Friday, 30 April 2010

Avatar: Dances with … trainspotters … Ummmmm …


Hmmmm …

I’ve got to admit, I’m feeling mildly impressed.

Well …

Seriously impressed …

Ish …

Because Allison, I, Movie Night Adrian, and Kevin Z, have all happily been watching the James Cameron opus that is Avatar, tonight.

Well …

I’m not too sure that Dr Kevin was entirely stunned, but seemed to have enjoyed the company, if nothing else …

If that’s not too harsh, Kevin … ?

But, at any rate, I can see what Kevin D mean’s, when he said he loved it.

It’s certainly a visual treat.

Certainly on a par with The Matrix and Terminator 2: the latter also a James Cameron flick.

Plot wise, though?

I can see how some people could — reportedly — extract the proverbial urine.

It sees Jake Sully, a paraplegic war veteran, join a joint corporate/scientific/military mission to an Earth-like moon of an unnamed gas-giant, where he has to operate an avatar — which is what gives the film its title — in order to both gather intelligence on the native Na’vi people.

You can see the plot from here, can’t you?

Suffice to say that things don’t go as his corporate and military employers would like …


Now, I’ve got to admit, I liked Avatar

There is tons in there, if you’re going to dig around for it.

And I’m being fairly literal, there.

I mean from the (fairly obvious) food for thought about how we in the West have dealt, over the centuries, with various indigenous populations: all the way from the Native Americans, to the various Pacific Islanders.

To the fact that this is, from where I’m sitting, a train spotter’s delight of a film: the various effects house who worked on this included — but isn’t necessarily limited to — Weta and ILM, for starters.

Oh, and a lot of people seem convinced that Pocohontas was a big influencing factor.

I couldn’t swear to that: I could equally point to Fern Gully, at this stage.

With a few touches — in one of the later set-piece speeches, and the idea of stopping abuse of a planetary ecology, for religious reasons — of Dune. (Which tickled me, actually, one of the backers involved was called Dune Productions, I couldn’t help but notice … )

And the various flight sequences, on the various native creatures I didn’t catch the name of, but couldn’t help think of as dragons … ? Well, I think that maybe James Cameron owes Anne McCaffery a bob or two … !

And I couldn’t help but noticed that the design of some of the gunships look similar to something else I’d seen …


Actually, that’s possibly why Avatar seemed somehow to be pushing my trainspotter buttons.

It strikes me that Cameron, here, is quite possibly, trying to re-tell the story in one of his earlier successes.

I’m thinking, here, of Aliens.

Both involve alien species that could — could, I should stress — be seen as bad for humanity.

Both involve intense military action, sponsored by a big company, on a far off colony world.

That eventually gets thoroughly trounced.

But, whereas the earlier film sees the military as brave soldiers doing a dangerous job, Avatar sees the military as a catastrophe for the natives.

Something I feel Avatar attempts to redress, in the defeat the military eventually sees at the hands — or pony tails — of the Na’vi.


Does that make Avatar a bad film … ?

Not necessarily, I think.

OK, granted it has a “Lets Not Knacker The Natives or Mother Earth” message that some may find a touch irritating.

And there’s one or two design niggles that grabbed me: including one for the planetary exobiologist reading this*.

But it’s none the worse for that.

Let’s face it, science fiction has often tried this, Avatar’s maybe a touch more obvious than most.

But, for all it’s length, it’s a film that does try to tell an entertaining story.

And does that, very well.


* It goes like this. The Na’vi had two arms, two legs, a head and a tail, Every other creature we see on Pandora has EITHER four wings and two legs and a head and tail, OR four arms and two legs and a head and tail OR six legs and a head and tail. See what I mean, there … ?   Granted, that’s me being niggly. But if you’re going to spend that much money on making a movie …

The Daily Teaser, and the Friday Question set …

You know, I’ve got to admit, I missed out posting up last week’s 60-question-set, after the Great Router Disaster!

But that’s got both good and bad points.

On the one hand, it means disappointed quizmasters. But on the upside, I’ve had a weeks grace to prep up another one …

But I’m burbling, aren’t I?

Yesterday’s Teaser saw Trevor and Angela putting in answers, with Trevor getting 5 out of 5, and Angela getting 1!

Let’s see how everyone does, today, shall we? Here’s the questions, along with the ‘How To’ and License

Q1) 30th April, 1993, saw which tennis player stabbed by a deranged fan?

Q2) More to the point, by a deranged fan of whom … ?

Q3) That same day — 30th April, 1993 — saw the first broadcasts by which UK radio station?

Q4) 30th April, 1973, saw President Richard ‘Tricky Dicky’ Nixon accept full responsibility for — but no personal involvement with — what … ?

Q5) 30th April, 1952, saw whose diary receive its first English language publications?

Q6) And finally … 30th April, 1993, saw CERN announce that it would make what freely available … ?

Here’s the questions and answers for yesterday …

Q1) 29th April, 1483, saw which island conquered by the Kingdom of Castille?
A1) Gran Canaria, the main island in the Canaries.

Q2) 509 years later, 29th April, 1992, saw which US city erupt in rioting, after a notorious trial?
A2) Los Angeles. (After four white policemen were found ‘Not Guilty’ of the beating of Rodney King.)

Q3) 29th April, 2004 saw the building of the last car by which US car company?
A3) Oldsmobile.

Q4) One year later, 29th April, 2005, saw the first Civil Union in which country … ?
A4) New Zealand.

Q5) And finally … 29th April, 1986, saw the funeral of which controversial Duchess … ?
A5) Wallis, Duchess of Windsor (born Bessie Wallis Warfield, later Spencer, then Simpson: but just putting her down as Wallis Simpson will be fine … )

And — da da-da da da-DA — is the 60-question-set for struggling quiz masters, published — as ever — with the same license as the teasers …

Online 51

Round One. General Knowledge.

Q1) Sancerre and Pouilly Fume are usually made from which white grape?
A1) Sauvignon Blanc.

Q2) Who directed the original Nightmare On Elm Street?
A2) Wes Craven.

Q3) Which south American bat shares its name with a blood-sucking monster?
A3) The Vampire Bat.

Q4) Which famous Roman said “I came, I Saw, I Conquered”?
A4) Julius Caesar.

Q5) Which is furthest north, Colchester, or Chelmsford?
A5) Colchester.

Q6) In which Russian city is Saint Basil’s Cathedral?
A6) Moscow.

Q7) Which British monarch was the last Emperor of India?
A7) George 6th.

Q8) In Dad’s Army, who had a daytime job as an undertaker?
A8) Private Fraser.

Q9) In which decade did Lester Piggott first win the Derby?
A9) The 1950’s.

Q10) The 1959 Royal Variety Performance cancelled because of what?
A10) The Queen was pregnant.

Round Two. Stage and Screen.

Q11) Who was the central character, in One Foot In The Grave?
A11) Victor Meldrew.

Q12) What’s the full name of either of the main characters in The X-Files.
A12) Dana Scully, Fox Mulder.

Q13) Who do Father Jack, and Father Dougal share Craggy Island with?
A13) Father Ted.

Q14) Which classic Audrey Hepburn film sees her playing Holly Golightly?
A14) Breakfast at Tiffany’s

Q15) Who feuded with the Capulets, in Shakespear’s Romeo & Juliet?
A15) The Montagues.

Q16) Which American playwright wrote A Streetcar Named Desire?
A16) Tennessee Williams.

Q17) What type of animal was Skippy?
A17) A kangaroo.

Q18) Which Spanish set, BBC soap famously flopped, during the 1980s?
A18) El Dorado

Q19) Which children’s series featured a time travelling medieval wizard?
A19) Catweazle.

Q20) Which town is Coronation Street set in?
A20) Weatherfield.

Round Three. True or False.

Q21) True or False; - Leonardo Da Vinci sculpted the Venus de Milo?
A21) False.

Q22) True or False; - Until the 19th century, Italian boy sopranos could be castrated to preserve their voices?
A22) True. (They were called castrati.)

Q23) True or False; - William Shakespeare wrote ‘Hamlet’ as anti Danish propaganda?
A23) False.

Q24) True or false; - English is spoken by more people, than any other language?
A24) False. (Its Mandarin Chinese.)

Q25) True or False; - Mr Hoover invented the vacuum cleaner?
A25) False. (It was by a Mr Bissell.)

Q26) True or False; - Snortra was the Norse god of wisdom?
A26) True.

Q27) True or False; - The Roman Catholic Church is the world’s largest?
A27) True.

Q28) True or False; - The Century plant blooms once a century?
A28) False, its once every 20, to 30 years.

Q29) True or False; - Orson Welles & Rita Hayworth were husband & wife?
A29) True.

Q30) True or False; - By 1996, Britain’s favourite food was fish and chips?
A30) False, it was Chicken Tikka Massala.

Round Four. Music and Lights.

Q31) Which guitar legend joined Ginger Baker, & Jack Bruce, to form Cream?
A31) Eric Clapton.

Q32) Luciano Pavarotti, Jose Carreras, & Placido Domingo were collectively better known how?
A32) The Three Tenors.

Q33) Which vocal range is higher, baritone, tenor or bass?
A33) Tenor.

Q34) Which 60’s band released Waterloo Sunset?
A34) The Kinks.

Q35) Which late country singer was the world’s biggest selling performer?
A35) Johnny Cash.

Q36) Who was the lead singer of Thin Lizzy?
A36) Phil Lynott.

Q37) Which 80’s band released an album called Lexicon of Love?
A37) ABC.

Q38) Which rock & roll legend has had most hits in the charts, simultaneously?
A38) Elvis Presley. ( 8 of ’em, in 1957)

Q39) Who replaced Glenn Matlock as the bassist of the Sex Pistols?
A39) Sid Vicious.

Q40) Which singer’s singing father used to play goal for Real Madrid’s reserve team?
A40) Enrique Iglesias.

Round Five. Do It Yourself.

Q41) What sort of device is a Chubb?
A41) A lock.

Q42) What — in the bedroom — has a TOG rating?
A42) The duvet.

Q43) What colour is Copydex adhesive?
A43) White.

Q44) Where’s the door on a chest freezer?
A44) On top.

Q45) What would you make in a percolator?
A45) Coffee.

Q46) What colour does silver turn, when it rusts?
A46) Purple.

Q47) Is Araldite a strong or light, glue?
A47) Strong.

Q48) What does a bradawl make in wood?
A48) Holes.

Q49) Is a kilogram heavier, or lighter, than 2 imperial pounds?
A49) Heavier; - it’s about 2.2lbs.

Q50) Should silk be washed in hot, warm or cool water?
A50) Cool water.

Round Six. Food and Drink.

Q51) Shiraz is a well-known red wine grape; - what’s its alternative name?
A51) Syrah.

Q52) Calvados is a kind of brandy made from what, apples, oranges, or pears?
A52) Apples.

Q53) What shape is farfelle pasta?
A53) Bow shaped.

Q54) Which version of the word whisky is the correct one for Scotch; - whisky, or whiskey?
A54) Whisky.

Q55) Who invented cornflakes, William Smith, or William Kellogg?
A55) William Kellogg.

Q56) Sturgeon eggs are better known as what?
A56) Caviar.

Q57) Which US President said “I don’t like broccoli … I’m President of the USA, & I’m not going eat any more”?
A57) George W. Bush.

Q58) On what bird would you find the parson’s nose?
A58) The chicken. (Blowed if I’m saying which bit of the chicken … )

Q59) Which dessert is a traditional food on Shrove Tuesday?
A59) Pancakes.

Q60) What gas puts the fizz into fizzy drinks?
A60) Carbon Dioxide.

Enjoy your day, everyone … ! I’ll catch you later!