Sunday, January 25, 2015

A star is born

This was born early today, at 6 a.m. this morning. It's a girl. Mom and baby are doing fine.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Tuesday's Overlooked Film: The Last Starfighter

A teenage guy is so good at an arcade game about shooting spaceships that he gets shanghaied into space and fights enemy spaceships. I believe this film was sold to producers on that line, but for some reason it works pretty well, even though it's still silly.

I remember seeing posters and ads for The Last Starfighter (called Viimeinen suuri seikkailija / "The Last Great Adventurer" in Finland, maybe they thought referring to "space" would scare the audience) and feeling sorry for not seeing the film. We didn't have a VCR at our house, so I wasn't able to see even it on video at the time. Not long ago I bought the film on VHS cassette for 20 cents and was able finally to watch it.

The Last Starfighter was directed by Nick Castle whose other films are not much of interest to me, with a possible exception of his first feature, T.A.G.: The Assassination Game. Castle of course was the guy behind Michael Myers's mask in Halloween. The Last Starfighter was an early example of incorporating computer graphics into a feature film alongside with Tron. I believe this one was more successful commercially*, but it's nowhere near the innovative graphic look of Tron, although The Last Starfighter is more entertaining than Steven Lisberger's stiff movie. The Last Starfighter benefits from two good veteran actors, Dan O'Herlihy and Robert Preston. Lance Guest as "the last starfighter" isn't bad either. He should've had a better career. The main plot about the battle in space is silly and clichéd, but the aliens look delightfully goofy.

I would've loved this as a kid, and there's still enough charm for me to like it even that I'm now a cynical adult. More Overlooked Films here (when the time comes).

* In IMDb's biography for Lance Guest it is said: "He was told that Starfighter reportedly made no money on it's initial release, so he returned to the theatre", but Wikipedia states thus: "The Last Starfighter was a financial success, earning over $28 million on an estimated budget of $15 million."

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Paul D. Brazill: Guns of Brixton

Guns of Brixton was the last book I read during the Christmas holidays that had nothing to do with work. It was perfect for that: a mix between Guy Ritchie's hyperkinetic crime movies and Irvine Welsh's lowlife scum novels. I don't need to recap the plot, here's a good outline from Out of the Gutter.

That said, I must note that I lost my way amidst all the lowlife in the book. There are quite many characters, maybe one or two many, and perhaps too many scenes are about new characters making their way into the story. Guns of Brixton gets too convoluted in the end, and I read the last pages having lost some of my interest. There are also more typos near the end, so perhaps Paul D. Brazill himself got lost in his own text! Available as an e-book, for example here.

Here's also Paul's blog, full of interesting news items and interviews with new noir authors!

Tuesday, January 06, 2015

Michael Marshall: The Straw Men

the Finnish translation
I'd been looking for the Finnish translation of Michael Marshall's The Straw Men (translated literally as Olkimiehet) for some years. It seems to be rare (though there are several copies for sale online), but I located a copy a month ago and read it last week. True enough, the book passed by in Finland without making much impact here and no one ever talks about it, even though it's a very good book, rising above many Scandinavian thrillers everyone seems to be reading now.

The Straw Men is a very clever and frightening take on the serial killer genre - genre that I'm not very interested in. Michael Marshall gives the phenomenon a nice historical and even mythical explanation and creates a conspiracy thriller that one won't easily forget. There's not much a reader will guess beforehand, and the climax is very exciting.

The only bad thing about the book is that it was written in the early 2000's and there's just too much talk about the internet, ADSL cables, IP addresses and such. It's dated already - probably was dated even five years ago. Marshall should've seen it coming, though the plot points about the internet must've been quite original in 2001 when the book came out.