Tuesday, 26 April 2011

Prince of Persia- Sands of Time

The final film in this session is Prince of Persia, The Sands of Time, a film which at the time of its release to theatres appeared to be in the mould of Indian Jones, I thought. Ok for a family outing with teenagers but not adult interest. I now understand that the film is based on a video game which is interesting as usually this is the other way round. The film has three great character actors Ben Kingsley as the baddie, Alfred Molina providing some light relief and Ronald Pickup as the King ruler of Persia who is impressed by the antics of a young street tearaway played by Jake Gyllenhaal who is brought up as another son and Prince, th Prince of Persia, with the two other sons of the King. They are persuaded by Ben Kingsley who is the Kings brother and family adviser to attack a sacred city on the grounds that weapons are being manufactured for use by enemies. The city kingdom has a beautiful female Princess as head who is the guardian of a special dagger which is in fact a device which if special grains of sand are inserted, Sands of Time, can reverse events back a few minutes enabling events to be altered which only the holder of the dagger is are aware of.

Ben Kingsley is aware of this and has manufactured the excuse to invade to capture the device for himself with the intention of using the device with the full Sands of Time beneath the Palace in such a away that he will reverse time to the point when his brother will not have existed, and therefore married with sons and heirs and he will be in charge. However if he is in error with his timing the risk is that that in effect time will be reversed to the extent humanity as it developed will permanently cease to exist- The sands having run out into a vortex within the centre of the earth.

To begin the process he tricks one of his sons to give a prayer cloak to his adopted brother to give to their father. The young man has acted in such a way to minimise death and destruction in taking the city although his father says that he should have stopped to attack all together knowing that it was against his wishes whatever the circumstances. The cloak has a magical property which means once it is worn it seals in the body and has been treated in such away that wearer is burnt to death. The brother under the pressure from the adviser blames the adopted son who barely escapes with his life and only with the help the help of Princess who seeks the dagger he has taken from the person she entrusted to take where it will find sanctuary. Why it cannot be hidden anywhere else is not disclosed.

She persuades the adopted Prince to help her return the dagger to the place of sanctuary and to do this and avoid their pursuers they need to enter a valley pass with a dreadful reputation but this is front for Alfred Molina’s operation providing Ostrich races and gambling. The Prince and the Princes are also being chased by a group of warriors under the control of King’s brother less by a man with exceptional strength and powers and the combination of trying to escape from the pursuers and the Molina enterprises results in the enterprise being wrecked, so they are then hunted with a view to being sold for the bounty attached to them. As they reach the place of sanctuary for the dagger, crossing the Hindu Kush is the borders with India they are captured by the youngest of the King’s sons who they convinces of the treachery of their uncle only for the brother to be killed. They lose the dagger to the Uncle’s men and it is taken back to the City’s capital where his agents are working below to reach the portal enabling a major reverse in time. The Prince and Uncle fight enabling a return in time to the point that that the brothers have entered the city but before the arrival of the King so only the adopted Prince is aware of the subsequent events. He is able to convince the elder son of the treachery of the Uncle who once threatened exposure reveals his true motivations and ambitions and is defeated. The brothers apologise for their hostile entering of the city and the Prince is offered as a marriage partner for the Princess who accepts and to whom he gives the dagger which had come into his possession. Ah another happy ending.

The film lasts just under two hours and doubled its budget at the box office despite only about a third of the critics being positive. As I suspected it is suitable viewing for young people which the parents can enjoy with nothing too scary or likely to produce nightmares in younger children allowed to watch. Is not a spectacular film by today’s standards

Monday, 25 April 2011

The Long Hot Summer

A very different kind of film unreality is The Long Hot Summer with Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward, Lee Remick and Orson Wells, Anthony Franciosa, Angela Lansbury and Richard Anderson.

Orson Wells is the archetypical southern bid daddy, a widower, who dominates his two children, Joanne Woodward, an outwardly prim school mistress with high standards and expectations, and Anthony Franciosa as an embittered always failing to please son who is yet to produce the longed for grand son with his lacking respect wife Lee Remick. Big daddy has a regular girl friend Angela Landsbury who is desperate to make the relationship permanent. Into this mix comes Paul Newman a drifter, known to several in town because his father was an incendiarist. He hitches a lift from the daughter and her best friend whose brother has been courting, in a fashion, Joanne, for half a dozen years. Big daddy who owns half the town takes to this brash, confident, smartalec of a young man.

He sets him up in a dilapidated small holding and gives him work in his main store much to the increasing resentment of his son who becomes even angrier when Newman is moved into the family home. The anger reaches boiling point and the son threatens to kill Paul who buys time by telling him he has found the stash of gold treasure which legend has it is buried somewhere in the area he is living. They go back and find an old sack with more of the coins like those which Paul had in his pocket. The son has bought out Paul’s interest for a couple of thousand dollars which he thinks is a bargain until his father points out he has been duped because the coins are not of great historical value but minted in the 20th century and those he found were likely to be the only ones.

Woodward cannot stand Newman but equally has become increasingly frustrated at the lack on initiative taken by her young man who lives with his demanding mother. He shows nothing of the passion of Newman and at the local fair only bids up to sixteen dollars for the right to have a private picnic with the girl when Newman offers fifty. However the event does not go well and the young man takes her home but also makes it clear he is not interested in marrying at that time. Father mistakes what she says later and the following morning visits the young man and his mother to organise the marriage only to find she has been rejected. He then decides that she and Newman will marry but before this happens the son attempts to kill, his father by locking him in the family stables and setting fire, but he changes his mind and rescues resulting in the two establishing a new relationship. The local firebrands (hee hee) decided that the cause if the blaze will be the son of the incendiarist and march on the family home where they learn that the blaze was caused by Big daddy dropping his cigar. There is then a lively exchange between Newman, Wells and Woodward in which she reveals that he is the man for her.

The significance of this 1958 released is that this was the first time Newman and Woodward acted together and after the film they were married, a marriage which then to last until his death 50 years later. He was previously married with a son and two daughters. The son died from a drug overdose after several film performances and led to the creation of a prevention centre by Newman who went on to have three daughters with Woodward. His most famous quip when asked about his devotion to Woodward was why got out for a hamburger when you have steak at home. The couple and his children from both marriages are known for their social awareness and responsibility.


Billed as whimsical film, I thought that Neil Jordan’s, Ondine set in a small Irish fishing village was to develop with elements of the Troubles. The revealed aspect is in fact middle/east European Drug running. Colin Farrell whose performance I enjoyed so much in In Bruges plays a single handed fisherman divorced from his wife, he a reformed alcoholic with his ex wife played by the wonderful Dervia Kirwan in Ballykissangel and then the 1940’s wife in Goodnight Sweetheart. Here she plays a boozy wife with a boozy traditional male new partner who rely on Colin to play his part in caring for their young daughter who has a bad liver (the irony of this will be overlooked by some) and requires regular dialysis and medical checks.

Colin is having a lean time in his fishing until he nets a barely alive young woman who wants to be kept out of sight of everyone and who refuses to disclose her origins, go to hospital or see a doctor. He takes her to live in the isolated cottage previously the home of his mother and which has a sea mooring for his boat. His catches improve and he tells his daughter about the arrival of the woman from the sea in the form of a story she requests during a dialysis session. She is allocated an electric wheel chair which she quickly learns to use and visits the home of her grandmother to find out about the sea maiden whom she is bright enough to work out is a real person.

The sea maiden and daughter become good friends and while being taught to swim they discover and then bury something covered in sea weed which the maiden brings from the sea bed. With aspects of Ballykissangel featuring in the film Colin goes to confession for the first time in decades to talk to someone about the situation he finds himself in. We the audience are made aware that the couple are under scrutiny from strangers. Local teenagers take the chair away from the daughter and put it in the water damaging the mechanisms which the step father attempts to repair, but later the brakes fail and the daughter falls into the sea during the local festival and is rescued by the sea maiden. She recovers and Colin and the sea maiden become lovers.

Colin tells the Priest that he is afraid that something very good or very bad is going to happen and he priest says that coping with success, happiness, is in fact just as difficult if not more difficult than coping with failure. The slow paced lyrical tale then has a dramatic change of pace. Colin takes his daughter to her home only find that she is locked out and has to take her down to a pub on the sea front and in a drunk state the wife attempts to drive home and their vehicle is in a major collision in which the step father is killed with his kidney being a match for the step daughter who survived and with her mother now left in a wheel chair. She asks Colin to have the full time care and on returning home one day he finds the sea maiden and his daughter prisoners of two middle/eastern European men and we learn the story behind the story. The sea maiden was the partner one of the two men in a drug run in which their boat is surrounded by custom’s craft. The girl swims underwater with the drugs so there is nothing for customs to hold the vessel and the man in charge. The sea maiden takes them to where the drugs found on the sea bed have been buried in garden but they are not there. The daughter has removed and hidden them in one of lobster pots hung of the side of the boat under water. She did this in order to prevent the maiden going off. At this point the authorities arrive and the maiden is taken into custody. One of the men has been killed and the other captured. We learn from a subsequent discussion between Colin and the Priest that when the girl is released from custody she will be deported unless she can become a citizen by marriage. They marry and live happy ever after.

It could have all worked out different. Colin at one point goes off the wagon after being pushed into taking a drink with his ex wife. For some reason which I am still not sure, Colin takes the sea maiden and leaves her on a light house rock but returns to find that she has swam across to a rock outfall used by sea lions. After being told the story of sea maiden in the net the daughter had gone to the local library for books about mermaids and sea creatures. She had decided that Ondine (of the sea) was a selkie, a seal lady creature of Celtic mythology who may temporarily become human by removing her seal coat, but must later return to sea. It was enjoyable lunchtime Bank Holiday Monday fare.

Tuesday, 19 April 2011

Con Express

A nonsense, pass the time, film is Con Express whose ingredients are over familiar. A middle manager customs official in Northern Alaska is tipped off of the arrival of big contraband which turns out to be ordinary looking metal barrels filled with a chemical or biological weapon. The successful finding involves the capture of the Russian behind the operation and a Soviet agent determined to bring the man to Justice in the Soviet Union. A small detachment of US soldiers arrive to accompany the dangerous cargo on train journey through Alaska and presumably Canada rather by special military plane which in fact is what is used to transfer the Russian villain the Soviet and USA agents and the custom’s man who is required to go by his boss. The villain engineers a mid air escape with inside help and the Custom’s man survives the plane’s crashed landing with the help of the Russian agent. They then are able to make their way to the train as does the villain and his men who are all on hand. The US military on the train and defeated but the train becomes a runaway and is only stopped by creating a major avalanche in a ravine and bringing the dangerous cargo and the villain in millions of tons of snow. The customs man has jumped of the train at the vital moment but the Russian agent does not appear to have done so!

Back home the Custom’s man has worked out that in fact his boss is the real villain and has switched the barrels which he is selling of multi millions to the original purchaser. He is stopped with the money as are the Northern Korean/Chinese looking purchasers in their plane which begs my original question. The story is ludicrous, the acting is pathetic and my impression is that cuts were made to make the film available for children’s viewing. A waste of time but I was in one of half awake spells and needed to be revived. This was not the worst film viewed recently

A touch of Hope

Also about magic of a more human kind, was the film A Touch of Hope, also based on a book about a Healer given the name Dean Kraft to protect his identity and location. The end notes admit that the facts of the story have been changed but the individual does exist and is helping hundreds if not thousands of patients to recover or improve from serious and medical conditions. The man is possessed of energy which if he directs towards a particular patient, embracing their pain and suffering he can bring about sudden dramatic “cures”. The film portrays his struggle to accept his power and the implication for how he will spend the rest of his life. Because of the reaction of a male work colleague on disclosure he does not talk about what is happening to his girlfriend or family, but does agree to participate in formal testing trials when approached by a doctor exploring the effectiveness of alternative medicines.

Although he has great success with a patient with a degenerative condition which prevents her walking the inability to save his father who experiences a severe heart attack and a stroke leads him to reject his powers and abandon participation in the trial until approached by a mother who daughter has remained in coma since being temporarily trapped in icy waters until rescued. It is then revealed that the girl is the daughter of the Medical Director of a hospital which authorised the investigation of alternative therapies after standard medicine failed to revive the child. All the previous investigation failed after raising hopes so the M D refuses to give permission for the man to experiment with his daughter despite the intercession of his wife.

The man is convinced that he is able to control the force within him sufficiently to help the girl although in doing so his own heart stops beating and he has to be revived. As sub stories there is the relationship between the man and the girlfriend and this is said to end happily ever after and the failure of the man when a child to save his younger brother in a swimming accident, Whether any of this is true is another story, except that there is an individual with curative powers through the use of his hands and the focusing of mental strength somewhere in the USA and how much of this is faith healing or some measurable energy is an open question.

Monday, 18 April 2011

Solomon Kane

Solomon Kane is a the character is a 1928 work of fiction and also a comic book He is a Puritan out to vanquish evil in all its forms and inhabiting a world fo devils, sorcerers, and evil men without redemption.

In the 2009 released film the story begins before Solomon became a Puritan and was an adventuring mercenary fighting in North Africa in 1600 and encountering a demon, the Devil’s Reaper who announces that because of his life the hero much accompany him to Hell. Solomon escapes saying he is not ready and returns to England where he takes sanctuary in a monastery in the countryside where he finds contentment until the Abbot has dreams which reveals the man must go back to his family estate in the South West. He meets a Puritan family on their way to the New World who offer him a lift but he declines and is set upon and left for dead, but then found and treated by the Puritan Family.

On their travels they encounter a villages where everyone appears killed except for a little girl but Solomon is justifiably wary and giving her a cross to hold she leaves a mark on the daughter who cared for Solomon before turning into a demon and going off.

He accepts the invitation to accompany the family to New World but on an overnight break he and the younger son of the family observe a murderous group taking villagers into slave captivity and they are discovered and they and the rest of the family are captured. Solomon despite having renounced violence is forced to taking up arms as the men kill the younger son and then the other members of the family with the exception of the daughter who is taken into captivity and the mother who he leaves because her husband before he dies tells Solomon to rescue the daughter and in doing so he will find his salvation.

He engages in battle with some of the men but encountering one group he is told she is dead and this means he has failed to gain redemption and turns to drink. However at the Inn he is recognised men who served with him in the earlier life and who believe he is the one man to stand up against the forces now engulfing the South West counties of Devon and Cornwall.

The community is attacked a Solomon is captured and crucified but while on the cross he is recognised by the daughter who is passing in a prison cart and calls out to him. He breaks down from the cross and he is cared for by a pagan woman until his wounds heals and he is told that a sorcerer called Malachi has taken control based on a castle owned by Solomon’s family. As no more than a teenage boy he had been involved in a dispute with his older brother who had accidentally fallen off a cliff top to his presumed death and Solomon blaming himself, or being blamed had left home. Because it is the family home he is able to lead a small band into the castle where he finds his father imprisoned. The head soldier for Malachi wears a mask and has the power to turn the brains of men into slave fighters. This man was responsible for ordering Solomon to be crucified. Now his father tells him that the man is his brother, He had gone to the sorcerer after his son has been found injured and in a coma but the price of the help had been more than he could cope with and he asks his son to kill him and break the spell the sorcerer has over the people.

It is at this point that that why the demon left a mark on the daughter is revealed. This is to signify her innocence and that use of her a drop of her blood will open a portal to release a great fiery demon which nearly gets the better of Solomon. He manages to shoot Malachi in the head but it appears that his soul, that of Malachi, his decapitated brother and the demon are drawn in Hell. Howver true to the forecast in saving the girl he is redeemed. The mother is found and with her daughter they set off for the New World. Solomon now commences his new life attacking evil wherever it can be found. The late Pete Postlethwaite plays the Puritan father.

Thursday, 14 April 2011


Much has been written about the Russian directed 2008 film Wanted with James McAvoy as the man wanted, Angelina Jolie in the role of a female assassin and Morgan Freeman as the Assassin master. Other involved included Terence Stamp and Thomas Kretschmann.

The film is about the Fraternity, a ancient band of Assassins with special superhuman abilities including the capacity to shoot a bullet around an object or individual to hit another or catch a shuttlecock at play in a loom. The mission of the Fraternity is to remove bad people so that society may function overall in balance and those to be killed are revealed in a code embedded in weave produce by one of the looms- The Loom of Fate! While it is implied this had some truth in the past, Morgan is now controlling the names produced in the loom for money without caring whether the individuals deserved to die or not.

McAvoy knows nothing of the Fraternity or that his father was a member as he works in an office where he has a bullying female boss and a girl friend that is cheating with another office colleague. Such is McAvoy’s condition that he requires anti anxiety medication.

An event is staged between two members of the Fraternity played by Jolie and Kretschmann which result in McAvoy being told he is the son of an assassin with special powers killed by Kretschmann and after the young man become unconscious he is taken to meet Morgan who explains that he has his father’s powers and if agrees to be trained he will be given his father’s fortune which unsurprisingly is all too much for McAvoy who returns to work until the pressures mounts and he finds that several million dollars have been added to his bank account. He takes revenge on his boss and the colleague cheating with his girl friend and goes off to be trained. This involve being badly beaten up repeatedly by members of the Fraternity including Jolie in order to build up skill and resistance. The violence is gratuitous and enjoyable by those like gratuitous violence!

However the hero has reservations about killing until he sent to kill Kretschmann which involves tracing a bullet maker to Moravia and a fast action sequence in which the hero crashes a car into a moving train which is then derailed into a ravine, with Kretschmann saving McAvoy’s life only to be killed by McAvoy but before then revealing that he is in fact McAvoy’s father. Jolie then admits that McAvoy was recruited because he was the only individual Kretschmann would not kill and that having accomplished the mission her task was to kill him. He escapes and is rescued by the bullet maker, played by Terence Stamp, who takes him to his father’s apartment where explains that his father had worked out that Morgan Freeman was creating the names of those to be killed for money pretending they were on some historic mission and he had set out to kill Fraternity members and to keep them away from his son. His father’s wish was that his son would grow up free and without violence but the young man discovers his father’s weapons and decided to complete her father’s mission.

As the finale progresses McAvoy breaks into the compound armed with a truckload of rats, many fitted with time explosive devices which destroy the premises. Freeman explains to the surviving assassins that the reason why he stopped implementing the Loom of Fate was because all their names came up; Jolie who believes in the code because of her personal experience uses a curved bullet to kill all the remaining members including herself with the exception of Morgan Freeman who escapes.

In the final sequence Morgan appears to have got the drop on McAvoy but this turns out to be a look alike decoy and he is killed by his nemesis at a distance and then McAvoy appears to break the screen to address the audience saying What the fuck have you done today? The film made a lot of money. The film is based on a comic book and a sequel is planned. It is not recommended unless you enjoy this kind of rubbish.

The Blind Side

I am again setting to one side writing to and about Margaret Humphreys, the Child Migration Trust, the recently released film, the books and my knowledge before and after being reminded. I need to finish the books and other reading and then write from different perspectives worthy of the issues involved.

So I will attempt to become up todate in my viewing of films and television and reporting on my continuing evolvement into a writer and contemporary creative artist. I also opened another door yesterday to the Second World War, the Pacific Theatre of bloodshed and human misery. The series -Pacific, originally shown on the Sky Film channel is being re run on Sky Atlantic but yesterday struggling to get the internet to work effectively in general and transfer from lap top to TV I found that the series is available on Sky Anytime Internet and watched the first two episodes. I will leave this subject until I have completed Empty Cradles, Sunshine and Oranges and the rest of the emotional wringer I have set for myself, trauma upon trauma of others and my own.

It is 7 am on 14th April 2011 and I have drunk my first cup of coffee, after deciding to gives the Leisure a miss and need some food. I begin with one of several films- The Blind Side a gooey mash of sentimentality and how America wants to see itself based on the true story of Michael Oher, the offensive left tackle for the Baltimore Ravens of the National Football League. The true story is far better and more important than the film, and in fairness the reality is also of good Christian people whose standards are maintained consistently. So instead of beginning with the film and then moving onto the reality, I begin with the reality.

Michael was born Michael Jerome Williams Jnr 28th May 1986, the year that Margaret Humphreys became confronted with one aspect of the horror of the British record by state and religious based bodies to provide appropriate care for children in need. His father was a criminal, who shared a cell with Michael’s mother’s brother and who was murdered and pushed over a bridge when Michael was in High School. His mother is an alcoholic and crack cocaine addict who produced thirteen children.

What has happened to his brothers and sisters before Michael was helped to make a different life for him and what is his present relationship with them and his biological mother is not known to me.

Nor do I know the extent to which his subsequent foster family who became his legal guardians have used their wealth and position to make a difference to his siblings and to others in a similar situation. In comparing stories and roles this could be the difference between the Tuohy family and Margaret Humphreys who after being confronted by one situation devoted her life with her husband and children to as many people with the same issues as money and time were available to her.

This is not to belittle the Tuohy epiphany contribution to the life of Michael Oher but to place his story and the film in the true perspective of the reality of the USA today. The country remains racist and segregated, has failed to tackle drug abuse and alcoholism and prides itself on its vast differential between rich and poor. It remains a fundamentally hypocritical and unchristian practicing nation although under President Obama it appears to be attempting to put his own house in order before attempting to lead the free world while supporting feudal dictatorships, the extermination of men women and children, together with their starvation and death from treatable disease. The republican supporting majority of the country is not willing to improve the balancing of the budget in a humane way or to embrace a national health care programme which enables all to receive the minimum care when needed. The danger of the Oher story and film is that it make good people feel comfortable and accepting they do not have to do more, every day, and sometimes at great personal cost to maintain present levels of civilization let alone make the required progress.

I also pose the question would this couple and their children have devoted themselves to Michael and continued to do so if he had not shown potential as an American football player. In fairness this is a question posed in the film and I presume also in the book and which it is possible to answer with evidential support that first and foremost the Tuohy’s provided Michael with a Christian education and loving family home and while they were keen for him to do well in sport as they were with their biological children what happened to him was down to his High School Coach and Football star spotter and recruiter Tom Lemming.

Before encountering the Tuohy family, Michael was taken into care, placed in a number of foster homes from which he ran away and attended various schools somehow managing to grow tall and large. The film attempts to answer how he managed to survive while the majority do not is that he shut out the negative aspects and development a great sense of protective caring for others, greater than the majority of human beings possess. What his story also suggests given that his academic ability progressed from significantly below average to above average is his parents were victims of their social circumstances rather than of predestined criminality and personal and social inadequacy.

The man first responsible for changing the future life of Michael was Tony Henderson, known as Big Tony who decided to enrol his son in the Briarcrest Christian High School, a non denominational fee paying school, in order to fulfil the dying wish of his grandmother/mother, and that because he had known Michael, who sometimes stayed at his home, and who attended that same public school as his son, suggested to the head of Briarcrest that they also ought to take the young man because of his potential in sport. The purpose of the school then, as now, is to provide a Christian education first; to make an all round good citizen, and this required everyone to also have a good college education. This is what the parent’s were prepared and able to pay for. This meant all pupils had to have a good record of academic ability and Michael did not by a long way and before he would be accepted he was required to successfully complete a home study programme which he failed to complete. The then Principal confirms that he was persuaded as the Christian head of a Christian school with few black pupils to take Michael anyway.

His school life started badly with several teachers believing he was unsuited because he did not have the basics and his performance was appalling. On some respects his lack of basic knowledge was similar to my own although I had managed to cope with some of the basics better than Michael by his age on admission. However fortunately there was Jennifer Graves who ran the programme for students with special needs and she saw in him potential and was not prepared to give up and ensured that he was given a chance and which is where Sean Tuohy and his wife enter the story. While the film concentrated on the role of his wife, the book written by Michael Lewis and summarised in the New York Times, under the title - the Ballard of Big Mike 24th September 2006 prior to the publication gives equal prominence to Sean, a man socially aware who made a fortunate and an upper middle class lifestyle through owning a chain of 60 fast food restaurants for the likes of KFC, Taco Bells and Long John Silver, He also had been an able basketball player at university and in the minor league and he maintained involvement doing commentaries and took an interest in anyone also trying to work their way up. He had taken in interest in the poorer students at the school, and these were predominantly black, helping to fund their scholarship and encountering Michael and working out the boy was not eating on a regular basis arranged for him to have a paid for lunch each day. His daughter was becoming the state pole vault champion (not covered in the film) which concentrates in her membership of the cheer leader’s unit, and admits she was afraid of his size until she found worked out that he was more afraid of the other students.

One cold and blustery morning on seeing Michael leaving a bus wearing shorts and the same T shirt he always wore, Sean mentioned this was the boy he was helping by proving regular lunch and when the boy said he was on the way to the gym because it was warm in there, his wife got upset and Sean knew that they were to become more involved.

That his wife immediately took an interest was against the family grain as her father was a racist US Marshall who had taken her out of public school to Briarcrest because of desegregation. When she decided to buy him a wardrobe she had no idea she would one day become his legal mother. During the autumn of 2003 Michael stayed with various families and one night after a track meeting attended by Leigh Anne Tuohy she saw Michael and gave him a lift the 30 miles to a trailer where he slept on a blow up mattress which tended to loose air as quickly as it was blown up. She took him to her home where he used a couch for two weeks during which time she visited the places where he had stayed collecting clothes that had been given. He then moved in with his own room and bed and quickly became a close friend of the young son Sean Jnr.

It is at this point I introduce the role of Tom Lemming and why the book and film is called the Blind Side. Michael now plays as a left tackle offensive, a role similar to Orlando Pace who in addition to his standard role had developed the ability to protect the quarterback‘s blind side, something which failing to do had led to the end of the career of well known quarterback. The article explains just how important finding an offensive left tackling linesman with the ability to protect the Blind Side of the quarterback had become in the game with the average National Football League player in the role earning $5.5 million a year in 2004 while by 2006 Matt Hasselbeck had signed a six year deal worth $8.2 million a year. By now it would be surprising if the figure has not reached over $10 million

What emerged in the article and the film is that one of leading recruiters of new American Football talent from High schools, Tom Lemming, had followed up a tape of Michael’s play sent to him by the ambitious school coach, and became intrigued as well as interested because the high school had no record of providing Division 1 college players and the young man was unknown outside the High school for having ability and potential or having the kind of social life which potential stars normally experienced, and that when he got to interview him at school, the boy did not know who he was, did not consider himself a football player or had played in the role of left tackle which Lemming viewed him as a result of seeing the tape. I like this because it is evidence that the Tuohy’s were providing foremost a loving and secure home.

The consequence of Lemmings appreciation of the boy’s potential is that when he notified 100 head football college who provided first division programmes On the first afternoon of Spring practice Briarcrest staff noted the arrival of coaching staff from five universities, something that had never had happened before. They could not say anything to him directly because of the rules which prevented approaches until July of an athlete’s senior year. At the end of a play involving Michael visiting coaches all went off to make private telephone calls. One of those visiting handed the team coach his card saying a full scholarship was available for Michael.

The Tuohy’s were not immediately convinced that football was the future for Michael especially because of his lack of natural aggression. He was successful in playing basketball and in throwing the discus.

(Having debated whether to go to Headingley for the first day of the game between Yorks and Durham after getting an accommodation voucher worth £15 a night at Travel Lodge, I decided to stay and see what happens over the first possibly second day. There was a little regret when Durham won the toss and decided to bat. Will Smith former captain that led Durham to their great championship win before he lost confidence and resigned after last year’s year disastrous start has returned as opening batsman, because of an injury to Stoneman. Captain Mustard is also out with injury and I have learned that Steve must have been hit on the arm and broken a bone with his second ball at the Rose Bowl last week. Smith is showing his nervous tendencies with De Venuto on 28 and Smith 21 50 without loss in 12th over).

The next problem was Michael’s record of academic performance with a history of D’s and F’s which meant there was no prospect of his being eligible for a University Placement. He needed to somehow raise his grade average from .6 to over 2.65 by the time of graduation. The family hired a private tutor to help Michael 20 hours a week and with her assistance he undertook a number of intensive Internet courses at the Brigham Young University (something not mentioned in the film) and which took him over the minimum requirement for college.

Michael was courted by the Universities of Tennessee, Louisiana, Alabama, South Carolina and Mississippi and in choosing Mississippi caused an investigation by the National Collegiate Athletics Association which organises and regulates programmes and scholarships at over 1000 institutions. It is not known who complained and why, but the issue centred on whether Michael had been pushed into accepting Mississippi because it was the University of his adopted parents and that his High school coach was then given a post with the University soon after Michael agreed to go to the University where he obtained a grade I scholarship meeting the academic standards because of the Internet work with Brigham Young. In the film the inquiry does cause Michael to question the extent to which the family took him in because of his sports potential rather than his individual qualities. The NCCA did not close its case on suspicions of collusion and the High school coach was found guilty of secondary violations by contacting University staff before becoming a member of the staff.

The film ends with Michael’s graduation and visit with his family to start at Mississippi. Michael was likely to be the only graduate without a baby photo for the year book and the best Leigh Anne could achieve was one when aged 10 years taken by the state child care authorities. Her solution was to use the best appropriate photo of a black baby so he did not miss out. In the film she also warned what she would do if made a girl pregnant. Mrs Tuohy has her own Interior decorating business after attending Mississippi University where she met her husband then a basketball star. Sean was educated in New Orleans where a gymnasium is named after his father a longstanding basketball coach at the school. He is included in the University of Mississippi Hall of Fame. He continues to broadcast report Basketball games as well as enjoy the income from his now 80 strong restaurant franchise chain which also now includes Pizza Hut.

Also in the film Sean Jnr attended the various meetings between the University coaches and Michael before his decision as to which college he accepted. He asked about his ability to keep in contact with his older brother and the offer from Mississippi included the ability to lead the team out as a mascot for the first game. The film the films then ends with live film and photos of Michael being signed by the Baltimore Ravens as the 23rd pick of the 2009 draft having gained Michael on an exchange with New England Patriots for their first and fifth round selections. After his opening performances he signed a five year $13. 8 million contract as a right offensive tackle although during 2009 he played 5 of the 16 games as left tackle a position which became permanent for the 2010 season when he again played in every game. He is co authored autobiography I beat the Odds, from Homelessness to the Blind Side and Beyond has also been published. I will look out for his progress next season.

Saturday, 2 April 2011

From Paris with Love

I have watched one new film on the Sky Anytime TV module. From Paris with Love staring a difficult to recognise John Travolta and a Johnny Depp look alike Jonathan Rhys Meyers. Myers plays an assistant to the USA Ambassador in Paris who has willingly been recruited to undertake non combative intelligence gathering which includes planting a bug in the office of someone visited by the Ambassador. He also plays chess with the Ambassador thus indicating his intellectual thinking ahead and food memory skills. After expressing an interesting in having a more active roll he is asked to help out a special operative (John Travolta) because of an immediate lack of anyone else available. This is one of several nonsense aspects of the story but without which there would be no story.

His first task is to get Travolta away from customs because he had kicked up a fuss about not being able to bring cans of beer into France. Meyers slaps a diplomatic bad on the cans which in fact contain Travolta’s favourite weapon. Given that he has volunteered Meyers is unbelievably naive about what his role is likely to involve and the first half of the film comprises Travolta shooting and killing half a dozen employees of a Chinese restaurant where a vast quantity of cocaine is stored between ceiling of the ground floor and first floor which rains down when Travolta knowingly shoots holes all over, asking Meyers to collect a substantial amount in a large Chinese vase.

He first explains that the daughter of the senior Government official has got involved in drugs and they are on a revenge mission to shut the supply line down. He lets one employ live with a message as the basis of getting to the power boss, who we find being entertained by a group Chinese children. Before entering the premises he singled handed deals with half a dozen street yobs and then with the security guards for Mr Big. From Mr Big he wants the name of his supplier and at this point the trail take then to a middle East North Africa source during which experience Meyers loses and regains an antique ring given him by his girlfriend and is required to make his first kill.

They then find the bomb making centre after Travolta reveals the problem is a terrorist plot and not the drugs and when it looks three are escaping they find a way to blow them up before they can and they find a way of blowing up Meyer‘s car as they leave the area in a stolen police car. Travolta is not convinced they have aborted the plot, especially when he sees photos of Meyer on the wall of the bomb making factory.

From the outset Meyer has balanced his official and extra curricular working life with an intense love affair with a fabric designer. The first clue to all is not what it seems is when he arrives home and sees what appears to be blood on the stairs leading to the roof terrace where the girl has prepared a special meal and gives him a ring to mark their official engagement. I cannot member at what point I knew the ring was a tracking device.

Confirmation that I was correct came when the two enter the red light district and come across the girlfriend, albeit with a couple of rolls of fabric but as Travolta queries why in the same building.

Travolta goes with Meyer to his flat for a meal with girl friend and her friend who during the meal takes a phone message and says Rose is not here. Travolta shoots her saying Rose as a code word also on the phones of others they connected with and that Meyer‘s girl friend is one of them. Meyer contests but when Travolta shows that the ring is a tracking device and that the flat is bugged, subsequent it is found that there are over a dozen bugs and five cameras, the girl shoots Meyer and then escapes using dramatic athleticism.

The two agents then work out that object of the terrorist attack is the USA delegation to a conference and Travolta goes chasing a vehicle which he believes the girl and one another are travelling to attack the delegation as it travels from the airport to the conference centre. Meyer recovering at home suddenly works out this is diversion and the main threat is at he conference where he believes the girl friend will be gaining entry as a delegate. He goes to the centre warning Travolta who nevertheless has to try and stop the vehicle with the co conspirator and which is still set on attacking the diplomatic convoy. He succeeds in the last seconds before the vehicle collides with the convoy.

At the conference Meyer cannot get in because the girlfriend has used a duplicate of his pass but fortunately he sees the ambassador who vouches for him. He had difficulty indenting his former girl friend and when he does he pleads with her to live and not detonate the bomb strapped to her body. When she hesitates, hope builds but when she goes to detonated he shoots her in the head and she falls back into the arms of Travolta to prevent the bomb exploding as she hits the ground.

Travolta has a private jet waiting to take him to next assignment and they play a game of chess from a travel set before he boards beating if the newly formed team are to stay together for sequels. What do you think?

Friday, 1 April 2011

13 Days

The third and final film of this first film memory note is Thirteen Days which covered the Cuban Missile Crisis when the world came closest to Nuclear World War. 13 days which has the same title as the book by Robert Kennedy was based on another book called The Kennedy Tapes inside the White House and also included more recent material then declassified. I saw the film at the Bolden Cineworld on 21st March 2001. The Missile Crisis has been covered by several books, films and documentaries. The USA government discovered Missile sites on Cuba with preparation of new sites and instituted a naval blockade to prevent the arrival of further Missiles and supplies from Russia in October 1962. The USA had before this deployed a similar range of intercontinental and medium range missiles aimed at Russia in Turkey and Italy. There was an exchange of threats and secret agreement negotiated through the UN General Secretary which led to the sites being removes as were the 1961 USA sites in Turkey and Europe., Reading notes on the actual event I query with myself if I knew before that unknown to the President the military had moved the state of readiness to Defcon 2, with Defcon 3 the state of alter reserved for War and initiated a trial of an offensive rocket, again without the approval or knowledge of he President. The film starred Kevin Costner in a role which has no basis on reality. I have no memory of the film visual or otherwise.

8 Women

Today I begin with the first of retrospective film notes and the first 8 Women which I saw at the Bolden Cineworld on 27th December 2002. Because the experience was nine years ago I am not attempting to recount the story but give my memories or memory if I have them. The first is that there were some young people in the 20.20 evening performance who did not appreciate that the film was in French with English subtitles and created a disturbance before walking out. After this incident the staffs were at pains to advise customers when other subtitled films were shown.

The film was a curious concoction more an Agatha Christie who did it, than comedy with some singing added. I remember some great visuals and although the 8 women were reported well known I only knew of Catherine Deneurve and Danielle Darrieux then and still.
My only other note is that I saw the film over a New Year between visiting by birth mother and my care mother whose health had deteriorated as a consequence of the incompetence of her General Practitioner and a Health Visitor. The GP subsequently apologised but the Health Visitor lied, a strong charge but one which can be proved. Within three months my birth mother had died in hospital where she had not wanted to be admitted and a result of several levels of failure and incompetence. I spent years going through the changing complaints procedures being mislead by various levels of officialdom. I hope to one day become sufficiently emotionally detached to write up this aspect of the tragedy in some detail.

8 1/2 Women

The second film also has 8 and women in the Title but with the addition of a half- 8 ½ women, neither film to be confused with 8 which covers 8 short films or 8 ½ the Fellini film which I reviewed recently along with the musical version called 9. Having said this, 8 ½ women is an English language homage to 8 ½ in so far as a father and his son use their wealth to establish their personal harem to bring women on contracts to live as their concubine.

I did not immediately remember anything about the Peter Greenaway directed and written film which I saw at the Newcastle Film Theatre 10 January 2000, over a decade ago. As soon as I read the story notes I remembered several visual images and that the women were carefully selected for their different specialities. The other aspect which I do remember is that the film was more of a verbal exercise and that despite the subject there was no portray sexual activity as has become the custom.

The available notes remind that among the collection interesting and challenging females is someone who yearns to be a nun, a girl who loves horses and sleeps with a pig, a Norwegian bank clerk, a female impersonator who is female, a compulsive Japanese slot machine player, someone who wants to be made pregnant so she can sell the babies, a woman selling her body and a woman in a wheel chair who accounted for the half plus one other. I remember the film as fun and of no consequence.