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What I thought of…. Passengers #movie #review

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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… 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.

What I thought of… Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them #movie #review

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FANTASTIC BEASTS AND WHERE TO FIND THEM

It’s been a while since I did a ‘what I thought of’ blog post, so yesterday – as part of a Boxing Day – I toddled off to the cinema to see JK Rowling’s Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them.

Now, I probably ought to mention at this point that I’m not a huge fan of the Harry Potter films (though I read the first three books before they started making the movies). The films are okay. I mean, I’d happily watch two and three again anytime, the others… well they were a bit of a yawn fest. Especially the last one. IMHO. Sorry about that.

*This* on the other hand was an absolutely delight, and if it had been twice as long I’d have sat there as happy as a pig in muck.

Interestingly, as I left the cinema, I came to the conclusion that although it doesn’t seem like it at the beginning, the whole film is a little light on plot. Sure, there’s a big swirly thing tearing up New York, there are magical monsters running amok, there’s a small group of stern looking people who’ve just about had it up to here with the Witch/Wizarding community, and there’s a non–magical person caught up in the middle of it all… but… well… it’s not quite as involved as it may appear. There’s the odd *twist* but you can see them coming a mile off (and I speak as someone who was genuinely surprised by the ending of Sixth Sense when everybody else I know seemed to think that was obvious from the beginning). But it doesn’t really matter; the characters are lovely, the dialogue is tight, the effects are amazing, and the magical creatures are fabulous – it’s all good. I look forward to the next one.

But what did you think? Have your say in the comments below.

What I thought of… SPECTRE #movie #review

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Just got back from seeing SPECTRE, and… I liked it. I’d go as far to say it was the best Bond movie since Tomorrow Never Dies (everything after that was pretty much ‘meh’ apart from The World Is Not Enough which was just diabolical).

Anyway, back to SPECTRE; it’s not going to be a Bond movie that you look back in years to come with fond recollections, but, hey, those days are probably long gone because

  1. we’re older and
  2. the world has changed.

It is however a good story, and for once the action sequences are more than just a tiresome excuse to spend a gizzillion dollars.

Two things particularly struck me;

  1. the relentless number of cheeky references to famous scenes from all the other bond movies (it really is like every time they needed some action they just dug out a few pages from an old script – but I’m not complaining – it works) and
  2. Monica Bellucci’s magical basque which she definitely isn’t wearing under her dress, but then somehow mysteriously acquires by the very next shot! That did seem odd. But maybe I’m the only one who notices when an attractive woman is laying on her bed in expensive lingerie.

What did you lot think?

Who could play which part in a movie of 'The Good Guy's Guide To Getting The Girl'?

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A while back Michelle Ward of Phoenix FM asked me – live on air – who would play which part, were The Good Guy’s Guide To Getting The Girl ever made into a film.

At the time I didn’t know how to answer the question, but only because I have an absolutely shocking memory for names, and when asked to recall the name of someone I should know, unless they’re called Mum or Dad, there’s a gaping hole in my memory where that name should be. (It’s so bad I once turned up at my local writer’s circle and made everyone wear name badges for the evening. True story.)

ANYWAY… truth is, I did know, and have always known, who would (or could) play each role, were my novel suddenly destined for the silver screen.

Back in those early heady days of bashing out the book, my friend Wendy criticised me for being a little scant on my character description. “I don’t know what these people look like,” she said. I mumbled some rubbish about wanting my readers to make up their own mind and she probably gave me one of her looks, because I went straight home and spent the next few hours on google finding images of actors & actresses that reminded me of the characters I’d created. I printed those pictures off, stuck them on the notice board in my office, and glanced up at it frequently whenever I was writing.

Here then, are those pictures. And I’d love to know what you think. Post your thoughts, feelings, or alternative casting ideas in the comments at the bottom of this page (or here if you’re reading this in an email)

Alex (Nick Frost)Alex (Nick Frost)

“This mine?” asked Alex. He drained two thirds, wiped his mouth with the back of his hand, let out a satisfied belch, then sat down next to me. “Where’s yours?” he asked, after a moment or two. I stared at a fleck of melting snow caught in the stubble on his face and the pathetic strands of damp blond hair glued to a forehead that had once sported an impressive quiff.

I’ve always admired Nick Frost, and I have no doubt whatsoever that he’d be absolutely perfect for the role of Alex so long as someone keeps him in a permanently bad mood throughout the shooting of the movie. (Alex doesn’t smile. Or laugh. Or joke.)

James Corden might also be good for the role if you could get him to stop smiling for two seconds.

Melanie (Jessica Alba)Melanie (Jessica Alba)

“Jason?” I looked up into two gorgeous emerald green eyes, and froze. Those were her eyes. My field of vision widened to take in her nose. Regal in nature. That was definitely her nose. Then there was the slightly coy, but nonetheless playful smile. And those beautiful white teeth. And that hair, tumbling out from under a cerise beret – even though she was now a blonde my heart wasn’t fooled for a moment; it was still her. And all at once I was fourteen again, trombone in hand, looking across at her from my place in the brass section.

It’s just not possible to make a movie these days without a token American – not if you want that movie to be shown anywhere other than good old blighty. So here’s mine. Jessica Alba. She’s the kind of woman who you imagine she’d probably be in soft focus, even if you met her in real life, and as such she would be absolutely perfect in the role of Jason’s old school crush, Melanie.

Liz (Rachel Weisz)Liz (Rachel Weisz)

She was wearing one of my sweaters. And though it was gigantic on her petite frame, it looked good on her. Certainly better than it did on me, although any hint of a bosom was lost within its deep woollen folds. Still, I liked the way her hair fell long and straight to the centre of her back, and though I’d long since given up on seeing her in some sort of skirt or dress, those skinny jeans were very flattering. I could almost fancy her if she wasn’t – well, if she wasn’t Liz.

Jason’s girlfriend Liz – who becomes and ex-girlfriend pretty much by the end of the first page – needs to be played by an actress who can pull off fierce & domineering, but not in such a way that you’re left wondering why Jason would go for such a woman in the first place. Rachel Weisz – seen here pulling her hair out in frustration – is such a actress.

Sian (Rebecca Hall)Sian (Rebecca Hall)

“Jason – come on!” said Sian, leaning back in her chair and opening her arms. “I’m a ten minute cab ride from you! I guarantee there will be no boring people, everything Sainsbury’s has to offer in the way of alcohol and, best of all,” she lowered her voice for a moment, “it’s fancy dress!! Woohoo!!” Sian jigged around in her chair with as much energy as office etiquette would allow, her skinny arms going up and down like pistons, her head rolling from side to side to the sound of the music in her head, all in an effort to demonstrate what larks awaited me at her party.

Jason’s party loving work colleague needs to be played by a slender woman, who looks every bit the efficient project manager, whilst at the same time being able to carry off an outfit made entirely of black feathers, with a bottle of vodka in her hand.

Gary (Jack Hudson)Gary (Jack Huston)

Though the Batman mask covered most of his face, I knew who it was from the sheer arrogance of his swagger. Whether he was walking to the photocopier, or jumping the queue in the staff canteen, Gary swaggered like he owned the very ground beneath his feet. And now he was swaggering in our direction.

Tricky one this. And I confess to getting some help when it came to finding an actor who would have every woman in the audience swooning, whilst at the same time being a complete and utter bastard. Mr Hudson looks like he’d have no problem playing such a role, though I’m sure he’s positively delightful in real life.

Charlotte (Keira Knightly)Charlotte (Keira Knightly)

If anyone ever doubted the existence of God, Charlotte was proof that he was alive and well. No one that beautiful could have come into existence without some kind of divine intervention. Tall, slender, elegant, and utterly sexual without even realizing it. Even her starkly conservative, prim and proper clothes became uncharacteristically erotic the longer they remained in contact with her.

Clearly, Business Analyst Charlotte needs to pack some punch when it comes to elegant beauty. Let’s hope Keira Knightly is available.

 

Ria (Gemma Arterton)Ria (Gemma Arterton)

That was the moment I should have slid back out of the door and made my retreat, but instead I craned my head to see the owner of the voice, and saw the confident, swaying, curvaceous rear of a slender woman in tight three-quarter length trousers and strappy heels that flirted with the floor just long enough to keep her upright. Hands with long fingers drew small circles at the end of beautiful bare arms, whilst freckled shoulders supported a head that rolled and flicked a punky mop of the most vivid, poppy-red, bobbed hair I’d ever seen.

Sassy salsa dancing nurse Ria, needs to be played by an actress with the attitude to match. And for several years this picture of Gemma Arterton, which is still on the pin board even now, was consulted each and every time I needed to describe Ria’s beguiling features. What though, you might be asking yourself, would Ms Arterton look like with red hair? I confess that I’d absolutely love to find out.

Dave Fells (Bill Nighy)Dave Fells (Bill Nighy)

“Yeah, but he’s not exactly Hugh Heffner, is he?” said a male voice from around the corner created by the stairwell. The owner of the voice walked into view, a cordless phone wedged between his shoulder and ear whilst he used his hands to light a cigarette. He was taller and older than I’d expected, skinny to the point of being undernourished, but the ripped jeans and faded Iron Maiden t-shirt were somehow exactly what I’d envisaged.

Every movie needs to good cameo appearance, and Bill Nighy would be bloomin’ awesome in the role of glamour photographer Dave Fells

Jason Smith (???)Jason Smith

“You still here?”

I sat bolt upright, startled by the sound of someone else in my flat.

“Err – yes. Hold on!” I yelled back, whilst I tried to manage the questions filling up my head: Who was I? Where was I? What time was it? What day was it? Who was the person downstairs? Why were they announcing their presence? Why did they seem surprised that I was here? And why did it feel like I’d only had four hours’ sleep?

Answers started coming back, though not necessarily in the order that I’d asked them: Martin the builder. He had a key. I was at home. In bed. He expected me to be at work. Which meant that it was Monday, past nine in the morning, and I’d overslept, again, because I’d been surfing the internet until the small hours. Which meant I was Jason Smith, from Essex, England. I felt both better and worse all at the same time.

The one thing I really can’t stand, when reading a novel, is creating an image of what the lead character looks like in my head, only to discover a few pages later that I have him or her completely wrong. Especially if I’m supposed to identify with this character or fall in love with them. So forgive me if I seem somewhat reluctant to share my casting ideas for Jason, because until that momentous day when someone does decide this story is worthy of the silver screen, I think it’s important that Mr Smith looks exactly like you want him to look. That said, I am quite intrigued as to  what that would be… so feel free to share your Jason casting thoughts with me (and everyone else) in the comments.


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Hot news; my debut novel The Good Guy’s Guide To Getting The Girl is part of Amazon’s 99p Summer Book Promotion. Get my quirky, lad-lit, rom-com for less than a quid! But hurry – the promo is for July only!

The film will be along some time in the next decade.

What I thought of… Man of Steel #movie #review

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Superman-The-Man-of-Steel-Movie-bearded-Clark-Kent-by-actor-Henry-Cavill

Finally got around to watching Man of Steel​ last night. To be honest I’d been warned that it was a bit of a damp squib, and consequently I spent the first twenty minutes with my finger poised over the EJECT button on the remote control. But you know what, it wasn’t bad.

Helped significantly by a really strong cast (there are famous faces popping up every five minutes – and Henry Cavill is absolutely perfect in the lead role) it’s basically an interesting re-telling of the origin story we’re already familiar with – and in some ways it’s a remake of Superman I & II (back when Christopher Reeve​ was in the role)… with one notable absence. There’s no Lex Luthor​. Just a fleeting mention to Lexcor on the side of a truck!

That said, it starts well, and the story is pretty strong… until, that is, the bad guys rock up in earnest. At this point the film nose dives into one tediously long special effects fight sequence after another – and they go on, and on, and on, and on!

I could have forgiven it for this if the ultimate conclusion of all this fighting, loss of life and destruction had been some clever plot twist where Clark saves the day because of his superior morality, or because of his human upbringing, or because of a flaw in the villan’s logic, or because of his love for Lois, or something other than just finally managing to get the Emperor Zog (or whatever his name is) in a head lock. But no. That’s it! You’ve just watched an hour of computerised wrestling. Tedious!

A little more witty banter wouldn’t have gone amiss either.

Where’s the EJECT button?

Despite these failings I made it to the end, and it was ‘ok’. And if there’s a sequel it might be worth a look. Let’s just hope they get a better writer for the screenplay.

What I thought of… Kingsman The Secret Service #movie #review

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kingsman

A while back I was having a chat with me ol’ pal Chris​ about what makes a good Bond Movie. In my mind the ingredients are: humour, suaveness, Britishness, gadgets, girls, & world domination. But over the past decade (pretty much since Daniel Craig stepped into the role), Bond movies seem to have sacrificed some of those elements in favour of ‘realism’, and in so doing they’ve become somewhat ‘meh’  – they’ve actually lost their quintessential Bondness.

As if to prove my point, ‘Kingsman: The Secret Service​’ has all of those Bond-essentials in spades and as such feels more like a Bond movie than anything else I may have seen in the past ten years. I actually sat in the cinema and felt somewhat nostalgic.

That said it’s definitely a film for a modern audience: It has the same sort of gloss that you expect from a superhero movie – rather than ‘grit & shadows’ that you’d assume a spy movie should have – but unlike a superhero movie it’s extremely violent. And somewhat gory. Maybe too gory. In that respect it appears to borrow from some of the more ridiculous horror movies – and I’m not a huge fan of horror movies. But that’s just me.

It’s interesting to see Colin Firth playing the action hero though, which he pulls off with considerable ease.

Anyway, I enjoyed it, I’d watch it again in a heart beat and I hope there’ll be a sequel (though without giving too much away I can’t see how they’d be able to do that) – but it’s definitely one for your Potential Boxing Day list.