Sunday, 30 November 2008

Q2: Quantum of Solace

Daniel Craig returns for his second outing as Bond, James Bond and it’s not half as bad as a lot of reviews might have led you to believe.

Following on directly from Casino Royale, Bond is on the trail of the murderers of Vesper Lynd (remember the chick from the last movie? no? well, it doesn’t really matter) and as is so often the case, runs across a supervillian intent on world domination.

The formula is in keeping with the novels, as we have Bond managing to save the day and get the girl(s) while being a grumpy bastard who regularly flouts the rules. And on the plus side, it’s much more successful than the last attempt to turn the cinematic Bond into a renegade-on-the-outer (1989’s Licence to Kill).

There are some technical issues, with choppy editing in the action sequences rendering a lot of them incomprehensible, and some dialogue issues rendering some scenes unintentionally laughable.

Also, the plot-to-rule-the-world could have been a bit more impressive. Western society as we know it was never really threatened, so note to the producers: you’ve lost 90% of your audience right there.

But on the whole it’s a lot of fun. There’s a nod to Goldfinger (nicely following on from Casino Royale’s nod to Dr. No) and we’re starting to see the introduction of the sardonic quip.

Daniel Craig’s probably got a few more Bonds in him, and hopefully he manages to keep this same tone for the remainder. It’d be dreadful to see the series devolve into the likes of Moonraker and Octopussy.

4 out of 5

Q1: Quarantine

Ever since The Blair Witch Project, every punk with a camcorder thinks they can make the next Citizen Kane.

The latest in the don’t-worry-about-the-cinematography-cos-its-all-real-don’t-you-know genre is Quarantine, which actually owes as much to 28 Days Later and I Am Legend as it does to Cloverfield.

We follow the adventures of reporter Angela, as she in turn follows the adventures of a group of Los Angeles fire-fighters, with the disembodied voice of her trusty camera guy in tow.

A call to a city apartment block leads them to a sick old lady, and enough stereotypical residents (mother+daughter, check, grumpy middle-aged guy, check, non-English speaking couple, check) to generate a bit of incidental confrontation along the way.

The shit goes down when the building is quarantined by the Centre for Disease Control, and all of a sudden everyone is looking for a way out and wondering who’s going to get infected next.

If you ignore the plot holes (why, when infection is such an obvious risk, are the sick not being isolated?) and forgive the telegraphing of what-happens-next, there’s a lot to like here.

Jennifer Carpenter is very good as reporter Angela and the supporting cast is strong. The action sequences are reasonably well-framed (particularly given the restrictions inherent in the format) and there are some genuinely suspenseful moments.

On the downside the camera work is probably a bit too messy, and the film loses some points because it becomes pretty clear early on that some key plot developments had been given away in the trailer.

Also, they pinched the final scene from Silence of the Lambs (where it was done much better).

But still, good horrible fun.

3 out of 5

Saturday, 29 November 2008

Battlestar Clues!

Battlestar Galactica will be back with its final episodes on January 16, but the producers have decided that's just too long to wait to mess with our heads.

They've started drip-feeding some clues about the identity of the final Cylon, which will give the fans a good six weeks to tie themselves up in nerdy little knots.

Catch all the action over at You Will Know The Truth. There are currently four clues: one text, one audio, one video, and a picture.

I've long suspected that the final Cylon is, in some sense at least, the Cylon God, who has most commonly been manifest as the Six in Baltar's head (and for a while there, the Baltar in Six's head).

Clue 1 begins with "And the fifth, still in shadow, will claw towards the light", which makes me thing that the fifth will be born as the offspring of Tigh and Six. This is also backed up by Clue 4, which is this rather disturbing picture:

Clue 2 is very obscure (Kara finding her own dead body maybe?) and Clue 3 just looks like a red herring.

More to come. Stay tuned.

Wednesday, 26 November 2008

Jupiter and Beyond

In a lovely example of life following art, NASA have announced they're sending a robotic probe to Jupiter.

Of course the last time they did that (in 2001: A Space Odyssey) it didn't work out so well. So this time it's just the robot. No humans in danger of getting trapped outside the pod-bay doors, then. Good thinking.

Although if some NASA geek programs it to sing Daisy when it gets there, I'll be very impressed.

Anyway the probe (disappointingly called Juno instead of HAL) will do all the usual things . . . you know, take pretty pictures and look for water.

Water? On Jupiter? What are they expecting? Oceans?

Jupiter doesn't actually have a surface in the sense that Earth does. It's just a whole bunch of swirling gas that gradually gets denser and denser until you reach a planetary core of rock or diamond (depending on whose science fiction you prefer).

Any water is just going to be vaporous wisps in the atmosphere.

Still, it's worth a look.

I just hope Juno swings by the moon Europa while it's there. Now that would be interesting.

I've got five bucks that says that's where we'll find our first example of extra-terrestrial life in the solar system.

Monday, 24 November 2008

Plastic Rocks and Other Oddities

Indoor rock climbing is a very odd activity in many ways, especially for people like me who generally prefer to shun physical activity.

The object is to climb a wall into which irregularly-shaped splodges of coloured plastic have been bolted and then . . . come down again.

And that's it.

A session of indoor rock climbing involves doing just that over and over again until your fingers lose their grip and your arms begin to tremble with the strain.

It really shouldn't be as much fun as it is. But it is.

This evening I went climbing with Gayle (who, despite the appearance of her blog, has actually been back in Australia for about two months) and I very quickly realised just how long it had been since I last climbed.

First I had to get the instructor to show me how to fit the harness (my own harness!) and then a wall rated just 15 (on a scale of 1 to 30) almost broke me.

It had been a long time. The last time I went climbing was in a place that burned down in 2004. And when it burned down, it was quite a while since I'd been.

So the plan is to go again next Monday, and possibly on a regular basis after that. We'll see how that pans out.

Saturday, 22 November 2008

That's It Then

In a final termination of the vestiges of the Howard years, the question about Don Bradman has been removed from Australia's citizenship test.

Well, huzzah for that.

After years of being embarrassed by our government, this is I think the final nail in that particular coffin.

Now a year into the reign of K-Rudd, it's back to the normal pre-Howard days where our government is just a source of low-level disappointment and bemusement.

Thursday, 20 November 2008

Emiliana Torrini

The Forum, Melbourne

Sometimes known as the other Icelandic waif (but only by people who deserve to be slapped for saying it), Emiliana Torrini has returned to Melbourne with her new album Me and Armini.

Comparisons to Bjork are inevitable but unfair. The fact is they're worlds apart in musical style and while I love Bjork (although I preferred The Sugarcubes to her solo stuff) Emiliana is so much more . . . adorable.

It's almost three years since Emiliana was last here, and she carries the baggage of very high expectations. Her last Melbourne gig (at The Corner, as it happens) was truly amazing. I've never before seen a Corner crowd fall utterly silent during a song, and I don't suppose I ever will again.

This most recent show didn't quite have the magic of that one (something in the air that night? Or the water?) but where it fell short in magic it was more than made up for by comedy.

Emiliana is the master of the ribald joke, and it's all the funnier coming from someone who looks and sounds the the girl next door's next door neighbour. Last time it was the story of her guitarist falling into a whale's vagina, and this time a comprehensive description of accidentally doing a show in a partially see-through dress.

To my delight it also became clear that she's a sci fi geek, when she had the audience do the 5-note piece from Close Encounters just for her own amusement.

In between all of this was a very nice selection of songs from all her albums, beautifully rendered by one of the most amazing voices in music today.

So the laughs were plentiful, the band was tight, the music was lovely and Emiliana was and ever will be . . . just adorable.

4 out of 5

Wednesday, 19 November 2008

A Day at the Dentist

Before last Thursday, I hadn't been to the dentist in . . . actually I've got no idea. Ten years? Maybe more.

It was definitely time to go. Brushing my teeth was only going so far and I had the constant uncomfortable sensation that my breath was knocking people out.

I had to wait for a few weeks, what with dentists being in such high demand (apparently), so by the time it rolled around I was in the odd position of looking forward to it.

As dentist experiences go it was probably less traumatic than most. The water-jet clean was painful but comprehensive. The oddly abrasive yet gentle clean (using powder not paste) was . . . abrasive.

No major work is required. I just need to go back in January for a small filling.

The other thing making it less traumatic was the selection of Three Stooges stills on the ceiling. Right above the chair. To distract the patient, presumably.

The selection of stills was a little odd, though. Particularly this one:

It wasn't quite that bad. Almost. But not quite.

Sunday, 16 November 2008

Reasonably Warm Now

It's two weeks yesterday since we moved, and I think today I experienced the first inkling of what it'll be like to feel really at home here.

You see, that, for me, is, in a round-about kind of way at least, the first sign that I'm settling in.

The next sign is the purchase of some completely unnecessary piece of furniture just because, you know, it'll go.

Anyway, back to feeling at home.

It could be that the wireless is finally working properly, but it's more likely because last night we had a semi-impromptu housewarming. A bunch of people came over in the time-honoured traditional fashion to partake of barbecue-charred meats and cold salads. And beer. Lots and lots of beer.

There's something about getting pleasantly drunk in the presence of friends that really makes you feel at home. Wherever you are.

And if you're actually at home, then all the better.

I Seem to Have Found the Problem

Apparently the modem I'm using (Dynalink RTA1046VW) doesn't like Macs to link to it using WEP wireless security.

It's as simple as that. Who would have thought it would be so picky?

Anyway, on a whim I changed the wireless security to WPA-PSK and now it's all fine. The PC works. The Mac works.

It's like some kind of freakin' CPUtopia. Ebony and (white rounded corners) Ivory.

So that's all fine then. And for anyone who's stumbled across this article while trying to find a solution for the same problem, you're most welcome.

Saturday, 15 November 2008

The Matt is Back

When I say working, I obviously mean that in a very loose and intermittent sense.

We seem to have tracked down the source of the frequent and annoying brown-outs in our wireless, and it is . . .

My wife's iBook! Yes, for some reason the router we have cacks itself whenever there's a Mac in range.

Anyone have any ideas why this might be? I thought I'd throw it out there before going to talk to my ISP who, as has been previously shown, don't like Macs either.

It could be something to do with the landline we're running through which is experiencing problems of its own. In fact, the reason I'm up this early on a Saturday is to welcome the Telstra man, who it's confidently claimed will be arriving between 8 and 12. We'll see.

I fully intend to make up for the dreadful lack of posts here, as soon as something interesting happens.

It might be a while. I get the feeling that the US election (being as it was The Single Biggest Event of the DecadeTM) may have drained the world of the energy required to generate interesting content. Entropy, don't you know.

Having said that, I'm not at all sorry I missed out on being one of the myriad bloggers breathlessly covering every tiny movement.

That must have been exhausting.

Tuesday, 11 November 2008

Happiness is . . .

. . . a working ADSL connection.

It's only been 11 days, but it feels like it's been years,

Does this mean I have an addiction?

Probably. At least, according to the Chinese.

Sunday, 9 November 2008

Dead Pool October Update

Please accept my most humble apologies for the inexcusable delay in dead pool reporting.

After the excitement of the last two months, October has failed to set the scoreboard in motion again, but we have had some notable (and tragically surprising) deaths.

On the 2nd actor Rob Guest, star of Melbourne's current production of Wicked and stage veteran of Phantom, Les Miserables etc. etc. died unexpectedly at the age of 58. What was most fascinating was that in all of the media coverage of his death (and there was a lot) no-one mentioned Man O Man.

On the 4th, Australian Idol Season 1 finalist Levi Kereama committed suicide at the age of 27.

On the 15th Nancy Reagan was hospitalised for the second time this year, after breaking her pelvis in a fall. Again, she left the hospital two days later. She's tough, that one.

The 19th saw the death of Hal Kant, an entertainment lawyer who pioneered the retention of publishing rights by musicians and other artists. This paved the way for musicians to maintain control of their work, and effectively stick it to those evil record companies. Respect.

Finally on the 25th Gerard Damiano, director of 1972 arthouse cinema classic Deep Throat, passed away at the age of 80.

He suffered a stroke. Presumably not the first, but certainly the last. Thank you. I'll be here all week. Please try the fish and don't forget to tip your waitress.

The scores remain as they were last month:
Spoon 17
Kate 16

Thanks for your patience, and please stay tuned for next month's update.

. . . And We're Back

We've finished moving into our cool new place. Or technically finished, anyway.

We're still surrounded by half-unpacked boxes, and I'm struck by how much they resemble the half-packed boxes we were surrounded by last week.

It all went down early last Saturday when the removalists turned up just before 7am (which is not technically the "between 7 and 8" that we were quoted). Fortunately we were ready to go, so everything was on the truck by 9 and unloaded at the new place by 10.30.

Once we hit the ground at the new place, a few important things came to light. No dishwasher. Need a new one. Old washing machine doesn't fit. Need a new one. DVD player (which was on its last legs anyway) didn't survive the move. Need a new one. Aaaargh.

Most alarmingly, our previous landline provider Optus apparently aren't able to service the new place, so after years of conscientious objection it's back to Telstra.

Decorating-wise my lovely wife has put together a color palette consisting of clotted cream, cool taupe, dishevelled bronze and raspberry fuchsia. We currently have multi-coloured patches on various walls as a result of testing a number of tester pots.

Anyway, things are almost back to normal. The most inconvenient thing at the moment is that we're stuck using dial-up until the ADSL gets reconnected.

We'll be resuming our irregularly scheduled programming soon.