Archive for October, 2009

Up, Up and Away!

Friday, October 30th, 2009

So, I saw Up yesterday with my girl. It’s a good film about one man, an idiot boy and their helium balloon propelled house going on an adventure, and like many Disney and Pixar films, I found myself grinning like a loon.

I say many Pixar films, but I mean Toy Story 1 & 2 (I love those) and The Incredibles. (I would say Finding Nemo too, but it’s just not my cup of tea).

There are two things I love about this film, and one of them is the depth of love they show between Carl and his dearly departed wife Elly in the ten minute opening sequence. You’d think ten minutes wouldn’t be enough to show that much love, but somehow they manage it.

The other thing I mainly love about this film are the amount of phobias it may well give a small impressionable child. I found myself thinking, how is this film suitable for children? Among other things they may have been made afraid of are evil dogs, clouds and mad old adventurers out to kill.

This film is funny, hopelessly out of touch with reality but brilliantly because of it, and this is not purely a children’s film, there is something for the adults and the adventurer in all of us too. This is most definitely a film for anyone who has ever dreamed of going on their own adventure, much like the Indiana Jones films (which I also love).

And finally, a word about the short played before the film, Partly Cloudy. Like most of Pixar’s shorts (and films, come to that), it discards the idea of reality before you step through the cinema door. It takes place in the skies and the main characters are fluffy cute clouds and storks that deliver little cloud babies (yes, like I said, it left reality at the drawing board). The rendering on the clouds is amazing and the effects are realistic. It’s all very cutesy and heartwarming, which is standard for Pixar, isn’t it? The short has some funny moments, some heartwarming  moments and some sad moments. This is much like the main film in that respect, and that’s the best you can ask for.

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Immortality.

Wednesday, October 28th, 2009

Immortality has fascinated me from a young age, the thought of enduring and accumulating so much knowledge, knowing so many extraordinary people and outliving them all.

When it comes down to it, I guess I’d want the ageless version of immortality, not the regenerative kind. I mean, the regenerative kind would be slightly impractical. Real life is not like Heroes or Highlander, where having a regenerating power requires you to die in some way to save the day. You’d be unable to be killed by most means, and it would be slightly useless. Of course, you could become a superhero, but with what power? “It’s a bird! It’s a plane! Oh, it died.” You could take a bullet for someone, but it would lose any nobility or elements of the heroic sacrifice that it otherwise would have. It’d be nobler to die, for God’s sake. Your mates could also start killing you in cruel ways, with the excuse, “Oh, you can heal, shut the hell up, you whiny girl!”

Whereas with the ageless kind, you have eternal youth, and in the unlikely event it all gets too much, you can kill yourself. I can’t see why it would get too much, as there will always be new experiences (but only if you go and seek them. Otherwise it will be same old, same old.) for you to find and enjoy, plus you’d go down great at parties with anecdotes no living person could match. For example: “I was the one that told Hitler to kill himself,” or “I have a dodo skeleton in my house (which could work as a chat-up line for historians and animal lovers).” Plus it would make for a damn entertaining autobiography. I’d certainly read it.

I guess part of the attraction of immortality is being so old and having seen so much history go past you. I always think of it as a waste when any immortal fictional character dies in a television show or book. It’s weird that even though they are fictional, I still feel that regret. I think that’s how I’d feel if I had it happen in front of me for real.

Obviously, some of this stems from a fear of death, but a lot of what we do stems from fear. Fear of failure drives us to work harder in what we do, fear of dying alone pushes us to find people and companionship, fear of heights stops us falling off roofs, fear of spiders pushes us to run like girls and so on. And fear is obviously an useful evolutionary response to the world around us. I mean, if we didn’t feel fear, we’d be constantly taking risks and doing stupid things, like those people on Jackass or suchlike. This is also the reason we have cautionary tales. Such as any sentence finishing “…and that’s why that boy should never have read Batman.”

I believe that the ageless kind of immortality will be possible in my lifetime, hopefully before I’m halfway through. I think the key to having a happy immortal life is sharing it with other people, whether it be like a talk with dear friends, or finding a way to use it to teach people, or, and I believe this is the best way, finding a way to make others agelessly immortal. If they want it, of course.

I don’t know about you, but I’d certainly be honoured to meet any immortal man. I mean, I’d feel envy, but to us non-immortal beings, life’s too short to hold grudges, isn’t it? Live and let live an extremely long life, that’s what I’d say. So my question of the day is, if you could become agelessly immortal, would you?

The Man From Earth Film Review

Tuesday, October 27th, 2009

I’m going to take the time out of my busy day (snigger) to tell you about one of my favourite films of recent years.

The Man From Earth is a film written by Jerome Bixby, known to me as the writer of four Star Trek episodes: Requiem For Methuselah, an episode similar to this film in plot, Mirror, Mirror, one of the most well-known and commonly regarded as one of the best episodes across the whole franchise, Day Of The Dove, and By Any Other Name.

The central premise behind this film is “What if a caveman from the Upper Palaeolithic survived until the present day?” It’s an intriguing idea, and if you have that as a film concept, you have my attention. This is similar to another of my favourite films, Highlander, in idea (living through history), but very different in execution. I read on the film’s summary page on TV Tropes (where I first heard about the film) that somebody had referred to it as a radio play dressed up as a film (to paraphrase). This is true in a sense, since it seems like it would be more suited to something you’d hear on Radio 4, rather than on dvd or the cinema. However, I think it works well on film, since emotions are difficult to convey through voice and some of the scenes work better on film (such as the scene with the rock relic).

The film’s main character is a man called John Oldman (a pun which is brought up in the film), the long-lived being of the central premise. He is moving away from town without a fuss when his friends find him and throw him a leaving party. During the course of this party, John poses the question previously mentioned. It is treated as incredible (and believed to be a science fiction story idea) at first, but his colleagues get drawn into it and start believing him. This is very much an idea-driven film, in that it is a room of people doing nothing but throwing around different suggestions for the why and the how of John’s slowly unravelling story that he is, at best guess, 14,000 years’ old. And it is truly engaging. You wouldn’t think it could be, but it is. Something I like about this film is that John is essentially presented as being a normal, 14000 year old man. He can’t regenerate or remember every single moment of his long life and all the knowledge he accumulates over the centuries slowly becomes obsolete as more is discovered or proven wrong.

The acting is well done in this film, it may be a cast of relative unknowns but they have picked good people to bring the characters to life. You can see John’s pain as some of the less pleasant ideas hurt him or the viewer can see the hurt John’s immortality story is causing to his all-too-mortal friends. Their reactions and disbelief give you some idea of why he doesn’t tell people what he is.

There are some subtle themes that you may not pick up on upon first viewing, like the way their intellectual discussion takes place to the light of a fire, much like John’s birth time and the way it seeks to educate the viewer on certain religious philosophies (such as be nice to all).

I really wish that I hadn’t read the plot synopsis before seeing the film, as I would’ve loved to have gone in not knowing what happens. I hope I haven’t given too much away to discourage you from seeing this fantastic film. All in all, this is a great film, a wonderful example of why you don’t need a high budget or lots of action and explosions to make an engaging film that you’ll want to see again. I shall be buying the dvd come Christmas.

As promised, the Cirque Du Freak review…because I couldn’t be arsed yesterday :)

Monday, October 26th, 2009

As the title of this blog says, I am giving you a Cirque Du Freak review. So, considering I loved the Darren Shan book series, this is going to be…interesting. Be warned, here there be spoiler monsters (for the books and the movie).

First, a little background: Cirque Du Freak was the title of the first book in the epic Darren Shan series for young adults.  This series went on for twelve books, with lots of twists, turns and violence. It is the second book in this series that the subtitle of the film is taken from, The Vampire’s Assistant. As much as I hate to admit it, from an advertising standpoint that name makes sense. It draws the audience into the film, lets them know what it’ll be about (i.e, the assistant of a vampire) but also creates enough intrigue to make them curious about it (like how he came to be in that situation in the first place). If they just used Cirque Du Freak on its own, people may start thinking ‘oh, it’s one of those French arty films. Not for me, thanks.’

So anyway, on with the review. I feel I should dedicate a section to some of the alterations made to the film from the original plot. First up, in the books there was a lack of Monkey Girl (and she shall be referred to as such from now on). Monkey Girl (she has a tail, hence Monkey Girl) was introduced as a love interest for Darren, as for some reason they had got rid of Debbie, the black love interest from the books. I suppose in a way it makes sense having a Cirque member as a love interest due to the film’s underlining theme that “It’s not about what you are, it’s about who you are”. Seriously. They actually used that line in the film.

Some of the freaks do look a bit…well…different than you’d expect. For example, the wolfman looks like a wolf, but has the face of a monkey. Which is really bizarre, because I’m guessing that wasn’t intentional. Cormac Limbs is now a woman, called Corma Limbs. Not really sure why they’ve done this, but all I know is she likes breaking off her own fingers (what, is brittle bones and skin part of her freak skill?) and eating them with someone else. As for the little people, they look like Yoda rejects. I half expected Harkat to ask for Darren’s hand to eat with the phrase “Mine! Mine or I help you not!”.

Another of the alterations that they made was blooding  Steve way too early. Yes, like the earlier decision it does have a certain degree of sense, in that they need a villain to run from and some cool fight scenes, but it means they’ve completely destroyed any plans they may have had to do a film with mystery based on books 7-9, which were all about discovering that Steve Leonard was the Vampaneze Lord, which this film has now completely derailed. I wonder if they’ll do three films instead of four?

The last blatant one I’m going to cover is the fact that in the books, Darren was never able to flit and had to get around by good old-fashioned walking or relying on Mr. Crepsley to do the flitting for him (to be fair, in Darren’s early training stages he still relies on Crepsley).

Something which I have come to admire is the way they have put the first three books together, while providing a flowing and coherent narrative. Yes, they dropped the Sam Grest plot thread of the second book, but as the film has shown, the story goes on regardless until a new threat appears in the form of pursuing vampaneze, leading up to a tense climax and two or three fight scenes. They haven’t made each book into a little episode and crammed them together like the Lemony Snicket movie did, they’ve taken the plot of all three and formed them into something singular and cohesive.

Sometimes the character’s motives are a bit dubious (although this was true in the books as well), like Steve’s fantastic reaction to being told that the taste of his blood means that he is evil, summed up in the line “You said I have bad blood. I’m not evil. I’ll kill you. I’LL KILL YOU ALL!!!”* Or Darren, who gives up his happy (more or less) life to save someone who isn’t even grateful. You think he’d be annoyed. And that’s something that bugs me. In the end, Steve got what he wanted. While not a vampire, he is damn close. The only thing that separates them is their moral code and their tastes. So why is he still pissed at Darren?

All round, if you take it on its own merits rather than judge it by the books, it is a good film to watch. It is certainly not as bad as some films I’ve seen. It is funny in places (like the Little Person, Harkat using puppy dog eyes on somebody he plans to bite), dark, some good visual effects (the frozen flit trail is a pretty sight to behold), with a pleasantly cheesy message behind it. Good fun. I recommend checking it out while you can.

*Dramatisation: May not have happened (thank you, The Simpsons).

Hello and welcome to my blog. That’s it, really.

Friday, October 23rd, 2009

So, this is the first post of what will hopefully be many posts for this blog.

In the past, I’ve tried to keep a number of diaries and blogs and things like that. I’ve now identified the reason why they didn’t stick.

They were all about me.

Well, naturally, since that’s pretty much all a diary is, but I realised that my own life is generally boring and the exciting bits may not be exciting to other people. That, and eventually I would not fill it in one day and it would be a downward spiral from there.

Bearing this in mind, my mission in writing this blog will be to involve my personal life as little as possible, only bringing my opinions into my writing. This blog will be mainly dedicated to writing about whatever subject takes my fancy. I could be reviewing something, or talking about something in the news, or simply talking about various subjects; you get the picture.

Review of the vampire-em-up, The Vampire’s Assistant (or, as it should be called, Cirque Du Freak) will likely be appearing here tomorrow or Sunday.