Tuesday, 15 April 2014

Head in the Clouds: Embrace the Quiet

I like living in my head and I know you love living in your head. Society tends to makes us think that this is a silly thing to do and that exploring your inner life is not cool. Fuck that! Being an introvert's cool, yo. Ask Susan Cain, she totally agrees and she knows some stuff.

Tuesday, 8 April 2014

Winter is Coming!

"The Starks are always right, eventually. Winter is coming."

It is upon us, in fact.

The first episode of Season 4 aired last Sunday night in the US and we, here in sunny South Africa, will be getting it from the 18th of April. Needless to say that we are all very excited for new episodes of the show that has gotten many a fantasy hating soul into the genre. This could have something to do with fact that you see a lot of boobs in the show but the convoluted and fun plot does eventually win over boobs (not taking anything away from boobs, they are one of life's coolest things). It's also morbidly exciting to see which of your favourite characters will get killed off next because George R.R. Martin clearly takes the whole Valar morghulis business seriously.

Since winter actually is approaching here in SA I decided to spend as many of the precious sunny days we have left being a beach bum. I've been lying on the beach getting all kinds of excited about one of the best shows on TV right now and recapping on the previous three seasons when I get home. This is the one show I'm glad to see without having read the books beforehand. There are just so may unexpected deaths and surprises that it's nice to be genuinely surprised for once.

The best thing about the show is the grey morality. There are extremely good characters and extremely evil characters but most just hover in that grey area between good and evil. You spend a lot of time hating people for being such tools and then you find yourself liking them a few more episodes in. Everyone's out for vengeance or power and you spend a lot of time rooting for people and then switching sides because they are entirely stupid or they get killed. It's interesting to see how the story will unfold because there is so much happening in the fringes that no one seems to care about: dragons, wildlings; creepy, undead guys called White Walkers and even more creepy, and possibly undead, guys called the Others. Shit is real and everyone squabbling over a super uncomfortable throne made of sharp swords! By the time the story reaches a climax everyone might be dead.

I've met people who don't like the show because they don't like fantasy in general (which is fine) or they are hipsters and hate anything mainstream even if it's actually good. The haters seem to complain that the show is mainly about sex. This is not true. The show does have a lot of sex and but it's also rather violent. It still bothers me that people are cut up about sex but are fine with violence . . . The show is more than sex and violence though. The story takes elements like sex, violence, politics, magic and dubious morality and plays with them in interesting ways. This is why we like stories as a race, they let us experience things in ways which we normally would not.

Don't be an asshat and let your kids watch the show unless you're a super cool parent who actually teaches your kids about mature issues. You really can't blame GoT for the way your kids or pets turn out. Take some responsibility once in your life. If you hate the show that's fine, just don't watch it. Also, try and hide from all the fans because they will chew your ear off about it. The whole thing's like Breaking Bad all over again ;).

For everyone else, enjoy Season 4.   

Monday, 7 April 2014

Captain America: The Winter Soldier

If there is one thing you must do with your life today it's going to see Captain America: The Winter Soldier. It's lots of fun and you will love it.

Read my review for Bizcommunity.com: Captain America: The Winter Soldier.

Make it happen.

P.S. Some cool things you might not have noticed whilst watching the movie.

Thursday, 27 February 2014

Off playing with other kids' toys

Hello ever-suffering Readers,

I've been away visiting the folks over at The Collectionary because they have some really nice toys and allow me to play with them in their sandbox. Don't get me wrong, we have some great stuff here to keep us busy but it's nice to get out for a while and play with other people's toys.

I've been hanging out on their blog and ended up jotting down my thoughts on action figures for them. Pop by and play with us over there for  a while and read my cool post.

Not-so-modern warfare

Thursday, 13 February 2014

My Magical Place: The Book Thief Review

One of The Book Thief’s promotional campaigns was a series of images and teasers posted on their Facebook page related to words and what they mean. One of the themes throughout the story is words and what they mean to people; how beautiful words are and how ugly they are. Words are more powerful weapons than guns and bombs after all.

One of the words that were used on the Facebook campaign is wonder:  {won·der} n. surprise mingled with admiration, caused by something beautiful, unexpected, or inexplicable.

This is the reaction one gets from watching this film. The Book Thief will make you smile, cry, laugh and then leave your heart broken with its haunting beauty. As a high ranking member of the Book Snob Society I can find reasons why the film adaptation of this story does not do it justice but those reasons are ultimately shallow because this adaptation is really good and captures the important themes of the book.

The story is narrated by Death (Roger Allam) who is surprisingly pleasant given the nature of his job, which he seems to dislike. Set in Nazi Germany from April 1938 the plot follows the life of Liesel Meminger (Sophie Nélisse) as she adjusts to a new life on Himmel Street in the fictional town of Molching with her foster parents, Hans and Rosa Hubermann (Geoffrey Rush and Emily Watson). This is the story of a German girl trying to make sense of her small, fragile life amidst the horrors of Nazi Germany leading up to World War 2. Liesel finds a solace of sorts in books and words and tries to make sense of her circumstances through them. She doesn’t understand all the hate going around and no one really knows how to answer why so much hate can spread like a disease.

Many stories of this terrible era in humanity’s history are told from the viewpoint of Jewish people or other people who were affected by the atrocities committed by the Nazis but this is the story of a small German town just trying to survive when the world has gone mad. Sophie Nélisse is wonderful as Liesel Meminger! She plays the role with the utmost grace. The rest of the cast also deliver stellar performances. Geoffrey Rush’s portrayal of Hans is sincere and makes you love the man who teaches Liesel to read, to love and to be courageous albeit seemingly foolish in the dreadful time they live in. Rosa is stern and rules the Hubermann household with an iron fist but you can tell she loves them all. Max (Ben Schnetzer), the young Jewish man that the Hubermanns hide in their basement manages to convey a lot of sadness and joy in that cramped space and is one of the characters to steals the show. My personal favourite character is Liesel’s best friend, Rudy Steiner (Nico Liersch). This lemon haired boy is all heart and you can’t help but love him.
This is a great movie. It’s not best movie depicting the period but it does offer a slightly different perspective into it and it is beautifully shot. The oppressive Nazi propaganda is a constant backdrop to the story and it constantly reminds you of the bleakness of the place the story is set in. The music by John Williams adds quite a lot to the tone if this film and is moving.

Rudy envisioning himself as Jesse Owens

Some people feel that it’s too sad. I don’t think so. It is sad but it also shows how normal people overcome terrible situations and how kind and selfless they can be. I think the story, like all good stories, is what J.R.R. Tolkien called eucatastrophe – the good tale that breaks your heart.

Put some tissues in your pocket or handbag and give The Book Thief a watch. It’s a good movie. That is all.

Wednesday, 12 February 2014

My Magical Place: The Book Thief Preamble

I get very excited about things. It's the way I'm built. My parents used excitable atoms to make me. But, whatever. I went to go see The Book Thief last night and Sophie Nélisse stole my ol' literary heart as Liesel Meminger.

I shall post a review tomorrow because you really should go see it. Don't even wait for the review. Just go see it.

If I have to use one word to describe this movie it would be wonder :).

Friday, 31 January 2014

The G.I. Joe Collectionary

I don't have many nice things to say about the 2009 and 2013 G.I. Joe movies because they were rather terrible, you know. But I do have mad love for the original line of action figures (because boys don't play with dolls), the 1985 cartoon and some of the comic books (story arcs like G.I. Joe vs. the Transformers are a lot of good fun). The guys over at the G.I. Joe Collectionary must have made this connection somehow when they approached me to give them a little shout-out on this here space based on a movie review I wrote explaining why G.I. Joe: Retaliation was a terrible movie.

These guys have a huge collection (that's always being added to) of G.I. Joe merch. If you are a collector in any way you really must pop in and browse through their stuff. Heck! Pop in even if you have no idea what G.I. Joe is because it's just downright cool. I have added a cool link on the sidebar of this blog for you to click on whenever you want and this is like a magical portal to their site.

Other than that have a kick-ass day and watch out for those slithery Cobra villains.

Wednesday, 15 January 2014

My Magical Place: 47 Ronin Review

Let me start off by saying that this is a terrible movie! This is something you need to know just from the outset of this review. Save yourself some money and just wait for it on DVD. Even then don’t buy it, just hire it from the video store. Look, we can’t really have high expectations of a movie starring Keanu Reeves. He seems to be the guy directors call when they want to take really good stories like the Constantine comic books and turn them into movies people don’t really know how to react to. I mean, Reeves was even weird as Neo in The Matrix. He’s just a strange actor. I digress though; let’s just get back into why 47 Ronin is 118 minutes (Nu Metro’s and Ster-Kinekor’s ridiculous amount of trailers and ads aside) of your precious life given to a ridiculous venture.

The problem with this movie, strangely enough, is that it tries too hard to sell its weak plot to you and it tries to make you care about its shallow characters. I have no problem with the lack of a solid plot or weak character development in a movie about a fictionalised feudal Japan inhabited by honourable Samurai, witches, demons and other shady characters. In fact both those weaknesses usually make such a venture much better because you expect it to be cheesy and crammed to bursting with well-choreographed fight scenes accompanied by mind-bending CGI. 47 Ronin doesn’t do this! There are only a handful of fight sequences and they are pretty much average and the CGI, though quite good, isn’t that great or rather it isn’t used that effectively. Director, Carl Erik Rinsch tried to tell the story of the real-life 47 Ronin and make it very fantastical at the same time and failed on both counts. This movie, then, doesn’t reward the viewer in any way other than it being very pretty. The scenery takes your breath away and the costumes the characters wear are amazing.

The story centres on Lord Asono’s kingdom of Ako preparing to host a tournament in honour of a visit from the Shogun, the ruler of all of Japan. His beautiful daughter, Miko is in charge of all the ceremonial preparations and we learn that she is in love with Keanu Reeves’ character, the half-breed, Kai. He is an outcast because he is half Japanese and half British and was raised by the demons of the forest, the Tengu and was trained by them to fight and also learned some of their magical abilities, which he uses only once in the movie. He was adopted by Lord Asona but can never be a Samurai and everyone in the kingdom pretty much hates him. So much so that he lives in a hut in the outskirts of the kingdom. He is continuously beaten and humiliated throughout the movie for trying to help everyone. Oishi, the leader of the Samurai and later the 47 Ronin is the main protagonist even though he is pretty much dumb enough not to believe Kai when he warns them of the witch, Mizuki. Oishi is your usual honourable-to-the-death type of guy – a lot like Ned Stark from Game of Thrones. Lord Kira, ruler of the neighbouring kingdom, Nagato is the villain of the piece. He is your usual power hungry megalomaniac who seeks to rule all of Japan. He is a decent villain but his companion, Mizuki is the one that truly steals the show. She oozes sexy creepiness as a witch. What follows is a story of deception and revenge by 47 guys you really don’t care about.

Another thing that irked me is the misleading posters of the movie, mainly the heavily tattooed pirate guy displayed on all the material as the Renegade. He looks cool and you think he’s a prominent character till you find out he’s in the movie for less than five minutes. What the hell, man?

Who is this guy? He looks badass but he really isn't.

To conclude, this is a very bad movie. It is deadly dull and in no way captures the spirit of the real-life 47 Ronin who set out to avenge their master in 18th-century Japan. It has some interesting moments and in the few instances when the action kicks in it’s done rather well but leaves you hungry for more. The story tries to engage you but doesn’t get it right. Save yourself some time and money and give this one a miss.

P.S. I am overlooking the fact that this movie could have been much better in Japanese with English subtitles.

Tuesday, 14 January 2014

To-do List

It's 2014 and this means only one thing! It's time to draw up a to-do list. That's important, right? How else will I know what to do over the next few months? Yes, a to-do list is totally legit.

Let's jump right into it then. Any weird and wild suggestions like world domination are most welcome on your part.

I have two really big things that hold me back in life; two really big hurdles that I must overcome in order to be a cooler kid than the rest. Laziness. Fear. I hate these fuckers with every string of my being (I'm a String Theorist at heart)! I want to do more with my time and energy. I need to do more with my time and energy. I worry about time a lot and always feel I should be using it as efficiently as possible. It's just that I don't because I'm too busy lying on the couch worrying about time. It's pretty much like that play, Waiting for Godot, it's goddamn awful! Not that I don't have a fond place in my heart for that play or lying on couches. I might have to see a doctor about this come to think of it. I am lazy but I also almost always feel very fatigued even if I don't do anything too strenuous.

So first on the list: overcome laziness. This is an ongoing affair that I'll have to deal with everyday of my life. Everyday I will wake up and fight the good fight, the bad fight and even the losing fight. Have you ever read J.R.R. Tolkien's The Silmarillion? No? You really should. Put it on your to-do list. At any rate, the High Elves in the stories are fighting what they call The Long Defeat against the first dark lord, Morgoth. They are involved in a war that spans thousands of years with this one guy... entity or whatever you want to call him and they bear it with the utmost grace. Sure, they lose their composure and do some stupid things like betray each other but overall they hold out till the very end. My battle with laziness shall be on that scale! Minus the thousands of years. A visit to the good ol' doctor for a check-up also goes under this entry on the list. Might as well see if all my parts are functioning as they should.

Bon Iver's cover of Peter Gabriel's Come Talk to Me always echoes the words, 'Whatever fear invents, I swear it makes no sense' in my head. Those words are so very true but fear has a power over people, over me. I know lots of the things that I should do but I am scared and that is not a good way to live. I have huge fears that tower over me like buildings and I have small fears that follow me around like shadows. This is another Long Defeat I'm engaging in. I will fight fear on every front of my life. I will stumble and I will fall but I will always get up and fight. I will crush my fears. I will crush them in 2014, I will crush them in 2024. Whatever the year, as long as I'm here and breathing I will crush fear!

(Dramatic much?)
(Also, check this out: What Would You Do If You Weren't Afraid)

Managing just those two entries on my list will open so much more of the world to me. There are so many things that I want to do that I'm either too lazy, scared or both to do.

I am going to write.

I'm lazy and I'm scared though.

I am going to write magical stories for children because I'm a child at heart and believe that stories have the power to enchant and to teach wisdom. I am going to write stories for adults because the world needs more adults that are more like children in terms of exercising their imaginations. I am going to write poetry that makes me fall in love because I think words can be as beautiful as girls in summer dresses and pretty sandals.

I am going to read more.

I am going to to read more books that make me think about our world; how beautiful it is, how ugly it is. I am going to read more books that make me want to become a better person in our world. I am going to read books that make me laugh, cry and totally astound me. I am going to read books that shake my beliefs and make me see beyond my currents state. I am going to read more comic books because they make me happy and I think they are under-appreciated for the Joy they can bring. I am going to tell you about these books at parties, on the bus and wherever I meet you. I am going to write about these books on this blog.

I am going to watch more movies (I already watch a whole lot).

I am going to watch all of Woody Allen's movies because I met a lovely girl who started me out on them. I am going to watch Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind because it's her favourite movie and I realise that I actually have seen it and have been confusing it it with Finding Neverland in my head. I still don't remember what happened in it though. I had better just watch both movies.

I am going to run.

I am going to run like I did early last year. I am going to run through all of Cape Town. I don't want to run races or marathons; I am going to run to feel the life in me. I am going to exercise like I did early last year because it made me feel invested in my body. I am going to hike more. It's difficult for me but I am going to do it more because Cape Town has some beautiful views that take my breath away.

I am going to eat more and eat better because food is just amazing.

I am going to start a religion that honours pigs for being so goddamn tasty! I want pigs to understand that I love them even as I eat them. One day I will buy three or four pigs and will ensure that they are the happiest pigs in all of creation as a sign of my appreciation. I will refrain from eating them...

I am going to be happier and  I want for my friends, family and random strangers to be happy. I am going to work harder at work and do more with the time that I spend here because I love publishing. I am going to help make books that will make children grin from ear to ear.

I am going to save money because I met so many wonderful people from all over the world and I'd like to visit them all. I've fallen in love with a wonderful girl and I am going to go over to Amsterdam and kiss her.

I am going to hug my grandmother more, tease my sister more and tell my mother that I love her more.

So much to do!

I am going to play more video games because they are cool and I am going to hang out on the beach more because the ocean comforts and scares me.

Above all I am going to take Neil Gaiman's advice and live as only I can. I am going to make glorious mistakes and I am going to be kind.

I want for you to be happy because I love you for taking the time to read this. I might know who you are and I might not but I love you.

Have a great year :).