Monday, 31 May 2010

Tales of the Torturer & Hillcoat's Machinima

Unthinkable is a morally confused 24-esque thriller about terrorism and torture featuring Sam Jackson and Martin Sheen. Not sure what the film makers were trying to say with this piece but it does seem to come out on the torture-can-be-necessary side of things by the end doh. Anyways Sheen plays an American-born terrorist arrested after planting 3 dirty bombs across the States, Jackson the hard-nosed specialist assigned to interrogate him and Carrie-Anne Moss stars as the FBI witness to events (I guess she's supposed to represent our liberal moral outlook - just not mine however). It's a complicated subject, painted here with some really fat brushstrokes surprise surprise but despite it's dubious conclusions it's got a strong script that's very well acted, particularly by Sheen, and it musters plenty of tension throughout.

Red Dead Redemption: Man from Blackwater was pretty good, nothing special but a nice little 30min proof of concept. I was a little disappointed that Hillcoat followed the plot of the game so closely and even used a couple of the premade cut scenes from the game but overall it's an enjoyable half hour and I'm sure it'll be a marketing tool we'll see more of in the future.

Elemental extinction, Needle point and Moons

It's bad enough that we force critters into extinction but Elements from the periodic table?! Apparently Gallium, Indium and Hafnium will be unavailable within 20 years and Copper only 80 years after that. via Reddit.

Guradina has a big article explaining the "science" behind Acupuncture. The needles stimulate the release of an anti-inflammatory compound which might account for some of reported benefits. Bit skeptical me - I'm sure Goldacre will be all over it soon enough - meanwhile he's got a nice bit about the passing of an illustrious debunker.

Stonishing photo of two of Saturns moons with the Rings in the background.

On the subject of moons here's an interesting post about the strange hollowness of Mars' moon Phobos just confirmed by an ESA flypast.

Sunday, 30 May 2010

Goons & Ghosts

Mystery Team is a peculiar but eventually charming comedy; three very immature teenagers run a detective agency out of their front yard and as university age approaches they decide to take a double homicide as their last case. If you can get over how unrealistically pathetic the trio are it is quite funny and as they descend into the local underworld and confront adult situations it becomes more so. The cast is pretty good, most I recognise from one sitcom or another, and it's got enough good lines to keep you laughing.

The Skeptic was ok, not great & certainly not a horror film but it is an interesting take on the old haunted house trope. Some snarky, unfeeling lawyer separates from his wife and moves into his recently deceased Aunt's spooky old house and it's hardly a surprise when he starts getting terrorised by ghostly apparitions and creepy whisperings. After a while he contacts some parapsychology beardie and a sexy psychic who start to investigate the situation. The acting isn't brilliant and it's got made for tv written all over it but I appreciated the denouement.

Wednesday, 26 May 2010

Troubled Thrillers Times Two

The Cry of The Owl is a unsettling Patricia Highsmith adaptation (starring Paddy Considine & Julia Stiles) about a mentally troubled divorcee getting tangled up in a web of deceit and violence after being befriended by the woman he's stalking. It's a slow burner, building up the tension towards the final act and it certainly kept me guessing about which character was the maddest but I dunno the two leads, though competent, just didn't work very well together.

Heartless is a strange urban/horror/fantasy film with big ambitions it's just a shame it doesn't have the moxie to pull them off. Jim Sturgess plays a photographer with a heart shaped birth mark on face living in a nasty gang ridden part of London & after snapping some hoodies with big sharp teeth he stumbles into a shadowy underworld of demons and chaos with a big bad man pulling all the strings. The first 30mins are pretty good but it soon ends up meandering about, picking up poor actors and kicking over plot holes until it's too-obvious, slightly pretentious ending. Don't get me wrong it's a decent effort but with some editing and tidying up this could have been much better.

King Horn recommends

Shiny box news

John Hillcoat, director of The Proposition and The Road, has made a 30min machinima film from Rockstar's Red Dead Redemption and it's getting aired on Fox this weekend.

According to BoingBoing eurozone PS3ers are going to get a rather classy looking film streaming service called MUBI in the near future.

There's also news of HBO getting a slot but I guess that'll be just for the Yanks though.

Sony are going to unveil their premium PSN subscription offer soon, probably at the upcoming E3 thingy, not sure what they could offer me that would make me open my wallet each month but will wait and see.

Team Ico are rumoured to be bringing Ico & Shadow to bluray disc early next year in the stylee of that recently released God of War Collection.

Duh the insanely delayed Gran Turisimo 5 is being held back yet again by Sony this time for PlaystationMove compatibility and 3D gimmicking. Surely they could've just released patches for these instead ?.

Monday, 24 May 2010

Dim and Dimmer

Idaho Transfer, directed by Peter Fonda in 1973, was pretty shit. A team of scientists working on a matter teleportation device discover they've actually invented a time machine and after jumping forwards they witness a planet-scrubbing ecological disaster so they decide to send some under 21's farther into the future to try and rebuild society. There's some decent ideas here and a few glimpses of a much better film but it's smothered by atrociously bad acting and some really tiresome whiny hippys. Instead of remaking classics like Robocop why don't they polish this turd into something better.

Irish horror film Dorothy was also disappointing, pitched I guess as a cross between The Wicker Man and The Exorcist it's another missed opportunity. A psychiatrist is sent to a small island to examine a very troubled kid and the locals aren't too happy about it. The acting is competent and there's some nice scenery on show but it isn't scary and soon drifts into churning out cliches and much silliness.

More May Music

Small Screen Small Screed

I'm a big fan of Jon Ronson so I was chuffed to finally see his short documentary called Stanley Kubrick's Boxes - it's a quiet little film about Ronson rooting about in the innumerate boxes of research Kubrick collected over the years. There's small contributions from his family and former colleagues but it's the content of the boxes that provide the greater insight into one of the best directors of the 20th C.

Soul Train: The Hippest Trip In America is great documentary from that VH1 Rock Docs series I keep forgetting about. A potted history of Don Cornelius' groundbreaking dance show there's plenty of interesting stories from the array of talking heads but just not quite enough clips for me. Must start digging around for episodes.

Friday, 21 May 2010

Other things aural

The Great Antidote

Mmm synthetic lifeforms have been created at last! well kind of. New Scientist has the full story and the nice pic.

There's an interesting bit about the perceptual reality of dream states on Mindhacks.

And here's another bit on Science Daily about a theory explaining reports of ball lightning as being mis-perceptions caused by magnetic field/noggin interactions. Made me think of Persinger's work and his hallucination helmet.

Finally BoingBoing have a post linking to a brilliant study guide for Cognitive Biases.

Thursday, 20 May 2010

Westminster garbage and the tricky problem in Land of The Gods

Our political landscape really is changing what with the astonishing news this morning that Diane Abbott has chucked her hat in for the Labour leadership, jaw dropping then much laughter, no disrespect but I think she's only it to mess with the real candidates, I mean c'mon she's quite good with Portillo on that bald letch's show well apart from tonight's show had her flustered against pie-filled Digby Jones.

Jack Straw's kid, should learn his name, has a bit bout the Scottish Conservatives and their amusingly dismal performance at the election - apparently Tebbit-asaur reckons they should just give up! hazah! except he's mental so er oh well. Disagree with this idiot banging on about how we should stop hating the Tories, err no thanks I'm fine with it.

Not sure about these artistic protests of Israel, don't get me wrong I think it's waaay overdue the US get it's finger out but it won't - they're actually arguing about the right to criticise Israeli policy over on Huffpo, hilarious stuff.

Tuesday, 18 May 2010

Halfway Horrors

Death Line is a sub-Hammer British horror film from the early 70's and it's only redeeming feature is an amusing turn by Donald Pleasance as the snarky detective tasked with unravelling the mysterious disappearances from Russell Square tube station. I guess the shortcomings in plot and acting were supposed to be counteracted by plenty of gore and the gruesome fx but these have dated badly leaving little to recommend it. If you want a underground based horror I'd go for Creep instead - a remake in all but name.

Dark Mirror was a little better but it squandered it's semi-interesting take on the Haunted House trope by some shonky acting and a meandering second half. It's pretty low budget so they decided to try for a creepy atmosphere as opposed to general horror scares but they never quite manage it and it ends up a little dull.

Mutants is the first french zombie movie ever I think and though it's basically a 28 Days Later ripoff it wasn't terrible, phew. There's no preamble explaining what caused the outbreak which was nice and just starts with a small gang of survivors dodging the plague ridden people-munchers while searching the Alps for a military base and some sanctuary. It's festooned with cliches and gaping plot holes but the acting was reasonable and it's well shot and it even managed a little tension without just turning into a human buffet. Maybe it's coz of the two duds above but I quite enjoyed it and will probably watch a sequel.

Some things aural

Saturday, 15 May 2010

Space Beasties & Psycho Killers

The Hidden is a scifi potboiler about an amusingly murderous body-hopping alien hunted by an expressionless Kyle McLachlan and despite the cliche-ridden script and cheesy acting it was quite good fun. It is 80's tastic though so get ready for some terrible suits, fast cars and rock music among the gunfire, mayhem and nonsense.

Shuttle is nasty thriller about some girls who accept a ride back from the airport in some nutter's minibus. Most of the cast are studio-bots except the driver who plays a rather convincing psycho - turns out the actor is Scottish so that explains that I suppose - but anyways as the journey spirals into more and more preposterous situations I guess the quality of acting doesn't really matter much as the blood letting comes to the fore.

Thursday, 13 May 2010

Scientific Scintillates

Fricking mind boggling spiderish nanobots, from ScienceDaily

Jupiter's lost it's southern belt though apparently it's not the first time.

Those gravity lows might just be some ancient tectonic plates sinking into the mantle.

Wednesday, 12 May 2010

Rise & hopefully imminent fall of the Libservatives

Urgh, just 24hrs from the merest glimpse of a radical shift towards a progressive majority it's all gone & now we have the madness of a Lib-Con coalition. I reckon we'll have another election in 18 months max - the chances of Clegg and Cameron keeping their parties in line longer than that I think is highly unlikely, especially once the Libs see the damage they've just inflicted on themselves and the Cons grow tired of having their hands tied. I'm not alone in my scepticism - Heffer in Torygraph and one of Sullivan's colleagues on the Atlantic.

Tuesday, 11 May 2010

'72, '73 & '68

Endless Night is a 1970's adaptation of an Agatha Christie novel, apparently she wasn't so keen on it but I certainly enjoyed this Hitchcockian mystery despite it's amusingly dated 70's feel. A young drifter is enchanted by a cursed property, Gypsy's Acre, but when he marries and finally builds his dream home things start to go badly wrong. Maybe I was having a slow day but I got the surprise ending quite wrong.

Another little British gem is The Asphyx, a strange scifi/horror about a Victorian scientist who manages to photograph a mysterious entity that appears at the time of death, his researches continue and he uncovers that the Asphyx holds the key to immortality and his obsession takes a rather demented turn. With some competent acting, lush period detail and a cracking fortean plot this is a excellent 90 mins and I'm not surprised it's up for a remake.

2001 A Space Odyssey is probably the most important scifi film of the 20th Century and one of my childhood faves and it's recently had a magnificent transfer onto Bluray. Despite it being 42 years old this film looks amazing and is still the high benchmark for serious scifi film making. Well worth the £6.

Still Hungover

Kudos to Wonkette for posting this little gem bout pouting Davo's first encounter with Queenie while dressed as a rabbit - nice timing from the Mail, maybe it was Liam Fox ?

Andrew Sullivan lifts my spirits about the hopes of decimating the rapacious Tories from the country by the neat trick of making the country more democratic - such things dreams are made from.

Though Sullivan is aghast at the possibility of a more realistic representation of country's innate liberalism he's taking the situation better than fat faced Murdoch whore Adam Boulton, whose middle Engerland shtick has chafed at me for a while now so it's a joy to see he's creaking under the pressure while on two tv spots in 24hrs

Monday, 10 May 2010

Sun Dogs

Another great post from io9 explaining the phenomenon of parhelia. Hexagons is the short version.

Boar Blast & Shaky-Iraq

Razorback is a cult treat, sure the acting is ropey and the fx are a bit rubbish but look beyond that and you've got a stylishly shot monster romp. A gigantic Boar is terrorising some Outback town and it's local drongos so a few of the bereaved become determined to hunt the beast down once and for all. There's plenty of laughs - intended and otherwise - some nice action bits and it all rolls along at a decent pace making this an entertaining if shlocky 90 mins.

Green Zone is the latest effort from Greengrass & Damon and is another twitchy, shaky cam action thriller. Set during the Iraq conflict, Damon is tasked with hunting down WMD's and soon begins to suspect there's been a little subterfuge going on as he keeps coming up empty handed. The climax is a little weak, relying on a ridonkulous meeting of characters to tie things up and a lengthy section of uber-shaky-cam but overall it's a decent film with good performances and a strong script.

Saturday, 8 May 2010

Romero improves & Hill blasts away

Survival of the Dead isn't Romero's best zombie munch movie but it's a definite improvement on Diary of the Dead. The action starts on some backwards coastal island as the locals fight over cleaning out the infected with hot lead or trying to find an alternative food source. A squad of soldiers struggling to stay alive on the mainland decide that the island is a safer bet and end up regretting it. Though there's plenty of head popping and some decent chew-downs the film just isn't scary, there's a few jump-scares sure but there's no tension, no dread. Maybe if they made the island and it's peeps a little more believable and less hokey-frontier styled it might have given a base to build the gore and gags on.

Extreme Prejudice is a slice of 80's action courtesy of Walter Hill. With Texas Ranger Nick Nolte facing off against greasy Kingpin Powers Boothe this is a sweaty border crossing Peckinpah rip off and it's a competent if unremarkable action thriller. The script is terrible, cliches abound and Nolte's stoney faced delivery doesn't help either but the action is handled well and there's certainly plenty of it. Shame they didn't stitch the bad A-Team subplot in tighter though as it just flaps around until almost the very end.

Election prolapse

Parliament is hung. Poor rich boy Davo couldn't seal the deal, Clegg suffered from the fear of a Tory majority and Brown managed to keep his head above water just.

Plenty of little stories being missed as 24hr tv news goes into horse trading frenzy and we get to watch people go in and out of meetings.

My favourite titbit has to be the 14 year old socialist who donned a disguise to vote then, after being dobbed in by his teacher, refused to speak to The Sun! Said he was a Grinauda reader hahaha

Nick Griffin's racist party suffered a gubbing as did UKIP even though their leader tried a bit too hard to steal headlines on polling day. Other good news that Stroud - gotta prays those gay demons out - didn't get in and neither did Teeth Rantzen who lost her deposit and only one of the inbred Rees-Mogs got in

Ed Balls - lunatic old skool Labourite managed to keep his seat by a whisker which must really irk Guido and his chums.

This Prof has a nice take on Cameron's failed bid to secure a Tory majority.

Shame HIGNFY is lurching towards it's nadir but the Private Eye has still got some chompers; here's a charmless tale about The Sun - I blame Australians, he's their problem so they should really have "dealt" with him by now.

Looks like chuckler Alex Salmond has offered to help out in a Lib/Lab coalition if things don't work out between Dave and Nick.

No matter how much they fret over a deal over the next few days I still can't see either Cons or the Lib-D parties accepting any deal. I want electoral reform, it's time we mature a bit as country I think and Clegg has a once in a generation opportunity, stakes are high

Thursday, 6 May 2010


Some nice vids of Predators, Splice, Machete & some kids vision of Rendezvous With Rama. There's a whole lot more over at Wired.

Wednesday, 5 May 2010

More election verbiage

Osbourne hires former oil biz chum to ask oil companies how to make off-shore drilling, in say conservation areas off Shetland, more profitable for them and decides it's a win-win - if it's true it's the most loveliest gift to Alex Smiler Salmond and I suppose it'll be byebye England.

As the election has progressed I've wearied at the Dish's pro-Camo stance so a post titled Tory Nightmare is a definite improvement.

Want to punch/kick politicians ? try Downing Street Fighter

Tuesday, 4 May 2010

TVersity diversity

Weegie director Paul McGuigan's Gangster No 1. was excellent and surprisingly disturbing. Malcolm McDowell plays an aging, quite mad, crime boss looking back to his climb to the top/descent into madness in 1960's London. Flashing back in time from a black tie boxing match, Paul Bettany puts in an impressive performance as the young hood brought into the gang, who eventually kills friends & foes to achieve his goal in rather chilling, brutal fashion. Stylishly shot, well scripted and with great performances from Thewlis, Bettany and McDowell this is a cut above your usual British gangsterism.

Iron Man 2 is a decent enough sequel, there's plenty of natty fx action sequences and Downey Jr is still the most appealing superhero on screen at the moment but the whole thing was a bit too busy for me; if they peeled away the SHIELD/Scarlett storyline they could've chucked a bit more action in and still had more time to flesh out the Rourke/Rockwell arc too.

Anyone but the Tories please

Pah - Tories are upset that Gordo might try and cling on in power if it's a tight result, aww poor old them. If they want to see "upset" let's wait and see what happens if the Tories try and rule with a minority government. Here's an interesting article on their planned tactics for wrestling power if it's close.

Not a great day for the Bullingdon boys as Ken Clarke acknowledges they've only got a "slim chance" of getting a majority, Dirtbag Coulson is dragged back into the NOTW phone hacking scandal after Mulcaire's book shapes up and Mekon Hague supports that loon that was trying to cure gays by prayer.

Mind you it's not a great day for Gordo either with some barmy Labour MP touting Brown as Worst PM Ever. According to the Guardian his Mum isn't best pleased.

Leftfootforward, run by Jack Iraq Straw's son, has a bit about Scottish polling, apparently the Scottish Mail on Sunday poll indicates the Tories might lose their only seat. That'd be nice and he's only got a 1700 majority so fingers crossed.

Good to see Cory Doctorow is still punching away at the Murdoch press.

Sunday, 2 May 2010

Cameron's shiny face looms closer

Nice & simple infographic on Datablog showing the lack of honesty and/or competence in the three parties proposed cuts.

Some Tory Bibleclutcher has, according to the Observer, been praying to God to "cure" the gays and drive out their demons. Mmm feel that stupid - thick and creamy idiocy. Get used to it though 'cause, after reading these two articles, if the Tory party gets in it's going to be a flavour of dumb with a foothold.

Looks like my current gloomy election outlook is shared by Marina Hyde in the Grinduaa

President Obama does a funny Jon Stewart-esque bit at the annual White House Correspondents Dinner. ta Wonkette

Wolves, Gumshoes and an Escapee

The Howling, directed by Joe Dante, is a reasonable slice of 80's horror about a pack of werewolves trying and failing to curb their appetites. The acting and fx have dated badly and it's got a really slow first third but it picks up the pace and generates a few decent scary moments along the way. My main problem is the obligatory transformation scenes, how come everyone just stands and watches? if someone's face started bubbling and changing in front of me I'd be off like a shot.

Devil in a Blue Dress
, is a nice little neo-noir thriller. Based on a book by Walter Mosley and starring Denzel W. as a reluctant detective hunting for a missing wife who has a penchant for dark meat. Well acted and scripted, with some nice 50's period details this hard boiled mystery was an entertaining 90 mins.

Low budget Brit-horror, Salvage, was a valiant attempt but ultimately wasn't very successful. Playing out much like a cross of Right at Your Door & The Nightmare Man, this little 80min movie followed the residents of a cul-de-sac locked down by the military once a freight container washes up on a nearby beach and it's contents are disgorged. If they had tweaked the plot a little (particularly the ending) and hired better actors this could have been quite good.

Saturday, 1 May 2010

Scientific Saturday

Inspiring view of Earth as seen from the surface of Mars - nice work NASA

Goldacre's bit in today's Guardian is worth a read - a political experiment showing that our prejudices are enhanced rather than diminished by factual corrections in newspaper articles. Bad luck Nazi-Nick.

And on there's a nice article discussing the effects of negativity in the mainstream media. Thanks Mind Hacks

Finally proving science has all the answers here's a bit of worthwhile research into the relative pros/cons of napping at your desk face down versus the traditional napping while lying prone.