February 2013

Song for Marion

Certificate PG, 93 minutes, ★★★★★★★★☆☆

I can’t help thinking I must be turning into a Saga Lout… Hot on the heels of Dusting Hoffman’s Quartet, Paul Andrew Williams’ gran-com stars Terence Stamp as grumpy pensioner Arthur and Vanessa Redgrave as his ever cheerful wife, Marion. Marion’s joy in life is singing with a local choir, the “OAPz”, led by Elizabeth (Gemma Aterton)

When Marion succumbs to a long-standing illness, Arthur tries to hide away, but through perseverance, Elizabeth eventually brings him out of his shell, into the choir, and helps rebuild the relationship with his estranged son (Christopher Eccleston).

This film is bound to be compared against Quartet, since both are about old people singing, but I have to say I think this is the better film. Sure it’s less glitzy and is obviously made on a shoestring, but it wears its heart on its sleeve, and it doesn’t pull its punches: unlike Quartet, we do get the magic song finale, and very fine it is too.

Worth seeing just for the 80-somethings belting out “Let’s talk about sex, baby…” 8/10

Indie Scene

Just out today is the first issue of Indie Scene, the electronic magazine for readers and writers of independently published books. Edited by Rosen Trevithick, a successful Indie author in her own right, and published through the Indie Book Bargains web site, the first issue clocks in at 54 pages.

It’s packed with feature articles, interviews with award winning authors, book reviews, short stories and even a quiz. You can download it as a PDF from http://www.indie-book-bargains.co.uk/indie-scene-magazine/ for totally free. Now if that’s not a bargain, I don’t know what is!

The new Blurb

This is my new blurb for Hunted:

23rd Century Britain is tough. There’s few people, no oil and no electricity (by order). Kingsmen rule the country with a rod of iron, and exact the severest of penalties for the smallest of crimes.

When a mysterious boy falls from the sky, sixteen year old Flick Carter must save him. That is her first crime. Falling in love is her second. But someone even worse than the Kingsmen wants him – and now her – dead. In a town of just 150 people, you can’t hide. So you run. Or you die.

Hunted Update

Progress is going well on the third draft – I’m probably about halfway through that, although there is still feedback to come from some of the beta readers. I’ve spent some time working on the design for the cover, which I’m now pretty happy with. I’ve also done a cover for Socko’s First Day, which was previously published in A Splendid Salmagundi, and will be made available as a standalone short. Both covers are shown below.

 

With a fair wind, and no major rewrites, I’m hoping both books will be available around the end of April for the eBook versions, with a possible paperback to follow.

(not) A Good Day to Die Hard

Certificate 12A (seriously?) 97 minutes ★★★★★☆☆☆☆☆

Oh dear. Oh very dear.

The film opens in a Moscow nightclub where we see a man kill someone in cold blood. We then switch to the good old U S of A, where cop John McClane is preparing to travel to Moscow to find out why his estranged son, Jack, is on trial for murder. When he gets there, yelling “I’m on vacation!” at anyone who’ll listen, he quickly finds himself in the middle of a terrorist plot.


What then follows is three set-piece action sequences (car chase, hotel shoot-out, helicopter shoot-out) that defy logic, believability and survivability. – Willis and Courtnay leap 20 stories through a plate glass window while under intense fire from a helicopter gunship, and Willis quips “that was fun, want to go again?”

These action pieces are then strung together by the most inane, badly scripted drivel. Mostly Bruce Willis shouts “I’m on vacation.” At least it was easy to learn. Then we rush off to Chernobyl (a distance of 430 miles, according to google – I’d love a car that can drive that in one night!) for more destruction, plus tonnes of weapons grade uranium that just happens to be stashed there..

What made the original Die Hard great was the fish out of water believability: One cop, one building, one night, 13 terrorists. Simples.

Now, we have a geriatric indestructible super hero father son bonding CIA movie. The action sequences by themselves work on a generic action-hero level, which is about the best I can say. The dancing, carrot-chomping “villain” is not a patch on Alan Rickman’s shadow, yet alone the man himself. The linking scenes are risible. In short, this is *NOT* any kind of Die Hard movie.

And to add insult to injury, the UK version was cut for a 12A rating.

 Yippie ky…. Nah. I’m on vacation. 5/10

 

Wreck-It Ralph

Certificate PG. 108 minutes ★★★★★★★★★☆

John C. Reilly, Sarah Silverman, Jack McBrayer, Jane Lynch and Alan Tudyk are the voice talent in this John Lasseter produced Disney animation about a video game character that goes AWOL.

 

Back in the 80s the video arcade had a game called Fix-It Felix Jr. Players controlled Felix (voiced by Jack McBrayer), a repairman whose job it was to fix windows broken by the bad guy Ralph (John C. Reilly). Now in the 21st century, somehow this video game still lurks in a corner of the arcade.

But Ralph is fed up with being the bad guy. Once the arcade is closed for the night, he slips away from the
game to Bad Anon in Game Central – somewhere out beyond the power sockets. But the villains support group doesn’t provide Ralph with the answers he wants to hear, and eventually he goes “turbo”, abandoning his game in search of a medal, which he feels will bring him the respect he deserves.

The first game he visits is the Halo-styled ‘Hero’s Duty’, where he infiltrates a squad of soldiers led by Sergeant Calhoun (Jane Lynch), and from there he goes to a racing game, ‘Sugar Rush’, where he encounters the glitch, Vanellope von Schweetz (Sarah Silverman).
Directed by Rich Moore (The Simpsons, Futurama) and executive produced by John Lasseter (Toy Story 1, 2, 3…), this has all the verve of Pixar’s classics, and easily rivals the best of them. Yes the Disney schmaltz does hit in the second half, which is tooth-decayingly, diabetes-inducingly sweet, but by then you’re hooked.

Kids’ll love it like it’s half term. Adults will love it for the video game pastiche (I’m sure I wasn’t the only one with a hankering to hit the video arcades after seeing it). Player 1 Press Start. 9/10

Beautiful Creatures

Certificate 12A, 124 minutes ★★★★★★★

Now that Sparkle the Vampire is finally excised from our consciousness, the studios inevitably have something lined up to take its place, and so enter Beautiful Creatures, cynically timed some (i.e. me) might say to coincide with “V” day (no, not Vampires. The other thing. With kissing and overpriced roses. Yes, *that* one). This is a paranormal romance based on the Young Adult series of novels by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl.

If, like me, you associate paranormal romance with the moping and dreary Twiglet, by now your fingers will be somewhere down your throat. Well, pull them out, because this film is not half bad. This film has wit, (Southern) style and panache. And the always brilliant Dame Eileen Atkins.

So, the plot: Ethan Wate (Alden Ehrenreich) is stuck in this small South Carolina town, dreaming of how to escape. Then one day new girl, Lena Duchannes (Alice Englert – daughter of Kiwi director Jane “The Piano” Campion) arrives in school. She’s the niece of Macon Ravenwood (Jeremy Irons, being somewhat Frittonesque – Rupert Everett would have been proud!). Now the good, bible thumping townsfolk, led by Emma Thompson regard the Ravenwoods as evil devil worshipers, and we soon discover that Lena can control the weather just by thinking about it. And of course they are immortal.

And so the inevitable happens and Ethan falls for Lena.  But there’s a complication: If a caster (what the Ravenwoods call themselves) falls for a mortal… well there’s a curse. And on her sixteenth birthday (there’s a neat little tattoo on her hand that counts down the days) Lena will find out whether the curse has struck and she is claimed for the dark side…

The two leads are convincing and put in a good performance, but the Brit supporting cast drive it home with both barrels, leaving the back row in no doubt who’s boss.

Not sure I’ll go out and read the book (even if it is only £2.99 on Amazon), but I probably won’t say no to the inevitable sequels.

7/10

2ND Draft

Good news: The second draft of Hunted is now finished, and a Word file is being prepared to go out to test readers. I’m working on designs for the cover, and after a short break to do other things, and once I’ve got feedback from the testers, I’ll get to work on the third (and hopefully final) draft. Woohoo!

Lincoln

Certificate 12A, 2h 29m, ★★★★★★★★

Daniel Day Lewis stars as Abe in Steven Spielberg’s powerful political drama, set near the end of the American civil war.

The film opens with a brief scene of bloody hand to hand fighting – the only actual battle in the movie. for the most part, the action takes place in Washington D.C. during January of 1865, between Lincoln’s second election and inauguration. In this brief window, Lincoln has an opportunity and a dilemma: End the civil war, one of the bloodiest in history, with a compromise deal with the Confederate army, or push through the 13th amendment to the U.S. constitution, thereby abolishing slavery and forcing the South to surrender.

This issue is at the heart of the drama. The 13th amendment, which states, “Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.”is both incendiary and divisive, and Lincoln has to find another 20 votes to get the bill through congress. At the same time he must hold together his own cabinet, keep his generals happy and manage his family. This all plays out like a historical version of The West Wing.

DDL is outstanding as the 16th President, charismatic and witty (helped by an outstanding script), and supporting performances are excellent, notably by Sally Field as Mrs Lincoln, Tommy Lee Jones as Vice President Thaddeus Stevens, David Strathairn as William Seward, Joseph Gordon-Levitt as Lincoln’s son Robert, and James Spader, John Hawkes and Tim Blake Nelson as the three political “fixers”, coercing bribing and blackmailing people into voting the right way.

This film earns a solid 8, but no doubt it’ll be hitting above its weight in the Oscars stakes, simply because it’s Lincoln.