Monthly Archives: September 2004

The League Of Extraordinary Gentlemen

Dreadful script, and the acting is hammier than a butcher’s shop. The amount of editing that has been done to make Connery’s two major fight scenes seem at all realistic is enormous, and deserves special recognition. The number of shots where you see him both throw and land a punch can be counted on one hand. The rest of the time it’s all lunge, sound effect, and cut to a different angle. I’ve tried hard to think of any redeeming features the film might have…and failed.

Lara Croft, Tomb Raider: The Cradle Of Life

A bit more plot (not that it’s great) and fewer gratuitous set pieces (not that there aren’t any) make this a better film than the first one (not that that’s hard). It benefits greatly from having Lara’s former lover Terry Sheridan (Gerard Butler) around as a parner/sidekick–at least this allows for a small measure of characterisation. The final act, which is only ever hinted at in the trailers, could have been rather good, but is let down by an enormously cliched showdown.

The film is also topped off with nine minutes of credits. Nine minutes. On a 103 minute film. I had to double-check the DVD to make sure I had the numbers right, but the counter didn’t lie. Nine minutes. Really.


Silly but fun. Off-the-wall characters, absurd plot, lots of cameos, and plenty of in-joke film references. The comic timing felt a bit off, though, and the pacing was uneven. I thought that in places the film was too eager to highlight its spoof status, and took its eye off being a good film in its own right. It never really caught its full stride, instead being satisfied with a collection of funny moments. If you like Ben Stiller (I do), you’ll probably like this.

Dirty Pretty Things

Tight little emotional thriller about two illegal immigrants in London who disover a secret trade in human organs while struggling just to get by in life. The interplay of plot and characterisation is beautifully balanced, and the twists in the last half hour keep you wondering just how happy or sad the story can possibly turn out. Strong performances from Chiwetel Ejiofor and Audrey Tatou combine to round this off as an intense and sympathetic drama.

Around the World in 80 Days (2004)

Silly and muddled, but not without a certain amount of goofy charm. The exposition to keep the plot moving is hopelessly leaden, and the straightforward comedy scenes are forced and clumsy. It’s the slapstick action scenes that work best, and produce the most laughs.

The script feels like it has been brutally hacked about to a) recognize Jackie Chan as the star power behind the film with a sub-plot equal in stature to the main story, b) accommodate the numerous cameos necessary to rival the 1950s David Niven version, and c) still fit within the 2-hour format. Personally, I didn’t mind seeing Passepartout as a kick-ass kung fu hero returning to China to save his village, but it’s the cameos that dragged the film down. There’s an easy 20 minutes that could have been spent better on smoothing out the plot jumps, or on the relationships between the characters. As it is, it feels like Steve Coogan and Jackie Chan are acting in seperate movies.

Laurence Shames – The Naked Detective

It was actually Alex who chose this book for me, because it had a duck on the front of it. I was very pleasantly surprised when it turned out to be rather good. Pete Amsterdam retired to Key West to enjoy the easy life. He doesn’t do any work, but his accountant convinced him to register as a Private Investigator, so he could offset some property improvements against tax. It’s all a great wheeze, until a desperate individual tries to hire him, and he gets tied up in a real murder investigation. The book has engaging characters, a light sense of humour, and paints a lovely picture of laid back island life. A nice, refreshing little read.


I found this entertaining, but nothing special. In terms of story and plot, there’s no more to the film than “bad guy wants to open portal to Hell and destroy the world; hero must stop him.” So it has to rest on the characters, the effects, and the set pieces. They’re all good, just not great. It’s all drawn in broad brush strokes, but with far too little intimacy and intensity. A fun way to spend a couple of hours, but I’d been hoping for more.

Anthony Horowitz – Stormbreaker

This is a fast-moving read, but the characters are regrettably flat. Alex Rider is defined in terms of his physical capabilities, rather than by how he relates to his friends and enemies. Herod Sayle and his henchmen are little more than caricatures of Bond villains, and the mechanisms of their villainy are stereotypically over-the-top and implausible. The groundwork is clearly present for a series of thrilling adventure stories, but I’d hope that in the further volumes, Horowitz provides more of a reason to care about Alex Rider.

Joe Clark – Building Accessible Websites

If you’re building web sites, and you have any interest at all in making them accessible to people with vision, mobility, or other impairments, you need to read this book. Clark’s style is emphatic and sometimes haughty, but also caring and filled with pointed humour and dry sarcasm. The book covers the full spectrum of web accessibliliy techniques in exhaustive detail. Not only does Clark tell you what you should do, but also why you should do it–that’s what makes this such a valuable reference. Even a little accessibility can go a long way; this book tells you exactly what you need to know to implement it.

Val McDermid – The Mermaids Singing

I found this a bit hard to get into at first–that main characters of Tony Hill and Carol Jordan took a while to come together for me–but after the half-way mark, things really started moving. By present-day standards The Mermaids Singing is a fairly predictable psych profiling/serial killer thriller, but the way McDermid interweaves the strands of the investigation together with the characters’ personal lives is entertaining. It’s very clearly the beginning of a series, and based on this first episode I’ll certainly be reading more McDermid in the future.