Category Archives: Film

Crazy, Stupid Love and new shoes

Crazy stupid loveWatched this film the other night and, whilst it scored an ‘ok’ on my film-o-meter 9000 scale of movie goodness, it did make one specific lasting impression on me.

At one point, Steve Carrell’s character is sitting at a bar, nursing a drink, moping about his wife having left him. He gets pitied by a smooth-talking ‘player’ in the bar, who decides to help him improve his look and educates him in the ways of picking up women. The line that stuck in my memory was an exchange over what Steve was wearing:

“Are you Steve Jobs,” asks the Player.
“Are you billionaire founder of Apple Computer, Steve Jobs?”
“Then why are you wearing New Balance trainers?”

Which at first struck me as elitist – I love New Balance trainers, they are my running shoe of choice. But then I looked at him, in his oversize suit and New Balance trainers, and realised… That’s what I must look like half the time.

So this weekend, we went suit and shoe shopping (as well as, more importantly and more successfully, shopping for Amanda). The Jones sale furnished me with a pair of ankle boots which I think are probably a reasonable upgrade over my previous best efforts for day-to-day footwear, but the hunt for the suit continues – thanks to the diet I am firmly between sizes at the moment.

Still, new shoes. Good start.

Four months of reading, TV and film…

In the four months since I went dark on the blog I’ve been ploughing through all sorts of fiction.

On the literary front, I ploughed through the back-catalogue of Jack Campbell, reading through his militaristic space-opera. Readable, entertaining, and demolished at great pace, if not of any great literary merit. I read the Peter F Hamilton short story collection, Manhattan in Reverse (some great concepts in there), two Ben Aaronovitch PC Grant novels (great dark urban fantasy set in London, reminding me lots of Mike Carey’s Felix Castor books), the latest Terry Pratchett (wonderful, wonderful – more sophisticated and engaging that some of his other recent Discworld books), and a book by a client’s wife, Death at the Chateau Bremont – a fun murder mystery set in the South of France. I’ve got through more of Brandon Sanderson’s back catalogue (including the fantasy/Western the Alloy of Law – great fun!), and now I have a stack of books to get through from Amazon’s 12 Days of Kindle (currently reading the End Specialist about a world in which death is cured (99p on Kindle!), and the final Eragon novel) and from various Christmas presents (including the new Holmes, and some exciting fantasy and SF from Arvind).

TV-wise, thanks to my brother I’ve gotten into Modern Family (funny ‘cos its true), Community (funny ‘cos its off the wall and geeky), and via other recommendations/my own recognizance, Transformers Prime (after the horror of Michael Bay, this was a true wonder of storytelling – absolutely brilliant), Young Justice, Batman: the Brave and the Bold (thanks Arvy, brilliant) and Fringe (trashy but entertaining). I’ve dipped into Terra Nova (meh, Outcasts with dinosaurs) and Parks and Recreation too (not sure yet). I’ve been enjoying the Christmas specials too – Doctor Who nearly made me cry, Eastenders had me on the edge of my seat, and the AbFab specials gave me pause to giggle. Our sole cinematic expedition was to Mission Impossible 4 (a great ad for BMW, and fun as you’d expect it to be), and we watched Kung Fu Panda 2 on DVD on the bank holiday Monday. The Inbetweeners Movie awaits me on DVD…

So I’ve not been idling from that perspective, at least! More recommendations / comments on my reading/viewing history appreciated!

Comic-con, someday

Comic-Con LogoI don’t have a long list of places I’m itching to visit. I’m not one of those people that has 40 things to do by the time I’m 40. But there are a few things I’d like to experience at some stage, and, foremost amongst the ‘selfish’ desires would be to hit the San Diego Comic-con one year.

I’ve been following the news more closely than normal, thanks to Topless Robot and Geekologie, and hearing the inside track on things ranging from the new ‘Avatar’ series to rumours of Dr Horrible 2, seeing Andrew Garfield deliver his heartfelt geek speech on the wonders of Spidey, seeing the posters of the Avengers movie appear, knowing that the people making these things happen are wandering a giant exhibition stall with thousands of like minded people… well, it sounds intriguing, if faintly sweaty.

My brother and I have a non-specific plan to make it out one year. I’ve never had a lot of friends into the whole comic/fantasy/sci-fi/animation thing with me, but it is something my brother and I have always shared, and a select few other fellow geeks. Thanks to my brother’s career (he makes movies) I’ve met one of my favourite contemporary comic book writers virtually, Mike Carey, and that is a pretty heady feeling. Geek star struck, natch.

Anyway, if you’ve ever gone I’d love to know what you think and if you think I’d enjoy it. I’m not sure how I’d find the crowds – have always found that aspect of exhibitions unspeakably tedious…

Alien invasion movies-Skyline and Battle Los Angeles

Robbey Battle Los Angeles World Invasion Movie

We watched two Alien Invasion movies recently on DVD-nights-in.

The first, Skyline, is so unspeakably bad that watching it was actually a faintly upsetting experience. In the end, we fast-forwarded to the final scene and retained a sense of lingering frustration as the movie finished up as disappointingly as it started. Alien invasion from the POV of a single skyscraper might make for some dramatic tension, but it’s just not interesting.

The second, Battle LA, is a walking, talking, breathing stereotype of a movie and enjoyable as that. The down in the dumps marine sergeant, the green lieutenant in command, the grunt that’s about to get married, the female soldier… all pitted against an overwhelming alien force with one weak point and one weak point alone.

As long as you can get past the silliness of it (never a problem for me, I love silly), this one’s pretty entertaining, if slightly humourless. It is at least internally consistent – a war of invasion for Earth’s resources – but don’t expect a lot of sense out of it.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, part 2

Watch Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 Online FreeClear of the worst of my head-cold, Amanda and I headed out to see HP7pt2 this weekend. Thanks to the able-bodied baby-sitting of Uncle BIL, we were able to sit out way through the 130-minute epic finale to the series with little interruption.

It was, as the previous films have been, pretty entertaining. Of course it lacks the full breadth, depth and nuances of the book, but it does well on other things. Visually stunning battlegrounds, Star-Wars-scale confrontation between good and evil, character development (even for Malfoy!), good performances (the kids have literally grown up and gotten better at acting, well done them) and the usually high standards of production.

One thing to note, if you’re off to see it, when you get to the epilogue – look at what happens to Ron compared to Harry and Hermione. If that isn’t a prejudice in action, I don’t know what is.

Transformers and Michael Bay


Alongside the superhero / origin story fatigue I’m suffering from, I’ve kind of had it with Michael Bay. I *loved* the Transformers franchise as a kid, watching and revelling in the original G1 series (and especially the movie) as a child and enjoying the Beast Wars editions as a teenager.

Then Michael Bay came along, and subjected us to hour after hour of mind-numbing explosive nonsense. It was vaguely intriguing to begin with, and visually spectacular, but very quickly it became evident that Michael Bay’s brain – if I can call it that – works very differently to the rest of humanity. Most of us don’t speak Explosionese, apart from the other issues the films suffer from.

Which makes it harder for me to enthuse about the new movie, although I’ll probably eventually break and see it despite the inevitable mediocrity of it. It’s gratifying to see that its better than the second film, because – honestly – if it had been worse it might induce a physical reaction.

I discovered via @ArvD the Topless Robot FAQ about Transformers 2. I’m not someone that tends to overanalyze films after I watch them – it renders far too many films unwatchable – but Topless Robot’s post-event analysis of Transformers 2 is a thing of beauty. Case in point:

So that other mysterious reason that the Decepticons wanted Sam’s brain? It’s because it contains some very vague clues about the Matrix of Leacdership, which is the device that turns on the sun-exploding machine. The Fallen needs the Matrix to blow up the sun and get his Energon.
Hold on. That’s what the Matrix of Leadership does in the movie?
Yes. Works the sun-exploding machine.
I’m fuzzy on how “Leadership” covers that.
I didn’t name it. But it does sound a little nicer than “Matrix of Blowing Up the Goddamn Sun.”

I have now subscribed to Topless Robot. Awesome blog.

Origin stories

Nice poster of Ryan Reynolds as Green Lantern.I’ve been a comic book fan since forever. Most of my friends know this – the Superhero t-shirts, key-chain, icons, etc. are a persistent reminder – so people are always surprised if I haven’t rushed to see Thor, or Green Lantern, or whatever the latest comic book hero movie is.

There is a reason for this, in addition to being a busy dad. As a comic book fan, it takes a very specific kind of comic-book movie to cut through the endless hours of mediocrity that Hollywood churns out on this front. Scalzi has it nailed in a recent column:

…it’s not so much super heroes that I’m bored with, than it is origin stories — which is to say, the whole set-up of how said super hero got his powers, how he fumbled a bit with them before he figured them out, how he felt alienated from the world, blah blah blah blah blah, man, I get tired just thinking about them at this point. You know, one of the very salient reasons why Spider-Man 2 and The Dark Knight are considered better than their predecessors is that they didn’t have to spend any time setting up the super hero; they could just focus on the story they wanted to tell. But of course it’s difficult to get to those films without doing the set-up exercises. It’s a catch-22, it is.

Of course, now that there’s a wave of origin stories been told… perhaps we can get to proper movie-making. If there was some really good storytellers with ambition and studios with courage they’d pick up a story mid-flow… Superman Returns, whilst not a perfect piece of film-making, at least had the courage not to completely reboot the series. But then, Superman as a character is significantly better understood than Hal Jordan…

Internet killed the traditional book store. And the record shop. And the…

There’s a lot of talk amongst our client base of the new business models and innovation possible thanks to the power of the Internet. There’s also a signficant amount of chat about what it means for the pre-web business models – particularly in the media sector.

Look at Waterstone’s, sold last week for a relative pittance. And the share price of the HMV Group – on a persistent downward spiral over the last 12 months – demonstrates how poorly that business has adapted to the Internet age. Contrast that with Amazon or even B&N and you’ll see that real innovation is needed to translate some of those legacy business models to the new delivery platforms we have for media. Amazon is selling more Kindle books than print books – absolutely astonishing. Who would have guessed that things would move this quickly?

B&N, worth around $1bn, as Tom pointed out on Twitter the other day, has managed maintain its valuation where Waterstones et al haven’t. The analysis points out that it has tried to keep on the edge of things with an innovative eBook portfolio in the US. Tom sums it up neatly:

If that’s not an advert for why old media businesses have to aggressively investing in digital platforms, I don’t know what is.

Waterstones’ e-commerce ventures were hopelessly bumbling – first a partnership with Amazon, then its own webstore, and then perhaps a slightly misjudged ebook strategy which I still don’t fully understand today.

I guess, though – that at least they tried. And establishing what insights are needed to drive appropriate customer-centric innovation requires an understanding of customers that goes beyond what they themselves think they need – three years ago when I first got an e-reader, virtually no-one I spoke to was willing to give up the feel of a rustling paperback. We would never have guessed that so many people would be reading everything on Kindle [apps] this soon – but here we are.

The worse thing anyone can do about the Internet is bury your head in the stand. It’s a rolling force for change, whether we like it or not, and is having a dramatic impact on virtually every business I come across – nowhere more dramatically than in the media sector.

My brother talked about the need for smart, digital people in the film and TV industry over on Screen Daily and the apparent dearth of them in his industry. As someone passionate about the media sector here’s hoping that the digital people find their way out of the woodwork and help with the industry in the evolution of its more traditional business models… so there’s not only aggressive investment, but sensible investment in the development of new business models…