Wednesday, 26 December 2007

One for the parents

Christmas was excellent this year. Yes, it was cold, and yes, we and the other 5 kiwis we were with would have been in NZ with our families if given the choice. In spite of this, though, we had a fabulous 48 hours camping at our Ealing flat eating, drinking, playing games, watching Bro town, eating, drinking, and then eating some more. Here are some of our Christmas photos that are appropriate for parental viewing:
The Christmas Plant. Mum and Ray and the Benneydale lot - note your parcels are there unopened on Christmas morning in spite of wanting to rip into them from the moment they arrived. Stephen practically had to be physically restrained. Stephen, Erica, Sarah, some badges from home and a crazy plastic banana holder. Cool. I a m jealous of the badge that says "Oma Rapiti". Heh. Speed scrabble. AKA best game ever.

Chocolate pudding. Mmmmm.
Phil and the sangria. Who knew it dripped like that ..

Tim catches up on some holiday reading

Thanks for our presents, whanau!

Saturday, 22 December 2007


In the Tate Modern, you can see some really stunning art -Monet, Picasso, and other fabulous modern paintings. Problem is, though, there is an awful lot of stuff there that made me wish that I had not gone to the Tate alone so had someone to roll my eyes at. A red blob of paint on canvas? A piece of fabric with a cut in it? The most laughable "art" there though was a giant crack in the floor of one of the galleries.

Not to be confused with a health and safety hazard, this crack in the floor apparently symbolises the divide between Europe and the rest of the World. Call me a pleb, but to me it just looked like a crack in the floor. Lucky there was plenty of other art in the crack room to look at - in particular this fabulous piece that I am sure you could throw a 'ism' on the end of word to describe as art as well. Do you consider either of these art? Is there something about the crack that I have missed? If a crack like the one above appeared on your floor in between the TV and coffee table would you be happy to have a piece of modern art in your living room? Just some food for thought ...

Tuesday, 18 December 2007

Tane's Reviews: The Golden Compass, and others

The Golden Compass

The Golden Compass is the latest of the slew of movies to adapt a popular fantasy novel, in this case Northern Lights, the first of Phillip Pullman’s brilliant but flawed His Dark Materials trilogy. It is set in a parallel world where everyone’s soul takes the form of an animal that travels with them. The plot is too complex to be summarized quickly, but involves a rebellious girl, Lyra (Dakota Blue Richards), her father Lord Azriel (Daniel Craig) and various allies – including a talking armoured polar bear – clashing on the totalitarian government and its coldly glamorous agent, Mrs Coulter (Nicole Kidman).

In these days of digital effects so realistic they are difficult to tell from the ‘real’ parts of a movie, the most wondrous scenes in any fantasy novel can be brought to the screen. However, this does not guarantee the wonder of the book will come across too.

The problem for moviemakers is that most fantasies are set in alternative worlds, with complex histories, politics, geographies, beings and magics – not to mention large casts of characters and multi-pronged plots. That’s a lot of information to try to bring across in a couple of hours.

Like the Harry Potter movies and the Lord of the Rings, the Golden Compass suffers from trying to be too true to the books and as a result cramming in too much plot. I suspect that if you’ve not read The Northern Lights, you’ll struggle to understand everything that’s going on.

As a result, the formidable talents of Craig and Kidman, the precociousness of Richards, magnificent costumes and special effects, and two smashing battles cannot lift The Golden Compass above mediocrity. It also suffers from being unable to find the perfect pitch – it’s a bit too dark of children, and a bit too shallow for adult fans of the series.

See it if you liked the books, or if you love fantasy, but don’t have your expectations high.


Capsule reviews


Ah, now this is how you adapt a fantasy. Beowulf is an entirely (and beautifully) computer generated version of the oldest story in English, which tells of how an aged Dark Age Danish king (Anthony Hopkins) calls on the warrior Beowulf (Ray Winstone) and his men to help deal with the monster Grendel and his mother (Angelina Jolie). It’s a story charged with sex and violence, but don’t be fooled by the promotion – Beowulf is more than just CGI brawn and boobs. As you might expect from screenwriters Roger Avary (co-writer of Pulp Fiction) and the great fantasy author Neil Gaiman (The Sandman, American Gods), it’s not only exciting but has humour, depth and emotional clout.



A powerful condemnation of one of the ugliest aspects of the US’s War on Terror – rendition. This has seen terrorist suspects covertly flown to countries where they can be tortured into giving up information. In the movie a man suspected of being in touch with terrorists is sent to North Africa by steely CIA executive (Meryl Streep). There he is questioned by a tough police officer and rookie CIA agent (Jake Gyllenhaal), while in America, the engineer’s desperate wife (Reese Witherspoon) makes contact with an aide (Peter Sarsgaard) in the office of a senator (Alan Arkin) in an effort to get her husband home. There’s also a strong subplot involving the police chief’s daughter and her boyfriend.

Some might find it worthy, but I really liked Rendition. It’s a gritty, well written and very well acted film, a worthy follow up to Tsotsi for director Gavin Hood.



One of the most overrated movies of 2007, Atonement is – to quote Lauren – less than the sum of its parts. Based on what my book-addicted partner tells me is an excellent novel, Atonement is again a case of sticking too close to the source material and not adapting it properly to a different medium.

The film is set in late 1930s England, where a relationship between an upper class woman (Keira Knightley) and a lower class gardener (James MacAvoy), is seen through the fevered imagination of a young girl (Saorise Ronan). Atonement’s strengths are impressive, particularly the ravishing photography and fine performances, and have seduced many critics. MacAvoy is immensely likeable, Ronan is fascinating and though Knightley can still only strike one note – surly determination – at least that note is rings truer than in the Pirates of the Caribbean films.

What lets it down is the structure. Jumping around in time is fine in many a novel, where it’s a lot easier to follow, and works in some films. But not here, where the chopping and changing makes the movie disjointed and drains it of most of the drama built up in the compelling first act. Likely to be the worst film nominated for many Best Picture awards.


Sunday, 9 December 2007

Adventures in Portugal

Living in London, Europe is so close it seems a shame not to hop on Easyjet or Ryanair and pop to the Continent for a weekend. Tane declined to accompany me on account of the environmental cost of air travel, so Erica and I travelled to Lisbon to experience a place that I will not be forgetting any time soon.
Apparently they like soccer in Portugal ...

Our first experience in Lisbon was what I will refer to hereafter as the Taxi Incident of DOOM. We ambled from the arrivals lounge to the taxi stand to quickly learn that our driver was very angry and slightly nuts. He had more than a few impolite words to say about us not wanting to put our bags in the boot, then got into an angry sounding conversation with a near bye police officer. I have no idea what was said, but the driver then drove like a try hard Formula One champion while talking some very angry Portuguese to himself. He eventually pulled over by a busy roundabout in a part of Lisbon we did not want to be in, and angrily ordered us out of the cab. He scared me, so was happy to oblige and we both scrambled out as fast as we could. He then made a show of slamming doors and snarling angrily, before speeding off into the distance. It all happened so quickly he was well gone before I realised that one of my two bags were gone also. Gutted.
A typical Lisbon street scene
Given that my first Portuguese experience involved losing a lot of my stuff and us having to find our way from a random roundabout in what felt like the middle of no-where to our guesthouse, I was almost surprised to be enjoying Portugal by the time I left.
So, how did Lisbon redeem itself? First, for a capital city, it feels an awful lot like a small town. The streets are narrow and cute, the trams create a neat Old-World atmosphere, and the pastries officially rocked my world. The best thing about Lisbon for me, though, were the tiles. An amazing number of the houses there are covered in tiles which means that there was always something to admire. It also gave us a good excuse to stop and rest while walking up the huge hills.
Not a very good photo, but an example of a tile house

We also happened to be in Lisbon the same weekend as the Africa/EU summit, so were treated to seeing a number of very exciting motorcades carrying various world leaders zipping past us during an early morning stroll. I was chatting to a woman from Malawi in Lisbon for the summit who had talked to Kofi Annan himself. Nothing that exciting happened to me, although given the numbers of motorcades we saw I can pretend that he was in one of the cars I saw zipping past. I would like to think that Mugabe was inside this one ...

The most fabulous part of the weekend, though, was a day trip to the near bye village of Sintra. Sintra is just stunning, a small town filled with small cafes and beautiful buildings, as well as some lovely nature to boot. The highlight was the castle overlooking Sintra that was so pretty I won't even bother with the corny adjectives and show you some photos instead.
In summary, I don't know if I'd recommend Lisbon as a place to visit. If you do, though, make sure you visit Sintra. And most of all, don't take a taxi.

Saturday, 1 December 2007

When acting like a cheesy tourist is worth it

Isn't it cool when you go somewhere with low expectations and it turns out to be great? Lauren, Erica, Sarah and I had that experience today when we visited the famous waxwork exhibition, Madame Tussauds. It wasn't cheap, and there was an hour-long queue, but it was sooooo worth it.

I'll let the pictures do the talking.

No, I don't know where your mother f***ing wallet is.

Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow.

Jonah is unimpressed at my joke about his kidneys.

Sarah vs Lance. We took a urine sample, but she wasn't on steroids.

Dratted over-familiar colonials.

Justin brings sexy back.

While Tane skanks it up.

And that's why we're replacing tap water with Coke Zero. Hey, it wouldn't be the stupidest thing we've done.

Is that the Gettysburg Address in your pocket, or are you just happy to see me?

Henry IIIV with wives 7 and 8

Those darn kids!