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Sheryl Crow was always on the fringes of my music listening horizon. I knew a little about her, had heard a few tracks, but never really went beyond that. A friend of mine bought me the 'Very Best of Sheryl Crow' as a birthday present, and initially it was thrown on a pile of 'I-may-get-to-them-one-day' CD's (bottom of which is still Curiosity Killed The Cat!). One day as I was sorting some stuff out (that's 'man sorting', i.e listening to, reading, or watching things we should be throwing out/ tidying up) I saw the CD and took a flyer.
Glad I did.
I'll review the 'Best Of' properly in a minute, but lets just say I have a nice collection of Sheryl Crow CD's now, all inexpensive and perfect music for all occasions (happy, sad, indifferent....maybe not indifferent)
The Very Best Collection was released in 2003 consisting of 17 tracks, 14 of which are tracks from her back catalogue, the other 3 being brand new (although later released as singles from this album). Probably 75% of the album is a perfect snapshot of what you get with Sheryl Crow - a radio-friendly pop/country/rock hybrid sound, pretty formulaic but in a nice way. If it ain't broke...
Sheryl Crow's strongest album has, for me, always been her first 'Tuesday Night Music Club', which probably explains why 5 of the tracks on here are from that single album ('All I Wanna Do', 'Leaving Las Vegas','Strong Enough', 'Run Baby Run', and 'I Shall Believe'). Her self-titled follow up 'Sheryl Crow' has 4 tracks on here ('Everyday is a Winding Road', 'If it Makes You Happy', 'A Change Would Do You Good', 'Home'). Not a bad song among these 9 tracks, Crow's voice proving as strong on the ballads as on the rockier, country tinged stuff.
Perhaps a little unfair to say the rest of the material is not quite as consistently good as this early stuff, but lets just say it is uneven. 'C'mon C'mon' (with the Corrs!), and 'There Goes The Neighbourhood' feel a bit like quota filler, and I'm on the fence with the Kid Rock duet 'Picture'
What I take away the most from this selection are the lyrics, I like the tone Crow pitches at, though I have since discovered she has pinched bits here and there from poems from favourite authors. Lets call them 'homages' and assume most is her own work!
I'd recommend this one, or either of her two first albums.
FULL TRACK LISTING:
1. All I Wanna Do
2. Soak Up The Sun
3. My Favorite Mistake
4. The First Cut Is The Deepest
5. Everyday Is A Winding Road
6. Leaving Las Vegas
7. Strong Enough
8. Light In Your Eyes
9. If It Makes You Happy
10. Run, Baby, Run
12. C'mon C'mon (Corrs Version
13. A Change Would Do You Good
15. There Goes The Neighborhood
16. I Shall Believe
17. Let's Get Free
I''ve read a few James Herbert books down the years, and found he can be a little hit and miss. Some books I''ve really enjoyed, many not so. In the midst of a clear out of late, I came across this which had been hiding for some 15 odd years behind a shelf, so I thought I would give it a try. Although written in the early 90''s it has quite a relevant theme, dealing with global warming, the environment and so, subjects which I am quite interested in. Of course, being James Herbert, there is more to it than just that, and we get drawn into the world of The Dream Man, Mama Pitie, psychic twin children, our hero the climatologist (I kid you not), and a handful of other stock characters. You may have already gathered from my tone that I didn''t particularly enjoy the book. I found it terribly padded out, with whole sections you could have disposed of quite easily and not affected the main story; this was a novella masquerading as a full blown novel. and a bad one at that. A lot of the character dialogue just didn''t ring true to me either, characters speaking as the author not as themselves, and some of the dialogue from black characters especially (Mama Pitie and her henchmen, and a character on a Caribbean island notably) was almost borderline offensive. I cringed reading it. So where does it all go wrong? the premise starts nicely enough, with disasters erupting around the world as the Earth itself seemingly starts to rebel against what mankind has done to it. The hero, an intrepid climatologist survives one of said disasters, and while trying to get to the root of what is happening is contacted by a radical scientist with a theory that the Earth is a living creature and is healing itself. We then get a subplot thrown in concerning a special generation of children that are growing up who can save the Earth, and two of them just happen to live with the radical scientists family, and a kind of reason vs faith struggle. The main human villain of the piece is a New Orleans priestess called Mama Pitie, who has psychically connected to the twins in England and decided she want to kill them; this actually makes no sense at all in the story, and indeed you could cut Mama Pitie''s entire role in the book and it wouldnt affect the ending at all. The main reason it wouldn''t affect the ending is because there isn''t really one; The disasters are still occurring, so I suppose we are to assume we have to wait for that promising generation of psychic children to grow up and save us! Considering how the disasters have been increasing in strength throughout the book there might not be a lot left... I may be being a little unfair, but this book has contractual obligation written all over it; Very mechanical, poorly structured, something Herbert probably threw in a draw at some stage and resurrected when he need a quick plot. There are little rays of literary light in there, but very few.. k
I have a history with this film going back to its original cinema release back in 1991; although I never saw it at the cinema, and in fact I never saw it for a good few years afterwards, the ad had been peeping out at me from every american comic book I bought for about 3 months (back in those days that was a LOT of books). Gives you an idea of the demographic they were going for....
The Last Boy Scout, although released in 1991, is most definitely tonally an 80's film, filled with excess, all gloss and no substance, and with shudderingly awful dialogue. But I get ahead of myself...
For its day, the film had all the right pieces to be an absolute blockbuster. Tony Scott onboard as Director, Joel Silver producing, uber-writer Shane Black paid $1.75 million for the script, top film composer Michael Kamen scoring and (at the time) huge box office star Bruce Willis headlining. It wasn't the blockbuster all had hoped (and following the huge flop Hudson Hawk, Willis was starting to lose his megastar status) although with video rentals and sales it ended up almost doubling its money, which can't be too bad.
THE MAIN CAST:
PLOT: All a bit silly really. Willis plays a (horrifically cliched chain smoking, heavy drinking yet able to punch out clearly fitter, bigger men) grizzled private investigator, who we learn used to be a secret service agent who had saved the Presidents life, but was dismissed after attacking a Senator who had been abusing a woman. His life is (yawn) a mess - daughter hates him, wife is cheating on him with his best friend, sleeps in his car etc. He takes on a simple job, keeping a protective eye on a club stripper (played pretty well by a young Halle Berry, who looks fantastic) who is then murdered by professional hitmen. He teams up with her boyfriend Damon Wayans, a former American Football star, to try and find out why she was killed, and we slip comfortably into the 'mismatched buddy' film, plenty of sarcasm, deadpan humour, and dislike growing into grudging friendship.
The actual final pay off, involving sports fixing and illegal gambling, is all a bit silly and doesn't make much sense, but suffice it to say by films end Willis and Wayans are friends, Willis's daughter has a new found respect for good ole' chain smoking, heavy drinking dad, and his wife falls back into his arms.
Time has not been kind to this one. Terrible acting and dialogue (although I get the impression that sometimes Shane Black is well aware of the awful dialogue he is writing), plenty of neon, cliche bad guys, a lot of gun porn, and plenty of shouty action set pieces. Don't get me wrong, I like brainless action films as much as the next guy, but this set the bar too low. Willis sleepwalked through this film, his acting repertoire consisting of a 'mellow' face and an 'angry' face, the Mr Potato Head of action films ('don't forget to pack your angry eyes'). Tony Scott has always liked an explosion or three, but needed to be reined in a bit more here, and clearly a scriptwriter being paid nearly $2 million can write whatever the heck he wants! In a strange way, it is quite entertaining, and a great snapshot of cinema 20 years ago, but lacks any charm or wit, and is not half as witty as it likes to think it is. I also found the use of Willis's characters (young) daughter, as a frequent hostage/ prop with some sexual threatening involved, extremely distasteful; apart from anything else, it is a lazy plot device.
Not one to seek out, unless you think Bruce Willis was great in Hudson Hawk.....
Upgraded picture quality is excellent, for a 20 years + film, Tony Scott's trademark vibrant colours definitely shine through; not an audio expert but no complaints with the DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track, sounded good to me.
Can't really justify a purchase here. If you like the original film and have it on dvd, the blu-ray definitely upgrades your viewing pleasure, but you get nothing more for your money. Anyone who has yet to see the film, I'd avoid; all the creative people involved went on to far better stuff, and I'd spend your hard earned money elsewhere.
Green Lantern: First Flight came out in 2009, and was the latest animated film from DC Comics animation studios; it followed on the heels of various other animated films, featuring mostly Superman and Batman, which had been of pretty decent quality. Green Lantern got his shot mainly because the live action blockbuster (they hoped!) Green Lantern, starring Ryan Reynolds, was soon to hit cinema screens worldwide and this was supposed to be a nice introduction, especially for kids, for people unfamiliar with the character. For me no introduction was necessary, as my 300+ Green Lantern comics will testify...!
As the title indicates, this is Green Lantern's 'first flight', so is telling us the origin and first adventure of the character, again to give newcomers a little knowledge of the character. As the Hal Jordan Green Lantern was originally created in the 1950's, his origin has a very sci-fi flavour and is not always the easiest to update to the modern day, without seeming corny and cheesy. Many writers have struggled in the comic books, so I was interested to see what angle this movie would take.
In essence, test pilot Hal Jordan becomes a Green Lantern by accident. Green Lanterns are sort of space policemen, each assigned to a sector of space and responsible for protecting it; no Earthman had ever been a Green Lantern before, but the Lantern of Earths sector, Abin Sur, was dying and the ring has to find a successor when the 'host' dies or is incapacitated. The Green Lantern ring is their 'weapon', a power ring that is as powerful as the mind using it. Hal Jordan was essentially the best the ring could do on short notice, the 'worthiest' human nearby. Luckily for us, Hal Jordan is a bit of a wide boy, not averse to playful mess arounds and cracking jokes at all opportunities. Ah, the classic 'fish out of water' storyline always has legs doesn't it...
Hal kind of accepts the new role (hey, a snazzy Green uniform, a ring that does whatever you can think of, and you can fly...who could refuse?!), Abin Sur dies, and Hal discovers the bad side of the deal. A policeman always has a boss, and he finds out as he is whisked across the universe, that he has 12 small blue ones...the Guardians of the Universe. Hal arrives at a bad time, as the greatest Green Lantern of all, Sinestro, has decided he wants all the power for himself, and is willing to get rid of the Guardians at any cost. I suspect his parents knew what they were doing when they named him...
Hal obviously gets thrown in to the action in a baptism of fire, fights and explosions ensue, and when the dust clears...well, for me the moral of the story was that Hal Jordan being a human was seen by the other Lanterns as a weakness, whereas it was his humanity, his strength of will and guts, that carried the day. Lets just say a new greatest ever Green Lantern has arrived....
Overall, I enjoyed DC's latest offering, though it was very conservative in its approach. No radical tinkering here, pretty much Hal Jordan's origin as seen in the comics (though more the recent updated Geoff Johns one rather than the more simplistic 1950's version). Writer Alan Burnett does a great job of bringing the right feel to the film, and director Lauren Montgomery gets all the right visuals to mesh with the script. Make no mistake, this is not the Saturday morning cartoon; with a PG-13 rating, the violence is more explicit, and bloody at times (though still tame in the grand scheme of things).
The voice acting (as it is called these days) was particularly good. Christopher Meloni enjoys himself as Hal Jordan, and Victor Garber channels his best upper-class English aristocrat voice to do a fine turn as Sinestro. A good supporting cast includes Michael Madsen and Tricia Helfer.
The animation is of a really good quality, far superior to Marvel's animated movies. For a film that has a lot of frantic action, lots of exotic locales, many different aliens etc it maintains a high visual standard. The colours are nice and vivid, especially important for a film where the colour green (and to a lesser extent, yellow) dominates a lot.
Although as a Green Lantern fan I generally enjoyed this film, I did feel it missed an opportunity. What was in there was fine, but it was what was not that was the disappointment. I know you don't expect a huge amount of character development in animated films, but this was almost too simplistic. Hal = lovable rogue/ good guy. Sinestro = fallen angel/ bad guy. The subtlety of their relationship found in the comics is missing; Sinestro is more complex than just a villain, but you wouldn't know that from this. The film also had a rushed feel to it; they wanted to cram in so much spectacle, so much crash-bang-wallop, that you start to feel a little overwhelmed. The characters have no room to breathe in the narrative. Hal Jordan's introduction to the world of the Corps is glossed over too quickly, to allow time for more fighting.
That being said, what there is is well done. It entertains, it opens up interesting worlds and characters, and brings to screen a decent (if simplistic) portrayal of a much loved Silver Age character.
I would rather films like this are made, than nothing at all. so a thumbs up....but hope a little more story and character development have a place in any future efforts.
How do you follow Pulp Fiction?
That was the problem facing Quentin Tarantino in the mid-1990's after he had just created one of the truly great films in cinema (one of my absolute personal favourites, in case you couldn't tell!). Looking for inspiration, he bought the rights to three of writer Elmore Leonard's books - 'Rum Punch', 'Freaky Deaky' and 'Killshot', and decided to adapt 'Rum Punch' for the screen, which ultimately became Jackie Brown.
Never one to slavishly adapt a book, Tarantino did what he does best, and turned it in part into a homage to his love of 70's 'blaxploitation' movies. Although retaining a lot of Leonard's story, Tarantino made the main character black (she was white in the book), and made her 'Jackie Brown' instead of 'Jackie Burke', which fit his blaxploitation motif better. He also injected some of his trademark black humour and pop culture dialogue.
Tarantino only had one person in mind for the main character, and that was Pam Grier; Grier had been a big name in 70's blaxploitation cinema, starring in 'Coffy' and 'Foxy Brown', and the film has many echoes of those characters in its style. Tarantino rounded out the main cast with some great names, as he usually does. The film was shot throughout 1996, on a relatively modest budget of $12 million, and released in 1997.
Pam Grier - Jackie Brown
Samuel L. Jackson - Ordell Robbie
Robert Forster - Max Cherry
Bridget Fonda - Melanie Ralston
Michael Keaton - Ray Nicolet
Robert De Niro - Louis Gara
Chris Tucker - Beaumont Livingston
Jackie Brown is an air stewardess/ flight attendant for a small Mexican airline, struggling financially she also smuggles money from Mexico to the U.S, for a very dangerous arms dealer, Ordell (Samuel Jackson). When one of Ordell's other couriers ,Beaumont, is captured by the authorities he provides some information before he is bailed and murdered by Ordell; his evidence leads to Jackie being caught and arrested, and put in prison (she had been carrying cocaine, unknown to her). Ordell is worried she will also confess to the authorities, and looks to have her bailed and murdered.
Jackie makes friends with Ordell's bondsman Max, and when Ordell visits her apartment to kill her she is ready for him; she offers to pretend to help the authorities by supplying fake information, while allowing Orvell to make one last huge smuggling run of over half a million dollars. This is when it gets complicated.....
From this point on, you can't trust anyone. Although Jackie tells the authorities she is helping them and double crossing Ordell, she tells Ordell she is double crossing the authorities to help him, and tells Max she is double crossing both sides to take the money herself. The money run is arranged, with all the main sides in attendance. As you may imagine, things don't end that well for a lot of the characters.....
Funnily enough, when I first saw this film I didn't immediately fall in love with it; I thought it was....ok. It is only on repeated viewings that you appreciate the film in full. It is full of great performances (Robert Forster as Max is especially good), sparkling dialogue, fully fleshed out characters and a great 'who do you trust?' twisting plot. You get drawn into the seedy world of petty drugs and crime, and begin to wonder can you trust any of these people...At 2 1/2 hours it doesn't outstay its welcome either, as some of the character development early on is especially relevant later. Throw in a fabulous soundtrack, with songs from those 70's blaxploitation movies, and you have a winning combination. Watch it once, you'll like it. Watch it twice, you'll love it.
Firstly, the picture quality and audio are very good. Not perfect by any means, but this is a film from 1997 and is definitely an improvement on the dvd release. Rich colours, nice detailing etc. Not ecstatic, but happy enough. As always, it is the extras that are the attraction. What do we get....some pretty good stuff, actually.
'How it Went Down' is a 40 minute documentary on the genesis of the film, covering the book, adapting it to the screen, the casting, production etc. Really interesting background.
'A Look Back: Interview with Quentin' is probably the highlight of the extras for me, nearly an hour interview with Tarantino. As well as plenty of background on the movie itself, we get a lot of chat about movies in general, his influences, the actors he likes etc. A really good watch.
There is also a whole bunch of smaller extras, some fun, some not so much.
'Chicks with Guns Video' - a tongue in cheek nod to the fictional film in 'Jackie Brown'. Good.
'Deleted/Alternate Scenes' - always interesting to view, Tarantino introduces. Good
'Siskel & Ebert Review' - of historical interest, if nothing else. (They liked it!)
'Jackie Brown on MTV' - popcorn promo stuff. Bad.
'Marketing Gallery' - the typical stuff, trailers, tv adverts, posters. Not bad.
'Still Galleries' - Moderately interesting stills, although there are some fun old Grier posters. OK.
'Enhanced Trivia Track' - OK
'Soundtrack Chapters' - Like a particular track? you can go straight to any point in the movie a song plays.
Robert Forster and Pam Grier Trailers - over 30 trailers from the back catalogue. Fun stuff.
For me, this is a vastly underrated film. Not as pop culture relevant as Reservoir Dogs, or as technically perfect as Pulp Fiction, this is still the work of a director at the top of his game, and a cast who clearly enjoy working for him. Tarantino has made a slower, more methodical and traditional film than he normally does. The slower pace allows the characters to breathe a little, for the audience to develop a bond with them, before the mayhem of the last third of the film. It probably remains Tarantino's most mature film, and one in which he coaxed out the performances of their lives in Pam Grier and Robert Forster.
Give it a go.
Let me first qualify this review by saying that I am a sucker for anything superhero related; I buy comics, films, t-shirts, posters, blu-rays etc. I buy a lot of good stuff, and some not so good stuff....that Directors Cut of Supergirl sitting on my shelf is testament to that. I have a soft spot for comic related stuff, and I tolerate a lot more averageness and rubbish than I would from other genres....
...which brings us to this game.
Thor, God of Thunder came out for the PS3 in 2011, to tie-in with the movie 'Thor' ; the words 'game' and 'movie tie-in' in the same sentence normally sets the old spider-sense tingling. Made by Sega, who announced they had signed Chris Hemsworth (the movie Thor) and Tom Hiddleston (the movie Loki) to recreate their roles in character voice-overs. Looking pretty good so far, you'd think, and with a game price of $60 (£40) you'd expect decent quality.
Lets start with the story. So, we have a movie tie-in, yet it ties in with nothing to do with the film it seems. The Thor character is certainly the 'movie' Thor in appearance, yet the scenarios and characters seem to have been drawn more from the comic books. Is this supposedly a prequel? who knows!
In essence, you play (in the third person) as Thor who, to save Asgard from invasion, must battle his way through several Norse realms; the realms look quite nice, but don't get excited as you won't be going far. The story unfolds in such a tight, linear way Thor may as well be trundling along on a track bashing to the left and right. Familiar faces from the comics show up, such as Ymir, Surtur, and Ulik and various other monsters, all of whom will be firing their agents I would imagine. With Norse mythology being so rich, it is amazing that the story is so awful. So the plot is Save Asgard- set piece/ boss, set piece/ boss, set piece boss....you get the picture. Makes the word formulaic seem dirty.
It gets worse.
The graphics are absolutely appalling for a Playstation 3 game; I would have been disappointed on a PS2. In parts it was barely better than PS1 level...imagine playing a PS1 game on a HD tv. The characters actually have jagged edges, the backgrounds have awful texturing, and the animation of anything that moves is just...so..bad. It is embarrassingly bad to look at. Throw in some nice image stuttering, getting stuck in invisible objects, and assorted visual and audio bugs, (is the game is so embarrassed with itself it likes to stop you playing), and you have quite the game.
Surely the gameplay can save it, right? you get to throw around Thor's hammer, Mjolnir, for petes sake! Actually here there is a slight crumb of comfort, as for 5 minutes you do actually enjoy throwing around Thor's hammer. The gameplay is completely conventional, as you'd expect. You begin with very limited abilities and moves, and earn 'valour' points by defeating enemies and destroying things, which you then use to upgrade your abilities, powers and weapons; you do control the elemental powers of lightning, thunder, and wind after all. You quickly discover that earning these upgrades is not worth the time and effort, or sore thumbs from button bashing, as bashing the same two buttons over and over will pretty much see you through the game. The boss battles are all pretty much the same thing, just with different looking bosses, and the levels getting to the bosses are average at best. There is no replay value in this game at all.
I can honestly say I do not recall ever playing a worse game than this. It is all the more puzzling as it was written by Matt Fraction, who has written Thor's monthly comic book. I expect these games to be average, but with a bit of fun to them. The Green Lantern game was average, but fun; the Captain America game was actually pretty good, even the Iron Man games had some fun. This game is just too awful to comprehend in comparison. It is the only superhero game I have EVER got rid of. It is that bad.
Do not touch.....
I'm as sceptical of tablets and potions as the next person, probably even so being an increasingly curmudgeonly over 40 year old man, and for quite a few years didn't really worry about my health. Recurring stomach discomfort? it'll fix itself, just lay off the curries for a bit. Bit bloaty and gassy? lay off the alcohol. To most men, health= hassle and we just hope things will go away and sort themselves out.
Being that I didn't tend to discuss these problems too much with friends (hard to fit in 'stomach troubles' between football and playstation talk!) it was actually good old mum that put me on to this product, 'Optibac Probiotics for Daily Wellbeing' ; bit of a mouthful, but they do a whole range of products and I suppose the easiest way to distinguish them is by giving them the title explaining exactly what they do. My mum uses two other products of theirs, and swears by them, so I decided to give them a whirl. Why the change of heart? Two reasons. One is that I'm no spring chicken any more, and illnesses and discomforts I shrugged off easily before I no longer can. Secondly, and more importantly, I am now the dad to two young children, and want to ensure I am around as long as possible.
So what is 'Optibac Probiotics for Daily Wellbeing'? This is where I have to cheat a little and use a bit of the company's science, as my understanding of HOW it works is a lot less than my understanding that it DOES work! The capsules (which are safe for vegetarians, by the way) contain a 'unique and balanced formulation of 6 different probiotic strains..combined with prebiotics to provide daily support for your digestive health and immune system'. PREbiotics are apparently the nutrition that the PRObiotics need to work, apparently....pay attention at the back, there may be a test later.
In laymans terms, they provide a balance of good germs, which is probably what is lacking in your digestive system, which then help to restore your digestive system to its normal healthy state. Hopefully even super-tune it! Additionally, to ensure no chance of irritation from the capsules themselves, they contain no preservatives, colours, sugars or fats
Thats the science, but the proof is in the pudding, so did they work? Yes, they did. Certainly not in a miracle drug sense, they took several days of me taking them before I saw any effect, but when I ate food that I know irritates my stomach the irritation (although still there) was significantly reduced. I have been taking them for a few months now, not always daily but several times a month and I would definitely give them a thumbs up. Apart from anything else, I have felt a lot healthier in general, and apparently probiotics are supposed to strengthen general immunity as well, so pretty much a win win situation.
The capsules I purchased came in quantities of 60, in a standard vitamins type plastic bottle, in a branded OptiBac box; I assume though that larger bottles are available. The online purchase price is around the£10 mark, and can be found on a lot of health and well being sites, as well as Amazon and ProBiotics own site. Suitable for all adults, and can be taken by children 3 years and above. The recommended dose is 2 capsules a day with food, but I tend to take just one a day, unless I am experiencing discomfort when I up the dose to 2 ( a 2 tablet dose provides 5 billion live probiotic microorganisms!)
I really do recommend this product, especially if you do suffer from stomach discomfort, which a large part of the country do apparently, as it does exactly what it promises. Couldn't be more pleased with the product or my mum's original recommendation.
I always knew listening to mum would pay off!
I think you can count me amongst the worlds biggest Superman fans. I've been a fan of Superman for 37 years and counting (I read my first Superman comic in 1976), and he remains my all time favourite character in any form of fiction. To say I was looking forward to this film is a huge understatement; I booked my tickets for the day it came out on the first day tickets were released. Everything looked promising. Director Zack Snyder is a comic book fan, and proved with Watchmen he could 'do' cinematic superheroes; Producer Christopher Nolan's Batman trilogy is regarded as the cinematic highpoint of the genre. Writer David Goyer, apart from writing several major films, is also a comic book writer and has written Superman for DC Comics. Seems like something of a dream team.
Henry Cavill - Superman/ Clark Kent
Amy Adams - Lois Lane
Michael Shannon - General Zod
Diane Lane - Ma Kent
Kevin Costner - Pa Kent
Laurence Fishburne - Perry White
Antje Traue - Faora
Russell Crowe - Jor-El
The plot, which I'll keep as spoiler free as I can as the film is still new to cinemas, is essentially a 'Superman Begins' take; we revisit his origin and early years, but in a very different take from the Christopher Reeve versions. Krypton is still dying, and Jor-El still sends Kal-El to Earth to save him, but we see a bit more of Krypton than we have before, especially the conflict between scientist Jor-El and military leader General Zod (Michael Shannon is a fantastic scenery-chewing Zod, and Crowe an excellent Jor-El, by the way).
The film makes a clever move by not following Clark growing up, but going straight to the present day, and intercutting flashbacks to episodes in young Clark's life. It works pretty well, as it keeps the main story moving along, while giving us context to how Clark's powers developed. The film diverges a little from previous origins with Clarks meeting his father (a simulation) and learning about his heritage on a crashed Kryptonian spacecraft. We also meet Lois Lane, played by Amy Adams, at this point.
From then on, things hot up. Zod and his renegade Kryptonians show up, Clark becomes Kal-El becomes 'the alien' becomes Superman, and fight follows fight follows fight. The action is pretty breathtaking, it must be said. The film firmly moves into summer blockbuster territory as Zod looks to terraform Earth into Krypton with the hugely destructive world-engines. Superman's conflict with the Kryptonians, especially Zod, is brutal.The film ends with a pretty controversial scene which I won't discuss here, but I am on the 'not for me' side; watch it and you'll see what I mean.
It is probably about a 7.5 out of 10. The moviegoer in me liked it more than the Superman fan. It is visually impressive, the super-powered fight scenes are incredible, and most of the leads do a good job. Henry Cavill doesn't have a great deal to do, but he makes a darn impressive Superman, and Michael Shannon and Russell Crowe are good value. Amy Adams I am not so sure of; she is nowhere near as good as Margot Kidder in the original Superman, and seems too 'nice', and the Lois-Superman dynamic is too contrived and fake for me. Some of the liberties taken with Superman I was not too fond of; the film took the decision to tell a big sci-fi blockbuster of a story,and so concentrate on the Kryptonian stuff, whereas long -time fans will tell you it is Clark Kent's upbringing in the American mid-west that makes him who he is. His character makes him a hero, NOT his powers alone. Goyer and Snyder miss this point. Snyder certainly delivered on the visuals, as the film looks and sounds great; I have seen it in 3D and on a Impact screen, and it definitely has the 'wow' factor. It is just a shame this came at the cost of some decent characterisation, and poor dialogue; the Daily Planet staff are almost anonymous for example, and Kevin Costner is under-used.
For me, the magic of the character has been sacrificed for action and effects. The action and special effects are incredible, but the personality that Christopher Reeve brought to the role, the fun, is missing. Yes, it is more realistic; we are living in darker times than when the original Superman movie came out, and the tone matches that, but a little light-heartedness wouldn't have hurt. Superman is a fun character; Batman does the grim and gritty, after all. That being said, if you are not invested in the character like me, you will probably enjoy a good summer move; plenty of action, heroes, villains, a straightforward good vs evil battle. I just wanted a little more of the background, a little more of Clark growing up. What we do see of Kevin Costner as Pa Kent is excellent, and he has some of the best lines in the film, but we never quite see enough.
The 12 year old me would have loved this. The 43 year old me sees what is missing. On balance though, it does more right than wrong, so on that basis I would recommend it.
The first Iron Man was that rare thing these days, a genuine surprise of a good movie. As a long time comics fan with my finger on the pulse of fandom, expectations were not that high. The trailers had looked ok, but Robert Downey Jr? meh. Well, boy was I (and millions of others) wrong. It was excellent. That of course brings into play the first rule of Hollywood - 'thou must rush out a sequel, of whatever quality time allows, as fast as possible'....and Iron Man 2 was born.
Iron Man 2 came out in 2010, after filming through 3 months in 2009, written by Justin Theroux and directed by Jon Favreau, returning from the first film. All the main cast returned as well, though Don Cheadle had replaced Terrence Howard as James Rhodes (Terrence learned the hard way never overestimate your worth as a supporting character and ask for more money after one film; amazingly, he earned more than Robert Downey Jr in the first film). Sam Rockwell and Mickey Rourke signed on as the villains, and originally Emily Blunt was cast as Black Widow, but was replaced by Scarlet Johansson after scheduling conflicts.
Robert Downey, Jr. - Tony Stark/Iron Man
Gwyneth Paltrow - Pepper Potts
Don Cheadle - James Rhodes/ War Machine
Scarlett Johansson - Black Widow
Sam Rockwell - Justin Hammer
Mickey Rourke - Ivan Vanko/Whiplash
Samuel L. Jackson - Nick Fury
Paul Bettany - JARVIS
Jon Favreau - Happy Hogan
Directly following on from the end of the first film, when Tony Stark revealed his identity to the world, we see Tony Stark as a huge worldwide celebrity. He has, as he says, 'privatized world peace'. Behind the public glamour though he is keeping a secret; the arc reactor that is keeping him alive is failing, and he is dying. He needs to find an alternate energy source fast. To make matters worse, the U.S Government is trying to get its hands on Starks tech, a business rival is looking to bring him down, and a Russian tech expert, who blames Stark's father for the death of his father, is also gunning for him. Throw in his personal relationships with friend Rhodey and Pepper Potts breaking down, and Stark is a man on the edge....and an undercover Black Widow spying on him won't help./
When Iron Man and Ivan Vanko face off, Tony barely survives the encounter, and Justin Hammer (the business rival) quickly brings Vanko on his team. Vanko then double-crosses Hammer, using his resources to build an army of iron man-type drones, officially for the U.S Government but in reality to attack Stark.
Stark, meanwhile, has hit rock bottom, drinking heavily even when using the suit, which culminates in Rhodey taking the suit to the military who will ultimately weaponize it as the War Machine armour.
Nick Fury (head of S.H.I.E.L.D) appears on the scene, telling Tony to pull himself together and revealing his father Howard Stark was a founder of S.H.I.E.L.D, and after going through some of his father's old work Tony discovers a new element, which can replace the element he uses that is killing him. He does so, and goes after Vanko.
The films end is what you would expect, a big extravaganza of explosions and cgi as Iron Man and War Machine take on the drones first, then Vanko, defeating him. Hammer is also arrested.
The film ends with the first mention of 'The Avengers Initiative', and the discovery of Thor's hammer.
MY TWO-CENTS WORTH:
Fun. It's a fun film. Leave your brain at the door and you'll have a whale of a time, just don't scratch too deep below the surface. The central theme that runs through the film is that of 'consequence', and that is something that elevates the film above many other fantastical ones. Tony has his fame and fortune, but the government want his technology; his father built a great company, but seemingly mistreated people on the way to building it. The technology that saved Tony is now killing him. It is a good 'hook' to build the film upon. The film marries together great action, humour, some political comment, and laying the groundwork for the Marvel Universe with ease, and the performances are uniformly excellent. For comic book fans like me, Robert Downey Jr as Tony Stark could literally have stepped out of the Iron Man comic book he is that good. As well as being excellent mainstream fare, there are enough nods and winks to the long time fan to keep us all happy too.
It is a sequel that doesn't disappoint, in itself an achievement. Does it surpass the first film? no, but it adds enough to the mythos and tells a good enough story to sit happily alongside it.
This edition comes with the blu-ray disc, a dvd disc, and a digital copy so excellent value.
As you would expect of a special effects blockbuster, the blu-ray makes this look visually stunning, one of the best films I have seen. Everything is crystal clear, even in freeze frame. The audio is also excellent, plenty of loud explosions and tech noises to test out. It looks great and sounds great.
Great value is also to be had with the extras.
Jon Favreau delivers a genuinely interesting and informative directors commentary, revealing a lot of what shaped his thoughts on the film structure, what was cut, re-writes etc. Really good stuff.
The 'S.H.I.E.L.D. Data Vault' allows users to look up information on people, events and inventions in the Marvel/Iron Man cinematic world, which is good fun, especially for the comic fan.
'Previsualization and Animatics' is a picture in picture mode that shows storyboards, test footage, and animatics related to some scenes.
The meatiest extra is 'Ultimate Iron Man: The Making of 'Iron Man 2' 'a four-part documentary that covers various areas of the film. A really good documentary. The parts are:
Rebuilding the Suit (29:14)
A Return to Action (17:22)
Expanding the Universe (18:56)
Building a Legacy (20:11)
and there's still more.....
we get 6 featurettes on characters and events, we get several deleted scenes, plus trailers for the film and game, and an AC/DC music video.
This is a film worthy of any collection, but certainly for the action film/ blu-ray enthusiast. A great set of extras and perfect sound and vision. Highly recommended.
Is it me, or is Julia Donaldson becoming as prolific as Prince? every time I turn around, there is a new Julia Donaldson on the shelf...that's not really a complaint mind you. Anything that allows me to have a quiet cup of tea...er, I mean keeps my kids interested and stimulated, is fine by me. Now, as all parents of 2-7 years old know, Julia Donaldson has near-Mr Tumble status, and can do no wrong, so does this book live up to her hype. Lets take a look...
'The Paper Dolls' was published in late 2012, by Macmillan Children's Books, and runs to the standard 32 oversized, well illustrated pages. Partnered this time with artist Rebecca Cobb, rather than her usual artistic partners. for me the book has a slightly 'older' feel than most of Donaldson's other books. Still suitable for all, of course. I picked it up initially from the local library, and it was popular enough to warrant a purchase (prices are between £5-£8 at the time of writing)
The story is a very simple one at first glance, but peek a little deeper and there are a layer or two under the surface that introduce your child to some emotional depth not normally obvious in Donaldson's work. The story revolves around a young girl, who makes some paper dolls with her mother, and engineers a series of adventures with them; they escape the clutches of a roaring dinosaur, go on a bus, dance with pigs, run from a crocodile...all the wonderful adventures a child can create for themselves with their imagination, and a few toys and books. They escape all these dangers with ease, but the easygoing, upbeat nature of the book takes a surprising darker turn when a boy with scissors comes along and snips them into pieces....(at this point, I wanted to read the following pages really fast t see what the heck was going on!)
The artwork throughout is very well-done, it looks lovely but with an almost deceptive, child-like simplicity to it; children will relate to the art, as its not a million miles from how they would draw these pictures. Another nice touch I noticed was that a butterfly hairclip mentioned in the first page can be found semi-hidden on all the pages that the paper dolls appear, which is a nice little extra activity trying to find it throughout the book. As always Donaldson's style of writing is very accessible, and this time is not in rhyme. We do get repetition, as in the paper dolls song, and that is obviously the way children remember things.
On a first read through, I found the book slightly odd; there was the perfectly good first two-thirds of the book, with the lovely story of the girl, her mum, and the silly adventures of her paper dolls, then the sudden snip-snip, they are gone...but of course, they were and they weren't. The real message in the book is to address the subject of loss in a young child's life, be it large or small. When a young child loses a loved cat, a special toy, or a close loved one or friend it is deeply felt, and the book's message is that when something is gone, it has not gone forever. In the story The Paper Dolls do get cut up, but they live on in the little girls mind and memory, where they can continue to have adventures and meet other things that have gone. The book ends by showing the little girl grow up into a mum herself, who makes her daughter some paper dolls...Nothing is truly gone if we remember.
I'd be a liar if I didn't say I had to try hard not to tear up a little.
To people outside of the comic book reading community, there is probably little or no knowledge of Watchmen, the graphic novel by (British) writer Alan Moore and (British) artist Dave Gibbons. It was, after all, published back in 1986. Within the comic book world, it is simply the greatest comic book story ever published. It pushed to the limits what comic books were supposed to be about, how they were constructed, their tone, their style...and exceeded it. I read it probably once a year, to remind myself of just how great a masterpiece it was/is. So why 23 years for the film version?
Well, not for want of trying. As far back as 1986, 20th Century Fox optioned the story, but failed to get Alan Moore interested in writing the screenplay, and were unhappy with other submitted scripts. In 1991 Warner Bros (actually the parent company of DC Comics, who published it) had a crack at it, and huge fan Terry Gilliam signed on as director, but pulled out for two reasons ; not enough funding could be found, and he decided it was unfilmable. Warner's decided to pass. In five years, between 2001 and 2006, Watchmen went from Universal Studios,l to Revolution Studios, to Paramount Pictures, and back to Warner Bros, with millions spent in development costs. People just couldn't get a handle on how to bring the book to screen, despite desperately trying. At Warners, the project was offered to Zack Snyder, who had recently made '300', which had been successfully adapted for the screen from a graphic novel, and finally things started to move forward.
The first thing Snyder did was to use the actual comic book art for his storyboards, with original artist Dave Gibbons as an advisor, slightly adjust the script so the movie would work better than the comic story alone would have, and add a little more action to what is quite a cerebral story. Filming took place in Vancouver, with a budget of $120 million, most of which was for the elaborate sets and special effect/CGI work needed, and wrapped in early 2008. Some internet viral marketing was put in place, and the film was (finally!) ready to be released...
THE MAIN CAST:
Jackie Earle Haley as Walter Kovacs / Rorschach
Patrick Wilson as Daniel Dreiberg / Nite Owl II
Billy Crudup as Jon Osterman / Dr. Manhattan
Malin Åkerman as Laurie Juspeczyk / Silk Spectre II
Matthew Goode as Adrian Veidt / Ozymandias
Jeffrey Dean Morgan as Edward Blake / The Comedian
Carla Gugino as Sally Jupiter / Silk Spectre
As the book is so complicated and multi-layered, the film is a slightly stripped down version of it. A potted history at the beginning shows the alternative history of an America with superheroes, from the formation of the original Minutemen superhero team back in the late 1930's, through to the Watchmen's 'present', the 1980's. Dr Manhattan won the Vietnam War, the Comedian assassinated Kennedy etc; these are 'real world' superheroes. By the 1980's however, anti-vigilante feeling had to led to costumed heroes and villains being outlawed, and most had retired. Dr Manhattan and The Comedian both went to work for the government, and Rorschach went truly rogue.
The film starts in earnest with the brutal killing of The Comedian by an unseen person, and Rorschach thinks someone is coming after the retired Watchmen to eliminate them. He warns his old teammates. When Dr Manhattan is conveniently accused of causing cancer, and Adrian Veidt (Ozymandias) survives an assassination attempt, it looks as though Rorschach was right. Rorschach himself is framed for the murder of an old villain, and locked up. Nite Owl and Silk Spectre try to persuade Dr Manhattan to help (he has grown so powerful he regards humans now as beneath him), and break Rorschach out of prison.
After further investigation, Rorschach and Nite Owl realise that their old teammate Adrian Veidt is behind it all; to avoid what seems to be an impending nuclear war between the U.S and Russia, Veidt is going to trigger and explode 'free' energy reactors in major cities across the world (Dr Manhattan and he had designed and gifted them), bring down the cold war system, and rebuild the world as a better place. He knew he had to neutralise his old colleagues as they would never have gone along with it. They fight Veidt but he defeats them; the twist is, he has already started his plan, as he detonated the reactors 30 minutes earlier before they confront him.
The plan works. The U.S and Russia ally against Dr Manhattan, who they blame, and nuclear confrontation is avoided. Dr Manhattan leaves Earth for good, while Nite Owl and Silk Spectre realise they cannot reveal anything as it will jeopardize the new peace. Not so Rorschach, whose belief in punishing criminals is so absolute he cannot go along, and he is killed. Veidt's plan has succeeded...or has it. Before his confrontation with Veidt, Rorschach had mailed his journal to a newspaper, where it sits in a pile of documents just waiting to be read...
Phew. That, believe it or not, is the short version.
I look at the film in two ways. As a fan of the source material, I love it. I think it is as good an adaptation as could possibly be made. It is visually faithful to the book, the characters are spot on ( Jeffrey Dean Morgan's Comedian is as perfect a casting choice as Robert Downey as Tony Stark in Iron Man) and the only changes made make it work better on screen. As an objective film watcher, I would say it is a tough film to work out; it is a superhero film with little fighting. The 'heroes' are not really all that heroic, and you need to buy into the alternate America with real world heroes. It is more indie than mainstream. A touch long as well, for those not invested in the characters and stories. For me, personally, I love it. I catch every 'in' joke, every passing reference, and it makes me smile. Comic book films grew up, and I was there to see it.
First thing to say is this is the Directors Cut, which runs at 24 minutes longer than the theatrical cut. Great for fans, not really necessary viewing for the casual movie buff. Most of the added footage just extends dialogue or reinforces details already covered, although the integral scene of the original Nite Owl being murdered is a welcome addition. The picture quality is amazingly good, bringing out even more the incredible detail in this world, and the sound is crystal clear.
The release has three discs, and on disc 1 we get the movie itself, plus the extra 'Maximum Movie Mode', in which Director Zack Snyder provides commentary, uses picture in picture to talk us through scenes, shows still galleries and the like. A nice format.
Disc two has the bulk of the extras:
"The Phenomenon: The Comic that Changed Comics" a nice documentary which shows why Watchmen is such a major defining moment in comic book history.
"Real Super Heroes: Real Vigilantes" looks at real world vigilantes, nothing too relevant to the film.
"Mechanics: Technologies of a Fantastic World" discusses the science in the movie, how realistic it is etc
We finish up with the music video 'Desolation Row' by My Chemical Romance
Disc three has a digital copy of the movie.
A really excellent release for the comic book fan.
(500) Days of Summer, if you missed it, was the sleeper hit of 2009. Made for a modest budget of $7.5 million, it made over $60 million profit and won a hatful of indie and mainstream awards. I own the film on blu-ray and heartily recommend you pick it up if you have yet to see it. The plot essentially revolves around the 500 day relationship between Tom ( Joseph Gordon-Levitt) and Summer (Zooey Deschanel), but is told in a non-linear style, so we jump between different periods in time as the film progresses, so happy day 20 can be followed by sad day 310, and so on. It is a clever way to look at the ups and downs of a relationship. A fine, quirky film.
Apart from the story and performances (all excellent), what also stood out for me was the soundtrack. For a (relatively) mainstream film it was a very eclectic mix of artists and styles, and after I saw the film a couple of times I took the plunge and bought it. The (500) Days of Summer Soundtrack was also released in 2009, with the CD cover made up of many (500?) images of Summer herself.
"A Story of Boy Meets Girl" - Mychael Danna and Rob Simonsen
"Us" - Regina Spektor
"There Is a Light That Never Goes Out" - The Smiths
"Bad Kids" - Black Lips
"Please, Please, Please Let Me Get What I Want" - The Smiths
"There Goes the Fear" - Doves
"You Make My Dreams" - Hall & Oates
"Sweet Disposition" - The Temper Trap
"Quelqu'un m'a dit" - Carla Bruni
"Mushaboom" - Feist
"Hero" - Regina Spektor
"Bookends" - Simon & Garfunkel
"Vagabond" - Wolfmother
"She's Got You High" - Mumm-Ra
"Here Comes Your Man" - Meaghan Smith
"Please, Please, Please Let Me Get What I Want" - She & Him
Plus, purchase via Itunes, and you get three bonus tracks:-
"Here Comes Your Man" - Joseph Gordon-Levitt
"Sugar Town" - Zooey Deschanel
"At Last" - Kevin Michael
What I love about this soundtrack is that it is the antithesis of the normal 'cash-in' movie soundtrack; you know, sling a few tracks together, pop the album out, make a quick buck. Not here. The album is actually a near essential accompaniment to the film, as every song charts a high or low in their relationship,or evokes the memory of a specific scene. A relationship mix-tape, if you will...Music is a hugely important element of this film, and such a good soundtrack is the result.
Genre-wise, the soundtrack has something for everyone, with a nice mix of famous artists and not so well known artists, leading to thematically a soundtrack of two halves
The first group of songs and artists are all ones you are probably familiar with. Simon & Garfunkel's 'Bookends' is a great track, 'You Make My Dreams' a perfect slice of 80's pop from Hall & Oates (and perfect for the scene it features in), and two great Smiths tracks, "Please, Please, Please Let Me Get What I Want" and "There Is a Light That Never Goes Out" , summing up the films indie credentials (The Smiths are actually a recurring theme in the film) and perfectly matching its tone. Even the harder rock of Wolfmother, with 'Vagabond', is probably known to quite a few. I draw the line at Carla Bruni....!
The second batch of songs are by lesser known artists, yet just as interesting, perhaps even more so as they are fresh to our ears. The Temper Trap, Black Lips, Doves, Mumm-Ra, and She & Him all chip in nice songs, and again not just background noise in the film but the songs are actually organic parts of the scenes they feature in. This is especially true of 'Sweet Disposition' by The Temper Trap, and 'There Goes the Fear' by Doves. 'Shes Got You High', by Mumm-Ra is suitably upbeat and brings a smile to your face, and Meaghan Smith's cover of the Pixies 'Here Comes Your Man' is nice enough. For me, the break out artist on here was Regina Spektor, who sings two songs ('Us', and 'Hero') that are beautifully sung in a very distinctive, folky way. I bought her albums on the basis of these songs.
This is a soundtrack that needs to be listened to as a whole,as it is not just the tracks content, but their placement that makes it a great soundtrack album. The songs 'flow', up-beat when the relationship is happy, slower and quieter when the relationship is faltering. Listening to them in isolation is fine, but you lose the 'vibe' of the relationship mix tape. I find myself revisiting this album quite often, it is especially a great 'late night and a glass of wine' listen.
The Simpsons have become such a mainstay of popular culture that many forget what a huge chance the Fox Network took on the show in the early 90's. An animated show, mainly aimed at adults in a prime time slot, was unheard of. As we all now know, apart from the show itself which is still going strong, The Simpsons have been licenced for just about everything out there - clothes, food, games, computer games, puzzles, even beer (I actually have some Duff beer, sadly (if you are my wife) or 'that's cool' (if you are my friends). There are some great products out there, and some real, ahem, duff ones. So in which category does this latest purchase fall into...
'The Simpsons Scene It?' is actually the marrying of two large franchises. The Simpsons I have already mentioned, but the 'Scene It?' line of games are huge sellers in their own right. For those not aware, 'Scene It?' is a board game, but with the added wrinkle that it is largely dvd based, in that the questions asked relate to clips shown on the dvd, clips of scenes, music, characters etc. Apart from the first game, which focused on cinema in general, later editions have specialised on everything from Disney to Harry Potter to music. They are a great party game, and I have several others, which I will probably review at a later date.
The Simpsons Deluxe Edition (I only ever saw this listed so not sure about any other version) follows the same format as all the other editions, coming in a large sturdy box with The Simpsons logo and characters on the front. Inside are quite a few bits that go with the game...
Game DVD with Party Play Feature
4 Collectible Metal Tokens
175 Trivia Cards
16 Buzz Cards
1 Six-Sided Die
1 Eight-Sided Die
The game itself is based around a mix of answering straight-forward trivia questions on the cards, and dvd based questions (you answer a range of things, from naming a character, to finishing a well known quote, to answering questions after watching a scene). They vary in the level of difficulty, but I found the DVD aspect to be both the most fun, and the easiest. Some of the card trivia required quite a good level of knowledge, and even though my wife and I are big fans of The Simpsons, we found some quite hard. The theming of the game is excellent, with plenty of bright, colourful Simpsons characters and locales illustrated on the board, pieces, and cards, and some great clips to re-watch.
The Simpsons edition came out in 2009, originally at a price of £36, which is ridiculous. I paid half that, which I felt was fair, and checking now it is down to around the £12 mark, which is a good price. It is recommended for 14 years and above, but I would say it should be based on knowledge of the show. A 12 year old Simpsons fan would get far more right than a 20 year old with passing knowledge. The game needs a minimum of two to play, but has a special 'Party On' mode for larger groups, with a more free flow format. I have played it in both small and large groups, and it is great fun either way.
I would definitely recommend this to fans of The Simpsons, it is a great addition to both Simpsons merchandise and to the 'Scene It?' line of dvd games. It is fun to play, plenty of variation in the questions, and designed for the group dynamic as much as two people. For general fans, the only proviso I would add is that some (not all, but definitely some) questions are very hard. With over 20 years of Simpsons trivia, you can imagine the level of knowledge you would need to do really well!
For the record, I did ok. Bit disappointed on some of the trivia (c'mon, Shelbyville, I KNEW that!!) but practice makes perfect.
Although my daughter's bedroom is practically overflowing with Julia Donaldson books, it seems there is always room for one more...! I periodically scan online to see if any new books have come out, or if there are any I have missed, and I am amazed how many are out there. Which brings us to our newest purchase...
'Jack and the Flumflum Tree' was published in 2011, is available in both paperback and hardback, and has 32 pages. Written by Julia Donaldson, and illustrated by sometime partner David Roberts (he also illustrated 'Tyrannosaurus Drip' and 'The Troll').
The story, told in rhyme, begins with Jake and his granny, and the fact Jake's granny has spots; not just any old spots, but purple 'moozles', and they can only be cured by the fruit of the flumflum tree. Unfortunately that grows far away, on the island of Blowyernose....
Jack, clearly not willing to put his faith in the British medical system, springs into action by building a boat, recruiting an apparently willing crew (red-cheeked Rose, and stubble-cheeked Stu), and armed with a patchwork sack supplied by granny (filled with the most useless items she could apparently find!) they set sail.
As the book progresses, and the adventures ensue, it becomes apparent I did granny a disservice, as balloons are put to great use by scaring sharks, chewing gum patches leaky boards and so on. In fact, it seemed to me that Jack should have left his crew behind, for all the use they were, and just taken the sack! More adventures ensue on the island of Blowyernose, once they reach it, but grannys patchwork sack again saves the day. Jack speeds home with the flum flum...
will he make it in time? will the moozles get granny first? you'll just have to read it!
As you would expect, there is little not to love about the book. Nicely told, in a light breezy way, the rhyming text is perfectly structured. I even found myself getting into a good rhythm as I told it, bit of dad rap. The story itself is nice and light, no hidden morals, it just is what it is. Not forgetting, of course, that the rhyming and repetition in themselves are of great value to children building up their vocabulary skills.
Being honest, when I first looked at the art I wasn't sure about it, a huge departure from Alex Scheffler with whom we most associate Donaldson's books. By books end, however, my fears had gone and David Roberts's quirky, simple art proves to be the perfect tone for the story it tells. The art actually looks deceptively simple, yet tells the story even without the accompanying text.
So a great, fun book to share with your children and one I heartily recommend ...with one small proviso. My daughter now things it is hysterically funny to tell me 'don't get your knickers in a twist' when I ask her to tidy up, or wash her face...
Jack, you have a lot to answer for!
I guess by now most people are familiar with 'The Hangover' movie, especially as the third and final part of the trilogy is just about to hit cinemas.
(quick aside: I hate it when Hollywood does that. A trilogy should be the title of three films that were always intended to be made as such, such as Lord of the Rings, rather than a film that was so successful it spawned a sequel, which in turn had just enough water in the well to draw from one final time....)
But I digress...
The Hangover arrived in 2009, and is probably most relevant now for imaking a big star of current 'sexiest man ever' Bradley Cooper. It was actually based on a (far less eventful) true story when a friend of one of the films scriptwriters went missing in Las Vegas, only to turn up with a hazy memory and a huge strip club bill the next day. Writers Jon Lucas and Scott Moore knew a good plot when they heard it, wrote it up and sold it. Director Todd Phillips threw in a few more elements, upped the vulgarity, and then looked to cast the film.
Bradley Cooper as Phil
Ed Helms as Dr. Stu Price
Zach Galifianakis as Alan
Justin Bartha as Doug
Heather Graham as Jade
Jeffrey Tambor as Sid Garner
Sasha Barrese as Tracy Garner
Rachael Harris as Melissa
Ken Jeong as Leslie Chow
Mike Epps as "Black Doug"
Rob Riggle as Officer Franklin
Cleo King as Officer Garden
Mike Tyson as himself.
A little fun fact for you - Lindsay Lohan, given yet another (undeserved) chance to resurrect her career was offered the role of Jade but turned it down as the film had 'no potential'. Heh.
The film's principal photography took place in just over 2 weeks in Las Vegas, a very fast shooting schedule, with a budget of $35 million
SO WHAT'S IT ACTUALLY ABOUT?
Three friends (Phil, Stu, and Alan) wake up after the previous nights bachelor party with their room in tatters, hardly any memory of what they did and, worst of all, no idea where the groom is. They try to piece together what happened, starting with the tiger in their bathroom and the baby in the closet....!(oh, and dentist Stu is missing a tooth). Things don't get better, as they roam around Las Vegas trying to reconstruct their evening, Stu discovered he married a stripper (the baby was hers), they had apparently upset some gangsters, and stole Mike Tyson's tiger. Did I mention the naked man in the trunk? By films end of course, we have a happy ending of sorts as the groom is found and rushed to his wedding which he makes just in time. The film ends with quite a clever plot device, as we are treated to seeing the photos found in Stu's camera, detailing exactly what went on...
I think so. As a film it is pretty uneven, and the plot is a tad on the thin side (essentially a series of hilarious escapades strung together) but the three main leads are all very good both individually and as the group, and the support cast is excellent, and some of the incidents are truly hysterically funny. Las Vegas also makes a perfect backdrop to the film.It is never less than entertaining throughout, and never outstays its welcome, which is all you casn ask from a film. It has been labelled a 'lads film', which is unfair as I watched it with my wife who found it as funny as I did (although the added lure of Bradley Cooper probably helped). Some humour is a little close to the knuckle, but nothing we haven't seen before. The actors all seem to be enjoying themselves, and the film never takes itself too seriously. A fun watch.
The film turned out to be a huge success, raking in nearly $470 million from its $35 million budget. Critical reception was a little mixed, but generally favourable; hey, Roger Ebert liked it! if its good enough for him...
The blu-ray is essential for any fans of the film. For one thing, it includes two cuts of the film, the 'theatrical' cut, and a 'extended cut', with an extra 8 minutes. Truthfully, the extra minutes add little except to pad out some scenes with a little more dialogue, but it is a nice touch to give us the option. The picture and sound quality is excellent, far more impressive and noticeable than the dvd release, and really stands out on a decent sized HD screen.
Commentary : We get the standard commentary track, but this time it is done P-I-P (Picture in Picture) so we watch the people talking in a little box on screen while still watching the movie. Director Todd Phillips, and stars Bradley Cooper, Ed Helms, and Zack Galifianakis are the hosts. Alas, no great insights though.
Map of Destruction: This I liked. You can click on an interactive map of Las Vegas, from locations all relevant to the film. Some locations have behind the scenes snippets, some have dialogue from the film etc. Fun way to present standard little featurettes.
Featurettes: We get a handful of further featurettes, all of minor interest, plus a longer one looking at the improv style of actor Ken Jeong (sometimes funny, sometimes irritating)
Gag Reel: Who doesn't enjoy these! 8 minutes of funny outtakes.
Missing Camera Pictures: We are treated to all 100 of the missing, incriminating photos
BD-Live content can also be accessed via the web, and you can also download a dgital copy of the movie to store on PC or device.
A very funny film plus a blu-ray which has actually had some effort put into it add up to a very good package, and one that is quite cheap now. Buy it, kids!