Showing posts from March, 2007

Drakensberg camping pics... Finally

It's a week after the report-back on our 3-day camping break-away, but here's a few choice photos anyway.

The much photographed, spectacular Ampitheatre, in the Northern Drakensberg:

The dam, where we relaxed on Friday afternoon (and watched the trout mock Paul)...

Hikers on the trail!

Very tall, very cold Gudu Falls, which we practically killed ourselves to get to... The guys stood underneath the icy flow to cool down.

The sluggishly passive but highly venomous Puff Adder, who we sighted climbing rocks at a popular hiking destination a few hours before we left on Sunday.

South African cinema release dates

This release date schedule doesn't cover every film... just what are high profile enough to have piqued my interest, and may also be of interest to you.

Today (30 March):
300 - Ancient Greek epic based on Frank Miller's award-winning graphic novel.

Mr Bean's Holiday - You know this slapstick comedy will clean up at the box office thanks to South Africans' puerile taste in movies.


5 April 2007
Ghost Rider - The latest Marvel comic adaptation, starring Nicholas Cage as the flaming skull headed biker. Bad reviews but apparently audiences like it.

Bridge To Terabithia - High acclaimed family-friendly fantasy based on the bestselling novel.


13 April 2007
Meet The Robinsons - The newest Disney 3D animated movie, with a Jetsons style look at the future.

Norbit - Eddie Murphy playing multiple roles again in an apparently vile, misogynistic comedy.


20 April 2007
Hannibal Rising - How cannibal serial killer Hannibal Lecter got started... Based on Thomas Harris's novel…


I went into 300 preview last night feeling quite nervous. In the past, when my expectations have been high for an Ancient World set film, and my excitement stoked by kickass trailers, I have been horribly disappointed. Troy was the prime example.

I wasn’t disappointed in 300.

This said, I was very close to the subject matter, having read Frank Miller’s graphic novel twice and followed pretty much all of the online build-up to the film’s release. So I didn’t exactly go into the cinema ‘fresh’. Apart from some sequences involving Queen Gorgo (Lena Headey) rallying support for her husband back at the Spartan homefront, and some new battleground villains, 300 is almost panel for panel, the graphic novel brought to life. So for fans of 300, the book, most of the pleasure will come from connecting what’s onscreen with what you’ve read. There is little new, although director Zack Snyder’s additions do actually improve on the novel, if you want to start making cross-medium comparisons.

The ma…

Covert ops...

We've reached our cap at work, and with the top-up bandwidth we've bought in the interim we've been forbidden to use the Net for personal browsing until the end of the month. So this is something of a covert post...ssshhhhhh.

Please excuse the lack of pics accompanying posts until then. I'll come back this weekend and insert some imagery to jazz things up a little.

Anyway, guess what I saw last night? Expect my review online sometime today...

Smokin’ Aces

Ensemble cast crime comedies are something of an acquired taste, given their jump cutting between the different characters, and the streak of black, bloody humour at their heart.

Smokin’ Aces is the latest genre entry, from the production team behind, of all things, Love Actually, Nottinghill and Bridget Jones’ Diary.

This time the cast includes Ryan Reynolds, Ray Liotta, Andy Garcia, Ben Affleck, Jeremy Piven, Alicia Keys and Jason Bateman. The plot centres on washed up Vegas entertainer/wannabe gangster/paranoid coke-head Buddy ‘Aces’ Israel (played by Piven, the poor man’s George Clooney), who is desperate to strike a protection deal with the federal government in return for revealing his mafia contacts. While Israel is holed up in his hotel penthouse suite, assorted hit men, bail bondmen and federal agents are all racing to get to him first.

In terms of the action and humour in Smokin’ Aces, most of it comes from the interactions of a hodgepodge collection of characters, including fe…

By Jove, I've got it...

Alright, this was reported a week or so back, but I thought it might still be interesting to my blog readers. The original CSI is getting a revamp. Brace yourselves for an all-new cinematic take on the ultimate gentleman sleuth, Sherlock Holmes!

From: Variety

Warner Bros. gets a clue
'Sherlock Holmes' to investigate the bigscreen


It's elementary, my dear Watson -- reimagine Sherlock Holmes as an action-adventure sleuth and you may uncover a new film franchise.

Warner Bros. Pictures is teaming with producer Lionel Wigram to adapt Wigram's upcoming comicbook "Sherlock Holmes" for the bigscreen. Neil Marshall ("The Descent") will helm, while tyro scribe Michael Johnson penned the script.

"Sherlock" is expected to be Marshall's next directing project, as the studio is eager to push ahead. Helmer is currently lensing "Doomsday" for Rogue Pictures.
Exact storyline is being kept under wraps, but creative execs at Warner…

Trailer Tuesday: Stardust

Last weekend a 'fake' in-progress trailer for Stardust appeared online. This week, finally, the first official trailer is up.

There's been quite a bit of commentary on this trailer. Nat from The Film Experience weighs in his thoughts here. The Ain't It Cool News forums are buzzing with some interesting discussion. Even author Neil Gaiman, on whose work Stardust is based, has commented on his blog.

You see the big issue is how audiences will respond to the film. Stardust is not conventional, serious fantasy. Besides its all-star cast, it has a quirky, whimsical sense of humour, which is apparent in the first half of the trailer. But it also has plenty of action, and some very dark streaks as well, which are very clear in the last minute of the trailer (naturally, I responded more to this content).

Will audiences be able to handle such a mix? Have the film makers achieved a satisfying balance between all the elements? This isn't Harry Potter, with a built in audience, …

Back from the Berg

I’m sitting, aching calves and all, back at my desk this Monday morning, after a 3-day break to the Mahai campsite in Royal Natal. Unfortunately I forgot to take the pics off Paul’s camera last night so you’ll have to wait a bit for our personal photos as an accompaniment to this post. The pics you will see below have been scavenged from the Net.

Anyway, we broke the 3 hour trip to Royal Natal (in the Northern Drakensberg) by spending Thursday on Paul’s sister’s farm in Nottingham Road. On the way up there we discovered that the Cato Ridge Engen One-stop houses a Debonairs Pizza that has yet to start skipping on pizza toppings. The pizzas were awesome. And at Megan’s place we saw a beautiful owl sitting on the gate at the entrance to the farm.

On Friday morning we arrived at Mahai and picked our campsite. Unfortunately, while we were setting up, a group of around 30 Polish South Africans arrived, flag and all, and promptly surrounded us. Let’s just say that after 2 days of exposure to t…

One week, South Africa!


March GEAR column: Reporting From the Trenches

The next-generation console war rages on. This month the conflict shifts to Europe, with the launch of Sony’s PlayStation 3 in that region.

So where does the current battle stand? Who is winning and who is losing? We turn to gaming-journalists-turned-pseudo-war-correspondents for those answers. Entrenched on the front lines before their monitors and TV screens, a cup of tea positioned perilously close to the table’s edge, these men and women brave the dangers of bad posture and video game thumb to report back on the situation.

Currently, the media would have us believe Microsoft’s Xbox 360 is on the march, conquering more and more market territories as it advances. Faced with this awesome display of power, the Sony PS3 has fallen back, unable to defend its previously unchallenged turf. Already wounded by assorted blunders and delays, the PS3 lies bleeding on the floor, ready to commit hara-kiri.

This is what we’re being led to believe. However, if we’ve learnt anything about war reporti…

It's because I'm gifted...

Now I told you I’d be posting things up to keep you amused this Friday. This… isn’t one of them.

I don’t normally just post up news articles, but every so often a ‘scientific study’ comes along with such skewed logic and nonsensical conclusions that I have to copy-paste it. This one is particularly amusing…


'Heavy Metal soothes teens'

London - Teenagers who lock themselves in their bedrooms to blast out heavy metal music may simply be trying to cope with the pressures of being gifted, according to British research reported on Wednesday.

The study said that teenagers often work off the stresses and strains of being a bright outsider by listening to bands such as System Of A Down, Slipknot and Tool.

Researchers questioned more than 1&nbsp000 members of the National Academy for Gifted and Talented Youth, whose members rank among the brightest five percent of youngsters in Britain.

"There is a perception of gifted and talented students as being into classical …

Sam and Max hit the shelves

Next to Day of the Tentacle, Sam and Max Hit the Road is my favourite Comedy Adventure game ever ("I feel tragically empty"). Like thousands of fans the world over, I mourned the cancellation of the LucasArts sequel - Star Wars games being more important than Adventure gaming, apparently!). I then celebrated the resurrection of the series in episodic format, thanks to TellTale Games.

Still though, I waited...Apart from playing the demos, I couldn't join in the fun just yet - I didn't have the Internet connection to download Episodes 1-6. But now, finally, they're releasing the entire first series in boxed format. Come August I'll be getting me some furry, freelance police fun!

From: Gamespot

Sam and Max return to retail
Boxed edition of Telltale Games' episodic series set for August release worldwide, courtesy of The Adventure Company, JoWood Group.

The 1993 LucasArts PC game Sam & Max Hit the Road was one of the traditional point-and-click adventure ge…

The public holiday

Well, what did I get up to on my day off?

Apart from gyming and watching the first 4 episodes of Family Guy Season 5, I scanned in and coloured (minus shading) a ‘Fatherhood’ themed illustration for my sister. Post-grad Psychology student that she is, she’s working on the Fatherhood Project, a research/educational project spearheaded by the University of Natal to try and re-establish the social importance of fatherhood.

The concept isn’t mine, but the original on which it is based, was too small to use, so I just duplicated it in my drawing style.

Anyway, Paul was quite literally on cloud 9 in the morning, having been invited to go on a work-related helicopter trip along the Natal coastline. In the process of jumping on and off the helicopter he took some awesome pics, including this aerial shot of Durban.

On Shirley’s blog there are many more pics of the recent storm and tide damage that flattened Durban’s beachfront, but here’s one that Paul took of the Bluff area, between Ansteys and…

Packing it in...

Tomorrow is a public holiday in South Africa (Human Rights Day) so I'll be taking a day's break from blogging - the next update will be on Thursday morning.

Actually, this will be a 3-day work week for me because I'm taking Friday off to go camping in the Drakensberg. So, no, I won't be part of the Durbs "reception committee" meeting forum-ite Walt (AKA Ramjet) for the first time on Friday evening. Poor guy...

Anyway, I will be uploading a good few blog updates on Thursday - packing them all in - to keep you guys occupied for the last 2 days of the week.

Trailer Tuesday: Blades of Glory

Damn, I was going to put up the unofficial, in-development trailer for Stardust today, but it looks like Paramount has ripped it down from all over the Net. Bugger.

So instead, here's the trailer for the next Will Ferrell comedy, Blades of Glory, a figure skating/buddy movie, co-starring Napoleon Dynamite himself, Jon Heder.

Plot: When rival figure skaters Chazz Michael Michaels (Will Ferrell) and Jimmy MacElroy (Jon Heder) go ballistic in an embarrassing, no-holds-barred fight at the World Championships, they are stripped of their gold medals and banned from the sport for life. Now, three-and-a-half years on, they've found a loophole that will allow them to compete: if they can put aside their differences, they can skate together – in pairs' figure skating.

You know the gay jokes will come thick and fast as the guys unite as the first male-only skating team. But whether the film is hilarious or not, it certainly looks like a pleasant evening at the cinema, as well as an amu…

Music makes the world go round...

Right, so most South Africans know about the 2 My Coke Fest 2007 concerts at the end of April and beginning of May.

Not many people, however, seem to know that South Africa is also going to be hosting one of the Live Earth concerts, Al Gore's latest venture to increase awareness of, and raise funds to fight climate change and global warming. Modelled on the famous Live Aid series of concerts in 1985, Live Earth will see some of the world's top musical performers performing on stages across the globe on 7 July 2007. Johannesburg is one of the host cities.

Our list of performers have yet to be announced but confirmed acts so far include AFI, The Black Eyed Peas, Duran Duran, Foo Fighters, Corrine Bailey Rae, Faith Hill, Korn , John Mayer, Kanye West, Lenny Kravitz, The Police, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Snoop Dogg, Snow Patrol and many more.

Organizers have stated a goal of reaching an audience of 2 billion people through TV and online broadcasts. You can read more about Live Earth h…

The weekend and more

We’ll get back to the usual entertainment news updates after this because there have been a number of interesting pop culture announcements in the past few days – in the world of film particularly. More about that soon…

As for the weekend, it was a pretty mellow to somber one. On Friday evening we heard the full story of Paul and his family’s robbery experience. I’m not going to repeat the whole thing here but here are some interesting facts:

It took Blue Security 40 minutes to arrive after a Panic Button was hit.

It took the police 1 hour to get to Paul’s house, after 3 attempts to contact them via the 10111 number (South Africa’s 911).

After the alarm was set off the robbers hung around for ages, probably 20 minutes, walking around the house because they knew how long it would take before anyone arrived.

The gang of 20somethings had hit 2 other houses on Paul’s road that night. The night of the storm was a bonanza for criminals – Blue received 3000 calls, telephone lines to the Montclai…

Not a good end to the week

It all started last night when a severe thunderstorm struck Durban. I’m talking massively destructive, and centred directly overhead – like the storm in Poltergeist.

The downpour was so heavy it actually got in through the roof and started running into my room from the ceiling… directly towards all my electronics – PC and PS2. Fortunately, because of the power dips I had unplugged everything already, but then I had to move everything to the other side of the room, and check that nothing more than some wires had got wet.

This morning there was storm damage everywhere – traffic lights out, broken branches on the road and mud slicks from collapsed banks.

But this is nothing. This morning at 4am a group of men broke into Paul’s house. I have yet to hear the full details, but these bastards threw a brick through a window, jumped in and stormed through the house. Paul’s family managed to cluster together, in the midst of the robbers yelling ‘Shoot, shoot’. I think it was something of a smash…

My Coke Fest disappointment, and weddings

On Monday I posted up a list of confirmed local acts performing at the 2 My Coke Fest mega concerts to be held in Johannesburg and Cape Town in late April/early May.

That's Springbok Nude Girls, The Parlotones, Evolver, Cassette, J, The Dirty Skirts, Love Jones and Taxi Violence.

Now it's been announced on the 5FM site that these artists aren't all performing at both events:

The Springbok Nude Girls and The Parlotones will be performing in both Johannesburg and Cape Town, with Evolver, Cassette and J performing in Johannesburg only, and The Dirty Skirts, Love Jones and Taxi Violence performing in Cape Town only.

I'm disappointed because the Cape Town only performers were the local acts I was most interested in seeing. Oh well, it was only going to be a nice little local bonus. I'm at the concert for the international acts.


In other news, I is off the forum juice again... Not that I was fighting with anyone, but work is picking up again (just like on old action-game s…

Titan Quest: Immortal Throne review

Well, this isn't going to appear in print until May (magazines work months ahead of schedule) but since Titan Quest expansion, Immortal Throne is supposed to be available in South Africa from tomorrow, I thought I'd put it online now to help with your purchasing decisions.

For the record, this is probably the first local review of the game, so you're reading an exclusive;).

With over 60 hours of gameplay spanning 3 difficulty levels, Titan Quest was one of the best value for money purchases of 2006. A refreshing Action-RPG, it dared to fill the very large shoes left by Blizzard’s genre-defining Diablo series.

Titan Quest may have borrowed heavily in terms of gameplay from Diablo, but it also successfully established its own identity, with stunning 3D graphics, a flexible skill system and an authentic-looking Ancient World setting. Developers Iron Lore cleverly chose to step away from a traditional fantasy realm of orcs and elves seen so often in other RPGs. Instead, players …

TV time

I actually don't watch that much TV. Since we've got DSTV, I think I've actually watched even less, especially since in a household of people, someone is always watching something in the same timeslot as anything I'm remotely interested in. So no cult Action-X TV series or old Disney movies for me...

At the moment though a lot of my old TV faves are coming back, with something on essentially every evening. On MNET, the second episode of Prison Break Season 2 was broadcast last night, Lost Season 3 premieres tonight and Desperate Housewives Season 3 is back tomorrow night. Nip/Tuck is in full swing again, and Smallville (whatever the hell season we're on now) is on Tuesday as well. For once it doesn't clash with either of SABC3's reality TV twosome - Survivor and The Amazing Race.

Speaking of The Amazing Race, there are rumblings that the show will be back after the Cricket World Cup. What's more interesting is that SABC (and not MNET for a change) has l…

For people who can't read good...

It annoys me enough when I can't, or don't, finish a video game. It drives me absolutely crazy when I'm unable to get to the last page of a book. My personal prime example: I just couldn't face up to the mental challenge of completing Umberto Eco's In the Name of the Rose.

Anyway, it turns out that the British also struggle to finish books, and apart from the chavs, they appear to be far more of a bookish nation than good ol' SA, and, dare I say this unsubstantiated, the majority of the USA.

From: IOL

Revealed - the books people just can't finish

London - War And Peace rubbed shoulders with The Satanic Verses on a list of the 10 ten novels that Britons are least likely to finish reading, according to a study on Monday.

Ten non-fiction titles won the same dubious accolade with David Blunkett's lengthy autobiography The Blunkett Tapes topping the list.

The Teletext Reading Report asked 4 000 Britons about their reading habits.

The findings suggest that in the di…

Trailer Tuesday: Dead Silence

Enough. I give in. After months of being tormented by a bloody creepy Flash ad on assorted movie sites (you'll probably see it here), here's the trailer for Dead Silence, the new horror movie from the writers and director of Saw.

Plot synopsis:
There is an old ghost story in the sleepy town of Ravens Fair about Mary Shaw, a ventriloquist who went mad. Accused of the murder of a young boy, she was hunted down by vengeful townspeople who cut out her tongue and killed her. They buried her along with her "children," a hand-made collection of vaudeville dolls.

Since that time, Ravens Fair has been plagued by death. The ghastly dolls from Mary Shaw's collection have gone missing from the grave and reappeared over the decades. In the dead of night--wherever they are glimpsed--families are found gruesomely murdered...with their tongues torn out.

Far from the pall of their hometown, newlyweds Jamie (Ryan Kwanten) and Lisa Ashen thought they had established a fresh start. But …

The Weekend, and Entertainment News

On Friday evening we headed off to 20 overs cricket again (G, Mark and Alison joined us), but when it started raining heavily about 5 overs into the Cape Cobras runs chase, we left, expecting the game to be called off. It turns out it wasn’t – the target score was rain adjusted and once again the outcome came down to the last ball. This time though, the Natal Dolphins managed to win.

Of course by this point we were back at G’s place looking at the Command & Conquer 3 demo. It runs very well, and the video cut scenes (complete with B-grade actors) are gloriously cheesy, but I can’t say I was wowed by it. The whole project seems to be the ultimate case of EA bowing to fanboy demands in the hope of restoring faith in the company.

On Saturday, we were up to the farm again. While Mark and Paul worked on setting up networks, I worked on my Titan Quest: Immortal Throne review and threw a tennis ball about 600 times for a pack of border collies. The day dragged on though, and I was pretty b…

I'm back

Sorry, a bit of a late post today. I was at a sales launch from early this morning. Chiefly I was there to watch the game show part of it (designed to keep the salespeople mentally engaged and entertained). You see, I was involved in its conceptualisation and actually wrote over 50 questions for it. Definitely one of the more fun parts of my job.

Anyway, I received my copy of Titan Quest: Immortal Throne yesterday and powered my way to Level 8 with my new, pure Dream Mastery character, appropriately named Kruger. I can only play the expansion’s new added stages with my multiplayer character this weekend (the box art makes the realm of Hades look dark and gritty), but the game adds a lot of polish and improvements to the original Titan Quest, from an autosort feature in your inventory, to improved ‘pet’ control, to a chance to reclaim some lost experience if you return to the spot (marked now by a tombstone) where you died.

And here are some of the biggies: There are now caravans in most…

Swallow this

A group of us from the office did a pretty cool thing last night.

We headed off to a sugar cane estate near Umdloti to watch the swallows. You see, there’s a patch of wetland there that attracts hundreds of thousands of the migratory birds in the Southern Hemisphere’s Summer months (they’ve fled down to Africa to escape the European Winter).

It’s become something of a new Natal tradition to go up there at sunset, and watch the flocks while having a picnic or enjoying a glass of wine. As the sun sets the birds plunge en masse into the wetlands reeds and the show is over.

For anyone who is interested, I recommend going on a night when the sky is clear, and taking binoculars to really get a close-up look. Also, you don’t have much longer to enjoy the spectacle. Autumn chill is in the air and these guys will be heading back to Europe soon.

Anyway, today, in theory, 2 pop culture items should be arriving at my house: the Season 1-5 box set of Family Guy (which Paul and I have joint custody of…

Silent Hill

Radha Mitchell (PITCH BLACK) stars as Rose Da Silva, a young mother whose adopted daughter Sharon speaks of the eponymous West Virginia mining town as she sleepwalks. Rose decides to take Sharon there in an attempt to discover why it haunts her dreams--but Silent Hill has been a ghost town since a series of underground coal fires in 1974, and the residents who stayed behind are the stuff of nightmares.

First things first… I have never played any of the Silent Hill video games. So although I am familiar with the imagery and the games’ approach to the survival horror genre, I don’t know much at all about the storyline and in-game events.

This said, Silent Hill is probably the first ever video game to film adaptation to successfully capture what it is like to play a survival horror game – the way your gut drops when you run around a corner into a swarm of enemies, fleeing defenceless from deformed creatures who pursue you relentlessly, the way you panic when a siren heralds the arrival of …

"We'll always have Paris..."

Goodbye Premiere.

Yesterday it was announced that April will be the last ever print issue of the popular American movie magazine. Although I haven’t read the mag in a few years, I’m still actually pretty sad about its demise (it will continue in online form). Largely because somewhere in the back of my mind, I’ve always fantasised about writing for a film magazine.

Anyway, Premiere was never as visually engaging or hype-orientated as say the UK’s Empire magazine. Instead, the mag featured some very enjoyable interviews that went beyond the same tired questions, as well as articles crammed with enlightening insider knowledge. And the photo shoots were glorious.

For pfans, Premiere published some of my favourite ever Michelle Pfeiffer pics, including these two.

In fact, back in 1998-99 I was interviewed by a Premiere journalist for a fandom article that never reached print. Perhaps I didn’t come off stalkerish enough to be interesting in an issue entirely focused on Hollywood and websites …