Category Archives: Film

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!

Hacksaw Ridge

There are many questions you can ask after watching Hacksaw Ridge, the true story about the man who refused to carry a rifle in WWII and who saved countless soldiers’ lives, and was awarded the Medal of Honor.

Did it have to be so violent, and did it have to show quite so many dead and maimed soldiers? In this instance less would definitely have been more. Besides, you see less of the film if you have to look away a lot of the time.

Hacksaw Ridge

Did we really need to have parts like ‘corpse with rats #4’ on the cast list?

Couldn’t it have been clearer about when the earlier parts were set? We had to look it up, to ‘unconfuse’ ourselves.

And might it have been better to stick to what surely must have been rules back in the 1940s, like did nurses have long flowing hair on duty?

But the main question must be, if Desmond Doss was able to save 75 wounded soldiers at Okinawa, through sheer determination; how many unnecessary soldier deaths have there been in all other battles before and after?

I am not wanting to complain that others have not done what he did. You need a strong character and plenty of courage to achieve even a fraction of what Doss managed. But seeing that he could return out on to the battle field over and over again, and come back with more and more wounded comrades; how many half dead soldiers do armies leave behind everywhere?

Hidden Figures

I’ve been known to check my watch in the cinema. That is, if I can manage to see what time it is. I have to admit to having checked it during Hidden Figures too. I wanted to see – I hoped I’d find – that I had lots more film left. Ten minutes. Just ten minutes of a film I could have watched all night.

People are busy saying it’s not fun enough to do well in the Oscars. I suppose it depends on what you look for in a film, and the current climate is perhaps not ideal for black role models or intelligence, or even something as unsexy as the US space programme.

Hidden Figures

For me it’s the best I’ve seen since From the Earth to the Moon. I could easily watch it again. And that is why I worried we were not even going to get it on our local screen. A few days before the UK release it seemed we’d have to travel to see Hidden Figures, and I realised that perhaps we live in a small town more interested in sex and action movies, the more mindless the better.

But then, there it was. Only a few screenings, and the audience was like us, old and sedate and with few oversized trays of popcorn, multi-coloured sweets and fizzy drinks.

And what a story! What a great title! I didn’t know the three leading actresses from anything, and it was all the better for it. This way I wasn’t seeing a superstar pretending to be a maths genius. After Apollo 13 it seems we need an Ed Harris lookalike working for NASA, and I was happy with Kevin Costner. He could almost carry off being clever. Jim Parsons, however, is far too much Sheldon Cooper to work in this role as genius sidelined by clever black woman. I couldn’t get a grip on what he was meant to be like.

My companions who understand maths a bit better than I do, felt that while dumbed down, the maths was mostly OK.

Hidden Figures

I’d have loved this story if it had been mere fiction. I loved it a lot more for being mostly true, and to see the real three women at the end was marvellous. It was so good to know that they did well and were role models for many who came after them. And fantastic to see the real Katherine Johnson honoured by President Obama, and equally great to learn that she has had a long life with her second husband.

The film leaves me wanting to learn more.

Rogue or La La

We disgraced ourselves over Rogue One, the Resident IT Consultant and I. Don’t know whether he liked it, but neither of us understood what was going on. This is partly because neither of us are Star Wars fans. And when I saw the original back in the olden days, I didn’t get what it was about; nor even who was good or who was bad.

But it’s not important. We can’t all like the same things, and no one can be a fan of everything. This time we went with Daughter, who is a fan and who wanted company. Although we might not be asked – allowed – again.

If you don’t have to know who is fighting, or why, it was OK as an action film of sorts.

I had more or less decided against seeing La La land, for some reason. And then ‘everyone’ was going on about it and how wonderful it was and how they don’t even like musicals but they’d even bought the soundtrack afterwards.

Which would be why, when I really needed cheering up one day last week, we went to see it. Didn’t even consider any of the other films on, since a musical, praised by all, ought to be what I needed.

And OK, after that first song and dance thing on the motorway slip road (yes, they are probably called something else), I almost felt like applause would be the right response.

But after that, it was downhill all the way. It was boring. I didn’t like the characters, or the actors. The music did nothing for me, and the setting was not my kind of place at all. And the plot? I kept thinking that surely something sensible would happen to it soon?

It seems the Resident IT Consultant was slightly more tolerant than I was, but even so.

Comparing the two films, Rogue One wins comfortably.

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.)

Bing and Bowie

I needed this. Having only heard the soundtrack before, I enjoyed seeing Bing Crosby and David Bowie in this video. Bing, of course, is Christmas for me, even discounting White Christmas. Back in the olden days, when Christmas in the television backwater of Sweden meant that you got old films every day, instead of once a week, somehow Bing was always there with one – or two – of his films.

I took a while to appreciate his singing, though. I arrived in Brighton autumn 1977 and noticed that he was appearing at the Brighton Centre a few weeks later. I didn’t go, because he was an old man and I had no interest in that kind of thing. After Brighton he went to Spain to play golf, and died. And then I regretted it, and I have since bought his albums and learned that he was a marvellous singer.

The same can be said about David Bowie, it seems. I have to admit to not being a fan, and in most cases if you played me one of his songs, unless so well known that even I knew the title, I’d not have recognised him. If you’re a fan, I apologise for my lack of enthusiasm. Back in the early 1970s when my friends at school loved him, I had no interest in Bowie at all, and I never changed.

But this Christmas video helped bring his voice to me. I find that when famous singers sing something completely different to their normal repertoire, you are able to discover their voice for what it is; unfettered by what they usually do. If they are truly good, then that will shine through that ‘other’ song. And this is what happened here, when I encountered Bowie with Bing on social media.

I could even see myself trying some regular Bowie now. Any suggestions of where to begin?