About a year ago I blogged about the sci-fi series Firefly, created by Joss Whedon, better known as the person behind Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel. As I mentioned in that posting, a movie version was in production, and it was released to generally positive reviews a few weeks ago. What with one thing and another, we didn’t actually get to see it until tonight, when it was only still showing on one screen in the area. This is indicative of the general reception around the world, where despite the positive reviews, the reciepts have been lacklustre.

To be honest, it is somewhat of a shame, as those people we know who have seen it, have come out having enjoyed it, and wanting to see the series, and even tonight a number of other people in the audience were planning to search out the DVD box set. However the realities of the movie industry are that currently it doesn’t look like it’s going to make much of a profit, with the US takings predicted to be about $28 million, against a budget of $39 million. Whilst both Beth and me would love there to be more movies, or even a new series, on the current takings I’ll be surprised if there is.

Anyway, what did we think of the movie? Having seen so many TV series get messed up when they hit the big screen, we were glad to find that the essential essence of Firefly had been preserved.

The film opened with a flashback sequence of Simon rescuing River, occuring just before the events of the first episode of the series. This then led in to an Alliance operative planning to locate River, having first dispatched the scientists who let her escape, and if you’ve seen the series, failed to recapture her.

From there we cut to Serenity where the crew are getting ready to pull a robbery, however there are some notable absentees from the series – Shepherd Book someone who the series had hinted that there was a lot more about him to learn, and Inara, who as the original series ended had said she was leaving anyway. For fans of the series, both characters did appear later, as we find Book settled on a planet, and Inara returns as the Alliance operative uses her to get to Mal.

I think as fans of the series, we definitely had an advantage in knowing the characters, as there is little chance for backstory. To some extent it feels a bit like the final episode that the series never had, with resolution for a number of plot threads, and moving others along a bit further. Perhaps one of the bigger revalations is the origins of the Reavers, as rather than avoiding them as the crew did in the series, in the movie they have to go search them out!

Having said that, as with other Joss Whedon productions, he’s not afraid to do unexpected things, and although we knew that not all the original crew made it out the other end, it still came as a shock when they went, and at times you really found yourself wondering if any of them were going to make it out at all, and whether this was going to be a Blakes 7 style ending where it all ends in disater.

Firefly - The Complete Series [2003]

I read a letter in SFX magazine this month who said that they thought that Star Wars III was a good sci-fi movie until they saw Serenity. Whilst I haven’t actually ever thought Star Wars III was overly great I certainly wouldn’t disagree with the sentiment that Serenity is a superb film, and highlights what a great difference proper characterisation can make. It is really a massive shame that Star Wars III and not Serenity is the one making all the money, and whilst we have the prospect of a Star Wars TV series, I suspect this movie may have been the last we will see of Serenity. Having said that, maybe the movie will be a big hit on DVD – and certainly it will be interesting to see what the sales of the Firefly – The Complete Series DVD will be like over the next few months. Maybe the crew of Serenity will manage another escape from cancellation – we can but hope.

MacExpo 2005

Whose Show Is It Again?

So after spending last Saturday wearing my developer hat, this week we spent our Saturday being Mac fans, at MacExpo 2005.

If you’d forgotten where you were going, you certainly were reminded about it when you arrived at Olympia station – the place was covered with matching Apple iPod adverts, including banners on every streetlamp, all with the familiar black figure, with white iPod, this time on a red and orange background. As Howard said on the way out, whatever you think about Apple and their products, you can’t fault their advertising for simple brand awareness.

Once inside it was straight into the action. Adobe was directly by the door, but behind that was the biggest stand at the show, the Apple stand itself. Alongside those were a number of other big names including BMW with their iPod equipped 1-Series, HP, Sony, Bose, and even a large stand from Microsoft showcasing Office 2004 and Virtual PC.

One interesting little game was to see if you could spot any PC’s. On the way in, all the registration and ticket sales were being carried out using iMacs, with many other stands using a Mac for sales as well as demonstrations. Even Microsoft had only Macs on show. In fact the only stand I could spot that was blatantly showing PC’s was Sony, who alongside demonstrating using their cameras with the Mac, had several of their own VIAO PC’s attracting little interest.

The big products Apple were showing off this year hardware wise were the iPod Nano, video playing fifth generation iPod and the new revision C iMac G5. In terms of software, the big new package was Aperture, best described as a professional equivalent of iPhoto.

Demo Time

Needless to say there was a non-stop programme of demonstrations on the stand. Beth and Howard both got to play with the new iPods, and we saw the demonstrations of the new iMac, where much was made of the simplicity of the new Front Row software and it’s six button remote. I was really impressed with Aperture, particularly the speed with which it throws around batches of large RAW format images. Although it has good Photoshop integration, for most of the basic image edit work, you don’t even need to leave the application.

It wasn’t only graphics people that were provided for. Over in another part of the hall, there was Rod Gammons demonstrating how he put together a Liberty-X hit with Logic Pro, with the whole record, including vocals stored away in his Mac.

Games Experience

We finished off with a visit to the corner of the exhibition attempting to disprove the myth that you can’t play games on a Mac. Here they had a mixture of Macs playing everything from Sims 2 to Doom 3. However what Beth really liked was Lego: Star Wars. If you haven’t seen this, this review over at the BBC explains more. Essentially this is a Star Wars game aimed squarely at kids, with a number of sequences from the films recreated, but using graphics that look Lego bricks. There are a number of comedy Lego moments as everything breaks into constituent bricks when destroyed, and there are some comedy close ups of the expressions on the Lego character faces at key moments. Great fun, but we didn’t think we could justify a copy just for us big kids!

Anyway, we had a great afternoon seeing what is going on in the world of Apple, and we’re now looking forward to doing it all again next year!

Gospel of John Officially in the UK

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So after what seems like an eternity, the Gospel of John is now officially available in the UK. Whilst it has been possible to get import copies for a while, indeed there is even a Disney released 2 DVD version available in addition to the original on import now, this is a proper UK release, available from The Bible Society.

I’ve raved about this a load before, so I won’t do so again, suffice to say that it is well worth getting hold of a copy, and it is streaks ahead of a certain Mr Gibson’s film.

Incidentally, if you have a region 1 capable DVD it is worth noting that currently, both the imported versions are actually cheaper than the UK version, the Disney release significantly so.

Gospel of John [3 Discs] (REGION 1) (NTSC) Gospel of John [2 Discs] (REGION 1) (NTSC)

How Good Is Wikipedia?

Scot Hacker over at higlighted an interesting article that the Guardian published on Monday, asking the question as to how good the entries on Wikipedia actually are. It is worth saying that the starting point for this was that one of the people behind Wikipedia had freely admitted that some of the entries were ‘a horrific embarrassment’.

Aside from one, the pretty unscientific review gave between 6 and 8 out of 10 to the entries reviewed. Scot regards this as somewhat of a failure, however I don’t see it that way. The key point to bear in mind is that this is a free resource, put together by volunteers. It is worth noting that all the reviewed articles are now highlighted on the top as needing more work – indeed the beauty of the Wikipedia system is that the experts that the Guardian picked could update the articles to bring them up to their 10/10 standard. The other point to bear in mind is that Wikipedia has a much more broad focus – as an example I doubt you’d find an episode by episode guide to Doctor Who in Britannica….