davegodfrey: Cyberman: The Future is Shiny (Shiny)
So, Dredd. Was not dreadful. Which, given its much (and by and large justifiably) maligned predecessor was all I was hoping for when I heard about it. If its basically the same film and Karl Urban is humble enough, and familiar enough with the source material not to show his face, then that would have been good enough for me.

However, having read feedback by 2000AD fans I was expecting something very good. It did not disappoint. Is it better than The Avengers? Its a lot less fun, certainly. But then living in MegaCity One is not supposed to be fun. Being Iron Man is clearly supposed to be fun, hell even being the Hulk isn't too bad. However no-one really wants to be Judge Dredd, and anyone who does, probably shouldn't be allowed anything sharper than a spoon. It's a pretty humourless film (there aren't even any District 9-esque death-by-cow moments to lighten the mood), but its not po-faced. It isn't funny, because life in a city of 800 million people in an area about the size of Scotland on the edge of complete anarchy isn't going to be "funny".

Its a much smaller film than its predecessor. We don't see the Cursed Earth other than in brief shots topping and tailing the film. As I haven't seen The Raid don't want to draw too many comparisons, but the plot is largely the same- I'd also compare it to Die Hard for obvious reasons. I definitely missed the sale that the Stallone version went for- but as with so many comic book adaptations that haven't worked it tried to cram too much in. In Judge Dredd, the Angel Gang, ABC warriors, and Dredd's origins, are all picked up, toyed with, and dispensed with after five minutes or so. It gives you the feeling of a large world, but everything's disjointed and spread thinly. Dredd doesn't even try this. We get the feeling of a wider world, but its very self-contained- almost too self contained. I'm sure there are a fair few shout-outs that the 2000AD readers will pick up on, but are lost on me. And I don't honestly mind. It feels like a short, one-shot story, rather than a story arc. And I have no problem with that, whatsoever. Its certainly preferable to watching it done badly. If this is the start of a franchise, or given what HBO has shown you can do with TV series, essentially a pilot with a cinema release, then I'll be more than happy.

The acting is definitely better- when Karl Urban says that he is the law he's asserting control. Stallone was whining like a petulant child. He's also got a much more expressive chin than Sly, which helps, because he doesn't take his helmet off. Those of us who have seen Game of Thrones know that Lena Headley can do scheming very well, and in a contest between Cersei Lannister and Madeline "Ma-Ma" Madrigal, I honestly don't know who would win. Olivia Thirlby as Anderson gets lots to do, at no point does she seem like a damsel in distress, which more than most women in action films get.

I want to describe it as beautiful but I can't. Because its ugly, dirty and noisy. Just like MegaCity One is supposed to be. MegaCity One in the Stallone version wasn't spotless, but it didn't look much worse than many cities today. This MegaCity? It really is a dystopian hell-hole.

The SloMo scenes are very well shot, and work well in 3D, with one or two exceptions, where it really looks like the front of the scene is a 2D shot pasted in front of a backdrop, like those paper model theatres. However this is the first film I've seen in 3D (there's only two places in London that are showing it in Glorious Two Dimensions) so I honestly don't know if that's a criticism of the 3D-ing in this particular film, or a problem with 3D in general.

There's a completely callous disregard for human life, and a civilian bodycount probably in the hundreds- something, again, completely absent in Stallone's version. I hope it does well, because not only does it mean we'll get sequels (and they've hinted they'd like to do the Dark Judges, or Judge Tyrannosaurus, which could be really good), but it shows there's a market for properly dystopian sci-fi, which I've always had a soft spot for, ever since Robocop.

Thinking about how well the team handled this very massive, deep, and rather British dystopian future, I'd like to see what they can do with that other vast and complex crapsack world, we created- Warhammer 40K.

So yeah, I thoroughly enjoyed it. If you haven't seen it, do so.
davegodfrey: South Park Me. (Default)
Finally made it, after repeatedly kicking myself for missing it year after year, missing bands I still want to see, like Sonata Arctica, Children of Bodom, Korpiklaani, Carcass, Moonspell, Turisas, Iced Earth, Alestorm, and so on...

And it was worth it.

Day 1... )

Day 2... )

Day 3... )

Going again? Oh hells yes.
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davegodfrey: Coelacanth (Science)
So the beeb is going all out with the marking of Darwin's 200th birthday and the 150th anniversary of the publication of "On the Origin of Species". As part of this they have several TV programmes. Including "What Darwin Didn't Know" a 90 minute documentary by the biologist Armand Leroi, discussing the various problems that Darwin foresaw in his theory, and how these gaps have been filled.

(This programme should not be confused with Geoffrey Simmons book of the same title about ID, by a guy who thinks whales are evidence against evolution, but knows nothing about their fossil record).

It deals with the fact that Darwin didn't have a workable theory of inheritance, plumping for a blending hypothesis, which clearly has problems- novel traits will be quickly diluted, so can never spread. One thing it covers in a good degree of detail is the "Eclipse of Darwinism" that happenned soon after his death. Scientists discovered mutations, and came up with ideas about "orthogenesis" species passing along defined evolutionary paths, like those of a developing embryo. Natural selection was pretty much ignored. Even when Mendelian genetics was rediscovered it took until the 1920s and 30s to really get to grips with what was going on. Leroi largely skips over this, concentration on one of the competing theories (Hugo de Vries' model that suggested that all evolution needed was mutations to occur). If he'd have gone into any more detail he;'d probably have filled the entire programme, which is a pity, because the rest of the show was also extremely good.

One of the most interesting fields to have developed since Darwin is that of "evo-devo", the examination of shared genetic and developmental pathways across groups. For instance the gene Pax-6 is responsible for initiating eye development in both humans and insects. Alter it in a fruit fly and you get an eyeless fly (which is what it sounds like). In humans the same kinds of mutations exist, and the condition aniridia results- children are born without an iris, and thus have trouble seeing.

Similarly a characteristic shared across animals is the presence of a particular group of genes called Hox genes. These control development, and like Pax-6 operate as switches turning other genes on and off in different parts of the genome. When these genes are expressed incorrectly we can see what they do. We have, it seems come full circle and are back to de Vries' cataloguing and examination of mutants, albeit using techniques that he and Darwin would be astounded by.

Its available on BBC iPlayer (for the UK residents) until the 4th of February, but I'm sure its crept onto the filesharing websites by now.
davegodfrey: Cyberman: The Future is Shiny (Shiny)
If you haven't seen it yet do so. Its awesome. There's so much to love.


ETA: Holy Crap. All kinds of awesome coming in 2010! (obligatory spoiler warning)

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The Evil Atheist Your Mother Warned You About

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