Sunday, 19 April 2015

The Casual Vacancy TV Miniseries

I finished reading JK Rowling's The Casual Vacancy earlier this year after avoiding it for a while but then Christmas happened and I got book vouchers as a gift and the book was on sale at the local bookstore. Christmas made me do it! I enjoyed the book though, it was lots of fun to read. Nothing like Harry Potter, of course. JK Rowling is allowed to write other things, you know ;). It was more like Game of Thrones lite with more normal seeming crazy people (they are all batshit certified).

The Casual Vacancy is the story of a small English town largely populated by petty adults and petty school children, all of them preoccupied or affected by petty small town politics in some way. Everyone in this story is downright crazy on some level. JK Rowling knows how to tell a good story, she's not popular for no good reason.

Anyhoo, I see that The Casual Vacancy made it onto TV in the form of a miniseries as a joint production by HBO and the BBC. The series consists of three 60-minute episodes and was aired from 15 February to 01 March this year. The series is directed by Jonny Campbell, who has directed a few episodes of Spooks, Doctor Who and the film, Alien Autopsy. The screenplay is by Sarah Phelps who writes for the soap opera, EastEnders.

Some of the names that comprise the cast are Rory Kinnear as Barry Fairbrother, Emily Bevan as Mary Fairbrother. Michael Gambon who played Dumbledore in the Harry Potter movies plays the rather sinister Howard Mollison in the series. Julia McKenzie plays his equally conniving wife, Shirley Mollison. Keeley Hawes plays Samantha Mollison. Lolita Chakrabarti portrays Parminder Jawanda and Silas Carson her husband, Vikram Jawanda.

From the two trailers I saw the show looks like it could be fun and I will be getting my mittens on it soon.

Friday, 17 April 2015

Tech Talk Cape Town: Drones & Drumloops

I was at Tech Talk Cape Town on Wednesday night and wrote a little something so you can go see what a great and informative time you missed out on. Shame on you!

Check it out and if you are in Cape Town keep an eye out and swing by for the next event.

Sunday, 12 April 2015

Winter is Coming!

Winter is coming . . . Well, here in South Africa winter is actually coming but no one cares about that because the winter that really matters brings with it fear. To quote Old Nan: “Fear is for the winter, my little lord, when the snows fall a hundred feet deep and the ice wind comes howling out of the north. Fear is for the long night, when the sun hides its face for years at a time, and little children are born and live and die all in darkness while the direwolves grow gaunt and hungry, and the white walkers move through the woods.” That is winter, Game of Thrones style, my sweet summer child and we cannot wait.

There be dragons!
It seem that pirates with even more cunning than Salladhor Saan could not wait either and leaked the first four episodes of Season 5. Game of Thrones is already the most pirated show in the world and it looks like this is not about to change. This is a really harsh blow for HBO though as the pirates are now a whole four weeks ahead of everyone and it's likely that the interwebs will be overrun with spoilers in the next few weeks. If you are not a pirate and want to avoid spoilers I would suggest that you avoid going online in any way and just lock yourself in a dark room for the next few weeks. Another blow to HBO is that they timed the release of their standalone streaming service, HBO Go with the release of the new season. This meant that those without cable TV could watch the show at the same time as everyone else but now the pirates are way ahead. 

Season 5 is being aired simultaneously here in South Africa as it is in the US and kicks off tonight at 21:00 on HBO, which translates to 03:00 tomorrow morning here. Catch it on DStv's M-Net Edge, channel 102. If you are not a crazy fan person (seriously, you aren't?) you can catch the episodes on Thursday nights at 21:00 on M-Net Edge as well, starting off from 16 April.

Daenerys Targaryen, everyone's favourite Khaleesi

I feel rather bad for HBO with the whole piracy thing and I hope they have a clever response that won't leave viewers who aren't pirates out in the cold.

Anyhoo, another year and another season of our favourite show. Enjoy, everybody. Also, it seems Jon Snow still knows nothing even when he's invited to a dinner party.

Friday, 10 April 2015

Marvel's Daredevil (The Man With No Fear)

Do you guys remember how Ben Affleck ruined Daredevil back in 2003? He was after all responsible for everything wrong in that movie: writing the script, directing the thing, playing Elektra. . . Just everything! Poor sap. The dude made a poor choice in accepting the role, for sure but let's let it go. . . Okay we can let it go after you watch Screen Junkies' hilarious Honest Trailer for Daredevil. Then we can all forgive Batfleck for his portrayal of Marvel's man with no fear as we wait to see him as DC's man with no fear in 2016.

In other news Marvel Studios sure know how to make good movies and their TV efforts are quite okay. They add Daredevil to their cinematic universe and it looks really great. Charlie Cox (The Theory of Everything) is our leading man this time around. All 13 episodes of Season 1 are available on Netflix as of today so prepare to binge-watch, you filthy little glutton, you. Netflix hates us a bit down here in sunny South Africa so let's see how it goes.

The Furious 7

The Furious 7

My Furious 7 review on This movie is just great. Go out and see it.

Thursday, 26 March 2015

Uber Cool

You know how in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy far out in the uncharted backwaters of the unfashionable end of the western spiral arm of the Galaxy lies a small unregarded yellow sun orbited by an utterly insignificant little blue green planet at a distance of roughly ninety-two million miles? And you know how the ape-descended life forms are so amazingly primitive that they still think digital watches are a pretty neat idea? Well, being a member of those life forms I am sad to admit that I am always late to the party. I still think analogue watches are a pretty neat idea. Anyhoo, all I am saying is that I am behind when it comes to all the cool things. The current cool thing is the Uber taxi service that originated in the good ol’ US and has since been spreading in major cities around the world. I live in Cape Town and tried the service out yesterday and it was pretty freakin’ rockstar as all hell!

I live in Cape Town’s CBD and though the public transport is better than what you’d find in my home city, Johannesburg, it still leaves a lot to be desired. Living in the CBD it’s easiest for my housemates and I to get around using cab services, which are quite cheap in and around the city but are rarely on time and some of the companies have vehicles that are nowhere near roadworthy. Some of the companies provide great service though but the thing that really grinds my gears is when meter taxis refuse to use their meters! I hate having to haggle for a fair price every time I’m out and just want to get home. Then there are the overpriced meter at Waterfront that make me want to pull the little hair I have out. The driver tells you his meter charges R10.00 a km and 5 km later the meter is sitting on R100.00! These things make me very angry so I was pretty happy to give Uber a go.

Get to the UberCHOPPER! 

The whole service is quite seamless. You download the app and add your credit card details. Some people are a bit concerned about this part but I figure I buy stuff online on the regular and trust all those folks with my details so I’ll give this a go. It’s still early days though so if something shady does go down with my bank account I will let you know and we can go to Uber’s house together and beat them up. Once that’s done you’re ready to ride. I got my first ride free because of the whole referral thing they have going on. If you refer a friend to the service and they enter your promo code you both get R90.00 free credit. A friend referred me so that was pretty nice. I see they have an offer of R150.00 a referral for both parties now so support a Charlie boy and enter my promo code when you sign up: mnqxg. I love me some free stuff and I bet you do too.

Anyhoo, once you’re all signed up and want go out you simply request one of three types of rides: UberX, UberXL or UberBLACK. X is the normal one and you get something in the line of a TOYOTA COROLLA, HONDA BRIO AMAZE SEDAN or VOLKSWAGEN POLO picking you up and it’s charged at a base fee of R5.00, R0.70 per minute in addition to R7.00 a km. The minimum fare is R20.00. The XL is an SUV when you want to bring more of the gang along and is charged at the same rate as the XL but with a minimum fare of R30.00. The last option, the BLACK is the classy one where you get picked up in a BMW 3-SERIES, AUDI A4 or MERCEDES-BENZ E-CLASS. It’s R15.00 base fee, R1.10 per minute in addition to R11.00 per km if you feel like balling. If you feel the need to channel your inner Arnie and yell, "Get to the chopper!" Uber has you covered with their UberCHOPPER service. I'm not sure on the pricing for this one though.

The GPS in the app picks up where you are (you can adjust if it gets the location a little wrong) and then you can type your destination in and it shows you an estimate of the costs for the vehicle type you’d like to use. If you’re happy you just click to request a taxi and they send you the details and photo of the nearest driver. They even show you the driver’s location as they drive to you on the map. When the taxi arrives you get a text and are ready to be on your merry way. I took to UberX service and got picked up in the HONDA and it was very pleasant. The driver didn’t drive at breakneck speed, he asked if my partner and I would like the aircon on and it was just all very professional. The driver on the way back even had bottles of still water in cool holders in the car. When you jump out at your destination you don’t worry about paying and arguing over price. You get an email with a receipt of your trip and how much you were charged. In the app you get to rate the driver as well.

My first Uber experience was uber cool and I’d recommend it to the masses. Download the app and give it a bash. Enter my promo code and both of us get R150.00 credit: mnqxg.

Stay cool.

Tuesday, 24 March 2015

DC v Marvel: Age of Justice, the Future of Comic Book Movies and Television

We all love superheroes and over the last few years DC and Marvel have been showing us a lot of comic book love on television and on the big screen. DC is struggling at the box office at the moment with Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy being the only venture that really worked out well for them. Green Lantern was a bit of a disaster and Man of Steel didn’t quite succeed in capturing what Superman is really about, what with the big blue Boy Scout probably killing more innocent people in Metropolis than he saved in his fight against General Zodd. While DC may be lagging behind on the big screen they are dominating the small screen, with shows like Arrow, The Flash (which is just pure gold, you guys) and Gotham. Marvel has Agents of SHIELD, which goes from annoying to really good and then back to annoying again. Agent Carter is nice too, I guess. The Peggy Carter character is less tiresome than most of the people on the Agents of SHIELD roster at any rate. Marvel had a great 2014 at the movies with Captain America: Winter Soldier and The Guardians of the Galaxy being absolutely amazing. They are looking to do the same in 2015 with Avengers: Age of Ultron and Ant-Man. Marvel also has more things lined up for television to compete with DC on that front.

Big things are happening for both DC and Marvel this year and going ahead so let’s dive into some of the fun stuff from both of the studios, shall we. Let’s kick off with Marvel’s detailed plan for things to come and then look at how DC responds.

Marvel is taking the Avengers out on their second outing on the 1st of May in Age of Ultron and geeks everywhere can’t wait to get some of that comic book goodness. Heck! People in general can’t wait to get hold of that comic book goodness. Then there is the bonus we South Africans have of seeing Hulk smashing downtown Jozi. Move over New York! Marvel knows how to make movies that appeal to everyone and they do it with such charm. Just to make sure that everyone knows that Marvel knows what they are doing they went ahead and announced their complete Phase 3 line-up. Just like that. BOOM! Phase 2 closes off with Ant-Man on July 17 this year. Ant-Man is looking to be the sleeper hit that The Guardians of the Galaxy was last year.

Donald Glover for Spider-Man!
Phase 3 kicks off with Captain America: Civil War set for May 6, 2016. Marvel Studios acquired the rights to Spider-Man from Sony and this is great news as he is an important part of the Civil War storyline and will finally get to play with the rest of the Avengers gang. I doubt that Spidy will be getting his own movie before then but let’s see. Also, a black Spidy seems to be a thing with Donald Glover’s and other names being thrown around. On the 4th of November 2016 Marvel taps into the magical corner of the comic book universe by bringing in the Sorcerer Supreme in Doctor Strange. The lovable Guardians of the Galaxy go on their second space adventure on 5 May 2017 (so far away to see more of Groot) and things get all sort of apocalyptic in Thor: Ragnarok on November 3, 2017. The Avengers (and probably the Guardians of the Galaxy) assemble again to face off with the big bad Thanos in Infinity War Part 1 on May 4, 2018. Black Panther makes his debut on July 6, 2018 (I imagine we will see him in some sort of cameo before this though). Captain Marvel gets her day in the sun on November 2, 2018. The Avengers continue their Infinity Gauntlet story in Infinity War Part 2 on May 3, 2019. The Inhumans are now a thing on Agents of SHIELD but the royal family gets their own movie on July 12, 2019. I doubt we’ll be seeing any of the royal family on TV before then.

Marvel is good at interconnections between all of its franchises and for all the flak I give Agents of SHIELD it ties in nicely with the events in the films and will continue to do so if all the plans on the table work out. The 10th of April will see the launch of Daredevil on Netflix and by the look of the trailer it’s set to be a lot darker and grittier than the other Marvel stuff. It will also tie into the bigger Marvel universe like Agent Carter and Agents of SHIELD. Later this year we’ll also get A.K.A. Jessica Jones. Iron Fist, Luke Cage and The Defenders will also be getting some love on the small screen but their dates have not been announced yet.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch . . . The Justice League is clearly still a thing for DC with Superman v Batman: Dawn of Justice scheduled for 25 March, 2016. Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot) will be a principal character in the movie, so that’s the big three in the Justice League right there. Jason Momoa (Game of Thrones) has been cast as Aquaman and his character has been revealed in costume on posters with the tagline: Unite the Seven. This could refer to the seven seas of which he is king or the seven founding members of the Justice League. Cyborg (Ray Fisher) is also set to make an appearance in the movie.

The Big Three

DC is playing catch up with Marvel and so they also announced their line-up for their . . . DC Cinematic Universe. DCU? DCU 52? Well, whatever they call it, here it is! After Dawn of Justice we get to see the Suicide Squad in action on 5 August 2015. Who doesn’t like themselves some anti-heroes? Really. Look out for Jared Leto as The Joker, Will Smith as Deadshot, Margot Robbie as Harley Quinn and Jai Courtney as Captain Boomerang. Oprah Winfrey was one of the people being considered to play Amanda Waller but Viola Davis (Ender’s Game) got it in the end. The Suicide Squad makes a regular appearance on Arrow so I guess the TV and cinema worlds won’t be linked as the actors aren’t the same. Gal Godot returns as Wonder Woman on 23 June 2017. 17 November 2017 sees the biggie in the form of Justice League Part One. The Flash zooms in on March 23, 2018 and we take a look at what’s going on in Atlantis in Aquaman on July 27, 2018. By the power and beard of Zeus we will be graced by Shazam (Captain Marvel to some but Marvel has their Captain Marvel so yeah, that) on April 5, 2019. The Rock has been cast as Black Adam so you know this will be fun. Justice League Part Two is set for June 14, 2019, Cyborg for April 3, 2020 and DC will try again with Green Lantern on June 19, 2020.

There’s not much to say about DC’s TV presence other than that they are having a good time. In addition to shows like Arrow, The Flash and Gotham they have Constantine exploring the magical realm. Supergirl is getting her own show this year and Lucifer and Preacher are on the cards as well.

We have a lot of comic book movies and TV shows to look forward to over the next few years and the name of the game from both studios is clearly shared cinematic universes, which we love. DC seems not to be sharing storylines or characters between their TV shows and movies though but hey, it still looks like a lot of big things going on. Feel free to get excited about all the cool things headed our way. See you at the movies and on the couch at home.

Tuesday, 10 February 2015

My Magical Place: John Wick Review

A thing is clearly happening when it comes to action movies at the box office these days. I don’t know whether this is a good thing or a bad thing but it sure as hell is happening, what with the success of The Expendables franchise proving that you can take action heroes from the old school whom we all grew up with but had pretty much lost their relevance and revive their careers and audiences’ lust for some good ol’ skop, skiet en donner flicks at the same time. Why stop there when you can delve deeper and take a star like Keanu Reeves after the mess that was 47 Ronin and put him in an action movie that doesn’t try to lie to you about the depth of its plot? This right here is the future of making movies, you guys!

They totally killed this cute puppy. Bastards!

John Wick is straight up one of the coolest movies that I have seen in a long time. This movie doesn’t beat around the bush because the only beating that John does is kicking bad guys in the teeth. What you saw in the trailer is pretty much it in terms of plot. Seriously, it’s Keanu Reeves’ character, John Wick and his wife died but because she’s an amazing woman she arranged for a puppy to be delivered to their house after she dies so John has someone else to love and doesn’t become too lonely. This is all good and well till some punk, who happens to be a Russian mobster type of guy’s kid kills his puppy when he wouldn’t sell him his car at a petrol station. It turns out John Wick is the most badass of contract killers in the game and he sets out to exact vengeance on the punk kid and all the henchmen who dare stand in his way (which had me thinking why henchmen are such a loyal breed of people anyhow? After seeing my buddies get their teeth kicked in I’d just go home). That’s it. What more do you want out of life?

Keanu Reeves is perfect in his role as John Wick because he’s just the sort of guy who really doesn’t sell the idea of being an action hero when he’s just standing around putting petrol in a car and then later when he’s kicking the snot out of bad guys you can then turn around and totally buy into it. A proper action star in the mould of a Jason Statham would ruin a role like this because he lacks a certain banal aspect that Keanu Reeves has in spades.

John Wick is Chad Stahelski’s first venture in the director’s chair and he does a good job of always upping the ante in terms of the actions scenes. Stahelski comes from a stunt co-ordinating background and has had a hand in many action heavy films over the years, working on projects like The Matrix, V for Vendetta, 300 and even stuff like The Hunger Games. The man sure as hell knows how to make a stylish action movie. This movie might be light on plot but it oozes style and the banter between the characters, although not on the same level and cheesiness as The Expendables is funny enough to have you laugh out loud at moments.

Adrianne Palicki
There are no performances worthy of an Oscar nomination here but the cast is rock solid with names like Alfie Allen (an even punkier kid than his character in Game of Thrones in this movie), Willem Dafoe, Adrianne Palicki, Ian McShane, Lance Reddick and Michael Nyqvist. The cast all deliver on the goods and it all adds up to a fun action romp.

I was a bit late on this bandwagon because, you know, Keanu Reeves and John Wick is almost off of the local circuit so be sure to pop in as soon as you can or catch it on Blu-Ray and DVD soon. If you like action with almost no plot but a boatload of style this one is for you and boy is it fun!

Wednesday, 17 September 2014

A Little More Kindness

"More than cleverness, we need kindness and gentleness." - Charlie Chaplin

A few weeks ago a friend challenged me to the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge and this got me thinking about how everyone can do something around them to make the world a brighter place. I won’t lie, I’d never heard of Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) before seeing all the videos of people pouring buckets of ice-cold water over their heads on my social media feeds. You’d think I’d know that Stephen Hawking suffers from ALS at least but nope, total ignorance on my part. ALS is a disease very far removed from my centre of attention.

The people behind the Ice Bucket Challenge, the ALS Association are looking to create a world without ALS. This, of course, requires money for researching cures for the disease and supporting people already living with it and affected by it. This is a noble cause and they used the power of social media to come up with a fun way to raise the funds they need for this good work. I commend this and it’s great to see a charitable drive gain so much momentum and create a stir. This is the sort of cause that people should donate money to or invest some of their time in whether they do it with a video or not. But you should always know exactly what it is that you are supporting.

The interwebs are a vibrant place where people vehemently share their opinions and very soon memes were making the rounds that people are wasting water whilst many regions in the world don’t have enough drinking water. Some celebrity personalities also declined the challenge on the grounds that there are reports stating that the ALS Association is involved in animal testing. Both these points are valid: wasting water is foolish and supporting an organisation that runs tests for cures for diseases on animals is not something everyone can agree on (and that’s a whole different and important argument).

The former issue made me think of my beloved mother warning me not to waste food or drink as a child because children in China are starving . . . but how would my not wasting the food ease their plight? I always thought. We live in South Africa and there were children starving in our neighbourhood that I could have given that food to. As far as animal testing is concerned, I don’t know whether the ALS Association is involved in this or not but it highlights the point that people shouldn’t blindly donate to organisations. As someone trying to ease the burden of other human beings you must go a bit further than just giving money to an organisation and invest some of your time finding out whether it shares the same values as you. This is also another reason I like the idea of volunteering because it gives you a first-hand experience of work being done by charities and other such institutes.

I took up the Ice Bucket Challenge but I did not support the ALS Association because I felt that there are causes closer to me that I can focus on. The world is in dire need of a lot of cleverness to solve many of its issues. Children should not be starving in China, South Africa or anywhere else when there is more than enough food to go around. There are enough resources for everyone on our planet but the problem is access. Clever minds are needed to enable such access but kindness is also needed. I am intelligent but I doubt I will be figuring out how to solve the issue of a child in China’s hunger anytime soon (sorry, mom) but I sure can give a hungry child who is right down the road from me something to eat. I took up my Ice Bucket Challenge in a spirit of being kind to all my fellow humans and helping where I can. I love food and I am the sort of person who packs a lot of it for work and sport so I will pack just a few more sandwiches and fruit to give to people.

Stories were my refuge as a child.

Giving sandwiches doesn’t solve the underlying problems though. I don’t have much money to give but I also don’t think that would help as much as me giving of my time. I love books and when I was growing up my family was poor (we’re only a little less so now) and stories were my refuge; they comforted me and taught me some wisdom. In addition to my grandmother and mother I was raised by stories and our local library was my second home. I can share that with children and will do so. I am privileged to work at the Children and Youth editorial office of one of South Africa’s largest publishing houses and to volunteer on the executive board (this is a whole lot less fancy than it sounds) of an organisation that seeks to get rid of the problem of illiteracy in South Africa. These are wonderful platforms from which to help nurture a hunger for learning in children and thus equip them with knowledge to support themselves as they grow older. I pledge my efforts and time to these ventures because that is a role I am most equipped to play in trying to make the world a better place.

I think most people are looking for opportunities to be kind but miss them in their daily lives because they think their acts of kindness may be too insignificant or they are daunted by the really large acts they really want to be doing. Look at all the opportunities on social media that are wasted! People will like and share the crap out of a status highlighting conflicts across the world and how we really should be doing something. Sometimes people even emotionally blackmail each other with posts about how you support something heinous like rape if you don’t share some picture. I hate stuff like that but it shows that people want to be kind, there is a spark of it albeit somewhat misguided. This whole Ice Bucket Challenge proves that social media can be a powerful tool to create awareness of issues and even to raise money for them but you still have to go out and be kind and generous in your daily life. Do small things for people and if you can, do big things. Just try and extend a helping hand whenever you can. That is my challenge to you.

The world is full of injustices like hunger, rape, murder, sexism, racism, corruption, war and many issues like disease and natural disasters. Lend your support wherever you can. You don’t have to be Superman or Wonder Woman (unless you can, then totally do that) but your small acts of kindness and even your cleverness can go a long way.

Wednesday, 20 August 2014

Book Review: Bom Boy

One of the great things about books is that they can sit on your bookshelf, unassuming and sharing none of their magic for months on end until one day out of some sense of boredom you pick them up and they captivate you from the first sentence. At least that’s the case with me and Yewande Omotoso’s Bom Boy. This is the sort of book that you inhabit while you’re reading it and its pages feel like home. The plot is not complex in any way but the story Omotoso tells breathes with a life of its own. It’s books like these that remind you why human beings love stories.

Bom Boy is the story of Leke, a socially awkward young man who is haunted by a family curse inherited from his father. It’s the story Elaine and Oscar, Leke’s parents and how that curse affected them. It’s also the story of Jane and Marcus, Leke’s adoptive parents. At its roots this is simply (and therein also lies the complexity) the story of people dealing with their situations by whatever means they can. It’s simply life.

Bom Boy is beautifully written and will haunt you like the family curse haunts Leke. This is definitely a book I’d recommend to anyone who likes stories, which is to say everyone.

Yewande Omotoso
Omotoso was born in Barbados and raised in Nigeria. She has a Nigerian father, West Indian mother and two brothers. She is an architect; space and buildings being a passion of hers second to literature. She lives in Cape Town working as a designer, writer and novelist.