Posts in category entertainment - page 2

Great books coming to the big screen

As you may have guessed I enjoy books and movies very much and so when I hear that a book I loved is getting the film treatment I’m filled with excitement and apprehension as to whether it will live up to the imagery in my head.

Lord of the Rings and the Harry Potter series were both spot on, Paycheck was very much off the mark.

Here’s a few in the pipeline or already released elsewhere but yet to hit the UK.

Stardust (2007)Stardust at Amazon

One of my favorite authors, Neil Gaiman, wrote a grown-up fairy-tale about a star that falls to Earth (a little like 10th Kingdom but with less comedy).

Much of the cast, the directory and writing team are all English although the ‘star’ role goes to the very lovely American Sienna Miller. The film is scheduled for an October 19th release here in the UK and is already out stateside.

Neil also has Beowulf and Coraline coming out in 2007 and 2008 respectively.

Northern Lights / The Golden Compass (2007)

The Golden Compass at Amazon

The first book in Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials series will no doubt be compared to Harry Potter in that it is a series aimed at children, features magic and has a strong female character in the lead. The similarities extend to the first book in the series having a different name in the USA and England but thankfully end there.

Whilst the casting of the film looks good abandoning the religious aspects is worrying – why DO the directors and film companies feel the need to excise or alter important parts of source material that has already proven a commercial success?

Cross your fingers and hope it hasn’t lost too much for the UK release on December 7th.

I Am Legend (2007)

I Am Legend at Amazon

Will Smith is leading the role as the last human being alive on the planet after a condition turns the rest of the population into vampires. He goes hunting by day whilst they sleep and ensures his home is fortified for the nightly onslaught when they wake.

Richard Matheson penned the novella in 1954, any novel still in print 50+ years after it was written signals to me the book must be good.

One worry is that Hollywood will turn this into a massive in-your-face action flick instead of the brooding horror of the book. The trivia at IMDB notes large budgets, sets and military vehicles/extras so this is a very distinct possibility. Hollywood have done this several times with Philip K Dick’s books and just not getting the point that his stories show ordinary people in extraordinary circumstances.

We will find out here in the UK January 4th and Mr Matheson has The Box and The Incredible Shrinking Man due out in 2008.

The Golden Man / Next (2007)

Second Variety (Collected Stories of Philip K. Dick, Vol. 3) at Amazon

Philip K Dick’s book is the story of a golden man, the next evolution of humanity, who can see into the near future and his attempt at escaping his pursuers (kind of like the escape scene in Minority Report).

Not technically forthcoming as it hit the UK shores in April but I missed it being that it had a totally different name to the book. Being that the guy who can see into the future is now a Las Vegas magician played by Nicholas Cage I’m not sure I’ll bother.

If there was a point to the book about how we will react to our own evolution it’s lost. Perhaps Hollywood think that’s been covered enough by the X-Men franchise.

Altered Carbon (2009 ?)

Altered Carbon at Amazon

Richard K. Morgan writes the story of one Takeshi Kovacks, an ex-military elite soldier in a future where your body is easily replaced providing the metal backup device implanted in the base of your skull is in tact. Kovacks is egotistical, violent and methodical in his new job as a private investigator seeking out why his rich client apparently committed suicide (and was promptly restored from backup but lost some essential hours).

The book is gritty and certainly not aimed at children. Would Hollywood pay the big bucks required to get the imagery right for such a grand undertaking of a film that would be limited to an adult/18 category is unlikely but somebody has the rights and is penning in a 2009 release date.

If the film is a success there are two more books in the series which will demand grander sets and even larger budgets.

Rendezvous with Rama (2009 ?)

Rendezvous with Rama

Morgan Freeman picked up the rights to Arthur C. Clarke’s fantastic novel about a large cylindrical object that enters our solar system briefly and the subsequent exploration of it’s interior but has seemingly done little since.

There used to be a web site with some renders and notes but that has long since gone and the ‘producers are still working on the adaptation’ and Morgan’s schedule seems to indicate he is rather busy on other projects.

Morgan claims that part of the delay is getting a studio on board that doesn’t want to turn it into an action movie (great news and can be a success as Contact shows) and that they are still working on the script (get David Peoples on the case).

Whilst the film is on a grand scale it would probably be relatively cheap to film as most of it could be green-screened against rendered backgrounds being that everything inside Rama is not man-made anyway.


Confusing co-workers, family and friends for fun

Everybody enjoys a good laugh and there are some fun simple things that can confuse your co-workers, family or friends for a few minutes.

Here’s a few tricks that may… or may not cause some amusement. Just make sure you step in before they need to call their IT support guy!

Simulated operating system crash

An operating system crash sends a shiver up the most confident of spines.

Windows Blue Screen of Death

Install the SysInternals teams BlueScreen Screen Saver complete with genuine looking reboot sequence.

Mac OS X Kernel Panic

Try out Doomlaser’s Kernel Panic Screensaver although be prepared for genuine confusion at their first exposure to an operating system crash ;-)

Confused keyboard

If they are a hunt-and-peck typist confuse them by swapping a few keys around on their keyboard (make sure it lets you pull the tops off, some of them don’t and leaving them with a broken keyboard isn’t fun at all).

An alternative if the keyboard doesn’t allow you to remove the key tops or if they’re a touch-typist is to change the keyboard map to one similar but not the same. Favorites include US for Brits and and British for Americans if you want something very subtle that may take a few hours to be noticed (when they hit some symbols, pound signs etc.) or German for something a bit quicker (W and Z reversed).

Head to the Windows Control Panel or Mac System Preferences to activate.

Permanent hourglass (Windows)

A simple trick that just involves heading into Control Panel > Mouse Properties then choosing the Pointers tab and double clicking on Normal Select. From there choose hourglas.ani

Google goes abroad

Google remembers which language you you last used so simply head to something like (Russian), (Welsh) or (French) then close the Window and walk away.

Any further visits will show in that language, even searches made from the built-in boxes of Internet Explorer and Firefox. To set back head to (English) or whatever language you normally use.

Swap short cuts (Windows)

Choose properties on either the desktop, start-menu or quick launch icon they use to launch their favorite applications and change the target to a different but perhaps similar application. i.e. iTunes and Windows Media, Word and WordPad, Excel and PowerPoint. They’ll probably think they hit the wrong icon or that something has messed up the file associations.

Change the display gamma

Head into Control Panel > Display (Windows) or System Preferences > Display (Mac) and adjust the gamma or color profile for their display. No amount of fiddling with the displays brightness or contrast settings will get it quite back to how it was.

Jeff Atwood has further suggestions for people who don’t lock their machines. Remember kids, WindowsL is your friend.


Seven ideas for topping up your iPod

It’s been almost two years since I last blogged on what content I was feeding my iPod so here’s an update on what’s keeping mine fresh.

Music you don’t know the name of

If you get a song in your head you’d like but don’t know what it is then Midomi might be what you are looking for.

The site takes 10 seconds or more of your attempts at singing or humming the track and then tries to match it against the songs it knows about. The catalog isn’t particularly comprehensive right now but it has a reasonable selection of tracks. You can also help it improve results by singing a fragment of a song that it will use for matching providing you don’t mind anyone being able to listen to it.

Educational tracks for free

This May Apple launched iTunes U – a section of the iTunes Store featuring free educational content from various US colleges and universities.

The tracks are mostly unedited and lack polish but some of the content covers everything from philosophy to economics and technology so there should be something to interest you.

Audio books for free

  • Simply Audio-books have a small selection their library available for free as well as a rental club and purchasing options that ship physical media. The download club option is not compatible with the iPod. (Microsoft’s PlaysForSure is worst name ever – it doesn’t play on the iPod or Microsoft’s own Zune)
  • LibriVox use volunteers to record chapters of books available in the public domain and put the completed audio books up in mp3 and ogg formats. The quality of speaker can be variable and the content spans classical literature.

Podcasts for free

The podcast scene just keeps growing but finding what suits you can be tricky. My favorites currently include:

Improve audio quality with iTunes Plus

Apple’s plan to remove digital rights management (DRM) whilst increasing audio quality on iTunes gains momentum with music publishers each day – no doubt enticed on by the increased margin and ability to get an extra few pence or cents from existing owners.

Besides the crisper sound and larger file sizes the other noticeable difference is that iTunes music sharing works with these tracks (Sharing protected AAC involves an authorization landmine).

Head to the Tunes Plus link in the Quick Links box at the top right of the main store page. You should see an option to upgrade your library if any tracks can be upgraded but bear in mind it’s an all-tracks-or-nothing deal that costs £0.20 per track.

Watch your DVDs

Why not take a DVD you like, or better yet one you haven’t yet seen, with you on your iPod Video.

There are a number of tools to help you with the job of copying from DVD into an iPod friendly format but Handbrake is free, cross-platform and easy to use. As a bonus it also includes presets for other portable video devices such as the PlayStation Portable.

Watch YouTube

Why should iPhone owners have all the phone when the iPod Video is perfectly capable of watching YouTube content providing you upload it to your iPod before you set out.

There are many tools to do the download & conversion job but DVDVideoSoft’s one for Windows works quite well. For the Mac the latest 1.9 version of Squared 5 would appear to do the job but I haven’t yet tried it.


My Rock Band dream set list

Harmonix are taking submissions of ideas for songs in Rock Band. I thought I’d go one stage further and put together an entire dream list using the following criteria:

  • Ideal for the four instruments (Drummer, Singer, Guitarists) – no Bittersweet Symphony
  • Well known enough that you all feel the music – no obscure bands or tracks
  • Attention keeping – no massive 2-minute intros or solos
  • Killer guitar track – this is rock after all!
  • Not previously featured on Guitar Hero I or II
  • Variety – no band more than once plus a mix of 80s, 90s and 00s

So here it is…

1. Opening Licks

  • The Passenger – Iggy Pop
  • I Predict a Riot – Kasier Chiefs
  • Bad Medicine – Bon Jovi
  • Wonderwall – Oasis
  • All Right Now – Free

2. Amp-Warmers

  • Money For Nothing – Dire Straights
  • Let Me Entertain You – Robbie Williams
  • Paradise City – Guns ‘n Roses
  • Somebody Told Me – The Killers
  • It’s Been Awhile – Staind

3. String-Snappers

  • Smells Like Teen Spirit – Nirvana
  • Boulevard of Broken Dreams – Green Day
  • Going Down/Love in an Elevator – Aerosmith
  • Bohemian Like You – The Dandy Warhols
  • Holy Water – Bad Company

4. Thrash and Burn

  • Summer of 69 – Bryan Adams
  • Eye of the Tiger – Survivor
  • Darts of Pleasure – Franz Ferdinand
  • Inside – Stiltskin
  • Sk8er Boi – Avril Lavigne

5. Return of the Shred

  • Poison – Alice Cooper
  • All The Small Things – Blink-182
  • Walk This Way – Run DMC
  • Danger! High Voltage – Electric Six
  • In The End – Linkin Park

Okay so there is no way they’d ever put so many great tracks in one game – they’d be worried you’d not buy the next one to get more tracks and so we’ll get second-rate filler just like the record companies have been doing with albums for years.

Most of these are available at the iTunes store so enjoy my first iMix entitled Dream Rock Band.