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Sunday, March 23, 2008
Sunday, March 09, 2008
Thursday, February 21, 2008
It looks like the furore over the ridiculous commercially exploitative idea of Premiership football matches taking place overseas has died down after FIFA chairman Sepp Blatter effectively said "over my dead body". The Premier League has been accused of an obession with money and commercialisation which has been to the detriment of the football, not to mention the supporters. I broadly agree with this analysis, but contrast this with the attitude of a great non-professional sporting body, which has always prided itself on its amateur ethos, but has come in for some criticism of late because of its increasingly money-driven outlook - namely the GAA. The Premier League must have been inspired by dis great Asso-see-ayshun in coming up with the concept of playing matches abroad. The idea is far from new - and was in fact pioneered by the GAA when they decided to hold the 1947 All Ireland final between Cavan and Kerry in New York!
What next? The FA Cup final to be played in Croke Park?
Stranger things have happened.
Monday, February 11, 2008
Having seen the Coen brothers' No Country for Old Men (not a bad effort, but definitely overrated) recently, Charlie Wilson's War is the second film I've seen this year in which the main characters are Texans. Quite appropriate realy as a ral life Texan in a position of power will be out of a job soon!
Set in the 1980s during the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan, Tom Hanks is the title role, a Texan congressman with a taste for whisky, women and cocaine, the unlikely hero (or antihero perhaps?) whose successful lobbying and diplomacy helps arm the Mujahadin and force the withdrawal of the Soviet military their country.
What ensues is a tangled web of unlikely allies with the Americans, Israelis, Saudis, Egyptians and Pakistanis collaborating to fund a covert war against the Soviets in Afghanistan. Wilson forging an alliance with the then Pakistani president General Zia is one of the more revealing aspects of the story.
There's a strong supporting cast with Julia Roberts as Wilson's part time mistress, a Texan millionaire with sympathies towards the Afghan cause and Philip Seymour Hoffman a CIA operative specialising in Afghanistan.
The arid mountainous landscapes of Morocco successfully resemble Afghanistan, as was the case in a Timothy Dalton James Bond. (Yes, I'm one of those obsessive anoraks who stay behind to read the end credits).
There is effective use of CGI effects in portraying explosions intermingled with actual archive footage from the time of the Soviet occupation. The "bad guys" are clearly the Russians. Scenes of Russian helicopters massacring Afghan civilians by bombing entire towns helps enforce this perception. What the Soviets did in Afghanistan cannot be condoned of course, but the film ignores the fact that the US militaty was doing similar things in Vietnam and Nicaragua. However, one wonders if there is an element of political satire here.
The topicality of the film is omnipresent in that it alludes subtly to the events of present day Afghanistan, not to mention Iraq. It is heavily hinted at towards the finish that the Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan is far from the end of trouble in the region. Like a vicious circle the Americans arm the Afghans to fight and defeat the Russians, a scenario which eventually leads to the Taliban coming to power, the events of September 11 2001 and the ongoing "war on terror".
Sunday, January 20, 2008
After having been in the doldrums up until a few years ago (ie virtually non-existent) British TV science fiction seems to be going through something of a renaissance at the moment. The revitalised Doctor Who is going from strength to strength (even though it's not a patch on the old series - or at least certainly not on a par with the golden age of the show, the Jon Pertwee/early Tom Baker years of the early to mid-1970s) as is its spin-off series Torchwood -not to be confused with Touchwood the toad, Catweazle's familiar. Incidentally Geoffrey Bayldon the actor behind Catweazle (for the unitiated - a wizard from the middle ages who accidentally leaps forward in time to the 1970s - with hilarious consequences) was the apparently the original choice to play Dr Who, and what a fine Doctor he would have made - but I digress.
ITV's Saturday evening sci-fi drama Primevalseems to be their attempt to rival "Who", and a rather feeble attempt at that. It resembles a cross between "Who", The X-Files and Spooks, but its problem is that it takes itself much too seriously. Doctor Who was always primarily a childrens programme with a substantial adult audience. Primeval on the other hand, although transmitted well before the "watershed" is more "adult" in content. Sub plots involve characters copping off with each other with the obligatory sprinkling of sexual tension. "Who", by contrast always had an implied tongue-in-cheek style to the extent that you could enjoy it without taking too seriously.
Primeval is in some ways reminiscent of Jon Pertwee-era Doctor Who - a mixture of earthbound sci-fi and political intrigue, but fails abysmally to match up to Who's standards.
Apart from the ludicrous plot of this particular episode - a bunch of giant prehistoric man-eating worms running amok in a London office block - it never really got off the ground. Inevitably the worms were defeated in the end, but there was no explanation as to how they got there. In some ways it was similar to the 1970s Dr Who story The Green Death which featured giant maggots spawned as a result of pollution by a chemical company run by a megalomaniac computer. The spoof horor film Tremors also springs to mind.
The Dr Who equivalent character in Primeval is a dour Scottish scientist with strawberry blonde hair (and presumably a troubled past) who bears a fleeting resemblance to the tennis player Boris Becker.
The CGI-generated worms were even a disappointment - and not even as effective as the traditional rubber or plastic models of the pre-computer era. Given that Primeval is essentially about prehistoric creatures finding their way into the present day and wreaking havoc, it may well go the way of the dinosaurs if its future episodes are like this one.
Monday, January 14, 2008
I've written an article on the social and political issues facing the GAA in Northern Ireland for the GAA website "An Fear Rua". It comes in two parts:
A Different Ball Game: Part I
A Different Ball Game: Part II