Review: 300

So the IFF Surprise Film was 300. Not that much of a surprise. The queue was a bigger surprise - jesus, I've never seen anything like that. Even the premiere of the Lord of the Rings movies had shorter queues.

Anyway, 300 completely floored me. It's a love song to graphic violence and romantic heroism, told with the most stylish visuals this side of Sin City. The movie suffers from more than a few jerky moments with a lot of the dialogue falling apart as hammy and unconvincing, but I personally found that these were mostly in the parts where the screenwriters actually tried to by historically accurate ("Return with your shield, or on it" being the most obvious). The political sub-plot had real trouble hiding the fact that it existed only as 'filler' and illicited an inappropriate titter from the audience, which only highlighted its awkwardness.

But who cares about all this? This movie is about the action sequences and these are what make the movie stand out. Probably not the most epic battles ever filmed, but definitely the most beautiful and balletic. The fact that this was filmed in a warehouse means we never see more than a handful of 'real' people on screen at any one time but the director works this to his favour, giving each individual skirmish an intimacy that would be otherwise lost.

Tremendous stuff. Gives me high hopes for what Zack Snyder can bring to Watchmen.

Review: The Fountain

Have you ever had a movie finish and end credits roll, with the entire audience sitting back in stunned silence? Maybe it's just the type of film I tend to go see, but this has only happened to me a handful of times. The Fountain being one of them.

The Fountain is a love story. Rather, it's three love stories, told across a thousand years. In the past, a conquistador searches for the tree of life to save his beloved Queen. In the present, a doctor searches for the cure for cancer to save his beloved wife. In the future... well... a guy travels with his tree, in a bubble, to a dying star wrapped in a nebula.

Hey - noone ever said this would be easy.

Arthouse blockbuster or blockbuster arthouse? Either way, this is not a welcoming film. At times, the ambitious storytelling threatens to derail the entire production, and the more cynical among us would almost certainly have trouble giving this film the room it needs to breathe. But for the more persistent, there's a great reward - something completely and defiantly unique. A sci-fi movie with a very human heart. A film that can leave an entire audience breathless.

I would say this is as close to unmissable as any movie I can think of.

Jameson Dublin International Film Festival - Update →

Back at the start of February, I was talking about the films I was looking forward to at the Dublin International Film Festival. Talking about the surprise film, I said

A tenner says that this will be Darren Aronofsky's The Fountain

Well, I was wrong. Sorta. Shortly before the festival began, I got an email to say that the showing of Sunshine was cancelled and they would be showing The Fountain in its place.

So instead, the surprise movie was...

300

Yeah, it wasn't the cleverest movie shown at the festival, but personally, I couldn't have been happier. I'm a huge fan of the comic, and of Frank Miller in general, and this was the most beautiful adaptation of his work so far.

10 Favourite C64 Games

The Great Escape

I think I got this with my Commodore 64. I seem to remember a Christmas Day where the rest of my family was off watching the Great Escape on TV and thinking to myself "Fuck you, last-generation losers. With this super-powerful computer, I AM Steve McQueen. I AM the Great Escape." The game itself didn't really follow the movie very strictly, but I still like the way it forces you to follow a pattern and 'keep up appearances' while you're digging your way out. Never finished this game though. I got into my tunnel, was heading under the fence -- I could taste the freedom -- when, with no warning, my C64 crashed, taking a tiny bit of my heart with it.

Ghostbusters

Most movie tie-ins on the C64 are of the side-scrolling shooter variety ('sup, Robocop?). And this probably could have worked with the Ghostbusters license. But instead, they went down an altogether more interesting route: part-resource management, part action. You have to build up a Ghostbusters franchise into a profitable venture while dealing with the escalating amount of paranormal activity. Whenever I get bored and want a C64 fix, this is the first game I reach for. Oh, and the synthesized speech is still amazing.

Last Ninja 2

In this game, you play the worst ninja in the world. Running around a park in broad daylight beating up jugglers and mimes doesn't seem very ninja-like to me. And what kind of ninja staunchly obeys the "keep off the grass" rule? A fucking pussy, that's who. Okay, so it's not exactly Ninja Gaiden, but it's still pretty awesome.

Bruce Lee

I never, never understood the point of this game. You run around a weird temple, trying to collect... what? Lamps? While being constantly chased by a ninja and a fat guy? Still though, you're motherfuckin' Bruce Lee!

Zorro

Zorro is still the most punitive game I've ever played. It's stupid and dumb and I hate it. But I can't stop going back to it. Maybe one day I'll actually, y'know... finish it. I imagine that would be like the end of WarGames and my C64 will turn to me and say in a Stephen Hawking voice, "A strange game. The only way to win is not to play."

Barbarian 2

Wolf from Gladiators, Maria Whittaker's tits and graphic decapitation. How could a pre-pubescent boy not love this game?

Beach Head

I remember being so engrossed in this game, I missed a bunch of swimming lessons and as a result, only got a silver medal in the end-of-year contest. Every time I see that silver medal I think about how, if I'd just played a little less Beach Head, it could have been a gold medal. And then I think "Fuck it, it was totally worth it."

Park Patrol

I can't really explain this. I'm a messy bastard, but I really enjoy this game about tidying up a park. Cleaning vicariously, that's what it is.

Goonies

Much better than the barmy Nintendo version, this was a platform game where you took control of two of the kids and had to use both to solve puzzles. Kind of like a proto-Lost Vikings. For example, to get past the first screen you have to navigate one kid to the roof to print fake money and distract the Fratellis while the other kid ran into the basement. Further on, the screens get ridiculously hard and you'll find yourself blowing through each of your eight (EIGHT!) lives just trying to figure out what you're supposed to do. Download Goonies from c64.com

Master of the Lamps

. I originally played this game on the Amstrad CPC-464. You try playing a game with colour-based puzzles on a crappy monochrome green-screen monitor. Only when I played it again on the C64, on a colour telly, did I finally get to appreciate just how incredible this game is. Sound puzzles, colour puzzles, geometry puzzles and a kick-ass magic carpet ride tying them all together. Years ahead of its time.

Fast Food Nation →

fastfood5.jpg

For his dramatization of Eric Schlosser's tell-all expose of the Fast Food industry, Richard Linklater chose to focus on just two points from the book.

  1. The meat packing industry is ruthlessly exploitative.

  2. There is shit in the meat. Although they're both very important points, they are stretched past breaking point across a two-hour movie. This means, worryingly, that by the fifth time someone on screen has repeated "there's shit in the meat", it's lost all of its emotional impact.

And though there is a token discussion of the morality of the fast-food lifestyle (courtesy of a brief appearance by Ethan Hawke), this thinly-veiled sermon is so naive as to be offensive.

Heavy-handed and overwrought. I wonder if a documentary might have been the better option for this material?

Ruairi Robinson's new short film online →

cillian_bloody.jpg

Oscar-nominated local boy done good, Ruairi Robinson recently finished his new short film, The Silent City, and put it online in both HD quality and in shitty Youtube-quality. It's an astonishing achievement considering the amount of quality he managed to eke out of his small budget, including appearances by Cillian Murphy (pictured) and Don Wycherley.

It's a seriously impressive movie and I'd encourage everyone to check it out. You can find all the download details on Ruairi's site. And while you're there, you might as well check out his other short films, the previously-mentioned, Oscar Nominated Fifty Percent Grey (cruelly denied an oscar win by those Pixar bastards) and House on Dame Street.

Forget Barcamp, where's Ireland's SXSW?

BarCamp Dublin will be taking place in a couple of months and, despite the fact that it's happening on my front door (I work in the Digital Depot), I probably won't be attending. In short, this is mainly because I don't think it has that much to offer to me. I have a blog, but I write mainly for my own enjoyment rather than as a means to rack up subscribers (you should see some of the some self-indulgent posts I have lined up for the next couple of weeks - wow). So with its heavy focus on blogging, search engine optimisation and unexciting technology which, frankly, was of no interest to me three years ago and is of even less interest to me now, BarCamp Dublin gives me no compelling reason to attend.

Now I've spent the day browsing through the SXSW website and drooling over the list of nerd-focused talks they will be giving, I can't help but wish that Ireland had something similar. What attracts me to the SXSW stuff is the completely open nature of the festival. Rather than limiting themselves to a few topics, they've made sure there's something for all types of nerd: movies, music, games, design, blogging, programming are all on the agenda. And because of this, it seems to be completely open, no sense of exclusion because of a lack of interest in a particular topic.

Panels that really caught my eye were:

Why hasn't Ireland seen a similar event? It's not for lack of talent. We have an abundance of talented, charming and articulate nerds that could give similarly interesting talks on a similarly diverse range of topics (although there's also an abundance of 'squeaky wheels'). Perhaps it's because the geek community is so fragmented that it's hard to rally them all together. The bloggers converse with other bloggers, the designers converse with other designers and so on. Perhaps rallying them together for a truly welcoming unconference with something for everyone would be too much effort.

But it would be a thing of beauty.

Then again, what do I care? I'm out of here soon.

A gaggle of Youtube celebrities

For the new Barenaked Ladies video, the band asked a bunch of Youtube celebrities to record a video of themselves performing the song. The results are so very, very cute.

I'm familiar with most of these celebrities but I've never seen "Where the hell is Matt" before. So I hunted it down, and let me tell you, it brought a tear to this weary old face.

Pancake Tuesday!

Pancake Tuesday, boys and girls. A magical time of year. You can eat as much as you want, but because they're only pancakes, you don't look like such a savage. In school, we used to brag about how many we ate. Since I didn't get any pancakes last year, I'm going to make up for it this year by gorging myself until I've got pancake batter coming out my ears.

Pancakes

100g flour 2 Eggs 200ml milk, mixed with 75ml water

  1. Sift flour into a mixing bowl.

  2. Make a well in the centre of the flour and break the eggs into it

  3. Whisk well

  4. Slowly add the milk and water, whisking as you go

  5. Cook in a pan over a medium heat

Toppings

  • Sugar and lemon juice. It is vitally important that the juice be from a plastic lemon. Otherwise it may as well be any other day of the week because it's just not Pancake Tuesday with plastic lemon.

  • Nutella. Nothing else. Okay, maybe ice cream. You'll be bouncing off the walls for days.

  • Bacon and maple syrup. Friend in work gave me a bottle of maple syrup from Canada, since all I seem to be able to find in Dublin is maple-flavoured Golden Syrup.

  • Blueberries. Awesome when they're dropped into the batter as it cooks in the pan.

So what's your favourite filling?

Colours of the Matrix

Well, it was only a matter of time before I did something about the Matrix, wasn't it? Quintessential nerd movie that has already been endlessly picked apart. Well, what's one more?

Colour plays an important role in the Matrix movies. The tinting is as much a part of the mise-en-scene* as the set and props, giving the viewer subtle clues as to the nature of the setting. Scenes taking place within the matrix are tinted green, scenes taking place on board the ships in the 'real world' are tinted blue and Scenes taking place within 'zion' are tinted brown. he truly hardcore Matrix nerds have used these 'clues' as part of some obsessively detailed theories regarding the underlying meaning of the Matrix movies.

But we'll do no such thing here.

  • Holy shit. Did I really just say "mise-en-scene"? Shoot me now.

(click on image for higher-res version - 960 * 1308 px, 657.5KB)

(click on image for higher-res version - 960 * 1308 px, 674.23KB)

(click on image for higher-res version - 960 * 1308 px, 677.15KB)

Stew Station

Finally got around to checking out Stew Station, which opened up next to the Namaste Indian on North King Street, right around the corner from where I live. Like the sign on the door says, they specialise in stews and other soup-based dishes, and the menu seems to change regularly. The restaurant seems to be chasing the Gruel dollar - a very relaxed, homey atmosphere with straightforward, uncomplicated food. But it seems a little out-of-place on North King Street, like it should be closer to the Epicurean Food Hall. But no matter! With development in Smithfield finally starting to bear some fruit (a Thomas Read that has yet to be even half-full, the opening of the Light House Cinema soon), maybe Stew Station is just a little early to the party.

Anyway, since we live so close, I got the food to take away. I got the tomato soup with meatball for myself and a beef and vegetable for H. Reasonable value too: EUR7 for a hearty meal (EUR7.50 if you eat in). The stews were tasty. Comforting, but didn't feel entirely healthy. But then again, that could have been the massive dollop of carby, starchy, delicious, creamy mash that came with the meal.

Now all they need to do is change their opening times (7pm weekdays, 6pm weekends) to handle the post-pub crowd and serve Coddle, and Zaytoon will be displaced as my favourite drunk meal.

I'm moving to Rome

(x-posted to Livejournal because this is big)

So, after months of agonising over where H. would be posted for work, the big news finally arrived yesterday.

They're sending her to Rome.

Well, me and H... I think we've got something special. Something I don't want to give up, y'know? So I'm going with her. I'm leaving my job, my apartment, my friends and family, and going to live in Rome for the next three years.

Now, let me make it clear, I'm fully committed to this and I'm delighted she got Holy See and not Vilnius (or, God forbid, Addis fucking Abbaba), but my brain is still reeling from the shock of it all and I'm having trouble trying to understand exactly what this means. I tried to get my head around it yesterday but instead ended up staring at a wall and muttering "fuck... fuck..." for twenty minutes instead.

What am I going to do there? No idea. The pessimist in me is looking on this as my life being turned upside down for a few years and panicing at the enormity of it all. The optimist, however, is seeing this as the great etch-a-sketch of my life being given a good shaking. Erase, start again. So I'm completely open to suggestions for what I could do with my new life. I'm roughly halfway between "Ride around on a Vespa saying 'ciao' for a living" and "Do a TEFL course and teach English". But you're a bright, creative bunch. Any other suggestions?

When are we going? Again, no idea. A few people got posted yesterday, so HR was understandably swamped and managed to duck out before H. could grill them for details. Hopefully it won't be too soon. We need to sort out a going-away party.

Playing on my DVD player this weekend:

  • Godfather I-III

  • A load of Fellini

  • The Italian Job

  • Suspiria

  • Season 1 of Rome

Learn how to Ska →

The animated gifs on this page reaffirm my faith in humanity