Thursday, June 30, 2011

When Space-Junk Attacks!!!

The Russians, Americans and Japanese personnel on the ISS had a narrow escape Tuesday when a piece of debris came within 335m of the platform.

While debris' size is unknown, experts suggest even a small object could do considerable damage to the ISS because they travel at many thousands of kilometres per hour. NASA's Associate Administrator for Space Operations, Bill Gerstenmaier, said it was the closest a debris object had ever come to the station.

The Russian space agency instructed the ISS crew to take their evacuation places aboard the Soyuz capsules which are normally used to ferry crew to and from the platform, but enough of them are present on a permanent basis so they can be used as lifeboats if an emergency arises. Normally, the station uses thrusters to move out of the way of junk, but this alert was raised too late to do so.

Scientists estimate that there are hundreds of thousands of junk fragments in space of up to 10cm (four inches) in size, but there are many millions more pieces that are smaller.

Colonel “Stargazer” Smith, Orbital Operations Commander of UNETIDA has suggested the debris may be listed as "unidentified" in NASA's orbital debris, junk and hazards database if it is parts of the extra terrestrial spacecraft the UN agency secretly destroyed in 2004, but made no official confirmation.

Source: BBC

Monday, June 27, 2011

X-Men: First Class is first class!

The X-Men series of movies started out very well with the original proving to be as good as Spider-Man. then like Spider-Man, it’s sequel was massively superior to the original. Alas like Spider-Man the X-Men had a “turd third” and had to be stopped in it’s tracks before it completely destroyed the franchise. However, it soon emerged that both franchises would be sent down the “reboot” path, such that their fourth outings will have entirely new casts and production teams. I was initially very dubious about the new treatment revealed for Spider-Man, but I’m filled with hope for it after seeing that the new entry in the X-Men series, X-Men: First Class as it is as good a movie as the first sequel.

Now one may hold up their hands and scream that they’re sick of origin stories and prequels churning out a different interpretation of the same basic core ideas but some of these stories are so fascinating and well conceived that they deserve retelling. Few complain when the heroes of old; King Arthur, Robin Hood, Beowulf or Hercules are reimagined and reinterpreted - so as comic books hold the greatest source of legendary heroes in modern times then they too are deserving of the same treatment and to have their story re-interpreted by different people, for no one vision can really be more “correct” than another.

With X-Men: First Class, Director Matthew Vaughn weaves an intriguing tale of the early days of those who would become the X-Men but centers mainly on Dr. Charles Xavier and Eric Lehnsherr the young men who would later become Professor X and Magneto. As a boy, Xavier finds Raven [who would later grow up to be Mistique] in his kitchen impersonating his mother and he is pleased to learn he is not the only one with a power. He grows into cocky womanising young man in the 1960's when the movie is set and excellently portrayed by James Wanted McEvoy. He was of course a genius and was already well on his way to becoming a professor of genetics at Oxford university. Lehnsherr [Michael Centurion Fassbender] on the other hand was much less fortunate as we witnessed in the opening scene of the original X-Men movie in 2000, when his power manifested itself at a Nazi concentration camp. Vaughn fleshed out this moment and contextualised it more by adding his version of the X-Men villain Sebastian Shaw [Kevin Bacon] as a Nazi and a mentor of sorts for his emerging power. Lehnsherr grows into a man filled with hate for Shaw for what he did to him and is by the '60's, scouring the planet to find him.

Shaw has amassed a fortune in the intervening years since WWII and poses a threat to world peace that cannot be ignored or fought by conventional means as he now has at his command, a group of evil mutants. The CIA's Dr. Moira MacTaggert [Rose 28 Weeks Later Byrne] enlists the help of Dr. Xavier who with Raven convince the CIA that Shaw and his mutants are a serious threat. A Man in Black [Oliver Platt] takes them to his facility where they encounter Dr. Henry "Hank" McCoy [Nicholas Clash of the Titans Hoult] who reveals his creation Cerebro allowing Xavier to discover several other mutants Angel [Zoë Californication Kravitz], Banshee [Caleb Friday Night Lights Landry Jones] and Havok [Lucas Battle: Los Angeles Till] to aid them in stopping Shaw and his mutants including Emma Frost [January Mad Men Jones] and Azazel [Jason Ironclad Flemyng].

It’s safe to say that while there are some shockingly brutal and violent moments on display here, there is an equal amount of levity. Vaughn was careful to inject just the right amount of humour to offset what can be perceived as negativity to ensure a balance of light and dark represented by the central characters. Most of this humour is related to the younger mutants and their powers but it can come from anywhere - from the ‘60’s related setting to perhaps some intentional corny dialog – oh and the biggest laugh is undoubtedly from the greatest and most hilarious movie-cameo in the history of celluloid which is contained therein. Speaking of cameos, an impressive supporting cast was drafted in to make this movie what it was including Glenn Moreshower, Matt Craven, Ray Wise, James Remar and the legendary Michael Ironside.

While the titanic battle between good and evil represented by the conflict between the X-Men and Shaw's band of mutants is what the movie is marketed with and of course it's main draw; it is somewhat predictable and derivative. While this may be a negative point to some it must be noted that this is not the essential focus of the movie as a whole which is why it works incredibly well and perhaps even elevates it above the common super-hero story. In a unique way we observe the two sides of the same coin in Xavier and Lernsher, they certainly both want mutant-kind’s potential to be recognised and unlocked so that they no longer have to live in fear but each man has a different idea about how to accomplish this and they eventually reach an impasse which we already know that neither of them will resolve. The main tale is between them, and the simultaneous friendship and conflict brewing between them. This is what [chronologically of course] carries over to the previous movies. Shaw is more then a mere villain of the piece, he is focus for Lensherr’s hatred allowing the audience to sympathise with Fasbender’s character in a way that we previously couldn’t to McKellen’s Magneto and this is a far more interesting reason to see this movie.

Final Verdict: This is an interesting take on the X-Men, it's fresh enough to be a reboot but fits in seamlessly with the existing movie-continuity. It has action and humour in acceptable quantities and is far from a run-of-the-mill comic-book movie. The X-Men brand is no longer poisoned.

Colonel Creedon Rating: ****1/2

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Operation: Neptune Spear goes graphic!

The daring secret mission to get Osama bin Laden by elite U.S. forces will be told in the pages of a graphic novel that aims to shed more light — with a bit of creative license — on the event.

Capt. Dale Dye (USMC, Ret.) and Julia Dye have written an 88-page hardcover graphic novel Code Word: Geronimo which takes a look at the mission that killed Osama Bin Laden.

Illustrated by artists Gerry Kissell and Amin Amat; IDW which currently publish the G.I.Joe titles say that this will be a politic-free look at the planning and execution of this incredibly daring mission.

A portion of the proceeds from the sale of the book will be donated to the American Veterans Center and it's due Sept. 6th

Sunday, June 12, 2011


“See this? It’s a Hurley. The Irish use it in a game that’s a cross between Hockey and murder.”

The opening speech delivered by master orator Jason Statham portraying Det.Sgt. Brant in Blitz a well directed gritty British thriller from Elliott Lester. It’s good to see Statham hasn’t completely ‘Americanised’ himself from appearing in the likes of The Mechanic, Death Race, The Expendables and The Transporter series in so far as that he can’t comfortably take up a role in such a quintessentially British film such as this. As a first, Blitz actually required Statham to act as opposed to just running and jumping while shooting, dodging rocket propelled grenades or shooting from the window of vehicles travelling at 120kph as the majority of his previous projects have required him to do at one point or another.

Statham’s tough as nails, renegade, alcoholic copper Brant, is put on the hunt for the self styled Blitz [Aidan Game of Thrones Gillen] who is on a brutal police officer killing spree throughout his London district. Brant is aided by Insp. Porter Nash [Paddy The Bourne Ultimatum Considine] a homosexual officer from another station who’s career is not without his own black spots. Together the two men must reconcile their differences and pool their collective talents and traits in order to catch their psychopathic adversary.

This movie contains scenes that may not be for the squeamish. At one point following a brutal scuffle, our killer beats someone’s skull in until it’s a pulp, then upon realising what he has done, vomits through his hands into the bloody mess before him. Blitz is not afraid of blood and gore and wears it’s sadly now rare 18 Certificate like a badge of honor in defiance of the current abhorrent trend of editing a directors true vision down to where it can be delivered to a larger age group. No, this is an adult movie and it does what it says on the tin.

Blitz is probably a bit more realistic in comparison to it’s American cousins in so far as it presents a view of police procedure a bit more grounded in reality in some respects; but in others, especially the climax is delivers something that goes against even the most grounded Hollywood vision of the world which isn’t a bad thing and perhaps may quite literally, blow you away.

Ironclad will probably be considered the best British movie of the year, but if you prefer it more modern then you'd do well not to ignore Blitz.

Colonel Creedon Rating: ****

Saturday, June 11, 2011

The changing face of defense

After he replaced Donald Rumsfeld during the Bush administration and after being asked to stay on by President Obama, the Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, a former director of the CIA will take another stab at retirement on June 30th. Gates will be replaced by current CIA Director Leon Panetta who has already vowed to put National Security and the troops first.

Behind POTUS, [Left to Right] Director Panetta, Gen. Petraeus and Lt.Gen. Allen

Panetta’s vacated position in the CIA will be filled by retiring US Army General David Petraeus, currently in command of the International Security Assistance Force and U.S. Forces Afghanistan, a post he was given following the General McChrystal scandal.

Yesterday, President Obama formally nominated Marine Corps Lt. Gen. John Allen, USMC to receive a fourth star and serve as the next commander of ISAF and U.S. Forces Afghanistan following Petraeus’ departure.

Later in October Navy Admiral Mike Mullen, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff will also retire. It was originally expected that current Vice Chairman, Marine Corps General James Cartwright, a “favourite” of the Obama administration would take Adm. Mullen’s place, but a minor controversy involving a female adjutant which came to light earlier may have removed the Marine from consideration and ended the USMC’s occupation of one of the two top military seats for 12 years. Instead, the relatively new Chief Of Staff of the US Army, General Martin Dempsey has been nominated to ascend to the Chairman’s position.

[Left to Right] Gen. Dempsey, Adm. Winnefeld, Gen. Odinero

Navy Admiral James Winnefeld, Jr., will leave his position as Commander, U.S. Northern Command and Commander, NORAD to assume the #2 job as Vice Chairman.

Army General Raymond Odinero [the man who famously shaved Steven Colbert’s head last summer], current commander of the soon to be decommissioned US Joint Forces Command will be promoted to replace Gen. Dempsey as Chief of Staff for the US Army.

Also due to the shock resignation of UNETIDA’s Director of Intelligence, Général de Brigade “Escargot” Delacroix of france following a necrophilia scandal; President Obama has forwarded Marine Corps Colonel “Whopper” Creedon’s name to the UN Security Council in New York as prospective replacement.

Col. Creedon and Brig. Gen Jackson

This follows his earlier forwarding of UNETIDA's Missile Defence Commander [Northern], Air Force Brigadier General "Ballista" Jackson's name to replace RAF Air Vice Marshall "Albatross" Davenport III once his term as UNETIDA Director is up in September.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Brian Lenihan T.D. 1959 - 2011

The Irish political scene was dealt a severe blow today with the untimely passing of its only intellectual giant - Brian Lenihan TD, the country’s previous Minister for Finance. For many it was a shock but not an unanticipated event as Mr. Lenihan was diagnosed with terminal cancer some months back and only 3 weeks ago laughed off Internet rumours that he had already died. Despite his serious illness, he retained an unmatched sense of duty and patriotism which he displayed by not stepping down from office and favouring the continuation of his work in government over searching for cures or even devoting his final months to his family. He was a bastion of hope, a true hero against the Sword of Damocles that hung over his life and fought like a Trojan to the end.

Lenihans have been drawn to politics as moths are to flames and with Brian’s passing it ends a dynasty's 3 generation-long tenure in the Dáil. His father, former Taniste Brian Lenihan served Dáil Éireann from 1961 until 1995. His grandfather Patrick served from 1965 until his death in 1970. His aunt Mary O'Rourke (née Lenihan) his father's sister, was a senator and a TD and a minister at various times between 1981 until this year when she lost her seat in the general election. Brian's brother Conor was most recently Minister for State from 2004 until this year when he lost his seat.

Brian himself was School Captain of Belvedere College before attending Trinity College Dublin and Sidney Sussex College in Cambridge. He was called to the Irish Bar by the Honorable Society of King's Inns. He was elected to politics in 1996 in a by-election triggered by his father's death. Following his re-election in '97 he was Chairman of the All-Party Oireachtas Committee on the Constitution. He was appointed as Minister for Children in 2002 and later Minister for Justice, but reached his full potential when promoted to Minister for Finance in 2008, inheriting an impossible job and a poison chalice as it was at this time that the economy was going awry. He shouldered half the political burden of the country from the fallout of the banking crisis and showed huge political courage in the face of what he couldn’t possibly have prevented and cannot be blamed for.

A towering intellect, Mr. Lenihan had a remarkable breath of knowledge that made him interesting and even entertaining company. He was famously unpunctual due to his desire to listen to and to devote time to everyone. His grasp, understanding and command of the law was outstanding. He was able to recount seemingly endless facts and points about any subject he was faced with and could quote laws, poems and historical quotes on a whim with little by way of reference. His political charisma was unmatched as evidenced by the fact that he managed to convince the Fianna Fáil party politicians to make the most unpopular decisions of any government, effectively signing their political death warrants, and he did it all for the good of the country, for he knew he had little future in life.

Brian was misled, let down and stabbed in the back by the banking sector, which had issues that were infinitely bigger than what they reported to him. Knowing that a man of his honour, decency and fairness would not abide by their nefarious practices, they concealed most of their dealings from him. Brian was open, direct and honest and hoped to receive that from others but he was not granted this courtesy which saddened him greatly.

The last 15 months or so before the general election can’t have been what his doctors prescribed, but he persevered with his work, travelling throughout Europe to present Ireland’s case its neighbours as well as dealing with the tremendous political resistance to his policies at home. He contested the leadership of Fianna Fáil when Brian Cowan stepped down but lost to Micheál Martin before astonishingly retaining the party's only Dáil seat in Dublin as Fianna Fáil all but disintegrated around him.

Tributes and accolades have poured in from politicians across the political divide and from from every corner of the country lead by the President Mary McAleese, An Taoiseach Enda Kenny and party leader Micheál Martin. Texts were read and phone calls were played on the airwaves from ordinary people who despite being negatively affected by his draconian budgets, had sincere words of condolences for his family, wife Patricia, his son, daughter and mother and there were heartfelt expressions of mourning for his loss, many tearful.

I salute any man that deserves the moniker of “hero” more than I and today there is one less of them alive. Everyone in the country should be made understand his bravery in what he did for the Irish people in the face of such opposition with little concern for his own life, and when you do understand - you will be proud to be Irish.

May he finally get the rest he has so richly deserved.


Thor hammers it home

When I heard that Kenneth Branagh was going to helm Marvel's movie based on the superhero The Mighty Thor, I was initially dumbfounded. One's first instinct is to think "Doesn't Brannagh do serious drama or Shakespearean stuff?", it was only realising the latter genre was his most prolific playground was what sold me on the whole idea because if you've read Thor you'll know that the characters bizarrely outmoded speech matches what Branagh has spent the majority of his career working with.

Thankfully however, Brannagh eschewed the more bizarre Asgardian dialog and just let them speak more elegant English than you'll ever find in a modern super-hero movie. But dialog is only one thing; what of the obviously necessary CGI special effects driven spectacle that would be required to faithfully interpret one of Marvel’s oldest properties? The last “long shot” they backed was Jon Favreau doing Iron Man, but even he had the likes of Zathura under his belt - with the exception of a few lightening bolts in Mary Shelly's Frankenstein back in '94, Brannagh has had little experience with special effects laden movies it was feared by many including myself that he just wouldn’t have the knowledge to pull this off to any great degree.

I needn't have worried, because Brannagh nailed it. With him, a modest $150m and the support of a fabulous production team; Marvel Studios with Paramount got it right again as they have with Iron Man and The Incredible Hulk. Only this time they've done what I thought would be impossible: they've turned comic book character I've always thought rather dull into an interesting an entertaining movie.

The relatively unknown Chris Star Trek Hemsworth landed the role of Thor and he embodies the character splendidly [or as much of Thor as I’ve read which is admittedly limited to crossovers with Iron Man]. Considering what Robert Downey Jnr.’s Tony Stark pricetag must be now, it’s a good thing that Hemsworth is not as big a name as Downey, Chris Evans [as Captain America] or Mark Rufallo [as Bruce Banner] will be for their ensemble film The Avengers next year. The Norse god’s love interest Jane Foster is portrayed by Natalie Portman who I believe may be getting a little too much celluloid exposure when you consider not including this one - she's appeared in 4 movies already this year including her Oscar winning turn in Black Swan. I’m not sure she had the energy on screen that is required for a super hero movie as hers seemed the flattest performance of the bulging cast. I was surprised that Brannagh did not cast himself as Odin, Thor's father however and instead roped in Sir Anthony Hopkins to play the Asgardian King. One my think Sir Tony a bit to old now to be dressing up in such bizarre costumes and hamming it up but no, the man still has it. And every super hero story must have a super villain and Branagh's Wallander co-star Tom Hiddleston’s turn as the iconic Marvel villain Loki isn’t half bad considering the actor's similar lack of experience with the genre.

The supporting cast does not disappoint, Stellan Ronin Skarsgård is Jane’s mentor Professor Erik Selvig, Kat Dennings is Darcy, Jane's assistant and a good shot with a taser. Idris The Losers Elba is Heimdall, who stands eternal guard over the Bifröst which grants passage in and out of Asgard. Thor has a team of sorts, his friend Sif [Jaimie Kyle XY Alexander] and "The Warriors Three": Volstagg [Ray Punisher: War Zone Stevensen], Fandral [Joshua The Descent 2 Dallas] and Hogun [Tadanobu Ichi the Killer Asano] who aid him in battle until his exile to Earth. Fans of Iron Man and its sequel will instantly recognise Clark Gregg as Agent Coulson of S.H.I.E.L.D. in his largest role yet to date as the character. Of course there’s the obligatory cameo from Samuel L. Jackson once again as Nick Fury, but for his part in the tale you must wait until the final credit has rolled to reveal the stinger. The biggest surprise however is that here Rene Russo returns to the screen after an extraordinarily long [in Hollywood terms] absence since 2005, to play Thor's stepmother Frigga.

Co-written by Mark I am Legend Protoseveich and Babylon 5 creator J. Michael Straczynski who was not long after spending a stint writing the Thor comic book and scored by Patrick Doyle, Thor is an origin tale of sorts, in so far as it introduces the character to audiences but it’s not a story which is bogged down in the characters past [in so far as we don’t know how exactly he came by Mjolnir, his mighty hammer and source of power]. The movie is drenched in humour and in-jokes but not to the extent of making a mockery of itself. Thor is portrayed as a cocky, brash, headstrong prince who on the day of his ascension to the throne, defies his father's wishes and reignites an ancient conflict with the Frost Giants of Jotunheim. Exiled to Earth as a mortal, now bereft of his power as a punishment for his disobedience, Thor is discovered and aided by astrophysicist Jane Foster's expedition in New Mexico. Thor must learn humility and become worthy of his power and retrieve Mjolnir from the clutches of S.H.I.E.L.D.

Final Verdict: Thor is a fun and entertaining action adventure superhero movie that hits all its marks and then some. Hopefully this - the first of the great summer blockbusters - sets a precedent for all that follow.

Colonel Creedon Rating: *****

Wednesday, June 08, 2011

Video of a Bear playing the piano

Composer Bear McCreary, a student of Elmer Bernstein, composed the music for every episode of Battlestar Galactica after it went to series in 2004 until its finale in 2009.

McCreary has just published a piano book of some of his work on the show which includes "Prelude to War" from Season 2, my favourite track of his. He even made a video of it for his blog and it's well worth a listen [even if you don't watch] especially if you're familiar with the fully orchestral version of the piece.

If you're not impressed - take the time to realise he's not reading the sheet music!

Tuesday, June 07, 2011

We shall not forget....

Almost nine and a half thousand US soldiers are buried in this cemetery in Normandy.

Almost all died on D-Day.

The Eagle: An endangered species

Not unlike last year’s movie Centurion, this is another take on the Legio IX Hispana legend of Roman history where an entire legion of fully armed Roman soldiers vanished behind Hadrian’s wall in the Highlands of Scotland. While Centurion was firmly a British movie however, The Eagle bears all the hallmarks of a mid-low budget U.S. production.

Mostly because of Russel Crowe’s disastrously muddled accent in Robin Hood, I counted it as a blessing that Nicholas Cage made no effort at masking his distinctive drawl in Season Of The Witch. Channing Tatum while not possessing either, thankfully still took the latter approach and adopted no such nonsense in The Eagle for portraying Marcus Aquila a newly minted officer, given command of a Roman garrison in Northern Britain. I think if the jury was out on how successful this man would become [assuming you didn’t appreciate his turn in Stop Loss] then his performance here will seal the deal, one way or another. This is firmly Tatum’s showcase for his chops and for me he doesn’t disappoint delivering not a noteworthy, but yet convincing performance of a man elevated to a heroes status only to have what he achieved taken from him. He must now prove himself and return honour to his family name by retrieving the gold eagle standard carried by and lost with the 9th Legion.

To aid him in this quest is a slave Esca [Jamie Defiance Bell], not wasted in his role to act as servant and guide to Marcus as he leads him through the glens and peaks of the Highlands, but before long we must wonder where Esca’s loyalty lies as they encounter the Picts, who are none to happy about seeing a Roman, a hated enemy in their midst. The cast is rounded off by Donald The Mechanic Sutherland phoning in a performance as Marcus' uncle and Mark Kick-Ass Strong as Guern who is strangely not a villain!!

Scottish director Kevin McDonald best known for The Last King of Scotland is sadly only a so-so director and it's evident from the excellent first act that he's capable of doing so much more for the remainder of the movie but never quite gets there. He also fails with his establishing shots and beauty shots of Scotland. We are not treated to enough representation of either the epic rugged terrain of the Highlands or the serene calm of Loch Lomand. If you're going to make a movie in Scotland - use Scotland, but this movie could have been made in a field. A missed opportunity.

Final Verdict: An interesting take on a tale we've heard before but looses pace a bit after it's very strong opening and doesn't really regain it. Worth a watch but Centurion does this all better [and has blood].

Colonel Creedon Rating: ***

Saturday, June 04, 2011

On Mission

Apologies, this was to have auto-posted during the week. Blogger fuck-up.

I'm "somewhere hot" with "the boys". Be back soon.