Who has got the cure for the sit-at-home blues? Ask Dr Grabthar. Now with bigger, easier to read font!

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Insurance Ads = Funny

And with a continuing theme of funny videos (don't worry this won't become a trend here). This one actually, honest to Jeebus, made me LOL (in a cafe which was embarrassing).

[via Spare Room]

Monday, January 28, 2008

Authority offically calls Ellis a cock.

If you’re a long time reader of this blog you’ll know my policy on Marc Ellis and his associates. Basically we here at the Hammer (i.e. me) think he’s a cock.

So it comes as no surprise that an ad featuring Ellis, for a company partially owned by Ellis, has been found to be "crude" and "sexual". Marc Ellis is only sexual if he can also be crude.

The ad is one a series for Ellis’ and friends juice company. The first one was banned for depicting children using fireworks in a very unsafe manner. This one has been banned because it showed children spying on woman sunbathing nude and then squeezing lemons.

Ellis’ company defended the ad by saying some people might not “get it”, because, you know, Ellis is all about the highbrow humour.

To be fair (and I’m anything if I’m not fair) the company did say they would be placing the ad in adults only slots from now on. The Advertising Standards Authority acknowledged the move by the company to reclassify the advertisement but still found it to be in breach of three separate broadcasting principles, it didn’t help that the company’s executives giggled after saying “adults only slots”.

Again I’ll ask: how much more of this shit do we have to take?

Saturday, January 26, 2008

I flip Dark Side yo

Ok so as a diversion from my last post, here's something I stumbled upon

Star Wars Gangster Rap - Watch more free videos

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Heath Ledger Found Dead

Wow they are sure taking this viral marketing of The Dark Knight pretty far.

UPDATE: given the anger of the first commenter I'll elaborate. My first thought when I read the BBC article was "OMG, I hope he had finished Batman", which I realised wasn't good. Hence with this post I was hoping to make more of a postmodern* comment about the unreality of "celebrity lives" and how we see even their real lives as entertainment. Sadly I couldn't do it without this explanation. Sorry anonymous commenter.

*or possibly not postmodern

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

A Late Cloverfield Review

If you haven't seen Cloverfield then I recommend not reading this post (until you do)

So I went to see the highly anticipated monster movie Cloverfield last night last Thursday (I wrote this straight away and then mucked about before posting) with my lady friend, Mr Tibby and his friend Richard. For months and months we have been happily led around at the whim of JJ Abrams and his viral marketing crew. Snapping up any little tidbits of information whether they be right (it is all on handicam) or wrong (see picture below, which is very wrong).

But now I've seen it and I can say that while it didn't live up to all the hype it was a pretty good film and a nice adaptation of the genre.

But do be careful when you see it, the handicam can cause motion sickness.


First what I liked:

The handicam – with the camera placed as it is in a "normal" film the moviegoer is placed into the role of observer; a silent voyeur of the action. With the handicam (manned by Hud) the moviegoer becomes part of the cast. You become just as interested in what is happening behind the camera as with what you can see. Literally: "is there something behind me?"

The monster – The monster is pretty cool. It's not Godzilla, it doesn't hide, it kicks ass and (spoiler) it possibly doesn't die. Also we see the monster as our character, Hud, see him (more on why he's "our character" later).

Themes and Visuals – As we left the cinema I overheard a woman just in front of us say "Well I'd give that a one out of five. The only funny bit was when [a guy in the audience] laughed". This woman was obviously thinking she was going to the latest Scary Movie instalment (called Meet the Spartans btw). Or, more likely, she was expecting some guy in a rubber suit flailing his arms about and maybe giant heroic characters like they had in Predator. Needless to say her comment pissed me off. She's probably the same kind of person who thinks zombies movies are actually about zombies (and not about rampant consumerism or popular culture sickness).

Monster films always capture the fear of the day. Godzilla was the embodiment of the atomic age, with the monster itself being created by a nuclear bomb. Naturally this resonated with 1950’s Japan. Then the Cold War came along and suddenly it was invaders from Mars (the “red” planet) and other monsters that were just stand-ins for communism (see Invasion of the Body Snatchers). The seventies and eighties gave us the aforementioned Zombie movies, the nineties brought more UFOs.

The themes of Cloverfield (which is actually the military's designated name of the monster, for some reason) seem to be rooted in the current American fear of terrorism. The introduction of the monster could be transplanted easily into any film about the terrorist attacks of 2001 (as has been noted by many reviewers). Things explode, buildings collapse, and huge dust clouds roll along the street. People stand stunned in the street and wonder: who has done this to us? And why?

I don’t agree with Russell that it’s “just a movie” and people should get over it, I do agree that no one should get in a tiz about it (though Russell offered no links so I couldn’t say who it was). Part of the reason why this film is so good is that it hits that note in your head. You know that the movie is referencing the events of September 11, 2001 (hell, some the backgrounders are yelling it out) and you keep remembering that as you go through the journey with the characters.

Monster films that don’t have the connection to people through these themes and event don’t capture people as much. Just look at the remake of Godzilla or The Invasion for instant flops; the world wasn’t worried about nuclear warfare in the late 90’s or ideological brainwashing last year. Make it relevant or expect it to flop.

The other theme (for me) is the obvious one of voyeurism. Everyone has cameras and cellphones and are "documenting" the event. The Statue of Liberty's head flies through the air and skids along the street and the first thing that happens is that people take photos of it. Mix that in with the fact that we are watching the action through a handicam and you’ve got the other big phenomenon of the day: YouTube (do you really need a link?).

Given that so much of the marketing for the film was done virally on the internet the format and the voyeurism seemed perfect. Actually as quick aside, I was surprised at the amount of footage from the trailers that turned out to be important scenes in the film.

What I didn’t like about the film:

Most of the points raised by The Bad Astronomy Blog (especially Nitpick 4, but not Nitpick 6). That was easy.

But the thing I really didn’t like was the main character: Rob.

So we have four main characters and two supporting characters. And when I say that I suppose I mean that we have two main characters and six supporters. The two main ones are Rob and Hud (behind the camera, possibly a script in-joke on “heads-up display”), everyone else is just talking cannon fodder.

Rob is, I suppose, the protagonist. But I just couldn’t stand him! He doesn’t care for his friends, like Hud who blindly follows “his main dude” everywhere. All he does is willingly put them in more and more danger. I kept wanting him to die.

For me the protagonist was Hud because, mainly, he was us. I just didn’t like him when they showed his face. His voice was Judge Reinhold (circa Fast Times…) his face was Seth Rogen. So when Hud, died the film ended for me (apart from the cool little “are you watching” wink right at the end).

Also the group are a bunch of rich kids. Rob is 20-something and is off to Japan to be vice-president of a company for goodness sake. Beth, the improbably alive love interest of Rob, is in her father’s apartment overlooking Central Park. I found it really hard to associate with these characters. They weren’t attending a cool party in the city; they were throwing a cool party in the city.

Also it fell into the traditional horror/monster movie problem of no grief shown for those who die. Rob sees his brother die, breaks down on the phone to his Mom (much, much later) and then that’s it. Marlena explodes in front of them and there’s very little emotion, even by Hud who had the “hots” for her. And speaking of that: when they get to the field hospital, why don’t they mention Marlena is badly hurt?

UPDATE: Unsurprisingly The Hater has put it better than I:

3. Human Emotions. I know what you're thinking: If during a terrible disaster you had to tell your mom that her son, your brother, was dead, you probably wouldn't then follow-up that painful news with a lie about being evacuated just so you can go rescue a pseudo-girlfriend who is probably already dead anyway. In fact, talking to your mom would probably make your desire to escape the danger that much stronger. But, whatever. Have you ever had to weigh your family, life, and dead brother against your probably dead pseudo-girlfriend and almost certain death at the hands of an alien monster? No, you haven't. You don't know what it's like till you're the one getting miraculous cell phone service in the subway.

Anyway, it is a really good film and I hope you liked it as much as I did.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Sharks: Nature's Media

Remember the Summer of the Shark? And how suddenly there were millions of sharks, all of them out to get you and your family.

Back then sharks were everywhere and… OH MY GOD! SHARK!! SH-SH-SHARK!!! No wait it’s just a bit of wood. Turns out shark attacks were decreasing (much like their numbers) and the whole thing was just a way of getting through a slow news period.

Well New Zealand is having another one of these media beat-up things. Pretty soon we’ll have people going out to kill the sharks, filling the water with chum which will, ironically, attract sharks while the fishermen get drunk. SHARK!!!!

Now even the politicos are in on the act. National leader John Key (SHARK!!!!!) has called for limits on commercial crab pots at popular beaches over the summer, saying they act as "human berley" by attracting sharks to swimming areas.

Naturally the guy setting the pots is not using actual berley made from humans nor even berley for humans. So that is a (SHARK!!!!) misnomer

Mr Key, who just happens to have a holiday home at Omaha, said regulations should be introduced so Ministry of Fisheries officers could stop high-volume use of commercial crab pots on heavily used beaches (during the peak summer period where he holidays) in case they attracted sharks, which they don’t. (SHARK!!!!)

The Department of Conservation has informed Fisheries Minister Jim Anderton that there is no evidence crab pots attract more sharks than would otherwise be there.

But Mr Key said “residents” (Pumpkin Patch owner Greg Muir, who has owned a holiday home at Omaha for seven years) approached him late last month concerned that a fisherman was regularly setting about 40 crab pots.

The two were backed by hard evidence, just kidding (SHARK!!!!). They were backed by Daniel Baturic, president of Orewa's Surf Life Saving Club, who said sharks seemed more prevalent when pots were in the area. And there are more pots in summer when there are more sharks. So perhaps the sharks are increasing the umber of crab pots and bathers not the other way around.

The ministry's inshore fisheries manager John Taunton-Clark said he would track down the fisherman in question and explain the residents' concerns, but was powerless to do any more.


Thursday, January 10, 2008

A list of music (and a bland title)

Hello again friends.

10 days into 2008 and I bring you my first piece of information for the year that you can take away and use (free of charge) in your daily lives: white chocolate toffee pops are awful. There you go, live well my friends.

In other non-news I thought I’d give you a run down of my favourite music of 2007. I did this using the very scientific manner of creating an iTunes playlist of songs released in 2007 and with a rating of 4 or more stars.

The 21 songs (as ordered by play count) are:

  • Candyman – Christina Aguilera (actually this one was a music video I purchased from the iTunes store, but same diff right?)
  • Love Rain (Coffeshop mix) – Jill Scott and Mos Def - Collaborations
  • Rag and Bone – The White Stripes – Icky Thump
  • Catch Hell Blues – The White Stripes – Icky Thump
  • On Call – Kings of Leon – Because of the Times
  • Like I Love You – Maximo Park – Radio 1 Established 1967
  • Trunk – Kings of Leon – Because of the Times
  • I’m Slowly Turning Into You – The White Stripes – Icky Thump
  • All That She Wants – The Kooks – Radio 1 Established 1967
  • Don’t Get Me Wrong – Lily Allen – Radio 1 Established 1967
  • Careless Whisper – Gossip – Radio 1 Established 1967
  • Ray of Light – Natasha Beddingfield – Radio 1 Established 1967
  • My Body is a Cage – The Arcade Fire – Neon Bible
  • Steady As She Goes – Corinne Bailey Rae – Radio 1 Established 1967
  • If You’re Into It – Flight of the Conchords – The Distant Future EP (Business Time would be here too but I didn’t want it on high rotation)
  • Black Thumbnail – Kings of Leon – Because of the Times
  • No No No – Ghostface Killah – Hidden Darts (and this is looking to become my song for summer 08)
  • Stronger – Kanye West – Graduation
  • In the Mood – Talib Kweli – Ear Drum
  • Say Something – Talib Kweli – Ear Drum
  • Country Cousins – Talib Kweli – Ear Drum

All the hip hop is at the bottom because they are fairly new to my collection compared to the other stuff.

I can’t say enough about Radio 1 Established 1967. It’s a brilliant album. The artists were assigned a year between 1967 and 2006 and had to cover one of the top ten songs from Radio 1 in that year. Some covers are brilliant remakes with new styles (Like I Love You, Careless Whisper, All That She Wants), others are straight covers with a good flavour of the new artist (Don’t Get Me Wrong, Ray of Light). Of course some are just awful (as many covers tend to be) like the Streets covering My Song, blech!

Talib Kweli’s Ear Drum may be one of the best albums of the year and definitely the best hip hop album I have heard in a while. And I obviously loved the White Stripes and Kings of Leon new stuff.

Honourable mentions go to Patti Smith, The New Pornographers and Tori Amos.