Misplaced Faith

April 26, 2011

I’ve always liked Derren Brown. I remember seeing him years ago performing card hustles and (by his own standards) simple mind-reading tricks on chat shows and naff entertainment programmes which barely lasted a series. After that I watched with interest as his star moved firmly towards the ascendent. His series Mind Control and then Tricks Of The Mind were a consistently fascinating mixture of sleight of hand, NLP, suggestion and showmanship. I loved the way he put one and frequently two over on members of the public and, pleasingly, po-faced celebrities. Around that time I saw him perform live in The Waterfront, Belfast, and was bamboozled by the range and scale of mental and physical stunts he pulled off so effortlessly. The show’s denouement involved a lengthy and convoluted routine  which involved making the entire audience think of a specific word. Just before the word was revealed I whispered “Symposium” under my breath. Sure enough, “Symposium” was the magic word. My brain reverberated like a boiled ham in a pot as Derren tore open a brown envelope which had been visible in an upstanding  clasp all evening to display the word written on a very long piece of paper. The auditorium rumbled with a collective intake of breath. My eyeballs juddered in their sockets and, a slight feeling of nausea notwithstanding, I was pretty astounded by what I had just witnessed and experienced. I felt like one of those mopes Derren diddled in Tricks Of The Mind: amazed at Derren’s audacity, envious of his ability and slightly irked that I possessed no such abilities.

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Bulletstorm In A Teacup

April 23, 2011

As I’ve said before, I’ve played videogames for a long time. Deep down I know that this is a fairly ridiculous pursuit. I realise that it is probably a waste of time, time that could be more profitably spent doing other, more profitable things. Then again, the same could be said of any hobby, be it journaling or scrapbooking or pressing flowers or whatever. Of course, the difference is that videogames are perpetually looked upon as the black sheep of the entertainment industry. They are often held up as having a corruptive, poisonous influence on young people who play them. It is said that in the most extreme cases they incite the player to commit random acts of brutal violence. I have always struggled with this conceit. I find it difficult to believe for several reasons but the most pronounced is that videogames are monitored by the PEGI, a classification board whose job and responsibility is to safeguard young people and who are, in my opinion, much more punitive than the increasingly lenient BBFC. I was recently asked to contribute to a feature on Radio Ulster about this very issue. During the live discussion a parent phoning in expressed concern that her son, aged 12, was playing too much Call Of Duty: Black Ops. Now, considering that the game box bears a fat red 18 this raises the question of why she would allow her son access to such a title. It seems to me that this is a common problem. On one hand there is the argument that videogames are  an idle pursuit with a mental age only children could appreciate yet on the other there is the contention that they put that same group at risk. It’s a strange dichotomy and one which certainly does not make any logical sense.

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Welcome To Twin Peaks

April 22, 2011

 

 

I vivdly remember the first time I saw Twin Peaks. Even though it was longer ago than I would care to consider, the impact of this odd, little show was so discombobulating that the thought of it still judders. I was at home in my parents’ house and it was around 9pm on a school night. There had been a lot of feverish talk in the press about this bizarre blend of murder mystery, soap opera and esoteric thriller which had already caused quite the stir in America and was due to do the same over here. Being a precocious young man with an eye for the unusual I knew that I had to check it out. Read the rest of this entry »

3D Or Not 3D, That Is The Question

April 18, 2011

I have been watching movies for longer than I care to remember and during that time have both enjoyed and endured the various fads foisted upon the medium. I would put the recent resurgance of 3D in the latter bracket. As far as I’m concerned, the supposedly revolutionary tech is merely a gimmick to sell tickets to substandard movies and in turn for the cinemas showing said movies to hike up the prices. Further, any 3D films I have seen, and to be fair I have not seen a whole lot, tend to look poor. The tech has a tendency to either darken the screen print or make the actors and scenery look flat, like cardboard cutouts in a shooting gallery. This is often due to the cinema not having the correct lamps to run the film in question, due largely to the expense of acquiring them. This might  explain why cinemas are so keen to whack on an extra couple of pounds / dollars to “hire” glasses to see a film you have already paid through the nose to see.

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Forensics Reunited

April 3, 2011

I’m a big fan of CSI. I’ve watched it, or rather the original show set in Las Vegas and it’s two spin-offs, for around a decade. I realise that it’s silly and throwaway and immediately forgettable but that is equivalent to complaining that a pizza has no nutritional value. That’s not the reason you eat it. Sometimes you are in the mood for a steak dinner and sometimes you’re in the mood for a dirty burger, no matter what Paul Newman says. The same can be said for television: sometimes you want an intellectual workout from a rigorous, dramatic show like The Wire and sometimes you want to loaf and let a programme dripfeed your brain with visual E numbers.

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Itsa Me!

April 3, 2011

Cast your eyes to the top of this blog and you should see a banner with a little red plumber bounding through a  colourful world decorated with smiling turtles, pipes and big, pastel shaded blocks. It is, as any geek will know, a cross section of screens from Super Mario Bros. 3 (the  SNES remake from the All-Stars collection of ports), widely agreed to be one of the best videogames of all time. In fact, do a random google search for a list of the greatest games (there are a lot of them out there – we are a world of compulsive listers) and you will see little Super Mario appear more than once. Read the rest of this entry »

True Brit: The Brilliant Danny Boyle

April 3, 2011

I recently wrote a feature on Danny Boyle’s movies to tie in with the cinematic release of 127 Hours. The article was, for reasons too convoluted and tedious to go into here, was never used. I thought that I would post it here instead. It has its faults, I know: it’s lopsided and does not have enough information on the film where the dude cuts off his arm, as it shall hereafter be known, but I was working to a tight wordcount and had quite a few films to fit in and lots of things I wanted to say. Sometimes you have to cut out material you don’t want to cut out. It’s just the way it goes. Often, it makes for a much better article.

I’ve since seen 127 Hours twice. I’m glad I saw it in the cinema first. Rarely have I been at a screening where there is such a unanimous reaction from the audience. The moment when James Franco finally does the needful was, after such an intensely paced build-up, a wave of sympathetic pain shot through the theatre. There was an audible gasp, a mass clenching of teeth and the whoosh of multiple pairs of feet being lifted off the floor. It was a special moment, one which rarely happens at the cinema, and I’m glad that I was there to experience it.

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It’s A Sad And Beautiful World

April 2, 2011

It’s been a year since Mark Linkous, one of my favourite musicians, took his own life. At times such as those people always write what an immense talent the world has lost and how their music will always live in their hearts. These eulogies are sincere and empathetic but they often miss the fact that the deceased has left behind friends, family and loved ones who must carry on whilst shouldering the weight of questioning why such a thing had to happen. I found myself questioning this thorny issue, the same issue I had contemplated when Elliott Smith killed himself way back in 2003 and when Kurt Cobain did the same in 1994. Musicians whose work did indeed live in my heart and brought me many moments of joy and soul-searching through my school and university years.

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Strange Little Girls

March 31, 2011

I was more than a little apprehensive about going to see Sucker Punch, the latest movie from Zack Snyder, who is white of teeth and lantern of jaw and looks every inch the American quarterback. I both enjoyed and admired his previous jawn Watchmen, not only because I read the graphic novel in my impressionable teens (and again in my jaded twenties) and loved it but also because the adaptation was so faithful. Impressively, Snyder chose not to pander to the audience, choosing instead to weave a visually stunning, narratologically complex story which played out on multiple layers. Whereas other movies, particularly those leaping from the Superhero canon, spoonfeed the audience with exposition and clunky monologues explaining backstory, motivation and so on, Watchmen was much more obtuse. It demanded that the audience keep pace with its slow and at times unwieldy plot. I respect that greatly. Here was a film which did not pander to the viewer and credited us with more than a modicum of intelligence. Not that it was short on spectacle. Some of the action, particularly the pow-wow in a high security prison, was fantastically choreographed and brutally violent.

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Press Start To Begin.

March 29, 2011

Howdy!

If you’ve stumbled across this flimsy excuse for a blog , which in reality is my flimsy excuse to write about myself and my geeky interests, you have either 1. come here because I told you to do so 2. been googling for reviews of the new Dead Space game, which I will no doubt rave about in the frothiest terms imaginable 3. been looking for information on the new David Fincher movie, which I will rave about in even frothier terms and no doubt lose my dignity in the process.

Whatever your reasoning, it’s more than likely that you’ll be disappointed. This is, after all, a thinly shaded outlet for my dork-estrian activities. An outlet for my thoughts on the various media with which I find myself – as a grown adult with a responsible job, married with a little growing family – obsessed. Not dangerously obsessed, but close enough. That list would include videogames, movies, music and quality American television shows. I stipulate American because, let’s face it, British television is by and large about as enjoyable as playing KerPlunk with a dead ferret. We’ve all been there.

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