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Bullshit & Ignorance

August 15, 2011

So I watched some films

I know right? Me watching films? Practically unheard of.

Some of the stuff I have been watching came from Netflix, which, as an aside a whole bunch of people are all ‘OMG’ about because they recently changed their prices in an upwards direction for some of their services. Personally I don’t care for the following reasons:

  1. The old price used to include the discs we get sent as well as access to streaming content. We’re on a crappy satellite connection (which sadly is the best option available to us) which means that you pretty much can’t stream movies anyway since it would swallow up our entire bandwidth limit and take 3 times longer to watch than it should while it buffered every 10 seconds. For us, it has made little to no difference — in fact, it costs us less for the service we actually use than it used to.
  2. It’s a subscription service. They’re a business there to make money. If you don’t like it, don’t use it. Crying about the deep injustice of a fucking film rental service putting their prices up a bit strikes me as one of the most stupid things people have had to whine about in a long time. Go get some perspective, you shower of fucking clown shoes.

Okay, well, that was something of an unplanned rant! Back to what I originally sat down here to write. Stuff. About films. Okay, I remember. Let’s try this again.

Stay Alive

I actually haven’t seen the end of this yet, but I will and I sincerely doubt seeing the end of it will change my opinion on it dramatically. The basic outline is that some kids get a computer game that’s haunted or something along those lines and people start dying in messy ways. The only cast member I recognised was Frankie Muniz (Malcolm in the Middle) who is playing a geeky kid. So…Malcolm again, but in a horror movie really..

The film gets an average rating of 4.6 on IMDB which honestly I think is harsh. A couple of one-star reviews I read on it just further add to my belief that user-contributed rating systems are increasingly losing any value they may once have had. I’ll spare you that rant for another day though and just say that yes, Stay Alive is at best a B-movie time killer. The story has some nice ideas, but the characters are fairly weak and the plot progression is predictable. That’s not to say it wasn’t fun though. I think there’s an element of ‘take it for what it is’ with all films of this kind. It’s not ever going to be a cinematic masterpiece. Don’t watch low-budget horror movies if you’re expecting cinematic genius.

A fun time killer with a few well shot jumpy-moments and a reasonable production quality. If you enjoy this kind of thing then you’d probably get some entertainment from this film.

Unthinkable

I picked this one up out of a $5 bin in walmart because, well it was $5 and I hadn’t seen it, and it has Samuel L. Mother Fucking Jackson in it and he’s usually worth the price of admission to watch. I wasn’t disappointed, in fact, I was pleasantly surprised.

This is a really good film. Don’t get me wrong — again, it’s no masterpiece. It’s just that it addresses some really, really interesting issues. Also, Mr. Jackson is, as usual, entertaining to watch. The story keeps moving along at a decent pace and there are some really well presented twists in the plot. Definitely worth a watch.

March 7, 2011

DVD and Blu-Ray

When the price of DVD started to drop, I thought nothing of replacing my VHS movie collection with DVDs. The experience of watching a movie on DVD compared to VHS was a pretty huge leap for both sound and picture quality. The experience improved in such a way that having watched movies on DVD I found it hard to go back to VHS.

Blu-ray though. Hrm. I have a PS3 which I bought a couple of years ago primarily for the ability to watch films on it on blu-ray. It was, I felt a worthy accompaniment to my purchase at the time of my 42″ Panasonic plasma screen with its fancy HDMI inputs, and my DTS amplifier with its fancy digital audio connections.

I’m rather underwhelmed by the whole HD revolution though. I mean, don’t get me wrong – High definition visuals and audio are stunning, they really are but relative to an upscaled DVD? eh…

Play them side-by-side and sure you’ll see the difference. Play them separately and you’ll know the image is that much crisper; however there really isn’t that same experience altering difference that came with the switch from VHS to DVD. Hardly surprising I suppose, given that one was a switch from analogue to digital and the other is, let’s face it, a refinement of what we already have.

I’m not saying don’t get a blu-ray player. They also play DVDs and if you have a decent TV and sound system, then you’ll probably enjoy the clarity of images and sound and so on. The players are also rapidly dropping in price, no bad thing. For now at least though, the cost of the discs themselves are substantially more than DVDs.

While I was still in England, I’d often pop into HMV or wherever at the weekend and browse around the film section. Yes, I know it’s much cheaper to buy shit like that on t’internet, but sometimes I jut felt like watching something new then and there. Being able to browse around and take something home with me that I could watch that same day. Anyway…frequently I’d pick something out and stand with the DVD in one hand and the blu-ray in the other, trying to decide if I wanted to spend an extra ten quid on the blu-ray version. Nine times out of ten the answer was no. Unless the film is all sparkling special effects and so on, I really didn’t see the point.

I don’t think it’ll ever replace DVD as a format unless manufacturers stop selling DVDs. Unless they come down in price so they cost the same as DVDs I think there will always be that weighing up moment.

Not like it’s a world changing issue or anything like that, just one that crossed my mind!

March 6, 2011

DVD storage

As someone who has a tendency to buy a fuck of a lot of DVDs, I’ve often found it something of a struggle to store the bastard things. Commercial storage units are usually a) small b) expensive c) both. A DVD storage unit that costs 60 quid (Or the dollar equivalent these days!) that holds 300 DVDs sounds great until you realise you’ll need three or four of them.

Before I moved to the US I bought a couple of shelving units from a guy who used to run a DVD rental place. They were kinda ugly and massive – but cheap. I paid about £20 for the pair and they held around 700 discs each. When it came to moving to the States however I decided against shipping them with the rest of my stuff. Like I said, they were fucking massive and I was paying for shipping by volume.

So I decided to build my own. I’ve never really been what you might call a DIY enthusiast so I just kinda made it up as I went along. The end result was this:

dvd shelves

I know, awesome right?

I’ll now attempt to give instructions of some kind in case anyone feels like trying to build their own. You will need:

  • 4 8″x1″x6′ boards
  • 16 1/2″x48″ dowels
  • A drill with a 1/2″ spade bit
  • Wood screws (I used #8 x 1-1/2″ but you can probably use other shit, fucked if I know, like I said I was making it up as I went along.)
  • A screwdriver
  • A wood saw
  • A tapemeasure
  • A pencil or pen
  • A bit of paper or cardboard
  • Stickyback plastic, some empty washing up liquid bottles and a the cardboard tubes from a toilet roll.
  • Okay you don’t need any of the previous item, I just got caught up in that whole Blue Peter vibe.

Right, so now we have a big fuck off pile of stuff. This is how I did it, which may be cackhanded and have proper DIY types being all ‘WHAT THE FUCK ARE YOU DOING YOU TWAT!?” But bollocks to you, it worked so I figure I was doing it mostly right. Or got very lucky.

Step One

This is turning out to be a very professionally written thingamewhatsit I’m sure you’ll agree. Look at me using headers and stuff for the steps. Wait, I should be explaining what to do not wazzing on about how good my guide is, shouldn’t I. Moving swiftly on.

Get your tape measure and one of your big planky-things. The 8x1x6 things. Yeah those. Use your tape measure to mark the board at 9 inch intervals. That means every 9 inches. Why? Because I told you to, that’s why.

Step Two

Get your bit of paper or card, which needs to be at least 9 inches tall and 8 inches wide – probably should have mentioned that earlier but it’s not like I’m getting paid for this so you can’t expect me to care. Anyway; get that bit of card and cut it so that it fits exactly into one of the spaces you’ve just marked out on the board. Then, get a DVD case and position it so that it fits on the card, tilted back slightly. Use your spade bit (IN YOUR HAND NOT IN THE FUCKING DRILL. Just saying) to mark a circle under the front edge of the DVD, and another one at the back edge, near the top. I should probably do a diagram here because I’ve already done this and even I’m not sure what the fuck I’m talking about.

badly drawn diagram

It’s not to scale or anything, just to give you an idea of what I’m talking about. Okay? Okay.

Use the spade bit, or a knife or scissors or whatever to make the holes go all the way through (you may want to get an adult to help you with this if you’re a child or stupid or whatever) This will become a template.

Step…whatever the fuck I’m up to

Use the template to mark where the holes for the dowels will need to go on the board you marked the lines on. At this point, I put three of my boards together and used the spade bit to drill through all three at once. This means getting them all lined up and making sure they don’t move around too much and stuff. You can do it that way, or you can do them one at a time or however you like really. Again, using a power drill here so if you’re prone to self harm, or a child or whatever, probably best to get someone who’s less of a fuckwit to help. Also don’t do it on your floor, or whatever because you’ll make big holes in it. This should be common sense but I’m well aware that there are a huge number of people in the world who buy Apple products, which is a good indication that common sense is lacking in the world thus I figure it’s better to be safe than sorry. Really? An ipad? okay back on track..

The step after the one before

Get your saw. Cut your remaining 8x1x6 in half. Exactly in half, so measure it, with a tape measure or something. The two halves of the cut board will be the top and the bottom of the shelves. They go on top, and on the bottom…use screws and a screwdriver of some kind to attach them to the larger boards with the holes in, making sure that the holes in the three uprights are lined up. There should be one on each side and one in the middle. Look at the picture of the completed shelves if you hit your head hard, or are too drunk to know what I mean or whatever (if you’re really drunk you probably shouldn’t be doing this, since it involves pointy things and power tools. Just saying).

At this point I also attached another piece of wood across the back about half way up to give the frame more support. I don’t think it actually needs it once the dowels are in place but it might, so you might want to get another bit of wood and do it, or you might not, I don’t care either way since it’s not me it’s going to fall on if it’s not sturdy enough.

The next bit

Thread your dowels through the holes. All the way through. They’ll poke out the end. That’s because they’re longer than your shelves are wide, don’t panic or anything that was expected. Just cut them off at whatever length you want. You could probably do that before you thread them through but measure it if you’re going to because you’ll feel a right twat if you cut them first then realise your cackhanded carpentry has left you with the shelves slightly wider at the top than the bottom or something and you’ve cut the dowels too short.

That’s about it. Now you can put it wherever you want, and slap your DVDs on it. You could use a wall strap of some kind if you’re worried about it falling over, but it seems pretty secure to me once its full. Finished it should hold roughly 58 DVDs per shelf. With 8 shelves, that’s 468 DVDs on the unit total.

Price for materials will no doubt vary from place to place, but I got mine for a little under 40 USD, and the build took about an hour, maybe a little less.

December 7, 2010

This probably needs a snappy title, but it doesn’t have one

I’ve watched a few films lately, and figured I’d give my fingers some exercise and type some stuff about them. I’m pleased to say that none of these movies featured talentless plank of wood, Terry Stone.

Pride & Glory

Edward Norton and Colin Farrell team up for this one. It’s about police in New York and thus the story trots along the inevitable cliché avenue of corruption and the like. There’s a good story in this movie, but to be quite blunt about it, it’s too long. It runs for over 2 hours and there are a lot of scenes which should probably have just been left on the cutting room floor. I totally get that building a background for a character allows us to feel empathy for them when shit hits the fan or what have you, but in this instance, those scene disrupt the flow of the main story and don’t really add anything significant to the characters development. It’s almost as though they were added as an afterthought.

“Hey this is a good movie, but what it needs is more human interest”
“You mean like, scenes to show these otherwise tough-guys to have a caring, sensitive family focused side?”
“Yeah that’s it! We’ll toss in some scenes where they get a bit emotional about stuff and maybe tell someone they love them. That kinda shit. It’ll be great. Oscars all ’round I reckon!”

Still, it’s not a bad movie, a solid 6/10 I’d say.

Slither

This one’s been around a while, I’ve seen it before but I don’t believe ever commented on it. It’s a comedy-horror dealy, with some genuinely pretty good horror moments, while still being very funny. Good script, good cast and probably able to pick it up in a bargain bin for next to nothing. I know this, because I did. Excellent movie.

7/10

Righteous Kill

De Niro and Pacino play a couple of detectives on the hunt for a serial killer. It was written by Russell Gewirtz, who also wrote ‘Inside Man’ which is another excellent movie. I enjoyed this one. The story flowed well, the acting as you may expect from two old legends like these two is excellent and there’s a quite cool, if somewhat predictable twist in the tale. I figured it out not too far into the movie, but it was well handled all the same.

7/10

Knockaround Guys

I felt like I probably shouldn’t have liked this. It had a lot of warning signs flashing when I first looked it over – Vin Diesel and Seth Green, er, really? Amazingly though, this is well worth a watch. The story is kinda predictable in many respects, but its well done. John Malkovich features in the cast, and he is brilliant as always. This is by no means a great cinematic masterpiece, but for an entertaining movie to kill some time, it’s worth a watch.

6/10

November 7, 2010

On the subject of books

I just finished reading Zero History by William Gibson – which is I suppose a sequel to his earlier novel Spook Country. I got into Gibson by reading his cyberpunk classic, Neuromancer many, many moons ago. His more recent books have stepped away from the science-fiction he used to write – he’s still dealing with the same subjects of corporate corruption and industrial espionage, staples of the cyberpunk sub-genre of course, but he believes we’ve now reached a point where his fictions are being realised as facts. His recent books therefore, are set in our present day, with the technology he writes about being things we often use ourselves, or are at least aware of.

I enjoyed Zero History, though at times I felt like I was watching one of the new James Bond movies. I don’t mean because there was all kinds of spy stuff going on – but because throughout the book Gibson is dry-humping Steve Jobs and his ever expanding catalogue of over-priced, over-hyped Apple toys, to the extent it really started to feel like product placement. Maybe it was, who knows.

On the subject of movies

I watched The Crazies last night – that’s the 2010 remake of the 1973 film of the same name by Zombie-movie-godfather, George A. Romero. Remakes often fall short of original movies and while I must confess that I have never seen the original in this instance, the 2010 version is definitely worth a watch if you like horror movies. In many respects it’s something of a twist on a zombie movie in its own way, inhabitants of a small town in the US are infected by some form of toxin that makes them all start trying to kill each other and our band of plucky heroes makes a valiant attempt to fight their way out past hordes of zombies crazed infected people to safety, and just for an additional size 12 to the groin, the army has shown up in gas masks and isn’t letting anyone out.

There are plenty of suspenseful moments and aside from one or two “What the fuck are you doing?!” moments, generally the characters manage to avoid a lot of the typical horror-movie-survival mistakes that make me root for the monsters in a large number of the films I watch.

November 1, 2010

Zombie Sunday

My wife and I are both fans of zombie movies. As any fan of the genre knows, the vast majority of zombie films out there are very bad – and perhaps to some extent that’s part of the appeal. More often than we’re horrified by the brain-eating, lurching undead, we’re able to laugh at shockingly bad special effects, acting that would make even Terry Stone look good (Hard to believe I know) and plots that make so little sense you’re left wondering if the screen writer had been smoking crack, the editing was brutally left key story elements on the cutting room floor to squeeze a previously four hour epic into ninety minutes, or some combination of the above.

Every Sunday, we have vowed to set aside enough time for at least one Zombie movie – we’ve been doing this for a while now and, in fairness sometimes the definition of zombie gets stretched a little, so much so that perhaps Supernatural Sunday would be a more accurate moniker, but the original is here to stay at least for the time being.

Yesterday we managed to watch two zombie movies. The first, a movie directed by Lucio Fulci – a director who may have come to the attention of many fans of B-movie horror. Fulci teetered on the brink of brilliance I think, he had vision but sadly lacked the talent to see it through. A lot of what he tried just didn’t work, tethered presumably by small budgets and, well, a lack of actual ability. Still the 1979 movie, Zombie had some good ideas, which were then butchered by atrocious acting and continuity mistakes almost to numerous to believe they were accidental. Still, it was fun to watch in its own way and was entirely rescued by a scene in which a zombie fights a shark. Something that epic can’t be all bad.

The second undead offering of the night was Dance of the Dead. I enjoyed this one. It was intentionally funny this time, and while the acting wasn’t anything special and there were big holes in the story, it managed to find the right balance between zombie-tastic action and comedy. Certainly one to watch if you like zombie flicks and you fancy a chuckle.

September 20, 2010

An Open Letter to Terry Stone

Dear Terry,

I understand that there’s a chance that the commenter on my previous post about you being a talentless hack may just be a troll, who has used your name, domain name and email address to comment, but for the sake of lulz, I’ll assume it really is you and take this opportunity to respond.

Firstly, with regard to your suggestion about changing my name, it’s good to know you’re as witty as you are talented as an actor, Terry. Allow me also to extend to you my congratulations. Clearly your acting career, if we can call it that, is going from strength to strength when you have the time to respond to your critics personally. Especially since the criticism in this instance was a short, throw-away post on an obscure blog on these here intertubes.

Searching for Terry Stone will bring up my little rant about you on the first page of a number of popular search engines. Ouch. Time to sack your publicist, Terry. Trouble is, you see, that by posting your witty comment and including a link to your website in the comment, you’re telling the search engines that my post about you has direct relevance to your own website. Nice. Also, I’d forgotten all about you, but now I’m here writing about you again, which means that even more internet traffic searching for you is going to find its way here.

It’s all good, Terry. You keep banging out those straight to DVD cinematic treats you’re uh, well I was going to say ‘famed for’ but that’s probably stretching it. Let’s settle for ‘sort of recognised for sometimes by a very small subset of people, mostly those who remember you as Terry Turbo’ instead, shall we? If you’d like some advice on which roles to look for, I’d suggest looking out for another Robin Hood movie. They always need trees, and you have wooden down man, like no one does wooden like you.

Yours Sincerely,

King[Fu]

August 23, 2010

A few recommendations

The Expendables

I went to see The Expendables last night with a friend. As mentioned previously, I was looking forward to seeing it and I wasn’t disappointed. It had everything you’d want from an action film: An uncomplicated, largely implausible story that packs in as many clichés as possible. It makes sure that plot twists are kept to predictable kinks, more than actual twists as no one wants a complex story getting in the way of the punchy one-liners, wince-inducing violence and huge, largely unnecessary explosions.

If you don’t like action films, don’t see this film; It really is that simple. If you enjoy letting your brain go into standby while you ooh-and-ah at the special effects and superbly choreographed fight scenes, and have a chuckle at a never ending stream of one-liners, then go for it.

Mickey Rourke and Dolph Lundgren have relatively small parts, but both performances stood out for me. I thoroughly enjoyed it – Rumour has it that there is already a sequel in the pipeline, too.

Cage The Elephant

I picked up Cage The Elephant’s self titled album shortly after I heard their track ‘Ain’t No Rest for the Wicked’ on the game Borderlands. If you’re into guitar-driven music, these fellas might be worth a listen. I for one have enjoyed their music, particularly the tracks ‘In One Ear’ and ‘Back Stabbin’ Betty’.,

Also…

As August draws to a close, and September creeps ever nearer, the weather here in good old Blighty has been steadily deteriorating. A week or so ago some colleagues and I stopped into one of those ubiquitous £1 shops and snagged us some bargain umbrellas for, well, £1 shockingly. With our bargain umbrellas close at hand, we were confident of protection from the elements. Of course, having bought protection from the elements, it never actually rained when any of us needed to be out – until today that is.

Let me put it this way – There’s a reason that they only cost a pound. The lightest breeze turned the fuckers inside out, at which point they lost whatever structural integrity they may have had and wound up flapping around uselessly. I guess I stayed marginally drier than I would have if I’d been caught out in that sudden downpour without it, but not a great deal. In the ten minutes I was out in the rain, the umbrella was so badly damaged by the wind that it is now sat, a tangled mess of broken and bent metal struts, in my bin.

August 19, 2010

Stand your ground and fight

For the last few days, I’ve found myself listening to Motörhead – Heroes over and over again. I have no real explanation for my sudden obsession with this song; I’ve owned the Motörizer album since it came out, I’ve heard it plenty before, but for some reason it’s been stuck with me all this week.

Bike related stuff

As previously mentioned, my morning commute currently involves some cycling – The bike I ride is a lightweight hybrid, much more suited to road riding than anything else. I also own a mountain bike, which has front and rear suspension, huge knobbly tires and all the usual things you’d expect for a bike designed for use on rough terrain. On Tuesday evening, just as I set out home on my bike, my chain started jumping and slipping in a rather alarming fashion. I pulled the bike off the road and took a look. I’m not entirely sure how it happened, but somehow, one of the gears on the rear cassette (that’s the spindle of cogs on the back wheel in case you were wondering) had lost one tooth entirely, and another was badly bent, so much so that the cog itself had started to tear. The immediate effect of that was that it was making it impossible for me to use half of my gears, which made the ride home slower than usual.

Plans were set in motion to get a replacement the following day, but in the mean time I had to ride my other bike yesterday. It has to be said, that if you get used to riding a bike set up for roads, switching to riding a bike that really isn’t is a bit of a shock to the system. I think I described it to a friend as being like trying to cycle through jelly. Soft suspension and huge knobbly tires are fantastic for riding down the sides of mountains and all, but they make a real meal out of a largely flat road. With the new parts fitted to my road bike, this morning’s ride was a real pleasure by comparison.

Films!

On Sunday evening, I will be going to the cinema with a friend to watch The Expendables. I fully expect it to be a ridiculous story, packed with highly unlikely scenarios which stretch the suspension of disbelief to the point it becomes unrecognisable. Written and directed by, and starring Sylvester Stalone the film boasts a cast containing some, no scratch that – most of the biggest action movie stars of the last 30 years. Sly himself of course, relative new-kids Jet Li and Jason Statham, Dolph Lundgren, Micky Rourke and even Arnie and Bruce Willis put in appearances. I’m sure it will be entirely over the top and very silly. I really hope so.

Other stuff

Following a conversation on IM, I have been trying to come up with an emo emoticon for the moments where words alone just don’t cut it. My best effort thus far has been //.( Do feel free to share some alternatives. If they’re any good, I’ll steal them and claim all the credit for myself.

August 3, 2010

There are no wombats in this post

I’ve seen a couple of new films recently, one of which I have had half an eye on since March this year, the other I was more dreading than anything once I heard about it.

Predators

Let me cut straight to the chase with this one: It was far from a cinematic classic but was an enjoyable and entertaining film. It followed a familiar formula (at least for fans of the original). It’s set in a jungle (albeit on an alien world this time) and features Predators doing what they do best. The suspense builds quite well, the cast do an adequate job of portraying the band of clichés that make up the human contingent, and the plot manages to keep the action moving along without being too obvious about where it’s going next.

There were a couple of times where the film seemed to start to take the story somewhere, then go no further with it. I’m not sure if that was a result of hack and slash editing post-production, or if the screenwriter simply started ideas and never finished them.

Also, Topher Grace has a fairly sizeable part in the movie, which was fine except that I was constantly expecting Red to pop up and call him a Dumbass (if you don’t know what I mean by that, you should watch a few episodes of That 70s Show. You really should, it’s very funny.)

All in all, for fans of the Predator franchise, Predators is a return to form. It’s by no means a great movie, but it’s enjoyable and a vast improvement on the two AvP travesties.

The A-Team

Okay, so, when I first heard rumours that there was going to be an A-Team movie, I was initially thrilled. The A-Team on the big screen sounded like a great idea. The delight was short lived however when it dawned on me that of course that was going to mean fresh casting for an old classic. I was further doubtful when very early rumours linked George Clooney and his mob of clowns to project – I had visions of the A-Team movie basically just being Oceans 16 or whatever number they’re onto now. Thankfully that turned out not to be the case.

Once I saw the cast I was somewhat reassured but remained sceptical that anyone could follow in Mr. T’s shoes as B.A. Baracus. I pity the fool who has to follow on from him etc. etc.

Remarkably, Quinton ‘Rampage’ Jackson filled the role with surprising ease and my fears were allayed very early on in the movie. I suspect it was no accident that B.A. was introduced early in proceedings, initially only from the back and with plenty of laughs to warm the audience to him.

Beyond that, the film has most of what you’d expect from the A-Team, really. Plenty of laughs, plenty of action and all with slick production. Well worth a watch.

And Finally

I lied about the wombat.

Wombat

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