Month: April 2015

Fancy going on Vacation with T-Rex?

Based on these trailer shots, who wouldn’t want a once in a lifetime trip to the very Disney-like Jurassic World.  It probably would be just the once too, as things look to be going downhill pretty fast there on Isla Nublar.  Put it this way, if Jurassics I, II and III are anything to go by, then there’s likely to be very little pixie dust flying around, but you would get to see plenty of severed limbs flying into view, with a good chance that you won’t make it back out alive.  The advice to ‘please keep your hands, arms and legs inside the vehicle at all times  couldn’t be more apt when you’re trundling around a theme park full of man-eating dinosaurs……..and when a mother’s rather sinister advice, to the next generation of cute Jurassic Park kids, is to RUN, then this probably is going to be the trip of a lifetime – just not in a very good way.

It’s been 22 years since a regenerated T-Rex ignored the ‘engaged’ sign on a solitary toilet cubicle and gobbled up that lawyer on the loo and, if internet conjecture is true, that same T-Rex is alive and well, as Jurassic World is set to open its doors to a crowd of eager thrill seekers.

As someone who scares pretty easily, you wouldn’t catch me going through those massive, wooden doors (looking alarmingly like a gigantic dinosaur mouth about to swallow you whole) – but thankfully there’s an army of gullible extras, willing to become dinosaur fodder in this latest Dino offering, so we’re good to go this June 12th, 2015.

If you visit the very clever Jurassic-World.com,  you’ll see that the homage to Disney is everywhere; from the Walt inspired statue of John Hammond (also a nice way to include Richard Attenborough in the proceedings) to the monorail circling the park.  Back to the trailer though, and the Ford tour vehicles, in the 1993 original, have been replaced by said monorail and the  addition of new, don’t-you-just-want-one, Gyrospheres, enabling the theme park goers to go off road and roll with the dinosaurs.  There’s an Animal Kingdom-type truck, taking the visitors for an up-close safari with those fast running, dino-ostrich thingamajigs, a Magic Kingdom jungle-type cruise (where crocodiles probably aren’t the worst things you’re looking out for) and a Dino Sea World, as something called a Mosasaur (which actually does look like a giant crocodile) is seen erupting from the tank to devour a great white shark hanging above the stadium  –  wait a minute, isn’t that Jaws? – nice reference to Spielberg that, who produced this latest Jurassic installment.

We then switch to the science boffins, holed up in their Sci-Fi labs, where a woman in white tells us that, yes, they have just gone and invented a Frankenstein-type dinosaur in an exciting, and probably not too safe, hybrid experiment.  Didn’t these people learn anything from Jurassic Park I?   Clearly Jeff Goldblum’s warning to leave nature well alone, and to most definitely not think you’re God,  fell on deaf ears.  So the stage is set for Indominus Rex (boring old T-Rex doesn’t cut it anymore) to go off and devour a few of those excitable visitors thronging down Main Street;  who deserve it quite frankly.  I mean, what kind of parent thinks it’s a good idea to take the kids to this prehistoric island, knowing its previous track record?

The velociraptors are back, but definitely not looking as evil as they did when they stalked the original cute Jurassic Park kids.  In fact, they’re looking downright cuddly, and it looks like Chris Pratt is the Dinosaur Whisperer, training up his velociraptor pack so he can be part of the coolest motorcycle gang on planet earth.

Having only just discovered that this movie is coming out – yes, I’m that far out of the loop – I now can’t wait to see this entertainment hybrid (get it?) of two of the kid population’s (and quite a few adults too) favourite things – Disney and Dinosaurs – doesn’t get much better than that.

 

toy story rex

 

 (couldn’t resist it)

A Long Time Ago, in a Galaxy Far, Far Away…………

You can stop whatever you’re doing now………….

You don’t really want to click on those other websites do you?………..

This is the article you were looking for………

Star Wars: Episode VII has been slumbering quietly since early 2014, firmly under wraps until December 18th, 2015, when this ongoing Sci-Fi saga will fully open its 38 year old eyes as The Force finally (re) Awakens.

Sounds like John Williams (at 83 years old) is back too – thank The Force for that!

The Force?  What exactly is The Force?  In the words of Obi-Wan Kenobi:   (this must be read in an Alec Guinness-type voice for maximum effect.)

‘The Force is what gives a Jedi his power.  It’s an energy field created by all living things.  It surrounds and penetrates us.  It binds the galaxy together.’

Einstein, who was always way ahead of the space-time continuum, may have had The Force in mind when he came up with his seminal equation, E=mc2.  Einstein stated (alarmingly, at the time) that Mass was another form of energy; a super concentrated form of energy, and that this Mass is eternally floating along a 4th dimension (Time) at the speed of light.  This means that you and I, being objects with Mass, contain enormous amounts of untapped, potential energy and, even more spookily, are always travelling at the speed of light.  Very Jedi-like don’t you think?

Did you know that if you could somehow release the energy contained within one hypothetical person, then that imaginary person could provide electricity to 10 million homes for 3 years  –  yes really –  or maybe that person could defy gravity and fly above the heads of the Sith, wielding a light sabre powered by the energy coming from inside his own living cells.  I think I’m on to something here; weren’t Anakin’s blood cells full of midi-chlorians (Episode I) connecting him directly to the energy of The Force?

George Lucas and Einstein – two names you don’t often see together.

Ok, back down to planet Earth.  George Lucas probably didn’t have Einstein in mind when he came up with The Force – the Lucas Force being more of an outside energy field – but he probably was referencing Eastern philosophies and their emphasis on the natural energy (Ch’i) of the universe.  What is clear is that, back in the 70s, Lucas was busy creating a 20th century, landmark, celluloid tale that took inspiration from just about every epic story and myth that came before it, whilst also referencing nearly every major world religion.

Nothing wrong with that.  It’s what the best storytellers do – re-work and re-invent the one myth that has stood the test of time – the unlikely hero, passing through various trials and tribulations until he/she comes to accept that they are the Chosen One and, in so doing, saves the planet (or galaxy.)

In anticipation of J J Abrams’  Star Wars vision – and let’s hope it’s like his Star Trek re-boot, full of eye catching lens flare and fluorescent colour;  but staying faithful to the retro ‘feel’ of the original – I thought I’d while away this article by offering a very rough, and thankfully short, guide to the similarities between Star Wars and other tales of an Epic nature.  Yes, I know the internet is awash with scarily nerdish expositions of the Star Wars myth, but any resemblance to existing internet theories that you find here is, as they say, purely coincidental.

The Wizard of Oz

Is it just me?  Does anyone else here see the obvious references to the land of Oz.  George Lucas was a kid in the 1940s/50s, just shortly after the Judy Garland film hit the screens.  Surely he, like the rest of America, got caught up in this archetypal film and its enduring characters.

The Tin Man = C-3PO (in his appearance but with traits of the cowardly lion.)
The Cowardly Lion = Chewbacca  (appearance only)
Toto the faithful dog = R2D2
The Munchkins = The Jawa
Dorothy = Luke –  both living with their aunt and uncle before being whisked away on a frightening adventure to overcome their evil nemesis – Darth Vader/Wicked Witch of the West (heck, they both wear black capes and weirdly shaped hats for goodness sake.)

The Second World War

(Lucas was a war baby, entering the world in 1944)

The Galactic Empire = Hitler’s vision of a German empire.
Stormtroopers = Nazis.  (In Germany the Sturmabteilung were the ‘Storm Detachment’ of the military wing of the Nazi party.)

The Bible

Luke Skywalker = Christ figure.

Darth Vader = the Devil.  A once good Jedi who fell from grace in choosing the Dark Side.  Also God-like figure willing to kill his own son but, unlike the biblical God, can’t go through with it.

Arthurian Legend

Luke = King Arthur
Han Solo = Sir Lancelot
Princess Leia = Guinevere figure
Light Sabre = the sword Excalibur
Obi-Wan Kenobi/Yoda = Merlin/wise Mentor

The Lord of the Rings

Gandalf, Bilbo, the Quest, swords that glow  (no explanation required.)  But then again, didn’t Tolkien’s imagination influence just about everything.

In most lasting myths and legends there is an attachment of some kind between the hero and the villain.  Christ and his disciple Judas, who betrayed him.  King Arthur and his nephew Mordred, who betrayed him.  Harry Potter’s soul-link to Voldemort.  Luke Skywalker, and his old dad Darth Vader.  Seems like you can’t trust anyone doesn’t it?

Ok, I’ve run out of ideas, you can be on your way now………..

Yes, you can go about your business……………

Move along now, maybe this wasn’t the droid (oops forgot myself there) you were looking for……….

 

 

 

 

It’s Been a Long Week

You may have noticed that I tend to veer wildly from the course set by the Playblast Podcast.  That current course – as set out on the ‘about’ page – is ‘Popular Culture’, in its many forms.

Popular Culture:  the entirety of ideas, perspectives, attitudes, memes, images and other phenomena that are within the mainstream of a given culture – particularly Western culture.  (Phew, that’s a mouthful and what’s a meme?)    So, if enough of us find the same thing funny or sad or interesting or cool, then it enters the arena of Popular Culture  –  still doesn’t fully account for Simon Cowell though does it?

These days, within your average Popular Culture, social media rules and, where once a select few led, an army of YouTubers, Facebookers and Bloggers now hold a nation’s hearts and minds.  Of course, telly is still a Popular Culture force to be reckoned with, and currently most of that ‘force’ is down to the efforts of one erudite man – the supremely clever Steven Moffat.  Where would the Beeb be without Sherlock and The Doctor?  Doesn’t bear thinking about does it?  Let’s imagine, for a moment, an entertainment desert, with nothing but Eastenders as far as the eye can see and no welcoming Moffat-filled oasis – double sad icon    (to use an icon taken directly from Popular Culture.)

I enjoy an episode of Doctor Who as much as the next person (the Who reviews on the Playblast Podcast are more entertaining than the series, if you ask me, but then you’re not asking me are you?)   I long ago passed the boy band age (never really saw the appeal)  but thanks goes to the Playblast Podcast for enlivening my day re: the tear soaked teen suffering an online breakdown due to some kid I’ve never heard of, leaving some band I’ve barely heard of.  But there’s your essence of Popular Culture right there.  It has the power to tug at a nation’s heartstrings in a way that non-Popular Culture (or The Arts) could never hope to do.  Ok, you may be one of those culture vultures whose head is turned by a Van Gogh, or whose eyes glisten with emotion as the fat lady sings (for an interminable length of time, in a language that usually differs markedly from English), or who finds the comic shenanigans of one of Shakespeare’s ‘comedy’ plays hysteria-inducing (even though the language, again, differs markedly from recognisable English)  but, even if  The Arts is where you’re at, I bet you don’t often feel compelled to commit your thoughts on, let’s say the ballet, to YouTube, in the same visceral way as that over wrought young girl re: her boy band.  But you probably could get worked up enough re: that next super hero movie, or that upcoming effects laden game, or the output of your favourite popular singer/s.

Yes, the Playblast’s decision to discuss all things culturally popular was the way to go, but this week I’ve become sidetracked yet again, this time by the FLU.

Since last Monday I’ve been languishing in the depths of Influenza.  The man of the household is also sick, but in contrast to the Popular Culture stereotype, the woman here is suffering from ‘man flu.’  As a snivelling hypochondriac I’m always suffering from some kind of ‘man flu’  (if that’s what Popular Culture means by ‘minor ailment elevated to emergency status’.)   As always I consulted Dr Google, who passed me on to the NHS website where I completed a questionnaire to determine the nature of my symptoms.

It began by suggesting that if I was completing this questionnaire on behalf of someone else, and the said someone else was lying comatose on the floor, then I should perhaps re-think the questionnaire side of things and dial 999 instead (I kid you not.)

‘What was my worst ongoing symptom?’   As ‘existential fear of death’  did not appear on the list, I went with headache, runny nose and fever in descending order of worstness.  (In a side note to the NHS here – I don’t think your questionnaire was anywhere near comprehensive enough.  I couldn’t find these symptoms anywhere:-)

Do you feel you are fully submerged under water?
Are your ears stuffed with cotton wool?
Are your eyes streaming copiously?
Does your hair hurt?
Do you feel you are in danger of coughing up your liver?
Does everything taste like cardboard?  (other than your breakfast cereal of course)
Are you weeping uncontrollably at the sad bits on The One Show?

After deliberating my symptoms, the NHS decided that I could take care of myself at home, insisting that I should not bother the doctor for antibiotics, as your average evil, nut-job virus laughs in the face of Penicillin.  I was then directed to an interesting and related article which predicted the Apocalypse in roughly 20 years time.  Apparently our current arsenal of antibiotics and anti-virals will be completely useless within the next 20 years, resulting in a Superflu (I sure hope I don’t have the Superflu) pandemic, killing half the world’s population.

You have been warned.

 

 

 

Movie Reviews and Me

I don’t get out much, so my movie watching is done via Sky and thank the Digi-God on high for Sky, providing a plethora of film to feast upon; otherwise I’d be having to resort to nitty-gritty soapland, chef-based shenanigans, or worse still, to switching the flat screen in the corner off and doing something more useful instead.  However, a disturbing pattern is emerging re: my moving picture consumption, in that there appears to be a massive discrepancy between what think of a movie and what those (presumably well qualified in all things filmic) movie critics think of said movie.

This past week I’ve been enjoying Blended.  Now, Adam Sandler is an acquired taste at the best of times and, at his worst of times, is more than capable of leaving a bad taste in the mouth (and that’s not a Sandleresque joke.)  For a movie star he’s not quite good looking enough, or quite that funny, or quite as clever as some of his cooler and darker contemporaries;  but every time I give a Sandler film a shot I occasionally find myself laughing out loud at the absurdity of it all or, embarrassing to admit, shedding an actual tear at the manufactured sentiment that has a tendency to creep into the gross-out stuff.  Blended tugs at the heart strings in a few genuinely moving scenes, mostly involving Sandler’s interaction with his movie-kids re: their dead mother, and his burgeoning romance with his favourite co-star, Drew Barrymore; before jolting back to familiar Sandler territory  –  rutting rhinos, inappropriate massage techniques and a musical band composed entirely of monkeys, wearing wigs.   Anyways, I thought I’d check out Blended on Rotten Tomatoes.

The Vine:  Blended is awful.  It’s the kind of awful film where it’s hard to resist the temptation to just list all the awful things that happen in it and pass that off as a review.

NB  Blended is so awful he needed to type it three times.

Is there something wrong with me?  (don’t answer that, the question is rhetorical.)  How could I fail to see that Mr Sandler is a god-awful, talentless schmuck?  The remainder of this fairly representative review lambasts Sandler for his political incorrectness – like being non-PC isn’t practically this actor’s raison d’etre.  Maybe there’s a good review, I think wistfully.

Commerical Appeal:  If the movie were just bad we’d ignore it, but it’s so BAD, we feel it’s our duty to warn you.

The ‘bad’ is in CAPITALS.  Clearly I’m a dolt when it comes to movie appreciation.  The gist of this damning review is that Adam Sandler is somehow inflicting further suffering upon the African continent, just by his mere presence (Blended is partly set in South Africa.)

Movie critics seem to not so much offer up a level headed critique of Sandler’s work as object to the fact that Sandler has the temerity to take up space on planet Earth.  You know what, who’s to say that these love ’em/hate ’em Sandler vehicles won’t, in some fantastical, distant future, become classics of their particular genre, in the same way that the equally formulaic british Carry On’s are now revered.

Anyway, I enjoyed Blended;  so there.

Prior to Blended there was the nightly viewing of Godzilla (2014.)  The nightly viewing part is important, as I really tried to give this film a ‘go’.  The Spielberg effect was apparent from the start.  The Jurassic Park opening, the Close Encounters’ gas-masked venture into (un)contaminated territory, the human stories anchoring the monster’s presence.  Spielberg-inspired this re-make might be but, without Spielberg at the helm, it floundered, losing the plot.  I don’t know what this film lacked but it lacked something because I just didn’t care  –  about any of it;  not the characters, who were unappealing; not the settings, which were grim and colourless – of course your average post-nuclear landscape is going to look rather grim, but did everything have to look and feel so grim.  Anyway, I never got to meet Godzilla, as 50 minutes in appeared to be my cue to go and do something more useful instead. What did they make of it over on Rotten Tomatoes?

The Arts Desk:  A huge contender for film of the year   (!)

Good Morning America:  On a scale of 1 to 10, give this Godzilla a 9  (!!)

The Guardian:  ‘for its first hour it is judicious with its spectacular displays’  (?!)

‘judicious with its spectacular displays’ must be Guardian-speak for ‘its first hour may send you to sleep.’   Maybe one day I’ll sit through the entire thing.

And lastly, Maleficent.  Angelina Jolie is brilliant, effectively carrying the whole piece. The music is mesmerising.  The tone is just right.  Let’s see…………

The Guardian:  It’s an icky affair, more Perry (Katy) than Perrault (Charles.)

What does this even mean? (I inwardly cried in bewilderment.)  Did I miss the candy coloured pop princess overtones?  Should I have gone back to the source material so I could note the obvious, that it was highly unlikely that Disney would replicate Perrault’s weirdness, violence and horror (now his is an icky affair, if you’re talking nasty and distasteful.)  Is it a crime to produce something that is way better than the original folk tale?

So here I am, left with the thought that most movie criticism reveals more about the critic than what actually appears on the screen.   I’ll continue to watch the movies in my ignorant bliss;  in future giving the movie reviews a decided MISS.