I’d like to say that the 43 minutes I managed to watch of this was 43 minutes of my life I will never get back however as I was on a flight at the time, at least I didn’t have to pay for it.

As a movie … dreadful. It’s sort of like the Poseidon Adventure with Gladiators. We all know Vesuvius is going to chuck a wobbly so we keep flashing from Pompeii and the shenanigans there to the volcano – an expanding lake, a big bubble, the red lava bubbling away in the cone, the earthquakes, yep, all that stuff.

So, basically our hero sees his family butchered by the Romans and then is captured by slavers. He ends up in the gladiator ring where he is known as the Celt. There is lots of 21st century morality floating around and of course Rome sucks!

We’ve got your evil Senator trying to get in the toga of the local Pompeiian property developer’s daughter. There’s also the nasty general responsible for necking the Celt’s family. The decent gladiator the Celt is supposed to fight to win his freedom ends up being an ally, the only thing missing is Spartacus!

I would like to provide more about the movie, whack in a couple of spoilers but really, I couldn’t watch any more so changed channels to watch Mr Peabody and Sherman.

On a scale of 1 to 10, this is a Z!

However, I should mention that Mr Peabody and Sherman was a winner, a much better movie and one that kids and geeks would enjoy. A great movie really, with some interesting time travel conundrums – remember the way back WABAC machine?

On a six hour something minute flight it was possible to catch up on a lot of TV viewing, especially when not wasting time on Pompeii. Several episodes of the Big Bang Theory managed to get me up to date. The most interesting new thing I saw was episode one of Fleming, a series I will need to pay more attention to.

This was on Singapore Airlines. The weirdest thing though was the Maserati advertisement before the shows. Maserati? In economy class? Down the back with the chooks? Really?

Pellets with Poison, Pills in Tills

As many of you know I enjoy a good turn of phrase, of skilful use of the English language. I particularly enjoy good comedic turns of phrase, “who’s on first?”, “The Duke ducked, the Doge dodged and the Duchess didn’t. so the Duke got the Duchess, the Duchess got the Doge and the Doge got the Duke”, that sort of thing.

One of my favourites from Danny Kaye is in the movie, the Court Jester, where he is trying to avoid a joust and is given a chalice with some poison in it and after the chalice from the palace is broken, to remember he rhymes:

The pellet with the poison’s in the flagon with the dragon!
The vessel with the pestle has the brew that is true!

I like a good homage as well, so hearing the following in the Season 2, Special episode of ‘Allo, ‘Allo just broke me up. Captain Hans Geering does the honours with:

You do not need to kill the General, we have already arranged to kill the General… Do you not see? That if we

kill him with the pill from the till by making with it the drug in the jug,
you need not light the candle with the handle on the gâteau from the château!

Tron: Legacy

Damn, it’s been so long since I saw the original that apart from the grid, I have forgotten most of it. I was ready to be disappointed with the new Tron but damn, call me a user, it was good.

It’s his game now, the only way to win is not to play.

I will happily recommend this one, especially if you like SciFi. The worst thing from watching it though is now I need to find a copy of the original Tron to see that again. As far as I can remember, the new Tron melds well with the story from the end of the original Tron. I also love the “OS should be free” principles espoused by various characters along with

Given the prices we charge to students and schools, what sort of improvements have been made in Flynn… I mean, um, ENCOM OS-12?

This year we put a "12" on the box.

The Last Templar

I watched it tonight – what a crock. At least I’m glad I had not spent money to see this at the cinema. All was going well in the opening sequences but then it went down as fast as the Templar ship!

Spoiler alert – if you haven’t seen the movie and do not want to know what happens, then read no further – otherwise, read on if you want to hear my comments.

The Templars were in Jerusalem when the Ottoman Turks took it in 1291 – OK except for the fact that around the time that Jerusalem fell the last time from Christian control, there were no Ottoman Turks (I think the Turks at that stage were Seljuks) and the Crusaders had been defeated by the Khwarezmian who had stormed Jerusalem. Indeed, the Ottoman Turks (those under the rule of Osman) only came into existence in 1299.

The Knights Templar held the island of Ruad just off the Syrian shore and that was the last Frankish foothold in the Holy Land. The Mamluks took it after siege in 1302.

The best thing was that these Templars were defending Jerusalem and when all was lost and Jerusalem stormed by the Ottomans, the Templars sailed out of the city, later to be caught in a huge storm with gigantic waves and then they have their boat sunk under them just off the coast of Turkey. Look at a map and tell me how someone can sail out of Jerusalem and sail on to Turkey.

Anyway, enter our good guys and bad guys, have a theft by Templars at a museum in New York and then have Mira Sorvino run around beating up bad guys, solving puzzles and generally behaving like a manic Indiana Jones.

We end up off the coast of Turkey for the final showdown.

The bad guy (well, one of them anyway) is on a boat in a fierce storm – he still persuades the skipper to set divers down to recover part of the Templar boat – yeah, right, like that is going to happen in a storm. The other bad guys also managed to hide away on the same boat and eventually there is a huge all-in brawl which is terminated by a wave the size of the one that took out George Clooney’s boat in a perfect storm – er, and this is a storm generated wave in the Mediterranean in the area between, say, Lebanon and the Turkish coast.

At lastly, the Gospel of Yeshua which is the Treasure will bring down the foundations of Christianity. Well, if that was the case and this document would destroy the church, why then were the Templars bothering to defend Jerusalem from the Turks.

The Last Templar is rated 5.5 at IMDB but I suspect folks were just being kind to Omar Sharif.

Still, Omar Sharif was good as the old Greek bloke Konstantine living on the small island with a really long, really wide sandy beach with a good surf rolling and debris carried up the beach by the tide at the end of the movie. Yassos!

Slumdog Millionaire

We went to the movies again on Monday night. I like Monday night – $9.50 entrance charge at the Palace on Norton St, Leichhardt and about 10 people in the cinema. A nice wine or beer and a good movie and the world is a wonderful place.

So, we went and saw Slumdog Millionaire. What a great film this is, tracing the love story of Jamal and Latika from when they were children by the medium of Jamal’s appearance on the Indian version of “Who Wants to be a Millionaire?” The TV show is central to the movie’s plot and shows how even a slumdog could win if the questions just happen to be correct.

More central to the plot though was the relationship between Jamal and his brother as well as the two boys and Latika. Start the film in the slums of Mumbai, add some religious intolerance, throw in some pretty scenery around the Taj Mahal, have the boys develop to men and follow separate paths, introduce a villain (“known racing identity” as he would be called in Australia), toss in some rather brutal police interrogation techniques and then couple all that with the desire of 900,000,000 people to change their lot in life and it is a powerful story, told so well.

This really is a must-see movie. I’ve spent about 6 months or so living and working in Mumbai and Bangalore and frankly, from the opening scenes I could smell, hear and taste India as I watched the movie.

Stay for the closing credits too – the Bollywood song and dance on the closing scene is worth it too!

Movietime Again – Benjamin Button

Monday night is cheap night at the cinema in Leichhardt so off we went. I much preferred Leichhardt to Burwood (last weeks cheap cinema). Leichhardt was great, you could see it’s original shape inside its new housing. However, enough of that. Last night it was the Curious Case of Benjamin Button.I have to be honest and say up front that I was not sure that I was really going to like this movie and I was a little worried that it was so long but I was pleasantly surprised.

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button is a short story written by F Scott-Fitzgerald in 1921 and it served as the basis for the screen story and screenplay, although the original has Benjamin going away to fight in the Spanish-American War, attacking San Juan Hill rather than fighting on a tug in the Atlantic Ocean.

Leaving the short story behind and concentrating on the movie, as I mentioned, I was a little concerned that the movie may have been too long – I’m not renowned for my ability to sit in one place too long after all. However, the way the screenplay was written, and given the appearance of the movie, I don’t think it could have been any shorter. It worked at its length. I will also admit that Brad Pitt is not my favourite actor (although I could just be jealous) but I think he did a wonderful job in the movie as the thoughtful, southern gentleman, Benjamin Buttons. In fact seven actors played the Benjamin character in the movie.

Cate Blanchett was excellent in this role however, changing her moods to suit the role – the aloof but somewhat airy-fairy ballet dancer, the thoughtful mother still in love with a man getting younger by the day and to the caring and loving old lady.

My favourite character though has to be Captain Mike played by Jared Harris. What a larrikin.

Really, loved the movie and can recommend it although I would have liked to see the last two lightning strikes (when you see it you’ll understand the last sentence).


We went to the cinema last night. We actually wanted to see the Benjamin Buttons movie but it was booked out so we ended up watching Owen Wilson and Jennifer Anniston in Marley and Me.

The movie was based on a novel, Marley & Me, about the experiences of a journalist (or rather columnist) and his wife, when they first get a Labrador pup for a pet, in part to prepare themselves for a later family. Anyone who has had a Labrador (the only breed of dog to remain always a puppy) will find many scenes reminiscent of their own experience with that type of dog.

I must admit that perhaps the funniest performance in the movie comes from Kathleen Turner as Miss Dominatrix, the dog trainer. Watching her antics as she tries to show that a firm hand is all that is needed to take the role of Alpha dog in the home pack had tears of laughter running down my face as I remembered the efforts of teaching Jessie, our Labrador for many years, how to behave. Marley also reminded me much of the Labs of a couple of our friends.

As the movie progresses though it moistens the eye, not so much from laughter as from what is inevitable. We can see it, we know it is coming and there is no way the script writers could disguise the ultimate scenes, but even with that foreknowledge, it still endeared a feeling of pathos reminiscent of the dog story style of movies from the past.

This is a movie I’d recommend seeing as a feel good movie with a mix of comedy and pathos. In some respects, I am glad that Benjamin Button was booked out and that as a result we did have to see this movie.

Russian Films to Be Screened at 2nd Jeddah Fest

The Arab News noted on 19 June 2007 that Russian Films to Be Screened at 2nd Jeddah Fest . They noted that

Organizers of the first annual Saudi film festival, The Jeddah Visual Shows Festival that took place last July, are currently making final preparations for this year’s festival to be held over the summer

This is a sort of film festival and the plan is to show 30 short films over about a four or five day period. I can confirm, however, that I will not be attending it, not because I don’t want to (I would actually enjoy it in this boring place) but rather because I am a single man (here at least) and

For the second year running, single men will not be able to attend the event, which is only open to families. Highlights of this year’s festival also include a competition.

With regard to the location of the festival this year, which is the Jeddah Chamber of Commerce and Industry’s auditorium, the following should be noted:

Movie theaters have been banned in the Kingdom for over 20 years. In recent times, the film festival and literary clubs are the only public venues in which Saudis and expatriates can watch films. However, these venues do not attract vast numbers since they only show certain independently-made short movies.

My goodness, with all this lasciviousness and licentiousness the Saudi people must be really naughty, really bad, worse than any other Muslim or non-Muslim country’s people, to have had movie theatres banned. After all, movie theatres must be traditionally Arabic as they certainly predate the abaya in Saudi Arabia.

Cave of the Yellow Dog

We like the cinema here. It is run by a Korean company and the entry fee is 3,000 tugrigs each (about US $2.50). Toss another 2,000 tugrigs down for popcorn and drink and the movies become an inexpensive night out.We had seen “The Tale of the Weeping Camel” so Tseye decided that we should see the “Cave of the Yellow Dog”. Byambasuren Davaa wrote the screenplay to this as well as directing the movie. It is set in the countryside of Mongolia and is based around a herder’s family. The family is a real family, rather than actors, and they give a wonderful idea of what is like for a herder and his family.

The story is set around the family’s eldest daughter. She comes back from school early in the summer (herder’s children are generally boarded away at school during teaching time, coming back to the family during the school holidays). When looking after the family’s flock of sheep and goats she finds a dog.

Her father is worried about the dog though as they do not know where the dog is from, just that the dog was found in a cave and is therefore more likely to have wolf exposure. The father worries about the dog bringing the family bad luck. Indeed, it seems this may be the case although in the end the dog proves his worth.

A recommended movie this, doubly so as it really does give a good idea of life in a herder’s family in Mongolia. Note that the photo attached to this is not from the movie, but is a genuine herder’s hut.