Category Archives: Movies & TV

On Spoilers: Stop Being So Sensitive

I don’t think it’s my imagination that there’s been a marked increase in the absurdity of the lengths people go to to avoid spoilers, and it has to stop. It’s stifling conversation and making the discussion of current media more and more difficult as people try to accommodate those for whom so much as the name of a character can ruin the enjoyment of a game, movie or TV show.

Darth Vader

It’s The Hobbit that’s inspired this rant, for much the same reason as I was annoyed back when Lord of the Rings was being adapted. Back then, a book written when Hitler ruled Germany, Britain governed India and the United States had 48 states and whose ending had been a popular slogan that you could literally see painted on walls for decades before was suddenly a closely guarded secret. Nobody cared what happened to Frodo and co in, say, 1999 and it could be thrown around with impunity, but then reality itself has to be warped for people who suddenly care.

All of this has happened before, and it will all happen again. Continue reading On Spoilers: Stop Being So Sensitive


It’s not often that a Hollywood blockbuster comes along with the full force of the hype machine behind it and doesn’t end up disappointing, but this is not one of those times. Avatar comes saddled with a budget big enough to bankrupt a small country and stories about how technology had to be invented just to make it possible, not to mention that it’s the poster child for this 3D film gimmick that’s apparently the next big thing. Oh, and the small matter of it being James Cameron’s first film in over a decade, following up his last modest success.

One compliment that I can pay it is to say that it didn’t even feel close to its 162-minute running time, and in these days of increasingly lengthy blockbusters that overstay their welcome – in Transformers 2’s case, by around an hour and a half – that’s rare. But if that sounds like I’m damning it with faint praise… well, here goes… Continue reading Avatar

Building My Games Room

When I moved house back in March, the opportunity came up to forgo one large bedroom in exchange for two smaller ones, and given that most gamers would love a dedicated room for their televisual pursuits, I went for it. I didn’t actually own any furniture of my own, though, least of all storage for my large collection of games and DVDs, so there was some necessary investment there.

First order of business was a TV stand, and I went for this glass model from Levv. I actually paid a little less than what it’s going for now – just under £60, if I remember correctly – but it’s still excellent value and is a nice stand. Just don’t expect any help when it comes to assembly, because the instructions aren’t great.

Games Room TV

I’ve recently added a dedicated Blu-ray player, a Samsung BD-P3600, to the mix, mainly to reduce wear on the PS3’s drive but also to give me access to region B stuff in these times when it’s suddenly more expensive to import films for my US PS3. It’s also faster and quieter than a PS3 and shares many of its media features, which is nice. I took the opportunity to jettison my faithful old Logitech sound system for an Onkyo TX-SR507, which has four HDMIs and handles all the new HD audio formats, and a set of Tannoy SFX 5.1 speakers. I’d been wanting to upgrade that for a while now and this seemed like a good time. With the Blu-ray player I was fast running out of HDMI inputs on the TV anyway, so it saves me finding a bigger HDMI switch as well.

I’m seated on a two-seater cream leather sofa, which I paid a whole £20 for from a friend. Certainly not the most comfortable I’ve ever sat on, but more than workable and fits nicely into the room. And just to tie it all together I’ve got a framed BioShock lithograph on the wall.

Games Room Overview

Probably the biggest problem that needed fixing was disc storage. Previously my games and films had been either three deep in a repurposed bookcase, three high on a shelf above my TV, or in a modified cupboard with shelves that had literally collapsed under the weight of the old games and systems. I’m only keeping games that are playable on current systems immediately accessible in addition to my DVDs and Blu-rays, and if I’m allowing room to grow it meant that I needed space for around 1,000 discs. It’s pretty hard to find anything of that size, and buying a few of Ikea’s finest would quickly get expensive. Continue reading Building My Games Room

Watching the Watchmen


I just got back from seeing Watchmen, which is a film I’ve been anticipating since I read the graphic novel a couple of years back, so I just wanted to put down some thoughts while it was still fresh in my mind.

I’d been generally avoiding reviews, but what I’d picked up from friends and Twitterers who had seen it in advance it had been suggested that it was maybe too close to the source for its own good. I’d pretty much agree with that. There were parts that could have done with trimming for the screen that were left identical to the book, but then Snyder was happy to alter the ultimate plot twist to make it work better on screen, which makes letting other parts suffer a bizarre decision.

Without spoiling anything, I’ll just say that the ending doesn’t make as much sense to me as the one in the book did, but at the same time I can see how that one wouldn’t have worked on film. Not only would it have looked silly, but it would also have required a lot of exposition and bloated it further with the setup interspersed throughout. The film was labyrinthine enough as it was.

Could it have benefited by having a different director who is perhaps more comfortable with gravitas and directing emotional scenes? Possibly, as there’s one scene in particular that I’m not sure was being deliberately and ironically cheesy or if Snyder thought it was actually going to bring tears to our eyes. It wouldn’t take a genius to work out that this is the guy who gave us 300 because a lot of the action is very similar, and despite being set in the 80s we have a lot of the modern music video school of direction tropes like slow motion. I might be being pretentious here, but I’d prefer it to have been directed less stylistically, because I think – or hope – that this kind of direction will date horribly in a few years when people grow out of it.

Don’t let me put you off it if I’m sounding negative, though. Overall I enjoyed it, and I mean it as a compliment to say that it didn’t feel like the 163 minutes that it was. Getting Watchmen into a single film was always going to be tough – I’d still like to see it as a miniseries one day – and they did a good job, thankfully without watering it down for a lower age rating like we might have expected. Hell, the sex and violence quotient is higher than I can remember being in the source, which doesn’t happen a lot these days. There’s an awesome jizz gag as well.

For anyone who hasn’t read Watchmen in a while and has seen the film, I recommend perusing this fairly comprehensive list of the changes. There are quite a few that I’d forgotten about or not noticed in there. It contains spoilers, obviously.

Bond and the Evil Shaky Cam

I saw Quantum of Solace last night, and as someone who wasn’t wild about Casino Royale – good but overrated – I enjoyed it a surprising amount. Craig’s Bond is still an unbelievable badass and Quantum is set up as a cool Illuminati-cum-terrorist group that could become an awesome adversary over the next couple of films.

But, as the title of this post suggests, my biggest problem was how the bane of the modern action movie has infiltrated Bond. The last two Bourne films in particular were horrible for it, and Casino Royale, despite cribbing an awful lot from that series, thankfully managed to resist it, ending up looking classy and old-school for it. Bourne is rough around the edges, but despite the new rugged look Bond is supposed to be like that; Bourne wouldn’t look right in a dinner jacket and bow tie just like Bond wouldn’t look right with the cameraman having a seizure.

Quantum of Solace, though, has a new director who apparently couldn’t resist. There’s a fight early on between Bond and someone else in a suit, and because the brief for the cinematography apparently consisted of “point the camera at them and wave it around”, I literally couldn’t tell who was hitting who for most of it. Yes, it might look ‘kinetic’ and be more down with the kids, but I like to enjoy the excellent stunt work and fight choreography more than MTV music video editing. The sooner this rubbish goes out of fashion and they remember how to use a steadicam the better.

Unsurprisingly, the only time the camera stayed still in this one was when it was showing off another Sony phone.

Still, I enjoyed it and will be seeing it again this week. I want one of those tables that MI6 has more than anything, and when you see it I’m sure you’ll be the same.

Logitech Harmony One

Harmony OneBack in 2006, I raved about how much I loved my Harmony 525, and I stand by it. The Harmony range is miles ahead of most other universal remotes, and I’ve used the trusty 525 almost every day since I got it to control my growing army of devices, with even sticky tasks like substituting in a new TV being quick and painless.

My only real concern was the build quality – I called it “acceptable for the price”, and the fact that the 525 now goes for £45 should tell you what that’s euphemistic for – and that’s turned out to be what necessitated an upgrade. It’s survived being sat on and thrown across rooms without increasing in creakiness, but heavy use of the colour buttons (they’re my ad-skip hot keys for my DVR) has left every rubber button on the thing requiring a painful degree of force to activate, if it decides to activate at all.

The 525 and its cousins are a holdover from before Logitech acquired Harmony, so in an effort to get something with the tank-like build of my other Logitech products, I went for a more recent design in the form of its flagship, the Harmony One. One may be a lower number than 525, but it’s spelled out so that you know that it’s better.

The first improvement is in the build quality, which is great. It’s solid, without creaking when you manipulate it, and the buttons are a huge improvement. Gone are the frankly rubbish rubber keys, replaced with ones that feel solid and all have a satisfying click to them so that you’re not reliant the glow of the remote to know if you’ve registered a press. The way that just the white button text glows looks a hell of a lot nicer than the cheap blue glow of the 525, which was itself an improvement on the old-school orange and green glows of the other models.

I’m kind of ambivalent about the touch screen. It allows for cool features like custom channel icons – although, disappointingly, no custom activity icons (yet), so no 360 logo on my ‘Play Xbox 360’ activity – but the screen with mappable buttons on the old one was much easier to use blindly, without actually having to look at the screen. Maybe it’ll come with practice, but it’s not as intuitive. Continue reading Logitech Harmony One