31 Jul 2012

The Dark Knight Rises

"No!" She said firmly turning to face the gathering shadows of the winters night. Loose strands of her hair trailing in the cool night hair looked silver and alive in the fluorescent light. "This time I can't. It's too long, too much to deal with. I can't watch this torment. I won't."

Consequently instead of going to see Batman with my girl, I went with a friend instead. On a Bat-man-date.

To be fair I may have over dramatised what my lovely actually said. She may have said that 2 1/2 hours was a lot of angst to sit through.  But is it? Was it?

Well lets look at the synopsis of the final in this trilogy. Please note that if you have not seen The Dark Knight there are a few spoilers.

Eight years have passed since the events of  The Dark Knight Batman is retired and Gotham city is safe  under the Dent act. Created by Commissioner Gordon who used Harvey Dents death to enact a crimes act to put away Gotham's worst criminals without parole. No one but Gordon and Batman knew the truth about Dents psychosis and death. Bruce Wayne has retreated  away from the public eye after a experiment in fusion power went wrong. After investing billions into a clean energy source for nothing he hides in Wayne manor and mourns the death of his love Rachel. 

But things are stirring in the shadows of Gotham. A mercenary lurks in the sewers, a jewel thief steals information, and a scientist is kidnapped. bane has arrived and it might be time for the Dark Knight to return one last time.

But was it angsty?

At the beginning Bruce Wayne was a little emo, but thankfully that ended quickly enough. Yes it was 165 minutes long, (that's 2 hours 45 mins in old money) but the pacing was pretty good. The action and the drama was well placed and by the climatic finale I was still riveted and not wriggling with frustration.  Christopher Nolan beat the odds and finished the trilogy strongly. And like most good trilogies the third film made sense of the second film. But I won't say why here.

With such an  ensemble cast you expect good acting, and I was not disappointed. Michael Caine stole every scene he was in. Like a fine wine he just seems to be getting better with age.  Christian Bale was a little wooden at times, I think this was his worst performance out of the trilogy. But the performances by the other cast were all wonderful so it was barely noticeable. 
 Anne Hathway is a great catwoman. there was a lot of concern over her casting but I think she was a fantastic choice, not all swoony over Batman, but smart and strong. Gary Oldman and adds flair and strength to the film and the role of commissioner Gordon.

Morgan Freeman has that class of acting where you drop him in a scene and suddenly you are instantly invested. Just add Morgan and you get great results!
I have been a massive fan Joseph Gordon-Levitt since Brick, his performance for me filled the gap I felt in Bales lacklustre role.

And Tom Hardy's transformation? I didn't recognise him as Bane for ages. I didn't pay too much attention to the hype as there were many spoilers about.  But from the skinny guy in Layer Cake to Bane was a revelation.

There was pathos, bad guys getting the slap, gadgets, spectacle, Ann Hathaway looking snogalicious and some grand acting. The Dark Knight Rises was a good end to the trilogy and it is worth the hype. Christopher Nolan really pulled the trilogy together.If you like superhero movies I recommend you see it on the big screen. I also recommend that you go early in the evening and maybe have a pint first to get your Batbuzz on.

8 Batmonkeys from me

 I'm Bat-monkey

29 Jul 2012


I believe that one of the reasons Shakespeare is so popular is that his stories are so recognisable. At the crux of his stories are the same human emotions that have been driving our choices for thousands of years. The story of Romeo and Juliet is just as valid as the setting in  West side story as it would be as a Greek tragedy set in Athens.   King Lear can be set in 17th century Japan, or thirties Chicago. And this is a Coriolanus that has been taken from the early days of Rome and been set in modern Europe.

Anyway a Synopsis:

The economy is suffering and in Rome the people are hungry, and getting angry. They march against the government with a mind to break open the granaries of the rich. The man the government sends to keep them in check is the General Caius Martius. He has fought in several wars to defend Romes borders and he will not have his city ripped apart by some rabble.

Just as Casius quells the civil disruption the Volscians led by their general Aufidius break their treaty with Rome and go to war over a disputed border. The Consul of Rome calls for Caius Martius to take up arms again. Tullus Aufidius  and Caius Martius fight a desperate battle in the city of Corioles. The two have fought many times and are determined to kill each other. After a fierce fight Caius wins the city of Corioles and returns victorious again in time for the election of the consul.  But Caius is very proud and very rigid in his pride and has many enemies. Two Tribunes that represent the people plot his down fall. They hate his pride and arrogance, and do not wish him to be elected to rule over Rome. To be elected consul Caius must win over the senate and the common vote as well. All goes well until the Tribunes whip up another riot in opposition of Caius.  Caius becomes so enraged he denounces the electoral system and is banished by the senators from Rome forever.  Caius swears his revenge on Rome and leaves forever.

Ensue hyjinx in iambic pentameter.

OK yes this film is in iambic pentameter, but it also has some pretty good action sequences as well. the fight scene between Caius ( Ralph Fiennes) and Aufidius (Gerard Butler) is superb. it apparently took two days to film.

I found the action sequences to be fast paced, exciting and also interesting.  The film was shot in Serbia and Montenegro with Rome being set in Modern day Belgrade. The Romans are equipped NATO style, with the Volscians is more of a revolutionary eastern bloc style. Dragan Micanovic is a Serbian actor that plays Caius's friend and second in command in the film. He said that it was made him think about his own countries history as they played out the battle scenes with real soldiers from the Serbian Army. It made me think that in these declining times maybe we are not so far from seeing more war than we think. It films like these that seem to reflect an under current of dissatisfaction with the contemporary powers that be.

The acting was spectacular, Ralph Feinnes and Gerald Butler gave outstanding performances. Vanessa Redgrave was exceptionally powerful in her role as Caius's mother, despite being  75. I am a big fan of Brian Cox ever since I saw him in  Sharpe, and he doesn't disappoint here as Caius's friend and senator.And last but not least James Nesbitt gives a grand performance as the sleazy tribune Sicinius  determined to bring Caius down.

The cinematographer for  Coriolanus  was Barry Ackroyd who also worked on  Hurt Locker and  The Green Zone.  The camera work added to the realism of the film. The over all production was well thought out and executed and I enjoyed it from start to finish.

I enjoy Shakespeare, and I enjoy new interpretations of the bards works. This version of Coriolanus is entertaining, powerful and timely. I am glad I saw it and I am also disappointed it had such a short run.

I think it deserves 7 noble monkeys, and all fans of Shakespeare should check it out.

22 Jul 2012

Fifty Shades of Grey (some sexual references)

The most common question I have been asked by people when they found out I was reading this book is "why?"

Well mostly because my girl read it and she was interested in my opinion. Also I thought it was high time I reviewed a book. Fifty shades of Grey is the latest literary zeitgeist. Call it "mummy porn" or "dark erotica" its international success is evident.

Anyway a Synopsis:

Anastasia Steele is a literature student about to graduate from Washington State University. Her life of Thomas Hardy and Jane Austin is interrupted when her best friend Kate falls ill. Kate has an important interview for the school paper with Christian Grey, a major financial contributor to the university. Ana agrees to interview the young billionaire on behalf of her friend, but is surprised when the interview with the enigmatic Mr. Grey creates an opportunity for romance. Their powerful mutual attraction not only introduces Ana to not only her first love affair but also the world of bondage and discipline.

Ensue spanking hijinx

OK from here on out there are some SPOILERS!

First a wee rant to the haters. The two biggest criticisms of this book are that it is "just fan fiction" or "it's mummy porn for bored housewives."

Firstly I know a lot of mothers and I am fairly sure that the comment about this booking being "mummy porn" is pretty condescending. Some of the mothers I know are highly educated, well travelled sophisticated women who love great porn.  Being a mother, even a bored mother doesn't mean they have poor taste in their books, porn or otherwise.

Secondly any one that has written fan fiction and has been snapped up by a publisher should be lauded.  Who cares how a writer got their start as long as they write well.

That aside onwards to my review. This sort of book is not really my cup of tea. However I decided to give it a fair chance. 

I found the character of Ana exceptionally unbelievable.  She is meant to be a highly attractive educated young woman who several men in her life are pursuing. But she has never had any sort of a relationship before. She has not even been attracted to anyone before. Ever? Her mental state seems more of a sixteen year old girl than a young woman about to graduate from college.  An emotionally and sexually repressed girl with the mental age of a teenager. Her internal monologues are filled with shock expletives such as; "What!  Crap!, Holy Crap and the ever present Oh My.  

The  Oh My's  were a particular bug bear as I foolishly mentioned to a friend that one of the characters kept saying it. he then did a George Takei   "oh Myyyyy!"  After that every time I read those two words I saw George poking his head around some corner. 

 Anas Step father Ray was also particularly annoying. portrayed as the father she never had, Ray is a taciturn craftsman with a love for sports. A mans man who dearly loves his step daughter as if she was his. But presented with her very first boy friend who is rather 'intense' Ray instantly accepts hims as he knows about fly fishing. That's it? That's is all it takes to be a good guy in Rays books? What a dick head. 

So no the quality of the writing was not what I would expect from a best selling novel, but what possibly disturbed me more was what a freak Christian Grey is. No I am not talking about the bondage and discipline side of things, there wasn't too much of that really despite the premise. No it was the fact that he was a controlling stalker. 

He ordered her to get rid of her car, and bought her a new one which I found rather disturbing. Christian had to know where she was 24/7 and when Ana took a few days off to see her mother and think about the relationship. She was to be gone for a week, but Christian decided to fly over from Seattle on the edge of the west coast to Savannah on the opposite side of the country. 

Also there was a scene where Ana and Christian had a fight. So he raced over to her place, pushed past her flat mate and burst through the door. Now I get that in bodice rippers there is that clichéd scene where the woman is fighting her desire for the man, and locks herself away from him. He bursts in and crushes her to his manly breast and she gives in to desire. The difference is power and violence. In the cliché the door is an obstacle to their union, a metaphor. But to enter a house uninvited pushing physically past a girl to get to another, that is an entirely different kettle of domestic abuse.  He dictates how she eats, what she wears and who she spends time with. The guy is a creep. 

But if he is a deranged creep she is a needy child in the body of a woman. She meets this guy and he says "This is who I am, this is what I want." quite honest about it. But she wants more, not down the track, but right now! And magically he does seem to change for her. Not the crazy parts, just the commitment parts. This is all over a couple of weeks as well.

As I read this rather disturbing book I saw elements of Austin’s Pride in Prejudice, but only in the flimsiest way. They refer to each other as "Miss Steele and Mr. Grey.", and in the depiction of Christian I can see him as a contemporary shade of Mr. Darcy, but he has traded his sophistication for a sack full of crazy. Also I can see echoes of  Twilight  as well, but as the original fan fiction this was based on was Twilight that is hardly surprising. 

So is this good girl porn? Sure but not in the sense that it is full of sex, but in the sense that a girl finds a man who is handsome, intelligent, sexy and rich but just damaged enough so she can save him. Yay I found the perfect man, now I can change him.  

I know that it not my thing, and perhaps as a holiday read it might be ok, but the highly disturbing behaviour of the Edward Cullen Christian Grey character is really not healthy. I got quite bored with the characters "inner goddess" emerging every other page, and by the last fifty pages I had lost interest in the light of young Ana. She's an idiot, and he's a psycho so maybe it isn't all that farfetched at all.

As for the erotica? meh I found it kind of tame. She was so naive and insecure and he was such a loony I found it difficult to get engaged into the scenes. Also with writing like "Holy cow a penis!" can you blame me?

Personally if you want porn go on line, or buy some decent steamy erotic fiction. If you want a good book for women try Purple Dandelion, the true story of Farida Sultana. Or something lighter I am loving Ben Aaronovitch's Midnight Riot. 

As this book goes I barely made it to the end, and I am not wasting my time on the rest of them. I rate it two and a half Monkeys. 

P.S. In regard to my anti-haters comments earlier, while they still stand I have made an interesting observation.  While I still don't think fan fiction becoming a novel is automatically bad, I do note that the authors Twilight fan-fiction story  Master of the Universe has vanished, and any link to it has been replaced by a link to  Fifity Shades of Grey.  Interesting and stink. I could talk more about this but that is a post all on it's own.

12 Jul 2012

The Dawn of economic misogyny

My morning started fairly well.  It was a sunny winter’s day, which I enjoy. I had a coffee from the cheerful Cuban man from the hole in the wall coffee place. I enjoyed drinking it as I watched the music video for Kim Jong un. Little did I know what evil it portended? 
Kim Jong Un the back up son

Last week I was with some friends and we were chatting about that classic 1984 film Red Dawn.   Despite it being a seminal film of the early 1980’s it turned out that none of us had seen it. So I decided to watch it over the weekend.  Now that I have seen it I can imagine how a contemporary audience would find the cold war paranoia laughable, but at the time it played upon real fear of the ‘commie threat’.  But watching it now the  realisation that Dirty dancing defeated the Soviet Army made me smile (Jennifer Grey and Patrick Swayze were in both films, also starring was a very young Charlie Sheen and Lea Thompson). 
Dance practise became quite competitive

There is a chap at work who shares my love of film and we are usually on the same page in regards to taste. Many tedious days have been lightened by an intelligent conversation about cinema.  This week I told him that I had recently watched Red dawn.   He then maliciously told me that they are remaking it.

Seriously? I mean however silly it may seem now, at the time it was a reflection of the common place paranoia. But that time has passed. The cold war is over, and we live in an economically depressed post 9/11 environment.  Surely a modern 2012 Red Dawn would not have the Russians and the Cubans invade America? I mean they do, but as prospective taxi drivers and drug smugglers not as an occupying military force. 

To be fair the creators of the remake realised this. No the vicious heartless new threat to American soil is the tea party!

 Sorry just kidding, although that idea would make a better movie. No the invaders were the Chinese.  Yes apparently this new super power is gearing up to invade the US and institute it’s new industrial capitalist….  Are you buying this? No I don’t think you will. Not only is that not very plausible, but China is a grand new market for Hollywood productions.  Interestingly in the original film China allied with the USA against the Russians.  But the creators decided that China was a realistic viable threat to the US. 

Information about the movie was leaked in 2010 and there was a backlash not only in China but amongst Chinese Americans. From this blog the awl (http://www.theawl.com/2010/05/real-america-red-dawn-remade-china-is-coming-for-our-children). I quote Jeff Yang, a columnist for the San Francisco Chronicle.

The action genre tends to be Manichaean – there's good, evil, and little or nothing in between – and archetypal – characters are drawn big, iconic, and cartoony to eliminate anything that might distract from the mayhem. Your catharsis comes from rooting for the pure-hearted heroes and hating on the corrupt, inhuman villains.”

I have heard “it’s just a film” said more than once about a variety of topics. And to be clear some movies should be taken at face value as simple entertainment. But if you class Red Dawn as just a film and it is not anti-Chinese, then you could also argue that D W Griffiths   Birth of a Nation does not advocate for the Klu Klux Klan and the insidious threat of African Americans. I agree with Mr Yang, films are vehicles for ideas if you make Chinese people the villain’s then you are vilifying them. 
Just another film

 The Studio decided that the film was a viable threat to its distributors profit margins and Chinese US relations so the creators have succumbed to pressure and common sense and decided to not have the Chinese as the bad guys. 

So now the  villains are North Korean.

Que for Kim Jong uns theme song.

Now while it is daft and insulting to suggest China is about to invade North America, at least they have a capacity to give it a good go. They are large country with a serious military presence. But the creators of the film would have us believe that the North Korean military could successfully invade the USA.

 I am not even convinced that they could make it to the west coast of America before breaking down let alone successfully invade.  But assuming that they would make it, they then have to defeat the sizable US pacific fleet. OK fine Let’s assume that they have a navy that can make it and the entire West coast US navy has suddenly entered a worm hole through to Narnia (because that is the only plausible concept of a North Korean naval victory)  then they invade the US and defeat the US Army, Air force and Marines.  Again with the Narnia. Perhaps that is North Korea’s secret weapon, massive wardrobes?
OK So in this North Korean fantasy / Lewisiannightmare they have occupied the USA. Who can save us now? 
The white witch denied any such alliance with Kim Jong Un

Well apparently it’s the inhabitants of summers bay.  Yes Chris Hemsworth and Isabel Lucas from Home and Away will be leading a rag tag rebellion of teenagers to defeat the evil invaders. I suspect that perhaps the children are more familiar with the works of C.S. Lewis and will not be fooled by the North Korean wardrobe trap.  So Thor will ride in on his surf board and save the day. 
Tash and Kim preparing for the invasion

It is all I can do not to spit the bile from my mouth out onto the carpet.  

What beggars belief is that this project got the green light over the Black Widow film.  I mean I understand that Studios are more likely to produce a remake of a successful film then to produce a new idea with a female protagonist where historically action films with a female lead have not been successful in the box office.  But sure the success of Avengers and Brave can show that audiences will accept and support a female lead. All we really want is a good script and story.  Give Joss Whedon the Black widow project; he is good at writing strong female characters.  Scarlett Johansson did a great performance as Black Widow, give her the job again.  I understand the movies industry is worried, but there are a lot of intelligent women out there and a lot of them like movies. I am sure that they might be more of a market than romantic comedies. And I am certainly sure that more of them would be interested in a black Widow movie than the ludicrous premise for a rehash of Red Dawn.

8 Jul 2012


Three very important ladies in my life were very excited to see this movie. As two of them are of Scottish descent, a Pixar movie about a wild Scottish Princess caused a great deal of excitement. Their enthusiasm and enjoyment was so great, even the fact that the sweets and drinks cost almost as much as the tickets themselves didn't phase me. (But no I won't be doing that again)
Scottish supporters through and through

And here is the synopsis of Brave:

Princess Merida is the oldest daughter of King Fergus and Queen Elinor. All her life she has endured her mothers lessons in etiquette. What she really wants to do is explore the highlands, practise her archery and ride her horse Angus.With all the endless lessons in needle work, history, and manners and the fact that her naughty wee brothers are free to cause as much miscued and mayhem as they like, Merida doesn't doesn't really think that her life is very fair. But then her mother tells her some news which makes her realise that her life is about to get much worse.

Que Highland Hijinx

Pixar have a good pedigree of films behind them;  WALL-E, A Bugs Life, The Incredibles, Finding Nemo,  and of course  Toy Story  to name a few. The reason they make such good movies is that they write excellent characters that are credible and have a lot of heart. (A friend of mine once said she could not believe she was crying so much over a little robot like  WALL-E.)  But they also use cutting edge technology, good voice talent and have great stories.And Brave is an excellent addition to Pixar films.

Kelly MacDonald played Merida, with Billy Connolly and Emma Thompson playing her father and mother respectively.  Kevin McKidd, Robbie Coltrane and Julie Waters all give their voices to a grand cast of characters. And they all do an excellent job.  Kevin McKidd  played both the parts of Lord MacGuffin and also Lord MacGuffins son, the unintelligible young MacGuffan. Apparently he spoke an actual Scottish dialect known as  Doric, which is spoken in Kevin McKidds home town. A wee bit of trivia for you.

In regards to the story it would be easy to dismiss the story as the same old hackneyed theme of a young woman feeling constrained by societies role for her. A young independent woman who wants more to life than what fate has set out for her. But Merida's tale is not a tired rehash at all, this is her storey and she owns it. Unlike the many modern depictions of independant women in movies, you believe in Merida and you want her to pull through in the end. Also unlike many repetitive versions of this theme there is more substance to it. But I won't give any spoilers away.

This is the first Pixar film to be a period piece and also with a female lead. But Pixar is a company that is always trying new ideas, and as usual it has paid off. I found  Brave to be engaging, funny and at times rousing, and above all entertaining.

I give it 7 and a half Gaelic Munkeys!

7 Jul 2012

Fear and loathing in the civil service

Yes, it is that time of year again where budgets are spent hastily in philanthropic excess after months of shylockian restraint. Managers who consider employees a necessary evil in achieving their targets suddenly transform into inspiring enthusiastic leaders. It is the end of the financial years and I have to write my end of year performance document.

I loathe it.  I don’t think I am alone in this. Even the managers seem to despise the whole process. Still it is a necessary evil. Or at least an evil they won’t let us avoid.

I have no inclination or ability for self promotion. A previous manager of mine would constantly criticise me for sharing credit with other team members instead of expounding on my own achievements.  It is not something I have ever been confident about.
But my manager asked me very kindly for me to complete it on time so she could attempt to meet her objectives.  I may have several faults but I could set her up to fail so I knuckled down to write up my document for the year.

And by knuckling down I mean procrastinate.

But after I had almost exhausted every possibility to procrastinate, I really decided to have a go at completing it. But I knew that in the normal course of things I would get distracted by my colleagues asking for an opinion or for my assistance with a query. Knowing that I would happily discard my performance document at the first opportunity I decided to set up a process to avoid such distractions.


 Inside the bowl was the potential answer to any question that a colleague would put to me. All they had speak their question out loud and then pick a answer out of the bowl.
Here are some of the answers. I have removed some as they are either too work related, or or mention people I should not mention on a public forum. Even if they do need a slap.

So here is an insight into the bowl of knowledge.

  • You are making the baby Thor Cry
  • Perhaps a milk shake and a pie will settle things
  • Somebody needs a slap
  • Bollocks to that
  • That’s rubbish
  • Genghis Khan knew how to resolve issues
  • What would Lemmy do?
  • Perhaps a five minute break would help?
  • Raspberry slice is the ticket
  • Daniel is on Crack Cocaine
  • Ask Rachel
  • No exceptions
  • I doubt that would mitigate your concerns.
  • And does that sound plausible to you?
  • No I can’t
  • Maybe for a beer?
  • Maybe tomorrow
  • Wild horses could not drag me to do that even with the promise of a meat pie and a beer
  • No!
  • I don’t want to!
  • Stop it.
  • If instructions say you may, then it is your discretion.
  • I don’t care if it is just for sex, it is still a marriage
  • Will that make a difference to the outcome?
  • Harpoon!
  • Try to be systematic
  • Declines make me smile
  • Their tears taste like champagne
  • You and your hippity hop music
  • What would Johnny cash do?
  • What would Darth Vader do?
  • Hippy!
  • They don’t drink shandies in Valhalla
  • Windows 7 sucks, but then most of our IT systems do.
  • Perhaps Rome?
  • Human trafficking, cigarette, guns and drug smuggling
  • Army, police, Military, militia and government
  • Unless they confess we will never be 100%
  • Lying scumbag
  • It’s arbitrary
  • There is no logical reason. It’s better just to proceed
  • Orcas are Dolphins not Whales
  • That’s never genuine
  • I wouldn’t trust him to put himself out if he was on fire.
  • No I am Warldorf. Marty is Statler.
  • Smash him
  •  Red wine over white
  • I’m more of a cavalry man
  • AK 74
  • Tea?
  • Coffee?
  •  The secret is to cook the meat slowly
  • I think every which way but loose was a low point
  • I suggest your ipod and loud music
  • Angolia
  •  No the other Rachel
  •  You should always address the character issue
  • Despite what the law says it can be around 14
  • Pies are good for any meal
  •  If you have tried twice is there any benefit to a third time? You are not Robert the Bruce.
  • Have you tried turning it off and on again?
  • It’s a combat zone.
  • No NoNoNoNO!
  •  Smash his face in
  •  Winston Churchill
  • Gustavus Aldolphus
  •  Sweden
  • Sausage
  • Muppet!
  • Have you asked the Library?
  •  If you understand the history then you understand the problem
  • A detailed chronology is always needed
  • Woot!
  • They need to provide satisfactory evidence
I hope you enjoyed that. My colleagues certainly did. 

have a great Saturday.