Monday, January 30, 2012

Movie Mini-Reviews 30-01-12

It was pointed out to me this week that I hadn't yet reviewed The Thing [the 2011 prequel]. I was sure I had, so I claimed I did. In reality I hadn't actually finished this post and must publicly apologise to Sith Master and submit the following:

In Time

In Time is a high-concept hard-science fiction tale from Andrew The Truman Show Niccol. Set in a world where you are genetically engineered to stop aging at 25, you are given a year to live before you die - unless you obtain extra time elsewhere. The only currency here is time itself and it can be transferred from one person to another by touch. As a result, the poor live day to day on borrowed time while the rich are practically immortal.

Justin Timberlake flexes his acting muscles yet again to take the lead in this his first major action role, he plays Will Salas a commoner from the workers district who only ever has hours on his clock and must work constantly to earn time to live. He meets Hamilton, a wealthy man with a century on his clock whom he saves from a brutal fate. Hamilton has death wish and fulfills it but not before bestowing Salas with his century. After failing to save his mother [Olivia Tron: Legacy Wilde] from “timing out” he travels to the wealthy district where he falls foul of a relentless timekeeper Raymond Leon [Cilian Inception Murphy], but befriends a feisty rich-kid Sylvia [Amanda Red Riding Hood Sigfried] who is disillusioned with her lot in life and they begin an incredible futuristic Bonnie & Clyde meets Robin Hood campaign to bring time to the masses.

This was an excellent alternate-universe chase-move and possibly one of the most original movies of the past ten years. The writer Harlan Ellison was at one time under the impression that this movie was based on "Repent, Harlequin!" Said the Ticktockman his 1965 short-story, but after seeing In Time, he promptly dropped his lawsuit and didn't even demand a credit - such was the movie's sheer originality. I want more of this please.

Colonel Creedon Rating: ****

The Thing

When you have the audacity to make a prequel to such a perfect piece of art like John Carpenter's 1982 masterpiece The Thing. The least you can do is not actually call it The Thing again. This makes it very confusing as if you now say The Thing without specification, then it's not immediately clear if your referring to to the original movie or this extremely lame turd.

The Thing 2011 which I chose to now refer to it as, is a fascinating study in ill-conceived movie making. Starring Mary Elizabeth Scott Pilgrim Winstead, Joel Star Wars Episode II, Attack of the Clones Edgerton, Ulrich Centurion Thomsen, Eric Christian NCIS: Los Angeles Olsen and a whole host of unknown Scandinavians who sound like The Swedish Chef. They basically all plod around running from unconvincing CGI monsters that pale in comparison to grotesque creations of Rob Bottin for just over an hour and a half under the incompetent direction of Matthijs van Heijningen Jr. who had made nothing before this other than commercials and a Dutch short-film - and boy does it show.

I beseech you all not to waste your time with this laughably-shit sci-fi horror, one of the most pointless prequels ever created that fails to add anything to its progenitor.

Colonel Creedon Rating: *

Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol

I'll admit I didn't hold out much hope for a fourth installment of this ageing series despite J.J. Abrams delivering an adequate sequel [M:I-3] to John Woo's sublime masterpiece [M:I-2] - itself a superior sequel to a by-the numbers original Mission: Impossible from Brian DePalma back in 1996. This was because DePalma, Woo and Abrams had proved themselves to me before their M:I movies appeared but Brad Bird's only claim to my DVD shelf was The Incredibles a great movie but a CGI animated one,. Animation is a very different kettle of fish to the world of live-action movie making, certainly one as intense as I'd imagine an M:I shoot to be.

I needn't have worried at all, Bird took the reigns of this phenomenal beast and made it his own. He melded an excellent cast of Tom Cruise, Jeremey Hurt Locker Renner, newcomer Paula Patton and made fantastic use of Simon Star Trek Pegg forming the best IMF team of the franchise. The situation that the team find themselves in is far from ideal and they must complete their impossible mission with little support and with sharpened wits as opposed to audacious technology. Spectacular stunts, exotic locales and intense thrills have been the series hallmarks and this movie seems to have the most of the lot.

Absolutely outstanding, I almost died from adrenaline poisoning. You'd be an idiot to miss it.

Colonel Creedon Rating: *****+


Not being a fan of  Steven Soderbergh didn't compel me to go and see this, but as his most recent effort Contagion wasn't all that bad and Haywire sounded somewhat interesting I said I'd give it a shot and my decision paid off. I won't sit here and tell you that because of this, Soderbergh deserves a place in the top 100 action-directors of all time, but this is certainly an adequate action-thriller worthy of some attention.

Soderbergh's usual ensemble cast was led by former mixed martial arts fighter Gina Carano as Mallory Kane who took to acting like a duck to water and fared far better then your average wrestler/sport-star turning their hand at acting despite needing to work less on her own stunts and more on her charisma. To assist her however, Soderbergh gave her such co-stars as Channing G.I.Joe: The Rise of Cobra Tatum, Micheal X-Men: First Class Fassbender, Ewan Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of The Sith McGregor, Antonio Desperado Banderas, Bill Aliens Paxton  and the venerable Micheal Douglas himself.

Kane works for a private mercenary contractor Kenneth [McGregor] who sends her on a rescue mission to Barcelona and later a milk-run to Dublin of all places where she realised she's been betrayed and goes on the run leaving a trail of corpses in her wake to clear her name. While the plot is extreamly contrived and full of holes, it's nonetheless an enjoyable thriller despite a lot of it being set in that shithole Dublin, an iffy misjudged score doesn't help and features an annoying performance from Banderas who shouldn't really be doing his Puss in Boots voice in a serious production. 

Nevertheless, I think now that he is done with the Ocean's sequels, Soderbergh could do worse than develop this as a franchise - just do better next time.

Colonel Creedon Rating: ***1/2

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Solar Eruption will not destroy us all... ...this time.

After a satellite tracked an ultraviolet flash from a massive solar eruption - The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Agency’s Space Weather Prediction Center, the U.S.' official source of warnings about space weather and its impact on Earth, issued a watch for a geomagnetic storm expected to hit the  planet on Tuesday morning.

While the NOAA have stated that there is no risk to humanity, as a precaution, polar flights on Earth are expected to be re-routed. The blast from the immense solar radiation storm let loose with a coronal mass ejection (CME) that will hit the atmosphere Tuesday morning, something NASA and NOAA monitor for as it could cause problems for astronauts, communications satellites, rocket launches, navigation and even the power grid.

M9-class Solar Storm [NASA imagery]

The solar flare spat out late Sunday, Jan. 22, at 10:59 p.m. EST was rated an M9-class eruption -- nearly an X-class flare, the most powerful type of solar storm.

UNETIDA confirmed that it is on full alert as Rear Admiral "Smokestack" Henderson, Acting Director of UNETIDA personally briefed the press. "A number of our initiatives will have scheduling disruptions as the CME will deliver a strong glancing blow to Earth's magnetic field over the coming days as it sails north of Earth. However at no time will we defenceless."

Sources: NASA / Fox News

Monday, January 23, 2012

Helo crash claims 6 Marines

The DOD on Saturday identified the six brave men from Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron 363 killed earlier this week in a helicopter crash in Helmand province, Afghanistan. German Brig. Gen. Carsten Jacobson, a spokesman for the NATO coalition in Kabul, said Friday that they were examining a “technical fault” as the possible culprit.

Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron 363 known as the “Red Lions” is part of Marine Aircraft Group 24, 1st Marine Aircraft Wing, III Marine Expeditionary Force, out of Kaneohe Bay, Hawaii. The squadron consists of CH-53D Sea Stallion transport helicopters but is scheduled to transition to the new MV-22 Osprey with in the next few years.

The Marines killed were identified as: Capt. Daniel B. Bartle, 27, of Ferndale, Wash., Capt. Nathan R. McHone, 29, of Crystal Lake, Ill., Master Sgt. Travis W. Riddick, 40, of Centerville, Iowa., Cpl. Jesse W. Stites, 23, of North Beach, Md., Cpl. Kevin J. Reinhard, 25, of Colonia, N.J. and Cpl. Joseph D. Logan, 22, of Willis, Texas. I wish to offer my sincere condolences to their families at this time.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Doomsday Clock goes forward

The "Doomsday Clock" has become a universally recognised indicator of the world’s vulnerability to catastrophe from nuclear weapons, climate change, and emerging technologies in the life sciences. Last week, the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists (BAS) moved the symbolic minute hand from six to just five minutes before midnight. This was to reflect their analysis of the world’s lack of progress on battling climate change and WMD proliferation.

The clock was created in 1947 and set to 11:53PM by the directors of the BAS at the University of Chicago and originally seen as a symbol of the threat of nuclear war. Over the years, the clock has been moved to 11.58PM in 1953, when the US and Russia both tested thermonuclear devices but in 1991 after the end of the Cold War it went back as far as 11:43PM. The decision  to set the current position was made following a symposium in the US where scientists reviewed the implications of recent events including Japan’s Fukushima accident and trends for the future of humanity with input from other experts on nuclear weapons, nuclear energy, climate change and biosecurity.

The BAS formally announced it's decision to move the hand back to 11:55PM, because while it previously appeared that world leaders might address the truly global threats that we face, "In many cases, that trend has not continued or been reversed. The challenges to rid the world of nuclear weapons, harness nuclear power, and meet the nearly inexorable climate disruptions from global warming are complex and interconnected. In the face of such complex problems, it is difficult to see where the capacity lies to address these challenges. Political processes seem wholly inadequate; the potential for nuclear weapons use in regional conflicts in the Middle East, Northeast Asia, and South Asia are alarming; safer nuclear reactor designs need to be developed and built, and more stringent oversight, training, and attention are needed to prevent future disasters; the pace of technological solutions to address climate change may not be adequate to meet the hardships that large-scale disruption of the climate portends.”

Contributions from scientists and analysts working with the United Nations Extra Terrestrial Invasion Defence Agency however are not counted by the symposium due to the classified nature of their work. UNETIDA is however reported to have its own Doomsday Clock style chronometer on the wall of the Planetary Defence Command Centre. "Yep we sure do," confirmed Colonel "Whopper" Creedon, Acting Director of Intelligence for UNETIDA. "But considering the power of our enemies and what we know that you don't, ours is measured in mere seconds," he said chillingly.

Source: Yahoo via Eamonn

Tuesday, January 03, 2012

Money? What money?

On December 12th last, FOX News broke a story revealing that at least two major United Nations development agencies, described as having accumulated some $3.2 billion in cash in 2009, refused to divulge exactly what they spent their program money on. The information was contained in a confidential draft report prepared on behalf of the Norwegian development agency known as NORAD [not to be confused with the real NORAD] for the Norwegian government, one of the U.N.’s biggest donors.

The refusal revealed that the agencies, the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and UNICEF, failed “grossly” to live up to the “credo of adherence to transparency” that both agencies claim to follow in their work. The two-volume draft study, was prepared in June and aimed to “contribute to the understanding of financing flows and current financial planning and budgeting processes,” at five selected U.N. agencies, including “how are resources allocated?” and “where does the money go?”

After Fox News examined the first volume they reported that four of the five U.N. agencies examined had a much bigger total of at least $12.2 billion in unspent cash by the end of 2009. All of the agencies refused to comment on the specifics of the document at that time. Nonetheless, they vigorously denied having unspent free cash in their treasuries, saying that the funds were specifically earmarked for the future years of programs that had already been approved. The agencies also declined to comment regarding the assertions made in the second volume of the study.

The report has naturally sparked a lively internal discussion over its conclusions and observations. The Volume I report declared that in addition to risking a donor backlash, the build-up of cash in the big U.N. aid agencies “implies that substantial donor funding is not being used for development purposes,” a notion that all the U.N. agencies vigorously dispute. Volume II of the study, entitled Activity-based Financial Flows in U.N. System: A Study of Select U.N. Organizations, focuses on what it calls “case studies” to support the first volume of general observations. And it discloses another major problem: according to the report, several of the agencies are apparently unwilling, or in some cases, unable, to account for what happened to some of the money that they know they spent.

A source close to the U.N. Special Investigation Committee, probing UNPASID and UNETIDA said that the $12bn figure was significantly close to a "Special Projects" budget that the senior staff of UNPASID had approved, but for which there was no known origin. The source spoke on condition of anonymity and was not authorised to make public statements on behalf of the U.N.

Read more at FOX News.

Monday, January 02, 2012

2011! - The Year In Review

Happy New Year folks.

We say goodbye to 2011. A year of Arab Spring and occupiers. Rioting in Athens and looting in London. Flooding in Thailand, Pakistan and Brazil, earthquakes in Turkey and New Zealand, but alas Japan suffered the worst of both.

Gerard Depardieu was pissing, Charlie Sheen was "winning" and Glen Beck was goodbye-ing. The Colonel joined Twitter, Prince William got hitched, Queen Liz and Obama visited the Emerald Isle.

The great Fianna Fáil party lost power and Micheal D becomes president of Ireland. The economic crisis in Europe worsens but the U.S. turns its collective head to their next would-be president.

But above all, this picture defines what a successful year this has been:

Notable Events of 2011:

January 14 – The Tunisian government falls after a month of increasingly violent protests; President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali flees to Saudi Arabia after 23 years in power.
February 6 - Super Bowl XLV attracts 111 million viewers, making the Fox broadcast the most-watched program in American TV history.
February 11 – Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak resigns
February 24 - Following a series of angry public rants by star Charlie Sheen, including comments directed at his employers, CBS and Warner Bros. announce that production on Two and a Half Men will be cancelled for the remainder of the season. In early March, Sheen was fired.
February 27 - Inception and The King's Speech receive 4 Awards each at the 83rd Academy Awards.
March 11 – A 9.1-magnitude earthquake and subsequent tsunami hit the east of Japan, killing 15,840 and leaving another 3,926 missing. Tsunami warnings are issued in 50 countries and territories. Emergencies are declared at four nuclear power plants affected by the quake.
Battle: Los Angles is released by Columbia Pictures and makes $211.4m
March 17 – The United Nations Security Council votes 10-0 to create a no-fly zone over Libya in response to allegations of government aggression against civilians.

April 17 - Game of Thrones premieres on HBO. While premiering at 2.2m viewers, it climbed to 3m by episode 10.
The Colonel sends his first Tweet.
April 28 - Steve Carell makes his last appearance as a regular on The Office.
April 29 – An estimated two billion people watch the wedding of Prince William, Duke of Cambridge and Catherine Middleton at Westminster Abbey in London.
May 1 – U.S. President Barack Obama announces that Osama bin Laden, the founder and leader of the militant group Al-Qaeda, has been killed during an American military operation in Pakistan.
May 6 - Thor is released by Paramount/Marvel and makes $449.3m
May 23 - President Obama visits Ireland

June 3 - X-Men: First Class is released by Fox/Marvel and makes $353.6m
June 14 - The Duke Nukem Forever video game is finally released but to predominantly negative reviews.
June 29 - Transformers: Dark of the Moon is released by Paramount and makes $1.1Bn
July 21 – Space Shuttle Atlantis lands successfully at Kennedy Space Center after completing STS-135, concluding NASA's space shuttle program.
July 22 - Captain America: The First Avenger is released by Paramount/Marvel and makes $368.6m

October 14 - The UN appoints a Special Investigation Committee to examine UNPASID and UNETIDA.
October 20 - Libyan leader Colonel Muammar Gaddafi is killed in Sirte
October 31 - UN declares global population has reached seven billion
November 8 - Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 is released. Within 24 hours of going on sale, the game sold 6.5 million copies in the US and UK alone and grossed $400 million, making it the biggest entertainment launch of all time.
December 15 – The United States formally declares an end to the Iraq War.
December 16 - Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol is released by Paramount/Bad Robot and makes $324.9m
December 17 - Supreme ruler of North Korea, Kim Jong-il dies aged 69 [or 70].
December 20 - Star Wars: The Old Republic MMORPG is released by Bioware/EA. At a development cost rumoured to be over $80 million, it is said to be one of the most expensive video games ever created.

As always, we remember those lost in 2011:

James Arness, 88, American actor [Gunsmoke]
Nickolas Ashford, 70, American R&B singer [Ashford & Simpson]
John Barry, 77, British composer [James Bond series]
William Campbell, 87, American Actor [Star Trek / Star Trek: Deep Space Nine]
George Baker, 80, British actor [The Spy Who Loved Me]
Gene Colan, 84, American comic book artist [Iron Man]
Jeff Conaway, 60, American actor [Babylon 5]
Jackie Cooper, 88, American actor [Superman]
Peter Falk, 83, American actor [Columbo]
Betty Ford, 93, American First Lady (1974–1977) and co-founder of Betty Ford Center.
Michael Gough, 94, Actor [Batman]
Dave Hoover, 56, American comics artist [Captain America]
Steve Jobs, 56, American computer entrepreneur and inventor, co-founder of Apple
Paul Kent, 80, American actor [Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan]
Sidney Lumet, 86, American film director [Serpico]
Anne McCaffrey, 85, American-born Irish science fiction writer [Dragonriders of Pern]
T. P. McKenna, 81, Irish actor [Red Scorpion]
Dan Mills, 80, American animator [He-Man and the Masters of the Universe]
Gary Moore, 58, Irish rock guitarist and singer [Thin Lizzy]
Harry Morgan, 96, American actor [M*A*S*H]
Charles Napier,75, American Actor [Rambo: First Blood Part II]
Pete Postlethwaite, 64, British actor [Inception]
Dennis Ritchie, 70, American computer scientist, developer of C and Unix
Cliff Robertson, 88, American actor [Spider-Man]
Jerry Robinson, 89, American comic book artist [Batman] and reputed creator of The Joker
Jim Roslof, 64, American artist [Dungeons & Dragons]
Ken Russell, 84, British film director [Billion Dollar Brain]
Randy "Macho Man" Savage, 58, American professional wrestler
Sir Jimmy Savile, 84, British television presenter [Jim'll Fix It]
Bubba Smith, 66, American actor [Police Academy]
Joe Simon, 98, American comic book writer [Captain America]
Fred Steiner, 88, American television composer [Star Trek]
Dame Elizabeth Taylor, 79, British-American actress [Cleopatra]
Arch West, 97, American marketing executive credited with developing Doritos
Andy Whitfield, 39, Welsh-born Australian actor [Spartacus: Blood and Sand]
Amy Winehouse, 27, British singer-songwriter ["Rehab"]
Susannah York, 72, English actress [Superman]

We thank them for their talents.

We also acknowledge the service of these military servicemen, astronauts and politicians who served with distinction that have now passed:

Col. Bill Bower, 93, U.S. Air Force Officer, last surviving pilot of Doolittle Raid.
Air Chief Marshal Sir Brian Kenyon Burnett GCB DFC AFC, 98, RAF Officer, last Commander-in-Chief of Far East Command
Warren Christopher, 85, American diplomat, Secretary of State [1993–1997]
Sgt. Mike Colalillo, 86, American soldier, Medal of Honor recipient
Group Captain Billy Drake DSO DFC & Bar, British air ace, top-scoring RAF P-40 pilot
Garret FitzGerald, 85, Irish politician, 7th Taoiseach (1981–1982; 1982–1987)
Seán French, 80, Irish politician, Lord Mayor of Cork (1976) and Fianna Fail TD (1967–1982) [Relative of The Colonel]
Admiral Noel Gayler, U.S. Naval Officer, ninth Commander of Pacific Command from 1972 to 1976
Clair George, 81, American CIA officer (Iran–Contra affair),
Admiral of the Fleet Sir Henry Conyers Leach, GCB DL, 87, First Sea Lord and Chief of the Naval Staff 1979-1982, Falklands War
Brian Lenihen, Jnr, T.D., 52, Irish politician, Fianna Fáil, Minister for Finance 2008-2011
2nd Lieutenant Leonard G. “Bud” Lomell, 91, 75th Ranger Regiment. Disabled 5 155mm German guns on D-Day.
John Michael "Mike" Lounge, 64, NASA Space Shuttle Astronaut.
Staff Sergeant John McAleese MM, 61, British 22 SAS soldier involved in the 1981 Iranian Embassy Siege [widely believed to have been the inspiration for Captain Price in Call of Duty.]
Col. Charles P. Murray, Jr., 89, U.S. Army Officer, Medal of Honor recipient
Lt. Colonel Arthur Warren "Kit" Murray, U.S.A.F. Test Pilot, Bell X-1 / X-5
Flight Lieutenant George Charles Calder "Tich" Palliser DFC AE, 92, RAF fighter pilot during the Battle of Britain.
Lieutenant Tul Bahadur Pun VC, 88, Nepali World War II veteran, 6th Gurkha Rifles, recipient of the Victoria Cross, Burma Star.
Admiral of the Fleet Sir John Julian Robertson Oswald GCB, British Naval Officer, First Sea Lord from 1989 to 1993.
General John Shalikashvili, 75, U.S. Army Officer, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (1993–1997)
General Donn Albert Starry, 86, U.S. Army Officer, Commanding General, U.S. Readiness Command 1981 to 1983.
Major Wilhelm Weidenbrück, 96, Wehrmacht, Panzer-Brigade 104, recipient of th Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves
Major Richard "Dick" D. Winters, 92, U.S. Army Officer, E Company, 506th Regiment, 101st Airborne [subject of Band of Brothers]

May they all rest in peace.

And now folks