What I thought of… Late Night, Ad Astra, Joker #movie #review

Watching more TV at the moment? Me too. In fact, I could really do with some recommendations! Nothing too heavy or ‘apocalyptic’ – we’ve got plenty of that going on in real life. But at the same time, nothing too ‘lite’.

For instance… I can thoroughly recommend Late Night starring Emma Thompson. Don’t be put off by the relative low IMDB score (6.5) – this is a fun, charming, surprisingly sophisticated comedy, that is somehow more than the sum of its parts. Trailer at the bottom of the page.

In the meantime, here are a couple of other movies I’ve seen in recent weeks

Ad Astra

The other night I settled down in front of the TV, to watch Ad Astra. In space, so they say, no one can hear you scream…. of boredom.

Thing is, I’d been looking forward to seeing this movie for months. What’s not to like? It stars Brad Pitt. An excellent actor. He produced it too. So it has “high production values” – and it’s about space!! That should have been enough to put it right up there with The Martian, or 2001, or Apollo 13… but someone, somewhere forgot to hire a bloody screenwriter to come up with a decent plot, and develop characters we actually care about. Instead what we’ve got is a movie that’s trying to be beautiful, and worthy, and intriguing, and failing on all counts. It’s another Solaris (both versions), or Gravity (yeah, yeah, I know some people love that movie).

Worse still, it’s one of those movies that starts ‘okay’, and keeps promising to get better, and keeps failing to do so, until it has successfully robbed you of two hours and left you with nothing but a pile of plot-hole related questions, and the desire to watch SOMETHING decent, ANYTHING, before you go to bed.

So yeah. Didn’t like it.

Joker

I’ll be honest with you, in these scary ‘apocalyptic’ times, maybe Joker wasn’t the *best* choice of late night evening viewing. It’s dark.

Very, very dark.

That said, it’s also rather brilliant.

I have a love-hate relationship with superhero movies, but as the film started there was a distinct lack of DC Comics branding. Yes, this is, technically, a film about the character from the ‘Batman’ Universe, but that’s almost incidental, bordering on the irrelevant. Because at its heart, this is a film about a man suffering from acute mental illness, in a society that’s all but given up on him. And we watch, as this sad, scarecrow of a man – a victim – begins to fight back, and take control of his destiny. Though probably not in a way that his therapist would approve of.

Robert DeNiro makes a rather unexpected and welcome appearance as a chat show host. There are some excellent plot twists along the way, and the occasional nod to the Batman Legend (for instance; the age old question of who actually killed Bruce Wayne’s father and mother in that alleyway).

As the credits roll, there’s definitely potential for a rather interesting sequel, and whilst sequels are nearly always a bitter disappointment, I still find myself hoping they make one.

Got any movie recommendations for me? Or indeed TC shows. Post a comment below.

Meantime, here’s that trailer I was telling you about.


Wait… fed up with TV or movies? How about a fun read (with absolutely no mention of lockdown)?

For one week only my three novels are just 99p each. That’s better than half price! But only until Friday 22nd May…

My Girlfriend’s Perfect Ex Boyfriend – A Laugh-Out-Loud Rom-Com
Meet Adrian Turner; Mountaineer, Secret Agent, Fireman… Ade would dearly like to be any of these things, though he’d trade them all to win the heart of Paige, who despite being Ade’s girlfriend for the past eighteen months, still seems to have one foot out of the door, and hasn’t quite committed to leaving a toothbrush in the bathroom. Of course, it doesn’t help that she’s working with her ex-boyfriend, Sebastian…
[Find out more]

The Truth About This Charming Man – A Crime Comedy
Meet William Lewis. All Will’s ever wanted in life, is to be an actor. That is, until he met Rachel – Beautiful. Beguiling. And married. To cut-throat venture capitalist Michael Richmond. So that’s the end of that. Or is it?
[Find out more]

The Good Guy’s Guide To Getting The Girl – A Very Funny Love Story
Jason Smith, 29, self-confessed ‘good guy’, is single. Finally. But now that he is, all the girls he’d happily give up one side of his bed for – like, for instance, his old school crush Melanie Jackson – are married, crazy, or in love with the office heart-throb. And then Jason stumbles on a fool-proof way to meet the kind of exciting, fun woman he’s always dreamed about…
[Find out more]

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Top Ten Favourite Albums (part 2)

Yesterday I started to share with you my ‘top ten favourite albums’ list. The LPs that have had a profound influence on my musical tastes. You can read that post here.

Let’s continue from where we left off…

FAVE ALBUMS #6: Love Over Gold, Dire Straits

Of all the albums ever produced, you could argue that Love Over Gold, by Dire Straits, isn’t particularly good value for money.

It was – according to Wikipedia – the band’s fourth studio album. So one imagines that by this point in their collective careers they were a little jaded, due a break, and yet contractually obliged to bring out another LP… or pay huge financial penalties.

And so we have this. An album with just five tracks. And the last track on side 2 – “It Never Rains” – is just terrible. By the band’s high standards, you could say it’s “dire”.

But track five aside, every other song on the album is a jaw dropping classic. “Telegraph Road”, “Private Investigations”, “Industrial Disease”, and “Love Over Gold”… each of these songs have, at various times of my life, made me wept. They’re that good.

FAVE ALBUMS #7: The Soul Cages, Sting

Growing up, the artist who had the most influence on my musical tastes was, without a doubt, Sting.

Right up until the moment he decided to nuke his career by releasing an album of Gregorian ‘classics’ played on a lute, every album was, in my humble unschooled opinion, fabulous.

Apart from one.

Gregorian Rubbish aside, the Soul Cages was arguably Sting’s least successful album, commercially speaking. Written following the death of his father, the album is haunting and wonderful and magical.

I’ve often wished that Sting had blown a few of his millions by turning it into an art-house, animated, feature length movie, or something similar. But then, maybe that would have been too painful? That aside, I personally believe this album isn’t just fabulous, it’s a work of art that has me sobbing my heart out, each and every time I listen to it.

FAVE ALBUMS #8: Kate Bush

Okay, I’m cheating. Slightly.

When I started compiling this list I knew there had to be a Kate Bush LP in there somewhere, but the problem is, there are so many REALLY good Kate Bush albums to pick from. Especially when Kate’s career has several distinct “phases”.

For instance, obviously her early work is amazing, but when Hounds of Love was released in 1985 Kate had clearly entered a new era in her music prowess. Side 1 contains three stonking 80s classics (“Running Up That Hill”, “Hounds of Love” and “Cloudbusting”) whilst Side 2 is like an entirely different album full of haunting, strange pieces of music, sound effects and “satanic” chanting. It’s awesome.

But then a few years later Kate followed that album with The Sensual World which was also brilliant. (I can’t listen to “This Woman’s Work” without wanting to weep.)

And then in 2005, she released Aerial. Which is different again…

So basically I can’t choose just one Kate Bush album. I just can’t. So shoot me.

FAVE ALBUM #9: Up, Peter Gabriel

Something very interesting happened to Peter Gabriel’s career in the early 80s. Up until 1982 he was releasing an album every two years, three of which were called Peter Gabriel. And then suddenly he stopped, and four years later he released So.

So was an amazing LP. “Red Rain”, “Sledge Hammer”, “Don’t Give Up”, “In Your Eyes”, “Big Time” and my personal fave “Mercy Street”

Six years after So came Us. Another fabulous album. Different. Kind of a throw back to his earlier stuff. But still fabulous.

A decade after Us came Up. I listened to it once, then threw it in a drawer. Ten years I’d waited for another Peter Gabriel album, but it wasn’t the album I’d hoped for. I was disappointed.

And then my wife died.

If I ever write an autobiography I suspect that’ll be the title. My wife died. Suddenly, one Saturday morning, and my world turned upside down.

Whilst sorting through our collective belongings I came across this album and listened to it again. And finally I got it. Here was an album written by a man who had lost his wife, and was struggling to cope. Tormented by guilt and all manner of demons, he had taken his feelings and set them to music.

Thank you Peter Gabriel. You helped get me through one of the toughest times of my life.

FAVE ALBUM #10: The Hitch Hiker’s Guide To The Galaxy, Douglas Adams (BBC Radio)

Far back in the midst of times, long before the advent of Spotify, Downloads, iPods, CDs – back when men were real men, women were real women, and little blue furry creatures from Alpha Centauri were REAL little blue furry creatures from Alpha Centauri – the BBC used to put out some of its more popular radio shows on vinyl.

And so it was that a skinny ten-year-old lad from Essex, England, came to discover The Hitch Hiker’s Guide To The Galaxy when his mother thought it might be “something he might like”.

Little did she know the profound effect this would have on his life, and how many years later – now a man of fifty something years – he would toil long into the night creating his own works of fiction that he hoped the BBC might deem worthy for broadcast on BBC 167 (an internet-only download service available on Nokia phones sold in Bratislava).

Sadly, just before he could complete his fourth novel (the book that was FINALLY going to propel him into the limelight, or at the very least close to it) the planet Earth was destroyed by a Vogon Construction Fleet to make way for a brand new Hyperspacial Bypass.

This blog, is the story of that man, and those books.


Wait… looking for a fun read (with absolutely no mention of lockdown)?

For one week only my three novels are just 99p each. That’s better than half price! But only until Friday 22nd May…

My Girlfriend’s Perfect Ex Boyfriend – A Laugh-Out-Loud Rom-Com
Meet Adrian Turner; Mountaineer, Secret Agent, Fireman… Ade would dearly like to be any of these things, though he’d trade them all to win the heart of Paige, who despite being Ade’s girlfriend for the past eighteen months, still seems to have one foot out of the door, and hasn’t quite committed to leaving a toothbrush in the bathroom. Of course, it doesn’t help that she’s working with her ex-boyfriend, Sebastian…
[Find out more]

The Truth About This Charming Man – A Crime Comedy
Meet William Lewis. All Will’s ever wanted in life, is to be an actor. That is, until he met Rachel – Beautiful. Beguiling. And married. To cut-throat venture capitalist Michael Richmond. So that’s the end of that. Or is it?
[Find out more]

The Good Guy’s Guide To Getting The Girl – A Very Funny Love Story
Jason Smith, 29, self-confessed ‘good guy’, is single. Finally. But now that he is, all the girls he’d happily give up one side of his bed for – like, for instance, his old school crush Melanie Jackson – are married, crazy, or in love with the office heart-throb. And then Jason stumbles on a fool-proof way to meet the kind of exciting, fun woman he’s always dreamed about…
[Find out more]

If you’re reading this in an email, why not forward it to a friend?

Top Ten Favourite Albums (part 1)

So, you know when you’re on Facebook an one of your friends posts something along the lines of “my friend Janice challenged me to share my top one hundred favourite baked goods” and then for days and days there’s another sodding picture of a cream bun or a chocolate eclair or a home made Battenberg clogging up your news feed until you just can’t stand it any longer and you have to ‘snooze’ that ‘friend’. You know what I’m talking about, I’m sure.

Anyway, funny thing about lockdown, because not only has my consumption of all things social media gone through the roof (such that I am now routinely getting to the bottom of my Facebook ‘feed’ – who would have thought that was possible?), but I’ve also found myself taking an active interest in people’s lists of “twenty jigsaw puzzles I couldn’t live without” or “fifty sudoko grids that changed my life”

For instance, my ol’ mate Pat recently ‘challenged’ me to choose ten albums that have greatly influenced my taste in music, and had a profound impact on my life. Before I could stop myself, there I was, jotting down LPs that might make the cut.

These were the rules:

  • Albums only.
  • No particular order.
  • No explanations or reviews necessary (yeah, right – like that’s going to happen!)

I was also *supposed* to nominate ten others to do the same (ugh!), but in these scary times I’ve got more than enough ‘rules’ to be going on with, thank you very much.

It was, however, an interesting exercise. So here, for your amusement, are two blog posts detailing those top ten albums, and why. Feel free to tell me about your favourite albums in the comments

FAVE ALBUM #1: Rubber Soul, by The Beatles

My mother introduced me to The Beatles the day John Lennon died. Up until that point I didn’t actually know who they were. And when I sat down to watch the film ‘Help’ (on the BBC, that night), I thought at first they were The Monkees, or a rip off version. Hey! I was twelve! Anyway… so started my love of The Beatles. I was, at the time, quite a fan of pop music, but the discovery of The Beatles helped me up my game. The very first album I ever bought was Rock and Rock Music Volume I. Followed quickly by Volume II. But of all my Beatles albums this was, and might still be, my favourite.

FAVE ALBUM #2: Nillson Schmilsson by Harry Nilsson.

My mother had exactly four records in her record collection when I was a kid; Rubber Soul (Beatles), We’re All Going On A Summer Holiday (Cliff Richard), And So This Is Christmas (John & Yoko), and a tape cassette of the album Nilsson Schmilsson by Harry Nilsson.

I’ve never really understood why my mother had such a diminutive music library – I’ve always assumed it was something to do with her love of Radio Four – but of the records she did have, Nilsson Schmilsson was, and still is, my favourite, instilling in me a love of Harry Nilsson.

I played that album to to death. Literally. When it finally got mangled in my cassette player I went out and bought a CD. For myself. My mother is yet to notice the theft.

(In recent years my mother has added to her collection having ‘downloaded’ from iTunes Give Me Sunshine (Morcambe and Wise) and She’s More Than A Woman (Billy Joel).

FAVE ALBUM #3: Tubular Bells, Mike Oldfield

I’m not sure how I came across Tubular Bells (by Mike Oldfield). It’s one of those albums where each side is (almost) one long track.

I’m pretty sure it wasn’t something that made it into the (singles) charts, and therefore probably wasn’t played much on my beloved Radio One. Likewise, although the main theme was used in The Exorcist, I’ve never seen the film (and nor will I).

I have a sneaky suspicion it may have been the children’s TV show, Blue Peter that introduced me to Mike Oldfield. He re-recorded the theme tune, and I remember them making a big thing about that.

Anyway, bought the album I did, and for an extended period of my life I would come home from school – and later, work – and play this album (or the follow up, Tubular Bells II) all the way through, both sides.

And then one day I just stopped. And I haven’t listened to it since. Weird.

FAVE ALBUM #4: Faith, George Michael

I’ve never been a fan of “manufactured” pop, and I have a particular loathing of “the boy band”. Remember Kajagoogoo? Or Bros? Can we all just pretend that those particularly low points in musical history never actually happened?

My LEAST favourite boy band of all time was, of course, Wham! With the notable exception of “Everything She Wants” every song was awful, and I honestly can’t listen to “Last Christmas” without wanting to drill holes in my ears.

When Wham! finally split – and every girl in the land went into a collective mourning – I have to confess that I was secretly relieved.

Then, a few months later, a curious thing happened. George Micheal released his debut album and… it was good.

Like… really good.

Really really good.

And in that moment I realised something profound: Andrew Ridgeley had been holding George back.

What a terrible legacy.

After Faith I bought every single one of George’s albums.

I’m genuinely very sad that he’s no longer around. For me, there’s still a George shaped hole in the world of popular music.

FAVE ALBUM #5: Greatest Hits, Queen

I grew up in the seventies. This means that by the time I was saving my paper round money and walking into town every Saturday morning to buy records, Queen already had at least one Greatest Hits albums. This, however, is the one I bought.

In my head at least, I still own this album. By which I mean, if challenged, I could probably sing every single track of the album, in the correct order, without getting a single word wrong.

Want more?

Come back tomorrow for five more albums, and feel free to tell me about your favourite albums in the comments below.


Wait… looking for a fun read (with absolutely no mention of lockdown)?

For one week only my three novels are just 99p each. That’s better than half price! But only until Friday 22nd May…

My Girlfriend’s Perfect Ex Boyfriend – A Laugh-Out-Loud Rom-Com
Meet Adrian Turner; Mountaineer, Secret Agent, Fireman… Ade would dearly like to be any of these things, though he’d trade them all to win the heart of Paige, who despite being Ade’s girlfriend for the past eighteen months, still seems to have one foot out of the door, and hasn’t quite committed to leaving a toothbrush in the bathroom. Of course, it doesn’t help that she’s working with her ex-boyfriend, Sebastian…
[Find out more]

The Truth About This Charming Man – A Crime Comedy
Meet William Lewis. All Will’s ever wanted in life, is to be an actor. That is, until he met Rachel – Beautiful. Beguiling. And married. To cut-throat venture capitalist Michael Richmond. So that’s the end of that. Or is it?
[Find out more]

The Good Guy’s Guide To Getting The Girl – A Very Funny Love Story
Jason Smith, 29, self-confessed ‘good guy’, is single. Finally. But now that he is, all the girls he’d happily give up one side of his bed for – like, for instance, his old school crush Melanie Jackson – are married, crazy, or in love with the office heart-throb. And then Jason stumbles on a fool-proof way to meet the kind of exciting, fun woman he’s always dreamed about…
[Find out more]

If you’re reading this in an email, why not forward it to a friend?

What I thought of… A Star is Born #movie #review

WARNING: CONTAINS SPOILERS

I watched a Star Is Born last night. And my overwhelming feeling as the credits started to roll? One of bitter disappointment.

This is a film that’s been remade three times. The plot basically follows the same story as the previous three incarnations, including the 1972 version staring Barbra Streisand: burnt out rock/country star comes across an unknown quirky singer songwriter and in so doing gives her the opportunity of a lifetime.

In this re-telling, ‘Ally’ gets snapped up by a major record label, who proceed to transform her from a likeable sassy singer into a glossy pop princess girating to trashy tacky songs about boyfriends and texting. And because of the (some might say) unlikely casting of Lady Gaga in the title role, we watch as a likeable, streetwise gal gradually morphs into someone who bears more than a striking resemblance to her real life persona – all whilst Bradly Cooper’s character disappears down a drug fuelled drunken spiral of jealousy and despair.

After an hour and a half of watching two celebrities spinning out of control, we finally get to the point where he’s cleaned himself up, and she has to choose between her career and her rock star husband.

Bradley Cooper – who not only starred in, but produced and directed this version – stays faithful to the original plot. And this is my beef with the film. Because whilst the grim ending might be ‘more realistic’, it is, in my mind, hollow and dissatisfying.

The film ends with Lady Gaga’s character relaunching her career off the back of the heartfelt love song her husband wrote for her. There’s a fleeting second when it looks as if the screenwriters are going to pull a Sliding Doors moment out of the bag, and show us an alternative ending – one where both characters pick each other over the wishes of their evil money-grabbing manager… but it never comes. Life, so says the film, just doesn’t work that way.

Forgive me if this makes me feel just a teeny bit angry. Because surely our job – as story tellers – isn’t to reflect how the world allegedly works – that if you finally get the creative break you’ve longed for your whole life it will chew you up and spit you out. Rather, isn’t the point of a good story to show people at their very best; how things could be, and should be. Because ironically, when you actually look at real life, it turns out people can come through the shittest of experiences, only to surprise themselves and us. Take a look at “Rocket Man” or “Bohemian Rhapsody” if you don’t believe me. Two movies about the music-industry, based on true stories, where the hero manages to rise above himself and ‘the inevitable’.

By all means tell me a cautionary tale if you must, but at the very least show me how it could have been different.

As my grandfather used to say, I don’t need real-life in my entertainment, I have enough of that… in real life.

What did you think of it? Tell me in the comments below.

What I thought of… The first fifteen lives of Harry August #book #review

Every now and then a book comes along which, when you’ve finished reading it, you’re pretty sure is not only the best book you’ve ever read, but is likely to remain that way for the rest of your life.

That’s how I felt when I read THE TIME TRAVELLERS WIFE by Audrey Niffenegger; I couldn’t see how anything could possibly beat it.

Then something did.

A friend bought me JONATHAN STRANGE AND MR NORREL, and by the time I finished it, it had squeezed itself into the number one slot. I couldn’t look at THE TIME TRAVELLERS WIFE on my bookcase without feeling terribly guilty.

(Incidentally, let’s not confuse the novel THE TIME TRAVELLERS WIFE with the movie adaptation which was a steaming pile of horse poo.)

I held JS&MN aloft for many years, creating a shrine for it surrounded by candles in a dedicated room in my basement. No small feat considering that I live in a first floor flat.

Then one day I discovered Miss Niffenegger had written another novel. And a few weeks later I became convinced that nothing, NOTHING, could ever be better than HER FEARFUL SYMMETRY. Audrey once again occupied my top slot. How could I have ever doubted her.

Until recently.

A couple of months back I finished THE FIRST FIFTEEN LIVES OF HARRY AUGUST by Claire North. For the second time. And Oh My God!

Chapter one is your standard ‘something very strange is happening – how on earth did we get to this point!?’ malarkey.

Chapter two (which is when the story really starts) begins with Harry August describing his illegitimate birth – and death of his mother – in a public toilet, on a railway station platform, in the dead of night, in 1919.

I’m not going to lie to you. This second chapter is hard going. I could have easily put the book down at this point. I’m so glad I didn’t.

Then in chapter three Harry grows up, Harry gets old, Harry dies. And then Harry gets reborn. In a public toilet, on a railway station platform, in the dead of night, in 1919.

And so begins the story of a man who soon discovers he is a kalachakra; a person destined to live the same life over and over and over again, but able to retain the knowledge of their previous lives.

Just like THE TIME TRAVELLERS WIFE much of the book explores what it might be like to live with such an extraordinary gift. Is it even a gift!? Is it… a curse? How would you cope knowing that for you there is no heaven, no hell… no end?! That you’re essentially immortal, but only within the same 70 years of human history. Like 25,567 Ground Hog days laid out end to end.

And what if – after your third or fourth life – you suddenly discover you’re not the only one?

This is one of those rare books where I got to the end, and immediately started reading again – right from the start. I’m glad I did too; some of the plot was easier to understand the second time through. Much like life, one imagines.

And when I finished the book, that second time, I was bereft. Because I knew – in my heart of hearts – that no other book will ever be as good, and that I will never again have any need to go into my basement.

Although… it has been a while since I had a look to see whether Audrey’s written anything new…

Got a book suggestion for me – why not pop it in the comments below. If you’re reading this in an email, click here.

What I thought of… The Greatest Showman #movie #review

Back when I was a wee lad, my parents took me to see the stage show Barnham. I can’t remember much about it to be honest. Other than barely being tall enough to see over the seat in front of me, let alone the person sitting in it! However, the fact that my parents thought I might enjoy it, and took me “all the way to London” (we only lived in Chelmsford) left its mark on me. Ever since then I’ve always been curious about both the show, and the story, of Barnham.

So a few weeks back, I like many many other people before me, went off to the local pictures to see The Greatest Showman, starring Hugh Jackman etc, and… well.. I was disappointed.

I wanted to like it, really I did. I really thought it would be my kind of thing. Just as I also thought it wasn’t a musical. Am I the only one who was surprised by that? When I saw the trailer a few months back, I could have sworn there wasn’t any music in it!

Not that I have a problem with musicals, oh no; Dream Girls for instance, is a very good film. Moulin Rouge, also good. Heck, even The Sound Of Music would be considered by many many people as an all time classic! However, in this case, the music – which wasn’t bad – just seemed to get in the way of what could have been, and should have been, a really excellent film. Each and every time we the audience should have been learning more about a character – their background, their motivations – along would come yet another dance routine, to stomp all over the opportunity. It was tiresome. Irritating even.

In the end I stopped paying attention (because there really wasn’t much to pay attention to) and my mind started to wander, and ponder, and do all those things that it does when faced with something that clearly isn’t working. The conclusion I came to was that the film might work better on stage. In fact, the more I thought about it the more I began to suspect that this movie might just be the beginnings of a larger strategy, to syndicate a long running show here in the West End and/or on Broadway?

By the time the film came to an end the whole thing felt like unsatisfying froth.

But that’s just me.

What did you think of it? Tell me in the comments below.

What I thought of… Man Up #movie #review

This week I saw Man Up.

This is another movie that I’d been putting off watching, mainly because

a) sometimes Simon Pegg movies ain’t all that great (I think he set the bar quite high with Shaun of the Dead) and

b) the title was putting me off. It really is a terrible title.

But you know what, terrible title aside, it was great! Dialogue, plot, casting, direction… all good.

At least I thought so.

Which is why I was surprised to discover that The Guardian absolutely slated it, giving it a paltry one star, and even referring to Lake Bell’s British accent as merely ‘passable’. Passable!? Until I watched the extras I genuinely had no idea that she wasn’t a born and bread Londoner!

The general gist of the film is this: Nancy (played by Lake Bell) is 34, single, and a combination of slightly desperate mixed with really can’t be arsed with it all.

On the way to her parents 40th Wedding anniversary she finds herself standing underneath the clock on Waterloo Station when 40-something Jack (played by Simon Pegg) mistakes her for his blind date. Caught between that awkward moment of will you shut up and let me explain that I’m not your date and this is the closest I’ve got to a proper date in months, Nancy makes the bonkers decision not to set Jack straight… and so starts the best date of her life.

Now if that sounds far fetched perhaps I should come clean and point out that I have, on more than one occasion, arranged to meet blind dates on Waterloo station, and like Jack, I have approached women who I mistakenly thought might be the woman I was due to meet.

Anyway – as for the rest of the movie, well it’s true that the film does lose its way in a couple of places (basically when Rory Kinnear’s character rocks up – shame, I like Rory Kinnear), but as soon as we’re past that point the story manages to get itself back on track, and hurtles towards the slightly predictable, but still hugely enjoyable, conclusion.

Still not sure about the title though.

Anyway, what did you think?


This just in… 

If you’re a fan of Rom-Com (Romantic Comedy), you might be interested to know that my novel The Good Guy’s Guide To Getting The Girl is a mere 99p. Download it NOW for your smart phone, tablet, or kindle… but hurry, the price goes up in a day or two.

(The FREE kindle reading app is available for everything. Seriously; EVERYTHING.)

What I thought of…. Passengers #movie #review

So I finally got to see Passengers.

I originally wanted to see this movie at the cinema because, from the trailer at least, it looked like my kind of flick combining two of my favourite subjects in fiction; science & technology, and romantic relationships.

But then the reviews started rolling in and every one I dared to glance at suggested that the film, whilst good, was also a disappointment – specifically ‘the ending’. And the last thing you want to feel as you walk out of the cinema is ‘disappointed’.

So I bumped Passengers to my ‘when it comes out on DVD’ list, and yesterday, finally, it made it to the the top. And can I just say… what film were those reviewers watching!??

Firstly, it’s not quite the lovey-dovey, explodey-wodey, romance-in-space slash adventure-popcorn-fest that I thought it would be. It’s quite a lot smarter than that. It starts funny, moves to heartwarming, but half way through the film I found myself nervously biting my nails and genuinely wondering if the so-called unsatisfactory ending was going to be a lot darker and more sinister than I would have liked. It’s a movie that doesn’t want to fit comfortably in one genre.

I won’t spoil it for you, but here’s the back-of-the-box blurb (or at least, how I would have written it) because the trailer, whilst good, is REALLY misleading: Jim Preston (played by Chris Pratt) is one of 5000 passengers on a 120 year one-way trip to Earth’s newest, and most distant, colony. But when the ship (on auto pilot) encounters unexpected problems, a computer malfunction results in Jim – and just Jim – being brought out of hyper sleep 90 years too early. After a year of going steadily out of his mind trying everything he can to either wake the crew, or figure out how to get back in his pod, he comes to the conclusion that there are only two remaining options: Jettison himself out of the airlock without a spacesuit, or wake someone to be his companion, thereby condemning someone else to a similar fate.

It’s brilliant: Cracking performances throughout, fabulous special effects, completely believable and most importantly of all… a fantastic plot. INCLUDING the ending, which in my mind was just perfect. Honestly, I don’t see how it could have been better.

But maybe you disagree. Post your thoughts in the comments below – including perhaps the ending you would have liked to have seen.


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What I thought of… King Kong (2005) #movie #review

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So apparently there’s another King Kong movie.

Well WHAT A RELIEF! I mean, there was I breaking into a cold sweat wondering if the powers that be had run out of movie ideas or if they were going to be forced to remake ‘Spider Man’ for the umpteenth time… oh wait.

Anyway, it was whilst I was having this very conversation with a friend of mine that I was reminded that the last King Kong movie, in 2005, was really rather good – a point which I was unable to dispute because somehow I never saw it. So, I punched up my LoveFilm app and rented it right away, (first person to mention NetFlix gets a slap) – and a week or so later I was watching Jack Black lark about with an oversized monkey. Here’s what I thought of the movie (warning: this review contains some spoilers):

It’s too darn long.

Jeepers it’s long. Honestly, there are times when I wondered whether it was EVER going to end, and I think part of the reason it feels so drawn out (although this isn’t just a feeling, it is 3hrs+) is because at times King Kong is nothing more than a dull monster flick.

A common problem with films of today, in my humble opinion, is that they spend too long on fight sequences, car chases and special effects. It’s as if filmmakers find themselves struggling to spend the zillion pound budget they’ve acquired, and so they shoe horn in another explosion, or a few more more car crashes, or something else to go whizz bang pow. But the thing is, we’ve seen it before – 1,000 times! In 3D! And in Dolby Stereo! Even back in 2005! That stuff isn’t impressive any more! Get on with the bloody story!

In Kong’s case, there are long drawn out sequences where Peter Jackson (director) actually seems to have forgotten all about Kong and Ann Darrow (Naomi Watts) preferring instead to concentrate on the other characters and yet another run in with more dinosaurs or overgrown bugs. Which would be absolutely fine if this were Jurrassic Park, because that’s the point of Jurassic Park, but this is King Kong! The clue is in the title.

In fact, now that we’ve mentioned Jurassic Park, there were moments when I caught myself thinking WWSD (What Would Spielberg Do). There’s a scene for instance when Carl Denham (Jack Black) drops his camera and loses all the footage he’s been filming. It’s a pivotal point in the story, and it’s over in a heart beat. Whoops – dropped my camera – bugger. Now, were Spielberg in the directors chair that camera would have rolled down a hill, fallen through a crack in the ground formed by an earthquake, and after being tossed in the air by a passing dinosaur, it would end up hanging on a flimsy branch by its shoulder strap, inches from Carl’s finger tips. But he can’t quite reach, and he’s forced to crawl his way along the branch, on his belly, 150 feet above a river of flowing lava, and just as his fingers touch the strap… well you get the idea.

One thing Spielberg wouldn’t have done is forget about the relationship between Ann and Kong, which is the WHOLE POINT of the story. But somehow, despite the film being over THREE HOURS LONG, we barely scratch the surface of what is, in essence, a story of the world’s most unlikely romance.

Two other things bugged me; Jack Black seems wrong for the role. Don’t get me wrong, he’s still excellent, but somehow not villainous enough. And that’s my second beef. The villain doesn’t get his come uppance! So he loses his monster on the opening night of his show. Big deal! WWSD? He’d have had Carl standing on the sidewalk, looking up, when the hairy one eventually falls from the Empire State building, and… squish.

But maybe I’m wrong. Maybe it’s the best over-sized gorilla love-story remake of our generation, and the new one will feel like a half-hearted rip-off. Have your say in the comments below…

(Trailers for the 2005 film, AND the new 2017 film below)

And now compare with this year’s offering…

What I thought of… Money Monster #movie #review

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You know when you add something to your Love Film list and then it arrives and you’re all like, ‘why did I order this?’, and the DVD kind of sits in your living room for days and days, sometimes weeks, until eventually you force yourself to give it ten minutes!? No? Just me then?

Anyway, that’s what happened with MONEY MONSTER. Despite having George Clooney in it, I had zero desire to watch the film and almost put it back in the post unwatched.

There were two things putting me off.

Firstly it has Julia Roberts in it. Now don’t get me wrong, Julia Roberts is a very accomplished actress. Every film I have ever seen her in was, I admit, good. Sometimes it was very good. But there’s something about the woman I find off putting. There’s a part of my psyche that says she’s a wrong-un, and this is despite having seen her in interview several times where I have been shocked to notice how nice she seems.

The second off putting thing about this film is the poster. What does this say to you? To me it says this is a film that’s gritty, hard hitting, devoid of humour, and probably difficult to get your head around – which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, because The Big Short is really hard to get your head around, but totally worth the effort, whereas this looks like it might be 90 minutes of your life that you’ll never get back.

How wrong I was.

It’s marvellous. Just marvellous. Directed by Jodie Foster (I wish I’d realised that whilst i was agonising over whether to watch it), it tells the story of what happens when a disgruntled amateur share dealer decides to storm onto the set of a popular money-markets TV show and wielding a pistol, and a vest lined with explosives, demands ‘justice’ for losing his life savings on the stock market due to the poor advice offered by the show’s host, Lee Gates (George Clooney). The NYPD hostage guy turns out to be completely incompetent, and it’s down to TV Producer Patty Fenn (Julia Roberts) to direct the show of her career.

It’s gripping, funny, believeable, thought provoking, and above all hugely enjoyable. And as Jodie Foster says in the DVD extras, it’s the sort of film that has you talking long after the final credits roll.

Have you seen it? Feel free to let me know what you thought in the comments below.