Thursday, 5 September 2013

Bravado Banshee - From Pixels to Reality

I imagine that I'm not alone in my generation of kids who grew up in the late 90s and early 2000s when the PS2 and X-Box slugged it out for console supremacy. Me, I was always a PS2 fan - and a petrolhead PS2 fan at that, meaning I spent hour after hour of my formative youth hustling Nissan Skylines around far-flung race tracks on Gran Turismo. Oh, and of course, hour after hour honing my gangster talents on the Grand Theft Auto series (I still have the Vice City map committed to memory).

Which makes the above car deeply, deeply cool. Whilst petrolheads will see it as a hastily-rebodied second-gen Dodge Viper - which, to be honest, it is - wistful GTA button bashers will recognise it as a physical rendition of the Viper-esque Banshee vehicle from our pixelated past.

The car's available to win on the Rockstar Facebook page.

Tuesday, 30 October 2012

Film Review: The Future

I'd originally written this piece for Strathclyde University's Fusion student radio station, however I think it's also relevant here. 

Any film which features an injured feral cat and the moon as key narrators will fall firmly within the “indie” genre, and “The Future” is no different. Written, directed and starring Miranda July, the film premiered at this year’s Sundance Film Festival and has sprung to widespread critical acclaim both in the USA and Europe, where it was nominated for the Golden Bear award at the Berlin International Film Festival. Film buffs can now catch a glimpse of “The Future” at the GFT.

The film follows the lives of Sophie (July) and Jason (Hamish Linklater, American-with-Scottish-roots being the grandson of SNP founder Eric Linklater) as they plod through their mid-30s. Both have low-paid jobs - Sophie is a kids’ dance teacher and Jason works from home doing tech-support - and the film does an excellent job of portraying them as a couple that isn’t really going anywhere. They don’t achieve particularly much; their studio flat is dog-eared and permanently untidy; and they both dress in a sort of unkempt way that’s a few degrees off Urban Outfitters. The only remarkable thing about Sophie and Jason is their stagnancy.

The couple’s foundations are shaken with the adoption of an injured stray cat, named Paw Paw, which takes on a narrative role. The couple agree to adopt the cat on the basis that it’s only likely to live for 6 months - but are later told Paw Paw could hang on for 5 years. With a one-month period before taking custody of the recuperating cat, Sophie and Jason are jolted out of their unremarkable, repetitive lifestyle and into action, realising the impact the adoption will have on their current freedoms.

The film gets a bit weird about here, as the couple explore living life to the full. Sophie has the most bizarre relationship, cheating on Jason with a middle-aged surburbanite (played to perfection by David Warshofsky, veteran of Face/Off). Jason realises he can alter the course of time and space. Pretty standard stuff for an “indie” film. 

Where “The Future” really scores is in the portrayal of lives that are going nowhere, and the dangers of getting overly familiar with a current situation. At one point in the movie, Jason forlornly declares that “I always wanted to be a world leader” - you sense that with a bit more vim and motivation - whilst not becoming the next Obama - he could be doing a great more than tech-support. In conclusion, “The Future” is an excellent portrayal of a stagnant “middle America”, with enough quirky plot features to hold your intrigue, if not your interest. 

Sunday, 19 August 2012

Test Drive: Renault Twizy

This morning in Glasgow, the nice folks at Renault gave me a spin in the Twizy - an electric tandem quadricycle aimed at young city dwellers. Since I fit neatly into the target market for such a product, it was a great opportunity to see how Renault's product planners envisage me getting to work in the not-too-distant future.

Now, the Twizy hasn't been particularly well received by us Brits. They've sold about 250 of them since launch in May - which probably isn't surprising considering the motoring press has been overwhelmingly negative about the car.

There is no getting round the obvious impracticality. The basic £7k model does without doors or windows, or even a heater, leaving you perilously exposed to the elements. The battery, however, is charged in 3 hours or so, from a regular 3-pin plug - much like an iPhone or laptop.

I had an absolute ball hurling the thing around the Merchant City - it feels like a real-life version of Mario Kart in this thing. Being electric, full torque is available throughout the power band, hurtling the plastic quad to a faintly terrifying 50 mph top speed - enough to zip between gaps in urban traffic.

Sure the ride is harsh, and since your passenger sits behind you, conversation is a bit tricky. And I'm sure it would have been less exciting in the middle of winter (although, being rear-wheel drive, it's probably equally fun once you've wrapped up in several layers).

The price is probably a bit steep, however the satisfaction of not having to visit a petrol station for the weekly raping leaves me with a warm endearment for the Twizy. The range - 60ish miles on a charge - thankfully allays much out of town driving, where the illusion of fun would disappear with the first artic breathing down on your defenceless Twizy - however is sufficient for a short, fun commute within town.

If I was living in London, or any large city, then I could really see one of these working. After all, properly financed, it must be similar in monthly outgoings or pence-per-mile to rail, Tube or bus multi-ride tickets - and even the Twizy, sans doors and weather protection, is more comfortable than that.

Sunday, 12 August 2012

Edinburgh FRINGE - I Got It! An Actor's Tale Review

Edinburgh's International Festival - and its associated up-staging, cheaper, dirtier, funnier, rawer sideshow, the FRINGE - rolled into town last week with a fresh selection of shows to delight all walks of life. Indeed, such is the multicultural mix of tourists which descend upon Scotland's Capital, it's amusing to see how astute show-boaters tweak their shows for niches, and sub-niches, of the holiday-making throng.

Whilst its possible to catch a big-name show, the FRINGE cut its teeth on the up-and-coming stars of tomorrow. Therefore, I found it appropriate that my first FRINGE experience this year was at the hands of 18-year-old Marc McKinnon and his self-produced, self-written, self-starred and self-directed show I Got It! An Actor's Tale.

McKinnon and his fresh-faced cast produced a stunning show - all the more impressive considering their relative inexperience. Clearly carrying shades of the biographical - it tells the story of a young actor searching for his big break - the music, the cast and the choreography - not to mention the singing - punched well above my expectations.

A standing ovation for the young cast rounded off a pleasant evening. Mark my words - you'll be hearing lots more from the SMILE-N Productions in the future.

Sunday, 5 August 2012

A (re-) Introduction

After several years in hibernation, I've decided to brush off icJournalism and bring it back to the masses.

The blog will cover all variety of things, from watches through business, cars through sport. A blog for the boys, the lads, the men.

Stop by and take a look, once in a while.