Sunday, 28 October 2012

The Thing

I have come across another film The Thing, A prequel to the 1982 film of the same name. In 1982 an extra terrestrial vehicle is discovered below Antarctic ice by a Norwegian research team. They then discover what appears to be the dead remains of someone from the machine and remove the body into camp only to discover that it is not dead but has the capacity to hide in the bodies of selected human beings in such a way that most people will not detect the transfer.

The object of the creature is to escape from the area and multiply among the general population. Stopping the creature is led by Palaeontologist Kate Lloyd with the detection method to look at the teeth of other unit members as the creature cannot cope with metal fillings and a mouth will reveal this except for those who other forms of fillings, or the absence of any metal implants in their body. At the end of the film when it looks she and other members of team who survive are successful, a dog runs off, implying that he Thing has become the creature. I understand this is how the first film opened. Clever as it will make a number of viewer go to the original film. Not me though.








The Magnificent Showman

A film with an overlapping theme is The Magnificent Showman a vehicle for John Wayne and Rita Hayworth back in 1965. The film is primarily about the struggle of Wayne to produce a three ring Circus which was a fashion at the time and where I remember attending a performance of one such event in the Croydon area in the 1950’s or even may have been the late 1940’s. He has with him the orphan of a famous aerialist who died and whose mother has disappeared. The Circus has its problems caused unknown Wayne by the friend of dead man who blames the boss for the death.

The truth is that Wayne and Hayworth had an affair with the girl being their daughter, when the father had an accident Hayworth runs off from the guilt. She returns to see her daughter and at first Wayne is concerned that the daughter should find out. As one might expect in the end Wayne Haworth and the girl become happy families but not after there is second fortunately unsuccessful attempt to burn the Circus down by the resentful friend of the dead man. The daughter becomes a aerialist much to horror of Wayne but is reconciled when she is shown to be as talented as her mother.



I now come to the great disappointment of the year Anonymous, a historical drama with as its background the controversy as to whether the plays now performed and studied as by William Shakespeare were in fact the writings of the 17 Earl of Oxford Edward de Vere. The production is glorious using a host of big name stars including Vanessa Redgrave as the first Queen Elizabeth, Joely Richardson Rafe Spall and Rhys Ifans as the Earl of Oxford. Joely, Vanessa’s daughter plays the young Elizabeth which is a great piece of casting.

The case against William Shakespeare being the author of the works is a strong one because the man was a low level actor. The list of candidates for authorship includes Francis Bacon, the 5 Earl of Rutland, and the 6th Earl of Derby with supporters arguing that the Earl of Oxford continues to pose the strongest.

Why the film disappoints is because of the blurring with the present and past in the film and where the issue of the authorship of the plays remains secondary to the basic plot which is who will succeed Elizabeth as she approaches the end of life and the move of the Catholics to put James, the son of Mary Queen of Scots on the English throne and undo Henry’s break with Rome.

The background is that Oxford became a prodigious playwright from a young age. When Oxford lives in the House of Cecil he kills a servant for spying on him, Cecil blackmails him into marrying his daughter and also bans his further involvement in playwriting. The film suggests that Oxford had presented one his plays A Midsummer Night’s Dream to the Young Queen Elizabeth and they establish a relationship which results in the Queen secretly given birth to their son who is brought up as the Earl of Southampton without the boy or Oxford being initially aware of his paternal parentage. This means that the boy would be the rightful heir after the Queen dies and scupper the plan of Cecil.

In his mature years Oxford visits the theatre and is impressed by a play from Ben Jonson which is about the position of Essex alleged to be another of the Queen’s secret sons. Johnson is imprisoned in the Tower because of the play but Oxford offers to free him if he passes Oxford’s play Richard III as Jonson‘s. Johnson although happy to be freed decides against claiming authorship which he offers to Shakespeare and is then surprised by the plays success. When Shakespeare discovers who the author of the play is he blackmails Oxford into funding the building of the Globe Theatre and as part of the deal begins to put the completed plays of Oxford as his own.

Oxford then attempts to blacken Cecil and writes Venus and Adonis to remind the Queen of their love Cecil captures two sons of the Queen on the grounds they are plotting to take the throne from her by force. Oxford has a private audience with the Queen to plead for his son and she agrees on the basis that no will ever know that he is the true author of the plays under the name of William Shakespeare. After the death of the Queen, Cecil makes every effort, successfully to ensure that Oxford is not revealed as the author especially after James when crowned becomes enthusiastic about the plays. Shakespeare retires to Stratford to become a business man with the money gained through being regarded as the author of Oxford’s work. This may all appear clear enough but has only been worked out long after I sat confused by what happened on the screen,


Johnny English Reborn

In mid September I watched Rowan Atkinson in Johnny English Reborn and confess that apart from the last episodes of Black Adder I failed to find his brand humour entertaining once one had got over marvelling at his facial expressions and ability to communicate without words which remains outstanding. The problem has always been the scripts.

The film is meant to be a Spy spoof of the James Bond Genre which celebrates half a century of films, all on Sky if you chose and with the latest Skyfall packing em in cinemas this weekend. I cannot remember anything of the original film made eight years ago and here he starts learning martial in Tibet having been exiled after a failed mission in Mozambique where the head of state he was supposed to protect is assassinated.

However he is summoned back by the new boss Pegasus Gillian Anderson (M17) to stop a plot to kill the Chinese Premier during talks with the British Prime Minister. Although Johnny was highly regarded within the service he looks up to another agent who from the outset is the baddie although Johnny is such a stupid man that he fails to see what is obvious especially to his new recruit assistant.

As you will appreciate I found the character awful, irritating and deserving of every nasty thing that happens to him. Fortunately his assistant is OK and misguidedly helps Johnny to survive but why escapes me. Johnny is tested by a behavioural psychologist who amazingly develops a thing for Johnny and also helps in his rehabilitation and eventual success.

What emerges is that those behind the planned assassination are the same as in Mozambique and use a behaviour controlling drug initially going to be used on the boss of M17 but is then Johnny. He appears to die saving the Premier but survives through a kiss from the psychologist. There is a scene at the end at Buckingham Palace where Johnny is to be knighted for his services and mistakes the real Queen for a villain who has disguised herself as the Queen. Silly rubbish all the way and I did not find anything funny.

Jane Eyre 2011

I nearly went to see the 2011 version of Jane Eyre in theatre and thought I had written a review after seeing the film on TV in early October. Cinema films were made in 1934, 1944 with Jane Fontaine (seen) 1956, 1960 with Susannah York 1996 1997 (seen) and now 2011 with Mia Wasikowska plus a mini series in 2006 1983 and back in 1973 with Sorca Cusack. I have visited the parsonage where the Bronte sisters were raised to young women as well as walking the Moors which feature in Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights and viewed several TV programmes about the Bronte sisters and their impact on English literature and the role of women.

The film is an excellent addition although I am not certain if it follows the book which I read many moons ago and have found in the library and added to the titles to be read over coming months although well back in the queue. Jane is brought up in a family where in modern parlance she is abused by everyone and when she stands up for herself she is packed off to a harsh residential establishment for the training and discipline for young women, where she has an even harder time, but survives to be appointed the governess of an orphan French girl at the castle like home of one Mr Rochester and his housekeeper Alice Fairfax.

When Rochester returns from one of his many travels he takes to Jane because of her independent spirit and in time decides she is the one to marry than another young woman part of the County set who he invites at one point to his home.

When the couple are to be married, someone intervenes at the ceremony to say that Rochester is already married and is the severely mentally disturbed woman who Rochester cares for secretly in an otherwise unoccupied part of the home. Jane has already rescued Rochester from certain death with his wife attempted to burn the house down Jane goes off in distress which deepens as she wonders the moors and weather deteriorates. She is taken in by a would be missionary and his two sisters who finds her work teaching at the local school. He sets his sights on her and is disappointed when she rejects his sincere wishes to marry her.

Jane has discovered she has become a wealthy woman after her aunt yields a letter on her deathbed sent by a relative of Jayne who has made a fortune in the West Indies and has attempted to locate his only known relative. She inherits when the man dies.

When she returns Thornfield Hall, Rochester‘s home, she finds it has substantially burned down. Rochester is blinded in the blaze which also killed his wife. With money of her own and the right social background she is now free to marry and to care for the man in a role reversal situation.

Please write an essay of 1000 words explaining what Jane Eye and Chalet Girl have in common.

Chalet Girl

I watched the opening of Chalet Girls where I had seen a trailer at the cinema expecting awful teen’s rights of passage romp and stayed to watch the whole film. It is more a contemporary faiy story. The girl and her father cling to each other after the death of the wife and mother in a car accident with both blaming themselves for contributing to the death,

An accident to an existing Ski Resort chalet girl enables Cinderella to be accepted by an agency for a four month contract despite an inability to Ski. The girl can cook and works hard but is out of her depth among the other sophisticated and experienced Chalet girls who look after the rich and famous to keep large latest gadgets homes in the resort where they spend occasional holidays in season, bringing business guests and sometimes friends, eat caviar and drink the best champagne. Bill Nighy plays the wealthy chalet owner with his snobby wife, a former air hostess and their son, Prince Charming who is about to become engaged to a suitable girl of money and social standing.

The girl discovers she has a talent for snow boarding although is held back by the sense of guilty regarding the death of her mother. She is forced to enter a major competition held at the resort when after celebrating her birthday at a party they invited everyone back to the Chalet where she is discovered skinny dipping by the son who returns unexpectedly and makes them pay up their tips as compensation for the damage caused by the other party goers. Unbeknown to the girl the young man comes for a weekend before his engagement party and uncertain he is making the right decision joins the girl for day on slopes at the end of which they fall in love and have sex, only to again be discovered by the mother who comes to collect her errant son. He backs out of the engagement at the party and is understandably physically assaulted by the girl.

The girl enters the competition and appears to fail in the first run ending up first reserve. She gets her chance at the last moment and wins a substantial money prize as well as finding a new career as a professional snow boarding competitor. The girl, her by now Chalet girl friends all find their ideal love sex partner as does her father back homer with his local authority help although why is entitled to a home help escaped me. It was good fun.

The Rum Diary

Hunter S Thompson
was born two years before me and died in 2005 had the kind of start which it could be said was a good seam for subsequent writing with feeling and commitment and according to Depp led a hell raising drink, drugs and women existence which other writers have trodden since young men set forth to make their mark on the world and turn their experience into prose of merit and interest.

I wrote this listening to Gib radio and avoiding the washing up. Gib radio at this hour (evening) is almost continuous good music without constant news, competitions and advertising. Shine Light as a Diamond, SkyFall, Valerie with Amy Winehouse where numbers which caught my eye. There is no reference to artists or titles.

Hunter Thompson is report to have gone off the rails at 15 following the death of his middle class family father in Louisville Kentucky and spent two months in jail at the age of 18 for abetting a robbery which meant he failed to graduate from High School. Nevertheless this did not prevent him joining the USA airforce becoming a journalist and working in Puerto Rico the subject of the film, and in Beirut and Brazil before settling in Aspen Colorado in the early 1960‘s when he would have been as still in his twenties.

After a year living with at the Hells. Angels he wrote The Strange and Terrible Saga of Motor Cycle Gangs (1967) and set on a path of creating a new form of journalism in which the writer became the central character with the most recent example only earlierin the week as Michael Palin set off with a camera team to report on Modern Brazil and where he remained the central character throughout. Fear and Loathing in Los Vegas 1972 became Hunter’s best known work. It was serialised in Rolling Stone and the 1998 film starred Johnny Depp and Terry Gilliam. He also wrote Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail publicising his hatred of Richard Nixon who he regarded as dark and representing the violent side of the American culture, While he did not advocate drink, drugs, insanity and violence he admitted these things had worked for him. He took his own life when depressed aged 67.

He has one of the most detailed and interesting biographies on Wikipedia but the two aspects which interested me were his period in Puerto Rico, and where later in life he published an autobiographical account as the Rum Diaries and if it is accurate married the young women he met while working in that country. The Wikipedia biography suggests differently which is not surprising given the nature of the relationship described in the Johnny Depp film.

In the film and possibly the book Depp brings out many of the features for which his life is known. He arrives a day late at the office of the newspaper because of getting drunk in the hotel, alone and wrecking the drinks fridge because he did not find out that the key was attached to the room key. There is much drinking of rum throughout the film and in great quantities.

He and his room mate friend, photography colleague on the newspaper, try out a hallucinatory drug alleged to been given by the CIA to Communists in order to change their view of the world. His antipathy towards Nixon is also covered as the two use binoculars to watch the TV of neighbour through respective open windows and where the sound is on so loud they can hear what is being said. It was not clear why they did not acquire their own TV. They watch Nixon on the campaign trail which results in the Hunter based character unable to watch such is his contempt

There are three interlinked story lines. The first is the future of the paper to which he has been recruited to help save. However the paper is dependent on advertises who do not take kindly to attacks on their role in the country or to attacks on the way the country is run and the role of the USA in particular. The paper is closed down in any event and his attempt to provide at least a final edition of truth and justice also fails when the bank who owns the accumulated debt removes the relevant machines for sale.

On arrival at the flat of the photographer he notes the man keeps a cockerel, a fighting fowl, so he goes along to watch noting the winnings of a couple of hundred dollars from bets. He learns that this is small beer compared to the $2000 dollars plus at a venue attended by the wealthy and influential. They take the cockeral to a voodoo priestess for help to fight the local champion in order to make money to save the paper and although they win and gain some $6000 they are too late.

The second storyline which was to have been the major event in the last edition is that he approached by a young business man to help write up friendly articles for a bid to buy a beautiful island presently used by the USA for target practice but about to come on the market and which the man and his friends and associates plan to turn into a paradise holiday island. The group includes a nuke the commies General and his wife.

The reason his deal to write fails, is not from any high morale indignation but because of the man’s girl friend who he first encounters one evening when he uses a pedalo in the bay and finds the girl swimming naked. He sees her again when he visits the young businessman who comments that the young woman likes to sun bathe naked which attracts the attention of those who stray on his private beach. When Hunter visits a second time to discuss the business proposition her see the couple making love by the yacht via a spy glass. He alienates his host first by after signing a confidentiality agreement brings the photographer along on a visit to the island from which he two plan to visit another island where a fiesta is being held. Here they meet up with the girl who told him about the event and boyfriend and other guests on the trip.

The girl insists on going dancing at a jazz club event against the wishes of the boyfriend where she encounters a masculine local and they engage in a provocative sexul dance where it appears evident the couple are to engage in sex leading perhaps to an orgy at which the girl plays the central part. Realising that she is out of her depth, the boyfriend and Hunter are unable to intervene and are sent packing. The following day there is no sign of the girl and the boyfriend blames Hunter and sends him packing.

Earlier Hunter and the photographer had narrowly escaped from a nasty situation involving a group of locals at a countryside restaurant inn and in getting away have a serious run in with the police. They are bailed out by the businesses man who now turns his back on them but fortunately they have the winnings to pay fines and bribes in order to wipe the slate.

The girl arrives at the shared flat, they have sex but she goes off to New York. He also goes back to the USA. In the final notes Depp mentions that the character in the film did find his writing voice and become successful and settled down in the USA and marries the woman he met in Puerto Rico. The film is only of interest because of the relationship with Depp and prior knowledge of the author and his autobiographical novel would have helped.

Tuesday, 23 October 2012


On Saturday afternoon I watched Warhorse on Sky TV and was very surprised as how good and enjoyable this film is. I believe it was on Andrew Marr’s show in the morning that the author of the book was interviewed and who admitted that it had sold few copies before the National Theatre created a play which is still running and which led to Speilberg deciding it would make a great film. It was not a great film but enjoyable as I have said.

The film begins in the English Devon Countryside as the son of a tenant farmers watches a neighbour raise the foal of a thoroughbred horse from birth until it is ready to be sold at auction. His father, a man prone to drink too much, since his experiences as a soldier in the Boer War attends the auction to purchase a shire horse for ploughing but cannot resist buying the horse in competition with his landlord and uses part of his rent money to compete the purchase as a consequence. When the landlord calls to collect his due and finds he only receives a portion he gives the man more time on the basis that the horse will be used to plough the bottom field with is full of stones and rocks. The landlord and several neighbours turn up top watch the son attempt to plough which he is able to do eventually under terrible weather conditions but only because of the special relationship which has developed between him and the horse.

Unfortunately coinciding with the commencement of World War I the crop fails due to exceptional weather conditions and the man is forced to sell the horse to the army where it is bought for the maximum price available, sufficient to save the farm from closure. Distressed at the failure of his father the boy has complained to his mother who has explained that something happened to her husband during the Boer War which he would not speak of yet the man had a gallantry medal which he threw away on his return but his wife had kept wrapped material which had gone through the war and which the son now attached to the mane of the horse when it is sold. The officer who buys promises to return the horse if they survive after the boy is unable to join up because he is too young.

We follow the horse as it journeys to the War Front with the officer making sketches of the creature which he intends to send to the young man. The cavalry unit are sent on an early surprise raid on a German encampment where the scout has not properly checked and discovered the hidden machine gun placements in a nearby wood. Although the German troops are caught in their tents the majority are able to make for the trees where after they have reached safety machine guns mow down the advancing horses and their riders. In this instance the horse escapes and bolts while the officer is killed. A colleague sends the sketches to the young man with a note about what happened. The note does not mention the fate of the horse.

We the audience know that it is found by the sick grand daughter of a jam making farmer sandwich between the two armies. This is after the horse has been captured by the German army and is cared for by two brothers who use the animal to pull an ambulance wagon for the injured. However when the unit is called to the front the young brother is told to participate in the advance while the second is told to stay with the horses because he has shown aptitude. However this breaks a promise made to their mother that he would protect his brother with both boys signed up by their father. He decides to rescue his brother and they effectively drop out and attempt to hide in a Mill on their way to Italy but they are discovered and shot but without the horses being found where they are rescued by an orphaned young woman brought up by her grand father. She has fragile bone disease but insists on learning to ride the horse and one day gallops straight into another German force that seize the animals and most of her father’s produce.

The two horses are used to help haul guns up a hill where other animals have failed and been shot for their ineffectiveness. Because of its experience using a plough and harness it is ideal for the task as leader of a pack of horses and becomes a much valued by their keeper.

Meanwhile as the War draws to its close the boy who trained the horse has joined up and is experiencing the realities of battle and on one instance on an over the trench top charge he is told to stay back and shoot any one who returns before the German trench is taken. When some soldiers do return before the battle is over, the young man cannot shoot them and goes into the open ground helping to take out a machine gun position. When he and his friends reach the German lines he is affected by a mustard gas bomb attack.

Meanwhile the horse has also survived and in the heat of battle the horse runs off along trenches and onto the no man’s land between two lines of trenches where it becomes enmeshed in barbed wire. Seeing the animal trapped a British soldier attempts a rescue and is joined by a German soldier with wire cutters and they the free horse and then the Englishman wins the horse at the toss of the coin and takes the animal to the field hospital for its injuries to be treated only to be told that it must be put down. The horse has gained a reputation for its miraculous survival and of the one million horses sent to the front from the UK only 62000 are known to have returned home.

The young man who trained the creature also hears of its survival and although still blinded he is able to make contact with the horse and the young man who rescued the animal hands him over and the doctor in charge agrees to do everything to save the animal as well as help the young man to regain his sight.

At the end of the war a problem arises because only horses of officers are to be repatriated home with the other animals sold at auction. There is a collection among his colleagues which raises some £30 for him to bid for the horse. At the auction he is out bid first by a butcher and then by the grandfather of the girl who rescued the horse at one point and who the grandfather discloses has died. When he realise it was the young soldier who originally trained the horse he hands back first the ribbon of his father and then the horse saying it what his grand daughter would have wished. The young man and the horse are therefore able to return home to be reunited with his parents.

What is of interest is that the writer of the book was influences by two survivors of the war, one who had been involved with horses and the other with the Cavalry and the use of horse pulling guns and powering ambulance vehicles. However the fate of the horses has to placed in the perspective of the eight hundred and eighty thousand men who died, one in eight of those who went to war from the UK and 2% if the British population at that time.