31 October 2007

Review: Once

Good old Orange Wednesdays. Two-for-one tickets when you book via an Orange mobile phone. There was nothing that really grabbed us this week. Being Halloween it was all blood and gore. I persuaded Sally that John Carney's Once was worth a try because of the reviews it's had. I'm glad she agreed because we both loved it. My film of the year.

Now, trying to sell this film on it's premise is not doing it justice: Irish musical about a vacuum cleaner repairman busker , or as he sings "a broken-hearted Hoover fixer sucker guy" (Glen Hansard) meets Big Issue selling Czech immigrant pianist (Marketa Irglova) and they start writing songs. Now, describing it as a musical seems wrong too. Rather than a musical (which just conjures up images of schmaltz and dancing in the streets) it's more a film with lots of music that helps move the story on, reflects the characters moods and situations and tells without force-feeding. It's really like nothing else I've ever seen. It's so naturalist and moving. It's like you're a voyeur in real situations, sharing, not intruding.

The acting seems improvised and very realistic. It's not sharply scripted but has all the faults and repetitions, pauses and silences that real conversations have. The handheld camerawork is the same, this isn't a beautiful looking film. That's not a fault: It doesn't glamourise and it's not a Hollywood "Oyerland" on display, but Ireland as a real place.

The music itself is beautiful, much of it sung and played on-set and written and performed by the leads. I guess it would help if you like the singer/songwriter acoustic style of music but I'm sure it would be just as affecting a film if you didn't. The girl (the characters aren't named) hears the guy busking in the street and loves his original compositions. She asks who they are written for and their relationship is kick started through a love of music and how it can express their feelings. When they start playing and writing together their thoughts and feelings are reflected in the lyrics and mood of the melancholy melodies. It's strange that the movie seems so downbeat but is extremely uplifting. It also ends in a completely un-Hollywood but completely satisfying way.

Once has been a huge success in Hollywood, without any fanfare of the usual big budget extravaganza . It's gained some very famous fans, Speilberg, Bob Dylan, Salma Hayek, Jennifer Aniston, James Spader, the list is endless, and it won the audience prize at the Sundance Film Festival. With word-of-mouth like that it's doing someting right.

If you only go to the cinema once this autumn/winter, make sure it's to see Once.

Once trailer

Halloween special: My Scariest Movie Moments

'Tis All Hallow's Eve so it's only right I reveal the moments in film that have scared me the most. Now I'm not a big horror film watcher and I've never seen any of the current crop of gross-outs like Saw or Hostel. So I've chosen only movies I've seen and that I rate as good films:

  1. Jan Svaankmeyer's Alice - deeply disturbing version of the Lewis Carroll tale from this Czechoslovakian animator (those last two words conjure up scary films anyway!). see video - Scariest Moment: all of it

  2. Ringu - made more scary by the way the Japanese construct their movies, the original version of Ring has a true air of dread and creepiness that it almost seems real - SM: the crawling-out-of-the-television bit

  3. Jaws - superior film making, still brilliant today. It doesn't even matter about the rubber shark, Bruce. SM: the whole in the boat

  4. The Shining - growing dread and descent into madness and Shelley Duvall's fright is matched by our own, brilliant - SM: "Red Rum" or "Here's Johnnie"

  5. The Excorist - dated but works on your head rather than your eyes. Scary for it's setting within the real world - SM: thinking about what you've jut seen in the cinema car park

  6. the Omen - parts one and two. I was far too young when I first aw these. The best film about the existence of the devil (along with Rosemary's Baby). All the theory and discovery and the fact the audience know the truth really adds to the suspense - SM: the music and under the ice.

  7. Se7en - mainly scary for getting into John Doe's mind and the ending. The gothic way it's shot heightens the tension. - SM: sloth

  8. Alien - the haunted house... in space. Suspense, body horror, the bogeyman, picking off the characters, jumps, it's got it all - SM: Dallas in the air-ducts

  9. 28 Days Later - the whole idea is brilliant, if stolen from I Am Legend. Zombies with justification of their existence. The whole blood in eye thing makes me squirm. SM: the monkey in the lab

  10. Rosemary's Baby - innocence corrupted by the next door neighbours. The subtle hints and the build to that revelation is a slow build spookiness. - SM: Rosemary realising what's happened

Honorable mention to the TV programmes I really shouldn't have watched as a kid but scared me rotten (and look terrible today): Hammer House of Horror, Tales of the Unexpected, Day of the Triffids, Threads. Also Twin Peaks, Marathon Man, Carrie, Blair Witch Project, Manhunter, Pinocchio.

30 October 2007

The Fido Film Awards

Stephen Frears' film The Queen has already won a number of awards (now 59 in total) including the best actress Academy Award for title star Helen Mirren. Now it's the turn of Poppy, Anna, Oliver and Megan, the canine leads (no pun intended), as the corgis from the film have won in the inaugural Fido Film Awards in London last night. Whatever next?

  • Best overall - Helen Mirren's corgis in The Queen
  • Historical Hounds - Corgis Anna, Alice, Megan, Oliver and Poppy in The Queen
  • Best Action Movie - Unnamed hunting dog in Shooter
  • Comedy Canine - Mixed corgi, Travis in Year of the Dog
  • Short Film - Harvey, the Welsh terrier in Dog Flap
  • Best at London Film Festival - Petra, breed uncertain, in Far North

Congratulations to you all, take a bow(wow).

29 October 2007

The Top 10 Living Geniuses

Genius: how do you define it. Is it, in fact, quantifiable? Well, global consulting business Synectics thinks so and have come up with a list of the 100 top living geniuses. They polled 4000 people to name their top genius and then a panel of "experts" rating the results in five categories: Paradigm Shifter, Popular Acclaim, Intellectual Power, Achievement and Cultural Importance. With these they came up with a Genius Factor, the top people scored 27 and the person at 100 got 2. The biggest surprise is Simpsons creator, Matt Groening beating Stephen Hawking. Cowabunga!

1= Albert Hofmann (Swiss) chemist (genius factor 27)
1= Tim Berners-Lee (British) computer scientist (27)
3 George Soros (American) investor and philanthropist (25)
4 Matt Groening (American) satirist and animator (24)
5= Nelson Mandela (South African) politician and diplomat (23)
5= Frederick Sanger (British) chemist (23)
7= Dario Fo (Italian) writer & dramatist (22)
7= Stephen Hawking (British) physicist (22)
9= Oscar Niemeyer (Brazilian) architect (21)
9= Philip Glass (American) composer (21)
9= Grigory Perelman (Russian) mathematician (21)

28 October 2007

10 Sportsmen Turned Actors

So OJ is back in the news (and court) again, this time for allegedly being involved in an armed confrontation in a casino hotel room. His life would make an unbelievable movie. Which brings me to the next list; sports stars who have made the leap to the big screen. I don't mean sportsmen who have appeared as themselves (David Beckham in Goal) or in films about their sport (Bobby Moore as a POW in Escape to Victory anyone?). I', talking about ex-sportsmen who have ended thir playing days and have made a new career in the movies:

  • Vinnie Jones - Football - after making a name for himself as Wimbledon/Wales hard man and for grabbing Paul Gascoigne's balls he made the giant leap to become a big-screen hard man, though his acting abilities are on a par with his skills on the pitch (Mean Machine, Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels)
  • Johnny Weissmuller - swimming - winner of five Olympic gold medals, one bronze and setting ove 60 world records on the 1920's he went on to become the quintessential movie Tarzan (Tarzan the Apeman etc)
  • The Rock - pro-wrestling - if you can call wrestling a sport, Dwayne Douglas Johnson kept his wresting name when he changed his showbiz career to movies, using his physique to play in a number of action films (The Mummy Returns, Doom)
  • Jim Brown - American football - a record breaking line backer for the Cleveland Browns and considered by many as one of the best footballers ever, he first appeared in a film, Rio Conchos, in 1964, but he quit the game when the Browns refused to let him finish acting duties in The Dirty Dozen in 1967 (The Dirty Dozen, Any Given Sunday)
  • Carl Weathers & Mr T - American football and pro-wrestling. Real sportsmen were used as Rocky's opponents in the boxing films but they weren't boxers. Carl Weathers played pro American and Canadian League football before becoming Apollo Creed (Rocky, Predator), whilst Laurence Tureaud appeared in WWF and pro-wrestling bouts but is more famous as BA Baracus and James "Clubber" Lang (The A-Team, Rocky III)
  • John Matuszak -American football - won the Superbowl twice and entered the World's Strongest Man competition before becoming Sloth in the cult film The Goonies (Caveman, The Goonies)
  • OJ Simpson - American football - nicknamed "The Juice", Orenthal James Simpson was the first footballer to rush more than 2000 yards in one season before moving into acting, most famously in the Police Squad/Naked Gun series. His became even more famous when he was accused (and acquitted in a huge media-circus televised trial) of double murder of his wife and her lover. The police chase was broadcast live on US news channels and made him the most notorious sportsman-turned-actor. he hasn't appeared in a film since. (Capricorn One, the Towering Inferno)
  • Arnold Schwarzenegger - bodybuilding - Austrian born former Mr Universe went on to become one of the most successful and famous actors of the 1980's with a string of muscle-bound roles. Having given up acting to pursue a career in politics. he is now Governor of California. But hey you knew all that (Terminator, Total Recall)
  • David Prowse - bodybuilding, weightlifting - represented Great Britain in weightlifting in the 1962 Commonwealth Games, was chosen as the physical form of Darth Vader after his height was noticed in the Green Cross Code road safety advertisements. He had a few other minor roles and though he spoke the dialogue on set in the Star Wars films he didn't realise his Bristolian accent would be over-dubbed by James Earl Jones in the final cut. (Star Wars, A Clockwork Orange)
  • Eric Cantona - football - enigmatic footballing supremo, Cantona helped re-shape Manchester United into the force it is today, helping them win their first Championship for 26 years and being in the squad that won the European Cup in treble-winning 1998-99 season` (though not playing in the final due to suspension). His post-playing career has included a number of acting roles, mainly in French films and he was used extensively in European Nike sportswear advertising. (Elizabeth, Les Enfants du Marais)

26 October 2007

the Golden Joysticks

As I covered the Video Game BAFTAs the other day I should also do the 25th Golden Joystick Awards which have just been announced (and as I can't do any work until my 3d animation has rendered). These awards are all voted for by the gaming public:

  • The Bliss Girls’ Choice Game of the Year 2007: Guitar Hero II
  • The Sun Family Game of the Year 2007: Wii Sports
  • The Games Radar Handheld Game of the Year 2007: Grand Theft Auto: Vice City Stories
  • The 4Talent Mobile Game of the Year 2007: Final Fantasy
  • The T3 Innovation of the Year 2007: Nintendo Wii
  • The BBC 1Xtra Soundtrack of the Year 2007: Guitar Hero II
  • The Nuts All-Nighter award 2007: Gears of War
  • The GameTribe Online Game of the Year 2007: World of Warcraft: The Burning Crusade
  • The Next-Gen.biz UK Developer of the Year 2007: Codemasters
  • The Total Film One to Watch 2007: Assassin’s Creed
  • The Vivendi Retailer of the Year 2007: Game
  • Publisher of the Year 2007: sponsored by Future: Nintendo
  • Editor’s Choice Award 2007: Gears of War
  • Official Nintendo Magazine’s Nintendo Game of the Year 2007: The Legend of Zelda:Twilight Princess
  • Official Playstation Magazine’s PlayStation Game of the Year 2007: God of War II
  • The PC Gamer PC Game of the Year 2007: The Lord of the Rings Online: Shadows of Angmar
  • The Sonopress Xbox Game of the Year 2007: Gears of War
  • The 02 Ultimate Game of the Year 2007: Gears of War
I've only played one of these game, Zelda, but I do have a Wii and I've shopped at Game!

22 Endangered Primates

A sad one today, The Guardian online has released a list of monkeys and apes that are among the most endangered species on the planet. Why does it the the plight of the cute, fuffy animals for people to sit up and take notice?

  1. Western hoolock gibbon (Hoolock hoolock)
  2. Pig-tailed langur (Simias concolor)
  3. Grey-shanked douc (Pygathrix cinerea)
  4. Western purple-faced langur (Semnopithecus vetulus nestor)
  5. Tana river red colobus (Procolobus rufomitratus)
  6. Sumatran orangutan (Pongo abelii)
  7. Hainan gibbon (Nomascus hainanus)
  8. Cross river gorilla (Gorilla gorilla diehli)
  9. Delacour's langur (Trachypithecus delacouri)
  10. Cat Ba island golden headed langur (Trachypitecus plliocephalus poliocephalus)
  11. Tonkin snub-nosed monkey (Rhinopithecus avunculus)
  12. Rungwecebus kipunji
  13. Brown-headed spider monkey (Ateles fusciceps fusciceps)
  14. Roloway monkey (Cercopithecus roloway)
  15. Siau Island Tarsier (Tarsius sp)
  16. Lemur sahamalazensis (Lepilemur sahamalazensis)
  17. Yellow-tailed woolly monkey (Oreonax flavicauda)
  18. Rondo bush baby (Galagoides rondoensis )
  19. Pennant's red colobus (Procolobus pennanti)
  20. Hybrid spider monkey (Ateles hybridus)
  21. Miss Waldron's red colobus (Procolobus badius waldroni)
  22. Greater bamboo lemur (Prolemur simus)

25 October 2007

Top Ten Movie Soundtracks

The US edition of Vanity Fair has just released it's top ten of movie soundtracks. Looking at the list I can only presume they have only included films with individual music tracks rather than a score or musicals/concert films. Luckily for Prince they didn't take into account the quality of the film or acting themselves:

  1. Purple Rain
  2. A Hard Day's Night
  3. The Harder They Come
  4. Pulp Fiction
  5. The Graduate
  6. Superfly
  7. Trainspotting
  8. Saturday Night Fever
  9. American Graffiti
  10. The Big Chill

Personally I would put Trainspotting at the top, the music worked SO well within that movie was as much part of it's success as anything else involved. As was the soundtrack of Pulp Fiction AND Reservoir Dogs. If you're including A Hard Day's Night then Yellow Submarine should also me in there, along with The Monkee's Head. The Graduate is perfect too. If they're including a number of films that use classic 50's tunes then That'll Be The Day could be included too.

I also notice the lack of films where people burst into song, like most Disney feature, Fame, Bugsy Malone, Grease, Rocky Horror etc, although they could be considered musicals, I suppose. If I was to choose one it would have to be The Jungle Book, Disney's best soundtrack.

Ooobeedoo, I wanna be like you-oo-00

Others great soundtracks: The Royal Tenenbaums, Kill Bill, The Doors, 24 Hour Party People, Good Morning Vietnam, Stand By Me, Judgement Night, Singles, Forrest Gump, The Blues Brothers

24 October 2007

British Academy Video Game Awards

Last nigh BAFTA held their Video Game Awards. I think it's the second year of these awards and this year's big winner was Wii Sports. It is a very simple, very playable game. Even my parents can play (and enjoy playing) it. Here's the list of winners and nominees:

  • Action and Adventure: Crackdown (Realtime Worlds, Microsoft, X360)
  • Artistic Achievement: Okami (Clover Studio, Capcom, PS2)
  • Best Game: BioShock (2K Boston/2K Australia, 2K Games, PC, X360)
  • Casual: Wii Sports (Nintendo, Wii)
  • Gameplay: Wii Sports (Nintendo, Wii)
  • Innovation: Wii Sports (Nintendo, Wii)
  • Multiplayer: Wii Sports (Nintendo, Wii)
  • Original Score: Okami (Clover Studio, Capcom, PS2)
  • Sports: Wii Sports (Nintendo, Wii)
  • Strategy and Simulation: Wii Sports (Nintendo, Wii)
  • Story and Character: God of War II (SCE Santa Monica, SCE, PS2)
  • Technical Achievement: God of War II (SCE Santa Monica, SCE, PS2)
  • Use of Audio: Crackdown (Realtime Worlds, Microsoft, X360)
  • BAFTA Ones to Watch Award: Ragnarawk (Voodoo Boogy)
  • The PC World Gamers Award: (Public Online Voting) - Football Manager 2007 (Sports Interactive, Sega, PC)
  • Academy Fellowship: Will Wright, creator of The Sims

These results should help sales of the Nintendo Wii consoles, which comes with a copy of Wii Sports. I'm so behind on my game playing. I'm playing Doom 3 on PC at the moment but can't wait for Lego Star Wars to be released on the Wii, I loved it on PS2 and PC.

Pixar - the world's greatest production company.

I've just come back from seeing Pixar's Ratatouille. Brilliant. Possibly their best. As well as being one of the best looking films I've ever seen, CGI or otherwise. It's very funny, brilliantly scripted and just so damn filmic for an animation. The characterisation is superb and with "acting" to match. Highly recommended and probably the best film I've seen this year. So here's by list of Pixar's best feature films on order of preference:
My favourite Pixar movies:
  1. Ratatouille
  2. Finding Nemo
  3. Monsters Inc.
  4. Toy Story 2
  5. The Incredibles
  6. Toy Story
  7. A Bug's Life

Unknown: Cars - I haven't seen it.

Reading that back I realise that I love A Bug's Life... and Toy Story. The thing is they're all so bloody good it's very difficult to put them in order. I recommend them all!

23 October 2007

Best and worst place to live in the UK

The Channel 4 programme Location, Location, Location did it's annual Best and Worst list last week and the results are below. I've never lived in any of them (though close to a few) and have only ever been to about five of them. I probably couldn't afford to live in any of the best places anyway! So if you're looking to move house or visit Britain, it might be worth consulting these lists first!

Best places to live:

  1. Edinburgh
  2. Winchester
  3. Epsom & Ewell
  4. Waverley
  5. Mole Valley
  6. Surrey Heath
  7. South Cambridgeshire
  8. Chelmsford
  9. Horsham
  10. Cambridge
  11. East Dunbartonshire
  12. Guildford
  13. St Albans
  14. Rushcliffe
  15. Bath & North East Somerset
  16. Mid Sussex
  17. Suffolk Coastal
  18. South Northamptonshire
  19. Reigate and Banstead
  20. Wokingham

Worst places to live:
  1. Middlesborough
  2. Kingston Upon Hull
  3. Newham
  4. Nottingham
  5. Merthyr Tydfil
  6. North East Lincolnshire – Grimsby
  7. Islington
  8. Blaenau Gwent
  9. Mansfield
  10. Knowsley
  11. Blackpool
  12. Hackney
  13. Stoke on Trent
  14. Brking & Dagenham
  15. Doncaster
  16. Cannock Chase
  17. Manchester
  18. Haringey
  19. Burnley
  20. Hartlepool

22 October 2007

The Wit Parade

Recently re branded TV channel, Dave (formerly UKTV), released the results of a survey last week to find out who the British public thought was the "UK's greatest wit". The winner wasn't exactly a big surprise, though numbers 4, 9 and 10 are a bit of a surprise. The highest placed female was Margaret Thatcher, who came in at number 12. I would have voted for Stephen Fry (because Clive James is Australian).

  1. Oscar Wilde

  2. Spike Milligan

  3. Stephen Fry

  4. Jeremy Clarkson

  5. Sir Winston Churchill

  6. Paul Merton

  7. Noel Coward

  8. Shakespeare

  9. Brian Clough

  10. Liam Gallagher

21 October 2007

The Roads to Hell

Well, it's been a busy few days since my birthday. Now, if England had won in the Rugby World Cup final I would be doing a post on that. I'm not really a rugby fan so I guess I would have learnt something in the research. Bad luck guys, narrowly losing out to South Africa. They weren't even expected to get to the final and no team had retained the title so it was a long shot, but still, they did well.

I didn't get to see the game because Sally had managed to get tickets to see The Police again, this time their final date of their European leg, at Wembley Arena. It looked like it could be cancelled because Sting has had a bad throat but luckily it went ahead. It was brilliant, though not as good as the Twickenham date. The venue didn't have as much atmosphere (strange, cos it's smaller and inside) and I think Sting didn't go for some of the previous vocal gymnastics (though his voice was still amazing, you could see he was holding back on some of it - and he did repeat a verse in Synchronicity II). The venue was big enough for all the screens and lighting set up either. and still amazed. He's astounding, the way he under-inned everything in Roxanne was superb. All in all a great night but I think the fact I was SO excited for the Twickenham gig, we were a bit spoilt before.

Wembley was only an hour and a half's drive away too so we must go more often. The GPS system we got for each other for our anniversary (to stop arguments giving directions when we go anywhere!) was a big help. Which leads me on to today's list.

Sat-nav company Garmin has released a poll to find out Britain's best and worst roads (story here on Yahoo) and these are the results:

Britain 10 worst roads:

  1. M25
  2. M6
  3. Spaghetti Junction in Birmingham
  4. North Circular in London
  5. Oxford Circus in London
  6. M1
  7. Hanger Lane Gyratory in west London
  8. South Circular in London
  9. M62
  10. M5

Britain's 10 best roads:

  1. A591 between Keswick and Lake Windermere in the Lake District
  2. A82 Glasgow to Fort William in Scotland
  3. A38 from Exeter to Plymouth
  4. M48 across the Severn Bridge
  5. A696 from Newcastle upon Tyne to the Scottish Borders
  6. A3 overlooking the Devils Punchbowl in Surrey
  7. A1 or A167 when you see the Angel of the North
  8. A537 out of Macclesfield
  9. A25 from Dorking to Guildford in Surrey
  10. Oxford Street in London

Now, it's not normally the actual roads I love but the views from them or the final destination For example, my favourite bit of travelling is along the back lanes approaching Glastonbury Festival, they're so familiar and preclude a fantastic weekend ahead. But I'll give you my worst and best too:

My worst:

  • The M5 between the Birmingham turn off and Bristol, a long, dull stretch of road, without it it would be so much nicer visiting my parents!

My best:

  • (see above) and the A35 between Bridport and Chideock in Dorset. A beautiful road over the rolling hills along the Jurassic coast. I never have to travel this way now though.

Thanks to my mate Keef for bringing this to my attention.

18 October 2007

37 and counting

Despite being at work today and my cold lingering on (I feel fine, the gunkiness just won't shift!) I feel pretty good today. Yep, it's my birthday. Even the postal strike backlog delaying a few presents isn't even bringing me down. Sally is coming into my work later with some buns she's baked, so things can only be good.

So here's a list of things that happened on my birthday (don't worry, not 37 of them!)

  • 1356 - Basel earthquake, the most significant historic seismological event north of the Alps destroyed the town of Basel, Switzerland
  • 1851 - Herman Melville's Moby Dick is first published as The Whale by Richard Bentley of London.
  • 1867 - United States takes possession of Alaska after purchasing it from Russia for $7.2 million. Celebrated annually in the state as Alaska Day.
  • 1929 - Women are considered "Persons" under law in Canada.
  • 1944 - Adolf Hitler orders the establishment of a German national militia.
  • 1968 - A police raid on John Lennon and Yoko Ono's flat finds 168 grams of marijuana. They later plead guilty and are fined £150.
  • 1968 - Bob Beamon sets a world record of 8.90m in the long jump at the Mexico City games. This becomes the longest unbroken track and field
  • 1968 - The U.S. Olympic Committee suspends two black athletes for giving a "black power" salute during a victory ceremony at the Mexico City games.
  • 1991 - Azerbaijan declares independence from USSR
  • Famous birthdays include: 1405 - Pope Pius II (d. 1464) , 1926 - Chuck Berry, 1926 - Klaus Kinski, German actor (d. 1991), 1927 - George C. Scott, American actor (d. 1999) , 1939 - Lee Harvey Oswald, purported American assassin of John F. Kennedy (d. 1963), 1974 - Robbie Savage, Welsh footballer, 1982 - Ne-Yo, American "singer".

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17 October 2007

FBIs Most Wanted List

I'm not going to do a list about the England football team tonight :(
This one is about the FBI's Ten Most Wanted Fugitives list. Originally created for a newspaper article in 1949, J. Edgar Hoover, then head of the FBI was impressed with the response and the Bureau has produced a list ever since. There is no numerical order to the list so criminals don't compete to being public enemy number one.

The current list is:

  • Jorge Alberto Lopez-Orozco - unlawful flight to avoid prosecution - murder
  • Usama Bin Laden - murder of US nationals outside the United States - conspiracy to murder US nationals outside of the United States- attack of a federal facility resulting in death
  • Diego Leon Montoya Sanchez - cocaine delivery/distribution/import - money laundering - obstruction of justice
  • James J. Bulger - organised crime - murder (18 counts) - drugs - extortion - money laundering
  • Emigdio Preciado Jr - unlawful flight to avoid prosecution - attempted murder of a police officer - assault with deadly weapon - parole violation
  • Robert William Fisher - unlawful flight to avoid prosecution - murder (3 counts) - arson
  • Victor Manuel Gerena - bank robbery - unlawful flight to avoid prosecution - armed robbery - theft
  • Glen Stewart Godwin - unlawful flight to avoid confinement - murder - escape
  • Jon Savarino Schillaci - unlawful flight to avoid prosecution - sexual assault - possession of child pornography
  • Alexis Flores - unlawful flight to avoid prosecution - kidnapping - murder

Not a nice bunch really.

16 October 2007

The Man Booker Prize 2007

As a follow on from the last literary post, the Man Booker Prize was announced tonight (many of previous winners have been adapted into screenplays). So here is the shortlist and the winner of £50,000 and this year's top literature prize:

WINNER: The Gathering by Anne Enright


  • Darkmans by Nichola Barker
  • The Reluctant Fundamentalist by Mohsin Hamid
  • Mister Pip by Lloyd Jones
  • On Chesil Beach by Ian McEwan
  • Animal's People by Indra Smith

Books I'd Like to See Made Into FIlms

So I'm back from holiday and as great and relaxing and as much as I needed the break, I feel as rough a a badger's arse. I've got a cold (man flu) and Ive got a sore throat and I ache all over. At least my nose has finally stopped running, where does all that snot come from?!!

So I have to get back into blog and list mode. What could my first list back be? I thought about a number of things but it was a present from Sally that made the decision for me, a book we had recently discussed about. On holiday we were talking about books and I said I loved as a kid that I always would make great film and was surprised it hasn't already been made: The Weirdstone of Brisingamen by Alan Garner. As the Booker Prize is announced tonight and it's Alan Garner's birthday tomorrow (a day before mine, hint hint!) here is my list of books I've read that I'd like to see on the big screen (or as television series too):

  1. The Weirdstone of Brisingamen by Alan Garner - with all the elements of Harry Potter, The Lord of the Rings and the Narnia series (on an admittedly smaller scale) I think this children's fantasy would make a great, visually stunning and exciting film. Set in Alderley Edge in Cheshire it would make a change from being in a far off fantasy world too.

  2. The Straw Men trilogy by Micheal Marshall - serial murders, conspiracy, paranoia, guns, explosions. It's dripping in everything an intelligent Hollywood series needs: staring someone like Robert Downey Jnr or John Cusack as Ward/Paul and Mickey Rourke as John Zandt. Directed by David Fincher or Bryan Singer please.

  3. Dead Air by Iain Banks - would make a great TV series, a la Life on Mars. Would need a Scottish version of Jimmy Nesbit as anti-hero radio DJ lead, Ken Nott.

  4. Excession by Iain M. Banks (and the rest of The Culture series)- huge ideas in science fiction these are probably unfilmable but Excession is such a great book, though To Look Windward is probably more filmable. A cross between Solaris and Star Trek would be the way to tackle them!

  5. Little Green Man by Simon Armitage - This story of childhood nostalgia, betrayal and the changing nature of friendships would make a great TV series. Skins for people brought up in the 70's.

  6. Body Politic by Paul Johnston (and the rest of the Quintilan Dalyrmple books) - detective stories set in an Orwellian future would make another great TV series. His Alex Mavros, Greek detective books would be quite good too.

  7. A Faint Cold Fear by Karin Slaughter (and the Sara Linton/Jeffrey Tolliver murder mysteries) - a medical examiner and her on off police cheif boyfriend/husband, along with unhinged police officer Lena Adams, lend them self to a series of dark, disturbing, twisting films. Won't be surprised if these come along soon.

  8. Maus by Art Spiegelman - amazing holocaust graphic novel would make a very moving animation if it was kept in Spiegelman's scratchy cat and mouse style.

  9. Pompeii by Robert Harris - historical drama with an exposive storyline, would make great cinema.

  10. Atlantis by David Gibbins - written like an underwater Indian Jones movie anyway, I'm sure it's already being pitched.

and two already being made:

  • Watchmen by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons - in production, let's hope they don't screw it up.
  • I Am Legend by Richard Matheson - soon to be released. Lets hope the new Will Smith version will be better then the Charlton Heston Omega Man, and it's the film I'm looking forward to the most at the moment.

I've just thought of another, Labyrinth by Kate Mosse

05 October 2007

Randomness for whilst I'm away

So, a month of blogging and I'm off on a well deserved holiday. Not from blogging but from work. Me, Sally, fellow blogger Vimes and his lovely wife Dory are off to (hopefully sunny) Spain, so I'll be away from my comp and unable to blog for a week.
So to make up for it here's a weeks worth of random links to some lists out there on the interweb:

04 October 2007

The space age: 50 and counting

Whilst researching for this blog I learn a lot (and hopefully you'll learn things from the posts too). The trouble is, most of the facts will only ever been handy in pub quizzes or if I have a radical change of career path.

Today's subject was a toss up between the subject I picked and bubble wrap: which is also 50 years old today. But today's subject is based around the 50th anniversary of the Russian launch of Sputnik I, the first man-made satellite which kick started the space race and man's endeavours into space. Without it, you wouldn't be reading this now. It's stunning the advances made within the lifetime of my parents.

  • On 4 October 1957 there was one artificial satellite transmitting a radio wave beep beep, last year the USA alone put 999 objects into orbit.

  • The Russian name "Спутник" means literally "traveling companion", "co-traveler" or "satellite".

  • Sputnik I was a 58.5cm polished steel sphere weighing 83.6 kg and orbited the earth in 98 minutes. The hundreds of man made objects circling the earth now weigh in total the equivalent of nearly 600 double-decker buses.

  • On January 31, 1958 the United States successfully joined the space race with the launch of Explorer 1. The scientific equipment on board discovered the magnetic radiation belts around the Earth.

  • The earliest known fictional depiction of a man-made orbiting satellite was in the short story The Brick Moon by Edward Everette in 1869. Jules Verne reprised the idea in The Begum's Million's (1879)

  • Arthur C. Clarke put forward the idea of using satellites for worldwide communications 12 years before Sputnik 1 was launched, in an article named Wireless World.

  • In October 1958 National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) was formed in America after Congress passing of the "Space Act" (the National Aeronautics and Space Act) the previous July. It was a direct result of the Sputnik launch.

  • The UK didn't launch a satellite into space until 1971's Prospero X-3.

  • It was only 12 years after the launch of Sputnik I that man walked on the moon.

  • Just 1 month after Sputnik I, Sputnik II took Laika the dog, the first living thing, into space.

  • Sputnik I remained in orbit until 4 January 1958 before burning up on re-entry into the Earth's atmosphere.

Maybe I'll tackle bubble wrap at a later date.

That's a month of blogging done. I'm enjoying it and my tracker seems to suggest that people are visiting (if not commenting) so I think I'll carry on. There might be a gap though as Im on holiday next week.

03 October 2007

Radiohead bypass the record companies

Radiohead announced the release of their new album, In Rainbows this week. And surprisingly it will only be available as a download (or you can order a special box set, pictured above), which you must register for and decide how much you want to pay for it yourself! Register here, available to download 10 October 2007

It's the latest in a long list of artists that have benefited from new media, whether by passing the traditional delays that going through record companies can create, or using it as a promotional tool to get your new band noticed.

Obviously Radiohead have benefited from years of promotion and industry backing during their time with Parlophone but here is a list of artists who have used the internet to their advantage:

  • Radiohead's new album available via the internet only.
  • The Arctic Monkeys built up such a fan base via releasing tracks via their MySpace page. They got such a following, with the demo tracks passing between peer-to-peer sites, that their first single, I Bet You Look Good on the Dance Floor went straight to number one in the charts when it was released and their album Whatever People Say I Am, That's What I'm Not is the fastest selling debut album in British chat history.
  • Prince annoyed music retailers by offering his latest album, Planet Earth, free to anyone who bought tickets to his 21 night residency at the Millennium Dome... I mean the O2 Arena and also gave it away free with the Mail on Sunday. Some retailers even stocked the newspapers so as not to lose out.
  • Indie rockers Ash have decided their latest album will be their last so they can concentrate on releasing single download tracks. They believe it will be more spontaneous, more creative and prevent the time wasted getting the music to their fans by the traditional route.
  • Folk singer Sandi Thom's rise to fame was accelerated by live web casts from her MySpace page. It wasn't the DIY approach it was made to look though as she had major backing from her record company to get the streaming capabilities right but it still used new media in a way that had been ignored by the majors previously.
  • Despite reasonable sales for their debut album Lottery Winners on Acid, The Crimea's record company dropped them so they financed and promoted their next release themselves. The free download album was downloaded over 60,000 and their gigs had and marked upturn in attendance.
  • Virtual on-line community Second Life has hosted a few major concerts, including U2 and Duran Duran but it was Suzanne Vega who first saw the potential of having virtual, invite- only concerts when her avatar played "live" on her virtual island (see video below).

  • Manchester indie band The Charlatans have announced their next album will be release on download only, after releasing a free single Cross My Path. Declining sales are the excuse and live performances and merchandising are seen by their record label, Creation, to be the main revenue areas in the future. Which is great from the booming live music scene.

Suzanne Vega "live" in Second Life

02 October 2007

Classic Film Openings #2: Magnolia

Paul Thomas Anderson's Magnolia (1999) is a masterpiece and the opening scene is a mini-masterpiece of it's own.

Magnolia is a mosaic of disparate American lives woven together by chance. The opening scene and voice over narration tell of extraordinary events, notably stories considered to be urban legends, but explains that they are so common and ordinary that we don't notice them happening every day. The opening has no connection to the story other than it's concept and is all the better for it.

The style sets us up for a film that will engross us and not let us know what to expect. The opening is shot like a documentary on the subject of "Chance" and gets the brain in gear for the intelligent movie that follows.

01 October 2007

Compact Discs at 25

Yet another anniversary today. The first ever Compact Disc player was sold 25 years ago today. It was sold in Japan along with the first CD, Billy Joel's 52nd Street (the Japanese have strange tastes!). So here's a few facts about the ubiquitous shiny little disc.

  • Although Phillips and Sony, who developed the technology together, weren't certain it would be a success, it took only until 1988 for compact disc sales to over take those of vinyl and cassettes.
  • The data storage capabilities of cds help establish their popularity as the personal computer became more of a household object and tape storage became inefficient.
  • Initially the CD would only hold an hour of music. Sony fought for 80 minutes, claiming that it would need to be that long to hold Beethoven's 9th Symphony on one disc. Although it's claimed that Sony pushed for the change in technology so it could catch up with Phillips on production of it's players.
  • The first Sony Discman appeared in 1984 but it didn't take off until non-skip technology appeared in the 1990's.
  • Although music download sales are having the same effect of cd sales as CDs had on vinyl, record companies still sell 32% more than they did 10 years ago.
  • The first million selling album was Brothers in Arms by Dire Straits
  • In 25 years more than 200 billion CDs have been sold.
  • Global sales of CD albums peaked in the year 2000 with 2.455 billion sold. By 2006 sales had dropped to 1.755 billion.

I got to the whole compact disc revolution a bit late. The first CD I got was Bjork's debut solo album, err... Debut.