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fatpie42 -

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    Pat Condell's latest vid points out a situation whereby someone was given compensation because someone told him a joke about the Irish and he found it offensive.

    So... what's Pat Condell not taken into account?

    Here's the really telling line:
    "I couldn't believe my ears - we were in the midst of a racial discrimination hearing."

    The guy who made the joke was a councillor at a racial discrimination hearing. The union leader received compensation because he was subjected to hugely unprofessional and offensive behaviour during a meeting in which Mr. Bamber was representing the local council.

    Apparently Cllr. Bamber wrote down on a bit of paper that he was sorry, but refused to sign it or write what he was sorry for. The court case went on for the most part without the plaintiffs involved. It was a matter of what the response should be to unprofessional behaviour in the workplace by a councillor.

    Naturally all articles on this feature the joke concerned. If this was all about ordinary people being offended by jokes ripping into the Irish, that would be quite ludicrous. Naturally it's the context that matters here. Something Pat Condell isn't keen to spend much time on.

    (Actually it was quite funny when the whole Danish cartoons fiasco started up, that while the controversy was over whether the cartoons should be printed, gaining a personal opinion on the matter seemed to require that the cartoons be printed. Bit of a Catch22.)

    (Source one) (Source two)

    Now this REALLY pisses off the Irish!

    The article Pat Condell actually points out comes from a guy called Douglas Murray, who appears to be a hideous racist. I couldn't actually believe the video he posted in this entry on his blog where the host of The Politics Show starts grilling a Labour politician on her statement that "West Indian mums will go to the wall for their kids". Now naturally grilling politicians is a fine tradition, but when it takes the form of 'If West Indian mums are so great why are there so many dysfunctional West Indian families?' I find myself rather under-impressed. I'm sure the original comment wasn't intended to become a pissing contest of "which race features the best mums" and the interviewer's question seems to helpfully ignore the huge numbers of dysfunctional white families in Britain who make up the vast majority of our chav population.

    Unsurprisingly, the comments on youtube for that video are utterly disgusting.

    In other news, I've discovered a comment from Richard Dawkins defending Pat Condell. This has really put me off him.

    I believe Pat Condell deserves a hearing. He may sound extreme, but that could just reflect the extremes he is fighting against. I don't know the corresponding figures for America, but polls in Britain suggest that an alarmingly high percentage of young British Muslims support the terrorists of 9/11 and 7/7, and some 40% of Muslims want Sharia Law introduced into Britain. Disquietingly high percentages supported the death sentence against Salman Rushdie and the threats of violence against the Danish cartoonists. Even 'moderate' Muslim leaders support the principle that apostasy deserves the death penalty, even if they are too nice to carry out the sentence themselves.

    I think it is well arguable that Islam is the greatest man-made force for evil in the world today. Pat Condell is one of the few with the courage to say so. Before condemning his 'extremism', at least consider the possibility that it may be justified.

    As for the statistics Richard Dawkins cites, he claims that "an alarming proportion" of Muslims support 9/11 and 7/7. Where's the figure? He can't find one alarming enough it seems.

    Oh, but surely we can't expect Richard Dawkins to track down figures like that? Well, if that's the case, why was he able to track down 40% so easily (in regards to wanting Islamic courts, something that Jews in Britain had access to long before any Muslims started making a fuss).

    The thing is, I know where all those statistics came from. The survey was co-authored by Munira Mirza who I am actually quite a big fan of. The way those statistics were plucked out of the report for special treatment was typical media BS and she responded as follows:
    Most Muslims are well integrated, want to live under British law and prefer to send their children to mixed schools. They do not live in bleak ghettoes cut off from society. Their religion is not a barrier to integration and is very often perfectly reconciled with being - and feeling - British. While some younger Muslims are turning to religion, others have secular habits such as drinking and pre-marital relationships. Although there is some support for sharia, we should be wary of seeing this as automatic qualification for the label "extremist".

    The central concern of the report was not Muslims per se, but a particular type of politicised religious identity. British-born Muslims are more likely than their parents to assert their identity in the public sphere, express anti-western feelings, and feel a strong sense of victimisation. Although most Muslims - even devout ones - will not become active Islamists or "fundamentalists" who seek to reform the state along religious lines, this type of thinking is becoming noticeable at the periphery.
    So not only is Dawkins' defence of Condell rather dodgy, but his appeal of "let's look at the facts" shows that he has as yet to get to grips with the facts.

    Also, the perspective on the website The Spittoon (which is run by Muslims) is that what Dawkins refers to here are not "moderate Muslim leaders" and should not be mistaken for such.

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    The Guardian review had this to say:

    Yet each nation has a certain type of people, a favoured race different from the rest, people with the Jedi-like power to control or "bend" the elements. Firebenders. Earthbenders. Waterbenders. And airbenders. At the cinema showing I attended, the British crowd reacted derisively at key dialogue moments. One wise old lady says solemnly to a young man: "I could tell at once that you were a bender, and that you would realise your destiny." One character tells another wonderingly: "There are some really powerful benders in the Northern Water Zone." Another whispers tensely: "We want to minimise their bender sources." A key figure is taken away by brutal soldiers, one of whom shouts cruelly: "It's a bender."And so on, for almost two hours. Each time, the response from the auditorium was deafeningly immature, and brought many of us to a state of nervous collapse.
    Filmdrunk was, apparently, very confused by this. He needed the following explanation from The Economist:
    “Bender”, of course, is a crude British pejorative for “homosexual”.
    So seriously, "bender" doesn't refer to gay people in the US? I could have sworn that Americans recognised the distinction between "bent" and "straight". What about "poof" or "queer"?

    Well, at least that explains why no one ever seems to notice this connotation in Futurama (particularly when they introduced Bender's wrestling persona). Though I'm sure my fellow Brits cause similar confusion when they start asking each other for fags:

    (Cross-posted to Moviebuffs)

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    People here may remember a relatively recent post where I pointed out a blog entry from a priest/teacher about how utterly untrustworthy the British tabloids are. There's been a follow up post about a story which seems to be making the rounds on the internet right now.

    The point is that before we get on our high horse about a particular story it is worth being sure of the details first. If we're not careful we might well find ourselves being drawn into a political agenda which we would otherwise have given a wide berth.

    This isn't only true of Islamist/Islamophobia stories. Pat Condell has provided a nice little alternative example recently of what he views as "PC gone mad" regarding racism against the Irish.

    The Internet, the Tabloids and the murky world of misinformation

    I have a couple of friends who send me stuff from the INTERNET that they receive from other friends. I usually pass them on too. Many of them are very funny, showing the infinite stupidity of humanity; others are very clever and creative and some, Dear Reader, are a bit rude. It is rare for me to delete without sending on but there are categories I won't be party to distributing. Here is one (he says, distributing it more widely).

    An incident occurred in a supermarket recently, when the following was witnessed: A Muslim woman dressed in a Burkha (A black gown & face mask) was standing with her shopping in a queue at the checkout.
    When it was her turn to be served, and as she reached the cashier, she made a loud remark about the Union Jack Flag lapel pin, which the female cashier was wearing on her blouse.

    The cashier reached up and touched the pin and said, “Yes, I always wear it proudly. My son serves abroad with the forces and I wear it for him”.

    The Muslim woman then asked the cashier when she was going to stop bombing and killing her countrymen, explaining that she was Iraqi.

    At that point, a Gentleman standing in the queue stepped forward, and interrupted with a calm and gentle voice, and said to the Iraqi woman:

    “Excuse me, but hundreds of thousands of men and women, just like this ladies son have fought and sacrificed their lives so that people just like YOU can stand here, in Britain, which is MY country and allow you to blatantly accuse an innocent check- out cashier of bombing YOUR countrymen”.

    “It is my belief that if you were allowed to be as outspoken as that in Iraq which you claim to be YOUR country, then we wouldn’t need to be fighting there today”.

    “However - now that you have learned how to speak out and criticise the British people who have afforded you the protection of MY country, I will gladly pay the cost of a ticket to help you pay your way back to Iraq”.

    “When you get there, and if you manage to survive for being as outspoken as you are here in Britain, then you should be able to help straighten out the mess which YOUR Iraqi countrymen have got you into in the first place, which appears to be the reason that you have come to MY country to avoid.”

    Apparently the queue cheered and applauded.

    IF YOU AGREE.. Pass this on to all of your proud British friends..
    Well, I have also seen an Australian version of this so I was not entirely convinced, especially as there is no means of verifying the truth of the story. But it rang a bell and so I did a little INTERNET search. There seems to be a strong link between the above little piece of incitement to social harmony and a story from an edition of The Sun from Last October.

    Asda Till Snub for Hope for Heroes Mum. Mum-of-three Beth Hoyle claims an Asda till worker refused to serve her because she was wearing a wristband backing injured troops. Beth says the checkout lad told her the band for Help for Heroes - aided by The Sun - meant she supported the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

    And when she complained to a supervisor, he BACKED the Asian youth, saying he was entitled to his view. Beth, 40, who has two brothers in the services, said the checkout worker told her he didn't want to serve her because of "what she was wearing."

    Asda’s ultimate response was: We’ve come to the end of our investigation at Asda Rochdale and can’t find any truth in the allegation that one of our colleagues refused to serve a customer for wearing a Help for Heroes wristband.

    Our regional operations manager Paul Rowland said: “We’ve completed our investigation and it’s clear this exchange never happened. We’ve interviewed over 400 colleagues in the store, examined over three days worth of CCTV footage and talked to other customers and we can find absolutely no evidence that a colleague said what was alleged.”

    They concluded: “We are disappointed and angry that right-wing groups are using this mythical incident to whip up racial hatred,” said Paul. “Thankfully the people of Rochdale will see straight through that. We remain big supporters of the work our troops do serving our country.”

    Asda, it seems, sell the Hope for Heroes wristbands.

    Most worryingly, the websites for Exposing Islam and the NF still have the story.

    Excellent. Well done The Sun!

    There's a whole argument that people could go into regarding loyalty to your new home vs loyalty to your original homeland. However, that discussion becomes entirely pointless once you realise that the example of split loyalties under discussion was entirely fabricated to rile up nationalistic sentiments.

    (Cross-posted to atheism)

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  • 08/18/10--13:35: Jane Austen's FIGHT CLUB
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    This will be the first of three posts on the movies of John Carpenter and David Cronenberg. Sadly the Cronenberg movies "M Butterfly" (1993) (RT score: 44%) and "Fast Company" (1979) (RT score: 75%) are so far unavailable to me, however I have been able to see every other movie from these two fantastic directors and what follows is my assessment of their respective bodies of work, asides from those two exceptions.

    What is interesting about John Carpenter and David Cronenberg is that even their worst movies tend to have something interesting about them. This post shall deal with the worst of their movies, but later posts shall deal with their good movies and their best movies. This particular post shall take the form of a countdown.

    The Six Worst - John Carpenter

    6, Dark Star (1974)

    My review was as follows:

    Low budget silly sci-fi movie. I can see how this might have inspired Red Dwarf, but it was closer in its feel to Hyperdrive. There were even a few bits which seemed reminiscent of Hitchhikers’ Guide. The slapstick struggle with the less-than-appreciated alien life form and the polite but insistent bomb deployment system were both great fun. However, the comedy is not always terribly funny and tone of the movie is not always consistent. The movie could have done with being rather less 2001-esque (what was with the glass-water music?), but all-in-all I’d say the merits just about outweigh the faults making the a good if not perfect debut from John Carpenter.
    This movie has some great sci-fi comedy moments with some really good dark humour. However, with some drawn out scenes, no real sense of direction and a very obviously low budget it's hard to really get involved.

    My Score: 3.5/5
    Current Rotten Tomatoes Score: 81%

    5. Prince Of Darkness (1987)

    My review was as follows:
    Quite an awkward John Carpenter movie to get hold of and I'm glad I decided to make the effort. However, it really isn't one of Carpenter's best, nor is it terribly good. It contains some interesting imagery and similar themes to John Carpenter's far superior "In The Mouth Of Madness". The character's are set up pretty well, but the guy we are expected to think of as the male lead starts off (unintentionally) creepy and there are few points where the characters seem to have a rather bizarre sense of humour.

    What is most impressive about this movie is just how absurd and ridiculous the underlying premise is. Sure, I went in with an open mind, but when a horror movie starts trying to talk about the relationship between religion and science it's the sort of thing I'd normally expect to have me screaming in irritation. The script carefully avoids sounding too daft by focussing on the philosophical issues of uncertainty at a sub-atomic level, keeping scientists consistently sceptical, and by completely contradicting Church dogma. As such, not only is this not taking pot-shots at the scientific method or insisting that science can somehow prove God's existence, but even the religious viewpoint being explored is a kind of Manichean theology rather than traditional Christianity. As such, we've got a premise which doesn't spoil your suspension of disbelief by having too much relevance to real-world discoveries or belief systems, yet Carpenter is still able to get us to go along with it and take it (almost) seriously. The soundtrack has a similar feel to Carpenter's classic "The Thing" and it really helps to pull you in.

    As the movie goes on the scientific input becomes less and less important which, while somewhat of a relief, this makes a lot of the early part of the movie feel pointless. In the end we have something akin to an "awakening of Cthulu". While this is done well enough, I find myself giving the movie the following summary: "Cthulu without the tentacles". 'Nuff said.
    What I hadn't realised when I made my review, was that John Carpenter normally scores his own movies. "The Thing" is actually an exception to this, but even so Ennio Morricone was basing his score on music from other John Carpenter movies. Perhaps the biggest problem with the movie is that, for most of the movie, the EVIL seems to be able to do anything it wants. The EVIL is supposedly trapped in a container from which it cannot escape, yet that doesn't seem to stop it spraying people with evil goo. The EVIL also seems to be capable of controlling a group of people outside (led by Alice Cooper) who seem to be capable of turning someone into a weird zombie-like figure full of rats. The function of the people outside seems to be to provide a similar sense of being under seige as was found in Carpenter's "Assault On Precinct 13", but with little explanation as to why they are there it all feels a little odd. In the end, while this movie has the same creepy feel of other John Carpenter movies the story all feels a bit slap-dash. Also, though we are following a whole group of characters, the one we seem to be expected to consider the protagonist is not terribly likeable nor easy to empathise with.

    My Score: 2.5/5
    RT Score: 47%

    4. Memoirs Of An Invisible Man (1992)

    This was actually really good. The effects were used effectively (In the above image some makeup has come off around the lips revealing the false teeth in a rather disturbing way). Sam Neil gives the most fantastic performance as the bad guy, but sadly the central performance from Chevy Chase is rather less impressive. In the end, the movie cannot really survive without a decent central performance. While the dialogue suggests that the main character is selfish and a bit of a loner, Chevy Chase's performance suggests nothing much worse than a "lovable rogue". Chevy Chase simply doesn't seem to able to express the range of emotions to portray a character with depth and this puts severe limits on our investment in the story.

    My Score: 2.5/5
    RT Score: 24%

    3. Ghosts Of Mars (2001)

    My review was as follows:
    John Carpenter does aliens on Mars and unfortunately the biggest problem is that it's neither terribly exciting nor particularly intelligent. Apparently the society on Mars in the future is a matriarchy, though in the scheme of things this seems to make very little actual difference (though I suppose we should be grateful for this since apparently heterosexuality amongst women is also supposed to be quite rare in this future society *rolls eyes*).

    Basically the bad guys are the reavers from Firefly. Yes, this came first, but in Firefly they are sensible enough not to make alien posession the explanation for the reavers' decision to self-mutilate and slaughter. The movie is fun enough if you think of it as popcorn fodder and don't let your expectations get too high. This is currently John Carpenter's latest movie to be released, so here's hoping that The Ward is an improvement when it comes out.
    An early Jason Statham B-movie which ends up being mostly about the gore.

    My Score: 2/5
    RT Score: 19%

    2. Starman (1984)

    I started off thinking this had a chance. The scene where the alien first develops into a clone of the female protagonist's dead husband is very well done and the alien technology involving weird silver balls that Jeff Bridges' alien carries around with him are very well done too. Initially the alien's limited vocabulary is explained by the information about mankind which was sent into outer space in the hope that aliens would find it. This leads to some humour when Jeff Bridges keeps saying "greetings" to anyone he meets for the first time.

    The point where the movie first goes downhill would seem to me to be when Jeff Bridges is suddenly able to read. It's not just that his character shouldn't be able to read that easily, but also that the whole film is littered with scenes where the alien asks his friend to "define 'love'", "define 'beautiful'", "define 'bozo'", "define 'shit'". With all the words that the alien seems to have no trouble with whatsoever, this becomes irritating and makes it very hard to suspend disbelief.

    Later on in the film the alien starts asking about "having babies" (I'll leave you to work out what stupid direction that leads) and the army decide that they are going to destroy the alien for absolutely no reason whatsoever. "Run ET the government is here!" *facepalm* In spite of some promising elements and some decent effects, this movie is still very disappointing.

    My Score:
    RT Score: 78%

    Very worst John Carpenter Movie: Village Of The Damned (1995)

    This movie is like a geek trap. The main characters include a vulcan from "Wrath Of Khan", Luke Skywalker and Superman. How could any geek resist?

    Sadly no one comes off looking very good, but none of the actors seems quite as dreadful as Kirstie Alley, who as well as appearing in "Wrath Of Khan" you might also recognise from "Look Who's Talking".

    (Having searched for those images, I now feel a little guilty to be badmouthing her. The internet seems to be obsessed with her weight-gain. That said, she appears to have a website dedicated to selling weight-loss products.)

    The problem with Kirstie Alley's performance in "Village Of The Damned" is that she seems to have forgotten that she's no longer playing a vulcan. While her character is supposed to be ultra-rational and emotionally detached, there are points where she really ought to be emotionally affected. (Y'know like when an alien psychic is compelling you to slice yourself open with a scalpel, for example.) Not only that, but she often appears smug without any good reason for it.

    One benefit of Village Of The Damned is that it now features women, while in the original movie the cast was mainly male. This doesn't help much though, since the decision-makers are still men. Still, it does move things just that little bit closer to the plot of the book where a major issue was the connection the mothers felt to their alien babies.

    Back to downsides, there seems to be a need to portray one of the aliens as different from the others. As such, David is portrayed as experiencing emotions which the other aliens seem unable to understand. Meanwhile the rest of the alien children are portrayed as unquestionably evil. This is very different from the situation in the original movie where it was made very clear that the children are mainly interested in their own safety.

    The explosions in the remake are daft. There's one bit where a car drives into something and explodes. I know that it's a long held tradition to have cars exploding unnecessarily in movies, but it just looked silly. What's more, a small plane crashes in the original 1960s movie with much greater dramatic effect.

    Perhaps the most ridiculous element added to the remake was the alien baby who is stillborn. One of the scariest things in the original movie was that the alien children look exactly like ordinary humans. Not so terrifying is a stillborn baby that looks like the typical cliched alien like you see in Independence Day:

    Yeah, sorry, not shocked by that. Just disappointed.

    Overall, this movie was thorougly cheesy, but not much fun.

    My Score: 1/5
    RT Score: 30%

    The Seven Worst - David Cronenberg

    7. Shivers (They Came From Within) (The Parasite Murders) (1975)

    Cronenberg's first major film is a sort of zombie movie (if you like) about parasites which increase your libido and pervert your mind. While 28 Days/Weeks Later zombies represent the unthinking violence of rioters, Cronenberg's "Shivers" has zombies which represent the unthinking lust of an orgy... or something.

    So, does this need a trigger warning? (Admittedly, I've not normally been concerned about trigger warnings, but when I find myself mentioning the r-word, I feel I ought to consider it.) The film essentially involves rape, but the mind-control element means that victims are never non-consenting for long. (Then again, that's part of what makes it so horrific.) And for a movie about sex-crazed zombies, there's not really much sex depicted.

    The movie is actually quite slow-moving, but the last twenty minutes really struck me. The movie ends really powerfully and hits you with the full force of the horror that has been gradually building. Unfortunately, the movie is very obviously low-budget and the character development isn't great. Still, this is one worth checking out, even if it's certainly one of Cronenberg's less impressive movies.

    My Score: 3.5/5
    RT Score: 84%

    6. Spider (2002)

    I'm really not sure what condition Ralph Fiennes' protagonist is suffering from. Still, as he tries to figure stuff out, the movie gradually reveals his backstory which led him to be in psychiatric care. Miranda Richardson is quite awesome, as always, oddly playing both Ralph Fiennes mother and his father's lover. His father is played by Gabriel Byrne. The problem is that all the characters feel rather distant and the slow-moving plot feels rather too mixed-up to pull us in.

    Still, unlike some of the films coming up further down the list, this does at least have a proper plot and isn't just leading the audience up the garden path. I can't really fault the performances, but strangely this film feels more like a television programme than a movie.

    In the end, the biggest problem with this movie is that it is severely lacking in excitement and the revelation at the end is rather under-whelming. There's simply not a big enough payoff to make this worth your while. Still, your mileage may vary, so I've ended up rating this as "average". It really is. Very much so. You have been warned.

    My Score: 3/5
    RT Score: 85%

    5. eXistenZ (1999)

    My review was as follows:
    David Cronenberg does a science fiction movie about video games. It starts off with some compelling ideas. In a future where computer games are all-immersive a good game designer can provide experiences which can border on spiritual. Game designers are superstars and adoring fans can consider their gaming experiences life-changing. However, there are also reactionary figures and in the first section of the movie a celebrity game designer is attacked by a gun made entirely out of flesh and bone which fires teeth. So perhaps it's not surprising that the anti-gaming group are using non-technological methods, except that this doesn't distinguish them from the gamers whose games machines are also organic like an animal. It's with this set-up that Cronenberg is able to make us understand playing a game as a much more natural biological experience and this sets "eXistenZ" apart from Mamoru Oshii's "Avalon". Sadly another way it is set apart is in its ridulously contrived plot and totally unappealing gaming experience (why are they working on a conveyor belt in a trout farm???). Despite some interesting ideas towards the beginning there's no real plot to speak of and it never really comes together. The whole movie becomes too much style over substance and, especially with this coming out during the same year as The Matrix, the theme of "do you really know what is real" felt particularly cliched.
    This is a fantastic example of how a dreadful movie can be saved by Cronenberg's incredible imagination.

    Cronenberg, clearly trying to avoid making yet another Videodrome about videogames instead of TV, ends up providing us with one of the most boring videogames imaginable. In the games people occasionally get shot, but not often. Instead games seem to involve pre-decided speech (admittedly found in games, but normally as a build up to something more interesting) and putting bits of fish together on a conveyor belt (actually a plausible element in a real game, except that the protagonist seems to perform the action automatically). Thankfully the characters in the movie have the decency to acknowledge that the game seems to follow arbitrary rules, but sadly they don't seem to think anything needs to be done about this.

    Also weird, sexual, dare I say "vaginal", holes are made in the body in order to plug in the video game machine. Ah Cronenberg, you sick weirdo. :p

    I am very pleased to say that all the flaws in this movie are plot-related. By that I mean to say that the characters feel developed and engaging with good chemistry between the male and female protagonist, the acting is well done, the visuals are often striking, some ideas explored in the movie are particularly imaginative and the soundtrack never serves to pull you out of the action. Sadly the plot is rather important and in this movie it's practically nonexistent.

    My Score: 2.5/5
    RT Score: 71%

    4. Naked Lunch (1991)

    This actually comes pretty close to having a plot, but it's a little uncertain what this movie is trying to say about murdering your wife. *gulp* I'm also not entirely sure what this movie is trying to say about homosexuality, since it seems to be portrayed as some kind of subversive act. Perhaps that's how William S. Burroughs (the author whose work this is adapted from) saw it.

    The movie opens with some absolutely dreadful jazz music. I'm afraid this isn't the only Cronenberg film I'm going to be criticising for its choice of musical score, but that squeaky and melody-less trumpet noise is seriously offputting.

    Anyway, the visuals in this movie are quite incredible and somehow Cronenberg manages to really pull you into his abstract movie. Unfortunately it is perhaps a little too abstract for those of us not familiar with Burrough's literature. Unlike in the case of "Videodrome" where the imagery seemed to add to the message, in this case it seems to do very little asides from indicate that the author was on a lot of drugs. Still there's something rather intriguing about the typewriters which are also cockroaches which are also spooks which our protagonist goes on missions for. Bizarrely William's missions seem to mainly involve having sex.

    Towards the end we are told a story about a man who teaches his arsehole to talk. It's quite a memorable scene, but I've little idea of how to interpret it, nor does it appear to have much relevance to the rest of the movie. Perhaps it'll be argued that I don't "get" this movie or possibly that I'm wrong to expect it to make sense, but I can't help but feel that some of the blame surely falls on the presentation itself. Still, one things for certain and that's that the presentation is helped greatly by the acting talents of Peter Weller (Robocop) who manages to take a character who displays very little emotion and nevertheless make us strongly empathise with him.

    I can't say that I'm sorry to have seen this, but I can't say that it was especially good either. Visually stunning, somewhat intriguing, but all in all simply baffling.

    My Score: 2.5/5
    RT Score: 68%

    3. Dead Ringers (1988)

    My review was as follows:
    Now this was entirely new to me. I liked how Jeremy Irons plays two identical twins, but as subtle as he is I actually had trouble keeping up with who was who some of the time. (Advice if you decide to watch it: Take very careful note, as soon as you can, as to what their names are. I'm actually a bit rubbish with names and I wasn't making the effort to take note of the names at the beginning.) The movie actually seemed a little misogynistic in places. I suppose this is what the characters were like and if male characters always treated women well it'd be highly unrealistic. Still, when you discover what the implements in the opening credits are for, it is a little bit of a shock.

    Still there were some very clever ideas and while the ending was very bizarre indeed, it's kind of expected from Cronenberg's earlier work. Still, while it was acted well and didn't fail to keep my interest, I wasn't entirely sure I could buy into it at the end. It seemed to lack direction and while it's not so different in style to Cronenberg's excellent "Videodrome" it doesn't have the same level of excitement and creativity.
    I originally gave this movie 3.5/5, but on further reflection it has gone down in my estimation. The fact is that while this had many elements marking it out as a Cronenberg movie, not only did the ending left me cold but I'm not sure I like the message given out on the way up to it either. Yes, Jeremy Irons' performance as identifical twins was excellent. However, an identical twin who goes mad and starts making bizarre tools for dealing with unusual women's bits is not a good premise for a film and that's all there is to it.

    My Score: 2/5
    RT Score: 83%

    2. The Dead Zone (1983)

    My review was as follows:
    David Cronenberg does Stephen King. Meh. I had high hopes for this one, but sadly the meandering storyline failed to pull me in. Also the dramatic music felt out of place and served to further distance me from the action onscreen. Sure the music in "Scanners" was awful, but at least it still contributed to the mood of the film. Here the music is much better, but it detracts from the events onscreen. The comparison between these two is not unwarranted since both are movies about psychics, but while Scanners was creepy and engaging, Dead Zone is dull and lifeless.

    A lot of parts of The Dead Zone felt cliched and cheesy, such as the serial killer who is very mad and the reference to cold war fears. Either of these elements could have been very interesting, but not enough time is spent on them and the rush to get to the finish line leaves the whole project feeling hollow.
    I'm still sticking to my guns in regards to the musical score for this movie. While the music in this movie seems to have a noticeably higher budget than "Scanners", it's also far less effective in immersing the audience in the movie. While the music in "Scanners" disorientated the audience, that felt appropriate. Meanwhile the music in "The Dead Zone" serves to constantly remind you that you are watching a movie. Instead of feeling that the events in the movie were dramatic, I simply got the feeling that they were supposed to be dramatic.

    Some seem to treat this as if it were Cronenberg's best movie. In terms of Rotten Tomatoes scores, it is second only to "The Fly". Yet this seemed like a typical example of a bad adaptation. It's always annoying when a movie feels like it is saying "this happened, then this happened, then this other thing happened" and one reason a film can feel like this is if it is an adaptation which is trying to fit all the events of a novel into a two hour period.

    I saw a trailer for the movie on tv one time and it showed the scene where Christopher Walken sees a fire from his hospital bed. It is undoubtedly the best scene in the movie and a sign that Cronenberg wanted to use his experimentation with depicting psychics in "Scanners". Unfortunately, The Dead Zone simply didn't give Cronenberg the same amount of opportunity for creativity. Another thing in the trailer was Christopher Walken dramatically shouting "THE ICE.. IS GONNA BREAK!!!" Sadly as dramatic as this outburst is, it isn't followed up by anything terribly interesting.

    At one point our psychic protagonist has a revelation about a serial killer. Sadly the serial killer storyline is just one small part of the movie, so after catching the serial killer, who turns out to be barking mad and living with a mother who is similarly bonkers, the story can then move on to focus on the ruthless politician with his eyes on the presidency. Let's put it this way, if there's an attempt on the life of the president does his popularity go up or down? Yeah, I know that there's a reason why things go in a different direction, but that's mainly a matter of luck really, isn't it? (Right, I think that was sufficiently vague for those still wanting to watch this rubbish.)

    Yeah, you know what? I'm docking this movie half a mark...

    My Score: 2/5
    RT Score: 89%

    Very Worst David Cronenberg Movie: Crash (1996)

    The whole movie is a series of sex scenes intended to shock you rather than arouse you. None of the characters are realistic, the events in the movie certainly aren't realistic and far from involving lots of car crashes or cars nearly crashing, the movie is actually extremely boring. The regular piece of dangerous driving is tailgating which is, admittedly, quite dangerous. The problem is that the characters don't seem to have any good motivation for this and, perhaps most importantly, I'm not really worried about whether anyone dies. Heck, we have a tragic death quite early on in the movie and the only consequence of this seems to be that the manslaughtering protagonist has sex with the widow.

    In fact, the lack of realistic emotional reactions from the characters is probably the biggest flaw in this movie. Sometimes movies can feature people without much in the way of character and movies don't always need much in the way of plot. However, when the figures we are supposed to be relating to in the movie do not even act like human beings, it is extremely difficult to empathise.

    One thing I was told would be in the movie (which admittedly made me a little worried about watching) was a scene in which a man has sex with a wound. It turns out that this is the wound (on her left leg):

    In typical Cronenberg style, it is suggested that it looks rather vaginal. However, it doesn't appear that the protagonist's scarred partner is terribly pained or even masochistically pleasured by this act. It's just one more boring scene in an incredibly boring movie. In fact, with many scenes barely seeming to have any logical continuity from the last and the final scene in particular making no sense whatsoever, I hardly feel able to call this a movie. As such, my score for this movie is actually lower than 1 out of 5.

    My Score: 0.5/5
    RT Score: 65%

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    New Metroid live-action trailer looks awesome!

    Of course, this isn't the first live-action trailer:

    (Trailer One - "Other M")

    (Trailer Two - "Metroid Prime")
    (Trailer Three - "Metroid Prime 2: Echoes")

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    This is my second entry reviewing the movies of John Carpenter and David Cronenberg, two of my favourite directors. While you might wonder what point there is in reading about their worst movies, the thing about these directors is that even their worst efforts can capture the imagination, so do check out part one. (In part one, I also note that two Cronenberg movies are unfortunately missing from my list.)

    The third entry will feature what I consider to be the very best movies of Carpenter and Cronenberg. Meanwhile, this entry features those which are very good, but didn't make it into the top list. I actually would highly recommend any of the movies mentioned in this post and many of you may well view some of these as personal favourites from these directors. Naturally I will give a full explanation not only of what I enjoyed about each of these movies, but also what kept them from the final list.

    Seven Good Carpenter Movies

    Assault on Precinct 13 (1976)

    This is seen very much as a classic, but I felt somewhat detached from this movie. The characters all felt a little too scripted and not sufficiently natural. A prison officer rather naively seems surprised that not all murderers are rabid psychopaths. The convicted murderer promises to tell the prison officer how he came to be murderer despite not being a rabid psychopath, but only when he's about to be executed. Personally I found this a little contrived.

    The movie seems to suggest, rather bizarrely, that silencers make no noise whatsoever. Something else which bugged me was that the gang is apparently willing to sacrifice as many people as necessary taking down a police station rather than risk a couple of their members being done for killing a child. I couldn't really figure this out though perhaps I'm overthinking things here.

    Certainly, whether the characters feel real or not, there are some rather cool lines and plenty of excitement. Unlike in Village Of The Damned, John Carpenter makes good use of explosions in this low budget affair.

    My Score: 4.5/5
    Current Rotten Tomatoes Score: 96%

    Escape from New York (1981)

    On second watch this seemed a lot better than the first time I saw it. It's been a while.

    The problem for me is that, having set up a rather compelling sci-fi setting, our protagonist is quickly shifted into a dilapidated setting which is pretty much gadget-free. In our initial intro we are also shown the awesome chemistry between Kurt Russell and the legendary Lee Van Kleef ("the bad" to Clint Eastwood's "the good") only for the two characters to be separated for the majority of the movie's running time.

    Interestingly a major New York landmark, now missing, plays quite a major part in the plot. When I first saw the movie this wasn't a potential anachronism. (Then again, seeing as the movie is set in 1997, we can probably explain it away as "alternate history" instead.) In fact, one thing that possibly spoilt my enjoyment of the movie the first time around was that, at the time, I didn't really know the difference between New York and any other American city. I now have a much better understanding of what makes New York distinctive and I can better see how the movie captures a dystopian future in which the city has been transformed into a massive prison.

    Snake Plissken's character is thoroughly daft, but he's not to be taken seriously. Taking the movie too seriously will make other aspects of the movie rather irritating too. For example, there's the devoted cabbie who is still doing the same job even though civillisation has collapsed around him. This is a great comic touch, but if you are taking the movie seriously it's bizarre and jarring. Another example is the bad guy's car with a disco ball in it (with the bad guy role suitably filled by Isaac Hayes).

    Once you are in the right mood, there's a great deal of fun to be had in following the exploits of the cynical anti-hero Snake Plissken. However, John Carpenter is possibly a little too effective in portraying the darker side of this dystopia making it a little hard to lose yourself in the satire.

    My Score: 4.5/5
    RT Score: 82%

    Vampire$ (1998)

    James Woods stars in all his cynical anti-hero glory. The vampire hunters aren't righteously defending us from unholy horrors. Instead they are thugs for hire and as much of a potential embarrassment to the Catholic Church which hires them as the vampires they hunt. These thugs are loutish and misogynistic, but nevertheless with a kind of "honour among thieves" mentality.

    The depiction of vampire hunting is really well done and the central master vampire in the movie has a fantastic screen presence. In a scene late on in the movie it feels a little odd that the bad guys aren't ruthless enough to actually hammer in nails when setting up a mock crucifixion. There are a few points actually where there seems to be a bit of logic missing. Another example is where a woman being kept captive wakes up to find she's been stripped naked, but it's not until after she's had her situation explained to her that her captor has the presence of mind to hide her nakedness with the bed cover. (Another case of the thug being a misogynist or a simply an opportunity for gratuitous nudity? You decide.)

    The portrayal of the gradual psychological change into a vampire is very well depicted. James Woods is on top form as his, now typecast, dickhead persona. Overall this is quite a unique action-packed take on the vampire mythology, even if lacking in depth.

    My Score: 4.5/5
    RT Score: 33%

    Christine (1983)

    My review was as follows:

    An adaptation of a Stephen King novel (which I haven't read). It takes its time setting things up and we begin in high school with, once again, a whole bunch of people who clearly shouldn't be in high school anymore. Still, the characters are well formed and the plot moves well. The protagonist is living with puritanical parents but in an act of rebellion he buys a clapped out old car and decides to fix her up. This gives him a sense of worth and he clearly goes through a change in character as a result, but it's not just his parents who think that his car isn't as good for him as we might initially have thought. There's some great moments when we see what the car Christine is capable of. However, unlike Christine herself, there's something unpolished about the movie. Great fun nonetheless.
    I wonder if I'm not being a little over-favourable to this movie. Still, the main thing that makes me want to bring the score down is the high school kids who are blatantly too old for high school. When this is common to quite a few other movies, it feels unfair to pick on this one for it (even if the high school bullies seem particularly out of place - I mean did the school really keep them on up to 18? Or is that just an enormous 16 year old?)

    Still, one thing that's particularly impressive about Christine is how unthreatening the car first appears. It's the sort of shade of red Noddy would want for his car and yet when Carpenter takes the gloves off, we really come to see this car as the monster Stephen King intended. I must admit to never having read the original story, but I know that the movie gave a suitably menacing impression.

    My Score: 4.5/5
    RT Score: 67%

    The Fog (1980)

    As I've mentioned before, a pet peeve of mine is when the bad guys have seemingly arbitrary supernatural powers. This movie features a supernatural fog out of which nasty things come to kill you and the fog seems to be able to go wherever it wants. Whether you get killed by the fog or not seems to basically depend upon luck for the most part and that irritates me.

    That said, the attacks by the things in the fog are very well done. Also despite quite a varied cast we get to know several of the characters quite well and we always feel an attachment to enough of the characters to feel invested in the action (though some characters aren't developed as well as others).

    The ending sticks with you, which always tends to be a good sign.

    My Score: 4/5
    RT Score: 69%

    Big Trouble in Little China (1986)

    My review was as follows:
    Great fun. Some of the effects shots are filled with the John Carpenter magic, though in general this is quite low budget. This movie is, admittedly, very cheesy. Also some of the lines aren't delivered especially well. That said, the two male leads (Kurt Russell and Dennis Dun) have the energy to really pull you into the action and, once you get caught up in it, the cheesiness ceases to matter.

    While this might not sound like much of a recommendation, I can't help but feel that this was an inspiration for the fighting game Mortal Kombat. The abilities of Raiden, god of thunder, in the game seem reminiscent of a rather awesome bad guy. Also the sorceror Shang Tsung in the game seems rather similar to the main bad guy sorceror in the movie. The whole premise of dark Chinese magic and nothing being what it seems really captures the imagination and it isn't surprising that it may have influenced others later on.

    Don't expect too much. This is essentially silly fun. But as silly fun goes, you won't be disappointed.
    Yeah, the more I think about it, the more I reckon that Mortal Kombat must be based on this. Utterly silly and great fun. Love it!

    My Score: 4/5
    RT Score: 82%

    Halloween (1978)

    My review was as follows:
    A long time ago a series of "spoof" horror movies was released known as "Scream", "Scream 2" and eventually also "Scream 3". I was given the impression that "Scream 2" was supposed to be funny, that it was funnier than the original in the series and that it wasn't really necessary to see the first one beforehand. I quickly discovered that this was a mistake when the first scene to the movie featured a girl being brutally stabbed to death several times before bleeding to death in front of a cinema audience. Yuck! I came to be told that "Scream" and "Scream 2" were meant to be spoofing the "slasher" genre whereby a murderer picks off people one-by-one. The slasher genre was exemplified by series such as "Friday The Thirteenth", "Nightmare On Elm Street" and "Halloween".

    I'd seen Jason X (which, unlike the disgusting Scream 2, actually was funny - and featured a cameo from David Cronenberg lol!). Still I wasn't under the impression after all this time that I'd actually be interested in slasher movies. Still, in my endeavour to see every movie by John Carpenter, it seemed necessary to see Halloween at some stage. Oddly Halloween is supposed to be the movie which started off this genre in the first place. Watching it, I couldn't really see what Wes Anderson needed to make fun of which had not been sufficiently spoofed already. John Carpenter's original feature is quite playful, such as when mysterious noises down the phone turn out to be a friend chewing rather than the set-up for a brutal killing.

    Also an interesting feature is that we aren't expected to empathise with the killer. Michael is utterly dehumanised, making this essentially a monster movie with a masked human being taking the place of the monster. It must be admitted that there is the unfortunate cliche of the mid-twenties adults who are inexplicably still in high school and the dialogue is a bit dodgy in places, but there are some very nice touches nonetheless. Also, John Carpenter doesn't feel the need to make the murders overly gratuituous. The tension is in full force, but Michael only seems to require one fatal blow to take people out rather than the brutal stabbings again and again which I was treated to at the beginning of Scream 2.

    All in all, it wasn't perfect. Some better dialogue amongst the "high school seniors" (yeah right) would have gone a long way. Also, while they had their moments, the characters could have been given a little more depth. Still, all in all it was pretty good fun.
    The playfulness is probably worth re-iterating. Like with Escape From New York, you are going to be irritated by this movie if you take it too seriously. This isn't a serious statement about the mentality of serial killers or a warning to be on your guard against mass-murdering lunatics. Instead it's a monster movie where the monster just so happens to be human. This human murderer monster has about as much relevance to threats in the real world as The Thing From Outer Space (which just so happens to be on the television within this movie).

    My Score: 4/5
    RT Score: 93%

    Two Good David Cronenberg Movies

    Just two? Yep that's right. It seems that Cronenberg movies are often very much love 'em or hate 'em movies. (And though I say that, it must be noted that while the lack of a decent narrative structure in movies like "eXistenZ" or "Naked Lunch" irritates the hell out of me, I do have a soft spot for them as pieces of cinema all the same.) Expect a large number of Cronenberg movies still to be dealt with in part three.

    The Brood (1979)

    I have to admit that the therapy BS annoyed me. I don't know if I was supposed to be at all conflicted in my view of Oliver Reed's experimental therapist, but I was wholly on the side of the protagonist from the very beginning in seeing him as a con-artist. I wouldn't say that scenes featuring the therapy bored me and I suppose their making me uneasy is part of the point. Still, I had trouble gauging what they were supposed to be achieving. As such, when the two sides of the plot came together it took me rather by surprise. Certainly I must say that there's a level of misdirection going on in the movie which works very well, but then again you'd have to be quite strange to possibly guess the bizarre revelations in the third act.

    While I haven't given this the full five out of five, I'm only keeping it out by a half mark. Certainly the movie is unambiguously horrid, there are parts which are irritating and the movie as a whole feels somewhat unpolished. However, when the nature of the threat is revealed there's something quite inspired about it.
    My Score: 4.5/5
    RT Score: 79%

    Rabid (1977)

    That I love this movie as much as I do is quite remarkable. The initial premise is utterly ludicrous (as Cronenberg himself has noted). Essentially this is a rather bizarre kind of vampire movie. Marilyn Chambers actually does a really good job in the starring role, though I would say there's one scene where she's throwing her head about on a bed which felt a little more amateurish. (Marilyn Chambers is most well known for a porn movie called "Through The Green Door", though Cronenberg was surprised that she didn't appear in other independent films after "Rabid".)

    The storyline is pretty similistic, but you find yourself genuinely concerned about the characters, some of whom have very little screen time in which to garner your sympathy. As a general rule it seems that all the male victims are chosen for a reason (still I'm not so sure about the female victims), though the protagonist doesn't know what the catastrophic effects are of her newly acquired vampirism.

    In spite of a ludicrous premise, a plot that is pretty much by-the-numbers, a generally unpolished feel and an abrupt ending, this still has a great deal of charm. I really enjoyed it.
    My Score: 4/5
    RT Score: 61%

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    Disclaimer before you start reading: Article contains sarcasm.

    Anti-'Ground Zero Mosque' Rally Freaks Out at Black Guy

    Both supporters and opponents of the "Ground Zero" "Mosque"—a proposed community center—held rallies in lower Manhattan today. Can you guess which side started chanting "no mosque here" at a black guy wandering through the crowd?

    While you spent your Sunday trying to teach your cat to go to the bathroom on a human toilet, a group of brave, freedom-loving Americans gathered in New York City to express their extreme disapproval with the Park 51 project, an al-Qaeda plot to build a community center featuring a swimming pool and auditorium on the very site where a Burlington Coat Factory once stood.

    As you can see in the video above, at some point during the rally, a dark-skinned man wearing an Under Armor skullcap and what looks like a necklace with a Puerto Rican flag walked through the anti-"Mosque" crowd. The crowd, astutely recognizing that he was on his way to build the mosque, began to chant "NO MOSQUE HERE" at him. In the video, someone says, "run away, coward." The man turns around, perturbed. "Y'all motherfuckers don't know my opinion about shit," he says. Au contraire, my friend: You are a black man wearing a skullcap, after all! You are definitely a pro-Mosque, anti-freedom Jihadist! Why, aren't you, in fact... Osama Bin Laden??

    No, actually, according to the guy who uploaded the video to YouTube, the skullcap-wearing gentleman's name is Kenny and he's "a Union carpenter who works at Ground Zero." Kenny is also—as he points out several times in the video—not a Muslim. (No word on whether or not he voted for Obama, as one of the very reasonable and intelligent-sounding anti-"Mosque" protestors speculates.) But I'll bet you Kenny has been totally convinced about the truth of the Burlington Coat Factory Desecration Community Center. Who wouldn't be?

    But other than the whole "person of color ruins our rally" thing, the protest sounds like a delightful time:
    A mannequin wearing a keffiyeh, a traditional Arab headdress, was mounted on one of two mock missiles that were part of an anti-mosque installation. One missile was inscribed with the words: "Again? Freedom Targeted by Religion"; the other with "Obama: With a middle name Hussein. We understand. Bloomberg: What is your excuse?"
    They even played "Born in the USA," Bruce Springsteen's famous anthem about how awesome the United States is! Meanwhile, a bunch of hippie losers protested across the way and tried to teach people about "religious tolerance," or whatever. Guess what, hippies? The mosque doesn't have a chance:
    If the mosque gets built, "we will bombard it," [anti-Park 51 proestor Kobi] Mor said. He would not elaborate but added that he believes the project "will never happen."
    America: If we don't like something, we'll bombard it!
    (Article From Gawker)
    (Via The Spittoon)

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    The final part in my consideration of the movies of John Carpenter and David Cronenberg. Finally we have reached what I consider to be their very best works. (Once again, I must remind everyone that I have not seen "Fast Company" or "M Butterfly" from David Cronenberg. They're a bit hard to come by it seems.)

    Wondering about some other movies by these directors? Well if you look into part 2 you'll see some quite strong recommendations, while in part 1 I considered the movies from these directors which I viewed as most disappointing. (Please note that I like every movie mentioned in parts 2 and 3. In part 1, movies I might suggest as "worth watching" would be "Dark Star" and "Prince Of Darkness" from Carpenter and "Shivers" and "eXistenZ" from Cronenberg.)

    The Very Best Of John Carpenter

    Personal Favourite: The Thing (1982)

    Remarkably this wasn't very popular when it came out. It seems that this was the same year that E.T. was released so I can only presume that people were so caught up in Spielberg's wuvvy duvvy psychic aliens that they weren't terribly interested in Carpenter's terrifying shapeshifter. Carpenter suggests that what upset people about The Thing was that it didn't stick to the normal horror tradition of leaving the horror to your imagination. Instead, the monster is very much on screen, as is the gore. The thing is that Carpenter provides some of the most incredible model-work in this movie's effects and it really hasn't dated much in that time. This is undoubtedly one of the greatest horror movies ever made. I don't really see how anyone could dispute that.

    My score: 5/5 (Plus, my favourite movie of 1982)
    Current Rotten Tomatoes Score: 80%

    In The Mouth Of Madness (1995)

    Giving Sam Neil the starring role helps a great deal. Sam Neil does a really job of pulling the audience in as he tracks down the missing horror author, Sutter Cane. There are some points where the movie gets very silly, but it keeps your attention from beginning to end. The ending of the movie is quite haunting and sticks with you long after you turn off the DVD player.

    My score: 5/5
    RT score: 48%

    They Live (1988)

    My review was as follows:

    Yet another re-watched, but I was stunned to find how much better it seemed this time around. The storyline seems particularly relevant to the current economic climate as it begins with the protagonist desperate to find work when there's very little to come by. The general sentiment is that times are hard and that people are just going to have to try their best to get by. Then they discover that there's a more sinister explanation for their situation.

    Yeah sure there's a point where two friends decide to beat the s*** out of each other and that scene lasts rather too long and looks a more like a wrestling match than a real-life brawl. Also the famously cheesy line "I've come here to chew bubblegum and kick ass and I'm all out of bubblegum" seems extremely out of place. However, I'm inclined to forgive these few things since the movie as a whole is engaging, imaginative, exciting and really quite clever. I love it.
    Despite being essentially an action movie, this has quite a mature message to it. When I first saw it I was still in school and wasn't able to get the full message of it. In this era of economic recession, however, the message seems particularly relevant. Do note that I am deliberately avoiding describing who "they" are.

    My score: 5/5
    RT score: 88%

    Escape From LA (1996)

    This might come as some surprise seeing as in my previous consideration of various directors I said that I wasn't so keen on "Escape From New York". The thing is that Escape From LA is essentially a spoof of Escape from New York, as well as a satire on both Hollywood and the American far-right. As such, the film cannot really stand along as a movie. While it doesn't follow on from Escape From New York, many of the gags do not work unless you are familiar with the previous movie. That said, I actually think that Escape From LA does a better job of getting you into the right move since it makes it pretty obvious right from the start that this isn't a movie you are supposed to take seriously. From Snake Plissken avoiding a shark as he passes the now-submerged Universal Studios to surfing on a tidal wave alongside a car, this is a sci-fi comedy satire of epic randomness. Also Bruce Campbell has a cameo role.

    My score: 5/5
    RT score: 56%

    The Very Best Of David Cronenberg

    Personal Favourite: Eastern Promises (2007)

    David Cronenberg's latest outings have been rather different from earlier in his career. He seems to now be moving from bizarre abstract horror to real-life horror. For some reason Cronenberg seems to like setting the occasional movie in London and I can't say I'm sorry for that. I hear that Vincent Cassell's Russian accent is appalling, but I was much more concerned about Naomi Watts and I'm pleased to say that her English accent was quite convincing. Cronenberg successfully presents some quite complex characters in this movie about the Russian mafia. Some fantastically subtle performances from Armin Mueller-Stahl and Viggo Mortensen make this an absolutely outstanding film.

    My score: 5/5 (Plus, my favourite movie of 2007)
    RT score: 89%

    Videodrome (1983)

    This movie is quite abstract with much of the film consisting in dreams and halluncinations. Still the triumph of Videodrome is how it exploits a fear of television while you watch the television. It focusses on television's relationship with sex and violence while featuring a fair bit of both itself. Some of the ideas in the movie are utterly bizarre, but still it succeeds in pulling you in. While abstract, that doesn't stop the movie from having a consistent plot and a genuine sense that characters are meaningfully interacting; an attribute in which some other abstract Cronenberg movies are rather lacking.

    My score: 5/5 (Plus, my favourite movie of 1983)
    RT score: 80%

    The Fly (1986)

    My review was as follows:
    Re-watching David Cronenberg's remake of The Fly it didn't seem quite as exciting as the first time around. Still, I guess you can expect that to some extent when you know what is going to happen. I didn't remember the female protagonist's ex-boyfriend seeming quite so creepy before, but then again I'm sure there are overly posessive creeps like him in real life. Cronenberg's new take on the premise is not to give us the comfort of knowing precisely what the central scientist has become, but instead to make the change a gradual one. This is extremely effective and stands to put a stark distinction between the remake and the original. Jeff Goldblum's performance is excellent and really gets us under the skin (so to speak) of the scientist as he changes.
    It's generally not a good idea to remake a movie unless you have something new to bring to it. With the original movie of "The Fly" being such a classic, it would have been difficult to justify a remake. As it is, Cronenberg's take on The Fly is so drastically different from his source material that it can barely be called a remake at all. It seems that Cronenberg was fascinated by the idea within the original movie that the scientist is slowly turning into a fly. What he then does with this idea is quite incredible.

    My score: 5/5
    RT score: 91%

    A History Of Violence (2005)

    Yet another example of Cronenberg's more recent style of real-life horror rather than body horror. A History Of Violence is an adaptation from a graphic novel about a peace-loving man who is approached by some shady figures who are convinced that he has a less-than-peace-loving history with them. Towards the beginning there's a rather awkward sex scene with Maria Bello wearing a rather unflattering cheerleader outfit and this served (I felt) to make the beginning of the film rather slower than it ought to have been. Still, once the story gets going it becomes really interesting and once again Cronenberg manages to finish the movie leaving you a little haunted by what has come before.

    My score: 5/5
    RT score: 87%

    Scanners (1981)

    In spite of the weird noises, odd soundtrack, a few particularly daft lines and an utterly stupid revelation towards the end, I cannot help but love this movie. As weird as the sound effects often are, there can be no doubt that they do a great job of convincing us that these people really are psychic. Cronenberg's style of body horror means that his portrayal of psychics is much more convincing than it might otherwise have been with a director who allowed for more mind/body dualism. Rather than portraying psychics as simply being people with powers (a la X-Men) this film portrays telepathy as a weird form of mental illness (since it's the mind working abnormally). It's an extremely interesting approach, imaginatively explored, and this more than makes up for the films failings in terms of character development and plot. A clever (as well as visually spectacular) ending solidifies Scanners as one of Cronenberg's best movies.

    My score: 5/5
    RT score: 76%

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    Scott Pilgrim VS The World

    This is the poster at my local cinema. And it sucks...

    Prologue: As always, I do not recommend watching the trailer for a movie that you already know you are going to see. Nevertheless the trailer I saw for this movie in the cinema is mentioned a great deal in this review and you can find the specific trailer I saw if you click here. Oddly, when Serenity was coming out I remember the trailer in cinemas being the superior international one and once again it appears that the international trailer for Scott Pilgrim is far better, but sadly that wasn't the one which gave me my first impressions on the movie.)

    I was initially put off of this by the trailer, but became more interested when I discovered that Edgar Wright (Shaun Of The Dead, Hot Fuzz, Spaced) was directing. The thing is, I'm not really sure what it was about the trailer that was misleading. The trailer gives the impression that it's sort of a romantic comedy and that the movie is going to mostly involve comic-like set-pieces where the protagonist fights each of his new girlfriend's "evil exes", but that's actually pretty accurate.

    A few things that the trailer misses out. In the trailer Scott Pilgrim comes off as possibly a brooding-but-strong hero, mainly because all the scenes come from the fight scenes (most explanation for that later). In the movie, Scott Pilgrim is a bit of a gitt. He doesn't actively bully people and he isn't rude to people, but instead he's selfishly passive. In fact it's not so different from the flaws of Simon Pegg's character in Spaced. The flaws lie in a lack of consideration for others and an element of self-denial regarding their own responsibilities.

    With the comparison to Spaced having been made, you might think of Scott Pilgrim VS The World as Spaced if it focussed much more on videogame parodies than movie parodies. In case you haven't seen Spaced (Why not? Go see it now!) it was about some geeks living in a flat and would be made up mostly of parodies of movies in order to provide a rather surreal take on real-life situations. Many consider Shaun Of The Dead to be an extra-long episode, but the thing with Shaun Of The Dead was that it couldn't shift to different scenarios because the whole movie was stuck parodying zombies. Similarly Hot Fuzz was stuck in the "cop movie" genre. Scott Pilgrim represents Edgar Wright's first opportunity to move his narrative in and out of various parodies and pop culture references on the big screen. While the trailer gave the impression that Edgar Wright had sold out and was now making action movies which use characters as a means to move the action scenes forward, the ridiculous action sequences are actually very much a means to develop the characters.

    Click here for a clip of Spaced moving between movie/videogame parody and real life. The use of little sound effects when shifting camera angles or demonstrating movement is also found in the Scott Pilgrim movie. Notice that at the end of that clip from Spaced we can tell Simon Pegg's character isn't really a nice guy because he's overly self-involved, but he's still a character we can imagine following. Also notice that during the parody sequences Simon Pegg's character comes off as brave and cocky, in complete contrast to his real-life persona (rather like Scott Pilgrim's fight scenes).

    When I went to see this movie, I was surrounded by a lot of couples (though I can't really complain as I was there with my girlfriend too). There was one couple that appeared to leave before the half-way mark, but that could have been because they wanted to get their money back for the sound messing up part way through. (Thank goodness they left anyway, since one of them had their mobile phone screen glowing in front of them all the time they were in the cinema.) Perhaps they weren't keen on it because they were expecting a more lovey-dovey rom com rather than the more down-to-earth relationship(s) Scott Pilgrim has. Still, I'm not sure it was wrong for couples to be seeing this. It was very definitely a film about relationships, albeit one in which the main focus was geeky stuff.

    Needless to say that Edgar Wright has come out with another gem and you'd have to be crazy not to want to see it. I hope this knocks your socks off just as much as it did mine. :)


    DVD Reviews

    The Road

    Well, I knew before I went in that this was going to be a movie about a dad and his son wandering through an apocalyptic landscape where food is scarce and many people have turned to cannibalism. So yeah, I waited til DVD.

    The relationship between the father and the son is done fantastically well. The grey filter in the movie which shows us this desolate apocalyptic future sometimes made the screen rather dark, but not too much overall. We feel the full force of the horror of this savage future, but we also get a real emotional connection with the characters. There isn't really any point in the film that could be said to be "filler".

    One great aspect of the movie is the way that the son provides us with a kind of reverse culture shock. The apocalyptic future is all he's ever known and he is lacking in any real contact with anyone but his father (because relying on others is too dangerous). As such, in spite of his shocking environment he can be quite naive and when they discover remnants of our own society they are sources of wonder. There's quite a moving scene where the dad finds a remaining coke can and let's his son have it as a treat. Unique moments like this are set up in a way that seems remarkably natural.

    In the end though, there are some negatives. While it's a great portrayal of an apocalyptic future it isn't fun escapism, nor does it have much of a message about modern day. The apocalypse portrayed has no obvious cause. Sure, it's environmental, but it doesn't appear to based on the expected effects of climate change and as such the effects of the apocalypse are kept fairly vague for the most part. The father and son duo are moving south where to stop themselves dying from cold, but even so the world is getting ever greyer and the trees are all dead and often falling down. Having read "Brother In The Land" which tried to provide an accurate picture of the problems that would be faced after a nuclear war, the movie of "The Road"'s more general message that the future is desolate, savage and cold can feel rather irritating. Still, it might be said that questioning why this has happened makes us somewhat empathise with the similarly confused protagonists.

    In the end, in spite of this being rather excellently put together, it cannot get away from being hideously depressing and rather lacking in any real message. Nevertheless, I wouldn't call it nihilistic.


    Valhalla Rising

    Having loved the Pusher movies I was quite excited about this. It starts promisingly, introducing us to a ruthless captive being regularly expected to fight to the death while his owners profit from wagers on his survival. When the captive finds himself being taken on a boat through a mysterious mist, it is then that the movie starts to lose its way. They find themselves in a strange unknown land and wonder whether they are in a holy land or in hell.

    For me, the real point where the movie completely loses its way is where the actors are all frolicking around in mud as if they've gone mad. The madness of the characters seems to take a more typical form of irrational decisions later on, but there's little explanation for why that should have caused them shakily dump their faces in the river bed.

    The movie is visually stunning with absolutely amazing scenery being portrayed. Also, the sense of doom in the movie is set up very well by the quite surreal style. Unfortunately the message of the movie is a little overly vague. It's like Aguirre Wrath of God if it were intended for a stoner audience. Also, it's never a good sign when you have to check out wikipedia to work out what was going on in a movie. (No explanation for the 'madness on the river bed scene' unfortunately.) When I found out where the 'holy land'/'hell' in the movie was supposed to be, I was quite incredulous.

    I really thought I was going to love this movie when I was only half way through, but having reached the end I was distinctly less impressed. The acting is great and the cinematography is great, but the movie itself is far too weird. Wikipedia says that reviews range from "a masterpiece" to "unbearably self-important". I can't say I'm surprised.


    Up In The Air

    I absolutely loved "Thank You For Smoking". I loved it because it was cynical. The main character was a man whose job was to act as a PR guy for the tobacco industry, working against the clear knowledge that smoking has severe health issues. The basic gist was "it's a tough job but someone's gotta do it". The whole movie was based around the profession of PR and was keen to tackle it properly.

    Now we have Up In The Air which comes just after the so-soppy-it-hurts Juno. Juno included a failed attempt to use Buffy the vamp slayer style "kid speech", a portrayal of an abortion clinic reception as being staffed by immature and inappropriate teenagers, a rather spectacularly predictable relationship break-up, a mother criticising an ultrasound operator for having a job which 'anyone can do' (no, they really can't) and finally a random mushy scene where two people play guitar on a porch. For some reason I know the writer of "Juno" (Diablo Cody) but goodness only knows why I know the name of this horrendous hack.

    Anyway, Up In The Air was once again written by Jason Reitman, the director. As such, I thought this might be a return to the gloriously cynical style of Thank You For Smoking. I had good reason to think this too. The film is about a man who travels round the United States employed with sole task of firing people so that their own bosses don't have to. Apparently many of the scenes where people are expressing their anger at being fired are actually by ordinary people and relate to their real life experience, yet even if these scenes are done by amateurs they don't seem at all amateurish. Naturally George Clooney's character is expected to give a greater insight into the purpose of his job, just as Aaron Eckhart had to justify the job of Tobacco PR.

    Sadly, very little focus is placed on the job of firing people and instead we are supposed to be much more interested in seeing George Clooney get saved from his wish to distance himself from real relationships and avoid the prospect of marriage. When we see George Clooney's character first being quizzed about why he doesn't want marriage or children, the response from the female character asking the questions is to burst into tears and have a breakdown over being dumped by her boyfriend. The scene comes across as totally unrealistic and is followed by another female character (George Clooney's love interest) giving relationship advice.

    The movie is filled with scenes which have uplifting music in the background and are intended to make us think how wonderful people are. Pathos is severely over-used in this movie. The thing is that there's a scene which seems strongly reminiscent of a previous George Clooney movie "Intolerable Cruelty". In the awesome Coen Brothers comedy, George Clooney is once again in a bit of a dodgy job performing the role of divorce lawyer. At a big conference he suddenly gives up on the pro-divorce message, announcing that he was too cynical and he needs to get out of the business before it is too late. Unsurprisingly, this doesn't turn out to be the end of the movie and admittedly it isn't the end of the movie in Up In The Air either. However, the difference is that I didn't really think we were given a good enough reason why Clooney's character would suddenly decide that he was wrong about something he'd been explaining to conferences all over the country.

    The whole gist of the movie seemed to be "of course relationships are wonderful" pushed into a general message of hope in spite of adversity and the like; which puts this in a similar situation to Juno where the message seemed to be "of course pregnancy is wonderful". There were a lot of things I didn't like here. There was the overwhelmingly mushy overuse of pathos, the completely superficial characters who regularly condescend the audience and there was message of the importance of human relationships and marriage and stuff which was driven home with all the subtlety of a glowing pink sledgehammer. Worst of all though was the lack of attention to the various people in the movie being sacked. I'm sorry, but telling us that all these people are important and that relationships are important doesn't really justify putting a lid on their plight. The movie oversimplifies the issues it raises and tries to get away with a general message of "human beings are great really". I'm afraid I was thoroughly unimpressed.


    P.S. For anyone who's wondering, I could not care less about DVD Extras.

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    That Danish Cartoons Thing - A Reminder...
    Hey, remember when we were making all that fuss about how Muslims shouldn't be starting violent riots in order to protest being accused of having a violent religion?

    A few facts:
    - The violent protests didn't take place straight after the cartoons were published. They took place several months later.
    - The protests took place "spontaneously" in countries where spontaneous protest is not allowed.
    - Did the cartoons appear in publications available in the countries where these protests took place? No, the protesters were instead shown fake versions of the cartoons which were even more inflammatory.
    - Many of the more violent protests were actually organised as a political tool by which to refocus frustrations towards the west rather than towards their own leaders.

    Recent Attacks In The US
    Now, we all know that there's been a general anti-Muslim feeling being promoted by certain far-right groups in the US (particularly those with an obession with tea bags). However, there's a similar absurdity in the recent decision to accuse Muslims of being terrorists and to then terrorise them.

    First of all we had the knife incident, but now we have arsonists in Murfreesboro burning down an Islamic Centre:

    Islamic Center officials have contacted the FBI and Department of Homeland Security, according to Ayash, and sheriff’s department investigators “told us they will be investigating this as a hate crime.” Ayash later said sheriff’s officials “asked her to correct her statement,” adding they plan to explore several different motives while investigating the arson.

    Ayash said the most recent vandalism to the site “takes it to a whole new level.” The site has already been the target of two other vandalisms, both aimed at a sign marking the future site.

    “Everyone in our community no longer feels safe,” she said. “To set a fire that could have blown up equipment and, God forbid, spread and caused damage to the neighbors there ... we really feel like this is something that we and the neighbors don’t deserve. When they (ICM officials) called me this morning I started crying.”
    It's a bit odd how the authorities seem unkeen on referring to attacks on Muslims as hate crimes. The police said the same thing when dealing with the chemical attack on the Dayton Mosque. My best guess is that they are concerned about possible copycat attacks, so they are best off suggesting that the attack was the work of a random idiot rather than a premeditated act of hatred.

    Right-Wing Groups In The UK

    Of course, in the UK we've had our fair share of attacks on Muslims. I gave the example of BNP members responding violently to Muslims making use of a local community centre for Friday prayers. (The BNP denied it was them on the grounds that they would have used a brick, not a firebomb. *facepalm*) More recently there was a protest from the EDL (English Defence League) who appear to be made up of pretty much the same people. (I posted it to ONTD_P.)

    Violence By Muslims Against Muslims

    I have pointed out in the past that Christians weren't the only one's protesting against the building of mosques. There was a large Muslim protest against the building of a mosque for Ahmadis. I also mentioned the discrimination faced by Ismaelis and even Shia Muslims. However, I never got around to mentioning the massacre of Ahmadis which took place in Pakistan. Here's a response from a Pakistani: our own heartland Lahore 100 Ahmedis were slaughtered by the barbaric Taliban. They were not there on any political gathering or any political point scoring. They were not going to war zone. They were just offering their ‘Jumma Prayer’ to their Lord which they think is as farz (obligatory) on them as on any other Muslim. They were in their mosque, peacefully standing in straight lines bowing in front of the same lord as of the Muslims, Jews and Christians. There is no different version of this story. The enemy didn’t say that they (Taliban) acted in ’self defence’. Their enemy clearly mentioned their intention that they came to kill them indiscriminately irrespective they were men, women, children, young and old. Its pointless to mention that the barbaric didnt regretted the loss of human life because that’s what they wanted and came for. They took pleasure from the blood of the Ahmedis. In a short time span of few minutes they killed 100 Ahmedis.
    It's pretty clear that Muslims cannot be dismissed in one single sweeping gesture. They are made up of a variety of different groups with different positions. Just as we should not believe fundamentalist stances about Christianity ("you cannot support Darwinism as a Christian donchaknow?"), we also should not believe certain claims by Muslims regarding Islam. For example, "there are no divisions in Islam" is quite clearly false.

    And Another Thing...
    Meanwhile Richard Dawkins has referred to Roman Catholicism as "the world’s second most evil religion" because obviously there's a clear hierarchy in this regard. (And presumably the top religion in that hierarchy is simply "Islam" while Christianity gets to be separated into distinct groups.) *facepalm*

    I think we probably need to remember that Dawkins has never been the most diplomatic of people, but his recent decision to support Pat Condell's BS against a victimised minority should be called out.

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    Picture on left chosen because it is somewhat emo. Picture on right chosen because it looks cool.

    Oh dear, and I'd been really looking forward to this one. I've been alerted to a rather big issue with the new Metroid game ("Metroid: Other M"). Now it has to be said that I'd been warned to expect a certain amount of objectification because of the group working on it (Team Ninja), but this I wasn't prepared for.

    The real cause for concern is this cut-scene (pointed out on [info]the_gel  's blog) where Samus not only turns to jelly at the thought of facing a foe, Ridley, whom she has dealt with twice already (and another three times if you count the Metroid Prime games, which it seems that they probably aren't). She gets an attack of nerves so bad that she has to be saved, by a man. And not only that, but the man who saves her is black and expendable! *facepalm*:

    To quickly explain the title of this post, it's one of the cons in the review I found. At the beginning of each Metroid game Samus normally loses a few abilities at the beginning of the game, often due to a malfunction. She then progresses through the game by gradually earning those abilities back (along with some extra ones). In this new game, she has a professional relationship with an older man called Adam who used to be her boss. Now that he's running the team she randomly chooses not to use her abilities until Adam gives her the order to do so. The suggestion here is that this is somewhat BDSM-like. If you don't know who Montana Fishburne is, she's Lawrence Fishburne's daughter and she's been having arguments with her daddy recently over her decision to go into porn (allowing Filmdrunk to get more than a few cheap laughs).

    So here's the review from G4TV which caught my eye:

    Metroid: Other M Review
    By Abbie Heppe - Posted Aug 27, 2010

    The Pros

    * Secondary plotline is interesting, engaging
    * Graphics are very pretty

    The Cons

    * Samus has more daddy issues than Montana Fishburne
    * Control layout is awkward and interrupts combat
    * All the game elements feel disjointed and not fully developed

    As the 11th game in the series, Other M is a bizarre collaboration between the Metroid series co-creator Yoshio Sakamoto and Team Ninja of Ninja Gaiden fame. Indeed, “odd pairings” becomes the common thread throughout the game and its clashing dualities extend to the storyline, control scheme and onscreen action.

    Time-wise, Other M is tucked in between fan-favorite Super Metroid and the critically beloved Metroid Fusion -- the first game that showed a hint of Samus's personal history and the introduction of Adam Malkovich, a core character in its newest iteration.

    This makes Other M the second-to-last game sequentially, as the bulk of Metroid games have wedged themselves further and further into the early years of Samus Aran’s story. Ironically, Other M feels like a prequel to the franchise while attempting to be the culmination of everything Metroid has been and become.

    But I’m a Bounty Hunter

    In the world of Other M, Samus stumbles upon her old Galactic Federation squad mates while answering a distress call on a seemingly abandoned vessel. Among the people she encounters is her former captain, Adam Malkovich. In the most contrived manner possible, Samus loses her special abilities. How? She opts not to use them. Why? She wants to show Adam she can follow orders.

    Yes, that’s right. The woman who in the first five minutes of the game gives the squad access to the ship by using her missiles is restricted from using her abilities -- some which could open a path or save her life in the future -- until a bland male character dictates it to her. She does this because she likes him, but only as a friend.

    No matter what way you rationalize this mechanic, when you're 10 minutes into the lava sector and you can't use your Varia Suit yet, you will understand how painfully stupid this plot device is.

    Are you there God? It’s me, Samus

    There are two plot lines to Other M. The first is a detailed trip through Samus's psyche, with emphasis on her weaknesses and vulnerability, as she is enveloped back into her old Galactic Federation squad. The second is a twisting tale of military obfuscation and betrayal that fits perfectly into the established universe. Unfortunately, most of the jarring choices used to characterize Samus stem from the first plot line, and the two stories can't be reconciled within one fell swoop.

    In short, you're asked to forget that Samus has spent the last 10-15 years on solitary missions ridding the galaxy of Space Pirates, saving the universe and surviving on her own as a bounty hunter. Instead, Other M expects you to accept her as a submissive, child-like and self-doubting little girl that cannot possibly wield the amount of power she possesses unless directed to by a man.

    What is presented would be a brilliant prequel to Metroid, documenting Samus as she departs the Galactic Federation and sets out on her own; however, at this point she could easily be considered a veteran with more combat experience than half the galactic army combined. The payoff to her self-doubting modus operandi is her becoming the powerful icon we have all loved since the NES though it's a great origin story and little more. And even then, there's the simpering VO work and narration that betrays all the aspirations of character development.

    Yes, Samus uses the phrase “confession time” like a 12 year old girl scrawling in her Lisa Frank diary but really, the Alan Wake-meets-Lifetime Channel Original Movie narration gets old faster than you can say “daddy issues.” Until Other M, Samus has existed as a silent protagonist with only the personality that we have bestowed upon her in our own imaginations. Regardless of whether or not the interpretation in Other M can be reconciled with your own perception of her, there is a moment later in the game that cannot be justified…ever. Confronted by her longstanding nemesis, Ridley, she is spliced into flashes of a little girl, crying and afraid, despite the fact she has already defeated Ridley at least FOUR times already, once when he was a powerful robot. Terrible.

    10 Things I Hate About This Game

    Now, once the game is underway and the insipid cutscenes come to a thankful rest, a bevy of other problems arise. Other M forsakes the perfectly acceptable use of the Wii remote in Metroid Prime 3: Corruption and adopts a control scheme that has the user holding the Wiimote sideways then pointing at the screen to use missiles or “scan” the environment. “Scan” is in quotation marks as the first person mode is also forced on the player in several illogical sequences when it doesn’t need to be because the scan dynamic is hardly used in the rest of the game. You’d never think to do it yourself as the environment offers almost nothing in the way of information.

    If you didn’t resent the first person mode enough already, think about having to recalibrate your reticule every time you want to use a missile attack. Since most of the boss combat involves firing charge shots until you can find the time to go into first person mode and get a missile off, it gets old really fast. You also have to hope that the auto-targeting of Samus’s beam hits the right target, which is infrequent, even if there’s only one enemy on screen.

    Perhaps even more egregious is the procedure for replenishing missiles and health. When either one is low, you can tilt the Wiimote up and press “A” to regenerate either one. This means stopping down completely mid-combat and that Samus can replenish missiles by thinking really hard. Miracles.

    Can’t Hardly Wait…To Use My Super Missile

    Even with the control problems, the combat isn’t all bad. The Ninja Gaiden-meets-Metroid action works when the auto-aim does (which is sometimes), and the close combat (though it seems to trigger arbitrarily) can be satisfyingly teen-rated fun. However, none of it is enough to make up for the puzzle solving.

    The most satisfying part of the game came once the credit sequence rolled and I could go back for some proper Metroid-style exploration. You can’t actually revisit areas once you acquire abilities in the game because it would hinder the storyline, and thanks to needing Adam’s authorization to progress through each area, the line between “puzzle you can’t figure out” and “dead end” becomes increasingly blurry. Most of these situations involve backtracking till you hit a cut scene and earn your upgrade. Baffling.

    Diary of a Wimpy Bounty Hunter

    So, is it all as soul-crushingly terrible as it sounds? Yes, yes it is. There are some great moments in the secondary plotline, if you can turn off the volume and ignore Samus’s voice entirely, but that’s not really the point of the game. The point is to flesh out one of the most iconic (and nonsexualized) female characters in gaming history and yet the outcome is insulting to both Samus and her fans.

    When she isn’t submissive and obedient, the flashbacks portray her as bratty and childish and the whole mess smacks of sexism. Almost every other aspect of gameplay including character design, sound and level design is mediocre. I’m sorry Metroid fans, because this isn’t what I wanted either. I also didn’t want to hear the phrase “fledgling girl’s heart” in anything but the phrase “I disintegrated the fledgling girl’s heart with a plasma beam,” but with Other M, no one gets what they want and half a good story with a smattering of acceptable decisions is far below the bar Nintendo has previously established for the series.

    I had previously considered that making Samus more "feminine" might cause problems (and the whole zero-suit thing was already causing issues tbh), but it sounds like they could have done a lot better than this.

    The video review here:

    Discussion about the issues here:

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    Preaching Hate In Our Streets
    Extremist flyers call for Ahmadi Muslims' murder

    Islamic extremists are promoting the murder of evangelical Muslims in Kingston town centre.

    A police investigation was launched last month, after police saw leaflets being handed out calling on Muslims to murder Qadiyanis, a derogatory term for Ahmadiyya Muslims who are an evangelical sect of Islam.

    It is believed the literature is linked to a terrorist attack in May, in which 92 worshippers were murdered by Taliban militants in Pakistan, where the government officially regards Ahmadiyya Islam as blasphemy.

    Having made no arrests in connection with the incident, Kingston police are appealing for witnesses who may have seen the people handing inflammatory literature, outside the Jane Norman store in Clarence Street.

    A teenage Ahmadiyya girl who did not want to be named said she was “shaken and scared” after being handed a leaflet written in Urdu saying: “Kill a Qadiyani and doors to heaven will be open to you”.

    She said: “I was coming back from shopping and a guy handed me the leaflet. While I read it he asked me to come back. I told him I was an Ahmadi girl and demanded I return his leaflet, but I refused.

    He was about 22 or 23 years old and had a long beard.”

    A spokesman for Kingston police confirmed there was an ongoing investigation.

    He said: “On July 6, we received a report regarding the distribution of literature related to the Ahmadiyya Muslim faith that was deemed offensive.”

    Ahmadiyya Muslims, or Ahmadis, differ from mainstream Islam by believing the second coming of the Messiah has already happened and is embodied by their founder, Mirza Ghulam Ahmad.

    Established in 1884, the movement is followed by 160m people in 195 countries and is renowned for its motto: Love for all, hatred for none.

    Rafiq Hayat, the Ahmadiyya Muslim community’s national president, said his community was being targeted by an international hate campaign by preachers who communicated in Urdu through leaflets, satellite TV and the internet.

    He said: “The perpetrators of this act are Muslims and, while they are certainly not representative of the majority of Muslims in this country, they are creating hatred in society.

    “Freedom of speech is one thing, but incitement of hatred is another matter. We want the authorities to nip this in the bud, otherwise this campaign of hatred against Ahmadi Muslims will grow into a threat against other moderate Muslims and indeed the wider society.

    “We remain firm to our principles of peace and will continue to respond with patience and prayer.”

    Police are appealing for anyone who has been handed similar literature to contact the officer in charge, Detective Constable Steve Parker.
    (Source: The Surrey Comet)
    (Via The Spittoon)

    This is a story from a local paper called the Surrey Comet and relates to events in the area of Kingston. The article is not (currently) on their website, but The Spittoon have helpfully uploaded a scan of the article and I have been good enough to transcribe it for you.

    This isn't the first time the paper have written about Ahmadis.

    A while ago they had the following email from a Muslim reader "correcting" their mistake:
    I would like to clarify a few items that appear to have been written without full facts.

    I refer to Page 7 of the Kingston Guardian of August 8, 2002, entitled Golden Moment', where it refers to members of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Association, as being Muslims.

    The whole Islamic Community do not recognise the Ahmadis (or Qadiyanis) as Muslims.

    It was agreed in Makkah, Saudi Arabia in April 1974, by 144 Muslim representatives from all Muslim countries that the Ahmadis are not Muslims.

    In fact, the founder of the Ahmadiyya sect claimed that he was the Messiah. It is an insult to Muslims that the Ahmadi's are referred to as Muslims.

    J---- I----


    August 21, 2002 10:00
    (Blanking out the name was pointless since it is still on their website, but still I wouldn't want to indirectly start circulating someone's name across the internet just because they wrote one stupid letter.)

    The Surrey Comet were sensible enough to respond to this email with a full article on the Ahmadi community in Surrey, their contribution to society and their own personal response to accusations that they are not truly Islamic.

    The Surrey Comet have also written at least two other articles on the Ahmadi community in the wake of the massacre in Pakistan.
    (Source 1)
    (Source 2)

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    Well the big news is that Stephen Hawking has finally refuted all those religious apologists who were fond of quoting his final line from "A Brief History of Time": "For then we would know the mind of God".

    "It is not necessary to invoke God to light the blue touch paper and set the Universe going," added the wheelchair-bound expert.
    "Because there is a law such as gravity, the Universe can and will create itself from nothing. Spontaneous creation is the reason there is something rather than nothing, why the Universe exists, why we exist," he writes in "The Grand Design", which is being serialised by The Times newspaper.
    In response to this The Times decided it was a good idea to invite Richard Dawkins to debate this. They decided to put Dawkins up against their religion correspondent Ruth Gledhill. Richard Dawkins can feel like a bit of a broken record at the best of times, but putting him against Ruth Gledhill was particularly pointless.

    I have posted about Ruth Gledhill before when I noted a couple of previous articles of hers:

    1 - "Catholic Church No Longer Swears By Truth Of The Bible" - In the older of the two, she reports on a reminder by the Vatican that they have no problem with the theory of evolution and are able to accept certain passages in the Bible as symbolic. Her response? The Vatican is now clarifying which bits of the Bible are right and which bits are wrong.

    I feel the need to place the important bits of this article under the cut because, what with The Times now making the public pay for access to their site, there may come a time when you cannot use the link to the article anymore:
    THE hierarchy of the Roman Catholic Church has published a teaching document instructing the faithful that some parts of the Bible are not actually true.

    The Catholic bishops of England, Wales and Scotland are warning their five million worshippers, as well as any others drawn to the study of scripture, that they should not expect “total accuracy” from the Bible.

    “We should not expect to find in Scripture full scientific accuracy or complete historical precision,” they say in The Gift of Scripture.

    The document is timely, coming as it does amid the rise of the religious Right, in particular in the US.

    Some Christians want a literal interpretation of the story of creation, as told in Genesis, taught alongside Darwin’s theory of evolution in schools, believing “intelligent design” to be an equally plausible theory of how the world began.

    But the first 11 chapters of Genesis, in which two different and at times conflicting stories of creation are told, are among those that this country’s Catholic bishops insist cannot be “historical”. At most, they say, they may contain “historical traces”.

    The document shows how far the Catholic Church has come since the 17th century, when Galileo was condemned as a heretic for flouting a near-universal belief in the divine inspiration of the Bible by advocating the Copernican view of the solar system. Only a century ago, Pope Pius X condemned Modernist Catholic scholars who adapted historical-critical methods of analysing ancient literature to the Bible.

    In the document, the bishops acknowledge their debt to biblical scholars. They say the Bible must be approached in the knowledge that it is “God’s word expressed in human language” and that proper acknowledgement should be given both to the word of God and its human dimensions.

    They say the Church must offer the gospel in ways “appropriate to changing times, intelligible and attractive to our contemporaries”.

    The Bible is true in passages relating to human salvation, they say, but continue: “We should not expect total accuracy from the Bible in other, secular matters.”

    They go on to condemn fundamentalism for its “intransigent intolerance” and to warn of “significant dangers” involved in a fundamentalist approach.

    “Such an approach is dangerous, for example, when people of one nation or group see in the Bible a mandate for their own superiority, and even consider themselves permitted by the Bible to use violence against others.”

    Of the notorious anti-Jewish curse in Matthew 27:25, “His blood be on us and on our children”, a passage used to justify centuries of anti-Semitism, the bishops say these and other words must never be used again as a pretext to treat Jewish people with contempt. Describing this passage as an example of dramatic exaggeration, the bishops say they have had “tragic consequences” in encouraging hatred and persecution. “The attitudes and language of first-century quarrels between Jews and Jewish Christians should never again be emulated in relations between Jews and Christians.”

    As examples of passages not to be taken literally, the bishops cite the early chapters of Genesis, comparing them with early creation legends from other cultures, especially from the ancient East. The bishops say it is clear that the primary purpose of these chapters was to provide religious teaching and that they could not be described as historical writing.

    Similarly, they refute the apocalyptic prophecies of Revelation, the last book of the Christian Bible, in which the writer describes the work of the risen Jesus, the death of the Beast and the wedding feast of Christ the Lamb.

    The bishops say: “Such symbolic language must be respected for what it is, and is not to be interpreted literally. We should not expect to discover in this book details about the end of the world, about how many will be saved and about when the end will come.”

    She saves the worst idiocy til last, finishing her article as follows:


    Genesis ii, 21-22
    So the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and while he slept he took one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh; and the rib which the Lord God had taken from the man he made into a woman and brought her to the man

    Genesis iii, 16
    God said to the woman [after she was beguiled by the serpent]: “I will greatly multiply your pain in childbearing; in pain you shall bring forth children, yet your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you.”

    Matthew xxvii, 25
    The words of the crowd: “His blood be on us and on our children.”

    Revelation xix,20
    And the beast was captured, and with it the false prophet who in its presence had worked the signs by which he deceived those who had received the mark of the beast and those who worshipped its image. These two were thrown alive into the lake of fire that burns with brimstone.”


    Exodus iii, 14
    God reveals himself to Moses as: “I am who I am.”

    Leviticus xxvi,12
    “I will be your God, and you shall be my people.”

    Exodus xx,1-17
    The Ten Commandments

    Matthew v,7
    The Sermon on the Mount

    Mark viii,29
    Peter declares Jesus to be the Christ

    Luke i
    The Virgin Birth

    John xx,28
    Proof of bodily resurrection

    2 - Children Who Front Richard Dawkins' Atheist Ads Are Evangelicals Rather handily, in this case pretty much all the problems can be seen in the title. The advert under discussion is the following one from the BHA:

    "Please Don't Label Me. Let Me Grow Up And Choose For Myself."

    Just to confuse things there are two major atheist/agnostic lobbying groups in the UK. There's "The Secular Society" and "The British Humanist Society". The former is only intested in atheism, whereas the latter is concerned with the wider issues of "secularism" (e.g. issues like ensuring fair hiring practices for people of all faiths and none). No, I did not just get those mixed up.

    So perhaps unsurprisingly, the BHA organised a campaign noting that children should not be used for the promotion of a particular belief system because they are too young to make such decisions. Gledhill's response? Well you've already seen it. She claims that these children are being used to promote atheism (um, no they aren't), but actually they are "Christian Evangelical children" (oh my goodness, you couldn't have missed the point more if you tried).

    Their father, Brad Mason, is something of a celebrity within evangelical circles as the drummer for the popular Christian musician Noel Richards. ... He said that the children’s Christianity had shone through. “Obviously there is something in their faces which is different. So they judged that they were happy and free without knowing that they are Christians. That is quite a compliment. I reckon it shows we have brought up our children in a good way and that they are happy.”
    The British Humanist Association said that it did not matter whether the children were Christians. “That’s one of the points of our campaign,” said Andrew Copson, the association’s education director. “People who criticise us for saying that children raised in religious families won’t be happy, or that no child should have any contact with religion, should take the time to read the adverts.

    Perhaps before choosing your article heading, Ms. Gledhill!
    “The message is that the labelling of children by their parents’ religion fails to respect the rights of the child and their autonomy. We are saying that religions and philosophies — and ‘humanist’ is one of the labels we use on our poster — should not be foisted on or assumed of young children.”
    So yeah, Gledhill isn't really someone you should expect a high level of debate from. In fact Hannah Devlin, who chairs the discussion, seems to do a better job of getting some clear answers out of Dawkins than Ruth Gledhill manages later:
    14:34 Hannah Devlin:
    To kick things off, I'd like to ask Richard what he makes of Hawking's thesis. Is this the new Darwinism?
    14:35 Richard Dawkins:
    Only the new Darwinism in the sense that it finishes off God. Darwin kicked him out of biology, but physics remained more uncertain. Hawking is now administering the coup de grace
    14:36 Richard Dawkins:
    It is not like Darwinism in any other very strong sense.
    14:38 Hannah Devlin:
    If physics really has removed the need for a creator, how much does this weigh in on a debate about the possible existence of God - could there be another role for a deity beyond creation?
    14:38 Richard Dawkins:
    I can't even imagine what that would mean
    14:39 Richard Dawkins:
    If there is no deity in the first place, what other role could she play?
    14:40 Richard Dawkins:
    When people speak of another role for God, they might mean something like a personal role, looking after us, or forgiving our sins. But you can't do that sort of thing at all unless you exist in the first place!
    14:40 Hannah Devlin:
    I might wait for Ruth to come back on that one.. she will be with us very shortly. But first I've got a question from the floor
    14:40 Comment From Tim H
    on the basis of the celestial tea pot argument, will science ever be able to 'prove' that God does not exist even if we do find a unified theory or will religion continue to live in the interpretation of the ever smaller gaps
    14:42 Richard Dawkins:
    "on the basis of the celestial tea pot argument, will science ever be able to 'prove' that God does not exist even if we do find a unified theory or will religion continue to live in the interpretation of the ever smaller gaps" The ever smaller gaps will seem increasingly desperate as they shrink
    14:43 Richard Dawkins:
    The celestial teapot really knocks on the head all arguments of the form "You can't disprove God". There's an infinite number of things you can't disprove. Why should we bother?
    I get the impression that Devlin was deciding what comments would be displayed, so Tim H was being specifically put forward as a question from the floor. Sure, not much that's terribly challenging here and Devlin clearly (and mistakenly I feel) expects more interesting ideas to be raised by Gledhill later on.

    Anyway, this is where Gledhill arrives and makes the statement which Pharyngula quotes and ridicules. These statements actually originate from an interview with David Wilkinson. Thanks to "Rupert Murdoch's Greed" (TM) you will need to subscribe to The Times if you want to read that. Fortunately, there is a site with some videos where David Wilkinson sets out his view on the "fine-tuning argument", not as an argument, but as a "pointer" to the truth of Jesus and Christianity (I'm not fantastic with google searches, so it took me a while to find that link btw) The basic gist of his position is that the set of events which took place in order for life to come about make us want to make shit up to explain it and making shit up is a sensible decision. Anyway, moving on...:
    14:43 Ruth Gledhill:
    Tim, I just interviewed David Wilkinson, principal of St John's Durham and astrophysicist, and this is what he said (full interview at my Times blog Articles of Faith):
    The science Stephen Hawking uses raises a number of questions which for many opens the door to the possibility of an existence of a creator and for many points to the existence of a creator.

    'One would be the the purpose of the universe. Although science might discover the mechanism, we are still left with the question of what is the purpose.

    'Second is where the laws of physics come from. Science subsumes the laws but we are still left with the question of where the laws come from.

    'Third is the intelligibility of the universe. It strikes me as interesting that Stephen Hawking can make it intelligible. Albert Einstein once said that the most incomprehensible thing about the universe is that it is comprehensible. For many of us who are struck by the intelligibility of the physical laws, the explanation is that the creator is the force of rationality both for the universe and for our minds.

    Dawkins' Response To Statement One:
    Why on Earth should anyone assume that there IS a purpose?

    Ruth Gledhill:Richard, one might as well ask, equally, why assume there is no purpose?

    Richard Dawkins: What is the purpose of a mountain? What is the purpose of a tsunami? What is the purpose of bubonic plague? Surely you can see that these are just silly questions? Same with the universe.

    Ruth Gledhill: To say 'what is the purpose of a tsunami' is a 'silly question' is a silly thing to say, if you will forgive me. if asking questions is silly, what on earth are we all doing here, or anywhere, at all?

    Richard Dawkins: OK then, what do you think is the purpose of a tsunami? Or of bubonic plague?
    Richard Dawkins: Lots of questions are sensible. Like "How do nerve cells work?" "What is the Darwinian survival value of a peacock's tail?" There are huge numbers of sensible questions, which science spends its time answering. "What is the purpose of X?" is sensible only if there is a purposeful entity, such a human, to have that purpose. Tsunamis have no purpose. Or are you going to accept my challenge and tell me what its purpose is?

    Hannah Devlin: Richard, are you saying that the only questions worth answering are scientific ones?

    Richard Dawkins: No, not at all. But questions that begin "What is the purpose of . . ." require the existence of a purposeful agent. You cannot apply such a question to mountains or avalanches or tsunamis or the universe

    Ruth Gledhill: I see no divine or godly purpose whatsoever in a tsunami... (followed by response to statement two*)
    Richard Dawkins: Precisely, Ruth, so why did you deny it when I said that asking the purpose of everything was a silly question?

    Dawkins' Response To Statement Two:
    Even if we are left with that question, it is not going to be answered by a God, who raises more questions than he answers.

    Ruth Gledhill: Richard, David is not suggesting God will answer the question, more that he could be the answer to the question.

    Richard Dawkins: How can it be satisfying to answer a question by postulating something that raises a far bigger question?

    Richard Dawkins (answering a question from the floor because Gledhill has gone a bit loopy at this stage - see below): "Why would a God raise more questions than he answers? That implies that you are making the assumption that God needs an explanation." Yes, I am making exactly that assumption, for the same reason as you (assuming you are a theist) think the universe needs an explanation. Hawking has pointed towards an explanation of the universe.

    Ruth Gledhill (continued from response to statement one*): and as for why would God raise more questions than He answers, He would for exactly the same reason that top scientists do exactly the same, yourself among them.

    Richard Dawkins: That doesn't seem to be properly formulated. Something mistyped?

    Ruth Gledhill: apologies. I was not very articulate there. my keyboard is not working well. what I was trying to say is that one of the hugely exciting things about science, about the books that you and Hawking and others in your league write, is the immense questions that are raised by the answers you discover.

    Richard Dakwins: Of course. Science is hugely exciting. What has that got to do with God?

    Dawkins' Response To Statement Three:
    What would an unintelligible universe even look like? Why SHOULDN't the universe be intelligible?

    Hannah Devlin taking questions she's selected from the floor: Ruth, Richard, I'd be interested in your views on philc's point - is religious belief irrational? If not, why?

    Ruth Gledhill: exactly philc. read Tony Blair's memoirs. how many true arguments are truly rational?

    Ruth Gledhill:Hannah, it depends what you mean by 'rational'. Just as Hawking argues that science will triumph over religion because it works, so I argue that faith will not exactly triumph but will continue because it, also, works. Out there in the blogosphere and on The Times website I am being called a number of names - 'silly' foremost but plenty of others too. And I accept that faith is often sustained by subjective experience. Again, as David Wilkinson said in his interview with me, in full on my blog at this website, 'My own belief in the existence of God does not come from scientific evidence first and foremost, it comes from the belief that God spoke into the universe or revealed Himself as Christians would say, supremely in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth.

    'It is that perspective that convinces me of the existence of God, rather than arguments to do with the creation of the universe.

    'My faith in the resurrection comes from personal religious experience coupled with a judicious assessment of the historicity of the New Testament narratives.
    (Oh dear)

    Hannah Devlin (trying to get Gledhill to cease her irrelevant rambling): What does science have to say about aesthetics or history (religion aside for a moment)?

    Richard Dawkins:Science may not have anything direct to say about them, or about some aspects of them. But that doesn't mean they are in principle beyond science in a supernatural sense. Only that science is not equipped, in practice, to answer detailed questions about history or aesthetics.

    Hannah Devlin: Ruth, an interesting one from Mike... "I'd like to know what it would take for Ruth to believe that God does not exist. What does Science need to prove for her that there is no God."
    Ruth Gledhill: Mike, I did once believe there was no God. As someone once said, I have tried the way of faith and the way of no faith. I know now which I prefer. If that points to some psychological deficit in me, well so be it. As I said in my commentary today, belief 'works' for some people. This is not at all the same, by the way, as saying that God finds a parking space when you need one or cures illness or anything of that sort at all. I find that faith helps me as an individual remain balanced and thus it makes me a better person and more importantly, better to live with for those I love. Some people, many people, are good enough to be able to manage to live a good life without faith. I'm not one of them. That's why today, I choose to believe.

    Richard Dawkins: Ruth, that won't do. Either there is a God or there isn't. You really can't use 'what feels right for me' as an argument. Nor can you use "Lots of good people believe in God". Imagine if somebody said "I believe in the Loch Ness Monster because it feels right to me." You'd answer, 'To hell with what feels right, what is the EVIDENCE that the Loch Ness Monster exists?"

    Comment From TheRationalizer: Ruth: If science showed that god created the universe I assume you would accept it. If however the same evidence showed that god died in the process would you then reject it? On what basis do you accept/reject evidence? Does it first have to reflect what you want to be true

    Ruth Gledhill: @TheRationalizer. If science came up with a proof for either of those, then of course I would accept it, but science would have to prove a lot of other unprovable things first before it got to either of those unlikely points. Believing in God is not the same as believing that God created the universe, by the way.
    @Richard Dawkins I would never use 'lots of people believe in God' as an argument! As for believing in 'what feels right for me', it is too simplistic to dismiss that. Agreed, feelings are not facts. But if believing in God works for me, just as setting my alarm in the morning to get to work on time works, and if not believing in God leads to - well whatever it leads to - I don't see why I should stop believing, just because someone thinks I should.

    Richard Dawkins: "Works for me? Works for me?" What are you talking about? A lunatic who believes he is Napoleon could say, "My belief that I am Napoleon WORKS FOR ME". Who is supposed to be convinced?

    Ruth Gledhill: Oh dear. I wondered if doing this debate might be a mistake. My answer to such challenges is usually this: 'The only thing I know for certain about God is that I am not it.' The same could be said for Napoleon I suppose....

    The debate goes on longer than this, but then again this re-organising thing is a bit too much of a time-waster, so I'm going to stop there. I kinda feel sorry for Gledhill on this point. It's irritating for me seeing Dawkins pulling "my belief that I am Napoleon" out of his old bag of tricks again, so it must be even worse for someone who disagrees with the point behind it. That said, her response is quite vacuous to the point where I'd actually have been more impressed with "oh don't be so daft Richard" as a response. If the only thing you know about God is that you are not it, you aren't really in a good position to be a religion correspondent (not that this comes as any surprise).

    Still, one last thing that could do with a quotation is the following point where Dawkins' decides to betray Islamophobic sentiment (and annoyingly Gledhill isn't interested in responding to it, never mind tackling it).

    Comment From Jerry Coyne: Question to Ruth: If faith helps you, then does it make any difference to you whether what you believe about God, Jesus, the Resurrection, and the like is true? Devout Muslims, for example, are also consoled by their faith, but their beliefs about Jesus, Mohamed, etc. are completely contradictory to those of Christianity. Both can't be true.

    Richard Dawkins: Quite right, Jerry. And even if there is some similarity between the Abrahamic religions, the Greeks believed just as sincerely in their pantheon. I agree with Dan Dennett that universal education in comparative religion would be a hammer blow to religious faith.

    Ruth Gledhill: Jerry, in some liberal theological circles, it is not regarded as impossible that there is truth in both Islam and Christianity.

    Richard Dawkins:The Islamic penalty for converting to Christianity is what, Ruth, perhaps you know?

    And the Jewish penalty for having anal sex with another man is? I mean seriously, what was he trying to prove?

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  • 09/06/10--05:56: Scott Pilgrim VS Parodies
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  • 09/06/10--15:56: Random Stuff
  • Filmdrunk On The "ZOMG ANTI-WHITEZ BIGGO-TREE" Race Fail Related To Rodriguez' New Action Spoof "Machete"

    If you half paid attention to one of the Machete trailers and never saw the movie, you too would know that Robert Rodriguez’ film is an anti-white hateporn snuff film promoting genocide against the white race. This was first discovered by Bay Area National Anarchist (yes, “national anarchist”) leader Andrew Yeoman, who not only vowed to protest the Machete premiere while brandishing actual machetes, but even started a Facebook page. That’s right, sh*ts getting real now!  (*writes “HELTER SKELTER” on the wall with poop*)  ATTICA! ATTICA! (*throws pillow at cat*)

    A group of white nationalists will protest the new Robert Rodriguez movie Machete at Bay Area cinemas this week. This gets even more interesting: The protesters will show up “armed” with machetes.
    “We feel that this is an explicit threat to white folks,” Yeoman wrote on the far-right blog Occidental Dissent, “and that it is necessary to send a message to moviegoers and the producers of this film that threatening people because they happen to be white is unacceptable.”
    Whoa whoa whoa, “happen to be white?”  I don’t know about you, buddy, but I didn’t “happen to be white”, I was bequeathed my pure-white skin by God himself so that I might rule over all manner of swarthy ethnics from behind locked doors as I drove through their neighborhoods shaking my head at their obnoxious jungle music. 

    I digress, but the blockquote above was an excerpt from an article from last week, which among other things, included the news that carrying around a machete is apparently perfectly legal.
    San Francisco Police spokeswoman Lieutenant Lyn Tomioka says there’s nothing inherently illegal with openly carrying around a machete, as long as protesters aren’t using them in a menacing manner.
    Yeoman says “we feel that bringing machetes is important symbolism.”
    Aw yeah, this is going to take my pigeon-chasing sessions to a whole new level.  So anyway, how’d that protest turn out?
    “We don’t believe people should be targeted by their ethnicity,” said Steve Yeoman, founder of Bay Area National Anarchists, outside Livermore Cinemas on First Street as his group of five people handed information. The San Francisco resident also wore two cardboard facsimiles of machetes around his neck. Yeoman, who founded the group three years ago in San Francisco, said he has not seen the movie, but based on the trailers he has seen, he feels the film should not be shown in theaters [I've said the same thing about Little Fockers].
    So five protesters with cardboard machetes and the reporter mistakenly called you “Steve”?  Sounds like a success.

    (Link) (Original article includes video)

    Interview With Creator Of Cat VS Humans

    What is it about cats that draws you to them?

    I think it reflects on the kinds of personalities I’m drawn to. Cats are generally independent, know what they want and are pretty laid back. And it just so happens that the people I surround myself have that same personality. I also love how you have to earn a cat’s affection and trust. They just don’t easily surrender themselves to you. I actually respect that. But I do appreciate a dog’s ability to unconditionally love its pet parent. It’s pretty amazing, I must say.

    What other job could you imagine having?
    I love animals. If I weren’t a designer, I would’ve been a veterinarian. Or a cat whisperer.

    (Whole interview here...) (Cat VS Humans here)


    "If Obama is one, them Muslim can't mean Muslim"

    Charlie Brooker on Ground Zero Mosque BS

    And finally:

    Jesus Had HIV is actually good theology (when explained properly), but oddly didn't go down well with African congregation....

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    Maryam Namazie has recently spent quite a bit of time campaigning against the proposed stoning of Mrs. Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani for the "crime" of adultery. Namazie is spokesperson for Iran Solidarity, Equal Rights Now, the One Law for All Campaign against Sharia Law in Britain and the Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain, amongst many other things. When she was recently invited to take part in a debate about the proposed stoning on a BBC Sunday Live debate, it wasn't for her good looks. So imagine her surprise when, in the actual show, they failed to find the time to include her as well as making some quite major errors about the case. (It seems pretty certain that Namazie would have been more informed on this case than any of the people interviewed on the show.)

    Here's the actual debate itself:

    Maryam's own reaction was as follows:

    I was meant to speak on BBC Sunday Live's debate today on whether it was right to condemn the regime for Sakineh's stoning.

    In the live debate, they managed to interview Suhaib Hassan from the Islamic Sharia Council defending stoning and someone from Tehran saying she faces execution for murdering her husband but somehow there was no time in the debate for me.

    Even the presenter, Susanna Reid, said stonings were rare and that none had taken place since the 2002 moratorium! In fact 17 people have been stoned since the moratorium; also there are court documents provided by her lawyer specifying her stoning sentence for adultery. BBC had all this information. Without providing evidence to the contrary, BBC Sunday Live took as fact the regime's pronouncements on her case. They failed to mention that the man charged with her husband's murder is not being executed and that the trumped up murder charges are an attempt by the regime to silence the public outcry and kill Sakineh. As Sakineh herself has said: "they think they can do anything to women."

    The crux of the debate is this - of course it is right to condemn the regime. It has nothing to do with imposing 'western' values or imperialism. It's a matter of choice really. Do you choose the regime's values or that of Sakineh and her son's who are fighting to keep her alive.

    BBC Sunday Live has clearly made its choice. And the millions worldwide, including in Iran, who won't stop fighting to save her life have made ours.

    We will not stop till we end stoning and save Sakineh.

    To see the debate, click here. If you are unhappy at the way the debate went, please contact the programme and ask for a balanced view on the issue:

    Sunday Morning Live
    Blackstaff,39-43 Bedford Street, Belfast, BT2 7EE
    T: 028 9033 8379 M: 07875001606

    I wrote my own email as follows. (If you are writing your own email of complaint please start yours from scratch rather than editing mine as they are less likely to take notice of a group of similarly phrased emails.)

    Dear [whichever person I was writing to],

    I am writing to complain about the decision to leave Maryam Namazie out of a recent broadcast on Sakineh's stoning sentence in Iran. (BBC Sunday Live) Maryam Namazie is spokesperson for Iran Solidarity, Equal Rights Now, the One Law for All Campaign against Sharia Law in Britain and the Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain. As such, she had a very important position to add to the debate being both from a Muslim background herself and being very familiar with the issues in Iran.

    In fact as someone actively campaigning for Sakineh's human rights, Namazie would appear to be much more familiar with the details of this case than any of the guests in the debate. There were a number of points she would have been able to clear up, such as the number of stonings since the moratorium in 2002 (which is 17 not zero) and what crime Sakineh's stoning is intended to punish (adultery, not murder). Not only that but she would have also noted that the man actually charged with her husband's murder is not under any threat of execution, never mind execution through a slow and painful stoning.

    It strikes me as quite bizarre that a channel who would normally (quite rightly) consider it their duty to analyse and make criticisms of various governments across the globe, should suddenly find themselves uncertain about whether to criticise the cruel and gruesome stoning of a woman for the "criminal act" of adultery. However, I recognise that this question was raised for the purpose of debate. Nevertheless, in that case there was all the more reason not to exclude Maryam Namazie from the discussion.

    I hope you recognise the seriousness of deliberately excluding Maryam Namazie, a keen campaigner for Sakineh's human rights, from a discussion about Sakineh's imminent death sentence. For Sakineh and her supporters this is more than just filler for a BBC slot on a Sunday and recognition of her plight of absolute importance which could mean the difference between life and death. I trust you will do the right thing and ensure Namazie receives the airtime to voice her concerns on this topic in the near future, before Sakineh runs out of time.

    Thanking You In Anticipation,

    Isn't it kind of ironic that in a debate about whether they can judge other cultures, they were actively silencing someone in contact with the relatives of the victim within that culture who is speaking in her defence? Strangely Iran's sharia ruling on stoning gets provided more of a defence than Sakineh....

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  • 09/07/10--13:53: Article 17

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  • 09/08/10--08:16: Catching Up With Reviews
  • Seen a lot of things which haven't got reviews yet, so let's run through them...


    Sin Nombre (2009)
    Bloody fantastic movie about Mexican gangs and illegal immigration. The poster that you'll most often see for this just shows a bunch of people sitting on a train, which does nothing to show how exciting and sometimes brutal this movie is. (I think the poster I've provided does the job a little better.) No only is it beautifully shot with well-developed characters, but it also contains the excitement to match. I'm surprised I haven't seen more people hyping this movie. It's absolutely brilliant and one of my favourites from 2009.

    Where The Wild Things Are (2009)
    I'll preface this by pointing out that I am not judging this as a children's movie. I really don't know how children will feel about this movie. I should also point out straight away that while I have seen the book lying around and flicked through it, it has never held any deep personal attachment for me. Similar books that hold that honour instead include the Towser books and "I'm Coming To Get You" by Tony Ross.

    The Wild Things that Max meets are very much like children themselves, but they also have the same kinds of tantrums and arguments. In fact, it's quite important to the style of the movie that there's a great deal of bonding through tantrums and arguments throughout the movie. There were, I must admit, quite a few points where I was in tears because this film hit me quite hard emotionally. That doesn't normally happen, I must say. Max promises at one stage that he can "keep out all the sadness" and this is one thing where he's definitely not terribly successful. While the Wild Things getting upset is quite important to the movie, I cannot help but feel that it wouldn't really appeal to children who are perhaps expecting more excitement. Still who knows, for some kids this could end up being their equivalent of "Neverending Story". Still, I think the lack of excitement makes that unlikely and thus I think this will mainly be something that adults enjoy, rather than children. (Do let me know if you've heard otherwise.)

    The movie hit me so personally and emotionally that I cannot help but give it full marks. In "The Science Of Sleep" I think Michel Gondry was trying to create a similar sort of feel, but without anywhere near the same level of success. I think when watching this movie it's important to realise that you are essentially watching quite a serious art film with muppets, rather than a happy-go-lucky kids movie. So long as you bear that in mind, I don't think you'll be disappointed.

    Soldier Of Orange (1977)

    Dutch WWII movie that launched Paul Verhoeven's career and, apparently, highly impressed Steven Spielberg. Verhoeven then went to America and made mostly sci-fi movies. He made "Robocop" and "Total Recall", but unfortunately he also made "Basic Instinct", "Showgirls" and "Starship Troopers". He since went back to Holland to make "Black Book", but that still pales in comparison to this awesome epic. (And yes, with a running time of over two hours it is most certainly epic. I wonder whether, like with Dat Boot, perhaps it was a tv series first of all?)

    Anyway, starring the awesome Rutger Hauer it's a very good all-rounder with great characters, excitement and not too predictable while it's at it.

    P.S. It also includes Edward Fox who played The Jackal.


    The Counterfeiters (2007)
    A good all-round story done very well and which keeps your interest. It keeps your interest well and it's based on a compelling true story. Nevertheless, there's a part of me that groaned "oh dear, not another holocaust movie". Perhaps that's an unfair criticism, but even so I'm not sure it quite earnt the full 5 out of 5. See what you think...

    The Unloved (2009)

    Samantha Morton's (very) personal take on the care system in the UK. She was in care at one stage herself, so she found it was important to show what it's like to outsiders. While Fish Tank was all about how awful it is to live on a council estate, The Unloved is about how awful it is to be in the care system. Both have a tendency to show things as they are without too much extra inserted drama or making judgements for the audience. However, Fish Tank's problem was that the character's were simply horrible, whereas in The Unloved the characters are much more easy to empathise with in spite of their very obvious issues. It's also clearer what The Unloved is trying to say about the care system, whereas in the case of Fish Tank I really couldn't tell you what the point was supposed to be.

    The camera is often held at a young child's head height to give us an idea of what the movie means for the protagonist. Another way it puts us in the head of the protagonist is when it shows her with her eyes closed so we only see her and, like her, we cannot see what she's listening to. Other times our view is pretty much from the girl's actual perspective (or sometimes just looking over her head), so we'll see a conversation going on around her and then we'll continue to see how she's ignored afterwards.

    This is a very powerful movie albeit with a few imperfect aspects. There didn't appear to be subtitles which might actually have been useful for a few of Robert Carlyle's lines (playing as the protagonist's dad). The pacing isn't always great and the scene near the end didn't entirely make sense to me. At the very end there's a long scene where nothing much happens seemingly with the intention of getting us to listen all the way through a song by "Spiritualized". This is a bad idea as the song doesn't have any clear meaning, doesn't make up for the lack of stuff happening on screen and, to be honest, isn't very good. It's sad that the movie should have ended with over 5 minutes of what is essentially filler because it detracts from the previous scene which, while I personally found it a little confusing, was very powerful.

    This movie has a really important message and does it in a very raw but interesting way. Effort is made to help us empathise with all the characters we come across and we never get the impression that this movie is just one scene after another. It's a little slow in places, but in the end it feels worth it. Perhaps I am giving this half a mark too much because it's important, but what the heck. It IS an important movie and people really need to see it.

    Face (1997)

    I actually remembered this being a lot better. It's quite a stunning line-up of British talent since it includes Robert Carlyle, Ray Winstone and Philip Davis and... um... Damon Albarn *scratches head*. There're also small roles for Peter Vaughn and Sue Johnston. The movie also stars Lena Headey who isn't any better in this than she is in Sarah Connor Chronicles or 300. Still, this is one of the more interesting takes on the "heist" genre, with an engaging plot, plenty of excitement, great acting, not a little violence, but there are bits which feel a little too "this is a gangster movie"-ish (though admittedly this actually pre-dates Lock Stock). Highly underrated movie, even without living up to what I remembered.


    The Testament Of Dr. Mabuse (1933)
    If you are prepared to overlook how dated this movie has become, feel free to add at least another half a mark to the score. This is the last movie Fritz Lang made before fleeing Germany. It's a sequel to a silent movie (also from Fritz Lang) called "Dr Mabuse: The Gambler" (which I admittedly haven't seen). The movie quickly fills you in on any details you might have missed from the last movie and often very exciting. I actually find it remarkable that such a movie was able to be made when Germany must surely have been in the midst of a massive economic depression since there are some scenes which are quite extravagant (involving extreme flooding, a large raging fire and a few explosions). The marks for this film are so low mainly because of the slow pacing, the weird stuff involving ghosts and the slightly disjointed plot. I think the problem is that what the movie could really do with is a good edit. It's a bit too long and doesn't flow very well. Then again, perhaps I am judging this particularly harshly after having seen Fritz Lang's classic "M" which actually has quite a good tempo and barely feels aged at all. As for the ghosts, I get the impression that they are mostly just there because Mr. Lang wanted to play about with this rather interesting effect. Though admittedly there are some points where it is used very well indeed. In the end though, I wasn't at all sure what was going on with the ghosts and while the movie began feeling like it was going to have a bit of mystery to it, it ended up being rather clear cut. All in all though this was good fun and well worth a watch.

    Ponyo (Japanese with subtitles) (2008)
    My previous review (in cinema with English dubbing) was as follows:

    Ok, I know that the animation was wonderful, that the characters were endearing and that the Miyazaki magic was in full swing. In fact, that is exactly why this is higher than average. This was certainly an above average movie. I would really highly recommend that anyone who like Miyazaki's work goes to see this (though perhaps after they've already seen "Princess Mononoke", "Castle In The Sky" and "Spirited Away"). However, this suffers from the same problem as can be seen in his previous outing "Howl's Moving Castle". The level of imagination is fantastic and the characters are compelling, but towards the end I felt like it was all becoming distant as the pathos started revving up. It's a little hard to invest in the story once we are told that everything hangs on how much two young children love each other. When we've never seen them have a single disagreement during the entire movie, it's rather hard to feel any tension and therefore there's only so much we are going to care. - All this being said, it is a beautiful and wonderful story which is well worth you watching. Just expect it to let you down towards the end.
    Sometimes dubbing and subtitles makes very little difference. However, I have to say that Ponyo doesn't feel so emotionally distant with the Japanese version. I'm not sure why. Perhaps the voice actos care a bit more. I have to say that Liam Neeson didn't really do a terribly good job with his dubbing part and I'm not sure his voice really fitted with the role.

    A big change is that, in the Japanese version, the idea that "how much they love each other is important" makes a lot more sense (though I can't really go into any more details without spoilers. Putting on both the Japanese version's subtitles and the English dubbing at the same time, you can see just how much flowery nonsense is unnecessarily added to the dubbing. It serves to strongly detract from the more simple explanations found in the subtitles. So much so in fact, that the English dubbed version seemed to be pretty much advocating child marriage!

    I won't lie to you though. It's still a bit twee and a bit pathos-y, but I have to say that I like this subtitled version a lot better.

    The Witches (1990)

    This is a bit of a mixed bag. Now this is based on a book I absolutely love, so perhaps some will feel I'm unfairly marking it down. (Well tough!) Certainly the start of the movie does a brilliant job of bringing to life some of the events the grandma describes about "real" witches. However, it's rather annoying that they've decided to make witches identifiable by a purple tinge in their eye because it makes them FAR too easy to spot. The whole point of the original criteria for finding witches was that none of the individual characteristics was enough to spot a witch (unless that witch was extremely careless). In the book the eye thing was that there was a barely noticeable swirl of colours in the pupil. The only way you could see that would be by staring into their eyes, which would make you look quite obvious. Still, I guess this was necessary to make things reasonably easy to follow. Another thing which has been added in is a rather bizarre scene where the witches are running around on a beach excitedly. I find it best to pretend that this entire scene was an illusion, because otherwise it's remarkable that the witches haven't been caught and it removes any sense that there are proper rules to what they can and cannot do.

    The second half of the movie cranks up the comedy with Rowan Atkinson doing his thing and, to be quite honest, seeming wholey out of place. The mouse effects are pretty good and the grand high witch looks awesome. (Though when I first saw this movie as a child, so effective were Roald Dahl's descriptions along with Quentin Blake's illustration of the Grand High Witch unmasked, that I was convinced that she still wasn't ugly enough.) Bruno is pretty good, but the main boy protagonist is so whiney it's extremely offputting.

    Still, the main adult parts are performed fantastically. Mai Zetterling is brilliant as the Norweigian grandmother, Bill Paterson is wonderful as Bruno's father, but the person who really steals the show is Anjelica Huston as the "Grand High Witch". You won't regret seeing this. It's a good solid movie. However, it never seems sure whether it wants to go for the full-on dark and scary story from Roald Dahl or whether it wants to play it up as a comedy. This indecisiveness does not work in the movie's favour at all and that's sad because this had the potential to be a proper classic.


    Sherlock Holmes (2009)
    After a long while of making utter trash, Guy Ritchie finally makes something watchable. It's very generic, but it looks very good it keeps you interested. In the end though, the plot is just too contrived for words. The movie is held together by Robert Downey Jnr and Jude Law's performances, but in the end this is mainly just a bit of fun to pass the time. It's quite an average movie, but a general sense of fun makes it that little bit more worthy of your time.

    The Pit And The Pendulum (1961)
    My goodness this is a melodramatic and meandering movie, isn't it? I saw this after seeing "The Haunting" (see below) and I felt a little deja-vu to start with really. It takes place in a castle, there's apparently a ghost or perhaps not, everyone keeps changing their story and the owner of the castle has a dark past... But then when you get to the end, it makes up for it all. It's not so much that the ending is really clever, but it's so much fun that you can't help but forgive it for what you were put through before. And Vincent Price is awesome, as always, of course.


    Legion (2010)
    Utterly stupid movie with some neat special effects. I am actually quite satisfied by the way many people were upset with the theology. I actually thought the twist was quite clever. The biggest problem is the dialogue which is ridiculously hackneyed. Rather too many of the best bits can be found in the trailer. Still, as far as shit movies go, this is pretty good fun. (Please note, I am giving this movie the same rating as f***ing Twilight. Do not take this as a strong recommendation, ok?) I must say that I found this a bit of a guilty pleasure because even though it was awful, I couldn't help but enjoy it anyway. Then again, unlike the guilty pleasure of "Ultraviolet", this movie doesn't really have nearly enough action sequences. Still can you pass up the opporunity to see a Zombie/Angel Apocalypse movie?

    I'm not sure I understand the claims that the movie is somehow promoting the anti-choice agenda by noting that the pregant character considered getting an abortion. It didn't look to me like people were strongly judging her for wanting to have an abortion and she actually expresses quite justified annoyance that cosmic destiny prevented her from being able to go through with one. Yes, the movie expects her to come to term with her pregnancy, but that's because her child is going to be a new messiah, a saviour for the entire human race. Not because abortion is somehow wrong, okay? (I can just see the anti-choice message now: "Don't have an abortion because your baby might turn out to be the messiah." Yeah that'd go down well with those groups, I'm sure....) Rather more annoying is actually the decision that the saviour has to be male. (Okay sure, perhaps they just happen to be male, but why even announce the gender of the baby before it's born?)

    The Haunting (or The Terror) (1963)
    I actually thought I was about to watch the classic 1963 movie about a haunted house known as "The Haunting". Strangely this 1963 movie known as "The Haunting" wasn't the same one as people would normally wish to refer to. In fact, has this listed as "The Terror", but my version appears to have the title used for American television (surely they must have known about the potential mix-up?) At the start of the movie we see the ever-awesome Dick Miller going around knifing people but being stopped before he can kill a man blatantly performing evil black arts and conjuring evil spirits. He's then taken down to be tortured for information and then killed, but he insists that he can shed light on what is happening here. What he then does is tell a story which then becomes the main body of this movie starring Jack Nicholsen and Boris Karloff which appears entirely unrelated to what we've seen in this opening sequence. The plot is so convoluted, inconsistent and, at times, plain stupid, that there's something rather compelling about it. I don't know if you'll regret seeing this movie. I'd certainly like it if I could discuss with someone just how plain daft it was.

    0 0

    "And I should like to assure you, my Islamic friends, that under the American Constitution, under American tradition, and in American hearts, this Center, this place of worship, is just as welcome as could be a similar edifice of any other religion. Indeed, America would fight with her whole strength for your right to have here your own church and worship according to your own conscience.

    This concept is indeed a part of America, and without that concept we would be something else than what we are."

    President Dwight David Eisenhower, June 28. 1957
    At the dedication of the Islamic Center in Washington, DC

    (via Doorman-Priest)

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