Thursday, June 28, 2007

Not so Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer - My Late Review

“You always have a choice.” These wise, nay cosmically profound, words are spoken by the Invisible Girl, Sue Storm, to the Silver Surfer in the Fantastic Four sequel I paid good money to see last night. They are the words that convince him to abandon Galactus, Devourer of Worlds, and save the Earth. It may seem somewhat odd that, after he assisted in the destruction of dozens of other worlds, the surfer would be so easily persuaded by what some may unkindly call a sentimental platitude. It may have helped that Sue looked like his long-lost love from his homeworld. Maybe all the other planets just didn’t have any hot chicks on them?

That little turd-nugget is typical of an entire film heaving at the seams with lazy plotting, simple-minded irritating characterisation and tedium. Even if I try to put aside my comic fanboy objections to the film (Galactus as a CLOUD for fuck’s sake?!!), I can’t find anything good to say about it. Long periods are dominated by clunking interplay between the members of the Fantastic Four. I suppose this is to help us ‘identify with them’, but I was simply bored and ended up feeling intense hatred for Johnny Storm. He’s supposed to be a cheeky, flawed maverick, but I just thought he was a cunt. At one point, he asks of the others “what have you got against capitalism?” Er, where would you like me to start, you shallow shitbag?

I could go on and on, but I’ll just highlight one more thing. Johnny spends a lot of the film pursuing and being rebuffed by a sexy female soldier. A soldier who happily stands guard while the Silver surfer is tortured (in a bunker in Siberia – I didn’t realise the US had a presence there!) In a twee ‘tying up loose ends’ effort, she appears to have got it together with Johnny and attended Reed and Sue’s wedding in the closing scene (I don’t think I’m giving anything away by saying that the Earth is NOT destroyed by Galactus). This seems to be sending a bizarre moral message to kids – she may have collaborated in torture but, hey, she’s actually a really nice person! Let’s invite her to the wedding!

No wonder the Americans are getting it wrong in Iraq with those kind of moral standards…

Our film is rubbish

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Creatives! Cartoon Episode 2: Transport

Click to see it in glorious detail

Monday, June 25, 2007

Having a Great Time Outdoors, Even in a Shithole

I was reading my less talented but infinitely more successful contemporary Charlie Brooker'seffete account of Glastonbury on the train this morning. All those people having an amazing time despite the rain, mud, bad drugs and worse toilet facilities. Then, as I cycled up the polluted, filthy Euston road I saw there were people happily sitting outside Costa, enjoying their coffee in a pavement seating area, as if the trucks and buses weren't thundering past. It was like they imagined were on a secluded piazza in Florence.

This was when I realised that one of the great abilities of Homo Sapiens is the ability to completely ignore one's surroundings and doggedly have a GOOD TIME OUTDOORS. I would even postulate that there's a part of the brain devoted to filtering out hideousness when having a GREAT TIME OUTDOORS. In fact, I've decided that this cognitive centre is called Al Fresco's Winnet.

Al Fresco's Winnet is especially developed in the British, for whom HAVING A WHALE OF A TIME OUTDOORS is especially challenging. It's either pissing down with rain or so global-warmingly hot that our pasty skin gets fried after 5 minutes in the sun.

No doubt when we have completely fucked up the planet and have to live in survival-fridge-domes to protect us from pollution and a boiling atmosphere there'll be Britishers sitting outside laughing, drinking frapuccinos as their brains boil.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Virgin Media Again: a Few Thoughts on Copywriting

I was thinking about Virgin Media again this morning (yes, I’m obsessed!), having passed a few of their ads during my commute. As a copywriter, I’ve always liked the Virgin tone of voice, which is consistent in its clarity and humanity.

However, having fallen foul of some of the promises made in Virgin Media ads and misleading simplifications in their instruction booklets, I’ve come to the conclusion that rather than demonstrating true clarity, the tone of voice actually creates falsehoods through omission. This isn’t good copywriting. Good copywriting is communicating the true facts in a clear and succinct fashion. It's easy to make thing sound simple by missing the difficult bits out.

It’s a bit like being seduced by a good-looking (I can't deny the new brand looks and sounds good) but dishonest lover. They’ll promise you the stars in order to shag you, but then fuck off at 5 in the morning with your wallet.

Not a basis for a sustainable relationship…

Hahaha! I'm off to the bookies with your cash!

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Virgin Media Rant: Lots of Swearing

I'm sitting in the living room with rain lashing down outside and Stan asleep in his pushchair. Emily's away for her sister Lucy's Hen Night and I'm babysitting the boy. As I sit here, I'm looking at my Virgin Media set-top box with loathing (well, glancing at it in between typing, but why ruin the dramatic effect?)

Long-standing readers of my blog will know that I've been consistently pissed off with Virgin Media ever since it stopped being NTL. They've charged me twice for months, made reconnecting after moving house into a gruelling endurance test, repeatedly miscommunicated or simply failed to communicate at all.

The latest bit of corporate cuntery from Branson's operation is taking on-demand services away from me and trying to charge £5 for the honour. Most of the time the services didn't actually work anyway, so it's no great loss. What infuriates me is that I signed up to the TV package on the understanding that on-demand was part of the deal. There was FUCK ALL in the advertising that suggested that it would be taken away. It's so shitting duplicitous.

The worse thing is this: as a customer, THERE IS NOTHING I CAN DO ABOUT IT! Is a rant to a phoneline drone going to make a difference? Is writing a letter going change Virgin Media's ways? Are they bollocks going to. What's left? Go over to Sky? Will they really be better?

There's plenty of marketing theories about the consumer being king these days, but Let's face We are all powerless in the face of these capitalist behemoths.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Stardust - My Star Pun-Free Film Review

I went to a preview showing of the film Stardust last night (it’s in cinemas from October, apparently). Don't worry - you won't any crap star puns - "it's a star turn" etc etc. I promise.

It’s a fantasy film based on the illustrated fairy tale by comics megastar Neil Gaiman and artist Charles Vess. Designer colleague Rob and I were invited along as we’re working on a project involving the film. Having visited the website, we went to the preview feeling the film would be a bit naff. Luckily, it was a really entertaining, gorgeous-looking movie and less simple-minded than most films aimed at a crossover audience of adults and kids. Admittedly, the hero being named Tristan may have softened up my critical faculties…

The plot involves this Tristan, a humble lad from an English village named Wall. There is indeed a wall near the village (the town founders must have been particularly unimaginative with words); a wall between the human world and the fairy realm. When a star falls beyond the wall, Tristan swears to enter the fairy kingdom to retrieve it for the feckless cow he’s got the hots for. This, needless to say, leads to a quest full of peril and enchantment.

The thing that saves it from being twee is the gallows humour that permeates the script. I also liked the fact that – unusually for a fantasy movie – there was actually a gay character in there. In fact, Robert de Niro’s turn as the gay pirate Captain Shakespeare was, for me, the highlight of the film. Yes! Travis Bickle as a homosexual freebooter! What brilliant casting! His performance shit all over Ricky Gervais's cameo as David Brent in a funny hat.

Anyway, October’s a long way off, but I reckon you should see Stardust when it twinkles into UK cinemas…Shit! Sorry...

"Look, Ricky - don't try and fucking tell me that Extras is as funny as the Office"

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

The Death of Facebook?

Facebook was on BBC Breakfast this morning, with the hosts making the same joke about ‘poking’ that’s always made when the site is reported on TV. I’m guessing that augers the death-knell for the site. In fact, I can hear it ringing out across the land now. As soon as these things hit the mainstream media they become terminally uncool and die.

Or do they?

Am I being a digital agency snob about this? Just because something becomes the Internet equivalent of a Wetherspoons pub to people like me doesn’t necessarily mean it’s going to die. I’m sure that most of the webarati wouldn’t be seen dead on MySpace, yet over 100,000000 accounts have been created there. That’s an awful lot of teenagers and pop stars. So its likely that when Facebook fever has died among the AKQA diaspora, there’ll be plenty of other people to take our place.

Friday, June 08, 2007

Scott Walker Made Me Cry

To say that music can have a powerful, often irrational, emotional effect is not an original observation.

After all, it’s the principle behind every single male’s ‘Shag CD’ (or Pooching Playlist for the technically savvy); the hope that a bit of Luther Vandross and Lionel Richie will act like an aural Rohypnol when they’ve got a woman back to their fetid man-pad. However, when music does conjure up a big emotion from deep inside my brain it always catches me unawares.

This morning I was on the 08.14 from Welwyn Garden City, listening to my iPod on shuffle. In between Alexandra Palace and Finsbury Park ‘If You Go Away’ by Scott Walker began to play. For some reason the melancholy tune and Jacques Brelle’s poetic lyrics made me pause and cry.

I must have looked slightly bonkers and have no idea what emotional connection had been made in my head. All I can say is that, for a moment, I was watching London rush by and living that song.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Baby Recycling

The irresponsible, selfish throwaway ethos of our society took another turn for the worse today, as you can see from this photo of my office. I am, quite frankly, outraged. The sign clearly says the recycling bin is for aluminium cans only.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Advertising Agency Manners

Something occurred to me this morning as I got to the entrance of Saatchis shortly after a co-worker and found the glass door swung shut in my face. What does it say about the advertising world when I’m always mildly surprised when someone actually holds a door open for me after they’ve gone through it? Is it lack of manners, an endemic selfishness or is everyone immersed in their own world?

Friday, June 01, 2007

Yes, I Admit It, I Liked the Sisters of Mercy

My friend Steve has pointed out that in a comment that I had a soft spot for the Sisters of Mercy in my youth. I cannot deny it. Any band that calls its drum machine ‘Doktor Avalanche’ is cool with me. I particularly loved the Floodlands album, which was when ‘ver Sisters’ went mainstream I suppose. I remember wanting Andrew Eldrich’s white suit in the Dominion video. My god, I thought he looked cool. 20 years on, I now see that Steve himself actually adopted the facial hair and glasses ‘look’ of Eldritch!