Thanks biff for the nightmares

ExorcistSo I set up my avatar on the Steam Community wotsit (see Mr. Happy Face to right) and mentioned it in #terrafusion and the biffster said that it was from one his fave films, the Exorcist. Well, me too :)

As it turns out, biff has a peculiar avatar too (Mr. Boar Face on the left). Now I recognised it, but I couldn’t for the life of me work out what the hell it was from, and to be honest, shame on me for not knowing!

BiffIt twas from The Shining, again another of my fave films (and the Stephen King book it’s based on is excellent too, completely different ending). And this is where I can blame biff, because he pointed me to an image of it on the 100 Scariest Movie Scenes on retroCRUSH

Most of them have YouTube clips of the scariest scenes, which is just the thing you want before bed time. So last night I scared myself witless. My top three to watch, in the dark, with the sound up nice and loud, just before you go to bed are:

  1. Mulholland Dr.
  2. Jacob’s Ladder
  3. The Exorcist III
  4. (Bonus) Carrie

Hmmm, they don’t seem quite so scary now… sweet dreams though!

The images link to their bits in the top 100 :D

The Equalizer!

Whilst reading up on Lucky Number Slevin on IMDB I noticed that the director of said film, Paul McGuigan, is going to direct the film version of The Equalizer.

Yep, The Equalizer, the 80’s TV series starting Edward Woodward as a troubleshooter for hire, which incidentally has one of the greatest TV intro’s of all time:

This used to scare the shit out of me as a young un’ when I stayed up late to watch it. The music (written by Stewart Copeland, the curly haired drummer from The Police no less) set the tone perfectly and it still sounds damn cool now! It also has a feel of the original Terminator film to me.

Anyway, on my YouTube travels I also found this outtakes footage of the The Equalizer which has some great one liners in. Ah, the memories :).

Btw, gotta love the new “Insert YouTube Video…” option in BlogJet 2.0. Makes it so damn easy!

Lucky Number Slevin

After spending most of yesterday at work writing a report to calculate the average tonnage of waffles consumed over a selectable period, I thought, for a change we rent out a film. However, this is not an exercise I look forward since wifey and I can never decide on what to get from the local Blockbuster. I usually pick something that’s violent whilst my better half picks a romcom or some true life heart rendering crap, but to my surprise, we managed to agree on Lucky Number Slevin, and what a cracking choice it was.

The premise is pretty simple:

A case of mistaken identity lands Slevin (Josh Hartnett) into the middle of a war being plotted by two of the city’s most rival crime bosses: The Rabbi (Ben Kingsley) and The Boss (Morgan Freeman). Slevin is under constant surveillance by relentless Detective Brikowski (Stanley Tucci) as well as the infamous assassin Goodkat (Bruce Willis) and finds himself having to hatch his own ingenious plot to get them before they get him.

The first 20 minutes are complete wtf territory whilst your brain tries to glue together the pieces, but once over that hump it flows pretty well. There’s plenty of twists and turns and due to my waffle overloaded state I didn’t “get it” until about 10 minutes from the end. On the IMDB comments there is a comparison with Snatch, which I can see. There’s the whole gangsters with attitude thing going on and sometimes quick exchanges of dialogue but it hasn’t got that Brit grit edge that Snatch has but it’s more the highly stylised sets that work here instead (I mean, what is with the choice of wallpaper?!).

As you can see from the plot overview, there’s a top cast, but there is one omission, Lucy Liu, who puts in an excellent turn as a fairly dizzy free spirit who tries to help Slevin with his predicament. Harnett, Willis and Sir Ben all put in good performances whilst Morgan Freeman is perhaps a little unconvincing as a hardman, but his charm makes up for it.

I can’t really say much more without giving the story away, other than, it’s highly recommended.

Film Review – Casino Royale

Bloody brilliant sums it up quite nicely me thinks. We saw it last Friday and thoroughly enjoyed it. Certainly one of the best Bond films I’ve seen. I read that one of their aims was to make it more realistic without all the silly gadgets (such as the invisible Aston) and they’ve definitely done that. It seemed more gritty and real.

The parkour in the opening sequence was excellent. I had a sneaking suspicion that Sebastien Foucan was involved and I was proved right since he is listed in the credits. Actually on a related tangent, we saw him in person when we went out for a meal in Manchester a couple of years ago. I think it was not long after Channel 4 aired a documentary on parkour.

Anyhoo, going back to Bond’s beginnings as a double O worked well. I would have liked to have seen how he was recruited, but never mind. It was also a nice touch to see how Bond won the famous DB5, and whilst the plot was pretty simple it held together well. 

*Spoilers ahead* A banker, Le Chiffre, that deals with terrorist money organises a $150 million poker tournament in order to pay back money he’s lost. The continuity during the poker match seemed a bit off and jumped about a bit, but not enough to confuse matters. It was a nice twist to have Felix Leiter (CIA agent) make an appearance to help bail James out when he gets knocked out of the tournament.

Le Chiffre, played by Mads Mikkelsen, turns out to be a really evil baddie which, as I said previously, is a must for a good Bond film. You can see he has a nasty streak from the beginning, but the torture scene really brings out the worst in him.

Daniel Craig actually seems to be acting and brings more depth and character than we’ve previously seen in Bond. He seems haunted by something in his past that we’re yet to find out about.

Overall, good stuff, highly recommended, probably more so if you’re not a Bond fan. Watching from here, you can start afresh. Hopefully they’ll build the series up again with the new style they’ve used. I’m really looking forward to Bond 22.

Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest

When to watch this with wifey Friday night. Excellent stuff, completely brainless fun with lots of action. I’d definitely rate it as better than the first one. It’s more of the same but it’s seems to go pretty quickly. There are quite a few funny moments, which I wasn’t expecting and the special effects are amazing, especially so for Davy Jones and his crew and ship.

The character Bill Nighy puts in to him, in some respects, makes him quite endearing. The Scottish accent is a nice touch too. I didn’t realise until after that Davy Jones was completely computer generated and they imposed the effects on top of where Bill Nighy was. Apparently there was no blue screen in sight either. The sequences with the Kraken were impressive too, it’s got a bit of temper!

The only annoying thing is that this is really the first part of a five hour film, and it ends on a cliff hanger, that I sussed out at about half way through. Other than that minor grumble, it’s all good.

The Ninja review of it is well worth watching as well. Fave quote:

The entire cast, with the exception of Keira Knightley, was women. I thought that was a bold choice. All the pirates… <snip> If you don’t know Keira Knightley, she’s kind of a slightly more manish version of Orlando Bloom.

Hmmm… manish? I don’t think so. Makes me think though, I’d love to see Ninja’s of the Caribbean!

Film Review – Serenity

I forgot to mention a few weeks back we rented out Serenity. I’d watched the first 10 minutes of it on some promotional website ages ago and thought that it was worth a look. Funny how first impressions can be wrong.

Its based on a TV Series called Firefly created by Joss Whedon (Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel). So it was has quirky sense of humour like Joss’s previous work but I felt like I was missing something because I’d not watched the TV Series. It was interesting in its own way, but I thought it had a pretty obvious plot and unlike the vomit inducing fanboy review on IMDB, it certainly did not take me on a ride that there’s no turning back from.

The majority of the crew grated with their cheesiness and the only character I gelled with was The Operative played by Chiwetel Ejiofor. Mainly because he was pretty damn evil and had a neat way of killing his opponents.

River acting dumb most of the time was annoying because you just knew at some point she’d turn back into ninja and kick the crap out of everyone. The early scenes of the escape from the research facility and in the bar showed what she was capable of. The film was basically a cat and mouse chase with an oh so obvious ending (they all live happily ever after).

I was sorely disappointed and felt that it was over hyped and under delivered.

V for Vendetta

Vendetta_maskWent to see V for Vendetta on last Friday. I throughly enjoyed it. Its meant to have a political bent to it, but I think it was late enough for my brain to have fallen asleep and not picked up on it. The story is pretty simple (synopsis from MyVue.com):

Set against the backdrop of a totalitarian Britain of the near future, ‘V For Vendetta’ tells the story of a masked freedom fighter called ‘V’ – a literate, radical and violent revolutionary who aims to galvanise the people into overthrowing their government. Inspired by the actions of Guy Fawkes, he carries out a series of terrorist attacks on the state, with the ultimate intention of succeeding where Fawkes failed and blowing up Parliament.

*Spoilers Ahead* V is played by Hugo Weaving, which pretty much everyone knows as either Agent Smith from the Matrix Trilogy or Elrond from Lord of the Onion Rings. V is particularly interesting and intriguing character. He’s not your usual brooding hero (or anti-hero depending on how you look at it). I would have liked to have seen more of him but unfortunately there can’t really be another film.

At the start of the film, V saves the life of Evey (played by Natalie Portman, Léon, Episodes 1 to 3 of Star Yawn Wars) who watches V destroy the Old Bailey. In time she comes round to V’s vision. The story unfolds fairly slowly (its just over 2 hours long) and does drag a little in the middle, but in the main, its good stuff. V’s motives and past are explained, although you never see him unmasked or find out his true identity. Eventually he succeeds and blows up Parliament (I’m not giving anything away here, its in all the trailers!).

Vbattle

I tend to pick up on the most stupid of things in films and what made be chuckle to myself this time was the use of a Rover 75 / MG ZS as Finch’s police car of choice. Given the film is set in the future and Rover / MG went bankrupt last year I hardly see them driving a shiny new one then…

Anyway, it ties in to the Dark Knight Returns graphic novel I read recently, since V for Vendetta was originally a series of comics (later combined into a graphic novel) created by the eccentrically English Alan Moore. There is an excellent interview from the BBC where he talks about his writing and his thoughts on the films of his work (he doesn’t hold back!).

The film isn’t strictly based on the book but apparently it isn’t too far off. Hopefully I’ll be getting the graphic novel for my birthday soon so I’m looking forward to reading it. There is a ton of stuff on the subject so instead of waffling, I’ll just list ’em. I highly recommend V for Vendetta. Makes a nice chance from the usual brain dead nonsense at the cinema.

Book Review – Rich Dad, Poor Dad

Since I’m a nice chap I’m going to save you the trouble of reading Rich Dad, Poor Dad. Its key points are:

  1. Make money work for you, instead of working for money (easier said than done)
  2. Invest your money in assets (stocks, shares, property)
  3. Once you’ve put money into an asset, never take it out
  4. Take calculated risks
  5. Your home is never an asset

Thats it. Thats all you need to know! The rest is common sense. What got me really thinking though was the last point. Common consensus is that you that your home is an asset, but if you think about it logically, and as the book points out, it isn’t and never will be.

Essentially the mortgage for your home is a liability and even when you pay it off, you still have expenses on your home to pay. Such as council tax, general maintenance etc. At no point does it make you any money which is what an asset should do.

If you rented out part of your home to bring in income it could be partly counted as an asset, but thats not something I’d like to do! Also if you decide to buy a new house, more than likely it’ll be bigger, so will cost more. All you’re doing is making your mortgage liability larger. Pretty obvious stuff when you think about it!

So the basic idea is you invest money in assets that make a return that covers its costs, your expenses and liabilities and hopefully make you some extra income. 

The whole rich dad, poor dad concept was interesting. His rich dad was actually a friend’s dad who taught him the techniques to become rich. His poor dad was his real dad who was a highly educated man who worked hard all his life but always seemed to have no money. The story of the two are intertwined throughout the book which helps to make an otherwise slow read interesting.

The more I read it, the more I wanted to know and it was at this point the book fell over in a heap. I wanted more detail and information but it was sadly lacking. A lot of the content is heavily, and I really mean heavily repeated! I know repetition is a good way of enforcing an idea but I think I got it after the first five times.

But what annoyed me most was that after finishing the main book there was a short 3 page advert about CASHFLOW the board game (a related product by the same chap). In the description were mentions of different types of stocks and purchase methods, something not mentioned anyway in the book. Further explanation of that would have been great!

The book seems to be done in such a way to lead you onto other books in the series (and there are more). In parts its not particularly well written and some of later sections read as if they’ve been tacked on in newer editions. Amusingly the author, Robert Kiyosaki, points out he is a terrible writer but a good salesman (page 156 if you’re wondering). I’ll not disagree!

Overall though it has some interesting points and it really got me thinking, which is always a good thing. Plus I’m motivated to find out more but I’m in two minds as to whether to get the next book, Rich Dad, Poor Dad 2: Cash Flow Quadrant. I think I’ll make a note of other books noted in the text and look them up instead.

Currently Reading…

Since I’m lazy ass and don’t have time for a proper waffle session, heres what I’m currently trying to read:

I mentioned the first one earlier in the week, I’ve not got much further with it!

Armageddon is a weighty tome detailing the last 2 years of World War II. I’ve read quite a few books on the subject and I find it really engrossing. I’m looking forward to getting into this book.

Out of the four, I think I’m least likely to finish Velocity. The premise is interesting enough (bloke gets anonymous notes saying if you go to the police I’ll kill X, if you don’t go to the police I’ll kill Y) but its not particularly well written and its slow paced to boot. I’m about 70 pages in and I couldn’t really give a stuff about the main characters. I’ll carry on though, see if it picks up.

Mind Gym is one of those self help guides to help make better use of your time. Worth a punt I thought!

Book Review – Batman: Dark Knight Returns

I finished Batman: Dark Knight Returns earlier in the week and I’m currently reading it again. *Spoilers Ahead* As I mentioned previously Gotham is once again in rapid decline with a group called the mutants causing havoc. Various events conspire to force Bruce Wayne to bring Batman out of retirement.

He manages to overcome the mutants but his return is not well received. The majority see him as vigilante intent on destroying the city further. Matters are made worse that by defeating the mutants some of them become the Sons of Batman who try to emulate Batman’s cause but use excessive violence.

Along the way Two Face and The Joker resurface, both with equally evil intentions. Robin makes a return too, but not as you’d expect. Commissioner Gordon retires (hes now 70) and is replaced by Ellen Yindel who detests Batman and is out to arrest him. Superman also makes an appearance, bizarrely as a covert agent for the American government. Events conspire to give a stand off between Batman and Superman, the conclusion of which is very interesting!

One of the many things I liked were the references to Batman’s age. At 55 hes not quite as athletic as he once was and finds it hard going. There are also lots of popular references. David Letterman is in there as David Endochrine and I was amused by the appearance of the President. He isn’t named but its so obvious its Ronald Reagan (which makes total sense given its written in the mid 80s). I also love the heavy use of TV news interviews to help progress the story.

I did find some of the artwork a little scrappy, in particular the last part of book 3 but its probably intentional due to what it depicts. Overall though its very well executed. I much prefer this dark interpretation of Batman. Much like I prefer Tim Burton’s Batman films and the recent Batman Begins.

Reading up on the book opened up a minefield of information… such as this large WikiPedia entry. It was originally done as 4 books, but this edition links them together. Its joy to read and its certainly wetted my appetite for more. Apparently there is a sequel, The Dark Knight Strikes Again. but it isn’t well regarded. However, I am interested to see how the story continues so no doubt will get it. I can see a rather large wish list of graphic novels appearing on Amazon!