Jun 302008
 

Wanted PosterThe majority of summer movies are still unreleased, but I began my trail through this season’s “leave brain in the coat rack”-films with Timur Bekmambetov’s Hollywood debut Wanted. I didn’t know this was a comic adaptation in advance, but the thinness of the plot became obvious very soon into the movie.

In fact, I knew next to nothing before the film started – not remembering much beyond the cool vehicular acrobatics and vaguely assassin-related plot seen in the trailer.

And those two things pretty much define the movie. In addition to almost pornographic slo-mo headshots shown repeatedly. This turned out to be an unexpectedly violent movie – in addition to ballistics there’s lots and lots of other kinds of applied violence straining within the two hours of showtime. While the plots of summer movies are not rated on the same intellectual scale as more cerebral works of art, there are so many violations of common sense (and uncomfortable re-uses of old scenery) that suspenders of disbelief come unhinged a couple of times during the film.

And only the briefest look at the plot of the graphic novel proves that a lot of material was excised from the movie. Which is probably a good thing, since anything this complex would bascially demand an extended mini-series on HBO. Having quite liked Millar’s recent Civil War, I’ll keep an eye out for the collected edition of the six issue story.

James McAvoy’s evolution from a pushover to a top assassin is unconvincingly rapid (aided by an out of left field plot device). Somehow most of the actors seem uncomfortable in their roles across the board. Especially Angelina Jolie remains frigidly distant throuhout the proceedings, almost as if she were on autopilot.

Matrix and Fight Club are relentlessly stripmined for ideas, and especially the former’s themes (and penchant for flashy visuals) are repeatedly used.

The soundtrack is unexpectedly strong. While the use of a Nine Inch Nails-song is always appreciated, the highlight of the audio is the Little Things sung by Danny Elfman during the first batch of the credits.

And of the real summer movies, the two biggest attractions – the Hellboy sequel and Dark Knight looked nothing short of excellent in trailer form.

Jun 302008
 

Planet Terror PosterWatched Planet Terror the second half of the Grindhouse two-parter off a dvd a couple of days ago. I quite liked Death Proof last summer, and had reasonably high hopes for this movie as well.

Planet Terror definitely does notsport the world’s most complicated plot, but pays great homage to the innumerable zombie-infested splatter movies of the eighties. There IS a plot, or actually multiple semi-converging threads, but it’s the gimmicky use of a missing reel that takes care of a complicated bridging segment between two scenes and ties together the action. The effects are simple to the point of unspectacularity, apart from a couple of acrobatic set pieces, they’re mostly vehicles for gore and more gore.

Like Death Proof, this movie is dominated by strong women, and Rose McGowan takes the top spot as the assault rifle-legged go-go dancer (yes, by the time the gun is installed around the halfway point, it feels a lot less ludicrous). Freddy Rodriguez comes off rather well as an action hero.

Sadly, of the fake trailers shot for the Grindhouse double only Machete makes an appearance on the disc.

Executive summary: entertaining, but not as good as Death Proof.

Jun 292008
 

Pure haircut, proceed to the left if that bothers.

  • Getting rained on in Turku: Almost all the time.
  • Deserving team taking the trophy in Euro 2008: yes.
  • Goats bought: two.
  • Excellent steaks: one.
  • Exposure to Tuska: half of a Sonata Arctica song.
  • Work days till summer vacation: five.
Jun 272008
 

Spent the wednesday night at the pre-show of Tuska Festival, watching a trio of quality bands.

Rainy pre-Tuska 2008Arrived just in time for Epica. The dutch art school goth metallers put on a good show, despite the rain moving onto the arena. A couple of thunderclaps added to the effect nicely, and even though most of the audience didn’t really have a clue about their records, the reception was positive.

During Amorphis‘ show the skies broke open, and at times the rain fell in quasi-biblical proportions. This was actually my very first time seeing the band, and their fifty-odd minutes on stage were entertaining indeed. Didn’t recognize all the songs, but the entire show, not just the couple familiar ones from Silent Waters were much appreciated.

The main event kicked off with the most played song on Radio Rock. Nightwish took the stage with Bye Bye Beautiful and didn’t let go for almost two hours. This was the first time I saw them with the vocalist, and while Anette Olzon is no opera singer, she executed both new songs and old classics well on stage (and the printed summer frock was a definite change of pace from Tarja Turunen’s black leather). The set list below gets an assist point for Imperiumi, a couple of songs went unrecognized on stage. The highlights (measured on how bad the songs made my skin crawl) were The Islander and Sleeping Sun.

Bye Bye Beautiful
Dark Chest of Wonders
Dead to the World
The Siren
Amaranth
The Islander
Poet and the Pendulum
Slaying the Dreamer
While Your Lips Are Still Red
Sahara
Nemo
---
Sleeping Sun
7 Days to the Wolves
Wish I Had An Angel

I blame the heavy number of tourists on the success of Nightwish, it’s been a long while since I’ve met so rude people on a gig, bumping and crowding was the order of the day, not courteous co-existence usually so common.

Never checked out the vendors, but according to hearsay the t-shirts were beyond the point of comfort at 30€.

Nightwish was the only band with any pyrotechnics on stage, with the exception of red streamers whipping in the wind, the technology was pretty much wasted on a well-lit night, and thus by far the greatest special effect was provided by mother nature: the double rainbow (with a bonus supernumerary rainbow within the primary) in the sky.

Double rainbow

Jun 272008
 

Scene from downtown VyborgVisited Russia, our eastern neighbours, for the very first time on tuesday. The day trip was a bachelor party for a friend, which turned out low on humiliation and high on quality walkingabouts.

The way in and out was easy, a train called Sibelius worked just fine, apart from a surgically early wakeup call.

Rain was pretty consistent during the train ride in, but happily enough, subsided almost immediately after the arrival.

Inside shot of the Aalto library in Vyborg

Despite scary stories in the media, there were no evident criminals in the crowd. Or at least the tales of spectacle-snatchers and wallet-kidnappers proved false.

Shopping-wise the town doesn't hold much to offer. The old market hall provided pirate cds and dvds, glassware and really ugly dolls. Nothing to entice, really.

Tower of the Vyborg Castle all wrapped upMissed the Round Tower, but did a long round of the Castle, the tower was scaffolded, but fortunately the view from the top was not blocked.

Had lunch at the Slavjanskaja Trapeza, near the castle. Had a plateful of pelmens (first ever), Emperor’s Meatloaf, and honey-nut pancakes, all of which were packed with goodness.

Didn’t bring a camera, but took plenty of pictures, the freshly charged n95 ran out of juice on the backward swing, the load of trying to pick up of low signals of the basestations having taken its toll.

Grand view from the Castle of Vyborg

Jun 252008
 

#96:  WhisperThis week’s Photo Thursday challenge heads for abstract waters once again with this week’s topic: whisper.

My take is one of the oddest discoveries recently when walking around Pikku Huopalahti with a camera. Despite the waves of nostalgia inspired by this loose piece of Brio railroad, I failed to heed the whisper to take it home – thus doing my part in not spoiling some kid’s future efforts in being the railroad tycoon of the living room carpet.

Jun 252008
 

The European Union, according to a report by the Cultural Committee looks to regulate blogging.

The chief reasons for the surging desire to control are “malicious intents” and “hidden agendas” of the bloggers.

I can safely say that this very blog has neither – and really not that much of an intent or an agenda in general. All content is available under a CC-license, and certainly I don’t feel that I’m actually threatening any media empires with my wantonly provided free content.

[ via Butt-Ugly and Piraattiliitto. ]

Jun 252008
 

Wah.

I went away for a single day, and news kept piling up in Finland:

  • Nuevo Latino’s staff proves that cluelessness, when combined with arrogance, is never good PR for a restaurant.
  • A list of alleged finnish Stasi-collaborators (commonly known as Tiitisen Lista) has to be made available to media. Probably it’ll be a long road, through multiple court cases, before it actually really sees the light of day.
  • Symbian, Nokia’s foundation for its S60-series smartphones goes open source.
  • A Swedish school sacks a teacher on account of him playing in a metal band.
Jun 232008
 

OK, the “new” Galactica has definitely been taking advice from Lost, the last episode of season three introduced no less than two twists that single-handedly would have turned the expectations upside down, but together, the effect is magnified even further.

Anything further would be on the spoilery side.

The fourth season (abbreviated to ten episodes by the writers’ strike) finished less than two weeks ago in the states, so it will be a while before the final season makes it onto dvd.

Jun 232008
 

Sony has produced a camera that has a brand-new feature: Happy Face Retouch – the camera is able able to turn the subjects frowns into smiles. And the width of the added smile is selectable from a scale of one to five (I expect the last value to be somewhere in Julia Roberts territory).

I’m known for not smiling in pictures and consider this to be a rather invasive tool to adding joy into photography.

Few people have said it better than Harvey Keitel, as the clean-up man extraordinaire in Pulp Fiction:

JIMMIE
Smile, Winston.

THE WOLF
I don’t smile in pictures.

[ via kasa. ]

Jun 222008
 

The caustic take on the script for Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull is a worthwhile read – but only if a) you’ve seen the movie (this is as spoilery as they get) and b) can stomach a precision attack on the franchise.

As a bonus: the odd insertion of a homage to the long-gone LucasArts graphic adventure games definitely made me smile:

SHIA LABEOUF

Pick up MAP. Use MAP on HARRISON FORD. Walk To TOMB.

And yeah, based on semi-reliable comments, Frank Darabont’s script might indeed have been less lame than the final product turned out to be.

Jun 222008
 

Meh.

Now that both Portugal (on a post-foul goal by Ballack) and Netherlands (on being run down by flowing Russian offense) are out, it’s time to either pick a new country to support (temporarily only, obviously) or wish that the games run out with maximally enjoyable football.

I think the latter option will be more enjoyable by all.

Jun 212008
 

Thus far it’s been a pretty conventional urban midsummer:

  • Summer Party – good music for a change (Lauri Tähkä), beer chilled and official nachspiel locations hopelessly crowded.
  • Pre-eve barbecue – excellent steaks once again, conversation that stumbled between subjects at lightspeed, and the first drink ever named after me.
  • Getting rained on – not seriously, and only a couple of times.
  • Neo-punk is back once again – Offspring’s new album is not bad at all, and Green DayFoxboro Hottubs’ debut definitely mandates further investigation.
  • Watching only the last three minutes of the extra time Croatia-Turkey was the most economical way for football spectatorship ever – two goals and cosmic amounts of drama.
  • And speaking of football, ended up actually sharing the top position at the office EURO 2008 pool, but as the organizer was not awarded for the skills.
Jun 212008
 

#95:  Night without a Night
This week’s Photo Thursday challenge is a very finnish concept: a night without a night. This refers to the summer nights that are not exactly dark on account of the planet’s axial tilt – while the sun does set below the polar circle, it never gets actually dark.

The image is a month off the solstice, and as such the darkness has started to creep in already. The location is Nivala, Pohjanmaa – and the location pretty much exactly the same used for a previous challenge (#40: Most Beautiful Word in the World).