Is There Food?

by Daniel Woolstencroft
  1. Brutal As Hell have posted a FrightFest press release containing a few choice nuggests about this year’s festival. Specifically the opening and closing films: interesting psychological thriller The Seasoning House, and cool sounding snipe-em-up Tower Block.

    The only other explicit mention is Spanish zombie prequel [REC]3:Genesis. Which, as you might have guessed, I’m hugely looking forward to.

    It wouldn’t be a FrightFest release without a couple of teases though:

    Expect a lot of very famous Italians to be in attendance throughout the August Bank Holiday weekend as our line-up will be reflecting the genre resurgence in that country. No clues, but do try to remember I am launching the updated edition of my FAB Press book on Dario Argento “The Man, the Myth and the Magic” at FrightFest!

    So, can we expect Dario himself to make an appearance with his new Dracula 3D project? And will it be received in similar fashion to his Giallo from a few years past?

    Other hints? There’s the anthology you want to see, the best Halloween 2012 release, the greatest serial killer thriller since HENRY and this year’s AMER.

    So hopefully V/H/S, Sinister (although festival friend Adam Gierasch appears to have a new offering called Schism due out around then, and there’s Paranormal Activity 4, but I doubt they’d show that), and the Maniac remake. I have no idea what this year’s Amer could be…

    That should get you all into the FrightFest the 13th spirit ready for the Thursday August 23rd kick off and we’re so excited about the whole event I’m not sure we’ll be able to contain all the secrets until then. Sod it, here’s another… what’s the one controversial monster movie you’d love to see the complete version of? We have that too.

    The final tease could potentially suggest something I’ve wanted to see for a very, very long time: the restored Cabal Cut of Nightbreed!

    The next batch of FrightFest news should break on the 29th of June when the full line-up is revealed, followed by ticket sales on the 30th. Hopefully I’ll be picking up a full season pass again this year and I’ll try to be a good little blogger and post thoughts on each film I get to see.

    Until then!

  2. Error 37 - The server is full. This is likely due to high login traffic. The only solution is to keep trying to log in.

    Do we really live in an age where it’s acceptable to have such unintelligable, non-human readable error messages? Why even report this to the user as “Error 37” - the user should be told plainly and clearly, in their configured system language, that the servers are full.

    And don’t even get me started on the root cause - the fact that Blizzard underestimated the demand for a game that had 2 million preorders, and forces every single player to be online regardless of their intention when they get the game up and running.

    Maybe a DRM-free alternative is in order…

  3. Figures collected by US data tracker WebMediaBrands suggests that the game’s daily active user count has dropped from around 14.3 million to 10.4 million between 2nd April and 2nd May.

    The problem with Draw Something is that when people started to first install it - and there were only a handful of people aware of it - it was a harmless bit of fun. Once it reached a certain critical mass it became a full time job to keep up with all the games that were on the go. Before you’ve responded to one round of drawings, another round has come in.

    I think as a result, a lot of people are less active than they were, or have given up completely. I’ve certainly slowed down, so apologies to anyone reading this waiting for me to take my turn!

  4. A while back, this site got hacked. A vulnerability in a PHP script that was part of an older theme meant that the site was compromised and flooded with junk; spam content and links were injected into the current theme and database and I had to rummage through and clean them out. The entry point wasn’t even in the active theme, but the fact that the file existed on the server was enough to provide access.

    The first I knew of it was an email from Google telling me the site was being pulled from their search results, because they’d detected all the gunk that had crawled its way into the inner workings of my blog.

    That planted a bit of a seed: maybe I should rethink this WordPress thing. I have nothing against WordPress, nothing at all. And it’s not like the vulnerability was within WordPress itself. But the software has evolved, iTunes style, into something that’s a long way from what it started life as. There are vast amounts of functionality and overhead which I’m never going to touch upon. And then there’s the overhead of updating to newer versions of both the core software, and plugins. On top of that I’m a habitual fiddler, and so I like to learn new things and try to solve new problems.

    So, I’ve totally rebooted the site. To say that it’s now running “on” Marco Arment’s Second Crack isn’t entirely accurate - Second Crack takes a directory structure full of text files, adds a soupcon of special sauce, and spits out a set of static html files - the old school building blocks of the web. So I suppose the correct description is that the site is now “generated by” Second Crack.

    This has its perks: I can now post to the site using any text editor I like. Whether I’m on my iPad, iPhone, Mac, or PC, I can easily start to write a draft or publish. This should mean I post more - there’s no login involved, no pages to navigate through, no text fields to fill in. It’s just a case of opening a text file, and typing some words.

    I’ve posted a lot in the past about writing again, about rebooting the site, and about changing the way the site looks. I know, because I’ve read them as I migrated everything out of a MySQL database and into text files. But I hope that this time it’s true. And I want to start to collect my thoughts and opinions on events, films, and technology with a view to look back on them later on. I’ll touch on this more in another post.

    One casualty of the migration is the site’s comments. In recent months, the comments have become little more than abuse and spam, so I don’t think they’re a great loss. Historically though there have been some good points, and I intend to try to post them onto the bottom of older articles so they’re preserved. If you want to comment on a newer article, I’d encourage you to do so through Twitter, Google Plus, via email, or using your own site.

    After 6 1/2 years on WordPress, it’s time to shake things up and try something different.

  5. Today marks the tenth anniversary of my marriage. It also marks the sixteenth anniversary of our first date.

    Frustrated by or perhaps in celebration of (I don’t remember which and in truth, it was probably a bit of both) being single, our circle of friends decided that we’d arrange a night out. There were six of us if I remember correctly; an even split between boys and girls. Plans were made, a date was set. Friday, February the 23rd, 1996. We’d meet up at the cinema.

    It didn’t happen that way. People dropped out, didn’t show up, cancelled. I’ve long suspected that everything was planned, that we were set up, but - of course - the resulting cinema trip had only two attendees: me, and my future wife. The film we watched was the Robert Rodriguez indy action flick Desperado. Some couples have “their song”, we have “our film”.

    Sparing no expense, we hit the nearby McDonalds for a post-movie coffee (classy, right?). I remember saying “people will talk, just the two of us, out like this. You know we’ll never hear the end of it.” Awkward pause. “Of course, there’s nothing for them to talk about…” I said.

    “Maybe there is,” she said.

    And that was it. Neither of us could have predicted the events of the years that followed.

    At our wedding, my sister (our best man) said that she believed everyone had one person they were supposed to be with. I believe the chances of finding that person are slim. But I believe I was lucky enough to find her years ago, and she’s been a constant in my life ever since.

  6. While reading Shawn Blanc’s site, I found this link to Matthias McGregor’s post on telling people your email address.

    This is precisely the reason I registered a domain short enough to give out easily. Having a surname like Woolstencroft makes for not only long addresses, but you also have to spell the surname to people at the same time. I ended up going for a domain based on my initials (DTW) but probably made two mistakes:

    • repeating the initials confuses people - so dtw@dtw throws people off, because they expect x@y instead of y@y.

    • using an less common suffix confuses people - .com and .co.uk are things people are quite familiar with these days. Something like .me.uk or .uk.net is not.

    Another thing I got into a habit of doing is changing the front part of the address depending on what or who I’m giving the address to. So if I’m signing up for a WordPress mailing list, for example, I’d use wordpress@mydomain.com. That way if you start getting spam, you can see who shared your address because they’re all unique. I’m starting to think that’s possibly overkill these days, but it’s an old habit now.

    I’d highly recommend thinking this through if you’re signing up for, or getting cheesed off with, a long email address. Bear in mind who you’re giving it out to, and how often, and you might save yourself some time and frustration by shortening it.

  7. There are a few films that I remember being incredibly aware of as a kid. Not as a teenager, I was aware of a hell of a lot of films by then, but as a really young kid. Planet of the Apes was one of them. I was too young to appreciate much of it, I didn’t understand the significance of the ending, but I remember being impressed with the look of it. Apes, talking. John Chambers’ makeup stands up today as an astonishing achievement, and Apes is almost certainly responsible for my love of Roddy McDowall.

    When Tim Burton decided to remake Apes in 2001, I was pretty certain it was a bad idea. By that time I absolutely got the original, and didn’t think it was something you needed to remake. I was right. I didn’t hate Burton’s remake, but I don’t think many people would describe it as being particularly good.

    And so to Rise. When it was announced, it sounded like another terrible idea. A prequel? Hasn’t that been done? I didn’t hold out much hope. And then a particular person got attached to the cast list: Andy Serkis. When Serkis gets involved in any project I take notice, regardless of the medium. His work on the console game Enslaved is outstanding, he turns in a great performance in Heavenly Sword, and everyone is aware of what a great job he did working with Peter Jackson on King Kong and Lord of the Rings. He’s a great actor, a master of motion and performance capture, and seemed like a magnificent choice for McDowall’s modern day counterpart.

    Put simply, Rise of the Planet of the Apes is the best film I’ve seen this year. Serkis is absolutely stunning under a layer of digital ape skin. Thanks to today’s performance capture technology, every facial twitch, subtle wrinkle of the brow, and expression of rage is translated directly into the digital portrayal. You can actually see Serkis underneath the layers at times, just like traditional makeup effects. It’s incredible to see.

    Serkis isn’t solely responsible for Apes roaring success. The script is brilliantly understated at times, never insulting the intelligence, and sensibly taking its time to establish each character. Rupert Wyatt’s direction is confident and steady, and he knows exactly how to make the most of the effects. It goes without saying that he’s absolutely one to watch in the future. Patrick Doyle’s score is excellent too (the second time in recent weeks I’ve mentioned Doyle in a review actually).

    My only minor complaint would be that James Franco doesn’t seem to be giving it his all. In a film where Serkis’ raw emotion is so powerful - the scenes with his digital ape and John Lithgow are incredibly moving, and there are similarly affecting moments where only Serkis and his digital apes are on screen - Franco seems to be irritatingly lifeless. You could argue that his character lacks the ability to react with suitably strong emotions, but at times I found his performance irksome. It’s not enough to ruin the film though, there’s more than enough life and emotion around him to compensate.

    Supporting cast beyond Franco are all great. Let’s be honest, you’ve got to pay attention to any film with Andy Serkis, Brian Cox, and John Lithgow on the cast list. Freida Pinto doesn’t really make the role her own, but it’s a pretty thinly written character in the first place. David Oyelowo does a decent job as Franco’s boss, and Tom “Draco Freaking Malfoy” Felton is excellent as the abusive ape sanctuary worker (so much so that it took me a while to place him).

    There’s also a raft of nods and in jokes to the original films, some of which are more welcome than others. There’s a pretty gratuitous use of a particularly famous quote from the original that really didn’t need to be there, but by and large the references are appreciated.

    Rise then: a resounding success. Best film so far this year, a worthy Oscar contender when the time comes (here’s hoping it’s not overlooked), and a film you desperately have to go and see at the cinema.

  8. re·dun·dant/riˈdəndənt/Adjective

    1. No longer needed or useful; superfluous.

    2. (of words or data) Able to be omitted without loss of meaning or function.

    As of today, Monday the 8th of August 2011, I have no job. I’ve been made redundant by the company I used to work for. This is not something that’s ever happened to me before. And it’s been an interesting experience.

    I have no desire to badmouth the company I worked for. There’s no bad blood, and I’m grateful for the things they’ve taught me and the experiences that have shaped me professionally while I was there.

    But this is an interesting sensation. You always envisage things being under your own control, or at least I have. I’ve always thought that the next move is my own, that my hand won’t be forced, and that working hard, being professional, and striving to better myself is the right thing to do. Part of that is correct: you do the best job you can, because otherwise why do the job in the first place? I firmly believe that. If you stop bettering yourself, stop learning new things, then why get out of bed in the morning? But if there’s one thing I’ve learned from this experience it’s that professionally, you’re not always in control of your own destiny.

    And yet, in a delightfully contradictory fashion, I am now very much in control of my own destiny. Every cloud has a silver lining, right? So I’m flipping this on its head. My hand has been forced, I’ve been left with no choice in the matter: it’s time to find The Next Thing. Which in a lot of ways is exciting.

    Redundant can be a damaging word. One could become consumed by the definition of the word,  crippled by the apparent lack of usefulness or function.

    I like to think I’m not being made redundant. I’m being made free.

  9. For many, many moons I’ve been with Be Broadband. If you’re looking for excellent ADSL2+ based broadband, I’d really recommend them. But as with all things technology, there’s always bigger, better, faster, more! Enter BT Infinity, the super fast fibre optic broadband hotness that’s creeping its way around the UK.

    For months I’d enthusiastically key my postcode into the BT Infinity checker to see if it was available in my area. And for months I’d get the same reply: no. And yet weirdly, my local exchange was upgraded, so why the hell couldn’t I get Infinity?

    It turns out that Infinity doesn’t work like normal broadband. It’s FTTC (Fibre To The Cabinet) which basically means the fibre optic pipes have to run from your local exchange to the cabinets at the end of your road. If they don’t, you can’t get Infinity, regardless of the state of your exchange.

    You can’t get Infinity, but what BT have been a bit quiet about is that you CAN get fibre optic broadband. They call it BT Broadband Option 3 With Fibre, or Faster Total Broadband, depending on which way the wind’s blowing and who you speak to. The principle is this: you can have faster broadband, they won’t call it Infinity, and you won’t get full on Infinity speeds. But it’ll be, you know, a bit quicker.

    In my case, their fibre option was showing estimated download speeds of 16mb, which was twice as fast as my existing 8mb with Be. So I went for it. I cancelled my Be account, signed up with BT, and scheduled the installation. As I saw it, twice as fast was worth the upgrade.

    As I write this my shiny new BT connection has been in and working for almost three weeks, has been trouble free and is providing me with speeds of 37mb. So despite not getting Infinity level speeds, not being called Infinity, and not being actively sold to homes that it’s theoretically available to, this is pretty much Infinity by any other name. Infinity Lite then, if you can get your head around that.

    The moral of this story? If you think you can get Infinity, but BT’s checker says you can’t, it’s worth giving them a call. Your creaky old wiring might be capable of more than you, and they, think.

  10. Norse gods. Men in shiny looking armor. A super hero that flies through the air, powered by his magic hammer. Anthony Hopkins with a golden eyepatch. Kenneth Branagh, a man with no previous experience with anything like this, directing?!? It was going to be awful.

    The trailers didn’t do much to change that opinion. The first few looked bad. The later ones didn’t look as bad, but they didn’t exactly look good. And yet, as the theatrical release got closer, I started to get quite excited. Probably not because I thought it was going to be any good. More likely because it marks the start of the summer blockbusters, and the return of Marvel Heroes to our screens.

    I could not have been more wrong. Thor isn’t just good, it’s Marvel’s best cinematic offering so far. It’s so incredibly well conceived, judged, and executed that all my previous fears seem rather silly in retrospect. What’s more, I was pretty confident of that fact after roughly twenty five minutes of film, only a quarter of the way in. And it only gets better.

    There are so many things to heap praise on, and so few things to criticise. The performances are, for the most part, excellent. Chris Hemsworth makes a great Thor, able to nail the transition from arrogant tosser to a hero you actually care about with skill. He has comic timing, looks the part, and shares great chemistry with co-star Natalie Portman. After Black Swan, Portman is chilling out a little here, having some fun, and makes an excellent Jane Foster. You can accept her character’s intelligence, and she’s genuinely attractive but not distractingly so.

    Tom Hiddleston is also impressive as Thor’s brother Loki. He looks for all the world like a young Fassbender, and throws himself into the part with a real passion. Hiddleston probably has the most complicated role to play, and is totally convincing throughout. The rest of the supporting cast play their parts well, Ray Stevenson looks pretty goofy under all that hair but just about pulls it off, Stellan Skarsgård has some good moments but doesn’t get a lot of screen time, Clark Gregg is back as the essential Agent Coulson. But of all the supporting case, it’s Anthony Hopkins that surprises the most. Hopkins has a tendency to snack on the scenery when he’s allowed to. His “hilarious” turn in The Wolfman was just the most recent piece of mounting evidence in support of my theory that he was going to be dreadful as Odin. I’m pleased to report that I was wrong. Perhaps it’s Branagh’s direction (more on him later) but Hopkins is formidable as Odin. He’s commanding. He’s believable. He portrays absolute emotion with regard to his sons, and doesn’t chew a single piece of the scenery. It’s the best performance he’s turned in for years.

    The one fly in an otherwise remarkable ointment, would be Jaimie Alexander as Sif. If I had to pick a weak link, it’d be her. I found her to be pretty wooden, unremarkable, and lacking any real character. Pretty much everyone else had their moments and managed to put their own stamp on the character. Alexander doesn’t achieve that. It may be down to the excellence of everyone else, as opposed to a real failing on her part though.

    And so to Branagh. Who, for me, is the biggest surprise of the film. His direction is flawless. Big action set pieces are handled with confidence. Asgardian politics are elevated beyond silliness in costumes, and take on genuine dramatic weight. There are some absolutely lovely camera moves and shots. It’s all the work of a man with absolute vision, who knows exactly what he’s doing. Branagh was clearly born to direct Thor. I don’t know if he has a deep love of the source material, whether the excellent script helped, or whether he’s backed up by a great team, but I attribute a good portion of the success of the project to him. It would be remiss not to mention Patrick Doyle’s glorious musical score too, which unquestionably responsible for some of the film’s success.

    Speaking of the team, the visual effects in Thor are some of the best I’ve ever seen. Not so much for their imagination and ambition (although they don’t really lack for either) but rather for their seamlessness. The Frost Giants, the film’s main antagonists, are executed brilliantly. Colm Feore (look him up, you’ll recognise him) channels Tim Curry’s Darkness for his part as the Frost Giant King Laufey. Asgard looks stunning. The costumes are all perfect and lack a single trace of silliness on the big screen. I spotted no irritatingly limp or bendy CGI actors, everything has a realism and weight that totally convinces. Even Thor in flight looks like he belongs.

    There are pleasing classic Thor references, some nice potential setups for The Avengers, well judged comedy, the requisite Stan Lee cameo, and more besides. There’s real emotion here, a depth that the material’s origin might lead you to believe would be lacking. If you’re a fan of super hero movies, you need to see Thor. If you’re a fan of movies in general, you need to see Thor. Basically, in case you hadn’t yet got the idea, you need to see Thor.

    Now, dearest Marvel executive types, please give Branagh the keys to the sequel. I wonder if I’ll be saying the same about Joe Jonhston after I’ve seen Captain America in a few weeks…