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Take the ARC give-away competition for A WEB OF AIR by Philip Reeve as an example. It was all going so well. People commented, I got some great book recs, I did the draw, announced the winner and then ... the winner failed to contact me.

I've given it a week (even though my rules are for contact within 72 hours) and heard nada - not even another nonny comment. So it's with a lot of regret (and with apologies to the Anonymous concerned) that I've done another draw using my lovely assistant, this random number generator and this time the winner is:

abble_girl whose favourite YA book is The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

abble_girl, I've responded to your original comment with my contact details, so if you drop me an email I'll get it off to you.

So, the lessons learnt here are to leave a longer response time for people to get in touch and ask posters to put some kind of contact details in their comment (even if it's another blog I can reach them at).

:makes note, learns and moves on:

Last night I went to see a preview screening of Iron Man II at the Odeon Leicester Square with my mate, S.

Now, I loved Iron Man. There were many entries of squee on my old tybalt_quin account and I think I've seen it around 10 or 11 times (and before people say "obsessed much?" I will pre-emptively reply (a) yes I am and (b) but it was also the only film worth seeing on a BA flight to and from Atlanta that year).

Sadly, Iron Man II suffers from what my friend S. called "Disappointing Sequel Syndrome". It doesn't totally suck - there are some great performances and some v. funny lines, but it isn't a patch on the first film. I've set out The Good, The Bad and The Meh behind a cut to prevent spoilers.


- The cast: They assembled a really good group of actors - Robert Downey, Jnr, Sam Rockwell, Don Cheadle, Samuel L. Jackson, Mickey Rourke were all excellent and did as much as they could with the material they were given. I'm not a fan of either Gwyneth Paltrow or Scarlett Johansson but again they did the most they could with the material they were given.

- The One-Liners: I'm not going to spoil all of these, but there are some seriously funny one-liners in the movie - my favourites being "I call it .. The Ex-Wife" and "Get your own roof."


- The Female Characters: I've got a personal bug bear with how women are usually portrayed in graphic novels and movies anyway - we're always the bimbo, the cunning man eater, the useless sidekick in need of being rescued, the bitch, the mother, the insecure career woman etc etc meh-tcetera.

Iron Man II does nothing to redeem itself on this front. In the first film, Pepper Potts was solely here to nag Tony Stark and need rescuing. Here she is present to nag Tony Stark and need rescuing.

What makes it a spectacularly epic fail though is the fact that when the writers give her an opportunity to shine in her own right, i.e. become the CEO of Stark Enterprises, she is shown as being not up to the job because she's more concerned about Tony and his health and in the end she quits because she says she can't cope with it all.

Reader, I almost threw a brick at the screen.

The whole point about Pepper Potts is that she's a capable woman who knows Tony Stark better than he does himself and runs his life. The idea that she could not cope with running his business empire is ludicrous and the notion that she doesn't want to do it because she wants to run around after him and make sure he's okay almost made me hurl.

Scarlett Johansson's Natalie Rushman fairs a little better, in that she's the arse-kicking uber-killer, a lawyer, able to speak many languages (including Latin) who doesn't fall for Tony's b-s. However, it's a telling scene that Tony only shows an interest in her when he finds that she used to be a model and she has the standard "flirty" scene with him because obviously no woman could ever possibly say no to him.

Saying that - she does have one of the best scenes in the film, where she takes out 6 or 7 henchmen by herself while Hogan struggles to get rid of one. But it is the only redemption in the film.

- Too many characters, too little story: Iron Man had a tight focus because it's an origin story.

Iron Man II decides that it wants to do too many things. Firstly, it wants to go into the history of Tony's dad, Howard Stark, and how his history is affecting Tony's. Secondly, it wants Tony to confront his own mortality. Thirdly it wants to establish how Tony's own arrogance creates problems for him in business and with the military. Fourthly, it wants to have Tony battle an enemy intent on destroying him. Fifthly, it wants to move on the Tony/Pepper ship

Because there's too much to focus on, nothing gets enough attention so nothing is completely satisfying. In the case of the Mickey Rourke storyline, that is a criminal waste (no pun intended) because he is an absolutely brilliant character who deserved more from the script - as did Sam Rockwell's Justin Hammer.

In addition, the diffuse focus means that parts of the film sag and there were times when I was looking at my watch.

- Terrible sound-editing and so-so special effects: Iron Man II really suffers from the soundtrack and someone needs to sort it out because frequently the dialogue was getting drowned out by the background music or background noise. Robert Downey, Jnr's performance is hindered as a result because Tony is a fast-talking, quick thinking man and when you can't hear everything he's saying, you're not getting everything he's giving. Mickey Rourke's excellent performance is also hindered, mainly because his Ivan Vanko is a quiet speaking man and while his Russian dialogue is sub-titled, I wish his English dialogue had been too. It's purely because Rourke had regained his acting chops and gives a wonderfully physical performance that he carries through it.

The special effects were so-so. At times, it looked incredibly fake - particularly the battle scenes and it was too reliant on fast cuts, which stop you from getting the full benefit of the action.


- Story echoing and deja vu: Iron Man II recycles some of the ideas and scenes from Iron Man - notably with Ivan Vanko's development of his own inventions and the closing scenes, which is like Iron Man but with more robots. There is obviously a purpose to this, but when you're wasting about 30 - 45 minutes repeating ideas and scenes we've already seen better executed in the first film, it gets real old, real quickly.

To dip a toe into the world of politics for a moment, a big deal has been made this week about Gordon Brown's gaffe wherein he was picked up on a mic describing someone as a "bigoted woman" after she'd asked him some questions about Labour policies.

To declare my intentions from the start: I don't like Gordon Brown.

He is a man who believed his own hype about being the "Iron Chancellor" and boasted about having ended the cycle of "boom and bust" just before we went into one of our biggest ever busts. He is a man who did a back room deal with Tony Blair over the leadership of this country and who became PM without an election and with what was a farcical Labour Party nomination procedure. He was craven in his handling of the MP expenses scandal. He is hollow in his declarations of being the best person to get us out of the financial mess that he helped to create in the first place. He doesn't listen to what people tell him and he's not interested in what people tell him - no matter how long or how hard he argues to the contrary.

So with all of my obvious even-handedness in mind ... [/tongue in cheek]

I don't have a problem with him mouthing off about a woman he's met when he thinks he's in the privacy of his own car. We've all done it at some time or another and while he's a donut for forgetting that he was wearing a microphone at the time, we all make mistakes.

What I disliked about it all was how he handled it afterwards.

Firstly, on the radio show where he was played the tape of his comments, instead of giving a complete and unreserved apology he uses the politician's weasel words: "If I have given any offence ..." When you call someone a "bigoted woman" there is absolutely no doubt that you are saying something they would find offensive.

Secondly, his second reaction was to claim to have misheard her remarks, i.e. to claim that it wasn't really his fault. If you read the transcript, there is no way he mishead her remarks - he heard the words "Eastern European" and wanted to shut down the question before he could be forced to deal with questions about immigration (something that no party in this country wants to talk about).

Thirdly, while he phoned her up to give her an apology, he also allowed his party to go on the attack with some claiming that this was part of a Sky News set-up (in that they had given him the mic and belong to Rupert Murdoch, who supports the Tories), that Mrs Duffy was in the pay of the Conservatives (and if I was her, I'd be looking for a good libel lawyer) and that Mrs Duffy's remarks meant that she was a bigot.

Fourthly, after he panicked and decided to head on over to her house to give an in-person apology he came out to give the best impression of a smug "oh look how I'm getting away with it" bastard I've seen in a while. His claim of being a "penitent sinner" just goes to show how out of touch he is on this issue. The fact that Mrs Duffy didn't go out to join him, says volumes. Had I been in her shoes, I wouldn't have let the bugger in my house but made him apologise to me outside, in full view of the cameras.

Fifthly, just when he probably could have gotten away with it, he does an interview with Jeremy Paxman and once again brings out the "I misheard her" defence, claiming now that he thought she'd said that she wanted all foreign students to be kicked out of Britain. Again, if you read the transcript, you can only conclude that the man is either (a) profoundly deaf, (b) incapable of understanding English or (c) a lying little toad whose instinct is to blame others for his own failings.

And now that I've got that out of my system, I'm going back to the writing laptop.


( 2 comments — Leave a comment )
May. 1st, 2010 03:20 pm (UTC)
If Brown had even a scrap of credibility left, he lost it when he didn't stand by his statement. The woman was openly bigoted. He stated a fact. The fact he chickened out and smarmed about it made me sick.
May. 2nd, 2010 02:13 pm (UTC)
Personally, I don't think that the woman was bigoted for voicing a concern about immigration given that the politicians have bent over backwards to not have to talk about it during the campaign up to that point.

However, I would have had more respect for him had he stood by it and been up front rather than a craven git.
( 2 comments — Leave a comment )