Avatar delivers as promised – almost  

Tuesday, 29 December 2009

After an almost unbearable wait, I finally got to see the much lauded Avatar last night in all its 3D glory. I can’t remember another film I have waited for with such keen interest, and overall it didn’t disappoint. It’s a rollicking good action film with a strong environmental theme and a splash of romance lobbed in to keep the girls happy. But thoroughly enjoyable as it was, I couldn’t help feeling that the epic Cameron has created fell a little way short of being a truly great film.

In a nutshell, Avatar is Aliens 2 on acid; underneath all the pretty colours and weird animals there is the same underlying theme of big-business interests steam-rollering over the lives of individuals in the pursuit of profit. There are the same hard-bitten space marines with their high-tech paraphernalia of future war. And there’s even a familiar face in the shape of Sigourney Weaver. The difference is that in Avatar, the roles of the military and their off-world foes are reversed and it’s the 9ft tall blue skinned Na,avi who are the good guys this time around. Plus, of course, the fact that Avatar is the first major motion picture conceived entirely in 3D puts it into a different league all together.

I saw my first 3D first film in a cinema earlier on this year and I was pretty impressed with the technology. However nothing I have seen thus far comes close to Avatar in terms of its execution. The 3D effect in Avatar is truly stunning, jaw-dropping, game-changing stuff. The opening scene set in a cavernous zero-G space ship barracks gives you a tantalising hint of what’s to come. But it’s not until the hero ventures into the forests of Pandora that you really experience 3D to its full effect. It is not an overstatement to say that you really do feel as if you have been whisked off to some far flung planet teeming with strange flora and fauna and plonked down right in the middle of it - even down to the alien jungle bugs that seem to be buzzing over the heads to the audience a few rows in front. It is absolutely wonderful and combined with the ground-breaking CGI and motion-capture techniques employed, every creature, every tree and plant is 100% believable and totally convincing. So life-like are the main characters, that after a few minutes you have completely accepted the computer generated leading man and lady as real, living creatures. Many critics have hailed Avatar as a landmark in cinema history, and in that respect I would agree 100%. I for one am hugely excited by what other filmmakers will do with this technology.

Where Avatar goes wrong is in the screenplay. I got the feeling that Cameron was trying to cover–up the gaping holes in the plot with 3D wizardry, but not entirely succeeding. The central idea of the film is that the brain of hero, Jake Scully – a paraplegic ex-marine – is linked electronically to a genetically engineered Na’avi/human hybrid which allows him to “drive” the body. Using this artificial body, the characters are able to venture into the world of the Na’avi. Each night, as their Na’avi bodies sleep, consciousness returns to their human bodies. The problem is, as an engineer I couldn’t help but ask myself..how the bloody hell is that supposed to work? There must be a form of communication occurring between the Na’avi avatar and its human driver, but there’s no mention of a radio link or anything like that. This is especially significant as the area in which most of the action takes place is supposed to be flooded with a naturally occurring electromagnetic radiation that would seem to preclude such a comms link. So what’s the deal – telepathy? some weird kind of spiritual transfer? quantum entanglement? None of that is really explained (unlike in the Matrix, for example, where the mechanism is entirely plausible). I know it sounds a bit geeky but it spoilt it a bit for me that they didn’t build a bit more credibility into the technology.

Secondly, the film centres around the conflict arising from the human exploitation of Pandora’s natural resources to the detriment of the indigenous peoples. The resource in question is a mineral that exhibits zero mass when excited by a particular energy field. The heartless company boss fingers a lump of this floating rock thoughtfully while justifying the destruction of the forest and its people. But nobody ever explains exactly why this floating rock is so important. I can’t help thinking that surely some government, somewhere on Earth would have had to sanction such a drastic action and without this backstory the arguments put forward for genocide seemed awfully thin. But then again, that didn’t stop them in Iraq – an analogy/sub-theme that has already been noted by observers.

In conclusion, Avatar is a fantastic film that will surely be remembered as a milestone in out of home entertainment. Hollywood is clearly hoping that the big screen 3D experience will tempt audiences back into the cinema again. For all that, and good though it is, Avatar is not a “great” film. However I think it is the precursor to a new golden era of film entertainment, and I cannot wait to see what develops.

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Why men shouldn’t write advice columns  

Monday, 14 December 2009


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A very modern Xmas…  

Thursday, 10 December 2009

Just like everything else in the screwed-up mess that is now the UK, ‘Elf ‘n’ Safety have taken over Christmas!

The Rocking Carol
Little Jesus, sweetly sleep, do not stir;
We will lend a coat of fur,
We will rock you, rock you, rock you,
We will rock you, rock you, rock you:

Fur is no longer appropriate wear for small infants, both due to risk of 
allergy to animal fur, and for ethical reasons. Therefore faux fur, a nice 
cellular blanket or perhaps micro-fleece material should be considered a 
suitable alternative.

Please note, only persons who have been subject to a Criminal Records 
Bureau check and have enhanced clearance will be permitted to rock baby 
Jesus. Persons must carry their CRB disclosure with them at all times and 
be prepared to provide three forms of identification before rocking 

Jingle Bells
Dashing through the snow
In a one horse open sleigh
O'er the fields we go
Laughing all the way

A risk assessment must be submitted before an open sleigh is considered 
safe for members of the public to travel on. The risk assessment must also 
consider whether it is appropriate to use only one horse for such a 
venture, particularly if passengers are of larger proportions. Please 
note, permission must be gained from landowners before entering their 
fields. To avoid offending those not participating in celebrations, we 
would request that laughter is moderate only and not loud enough to be 
considered a noise nuisance.

While Shepherds Watched
While shepherds watched
Their flocks by night
All seated on the ground,
The angel of the Lord came down
And glory shone around

The Union of Shepherds has complained that it breaches health and safety 
regulations to insist that shepherds watch their flocks without 
appropriate seating arrangements being provided, therefore benches, stools 
and orthopaedic chairs are now available. Shepherds have also requested 
that due to the inclement weather conditions at this time of year that 
they should watch their flocks via cctv cameras from centrally heated 
shepherd observation huts.
Please note, the Angel of the Lord is reminded that before shining his / 
her glory all around she / he must ascertain that all shepherds have been 
issued with glasses capable of filtering out the harmful effects of UVA, 
UVB and the overwhelming effects of Glory.

Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer
Rudolph, the red-nosed reindeer
had a very shiny nose.
And if you ever saw him,
you would even say it glows.

You are advised that under the Equal Opportunities for All Policy, it is 
inappropriate for persons to make comment with regard to the ruddiness of 
any part of Mr. R. Reindeer. Further to this, exclusion of Mr R Reindeer 
from the Reindeer Games will be considered discriminatory and disciplinary 
action will be taken against those found guilty of this offence. A full 
investigation will be implemented and sanctions - including suspension on 
full pay - will be considered whilst this investigation takes place.

Little Donkey
Little donkey, little donkey on the dusty road
Got to keep on plodding onwards with your precious load

The RSPCA have issued strict guidelines with regard to how heavy a load 
that a donkey of small stature is permitted to carry, also included in the 
guidelines is guidance regarding how often to feed the donkey and how many 
rest breaks are required over a four hour plodding period. Please note 
that due to the increased risk of pollution from the dusty road, Mary and 
Joseph are required to wear face masks to prevent inhalation of any 
airborne particles. The donkey has expressed his discomfort at being 
labelled 'little' and would prefer just to be simply referred to as Mr. 
Donkey. To comment upon his height or lack thereof may be considered an 
infringement of his equine rights.

We Three Kings
We three kings of Orient are
Bearing gifts we traverse afar
Field and fountain, moor and mountain
Following yonder star

Whilst the gift of gold is still considered acceptable - as it may be 
redeemed at a later date through such organisations as 'Cash for Gold' 
etc, gifts of frankincense and myrrh are not appropriate due to the 
potential risk of oils and fragrances causing allergic reactions. A 
suggested gift alternative would be to make a donation to a worthy cause 
in the recipients name or perhaps give a gift voucher.
We would not advise that the traversing kings rely on navigation by stars 
in order to reach their destinations and suggest the use of RAC 
Routefinder or satellite navigation, which will provide the quickest route 
and advice regarding fuel consumption. Please note as per the guidelines 
from the RSPCA for Mr Donkey, the camels carrying the three kings of 
Orient will require regular food and rest breaks. Facemasks for the three 
kings are also advisable due to the likelihood of dust from the camel 

Away in a Manger No Crib for a bed - This is definitely one for Social Services!

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