I formally present an arbitrary collection of things I have seen/read/played/heard in the last two weeks or so, for no other reason than I can.
28 Weeks Later
Viewing enabled by: DVD rented from Lovefilm.com (which is my new favourite thing, incidentally)
I really enjoyed 28 Days Later, and wanted to catch this in the cinema but it never quite happened. Still, I've seen it now. And, indeed, enjoyed it. It's not quite up to its prequel, mainly due to less focus on characterisation, but as a more straightforward hit of action it satisfied. Special mentions must go to the extended death scene in the laboratory (vagaries employed to prevent spoilerfication), which was memorable both for the viciousness of it and the tragic overtones (it brought Oedipus to my mind, whether deliberately or not); and also the bit where Harold "I Have Been In Every Third Film/TV Show You Have Seen" Perrineau turns his helicopter into an impromptu zombie death machine, purely for being ridiculous and cool. Also, maybe I'm odd but I find it satisfying to see British landmarks get all kinds of messed up every once in a while instead of American ones - there was something faintly cathartic about Regent's Park tube station going kaboom in spectacular manner. (I have a certain fondness for Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer purely for the bit where the Thames gets drained and the London Eye nearly falls over.) And just before we go, I'd like to nod my head towards its two young stars, the wonderfully named Imogen Poots and Mackintosh Muggleton. Carrying a film on young shoulders is risky. Carrying a film that's not aimed at family viewing on young shoulders is super-risky. Carrying an action film on young shoulders is super-duper-risky. Carrying an action-horror film on young shoulders is downright silly. But the pair pull it off, and do it well.
Ice-cream rating: better than Carte D'or Chocolate Inspiration, worse than Ben & Jerry's Chocolate Fudge Brownie
Tales from Earthsea
Viewing enabled by: Lovefilm rental again
I found it quite hard to watch this without being mindful of the brouhaha that accompanied its making. Especially since a lot of it centred around an argument between a father and a son (the latter of whom had never before directed a film but ended up in charge) and then the first five minutes of the film features a man fatally stabbing his father for no apparent reason. And to be honest, the backstage shenanigans are more interesting than large portions of the plot. I've never read any of the Earthsea books, but the acceptable-but-hopelessly-generic fantasy storytelling shown here doesn't encourage me to. It's not bad, but it's not very inventive. Luckily, this is a Studio Ghibli film, so you can sit back and bathe your eyes in the glorious beauty of the whole enterprise. This film has arguably the prettiest sunsets I've ever seen (and I'm including real life here) and I could basically just watch some sort of sunset-montage edited out of this for two hours and be happy.
Month rating: better than January, worse than April
The Spiderwick Chronicles
Viewing enabled by: my mum has it on DVD and I watched it
And hey, another film adaptation of a series of fantasy books. This one is also a real looker, although that's about as much as it has in common with Earthsea. It's fairly squarely aimed at the younger end of the market, although surprisingly it focuses much more on character than I was expecting, and indeed more than these sort of films do. It's all about a family coping with divorce, really. Well, okay, it's really about a scientist compiling a field guide to fairies and an ogre trying to get hold of it and people getting spat in the face by a computer-generated Seth Rogen, but it's still about a family coping with divorce as well. The whole cast is excellent, but top marks go to Freddie "Charlie out of the Chocolate Factory" Highmore, who is called upon to play a pair of identical twins that are complete opposites, be in nearly every scene either once or twice as a result, and still manage to make both characters fully-rounded and believable. And he does it really well, despite only being about six months old. There's an Oscar or two in that lad's future, you mark my words. And on a completely unrelated note, this appealed to my geeky world-myth-loving side by concentrating on the sort of creatures that don't often get a showing in films (hobgoblins, brownies, sylphs, red caps, griffins etc.). So that's cool.
Cereal rating: better than Weetabix, worse than Special K
Viewing enabled by: my brother's TV
This one only half-counts because I only saw the second half, and the sound was quite low and my niece and nephew were running round going "Aaaah", so I couldn't fully concentrate. But I followed about 70% of the dialogue, and I saw the first half a few months ago so I have technically seen the whole film. Anyway. Maybe it's that everyone knows Treasure Island upside-down and back-to-front, but the storytelling was a little ho-hum. A bit you know what sort of thing is going to happen even if you don't know the story. A bit whateverrrrrrrr. But! This deserves a slap on the back purely on a design front. It's so pretty and hugely inventive. Great character design (I loved the pirate that was a head on a pair of arm/legs), great world design, great design. The hand-drawn and CG mix well, and it's basically highly enjoyable even with the sound off. One bum note is the writing of Ben Gunn as B.E.N., malfunctioning robot. From a story perspective it worked quite well, but it was a real case of "Oh look! Here's the comedy sidekick! Everybody laugh at the comedy sidekick and his hilarious antics!" Tiresome on its own, but when you've already got David Hyde Pierce on board, you've got sublime comic relief sorted quite adequately. B.E.N. just smacked of "We need this film's Genie plzkthx".
X-Men rating: better than Forge, worse than Vivisector
Books (or just book)
The Night Watch by Sergei Lukyanenko
Reading enabled by: my mum bought it for me in order to take advantage of a 3 for 2 deal at Waterstone's
I'm only halfway through this, but it's ace. It's got vampires and witches who turn into tigers and satire on bureaucracy and sarkiness and references to Hexen. And it's only the first of a trilogy so there's that great feeling when you're reading a book you're really enjoying and are happy in the knowledge that it won't be over when you finish it, there's more to come.
Doctor Who rating: better than the Sontarans, worse than the Daleks
Fire Emblem: Shadow Dragon on DS
Playing enabled by: I bought it on Friday
I've only got a little way in, but I like this. It's Fire Emblem, so I was destined to like it, but it's good to know. Being able to change unit classes is pleasingly odd, stylus control is largely satisfying with a back-up of D-pad and buttons if I want 'em, and there are a wealth of little touches that improve the general play no end (an important point for a series that fundamentally doesn't change much).
Blur rating: better than "She's So High", worse than "Charmless Man"
LittleBigPlanet on PS3
Playing enabled by: my brother's PS3, and me I guess since I bought it for him for Christmas
Brilliant. Love it. Gorgeous to gaze upon, delightful to play, you can stick stickers of Henry VIII's head all over the place, and you get a jetpack right near the beginning. And you can dress up like a Shakespearean character. Or a lion. Or a Shakespearean lion. And this is just from playing the tutorial levels on my own...
Robot rating: better than Ultra Magnus, equal to K9
CDs (or just CD)
Heart by Stars
Listening enabled by: I bought it on Thursday
Um, only listened to this all the way through once, and the first few songs a couple of times over that. Can't really remember much...I think it's fairly '80s, and probably the weakest of the three Stars albums I have, but still enjoyable. I really like the way it starts with each band member saying, "I am [insert name]
Stephen King rating: better than Wizard and Glass, worse than Pet Sematary