Quantum of Solace

Posted by batman on Nov 22nd, 2008
2008
Nov 22

Quantum of Solace.jpgThe movie

Quantum of Solace begins where Casino Royale left off, with Bond delivering Mr. White (Jesper Christensen) to M (Judi Dench) for interrogation about the mysterious organization that blackmailed Vesper Lynd into betraying Bond, resulting in her death. A mole inside MI6 effects Mr. White’s escape, and the rest of the film follows 007’s attempts to find a thread that will reveal Mr. White’s organization. This leads to another villain, Dominic Greene (Mathieu Amalric), who is engineering a coup in Bolivia for reasons that will benefit the organization.

Betrayed by Vesper Lynd, the woman he loved, 007 fights the urge to make his latest mission personal. Pursuing his determination to uncover the truth, Bond and M interrogate Mr. White who reveals the organisation which blackmailed Vesper is far more complex and dangerous than anyone had imagined.

Forensic intelligence links an Mi6 traitor to a bank account in Haiti where a case of mistaken identity introduces Bond to the beautiful but feisty Camille (Olga Kurylenko), a woman who has her own vendetta. Camille leads Bond straight to Dominic Greene (Mathieu Amalric), a ruthless business man and major force within the mysterious organisation.

Quantum of Solace.jpgOn a mission that leads him to Austria, Italy and South America, Bond discovers that Greene, conspiring to take total control of one of the world’s most important natural resources, is forging a deal with the exiled General Medrano (Joaquin Cosio). Using his associates in the organisation, and manipulating his powerful contacts within the CIA and the British government, Greene promises to overthrow the existing regime in a Latin American country, giving the General control of the country in exchange for a seemingly barren piece of land.

The film suffers from a few gaffs so obvious it’s hard to understand how they survived into the final cut. One pretty (and of course disposable) female agent shows up wearing a raincoat that reveals no visible signs of any kind of clothing underneath; she literally looks like a set-up for a bad sight gag that never appears. (On the plus side, her demise deliberately evokes a similar image in Goldfinger, although this time the beautiful body is covered in “black gold” – i.e., oil.) There is also an unbelievably bad moment where Bond disposes of the body of a friend by callously tossing him in a trash dumpster and insisting that the dead man wouldn’t have cared.

Kurylenko, as the new Bond girl, is properly exotic, and her revenge sub-plot dovetails nicely with Bond’s mission. However, her back story is a bit of a stretch: she’s half Russian and half Bolivian, the screenplays way of retaining the exotic European feel of the Bond world while tying her into the South American plot. Alas, try as she might, she cannot hope to compete with Vesper Lynd, but then – who could?

Almalric’s Mr. Greene follows in the footsteps of Mads Mikkelsen’s Le Chiffre, offering up another effectively evil Euro-villain – this one more laid back than most, with more than a faint wiff of sleaze underlying the charm. (For some reason, he reminds one vaguely of Roman Polanski, for whatever that’s worth.)



My opinionQuantum of Solace.jpg

To be quite frank – I was disappointed. I missed seeing the exploding chairs in Q-Branch, or the umbrellas’ with laser beams, or the parachute neatly concealed in a pen. The Aston Martin DBS is without doubt one of 007’s greatest cars, but it’s a bit of a letdown to see it destroyed within the first three minutes of the movie. Thereafter we have to be satisfied with rundown Bolivian buses and rusty Volkswagen Beetles. 007 also needs ‘gadgets & gizmos’ – that’s just kind of a given – and in this installment it fails to deliver. Admittedly in the past they have taken it a bit far (even for 007) for instance kite-surfing on a tidal wave, but still – surely there can be a bit of a balance?

I liked Daniel Craig in Casino Royale, but now I’m not so sure. I like a James Bond who can still have a crooked smile, a sense of humour, and a twinkle in his eye. I liked the bit about – “she’s seasick”, but 007 moments like that were unfortunately very few and far between.

In this version it’s as if they were trying to squeeze in three hours of Transformers into two hours. It’s all too fast, too noisy, too much. There’s just not enough time for sensible dialogue, or even for much of a plot for that matter. Three-quarters (I think) of the movie I found myself wondering – “why is he going there”, or “who is that guy that he has just eliminated”, or even – “who is the REAL villain”? If I hadn’t have read a bit about the plot prior to viewing the movie, reading about Quantum (the modern day version of SMERSH), about Mr White, and about the secret organisation – I doubt whether I would have got it from the movie.

At the end of the day this James Bond was just too impersonal, too cold and single-minded (yes, even for 007) – it might literally have been yet another installment in the Jason Bourne series (Bourne Ultimatum, Supremacy, etc..)

I will see the movie again, because primarily I am a die-hard fan of 007, but more so in an attempt to try and get what I feel I’ve missed out the first time round.

Bring back the “old” James Bond – in the casino’s, looking elegant and dashing, with some “slightly far fetched gadgets” – I miss him…

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Shipping Disasters

Posted by batman on Nov 13th, 2008
2008
Nov 13

The Sealand Express who was anchored off of Cape Town South Africa in 2004 Shipping Disasters - Sealand Express

The M/V Springbo & M/T Gas Roman on approach to the mega-port of Singapore in 2003

Shipping Disasters - Collision Course

Shipping Disasters - Collision Course

The Ital Florida who hit a bad weather on her voyage from china: Ital Florida – Container Casualties

Shipping Disasters - Ital Florida

These photo’s courtesy of gcaptain

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Robben Island, Cape Town

Posted by batman on Nov 12th, 2008
2008
Nov 12

Robben Island, Cape TownFor nearly 400 years, Robben Island, 12 kilometres from Cape Town, was a place of banishment, exile, isolation and imprisonment. It was here that rulers sent those they regarded as political troublemakers, social outcasts and the unwanted of society.

From 1836 to 1931 the island was used as a leper colony and animal quarantine station. During the Second World War, the island was fortified and guns were installed as part of the defences for Cape Town.

Under the apartheid regime, Robben Island became a maximum security prison in 1959, and its character as an island-prison near to a major population centre invites comparisons with Alcatraz. Between 1961 and 1991, over three thousand men were incarcerated here as political prisoners, often for decades. Prisoner family member visits were restricted to once every six months, for a period of only thirty minutes, in conditions which made even conversation difficult. The only reading material allowed was the Bible. A variety of barbaric impositions were made on prisoners, including breaking rocks and mining lime. In the early 1980s, many prisoners engaged in more active demands for rights, and a 1981 hunger strike reinforced their case and led to some minor improvements in conditions. It is of particular note as it was here that former South African President and Nobel Laureate Nelson Mandela and incumbent South African President Kgalema Motlanthe, alongside many other political prisoners, spent decades imprisoned during the apartheid era.

Throughout this period, security was very tight and the island off limits to almost all civilians, including fishermen. Before about 1980 almost no-one, even among inhabitants of Cape Town, had set foot on the island. It is not generally known that the use of the island as a prison was greatly inhibited for centuries by a lack of fresh water. The island is arid, with low scrubby vegetation and has no watercourses. Boreholes were drilled in the first half of the 20th century but in due course the fragile water table was invaded by sea water and the bores became useless. Sometime after 1965 a pipeline was laid on the bottom of the ocean from Cape Town.

The particular character of the apartheid era prisoners, and their disciplined morale in the face of considerable difficulties and even abuse, is well attested as being sustained by their commitment to the cause of the struggle for freedom, in particular for the majority black African population.

In June 1980 Frederik Willem de Klerk initiated the removal of political prisoners, and most prisoners left by May 1981. The last of the non-political prisoners (who had always been held separately from political prisoners) left the island in 1996, and it became a museum in 1997. Nelson Mandela left to worldwide acclaim on February 11th, 1990.

Nelson Mandela at Robben Island, Cape TownSince 1997 Robben Island has been a museum acting as a focal point of South African heritage. Daily tours of about 4 hours long, including the two half-hour ferry rides are offered (weather permitting) from the V & A Waterfront in Cape Town. In 1999 the island was declared a World Heritage Site.

The main centre of Robben Island is located in a small village and mostly everything – from milk to building materials had to be ferried over from Cape Town Harbour. Robben Island generate it’s own electricity and obtains its water from nine boreholes.Limestone Quarry, Robben Island, Cape Town

Much has been done to restore the Robben Island’s ecological haven to what it used to be centuries ago. In 1991 Robben Island was included in the SA natural heritage program and the northern parts of the island was declared a bird sanctuary. Buck, ostrich, and rabbits are also to be found on the island.

Robben Island and nearby Whale Rock have been the nemesis of many a ship and its crew. The surf of the open Atlantic Ocean thunders continuously at its margins and any vessel wrecked on the reefs offshore is soon beaten to pieces and disappears. In the latter half of the 1600s a Dutch ship laden with gold coins earmarked for the payment of the salaries of employees of the Dutch East India Company in Batavia (now Indonesia) disintegrated on these reefs a short distance off shore, in relatively shallow but very restless waters. The gold today would be worth tens of millions of pounds sterling or U.S. dollars. A few coins have washed ashore over the centuries but the treasure itself remains in the ocean. It is protected largely by the almost ceaseless and violent surf. Many other vessels have been wrecked around the isle.

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A Decent Explanation

Posted by batman on Nov 12th, 2008
2008
Nov 12

(This guy “almost” deserves to get off)


The wife came home early and found her husband in their bedroom making love to a very attractive young woman and was somewhat upset!

‘You are a disrespectful pig!’ she cried. ‘How dare you do this to me — a faithful wife, the mother of your children! I’m leaving you. I want a divorce straight away!’

And the husband replied ‘Hang on just a minute love, so at least I can tell you what happened.’

‘Fine, go ahead,’ she sobbed, ‘but they’ll be the last words you’ll ever say to me!!

And the husband began —

‘Well, I was getting into the car to drive home and this young lady here asked me for a lift. She looked so down and out and defenceless that I took pity on her and let her into the car. I noticed that she was thin, poorly dressed and very dirty. She told me that she hadn’t eaten for three days!

So, in my compassion, I brought her home and warmed up the enchiladas I made for you last night – the ones you wouldn’t eat because you’re afraid you’ll put on weight. The poor thing devoured them in moments.

Since she needed a good clean up I suggested a shower, and while she was doing that I noticed her clothes were dirty and full of holes, so I threw them away.

Then, as she needed clothes, I gave her the designer jeans that you have had for a few years, but don’t use because you say they are too tight. I also gave her the underwear that was your anniversary present, which you don’t use because I don’t have good taste. I went and found the sexy blouse my sister gave you for Christmas – the one that you don’t wear just to annoy her, and I also donated those boots you bought at that expensive shoe boutique and don’t use because someone at work has a pair the same.’

The husband took a quick breath and continued – ‘She was so grateful for my understanding and help and as I walked her to the door she turned to me with tears in her eyes and said, ‘Please, do you have anything else that your wife doesn’t use?’


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The Ice Hotel, Sweden

Posted by batman on Nov 5th, 2008
2008
Nov 5

The Ice Hotel, Sweden

Sweden’s Ice Hotel is built from scratch every year. A new design, new suites, a brand new reception – in fact everything in it is crisp and new. The Ice Hotel is situated on the shores of the Torne River, in the old village of Jukkasjärvi in Swedish Lapland.

10,000 tons of crystal clear ice from the ‘ice manufacturing plant’, the Torne River, and 30,000 tons of pure snow generously supplied by Mother Nature are needed to build the Ice Hotel every year. The hotel sleeps over 100 guests, and every bedroom is unique.

Covering more than 30,000 square feet, the Ice Hotel includes an Ice Chapel, the hotel itself, an ice art exhibition hall, a cinema and last but not least, the world famous Absolut Ice Bar.

The Ice Hotel, SwedenRebuilt every year out of ice and snow from the pristine clear waters of the Torne River, the Ice Hotel is a sight to behold. Touted as the world’s first ice hotel, its halls are filled with ice exhibits, ice chandeliers, and unique rooms which are rebuilt every year. It boasts over 80 rooms and suites, a bar sponsored by Absolut Vodka, a reception, and a church. Nuptials are exchanged in the church, mostly by tourists who find its location and appeal very exotic. The day before our visit, a Scottish couple had tied the knot at the church, with the groom donning his traditional kilt.

The hotel comes to life only between December and April every year, and it costs about $196 per night to sleep in an ice cold room atop reindeer skin.

The rooms are simple – blocks of artistically carved ice with stacks of reindeer skin lain over. You could easily spend hours navigating the maze of amazingly designed rooms. The interior décor – shelves, stools, chandeliers, all made of ice – were quite impressive. Ice sculptures of native animals such as reindeer and moose adorned its grounds. The hotel itself was shaped like an igloo, and we joined a guided Swedish language tour of the grounds to learn more about its history and the many artists who collaborate on the hotel’s construction every year.

A quick stop at the Absolut Ice bar for a sip of vodka, and hunger had begun to set in. Lunch was a nice clean Scandinavian buffet – five different types of pickled fish and some salmon – at the Old Homestead Restaurant which is a brisk 800 meters from the hotel.

The Ice Hotel, Sweden

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