Monthly Archives: May 2013

Good Will Hunting

I tried so hard. When I noticed this film ‘about maths’ was on television, I recorded it for the entertainment of the Resident IT Consultant, and then it turns out he’d already seen it! But he was sufficiently enthusiastic, and felt I should see it too, so we watched. You can tell all the regular shows have come to an end…

The maths came mostly at the beginning. After that it turned into more of a psychological portrait of a young maths genius – working as a janitor at MIT – with issues. I liked the role well enough; but I just am not keen on Matt Damon. I thought his pal Ben Affleck was a lot more interesting, really.

Good Will Hunting

The film also offered psychoanalysis of both the psychologist who talked to Will Hunting, as well as his old pal, the maths professor who discovered Will. Hard to tell who had the most issues in their life.

Very nice time capsule thing, set in the mid 1990s. I was wanting them to exchange email addresses, when all Robin Williams had to offer was an answering machine. He was still mostly Robin Williams, I thought.

Stellan Skarsgård as the professor was interesting, if a little selfish/immature. Lack of maturity seemed quite a general thing. Not sure what Minnie Driver saw in Will, but she fell in love the way girls are meant to.

Not having seen this film back in 1997, I don’t know what it would have felt like at the time. Now, as I said, it was the period charm that I enjoyed.

Maybe my problem is Matt Damon is a blonde?

I’m So Excited

There is definitely more sex in Spanish films. And they certainly talk more openly about it, even allowing for scriptwriters who come up with odd characters. It’s fun and it’s refreshing.

I’m So Excited is Pedro Almodóvar’s new film about a plane load of passengers trapped up in the air, who go slightly crazy while they wait to see what will happen. (I’m grateful I have no immediate plans to fly anywhere.)

There is an amusing cameo appearance from Antonio Banderas and Penélope Cruz, and I suspect it could all have been their fault that what happens happens.

I'm So Excited

Even with my limited experience of Spanish films, this plane is full of people I know from somewhere else. Looking in the cockpit was like watching Airplane again. I wouldn’t trust the pilots in the slightest. They drink. They have sex. They have increasingy weird conversations with passengers who just pop in, with the cabin crew, and with their families at home.

The cabin crew are crazy. They drink. They have sex. They bicker. And that’s the ones who are awake.

I'm So Excited

The relatively few passengers in business class are also somewhat crazy. One professional escort, one virgin, a newly married couple, an assassin, a dishonest – but lovely – banker and a lying actor. They drink. They have sex. They phone home.

It’s absolutely crazy. But they are so friendly, in that Spanish way, that you kind of love them. You don’t want to be on a plane with them, though. Not a plane in difficulties, anyway.

It’s sex, drugs and rock’n’roll all the way.

(At Cornerhouse)

NCIS – Damned if you do

That was a little better, although the ending of NCIS season ten will not have me sleepless over the summer. My companion shook his head and said he didn’t quite get it. He also wondered if we’d strayed into Due South. I think being in a boat with someone dead makes it look as if we had. Someone you talk to and who talks back, I mean.

But it was good to have Mike Franks back, even as a dead guy in a boat.

What really doesn’t make sense is how the Directors of two agencies can take personal interest in one agency team, when they must have so much else to do.

Good to see them digging up someone from JAG. I liked him, despite not being a JAG viewer. He drinks tea, if nothing else.

Usually it’s September when we see what happened in the intervening four months. This time we made the jump to September, while it is still technically only May. Time travel?

And that thing we saw, or thought we saw, at the end? That’s bound not to happen. But they want us to worry all summer.

Quite liked the cabin in the woods.

A Hijacking

A Hijacking is a hard-hitting Danish film on a subject most of us know little about, and tend to forget if we can. Any hijacking is bad, and Somali pirates seem to be working at the worst end of it.

Kapringen - A Hijacking

When shipping CEO Peter decides to do his own negotiating after one of his cargo ships is hijacked, he does so against the advice of English advisor Connor, who nevertheless is beside Peter every step of the way. And it’s a long way.

As a counterbalance to the well-dressed powerful men in Copenhagen, we have Mikkel, the ship’s cook. He is no hero, but he is brave in the face of this sudden violence and cruelty. He begs his boss to pay the ransom, and he begs the pirates’ ‘negotiator’ for food and kindness and fresh air.

It’s heartbreaking to see the dirty struggle on board, and to see how they are trying to do a good job in Denmark. When Peter wanders off script one day, it ends with a shot at the other end. You can almost see the thoughts in this powerful man’s head as he realises his actions may have cost someone their life.

Kapringen - A Hijacking

And still, we have already seen him being the hard negotiator in a ‘normal’ business deal, so why feel sorry for him?

You can tell it has to end reasonably well for most of the characters, but the situation is so tense, you must also be aware that for some it can’t end well. Who, and how?

The Danes seem naïve a lot of the time. It’s easy to be like that, when you’re nice and safe. But the Somalis are also naïve in some way, believing that there is any amount of money to be had in return for freeing people who shouldn’t have been held hostage in the first place.

In a way, not a lot happens. But you sit transfixed by what’s going on. I don’t want to give too much away, but let’s say that I would have expected the men’s beards to have grown much longer while this situation lasted.

Now that we are on such intimate terms with so many Danish actors, it was good to see Borgen’s Kasper as Mikkel, and Sarah Lund’s first detective partner Meyer as Peter.

(At Cornerhouse until 16th May)

Below is an interview on Danish television with Gary Skjoldmose Porter, who not only plays the British expert in the film, but is a British expert outside the film as well.

More than Feyn

Serendipity prevented me from reviewing the Challenger documentary a few weeks ago. It was so good and we enjoyed it so much, if those are the right words to use for a programme about something as tragic as the Challenger explosion. But I ran out of time.

William Hurt was the perfect Richard Feynman, or so I thought until Sunday night when the documentary was shown again, followed by an hour about the real Feynman, featuring interviews with friends and family as well as Feynman himself.

I’m glad we saw William Hurt’s Feynman first. That way we knew both about his work to find the reason for the Challenger tragedy, and we knew what the ‘fake’ Feynman was like. A very fine man, and an ill man. After the triumph of finding out that NASA had covered up certain facts, we had to face Feynman’s illness and subsequent death.

But fine as the actor was, Feynman was far better at being him. I was sad to know he died 25 years ago, making it impossible to meet him. That’s not just my fondness for Nobel prize winners, but my general liking for brilliant minds talking. It never ceases to amaze me how much some people are able to think and understand when it comes to really tricky stuff.

One thing I learned on Sunday was that ‘everything’ is electromagnetism, which is a subject we have come into closer contact with than we’d like in recent months. Feynman came up with the term quantum physics (or so I believe), which is another familiar subject. Unintelligible, but familiar.

I take some comfort in the letter Feynman wrote to the mother of a student, telling her not to worry about science, because love was more important. I’ll go for love any day.

It seems a little unfair that such a clever man should be good at more than physics. He played the drums. He could draw fantastically well. He was interested in a great variety of things, while still finding time to be a person, to spend time with his children, the way his own father had spent time teaching him about the world.

Feynman now means so much more to me than the name on the covers of those books certain people leave lying around the house. I am tempted to try reading one, but suspect I might come to regret such an impulse. Maybe I could watch his talks on YouTube?

For anyone who missed The Fantastic Mr Feynman on television, here is the iPlayer version. I can’t recommend it enough. Do watch.

(Lovely to learn that his little sister Joan is an astrophysicist. I wouldn’t mind a programme about her. And the fact that they grew up in Far Rockaway was a fun coincidence for me. I’d been half wondering if it’s a fictional place. Seems not.)

Roger Whittaker – possibly The Last Farewell

It feels so final. I don’t want this to have been the last Roger Whittaker tour, or the last concert, but if it was, then we’ve had a good many years, tours, concerts, not to mention songs. People think it’s perfectly normal for a 77-year-old to retire (to already be retired) so it goes without saying that one day Roger will retire too. For real.

But maybe he will start to itch one day, when the resting gets too much. I favour individual concerts, somewhere easy to get to for a lot of us.

Not having been able to travel to Germany this time, I am hoping my fellow fans had a great time. I’ve taken the liberty of borrowing this photo of Roger and his drum from Rocco Meier who went to the last concert in Vienna.

Roger Whittaker, Wien 10th May 2013, photo by Rocco Meier

NCIS – Double Blind


Could Gibbs really not think of anything punchier to say than ‘what do you think?’ He really isn’t the same man he was. I know, it’s not realistic to expect people to stay the same, but this was the retort of the child who can come up with nothing better under pressure. (And I know; it’s the scriptwriters who couldn’t. Not Gibbs.)


Although, until then it was going quite well, with plenty to think about for the season finale next week. Bluffs and double bluffs are effective, and can have you change your predictions every five minutes.

McGee, Parsons and DiNozzo

Colin Hanks was excellent as the annoying outsider, probing away and irritating the whole team. And was there a suggestion he’s smarter than McGee? We can’t allow that.


After the earlier fears that Ziva is on the way out, I feel the limelight has switched to Gibbs, which is unlikely. Which brings thoughts back to Ziva again.

In autopsy

Or there is more than one double bluff.

(Photos © CBS)

Doctor Who – Nightmare in Silver

Wow! So that’s what it takes to have fully watchable Doctor Who? A ‘real’ writer like Neil Gaiman. Let’s do that again. Please? I enjoyed myself so much I was beginning to regret we are getting close to The End of Matt Smith.

Doctor Who - Nightmare in Silver

There was a time – admittedly a very long time ago – when I believed all writing for an important medium like television would be good by default. Likewise the efforts of the actors. They are actors, so obviously they do a perfect job. At least if they are famous. (Yeah, I was an idiot.)

Then there is the slight fear that an author can be too famous for his own good, and end up being a not terribly capable writer. But for all his fame, not to mention riches, Neil Gaiman simply does a great job whenever he writes stuff. Yes, you can hate the man and what he stands for if you like. But he can write. And he’s pleasant to talk to. That’s enough for me.

Doctor Who - Nightmare in Silver

Cybermen! Because I’m not a real proper Doctor Who nerd I hardly ever muse over what is possible and what might happen. Cybermen are too scary not to let them return, so naturally they had to come back at some point. You don’t invent Daleks and Cybermen or those Angels and then ‘kill’ them off, never to be seen again.

Nightmare in Silver was a dream, and I’m struggling to think of anything that wasn’t good. The plot was excellent. The characters and their actors were all fantastic. Not a single one I would have different. Warwick Davies in particular was marvellous, as you could sense the minute he turned up.

Doctor Who - Nightmare in Silver

Clara made a surprisingly good commander, and her child charges were just right. I’d be happy to have these children in the Tardis again.

It would obviously help if I understood chess, but like Harry Potter I’m happy to leave my fate to the hands of someone Who does.

Doctor Who - Nightmare in Silver

The Annexe at Cornerhouse

Annexe at Cornerhouse

Knowing that the food at Cornerhouse is good, it shouldn’t have come as a surprise to find they cater well for events, too.

Yesterday – as Bookwitch – I went to a book event at the Annexe at Cornerhouse, and although they called it breakfast, I didn’t expect to be so well fed. After all, it was seeing and hearing the authors that was important. Meeting others. Networking a little.

Chicken House breakfast

Nice room. Easy to get to by train. The weather was good, but I’m guessing I can’t praise Cornerhouse for that. But it meant that the little outside area looked particularly attractive, and it made me want to sit there. Except then I wouldn’t have been able to hear Melvin Burgess and the other Chicken House writers read from their books.

Annexe at Cornerhouse

When I saw the rolls – freshly made, and to a nice recipe – filled with sausages and bacon I wasn’t at all hopeful. But lo and behold; they had veggie sausages as well! I should only have eaten one, though. The reason for my lack of control was they tasted so good.

Cake, Cornerhouse

But so did the cake that came after. One cake or two? Carrot cake or blueberry muffin? I did what others did. Ate one and sneaked the other into my bag. (And obviously went without lunch, which is a severely under-used phrase in my life.)

Dan Smith, blogger Kate, Sam Hepburn, Tony Higginson and Fletcher Moss

And in my usual illogical fashion I began thinking about a reason to hire the Annexe. That must be a sign that either I am crazy, or they are good. It could be both. Probably is.

NCIS – Revenge

It wasn’t bad. Nor were Tony and Ziva dead. But it wasn’t marvellous, either. Let’s say it was an adequate ending to an exciting start.

This revenge thing is almost getting too big. It’s the ‘he killed my wife so I have the right to kill him’ syndrome. It was for the best that Director Vance didn’t shoot anyone. As I said last week, lovely to see ex-Director Morrow, but why did he have to act so impatient?

The fact that Ziva is not yet dead, doesn’t guarantee her presence next season, unless Cote de Pablo has signed in the interim. It could be a Kate Todd all over again. Someone has to go, so let’s tease them with who it might be, kind of thing.

I for one would welcome some ordinary decent Marine/Navy killings/mysteries. Maybe a week or two without personal connections to the cases? Let DiNozzo fondle some more implants and be rude about McGee’s driving, by all means. But let’s go for plain NCIS crime.

And remember the humour. More of it. (I suppose the plunger was OK.)