Christmas movies in the Square

Spotted over on the Dublin Community Blog, details of this year’s Christmas events taking place in the city.

Museums? Boring. Nativity with living animals? Opportunity to make my millions on You’ve Been Framed watching baby jesus being kicked in the head by a donkey.

But movies!

Temple Bar will be doing free movies in the square over Christmas. Totally free, don’t even need a ticket, you just turn up. The program includes:

Love Actually – Thursday 7th December, 6pm
It’s a Wonderful Life – Saturday 9th December, 8pm
Miracle on 34th Street – Thursday 14th December, 6pm
The Santa Claus – Saturday 16th December, 8pm
Santa Claus the Movie – Thursday 21st December, 6pm
Scrooged – Saturday 23rd December, 8pm

Now I know where I’m going to be on Saturday 23rd December, 8pm. Anyone else coming along?


Away to Brussels

Herself indoors has been away in Brussels for some kind of conference or seminar or something (I wasn’t really paying attention) and so rather than have her come back here today, I decided to head over there and we could make a weekend of it.

Preparing for the trip has been rather disappointing. I used to think that the joke about Belgium being a really boring place was like the joke about the Irish being friendly. But it’s not a joke. Belgium seems to be a really, really dull place to go. Even the guidebooks don’t try to hide this. One of the “22 Things You Must Do in Brussels” is “Go to Antwerp”.

(aside: I wonder if the guide to Antwerp suggests going to Brussels)


Island at the Top of the World

Something I love about my family are the weird, idiosyncratic movies that have been with us for as long as I can remember. I’m sure your family has them too. The kinds of films that are almost a family institution, like the post-Christmas-dinner nap/singsong/fistfight, yet barely appear on anyone else’s radar.

For example, Murder She Said is a major deal within my family and this had a major impact on my development. Do you know what it’s like to be 6 years old and be able to rattle off every line of a 30-year-old black and white Miss Marple movie? Compare this with the kid in my class who knew every line of The Terminator and would frequently reenact the entire movie in school. I bet that guy is making millions now.

Then there’s also The Scarlet Pimpernel (starring a young Ian McKellan), which is a useful tool for defusing family arguments. When things start getting out of hand and everyone’s voices are booming a little more than they should, you just need to drop a mention of this movie and everyone’s eyes glaze over and a happy smile appears on their faces like their medication has finally kicked in. This is the film that taught me the cruel reality that videotape starts to really lose its quality after a couple of hundred viewings.

For me though, nothing can match The Island at the Top of the World. This movie had such a profound effect on my youth that it has become the yardstick by which all adventure movies are measured.

Rather than try to bluster my way through a summary of the story, here’s the blurb from the back of the box:

An American archaeology (David Hartman) joins a rich English businessman, an eccentric French inventor, and an Eskimo trapper (Mako, from Rising Sun), on an awe inspiring expedition to the Arctic. They’re looking for a missing son, but they discover a world forgotten by time — a world of 10th century Vikings, erupting volcanoes, and the legendary whales’ graveyard.

The film itself has an impressive array of talent attached to it: directed by Robert Stevenson, who also directed many of Disney’s most popular live-action movies including Mary Poppins and The Love Bug, the screenplay was written by John Whedon, grandfather of Joss, and the music was composed by Maurice Jarre, father of Jean-Michel.

It’s not the cleverest movie you’ll see and at times it will push your suspension of disbelief to breaking point. But it’s a kid’s movie. Y’know… for kids! And that’s just par for the course for kid’s movies. Show me a kid’s movie that doesn’t require a conceptual leap of faith and I’ll show you one dull kid’s movie.

What makes Island at the Top of the World stand out is the charm with which it goes about telling its fantastic story and the spectacular, if slightly contrived set-pieces dotted throughout the movie. For example, at one stage, the characters outrun a flow of lava. If you leave your ‘real-world logic’ at the door and forget about things like “second degree burns”, this is a lot more enjoyable; after all, this is a Disney movie, and you’re only in trouble if the Lava actually catches you. As a child, this scene blew my mind and the sight of Donald Sinden being chased down by red-hot molten rock will stick with me forever.

And balls to people who complain about the special effects. More balls to people who try to give up excuses like “they were good for the time”. The effects in Island at the Top of the World are incredible. In terms of the the spectacle they create and the sense of scale they help achieve, it’s easy to look on Island at the Top of the World as some proto-Lord of the Rings. The sight of the airship (the Hyperion) coming out of its hanger is just one example. I almost had a fit when I saw Disney had recreated this image for a restaurant in Disneyland Paris.

Also, I have to question some of the so-called “mistakes” in the special effects. For instance, in a scene where the evil high priest is blue-screened in front of a giant fire, his blue eyes meant that you could see the flames in his eyes. Is this really a mistake? Or another kick-ass idea in a movie full of kick-ass ideas? I’m suggesting it’s the latter. If you pay close attention to this scene (and I have, believe me), you’ll see that this effect gets more pronounced as the priest gets angrier.

It’s almost a quarter-century since I first saw this movie. Watching it now is a weird experience. I used to know every line of this movie off by heart, but this useful knowledge has been buried under mounds of useless trivia (did you know you can tell a whale’s age by cutting its earwax and counting the rings?), so I get this weird, comforting, giddy sense of deja vu. Great times.

Now if you don’t mind, I think it’s time I watched this again.

Buy Island at the Top of the World on



Random Google search revealed this little nugget: Frame-a-stock. Okay, so it’s not exactly a great way to invest; you’re not getting in on the “ground floor” of any of these companies, so I’m doubting you’d ever make your millions from this.

But still! I think a framed Nintendo stock certificate would look particularly awesome on my wall.


Continuing the theme of PlayStation violence…


Kottke spends some time thinking about the differences in the launches of the PlayStation 3 and the Wii and concludes that the violence and hysteria that surrounded the PS3 launch was due to the fundamental philosophical differences between the two systems – PlayStation is about aggression and competition, Nintendo is about fun and hugging.

Well, I’m sure that was a part of the reason, but I think there was a much simpler reason: greed.

This week’s 1up show has interviews with people in the PlayStation queue outside San Francisco’s Metreon. From the sample that they interviewed (that made it onto the show), the majority of people queuing up either didn’t know or didn’t care about the PlayStation 3. What they cared about was the profit they would make by selling this on eBay – some PlayStations have sold for $20,000, a remarkable 2300% profit. One gent informed the crowd how he “would rather fight, go to jail, than let someone cut in front of [him]”. Asked if he was buying the PlayStation to, y’know, play it? “Man, people are buying this to put it on eBay and cash out!”. And this guy wasn’t just buying one. He had people in lines all over, and he was going to sell them all. Except for the one he was “going to give to a poor family” (‘poor family’ with a hi-def TV?).

And the attach rates mostly support this. Of the 81,639 consoles sold in Japan, only 66,684 were sold with games. Sure, the PS3 has online functionality and you can download demos, but come on – you’ve just dropped seven hundred lids on this new, awesome piece of games hardware, you’re not going to get something that really shows it off?

But it’s not all so cynical. My favourite interviewee in the 1up show explained how he was an Xbox man and was loving Gears of War, but his girlfriend wouldn’t let him buy a decent Hi-Def TV to play it on. His solution was to queue up for a few hours, buy a PlayStation 3, sell it on eBay and buy himself a Hi-Def TV with the profits. I feel your pain, buddy.

I doubt this kind of mercenary greed would work in Ireland. The supply will be just as short here, but will the scalpers be making as much of a profit? I doubt it. It hardly seems worth it, unless you just get a kick out of depriving people of something they want and watching their misery. And if that’s your kind of thing, here’s a video of someone smashing a brand-new PS3 in front of queuing fans. Enjoy!


Gamers riot for PlayStations!

I think this headline and this picture are just perfect together:


I mean, Jeez. This is what counts as a ‘riot’ these days? Boston’s really clamped down on rioting after that whole “tea party” incident.

Full article on Boston Globe


Gears of War, Pre-Emergence Day


Gears of War is released tomorrow. For everyone who already owns an Xbox 360: this is it! The one we’ve been waiting for! The big game that’s gonna make us proud. For everyone who is unsure about buying an Xbox 360: this is it! The one that’s going to sell the system to you. Because let’s face it, if you don’t want to immediately rush out and buy an Xbox 360 after playing Gears of War (and if you don’t want to immediately rush out and play Gears of War after seeing the awesome, beautiful “Mad World” trailer), well… maybe you’re just not an Xbox 360 kind of person.

As for me, I’m going to be frantically running around town tonight, looking for any shops that might have released it early My girlfriend is off out of the house tomorrow night so I’ll have the house all to myself to play Gears of War at an eardrum-puncturing volume. Oh boy.