Friday, August 24, 2007

Superman Returns (again)

Last summer I saw 'Superman Returns' at the cinema and blogged about it. My friend Marcus also saw it and blogged about it, three times [1][2][3]. It took me a while, but I finally got around to re-watching it on DVD last week.

I still have a mixture of positive and negative things to say about it.

But I've realised what my main problem with the film is, and it is this:

The film is not about Superman.

Marcus complained that it was a film about Superman but not about Clark - Clark being the 'real person' and Superman being the 'disguise' - but I think it is actually not about Superman or Clark. To me, the film is actually about people's responses to the idea of Superman - specifically the different ways that Lois Lane and Lex Luthor respond to him, but almost every person in the film responds to Superman in some way and its those people that the film is about.

In the original (Dick Donner) Superman movie, Clark finds out who he is and what he can do, he goes through a bit of soul searching and anguish and comes out a hero. In Superman II he battles his inner demons, gives up his powers, gets them back and vanquishes his enemies. In Superman III we have the great fight between the two personalities, Superman vs. Clark Kent. And let's not talk about Superman IV, OK?

But the point is, all those films are about the man under the suit. This film isn't. There's no particular character development of any of the main characters (except the kid). Pretty much all the characters end the film exactly the way they were at the start. So, basically, its a film without a heart. Looks great, well performed (for the most part), a few good set-pieces, but ultimately a bit empty.

Of course, maybe its just me. As a life-long fan of Superman, he's the character I relate to. Maybe if you relate more to Lois or Lex you'd find the film more engaging.

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Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Beautiful day

This photo (taken with my phone this morning, at Dalmeny Station, on the way to work) doesn't do justice to just what a glorious morning it was. Warm, sunny, slightly hazy - my favourite summer weather. Ahhhhh.
It's a beautiful day and the world is bright
'Cos you took me away from the longest night
What can I do but give all I have to you
Delirious? "Everything" from the album 'Glo' (2000)

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Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Trends in naming...

Did a bit of random blog surfing there. Came across a really quite astounding statistic.

If you tally up all the names given to baby boys (in the USA) in 1906 and plot the data according to the last letter of the first name, it looks like this:

Do the same in 1956 and it looks a little different:

But do the same in 2006 and the result is utterly different:

Whoa! What's all that about? Why is 'n' such a popular letter?

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Friday, August 10, 2007

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (the film)

Don't you just love the character of Luna Lovegood in the Harry Potter stories? I'm glad to say that the casting folk on the HP movies have got her spot on. Anyway...

HP&TOOTP is, of course, the longest and most boring of the HP books. The actual essential plot is fairly straightforward, but there are far too many distracting sub-plots that get in the way. So, in order to make a coherent two-and-a-bit hour movie, you would have thought that they could just drop most of the sub-plots and stick to the main story. Nope, sorry. Most of the sub-plots are nodded to here, so the actual story gets a bit lost in the mix.

My wife hasn't read the book, after watching the film she commented that there was no plot at all in there. I've read the book so understood all of what was going on, but thinking back on the film, for those who haven't read the book, there is almost no explanation of the significance of the visions Harry is experiencing, occlumency is kind of side-lined, and its not totally clear what all the fuss is about regarding the prophecy at the end. We also don't get Dumbledore's explanation at the end so, unless you've read the book, you are left thinking 'so what'.

Umbridge is fantastically evil though. However, they should have conveyed her racism with regard to half-breeds and magical creatures a bit earlier on, it would make her end a bit more dramatic.

But having said that, it is a better film than 1 and 2, not as good as 3 and I'd have to watch 4 again to be able to comment on which is better there. But if the director can make a half-way decent film out of the over-long and muddled mess that is the book of OOTP, then I have high hopes for his ability to do a good job on the next film, based as it is on a much better book.

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Thursday, August 02, 2007

The Golden Compass

How good does the Golden Compass look? If you haven't seen the trailer (or even better, the 'Comic Con' clip compilation) head over to the official site [] and watch it now. Fantastic.
The only problem I have with this is that 'The Northern Lights' (the UK title of the book that this film is based on) is by far the best and most interesting book in the trilogy ('His Dark Materials' by Philip Pullman). So this movie will be followed by two others that are not quite as good as it. Also, rumour has it, the film plays down the anti-religion message of the books, which I can see is quite easy in the first movie, but how can you do the third one without it - its the very heart of the book?

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Iron Man

Iron Man is one of my favourite Marvel superheroes. So I'm quite looking forward to the Iron man movie next year. However, I do think that the suit in all the promo photos looks a bit more plastic than iron. This is IRON man folks!

Still, Robert Downey Jr., Gwyneth Paltrow and Jeff Bridges - has to be worth a watch, eh?

And, of course, next summer brings us The Dark Knight and The Incredible Hulk too. Cool. Hope they're better than Spider-man 3 was.

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Wednesday, August 01, 2007

The "Contour" Road Book of Scotland (1948)

I've been having to sort through all the stuff in my Mum's house to see what is worth keeping, what is worth selling and what is worth giving away. Her house goes to its new owners on Friday this week (or rather, thay come to it - the house isn't moving). Boxes and boxes of stuff have gone to charity shops. Even more boxes and boxes of stuff have gone to the tip. Now all I'm left with is a few boxes of (possibly) antique books that I'm not sure what to do with.

But I'm keeping some of the books. Given my fascination with maps of all kinds, I'm finding all the old atlases the hardest thing to part with. So I'm not parting with a couple of my favourites.

This book is fantastic. I'd actually completely forgotten about it until I was sorting through all the old books last week. My Mum bought this in 1948 (when she was 21, three years before she was married). At the time she and her friends did quite a lot of cycling round bits of Scotland, and I think this kind of book was invaluable to the Scottish cyclist.

It basically is a road map book of Scotland (you probably guessed that from the title), but with one major difference to most road maps - it gives side elevations of the route as well as plans!

For example, suppose you are planning on cycling across the Cowal peninsula from Dunoon to Otter Ferry; the road marked "144" in this map:
All you do is look up Route 144 in the book and you get a picture like this, showing you the profile of the road, with footnotes on sharp bends, junctions, etc. Fantastic.
I've driven over this road a few times. The above profile probably gives you a good indication of why I'm not planning on cycling the Glendaruel to Otter Ferry stretch...

They don't make books like this anymore (as far as I know). Shame.

So, do you have a favourite road in Scotland that you want to see the profile for? Let me know and (if its in the book) I'll scan it and put it online for you. As a 'starter for 10' here's the infamous Applecross road:

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