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Sunday, February 03, 2002

Sunday. Another week and no new news for you to roll your eyes at. No pearls of offhand, clearly extemporised wisdom for you to take on board, digest and then promptly forget as quickly as you forgot those New Year's Resolutions that you made in haste. I'll never be the best online columnist in the world until I actually, definitively bite the bullet and buy myself a PC, so that these epistles are not written solely on the fly in various, welcoming Cyber-Cafe places (To wit, I really should say a big "Hi!" to my host today, the redoubtable Mick, proprietor of Cyberia, here in sunny and swell-like Scarborough).

So, a week has come and gone and we're all probably still none the wiser about various things - I know that I'm certainly not up to speed on this newly-announced HD Digital VHS format which was shown to industry types in the States recently. If you fly on over to http://www.thedigitalbits.com/ and do a bit of digging around on the Contents page, you should read a full discussion of both the technical specs and some initial observations on the merits of the actual product. Suffice is to say that this won't become relevant to us in the UK until Hi-Def TV becomes a reality and that doesn't look as though it'll be happening any time soon, if indeed it ever does(These digital videotapes work in concert with super-pricey Hi-Def monitors and whilst the technical infrastructure and broadcasts are rolling out nicely in both Japan and the States, there's no sign of similar facilities popping up here, as Uncle Tony Blair and Co. have enough difficulty persuading the Ostritch-like populace of our nation to clue-into the varying merits of the existing Digital telly platforms of Sky and ITV Digital).

I know that I'm still hedging my bets about upgrading my existing Sky digibox to one of those all-new, super-whiz-bang, washes-brighter Sky Plus boxes which are quite the thing amongst at the moment amongst fellow, somewhat richer techno enthusiasts and home cinema nuts. I mean, with a 5.1 digital output, you can enjoy selected Sky Box Office and Premiere Widescreen movies in neighbour-bothering surround sound and further justify the outlay on your kit. It's tempting, sure, but I think that I might hold off on this upgrade until "Buffy" and "Alias" are presented in Dolby Digital AND widescreen: A guy can dream, can't he?

A quick capsule review or two for you? Why the hell not.

The big DVD release this week was Warner's "Swordfish", the latest thriller to arrive from uber-producer Joel Silver and that most increasingly eccentric of movie icons, John Travolta. As directed by the style-over-substance specialist, Dominic Sena ("Kalifornia", "Gone In Sixty Seconds"), "Swordfish" is another compendium of eye-catching ultra-violence, absurdly unrealistic plotting and pumped-up, heart-pounding stunt work, duly compressed into a blistering edited package which satisfyingly races away at a hysterical pace in the cinema but doesn't really hang together on your TV screen.

This is mostly, I think, because the home enviroment gives you the opportunity to fully appreciate just how unrealistic and insane the film's depiction of computers and hacking really is: It makes 1995's Angelina Jolie teen thriller, "Hackers", look like the stuff of a detail-heavy Michael Mann epic. You would have to be exceptionally clueless about PCs to find ANYTHING convincing, herein - Once you get to the sequence where arch-cracker Hugh Jackman conjures the World's Most Hardcore, Security-System-Thrashing Virus on a computer set-up (Big plasma monitors, multiple keyboards, a jungle of wiring) which was apparently disgarded from the set of Keanu's "Johnny Mnemonic" for being too fake-looking, you'll either be in this film's thrall or rewinding to the now-legendary bit where you see just how Halle Berry earned a quick 250 grand - For any film geekettes reading this piffle, the increasingly celebrated Mr Jackman also has a few shirt-off moments to enjoy, so the gratuitous nudity is, at least, of an equal opportunity nature. Huzzah for Hollywood!

It's utter rubbish, then, but also kind of fun. Travolta has his best villainous swagger on as the former CIA spook gone freelance and creative - Just check out that opening speech for a fun slice of heady, post-modern, sub-Tarantino filmic deconstructionism - whilst Jackman confirms that he's one of the more promising talents to emerge in the last few years, with a nice line in blue collar heroism that his turn as Wolverine in "X-Men" only hinted at. Halle Berry is rather fine, too, as a contemporary femme fatale of remarkably sexy proportions - Okay, okay, the golf scene at the beginning did it for me, and that bit with the wire, too. How she's not a bigger star is really beyond me.

"Swordfish" is one to enjoy with a curry and your beverage of choice - Just make sure that your AV kit isn't turned up to full whack when the opening action sequence kicks off. Your neighbours will be calling the Noise Abatement people, mark my words...

Another review? Well, I bought the new "Futurama" season one box set and I've had time to check out most of the first of this three disc compilation. You'll probably be unsurprised to learn that initial impressions are that this is quite a wonderful package and certainly one which belongs in the collection of any serious fan of animation or quality SF comedy - And by that, of course, I don't mean "Red Dwarf".

The discs are divided into four episodes each, with commentaries for all from the likes of creators Matt Groening and David X. Cohen, an embarassment of production staff and voice talent, including Billy West (Who 'does' Fry and Professor Farnsworth) and the godlike John DiMaggio (Whose absolutely filthy laugh steals the show for me every time. He plays Bender, the alcohol-guzzling, kleptomaniac, homicidal, occasionally folk-singing robot and my personal hero). There's more cool stuff to check out, but I haven't even got into the full episode script, animatics for the pilot ep, deleted scenes and other joys to behold. I'm sure that I will, though. Ask me again some time, why don't you?

I saw "Taxi 2", too, this week. It wasn't good.

Until Tuesday, or perhaps Wednesday, I'll take my leave of you and only recommend that you behave with consideration to your friends and family, and treat your fellow citizens as you would wish to be treated yourself.

Unless, naturally, you're the kind of person who likes dubbed films and complains about aspect ratio bars. You can fend for yourself, frankly....

Patster Hiroprotovitch


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