Sunday, September 16, 2007


TransformersWe went to see Transformers a few weeks ago and, while I should probably have written this back then, it kind of got put on the back-burner due to other stuff going on. Anyway, I thought I'd better get it done before it disappears from the cinema. Here's a short summary of the plot…
Thousands of years ago there was the Allspark, a gigantic and mysterious cube roaming through space, and wherever it traveled it created life, even on Cybertron, home of the Transformers. Their society flourished, until they were betrayed by Megatron, and war erupted over the Allspark, which was eventually lost in space.

But now both factions, the Autobots and the Decepticons, know it's here on Earth and both have their own agenda for its retrieval.

Since they didn't appear until 1984, Transformer toys were something I missed as a kid. The basic story of the movie is somewhat different from the original toy line but is no less inventive. Basically, after the Allspark granted life to the mechanical and electrical objects on Cybertron, they were able to transform, rearranging their bodies into common and innocuous forms, such as vehicles, devices or animals.

However, after a period of civilized behaviour, some bad robots, under the leadership of Megatron, decided they wanted to take over Cybertron but in the ensuing war, it was destroyed and the Allspark lost. So now both sides of the surviving Transformers have discovered that the cube is on Earth. For the bad guys, the Decepticons, that means they're coming to get it at any cost. Luckily for us, the good robots, the Autobots, respect life and will do what they can to protect us while also looking for the Allspark.

So, looking at it from that angle, it seemed a reasonable plot for a large-scale special-effects feature. Throw in the human angle in the form of Sam Witwicky (Shia LaBeouf) a youngster supposedly doing a school report, but is instead hawking his grandfather's memorabilia on eBay so he can help his dad buy him a car. You can guess what kind of car he gets and from then on it's pretty much mayhem in giant robot form with a few witty one-liners thrown in for humour.

The level of on-screen violence is much higher than I'd have thought it would have been for a toy franchise spin-off and the opening scene is pretty heavy stuff, which is probably why it got a 12A certificate. The special-effects are good though and all that destruction seems very real. However, there's no blood, or at least I don't remember seeing any so it not a gore-fest.

However, all that mayhem is well balanced by the humour and once the Autobots start getting involved in the dialogue, you really can't take them seriously as they have some really cheesy lines. With LaBeouf as the central character, Megan Fox and Rachael Taylor providing the female interest and Josh Duhamel and Tyrese Gibson providing the muscle as survivors from the opening scene out for some revenge, it all works pretty well.

Genre: Action, Adventure, Comedy, Science-Fiction
My Rating: 7/10

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Sign Of The Cross - by Chris Kuzneski

Sign Of The CrossSign Of Che Cross is yet another in a long line of religious thrillers in the same vein as The Da Vinci Code but it was going cheap and the blurb on the back cover made it attractive enough for a no-brainer read. Here's the basic tempter from the back…
A Vatican priest is found murdered on the shores of Denmark, nailed to a cross in the shadow of Hamlet's castle. He is the first victim in a vicious killing spree that spans the world, each horrific murder exactly mirroring the crucifixion of Christ.

Meanwhile, deep in the Roman catacombs of Orvieto, an archaeologist uncovers an ancient scroll dating back two thousand years. The scroll, he knows, holds the key to a dark and treacherous secret that will rock the very foundations of the Church. But only if he can decipher its lost meanings and only if he can live long enough to reveal them.

As expected it was a fairly easy and undemanding read with a plausible storyline to give it some credence. Kuzneski has obviously done a fair bit of research and has managed to come up with a decent plot, almost believable characters and a pace that makes you want to just read the next chapter and then the next.

It does keep you guessing for a while as to who's behind the killings and why. It's an unfortunate coincidence for the bad guys that the archaeologist was rooting around in something connected to their scheme just as they kicked off with the killing spree but I don't suppose it'd been much of a story otherwise.

The only annoying thing was the fact that, once the action hotted up, quite a lot of the chapters ended with one of those little leading statements of things to come. You know what I mean. Stuff like "Of course, that was nothing compared to the evidence that someone was about to uncover next." and "Miraculously, their prayers would be answered less than an hour later."

Nevertheless, it's not a bad read and ideal for a long plane or train ride.

Genre: Action, Mystery, Thriller
ISBN: 978-0-141-030845
My Rating: 6/10

Saturday, September 08, 2007

Upcoming Movies - Enchanted, The Last Legion, WALL•E, 10,000 B.C.

Found a few more upcoming movies that I'll probably be interested in seeing when they hit our shores…


In Enchanted a classic Disney animated fairy tale meets with modern, live-action comedy. It follows the beautiful princess Giselle (Amy Adams) as she is banished by an evil queen (Susan Sarandon) from her magical, musical animated land and finds herself in the gritty reality of the streets of modern-day Manhattan. Shocked by this strange new environment that doesn't operate on a "happily ever after" basis, Giselle is now adrift in a chaotic world badly in need of enchantment. But when she begins to fall in love with a charmingly flawed divorce lawyer (Patrick Dempsey) who has come to her aid, even though she is already promised to a fairy tale prince (James Marsden) back home, she has to wonder: can a storybook view of romance survive in the real world?

It seems to be a reworking of the Snow White tale with the names changed to protect the innocent. It's got a princess, a wicked witch, a prince, a dwarf, a dragon and what could be a magic mirror but, having watched the trailer, it does seem quite funny and could work out pretty well.

Official site:

The Last LegionThe Last Legion

The Last Legion is a fantasy action-adventure in the same vein of “The Sword and the Stone” but set against the fall of Rome and its last emperor. 12 year-old Romulus Augustus was the boy who would rule for a day before losing all that he loved: his family, his home, and an empire that once stood for truth and honour. While imprisoned on the island-fortress of Capri and seeking a means of escape, Romulus discovers instead “excaliburnus,” the legendary sword of Julius Caesar, and realizes that he must do all in his power to save Rome.

Aided by the clever strategies of his teacher, Ambrosinus (Ben Kingsley), and the heroic skills of his loyal legionnaire Aurelius (Colin Firth), Romulus escapes the island. Accompanied by his friends and a mysterious envoy from Constantinople, Romulus travels to Britannia in search of the last Roman Legion - the fabled Dragon Legion. There, Romulus will fight alongside his friends to make his last stand for Rome and take his first steps to becoming a man and the king who would father a legend.

It's being touted as the untold beginning of the King Arthur legend and it sounds like a lot of tosh but it could be entertaining. Not sure about a UK release but it's opening just about everwhere else in September and October so it shouldn't be too far away.

Official Site:


This is Disney and Pixar's latest project, due for release next Summer, in the middle of july for us in the U.K. It's written and directed by Andrew Stanton who also directed Finding Nemo and A Bug's Life as well as having a hand in the screenplays for Monsters, Inc, Toy Story, Toy Story 2, Finding Nemo and A Bug's Life.

Being still early in production, there's not a lot more information available other a fairly thin plot description…
The year is 2700. WALL•E, a robot, spends every day doing what he was made for. But soon, he will discover what he was meant for.
Pixar have always come up with the goods as far as top-class animations go so I have good expectations for this one as well.

Official Site:

10,000 B.C.

From director Roland Emmerich comes a pre-historic tale due for a UK release in March, 2008.

It was a time when man and beast were untamed and the mighty mammoth roamed the earth. A time when ideas and beliefs were born that forever shaped mankind. 10,000 B.C. follows a young hunter (Steven Strait) on his quest to lead an army across a vast desert, battling saber-tooth tigers and prehistoric predators as he unearths a lost civilization and attempts to rescue the woman he loves (Camilla Belle) from an evil warlord determined to possess her.

Sounds a bit like Quest For Fire as far as the time/era is concerned so here's hoping it turns out as good as that one did.

Official site:

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

The Blade Itself - by Joe Abercrombie

The Blade Itself is the first installment in The First Law, a fantasy trilogy from new author Joe Abercrombie. Here's the gist of the story…
Logen Ninefingers, the infamous Northern barbarian, is on the run with his luck running out. He and his band have been banished from their homeland, the vile Shanka are coming down from the far North and now he's been separated from his men.

Captain Jezal dan Luthar is in training for the swordfencing Contest in Adua and that's all he cares about. Not that he'd care about anyone else but himself at any other time but he needs the glory of the win to keep his father sweet and still paying for his selfish lifestyle.

Inquisitor Glokta is a bitter man. Once the hero of the Contest and the brightest soldier in the army, he's now crippled and reduced to torturing confessions out of any unfortunate enough to come under his scrutiny. But even Glokta must watch his step as failure is not tolerated in the Inquisition.

Bayaz, First of the Magi, is again moving in the land and looking to take back the position that was once his on the inner council. This time he's looking for those who can aid him and, among others, Logen, Jezal and Glokta have stirred his interest.

For a first novel, this is an excellent tale; one of those hard to put down books that only comes around once in a while. The Blade Itself is a many-threaded tale, introducing the characters and the storyline and it does it really well. These are real people and not the standard fantasy novel characters who are usually way too good to be true. If anything, the primary characters here are anti-heroes. Logen has the blackest reputation, they don't call him The Bloody Nine for nothing, but he's just so likable; he swears, drinks, fancies a bit of the other and is ruthless when he has to be but he can be a big softie as well.

Logen's band are also a mean bunch but they have to be, living as they do as outlaws. Sand dan Glokta may be bitter but he was good once and there are glimmers in there that he may still be at heart but he's been dealt a very bad hand in life and is happy to see others suffer for a change. However, Jezal is thoroughly unlikeable but maybe he'll get more interesting in later books. Also introduced here is Ferro Maljinn and she hates just about everyone, happier to try and kill you rather than risk trusting you. On the whole, they're a pretty mixed bunch of characters but they all play off each other well.

Okay the plot so far is pretty formulaic. The middle kingdom is in trouble. Stuck between two fronts; the far North produces barbarians who are looking to come down and wage war on the weak kingdom and in the South, there's the wicked empire trying to conquer all as it expands. On top of that there's the political back-stabbing and manoeuverings of the nobility and a bit of love interest between Jezal and the sister of one of his colleagues.

Definitely worth reading this one and I'm off to get the sequel - Before They Are Hanged!

Genre: Adventure, Fantasy
ISBN: 978-57507-979-3
My Rating: 9/10

Monday, September 03, 2007

Viva Ristorante, Bothwell Street, Glasgow

Regardless of my broken elbow, we went into town on Saturday afternoon with the idea of doing a bit of shopping, getting some food and catching the new Bourne movie. The food was a concern as I can only eat one-handed so pasta seemed the easy choice.

Having spotted Viva Ristorante on Bothwell Street a few weeks ago when coming back from the Post Office at lunchtime, it seemed worth trying out. Also, being that wee bit off of the main town centre we thought it'd probably get missed by the hordes of other folk looking for food after the shops closed. If you've ever looked in TGI Fridays just after six, you'll know what I mean - packed out and with lots of noisy kids and not very conducive to having a relaxing meal.

That said, Viva was still pretty busy as it's probably well enough known by everyone working in that area; it certainly seemed busy at lunchtime. It was all reserved up but we got a table on condition we were gone before 8:15 so that wasn't going to be a problem as we weren't there for a huge meal.

They do a two-course, pre-theatre menu for just under £10, seven days a week so that seemed like an ideal way to go for us. However, it's not just a pasta and pizza place as the a la carte menu was pretty tempting and if we'd had more time, I'm sure we'd have gone for that as there were some pretty good looking choices of main course.

The pre-theatre menu was okay and we opted for the Minestrone Soup and Crostini al Funghi to start with mains of Penne Milano and Spaghetti Meatballs. A couple of glasses of the house red to see it down and we were pretty satisfied. The place itself was quite nicely laid out and decorated and the staff were friendly and attentive. I think we'll definitely go back sometime for a more serious outing.

Not everything was perfect though; the movies were full so we had to head home. Still, at least we'd been pretty well fed.

Cuisine: Italian
My Rating: 8/10

Sunday, September 02, 2007

And The Lack Of Posts Is Due To... having broken my elbow last Sunday night.

It was one of those things. The back door was open and I thought I'd just nip out to the bin with some garbage and next minute I was sailing through the air and landed badly on the concrete patio slabs. That was quickly followed by a few expletives and some rolling about on the lawn, which is where Lorna found me, her having come out to see what the ruckus was about. There was a time when I'd have just rolled on contact or not even tripped over my own feet at all, but I suppose I'm getting older; sigh!

Anyway, I thought I'd just strained my right arm but next morning it was pretty obvious that all was not well so we headed off to the local hospital where it was eventually pronounced broken. Well, at least they thought it probably was but the x-ray wasn't conclusive so they stuck it in a sling and told me to come back the next day.

More x-rays are duly taken and yes, it's definitely broken! All I get then is a collar and cuff strap, told it'd heal by itself, take some pain killers and come back in three weeks. Not even a plaster cast people can sign for the trouble but I have to admit I'm happier about that. I'm typing this with my left hand or at least one finger of my left hand so posting is difficult.

It's amazing what you can't do easily with just one hand. Try pulling up your trousers, fastening a belt or pulling on a pair of socks one handed and you'll see what I mean. Tying your own shoe-laces is just out of the question. I'm right-handed as well so having to do everything left-handed just makes it even more awkward. Try spreading some jam on toast and you'll soon see how frustrating it gets, chasing the toast around the plate with a jammy knife.

I'm slowly learning to use a mouse and type left-handed and I'm just about okay to type for a wee while before the arm gets too sore so I'll maybe try and post a few articles soon. It has to be better than having to watch day-time television.