The videocassette recorder that revolutionised home entertainment by allowing television audiences to capture their favourite shows on tape and watch them at their leisure will die at the end of the month after a decade-long battle with obsolescence. It is roughly 60 years old.
Known to every child of the ’80s and ’90s as the VCR, the machine became a fixture under the television sets in households as a means for watching movies with terrible resolution, forcing the viewing of grainy family milestones, and recording your grandmother’s daytime melodramas.
The VCR’s demise may come as a shock, mostly because many thought it was already dead.
But Japan-based Funai Electronic Company has continued to manufacture the machines even as several generations of superior entertainment technology have come to market. Now, executives say that a lack of demand and difficulty acquiring parts has convinced them to cease production at the end of July.
I’m trying to think when I got rid of my VCR. It was in fact only a few years ago as I had some old family videos I wanted to keep it for. But then I realised I could digitise them and save storage space.
Top Gear’s new host Chris Evans has quit after just one season, a day after reports of a police investigation into claims of sexual assault.
Evans took to Twitter to announce his resignation overnight, saying: “Gave it my best shot but sometimes that’s not enough”.
He made no mention of newspaper reports a day earlier that he would soon be interviewed by London’s Metropolitan Police over a former colleague’s allegations that he groped her and exposed himself to her and other staff at a workplace in the 1990s.
Evans was cited as the cause of a ratings plummet on the rebooted show, amid reports of a feud between him and co-host Matt LeBlanc, of Friends fame.
Just 1.9 million viewers tuned in for its final episode of the season on Sunday night. Its premiere in May drew 4.4 million viewers – still well down from about 5.8 million who tuned in during previous seasons hosted by Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond and James May.
His resignation will have nothing to do with the historic claims, but all to do with massively low ratings and LeBlanc falling out with him.
There’s hope for future seasons with LeBlanc who has been excellent.
Top Gear returned to our screens with Chris Evans and Matt LeBlanc at the helm- but fans of the show turned off as it attracted its lowest opening show viewing figures in a decade and was widely panned on social media.
The show drew 4.4 million viewers, with a peak of 4.7 million, while the last series with Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond and James May bowed out with 5.8 million viewers.
Evans said last week he would be ‘disappointed’ if the show attracted under 5 million viewers.
“If we had to guess about the number of viewers we are going to get on Sunday night, you have got to say you would be disappointed if it was under 5 million. Five million-plus would be great, after that it doesn’t matter,” he said.
Evans today claimed figures showed the Top Gear had officially been a hit, claiming it had taken 23 per cent of the audience share and that it was the most watched item on iPlayer.
The reviews have ranged from awful to okay. If they couldn’t get 5 million for their first episode, I doubt they will for any others.
6:2. So this week we waited to learn if Jon Snow was really dead…and waited to see if he was really alive. The Red Witch (star of the final scene of 6:1 – no spoiler; go watch that) tries to revive his very dead corpse but failed. But watch the Dire Wolf’s eyes under the table. Red Witch is disillusioned; her gods have failed her with false visions (or have they?) “F**K em all then!” (Lord Davos).
Below: Jon Snow; Daenrys Targaryen (true heir to the Iron Throne); the Dwarf Tyrion Lannister (everyone’s favourtite)
Review: GoT 6:2 (The Dwarf gets his dragon-on) | coNZervative
[Spoiler] Meanwhile Ramsay’s adopted dad has had a son (his first true born) and second heir which to Ramsay the Bastard means only one thing; Adopted-Daddy-o needs a knife in the nethers and Ramsay of course doesn’t hesitate. He also dispatches his new brother and his wet nurse to a rather grisly nasty end – Ramsay is being set up as a nastier bit of work than Joffrey Baratheon/Lannister. Oh come back Theon and wreck your terrible ‘Reek’ vengeance!
[Actually the ‘wet nurse’ is Lord Bolton’s wife and Ramsay’s step-mum (Ramsay is really a ‘Snow’); but this seems unlikely in the episode: Bolton simply chose this woman as her father offered a dowry of her weight in gold – so Lord Bolton took her: she seems like the baby’s wet nurse to me in this episode].
[Spoiler] Meanwhile in the Iron Islands another father and House lord is despatched in this game of epic musical thrones. Balon Greyjoy as the Lord of House Greyjoy of Pyke – not to be confused with Lord Walder Frey who is Lord of the Crossing and mastermined the infamous Red Wedding (referred to in Obama’s White House Correspondent’s dinner) they both have long straggly white hair – goes out on a swing bridge in a storm. That can mean only one thing in GoT!
Funnily enough I was watching an episode of MythBusters just before in which Jamie (not Lannister) and the beret Walrus build a 100 foot long rope bridge out of duct tape and attempt to cross it.
Balon walks out on to the rope bridge in the rain and dark only to meet his brother and a show down. Without a spoiler let’s just say the rightful heir Theon (‘Reek’) Greyjoy now has some room to move and a kingdom to inherit and sort out (now there is some vengeance that could sort the psycho Ramsay!) Who else? That showdown is VERY personal. This may help kinda (flowcharts are necessary when watching GoT)…
Review: GoT 6:2 (The Dwarf gets his dragon-on) | coNZervative
Tyrion and Varys are still setting about re-establishing order in ‘Dragon town’ since Daenrys flew away. Tyrion does something incredibly brave but foresightful: he goes in to the dark dungeon where the dragons are chained and tells them a wee story and unchains them (how come my trailer chain and ‘D’ ring is never that easy to unshackle? Even with Dragon drool all over it?).
Tyrion sets them free so they can fly out and ‘forage’ (ie burn up insignificant rural hamlets like Bulls and eat their BBq-ed people and -well- bulls). In doing so Tyrion is now ‘Friend of the dragons’ and maybe setting himself up as a consort to Daenrys? OR are we seeing a transfer of power from Daenrys to Tyrion and Daenrys will end up Dothraki horse-shag? Interesting. You read it here first! You can never underestimate the Dwarf! The Wildings take the Wall back. (“The Wildings” as flogged from Tolkien’s Dunlendings or Wildmen of Dunland also wrapped in fur skins as the Dothraki are pinched as the Roharrim but with a cross-breeding of Southron Haradrim). It’s not epic-fantasy without generous helpings of Prof Tolk.) There’s a great scene where a BlackWatchman shoots one of the Frost Giants in the neck with a crossbow bolt and gets “splatched” against a concrete bulwark and tossed across the snow leaving a crimson ribbon like the line of a red marker.
There’s another similar scene where Cersei’s Giant Knight bashes the head of a disrespectful village man against a brick wall while he’s relieving himself: quick efficient and bloody and a taste of the efficient desptaching of all Cersei’s enemies by this hulking Hulk Hogan in armour known as “The Mountain.”
I’ve always found the men of the Black Watch a bunch of wimps so an all round massacre by the bearded WWF Norseman in pelts would not be remiss. But effectively they are now a combined fighting host of the North and can meet the hordes of Dothraki migrating West; under Jon Snow if he ever resurrects perhaps joinde by House Stark and Theon Greyjoy etc.
Arya Stark is accepted as Girl with No Name among the Faceless Gods Helter Skelter cult but I’m sure is still Arya Stark inside (maybe she’ll even find Needle again and do some more family dynasty utu-ing). Speaking of which two Kiwis star in this series: Keisha Castle-Hughes in Dorne and Joe Naufaahu (runs an Auckland gym) amongst the Dothraki. Once Were Warriors!
Some backstory to Hodor arrives via a vision of the past while Bran Stark and Co (kind of Hobbits on a walk about) are wrapped in to that weird memory tree. Tree huggers with the Three-eyed Raven played by the famous Max von Sydow (who usually plays a WWII German General). This is cool; a kind of future and past wandering Internet service where they can see the past and future and make decisions for the present. Bran played by Issac H-Wright has had an adolescent growth spurt and is now a young man; he was a small child in Season 5. Bran is still crippled but how will Hodor carry him about on his back now? Might look a bit gay (the actor who plays Hodor actually announced he was gay; who cares?). When Bran is eventually united with Sansa and Arya Stark (a holy Trinity?) as the House Stark they’ll be like super-powered X-Men or Mighty Morphing Power Rangers.
Cersei Lannister is recovering from her Walk of Shame and Inquisition but faces down the Red Keep guard with her Giant house gimp with the bruised face (who is this person? Is it the Hound returned?). Cersei is reconciled to her soft insignificant ‘king’ son the ring-in Joffrey Baratheon/Lannister II (I can’t even remember his name. He’s like some guy from Spot On). But the script appears to set him and Cersei Lannister up as a despicable Mum + Son vengeance troupe ala Alexander the Great and Olympias or Nero and Agrippina-the-Younger.
Episode 6:2 pretty much a forward development of all the story strands: but the end of two lines: 1) House Bolton (Father and second heir first-born after dastardly deeds done dirt cheap by the bastard Ramsay) and 2) the brother-cide of Balon Greyjoy setting up a murderous uncle for ‘Reek’ to go and sort out (to Sansa Stark – “Can I borrow one of the horses?“).
So House Bolton destroys Stennis Baratheon’s pretensions (and his army) only to disintegrate internally via Court regicide? Awesome! Go the Bastards!
Prediction: Theon will obviously return to the Iron Islands; unite that empire with Winterfell and the other people of the North around Jon Snow and House Stark for the epic showdown with Daenerys and Tyrion et al that – like Winter – you can tell is coming! With bells on – or maybe fox pelts.
6:1. Well we did find out that Jon Snow IS REALLY DEAD so that is the demise of a major core character although I still predict he will be “resurrected” as an ice hoard zombie.
Review: Season 6:1 Game of Thrones | coNZervative
(Update 26/4: Gee I might be right helped by this season 6 promo meme of Jonny Snow as – wait for it – well a White Walker! Told ya!)
The big surprise in 6:1 [SPOILER} is that the sexy red witch is REALLY a wizened ancient old crone witch (icky she’s been having magic sex with all and sundry but is obviously under a doppelgänger spell “Look I’m young and perky-breasted!“). That was very cool. Loved her lumpy back bone spine pushing through pasty white skin: this is a great plot-line twist to the story so far. She backed the wrong royal horse in Stannis Baratheon who is now meat on the snows of the North!
I like that His Annoying Arrogant Wannabee Regicide Stannis Baratheon is dead and his army massacred in the snow by the Boltons of the North (House Bolton of the Dreadfort the ruling house of the North whose banner is a flayed man crucified upside down on a cross after Roose Bolton’s quip “In my family we say: A naked man has few secrets; a flayed man, none.” Charming. (K GoT not for the faint-hearted).
There are so many characters in this epic that it is good to excise a few and with Stannis gone well that really cuts out the Baratheon pretenders to the throne as a family line (the Stag’s Head sigil?) And who better than to end his sorry ‘royal’ days rather royally than [SPOILER} Brienne of Tarth! Excellent. Her knightly execution of Stannis Baratheon was appropriate (but note: we did not ACTUALLY see her blade sever his nasty Pretenders head – so like so many – is he REALLY despatched?)
Meanwhile in ‘Persian Ottoman’ Dorne: “weak men will no longer rule Dawn!” meaning not “weak” but “men” and this is set to become a realm of treacherous plotting Amazonians (cue GoT skimpy attire and more lesbian love scenes – which we could all do without thanks) resplendent with Keisha Castle-Hugh’s sisters and their phallic warrior weapons (with lots of B&D leather to keep that community transfixed).
The gut-wrenching pathos and full frontal male and female nudity of Queen Cirsei Lanister’s “Walk of Shame” (S5) with that tolling nun bell was great if a not too gratuitous for TV. But now with the murder of her ‘nice’ daughter by the harpies of Dorne (fathered by incest with her twin brother) and the introduction of her 8-foot high Gimp with the swollen bruised face (like something out of Mordor) is Circe set to become an embittered betrayed raging Fury? I think thee so! A great counterpart to Daenrys Targarean. Girl Fight!
Arya Stark (‘Needle’ lost in a Stark stack) is very cool as one of the trainee Faceless Gods With No Name Helter Skelter groupees.
Daenrys meanwhile has wandered off like Little Red Riding Hood again and been kidnapped for raw horse sex with her ex-in-laws the plains Dothraki (yawn; that is an aside we could do without; they should have advanced her destiny plot directly towards the West with her dragons in tow breathing rage and fire. Daenrys is the rightful heir to the Iron Throne so get on with it! She has been denigrated mid-S 5 into 6:1 in to a little girl with her episodes becoming a season of Lost (with her literally lost).
But this may be a twist to unite the Dothraki again with her Eastern slave cities and the Dragons to take on everyone else for the Iron Throne. Fire v Ice.
It also creates space for Tyrion Lannister (“who always pays his debts”) and one of my favourite Machiavellian characters the bad and ball-less Varys to take over and govern Daenery’s abandoned latest city on her behalf. At last a ‘crown’ for Tyrion.
The Men of the Nights Watch? Meh. Bunch of manly wimps dressed in furs who are much better in the books and a bit undercooked in the TV series. But hopefully they will unite with The Wildings (now on their side of the wall thanks to the ‘traitor’ Jon Snow) with their cool Snow Giants and fight the White Walkers as the latter give them the “Winter Is Coming” cold shoulder.
Prediction: Jon Snow will unite the Walkers’ Ice Zombie army of Undead with The Wildings and the Nights Watch and House Bolton against Targarean.
The revival of House Stark from near oblivion is a great story arch and a central vein in GoT. Nice to see ‘Reek’ (Theon Greyjoy) redeemed and paired with cuzzy Sansa Stark and Brienne of Tarth. The convergence of the three Stark children together (and is Tyrion really a Lannister or a Stark? What was Sean Bean really up to all those cold nights at Kings Landing as the Kings Hand?) is an inevitable and obvious plot path – but is anything ‘envitable’ in GoT?
Oh and we’re all awaiting the terrible and gruesome death of that really really nasty psycho Ramsay. He’s even worse than Joffrey Lannister so Ramsay’s demise is an anticipation probably coming sometime season 6 we would all hope. he has to kill dad first though. Like Tyrion did. If there is incest we need some paricide too!
Prediction: Watch for the three Stark children to be re-united with Jon Snow (now dead) and Tyrion; to revive House Stark perhaps with The Wildings and the Men of the Night Watch and the White Walkers in an epic confrontation between Deanerys Taragraen’s dragons and fire empires plus the Dothraki in an almighty Tolkien-esque Battle of the Pelennor Fields.
Prediction2: Will the love sicj knight errant XYZ gradually turning in to a Stone Man touch daenerys and turn her to stone like those extinct Dragon fossils beneath the crypts of King’s Landing? I think so
It’s great: I can’t get enough
Below right: Cousins Sansa Stark and Theon Greyjoy (‘Reek’) of Winterfell and the Iron Halls- two branches of the family House Stark re-united (the execution of Sean Bean as Lord Stark season 1 has still not been avenged; or the massacre of his entire family at the treacherous Red Wedding). I’m rather glad to see ‘Reek’ redeemed; that story arch was pretty ugly and dark (the torture scenes and the psycho mind games reducing a human being to a humiliated shell of humanity – ick: GoT really pushes the envelope). Almost too much.
Probably got lots wrong (it’s so complex and myriad-epic) so jump in with corrections and your own predictions.
Former Mediaworks journalist David Farrier should be tickled pink by the response to his debut documentary at the Sundance Film Festival.
Farrier, who recently left the broadcaster and his role on late night show Newsworthy, premiered Tickled at the prestigious Utah-based annual festival on Monday evening NZ Time.
A documentary that explores the world of “competitive endurance tickling” and boasts British comedian Stephen Fry as an associate producer, it has already received some impressive notices from renowned film industry magazines and websites.
Writing for Variety magazine, Dennis Harvey says that “what sounds like a fun look at a particularly outre subculture turns out to be no laughing matter”.
“David Farrier and Dylan Reeve’s documentary traces the New Zealand duo’s investigation of an online tickling-video empire, behind which there lurks a monster of cyberbullying and litigiousness. An alarming cautionary tale about how easy it is in the Internet age to ruin people’s lives while hiding behind a cloak of anonymity, the pic boasts a humorously titillating entry hook that soon gives way to engrossing conspiracy-thriller-like content.”
Predicting that the movie will sell well internationally, Harvey says “the well-shot and tightly edited pic manages to maintain a sense of humour without belittling its subjects, and glimpses a somewhat gamey underworld without descending into a tabloid-style shocking expose”. …
“At times his [Farrier’s] perky narration, half indignant, half tongue-in-cheek, and the confrontational, hidden-camera style of some of the film’s investigative sequences, remind us of one of those exposes British comedian/journalist John Oliver used to do on The Daily Show before he became too well-known.
“But there’s something else going on in Tickled too, something a little more cinematic. Part of this is a portrait of a lost blue-collar America, a post-Springsteen world where young men from no-hope towns try to scrape some money together by letting themselves be pummelled in Mixed Martial Arts bouts – or being tied down and tickled, on camera. If that sounds a little reminiscent of Foxcatcher, at least in mood, it is.”
Marshall predicts the film will find a cinematic release and revealed that Vendetta Films had already signed up to distribute the film in Australasia. No release date has so far been announced.
I have an interest in this film as I helped crowd fund it. The guy being exposed started threatening all sorts of legal action, so lots of people online contributed to help out.
The car barrelling down a Japanese freeway with New Zealand’s transport minister on board lacked a driver. Instead of drifting into a side barrier, the state-of-the-art Nissan seamlessly changed lanes to overtake other cars.
Simon Bridges was joined by long-serving Ministry of Transport chief executive Martin Matthews for the ride in one of Nissan’s autonomous vehicle prototypes, during a visit to Japan last July.
“There was a person in the driver’s seat but not doing anything, and we were on a motorway and this vehicle was changing lanes and passing other vehicles,” Matthews recalled.
“The manufacturer said that vehicle will be on showroom floors in five years.”
The hype around driverless vehicles and the revolutionary effect they could have has produced sceptics, and much remains unknown, including how the vehicles might operate in normal traffic.
But the Nissan ride impressed our top transport official, and his ministry is working out how radically the country’s transport system could change as technologies arrive. In the US this week, the Obama administration proposed spending nearly $4 billion on driverless car development over the next decade.
Car-makers and safety regulators hope self-driving cars could eventually eliminate the 94 per cent of fatal crashes that involve human error. They also believe the technology could reduce greenhouse gas emissions and loosen gridlock.
Just as most planes operate on auto-pilot, one day are cars will also.
If one could order a driverless car to pick you up from where you want, and deliver you to your destination, I’d not need to have a vehicle for myself.
An OECD think-tank has modelled what a large move to ride-sharing would mean for a mid-sized European city, Matthews told the select committee. It found Lisbon would need only about 30 per cent of today’s vehicle fleet.
“At the moment we tend to think of a binary choice between private vehicles and public transport,” he said. “Mobility as a service may well lead to a third choice.”
Public transport is great for some stuff but it is on fixed routes. A transport provider that can pick you up from anywhere and deliver you anywhere, at a much cheaper rate than taxis, will fill a niche.
Have just finished reading How Star Wars conquered the Universeby Chris Taylor. A very well researched book on not just the films, but the cultural phenomenon. He has interviewed scores of peole involved and got holds of all the various drafts and amended scripts.
Picked up a lot of facts and trivia I didn’t know, so figured the day before Episode VII is a good time to share some of them. 20 facts you may now know:
Lucas saw Star Wars as how a small bunch of primitive rebels defeated a huge empire. It was loosely based on the Vietnam War with the US Government being the Empire, the Emperor being Richard Nixon and the Ewoks representing the Viet Cong!
The original title for the first movie was “The Adventures of Luke Starkiller”
Lucas was over budget for the movie so destroyed Alderaan to save the expense of filming what was to be several scenes on it
Engineers once calculated that it would take 833,315 years for Earth to construct the Death Star and cost $852 quadrillion or $852,000 trillions.
When Mad Magazine did a parody called The Empire Strikes Out, Lucasfilm wrote to then threatening a lawsuit. Mad Magazine responded by sending them a copy of the personal letter they’d received from George Lucas telling them how great the parody was.
In original scripts C3PO was meant to die in Episode IV and Lando in Episode VI. They were changed to Obi-Wan and Yoda.
Harrison Ford and Carrie Fisher had an affair during the filming of Episode IV. It started when he surprised her by hiding naked in his closet with just a bow tie on.
Economists have calculated that if you paid people minimum wage to mop the floors of the Death Star, it would cost $732 billion
Fox Studios thought Star Wars would tank as it had only $1.5 million of advance bookings and it opened in just 43 theatres
So many people just stayed in theatres to watch Star Wars multiple times (without paying), that this led to theatres now checking and clearing the audience between screenings of films today
Fox stock went from $13 to $23 a share within one month of Star Wars opening
The reasons Luke Skywalker looked so stunned to learn Darth Vader was his father was he got told just two minutes before the scene was shot. And the actor who played Darth Vader (not James Earl Jones who was the voice) only found out when he watched the film!
The reason Had Sole got frozen in carbonite at the end of Episode V is because he had not signed up for Episode VI. If they couldn’t get an agreement he would have stayed frozen!
The entirety of Boba Fett”s dialogue in Episode V and VI can fit into a single tweet
After Mark Hamill learnt Leia was his sister (and before that Darth Vader his father) he joked that they should have Boba Fett remove Fett’s helmet and Luke discovers Boba Fett is his mother 🙂
Lucas named the Trade Federation leaders Nute Gunray and Lott Dod after Republican House Speaker Newt Gingrich and Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott.
The original script for the prequels sounded much better than the final scripts – Qui Gon is a minor figure so the focus is on Obi-Wan for Episode I. Jar Jar speaks normally and is very wise, and the plot is about how Amidala’s race is prejudiced against his but she overcomes this prejudice. Also originally in Episode III Amidala was meant to found the Rebel Alliance, instead of dying.
One fan queued up for six weeks for the first screening of Episode I. His reaction upon seeing it was “Shit. Fucking. Sandwich”
In the original script for Episode III Palpatine tells Anakin that he created him through the force, and that makes him effectively his father. That would have meant the Emperor was Luke’s grandfather!
To switch obsessive Craig theme for a moment, from Colin to Daniel, I went and saw the 2015 instalment of James Bond 007 this week “Spectre” in a packed cinema. (With the Colin version, I feel I’m also watching a movie perhaps even in it: a black tragi-comedy).
The opening Spectre sequence is a bit creepy; naked dancing women caressed by embracing erotic inky black octopus tentacles in the style of Hans Ruedi Giger. It suits more Octopussy and Goldfinger than Spectre. Perhaps it’s a hat tip to those two past Bond films. But haven’t we moved past that 70s misogyny of women as dehumanized sex objects? No faces on these babes, just thighs and curves.
The modern Craig Bond movies (this is Daniel’s fourth) all begin with a hallmark opening chase scene (remember the chase up the construction crane?). This is no exception but has creative twists. There is a chase by… walking, and through a crowd of close-packed people.
After an opening hint of the Bond music, the movie starts typewriter font on black screen “The Dead…[pause]…are living.” Then BOOM we’re plunged in to the midst of the Mexico City Day of the Dead festival amidst floats and crowds wearing skeleton masks (Mardi Gras meets the grave). Bond is about to bed his seductive Mexican beauty but slips instead out the balcony window, as ya do, walks casually across the rooftops bringing his cool laser assassin gun in to kill mode as the dead pass below; kills two guys in a building opposite before a bomb unexpectedly goes off; building collapses almost on top of Bond and the chase is on. And then, oh boy, it cranks up with a helicopter fight above a stadium filled with skeleton people worshipping gigantic skull floats. Dramatic EXCELLENT opening in the Craig genre. 10/10.
Spectre has the usual international conspiracy; a secret Illuminati organisation (“SPECTRE”) taking over the world (see your Bond history). It’s CEO is revealed in dramatic back-lit fashion after a prospect has his eyes squashed out by a heavy (Mr Hinx) with metal finger nails (like Jaws with his metal teeth in The Spy who Loved Me;orOddjob with his steel-rimmed death hat in Goldfinger). Hinx pursues Bond throughout the movie (oh and the girl of course). He’s as broad as an oak tree but has those metrosexual fingernails. Every self-respecting SNAG should.
We traverse Mexico City, the Tunisian desert, the Austrian Alps, London and the Thames as well as Rome. Nice Bond city cinematography tick box. I like the London scenes (James’ eternally unpacked flat; Thames-side modern architecture) and we get a lot more British M15, M16 and the ’00’ programme, ‘M’ (who as Judy Dench posthumously commissions Bond’s current mission, “If I’m dead, Bond, don’t miss the funeral in Mexico City”). There’s ‘Q’ and ‘C’ and all that.
Ralph Fiennes plays Bond’s very British boss ‘M’ (Dench’s’ successor) defending democracy and on-the-ground Intelligence against a rising technologically distracted surveillance mega-Geek ‘C.’ He’s an amalgamation upstart establishing a Joint Intelligence Service consisting of the recently merged MI5 and MI6. ‘C’ campaigns for Britain to join “Nine Eyes,” a global surveillance and intelligence co-operation initiative between nine member states, and uses his influence to close down the ’00’ programme.
[SPOILER] he’s actually in league with Big Baddy (combining the intelligence of nine nations which will be hacked and controlled by SPECTRE, a veiled ref. to the real “Five Eyes” agreement? ‘M’ and Bond covertly fight a geo-political all-seeing”Big Brother” and defend British sovereignty. “Ru-uuule Britannia…” I’m air punching in the dark. I always want accountability and the human factor. If you’re gonna play dirty spies, it has to be done with manners.
Bond has traceable blood fused in to him by ‘Q’ so he can be tracked by Her Majesty’s Secret Service after several roque operations which created political problems for the Home Secretary.
There are some great extended punch-up scenes (in a train; in a helicopter; in an exploding building, on boats; and one of those nasty protracted medical psychopath torture sessions in an impeccably clean white room with eyeball drills, similar to Dragon Tattoo).
There is a great scene in the rigged for demolition old HQ of M15/6 (ruined in the bomb blast in Skyfall) when target practice posters flip round with James’ face on them and he passes illuminated ante-rooms show-casing recent dead Bond characters put there by Big Baddy. I would have liked these to have been past 007s i.e. Connery, Brosnan etc. Nevertheless, Spectre has some great retro nostalgia. For example, SPECTRE first appeared in Diamonds Are Forever (1971) and the Octopus ring central in this movie, inOctopussy (1983). So this latest outing ties several old Bond movie themes together as well as story-cycles. Tick.
The Bond back story is finally completed (hooray I hate it when things are left unresolved, like the entire LOST series). James’ dark past is revealed; Why ‘M’ (Judy Dench) was killed and by whom and for what purpose. Turns out [SPOILER] that James was adopted as an orphan but German step dad preferred James’ blue eyes to his real German son who has nursed a psychopathic grudge ever since and killed off all James’ Bond girls, including ‘M,’ to ruin his life. “It was me all along James, to give you a life of pain.” Boys need their Daddies attention.
There’s a nice play on the classic James Bond original Austin Martin (Goldfinger andThunderball; which recently sold for $4.4 million) and perhaps a hint at the end that this is the last of Bond and the departure of Daniel Craig.
Big Baddy is revealed as ‘Ernst Stavro Blofeld‘ aka Franz Oberhauser and is here presented as the ULTIMATE Bond villain. I’m not clear after a first watch if Franz has taken on the persona of this well-known previous Bond villain (the inspiration for Dr Evil in SpyWhoShaggedMe) or whether he was him all along. Franz receives the same eye scar as the classic Blofeld/Dr Evil fiend. He is rather ordinary till James’ up-scars his face and eye with a clever ‘C’ device while Bond is being tortured. He then becomes a much more suitable Big Baddy with a poppy dead eye and facial scar to Bond’s square jaw good looks. Bond: “Ouch, that must hurt!”
A nice script quirk in that at the end James’ chooses justice over guns after his woman has worked on him psychologically. This is a visual romp but it’s well-worn James Bond franchise.
I enjoyed Spectre but this line from the film perhaps sums it all up, “James what would you do if you stopped?” “Stopped? I don’t know.”
And that’s the thing. Bond has no life. It’s just all – to requote the film- “liars and killers…liars and killers” and at some point we need something more. Not sure how long James can keep on running, jumping, shooting, ‘C’ inventing, and fighting global conspiracies. It gets a bit “m-eh.”
Great “Shaken not stirred” dialogue at a bar at an Austrian alpine celebrity clinic. “I’m sorry sir, we don’t serve alcohol here.” Later “Do me a favor. Tip this organic fruit shaky thing down the toilet and bypass the middle man.”
There’s a few red herrings [SPOILER] : “the Pale King” is “Mr White” who introduces us to the ‘Bond Girl,’ the daughter of one of Bond’s nemesis’ who has to now protect her “because he gave his word” and sealed it by passing over his loaded Bond pistol to the bad guy who could shoot him or trust him.
I’d like to see James in the future reworked back in to the conventional Her Majesty’s Secret Service 007 assassin; maybe do a retro 1950s -look movie. The new stuff is fun but it’s starting to lack soul and purpose. We can only take so many cars crashing in to canals, zooming down luscious old Roman street steps (ala BourneIdentity etc) it’s all been done before so many times.
This is the cast with Moneypenny on the left and the Big Bad Guy (Franz Oberhauser) on the right.
YUP and NUP
‘Q’ (Quartermaster) has not really worked well recently: John Cleese and this guy (above right Ben Wishaw) a younger cardie wearing be-spectacled British computer geek). Inventors are really old guys and I’d like to return to an older, perhaps retired 007, who is a whizz at making ever so British things like Dam Busting Bouncing Bombs and RADAR and magnetic mines and stuff. Desmond Llewelyn was a great ‘Q’ seen here in Octopussy in 1983 (above left).
Spectre has implausible falls and leaps and crashes without wrinkling fabulous suits (as we love with James Bond) but it’s plausible enough not to laugh out loud which I did once or twice, like when he fell several stories in a collapsing building only to land on a well-placed sofa. The British have all the lucky escapes (Dunkirk, Gallipoli).
But what I do like is the British counter to Americana BIG GUN IS BEST with James in his impeccable suit and wee suit pocket aesthetic Walther PPK pistol. A deadly cigarette case.
Spectre is classic Bond and a visual fast-paced feast. So go see it but the next James Bond has to turn over some new leaves or corners if we aren’t to get bored with the modern James Bond franchise.
I liked this but not as much as Craig’s first and second outings CasinoRoyale (2006) and Quantum of Solace (2008) but more than number three Skyfall(2012). This is Craig’s fourth Bonding. Actually we’d have to throw one of my favourite ‘Bond’ movies in here, the in-between 2011 The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo also starring Craig. He may as well have been Bond. It’s brilliant.
I give this a 6.5 + 0.5 for the opening Death Festival sequence and the opening chase, so maybe up to a 7/10.
We were shaken, but not stirred. ~ John Stringer (Christchurch)
FANS of Quentin Tarantino’s Kill Bill series can rejoice with news the much-loved director has not ruled out a third entry into the franchise.
A third Kill Bill volume has been talked about since the original two films were released in 2003 and 2004.
Tarantino even revealed his plan to set the third film ten years later, based around the child of Vernita Green, one of the assassins killed in the original films.
“I was going to do a new one every ten years. But I need at least fifteen years before I do this again. I’ve already got the whole mythology: Sofie Fatale will get all of Bill’s money. She’ll raise Nikki, who’ll take on The Bride. Nikki deserves her revenge every bit as much as The Bride deserved hers.”
Can’t wait. I loved Part I – one of my all time favourite movies.
I heard about these listening to the Slate Political Gabfest. This is from the 1944 CIA Manual on how to sabotage organisations.
What I loved about this is we all know people like this in organisations we belong to. They may not realise that they are saboteurs, but they are.
The gabfest participants added on a 9th one for the modern age. Schedule lots of meetings with video-conferencing in areas with poor wireless as you’ll spend half your time dealing with people dropping in and out!
CBS Television Studios announced today it will launch a totally new Star Trek television series in January 2017. The new series will blast off with a special preview broadcast on the CBS Television Network. The premiere episode and all subsequent first-run episodes will then be available exclusively in the United States on CBS All Access, the Network’s digital subscription video on demand and live streaming service.
The next chapter of the Star Trek franchise will also be distributed concurrently for television and multiple platforms around the world by CBS Studios International.
The new program will be the first original series developed specifically for U.S. audiences for CBS All Access, a cross-platform streaming service that brings viewers thousands of episodes from CBS’s current and past seasons on demand, plus the ability to stream their local CBS Television station live for $5.99 per month. CBS All Access already offers every episode of all previous Star Trek television series.
The brand-new Star Trek will introduce new characters seeking imaginative new worlds and new civilizations, while exploring the dramatic contemporary themes that have been a signature of the franchise since its inception in 1966.
Alex Kurtzman will serve as executive producer for the new Star Trek TV series. Kurtzman co-wrote and produced the blockbuster films Star Trek (2009) with Roberto Orci, and Star Trek Into Darkness (2013) with Orci and Damon Lindelof. Both films were produced and directed by J.J. Abrams.
Very excited by this.
There have been five main Star Trek series:
Original 1966 – 69
Next Generation 1987 – 94
DS9 1993 – 99
Voyager 1995 – 2001
Enterprise 2001 – 2005
I never got into Deep Space 9 much. I rate Next Generation as may favourite series, followed by the original and then Enterprise.
Oxford University scientists have created a series of body maps that show just where we are comfortable to be touched. …
It also showed – again, unsurprisingly – that the less we know someone, the less comfortable we are to be touched by them. However, there was one noticeable exception.
Men, it seems, have no areas which would be completely off limits to a touch from a total stranger – as long as the stranger is a woman.
This is amusing, but also no surprise.
How often do you see men hugging each other?
I am an occasional man hugger – like when we have just got to the summit of Mt Kilimanjaro, or when NZ wins the rugby world cup. Or maybe if someone has died!
In general the closer the relationship, the fewer areas of the body that were taboo, although people tended to be uncomfortable about letting anyone except their nearest and dearest touch their erogenous zones.
This meant that while a woman might be happy for her uncle to stroke her back, her front would be off limits. And male strangers should note that almost all parts of the female body are to be avoided, other than the hands.
Interestingly, the men studied had a different viewpoint.
They didn’t want another man touching them, with even the head and the feet no-go zones.
However, almost the entire male body was up for grabs to a female stranger or acquaintance, with no part considered taboo.
In fact, for men, a woman they barely know has similar “touching rights” to a parent and more than a brother or sister, the journal Proceedings of the Royal Academy of Sciences reports. Although the reason for this is not clear, the study did find that the more pleasurable a touch was believed to be, the larger the body area that person was allowed access to.
In-flight television screens are to be axed from long-haul flights in and out of the UK with carriers streaming content to passengers’ mobile phones and tablets instead, it has emerged.
WestJet, a low-cost airline which will launch transatlantic flights out of London’s Gatwick Airport next year, will be among the first to remove entertainment systems from the back of airline seats for long-haul flights.
The move comes in favour of allowing passengers to stream content directly to their own devices, with a superfast wireless internet connection set to be provided to each plane by satellites.
The scrapping of in-flight entertainment systems by WestJet, which will fly from London to six Canadian cities from May 2016, will reportedly remove more than 1,500lbs of weight from each plane.
This will allow hefty fuel savings to be made, meaning other airlines could be set to follow suit.
Richard Bartrem, the vice-president of WestJet, told The Times: ‘Today, more than 80 per cent of our guests are boarding with a device. The new system will allow us to provide a better, more relevant service to our guests while continuing to offer low fares.’
I think this is a great idea. I’d much rather have Internet on board allowing me to view my own choice of movies or TV, than the limited supply on board.
In Back to the Future II there’s a scene where the character of Marty McFly, transported thirty years into the future world of 2015, sees a piece of sports news and exclaims:
“Wait a minute, Cubs win World Series? Against Miami?”
It’s somewhat of an inside-joke. When the movie was released in 1989 there was no baseball team in Miami and the Chicago Cubs had not won the World Series (WS) in 81 years. But the Boston Red Sox drought had then lasted for 71 years. The Cubs cross-town rivals, the White Sox, stood at 72 years. Moreover, the team was in the playoffs that year and it must have seemed reasonable odds to the scriptwriters to think that by 2015 they’d win it all. Surely no club could be such losers for that long?
It’s now 106 years.
No other major team in any sport has experienced such a drought. For 69 years they’ve not even won the National League (NL) pennant, which merely gets you into the WS. The next worst baseball team are the Cleveland Indians on 67 years.
A writer once said that there were two types of baseball losers. The first type were the Red Sox, who specialised in regularly taking their fans to the brink of winning it all – before stabbing them right through the heart. The second type were the Cubs – who never win anything. But as if to show the way, the Red Sox in 2004, and the White Sox in 2005, would prove it was possible, leaving the Cubs stranded almost alone on a desert island of dull mediocrity.
It’s a cruel reflection on their players and fans that many would take the fate of the pre-2004 Red Sox at least once in a lifetime. The famous Chicago journalist (and Cub fan), Mike Royko, would exhibit this feeling by inventing what he called “The Cubs Factor”: in any World Series one could predict the winner by counting up the number of ex-Cubs players on each team; the winner was whoever had the fewest. Fans created the Emil Verban society, celebrating a perfectly ordinary Cubs player – no Hall of Famer he – as the perfect example of the team. Verban was still alive when the club started in the 1970’s and felt it to be an insult, until he met President Reagan and discovered that he too, was a member of the society and a fan.
It did not have to be this way. Chicago always had the population and wealth to supply a team with all the cash it needed to buy good players or produce them through the so-called “farm” system, the layers of minor league teams through which young stars can rise. The Cubs were one of the founding teams in the 19th century, helping create the National League. They dominated the 1900’s, winning two World Series against the new American League, losing a couple of others, but always threatening. Fans of other teams lamented the Cubs powerful infield defence, even writing a poem about them – “Baseball’s Sad Lexicon” – Tinker-to-Evers-to-Chance, who regularly destroyed opponents with their fielding. This strength continued well into the 1930’s, where they appeared in several post-season series, and lost, but no differently than did other storied clubs such as the New York Giants and the Brooklyn Dodgers.
It was not until after the last World Series for the Cubs in 1945 that the decline truly began. For almost four decades the team would linger at or near the bottom of the tables. This was not losing, it was futility. There was a brief burst of sunshine in 1969 when they dominated the NL teams – right up until the last month of the season, when they collapsed, the NY Mets sweeping past them to top the NL and enter the World Series, which they then won. Adding heat to the ashes in the mouths of Cubs fans was the fact that the Mets had only existed since 1962. It was in this period that the story of The Curse began to spread.
The Red Sox had the Curse of the Bambino of course. The ghost of Babe Ruth, sold in 1918 after he’d pitched the Red Sox to yet another championship, because the owners thought his pitching days were done and that his batting did not fit the world of “small ball”, steadily moving runners around the bases. They were right on both counts but Ruth simply changed the game itself by hitting endless home runs, coming to dominate it as no other player had – and he would do it for their bitterest enemies, the New York Yankees, winning championship after championship. This was a curse of great power and evil, cast by the Dark Lord himself, a lightning scar stamped onto the foreheads of Red Sox players and fans for all to see and whisper about. The team that lived – while its fans suffered and died.
The Curse of the Goat does not rise to that level, yet another example of the pallid nature of Cub-world. The story goes that in 1945 the owner of the famous Billygoat Tavern strolled uptown to Wrigley Field to watch a WS game, with his pet billygoat in tow. Refused entry to the stadium on account of the animal, he laid a curse upon the Cubs, declaring that they would never again win a championship. Nobody took any notice and the spread of the apocryphal story was likely due to the fact that the tavern was the watering hole of Royko, Studs Terkel and other Chicago scribes. But it stuck. So much so that at one point when the team had lost the first sixteen games of a season – leading a radio DJ to exclaim, “Come on guys! Let’s win ………. one” – the son of the owner was tracked down by fans, who persuaded him to walk a billygoat around the field before the start of a game. The Cubs lost anyway.
Could fate be any more cruel.
It turns out that it could. If anything the 1970’s were the bottom of the barrel. The real problem was not the magical powers of farm animals but ownership and management. The team had been owned for decades by the Wrigley Family (of Wrigley chewing gum fame) and they treated the team the way an ageing English Lord might treat some shabby castle he’s inherited. There was no focus, no fight, and perhaps not even much desire to make the team winners.
Their fortunes only began to improve when the Wrigley family finally tired of their chew toy and sold out in 1981. Just three years later the Cubs made it to the playoffs. Perhaps not knowing how to cope with this, they lost against a team that seemed no better than they. The new owners were the Tribune Company. They made the team the centrepiece of their local TV station, WGN, and then linked it to other TV stations across the country to form a so-called “Super-Station”. With cable and satellite TV in their infancy the Tribune created hundreds of thousands of new fans and re-captured old ones in areas that had no major league team, or which contained pockets of Chicago and Mid-West retirees, where the big networks would often only show games from big name clubs. The team developed a substantial and unique nationwide following. But they were also pushed to win.
They would hit the playoffs again in 1989, ’98, 2003, ’07, and ’08. Each time they fell short, but this was still manna from heaven for survivors of the Wrigley famine. Fans began to calculate that at a minimum the law of averages would begin to tell in their favour; make the playoffs often enough and sooner or later lightning must strike.
The 2003 series showed that the game is something more than averages. Playing for the NL Championship against the Florida Marlins in a best-of-seven series, the Cubs were leading in games by 3-2 and, in the eighth inning of the decisive sixth game, by 3 runs to 0. With one out, a Marlin batter popped up a foul ball down the left-field fence, the ball falling just one row into the crowd. Moises Alou, a skilled and experienced fielder reached into the crowd to grab the ball with his mitt, his eyes following it all the way. But Alou suddenly found the hands of a fan – Steve Bartman – also reaching for the ball, which hit them and bounced further into the crowd.
Despite his years of professional play Alou lost the plot, yelling at the fan and arguing for long minutes with the umpires. The ugly mood spread fast. It was as if a switch were thrown and the power drained from the fans and the players, although it would be in keeping with the Curse to imagine the feeling as one in which a magical, happy spell has suddenly been broken. In an instant stomachs fell, mouths went dry and throats closed as all the old fears rose up: the black bile that accompanies being the “Loveable Losers” of baseball, and cursed.
The team went from being on cruise control to simply falling apart, the Marlins feasting on them for eight runs in that inning to win. A listless, demoralised Cubs team lost the next game and the series. They had been just five outs away from entering the World Series to play against a shaky Yankee team, whom the Marlins would beat up to gain their second WS win in just over a decade of existence. Steve Bartman needed four beefy cops around him to leave the stadium and found himself subject to almost intolerable abuse afterward just for being at the centre of sporting history and doing what any fan would – but the truth was that Alou, and then his team, had simply not coped with the ordinary adversity of a single mistake.
Fans were annoyed rather than distressed at later losses in 2007 and 2008, when the Cubs were simply beaten by better teams. But 2003 was an introduction to Red Sox world. It was little consolation to know that the they had also fallen the same way that year – in seven games and getting to within five outs of winning the AL pennant. Naturally it was against the Yankees. Fans across America raised their eyebrows and marvelled at the power of the respective curses.
So here we are in 2015 and the Cubs are in the playoffs again. Hopes, always pegged low, have steadily risen. They entered as a Wild Card team, due to finishing third in the Central Division of the NL. But this time it’s only because the two best teams in baseball – in terms of season wins and losses – came 1st and 2nd in the same division. The Cubs finished the season of 162 games with a better win-loss ratio than any other team in either league except those two – the Pittsburgh Pirates and old foes from down the I-55, the St Louis Cardinals. The latter had won 100 games, always the mark of a great team.
Incredibly the Cubs have now beaten both, and beaten them well. They’re a young team and seem to be playing with joy and verve, uncaring of the weight of history. They will soon face the despised enemies of Cub fans everywhere, the New York Mets – a team whose evil I never fully understood until a TV break during a game when their “fans from Down Under” were introduced: Australian cricketers Greg and Ian Chapple. The series will decide the NL Pennant and see who goes to the show on October 27.
So is this it? Will the capricious gods of baseball be appeased? Will the curse of the damnable goat be lifted? Will the shameful stain of Loveable Losers be wiped away? You’ll have to forgive this New Zealand fan if I turn my lonely eyes away from the All Blacks in late October. They’re already winners many times over and I must support the underdog of all underdogs.
No Cub fan will ever get too confident, even if they’re leading three games to zero, holding a 10 run lead going into the 9th inning of the decider. But if a smoking DeLorean screams into existence at the entrance to Wrigley field on October 21st and Marty McFly steps from it to pronounce that the Cubs will win, the fans would not doubt their eyes and ears for a moment.
After 106 years of failure they’ll believe anything!