Monthly Archives: November 2007

I feel slightly Ill

It’s now been 36 hours since I emerged from Zemeckis’ new rendition of Beowulf, and I’m over the hysteria. I’m no longer seriously proposing attempting to sue that noted director for rape, and I’m well past the nasty four hour stretch of the night before last which I spent in my closet cutting on myself.

She has high heels growing out of her feet.

But now that I’ve calmed down enough to write sensibly about what a very, very bad film this is, I fear that my very tangibility (and the fact that I’m not dancing around the blog spewing ectoplasm) may lead you to believe that something as foolhardy as personal aesthetic judgement informs my conclusions. You may be tempted to believe that the fact that I know and love the text from which this work is taken prejudices me against it unfairly. You may think that, whatever I thought, you might like it. But I am no raving English academic. Hearken! and observe how healthily – how calmly I can tell you the whole story.

Far Cry is a first person shooter released in 2004. It tells the story of Jack Carver (yup) a hawaiian-shirt wearing commando who is stranded on a series of pacific islands roamed by evil soldiers and bizarre mutants who want to taste his flesh. The game was developed by Crytek as a tech demo, and only turned into a stand-alone game at the last second. Plot (I just told you the entire plot), characters, budget voice acting and even certain gameplay elements were thrown into an impressive graphics engine pretty much at random. This game is fifty or sixty times more rewarding to play than Beowulf is to watch.

But even if the revolutionary digital animation hadn’t been three or four years behind the video games industry (and, indeed, the film industry, Lord of the Rings), even if the motion capture hadn’t been awful, the landscapes awful, the mip mapping VISIBLE (yes!) and most of the hair still one-piece (why did they make this film digitally? what were they trying to do, even supposing it had worked?), this would still have been the worst film of 2007. In fact, I’ve recently been wondering if it can stand with Contact and Daredevil to compete for the worst film of all time award.

Rather than list all the non-superficial reasons for the awful, here comes some… how you say… edited highlight action:

  • Amateurish sexual innuendo you can cut with a knife (incl. extended naked fight scene with an improbable number of large phallic objects “conveniently” placed between camera and privates).
  • Continuous use of suspense and off-camera introductions to delay visual appearance of incredibly underwhelming monsters, most offensively Grendel and the Sea Monsters.
  • Remind me to shout my own name very loudly whenever I am successful in any undertaking.
  • “Innovative mid-film twist on story you thought you knew” turns story into complete shit.
  • Attitude to women comparable to Garth Merenghi’s Darkplace, with the important difference that Darkplace was joking.

The only other thing I have to say is that in a world of woefully unconvincing 3D animation, Angelina Jolie looks perfectly normal, which has prompted me to realise that she actually looks like a woefully unconvincing 3D animation in real life. This concerns and bothers me.

Do not watch this film. Some bad films are good. This is not one of them. Instead, spend the 1h54 with any of the following things:

Book: John Gardner’s Grendel
Game: Team ICO’s Shadow of the Colossus
Film: Beowulf and Grendel, a live action version of the story filmed in Iceland which came out without anyone noticing last year. I haven’t seen it either, but there’s absolutely no way it’s worse.
Music: FaceOmeter’s brilliant and understated song As If John Hurt was in that Film, but in your mind replace the line “you waited the whole damn film for the aliens to show / but they turned out to be her father” with “you waited the whole damn film for the dragon to show / but it turned out to be a pile of arse and shite just like the rest of this complete balls-up of a production”

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It is essential that we reclaim the word “cripes”. Start using it constantly, do not stop for any reason.

Had a phone call from Gabby at Broken Toy today to ask us to fill a gap in their Sunday lineup at the Shaftesbury – so this Sunday, Dec 2nd (omg is it december already &c.) you can expect to see us there with FIVE other acts, for FREE, in London. Not to be missed, say I! By “us” incidentally I mean myself and the Dapperest Swindler. Come one, come all. Come down! Pleasure town!

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And yet more lol

There are a lot of people out there who think we should be playing fewer video games, and some people have better reasons than others. But I bet you’ve never heard this one before.

and saying so to some means nothing; others-*

*brilliant dickinson/larkin crossover moment

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She responded with those cries that men long to hear, the sweet deep moaning sounds that echo the sigh of oceans, the ebb and flow of fields, the sough of stars.

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Why half life 2 is still the best

Yeah I know: lots of computer game entries lately. I promise I’ll write about books or something all look all clever sometime soon. But this is all I can think about just now…

This is what it’s all about. A vortigaunt in a lab coat! Simultaneously cool and hilarious! It’s like my car embodied as a lighting-shooting alien. For the coup de gras, note the section I’ve enlarged, showing his photo ID (for the uninitiated: all vortigaunts are physically identical).

This hilarity is from Half Life 2: Episode 2, Valve’s latest expansion to a franchise which is becoming more classic by the second. I was a Half-Life 1 naysayer (I maintain it wasn’t as good as everybody thought), but Half-Life 2 is still the best FPS I’ve ever played, and its latest episode is almost certainly the best yet (subject to hindsight). There are three reasons for this:

1) You get a Vortigaunt companion for some of the levels. And they are chillers.
2) There’s a sandbox level at the end (haven’t finished it yet; want to savour it, no-one tell me what happens)
3) It’s really funny

It’s also changed my mind about episodically released gaming content. I now love episodic gaming. These days I don’t have time for games that are much longer than 5 hours anyway! Though in Valve’s case they need to make the episodes just a teeeeensy bit more often.

And yes, there are still some IRRITATING gameplay issues that could be fixed OH SO EASILY*, and it has been known to crash on my otherwise-sturdy PC, but you can’t really whinge too much when you’re watching dog taking down a strider. Halo 3, Gears of War, and even Crysis (for now) can all suck me off. This is where gaming is at, people!

If you are even vaguely into games and haven’t played this behemoth yet, buy the Orange Box right now. Not only do you get all the Half Life 2s, but you also get Portal (GotY?) and TF2, which I already mentioned recently. All for the price of like, one game. Seriously.

* Wouldn’t it be nice if I could get off a ladder without JUMPING TO MY DEATH?? Maybe it’s because I’m carrying twelvety guns. And a rocket launcher.

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I don’t like mirroring posts from the the excellent PC Gaming blog Rock, Paper, Shotgun, especially since 50% of this blog’s readership (hi john!) reads it daily anyway. BUT THIS SIMPLY CANNOT BE MISSED.



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Not getting any younger here

Messianic as I sometimes get about my songs, I very seldom stop to commemorate their anniversaries. This is because most of my songs don’t have anniversaries, of course. But whilst ‘An Epiphany’ was written in “November 2004 – June 2006”, I can say with absolute certainty that ‘Stuffed Animals’ was written on 19th Nov 2006, and I have the blog entry to prove it.

When I’m playing live, I often introduce ‘Stuffed Animals’ by saying “This is my darkest song, this is well depressing”. People laugh – they’re supposed to, it’s the way I tell em – but the sentiment, though tongue in cheek (like the song) is also very true. I’m not going to spell out for you what the song’s “about” – I think it speaks for itself better than most of my output, and if it doesn’t then people seem to have been enjoying it even in their ignorance.

The song replaces ‘Californian Styled’ (discussed in the pretentious entry linked to at the start) as the most creepily effortless FaceOmeter writing session. I estimate that the music and lyrics both turned up in well under an hour. The lyrics from that hour have never needed to be changed, not one word. The title eluded me for a few days, but during that time I recorded, produced and uploaded a version of the song (it’s still on myspace) and taught it to FaceOmeter and Friends, who filled it out perfectly – Tony with an incredible drum pattern and Clare with a brilliant flute line. Though the band is no more, alas, the song is still an important part of live sets; the last time Dapper Swindler and I hit up the North Bridge Inn was an evening ram-packed with wonderfulness, but one of the highlights for me was when people stopped their conversations to listen to this song – that’s pretty much the most gratifying thing that can happen to you, doing what we do. The video is on youtube.

Writing songs is weird. I don’t know if ‘An Epiphany’ is “better” or “worse” than ‘Stuffed Animals’, or even if you can “hear a difference” stemming from the radically different ways in which they were written. My latest theory is that the quick ones come more from the heart, the slow ones more from the head. This is far from being wateritght, but it’s the closest I’ve come to a general rule so far.

Whilst far from being divorced from the brain, ‘Stuffed Animals’ has more heart in it than anything else I’ve written.

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Unless it’s a farm

You mean they can’t already?

Ever since my excited preview I’ve been far too busy doing things like playing Team Fortress 2 to tell you what I think of Team Fortress 2, but the short answer is: it’s good.

One of the best things about TF2 is that it tracks a dizzying number of your personal stats, and shockingly enough they reveal that I spend most of my time playing as a soldier – the last thing you’d expect, since the soldier is the “human paladin” of the class-based FPS. But unlike a human paladin, the soldier has a rocket launcher, and playing as a spy for any length of time, whilst ridiculously good fun, is far too intense for my little ginger heart.

Blbbling on about all the different features of this excellent game is somewhat superfluous at this point, so I’ll be blunt. This game requires tremendous amounts of skill and a pretty large slice of luck. The design and balance are flawless – almost unbelievably so. Whilst it’s not without technical issues, there hasn’t been a game that will make you swear at your computer screen or laugh out loud more in the last five-ish years. If you haven’t played it already, I commend it to you.

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Apparently the Nerds these days are all about women whose breasts occur unusually far down their bodies. Is this bothering anyone else? (No.)

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I’m just killing time here

Greetings everybody,

I’ve not much to put up today so I thought I’d share with you this brilliant headline which I “did” see over on BBC News a few days ago. Let me stress that I have “not” edited it in any way…

I knew it!

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