Friday, 23 March 2012

LAWNMOWER LAMBASTING


I have a deal with my old petrol lawnmower: It starts when it wants to and that is that.  There is no logic to it, no reasoning with it (despite my attempts), it just starts when IT is ready.  A strange thing happens during the process also.  To an observer, with every pull of the starter-cord and every consequent non-start, the model name of the mower gradually changes.  It begins, in my case as a "Champion" model.  This soon deteriorates to "Old Girl", usually calmly whispered to the machine.  Then to something like "Bloody Thing", which is uttered through gritted teeth, through several other terms which question its fathers identity (were it to have one), until all i can emit are animal like growls, some high-pitched squeals and noises which cannot normally be constructed with the human tongue unless during an exorcism.  Only when these mowers "know" that they are on their last possible chance before they are ripped apart with Hulk-like strength do they finally cough into life.  Mine did exactly this to me today and not for the first time and i have made a poem explaining this relationship that many people may have with their mowers, or indeed many inanimate objects...

Mower, oh mower!
Why won't you start?
You know how you cause,
Great stress to my heart!

I pull and i pull,
And still you won't go,
You cause me to kick you,
Bringing pain to my toe!

I ask you nicely,
I ask "Just for me,"
But you refuse, cause anger
And fury for all to see.

"This is your last chance!" I cry,
My arm muscles torn,
Then, Yes! You now start,
And i can cut my long lawn.

The grass is now cut,
You are put in the shed.
Where you stay dormant,
Until next you play "dead!"

Thursday, 22 March 2012

RE-BOOT RANT


As you may have already guessed, i love films.  I like going to the cinema, to experience the big screen, effects and atmosphere.  I also enjoy watching a good film at home on the sofa.  I am a fan of many sci-fi greats and their sequels, few of which are better than their originals.  Recently though more and more films from a new category are emerging from the minds of film producers, and i think they are a disease infecting the fantastic myriad of options and alternatives that the film industry has at its disposal.  It is lazy.  It is squeezing every last drop of money out of already successful film titles and stories.  It is sucking the bones of the skeletal frames which used to support the body of the big-name film titles.  Perhaps the Hollywood film industry is lacking the creativity and originality that it once had, and is now becoming addicted to this easy-fix.  The media, the film going public and the industry have a name for this menace. It is called a RE-BOOT.  Simply put, it takes the original cell (pun intended), absorbs it, assimilating some of the good parts and then mutating into the modern day version of its predecessor.  The main problem is the part about the assimilation of some of the good parts.  What actually happens is that it takes the good parts, the parts that made the name cement its place in film history and then somehow dispenses of them, forgetting why those parts where there!  The other problem is that these re-boots are starting to be re-booted themselves!  Spider Man (2002) with Toby Maguire, was a good re-interpretation (significantly different from re-boot) of the late 70's early 80's t.v series which itself spawned a couple of t.v movies.  For me it was a fresh, modernised version of one of the greatest super-heroes.  Maguire's subsequent sequels were also good and could have been carried on.  Unfortunately, poor old Peter Parker (Spiderman's alter-ego) has been infected.  Not with another radioactive spider, but by the dreaded RE-BOOT disease.  A new film is coming out this year with nothing to do with the previous films.  Another superhero, possibly the greatest of all time, is about to become a re-boot of a re-boot!  Does that make it a re-boot-boot?  He can stop a speeding bullet.  He has x-ray vision.  He can fly.  And he could probably even beat Steven Segal and Chuck Norris in a fight.  But he cant defeat RE-BOOT!  Yes, Superman, the man of steel is being re-booted. Again.  The original, helmed by Richard Donner was in my opinion, one of the greatest films ever made.  Helped of course by a fantastic score by the master John Williams which sat alongside Jaws as "A film you can name purely by hearing the first few notes" it was immense.  The most recent version, Superman Returns (Could it be more blatant?) was alright i thought.  Brandon Routh was good and it did update the effects somewhat, but it was the beginnings of the infection.  Another Superman is due out in 2013.  The last one was just six years ago.  That's less time than some film series (original followed by two or three sequels lets say) last.  Absolutely ridiculous.  I recently felt that my eldest was at an age where i thought he would enjoy watching Superman.  I have a problem now though.  What do i show him? If i show the Christopher Reeve version what do i say the Brandon Routh one is about, or indeed the one due out next year?  The worst example is rumored to be on the horizon.  It is a mutation itself.  Michael Bay has suggested that he would be involved in the next Transformers film.  However, it is a sort of re-boot but with characters from the other three films he made about five minutes ago.  What is this horror?  In my view it is the personification of this problem.  "I can't think of anywhere to take this story" or "The main lead actor/actress does not want to be in another, and i cant think of a way of changing the actor/actress for the story."  Surely it cannot be right where someone has to choose which re-boot to watch?  Some new films out soon approach the problem from a different angle, in that they are a re-imagining of an old story.  This is different and can work very well.  Please do not confuse this with the "Pre-boot", which is another entity and something for another blog entry.  This disease is spreading and may be joined soon by another element which i shall reserve judgement on for now: retro application of 3-d to older films or films not filmed in 3-d, until i have seen a few.  I have only seen Clash of The Titans (re-boot!)in this format and all the bits that should have been 3-d weren't and vice-versa!  Some characters were created with the ability to re-boot themselves and so do it with ease and success.  Dr Who and James Bond are the main two.  Where re-boots are concerned, Hollywood is purely milking the public with these films.  There are many fantastic, fresh films that have come out recently, so it can be done.  I shall leave you with a list of films due out soon which have been made before in some form of another.  I'm sure some will be very good, but some will rely purely on their ancestry to make money.  Finally, and i direct this at Hollywood: See if you try and re-boot or re-imagine or re-anything my favourite film of all time, Jaws, never mind a bigger boat or Roy Schneider, i hope it would come back and bite you in half!  Here is the list, and i challenge you to read it without saying "NOOO!" or "It is sacrilege!"  You won't do it!
THREE STOOGES, SNOW WHITE, SPIDER MAN, TOTAL RECALL, JUDGE DREDD, RED DAWN, EVIL DEAD, THE LONE RANGER, SUPERMAN, DIRTY DANCING, 20,000 LEAGUES UNDER THE SEA, THE CROW, ROBOCOP, LOGANS RUN and believe it or not, SHORT CIRCUIT.

Keep pushing that button pal, and it'll blow up in your face.

Thursday, 15 March 2012

GORDON'S ALIVE-He bloody should be!

The undoubted success of the hit musical "We will rock you", surely demonstrates the public's enjoyment of singing along to one of the greatest rock bands ever, Queen.  Given this success, i am amazed that no-one has attempted to transfer another fantastic score, together with a ready made script to the stage.  If the above sign doesn't tell you what i mean i shall enlighten you.  FLASH GORDON.  The soundtrack is already there, the songs are already there and the major scenes of the film could be translated onto the stage using modern effects and construction.  Perhaps it is just me, but can no-one else see the crimson meteors falling from the ceiling of the theatre harmlessly (health and safety) onto the audience and stage?  Could you not imagine Dr Hanz Zarkov's home-made rocket ship lifting off from the stage, billowing out smoke from underneath as it surges upward and into the roof?  How about the swamp scene where the spider-like monster envelopes our hero and sucks him down into the stage?  What about the American football fight in the court of Ming?  There are plenty more classic scenes: The great sky fight, and of course the Hawkmen flying across the audience and around the stage.  Let's not forget, you could have all of this, with a storyline, with impressive effects and the cherry on the top-the fantastic songs by Queen to sing along to.  Who wouldn't be cheering Flash on at the end, against Ming the Merciless (BOO,  HISS)?  When i go to London and travel on the tube, i see all of the posters lining the escalator walls, advertising the latest shows.  Imagine one of these posters showing a simple red background with a golden flash down the middle and underneath, short and sweet, the words "Gordon's Alive!"  If it were this easy i suppose someone would have done it and perhaps they have tried, but it seems to me its ready for the taking.  If i had the money or the expertise i wouldn't hesitate. I haven't, but i know of people called Lloyd-Webber and Rice that may have......

HOW TO MAKE AN ACTION FILM...


After watching and enjoying a vast number of action films from the 80's and 90's, i have constructed a checklist of all you need to make your own action film.  Read on, hopefully enjoy and of course feel free to use this template to make your own....Remeber these lists are not exhaustive, you can add others...

Part One: Select one of the following actors as your main star:

1.  Arnold Schwarzenegger.
2.  Sylvester Stallone.
3.  Steven Seagull.
4.  Bruce Willis.
5.  Wesley Snipes.
6.  Van Damme.

Part Two: Select one of the following actors as your villain (others may be chosen but they MUST be British-remember ALL baddies are British):

1.  Jeremy Irons.
2.  Alan Rickman.
3.  Garry Oldman.
4.  Malcolm McDowell.

Part Three: Now choose which job our good-guy USED to do.  If he still does that job, he must be retiring very soon, probably this is his last case.

1.  Ex-CIA.
2.  Ex-Navy Seal.
3.  Ex-Black Ops.
4.  Ex-Police Captain.

Part Four:  Select the reason he is involved in the case.

1. His daughter has been kidknapped.
2. His son has been kidknapped.
3. His wife has been kidknapped.
4. Any of his boss's or member of his old teams family have been kidknapped

Part Five:  Pick the relationship between the hero and the bad guy.

1.  Brother: full, half or step-it doesn't matter.
2.  Ex colleague who always lost to him. (And will again Heh Heh.)
3.  Disgruntled dictator.
4.  Someone our hero "Left behind man! You left me there to die!"
     "I had no choice.  It was the school or you man, i had to save the kids!"

Part Six: VERY important this, pick a first name from the list of ten options:

1.  John.
2.  John.
3.  John.
4.  John.
5.  John.
6.  John.
7.  John.
8.  John.
9.  John.
10.  Jim.  Sorry no, i meant John.

Part Seven: Not quite as important, but he needs a surname.  This must be a surname you can't believe someone would actually have, such as:

1. Quantum.
2.  Matrix.
3.  Omega.
4.  Mars (any planet name is a good choice.)
5.  Firebrand.
6.  Ironfist.
7.  Smith.

Part Eight:  His present job is...

1.  A chef.
2.  A security guard (who they shouldn't have messed with).
3.  A nightclub/pub landlord.
4.  No job, just passes his time staying out of trouble, whittling wood and studying tai-chi.

Part Nine:  Only two to go before you can write the screenplay, but first we need a tag-line:

1.  "He was having a bad day.  Theirs was about to get even worse."
2.  "One man, one mission, one million bullets."
3.  "John Omega really will be their end."
4.  "Out of the frying pan into the Firebrand." (Only use where surname=Firebrand.)

Part Ten:  How will he beat the baddie in the final scene?

1.  Kill him with his own poison.
2.  Kill him with his own gun.
3.  Kill him with his own fingers.
4.  Kill him with his own shoe.

In addition to these lists, you may find the following information helpful.
The actor MUST not be able to portray many facial expressions. (Steven Seagull is a master of this, as he is of everything else, including pretending to be a black tent.)
Every climatic scene MUST have a corny line. (See Commando-"Let off some steam Bennett.")
He MUST live in the countryside where he chops his own firewood, (in Seagulls case with his bare hands.)
He will need to assemble a team to go with him on this mission, which he will sell to them as "One we won't all make it back from." And that he will recruit them to because "He needs them one more time."  These too will be ex-something, though not wives or partners.  These characters (wives or partners) will all miraculously end up together watching the final stages of the battle from a live helicopter feed.  The helicopter will crash i'm afraid just before we know who will walk through the smoke in slo-mo at the end.
Take all of the above ingredients and mix with a soundtrack by someone like Kenny Loggins, with the final scene (walking out of the smoke having all survived, in slo-mo of course), being accompanied by Brothers in Arms by Dire Straits.  There, that's how you make an 80's or 90's action film, which lets be honest were all bloody great fun to watch.  Action!
And you thought i couldn't spell his name.






Steven Seagull.

FILM REVIEW: Is Real Steel the Real Deal???


Hugh Jackman is the big name in this "On the sofa with the kids on a Sunday afternoon" flick.  Set in the near future,  he plays an ex-boxer named Charlie Kenton who is involved in the popular sport of robot boxing.  Heavily in debt to various promoters, he is on his last legs when his ex dies, leaving him his eleven yer old estranged son, played by Dakota Goyo.  Their squabbles et.c lead them to an old discarded robot which appears to have a lot of potential in the ring.  You probably already have a good idea of where the story goes.  It is predictable in its path but is very enjoyable.  It has very loud echoes of Rocky 4 , in that it is the old underdog against the ***SPOILER*** (almost) undefeatable robot and its east versus west.  You get a feeling that the old robot may be more than just a clinical machine and of course the father/son gap is bridged as the film goes on, with a custody issue with the Aunt thrown into the mix. It does take too long to explain Charlie Kenton's background in boxing and something hugely lacking was the reason that robot boxing has taken over from the original pugilistic event.  I really didn't understand the reason behind this being left out, and could have easily been explained at the start of the movie however this is not a complicated movie so lets not worry too much!  It reminded me of when i used to watch films like Short Circuit and Flight Of The Navigator in the late 80's in that you have enjoy the interaction between the kid, the machine and the adults involved..  I can see kids, and some adults watching this more than once and enjoying it every time.  It can only be spoiled now if they make a sequel, so if you're reading Mr Gatkins and Mr Gilroy, don't.  Leave this as a "one film story" with a happy ending.  Seconds out....Enjoy!

Monday, 5 March 2012

CAPTAIN AMERICA or CAPTAIN AVERAGE?

It's a bit of a shame really but Captain America has been made purely as a background builder for the new Avengers film due out this year.  This is not just my opinion but it has been marketed this way too.  For example the title is "Captain America: The First Avenger."  I don't believe this means he is the first person to avenge someone so why suggest to the film fan that this is just a piece of the Avengers story?  As such this marketing has probably affected my feelings on the film.  It just about stood up in its own right as an individual movie but it was swaying badly and relied on the support of Samuel L Jackson as Nick Fury and Dominic Cooper, who i thought was fantastic in History Boys, as Howard Stark.  The effects were fantastic, especially in the transformation of Steve Rogers, played adequately by Chris Evans, from the scrawny young man into the super soldier Captain America.  There is a story in there threading its way through the whole "This is Captain America, he is going to specialise in this in the Avengers film." It is based around the rumoured Nazi involvement in the occult during WW2.  A fanatical officer played by another of my favourites, Hugo Weaving, is involved in the early trials of the technology used on Rogers which have somewhat different effect on him than they do on Rogers.  He eventually uses a god-like power source to build himself an army of hugely advanced vehicles of which nothing can stand in their way...except you guessed it, Captain America.  For me the action builds too slowly for what should have been a stand-alone super hero film.  Captain America is third only to Superman and Batman in superhero lore and as such should have been treated with more respect, at least as well as the Iron Man films were (which i thoroughly enjoyed).  I can only recommend it as a device to learn who one of the Avengers team is.  Its ok but not a film i would choose to watch again and I will be more interested in what role the Thor and Iron Man characters will play in the forthcoming Avengers film as these were much better films.  As such i think a better name for this film would have been Captain Average: One of the heroes in the new Avengers film.

PETROL IN PERSPECTIVE...

When i am judging the value for money of a product i will compare it to other similar products and in comparison to other associated items.  This is the way most consumers decide where to spend their hard-earned (in most cases) money.  So is George Osborne going to realise this and alter the duty on fuel?  Thereby showing the public he does listen and loosening the rope marked "Ransom" from around the neck of road users.  It has always been a huge complaint from the voting public that the duty we pay is too high and as i said, when compared to other countries and associated products, it just doesn't add up.  Allow me to explain what i mean by associated products.  Take the average family car, a Ford Focus 1.6 petrol.  A tank of petrol will now cost you approx £70-80.  It will last you what, a couple of weeks at the most? A pair of discs and a set of pads will cost you about £60.  They should last you at least a year, most likely longer.  A service pack consisting of an air filter, oil filter, oil and spark plugs will cost about £50 and only the filters and oil would need replacing after a year.  Lastly, a battery for this vehicle would cost about £65. That is less than a tank of fuel and will last you at least 3 years.  So, Mr.Osborne, ask yourself.  How can the average man justify spending this sort of money on fuel, when he can purchase the essential parts to his average car for a small fraction of the cost of the fuel that is needed to transport him, or her of course, to their place of work?  It doesn't add up.  It is nothing more than a ransom.  He knows we have to have it, so we will pay it.  Viable alternatives are not ready yet, but they are coming George and then we will not pay that duty. (Though i expect you'll find some other way of taxing us).  I look at like this: if i need to buy a battery for my car i have to have it.  But the difference is it will cost me the equivalent of about £2 per month.  About 50p a week.  Not £30 that will last me a week.  The car manufacturers are building more and more economical and ecologically friendly engines.  If he drops the price slightly we wont all go out and by thirsty, smoke spewing cars.  What we will do is be a little more relaxed in our general consumer spending.  Thereby increasing the spending on the high st and so on...  Once again, Mr "I honestly do appreciate your votes giving me a job" Politician, please listen to what the public are saying, as we have been for many years and just show us a sign that I, the average man, can see as a gesture saying that you do want what is best for the TRUE people that run this country work
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