Anton Lesser is a bit of a God to me. His voice is so soothing it helped with my insomnia, but he’s also played a lot of awesome things, I seem to remember he was in Fatherland which was great, he’s also Falco in the series about the Roman informer. Looking on wikipedia, it looks like he’s done everything!

Anyway, this is Brave New World by Aldous Huxley, which I’ve always meant to read. Apparently it’s the basis for the idea behind the Matrix. I know, I should read the book first, but dissertations have dampened my enthusiasm for the written word a little.

Not listened to this yet, but I’m sure it’ll kick ass.


My Lord of the Rings Fan-Girly Mission.

I got into a bad habit a few years back, watching the same films, TV series etc. over and over again. It was mainly to try to ease my insomnia and to give me a sense of comfort when the world was falling apart around me. I guess that’s why fantasy films grabbed me so thoroughly. I’ve probably watched Lord of the Rings about 30 times per film. At about the same time I pretty much stopped reading, stopped listening to music and got stuck in a bit of a World of Warcraft related rut. I want to do something to change that. I want to have interesting things to do. I love films, books and music, so I came up with a plan!

So by putting it on the internet, I’m going to make it official, so here is my plan. I plan to watch a different film each month, but in order to make it easier, I’m going to choose films according to the spectacular cast of Lord of the Rings. (Basically stalking in film form?) I’ve already got this month’s done entirely by accident. It was the J.J. Abrams Star Trek (not the new one, that’s not out yet, the one from last year!).

The reason I think this will work is that the cast of LotR is firstly HUGE, there’s a lot of actors that have been working a long time (bear in mind they were made ten years ago, and most of the actors in it were reasonably established) and on top of that, if you follow their careers you get to some incredibly amazing films, and hopefully the plan is to get to some films I’d not normally watch. (Particularly when following Viggo Mortensen doing things like Eastern Promises, or Christopher Lee in Star Wars…)

Yes, I know I’ve never seen Star Wars. I’ve seen the Clone one. I’ve tried to watch the rest, but it’s just kinda… not me. Yes, you can lynch me later.

But anyway, that’s my plan. I’m going to watch at least one film a month (or significant chunks of a TV series.. *points at Lost and Game of Thrones*) in an attempt to broaden my “cultural horizons” and not just watch things with hobbits or Hugh Jackman in it.

I’ve made a list of the Films/TV I’ve already seen before starting this “challenge”: (Focussing mainly on the fellowship itself.

  • Elijah Wood – Back to the Future II, Flipper, Deep Impact, The Faculty, Happy Feet
  • Sean Astin – Toy Soldiers,
  • Sean Bean – GoldenEye, Equilibrium, Troy, National Treasure, The Island, Accused (BBC TV),
  • Orlando Bloom – Midsomer Murders (killed with a pitchfork), 3 of 4 of the Pirates films, Troy, Extras (he’s flipping hilarious),
  • Billy Boyd – Does listening to a lot of Beecake count? He also did a great documentary thing broadcast recently on BBC Radio 4 extra where he charted the adaptations of Lord of the Rings over time.
  • Ian McKellen – The 3 X-men films, The Da Vinci Code, Stardust, The Golden Compass, Doctor Who (The snowmen episode)
  • Dominic Monaghan – I Sell the Dead, X-Men Origins: Wolverine, Lost (only seen Season 1 though)
  • Viggo Mortensen – *hangs head in shame* Haven’t watched anything. I read some of his poetry and love his photography and art though.
  • John Rhys-Davies – I think I’ve probably seen some of the Indiana Jones ones, and probably the Lost World, I’ve definitely seen him as Leonardo Da Vinci in Star Trek: Voyager, Princess Diaries 2 (don’t look at me like that, I had PMS and was back spasms!) and he narrated Pinky and the Brain (that might be stretching the cultural relevance a bit?)
  • Christopher Lee not in the fellowship, but Hammer films amuse me – many Hammer Horror films, The Hound of the Baskervilles, Diagnosis: Murder, Return from Witch Mountain, At least one of the Musketeers films, Sleepy Hollow, Gormenghast <3, The Clone-based crap-Star Wars, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, The Golden Compass, Christopher Lee’s Fireside Tales (BBC Radio 4)
  • Karl Urban – not technically in the fellowship, but very handsome – I’m sure I must have seen him as Cupid in Hercules, and probably Xena too, The Bourne Supremacy, and now… Star Wars as well!

In fact, in the last two days, I’ve watched two films for this! Yesterday I watched Star Trek (Karl Urban – Bones) and Happy Feet today (Elijah Wood – the voice of Mumble).

The Star Trek film was good. It was better than I thought it would be. I do like Star Trek, with my favourite series being Enterprise, followed by Voyager, the original series, then Next Generation probably. I prefer the people to be believable, and to actually struggle occasionally. That and I hate the empath who works with Cpt Picard. I struggle when the female characters are whimsical I think. Anyway, back to the film, the storyline was alright, a bit twisted and strange, but ok. I found the characters of Kirk and Spock hard to believe, because of the lack of doubt. Maybe it’s just me, but the lack of fear/panic in Kirk and the lack of “logic” in some of Kirk’s actions seemed strange, and all the more strange now I come to think about it after watching the film. Karl Urban is hardly in the film, truth be told, but I did like his portrayal of Bones. He captured the lack of deference for authority well, and I love the sarcasm. Especially the bit with the incessant vaccines.

So, onto Happy Feet. I’m always a bit over-cautious when it comes to American kids’ films. They tend to have an overly-soppy sentimental message or teaching buried in there somewhere, and of course this is no different. “Clean up the planet or the penguins will be sad” isn’t a bad message I suppose, but I hate the permanent teaching of kids. Sometimes films don’t need a “message” sometimes it’s OK for there to just be a story! Having said that, I did like the film, I’d probably not watch it again, and I’d think it’s definitely got nothing on Monsters Inc. or Finding Nemo.

And Another Thing, by Eoin Colfer (Only the Radio Series)

For those of you who don’t know, this is the sixth “phase” in the Hitchhikers “trilogy” by Douglas Adams. Adams died very young, of a heart attack I believe, and he left the work unfinished, or at least with a lot of loose strings. I’ve not read the book, I have listened to the radio series.

Eoin Colfer is a very good writer, and pulled on those strings to “tidy up” the endings.

Stephen Mangan voices the radio adaptation, and he is also very good.

Peter Serafinowicz, who is also very talented, plays the voice of the guide.

The shame is, three good things combined makes something that isn’t quite as great as the original. The charm of the original Hitchhikers series was the “To hell with the budget” attitude given to the production. It had a full cast, the most decadent special effects ever heard on radio (which even stand up pretty well against modern productions), and the cast seemed to have an awesome time making it. This new addition has Stephen Mangan voicing all the characters. He’s a talented voice actor, but it’s just not really enough.

In my opinion, the story seems a bit disjointed (and not in a cool Douglas Adams-y kinda way, more in a written on post-its and scattered across the carpet kinda way) and the production seems, well, cheap. As far as Hitchhikers was concerned, Adams always wanted the best. He wanted a “Peter Jones-y” voice for the book. The BBC said that THE Peter Jones was too expensive, and spent a long time looking for a sound-a-like. And guess what Douglas Adams ended up with? That’s right! Peter Jones!

Yes, I know they will have wanted to do it differently, because it isn’t written by Adams, and it is modern, and all that stuff. But when it comes down to it, it is a continuation with the same characters, the same ideas and the same settings. You can’t lift those out and change the format any more than Tim Burton could have directed the final Harry Potter film! (Although, that could be bloody AWESOME!) With something that established, when you mess with it, it could (or probably will) end up an absolute mess.

I really think that the loss of Adams at quite a young age (only 49!) was dreadful. He was a fantastic writer, and I’d even describe him as an artist. He created several worlds across a variety of media formats, which I think makes him more than simply a writer.

This attempt to re-mould his ideas seems cheap and tacky, and I’m hugely disappointed that it doesn’t do more to honour Adams’ memory. I’m glad that, after all this disappointment, I have my experience with the Hitchhikers Live! tour to turn back on. That was a truly awesome night, put together by the original cast, with a decent amount of proper humour and a nice tip of the hat to Douglas too.

The sad thing is, if this new series was a stand-alone I’d probably be heralding it as a triumph and saying how much I loved it, but I guess it’s that “tricky sequel problem”. 

Recommendations please!!

I’m on my own for a whole week, it’s snowing outside so I can’t really go out much (bendy problems suck!) so I’d like it if you lovely internet people could recommend a film or two to keep me occupied during the week. I’ve currently got on my list:

  • The Crow – I seem to remember watching this when I was a teen, but can’t remember much of it.
  • The Road – Working my way through Viggo Mortensen’s films and this one looks amazing.
  • I Sell the Dead – Seen it already – really funny and yet a bit creepy, definitely worth a re-watch. Dominic Monaghan is great as Arthur and the ending was quite unexpected.

Maybe I should have a fellowship weekend – watching a film by each of the members of the Lord of the Rings fellowship. I’d probably not have that much time spare though? Does give me an excuse to watch Equilibrium though.

I’m also hoping to finish Straken by Terry Brooks this week (Which is so cheap on Amazon, Cheap second hand books will ruin my finances!!). In Brooks’ books there tends to be a point by which you’re surprised nobody’s died… I’ve reached it and have been a bit terrified to read on. Got to though because then I can start on Gormenghast which was my Christmas present. I tried to read it years ago because I loved the BBC adaptation of it (It’s where I developed a slight Rhys-Meyers obsession I think)

And yes, I will do dissertation work – but if I exclusively look at statistics, my brain will melt.

For now though, I am going back to my warm double bed, with a cup of tea and some chocolate to listen to the final instalment of Neverwhere, which I have thoroughly enjoyed. Well done BBC!

Déjá vu…

I am a regular listener of BBC Radio 4 Extra. (Which used to be BBC Radio 7, which was much easier to say. It got re-branded and has Ambridge Extra on it. It’s like The Archers for people who don’t like cows.) I have been listening for well over 2 years now and have come across a serious problem. They repeat programming so much!!

Every day, most sections get repeated twice. Being a Sci-fi/Fantasy nut, I love the 7th Dimension, the sci-fi section, and they often have amazing adaptations of well known authors… Lovecraft, Bradbury, and occasionally the less-literary but no less awesome Doctor Who radio adaptations. Listening to the radio helps me work, so I will listen for several hours a day, so I can often hear the same show twice.

I understand that most people won’t listen to the radio continually for hours (or at least not spoken word radio), so I will accept these repeats as a reasonable device to allow their programmes to not be missed. It seems a little redundant in times when the internet is so readily available and all their shows are available online (bearing in mind it’s a digital station), providing the iPlayer technical gremlins have been kept in their respective boxes, but I will accept that some people don’t like listening to the radio online.

However in the last two years of listening I have realised that they recycle a LOT of programming. I’ve heard “The Woman in Black” at least twice in the last year. This week, Slipstream is being broadcast again. The problem for me lies in the fact that I’ve got quite a good memory. Granted, perhaps a 24 year old student isn’t within Radio 4 Extra’s typical readership. There are some dramas that lose their impact on the second time round. The impact of these is related to the suspense of the story. Once you know the twist, the magic is gone. I loved Rendezvous with Rama the first time I heard it. Once you find out the twists and get to the root of the problem, the prior episodes are redundant.

Some can be repeated over and over, and scripting can keep you held even more with each successive repeat. A good example of this would be Douglas Adams’ Hitchhikers series. (Yes, even the posthumous ones), or Fatherland with Anton Lesser. These are marvellous and could be repeated a million times and I’d probably never tire of them. Even the BBC adaptation of Lord of the Rings with the English sounding Orcs and the fact that they cut out Glorfindel as always (The travesty!!!) is amazing. It’s also extensive with thirteen 1 hour long episodes. Why can’t we listen to those?

Repeat things that your dedicated listeners won’t get bored with, and fill the remaining gaps with programmes that haven’t been broadcast for at least a year.

Bear in mind that this station is part of the BBC, and so probably has access to most of the BBC’s extensive archive – and I end up spending my afternoons listening to re-runs of the same shows over and over – I’m not entirely sure it’s good enough.