apple TV: Casino Royale, Quantum of Solace, Skyfall

Stan: Casino Royale, Quantum of Solace, Skyfall

With the upcoming Bond movie Spectre, there are all manner of Bond related promotions in progress. On Netflix-competitor Stan, there’s current access to all the Bond movies, so I thought I’d revisit the Daniel Craig Bond movies to see how they stand up. Casino Royale is from 2006, and it stands up surprisingly well. Having movies with the same character over such a long period of time shows the difference between concentrating on technology, and on story and character interaction. Surprisingly, Quantum of Solace was more enjoyable than the first time I saw it, and Skyfall was not quite as good as I remembered it, though it’s great to watch Javier Bardem tearing up the screen.

Stan, on the other hand, seems to have its problems: there’s a lot of buffering, and stopping content part-way through with problems loading the content. Overall, Netflix has been the best streaming experience on the old Apple TV.

movie: Bridge of Spies

Movie: Bridge of Spies

I went into this fairly spoiler-free, having not heard of the historical person the movie was based on, and only watching the trailer briefly, and seeing this Tom Hanks / Jimmy Fallon piece.

Spielberg is in good form here, even if the absence of a John Williams score (and indeed the lack of music overall for the first several scenes) makes a tonal difference. Hanks does a good job in something that is at the same time cinematic, and more a stage play than a movie. And this is very much a story about a bunch of men: if this movie passes the Bechdel Test, I don’t remember the qualifying scene.

If you’re a Spielberg fan, or enjoy a well-told historical thriller, it’s enjoyable fare, but probably doesn’t need to be viewed on a giant screen.

Audible: I, Partridge: We need to talk about Alan

Audible: I, Partridge: We need to talk about Alan [a fictional autobiography from, and read by, Steve Coogan’s character Alan Partridge).

If you’re at all familiar with the work of Alan Partridge, you’ll know what to expect here. A man so narcissistic that he can narrate the birth of his son, and insert anecdotes about how his parking was running out, and so it was a bit inconvenient.

Crass in places, it is nonetheless a very funny listen. Points to Audible for putting it in their “guaranteed good listen” collection.

The problem with an Audible book is the impossibilty of highlighting. This book has a lot of phrases I’d like to revisit, but there doesn’t seem to be a way to mark phrases (there are bookmarks, but it’s not quite the same thing).

Side projects

I’ve had a chance to look through some of the projects I’ve been aiming to start over the last while. A video from Gary Vaynerchuck talked about the 7pm-2am window to work on other projects, starting something big. At the moment, I’m pouring that energy more into my main job: there will come a day when that settles down and I’m able to try some other things, but for now, I need to make my peace with keeping the side projects on hold. 

netflix: The Power of One

Perhaps it’s a reflection of the poor structuring of my literary education, but I first heard about The Power of One through a dinner party sketch on the Late Show where they say the book is much better than the film. I listened to the audio book years ago – it’s confronting stuff, and on an epic scale.

And so when I saw that the movie version of the Power of One was on Netflix, I thought I’d have a look at it. It’s a masterful work, on its own epic scale, but with a different (to me less satisfying) ending. But to see Morgan Freeman and Daniel Craig in a film together, so many years on, is something special.

Worth a look for Late Show completists.

lessons learned from some time offline

Today was the last day of a short holiday, where we spent some time away from home, and away from pervasive internet access. It was really good to have the break, and see what a difference it would make to the way we relate together as a family. It feels like there’s lots to catch up on (I skimmed through over 700 things in my feed reader today), but it was helpful to have a perspective on how much my smartphone is driving my consumption habits, rather than the other way around.

I’m hoping to reflect on it further: much harder to do so with easy access to mobile internet.

Movie: Gayby Baby

Movie: Gayby Baby

First-time feature director Maya Newell has a voice of maturity beyond her years. This film is an achievement in telling the stories of four Australian children, and their parents, who are all same-sex couples. The kids are great kids: loving and empathetic, and – as one of them says jokingly, occasionally pure evil. 

Watching it as a parent I saw the unflinching insights into family life. Disciplining kids, encouraging siblings to play together, the role of faith in family life, all are covered with a degree of sensitivity. By not focusing on the aspect of rejection and bullying, the film makes its anti-bullying message stronger. There are sources of pain in people’s lives in the film, many of them just hinted at. These are people who live in the real world, with its brokenness, making their way through. 
There are definitely agendas at play here, and the film is trying to push particular messages: the need to change laws around same-sex marriage and adoption as well as its more winsome call for us to empathise with the kids, and make their lives less fraught with bullying. 

By putting a human face on the issue through its stories, it seems likely that this movie will have an effect in changing the minds of the “undecideds”. There is some faith-related content in the film – not as demonised as it might be, though perhaps the presentation of Christians in the film is such that you can read into them your own experience and opinions. 

If you find the on-screen portrayal of same-sex relationships offensive, then you will find this film offensive, but the director has taken care to present even the shows of affection to such displays that parents might make in front of their kids (occasional brief kissing and laying down on a couch to talk while leaning in each other). Also, if you were thinking about showing it to very young kids, there are some lessons about Santa and the Tooth Fairy you may want to be aware of. 

This is the work of a talented film-maker, capturing a slice of Australian life that is not often represented on screens. I suspect it’s been seen a lot more due to the surrounding controversy than it would otherwise have been, and from the sound of the Q&A, it will continue to be used in efforts both to reduce bullying, and to reshape family law in Australia. 

rather die than change

Around ten years ago I read an article on heart attack survivors that proved people would rather die than change – given simple lifestyle changes to make, that would literally save them from having another, this time fatal, attack, the majority of people were unwilling or unable to make the change.

Changing (especially after a certain age) is tough.

I was talking to a friend about our respective social media intake. Lately I’ve found myself spending more time sourcing articles to read from Facebook, going beyond what I need to look through for work, flicking through in search of the latest fix of information. It quickly becomes a habit, and a tough one to break. Such is the genius of Facebook at some level: giving a gamified cookie to the people who continue to scroll through, like and comment on things, helping Facebook sell more ads.

While there is the occasional exception, and something of more significance will filter through, it can be tough to change gears from soaking up the shallows of the average social media post, to reading something longer and more in-depth.

My friend talked about the need to deliberately curate what goes into your mind. Instead of listening to the (unhelpful, or at best unexamined) habits that you’ve picked up, and doing what they say when choosing what goes into your mind, spend some time thinking carefully about what you want to be thinking about.

On the rare occasion when you bump into a friend who you haven’t seen in a while, will you have anything to say to them? Or will their Facebook feed have taken the place of small-talk, leaving you less connected than you might have been.

There are a number of risks with a sustained social media diet. Taking time to think about what it is you want to be thinking about, rather than always chasing bite-sized bits of new information. It will see you in a better frame of mind, and will pay dividends in years’ time that an unexamined consumption of everything you see.

movie: Last Cab to Darwin

Movie: Last Cab to Darwin

I wanted an Australian film with lots of footage of the Northern Territory, and it offered that and more. Michael Caton (The Castle) is excellent as a Broken Hill cab driver who takes his first ever trip out of the town he was born in, in search of the NT’s newly passed euthanasia laws. Touches on the alcoholism and themes of belonging, but its attempt to deal with life and death with no reference to religion seemed a bit hollow to me.

If you’re a fan of Australian movies (and don’t mind a fair amount of authentic Australian swearing) and would like to be taken on a memorable journey across the country, it’s worth a look.