Mission Impossible 4

I went to Stratford with Cheryl, JonP, Mikey, and Irina last night. We got some food at TGI Friday and then went to the cinema to watch Mission Impossible 4. Now, I don’t want to ruin any of the film or anything but my favourite bit is right at the beginning.

Simon Pegg is sitting at a laptop and then he decided to let out a prisoner at a Russian prison. A guard comes in while working his rounds, potentially a few hours from going home to his wife and kids. Then he opens up a couple more cells and more prisoners come out and commence beating the shit out of the guard. Pegg lets more prisoners out and the guard continues getting the shit kicked out of him on the floor while we watch.

I’m not really sure of the exact reason for this whole scene because it’s not really a requirement for any of the stuff that happens during the next 5 minutes of the film. Seems like they just wanted to show a Russian prison guard being savagely beaten by hardened criminals.

Initial thoughts on my new Kindle

I bought my Kindle when I realised that I would be spending somewhere in the region of £200 on books that are part of The Modern Library’s Top 100 list. I figured I could get quite a few of them for free from Project Gutenberg because they’re out of copyright, and I could get the others fairly cheaply because they’re pretty old, and digital media is cheap.

I was wrong.

The prices of ebooks on the Kindle store is bordering on the ridiculous. Most of the books I want were published in the first 3 quarters of the 20th century. You can pick up a second-hand copy at any book store or market for a couple of pounds. You can even buy a copy of some of them from Amazon/eBay for 1 penny (if you don’t mind paying for the postage).

The book I’m reading at the moment is Sophie’s Choice. Amazon’s price list says that a second-hand paperback copy on their marketplace can be bought for £3.05, a new paperback from the marketplace costs £4.27, and a new paperback from Amazon costs £6.99. If you want a digital copy with no associated printing or shipping costs then it’ll cost you £6.64.

I don’t understand how it’s so expensive. I’m not taking up physical copies of the book requiring more to be printed. I’m getting a copy of a digital file. It’s sent to my device automatically by machine. There is no postage, there is no physical storage required in a warehouse somewhere. Does that really only amount to a price difference of 35p?

I’m a little disenchanted by the whole thing, but I do also enjoy owning a Kindle. It is very convenient, and I suppose that’s what I pay for. Also, I suppose the book publishers are the ones who ultimately set the prices and I’d say they’re about as far behind as the music and film industries when it comes to embracing the digital age.

Transformers, Harry Potter, Submarine, Zookeeper

I watch a lot of films. If you don’t already know that about me then you probably don’t know me very well at all and I wonder why you’re reading my blog. 😛

Cheryl and I used to go to the cinema between 4 and 10 times a month when we were in Nottingham so it’s been a bit strange not to go very often while we’ve been in London. Over the last couple of weeks we’ve had quite a few visits to various cinemas though and it’s been quite nice.

We went to see Transformers 3 at Paramount’s office in Chiswick and they gave us free drinks and pizza before the film. That was pretty awesome. The film wasn’t too bad either, if you forget about the acting of a certain member of the cast.

Earlier this week we went to Cineworld in the O2 to watch the final instalment of Harry Potter with Dan, Fran, and Hannah. Most of the film was pretty good. A few bits seemed a bit lame, or funny, or just awkward, and then at the end it flashed up with “19 years later” and Dan I looked at each other with a look that said “what the hell?” The last few minutes basically made me come away with a worse impression of the film. it was completely unnecessary.

Yesterday Cheryl and I went to see a screening of Submarine at the Charlotte Street hotel near Tottenham Court Road. After the film–which is brilliant–we took part in a Q&A with the writer/director Richard Ayoade. That was really cool. I’d never taken part in something like that before so it was pretty exciting to be there. Richard Ayoade was very self-deprecating during the whole thing, which is how I think I would be if I ever became famous. I spent the entire Q&A session thinking whether I should ask him the stupid question I’d come up with or not. I went with it for the last question of the night: “how deep is the ocean?” If you’ve not seen the film then you won’t get why that’s funny. Everyone in the room laughed though, so my worries about nobody getting it were baseless. 🙂

Next week we’re going to Sony’s cinema to watch Zookeeper. I’ve not heard a great deal about it, but I’m hoping it’s good. Definitely looking forward to the refreshments. 🙂

EPIC WIN at the BBC

I got an email about being in the audience for the recording of a TV show called EPIC WIN. I booked two tickets so that Cheryl could come along with me.

The BBC building

The BBC building

I’d never been to a TV recording before, so I wasn’t exactly sure what to expect. The evening began with meeting Cheryl at White City tube station near the BBC building. We wandered over to the queue outside the building at about 6pm, and within about 15 minutes we were inside the BBC cafeteria. We queued up in the cafeteria and bought the last remaining baguette to eat between us, some crisps, and some water to take into the studio. One we’d finished eating we queued up a third time to be taken through to the studio.

We were shown to some seats in the smoky studio with hundreds of lights on the ceiling and stars hanging down as part of the set. We sat there for a little while as everyone else found their way to a seat and then the floor manager, Rob, told us that we would be listening to a warm-up guy from Manchester whose name I seem to have forgotten (Carl?). He was pretty camp, and a little bit strange. He was basically Paul O’Grady in pantomime mode. 🙂

We were all told about how to sit and to keep smiling, and to always overreact to everything. If something is remotely funny then give it a big laugh. It was a bit stupid really, but oh well.

The show itself is basically a panel of future celebrity reality TV stars with Alexander Armstrong hosting it. They bring in people from around the country with various talents that are basically useless. The person performs their talent in the form of a challenge. If they succeed then they are an EPIC WINNER, if they fail then they have to leave via the EPIC FAIL door. If they succeed in the challenge the panel rates how much they think the talent is worth from £1 to £1000 each. The contestants are then given a buzzer to press when they think the amount of money their talent is worth is up on the board. If they buzz too early they get less than their talent is worth, if they buzz too late then they get nothing.

One contestant was a butcher who could tell what a meat was only using his feet. The second was a man who could pour a bottle of champagne using a digger (with a special modification added on). The third was a lady who has changed her name to Sharon Johnette Travolta on John Travolta’s birthday and could identify the name of a movie based on John Travolta’s hairline. The fourth and final person was a guy named Robin Wood who used a chainsaw to make cutlery and a bowl out of a tree trunk while also cooking a stir fry…

Pretty weird show. I’m not convinced it’ll be particularly amazing, but I certainly get the impression that it’s the kind of thing you might catch being repeated at 2am after a few drinks and decide to watch. I could be wrong though because I haven’t seen the properly edited version. 🙂

Silverstone

I’ve been a follower of F1 for many years now. I started out watching it at my dad’s house on a Sunday. I grew up with the voices of Murray Walker and Martin Brundle on the weekends. The Chain by Fleetwood Mac always signalled the beginning of next few hours of fun.

I stopped watching F1 for quite a few years after the coverage moved to ITV. I hated having the adverts, I disliked the change of staff. The BBC has got it right in the last few years. I have become a proper fan again. To cement my fandom I have finally attended my first ever race.

6AM has never felt as early as Sunday morning. Cheryl and I had rather stupidly spent the night at a party and only managed to get 4 or 5 hours of sleep before having to get up to catch a train. Parts of the tube were surprisingly busy any shoulders began to ache before we’d even got off the first train thanks to having to stand for the journey.

We arrived at Euston station about 10 to 8. We got the tickets and then sat around waiting for other people to show up. Everyone JonP, Emma, Rachael, and Stephanie showed up at around 8:10 and the train pulled into the station a couple of minutes later. We all got on board and 4 of us went one way and Emma and JonP went the other. Oops.

The train to Northampton is basically the slowest train on the face of the planet. The fact that it was delayed by 20 minutes didn’t help it seem any faster.

When we got to Northampton we decided that a taxi would be better than the shuttle bus. The shuttle bus would come to £14 return for each of us and the taxis would come out to only a little bit more when split 6 ways. The taxi dropped us off just outside an entrance and we were all pleased to finally be in the right place. We all got our tickets out and walked through the gate and we were in!

Silverstone from Vale

Silverstone from Vale

Dave and Hayley were already there so we decided it would make sense to go and meet them at Vale. We walked down along the side of the straight while a Porsche race was going on. There was a brief stop so that people could buy merchandise, and then we carried on to Vale. We picked a place and walked onto the grass. We eventually decided on a place to sit and put our stuff down. Literally 2 seconds later we turned around because Dave and Hayley were calling us from about 5 metres away. Pretty good positioning. 🙂

Cheryl and I set up our chairs and everyone else got settled on the floor. That was when we first noticed that there were spiders and greenfly everywhere! Cheryl was not very happy with this, but there wasn’t really anything we could do about it. At least we weren’t on the floor.

The Red Arrows turned up after a few minutes and performed a pretty awesome show for everyone. I completely failed to get a decent picture of one of the arrows as it flew over, but oh well. Hardly surprising when they’re moving so quickly!

Towards the end of the Red Arrows’ show it began to rain. Cheryl and I moved our seats closer together and huddled under a big umbrella to keep the rain off us. Sadly the umbrella wasn’t quite as wide as both of our seats, so we both had a wet side of the seat to contend with. The rain didn’t last very long, and then the sun came back out and helped dry off the seats, but parts of the track remained wet. JonP was very happy about this.

People generally just stood around chatting or went to buy drinks and stuff like that before the first F1 cars came around. I was expecting them to be a lot louder than they were because of a warning from JonP. Don’t get me wrong, they were very loud, but I think we were quite lucky in our placement. They were loudest after they’d gone through the corners and had moved quite a distance away from us.

The whole race went by pretty quickly for me. It was interesting trying to keep up with what was going on as the cars came by us on the track so we were very pleased that there was a big screen that we could watch to keep apprised of events on other parts of the track.

The best bit of the whole event was watching Hamilton and Massa fighting for position at the very end of the final lap. They went by us side by side and stayed that way as far as we could see until Massa went wide onto the straight to let Hamilton through. The crowd all jumped up and down and cheered. It was pretty awesome. 🙂

After the race the track was opened up to everyone. Cheryl and I stayed with everyone’s bags and jackets while everyone else ran onto the track with the crowd. Some of them came back for their stuff a little while later and we went down onto the track to meet up with the others. It was pretty cool to be standing on a track I remember driving around on so many computer games over the years, and a track where, a few minutes earlier, F1 cars had been driving around at a couple of hundred miles per hour.

The F1 Gang

The F1 Gang

We walked up the new start/finish straight along the new “wing” of Silverstone and had a couple of big group photos taken. We carried on heading towards the after-show events off to the side of the end of the straight. Before we got there Dave and Hayley decided they were going to get going home. I think they were both pretty knackered, and Dave still had blisters from when he was walking around London the weekend before, so more walking seemed like a bad plan for them. Sadly I heard they got stuck in quite a lot of traffic and it took them hours to get home.

The remaining group sat around for a few hours watching bungee jumpers jump from a crane. One man even did it naked, which was… interesting.

We watched David Coulthard up on stage for a little while. He was really funny. A hell of a lot more 18-rated than he is on the BBC!

It began to get cloudy and windy so once the girls had finished eating we all headed over to where the buses and taxis were. At first the taxi driver told us he couldn’t take us, but then he asked if we could pay £50. When we said we could he changed his tune and we all piled into his car.

He spent the first 5 minutes of the drive texting one one of his 3 mobile phones. I was not very impressed by that. If someone is being paid £50 to drive for 20 minutes the least they could do is avoid breaking the law in a dangerous manner while doing so.

We didn’t have a long wait for the train at Northampton station and we managed to get 6 seats together on the train. That’s when things got silly. We were all really tired and so we had a serious case of the giggles. Everything everyone said was funny, and there was usually no reason for it. It was a long journey to Euston station!

Once we’d got to Euston we separated ways with Emma and JonP and went down to the northern line where they somehow caught up with us again and we parted ways with Stephanie and Rachael.

We waited for the train to turn up for a couple of minutes and then a random drunk guy walked through the crowd and stood directly in front of Cheryl at the front of the platform. We didn’t say anything because it’s not worth it. He was rocking backwards and forwards on his feet while he stood there, so we knew he was wasted. The train arrived and he made sure nobody got in front of him. We got ready to get on behind him and as soon as the door opened he put one foot forward and tripped over into the crowded train. He was sprawled out on the ground with his jeans pulled half way down his ass by the trip.

We managed not to laugh, but I caught the eye of some of the other passengers in the carriage and they found it as funny as me. A few seconds later the train set off and the door between carriages came flying open right beside me. Everyone looked at it and then looked at me like I’d done something. Obviously the drunk guy had knocked the handle as he was falling or something. The guy got off at the next stop and the rest of the journey home was very uneventful.

That’s the story of Silverstone!

George Takei keeps me awake at night

I’ve had a headache for most of the day and so I should really be sleeping now so I can get up in time for the F1 qualifying session at 6am, but instead I am writing a blog post about George Takei.

The reason for my annoyance is actually his annoyance. He has posted on Twitter a couple of times since I started following him about how the new Akira movie is not including any Japanese actors in the lead roles, despite the original Akira movie being Japanese.

My knee-jerk reaction was to agree with his disdain, but then I thought about it for a few seconds and completely changed my mind. Different countries remake movies or TV shows in their own languages with their own casts all the time. Did George Takei complain that the fairly recent Italian Job film featured very few English actors and was mostly set in L.A.? Is he complaining about the upcoming Bollywood remake of the same film not containing English or American actors? No. Of course not.

It makes complete sense to cast people who are from the country in which the movie is being produced. Stop feeling so targeted, it’s nothing personal.

Problems with LOVEFiLM on PS3

I recently subscribed to LOVEFiLM again because I saw that I could stream movies to my PS3. I was mostly pleased with how the application worked initially, but now I’ve been using it for a while there are a few things that bother me about it.

A-Z should mean A-Z
When you view a genre of movies you can view the most popular ones, the highest rated ones (usually pretty much the same list), or you can choose to view the entire genre A-Z. I decided I wanted to view all of the comedy movies on there to look for something a bit less popular. I scrolled down until I reached somewhere in the B section of the list and then it stopped scrolling. The problem is that the application only lets you view 100 movies in a list. No more get added to the list when you near the bottom, and there’s no pagination at all. This means you have to search for a film specifically if its title comes after the beginning 2 letters of the alphabet and it’s not in the popular/highest rated lists. That brings me neatly to my next gripe.

Searching is clunky
Rather than use the PS3 system keyboard there is a very limited keyboard in the application. Every time you press any key the list of matching movies is fetched again. When the list of movies is being fetched the keyboard no longer responds properly. If I have filtered the results by clicking on the “Watch Now” tab then it flicks back to all movies before showing me the results. On most sites with an auto-complete field on the web there is a delay of half a second or so before the search begins. This helps to prevent extraneous searches, and improve the experience for the user. A delay of a second or so without the focus moving or a button being pressed on the keyboard before a search is sent would help greatly. I could type in a more specific search and find what I’m looking for much more quickly. If I’ve previously chosen the “Watch Now” tab then this should be the default tab that I’m shown when the results are returned.

I can understand that the keyboard isn’t the default system keyboard for the PS3 because LOVEFiLM’s keyboard allows a narrowing down of results in something like real-time, whereas the PS3 keyboard takes over the whole screen and only fills in the text field after you’ve finished typing. So perhaps there’s some work that could be done by Sony there to have a keyboard as a popup when in a text field or something. Perhaps LOVEFiLM could allow me to use the system keyboard if I want to. It would certainly make the search section easier to use for now.

Default PS3 controls are replaced
I use my Playstation to play a lot of media. Whether I am watching a DVD, Blu Ray, or downloaded video I know I can fast forward by holding down R2, rewind using L2, and pause by pressing Start, which is pretty much universal in the console world. In the LOVEFiLM application fast forward is the right-direction on the d-pad, rewind is left, and pause is the X button. This was quite confusing at first and I always pressed the wrong button the first time. Why is there a disagreement? Don’t Sony have guidelines similar to Apple/Google when it comes to apps for their systems? Things should behave in a similar way across a platform. To do otherwise just adds problems for the user.

No personal recommendations
When it comes to picking movies to watch you’ve either got to know what you want and search for it, or find it in the Most Popular section, the Highest Rated Section, or the collections. LOVEFiLM have a bunch of ratings from films I’ve rented from them. They suggest films that I might like to watch when I visit their website. Why not pass that information over to the PS3 application? In fact, why not just return a section called “Films on your Rental List” that are available to Watch Now? The information is available with a simple call to their API.

I’m sure the whole thing will get better with updated versions of the software, and it is usable for now, but it could be so much better.

Subscription TV over the Internet

I recently signed up for Lovefilm again when I saw that I can stream a bunch of stuff via my PS3. They’ll also send me DVD/Blu-ray/PS3 games in the post and I can send them back when I’m done. I pay £14 a month no matter how much I watch, which seems like a good deal to me.

I pay for an Unlimited card at Cineworld so that I can go and see as many films as I like at the cinema for £13.50 a month. Cheryl and I tend to go to 4 or 5 films a month, which makes it considerably cheaper per film than not having the card and seeing the same number of films. We get to see all of the latest films as they come out in awesome quality complete with surround sound (and idiots with their phones on).

I pay £10 a month to Spotify so that I can stream whatever music I like (with very few limitations) to my work and home computers, and also my mobile phone without any advertising, at a high quality.

When I want to watch a TV show I have to watch it as it plays out on TV with advertising, or record it with a DVR when it’s on so I can watch it later. Other than sometimes on Virgin there seems to be no concept of an on demand catalogue of shows. Why? I would quite happily pay £15 a month or so for an archive of TV shows to be available at the press of a button on a variety of my devices in different locations. If LoveFilm had rights to more shows I would definitely go there for them, but sadly they don’t.

An additional problem is that I am a fan of shows on Facebook, so I get all sorts of updates as the latest episodes of How I Met Your Mother or House get shown over there, and then I get to wait 6 months for the episode to air over here on a channel (as part of a package) I have to pay Sky to watch even though I only want 1 or 2 shows.

Why would I do that? Why should I do that? If I want I can download the entire episode within hours of it airing in the US with ads removed and play it on my PS3, my phone, burn it to DVD and play it basically anywhere, etc..

It is obvious that the subscriber model works, I subscribe to almost all of my media these days. If you guys make it available in a sensible way then I will happily give you my money for it. If you continue doing it this way then people will continue to make it freely available. If you want to succeed you have to make your stuff as available as TeH pIrAtEz do, but legally and for a decent price.

London, staying up late, Assassin’s Creed, the wait for GT5

Just over a week ago Cheryl, Hayley, Dave, and I went on a road trip to London to watch the last F1 race of the season with JonP and Alex. We all made mix CDs to play on the journeys, which was cool. We also played the psychic game, where only one of us was allowed to put The Chain by Fleetwood Mac onto their mix CD but we couldn’t discuss it. If more than one of us put it on then we all lost, if none of us put it on then we all lost. somewhat amazingly I was the only one who put it on their CD, although Dave did put it on a secret CD by itself because he doesn’t believe in our psychic powers. 😉

The time in London was fun. We mostly just had some drinks and watched TV and films into the night. Very relaxed (and cheap!) compared to most of my trips to London. We watched the race on the Sunday and we were all pleased that Fernando Alonso did not win the championship, because he’s a wanker.

Cheryl’s friend Holly came to visit over the weekend. We all ended up staying up until about 8:30 in the morning watching random movies and just generally chatting, drinking, and stuff. It was fun even if the movie choices were a bit dubious.

The other day I bought Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood. I had no intention of buying it until a little while before I got it from HMV, but oh well. It’s actually a really enjoyable game. I’m just hoping I can finish it tonight because I should finally get Gran Turismo 5 tomorrow! 😀

I’ve been waiting for Gran Turismo 5 since I first got my Playstation 3 a few years ago. It’s been delayed many times, but this time there are no more delays. It is out tomorrow and I should get my copy in the post really soon. 😀 I was kinda hoping it would arrive a day early because it was sent on Saturday, but no such luck. If it doesn’t arrive tomorrow I will probably go on a killing spree… I hope I don’t lose my job and get taken to court for saying that, as it’s obviously a joke.

How I Met your Mother

A few of my friends have been telling me to watch How I Met your Mother for months and months. Well, the other week I decided to get started on it with Cheryl, and it’s completely hilarious and brilliant.

Over the weekend we went through somewhere in the region of 27(!) episodes (s01e11 to s02e16 I think). I’m so glad there are so many episodes to watch, but at this rate I’ll catch up before the end of the year and then I’ll be stuck waiting like everyone else. 🙁

If you haven’t seen this show then give it a chance!