Monday, 31 January 2011

A Star is Born

As has been mentioned before I am taking the opportunity of HD TV to see again films from the past seven decades and although familiar with A Star is Born and the performance of Judy Harland my attention this occasion was directed to James Mason. She was nominated for the best actress Oscar which was one by Grace Kelly. She was sin hospital giving birth to her son Joey at the time. Mason was also nominated for an Oscar and with Judy won Golden Globes. She took a Bafta also in that year.

Mason plays Norman Maine a matinee idol whose career is in decline and has taken to drinking binges in which he becomes aggressive and difficult to control. He crashes on to the stage of a show where Garland in performing and she behaves as if he part of the act and arouses applause for the appearance. He is grateful and watches her perform in an after hours club and tells her she has talent and should stay rather than go off with the band where she is the soloist. He triggers the ambition within her and she stays although doe snot expect he will follow up his offer to introduce her to his film studios.

He is serious in his intention but is called away to begin location filming and although he tried to get into contact he cannot remember her address. His effort to find her fail until he hears a voice over commercial he is successful this time and arranges an audition at the film studios where she is taken on as a contract artist. This means a weekly pay cheque and access to studio facilities and media but not necessarily a major move part, Knowing that the studio are looking for a lead in a new musical he arranges for the studio head to hear her sing and she gets the part, is given a name change, the film is a success and she becomes internally famous. The relationship between the two develops and she takes the initiative in suggesting marriage which he is hesitant knowing his problems and track record. Te film hen shows them having a wonderfully happy relationship as she becomes an internationally recognised actor and performer and his career comes to an end and he loses himself in alcohol.. The problem reaches a climax when she receives an Oscar and in a drunken state attempts to join her on stage and accidentally hits her in the face, He enters a recovery centre and with her support makes progress.

In the past he has used his position to tell the studio publicist what to do and refused to cooperate in planned publicity for their marriage. When they meet up at a race track he his taunted by the publicist about his situation and they fight, goes on a drinking binge and is arrested. He is taken home and goes to bed but overhears his wife saying she plans to give up her career to care for him. He breaks down at the thought of what he has done to himself and his wife and walks into the nearby ocean to drown. She becomes a recluse in her distress and a friend asks her to honour a previous commitment to appear at a Charity show and when she appears she is invited to say a few words to the international audience. She says Hello everybody, This is Mrs Norman Maine and the audience bursts into a standing ovation and the films ends with understanding that she continues in the career which is what her husband wanted.

The back story is that the Director George Cukor wanted Cary Grant in to play Maine but he refused because he did not want to appear with Garland who had become a drug addict and her reputation for unreliability. Humphrey Bogart, Frank Sinatra and Stewart Granger were all considered before the British actor was offered and accepted the role. The film was originally three hours in length and then cut down to two and a half hours. The film manages to combine the best of the Hollywood musical of the era with a drama about a subject which continues to ruin lives at all levels of society.

Sex Drugs and Rock and Roll

This was the question I also asked of Ian Drury whose biographical story I also viewed entitled Sex, Drugs and Rock and Roll. There is an excellent performance by Andy Serkis(Gollum Lord of the Rings) as the troubled entertainer. However it is difficult to believe that the feel will appeal to anyone other than fans of the performer. The film tries to explain his anarchistic and authority hostile life in which in one instance his son gets hold of drugs used by Ian and his associates. In flashbacks the suggestion is made that he was always a rebel, throwing a fish at a master at school which he did not want to eat resulting in the cane.

According to Wikipedia he had a working class father and mother from a middle class background. His father was a boxer and a bus driver who became a Rolls Royce Chauffer and was an absentee husband for long periods resulting he his wife taking the boy to live with her parents in Cornwall coinciding with World War II. The family as a unit then moved to Switzerland where his father worked for a millionaire. His mother then returned to England to live with her sister and while father made visits the couple did not live together again.

Aged seven he contracted polio, probably at a swimming pool where he lost the lower part of his leg according to film and was disabled with a limp consequentially. His aunt arranged for him to attended the Royal Grammar school Hugh Wycombe where he remained leaving the sixth form at 16 years gaining GCE’s in Englush Language and Literature as well as Art . I also gained the first two plus Mathematics. He then went to the Walthamstow School of Art and the Royal College of Art bur although he did some teaching he never became a professional artist because he realised he would not be good enough.

The past three days have been good ones I have immersed myself in reading the King’s Speech and making my notes in three parts. I stayed home today Friday 28th January rather an go for the early morning swim because I wanted to make progress and with the swim, even returning early for the Australian Tennis Semi Final involving Andy Murray, I would be tired for the morning and not at my best.

I debated the wisdom of the decision as soon as the match started as Murray seemed nervous, lacking the confidence to play his shots from the outset and for the great part of the first two sets they were well matches with both having the opportunity to break service of each other game after game. His opponent, the Spaniard David Ferrer conqueror of Nadal seemed to have the edge and took the first set and was in a point of taking the second. I switched away at that point. During this time he married his first wife and they had to children while in the film he appears to only have a son.

He then embarked on his subsequent life as a performer and song writer. He was a shouter more than a singer and he went in for earthy lyrics which some regard as having a poetic quality while others crude. He appears to have made infrequent visits home and according tot he film met someone on the road who became his mistress and subsequent his second wife although he remained on friendly terms with his first wife.

It was when he formed the Blockheads as a New Wave band that he became popular nationally although his strength was in his theatrical live performances in which he was something of a clown. The most famous number was Hit me with your rhythm stick followed by Sex Drugs and Rock and Roll. The Blockheads lasted five years and then reformed in 1987. His battle with cancer commenced in 1996 lasting for four years dying in March 2000 aged 57 years. He remained a larger than life character on and off the stage. I am not sure the film does him any favours.


There is one aspect of the film which I have intentionally left out until now in that in the film the sister of the murdered girl is a Russian assassin. In the game She and her sister are the daughters/relatives of the Mafia boss and both are killed. Also in the game Max joins forces for a time with a Russian Mafia gang who are at war with the other Mafia organisation. It is the aspect of the Russian mafia which is the connecting link to my second film of the past three days, called Ronin.

A Rónin was a freelance Samurai, often an outcast because he not committed hara kiri when his master died. The concept of a man apart, a mercenary is the theme of the second action move of recent days directed by John Fankenheimer and distributed in 1998. Robert De Nero plays a main character along with Jean Reno. Sean Bean and Jonathan Pryce also have roles along with Natasha Skarsgárd.

She is a young Irish woman who is a Council member of the Republican Army although this is not disclosed to the special forces and intelligence operatives she hires for an action at the rate £5000 pounds a week for four weeks with a bonus of £20000 which means an expenditure of £160000 plus considerable expenditure on weapons and technical devices. The purpose of the action is to steal a comparatively small hand held metal box which is known to be conveyed in a convoy of vehicles full of armed professional security operatives, although what is in the box, when and where the action is to take place is to be revealed later.

The meeting of the men with Natascha takes place at a small bar on the outskirts of Paris where she works as a bar maid and after the men have been taken to a dormitory type room holding area she goes to meet her boss played by Jonathan Pryce and who we later learn is the a leader in the army and who is on the international wanted list. Sean Bean is exposed as someone without experience when the men go to collect the required arms from a dealer and realise it is a trap to get hold of the cash without giving any arms. He leaves so that there are only three left who complain that they will need at least two others.

This is refused because the IRA chief has told Natascha that the Russian mafia has arranged to purchase the case and they have to act quickly. They move to small hotel above a bar in Nice where they observe the villa where the box is held and plan to ambush the convoy on its way to meet the Russian buyers. How they know this is not disclosed.

There is a good ambush, gun fight and car chase with the usual thrills and spills and then one of the men, a Russian does a nifty switch and hands his colleagues a duplicate looking box filled with explosives intended to destroy the rest of the group and the man makes off with the box for the Russian Mafia who like the IRA sponsored team want the contents without making any payment. This aspect is not clear.

One of the trio of Rónin is shot in leg and is patched up and functions as a driver because of the disability. The trio continue to search for the box but with the objective of catching up with the Russian. Mercenaries used to acting only in their own interests now have a shared cause. They find out that there is a deal to sell the box using the Roman built arena at Arles as its backcloth. There is a gun fight and although the Russian escapes he is captured by the IRA Leader who has killed the already wounded Rónin in the car. Di Nero who has been shot in his body and Reno exit the arena to see Natascha leaving with the Russian and another, and the body of their comrade in arms dumped at the roadside. Now their objective has become revenge. Before this Di Nero is taken to a contact where his would is addressed.

The remaining Rónin then use contacts to successfully locate the whereabouts of the two IRA individuals and the Russian who has mailed the case to himself in Paris. When they locate the trio there is another car chase which ends with the vehicle with the trio falling from a motorway over pass to construction work below. The Russian escapes with the case and the two IRA officials are rescued by the construction workers, alive.

It is at this point that the Rónin works out that the case is similar to that used for ice skates and that a Russian company is performing in the French capital, We the audience already know this is so and that the lead Russian skater and Olympic Champion is the girl friend of the Russian behind the purchase. First the case is exchanged for cash but then the purchaser pulls a gun on the seller who warns that there is a sniper fixed on the ice skating girlfriend who will be killed if he does not signal he has the money and is on his way. He is shot and he skater is shot causing pandemonium in the stadium.

The IRA duo arrive and the man shoots the Russian for the case and then there is a gun fight with the two Rónin one of whom is wounded before killing the Irishman. They tell the girl to get away. There is a radio report of peace in Northern Ireland following the death if the IRA leader in Paris. The two remaining Rónin then are seen back in the cafe with Di Nero hoping to have contact with the IRA woman. When she does not arrive they depart their separate ways wishing each other well, but without knowing the contents of the case or caring. Now did I care about any of this? No. What is the point of the film? Well Rónin are Rónin, Security people are intentional mercenaries and criminals and terrorists lead a precarious life for money or some cause. One wonder how they get on with their parents and what kind of parents they would make!

Sunday, 30 January 2011

Max Payne

Sunday 30th January rapidly turned into woe Sunday after three good days and an overall good month as I developed into a good routine of swimming, art working, good television and good food and computer game play. My weight continues to be a problem which requires greater self discipline that has been shown over the past two months. I will leave the causes of the woe until later.

I have viewed several films, four of which I wish to write about, Max Payne, Ronin, Sex, Drugs and Rock and Roll and A star is Born.

It is usual for a game version to be created of successful adventure movies. Max Payne is an exception because the award winning video game first appeared in 2001 and it was because of its success that the decision was taken to create the movie which made over 100 million dollars at the box office but was generally disliked by critics and in particular by those disappointed because of the significant differences between film and game.

I have not played or viewed the game but what struck me about the film is that while their are lots of action sequences, shoot outs and explosions the is an underlying serious story as a film noir in which the wife and baby of Max are brutally and horrifically murdered shortly before he arrives home from work as a police detective. Their killing has the appearance of a robbery and while he manages to kill two of the murderers a third escapes and is not caught. Max overcome with grief and anger for revenge takes on back room task of administering the Cold Case records, which could not be brought to prosecution but are stored in the hope that they be solved or the crime admitted to in the future. He has also created his own record store in a large container in self storage which eh has equipped with storage units and filing boxes similar to those I used to transfer my books and papers from my former home, Newland House, to here and where I still have between one and two hundred two sort out as well as using others to store created artwork project sets.

In the game Max is working undercover for a Mafia boss trafficking a designed drug called Valkyr. The drug has hallucinatory effects as well as enhancing abilities. The three individuals who murdered his wife were on this drug. In both forms of media Max is drawn to the Metro underground by a tip off which involves his first shoot out. This is not as good a lead as he hopes.

The video game is said to commence with Max on top of skyscraper building as police units arrive whereas in the film he appears to be drowning, we later learn in icy cold water as the action has taken place in below zero wintry conditions with heavy snow falling and accumulated and which adds to dark and dangerous atmosphere of much of the film.

Because the opening shoot out does not produce anything which progresses his search he calls on the contact who provided the information as he is hosting he is hosting a party at which the drug is being used. He encounters an alluring young woman who then has an argument with another woman to is disclosed as her sister and who appears to be part of armed gang.

In the film he takes the young woman to his home to question her but she offers herself sexually and he tells he to leave. She is then brutally murdered in a grim, stark area between buildings and Max becomes a suspect because his police credential are found among the body remains, having been stolen by the girl. A former work colleagues who investigated the murder of his wife follows up a query from Max asking about a tattoo on the arm of the murdered girl and he finds the same emblem in a photo a photo of the murdered wife.

He contacts Max and arranges to meet him at his home with the information but on arrival Max finds the man also murdered. This alienates Max from the police colleagues and the man’s wife who blames Max because of his obsession to find the third killer of wife and baby. Max is then taken prisoner by the sister of the murdered girl under the impression he is responsible for her death, Max is able to convince her to join forces and search of the killer who he believes also killed his wife..

When Max is in hospital recovering from being knocked senseless as he discovered the death of the investigating detective, he is visited by another former colleague and friend who is now head of security at the pharmaceutical firm where the murdered wife worked and which has given a scholarship in her memory by the female chief executive of the organisation.

Max breaks into the office of the murdered officer who was investigating the case and in the file of the girl finds a name which appears to be a lead and together with the sister they go in search of the man who they locate in a derelict building but who appears very frightened and falls to his death in some hallucination although as this point it is not clear if it is a hallucination or some sinister bird like creature which was also evident before the death of the sister. Max is always being watched by a man from the roof tops thus giving the possibility that the man can change himself into some form of flying terror. Max and the girl visit a Tattoo parlour to make enquiries about the design found on the two murdered girl. It is explained as a protection emblem in Norse mythology but this is a red herring or sorts because later we learn that the emblem is that of the company where she worked. I discovered the full explanation for the reference to Norse mythology in the Wikipedia article on the game.

The Valkyries in Norse mythology are warrior women who looked over the battlefield and took those who died in valour. In both film and game the drug Valkrie was secretly developed by the firm under contract with the US military because of its fighting enhancing energy and confidence. In Norse mythology those taken by the Valkyries would fight for the Gods in their wars.

In the film the contract was ended following test uses made in the 1991 Gulf War but its production is continued to be sold as a recreational drug and used by some of the former soldiers who are in the pay of those running the continuing Valhalla enterprise. The computer network at the Valhalla centre is called Yggdrasil which is the name of the tree which connected the nine world in Norse Cosmology. The firm where the wife worked uses the same motif as the Tattoo for its corporate logo and is called Aesir and this is the name of the primary pantheon of Nordic Gods. The chief Executive of the firm has the surname Horn with a horn used in the myths to announce the start of the apocalypse, the Ragnarok and the Gothic nightclub in the game is called the Ragna Rock. The great snowstorm in which the events take place is a reference to an epic Winter which precedes the Ragnarok. In the game there is also a character called Wooden whose surname refers to Woden a version of Odin, the Norse God and there are also other references. These are not referred to in the film which concentrates on the relationship between his former friend as the Security Chief who has become the responsible for the Valhalla drug manufacture and distribution and which the Chief Executive also appears to have knowledge if not direct responsibility.

When Max goes to the firm to try and find out the link between his wife and emerging discoveries he learns from an executive of company about the drug and its uses and that his wife had found out and expressed concerned. This is the major fault with the storyline because given that Max was a detective and his reported closeness to his wife, she would have immediately shared any concerns with her husband so he would have known about the involvement of the firm and made known the murder was intentional.

In the film he then goes in search of the Valhalla enterprise without the help of the sister of the murdered girl and her armed gang. This is the second plot weakness. It enables Max to make the discovery, there is much shooting and a confrontation with the soldier who has been trailing him and is used as a red herring in terms of the identity of the third killer. The soldier is responsible for the death of sister and his detective friend cutting them to pieces with a sword. It is only at this point that Max finds out that the third killer was his former colleague and friend and present head of security at the firm. Max is captured and is about to be thrown into the river weighted down when he breaks free and dives into the water as he appears suspended and dying or dead at the start of the film. However he overcomes the cold to get out and fully armed he makes his way back to the firm where there is the last spectacular gun fight towards the end of which the security chief makes his way to the helicopter pad calling for help to the owner of the firm who ignore his call. The main henchman of the security chief manages to blow up several floors of the building causing a major fire, but nevertheless the police who have realised the criminal nature of the firm’s security organisation manage to get to the top of the building where Max has fought out with the man he now knows killed his wife and baby. There is a moment when it appears that Max who is also shot appears to have died and joins his wife and child in their new dimension. However after the credits here is a scene with him meeting the sister of the murdered girl and she shows him a newspaper article where the stock of the firm is rising accompanied by a photo of the chief executive. Does this suggest the intention to have a sequel?

There is one aspect of the film which I have intentionally left out until now in that in the film the sister of the murdered girl is a Russian assassin. In the game She and her sister are the daughters/relatives of the Mafia boss and both are killed. Also in the game Max joins forces for a time with a Russian Mafia gang who are at war with the other Mafia organisation. It is the aspect of the Russian mafia which is the connecting link to my second film of the past three days, called Ronin.

Tuesday, 25 January 2011

Everybody's Fine

For me the film of the week was Everybody’s Fine, the 2009 remake of an Italian film which I would now like to experience as it features that great Italian actor Marcello Mastroianni Everybody’s Fie covers an important subject, the relationship most parents, and in particular, father’s have with their children.

Robert De Nero is retired and a recent widower lives on his own with a comfortable middle class existence in the former family home, He believes all his children lead successful lives, in part seeing them as he wishes to see them, in part from information relayed and filtered by his wife when she was alive and maintained direct contact with her children. He has arranged for a weekend for them to be all together but when one by one they cancel he decides to surprise them by travelling across the United States, against the advice of his General Practitioner because of an ongoing heart condition.

His first visit is to New York to see one of his sons who is a visual artist. There is no one home but he does sees one of his sons paintings in a nearby gallery window. Unbeknown to him his son has been arrested in Mexico on a drug’s charge. The next visit is to married daughter and mother, played by Kate Beckinsale whose excuse for not coming for the weekend was the illness of her son. He is told the visit has not come at a good time and he realises that the son was not ill and used an excuse. He has an uncomfortable meal with the couple and son and when his daughter sees him off in the morning after visiting her work place she introduces him to a co worker accidentally met at the station. Afterwards he works out the marriage had ended, the husband had visited in an attempt to keep up appearances and that the daughter is in a new relationship with her co worker. The reason for not asking him to stay is that she is on her way to Mexico to find out what is happening to her brother.

His next stop is Denver where the father believes his son conducts the City orchestra when in fact he is content as the percussionist. He explains he is leaving on tour the next day but this is a lie as the son feels he has nothing in common with his father and does not know what to say to him. Because of different time zones he misses the planned bus to see his fourth daughter and is then mugged by a drug addict he tried to befriend and who in return destroys his medication just because he is able to do so.

Di Nero is able to get a lift with a female truck driver who takes him to a railway station where he can continue his journey to Las Vegas where his daughter has said she is a showgirl. Although the visit was to have been a surprise the children have been relaying the progress of his visits. This daughter lays on a stretch limo to meet him at the station and takes him to an expensive apartment where she is asked to baby sit for a friend. He hears an answer phone message which reveals that the apartment is borrowed and he works out that the baby is that of his daughter. He wants to know why his children never initiated talk with him yet told their mother. He subsequently appreciates that his wife was also given the picture of their lives they believe she wanted to hear as well as she edited what they said to fit into the his needs and beliefs.

Having failed to get a new prescription for his medication he decides to fly home and has a heart attack. His three children visit him in hospital and are forced to reveal that their brother has died from a drug overdose attempting to digest drugs rather than be caught with them

After recovery Di Nero returns home believing he has been a failure as a parent. He visits the grave of his wife and tells her all the children are fine and visiting him for Christmas except for David who will be having Christmas with her.

Before the gathering he returns to New York to see if he can buy the painting of his son and leaves his name in case others come on the market. Only after leaving the assistant realises the family name link and rushes out to say that his son had talked to her about his father stating that without the pressure from his father he would never had become an artist which had brought him great personal satisfaction. She also shows him another of his son’s pictures which is a landscape with a special feature power lines made of glue and macaroni as a tribute to the work of his father whose spent his working life putting up PVC covered power lines. The final scene is Christmas with the family present and participating in the preparation of the meal. The main discussion is over the cooking time for the Turkey and the father reveals that his wife overcooked but he kept quiet from not wanting to upset her. We learn from the presence of the friend who pretended the baby was hers that they are raising the baby together as a couple (this daughter is played by Drew Barrymore) and the married daughter is now openly living with her co worker. The children are able to be themselves as they are and the father has what he wanted bringing the family together in part out of continuing love for their mother. Paul McCartney wrote the song “I want to come home.”

The film is not as sharp cutting edge to have made it into an award winning all time recognised outstanding film despite the excellent performance from Robert Di Nero but contains many truth about parent children relationships when they become adults.


Diverted is a 2009 made for TV film which engaged my attention because although a fictional story, the background was factual. Because of 9/11 airspace above the USA was frozen with over 200 planes flying over the Atlantic at the time and tens of thousands of passengers diverted. Factually 39 planes with 6 600 passengers and crew descended on the Newfoundland Island town of Gander airport with a population of 9000. There were only 500 hotel beds so schools and halls had to be converted as well as the provision of meals, sanitation and communications. The film concentrates on a few of the passengers and crew members of one flight, a young flight controller, two female employees and the Mayor. The flight controller meets and provides accommodation for a young woman on her way for a job on Wall Street. The flight controller is content with his small town life in which he plays the drums in a rock band and enjoys the scenery, although he has travelled the world. They have a relationship at the of which the girl agrees to go to New York and take up the job and then decided after if she wants to give up her ambitions and come to live with the unambitious flight controller.

Colin Buchanan, he of Pascoe & Dalzell, is also on the flight sitting next to woman of his generation and they are both trying to get over failed relationships. They start and stop a romance and then as the plane takes off one holds the hand of the other and it is held back. David Suchet of Poirot plays an obnoxious businessman who demands a room at the hotel allocated to the place crew members but gains the sympathy of one of the front of house managers/housekeepers/receptionists after she learns that he is concerned about his son who was attending a meeting at the World Trade centre just after the planes struck and who he has not spoken with him for several years since the divorce. He learns that the son perished and did not attempt to ring his father although he attempted to contact his mother and a friend. Suchet is critical of everyone and at one point turns on the Arab looking Muslim on the plane who quickly realises that public attitudes towards him will change although he works hard and cares for his family in a small community in the USA. It is not clear why he is on the flight but he found by the Mayor on walkabout who shows him a welcome and asks him to check out the civic photocopiers. Another passenger learns that her mother who works at the building is safe when she appears on the TV. A young stewardess finds difficult to cope. The two hotel employees “show what two skirts can do” as examples of the service which was no doubt provided at short notice and on a voluntary basis.

Monday, 24 January 2011

Miller's Crossing

The soldier in the Green Room is caller Miller which is the link to a Coen Brother’s film, Miller’s Crossing which was distributed in 1990 long before I became aware of their offbeat and at times absurd, but always interesting film making. The film was highly rated by critics but failed at the box office, I suspect because none of the characters have appeal or engage our sympathy.. The film is set in a US town where the Mayor and the Police chief are as corrupt and criminal than the criminals. They are in the pay of the chief Gangster played as an Irish Tribal leader by Albert Finney who sees himself as a Lord of the Manor assisted by Gabriel Byrne, as a educated crime guru adviser, but who is also having sex with the girl also wanted by Finney as his wife. Her brother is a bookmaker.

Finney is visited by Johnny Casper, another gangster who specialises in fixing fights and who has come to complain about the bookmaker who he believes is passing the information that Casper is putting on money for a fighter to win a fight thus lowering the odds. Casper believes this is not ethical and demands that action is taken against the brother. Byrne advises his boss to surrender the protected bookmaker to avoid a war but Finney who generally has no scruples refuses because of his wish to marry the sister. There are various skirmishes, accusations and counter accusations, including spectacular attempt to assassinate Finney before Byrne admits that he was with the “Gangster’s Moll at one crucial occasion. and Finney beats the living daylights of his now former friend who he says he does not want to see again.

Byrne then makes himself available to Casper and to prove his new loyalty reveals the whereabouts of the bookmaker who is then picked up by Casper’s henchmen and taken to Miller’s Crossing where Byrne is told to kill the bookmaker, making sure by a second shot into the brain. The bookmaker pleads for his life and Byrne who has never killed before fires two shots and then tells the man to disappear.

He does not do so calling on Byrne to say that he has nowhere to go and will blackmail Byrne knowing that if Casper and his henchman finds out he has not been killed Byrne will also die. Meanwhile Casper has taken over the city from Finney and the police have become even more ruthless and criminal than before while the Mayor is kicked out of his office which Casper takes over.

There are two sub stories. The first is the relationship between Byrne and the number hard man of Casper who does not trust Byrne and fears he will be replaced. He insist on seeing the body of Byrne and warns Byrne that he will be killed if now body is found. At the site a body is eventually found with their blown away but in the clothing of Byrne, this is Monk another homosexual bookmaker who is then buried by his sister, who has also agreed to marry Finney at the wedding.

Part of Byrne’s solution tot he situation is to play both and leaders against each other and eventually he creates a situation where Casper kills his number 2. He then sets up a situation where the surviving bookmaker kills Casper and is killed by Byrne making is look that the two men have killed each other. This leaves Finney back in command and he forgives Byrne and pleads with him to return as his number two. Byrne declines. The other story is the relationship between the Gangster’s Moll and the two men. At one point she sets out to kill Byrne for killing her brother but cannot go through with it. It is left open if the relationship between the two will continue or she will marry Finney or do both. The problem for your average Saturday audience is that the characters are more comic, the magazine than funny or taken seriously with everything over the top. Byrne is regularly beaten up without ill effects. The Police participate in cold blooded killings and so on. Time Magazine put the film in the best 100 list. The film is a piece of nonsense and I challenge anyone to say that they are made to care about any of the characters other than they should die horribly and go to hell but as no one likes to have such feelings unless they are torturing criminal gangsters, the film was not supported.

The Green Zone

And then on Saturday I watched a showing of the Green Zone on Sky Anytime a service which enables viewing to select the time of showing of selected films for a period of about month and includes although the latest released to Sky Premier Channel which in turn is about one to two years after the released to theatres, followed by the DVD’s and then to Sky Box office

(Atlantic City, Two Hearts, Fire, Because the Night, Long Walk Home and Lonesome Day).

The film is a work fiction but as others have also commented it is amazing that it was made and put on general release and appears to come close to truth about the second Gull war, and is designed as an indictment of George Bush for failing to understand the country being invaded and what to do after the military victory, and for accepting the advice of some senior officials that it would be possible to impose a new leadership who would be able to create an instant democracy after stripping the military and the Ba’athist Party of all jobs within the country at every level of government.

The main point being made in the film is that a senior Pentagon intelligence officer had a secret meeting with a leading Iraq General in Jordan before the war who revealed there were no weapons of mass destruction programme continuing in the country after the first war, The expectation was that after the war he would become head of the army for the USA and therefore maintain there balance of power over the other tribal ethnic groups

The film is not about the Green Zone as such but the immediate aftermath of the war and the search for weapons of Mass destruction. The Green Zone was a 10 square kilometre area of central Bagdad used by the occupying powers and the USA created Coalition Provisional Authority. Today under the Iraq Interim Government it is called the International Zone. It remains heavily fortified with entry and exits controlled and was previously the area of the Presidential Republican Palace, Government centres, and International Hotels. Immediately after the war the area was also used by ordinary citizens who lost their homes and these have remained technically squatters in the abandoned homes of former Ba’athist. It is estimated there are some 5000 of these individuals in the zone together with a similar number of private military contractors and security firms as well as major embassies with overall responsibility for security now with the Iraq government. The main hospital is also located in the zone.

Most of the action in the film takes outside the zone where my impression is that the film provides an accurate portrait of the situation about a month after occupation with the shortages, the looting and the breaking down of all aspects of civilian administration. The film was billed as an action movie designed to pull in the weekend teenagers into the cinema on both sides of the Atlantic given that the star is Matt Damon of the three Bourne Films among other’s of note.

(The Rising, Dancing in the Dark. Glory Days. I’m on Fire Born in the USA).

The film begins with the bombing of Bagdad and an Army General makes his escape with his senior officers, telling them to make for the safe houses where they will be contacted.

Matt Damon is the leader of a special unit sent to find and make safe the WMD’s only to discover that location after location, given by a high ranking source proves false. What begins to concern Matt is the loss of life involved in securing the sites so that the team can visit and take control and that their absence questions the justification for the invasion.

He attends a military briefing where he questions the intelligence on which they are acting. Senior officers tell Matt to shut up and get on with his assignments. Also present in the senior CIA officer for the region played by Brendan Gleeson. He also questions the existence of the WMD’s and the plans to remove the Ba’athist’s from power and abolish the existing army. He tells Damon to keep in touch.

During a subsequent mission he is approached by an Iraqi who has seen men arriving at a destination which looks suspiciously like to him a meeting of the members of the old regime who have disappeared as soon as the Bagdad was taken. Matt decides to follow the lead and at the house takes three men prisoner, kills guards and identifies one who escapes as a senior General of the Army. He was meeting his commanders to advise that they should lie low in the safe houses until either the Americans made them offer to help run the country which was rapidly descending into chaos with looting and a lack of water, food, electricity and basic security. If there is no offer then they will conduct urban warfare in order to prevent other interests gaining power.

Matt commences to interrogate those detained and one provides a book and appears to be willing to identify the location of the General in exchange for immunity and security for himself and his family. Matt uses the man who provided the information about the meeting as his interpreter. Before Damon can make progress a special section using helicopters arrives and takes control of the prisoners and on learning of the book demands it. A physical confrontation between Matt and the senior officer of the special unit occurs during which time Matt passes the book to the interpreter who runs off. He is found, the book retrieved and continues to work for Damon but is shocked at the idea that any deal could be struck with a member of old regime. He makes the point that he is not interested in money for his efforts but in want to help his country in its new era. He becomes the voice of the Iraq people.

(the River, Hungry Heart, Darkness at the Edge of Town, Thunder Road, Born to Run)

Because of the incident Matt decides to meet with CIA regional chief and is invited to the hotel where he is staying and this provides the opportunity for a glimpse of the life in the Green Zone where the news people and top brass are located in the best of hotels within unlimited food and water, unlike the experience of the rest of the population outside the zone. He is offered and accepts an immediate move under the direct control of the CIA and a mission to visit the captured men and get a message to the man who said he could lead him to the General and give him a message not to talk to his interrogators in exchange for a new life for himself and his family in the USA.

Before he leaves on his new mission he is approached by the war correspondent of the Wall Street Journal (Amy Ryan) responsible for a series of articles disclosing the ongoing WMD programme including various locations. She has obtained this information from a high ranking Pentagon Intelligence official who appears to be acting on behalf of the President and his administration. He also makes contact with Damon on learning he has become a member of the CIA team and urges him to switch to his side, or else. At the prison visit he finds that the man who had the book has been badly tortured and is only able to provide one word of information Jordan. This leads to working out that the General met the Pentagon official before the war and was the source of the information. The Pentagon official has promised the Wall Street Journalist that she will have access to his information source as she is questioning the intelligence as no WMD’s are found.

The Pentagon official get authority to seize the record book from the CIA who contacts their Headquarters and are told to yield to the Pentagon. The Pentagon Official also tells Damon that he chose the wrong side and is going back to his unit and losing his luxury hotel room . He visits the journalist who admits that she based the story of seeing the same set of information documents used by Matt and the WMD units to locate the weapons without checking their authenticity or visiting the sites after arriving in the country.

My impression is that only later does Damon realise that the reason why the Pentagon official wants to locate the General first is to silence him before revealing he had told the truth about the non existence of the WMD’s Damon uses his interpreter to make contact with the General and arranges to have a meeting with him late at night at a bus station. He wants to bring the General into safe custody so with the information about the WMD’s it will put pressure on the administration not to disband the military and civilian structure, avoid civil war and the continuation of bloodshed. There is then a race to find the General with the Pentagon men tracking the whereabouts of Damon. He is seized by the General’s men and brought to the General.

Damon does not know that the Pentagon Official has called a new conference to announce the disbanding and outlawing of the army and all Ba’athist officials. The General and his men are preparing for an insurgency and Damon his lucky to escape execution as the forces of the Pentagon official arrives. Damon gives chase to the General who has admitted that he had revealed there were no WMD’s. He is just about to take the General into Custody when his interpreter executes the man, Damon complains that the General was the best chance of avoiding civil war. The man says such matters are not for the occupiers but for the Iraqi’s to sort out. Earlier there was a scene where the Coalition Council meet and those from the present day Iraq tell the allies that there is no question of accepting anyone brought in from abroad to become their puppet. Damon tells the interpreter to go home before the area sealed.

Damon is not done and the Journalist opens an email, also addressed to other news agencies throughout the world, attaching his understanding about the meeting in Jordan, that that no WMD’s were to be found. In reality he would have been stopped before being able to do this. The book which inspired the film is called Imperial Life in the Emerald City by Rajiv Chandrasekaran.

What should have been renewed publicity about the Iraq war and Inquiry was relegated later in the news after the resignation of the Press officer for the Coalition. He was the former editor of the Newspaper which illegal listened into telephone communications. He had repeatedly stated that he did not authorise the illegal activity or was aware that it was going on. He accept responsibility and resigned as the chief of those involved. There is media suggestions that the practice was widespread within the appear and three other dailies as a means of gaining exclusives on each other. The resignation was strangely times suggesting that that the matter is no closed. The police had been asked t undertaken further inquiries and the appropriate Commons committee is to also consider further. My impression is that general public interest in the Iraq war is dying down Mr Blair lives to make more money on other days.

Sunday, 23 January 2011

Heaven knows, Mr Allison

I begin with a film appropriate for Sunday(23.01.2011) Heaven knows, Mr Allison. This is but one of several films which bring the unlikeliest of characters together in a wartime and who become friends for life, sometimes lovers. The African Queen immediately comes to mind. In this 1957 film Deborah Kerr plays a nun who has chosen to visit with an elderly senior priest a small isolated Pacific Island to bring off the missionary, rather than make their way immediately to safety from the advancing Japanese. They find that the priest and parishioners have already departed and the elderly priest then dies leaving Kerr to bury him and try and survive until help arrives. She represents the Heaven in the title (Born in the USA) and Mr Allison is a USA marine, played by Robert Mitcham whom was part of a recognisance party, left with a life raft after having to quickly dive when coming under fire and finding the island after drifting for several days.

Kerr gives him the last of the food she has collected before he sleeps from exhaustion. (Don’t look back) For an unspecified amount of time they are together on the island managing with a good died of cooked fish, coconuts. (Land of hope and dreams). We learn that Allison was abandoned as baby to an orphanage located in Allison Street and has made his life in the Marines. The film in effect compares the dedication and commitments of being a Marine with that of a Nun each which their self discipline and code of values. ( Learn from Wikipedia that during the making of the film the National League of Decency monitored the production because of its subject and that when they visited the set Mitcham and Kerr abandoned the script and introduced some wild kissing and touching defiance).

Their situation remains at one level idyllic until the arrival a small unit of Japanese to set up a weather station and communications centre. This followed the arrival of an observation plane and the bombing of the island which leads to the destruction of the church from which Mitcham rescues a large crucifix on a stand. Fortunate Mitcham had previously discovered a cave where they take cover. After the landing Kerr is restricted to the cave because her white Habit is such a give away. She cannot eat the raw fish which Mitcham so he breaks into the hit which they subsequently build one night and brings away a supply of tined food, rice and other supplies from their store (Tenth Avenue Freeze Out).

In the night they are able to see the flashes and explosions from a sea battle in the distance and the Japanese then leave the island. They are to come down from their hideaway, wash and eat hot food. He has also found a bottle of Saki which Mitcham drinks in quantity while Kerr takes a glass perhaps two. Mitcham, having discovered that Kerr is yet tom take her final vows, declares his love and proposes marriages. Kerr explains she has already given her heart to Christ and runs off when Mitcham presses his attentions. She stays out all night in pouring rain and when he finds her she is in fever. He takes her back to the cave. 2000 Japanese now take over the island and set up camp on the beach. Realising he is the cause of Kerr getting the fever, he breaks into the camp for blankets. Is discovered by a soldier who he kills and hopes the body will be swept out to sea. He returns to the hide after removing the wet clothing wraps Kerr in the blankets and nurses her until she recovers. They adjust to their life in the cave after she recovers and then fear for their lives as the island is being searched when the body is recovered. The bracken is set on fire and a Japanese soldier finds the entrance to the cave. They are faced with surrender or dying from a grenade. There is then a monster explosion, not a grenade but offshore shelling of the Island but the American fleet which evidently won the sea battle.

The Japanese have artillery pieces hidden and Allison realises that eh has the opportunity to prevent the death and injury of his comrades by disabling the weapons. He sets off to do this having made his peace with Kerr and saying how much he values heir friendship and she his. He is wounded in the successful attempt to disable the weapons saving many lives, and is cared for by Kerr until the American landing and taking of the island is completed. The two go their separate ways having shared a life changing experience. The film is part written and directed by John Huston (Badlands)

French Connections 1 and 2 with Gene Hackman

As previously mentioned I watched the French Connection 2 once more in two parts reminding of those days when cinemas played continuous performances and if you wished you could enter when the theatre opened and stay until God Save the Queen and lights out at night.

While the second film is free standing it is a good sequel which benefits from remembering if not experiencing the original. The movie won several Academy awards including best film and Best Actor for Gene Hackman who plays a real life detective. Two narcotics detectives commence with the arrest and rough treatment of a small time suspect which leads them to focus on a couple who appear to have connections with local gangsters involved with drug trafficking from Mexico bank rolled by a lawyer. The trail leads to Paul Charnier, played by Fernando Rey and he French port of Marseilles. A features of both films is the unconventional approach of Hackman and that he becomes at loggerheads with colleagues and superiors. In this instance having dedicated that the drugs are a car beings sent to New York by a film star, without knowledge of what is secreted in its body, it is allowed to make the journey with the intention of locating the connections in the USA. Charnier escapes, various people are killed, including police and of those arrested we learn that only one of the organisers gets away without serving prison time, another a reduced sentence and another four years. Hackman and the colleagues who works closely with him are transferred out of the narcotics division. The film brought to public attention the nature of international drug trafficking and its funding, the risks faced by the law enforcers and the difficulties they face while working within the system. The films marked the start of the prolonged car chase

French Connection 2 was distributed in 1975 four years after the original and sees Hackman sent to Marseilles unknowingly as bait to capture Charnier much against the instincts of the local police who provide him with a desk and one on a stairway outside the toilets. The rough and always ready for anything cop struggles with the language and culture and being under scrutiny of the local force and day. He gives his minders slip and seeing Charnier gets captured by his gang made into a drug addict before being dumped back in the police yard. Knowing that if he matter is reported it will lead to Charnier beings sent home and discharged the wreck he has become Charnier arranged for him to overcome the condition in secret. However no sooner does he recover than he goes off again and finding where he was held burns the bar/brothel down with a view to smoke out the residents until he finds someone to torture and lead him the boss.

On one hand officially he is then hep under tight supervision before being sent home the local Inspector teams up and their efforts leads to finding drugs being hidden in the lower part of a ship in dry dock. The dock is flooded by the gang in their successful effort to escape and Hackman saves the life of the Inspector who now owes him and agrees to a stake out on the ship as they believe the captain is yet to be paid and will break cover before the ship is due to sail. Their patience pays off and the Captain makes a call and then takes a tourist ferry from the port into the centre of town where before leaving he exchanges and shoulder bad with another passenger.

While the surveillance team keep contact with the man who delivered the money, it is assume the captain is arrested and his Dutch registered ship impounded. The man takes his time returning to the base where we have already seen the drugs being into can of the soup with a hidden compartment in a very professional way before being shipped to the USA. The team arrives before wok is complete and there is a great shoot out in which all the villains are captured with the exceptions of Charnier who evades Hackman in a long sequence involving street cars and then as Charnier takes to his yacht Hackman follows him exhausted and likely to have a heart attack as he climbs and clambers along the port back to get ahead of the vessel. Thinking that he has escape Charnier comes to the surface from he cabin where he has hidden only to be shot and killed as he passes Hackman. While there is an inevitability about the ending the film is effective in carrying forward the engaging intensity of the original.

Saturday, 22 January 2011

The Americano

The Americano is an 1955 Western style film set in cattle ranching Brazil with Glen Ford as the hero and Cesar Romero as a bandit who is really goodie. Ford takes 3 prime bulls on behalf of himself and his brother from Texas to Brazil where they have been bought by a larger rancher to improve his heard. Arriving at the nearest town with a station he finds that the purchaser has been murdered and befriended by the bandit who offers to take him to the ranch to meet the foreman. The bandit borrows a vehicle to transport the bulls part of the way and then as they take the animals into the ranch they cross the land of a neighbour who takes exception and turns out to be an attractive girl in ranch hand clothing. She is at odds with the former owner of the ranch where the bulls are due to be sold. On arrival instead on finding the foreman, Ford finds an apparent civilised man to claims to have been the partner and therefore full owner of the estate with a vision of controlling the whole valley which involves buying out or driving out the neighbour and new entrants to the open range who want to fence and farm. He offers a partnership to Ford who just wants to return home and start a small enterprise with his brother. On his way home he is mugged and the money stolen. There is then a series of twist and turns before the local law is convinced that the villain is the foreman who killed the owner and ordered his men to rob Ford in an effort to get him to stay and use his expertise, burns out the new comers and kills the foreman of the neighbouring property. Cesar Romero plays a key role helping Ford come good for the locals.


The second film featured an orgy of violence. Liam Neeson plays an experienced and skilled but retired CIA James Bond whose private life joy is his 17 year old daughter who lives with his former wife and husband. She wants permissions to go Paris with a female friend to look at Art and Museums, although in truth it is to see a rock band live(U2), Neeson is apprehensive but yields to pressure from the daughter and her mother. However within a short time of both girls are kidnapped from their separate hotel rooms.

There is a ring of unreality almost from the onset of the film which begins with Neeson as the security officers for a rock singer who he saves from a knife attack and who in gratitude offer to help his daughter with her singing ambitions. Neeson has the most sophisticated of recording equipment on hand and records their contact until she and the phone is silence. Neesonz warns the abductors that unless they immediately release his daughter he will find and kill them. Using former colleagues and friends he has the recording analysed especially the only comment from one of the gang in response his warning, “good luck”

From this it is deduced the girls have been deducted by an Albanian gang of white slavers. Neesom gains access to the hotel and the room of the girls and finds the photo card from a camera which reveals a reflection of the person taking a photograph of the two girls at the airport. From this he deduces the gang is using young men to pick up the girls at the airport/ rail station and find out where they are staying (the technique is to offer to share a taxi) and then the members of the gang take the girls. Unfortunately in the chase of the young man in the photo he jumps off a bridge onto a passing van to get away and is then killed by a vehicle as he drops of the van to the roadway.

Neeson then approach a former colleague from French intelligence who is now working behind a desk an is unenthusiastic about helping despite being given the information that unless the girl can be found within fours they are unlikely to rescue her.

Knowing the gang turn some of the girls into drug addicts and street prostitutes he pretends to take an interest in a girl in such a way that a gang member intervenes and Neeson plants a bug on him and having organised an interpreter, is able to work find out that the gang are also using a construction site using girls in a makeshift brothel, Neeson finds a drugged girl with his daughter’s jacket and in the effort to get her away there is a fierce gun fight in which he kills several men and here is also a vehicle chase where several others of gang are killed. From the girl, after he has got her out of the drug stupor, he is able to locate the house where she was held with the daughter. There is a further shooting in which at least a dozen of the gang are killed and the friend of his daughter dead from a drug overdose. He captures the man who had issued the challenge on the phone and tortures him until he reveals that because his daughter is a virgin she is treated as a top acquisition and has been sold to a trader.

Neeson leaves the man to a slow and painful death and then goes to the home of the . From his enquiries he has also learnt that there is a high place source in intelligence who is helping to enable the gang to operate and he visits the home of his French colleague where he has remet his wife and family and demands to know the location of the trader, correctly suspecting that his colleague has been accepting hush money part of a corrupt chain similar to that that existed within the Metropolitan Police in 1950’s and 60’s and other police forces throughout the world. He has to woundingly shoot the man’s wife to get the information. He is able to visit the trader as an auction is taking place with his daughter the last subjects because of her age, ability to speak languages, education and purity will command most money, hundreds of thousands of Euro’s. He ensures that a buyer he has kidnapped wins the auction but before he can claim his daughter he is found out, disabled and left by the Trader to be executed. He escapes, naturally killing the remaining members of the gang, locates the trader and extracts the whereabouts of his daughter before executing the man. I lost track of the body count long before this moment.

He finds the girl is being taken aboard the luxury yacht of an Arab Sheik where after killing the guard he has to shoot that Sheikh in the head as he threatens to cut the throat of his daughter with a knife. The daughter is reunited with her mother and step father and back in the United States Neeson arranges for the girl to have a meeting with the popstar he saved at the beginning of the film. The film is useful for warning young women and their parents of the dangers now that most European Cities are plagued by Russian and Mid European gangsters involved with drugs and sex. This is moral message of the entertainment

The Secret of Santa Vittoria

I begin with the film of a book by Richard Crichton, I enjoyed reading as much as the theatrical experience, The Secret of Santa Vittoria. The story is a simple one. A small Italian hillside community with over 1000 souls makes it income from wine growing for the Cinzano company. Anthony Quinn plays an always drunk wine salesman Italo Bombolini who is estranged from his salt mouthed wife played by Anna Magnani. They have a teenage daughter who is enamoured with a local young man a couple of years older than she. He brings the news that Mussolini has surrendered and the Fascists are out of power. Bombolini is known to have supported Mussolini because of the reforms promised and climbs a water tower afraid of the reaction of the population who assembly below him. He is eventually brought down to great cheers for although a supporter oft he regime he was not an activist and regarded a harmless buffoon. The local Fascist community managers in fear of their lives decide that they will surrender to Bombolini as the new popular Mayor. His first act is to arrest and imprison them. Realising his lack of suitability Bombolini attempts to pass on the role but is advised to adopt the approach of Machiavelli and form fo civic administration combining local talent and respected figures. He sees this as the opportunity to prove to his wife that he is not the fool he normally appears to be.

The challenge comes when he is informed that later in the month the Germans are to come with the purpose of taking the store of wine which amounts to over 1 million bottles. He decides a plan to hide the majority of the wine in the tunnels adjacent to a Roman built cave. The first effort to get the wine form the hillside store down to the cave are disastrous as everyone gets in each other’s way, there are fights and broken bottle. The second plan is to create several human chains in which all the able bodied adults participate day and night. The former fascists are kept hidden so they do not know what is happening

A small contingent of German soldiers arrive led by Hardy Kruger. Bombolini plays the fool but successfully negotiates for the town to retain 25% of the wine that has been left in vaults although the suspicion of the officer and his second in command is aroused when the villagers cooperate in good humour with the task of bringing wine to the lorries for transporting. He is also attracted to a local woman of sophistication and education who returns to the family home after a loveless marriage which tool her to Rome and the International social circuit of Italian high society. Back home she has remet a former childhood “sweetheart” of a different social standing who has returned home injured and who looks after and they share a bed as a man and woman of maturity and experience but with no commitment.

Then the Gestapo arrive with officials who say that from the records the great quantity of the wine is missing and which to use torture to establish the truth having hit the Mayor hard as a preliminary. Kruger intervenes and is given less than two days to locate the wine but fails to do so. That he discovers is that the his love interest has a lover. The Gestapo and hostages and the Mayor suggests that they take the first men who enter the square. They persuade the fascist prisoners that they are to be released to the Germans, nominating the most senior two to leave at a short interval. Both men realise only too late that they have been set up and are taken away for torturing, with their screams heard all over the village. The Gestapo conclude that there is no wine and leaves, with shortly afterwards Kruger is given his orders to also depart.

He on the other hand is convinced that there is wine and that the whole community knows and is laughing at him. He takes the lover of the socialite prisoner and says that if he is not told where the wine is the man will be shot in the morning. The socialite sends the night with Kruger to save the life of the hostage. Kruger is still not satisfied and as the community assembles to watch them depart he threatens to shoot the Mayor unless someone tells him where the wine was hidden. Defeated he sets off but not before Bombolini presents him with the last of the hidden bottle which was tied with a ribbon and he tells the officer that they can afford to be generous as here is another million available. When the German unit leaves the town goes into fiesta.

Earlier in the film his daughters and the young man have got together and the wife demands her husband takes action. He says he will do something the young man will not forget. The couple are married. When the Italian soldier realises what the socialite has done for him he forces her to admit she loves him and that they are committed to each other. Bombolini’s wife has softened towards him when he is beaten in the face and now she joins her husband in the fiesta dancing signalling that their relationship will be better in the future. The tortured fascists re forgiven their sins. It is my understanding that the novel is based on an actual event although this may be a false memory

Thursday, 20 January 2011

Halls of Montezuma

I also watched once more the World War II film The Halls of Montezuma, words from the hymn of the USA marines. The film was made with the cooperation of the Marine who used the film for recruitment purposes to great good effect when to was released in 1951. The key passage is a letter drafted by the company doctor Karl Malden to the special unit leader Richard Widmark, which is read to the company after his death. He pleads that those who survive ensure that the reality of their experience is reported and protected so that every effort is made to prevent further bloodshed, however at the same time he make the point that sometimes the killing and dying is necessary to protect and further the greater good and that it was important that the USA was not afraid to take action that was right for the world in general rather stick to its narrow self interest as a single nation.

The film focuses on the taking of a large Japanese held island in the pacific. In the days before computer generated action the flotilla of ships and landing craft is impressive. The problem the invading force has is that the Japanese have built a secret launching site, something which is not anticipated. Widmark is sent out with some of his most experience men, only 8 of the original 40 have survived to this point, to try and capture some prisoners who are holed in a cave to try and find out the location of the rocket site before the main force fo 80000 begins to rake the island. The mission provides the opportunity to learn something of the lives of the men and of their enemy. Widmark needs pain killers to combat migraine which he said is based on his fear, yet he is able to help an experienced corporal to overcome battle stage fright reminding of the courage he has shown in the past. Jack Palance is a former professional boxer who has a stabilizing role and survives the special mission to join the main advance as the film ends.

Palace has taken under his wing a young boy, played by Skip Homeier, from a poor agricultural background who pretends he is from a wealthy family. He is full of nerves anxious to get on with it. He finds himself in person to person combat which he survives but this makes him even more emotionally unstable and he returns to the mission camp demanding that the prisoners are killed. In the effort to stop him he is accidentally shot and killed by Palance. Having captured one prisoner he leads the special mission to the cave where he says others are hiding and two men are brought out by the interpreter and the Sgt (Neville Brand). This turns out to be the Ambush they feared as an grenade is thrown killing the three Japanese and blinding the sergeant. Despite his disability he shows remarkable presence at different times, reminding of the need to note the precise locations of the dead as they are buried and attempting to prevent Wagner killing the prisoners. He survives to go home. Jack Webb plays Dickerman a war Correspondent and write to presses to be involved in the action and accompanies the mission. Before he dies the doc gives him the unfinished letter for Widmark.

In the cave they capture officer who manages to take a knife and commits Hari-kari (Seppuku). He explains beforehand that their is no honour in being taken prisoner, in defeat and that the Japanese do things in reverse, wanting a good death the right death as part of their culture from birth. They also find a map and from the prisoners they believe that the rockets could be in one area where it appears there has been a train. However the area has already been closely bombed without success. The possession of Homeier they find a small map overlay he has taken from the man killed and this appears to show the location of the rocket launchers but the map is large and find the where the overlap fits is a time consuming task. They have also captured a dazed old man in the uniform of a private. Later they find that he is not just an officer but the designer of the rocket site who refuses to divulge the location information. However from what he says and the other officer about doing things in reverse, they work out that the Japanese have created an underground railway to the front of the range of hills not the rear as usual practice suggests. This did occur to me separately. The site is heavily bombed and demolished thus significant reducing the death and injury toll.

Others in the film include Robert Wagner where although claimed this was his debut performance he had already appeared in a film the year before for another film company and Richard Boone as the commanding officer, also his first film and who went on to play in many films and TV productions, and was also the cousin of singer Pat Boone. For me the best character is Reginald Johnston who plays a British speaking eccentric officer, who is in the interpreter, uses a cigarette holder and ad hoc uniform,

Tuesday, 18 January 2011

The Book of Eli

Over lunch I thought I would take a peek at the film The Book of Eli which I had debated seeing in cinema when it was released. I am not a fan of post apocalyptic wasteland films, especially those showing the survivors living in primitive anarchy. In this instance there appears to have been a scorching sun burst so that only those well below ground with sufficient food and water were able to survive.

The film appears set in California and is about a super fighting man (Denzil Washington) on a mission, driven to take what he believes is the only copy left of the St James Bible to where it will be appreciated, somewhere in the West. He encounters a young women apparently on her own seeking help, but he literally smells a trap and used a sword knife to slay the five or six men when they come from hiding to demand what he is carrying in backpack.

He stops at a small makeshift town intended to resemble the embryonic towns of the Western where the local warlord (Gary Oldman) thugs to go out in search of a Bible, because he believes this will give him power to create more than one town. The thugs cannot read and only those who are elders have the ability to read from time before the global catastrophe.
Washington has two missions. The first is to recharge his i Pod and the second to find fresh water which he is advised can be made available at a price from the nearby saloon brothel. While the water container is being prepared he encounters one of Oldman’s book search raiding parties who he witnessed killing a male traveller and raping his female companion. They produce books and magazines for Oldman, suggesting that the written text has become a form currency. One then takes offence because Washington shoos away an aggressive cat and within moments there are between half and a dozen dead bodies on the saloon floor. Washington is captured at gunpoint and is asked to join the warlord because of his fighting powers, when he refuses he is given 24 hours, locked in a room but given food and unlimited water. He also offered the daughter of the female concubine of the warlord. She begs to stay in the room although he rejects her offer, because not to do so will result in her mother being hurt.

She then discovers the book which he refuses to show her its contents but recites the 23rd Psalm and before eating hold hands and says a from of grace. The following morning she repeats the grace to her mother within earshot of the warlord who forces the girl to reveal that the book has a cross on its leather cover. He and his men storm into the room where Washington is held to find that he is not there. The guard is shot as a consequence. Washington sets off meantime having retrieved his i pod. He is followed by the girl who wants to join him and she offers to show him where the water is, a cavern Spring on the basis that he will taker her. Admitting that he had not said he agreed to take her he locks her out of the entrance to the roadway so she has to take a different route to follow him.

The warlord sets out in a four vehicle fleet of armoured vehicles and his best men, but returns to the town deciding to set off after sleep. The girl encounters the same trap as Washington but he manages to arrive before she is raped by the surviving two members of the gang. The two then encounter an elderly couple played by English actors Frances Le Tour and Michael Gambon. They accept a cup of tea but sensing the couple have survived through cannibalism make to depart only to see the approach of the Warlord. He says he will let him go if Washington yields the book, and also the girl who is wanted by the second in command. The quartet make a fight with three surviving a rocket attack and then two a machine gun. Washington and the girl are captured and although he gives up the book to save the life of the girl, he is shot and appears to die or is left to die. On the journey back to town the girl escapes killing two henchmen and making off with the vehicle back to where Washington was abandoned. Oldham having acquired the book sets off back to town with the remaining gangman.

The girl finds that although wounded Washington is again on the road going West, they now have a vehicle to continue the travel, getting as far as the middle of Gold Gate bridge festooned with abandoned vehicles, until encountering an impassable gap for a vehicle. They make their way to the shore and take a rowboat to the island of Alcatraz which appears to show signs of a normal environment. There he finds a group led by a curator Malcolm McDowell who has a store of recovered treasures and a printing press. Washington commences to recite the full bible from memory. Back in town the Warlord has difficulty opening he locking clasp but when as assistant does so for him the book is discovered to be in braille. He demands his concubine reads to him but she refuses, laughs at him because he had used his force to get the book and now the saloon is being overrun by the rest of the own.

Back on Altratraz the task of reciting is completed and Washington dies and is buried. The printed book is placed between the Text of Judaism, the Muslim and other faiths. The girl is invited to stay but taking the sword and the i pod she sets off back home, appearing to have become the spirit of Eli.

Sunday, 16 January 2011

The boat that rocked

The Boat that Rocked is a film celebrating the era of the off shore Pirate radio in the UK. Contemporary music was limited in the days of the BBC radio and TV during my childhood as commercial TV and Radio was something for the future. The closest to a contemporary music station was Radio Luxembourg which I learnt about from someone at school and used to listen to whenever I was allowed the opportunity. The days of the personal radio were also for the future. I had to wait until I went to work to have my own radio and record player in my room at the Malden Court/Bute Road Wallington Flat.

Commercial radio commenced with Radio Caroline 1964 broadcasting from offshore in international waters from a ships. The broadcasts were not illegal as such. The station developed Disc Jockeys each with the distinctive personalities and followings but the music was focussed on the top 40 single records of the day. By 1968 there were 21 stations from boats and sea based forts with an audience of between 10 and 15 million and then stations commenced to be broadcast from within the mainland. To combat this development BBC radio was restructured in 1967 creating four stations with Radio I set up to challenge the Pirates and recruiting some of their top DJ’s BBBC 2 also a music station but more middle ground and BBC 3 a mixture of classical music and arts programmes with 4 talk and later 5 Sport and news, and more recently 6 and 7. In 1967 the Government passed the Marine Broadcasting Offences Act which made the offshore stations illegal.

Undaunted, while the offshore stations closed, the service went underground mainland using small inexpensive transmitters and pre recorded programmes on cassette recorders. These stations continued even when commercial radio broadcasting was allowed in the UK concentrating on music not covered by the the rest such as reggae, hip hop, jazz, rhythm and blues and stations on behalf of ethnic minorities.

In 1989 there were some 600 stations in the UK with 60 in London. The government tried a two fold approach with harsher penalties but also an amnesty for those willing to apply for a licence. The problem is that in order to meet the licence fee the station requires regular advertising which in turn requires a stable audience and leads to moving mainstream.

Today there are said to be 150 stations mainly in parts of London with set up costs small and a transmitter £350, getting funds from nightclubs promoting events on from DJ’s wanting the exposure. One recent study in London found that nearly a quarter of the population 14 and older listened to local stations with the percentage for students 37% and 41% of the African Caribbean community. Information which I had not previously known is that Radio Free Scotland was established to promote the work of the SNP in Scotland and Plaid Cymru in Wales and there was also an anti Labour station in the 1970’s. The penalties for broadcasting have been significantly increased with prison a prospect for repeated offending. Licence stations are also able to take action for loss of revenue and one station was sued for £50000 as a consequence.

The film, the Boat that Rocked is said not to be based on a particular pirate ship or DJ’s although one character played by Philip Seymour Hoffman is said to be close to the aspects of the famous Emperor Rosco.

The film lasts just under two hours and I agree with those who say that it is 20 minutes or more too long. The film sets out to demonstrate how popular the stations were and that were only put out of business because of a psychological anal puritanical Government Cabinet Minister who became obsessed with eliminating the stations to the extent that he refuses official help when the ship gets into serious difficulties after its ancient boilers blow and cause a below waterline hole in the side.

The DJ’s and crew are rescued by a flotilla of Dunkirk style fan boats. The film contains many shots of the fans listening to music individuals and in groups. The station is run but the excellent Bill Nighy who takes in Young Carl, his Godson after a plea from the boy’s mother Charlotte, played by Emma Thompson, a former swinging chick, because we later learn she knows that the boy’s father is the eccentric red eye DJ who keeps to himself in his cabin when he is not broadcasting to an extent some of the crew do not realise he is on aboard a year after the station has been broadcasting.

The boy who has been expelled from school because of drugs and drink is still a virgin and attempts by Nighy to pair him off with his niece fail as during a brief search for a condom she is bedded by the his fat middle aged friend. The DJ’s are expected to stay on board for long shifts during which they can have female visitors once a fortnight. There appears to be no shortage of sixties dressed young people willing to come for conjugal visits and at one point a minor army of young and willing beauties arrive following an open invitation. Young Carl and the niece find true love at the end of the film. The Government Minister is played by the brilliant Kenneth Branagh who is convincing in his role as is Jack Davenport as Twatt, the Minister’s subordinate who is tasked with finding the legal formula to shut down the stations.

The music is good with some 60 records of the day covered and a two record soundtrack with 32 of these tracks featuring music from the Rolling Stones to Dusty Springfield and the Beach Boys to the Who. I blinked to read that a track from Duffy is included. It is not a good film and apart from the music does not engage. It just about made a profit from the box office.
(7.30am When uploading the film review I find a comment has been added to my review of the Kings Speech the first since the summer break other than catching up on the Chinese contingent. I am always pleased to learn that my work has been experienced by someone and more so when it make some impact, good or bad. England are now 178 for 4 with Ian Bell just out for 34. Kevin Petersen is 33 not out. Various batsman have played themselves in but one now needs to makes a good innings to allow a good hit out towards the end. Disaster Morgan is out for 8 and England now 186.5 with the Australians bowling their way back into the match.7.50 Pietersen gets his 50 with a six 204 for 5. 15 overs to go so we should reach 300. Write an email. Petersen is going well and has reached 70 with the total 234 for 5 scoring 48 of 37 runs partnership. Will start new review of the Ship that rocked 8.15 after a diet coke with ice.)( Yardy out trying a big hit much to the disgust of Pietersen for breaking up their partnership and putting at risk the prospect of a big score. 236 for 6 with ten overs to go 8.20 am).(257 for 7 as Kevin Petersen is run out brilliantly for 78 as he was controlling the innings. now with only 6 overs left 300 is unlikely and 275 must be the target) I am wrong as 270 is reached with Bresnan hitting hard calling the use of the batting power play and four overs to go having done a little fast forwarding. Decide to give undivided attention to last four overs of the innings. Alas possible mistake as Bresnan playing so well hits out off Brett Lee. 270 for 9 England look as if they are going to be bowled out before the close fo the 50 overs. A couple of sixes in last over changed things again in the first balls of the last over. 294 all out a good total but it should have been better although still the highest score against Australia in one Internationals 8.50. Break off from the cricket and writing to watch Andrew Marr Show with two excellent presenters of the best of the morning press followed by an interview with the wonderful Dame Judy Dench who going play the mother of the head of the FBI in a new film about his life to be directed by Clint Eastwood 9.45)

Saturday, 15 January 2011

The Young Savages

I begin with a film, The Young Savages released in 1961,based on a novel by Evan Hunter, features the good actor Burt Lancaster as a District Lawyer intent on bringing to the electric chair three youths, aged between 15 and 17 years, members of an Italian gang calling themselves the Thunderbirds, who kill a blind Puerto Rican youth, a member of a gang called the Horsemen The similarity between the subject of the musical West Side Story and this film struck from the start. It is a much better film in terms of the reality of the life of those in the neighbourhood. There are two interlinked stories within the story. The first is the lawyer Hank Bell is in fact Hank Bellini whose parent shortened the name from Bellini, an action taken by parents who wanted to break out quickly from the ghetto mentality of immigrants and establish themselves as USA Americans from the outset.

In this instance Hank has distanced himself his origins and has developed contempt for the lives of those who remained locked in the tribalism of what he wished was the past. Not so his wife, Vassar educated, middleclass background who is horrified that he is seeking the death penalty without investigating the backgrounds of the young men, accepting the claims of the Puerto Rican community as it has been presented in the media. She changes her attitude after being harassed in the lift of their apartment block by two members of the Thunderbirds. The couple have a teenage daughter who resents the restrictions about not being out after midnight but who is a normal daughter, well brought up, in education, and adjusted to the middle class environment of her parents. This contrasts with the lives of those in the racial ghettoes.

The second story within the story is that one of the three accused youths, the youngest aged 15 and therefore a minor, is the son of a former girl friend of Hank, who turned him down to marry the child’s father. The mother is played by Shelley Winters who had quickly realised the decision was a mistake after her husband commenced to beat her and who has brought up the boy as a single parent frequently telling him of her mistake as she witnessed the career of Hank through the local media. This results in a counter productive reaction by her son when Hank accepts her plea to prevent the boy from going to the electric chair and he attempts to get to know the young man who is being kept separate because of his age from the other two accused.
As a consequence of his investigation he is beaten up badly on his way home in the train and he is under pressure by his cynical police officer played by Telly Savalas as Telly Savalas and the ambitious District Attorney played by Edward Andrews with an eye on the Governorship and Presidency. Before and during the trial the true story of what happened and why emerges. The murdered boy, stabbed several times by different knives is not the innocent proclaimed by his mother, the Puerto Rican gang and community supported by the local media. Contemporary CCTV footage reveals that the boy is a member of the gang and is used by them to hide weapons on his person whenever the police are involved. The chief witness to what happened is his older sister aged 17 years who Lancaster uncovers has worked as a prostitute for two years and with the knowledge of her mother, as a means of supporting the family.

He also brings out that the leader of the trio Arthur Reardon is an explosive youth who can get quickly out of control and his sentence is a long term in prison. The second lad is known as Anthony Batman Aposto, illiterate and educational sub normal who also did stab the victim and is sent to a psychiatric based penal established to be detained until it is safe, if ever to discharge him. Hank begins to reconsider his view of Danny Di Pace. The son of his former girlfriend when mother introduces a young Puerto Rican who explains that in a previous incident he was being terrorised in the local pool (cooler) by the Thunderbirds when Danny had prevented them from drowning him. A witness to the incident, a young Italian girl admits that she got rid of the knives by dumping them in a parked car. She claims the blind boy had pulled a knife first which let to the others using knives in self defence. The “knife” is proved to have been a harmonica. The police are reluctant to devote staff to search for the knives but they are found as the trial is underway and a laboratory report is provided as the trial comes to an end. This enables Hank to establish in court that that Danny did not stab the victim but hit in with its handle. He was sticking to the story that he had stabbed out of self defence in order not to lose face. He was not a member of the gang under orders from his mother but being a typical teenager in the district wanted to be considered no different from the others. He is sent to an establishment for young people for a couple of years to the relief of his mother. Hank accepts that he had taken such a strong position at the outset because he was ashamed of his background. I would not say that the film is an outstanding picture but it was an important one and I am intrigued that I have no recollection of seeing it before or knowing of its existence.

Cricket Notes.
(England have just escaped the loss of a wicked as the player was caught but the umpire checked and found that it was a no ball with 23 runs scored 5.30am). (5.40 am Australia put down a difficult catching chance. England are 44 and shortly afterwards there is a catch behind off a ball given as a Wide. They consider an appeal but decided against, wisely as it was also a no ball. I decide it is time for breakfast and a weekend bacon roll with coffee 5.45 am and place the TV recording on hold 53 for no wicket)( the first wicket falls at 6.05am local time with Davies bowled for 41 with the total at 90. Trott is caught soon after arriving, caught behind for 6 with England 199 for 2 and new bowler Davis Hussey has taken both wickets for ten runs)( I have enjoyed a three slice bacon roll and consider coffee and doing the washing up break as soon as review of the Young Savages is completed 6.20am)( Strauss gets his 50 (52) which includes 6 fours 114 for 2 6.20am)( Andrew Strauss goes at 63 giving a simple catch with total 130). There is concern they are not making the most of the good start. I take a break for coffee and do the washing up after completing the film review. I then check and publish the film review.

Friday, 14 January 2011

The KIngs Speech

This continues to be a good week. Yesterday I went to the cinema for the first time in over a month to experience the film about King George VI struggle overcome his speech impediment with the help of Lionel Logue the professionally unqualified speech therapist from Australia who became the life long friend of the King.

The film, The King’s Speech, has been well favoured with talk of a possible Oscar for the lead actor Colin Firth. The visit did not commence well in that my remaining voucher proved to be out of date so for the first occasion in about three years I was required to pay for the visit. One of the larger screens at the Cineworld Bolden was used with main area of the auditorium about 85 to 90% full. The flat lower level was empty until a couple of late comers decided to sit in the rear row. It was one of the larger audiences for a weekday mid afternoon show that I have seen in all the years of using attending the cinema since it opened. Unsurprising they were mostly of my generation or one below.

In contrast to the life of St Augustine Mini film drama whose review will follow, I would be surprised if there is anything in this film open to challenge by the Royal Family, given that Queen Elizabeth will have an accurate memory of her father’s heroic struggle to overcome his disability and cope with having to become King and Emperor.

My understanding is that the view of Lionel Logue comes primarily from the book written by his grandson and which I have ordered from Amazon at a substantial discount together with a book about the political influence of King George VI who many, if not everyone, regards as the most dedicated Monarch till this day, perhaps only being surpassed by his daughter. While on Amazon I came across two new books about the land of my parent’s,, Gibraltar and which I subsequently purchased with a £10 discount as a consequence of taking out the Amazon credit card which was automatically allocated within a couple of minutes of completing the form on line. I will therefore return to the true stories of King George VI and Lionel Logue in the future.

For the present my information is the Lionel was the eldest of four children born in Adelaide, Australia. While at school he appears to have been taken under the wing of one Edward Reeves who provided him with elocution lessons and then employed him as his secretary and then as an assistant teacher and studied music at the University in his home city. It is then said that he worked teaching elocution, acting and in public speaking contributing to various college and associations in the city before in 1911 in travelled around the world to study methods of public speaking. The crucial development in his life was trying to help veterans of World War I who had been affected by shell shock and had impaired speech. While he had learnt about the use of physical exercises the main characteristics developed at this time and which were to result in his service to the Duke and then King were humour, patience, empathy and personal commitment. He also believed in himself and what he could achieve.

At the age of 27 he married a 21 year old clerk Myrtle Gruenert who bore him three sons and to whom he appears to have been devoted. He become a Christian Scientist and after her death turned to spiritualism. Having established a living in Australia but evidently full of confidence he came to England with his family in 1924 and within five years had established himself with a practice in Harley Street. He made no pretence that he was qualified in medicine or speech therapy but obtained recognition by the British Institute who according to the film recommended Logue to the wife of King George at a point when he had tried various doctors and decided there was no cure for his problem.

The films opens in 1925 when Prince Albert, the Duke of York was asked to represent his father at the closing ceremony of the British Empire Exhibition at Wembley and he struggled to read the message from his father much to his own embarrassment and that of the listeners. He determined to take action consulting various doctors including one who made him try and speak with his mouth full of glass marbles. This was the final humiliation which made the Duke believe nothing could be done and led his wife to make separate inquiring leading to the recommendation to try Logue, booking an appointment under a cover name for herself and then persuading her husband to visit the premises as required by Logue. Logue is reported to have insisted on referring to the Duke by his family name of Bertie and asking to be referred to as Lionel so that they could establish and equality in the relationship.

I am clear that the film does distort the chronology suggesting that after the first meetings the Duke decided against ousting treatment but changed his mind following the death of his father and the abdication crisis. In fact the Duke commenced and continued treatment long before this situation and by 1927 was speaking confidently and addressed the opening of Australian Parliament.

What interested me most is the revelations in the film about the childhood of the Duke who and a nanny nurse who physically abused and used food deprivation. The situation was not helped by the formality in which King George V and his wife appeared to have treated their children. What appears worse is that his father is portrayed as a bully without understanding or sympathy for his son seeing the impediment as a weakness which his son should have been able to overcome. His brother also made fun of his impediment and continued to do so into adulthood. The future King is portrayed as someone who not only lacked demonstrable affection during his growing up but had no one he could refer in later life as a friend. This was something he attempted to remedy with his own children although regretted how his impediment affected his communication with them.

My understanding is that the film accurately depicts the relationship between the Duke and his elder brother David and Wallace Simpson, a scheming adulteress woman who wanted to be Queen and who had other relationships before her divorce and marriage, including the German Ambassador Von Ribbentrop. In the recent updated Upstairs Downstairs Christmas series of three programmes, the household assumes that when Wallace Simpson says she is bringing an important close friend to the dinner party it is the King, when fact it is Von Ribbentrop.

While the King’s Speech appears to give an accurate portrayal of the King who puts his personal happiness before the interests of the state it is said to have underplayed the extent to which he and his future wife were sympathetic to Hitler. What is made clear is that Elizabeth never accepted or forgave her brother in law for his relationship with Mrs Simpson. It is also accurate that she hesitated over marrying the future King because of the requirement of being married to a senior royal but because he was the younger brother and had the stammer she felt they would not be asked to undertake excessive public engagements.

The film brings out that Albert tried to do what he could to prevent his brother abdicating and was in torment over his ability to take over. I have read one criticism that the film underplays his support for Baldwin and Chamberlain’s effort to avoid war with Germany until the attack on Poland forced the hand of the government.

There are then three wonderful moments in the film. The first is when the King and his wife calls at the home of Logue to ask him to restart his help after they have fallen out over one aspect of the treatment methods. Logue’s wife returns early to find the secret the husband has kept about his special patient with whom he was having difficulties. Logue then helps Bertie to make his first broadcast as the new King.

The second is the attempt for the establishment, led in the film by the Archbishop of Westminster, played by Derek Jacobi, to persuade the King to break with Logue because his lack of qualifications and standing. The King finds his voice, so to speak, and insists on rehearsing in private in the Abbey and to having Logue sit with the rest of the Royal family in their special enclosure. There is also a great mini performance by Timothy Small as Churchill.

The third great moment is the message which he gave to the Empire following the outbreak of War. It was a great speech by any standards but the film brings out the great struggle he had to make it, aided word for word by Logue in a specially prepared environment. Helena Bonham Carter plays Queen Elizabeth, Anthony Andrews Stanley Baldwin and Claire Bloom as Queen Mary. The film will certainly do well at the BAFTA’s It is nominated for all major awards in the Golden Globes this weekend. It could also take an Oscar or to.