Friday, November 25, 2005

DVD Review - Hamlet ('90)

Franco Zeffirelli is a director who has already given the world a pair of excellent Shakespearean dramas, in the form of "Romeo and Juliet" and "The Taming of the Shrew," back in the late '60s.

Mel Gibson (yes, Mad Max, Lethal Weapon, Mel ‘William Wallace’ Gibson) takes the lead as The Dane himself and he is good, surprisingly excellent in fact. A fine supporting cast ably backs him in the form of Glenn Close as Gertrude, Alan Bates on fine form as the usurper Claudius, Paul Scofield as the revenge hungry ghost of Hamlet's father, Ian Holm ably rounding out the meddling advisor Polonius and even Helena Bonham-Carter waddles, somewhat underused, through the piece as the ill-fated Ophelia.

This 1990 version strives for a sense
of realism, with both its stunning and remarkably accurate medieval sets and with its thoughtful and truthful costumes. Hamlet intentionally supports itself with very little in the way of a musical score, and this adds to the atmosphere and to the loneliness of the young Prince behind his cloak of self enforced madness.

On it’s release, hackneyed purists quibbled with some of the liberties Zeffirelli had taken. The 80-year-old Italian director had swapped some scenes and lost others, and they objected still loader to the ‘less brooding’ tone of the overall production and to the 'flipancy' of the lead character. But then, if memory serves, there were complaints about his "Romeo and Juliet" and his "Taming of the Shrew", though these are now generally regarded as two of the finest translations to celluloid.

Hamlet deserves a place by their side.

Movie: 4 out of 5
Extras: Alas none available on my VHS review version...

Monday, November 14, 2005


We’ve put an offer in on a house and had it accepted.

It’s a 250 year old grade 2 listed two/three bedroom end terraced cottage in Makeney, near Milford, in the Amber Valley.

5 years on
Andromeda has taught us a lot about condensation, weather patterns, mould, 12v electrical systems and how to light a coal fire without wood or firelighters. It’s also taught us when it’s time to move on. We love her, but we’ve outgrown her. We’ll miss her, but a house’ll be a different kind of challenge (especially one that needs as much work as this one) and a challenge is good.

All hands on deck now to get into dry dock before winter for an ultra-sound hull survey on
Andromeda before we sell her.

Crazy. I never thought I’d see the day.

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Bill Gates v's Steve Jobs: PowerPoint 101.

I loathe, with a passion, really bad PowerPoint.

It's right up there with bad clip-art and motivational posters.

I'm either patronised by some speaker who insists on proudly 'reading the slides out load’ to me (often in full sentences instead of bullet points) or dazzled by graphical incompetence when the text is so damn small you have to squint to read the damn thing and through ruinous colour choice (dark blue and fuchsia, I was there, honestly).

Johova spare us from tasteless flying text and moving graphics (this is not soddin’ Quantel and we are not in 1982). Deliver us from bobbo sounds and mingin’ music. Protect us from overly complex diagrams or poorly conceived pie-charts. The list goes on…

I had to do a presentation to our sales and marketing team last week, on SEO and how we go about doing a "Seraphim Proudleduck" on our Northcliffe and commercial sites, and I played and fine tuned my PowerPoint (over a period of days) to make sure I was going to get message across clearly and with the minimum of crud.

On the whole, everyone else presenting had done this too…

Either way, Gates, Jobs, & the Zen Aesthetic (Bill Gates v's Steve Jobs: a lessons in contrasts), on the Presentation Zen blog takes this a step further.

I'd say it offers a vital and essential warning sign to anyone who has ever considered standing up in front of their colleagues and justifying their existence.

Continuing the moan, companies should take measures to train their managers and staff in the use of PowerPoint to present information in meetings. PowerPoint is a valuable tool, it's the use of that tool that's the problem. Too many folk use PowerPoint as a 'substitute for themselves' and seem to think that the slides are the presentation instead of the slides supporting the presentation that they should be delivering.

Audiences should be issued with automatic weapons.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

PSP Review - The Day After Tomorrow

"Irwin Allen, on the little screen"

The Day After Tomorrow sees our unworthy little species pitted against the scariest woman since Baroness Thatcher: Mother Nature.

Producer Roland Emmerich has always fancied himself as the new (70s disaster king) Irwin Allen, and he went all out to bring us an apocalyptic cinema blockbuster that is visually stunning, somewhat hammy, and horrifying in equal measures.

Earthquakes, Hurricanes, huge, city-engulfing tidal waves and the onset of the new ice age, all with a human (if a tad shallow and American-centric) story, and all in
124 minutes.

It’s a disaster movie, and disaster movies always work best on the big screen. This film has a level of effects enduced visuals that I was in doubt would translate to the small screen of the PSP. Strangely they do. With the level and quality of the digital effects it appears almost seamless on the LCD screen and, holding it by hand as close as one does, it must have touched some personal chord when I found myself saying “Ohhh”, “Ahhh” and “Unlucky!” out load, to the amusement of my fellow commuters. It is what it is, and it works just great on the PSP.

The plot is simple, as truly this film is about the effects. Jack Hall (Dennis Quaid), scientist and environmental naysayer, finds the world falling apart around him. Hail stones the size of house bricks smash Japan, typhoons obliterate Los Angeles and a new Ice Age crosses the northern hemisphere. Jack must improbably yomp from Washington to New York, to be with his son and a small group of survivors who desperately try to fend off the cold as our planet flexes its climatic muscles.

In light of the American attitude to the Kyoto Accord and Global Warming, one can’t help but notice the irony, and gaze out of the window where tornados, these days, are even seen in Birmingham.

Is it getting cold? Or is it just me?

Movie: 3.5 out of 5