Well… that’s it. I’m leavin on a jet plane, and all that other Jonny Denver type stuff. As they say where I come from: “It’s all over bar the shoutin'” Of course, in this particular case, “the shoutin” involves packing my few remaining possessions; dragging 50kg of luggage (each) in 3 seperate cases (each), through the deep snow to the subway station; catching a train, then a bus, then a plane; being picked up from the airport, and living under someone else’s roof for the next week or so until my wife and I find somewhere to live. So if we’re gonna stick with the fighting analogies, I haven’t even spilled the other bloke’s drink yet. But it’s all over as far as the blog posts about my moving are concerned. I am writing this post on Monday the 26th, and it is scheduled for release at the exact minute we are due to land in the UK. So… once again, you must endure the anguish of my absence. At least for a little while. What will I be blogging about when I return? Your guess is as good as mine. Well… I suppose I could make a slightly more educated guess than you guys and say that it’s likely to be about my new house, and my new job (back to being self-employed now). I do have one or two things in the pipeline to keep you occupied until next we meet, and they have been a very long time coming. So, I will see you again soon. If you don’t believe me… take a look at this video. And the next time someone hears me say “Hmmm… I think I’ll kill myself off in this weeks video. I just want to try out this new effect!” STOP ME and say: “Jimbot… don’t do it. The storyteller in you is a perfectionist monster, and you know where this will lead.” Normally I sign off by saying goodbye, but on this occasion I will just say those 3 little words I have been desperately waiting to say for almost 3 years: I’m back baby!!
It has been a long time since I visited these pages… far too long.
I had when I last wrote here, many varied and detailed plans for a new, brighter (ironically more regularly updated) blog site. And I hope that eventually I can return to those ideas and make them a reality, because I really do miss this. But, as those foolhardy enough to have been reading this blog since early 2011 will know, my mind has the boundless energy and restlessness which so many tracksuit-wearing gym-goers seem to have applied to their physical bodies, but which has long eluded my own decrepit husk of an excuse for one.
As such, new ideas, new games, new books, new addresses, projects, toys and adventures are ever vying for an audition to stand, however briefly, on the crumbling stage of 3 minute farce which is my attention span… before being kicked out into the wings to make way for a man on a Segway, juggling flaming sea-sponges.
So, why now?
Well, I will give you a brief update on my ever-changing circumstances (many of which will relate to – and serve as updates for – previous blog posts) a little later. But, more importantly, I want to talk to you once again about a subject very close to my heart. An issue far too often ignored or dismissed, but about which I nonetheless feel very strongly indeed.
It should be made clear that, although I have had the itch to return and update you on progress several times over the last 2-3 months, this post was prompted by several coinciding events which, each in their turn, brought this issue once again to the front of my mind, and I thought I might quiet “the voices” by listing those events here.
The first is that, by the end of today, my wife and I will, more than likely, have an actual definitive, unalterable date for our permanent return to England… though I should more properly say: My permanent return, and my wife’s (hopefully) permanent migration to.
The second is that sleeplessness (what else?) has compelled me once again to the pages of the various works of Dr. Carl Sagan; not only one of my favourite authors, but (in my opinion at least) one of the most enlightened and brilliant men the 20th century ever gave us.
The third is that in 4 days from now (Nov 12th, 2014), one of the exciting firsts of human space exploration, which Dr. Sagan foresaw and wrote about at length but sadly did not live long enough to witness, will actually happen. The European Space Agency’s Rosetta Spacecraft, after travelling 4 billion miles over the span of 10 years, finally caught up with comet 67P/C-G in August, and will send its Philae lander down to the surface on Wednesday.
The fourth is that I have been playing extensively, and making many YouTube videos about, Elite: Dangerous over the last 3 months; a game for which I waited 3 decades, and about which, more later (if you can’t wait until later… more here)
Lastly, and perhaps most poignantly, this week sees the release of my most anticipated film of 2014: Christopher Nolan’s, Interstellar – which I wrote a brief preview of at the beginning of this year, in my 2014 film preview (it might be interesting to revisit my previews and see how accurate I was in my predictions).
The reason I say “most poignantly” is because, although I will not be going to see the film until next week, I understand its central theme to be the very concern which drove me back to these pages. A subject on which I have touched several times before; that of Interstellar travel, and the absolute necessity for it.
Amongst the above listed reasons are my personal heroes. From the realms of astronomy and space exploration: Carl Sagan; filmmaking: Chris Nolan; and video-gaming: David Braben. All of them – Nolan, apparently; Braben, so far as I can tell; and Sagan, definitely and outspokenly on many occasions – share/d my concerns about space exploration; namely that the necessity for it does not seem to be widely accepted or understood.
That’s the second time I’ve referred to it as a necessity (actually the 3rd or 4th if you read my earlier blog posts. Particularly this one), and I absolutely, whole-heartedly and as loudly as the internet will let me, refuse to apologise for doing so.
Again and again I have heard the same tired old arguments against spending large amounts of money on spaceflight and space exploration…
The first comes most often from that percentage of the human population who seem not to concern themselves with life outside the confines of their local pub, or the studios in which their favourite reality TV show is filmed, and it usually goes something like this:
“What d’ya wanna go t’space for? I mean what’s the point?”
The second is usually (though not always) from the demographic I think is most diametrically opposed to the first; those intellectuals who concern themselves almost entirely with metaphysics, and start conversations with such openers as “Wasn’t it Sartre who said…” and so on. Their argument goes something like this:
“Why should I care?”
The third comes from those of a religious disposition, and ranges from:
“I just try to be a good Christian/Muslim/Jew etc.”
“Accept Christ and you will all be saved.”
and at the more extreme end…
The fourth group constitutes perhaps the largest and most often encountered percentage of space-exploration naysayers, and their argument at least tends to be the most rational. It goes something like this:
“Aren’t there far more pressing concerns right here on Earth?”
To answer each of these groups in turn, in the fewest words possible, I would have to say…
Group 1: “Are you a moron?”
Group 2: “Do you think I’m a moron?”
Group 3: “Are you a Mormon?”
Group 4: “No.”
However, since brevity is as foreign to me as a second anniversary is to an iPhone, I shall now give slightly more carefully considered responses.
G1: What d’ya wanna go t’space for? I mean what’s the point?
SK: Have you ever looked up at the night sky? Did you know that all those little twinkly bits in that really big black thing above your head are gigantic nuclear reactors… many with their own system of planets? And did you know that, though we can only see about 10,000 from Earth, with the naked eye, there are actually about 400 billion of them in our galaxy alo…
SK: Are you texting?
SK: Can’t you concentrate on what I’m saying for five m… wait… are you texting ME?
What does ‘UR borin m8’ mean?
SK: Oh for crying out loud! Go on inside then. X-factor starts in 5 minutes. Here’s a ball of string to keep you occupied during that long wait.”
So… no help there then. What of group 2?
G2: Why should I care?
SK: Fair point. But all the great art and literature you DO care about (or claim to) will be lost if SOMEONE doesn’t. No humans will remain to read and appreciate it. All the Peruvian yoghurt farmers you are always banging on about trying to save will perish anyway when the planet is inevitably over-populated, or the magnetic field which protects them (and us) from the intense radiation of the sun is decimated by a coronal mass-ejection.
Still don’t care?
SK: Okay. Can’t say fairer than that. I don’t much care about homoeopathy, and locally grown, organic gooseberries to tell the truth, so I guess we’re both content.
By the way; I found a brilliant article about how to get Quinoa out of your beard while I was looking up Quasars on Google. If you’re having trouble reading it… take off the ridiculous fake glasses! Your eyesight is fine.
Never mind. To each their own. I figured it was a losing battle, but there might be some hope for that group as fashions inevitable change.
Onto group 3… I guess… *sigh*
G3: I just try to be a good Christian/Muslim/Jew etc.
SK: Er… yes but…
G3: Accept Christ and you will all be saved!
SK: Erm… okay… I’m not entirely convinced that’s true, but let’s say that it turns out you’re correct, and there really is a magical being who created everything… doesn’t the endless space, full of countless worlds and wonders make your creator seem even more magnificent than you first thought?
SK: No? You want your magnificent God to remain confined to this tiny, tiny, insignificant corner of the universe?
Y’know… I think that’s probably for the best.
Incidentally, I will be celebrating Christmas, and my love of it has everything to do with cosy happiness and goodwill, and nothing to do with your god, beyond both his and Santa’s shared love of beards.
By the way… I found this great article on how to get Quinoa out of…
SK: Get your foot out my door. I have Satan on speed-dial
Oh well. I didn’t expect that one to end well, if I’m honest. Man, am I gonna look stupid when the Tribulation comes.
I think there is hope for group 1. As long as we start setting our reality TV shows on space stations and asteroids, they’ll sell the idea for us, and tell us it was their’s in the first place. And as long as we put a Starbucks up there, selling organically-grown coffee… group 2 will turn up whether we want them to or not.
But let’s turn our attention to Group 4.
“Aren’t there far more pressing concerns right here on Earth?”
I stand by my original, simple answer: NO!
But allow me to expand upon it…
Are the starving of the world more important?
Not if they are wiped out by asteroid strike, coronal mass-ejection, super-volcanic eruption etc. before we figure out how to feed them all, no.
Shouldn’t we be trying to put an end to poverty, rather than pursuing science-fiction?
Absolutely we should! But you can do both at the same time. In fact, the answers to many of these earthly problems have been, and are still being, addressed by the human exploration of space and its derivative technologies.
Besides… what’s the point of saving people from poverty if we ignore all the very real dangers which could wipe us all out at any moment?
It’s too dangerous!
It certainly is dangerous sometimes. Last week alone there were two accidents (it’s worth noting that this was the single busiest week for spacecraft accidents in the history of human spaceflight); Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo crashed, killing one person and injuring another… and an unmanned Antartes rocket exploded as it left the launch-pad. However, although I wouldn’t even risk spilling my beer to stop a bar-fight, I would risk my life without question to advance human space exploration. And judging from the 200,000 or so applicants who signed up for the chance to earn a one-way ticket to the Red Planet, with the Mars One project (this project plans to send people to Mars, starting in 2023, but will not be bringing them back), it seems that plenty of other people are willing to risk their lives too. If you’re not, stay at home. No-one is forcing anyone to risk their safety. All the people who have so far gone into space have jumped at the chance, in spite of the risks.
It’s too expensive!
Yes, it certainly is expensive. But the US military budget is approximately 30,000 times more expensive.
We need to put a stop to war!
Definitely. And I can’t think of a better way to do that than focussing the attentions (not to mention the money) of humanity on something much bigger, brighter and more exciting out there.
We need to stop over-population!
Other than sterilising the whole of humanity, and dooming it to extinction anyway, how exactly are you planning to police such an action? That snowball is already out of control folks. There are twice as many people on this planet now as there were when I was born, 40 years ago.
On the bright side… they call it “space” for a reason.
The tools of human spaceflight are bound to be perverted into tools of war and destruction, or have some other long-term negative consequences for humanity!
Yup. Very likely. Wernher von Braun’s rockets were used to bomb London during WWII, and there has been fear and speculation for some time in the world of astronomy, that the technology necessary to deflect earth-bound asteroids could just as easily be used to push one TOWARDS us.
But here’s the thing… the technological developments of humanity have often had un-forseen consequences no matter WHERE they come from. In fact many of the solutions to the very earthy problems this group confronts us with, end up being the things that group 2 sit in their coffee houses complaining about a generation later.
2 solutions to the problems of world hunger and food shortage for example, have resulted in 2 of the biggest scare-stories in the modern era.
The need for cleaner, non-toxic refrigeration technology led to the development of Chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs). Considered completely safe because they were non-reactive… we later discovered that it was precisely that inert property which led to them destroying our protective ozone layer (a problem, I hasten to add, which was only discovered – accidentally, and with the support of NASA – through studying the atmosphere of Venus).
The development of GM crops… an ingenious solution, or so we thought, to the problem of world hunger. Here were crops that thrived where others could not; allowing millions of acres of food to be grown on land which would previously yield none… but people gathering outside the headquarters of Monsanto with catchy slogans and placards would probably tell you that didn’t work out quite as we had planned either.
The advancement of technology often has drawbacks… but it has so far saved millions more lives than it has cost (sorry, Group 3, was I staring?).
So, what of that final, tired old argument closer:
You’ve been reading/watching too much science-fiction?
For this one I shall simply answer tired old rhetoric with tired old rhetoric:
Science-Fiction writers have been writing about visiting comets and landing on them for well over a century. On Wednesday, you can watch it happen.
Right up to the late 19th and early 20th century, most physicists believed that rockets could not function in a vacuum.
Look… we can argue backwards and forwards all day long about “what ifs”, so let’s stick with something that we can guarantee.
At some point in the future, an asteroid or comet big enough to wipe out all life on Earth WILL hit this planet.
This is not speculation. It is a mathematical certainty.
Less than 2 years ago, Russia had a near miss of underwear-changing proportions when a meteor just 15 meters across exploded over Chelyabinsk. This happened in the same week that astronomers were busy watching how closely we had been missed by the very much larger Asteroid, 2012 DA14. Twenty short years ago, Jupiter was hit by Comet Shoemaker-Levy 9, leaving a scar the size of our entire planet on its surface.
Asteroid & Comet impacts are just the most likely threat. Super-volcano eruption, Coronal mass-ejection… pick your apocalypse. I’ve said it many times before: Mother Nature is a cold-hearted bitch! She cares not one iota what the human-race has struggled through, or how much history would be lost.
Dr. Sagan, in Pale Blue Dot, reckons:
“There’s something like one chance in two thousand that [a globally catastrophic asteroid collision] will happen in the lifetime of a newborn baby… for commercial flights the chance [of crashing] is one in two million.”
He puts it better, and certainly more succinctly, than I ever could when he states the case for space-exploration by simply stating:
“Exploration or extinction”
So make your choice. Every single day that passes without such a global catastrophe brings us one day closer to the day when it DOES happen.
I hate fear-mongering, and I am not suggesting for a second that we all build bomb shelters and tell your Priest/Psychiatrist/Chemist that you have secretly always had a fetish for Eskimo-porn before it’s too late. Living in perpetual fear of what MIGHT happen is no existence at all (I can hear my wife laughing as I write that). There is one group that I left off the list, and it is populated by those people who live in a constant state of disappointment; constantly whining about how evil humanity is and how we all deserve to die for the things we’ve done to penguins. I left these people out because there really is very little point in arguing with them. Yes, we have done, and are still doing shitty things all across the world, and yes, some humans would undoubtedly continue doing shitty things on other worlds, and in other times. But let’s not throw the baby out with the bath-water… just try to be one of those people who does nice things, and to discourage others from doing bad ones.
My own interest in space travel has little if anything to do with the threat of asteroid impact, mathematical certainty or not, but if that doesn’t sway you, just go outside on a clear night and spend half an hour with your phone turned off, looking up at those twinkly bits. You may surprise yourself.
In other news…
I am nowadays working as an audio-book narrator, and will be pursuing similar work when returning to the UK next year.
I have made several Elite: Dangerous gameplay videos for YouTube in the last 3 months, and will continue making more, as the BETA stage of development draws to a close, and the game approaches its retail release date: 16th December, 2014.
This game has exceeded all my expectations so far, and there are grand plans going forward from release. One of my videos was featured in one of the game developer’s recent newsletters. It should go without saying that I was very proud indeed, and my wife and I had a lot of fun making it. If you’re a fan of either Quantum Leap or Elite: Dangerous, you should check it out, HERE.
That’s it for now. I will try to be back soon, but given how this post started, and considering that I will shortly be relocating to another country, don’t be surprised if you don’t hear from me for a while.
You can still keep up with developments by watching my videos, or following me on TWITTER or FACEBOOK.
Until then (although this may make little sense to those who do not regularly read my posts) consider this:
Bending over for the soap would not be necessary in zero-gravity
After this post I am going to disappear for a few weeks to concentrate on the new blog site, and a video which has gone unfinished for far, far, far, far too long. I will check in on comments, and I may even write a post here if lightning strikes me, but otherwise, since I won’t be back for a few weeks, I thought we’d have a little bit of fun. If this sort of thing proves popular I may do more of them in the future, I may even move the idea across to the new site as a page on its own, but let’s see what you think of this one before we get ahead of ourselves.
I have often talked of movies in this blog. Indeed, at one point during 2011/2012 all my blog posts had to have titles taken from movie lines. And I must surely have made clear by now that my favourite genre is Science Fiction. I have very little time for spy movies in general. So it may surprise you (well… some of you at least) to know that the film franchise I am perhaps most knowledgeable about is 007. With Bond 24 now confirmed, the rumour mill is in full swing, and there are several questions everyone usually wants the answer to when a new 007 adventure is on the horizon.
1. Who will play Bond? No mystery there, Daniel Craig has already confirmed he will once again wear the tuxedo.
2. What will be the title? A great deal more mystery here as the title at the moment is the less-than-evocative Bond #24.
3. Who will be the Bond girl/girls? Once again, no idea.
4. Who will be the villain?
It’s this last question I want to talk about today. Who do you think would make a great villain? Why? Where’s your evidence? Do you think a particular person should definitely not be allowed to stroke the white pussy (sorry about that. I couldn’t resist)? So, I hereby declare the first Sleepless Knight Fantasy League… open! Today: Bond villains.
I have tried to add a mixture of people I’m not so sure about, in with people I would give my right arm to see playing Bond villains. When it comes to listing movies they have starred in, some of them are obvious choices; some are their best movies; some are their worst. Most of the time I have tried to pick at least one movie for each actor which demonstrates their ability, or inability to play bad guys. Ben Kingsley’s is an example of the latter. Lastly, each of the “Blofeld says” quotes are from one of their movies, with the eponymous Mr. Bond pasted in where I thought it appropriate. Consequently I have often tried to pick a quote from one of the movies listed on their card, but this is not always the case.
Off you go! Have fun. And if you can’t read the cards very well, my apologies, but just click on them to enlarge.
*Fun Fact: I only discovered whilst checking IMDb for movie release dates for this post, that one of the characters I really hate, from the Mass Effect games series, was voiced by Carrie Anne Moss.
As has so often been the case during this past month or so of “experimenting” I enjoyed this far too much. I started coming up with all sorts of ideas on what to do next… The New Doctor fantasy league… Bond Movie Titles fantasy league… Star Trek villains… Superheroes… it just kept going. But, reluctantly, I must tell you that’s it for a few weeks, unless I suddenly think of something so important to say that it can’t wait.
Now it’s your turn to vote. Philip Seymour Hoffman has been left out of the vote below, mainly so that voters wouldn’t be influenced by the recent loss. But everyone else is present and correct. There is no time-limit on the vote, so I guess I’ll just take a look at it, and announce the results when the new Bond villain is officially announced.
Until I see you again (with more details of the proposed new blog site), Sleep tight,
All the best things come in threes, so I’d better make sure that I don’t drag this out over yet another post this week. Also, since the movies I’m previewing are getting further and further away (these ones start in October 2014) as we go down the list, it is getting much more difficult to find images relating to the production… so I may start improvising a little now.
Dracula Untold –
So, Dracula, became Dracula: Year Zero, and now Dracula Untold. But is it? Haven’t we been told this story before? I seem to recall that no-one really much liked what Francis Ford Coppola had to say on the subject. Well, if a Hollywood giant like Coppola can’t get it right, what else is there to do but give the project to a man who has previously only directed commercials.
Gary Shore is not really treading entirely new ground; drawing on the widely held belief that Bram Stoker based the character of Dracula on real-life 15th century overlord, Vlad Tepes. From interviews I’ve seen however, it does sound like Shore is telling a much more interesting story than Coppola, who pretty much tried to tell us that Dracula wasn’t all that bad before he fell out with God and developed a bit of an O+ habit. The truth of the matter, if the stories of the inspiration for Dracula are to be believed, is that Stoker took Vlad III and toned him down a bit.
For those of us who remember vampires before they went all glittery and pouting, the thought of having your blood drained by an immortal bastard while we slept was a fairly horrifying prospect… but that is a peaceful, dizzying drift into a warm (if rather too permanent) bath, compared with what Vlad tended to do with people who didn’t laugh at his jokes. I’m not going to go too deeply into it here (as much as I am tempted to), but as many of you will be aware, Vlad III, Prince of Wallachia, is usually referred to by the much more evocative epithet, Vlad the Impaler. In case you were wondering: No, this was not just a clever 15th century nickname for a well-endowed gentleman. He was so called because he is rumoured to have used over 40,000 people as life-sized pencil toppers… holding their legs apart and oiling a large stake, which was then… I think you get the picture. I’m sorry if you were eating a hot-dog or something while you read that. I should have put a disclaimer, or a spoiler-alert or something at the top of this post. Anyway, Vlad used to arrange these impaled people in concentric circles outside cities he planned to attack, or as a deterrent to his enemies (I don’t know about you, but this tactic would deter the fuck out of me), and the story goes that this lovely fella was the inspiration for Dracula; hence the stake through the heart, I would imagine.
Okay, maybe I did go too deeply into it, but if you wish to know more about the charming Vlad, check this out.
As far as the movie goes, it should be worth a watch. Just, maybe go without snacks for this one, eh?
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles –
Once again, Megan Fox finds employment in a franchise based on a cartoon. Turtles are mutated by toxic stuff that we flushed; someone makes a movie about it; we flush that, and so goes the never-ending life-cycle of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle.
It shouldn’t be hard to discern my feelings about this film. If you can only see one film this week, make it the one with the stakes up the bottom. Unless you have kids. In which case… cover their eyes when it gets to that bit.
The Maze Runner –
Nope. This is not leaked CCTV footage of a thief who took a wrong turn after nicking a novelty tankard from the Hampton Court Palace gift shop, but the latest adaptation of dystopian fiction, this time from author, James Dashner.
A young boy with no memory wakes up in a community of 50 teenage boys, surrounded by a deadly maze. A day later, the first ever girl arrives.
Well, you certainly couldn’t ask for a situation with more tension. Throw in a box containing only one After-Eight mint and I think most cinema patrons would need chain-mail gloves to save their fingernails.
This will be the directorial début of Wes Ball, so it’s a very difficult one to call, but I think it would be difficult to mess up such an idea, so I’m gonna risk saying: Hit
Those who are superstitious leave now. Especially if, like me, you are a fan of Christopher Nolan.
For me, this is the big one of 2014. I simply cannot wait to see this movie. And not necessarily because I think it will be an instant hit, but because I think Chris Nolan is one of the most talented directors working right now… and I’m kinda wondering when this ride is going to end.
You see, in my opinion (and I need to stress that not everyone agrees with this), Chris Nolan has never made a bad move as director or writer, but let me explain the problem with expecting too much from this movie:
The film revolves around a group of explorers and scientists from a resource-depleted Earth, poking their heads through a newly discovered wormhole to see what’s on the other side. All very good so far. Then, in an unsurprising move from Nolan, it stars Michael Caine. Excellent; no problems there. Anne Hathaway also joins the very interesting cast list, along with John Lithgow and Wes Bentley; all of whom are watchable and usually dependable. Sounds great. Then the first teaser trailer combines images of historical, pioneering moments in human history, with a beautifully written monologue which goes directly to the very heart of everything I feel most passionately, about human-beings and this little planet we inhabit, in a single line of dialogue I would love to have written myself “…our greatest accomplishments cannot be behind us, because our destiny lies above us.” And the monologue is read by…. Matthew McConaughey.
I’m being tremendously unfair to poor Matthew here, I know. It’s a very, very minor point in an otherwise perfect-sounding premise. I just get so nervous whenever a new Chris Nolan movie comes out, because I have come to expect so much from him.
I suppose if there is one thing I should have learned by now, it’s this: When a fantastic cook tells you they are making a mouth-watering dish, but they’re going to use an ingredient you don’t ordinarily like… trust them to know what they’re doing.
Will this be a hit? Absolutely!
Paul King directs Colin Firth and Nicole Kidman in this big-screen outing for Michael Bond’s beloved bear.
Paddington bear arrives at Paddington station from darkest Peru, where he is found and adopted by the Brown family. He is politeness in a little duffle-coat, and loves marmalade sandwiches; which he presumably eats from exactly the kind of paper-bag that Nicole Kidman couldn’t act her way out of!!
Paul King: Paddington was found with a note attached to his duffle-coat, which read “Please look after this bear. Thank you.” and you let Nicole Kidman onto the cast… Shame on you, Paul King… Shame on you. You just better pray my sister doesn’t find out.
Adapted from a children’s book entitled The True Meaning of Smekday. An alien race called the Boov have invaded Earth and renamed it Smekland. Whilst being relocated to Florida, teenager, Tip (so nicknamed because her first name is Gratuity) befriends one of the aliens, and adventurous stuff happens.
The Wikipedia plot summary for this book left me more confused than a vacuum-sealed horse, so I went over to the website for the book, at smekday.com (set up by the book’s author, Adam Rex), and was more confused than I was to start with, but at least I was confused and laughing. I recommend a visit.
Having visited the website, I am certainly tempted to buy the book… er… for my daughter, and with a plot as mental as this I believe the movie will be a hit; even with a cast which includes both Rhianna and J.Lo (coincidentally also the name of the alien befriended by Tip in the book).
I will definitely go and see this movie… with my daughter.
Also: Steve Martin as captain Smek? Where the hell did you find Steve Martin?
Yep. From the book of the same name. I told you this was going to be a year of biblical epics, and with Ridley Scott in the director’s chair, it certainly will be epic. Captain serious has become the modern day David Lean, when it comes to epic movie-making… hardly surprising, since the briefest glance through Scott’s movies is enough to tell you that he set out to be exactly that. Kingdom of Heaven is so obviously his Lawrence of Arabia, it’s a wonder he didn’t call it Balian of Jerusalem.
Anyway, with one big ego in the director’s chair and another in the lead role, I’m surprised there hasn’t been an on-set explosion already… seriously, Christian Bale as Moses? If that isn’t like using plutonium fire-lighters I don’t know what is. I mean the man went bat-shit (see what I did there?) playing John Connor, and you give him Moses!! What’s gonna happen when he stands atop Mt. Sinai, screaming at God for interrupting him while he was writing “adultery”?
As I said in part one of this preview; Atheists appreciate a ripping yarn just as much anybody else, and I am quite a fan of biblical epics. A biblical epic directed by Scott? I’m there.
Dumb and Dumber To – (Check the movie title out before you write and correct my spelling)
I like both Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels. And the Farrely brothers have made me laugh in the past, but I’m afraid the original movie did nothing for me. If you liked it, by all means go and see this one… but The Hobbit: There and Back Again gets it’s UK release on the same day…
The Hobbit: There and Back Again –
What did I just say?
The Giver –
Hold the sniggering at the back there, you childish imp, the title refers to a giver of memories – specifically history – played by Jeff Bridges. The receiver, Brenton Thwaites, is selected to hold all the past memories of the time before Sameness, but is conflicted about his future within The Community after learning what the giver has to tell him.
Yet another adaptation about a seemingly idyllic community on the verge of discovering just how isolated they are from reality. The children’s novel, by Lois Lowry, upon which this film is based, has received a fair amount of criticism because of concerns about its suitability for young children, but that hasn’t stopped it selling over 5 million copies, or winning several literary awards.
Director, Phillip Noyce hardly has what you might call a golden touch, but Jeff Bridges has been one of my favourite actors since I first watched Tron, back in 1982, so on this occasion I have to agree with Empire, who said:
“We’d go see Bridges and Streep sit and stare at the floor for two hours, so this would have to be pretty terrible to skip it.”
However, my wife said:
“Then again… it’s got Taylor Swift in it.”
She raises a good point.
Black Sea –
Jude Law plays a freelance submarine captain (there are such things?) who searches… you guessed it… the Black Sea, for a submarine full of… NAZI GOLD!!
Sorry, since watching Bill Bailey do a sketch about UBS, I can’t write or say the words NAZI GOLD!! without doing that. You can imagine how this has hampered my lifestyle.
So… this Jude Law movie then. Whaddaya think then?
I’m going to reveal a decidedly weird and freaky fact about myself here, previously known only to my wife and one or two others: I watch submarine films when I’m poorly!
There. I said it.
I have no idea why this is, although, since I also tend to enjoy movies where the action is mainly confined to the inside of a spacecraft at such times, I suspect it’s because I’m a bit of a claustrophile. For the hard of thinking, that just means that I feel more secure in confined spaces. You might say I’m a closet claustrophile if you wanted to make a really bad pun (turns out I also like making really bad puns), but all this really means for the movie is that I’m very likely to watch it whilst coughing through a duvet. Since this is hardly the sort of endorsement that directors and production companies like to see on the backs of their DVD cases, I suppose I’ll have to say something like… This movie will get a 6.5 out of 10 with most audiences. Once again, Jude Law is another one of those actors who is worth watching in most things.
Well, as a certain speech-impaired, porcine thespian was fond of saying: That’s all folks. Regular blogging on slightly more varied subjects will resume within the week. I don’t know how long it will continue, since I have another film to edit over the next month, but I’ll try to get ahead with my posts, so that I can at least release one-a-week for… a couple of weeks.
I will certainly keep you updated about Sleepless Knight’s entry into the Empire: Done in 60 Seconds awards. If you want to find it in the meantime, and you live in the UK, go to jamesonempirediss.com and look for The Lord of the Rings – In 60 seconds – by James Moors (that’s me, in case you’re one of the 3 people reading this blog who doesn’t know me personally). If you don’t live in the UK, just go to the same link and pretend to be from the UK.
Welcome back. Unless you are discovering my blog for the first time, in which case go back and read this first. In the highly unlikely event that you are obstinate enough to refuse to go back, but still interested enough to go forward… you will require the following information: Empire magazine’s recent list of 100 Movies You Should See In 2014 inspired me to write my own previews of the ones which stood out for me, for good reasons or bad. I am trying to give a clear decision on whether or not I think these movies will sink or swim, and I encourage you to do the same in the comments section of this blog, which you can reach by clicking the little speech bubble thing (hopefully it will have a number in it by the time you read this).
For those who were here last time: this is where the fun begins. Because if you thought part 1 of this list had some weird ideas in it… you ain’t seen nothin’ yet.
Edge of Tomorrow –
Watching the trailer for this movie sparked off a discussion between my wife and I, where I found myself defending Tom Cruise, so I think we can all agree the world has fallen right off its little wheels and into the bath (don’t ask me. I just write ’em as they spill out of my brain), but hear me out. Tom Cruise started out playing pretty action heroes, and he got along quite well at it until his marriage fell apart, Nicole Kidman (hardly Olivier herself if I may say so) slammed him in the press, and he seriously over-played his “affection” for Katy Holmes, using Oprah’s sofa (how scared am I right now that the WordPress spellchecker doesn’t recognise the word blog but it has no problem with Oprah?). One viral video about Scientology later… and his career looked very, very dead. But, he went into hiding for a while, did a few slightly self-deprecating roles, in a fairly unconvincing attempt to show us that he doesn’t take himself too seriously, and now he’s back to playing the action hero. Look… he’s not my favourite person, and if he ever finds a woman willing to marry him again, I don’t think we’d be too paranoid to insist on checking her brain for circuit boards, but otherwise, he’s paid his dues… let’s just watch the movie.
Which reminds me: This one involves a time-loop, try-until-you-get-it-right, alien war… type thingy. The trailer sells it quite well for me, even if it is just Groundhog Day in an alien-repellent, mechanised prom dress.
Did you ever wonder at the harrowing story behind the evil queen in Sleeping Beauty? Did you ever stop to think how she was feeling… or what drives a queen to evil, infant-cursing madness? Well, the writers of Maleficent did, so that you don’t have to. And, on May 30th, you can watch this Sleeping Beauty prequel and presumably have your eyes opened to what those smug fucking Disney Princesses aren’t telling you. The times they are a changin’… it’s not good enough any longer that the pretty people get their happy ending, and the uglier ones slink back to the forest with their forked tails between their legs, or get their heads blown open with oxygen tanks because they took a few little bites out of some humans… and Robert Shaw. Admittedly, Angelina Jolie in the role of Maleficent does make it kind of hard to argue the whole Uglyness Rising angle, but if you’re the sort of person who always felt bad for the poor henchmen in Bond movies; trying desperately to make us understand how hard it is to get a regular job when your dentist moonlights as a welder… then this is for you. I am one of those people, and I have to say that this movie looks pretty damned good, so I’m going to risk looking stupid and say: Maleficent will be a hit.
If nothing else, it’s nice to start seeing movies that tell the villain’s side of the story. I mean, where’s the harm in learning about Dracula’s traumatic past, or why Darth Vader became twisted and evil?
A Million Ways to Die in the West –
I seem to be one of the only people who thought that Seth MacFarlane’s Ted was a steaming pile of crap. Mildly amusing for a second, if it seems to resemble Justin Bieber… but I don’t want to crouch down close enough to smell it, and then watch it for 2 hours!
With that in mind, you may not care what I think about A Million Ways to Die in the West, but surprisingly, I think it may just be watchable. For one thing, it takes place in “the west”, where Sheep farmer, MacFarlane loses his girlfriend after he backs out of a gunfight. For another, Charlize Theron is the wife of a gun-slinger, who then teaches him to fight back.
Also, Liam Neeson’s character has special skills which involve shooting things… imagine that.
Personally, I find MacFarlane’s brand of comedy hit & miss to say the least. His occasional genius shows through in superbly executed pieces of observational humour… which unfortunately sit atop a mountain of dick jokes and fart gags. He’s messing in my territory here, since westerns are my favourite genre of movie after science fiction(yes; I loved Firefly), so I think I’m being more than generous when I say: this might be surprisingly good.
There’s certainly no room for middle ground here. It will either be an instant comedy classic, or The Lemon That Killed Manhattan. (if you’ll excuse me I’m off to write that screenplay)
Transformers: Age of Extinction –
July 10th (UK)
Michael Bay: Please stop making these movies.
Dawn of the Planet of the Apes –
After 10 years, Caesar and his hairy buddies from Rise of are still smashing things and being violent to humans, to teach them a lesson for smashing things and being violent to everything else.
I avoided watching Rise of the Planet of the Apes for a few months, because I heard those immortal words “Don’t bother… my dad saw it and said it was shit!”. I heard these words again the other day, and admittedly the latter case was a little more complicated than “…said it was shit”, but I tried to imagine if I stopped watching or doing things that my parents or friends thought were rubbish, boring or stupid. In my case, this would probably mean having never done very much at all…
I am writing a movie preview list, but I openly encourage you to go and see these films for yourselves, and make up your own mind. I will be doing.
We’ve all said things like “That’s 2 hours of my life I will never get back.” after watching a movie we didn’t much like, but what were you honestly going to do with those 2 hours? Cure cancer? Save polar bears from extinction? Needless to say I eventually watched Rise of the Planet of the Apes… and okay, it wasn’t great (for one thing James Franco didn’t lose any limbs), but it wasn’t the worst movie I’ve ever seen. If you want to see a really bad movie you don’t have to look much further than the original Planet of the Apes sequels. These are better, even if they don’t have Roddy McDowall in them.
I’m pretty sure this movie is not going to break any box-office records, but it won’t be the worst 2 hours you’ve spent.
Jupiter Ascending –
Now here’s where things get really weird. And for this movie I’m going to start by directly quoting Empire’s own plot summary, because… well… see for yourself.
“An unlucky Russian janitor called Jupiter Jones (Mila Kunis) meets pointy-eared interplanetary warrior Caine (Channing Tatum) who has been sent by the Queen of the Universe to kill her. It turns out that Jones has an extraordinary destiny because of the way the stars aligned when she was born, and now her DNA could mark her as the universe’s next leader.”
I think you can see from that description, that on the face of it, this sounds like the lamest, laziest, most idiotic plot for a Sci-Fi movie you ever heard. This sort of thing is the reason that Science Fiction isn’t taken more seriously. This is precisely the sort of thing my mother means when she says Science Fiction is lazy writing. This sort of thing makes my favourite movie genre very difficult to defend.
Empire start their preview by saying “This all seems bonkers, but…”. But what? It’s “original and ambitious”? So is trying to raise £300 million to make a movie with an all-child cast, about a man who grows a mobile phone where his head should be, and takes over Sainsbury’s in a desperate bid to control the life of Jamie Oliver… but you wouldn’t want to go and watch it (seriously, if someone makes this now, please don’t watch it). Ambition and originality are no guarantee of success. If they were, we’d all be driving Sinclair C5s by now. No, some ideas are just shit, no matter how original or ambitious they are. On top of all that, this is a movie from the Wachowskis, who, lest we forget, also gave us the second 2 Matrix movies, and Cloud Atlas. I don’t care that they gave us The Matrix and V for Vendetta. By my reckoning, that still puts them at least one movie in the red. Why do we trust these people? George Lucas gave us THX 1138, American Graffiti, 3 great Star Wars movies & Indiana Jones… but he makes 3 terrible movies and everyone wants his head on a spike! I am going to watch this movie simply because Sean Bean comes from my home city, and I need to see what he does with a “Han Solo-type” character. But that’s just the morbid curiosity of a fellow Dee-Dah… it is NOT a reason for anyone of sound mind to go and see this movie.
Ask yourself: Would I put my money on a movie made by George Lucas these days?
Then don’t watch this!
Fifty Shades of Grey –
I don’t think you really need me to tell you if this will be any good, do you?
Fifty Shades of Grey, is a movie, based on a book which started life as Twilight Fan-fiction…
I’ll say that again: Twilight Fan-fiction!!
Do what you like. Personally, I’m tempted to start carrying a parachute and an inflatable life-raft onto planes, in case this is the in-flight movie.
Guardians of the Galaxy –
Marvel comic adaptation in which Vin Diesel will play a tree.
Erm… I am not as familiar with Marvel comics as some other members of the Sleepless Knight team, but from what little reading I could bear to do on the subject, the back-story for these guys is more complicated than translating the plot of Fight Club for an ancient and peaceful race of fist-less sea-creatures, with no concept of Brad Pitt… Seriously; read this. If you couldn’t get through that either, some of the highlights are: Universal teleportation… A space-station with a telepathic, Soviet space-dog as its chief of security… A fire-resistant tree-being with a more limited vocabulary than most washing-machines… and characters with names like Starlord, and Rocket Raccoon; who is… a raccoon.
I’m not really capable of thinking too much about this. I think it will be rubbish, but a film with a premise this weird has to have cult appeal at least.
The Expendables 3 –
How this franchise has been allowed to get this far is an absolute mystery to me, but there are apparently people who will watch a reality TV show where Tattoo artists from across the USA compete in “extreme” tattooing challenges… so I guess there’s an audience for everything.
If you like explosions… save your money and buy some fireworks.
The Equalizer –
The only reason I used to watch former CIA operative-cum-vigilante, Robert McCall, in the 1980s TV show, was because, in case you hadn’t worked it out by this point, Sleepless Knight is not simply a random nickname, assigned to me by Seventh Sanctum. I never slept well, even as a child, and watching Edward Woodward gun down pimps at 4am was marginally more interesting than watching static go beeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeep… for several hours; which is all the other UK channels did at that time in the late-80s. As for the movie version? Well, McCall will be played this time by Denzel Washington, who, even in his worst roles, is at least watchable.
I imagine this movie will occupy the same space in your collection as John Q and Man on Fire. If you don’t understand those references, you’re probably not going to like this film.
Now… I did warn you that the second half of Empire’s list was a lot crazier than the first. So, as much as I hate doing this to you again: I’ll see you in part 3.
OK, so this post was going to be about… something… else… but having just read Empire magazine’s 100 movies you should see in 2014 I simply had to comment.
It isn’t that Empire’s preview of 2014 is bad. The reason I don’t usually do movie critique/previews on this blog, in spite of it being my favourite subject, is often because others have said it better already. No. The reason I had to comment on the 2014 preview is because I honestly can’t believe that someone (somewhere in California, I presume) gave these screenplays the greenlight.
Now, perhaps Empire are hedging their bets by not laughing out loud at some of the movie ideas so comically presented in this list. Most people know what this is like:
“Don’t write off Snakes On A Plane just because it has a ridiculous title! If Samuel L. Jackson signed up so quickly, it’s probably a work of facetious brilliance.”
Yeah! Right! I for one suspected it would be complete horse-shit from the moment it appeared in preview. But, in case you think I’m just trying to air my highly polished powers of cinematic perception, here is pretty much what I said about a long awaited prequel back in the late 90s:
“Don’t write off The Phantom Menace just because it has a ridiculous title! If Samuel L. Jackson signed up so quickly…”
…and so on. You get the picture; none of us has the power to gaze into the moving picture maelstrom and pick out the lemons. But, now that I have shaken those metaphors until they are more mixed up than a hungover, lesbian Zebra, raised by a Unicorn and a Shetland pony, I shall invite the bravest of you to comment on the following, upcoming movies; offering your predictions on whether they will sail like a majestic clipper on waves of critical acclaim and box-office glory… or bob crudely toward the side of the pool; causing everyone to scream and get out.
I will not be covering all of the movies in Empire’s list; just the ones that stick out to me, for good reasons or bad. Some of them I will bring up simply because I have a feeling they might not be great… others because I would be absolutely astonished if they turned out to be anything other than laughable nonsense. Some of you may wish to comment with remarks like “I’ll have you know that is based on a brilliant cult novel!” In which case I will defer to your judgement. I love to read, but I can’t read everything, and will usually avoid fantasy in particular. I was unaware until my wife told me very recently, for example, that The Neverending Story was a beloved German fantasy novel. And to say that her friends and family were unimpressed with Wolfgang Petersen’s 1984 adaptation would be an understatement of significant proportions. So, feel free to point out successful printed-word versions, if such there are, but try to bear in mind that is no guarantee of successful cinematic adaptation… look what David Lynch did to Frank Herbert’s Dune.
Grudge Match –
A couple of Pittsburgh boxers who never had the chance to slug it out, meet in the ring 30 years later.
Now, I write this on the UK release date of this movie, which means that many of you (particularly those in the US) will already have seen the movie by the time you read this post. Nevertheless, I predict really mediocre things for number 9 on Empire’s list. It’s not just that both De Niro & Stallone have produced some utter crap in recent years (perhaps less surprising in Sylvester’s case), or that Director, Peter Segal’s CV is a tiresome wade through all the most “meh” comedy of the last 20 years… but anyone who says “I know… let’s make Raging Bull-meets-Rocky in retirement comedy!” deserves all the poor box-office results they get.
Maybe it will be a stroke of genius… I suspect not.
The Lego Movie –
Chris Pratt, Elizabeth Banks, Batman, Wonder Woman and Superman have to stop an evil Will Ferrel from Supergluing the Lego universe together. Genius! AND it get’s its UK release on my birthday! This one has great destiny written all over it like the love-child of Frodo Baggins & Harry Potter; wet-nursed by Sarah Connor and then weaned on midichlorian meatballs! Anyone who doesn’t like this movie is a moron!
Under the Skin –
Alien, Scarlett Johansson, is sent by an evil alien corporation, to seduce and abduct hitch-hikers in… er… Scotland.
Now, although young Scarlett has never been at the top of my Big Screen Beauties list, it isn’t hard to imagine that seducing Scottish hitch-hikers might not be as challenging an assignment for her as the evil alien overlords have perhaps been led to believe… especially if we assume that these hitch-hikers will be men. So, there won’t be a tremendous amount of mystery about why so many men allow themselves to be seduced by Ms. S. Johansson E.T. For those who haven’t read the novel though (yes… that includes me), the real mystery behind this movie will be why she is doing this.
Other than the assumption that this will be yet another movie which does very little for Scottish tourism (let’s not forget this country gave us television, the telephone, Sean Connery, Gerard Butler, and 3 time-travelling Doctors) I’m not entirely sure which way to jump on this one. Director, Jonathan Glazer previously directed Sexy Beast, which I was quite fond of, but I’m not sure this movie will attain anything beyond cult status (although, as my wife pointed out, judging from the trailer, fans of Twin Peaks might get a kick out of it).
As for those guys hoping to see Scarlett wearing very little indeed; two words of warning:
- If the trailer is any indication of creepiness level, you’re more likely to leave the movie in tears than hot flushes.
- It is very cold in Scotland.
The Zero Theorem –
Terry Gilliam once read a Science-Fiction screenplay of mine entitled Patient Zero, and then sent me a form letter to the effect that it was rubbish, but I was only 20 years old at the time so I don’t hold a grudge. I actually really like the guy, and he was right; that screenplay sucked. But this is Terry Gilliam we’re talking about here, so I don’t think I’m crawling too far out on the more precarious parts of a poplar when I make the following prediction: This will be a mad, mad movie which will make very little sense to you, but which will nonetheless help to get you laid at the sort of parties where they say things like “Yeah… the symbolism is really rich in his films. The time-travelling dwarves so obviously represent small farmers, trying desperately to survive under the capitalist jackboots of corporate food giants!”
I’m not even going to tell you what this movie is about, because the chances are you won’t know the answer to that even after you’ve watched it. But, like many of Gilliam’s films, it will be enjoyable to watch, and tremendous fun to see people trying to explain to their friends.
Or… it could be another Baron Münchhausen.
2014 is going to be a year of biblical epics, and this one is keen to follow in the bible-to-silver-screen tradition of signing up as many big hitters as possible. The credits of this one include Anthony Hopkins, Jennifer Connelly,
Hermione Gr Emma Watson, Frank Langella, Nick Nolte, and Russell Crowe as the titular meteorology enthusiast.
Unless you slept through the first 20 years of your life or are a Scientologist, I’m sure you don’t need me to tell you what this film is about. We all get to laugh out loud as Steve Carell hits his thumb with a hammer a few dozen times, whilst making a Bible-boat full of dangerous animals for Morgan Fr…
Okay, well I must admit that the irony of this coming so hot on the heels of the David Silvester flood story had not escaped me. But apart from that, believe it or not, I quite like biblical epics. And if that seems like an odd thing for an outspoken Atheist to say, consider that I don’t believe in ghosts either, but I still watched Scooby Doo.
I think it will draw a fair box-office crowd, if for no other reason than (wait… those ghosts were always just men in masks! O-M-G!!)… if for no other reason than this. A biblical epic needs to be seen on a really BIG screen. There might be vicars’ wives out there who disagree with this, but God never did anything small. And you certainly can’t say he didn’t know how to tell a story. In this case: God sends the rain to teach humans a lesson, and he would have succeeded if it wasn’t for those meddling kids.
The Amazing Spider-Man 2 –
Teenage photographer puts on loud lycra suit and dispenses silly-string at bad guys who never seem to materialise anywhere else in the world but New York.
Who honestly cares if this is a hit? You would think they had learned lessons about over-populating Spider-man movies with bad-guys, but the poster above would seem to suggest otherwise. Still… if it doesn’t work, they can just reboot the series in 2 years time.
Johnny Depp puts down the eye-liner and puts on his Ninth Gate moustache and glasses for this Wally Pfister movie, about a scientist whose brain is uploaded into the ultimate super-computer of his own design, by his grieving wife…
No matter how ridiculous the premise for a movie, suspension of disbelief is a must for the audience to thoroughly enjoy it. The problem here is that only in the non-existent world behind that screen would you ever find a scientist who is still dumb enough to think that designing a super-intelligent computer which surpasses human thought and emotion is a good idea. What Pfister should have called this movie is Virtuosity 2: Artificial Stupidity.
Still… Johnny Depp is rarely disappointing in a movie. I’ll watch it. You coming?
The F Word –
I have never managed to figure out why it is that when someone becomes tied to a role in the way Daniel Radcliffe has, their next move is almost always into the world of romantic comedy… and quite often involves a man trying to escape from The Friend Zone, exactly as this one does. I just hope his first attempts at this are better than his first outing as that wizard, whose name escapes me at the moment. We’ll see. I for one don’t like to type-cast actors that way. But let’s watch it, just in case he turns his co-star into a frog or something.
Up from the depths… 30 stories high… breathing fire… his head in the sky… Chuck Norris!
As Douglas Adams might say: “Godzilla is big. Really big. You just won’t believe how vastly, hugely, mind-bogglingly big he is…” and this May, he will be stepping on really big things, and making them into lots of really, really small things, while David Strathairn & Bryan Cranston try to stop him… somehow.
And now for a shocking confession: My name is James and I watched Roland Emmerich’s Godzilla… more than once. There, I finally said it. I like Matthew Broderick, but I really hope that this movie is much, much better.
My (very safe) prediction: It will be.
Now, it appears that I have been enjoying this waaaaay too much, and have apparently droned on for much longer than I had intended. Will I go back and shorten it? Will I bollocks! Much simpler and more gratifying to simply do the second half in another post.
See you very soon.
“The Girl in the Red Hat”
-A wait in the cold, a meal in the warmth-
On the morning of February 2nd, 2012, Amki put on her red hat (a further reference to the film “Elizabethtown”), and set out to meet the Englishman whose journey had begun at 7.00pm on the night before.
Having very little money meant James must find the cheapest possible fares, and that meant a long, long journey, with many changes and many hours of waiting. A walk down the cobbled streets of Lincoln’s Steep hill with a rolling suitcase; a run past the castle and through the town, between train stations at Newark; and a worried change of train at Stevenage, with only 5 minutes between arrival and departure. By the time James reached Cambridge, it was 2 degrees below freezing, and the train station then closed for 3 hours. He walked around Cambridge in the cold, trying to find a warm place with cheap coffee, which proved surprisingly difficult considering he was in one of the most famous university cities on Earth. He finally flew out of Stansted airport, towards Stockholm, at 6.05 in the morning.
James & Amki met face-to-face for the first time, in the snow outside Skavsta airport, just before noon on the morning of February 2nd, 2012.
There’s a funny thing about sitting next to someone on a bus, who you have loved for some time, and exchanged every detail of your life with, but have only just met… It takes a while for you to realise that the flesh & blood person you are sitting next to is the same person you have written to, recorded messages for, and seen on the other side of a computer screen for many months. It is a strange, and very 21st century moment, totally in keeping with the rest of their peculiar relationship, but in the end all it takes to make it real it again is a good old-fashioned first date.
Theirs was at Dolce Vita, in the middle of Stockholm, where a very enthusiastic waiter brought them a very enjoyable meal, and wished them well for the future.
For a die-hard movie fan, I have spent very little time watching movies in the last 6 months. The other night though, dear Mr. Farnsworth decided to put on one of my (and a lot of people’s) favourite movies… A movie he had never seen (What?). The Shawshank Redemption is just one of two fantastic Stephen King adaptations from the wonderful Frank Darabont; the other being The Green Mile. If King and Darabont had started collaborating earlier, we might never have had to endure the god-awful Pet Sematary, or the bewilderingly successful Children of the Corn! Seriously people… who kept buying tickets for this movie? Stapling your face to the arse of an angry, flatulent rhino seems like a better way to pass time.
Where was I? Oh yes… The Shawshank Redemption. Those foolish enough to follow this blog – or those foolhardy souls who actually choose to spend time in my company – will recognise that this movie has many themes close to my heart: “Hope is a good thing; maybe the best of things”, “Whatever mistakes I made I’ve paid for them, and then some.” I even considered using one of my favourite Shawshank quotes in last week’s post:
“I have to remind myself that some birds aren’t meant to be caged. Their feathers are just too bright. And when they fly away, the part of you that knows it was a sin to lock them up does rejoice. But still, the place you live in is that much more drab and empty when they’re gone.”
It seemed appropriate to what, and more particularly who, I was talking about at the time. But I’m getting off the point.
If there’s one thing watching great movies always does to me, it’s to refuel my inner filmmaker. So this week’s post is going to be a Sleepless Knight film appeal. It’s time to start driving viewers to my channel, so here we go.
First in line is a video we made a few years ago, when we were still “Watch Hour Productions”, and there were only two of us. It’s a parody of a series of Mastercard commercials that were around at the time. I really wanted to play around with digital rotoscoping, I love to build props, and, like every kid of my generation, I always wanted a lightsaber, so ahead we went and made a Mastercard-style commercial for a fictional anti-psychotic drug called “No-Mad”. Like everything else we make, it was a great deal of fun to film.
The second one was our entry into the 2009 Empire magazine “Done in 60 seconds” Awards. A competition we considered entering again this year, but most of our ideas involved a great deal of expense and/or swimming around in a great deal of very cold water, in the middle of January. Amki was not very keen on the idea of my dying from hypothermia, and I’m not enough of a James Cameron to treat my crew members like bait in an ice-fishing contest. My plans were little less grand in 2009, and I spent 3 weeks building 2 sets on my own (thanks for that, Richard), most of my crew chickened out at the last moment, and those that did turn up had to be dressed in bubble-wrap and paper overalls under very hot lights. The rules for this competition are that you remake a movie of your choice in 60 seconds. It is even harder than it sounds, and for my movie I chose Apollo 13. A movie set in space! Brilliant, Jimbot! Anyway… I think we pulled it off, but judge for yourself.
I’m going to miss out a couple of the not so good ones from early last year, and bring us a bit more up to date with a tribute to the late, great Douglas Adams. This video was part 3 of 3 (Parts 1 and 2 can be found here, and here respectively), and was the very first time I ever worked with the crew members who make up Sleepless Knight as it is today. I first met Kitty, Tom, Ben, Emily, Dean, and of course, the man who is now my flatmate and the 3rd SK front man; Mr. J.V. Farnsworth, on the day this was filmed, and I have been glad of it (mostly) every day since. For the videos leading up to this one, I had been gagged, tied up in the back of a van at 1am on a freezing night in March, and forced to watch the Royal Wedding. We had a lot of fun making this video, as can be seen from some of the outtakes at the end. Try and spot the Douglas Adams references and leave a comment telling us what you thought.
After that I was hit by lightning and blown to tiny pieces. This seemed like a good idea at the time, but I was planning to be resurrected by two little blue aliens. Unfortunately, after 3 months building a virtual set for the little guys, I ran into a rather large snag and they had to be shelved. Besides that, there was the small matter of moving house again, a lack of money, motivation, co-operation and an awful lot of other complications in my life which slowed down my return, and pretty much wrote off the rest of 2011, with the exception of a blooper-reel video which can be found here. Now though, we are back up and running again, and it turns out that I might be resurrected by a masked time-traveller. There is a whole back story to that which will come out in later videos. For now I’ll leave you with part one of my resurrection story. It was poorly planned, even more disastrously filmed, and it was the last video ever to be shot with my old, standard definition camera (Yes folks… we’re in HD now). Enjoy the last SD video, if you can.
That brings us up to date, and part 2 of that story is being edited at the moment. We tried filming part 3 in late January but we were freezing cold and eventually rained-off, so filming will begin again shortly.
In the meantime, please watch the videos, please leave comments (on here and on the SK YouTube channel if possible). Subscribers are always helpful if you feel like doing that. If you feel like telling your buddies about the videos, even better. If they subscribe to the channel I may even consider having your babies… They won’t be the prettiest children in the world, and you may need to keep them away from combustible materials, but they sure will be enthusiastic about lots of stuff they can’t actually do! That was supposed to be a good thing… I forget why. Please support Sleepless Knight’s channel. The more support we have, the more videos we’ll be able to make (again… that’s a good thing, in case you were wondering), and the better they will get.
That’s all for this post. This time next week I’ll be in Stockholm with my lovely Swedish Flowerpot, so the blog post may come from there… or it may be written ahead of time and brought to you from the past, via the medium of sorcery. Either way, I’ll be enjoying myself (or more likely checking my pulse every few minutes as I prepare to meet members of my girlfriend’s family) so don’t expect me to care very much if the post gets misplaced as a result.
Until we meet again, take care… and don’t bend over for the soap.
I’m going now.
Those who have read my blog since its early days will know that I often reference movies when talking about my own life and experiences… What do you want from me? I make films for crying out loud!
Anyway, today will be another of those, and probably a little less light-hearted than normal, but yes; the title does refer to the movie of the same name (The Tom Hanks one… not that Oliver Reed fiasco), and if you’ll bear with me I’ll explain why.
A couple of days ago we had a glorious, warm, sunny day here in England; very unusual for February. At any rate, I was so determined not to waste it indoors that I decided to go for a long walk and do some thinking. This turned out to be a very bad idea, because I was in a very good mood and the more time I spend thinking the greater the odds that I will think myself into a dark corner, and my mood (for reasons I am at something of a loss to explain) has been up and down like a Grasshopper listening to an REM mix tape this past month or two. Perhaps it’s a combination of extremely happy circumstances in one part of my life and depressingly frustrating ones in the other. Whenever you get a high, natural or otherwise, there inevitably follows an extreme low. What goes up must come down. Anyway, that’s beside the point.
The point is that I ended up thinking myself into one of those corners on a day which is normally my highest point of the year. Don’t believe me? Check this post from last year.
For most of my life I have been a victim of what my sister colourfully refers to as “The luck of the seven blind bastards”. This, as you have no doubt gathered, is not the good kind of luck. Rather, it is the kind that makes you the last one out of the bingo hall, and first away from the poker table; the kind that makes you a target for diarrhoetic Seagulls and vomiting toddlers. It is more or less the kind of luck that people in the middle tend to have. To give you a few examples: I was always “OK” at sports; never a “Jock” but also not quite bad enough at sports, or smart enough at anything else to be a nerd. I was never a gorgeous hunk, nor was I an especially ugly duckling. I’m a writer, but I am neither a blockbuster writing, Stephen King type nor intellectual enough to be a brilliant but struggling poet. One has money and success, the other, while never likely to set the world on fire, can at least touch the fluttering hearts of the opposite sex and move people to tears. No… I resort to comedy, and I’m not especially good at that, as this post will no doubt demonstrate as clearly as though I had written misspelled knock-knock jokes in 20ft high neon letters and then forgotten the punchline. So… I am an Antonio Sallieri. I’m perfectly ok with that; I mean the guy was a teacher to Beethoven so he wasn’t entirely un-influential. The problem came when I realised my better half is a Mozart.
Now, before you start thinking I’ve gone all “Emo” on you, allow me to continue… because if there’s one thing I can do, given enough time, it is to find the silver lining around every single cloud. So, here is the point (I really mean it this time):
For the second time in 10 years I have left the comparative safety of the island on which I was marooned and, as I head into the mighty, unforgiving ocean and the tiny island disappears into the mist, I know I am now in very dangerous waters. I’m clinging to my makeshift raft, with a Portaloo for a sail, a dark ocean of uncertainty before me, and nothing to stop me from going mad except a punctured volleyball with a bloody handprint on it. From here on, I either make it back home or I perish at sea.
The problem with this analogy is that it rather depends on knowing where home is. You might not know how to get there, but at least you know what you’re looking for, and I suppose I failed so spectacularly, so many times before because I didn’t really know what I was setting out to sea in search of. Now, a few weeks ago I had the experience of feeling at home for the first time since I was a kid, but then something happened that made me question that, and this worried me. But now I’m thinking that maybe, just maybe, being tossed about by storms and exposed to the relentless sun doesn’t have to be the death of you. Sure, I might be on a raft made of lollipop sticks and chewing gum, and I might not know where I’m headed… but maybe that isn’t so bad if there is someone on that death-trap with you; a companion on the stormy ocean. Maybe you’ll drown (or more likely be pushed overboard), or maybe you’ll avoid the shark attacks for long enough to find land. Whatever happens, the journey will not be short of adventure, and the night sky will be the most beautiful you’ve ever seen.
The reason I’m being optimistic about these things today is that, whilst reading my girlfriend’s latest blog post, I noticed something that made me look back at a much earlier post. I won’t explain what it was because that would detract from what she was actually trying to say (which was much more interesting to the reader), but it made me smile to myself and think Huh! Life really is strange and completely unpredictable. And no matter how dark things may seem “Who knows what the tide could bring?”
Assuming you didn’t kill yourself before reading through to the relatively happy ending of this post (and if you did that instead of simply closing the page, I’d say you had issues that I can’t be entirely to blame for), then I’ll see you next week.
I’m going now.
Earlier this week I mentioned 2 extra posts for the next few days. I have decided however, that my VBA post will wait until mid February. The reasons for this will probably never become clear to any of my readers but one… but rest assured I have them, and they are valid. Until then, here is the promised guest post, from the very lovely, Kitty… the only one of the Sleepless Knight crew who can actually call herself ‘Knight’, and, unlike Mr Farnsworth, her post will actually be about FILM! Hooray! Her own blog can be found here. In the meantime, read and enjoy, and I’ll see you at the usual time (maybe).
When people find out that I have film degree one of the many questions I get asked is ‘What’s your all time favourite film?’ or ‘Could you recommend me a good film?’ The first is easy to answer. The Lion King. The second is always so much trickier, mainly because the films I recommend are good to me, but others can’t stand them. So for this guest blog I thought I’d tackle what, to me makes a good film.
There is no recipe or formula to making a good film, (That’s a tiny lie as I personally believe that Jerry Bruckheimer has found, made and bottled the formula to making epic blockbusters. The main ingredient being the repetitive use of the American flag in the back ground. Don’t believe me? Next time you watch Armagedon have a shot for every time you see an American flag, I guarantee you, you’ll be out of it by the end of the first 30 minutes.) but the following thing is what capture me and makes me believe a film is good.
I always love it when a director can immerse me in a film by the way he/she plays on the emotions they want me to feel. Recently I watched ‘I Spit on Your Grave’ (2010 Dir: Steven R. Monroe) http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1242432/ and I was amazed at how my emotions were dragged around. From reading the blurb on the back of the DVD case I know what to expect, so I sat down with my friends ready to back it down and pick holes at it. Surprisingly I didn’t. The one character in the film that I expected to sympathise with the entire time (a simpleton named Matthew) I ended up hating and couldn’t wait for the main protagonist to get her revenge. Normal I would hate the idea of watching a film where three quarters of the film is dedicated to the build up of and the eventual rape of the main protagonist, but I didn’t mind, because it was all necessary to get the emotions of hatred towards the preportraitors of the rape and to feel the encouragement and support for her ultimate revenge.
Techniques implored within a film can make or break it. For me one of these films was ‘Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow’ (2004 Dir: Kerry Conran) http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0346156/ the use of blue screen throughout the whole film was amazing. Everything you see, bar the furniture and certain props is all computer generated. That and the way they processed the film to give it a more comic book feel made me so giddy. Alas though if you do want to watch this film I will warn you, the story is appalling and the acting is not always up to scratch. Speaking of stories…
Stories are so important in a film. You may think that I have just made the world’s most obvious point and you’d be right. Not all people remember this though and the above film is a clear example. A story for me should be one that surprises me into realising that I actually like it. One fantastic example is ‘The King’s Speech’ (2010 Dir: Tom Hooper) http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1504320/ I flat out refused to go and pay to watch this in my local cinema (for reasons on a money matter which I will be ranting on about on my own blog page at some point) for quite a few weeks. Then one day I want with a friend to grab a hot chocolate from the Costa that is ran inside the cinema and a friend of mine was working on the box office and asked if I fancied watching it for free. Well, you don’t say no to free…at least that’s my rule. So in I went and boy was I impressed when I left. I had this image in my mind of me falling asleep to Colin Firth trying to get from some boring speech therapist, but I was so wrong. The ideas of friendship it invoked made me laugh, cry and a slightly better person for watching it. If you have yet to see I strongly suggest you do. It is one of those films you will be able to watch again and again. Now that I’m typing about watchability…
The Lion King (1994 Dir: Roger Allers and Rob Minkoff) http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0110357/ I had to get round to using this film as an example sooner or later. This film has one of the key things that makes a film good. Watchability. I am genuinely not lying to you when I type that I have sat and watched that film 8 times in a row. I intend to beat my old record and go for 10 times at some point in the VERY near future.
Cinematography and sound. They’re like bread and butter, Harold and Lardy, Politicians and dishonesty, their just essential to one another. For sound there isn’t just one example as I’m a strong believer in it making up for half the film. Really you try to watch a film with just dialogue and no score or foley and you’ll get bored pretty quick. On the cinematography front Hero (2002 Dir: Yimou Zhang) http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0299977/ comes straight to mind. I remember watching for the first time when I was in 6th form and being blown away by it. The shots, the colours, the camera movement; it was just like watching a living piece of art. The film also contains some very notable Chinese actors and the story is wonderful too. Please watch this film. It is a feast for your eyes.
These are, for me what makes a film good. You may disagree completely or be thinking ‘Yes, this woman/cat thing knows what she’s on about’. If it’s the latter then I’m so giving you hugs right now, look I’ll even retract the claws too. Either way I hop you’ve enjoyed this and please do feel free to comment on this posting.
For now though, stay Curious.