Apr 28th, 2005

Seeing HitchHikers So You Don't Have To.

Well, after the long wait, the HitchHikers movie is finally here. I went to see it, with my towel draped over my shoulder in memory of Douglas Adams, the man and his creation. It was a fitting tribute.

I wish I could say the same about the film.

The plot follows the original up to the point where Ford and Arthur arrive on the Heart Of Gold. From there on it descends into an incoherent mess. Various familiar elements of the story appear, but they no longer make any sense. Where the radio series allowed one element to lead onto another, each one laying the groundwork to explain the next so the audience can assimilate it all, the film throws them all into a melting pot, along with several entirely new elements which get no adequate explanation and expects the audience to make sense of it all.

OK, so it was always going to deviate from the books, just as they deviated from the radio show. H2G2 is renowned for contradicting itself. But while the story may have changed, one thing remained consistent throughout them all. The characters.

Not any more.

Martin Freeman makes a decent enough Arthur; rumpled and out of his depth, but he never manages to be as angry about both these things as Simon Jones was. Zooey Deschanal doesn't make too bad a job of Trillian either, albeit the american Trillian of the TV version. But putting her in a love triangle between Arthur and Zaphod makes no sense; one of the major points about Trillian is that Arthur is neither exciting enough nor her intellectual equal, and the best she can ever offer him is sympathy.

Sam Rockwell carries the wild side of Zaphod Beeblebrox ok, but with none of the poise and gleeful vanity of Mark Wing-Davey. Mos Def tries to play Ford Prefect as a cool dude, but only ends up leaving him subdued.

Bill Nighy plays Slartibartfast as... well, as Bill Nighy. He seems like a hippy who's still not quite adjusted to having a day job and wearing a suit, not as an ageing craftsman dedicated to his work but somewhat befuddled about the larger business his job is part of.

And the vogons are reduced to hidebound bureaucratic twits, rather than the vile and cruel creatures who treat bureaucracy as just another expression of their contempt and loathing of everyone else.

And finally there's the script.

It's horrible. Douglas Adams' carefully honed dialogue, finely tuned to flow smoothly and highlight every nuance on the way, has been gutted. The script makes references to the jokes, but never actually includes them. So only the hardcore fans will know they're there, and they'll hate it even more because they remember them when they were funny. And this goes for the key plot points too.

Do I have any positive things to say about this movie? Well yes, a few. There are moments where the visuals "add value"; little touches in the Guide graphics, for instance. And the scene where Slartibartfast takes Arthur onto the Magrathean "factory floor" is perfect, one area where the vastness of the special effects is entirely fitting.

But if there's one impression I'm left with on leaving the cinema, it's just how perfect the original radio series was. The casting was superb, all the lead actors catching every nuance of the dialogue perfectly. Peter Jones' performance as The Book was full of tiny pauses and stresses which emphasized just the right word at the right time; Stephen Fry, good though he is, never quite hits the marks. And Alan Rickman - I know this is heresy, but I'll say it anyway - he's no Stephen Moore. He may do disgruntled and sarcastic magnificently, but Moore's Marvin turned depression and futility into a raison d'être; his depression was self-validating.

I wanted this film to be a fitting tribute to Douglas' genius. I wanted it to show the wider world how much he gave us. Instead it serves only to remind those who already know just how much we have lost.

Apr 7th, 2005

Just So You Know...

I will not vote for a party that tries to introduce a national identity database through a back door, without consultation in parliament, indeed despite the fact that parliament has rejected the ID card scheme when it was presented as such.

I will not vote for a party that would overturn the principle of "innocent until proven guilty", choosing instead to legalise house arrest for anyone without charge, without trial or judicial review, in the name of anti-terrorism.

I don't want Blair, Blunkett or Clarke within a million miles of our civil liberties. I want them out.

Apr 7th, 2005

Pre-Electoral Paranoia?

Last year, six labour councillors in Birmingham were convicted after a postal vote fraud scandal. (More details here.)

Although the government had insisted that postal voting was secure, David Blunkett is now acknowledging that it clearly isn't, and is calling for voter registration to be tightened up.

Backed by a national identity card scheme.

The national identity card, and the national database that goes with it, has been rejected by many on the grounds that it won't work, won't have the benefits it claims to even if it does, and represents a massive invasion of privacy on the part of the government.

I find it interesting that this latest move was prompted by a scandal committed by labour councillors. It means that, having failed to sell the identity card scheme to the public on the basis of "you need this to protect you from terrorism / illegal immigrants / benefit fraud etc.", Blunkett is now attempting to sell it on the basis of "you need it to protect you from us."

Has he failed to notice this irony? Or is he perfectly aware of it and is just hoping we won't?

Apr 3rd, 2005

Disco: the Learning Curve.

We did a gig with a dep guitarist on wednesday; Mario introduced me to him with the words, "This is Adrian. He defies logic."

Played a wedding in Kent yesterday. A lot of the set was new material; Mario is expanding the band's repertoire for a new lineup that plays 70s disco stuff. Well, I say lineup, but a better term might be "package". He runs and fronts several bands; the determining feature of each is the repertoire, but they're all drawn from the same core group of musicians, with the lineup on any given night being down to availability.

Disco is wonderful material for a bassist, but drumwise it's so minimal that I kept falling asleep while trying to learn the stuff. (Though at least this makes it pretty easy to dep for; I even played one track at the gig that I'd not rehearsed or even learned, and no-one would have known.) It's proving very useful to be able to carry material with you to gigs which you may need to learn or revise at short notice. This was the stated reason I treated myself to an MP3 player at Xmas, though the truth is I just wanted it because, ooh, shiny. But over the last few gigs it's really come into its own. Plus it helps the long journies home fly by.

Went out for a meal with the family on friday. As per family tradition, it was a joint birthday get-together for me and my brother; equally traditionally, it was about 2 months late. He took the opportunity to hand me an email address, from a chap he'd met who was an XTC fan who lives in Swindon, and had seen X-sTatiC when we played there. As bizarre coincidences of the "it's a small world" variety this one was pretty impressive, when you consider that he was on holiday in Australia at the time...

Mar 27th, 2005

He's Back!

Another gig last night, and more of the cobwebs seem to have fallen away, which is good. Loath though I am to admit it, stripping my kit down from six drums to four seems to have done my playing a world of good. Not sure how this bodes for X-sTatiC, wherein I really do make use of all six.

Got home at 3 am, unloaded the drums and went straight to bed, too exhausted even to stay up and watch Doctor Who...

Yeah, right. :-)

So, after a couple more viewings today, what do I think?

Well, there are niggles. The incidental music doesn't work for me, particularly the generic "fast" music. No sense of "we're runing away from something terrifying", or "we're running towards something important", or even "we're showing you Rose Tyler's typical day condensed into a minute and a half", just "something's happening, and whatever it is it seems to be happening fast". And it sounds like it was programmed in someone's bedroom. (In this day and age it quite possibly was, but in this day and age this doesn't mean it has to sound like it.)

And there were occasional ill-judged comedy touches which undercut the drama. I expect that from the Doctor, it's in his character, but not from a burping wheely-bin. The CGI bin (sorry!) also looked a bit tacky, and I felt that whole sequence might have benefitted from some more interesting camera angles.

But thankfully my major niggle is that it wasn't long enough. You can't build up a major plot arc in 45 mins, which an alien invasion of earth really demands.

Wheely bin aside, the special effects are looking good; the Nestene Consciousness was very effective. And from the previews, things are only going to get better.

Billie Piper does a good job as Rose. I can't yet say that I'm entirely convinced by Christopher Eccleston; he's a little too hyper to display the gravity I'm used to from The Doctor. But change is only to be expected, and he does a fine job. I can accept he's an alien, I'm just not quite sure yet he's this alien. Not quite yet. But I think he's going to work.

It's been fifteen years. I can give him a little more time. :-)

Mar 25th, 2005

Fair Warning.

Yesterday I ended up doing a gig unexpectedly. The Briefcase Blues Brothers were expecting to use another drummer, but when they called him on the night to confirm what time he was getting there, he replied, "um, what? I'm in York tonight..."

And so, at 6:45 I got a call saying could I do it? And I loaded up the drums and trekked up to Aylesbury, which is fortunately only an hour away. And I set up, and did the gig, and everyone was grateful for my having pulled their asses out of the fire...

...except, as I now recall, there was a little more to it than that.

On monday the other drummer had called me and said he wouldn't be able to do a couple of gigs, and could I do them instead? He gave me the dates and I said no problem, and he said he'd mail the band to let them know of the change. But evidently he didn't, or they didn't read it in time (not the first time that's happened; last time I covered with them I emailed for a setlist two weeks in advance and only got results with two days remaining because I phoned and chased it up). And unfortunately he didn't mail me either, which was awkward because when he called me I didn't have pen or paper handy. So, that was one of the two I was supposed to be doing anyway...


Anyway, it went pretty well. I'm still horribly out of shape, and felt exhausted at the end, but being the Blues Bros it was more relaxed than the last set I played with them (which takes in Green Day, Blink 182 and the Red Hot Chilli Peppers), so at least I didn't feel the muscles aching from lack of use.

Mar 16th, 2005

Job Opportunity...

Me (front / back) at CCDE, 2001.

India, 2005.


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