Friday, August 24, 2007

Film4+1 Dropped from Freeview!

The latest round of channel changes has left us poor Freeview viewers without the benefits of being able to watch Film4 + 1 as it has been replaced by the new Channel 4 + 1. Here's the list of channel changes as of 20/8/2007…
  • 13 Channel 4+1 (new)
  • 14 More4 (was 13)
  • 29 E4 (was 14)
  • 30 E4+1 (no change)
  • 32 Film4 (was 29)
Film4+1 is leaving Freeview, but will still be available on Sky and Virgin.

This is a total bummer as the signal strength we get with Film4 makes it unwatchable yet Film4 + 1 was perfectly okay. It's not even as if Film4 + 1 is dead as Sky and Virgin customers can still get it. Seems like a poor deal for Freeview users to me!

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Surf's Up

We got them in Madagascar and Happy Feet and now another animated tale of penguins hits the big screen. Surf's Up takes us into the world of surfing and the annual Penguin World Surfing Championship.

Much of the movie is shot in a documentary film style and we get to follow a film crew as they go about the business of filming a behind-the-scenes look at the competition and the surfers. It centres around Cody Maverick (Shia LaBeouf), a young upcoming surfer from Shiverpool, way down Antarctica way.

Cody caught the surfing bug when legendary surfer Big Z (Jeff Bridges) visited Shiverpool 10 years earlier. Since then, Cody taught himself to surf using broken shards of ice as boards. When a talent scout for surf promoter Reggie Belafonte (James Woods) arrives at Shiverpool, he persuades them to let him join the group and enter the Big Z Memorial Surf Off at Pen Gu Island.

Cody believes that winning is everything and that it will bring him the admiration and respect he desires, but when he unexpectedly comes face-to-face with a washed-up old surfer called Geek, Cody finds out that winning isn't everything and that a true winner isn't always the one who comes in first. Along the way he meets the surf mad Chicken Joe (Jon Heder) from Sheboygan, is smitten with lifeguard Lani Aliikai (Zooey Deschanel) and faces his nemesis in the form of all-round bad penguin Tank Evans (Diedrich Bader).

We really enjoyed this one. The unusual filming style really adds to the experience. As well as the main storyline, we get archive footage of old-time penguin surfers, clips of Big Z in his heyday, interview footage with Cody's mother and big brother Glen and little gems where the crew ask a group of three kids for their thoughts on different subjects.

The script is excellent and the cast interact very well, which may be due to the fact that they were recorded as a group and not, as is usually done, in individual sound booths. It even takes a swipe at Happy Feet. When Cody is asked if he has any other talents, he answers "Heh, you mean like, singin' and dancin'? Naw, man, I just surf".

Definitely recommended for fans of animated features but aimed at an older audience than Happy Feet. Young children may not get the humour and all the little gags but anyone over 12 will probably love it.

Genre: Animation, Comedy, Family, Sport
My Rating: 8/10

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Conqueror's Moon - by Julian May

Conqueror's MoonConqueror's Moon is the first volume in The Boreal Moon Tale, which is set on the island of High Blenholme, a land of four very different kingdoms. Here's the basic gist of this first installment…
Prince Conrig of Cathra has a vision to unite the four kingdoms of Cathra, Didion, Moss and Tarn on the island of High Blenholme under his own sovereignty but not all of them are in favour of submitting to his will.

While Conrig has an ally in Princess Ullanoth of Moss, a very powerful sorceress, he also has to contend with her brother Beynor, who has plans of his own for Moss and High Blenholme. Meanwhile the sealords of Tarn and a fair number of the Cathran nobility are also looking to feather their own nests as best they can out of the deal while Didion opt for war to avoid the union.

Then there's the original inhabitants of High Blenholme, ousted years before by Emperor Bazekoy. Both the monstrous Salka and the Spunkies want their land back with the humans on their menus. Overseeing all of this are the Great Lights, also known as the Coldlight Army and the Beaconfolk. They may look light pretty lights in the sky but they are far, far deadlier than that.

All of the above is fairly run-of-the-mill fantasy drama fare but the hero of the tale is a young lad, born with a wild magic talent, taken into service as a spy by Conrig, who has ambitious plans to unite the land and stave off an invasion from without. It's got magic, political manoeuvering, familial bickering, foul murder, war, nasty monsters and some right evil demons in the mix to keep things lively and interesting.

May seems to write fantasy novels just as well as she does science-fiction and Conqueror's Moon shows all the signs of The Boreal Moon Tale developing into a very decent piece of work. It mau be a wee bit predictable in places but High Blenholme is a pretty rich and varied setting for the story and the characters are nicely developed as the story progresses.

ISBN: 0-00-712320-5
Genre: Adventure, Fantasy
My Rating: 7/10

Monday, August 13, 2007

Free, Printable Subway Maps

If you travel around a fair bit or just like taking city breaks, then I'm sure you'd find taking a printed map of the local underground and/or rail system with you a pretty useful and time saving thing to do.

Subway Maps
Travel site has put together a useful page full of printable subway maps from all over the world. All major U.S. and European cities are covered as well as those in Africa, Asia & Middle-East and Australia. Even Glasgow's own wee Clockwork Orange is included.

If you want something even more portable and have an iPod or iPhone, then take a look at, which provides downloadable subway map images. Most of the maps are compatible with the iPod Photo but there are some for the iPod Video and Nano models too.

The range of city maps is smaller here though but the author is working on more detailed and PDF versions of these for the iPhone.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Upcoming Movies - National Treasure: Book of Secrets, Dynamite Warrior and Lust, Caution

More news of a few upcoming movies that, given my tastes for action, martial-arts and fantasy, I'd probably like to go and see…

National Treasure: Book of Secrets

Due for release in the UK in January 2008 is the sequel to 2004's National Treasure starring Nicolas Cage, Diane Kruger and Sean Bean. Cage and Kruger are back along with Jon Voight, Helen Mirren, Harvey Keitel and Ed Harris.

When a missing page from the diary of John Wilkes Booth surfaces, Ben Gates' (Cage) great-great grandfather is suddenly implicated as a key conspirator in Abraham Lincoln’s death. Determined to prove his ancestor’s innocence, Ben follows an international chain of clues that takes him on a chase from Paris to London and ultimately back to America. This journey leads Ben and his crew not only to surprising revelations - but to the trail of the world’s most treasured secrets.

As Disney's attempt to copy The Da Vinci Code, the original National Treasure was quite watchable in a formulaic, mindless kind of way so maybe Book of Secrets will fill an hour and a half as well and prove that Disney have some original ideas of their own but after A Bug's Life coming out not long after Antz and The Wild following Madagascar, that'll take some convincing.

Dynamite Warrior

Billed as an action comedy, this is a supernatural, action packed movie with high-grade special effects and the kind of raw action scenes the world is coming to expect from the creators of the excellent Ong Bak.

Set in rural Thailand during the 1920s Dan Chupong (Born To Fight) plays Jone Bang Fai, a young man riddled with grief and bent on revenge after witnessing his parents’ murder. The only information Jone has as to the killer’s identity is the memory of a tattoo-covered man who is part of an organized group of cattle rustlers. Jone makes it his mission to stop all cattle rustlers and in the process return each head of cattle back to its rightful owner. After searching the country high and low, Jone finally believes he has found the murderer in a small rural village in the North of Thailand. To Jone’s dismay he learns that the killer is in fact a warlock of immense power, a nearly invincible mystical man who is trying to control the whole village. His one weakness? He can be harmed only by weapons that have been treated with the menstrual blood of a young virgin. Armed with this knowledge and a few hundred highly charged rockets (and a dash of menstrual blood), our intrepid hero goes up against one of the most dangerous men to have ever walked the Earth.

Lust, Caution

Lust, Caution is director Ang Lee’s latest film, following his Academy Award win for directing Brokeback Mountain. It's an espionage thriller set in WWII-era Shanghai and I'm more likely to go and see that than a gay cowboy movie. Asian cinema icons Tony Leung (Hero, Infernal Affairs) and Joan Chen (Judge Dredd, On Deadly Ground, Twin Peaks) star as Mr. Yee, a powerful political figure in 1940s Shanghai, and his wife.

Tang Wei, a rising star in mainland China, makes her feature film debut as Wang Jiazhi, a young woman who gets swept up in a dangerous game of emotional intrigue with Mr. Yee.

Due for release in the UK in January 2008.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

The Simpsons Movie

We finally got to see The Simpsons Movie last night after a couple of postponed attempts. We've both watched The Simpsons on TV for years and love it so the movie, however much we've had to wait for it, was a must see anyway. Both of my kids had seen the movie and said it was hilarious so that just added to the anticipation. The storyline is absurd but that's what makes it so funny…
Homer rescues a pig from a Krusty Burger advert and then falls in love with it. Lisa finally persuades Springfield to clean up its act and stop dumping their rubbish and industrial waste in Lake Springfield and, just to make sure, the mayor has a wall built around it.

When Marge asks Homer what he's doing with the pig's droppings, he shows her a huge tank of he's buried in the garden. Marge wants rid of it but, faced with a choice between free donuts and disposing of the pig crap responsibly, Homer does exactly what you'd imagine he'd do. The consequences of what Homer does leads to the town facing destruction and they and the government want Homer's blood for it.

Obviously I don't want to go into to much detail as it'd give the story away but that's the gist of it. I didn't think I could sit through almost one and half hours of Homer strangling Bart, etc. but it's really, really funny.

I really can't say much more about the plot but this is definitely a must-see for any Simpsons fan. Most of your favourite characters get a showing but this is mostly about the family so they are all pretty much minor appearances except for Flanders. The animation is still as flat and yellow as the TV version so there's been no move to try and get the series onto 3-D CGI and that's probably a good thing as I'm sure we'd see a lot less Simpsons with the expense that would add to the budget.

The jokes flow constantly and there's even a few only adults will appreciate and there's no way they'd have got away with Bart's naked ride to the Krusty Burger on TV; the animated choreography of it all is superb. Even Arnold Schwarzenegger as president is very funny.

Genre: Animation, Comedy
My Rating: 8/10

Friday, August 03, 2007

Upcoming Movies - Beowulf, Tales from Earthsea and ???

Spotted a few interesting looking upcoming movies over the last week so I might make this a regular feature here…


Beowulf is the retelling of the Scandinavian epic poem about a hero, a monster and the monster's mother. It's one of those tales we get taught at school and is pretty much regarded as a classic.

I'm not sure about Ray Winstone doing the voice of Beowulf but the trailer looks promising and Angelina Jolie is seriously well animated as Grendel's mother. It's directed by Robert Zemekis and written/adapted by well-known fantasy author Neil Gaiman and Roger Avary, who was involved with Killing Zoe, Crying Freeman and Silent Hill.

The cast line-up is also quite good as, along with Winstone and Jolie, there's Anthony Hopkins as King Hrothgar, Crispin Glover as Grendel, Brendan Gleeson and John Malkovich.

It's due for a UK release on 3oth November.

Tales From Earthsea

This is doing the rounds now in smaller cinemas and I'm hoping it'll get up here to Glasgow. Adapted from the series of books of Ursula K. Le Guin and animated by Studio Ghibli, who also gave us Princess Mononoke, Spirited Away and Howl's Moving Castle. It also marks the directorial debut of Goro Miyazaki, son of the legendary Hayao Miyazaki.

This enchanting story takes place in a fantasy world of dragons and wizards and follwos the wizard Sparrowhawk on his quest to find the source of the evil forces that are shaking the world.

The official site is in Japanese but it's beautifully done and gives a nice sample of the quality of the artwork and sound you can expect in the movie. There are also a few trailers available.


There's a teaser trailer doing the rounds for an upcoming monster movie. It has no title as yet, simply being listed as an Untitled J.J. Abram's Project, but it would appear to be something along the lines of Godzilla kicks New York's ass and it's being touted for a January 2008 release.

Shot in a sort of documentary style, The trailer is definitely worth catching for the pretty excellent looking and sounding special effects. Watch it in HD and put on the headphones.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Play The Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy Online

The things you find while browsing around! Anyway, I've just found a playable version of The Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy on the BBC Radio 4 site…

In 1984 Douglas Adams and Steve Meretzky of Infocom launched a text game version of Adams' book, which The Times described as the best adventure ever seen on computer, and it became a best seller. If you're a fan of the text adventure game style or just fancy of bit of computer gaming nostalgia, then you might like it. Billed as a "20th Century Edition", a knowledge of the original book in the Hitchhiker series will help you get started and you will encounter many familiar characters and locations, but Adams described the game as "bearing as much relationship to the books as Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead does to Hamlet".

The Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy
As a result of a competition to help fill out some missing location and item illustrations, there are even two versions available to play. The gameplay is the same but both have different illustrations to go along with the storyline. The site has pretty good instructions on how to play the game and there's even a hints section if you get stuck, and you probably will given Adams' "consistent illogic".

Online Books, Audiobooks and eBooks

I've just come across the World Public Library site and, given that I've got a fair few book reviews here, then it might be of interest to anyone that likes reading.

Boasting that they are the world's largest digital archive of PDF eBooks, audiobooks and eDocuments and hosting more than 500,000 items ranging from fiction to technical manuals, there has to be something in there to interest almost everyone.

Subscribing as a member costs under $10 a year but there's an awful lot of free stuff on there as well and it's well worth having a look at what they've got.