Category Archives: Books

Bye to the Saint, Ivanhoe and 007

Roger Moore died earlier today. He’s not someone I have thought very much about in recent years, but when I was a child and teenager he was right up there with the best.

Most people refer to him as James Bond, but his 007 days were almost a bit late for me. I’d liked Ivanhoe, and I’d loved The Saint, and sort of enjoyed The Persuaders. But that’s quite a bit of screen entertainment from one man, and enough to cover many of my early years.

Roger was a good 007; I think it’s mainly that I was never big on Bond.

But almost nine years ago when Roger appeared in Cheltenham, there was no question but we had to go to his event. He’d just turned 80 at the time, and had a book out, I believe, which is why he appeared at a book festival.

He showed his age, which I suppose is unavoidable, but his acting skills carried him through. The one thing that surprised me was his dislike of Hjördis Niven. Well, no. More that he didn’t mind airing it publicly.

Roger Moore

Goodbye to this handsome man who gave us so many screen adventures!

A Monster Calls

This was the film we tried to go and see all week. We should be grateful it made it to the local cinema, because who would want to be deprived of a good long cry? As it was, Kleenex were required, and there was a bucket too.

A Monster Calls

I can no longer recall the exact details of the book by Patrick Ness, and by that I mean the minor characters and any minor plots. I think there were some. They are not in the film, which is good, as you don’t want to detract from the main story about Conor, his dying mum and his angry grandma. And the school bullies, because to be beaten up every day as your mother is dying is obviously [not] what a 13-year-old boy needs.

A Monster Calls

The film let us concentrate on Conor’s nightmares and the subsequent meetings with a tree monster who comes to the house (voiced by Liam Neeson) to tell him stories.

Then there is grandma, played by Sigourney Weaver, doing a good British accent, while going around being at least as angry as her grandson. And who can blame her; she is losing her child, and gaining a grandchild who hates her.

A Monster Calls

At first the film went so slowly I was afraid it would ruin things but, almost imperceptibly, it sped up and before we knew it we were hooked, by Conor’s dismal daily life, and his mum’s sufferings, and you could literally see her getting worse.

Beautifully filmed in the Northwest, it looked like home to us (not quite as I’d imagined it from the book or from Jim Kay’s illustrations).

And it was only on the way out I remembered I had tissues in my bag, after casting around in my mind what we could possibly use to mop those tears with.

(Also posted on Bookwitch)

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

This was absolute bliss. Whereas it is generally ‘quite nice’ to revisit a film and its characters, the concept of J K Rowling’s Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them beats most that I have seen. Even though I obviously read the book [by Newt Scamander] however many years ago it was published, almost as an afterthought, the new film is such a tremendous bonus!

It’s something you didn’t see coming, separate but still belonging to Harry Potter’s world, and it couldn’t have been better. I never thought of Newt Scamander as anything but an obscure historical character, with an interest in animals. The film about Newt shows how wrong I was, and how Rowling’s magic just carries on and on.

As someone said the other day, it’s rather a relief to have a film like this with almost no children in it. It meant we could see Muggles and Wizards in the New York of 1926 as it might have appeared in just about any film; it was all about adults going about their business, which in Newt’s case was rescuing creatures at risk, and trying to teach other magic people that the beasts have a place in the world too.

Kowalski, the wannabe baker Muggle, was a Rupert Grint kind of man. Quite ordinary but also quite brave and someone who adapted well to the seemingly crazy world of magic. The two main female characters, sisters Tina and Queenie, were just as intelligent, kind and beautiful as you needed them to be. And Eddie Redmayne’s Newt was mysterious and enthusiastic and kind, with a nice sense of humour towards his ‘walking stick insects’ and dragons and all the other creatures.

The bad guy was so charmingly bad that you almost believed he might be all right. And the remaining characters made for a rich background.

Isn’t it wonderful how you can have a spin-off like this from a ‘mere’ children’s publishing sensation? Something so good and fun and mature, which wasn’t born from the usual film mould?

I don’t often float away from cinemas, especially not in the middle of the night. But I did this time. And I felt happy.

(Also published on Bookwitch.)

Music en route

The bad thing about the Edinburgh festival season during August is that travelling turns into a nightmare. I find myself choosing not to go to events at times or days of the week when I suspect travelling will undo any good the event might offer.

So yesterday my trusted photographer and I picked a train earlier than we had to, just so we could go on the King’s Cross train, with four or five times as many coaches as the local one. It was even worth waiting for it as it ran late, just not to get squashed on the little train.

As the Resident IT Consultant dropped us off it was mayhem by the station entrance. There was an interview being conducted on the pavement, complete with BBC camera and everything. Loads of people wearing t-shirts or hoodies with Stirling Orchestra on the back, and an unusual number of double basses for a railway station. Even in August.

I remembered reading something in the local paper about the orchestra; they had been chosen for something special. My photographer googled as we waited and could tell me they were going to London to take part in All Together Now: The Great Orchestra Challenge, a ‘four-part series, which will celebrate the breadth and quality of amateur orchestral playing across the UK, will follow five orchestras as they compete for a place in the Grand Final. It will begin on BBC Four at the end of August, with the final episode to be broadcast on BBC Two.’

That’s pretty good, and I’m sufficiently pleased for them that I didn’t even mind the squeeze on the train. The double basses and the stools, etc, got stowed elsewhere, and it was only the smaller instruments that were all over the place, along with the BBC crew’s junk, carefully blocking the Edinburgh exit door…

Now, if they could only have whipped out their instruments and serenaded us as we went!

Paddington

Paddington

It’s a fun concept to have the Earl from Downton fighting Mrs Coulter over a bear, with some assistance from the Doctor. Paddington was lovely. I’d heard he would be, but you still want to make sure.

Going to see Paddington was our New Year’s Eve treat, and it was (shock, horror) our first cinema outing after moving. We will be back soon again, and as the car parking has been paid until tomorrow lunch time, perhaps we should hurry.

I don’t know the book about Paddington as well as I ought to, but on the plus side that meant I didn’t have to sit there wondering why they left things out or why they put new things in. It was all rather sweet, and I now feel I have a deeper understanding of the background to the marmalade.

The bear jokes were funny and obvious, and so much better for it. ‘Bear left!’

There is something deliciously scary having Nicole Kidman looking like a sweet, young thing, and being so truly bad. And Hugh Bonneville didn’t really have to alter his Downton personality. The Earl would also disapprove of a bear moving in, until he saw the light and changed his mind and started loving the bear.

Mrs Brown was perfectly cast, and I’d love for Sally Hawkins to be my mummy, too. London looked great (if fairly romantically portrayed), and little Paddington was a charming young man. Bear, sorry.

Peter Capaldi was fantastic, and I’m only pointing that out because I’ve not seen him in much. And when I move to London, I’ll go and live in that street, too. Please?

Paddington

Not so noir

Saltkråkan with corpses, is how we saw Maria Lang’s Crimes of Passion series start. Death of a Loved One was quite enjoyable, with – for me – surprisingly few cringey moments. I will never forgive them for ruining ‘my’ Christer Wijk, however. Just imagine putting Wickham in Poirot as Hastings, say. I can’t stand Ola Rapace, although he did a good job (if one wanted Christer Wijk to be that kind of a man) of looking handsome and cool.

Crimes of Passion, Death of a Loved One

Not dark enough, was the online verdict. But it is high time people realise Sweden can be both sweet and retro. Too. They love Midsomer Murders, for god’s sake. This was a normal, and period, Swedish set-up, albeit with murderers everywhere. And as the Swedish title suggests; everyone is lying. Not just the murderer.

I loved the books in my early teens, along with Agatha Christie. That’s what you need to expect, not The Killing on any Bridge whatsoever. Not even moody Wallander. Just lovely retro settings with gruesome murders.

Nothing wrong with that. Sit back and enjoy the clothes and the 1950s houses, and forget about the level of nicotine and alcohol. I’m surprised the detective was sober enough to deduce much at all. But then, it was really his unintended sidekick Puck who proved she had brains.

Bye, Wallander!

In the end the end wasn’t as upsetting as I’d made the Resident IT Consultant expect. He almost complained. And I was relieved. I wasn’t feeling up to too much sadness, and Wallander made for pretty sad viewing the week before.

I’m glad they wrote it so that they can’t revive Wallander. In my opinion it went on for too long as it was, but the last season did have some redeeming points. But I’m surprised no one could tell – I mean really tell – that he was getting bad.

Krister Henriksson as Wallander

The notes and the notebook and mixing tawny owls in with evidence and feeding the dog too many times made for a certain amount of comedy, but when you stop and think about it, it’s fairly awful. Wallander looked awful, and they should have sacked him for being unshaven and wearing clothes only half done up.

But the last plot worked out well, and the ending was as satisfying as you could make an Alzheimers ending. The bad guy had it coming.