30 Dec 2011

Conan, or what I did wrong in my holidays

When I was ayoung boy I discovered this ad in the Waikato times. It was in black and white, but as movie ads went it was massive. My father and I went me to see it together and it was WICKED.  Sorcerors, humerous theives, Grace Jones, princesses and decapitations. The film led me to the the books and stories of Robert E. Howard and a new and exciting world opened up for me.

It is this nostalgic love on the film and the 1982 original that I suspect made me watch the remake. I think I was curious to compare this movie to the original stories and the 1982 film. Well I have seen it and I can safely say I would have rather spent the last 113 minutes watching four episodes of Jeremy Kyle back to back while having my eye brows plucked. 

But more on that later let’s have a synopsis. There are some spoilers in here, but not as much as watching this movie will spoil your day.

The story starts with the Baby Conan being born by battle cesarean, courtesy of his father. His mother was having a baby shower, Cimmerian style. Apparently this involves inviting over the neighbours over for the traditional gifts and party evisceration's. Unfortunately the party gets out of hand when the proud mother gets the gift that keeps on giving, a terminal stomach laceration. With the Baby Conan born, the story jumps to Conan the tween, who is trying to earn his father’s (Ron Perlman) sword. But before he can Conan’s village is attacked by the army of Khalar Zym (Stephen Lang). Khalar Zym is seeking the scattered parts of an enchanted mask which was broken by the barbarian tribes a generation before. The Cimmerians are defeated, the final piece recovered and Conan’s father murdered.  We then move to Conan the adult (Jason Momoa) along with his smouldering gaze seeking revenge. Yes it could have been the gaze that was seeking revenge, it was hard to ascertain. 

There was so much smouldering, that there were a few times I had to pick up the cover and check that I had indeed rented a film about Conan the Barbarian, not a Harlequin romance on the big screen. But then it couldn’t be a Harlequin romance as the writing would have been better, and the characters more developed.  I wonder if the script required Mr. Momoa to smoulder, or if it was so weak that when they were filming it the director asked Jason to smoulder to fill up time.

“Smoulder Jason, Smoulder.”
 I estimate that least 58 of the film 113 minutes were of Mr. Momoa smouldering. 

While the 1982 film was not based on a particular story of Mr. Robert E. Howard, it was at least set in his world of Hyboria. I might be wrong but there was little in this remake that relates to the first movie let alone the fantasy world of Robert E. Howard.  Yes Conan was a Cimmerian in the Hyborian age, but there was little else of note. And say what you will about Arnold Swartzenegger, the man has a sense of humour and some big screen charisma. This movie really departs from both the original film and the fictional franchise it is meant to be based on. 
In regards to the story I have seen less plot holes in my colander. The narrative development was chunky, weak, and poorly paced.The whole movie seemed rushed and disjointed.  The fight scenes were impressive, but they soon became passé and repetitive.  The violence trying to compensate for the insipid story, but not even the buckets of blood could add any colour to this mess.

The acting from the female lead (Rachel Nichols) was passable, Ron Perlman was typically great and the baddies comprising of Rose McGowan and Stephen Lang were fine. Rose stood out as the campy evil Sorceress, but none of this was enough to save this abysmal fantasy farce.            

Fantasy can make the transition to film or TV, just look at the Game of Thrones for a good example.  You just need a good script. Dammit an average script would be nice.  But we keep seeing terrible scripts translating into poor dialogue and feeble stories which no 100 million production value can save.  I have mentioned this before but the original movie made three times the budget in profit, this movie’s gross covered 20% of its budget.  Hollywood must learn to spend more on decent writers and less on CGI and mediocre stunts. 
I give this cinematic travesty two and a half Monkeys. One for not having a Wayans brother or Rob Schneider in it, and one and a half for having Ron Perlman and Rose McGowan, but this is one of the worst movies I have seen this year.

27 Dec 2011

Inspiration and energy

Firstly it is SUNNY

I have suffered from a lack of sun this year and the current weather in the capital is almost medicinal.  Because the weather was so good I metamorphosed from a grumpy indoorsy chap to a grumpy hot outdoorsy chap. The metamorphosis was aided by the acquisition of shorts.
It's amazing I never knew how a humble pair of warehouse shorts could transform me.

Then my lovely girl and I decided that to celebrate the sun and go on an expedition. So we found a intermediate walking track and went for a mighty trek.

I thought I was going to die in the first 30 seconds. To get to the track you have to walk up a very steep access way and I am very out of shape. Well that's not true, I do have a shape but it's not the right one for excercise.

But we don't give up in my family, so I soldiered on sounding like the before guy in a radio advertisement for asthma medication. But soon enough my body loosened up and I started to have fun. And by the end of it I felt great.

You are probably wondering what the devil this post has to do with writing or film or any thing really?
Well the same way many people feel energised and happier after exercise I feel after writing. There is something about creating something that is good for me. I can't explain it really, I guess it is just part of my inherent nature to create, and I am the better for it.

So on that note I have to fortify myself as I have promised my lady that she can see the new film "Midnight in Paris."   Despite being a film by Woody Allen I am hoping for a pleasant morning. And if nothing else it will make my girl happy. 

I wish you all the pleasantest of memories and fun over the holiday period. 

Merry Christmas and Happy New year.

18 Dec 2011

Break, family and energy

I haven't posted in a while, sorry for that.

It is not that I have nothing to say, but the silly season is crazy this year and two major events have stopped me from doing so.

The first was a visit by the matriarch of my family house, House P. 
Yes my lovely mother and older brother travelled south into the grey and gloom that is Wellywood (Mordor?) to celebrate Johns day and an early Christmas as I am staying south this year.
My brother was displeased by the news the jammy tarts were finished

So there were feasts of turkey, trifle, brandy snaps and Swedish Meat balls. There was much to drink and games to play. There were presents given;  giant zeppelin fish, wonderful compass's, books on swords and Doyle. Laughing and dancing.

 And of course the traditional questions of the state of my digestive tract, finances, love life and of course my future.

It was fun and exhausting as only family can be, but I am grateful to have spent some quality time with them for Christmas.

The second reason for my hiatus from my electronic processing contraption is that apparently my graphics card went "POOPTED!" I assure you this is the technical term for what apparently occurred.  So my contraption was unusable until a friend came over to to fix it yesterday.

Than you Chris, I promise you food and drink for your generosity and time.

Anyway this week I will post a few times prior to my travels over the hills north to a promised land of sun.

If you can't live wise, live ascetically. It may be shallow, but it's at least beautiful.

Don't know why I wrote that, probably the music I am listening to.

Thank you for your patience and I'll write soon.

5 Dec 2011

Johns day Eve

Huzzah Huzzah Huzzah!

It's that favourite time of year for all the noble souls in the world. Time to wear your favourite animal hat, and dry clean your best velvet.

Sharpen your blades and sing songs of battles old.

Octalavia we will never forget you!

Put some milk and honey out for the Hobgoblins and Sprites, some meat for the wolves, apples for the horses and a nice Shiraz for the king of Cats.
Make sure it's a nice surprise mind, he has Tigers for Valets.

Remember the old gods they are lonely.
Tip your hat at the new lest Angels pull your wings off.

Prepare for the feast tomorrow. Defrost the turkey, freeze the Vodka and gather the beer, wine and antipasto.

Gather the traditional Johns day DVDs watched every year for the last seven hundred years; Ran, Seven Samurai, City of Lost Children, and any of the Wallace and Gromit selection.

for it's Johns day eve When vampires crawl int your room and night and bite the heads off all the jelly babies, and you must sleep before the wolfing hour lest the sand man come and take your eyes.  Smile at the More-pork and he will warn you.

Prepare yourself for a day like no other, with fire breathers, vikings, steam punk and burlesque piratequeens.

Prepare and fear, weep and cheer.

Huzzah Huzzah Huzzah

23 Nov 2011

A vague sense of regret

Good evening

I probably should not be blogging as I have had about an hours sleep in the past 24. But I am restless and can't go to bed yet.

I am preparing to travel to the city of Lambs on the morrow, other wise known as Palmerston North. Is there a Palmerston south of that city? I wonder?

Any way my wonderful girl is graduating on Friday morning; HUZZAH!

But due to the time table we have to drive up tomorrow afternoon and spend the night there.  But that is not the subject of tonight's post. More a disclaimer if this makes absolutely no sense.

Recently I was offered the opportunity to write up an article about my office on the departments web page, to educate and illuminate the populace on our curious history and what we do.  Perhaps a sentence or two about our shrine to Winston? Or maybe a humorous anecdote from the past? Like when tall Stanly bit young Tom during a debate over which font to use in emails, and then poor Tom died of  scrofula.

Aerial 10 apparently.

It seemed like a great opportunity to put my skills to the test.  A chance to shine, to show the world the real me!
However I declined.
  Regardless of what I wrote; good or bad, accurate or mythological, the project would turn into a farce. Perhaps one word in ten of mine might be used, if it was thought to be "dynamic enough". My suspicions were confirmed today by a friend in management and also by recent experiences. I was told "You are well out of it."
It seems that whether  you were; Graeme Green, Dr. Seuss, or R. L. Stine, the result would be the same if  results of similar projects is anything to go by.
Not quite "snappy enough"
Hemingway was disappointed that Marie Claire rejected his idea for an advice column
I can imagine the conversation now....

Me- "What did you think?
Project manager - "I don't like it?"
Me-" oh OK you wanted a history so that's it, in a nutshell. But I can change it."
Project manager- "It's a bit dry....could you make it more dynamic?"
 Me "It's a history of our office, not Thermopylae? but sure what do you want?'
Project manager- "Well this is OK, but give it pizazz, make it creative! make it snappier!"

5 Min's later....

Project manager- " And then just as I completed the health and safety module, ironically Ian was attacked by Velociraptors. We saved the day by Marty completing the Health and Safety risk escalation form and I unleashed the Tyrannosaurus Rex who ate them all. Hooray! What is this?"
Me "You said you wanted snappy? Whats snappier than a Tyrannosaurus Rex fighting Velociraptors? 7.9 on IMDB can't be wrong"

Well maybe not, but you get the idea.

From experience and observation I know that the end product will not really be mine, and I doubt there would be any credit granted, and if there was would I want it? Also the experience would be frustrating to the point of farcical, so I believe I have made the correct choice.

Still it is a niggle that I turned down an opportunity to write.

Oh well what's done is done and it seems less like an opportunity to write, and an opportunity to give me heart disease. I will worry not. It will be soon time to rest and travel to celebrate a my good and gracious girl I am so proud of.

Love you darling.

19 Nov 2011

Thngs I am looking forward to

Ahhh what the future brings. When I was a boy it was; Summer, Space travel, Nuclear Holocaust and Jet packs. Sadly the end of the cold war, the decline of N.A.S.A. and the prospect of a new ice age has put paid to those salad day dreams. Now I must look elsewhere for the promise of entertainment. 

But as I gaze into the future it is not all HBO, and Victoria's secrets. There is dread, change and with the prospect of a newly released Adam Sander movie; fear.

But without further ado here is stuff I am looking forward to and stuff I am not looking forward to.

Looking forward to
  • Brave 
I like Pixar films, and this looks fun. The story of a young Scottish princess fighting to change her fate in a land of tradition. Wow that looks quite dull written down. But it looks great; there is adventure, fun and promise of a well crafted story. Oh and it has Billy Connolly as well.
  • The Rum Diary, both the book and the film
 I like Hunter S. Thompson and I have yet to read this story by him. Good summer holiday read I think. And you can't really go too wrong with Johnnny Depp.
  • Second season of Walking Dead
Loved the first season, and I am looking forward to seeing what trials await our heroes. But I do have a considerable amount of TV to catch up on such as Game of Thrones.

  • The Muppets
From the previews I am very hopeful that this project will capture the fun and humour created by Jim Henson. Jason Segal is a good story teller in his own right, and he has worked hard to reboot the Muppet's on the big screen.  I just hope that he succeeded.
  • Tinker, Tailor. Soldier, Spy (the film)
Loved the book, and the TV series and this looks like a it's going to be great.  Superb cast and it has the director of the Swedish classic vampire film "Let the right one in."  I have very high hopes.
  • A Dance with Dragons
Many of you may have experienced the pleasure and drama of the HBO series Game of Thrones.  Well this is the latest book in the series. The author George R.R. Martin was told by his editor that he should split his next book into two separate works, and he did. Excellent writer, ghastly but wonderful books.
  • The Pirates, It's a Plunderful life
If you like Wallace and Grommit and Flushed away, and I do, then this movie is for you. Yes Even I put away my Alistair Crowley or John Dee, and go into the sunlight breifly, before retiring back into the darkness in front of some Plasticine pirates with a glass of Pepperjack Shiraz. Huzzah!

 Not looking forward to
  •   Monday 
Seriously need a new job. It's like working at Dantes inferno.
  • Twilight franchises next offering
I cannot wait until this highly perturbing and disturbing dross masquerading as a teen romance literature is consigned to the literary commode of history. Lent to me as a "Good vampire book". I have de-friended that person on face book.
  • Jack and Jill
Hansel and Gretal, Snow white, Abraham Lincoln, all these fairy tales are being brought to the big screen with a twist. Hansel and Gretal are witch hunters, Abraham Lincoln  is a Vampire killer and Snow white has two separate new interpretations. Jack and Jill however is the story of one successful star, and his decline into terrible and embarrassing projects. I am of course referring to Al Pacino and his cameo in this vile pastiche of humour. Jack and Jill is  Adam Sandler playing himself and his twin sister. I have no intention of watching this incredulous mess. Just seeing the movie poster makes my gums itch.
  • Star Wars episode I, the Phantom Menace in 3D
  • Battleship
Yes  the movie of the board game. 

  • Clash of the Titans II
 I don't understand why they hate Greek Myhtology so much?
  • Mission impossible IV
Is the impossible mission trying to get people to watch this?
  • Underworld IV
Kate Beckensale in a tight leather jumpsuit, battling vampires and were-wolves with swords and guns. How can something that seems so cool, be so dumb?

OK that's me for now. Anything you are particularly looking forward to? Whether it be on the big, small screen, or in print or music?

I'd love to see your thoughts

13 Nov 2011

Comments and Anticipation

Hi my name is John and I used to read comments on the interweb.

Occasionally there would be an article on Stuff or some other site which would allow people to comment, at length mostly about how they are right and how stupid other people were. Reading peoples comments usually made me quite angry. I am one of those awful intolerant people that hate bullies and bigots.

I know I should learn to be more accepting.

In fact reading comments made me so angry that my new years resolution for this year was to stop reading comments at all. The two exceptions being Face Book and the comments made on this blog.

And I am reconsidering FB. 

This is the first resolution I have ever kept. There have been a couple of minor transgressions, but nothing major. Sadly One of them occurred today. Today's blog post was going to be about things I am looking forward to, and I am interested in looking at American Vampire.  Here is an article about it:

Curious I went online looking for a review. I soon found a site which I thought was of readers review. I started reading and before I knew it I was no longer reading reviews about the comic, but a comparison between Twilight and American Vampire.  This quickly turned into a comment war between one Twilight fan and everybody else.  Here is an example;

" I read back of kings book once, and couldnt understand some word, he uses big fancy words, and SO WHAT? meyer is REAL LITERATURE, ok"

I then realised what I was doing and closed the whole site down and went into the sun and did some gardening.  My apologies to the world, I will endeavour to be more diligent in future.

I did go back to copy that comment for this post, and it was a difficult choice between that example and the one where the girl (?) confused Stephen King with Stephen Hawking.


OK so I will do some sit ups in further penance and  tomorrows blog will be things I am looking forward to and thing I am trying to avoid.

Hope you are enjoying the sun.

5 Nov 2011

Angels and Demons

In the early part of the previous decade you weren’t any one unless you had read Dan Brown. Seriously you could have your New Zealand residence revoked if you had not read the Di Vinci Code. It was the new literary zeitgeist, and at the time I hadn’t seen this much  excitement hit adults over a book since Harry Potter. 

Being the curious animal I am, I borrowed a copy and read it

My most memorable moment of that book was muttering out loud “If there is one more bloody flash back I’ll rip this bloody book in half!” to which the actual owner of the book said “Oh no you won’t”

I returned to the flash backs shame faced.

So no I did not enjoy the Di Vinci Code. To me it was a pulp version of Umberto Ecos Foucaults pendulum, which if you like Eco, then I would recommend it.  But Dan Browns Di Vinci Code left me cold.  I found the plot ludicrous, and I found the writing sloppy.

When I heard that they were making a movie, and logically they would, I had no interest to see it. Then when they made a prequel of one of Mr Brown’s earlier books, I had even less inclination to spend my hard earned silver at the cinema watching it. You can imagine my unbridled joy to know that both movies are in H’s collection.

Lets move to a synopsis:
The Pope is dead and the next candidates in line have been kidnapped by a secret society, the Illuminati. The church persecuted the Illuminati in the middle ages and now they want revenge. The Illuminati have also stolen some anti matter from the CERN science facility located in Switzerland, where the large hadron collider is. The Illuminati are going to use the anti matter to create a bomb to enact their revenge on their ancient enemies. 

 The Vatican police recruit Robert Langdon (Tom Hanks), a professor of religious iconology and symbology at Harvard University, who is also the most prominent scholar of Illuminati history.  Langdon with help from Camerlengo McKenna (Ewan McGregor), Vittoria Vetra, a scientist from CERN (Ayelet Zurer) ,and inspector Olivetti (Pierfrancesco Favino) race against timeto save the cardinals from being murdered, and Vatican City blown up.

It is directed by Ron Howard and written by David Koepp and Akiva Goldsman, The first writer did Spider Man and then wrote a whole parcel of bad scripts after that.  Goldsman wrote I Robot and episodes of Fringe the TV show. Both of which I enjoyed.

Prior to this, and despite a reasonable cast and good director, the film just didn’t interest me, as I have mentioned earlier. My experience with Brown did not interest me in his writing or anything associated with his work. I suspect that he is playing to the general trend of anti-Christian sentiment to gain popularity by demonising (no pun intended) the Catholic Church. I could be wrong in this, but given the history of the Church, why would you need to invent stuff about them.

As a student of history I do not like people inventing or changing history in a way that I think is inappropriate. The use of artistic licence obviously assists with a good narrative, and can assist in the transition form one medium to the other.  Also a tweak here and there can create marvellous opportunities for story telling. 
Kayne West revealing the secret of his success

But this sort of invention annoys me. The premise that the church burned the Illuminati to death in the fourteenth century is completely untrue, and is historical slander.  Not to a scale of U571, but it makes me cringe to know people are quoting this movie to demonise the church. Even though the film itself portrays the Vatican characters in a sympathetic light.

But in saying all that, the film was enjoyable to watch. With such a strong cast the performances were very good. I thought McGregor’s performance was excellent, and he stole pretty much most of the scenes. The film was shot in Vatican city and Rome, the setting adding to the drama of the work . The story pacing was good, if the story itself was a bit ludicrous. Normally that sort of thing makes me detach, but the movie did still manage to hold my focus until the finale.  I suspect if you had a weaker cast this would have bombed, as it was it was not a great critical or financial success. It was a lot better than I expected, and depending on your taste a very enjoyable movie.  I was pleasantly surprised.  I think you will be too.

Five and a half Monkeys from me.

22 Oct 2011

Angels and Gangsters

So after a day of chainsawing and trying to kill dogs it's time to write. 
American Gangsters (2007)
American Gangster stars  Denzil Washington and Russell Crowe. It also stars Chiwetel Ejiofor (that's pronounced "Chew-it-tell Edge-oh-for") who I recently watched in the visceral TV thriller  The Shadow Line.  I think Mr. Chiwetel an excellent actor and he is a draw card for me in choosing whether to watch a film. 

  The movie is based on a true story about Frank Lucas (Washington) who controls a gang in Harlem, and Richie Roberts (Crowe) an ambitious, yet honest New york cop in 1960s New York.  

Frank has a cousin who owns a bar in Bangkok. Through him Frank arranges with the Vietnamese gangs to buy  Heroin directly from the opium growers, then import the drugs to his organisation. This cuts out the various middle men and the Mafia. Frank then imports the Heroin into the states using army transports. 

Richie is a vice cop struggling  against police corruption, and trying to convince his superiors that a black man is capable of this level of organised crime. 

It is an interesting story, more so for being based on truth. The real Frank Lucas and Richie Roberts assisted with the films production. It makes for an interesting period piece about the transformation of the drug trade in America and the decline of the Mafias dominance in organised crime. The performances are what you expect from Crowe and Washington, solid and believable, if a little old hat.

me at 142 minutes.
American Gangsters is a very long movie however. The pacing of the narrative does it no favours after the second hour, especially considering that there is another 37 minutes to go. 

Maybe it could have ended with the arrest of Frank Lucas, but the story continues with Lucas helping the police with investigations into police corruption. 

Long movies are not necessarily bad, but you need good pacing and structure to hold the audiences attention. American Gangster has this to a point, but loses it completely after the arrest of Lucas and the movie starts to drag terribly.

The length detracts from the movie a lot, and we were all shifting in our seats after a while. 

I give it six sleepy monkeys.