Tuesday, 30 December 2008


As you can probably tell from previous posts I am a fan of superhero movies (although not all are created equal) and I also like Will Smith movies so Hancock had to be worth seeing.

This is a different take on the superhero genre and very much a movie of two halves. The first half is more of a comedy and the second drops the comedy for a darker feel. Each half works on its own, although the first is more successful in my opinion, but they sit slightly uneasily together.

Will Smith turns in a decent performance, the special effects are pretty good and there are some nice set pieces but overall the movie lacks that certain something that makes a real classic.

Friday, 26 December 2008

Lobster Johnson: The Iron Prometheus

I have been a fan of Hellboy for a while now and one of my favourite supporting characters has been Lobster Johnson. Now the Lobster has been given a whole storyline to himself and having been lucky enough to get it for Christmas I sat down to read it yesterday. The story is clearly set in the Hellboy universe and Mike Mignola's style is clear throughout but he manages to give the story it's own distinct pulp flavour.

As always with these graphic novels I struggle to pace myself and tend to race through them (which is always a good indication of engaging content) and I finished this one this morning. I thoroughly enjoyed it and it rates very highly for me within the Hellboy and BPRD graphic novels I have. Recommended.

Wednesday, 24 December 2008

Merry Christmas!

A merry Christmas to one and all!

With an excited 7 year old I'm not expecting much of a lie in tomorrow but the look on her face when she opens her presents makes it all worth while!

By the way my avatar and the Hogswatch card on the left are from the hand of the brilliant Paul Kidby who has managed to realise almost exactly the pictures I had in my head from reading Terry Pratchett's Discworld novels. Paul's work is available from PJSM Prints.

Tuesday, 23 December 2008

Bah Humbug from the Royal Mail

I popped down to the sorting office this morning to pick up a package that they had tried to deliver yesterday. I am reminded of the old Alas Smith & Jones sketch with them staking out the house until the owner pops out and then rushing over and popping the "While you were out" note through the letterbox - as we were only out for 30 minutes the whole day! I digress. Whilst they were searching for my package a lady came in to collect a Christmas card (an ordinary one, normal size and weight (as far as I could tell) in a nice red envelope) because she had to pay excess postage on it. It only had a first class stamp, which apparently isn't enough to send anything these days. It was only 6p light but there is a £1 handling charge these days. I could see another 5 boxes of Christmas cards alone from where I was standing (red envelopes again), presumably waiting for excess postage to be paid as they would all have fitted through any normal letterbox. Have the Royal Mail lost their minds? Is the Christmas spirit dead and buried there? I thought Christmas was not only one of their busiest times but also when most people get a warm feeling about the postal service. But now, with their absurdly complicated pricing system, almost everyone is confused about how much to pay and simply sticking a 1st class stamp on isn't enough. I can see quite a few people switching to e-cards next year. A bit like turkeys turning the oven on if you ask me...

Sunday, 21 December 2008

Movies for 2009

I managed to miss a couple of the movies I wanted to see this year at the cinema (although I'm hoping Santa might be kind and drop a couple of them on DVD under the tree!). But I hope to get a better hit rate in 2009. Here are some of the movies I'm interested in seeing:


When I originally heard about Alan Moore's Watchmen I really did wonder what people were going on about. Then I got a copy and read it - only then did I understand. It is a wonderful deconstruction of the super hero genre superbly told and nicely illustrated by Dave Gibbons.

I always have high expectations of comic book movies and was frequently disappointed but recently the movie people have really stepped up their game (of course there have been notable exceptions!). Hellboy, Sin City and 300 were all excellent with the latter two being an almost frame for frame conversion. So I have high hopes for this one!

Terminator: Salvation

The original Terminator movie made a real impact on me. I love SF and particularly time travel and both the story and imagery of that movie really hit the spot for me. The sequels haven't quite managed to recapture that initial impact but have been a decent extension of the concept and certainly better than some. I even have a soft spot for the TV show.

Christian Bale impressed me in Batman Begins (but less so in the Dark Knight which was really Heath Ledger's movie) so I'm wondering what his take on John Connor will be.

Star Trek

As a huge fan of the original series this movie could be very, very disappointing. I have some faith in J.J. Abrams through the Alias TV series which I very much enjoyed and the casting of Zachary Quinto as Spock seems pretty promising but have they really "got" Star Trek.

For me the key to Star Trek is the interplay between Kirk, Spock and McCoy combined with an interesting storyline. Spend too much time on the special effects and not enough on the characters and you get Star Trek the Motion Picture. Add too many characters and you get Next Generation (you also need to avoid having any characters that are too annoying!).

Will this one be a success? I'm hoping so but we'll have to wait and see.

Public Enemies

Johnny Depp as John Dilinger, Christian Bale as Melvin Purvis and Michael Mann at the helm - this promises to be an interesting movie.

Saturday, 20 December 2008

iPlayer for Mac

The BBC have, as promised some time ago, released an iPlayer for the Mac. The new application runs on the Adobe Air platform and so is also available for Linux. It allows downloads from the BBC site which overcomes some of the limitations of streaming.

It is currently in beta test and I haven't had a lot of time to play with it but it installed without a hitch, the downloads are pretty quick and the quality is at least as good as the higher quality streaming. There is a pretty limited selection of programmes available for download for this player as yet but I'm sure this will expand.

It has taken a little time but full marks to the Beeb for supporting a wider range of platforms.

Sunday, 7 December 2008

Iron Man

I suddenly realised when I was writing the entry for The Incredible Hulk that I hadn't actually mentioned seeing Iron Man on DVD.

I wasn't sure what to expect from Iron Man, I had been a fan of the comic book character (not because I didn't like it but simply because I hadn't read any!) and comic book adaptations can range widely.

I needn't have worried as Iron Man turned out to be a decent addition to the genre. Robert Downey Jr. gives a solid central performance as Tony Stark and makes the character sufficiently complex. The special effects are excellent and the story moves along at a decent pace. I thought that the film would have benefited from a few more action sequences and that the climactic conflict could have been handled differently; however, it was certainly a fun time and I will be watching it again.

The Incredible Hulk

Following on from the latest Mummy film we watched the most recent incarnation of The Incredible Hulk. In contrast to the Mummy I hadn't been overly impressed with the previous versions as, whilst the seventies TV series had made a decent fist of it, the technology hadn't been there and the 2003 Ang Lee film Hulk was just missing something. So my expectations weren't high.

I'm glad to say that this version was, in my view anyway, a real step up. There were some lovely nods to the TV series (assuming you pay attention!) and the now apparently mandatory Stan Lee cameo along with a decent central performance by Edward Norton. Tim Roth is, as I have come to expect, over the top as the main villain but this is a comic book adaptation! I also liked the various links with Iron Man.

OK so it's not the greatest film ever made but it is an entertaining watch if you like comic book heroes.

The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor

I thought the first of the Brendan Frazer Mummy films (1999) was a lot of fun to watch. It was obviously a B movie with a blockbuster budget but it didn't take itself too seriously and had some wonderfully memorable moments. It wasn't Indiana Jones but worth watching nonetheless.

The second outing, the Mummy Returns (2001), didn't quite manage to capture the feel of the first film. Possibly because it was really the same again but with a bigger budget.

I managed to get to see the latest instalment, The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor, on DVD yesterday. It looked promising as they were moving away from Egypt to China and the addition of Jet Li and Michelle Yeoh was a good sign. Maybe my expectations were raised a little too high as the movie was a real disappointment. It's odd really as all the elements were there but they never seemed to come together convincingly. The special effects were good but there was nothing really new. The performances were even more wooden than normal (particularly the O'Connell's son Alex). The plot was a mess and the opportunities offered by having Li and Yeoh squandered.

A real shame.

Tuesday, 2 December 2008

Crash, bang, wallop!

With my usual commute one of my main worries is leave on the line (or whatever other excuse the train company is using for being late) but not this morning. This time it was leaves on the road which, unfortunately, I didn't spot until I was making my way (rather too swiftly for my liking) towards the tarmac! Fortunately I didn't damage either myself or the bike too badly and I still can't understand how I managed to scrape and cut myself without damaging my shirt or trousers but I'm not complaining.

Anyway, for those cyclists out there - take care it's not just the mad motorists you need to keep an eye out for! Mind you soon it'll be ice....

Monday, 1 December 2008

Rail Fares

I just stopped off at the station this evening to renew my annual season ticket - which has gone up again (no surprise there). I always get annoyed as the winter is when the service goes up the creek and I have to shell out a mountain of dosh for in estimable privilege of travelling on South Eastern Trains. Anyway, when I got home I thought I'd take a look at how the price has risen over the last couple of years:

2005 £2,800
2006 £2,884 up 3.0%
2007 £3,132 up 8.6%
2008 £3,460 up 10.5%

Can you see a pattern developing here? And, of course, the service has got so much better it entirely justifies the rises ... or at least I wish that was what I could say but, in fact, it hasn't. The service is actually that bad, at least compared to the appalling Connex service but it still isn't good and my journey has actually gotten longer over time rather than shorter. But since the alternatives aren't really feasible I don't actually have any real choice...