected the characters to burst into 'Colors of the Wind'. There are even some Ferngully-esque bulldozers romping around. 

The CG, however, is top-notch - monumental even. But then again what did we expect from a Cameron film? He's gone beyond the CG and created an entire eco-system. Although the Biological Internet and hair connections aren't very convincing, he's at least consistent. Most of the animals have six legs, suggesting a common ancestry. The flora is lush and varied.

This is not really a film - it's a spectacle. I doubt it would be as interesting on the small screen (yes, even in HD on our large HD Televisions). It needs a large, clear screen, a set of 3D glasses and a throbbing sound from high-quality speakers. You don't want to over-analyse it; just enjoy the ride. Go watch it while it's still available!

Rating: 7/10 

NB - I would have rated this film more highly had it had something resembling decent dialogue. As it stands it's really good fun but not much more. It should make an excellent game but, apparently, the tie-in they've licensed is predictably terrible (tie-in curse). Perhaps an MMORPG will some day be in the works?

December 22, 2009

Watch Godard's '2 or 3 Things I Know About Her' free today.

Follow-up to Watch Resnais' 'Hiroshima, Mon Amour' free today! from The Story of Hamid-o

The Auteurs has decided to gift us with another French classic today, just in time for Christmas! This time it really is the last day to catch it and they're ending on a high note: Jean-Luc Godard's '2 or 3 Things I Know About Her'. This is the last film of the Stella Artois 'Recyclage de Luxe' film festival on the Auteurs. Watch it here, today, for free in the UK only: The Auteurs(18+)

December 21, 2009

Watch Resnais' 'Hiroshima, Mon Amour' free today!

Follow-up to Watch Marker's 'La Jetée' free on The Auteurs today (subtitled) from The Story of Hamid-o

Today's the last day of the Stella Artois 'Recyclage de Luxe' film festival on the Auteurs. They're today showcasing Resnais' 'Hiroshima, Mon Amour' (subtitled). It's been the end of a great week for we film-lovers and I've learned a lot. Enjoy here: http://www.theauteurs.com/stellaartois (18+, UK Only)

December 20, 2009

Watch Marker's 'La Jetée' free on The Auteurs today (subtitled)

Follow-up to Godard's 'Vivre Sa Vie' from The Story of Hamid-o

If you're interested in the work of 'nouvelle vague' director Chris Marker, you mustn't miss the chance to catch his classic film 'La Jetée' on The Auteurs today. You can find it here: http://bit.ly/tasrd(18+, UK Only). It was the inspiration behind Gilliam's great 'Twleve Monkeys'.

December 19, 2009

Godard's 'Vivre Sa Vie'

Follow-up to Truffaut's 'The 400 Blows' – watch free today! from The Story of Hamid-o

If you're interested in the work of 'nouvelle vague' director Jean-Luc Godard, you mustn't miss the chance to catch his classic film 'Vivre Sa Vie' on The Auteurs today. You can find it here: http://bit.ly/tasrd(18+, UK Only)

December 16, 2009

Truffaut's 'The 400 Blows' – watch free today!

Follow-up to 7 classic French films in 7 days @ The Auteurs from The Story of Hamid-o

I'm often sceptical when it comes to classic French cinema - I tend to be more a fan of German/Weimar pre-war films and then (guilty I know!) American post-war cinema. I do, however, have respect for many of the French films I've seen (Le Petit Soldatsprings to mind). 

I'd been meaning to watch more New Wave cinema for quite some time and then I had the opportunity to do it with The Auteur's Stella Artois online film festival (18+, UK Only). I didn't regret it. Its cinematography, story and performances are completely spot-on. Excellent. 

If you want to watch it today (for free) then head on to: www.theauteurs.com/stellaartois 

December 14, 2009

7 classic French films in 7 days @ The Auteurs

Writing about web page http://www.theauteurs.com/stellaartois

Stella Artois is bringing  French classics of the '60s to The Auteurs for 7 days starting tomorrow. This is UK only and do remember to drink responsibly!

I remember studying French and German cinema back at Warwick for a while as part of my History degree. It gave me a better insite into classic films in general (and if you're doing History now I think the module was History of Germany) - we covered Weimer films and I wrote an essay on the post-war cinematic reactions of France and Germany.

These gilms are from the '60s and the roster is:

Lola - 1961

The 400 Blows - 1959

Jules and Jim - 1962

Masculin féminin: 15 faits précis -1966

Vivre sa vie - 1962

La Jetee - 1962

Hiroshima, mon amour - 1959

June 05, 2009

James Purnell

Writing about web page http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/8083585.stm

So Purnell has resigned and written a letter asking for Brown to step down for the sake of the party.  He cares so much for the party that he:

1) colluded with the media to get this letter out just after local elections;

2) claimed for things like fridge magnets (£247), accountants (nearly £400) and thousands of pounds in rent on the public purse; and

3) did not resign immediately - as he should have done - when news about his expenses broke.

Perhaps he should reconsider whether he has enough honesty and personal integrity to continue doing anything remotely linked to politics.

August 08, 2008

And so the Olympics

And what sporting event would be complete without terrible bbc jokes and puns?

So far the worst:

‘a countdown Carol Vorderman would be proud of..’ – particularly terrible because she was recently effectively sacked.

‘Not so much House of Flying Daggers as House of Falling Stars.’ – terrible

Meanwhile the fireworks and drumshow were great.

Edit And sports presenters should probably shy away from broad cultural and historical statements – Zheng He is not Zhang Yi

July 16, 2008

Iron Man

Movie image
Iron Man
5 out of 5 stars

I was never really a fan of the comic. When I had the time, money and interest for comics, it was mostly spent on X-Men, Spiderman and the occasional Superman or Hulk comic. I did watch "Marvel Action Hour" on Saturday or Sunday mornings (or whenever it was scheduled), which featured an Iron Man cartoon. It was the better of the three cartoons shown (Iron Man, The Incredible Hulk and The Fantastic Four), despite (or perhaps because of) all the camp on display.

But then I saw the trailer. And it just oozed cool. And stereotypical Arabs. I just had to see it. And it made for the perfect pre-exam treat. So I went and watched and loved it.

It's not without its flaws but even those are (unintentionally?) hilarious. Big Bearded Arab Henchman actually speaks Arabic, albeit with an accent that suggests he was born in the US/Britain. Effeminate Villainous Arab (or Indian? A bit of an Art Malik-alike) Baldy is so wildly over the top that you've simply got to laugh. "Oh Tooony Starrk, I want your Wiponz, you will make them forr me or I will torture your friend with coal". No Crimson Jihad bollocks. Verdict: Probably not racist.

The plot is the usual cliched Superhero movie fare: Man finds/invents powers, encounters horrible death/accident/tragedy and after a training/inventing/fun montage uses those powers for good against an impossibly evil/insane supervillain.

But here's where Iron Man gets it right. It uses that cliched framework and fleshes it out with wonderful, self-referencing, wry humour and characters you'll love.

The action is spot on. Iron Man actually feels like a hero. The science behind everything is ludicrous and the director/screenwriter just picks up on that and goes with the flow, throwing in a witty, sarcastic computer (Paul Bettany) into the mix.

I don't want to get too much into the plot details, because there are some "twists" which you should be able to see right from the beginning, especially if you get the "Ten Rings" reference. Go watch the movie, definitely one of the better ones of the Summer and it puts The Incredible Hulk to shame.

Oh and if you have the patience, sit through the near-infinite credit sequence* for a nice post-movie fanboy minute.

*Speaking of which, I was sure as soon as I saw the second trailer (above) that the riff at the end was from the Black Sabbath Song Iron Man (right) which tried as far as possible to distance itself from a certain comic book character to avoid potential lawsuits. I didn't see the song credited, though a variation of it (without the nonsensical lyrics) is used. The riff does fit perfectly though.

June 06, 2008

Tube Talk

Travelling on the tube to Arsenal during rush hour is boring at any time of the day, particularly when you've only got notes to keep you company (exams are fun eh?) and you're missing your MP3 player because you don't want it to get stolen by some random while you're focusing on whether you should be writing about the EU's "Democratic Deficit" or Freedom of Establishment (where the hell was my Art. 234 essay you gits?).

Anyhow, some real peaches so far have included:

Two young American girls board the train and start doing their teen talk thing. My ears perk up when they talk about the case of the transsexual who bears a child

Yank 1: Oh did you know like a man gave birth to a baby?

 Yank 2: Oh really?

 Yank 1: Yah, he's having a baby! I don't know how it's biologically possible but he is.

Yank 2: That's impossible.

Yank 1: No seriously! Maybe he grew a womb.

 I couldn't help chuckling, but kept silent (the transsexual was/is a female-to-male. They hadn't performed a hysterectomy). And then there was:

British Guy: I don't know why they don't install air conditioning on the underground! There's no reason why they couldn't.  

Yes, except that installing aircon on every train that serves the tube would be prohibitively expensive, not to mention quite environmentally unfriendly. There are reasons why the underground is hot and and smelly and it's probably going to stay that way :'(.




May 28, 2008

What was everyone complaining about?

Writing about web page http://www.indianajones.com

Most film geeks have been anticipating a possible Indiana Jones film for years. I gave up hope quite some time ago, because Ford wasn't getting any younger and actors are as mortal as the rest of us. Let's be honest with ourselves: Ford is Indiana Jones.

When I heard the news that the film was in actual production, I was excited. Everyone was. Then I heard the title. Oh dear George. Clearly a crap title, particularly when it coincided quite unfortunately with Damien Hurst's rubbish project "For The Love Of God" (*Groan*). I expected special effects galore and perhaps an appearance from Jar-Jar or one of the Ewoks. 

Luckily, Stephen Spielberg seems to have retained some control and prevented it from being turned into a CG Crapfest. You can tell where George's personality is trying to break through - CG gophers among other things - but for the most part, the same old gritty stuntwork, models etc. appear to have been used. And the film is all the better for it.

It is, at its  heart, simply an Indiana Jones film. It is packed full of decent action, fun, cliches and everything you want from a decent action film. The ending is atrocious but still exciting. It is better than The Temple of Doom (KA-LI-MAAAA!). Filled with various archeological and mythological tidbits and a compliment of decent actors. I was looking forward to Blanchett's performance but her Russian-accent English annoyed the hell out of me skipping from typical Hollywood Russian (See Ford in K-19: The Widowmaker) to an odd British English accent. Ah well, the film loves the camp I guess. 

And we get camp galore at the appearance of Shia Lebeouf. They clearly tried to emulate Brando but came off with a bit of a YMCA moment. The character would probably try to limply stab you if you questioned his sexuality, but you know there's a little bit of the old manloving waiting to break free. Shia is still great. One of the better actors of this generation and I can't imagine a different actor being able to pull off the role.

The "Twists" are obvious. The general plot structure is recycled from the other three (but let's face it, that's what we bloody wanted). Ford is in amazing shape for 65. George Lucas gets his Star Wars moment in the final two minutes. Stephen Spielberg (and possibly Lucas) may or may not continue to pursue his weird Alien fetish he now seems to have in every other film. Either way, if you leave your geeky reservations at the door, everyone has a good time.