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ggreig: (Western gentleman)

Metropolis FlippedLast night, I watched The Complete Metropolis, or at least the version that’s as complete as we’re ever likely to get, although it has a few scenes still missing. It is the best version I’ve seen (and the fourth I’ve owned).

Funnily enough, the most immediately obvious improvement is to the captioning! The captions are translated from the originals, and since previously available versions of the film have been so heavily cut that the story is different, the captions have also been rewritten; often not very well. The original captions construct a better narrative. The few remaining missing scenes are replaced by captions in a different font, so you also know what you’ve missed.

Of course, although the captions create the best first impression, the “new” footage (largely unseen since the film’s first seventeen days of showing in Germany in 1927) are invaluable in re-establishing the intended narrative too. Two substantial subplots are reinstated, the symbolism around the seven deadly sins, the Book of Revelation, Babel/Babylon and Robot Maria’s residency in the Yoshiwara nightclub is more clearly spelled out, and we see rather more of the destruction of the machines and the underground city. The recovered footage is of poor quality, even after restoration, with a lot of vertical scratching and a bit of black boxing around the edge. I’m surprised they couldn’t have done a better job of removing the vertical scratching, but in the full context of the movie, honestly you won’t care tuppence.

The first “new” subplot concerns Josaphat, the Thin Man and Georgy 11811. Josaphat and Georgy 11811 make minor appearances in other versions; Josaphat is the administrator Joh Fredersen sacks early on, and Georgy 11811 is the worker whose shift Freder Fredersen takes over in his enthusiasm to find out how the other half live. The Thin Man, Joh Fredersen’s sinister enforcer, is largely absent from other versions, as is the subplot that intertwines these three. Although Georgy 11811 remains a minor character, it’s nice to see that his arc contains both a fall and redemption, and I would go so far as to say that Josaphat becomes the third heroic character in the film, after Freder and Maria.

The second re-established subplot is the relationship between Joh Fredersen, Rotwang and the deceased Hel, loved by them both. Although this is touched on in previous versions, with more time devoted to it it helps to better explain the character of Rotwang. He’s still the archetypical mad scientist with wild hair, staring eyes, and a mechanical hand – but we have a better understanding of why he’s as mad as a box of frogs these days and why he does what he does, rather than him appearing to be a rather random agent of chaos.

More is made of the religious symbolism in the film, and it becomes clear why it’s there. This is much better handled by the previously missing footage, and unified by a sequence where Freder’s hallucinating. Now I finally understand how the statues of the seven deadly sins come to life!

robot_mariaFinally, we see rather more of the destruction of the machines and the underground city and although there’s little added to the plot by these sequences it does help to flesh out why things are happening as they are. Without these sequences, some of the destruction seems a bit random, but they become more coherent with the missing footage added back in. Particularly worthy of note are Robot Maria and the mob storming the Moloch Machine, and a much fuller sequence of the destruction of the Heart Machine, which triggers the flooding. First of all, the Heart Machine is clearly identified as such, and then we see how the mob get at it, leaving me with rather more sympathy for Grot, the Chief Foreman, than I’ve felt in previous versions. The flooding sequences are extended, and more time’s spent building up their tension.

Unless you have a fondness for 1980s music – in which case, Giorgio Moroder’s tinted version is still worth watching – this is the version of Metropolis to see, whether you’re coming to it fresh, or you’ve seen it before and would like to  revisit it. Unless those few missing scenes turn up, this is your best chance to see the movie pretty much as Fritz Lang intended. Ultimately, although it’s still very much of it’s time, Metropolis is a better constructed and more modern movie than you may have thought.

ggreig: (Default)

At work today, someone drew my attention to this BAFTA-nominated indie comedy movie, Electric Man, set in Edinburgh:

They're trying to raise money for promotion, before the end of today (Pacific Time). They're a fair bit short of their target; why not boost them a bit by pre-ordering the DVD?

ggreig: (Topper)

This is not the film you may think it is, but it's  the film that perhaps Robert Downie Jr. and Guy Ritchie should have made.

The game's afoot! )


Sep. 6th, 2009 09:27 pm
ggreig: (Robot Maria)

Due to Microsoft’s recent price reduction, and what seemed like a worthwhile deal at Curry’s (an extra wireless controller and a couple of games thrown in for free), I somewhat unexpectedly became the owner of an XBox 360 Elite last weekend.

Not being a gamer, particularly – though I don’t mind having the facility for games thrown in – I’m  more interested in the XBox for its capabilities as a Media Center Extender. In theory, at least, you can store all your digital media on your home network, and watch or listen to it through your TV, by way of the XBox. (There are stand-alone extenders that aren’t also games consoles, but they seem to be less available here than in the US, they cost nearly as much as an XBox, and the massed opinion of the Internet seems to think that the XBox is technically the best media extender anyway, so the choice was fairly inevitable.)

If I want to explore that possibility, then the next thing I need is a home network capable of transferring media information fast enough. Now, I already have Wi-Fi and it might do the job – but video would be pushing the capacity of a Wi-Fi network somewhat, and I’m not especially keen to have to run an Ethernet cable from the office upstairs to the living room downstairs so, remembering some mention of Ethernet through the power cables, I looked it up.

It seems there’s more than one system, but HomePlug appears to be the name to look for. I found a UK company that produces HomePlug products, and ordered a couple of Solwise 200Mbps HomePlug AV Ethernet Adaptor with Simple Connect & Mains Through. Try saying that without your teeth in.

Obviously while part of the appeal of going for something like HomePlug is that it should save the hassle of cabling, another part is that it’s a cool technical toy. Ethernet through the power cables! Obviously that is going to save the planet and stop all wars, instantly!

Unfortunately I have to report that it isn’t so.

The doohickeys duly arrived on Wednesday, and I rushed home to plug them in and enjoy the thrill of watching something that I could perfectly adequately have watched by using the built-in capabilities of the television, but doing so via the network from my PC upstairs! Please contain your excitement.

Today, thanks to a long Ethernet cable I was able to substitute in instead, I arrived at the definite conclusion that the reason that the picture – and the whole network connection with it – inevitably failed after a few minutes of watching was because the HomePlugs, despite being sold as suitable for AV use, couldn’t cope.

Maybe if you want to try them elsewhere, they will work for you, as they do seem to be a wee bit susceptible to “other stuff” on the power supply. Debugging my power supply is a step too far for me, though, so they’re going back. It’s a bit of a disappointment, as I really wanted them to work – obviously, as I was prepared to spend money on them. Looks like I’m back to good old CAT5 cable; I may have to do a bit of DIY to put it in, but it’s a lot cheaper, and it works.

For the moment, that’s it, and I can watch digital TV (which I could do anyway), listen to my ripped music (slightly more convenient now) and watch old movies downloaded from the Internet Movie Archive (not previously possible without burning DVDs); but the nebulous plan is to get a Windows Home Server machine at some point (maybe something like this one), put some real disk space in it and actually reduce the number of DVD boxes I have lying around.

ggreig: (Black Hat)

I’ve just discovered that the entire 1970s TV series of Dick Barton – Special Agent (episode intro) became available on DVD earlier this year.


ggreig: (Crazy or smart?)

"We are loonies, and we are proud!"

July 1, 2008 by
photoGavin T.D. Greig


Fourteen years ago, there was rather a good mini-series (six 50-minute episodes) made by BBC Scotland, called Takin' Over The Asylum. At the time it stood out as being an excellent piece of drama, but despite winning awards and praise for its representation of people with mental illnesses, it was only been repeated once, the following year, and was never seen again. Now it has been released on DVD.

For the story behind the series, I can't do better than point you to the Guardian article by the writer of the serial, Donna Franceschild. However, having now bought and watched the DVD, I can say whether I think it's still good fourteen years on.

Fourteen years of waiting may be a bit much for any drama to really live up to, but considering that, it stands up pretty well. It's an odd mixture of realism and slightly overstated comedy, but both work and don't ultimately detract from each other.

The central character, Eddie (Ken Stott), a hospital DJ and reluctant double-glazing salesman, loses his hospital radio slot to a gum-chewing young Ashley Jensen (a minor role). As some compensation, he's offered the chance to revive the radio station at a psychiatric hospital.

The main storyline follows the fortunes of the radio station he builds up with the help of some of the residents, but intertwined with that are his progress in the sales job he hates, his relationship with his grandmother, and of course the lives of the residents he works with.

Although it's a comedy, it doesn't shy away from posing some difficult questions about mental health and how it's dealt with by society. The first episode includes someone who perhaps shouldn't be in a mental asylum at all, although by the end of the episode we are led to question whether things have changed for the better.

Nor is it one-sided. At some point we see a sympathetic side to most of the less likable characters. They're doing the best they can, even if we don't like the way they go about it. There are some out-and-out bad guys, but they're mostly restricted to the double-glazing sub-plot.

Even though a shocking moment in one of the middle episodes is what stayed with me most through the years, I'd forgotten that the series was, over all, a little downbeat and inconclusive, but don't take those words as a negative criticism - they're dramatically appropriate, and there are some balancing factors. We know that lives will go on without us watching.

I'd recommend seeing it on its own merits, but there is one other thing about this series that might be of interest. Eddie's main assistant on the radio station is the manic depressive Campbell - the first major TV role for a young actor called David Tennant.


This hReview brought to you by the hReview Creator.

ggreig: (Vacant Podling)
The Pendragon/Tim Hines film of The War of the Worlds flopped onto my doormat on Saturday.

It flopped on my DVD player on Sunday.

No-one would have believed. Really. I mean it. )

In honour of this awfulness, my new icon is a Podling (The Dark Crystal) being drained of its living essence.
ggreig: (Black Hat)
Just before zooming off to visit my parents through the Edinburgh and Glasgow hyperspace jump points (O.K., railway stations), I downloaded Star Wars: Revelations after reading a story about it on the BBC news site, but I didn't have time to burn the DVDs and watch it.

Since coming back, I've managed to do that.

This is not the fan production you're looking for... )
ggreig: (Moustache)
Complete tosh, of the very finest kind.

This is a film adaptation of another Jules Verne story I've never read, made by Disney in 1962. The lead character is a young Hayley Mills as Mary Grant, whose father, Captain Grant, has been lost at sea for some time at the start of the movie.

With the help of fast-talking, shark-fishing Professor Jacques Paganel (Maurice Chevalier), Mary and her brother convince shipping magnate Lord Glenarvan (Wilfrid Hyde-White) and his son that it's worth following up the message in a bottle that was extracted from a shark. Apparently they've been inundated with bottles containing messages ever since they offered a reward for information.

I hope you're keeping up as we go into the spoiler section...Tell me more! )

I love the pace and confidence of this film. It's got a running time of only 94 minutes, but it's got more adventure than any Bond film, it's got humour, it's got first love, it's got Maurice Chevalier and Hayley Mills singing (with different degrees of ability but equal charm), it's got earthquakes, floods, storms, precipodes*, dangerous animals, marooning, erupting volcanoes, gun runners, trapeze artistry, exploding ropes and it's got dear old Wilfrid Brambell as a spritely, cackling, wild haired loon - "Now, be I crazy, or be I smart?" - who chews the carpet to excellent effect.

I laughed, I cried (well, to be honest, I laughed some more), I hurled... a cushion in the air in joy. Why isn't this film a recognised classic - of sorts? Every GM should see this film at least once.

* Anyone know what the plural of precipice actually is?
ggreig: (Portrait)
Another in my continuing, occasional series of reviews of films you may have had the discrimination to miss.

I watched this film a couple of weeks ago, when I wasn't feeling like writing, and I wasn't sure it would make it onto LJ as a result. However, after The Hitch Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy I felt I had to come back to it.

In this exposé of Britain's greatest wartime cover-up, Christian Slater is Winston Churchill, a GI who's been sent across the Atlantic to win the war. That old bulldog-faced bloke you thought was Churchill is actually Roy Bubbles, an actor. The real Churchill, with his (self-described) token black sidekick Denzil Eisenhower (Romany Malco) deliver the Enigma machine they've captured to British Intelligence, led by Lord W'ruff (Leslie Phillips). Of course, L. Phillips being a well-loved British actor, you'll have spotted already who the bad guy is...

Lord W'ruff has invited Hitler (Anthony Sher) to the King's Palace (curiously, never referred to as Buck. House) with the nefarious aim of subjugating Britain to the Third Reich.

Churchill, Eisenhower and Churchill's WAAF girlfriend, Princess Elizabeth (Neve Campbell) must save the day.

I was never a big fan of the Comic Strip films, the best-known previous work of director Peter Richardson, but I did enjoy this one. It pokes sorely-needed fun at Hollywood's hijacking of history for the United States - especially recent films such as U-571 - without, I think, being anti-American. A lot is owed to Christian Slater and Romany Malco for their good sportsmanship in taking part. Although she's Canadian rather than American, kudos must also go to Neve Campbell for her enjoyable portrayal of Princess Elizabeth.

Apart from the main leads, the film is a roll-call of British comedy stars, but for me I think Harry Enfield is most effective as a crusty old King George VI. Honourable mention goes to Mackenzie Crook as the Irish Cockney from Ye Olde Dick van Dyke Street, Jim: Jim Cheroo.

There's not much point going into this movie in greater depth, as it would only be to blow some of the gags. However, if you want a satire on Hollywood movie-making which also stands up fairly well as a comedy action movie with a plot in its own right, give Churchill - The Hollywood Years a try.
ggreig: (Default)
The extended version of The Return of the King arrived on Wednesday, a couple of days before its official release. I haven't watched the feature yet - I usually watch the extras first as build-up. I've just reached the end of those, and they are very emotional, never mind the movie.

A Good Day

Sep. 21st, 2004 07:10 pm
ggreig: (Technical Support)
We've been accepted on to an early adopter programme for Visual Studio 2005, which translates into extra support and training for using beta development software in return for the usual sort of feedback, making a release on the same sort of timescale as VS2005, and being prepared to be a case study if called upon. As VS2005 offers us a number of improvements that we want to take advantage of, that sounded pretty good to us. Thanks to [livejournal.com profile] scottymcleod for the information that led us to apply.

I've just listened to the First Fit of the Tertiary Phase of The Hitch-Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy on Radio 4 (via terrestrial digital TV), and it wasn't too bad. The characterisation of the sentient mattress was particularly enjoyable.

I have the original Star Wars trilogy on DVD to watch (well, original-ish, but I'm not the type to quibble over the differences), and a box of dinosaurs arrived from my sister. Apparently when ordering she mentioned that they were intended as a gift and the suppliers chucked in some extras. I don't want to expose them to exploitation by name-checking them, but let's just say that a company with a diving-suit logo are pretty decent guys! Thanks to [livejournal.com profile] kateaw and [livejournal.com profile] tobyaw for helpfully accepting delivery when I was inconvenienced.

I also have a fine new mug for work, courtesy of [livejournal.com profile] qidane, and a new icon courtesy of [livejournal.com profile] msinvisfem.
ggreig: (Three)
If One Of Our Dinosaurs Is Missing! was being made now, it would feature Jackie Chan instead of Peter Ustinov, and it wouldn't be as funny. Not because a large number of suspiciously Caucasian Chinese are particularly amusing, but because it may have been the last gasp of the uncynical comedy set in the days of empire and servants (just after the First World War).

I was a bit surprised to find that the film was made in 1975, as I had always thought it might have been up to ten years older. In 1975, the U.K. was on the brink of change. Punk had a foot in the door and a gob up the hallway, and Thatcher's children were only a few years from being born.

So Disney's One Of Our Dinosaurs is Missing! was probably looking dated even as a period comedy at the time it was made. Still, several of the most successful comedies are pastiches of the past, Dad's Army and Blackadder being the obvious examples.

I sat happily through this movie in one sitting, a courtesy that not all my purchases have been receiving recently, but comedies do have the advantage. This one is fast moving and doesn't really put a foot wrong. The heroines are nannies, taking on the martial artists of a mysterious Chinese organisation seeking to retrieve a secret formula. Derek Nimmo makes a very good ineffectual spy (explained by the movie's final twist), who has hidden the secret formula on the skeleton of a dinosaur in the Natural History Museum. Only the nannies can save the day by retrieving it, and in the process the whole dinosaur gets stolen and driven around the streets in a Sentinel steam lorry.

There is quite a number of big (British) names in this movie, but it's their characters that you see on screen, which is always a desirable thing! I was so engrossed that I completely failed to identify Jon Pertwee on first watching, even though I'd noticed his name in the credits and he gets several minutes on screen.

I'm afraid I have to report a serious temporal inaccuracy, as Nanny Hettie (Helen Hayes) reassures Nanny Emily (Joan Sims) that if the skeleton falls on them they'll be the first people killed by a dinosaur in two million years. Surely everyone knows that while homo sapiens might have been wandering around then, the dinosaurs died out 63 million years before that? I fear for the education of their children!

Scientific inaccuracies aside, this movie comfortably lives up to my youthful memories of it and I defy you not to watch with at least a smile on your face.
ggreig: (Black Hat)
...you can fly anything! Or so Captain James Bigglesworth informs us as he teaches himself to fly a helicopter, having fallen forward through a hole in time into the 1980s.

Yes, I've been watching one of the films that time forgot (or rather wished it had), variously known as Biggles: Adventures in Time, or just plain Biggles.

I first saw this as a rented video some years ago at the residence of [livejournal.com profile] scottymcleod. By an extraordinary coincidence, unless I am much mistaken, that very house near the outskirts of St. Andrews is now the residence of [livejournal.com profile] meepfrog, who must therefore be the Time Twin of [livejournal.com profile] scottymcleod, Janice or the inimitable Mr. Lowther.

Having firmly grounded the idea of the Time Twin in scientific fact in this way, I feel no embarrassment whatsoever - well, not much, anyway - in admitting that, complete pants thought this movie may be, I quite like it.

However, since it tanked utterly at the box office way back in the halcyon days of 1986, perhaps a re-examination of its merits is in order.

I was rather surprised when I found that it was out on DVD. I had kind of assumed it was not going to appear in the new format, but it has, and what's more, although it's not an immaculate remaster or anything, there is a reasonable selection of extras on the disc. I'll come back to those.

The main reason for buying this DVD is quite simple. If you're a fan of Captain W.E. Johns' character Biggles, then this is likely to be your only chance to see him on the screen. I don't know whether the 1960 Granada TV series still exists somewhere in the archives, but even if it does, I would think the chances of us getting to see it are slim.

Not to be overlooked, however, is that this movie contains the last film role of a much-loved and missed actor who died ten years ago on the 11th of August - Peter Cushing, who appears as Biggles' commanding officer, Colonel Raymond. Along with the standard filmographies for the lead actors, the DVD includes a very readable potted biography of Peter Cushing, written by Kim Newman.

The key faux pas in this movie could almost be said to be "the usual one" - the film-makers felt it necessary to make the film relevant to modern audiences. They did this by introducing the aforementioned temporal jiggery-pokery, so that the film switches back and forth between the mid-1980s and the Western Front in 1917. Keen to develop a sympathetic modern character whom the audience could relate to, they picked an American advertising executive in convenience foods. Have you spotted any potential mistakes yet?

Lightning strikes (literally) and Jim Ferguson arrives in no-man's land in 1917, just in time to pull James Bigglesworth out of a crashed plane. For the rest of the movie Jim stumbles between 1917 and the 1980s as and when Biggles lands in trouble. For Biggles, there is one visit to 1980s London when Jim is the one in trouble. This is conveniently explained by the elderly Colonel Raymond, who lives in a secret apartment in Tower Bridge, saying that the two are Time Twins. Well, obviously. Between them, they destroy the secret German sound weapon that's threatening the outcome of World War I.

What a turkey, eh? But still I've gone out of my way to buy the DVD, so what positive things does it have going for it?

Despite going for dumb and un-funny laughs in a number of places, they do have the sense to play Biggles and his three companions (Algie, Bertie and a rather premature Ginger) straight. They're deadly serious about what they do, even if they're not always serious about how they do it. By and large, the actors look the part, and Neil Dickson as Biggles is astonishing - in these cynical days, it's hard to believe that a jaw could be so square without the aid of prosthetics or digital enhancement, but plainly Biggles is the part that Mr. Dickson was born to play. Finally, the resolution may be ridiculous (it is), anachronistic (of course), completely implausible (naturally) and technically unsound (well, duh!), but it is at least sort of original. You can admire the audacity even as you cringe.

I believe it is qualities such as these that usually qualify a production to be referred to as a "camp classic". I fear it may be true. Back to the extras...

I've already mentioned the filmographies and the biography of Peter Cushing. You will not be surprised to hear that trailers and promotional spots for the film also feature. However, no review of Biggles: Adventures in Time would be complete without mention of the music, and it seems no DVD of Biggles: Adventures in Time would be complete without a music video. If you've seen the movie yourself you may remember that the music is - how can I put this tactfully? - inappropriate. Dogfights over the fields of France are accompanied by cheerfully dire pop ditties with an early Eighties feel. To refer to it as "disco" would, I feel, be inaccurate, but if so it is a common inaccuracy to be found in other reviews on the web. You may draw your own conclusions.

Anyway, one of the featured tunes gets the music video treatment, and fine period footage it is. A band of electric minstrels in flying leathers boogie in front of footage from the film, and a brace of BV bimbettes carol the chorus as Peter Cushing bimbles through the background. In a stunning tour de force worthy of one our great stars of the screen, he masters walking both from left to right, and from right to left. Finally he announces to camera as the track ends, with a more or less straight face, "I'm a restless kind of guy". Awesome. If that's the word I'm looking for.

Wisely, both track and artists go unidentified on the DVD menus. However, a scan of the film's credits prompted a second viewing of the video for confirmation of identity. Oh yes. Oh yes indeed. The perpetrators are John Deacon and The Immortals. And yes, it is that John Deacon!

Reportage from cutting edge arts programs (Saturday Superstore and Blue Peter) also help to round out the features list, but save the best for last.

It's cruel to laugh at computer games of yesteryear, but it must have been funny even in 1986. There is a TV ad for Mirrorsoft's Biggles game. Shots from the film are intercut with the game-play. You can imagine what it's like. Actually, no, maybe you can't. Although the film is frequently listed as a being a comedy, this is the funniest thing on the disc.

It's a bad film, but it's a good bad film, and well worth a fiver. Watch out for the World War II Spitfire that features prominently on the DVD sleeve. You won't see it in the movie, but think how much mileage you can get out of the disc while trying.

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