The Future of Pinball

I was a huge fan of pinball machines back in the mid-nineties when I was a university student. I even had a rivalry with a guy I never ever met as we would hold the top spots on the high score tables of the various tables in the university bar and try to best the other’s scores.

But it was not to last. The machines were played less and less often and eventually started to disappear from the bars and pubs that I used to frequent until they were no more.

The documentary The Future of Pinball explores the demise of the pinball machine and how the management of manufacturer Williams Electronic Games instructed their pinball designers to come up with something new in order to save the company.

Management said, “we need to make pinball profitable. The world has changed; nobody wants what you guys are doing. Invent something new. We’ve put layer upon layer of ramps, we have convoluted rule sets, we have video modes, we have all this stuff, and guess what? It’s not making a difference!” And management says we’ve got to come up with something or pinball is done.

— George Gomez, Pinball Designer, Williams Electronic Games

This resulted in a startling innovation that was controversial amongst pinball purists but was a hit until the plug was pulled on production of the machines. A trailer for the documentary is available here.

Review: Romance and Cigarettes

Watched Romance and Cigarettes this afternoon.

Odd film, a comedy musical starring James Gandolfini, Susan Sarandon, Kate Winslet, Steve Buscemi and Christopher Walken amongst others. It didn’t completely work but the acting and characterisations were great. Some laugh out loud moments particularly some of Buscemi’s and Walken’s lines.

I’d recommend people see if they get the chance but I wouldn’t go out of my way to watch it, particularly if like me you have a crush on Mary-Louise Parker she’s dead sexy in it.

Review: V for Vendetta

Just got back from watching the movie adaptation of V for Vendetta. I have mixed feelings but it was enjoyable and a lot better than I had feared it might be especially given my feelings for the previous adaptation of a comic that was close to my heart Hellblazer which became the painful Constantine.

I thought that Hugo Weaving was very powerful as V and Stephen Rea did a great job as Inspector Finch. Natalie Portman was merely adequate as Evey and her accent was not as awful as some have written but she was a little wooden in her performance. I thought Stephen Fry was remarkably good also, other characters such as Chancellor Sutler were too poorly written to allow much from the other actors in the cast.

The movie lasted two hours and yet it felt like a lot had been edited out. There was very little characterisation outside of the central few main characters all the others seemed like stereotypes painted in broad strokes. Some events such as what happened that night at Larkhill which enabled V to escape were glossed over as was Finch’s visit to the derelict Larkhill.

I think the general mood of the film was established well, it was visually stunning and there were a number of very powerful scenes especially the fingerman’s shooting of the girl and the subsequent uprising of the townspeople.

In many ways the movie felt like it was set in some parallel universe version of Britain rather than a dystopic near future of our own Britain, possibly due to it being an American production. The Britain of the movie was very twee and a little off, Rupert Graves as a copper using the word “chummy” when apprehending V, eggy in a basket and the Benny Hillesque TV satirical attack on the Chancellor.

A number of things in the movie make me feel like the points of the original graphic novel were lost or misunderstood by the writers. V was too overly made to be identified with Guy Fawkes who in the introductory scene is portrayed as a freedom fighter rather than the religious nutcase that he actually was. I thought that the Guy Fawkes mask in the graphic novel was a useful disguise which was merely appropriate given the date of key events in the story and a shared interest in blowing up public buildings. But the motivations of V and Guy Fawkes are in no way the same.

In fact Guy Fawkes has more in common with the Islamic fundamentalist terrorists our society is being made to fear at the moment. The character of V is different but is no hero either really he is a force for change through destruction, rebirthing society by destroying it’s institutions so something better can be born out of the ashes.

The surveillance aspects were altered and there was no sight of surveillance cameras in the movie odd given their ubiquitousness in modern Britain and given the totalitarianism surely there should be even more in evidence. Plus the populace do not seem cowed by the authorities, living in constant fear of speaking out of turn. Certainly this so called dystopia is to my eyes a lot deal better than we can really hope to expect several years down the line from now once we have a National Identity Register, cameras that can scan our faces to identify us and track our movements and legislation that gives the ruling party pretty much free reign to do whatever it wishes.

Review: Syriana

I saw Syriana today and I’d have to agree with every single point that my friend Abhi made about it. He wrote:

Syriana is a brilliant film. Deeply flawed in some ways (packs in too much material and some characterization suffers as a result, as does the film’s lucidity) but the strengths render these quite irrelevant IMHO. There are some brilliant performances (Clooney is sublime, even with limited screen time) and the screenplay is ambitious as all hell. Its about time a movie like this came along. Its scathing and realistic and unabashedly political and pulls no punches. Also features one of the more stomach churning torture scenes I have seen.

The issues of corruption and US foreign policy influencing domestic policies in Middle Eastern states is a complex one and too much to fit into a movie of this length but I think it managed very well to cover all it’s bases even if that meant that the pacing was off at times and characterisations were broad strokes for many characters.

I think the message is more than just that oil companies act reprehensibly. Of course they do they are large multinational companies they’ll do whatever turns a profit and to do that as an oil company means corrupting or influencing governments. The message also is that our governments let them behave this way because it is believed it is in the best interests of our nations (both the US and the UK) for them to do so. This is kind of paralleled with the movie The Constant Gardener but in that it is pharmaceutical companies.

Review: Wolf Creek

Wolf Creek

I think Wolf Creek is more disturbing for the fact that it was a small budget movie the acting seemed naturalistic and the whole production lacked the Hollywood gloss.

I wasn’t as impressed as I thought I might be having heard so much good stuff about it but thought there were some really good moments in it.

Got me to wondering though about how different is Mick from the normal member of society. Can he just be written off as a psychopath or would many blokes put into a similar isolated environment and given the opportunity to get away with horrific crimes do exactly the same?

Plus the other side of the equation having been abducted but then gotten free somehow what would the average person do? Would they flee, save their friends or would they seek out their abductor to get act out some retribution?

In Liz’s situation after she’s shot Mick in the neck I think I would have made sure he was definitely dead. If the gun was empty now I’d find some tool like a spade and gave the bastards head until it was just a smear of gore on the floor.

Reading the user comments for the movie at IMDB is quite interesting as there seems to be a large split between those that loved it and those that thought it was rubbish.

Also it seems many users are not understanding the concept of being based on true events not actually meaning that it is totally accurately portraying the events that really happened.

I also admit the TRUE STORY part had me intrigued as I’m sure they could not make this stuff up. At the end however, and this is the big spoiler, one guy does escape. However he was incapacitated/unconscious and unseeing of all the other torturing and chasing going on for the whole ENTIRE movie, and the authorities reveal how none of the bodies were ever found, nor was any evidence, or a bad guy. So how the hell is this a true story? This only victim that escaped certainly didn’t know what happened, other than his friends did not return. That pretty much leaves the director/writer or whoever to make the whole thing up. Right? Think about it if you’ve seen the movie.

Okay mate how about you look up the meaning of the phrase artistic licence and then read the following about Ivan Milat, the real Australian serial killer upon which the killer in the movie was loosely based.

Review: Sahara

Sahara

Just watched Sahara which I thought was a cracking movie despite the poor reviews it’s received.

Yeah so it’s got plotholes the size of craters from meteor strikes and it ain’t going to win any Oscars but it did exactly what it said on the tin in my opinion.

Just a very enjoyable action adventure.

The pairing of Matthew McConaughey and Steve Zahn works really well, totally believable as friends since being kids. Zahn was great not just a comedy sidekick but a balls to the wall action hero in his own right.