Monday, 31 October 2016

The Room

My interest in the subject of captivity and isolation commenced when in 1960, because of my age, I was kept locked in a prison cell  between Saturday afternoon and Monday morning on remand having refused bail and with only two half hours of exercise with another nonviolent protestor, against weapons of mass civilian extermination, in an adjacent cell in Bedford jail and where we had to walk  round the yard with distance between us while the adults later reported having a grand time by comparison kept together on mattresses in the prison library. I hated very second without a book, writing paper or anything to do. My approach when spending the last four and half months of the six months’ alternative chosen to promising to stop protesting was to separate myself from other protestors and fit into the regime of prison life with everyone else.  That did create problems when I left, so I learned a little of the impact of being isolated and of the subsequent adjustment required when you have accepted and adjusted to the situation which in my instanced I had placed myself in. The book edited by George Mikes called Prison, includes chapters by a survivor of Auschwitz, by Rusell Braddon, Arthur Koestler and Paul Ignotus, and an older first cousin returned from his participation in World War II and prison camps in North Africa, Italy and central Europe as a man damaged, dying prematurely from his persistent need smoke.

Works of fiction only reflects the impact of reality and over the past decade there have been accounts worldwide about the experience of girls adducted and kept imprisoned for sexual purposes. Elizabeth Smart suffered for only 9 months compared to Natasha Kampusch 8 years, Michelle Knight, 12 years Jaycee Duggard 18 years and Elizabeth Fritzel for 24 years by her father with whom she had seven children and where in some instances the abductors have been a married couple.

Recently, possibly because of the commercial and artistic success of the Canadian film, The Room in 2015, there has been a sudden flux of new material, with the BBC making available on its I player all five episodes of Thirteen with the showing of the first, the second series of Missing with Donal Morrisey as the father, has 10 episodes and where James Nesbitt was the male lead in the award winning first series of the British American drama. An adolescent boy has so far been rescued in the first three episodes of the Australian series the Code which features the dark net where individual children are abducted for on demand bids, and where the main story appears to be the international UK/USA capitalist exploitation of the mineral resources of an island people involving corruption, murder, torture and political complicity.  

I saw 2015 The Room in theatre at Bolden Cineworld on January 26th at 16.50 screen 4 and seat J3. The film stars Brie Larson in the role of the abducted teenager who survives captivity in a room with the son born through the enforced union. She is abducted and kept in a purpose created room for seven years which has a bed, toilet, bathtub, television and basic cooking area. The window is a skylight and one of the ways Joy copes is to pretend to her son that TV is all fiction and that their life is normal with the child as he has got older having to sleep in a wardrobe when the captor visits for sex. When the captor loses his job, and says he cannot continue to provide the same level of food and clothing as previously Joy devises a plan to get the son out by faking that he has severe fever and pressing their captor to take him to hospital, he only offers to bring antibiotics and the next step is for the boy to play dead and for him to be removed from the room in a carpet from which he escaped, is escapes and come into the hands of the police.

Understandably the boy is overwhelmed and disorientated by a world in which he had no previous knowledge and the police find there is no record of his existence. The police are able through credible work to locate the property and rescue his mother and reunite her and the grand child with her mother who is now divorced and in a new relationship and where the girl’s father lives at some distance. He returns but cannot accept the grandson and leaves. While the authorities do everything, they can to prepare mother to return to normality and Jack to adjust to life, both find the challenge exceptionally difficult as do all the other family members. Controlling and dealing with media is an issue which occurs in real situations and where victims have written books, given interviews and participated in documentaries.

Jack who at first refuses to communicate with anyone other than his mother and refuses his hair to be cut and for the first time begins to adjust with the help of a pet dog and boy of his own age, learning to play with other boys and to go to school.  His mother finds it more difficult to cope especially when challenged about having become complicit in the situation something with life victims have all had to face. Mother becomes withdrawn, depressed and attempts to take her own life. The grandmother can cut his hair and sending this to his mother as a reminder of his existence and adjustment so far, help the mother to survive. They both decide on the need to visit the place where they live and Jack comments that the place has shrunk. The both say goodbye to the Room leaving the audience upbeat with a sense that they will survive

Saturday, 29 October 2016

Queen of Katwe

My second visit within two days to the Cineworld Bolden (26 October 2016) was for the film Queen of Katwe which has received a good review on the Friday afternoon film  institution with Simon Mayo and Dr Mark Kermode.  The film is set and made entirely in the Uganda of the present day, a country with no welfare state as we have come to expect in the UK, no free education, no free NHS and no public welfare system, with population half that of the UK, entirely land locked, corruption rife and poor and with a UK heritage, political framework and one of the countries with the poorest populations on the planet and where oil will transform the economy over the next decade. I will return to the reality of the country and its people as I consider the film as a film and as commentary on some of the issues which the film raises. I am also reading the book upon which the film is based and will reconsider, add and perhaps revise this first review when the reading is completed

The film has been advertised as about a school age child from Uganda, Phiona Mutesi, now 20 who has become a chess champion as a school age child of a single parent when her partner dies of Aids and forced to find a new life renting a hovel with no energy, no water and no toilet in one of the horrendous shanty town of Kampala, more familiar to us from those in South Africa or India dominated by drugs, prostitution and other forms of crime.

For me the heroine is the mother played by Lupita Nyong’o, Academy award supporting for her performance in 12 Years a slave, a woman born in Mexico of Kenyan parents and who now has roles in the Star Wars films, in the latest Jungle book, has commenced to write, direct as well as performances on TV and the theatre. She portrays the mother as someone with good standards, protecting her children, unwilling to take the routes offered by men and putting the welfare of the children before her own.

The film is also about a Robert Ketende whose story merits as much attention. He was an illegitimate child brought up by his grandmother, living in the bush for three years during one of the times of internal conflict in his country, He was reclaimed by his mother, a nurse but she died after two years. He could get and education and to graduate as an engineer but unable to find work because of the lack of family background and connections. He could pay his way as a young man through football skills and had some talent until injury turning to being a coach working for a government outreach programme, he also decided to use his ability as a chess player to teach life skills, thinking ahead, strategy, and confidence. In the films, it is first the brother of Phiona who attends his chess project in Katwe and soon she is beating everybody including Robert through the natural ability to remember moves and predict ahead.

Although the children commenced to have success, they could not read or write so he became a maths teacher and through this activity met his wife who comes across as an important rock upon which his subsequent life is based. Through the success of his work with Phiona he has progresses in his role working for the government on its outreach programme, also spending time in Kenya and in the USA adopting his methods. In the film his role is played by David Oyelowo who is now best known for his role as Martin Luther King in Selma

The films show how difficult Phiona find her life hustling the streets of Kampala to earn the money to help pay for the rent and family food and her world changes when she follows her bother and finds that he has joined the chess club and then that she has an aptitude. The film charts her amazing progress and overcoming the obstacles which come their way. The family becomes homeless when the rent money is sued for hospital, care, treatment and medicine. For her bother who is hurt in a road accident. Her eldest sister rebels and joins up with a man with dubious income and intentions, despite mothers warning and threats. For a time, the young woman can buy clothes and hair styles and through Phiona she can financial help the family.

Because of the progress of Phiona they can move into a new home, albeit primitive and because of the rains and flooding everything is lost again with the life of a younger brother in doubt for a time. Mother is resistant and suspicious about the involvement of her children in club and even more so when there is travel out of the country to the Sudan and then by air to a chess tournament in Moscow. The promise of education for children makes the difference and in the credits at the end of the film all the children except the eldest daughter are progressing through further education, she is discarded and becomes pregnant and continues to bear children although the circumstances of this is not stated.

The break through comes because of the relation David has with the chess federation in Uganda, his government work and a relationship with one of top schools at which the team and Phiona can shine after learning some of the basics of social behaviour.  Phiona becomes national celebrity and a heroine in Katwe. The film ends with family being able to move to a proper home with fertile grounds providing a regular income for the family. David rejects the offer of a position as an engineer during the film, supported by his wife, to pursue the outreach work for the government. There is some relevant enjoyable African music throughout the fim shot on location and the failure of the film to make the top ten box office is very worrying for what is says about British cinema audiences. I will be disappointed if the film and its actors are not recognised   worldwide as an important inspirational work based on fact. I am looking forward

Wednesday, 26 October 2016

Dr Strange

On Tuesday 25th October, I experienced WoW twice within the space of a few hours. The DVD of the 25th anniversary films of Miss Saigon arrived and more than lived up to expectations, although the two DVD set does not include the curtain call performance by members of the original cast shown on the recent cinema relays and the list of theatres where the production is to tour in 2017 is significantly short with six venues and none between Leicester and Edinburgh. I will review the DVD’s later. I thought there was time to go and see the film set in Africa about a school age child with ambition to become a chess champion called Queen of Katwe but as the performance was at five I booked to attend the following day, but noted there was still time to attend the new Benedict Cumberbatch Marvel Comics character film Doctor Strange and about which I knew nothing. The film also stars Tilda Swinton as the Ancient One and Cheiwetel Ejiofor both with outstanding backgrounds in Theatre, TV and Film and several other top notch actors.

I have commented recently on the reduction in the number of epic films in 3 D and some of the recent Marvel Comic productions which rely so heavily on CGI have failed or not attracted the level of public response to encourage the kind of expenditure which such films require especially if they are to achieve new amazing cinematograph experiences.

From an article about the film in the Guardian 22nd October 2016, I learned that Benedict had flown to Katmandu where part of the film takes place, set shortly after completing his National Theatre performances as Hamlet and which I viewed with many others at one of the Relays which most cinema chains held. He also mentioned the impact of having become a father.

Benedict plays Dr Strange a leading surgeon using the latest technics of micro surgery who has become an arrogant and hypercritical individual with an exceptional wealthy lifestyle living on his own. He loses his ability to work following a serious road accident and spends all his time and fortune trying to find a way to regain the use of hands upon which his work depends.

This leads him to meet someone who has recovered from a disability against all rational knowledge about what is possible and this leads him to go and search for the Ancient One who is in Katmandu.  The key or pivotal momentum is when the Ancient One challenges the view that the universe is one dimensional and of singular material substance rooted in knowable cause and effect which will appeal to all those who believe in the supernatural, other dimensions, in spirit and soul, the outer body experience, the possibilities of immortality and the all seeing  all controlling  entities of good and evil personified in  a God  and in a Devil and above all of these, and the subject which has always interested me most, the power of the physical mind over the rest of the  physical body and to command or control other physical entities external to the body and which is on the spectrum of affecting perception, conjuring to  magic and it is this respect that the film attempts to make visual translation through the use of CGI.
The film does have some WoW moments through its perception and time bending effects, through its colourful visualization of other dimensions and representation of evil and the devil and of being caught up in a painful horrifying self-awareness of being in an endless repeating cycle of the same event hell, but with the possibility of being able to break out from this. The film is also about how sceptics who convert become zealots and the belief that nothing is impossible. It terms of the story the pattern of the baddies appearing to win but the superhero finding an unconventional way(s) to win at the last moment is once more repeated although the eventual victory is never left in doubt with a good twist in terms of inevitable casualty(casualties) but not in terms of the sacrifices superheroes need to make if he or she is put others before their own interests and pleasures. The jokes are clever and wry and I noted that I started to laugh sooner than most in the audience but everyone quickly caught up. A good way to judge a film is how soon the audience begins to leave, at the immediate end of the film, as the credit progress because they have been alerted there is endpiece or stay until the cleaning staff arrive. This time there was no movement until the end piece during the credit and the majority were still in their seats digesting the experience as I left with the last few pages of credits rolling. It is one of the most enjoyable of the comic book action movies and in which I was engaged throughout and experienced moments of Wow, but nothing like the same level of flesh tingling WoW, WoW and more WoW

Tuesday, 25 October 2016

Jack Reacher-Never Go Back and Cradle 2 the Grave

On Friday evening 21st October 2016, I needed a break from serious activity and went to see the second Jack Reacher film Never go back which I understand is based on one of the 22 other novels. I did see and reviewed (13th September 2013) the first production based on the first book of the 22-book series to-date by author Jack Child’s concluding that it was an enjoyable but of my childhood’s B movie tradition.  My reaction to Never Go back was mixed and has not changed over days of reflection. I liked the story line albeit familiar one of USA Military people abusing their power by making personal wealth at the taxpayer’s expense and putting the public at great risk. There have been other films on the same theme covering the aftermath of the second world war through to the recent wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. In this instance a former associate of Jack Reacher, a female Major responsible for monitoring and tackling action on the abuse of power and a series of disturbing events occur when two colleagues go to Afghanistan to investigate.  She is arrested with her life endangered I am still not clear why Reacher gets involved and how is lifestyle is funded other than he has a very good pension and ongoing sponsorship.

It is being a baddy making huge amounts of money by illegal means that a proportion is spent on hiring assassins and others prepared to risk their life and serious injury on behalf of someone else’s cause. A key aspect of the film is hiring another soldier of fortune who is a match for Reacher’s Marshal arts abilities and where there is a build-up of confrontations until the final you or me but where the outcome cannot be in doubt given the ongoing activities of the hero. To addition suspense there is an issue of whether Reacher has a daughter who became one of the targets of the clear up operation of the criminals involved and played by Danika Darosh who plays is she, is she not daughter an although her behaviour is somewhat of a stereotype and has some implausible aspect as the threat to her increases, I thought she does very well

18-year-old Danika comes from an actor family and made her name in the USA TV show Shameless and comes across as a very athletic and adventurous individual starting as a dancer learning to be a pilot, owner of a motor cycle and involved with boxing and archery, this will not be her only film.

Although Tom Cruise is now fifty, rising to public attention thirty years ago in Top Gun, he still has a young face but even the most ardent of his fans will question if Tom - you are too old for this? As was said by the male to the female couple as they left the cinema.  Yet there is talk of Top Gun 2 and he is involved in the production of the two films which I believe he hoped they would be able to cash in more than they did with the first, taking three years before the appearance of second.  The demise of the paid assassin is spectacular fashion does not result in the mystery of the disappearance of an arms shipment of not required weapons back from Afghanistan to the USA under a private contract.  At the end of the film it also looks as if assumptions about what has been going on are wrong and the General in charge is right to be indignant about the accusations. Of course, it is Tom to works out that the financial numbers and risks involved do not add up, and why. Will I go again.  Not unless I am in the same need for a couple of hours of rubbish film. This was also the reason why I stayed up last night just to see how bad a film was called Cradle  2 the Grave  and made in 2003 and which by coincidence  featured the kidnap of the daughter of one of lead roles in the film of thieves falling out  and involves the establish Marshal arts actor as well-known as Bruce Lee called by his stage name of Jet Li a Chinese film actor, film producer, martial artist, and retired Wushu champion who was born in Beijing. He is now a naturalized Singaporean citizen.   After three years of intensive training with Wu Bin, Li won his first national championship for the Beijing Wushu Team. After retiring from Wushu at age 19, he went on to win great acclaim in China as an actor making his debut with the film Shaolin Temple (1982). He went on to star in many critically acclaimed martial arts epic films, most notably as the lead in director Zhang Yimou's 2002 Hero and the Once Upon A Time in China series, in which he portrayed folk hero Wong Fei-hung.

The thief hero is played by another well-known individual Earl Simmons (born December 18, 1970), professionally known as DMX, an American hip hop recording artist and actor. In 1999, DMX released his best-selling album ...And Then There Was X, which included the hit single "Party Up (Up in Here)". He has been featured in  other films -Belly, Romeo Must Die, Exit Wounds, and Last Hour. In 2006, he starred in the reality television series DMX: Soul of a Man, which was primarily aired on the BET cable television network. In 2003, DMX published a book of his memoirs entitled, E.A.R.L.: The Autobiography of DMX.

The school age daughter in this instance is played by Paige Hurd before she became a teenager and now over a decade later  she is an established female actor,  aged 24 year, born in Dallas to an African American father and Puerto Rican mother. She was featured in the comedy Beauty Shop (2005) starring Queen Latia[1] and portrayed Tasha, next door neighbor of Chris in the Chris Rock-produced TV series Everybody Hates Chris,  as  Denise in The Cat in the Hat, a 2003 comedy film loosely based on the 1957 book of the same name, by Dr. Seuss. She has appeared in music videos including one by Justin Beiber.

The story of the film is about the value and the ownership if a large black diamond and its potential use and centers on rescuing the daughter after her abduction and as a vehicle for the talents of lead actors Does one care at any point what happens. No. As the films progressed one had the sense that this was start of a new franchise rather like the A Team lost of action but no gory deaths or believable physical harm. Although its doubled its money, the temptation to make another was resisted.

13 Hours The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi

Despite falling more and more behind my work programme, I decided at lunchtime  on 20th October 2016 to watch the fictional film 13 Hours, an account of the 2012 killing of the USA ambassador to Libya, J Christopher Stephens, his assistant Sean Smith Foreign Service Information Management Officer, Glen Doherty, former Navy Seal who  became a private contractor (mercenary)  participating in activities in Afghanistan Iraq, Israel, Kenya and Libya,  member of the Military Religious  Freedom Foundation and Tyrone S Woods, another trained Seal decorated for valour, who became a private contractor with Global Response  also training as a nurse and paramedic, owning a  Bar, and  who was twice married and with three children.

The film tells the story of an unofficial arm’s length group of former USA forces employed for a specific purpose who became involved in the protection of the Ambassador and the USA mission. The film 13 Hours  The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi- became available on Sky Movies on Demand and will be review after a brief account of what I  understand is the factual account of what happened and where at one level former Secretary of State, Hilary Clinton, the likely next President of the United States, took responsibility for the failure to provide an adequate level of security at the compound of the Ambassador, although it  must be note the attack commenced with mortar bombs launched from a mile away.  Although it is known that rioters and looters joined in the attack it has since been established that it was planned although there is controversy over the precipitating reason. The individual believed to have been behind the attack and part of the battle for power in the country following the removal of Colonel Gaddafi was subsequently captured by USA special forces in 2014. There was believed to have been no external terrorist involvement at that time although since insurgents and terrorists from Syria and Iraq and other parts of north Africa are said to have added to Libya becoming a failed state with uncertain future.   

The part which the USA and other governments within and outside the region played  in creating and developing regime change arising from the so called Arab Spring which is now the Winter of Human Misery may never fully  become public but once the 2011 revolution in Libya took place it was right the USA should immediately attempt to influence the inevitable battle for power between the various political and secular interests, and to do something about the arsenal of weaponry which the Gadhafi regime had acquired and fallen into the hands of the revolutionaries.

It is the USA State Department which is the opposite to the British Foreign Office with responsibilities for the various forms of  Embassies and official missions and the Central Intelligence Agency which matches the UK MI6 in terms of  overseas operations with the  Federal (Interstate) Bureau of Investigations broadly have the same role as the UK MI5 and where the armed service organisations have their own Intelligence and special Operational branches together with the use of arm’s length  special units, some part of international security enterprises which recruit the most highly trained and experienced personnel available and where is more open about the existence of the such operations and the problems  which arise  given that in effect the USA  is a collection of very different countries in terms of size, populations, political and religious outlooks and backgrounds and that the Presidency/White House is more about international operations than domestic policy and administration which is devolved.  In the UK the division has been between the roles the roles of the Prime Minister/ Foreign and Defence Secretaries of State. Overseas Development/Home Office and the Treasurer and the various Ministries for distribution of domestic resources and until Brexit subject to various policies and control for the European Economic Community and market[CS1] .

It is understood that by 2012 in addition to the activities of the State department and        CIA there were two special operation units which technically had no official standing. The other aspect to be mentioned is geography with Tripoli the capital and former Gaddafi regime stronghold and on the west coast close to Tunisia, Algeria and Italy and Benghazi on the East coast next to Egypt, Turkey and Greece and with a huge landmass leading to the Sahara borders with Nigeria, Chad and the Sudan, an Economic and military strong Libya could exercise significant power in North Africa, hence becoming the next major target for control by International terrorism,

This being so it could be argued that the sending of Ambassador Stephens with the plan for Hilary Clinton to visit later in the year to show support for those seeking a democratic solution for the future of the country Clinton to visit was at best ambitious and in reality and warning to those who wanted to replace one power structure with another. It is not clear to me why the State Department wanted to keep a low profile and therefore said no to pleas for added security measures given that over 200 security were registered with some 50 in Benghazi.

The film 13 hours is focussed on the role of a small Global Response Unit employed by the separate CIA counterterrorism centre and the arrival an addition to the team who meets up with a friend with whom they have served together and know each other’s families. This enables the film viewer to be introduced into the situation and the State Department compound who insists on Departmental policy and directives being followed placing tight leash on the team who have separate accommodation within the compound and keep to themselves.  The unit are deployed to collect the Ambassador from the airport and accompany to a special mission compound facility of several acres of gardens and a large villa type building with swimming pool. The Ambassador and a colleague are accompanied by only two security officers plus guards provided by the local militia believed to be sympathetic. The escort is horrified by the situation and express similar concern when required to provide security for members of the state department team having meetings with those from the community building up links.

Because of the scale of attack and despite the resistance of the security staff the compound is over run and with the Ambassador and his assistant in a secure room the terrorists set fire to the building. The special until learning of the situation and the appeal for help want to attempt to assist but are ordered to remain by the station chief concerned about their own protection should they be attacked. They insist on going and help rescue the two-security agent, and recover one body and return to the State Deportment CIA compound which is attacked by mortar bombs and a substantial force of well-armed insurgents with local militia abandoning them. Support is provided from Tripoli but attempts to bring support from further afield is not possible in the time. The mortar attack kills two members of the unit

The situation appears worse when a heavily armed convoy of vehicles approaches but fortunately this is a Libya escort of the Global response unit from Tripoli which secures the position enabling the evacuation of all USA staff from the county. The Ambassador is found but is pronounced dead at hospital. The official USA State Department and CIA staff can leave. The special unit stayed on to recover the bodies for their return to USA and it is said tens of thousands of Libyans marked the death of thee Ambassador irrespective of the risks involved at the time. The films centres on the life of one of the special team who survived showing the pressure from his wife and children to establish a more normal life and uses internet video communications to provide ongoing contact and both parties pretend normality for the sake of the children. At the end of the film he admits he was very lucky to be alive, the odds stated to have been 1000 to 1 and he breaks down on revealing that their married friend with children did not.  In the end credits, all the surviving members of the special unit retire and attempt “ordinary” lives with their families although from my perspective this outcome is unlikely.
The film portrays the station chief as indecisive and self-protecting and that had he taken different decisions the Ambassador may have survived. He is reported to have been strongly defended by the Senate and other investigation committees. The issue, and this goes to nub of any attempt by the establishment to investigate political and managerial decisions which immediately appear to have gone badly wrong, must viewed in terms of the international role and policies of the county in focus and can only be judged against the broad brush of subsequent history. If Hilary Clinton becomes President, then it is likely we will see a continuation of present policy. What happens if Trump wins I fear to think.

Sunday, 23 October 2016

Spoiler's version of Inferno and the Dan Brown book

It is just as well I had not heard Dr Mark Kermode’s reaction to The Inferno before deciding that I could combine a 2D version of the film with the Miss Saigon anniversary after the afternoon showings were cancelled at Wandsworth and where I originally booked and was not being relayed at all to the Cineworld within the 02 arena at the Millennium Dome.  I was able to book an aisle seat which was not possible at Wandsworth which used a smaller theatre.

I have noted that despite the advertising of some films in 3D there has been an overall reduction in those available and where in this the film was also available in Imax.  The main enjoyment from this films comes from its locations in Florence, Italy and Istanbul, particularly the last scene on the Basilica Cistern. However, the story is pants from start to finish although Tom Hanks does his best. The film is based on the 2013 Dan Brown novel who wrote the successful book which led to the De Vinci Code film which I found interesting, entertaining and plausible.   I make no apology for the plot spoilers as national showings of the film  are at their end.

I will also avoid the irritating mixture of present action and flashbacks. The film is about a billionaire geneticist with his own international security service who is concerned that the world will not be able to feed itself because of the exponential growth in population and with a reduction in major world wars and major losses of population because of pandemics, starvation, unclear water and other natural disasters which has been a feature of the past couple of hundred years the population will quickly become unmanageable.  His solution is to create a plague which will decimate at last half the population through an airborne virus and which will leave hundreds of thousand badly disfigured and disabled and in fact a Dante Inferno hell on earth.

The first point to be made is that if such a virus can be created and this is possible despite the world ban, and it comes into the hands of someone with the worldwide financial power and doing anything for a price security team, Spectre and Smersh immediately come to mind as originators of the possibility, they are unlikely to be found out in time and caught. However, it is likely that various intelligence services are on the lookout but also have knowledge of the whereabouts of the communication HQs from which the various independent security and intelligence organisations operate and which enable democracies with laws prevent assassination, torture and other lawless activities to place contracts to undertake off the books projects.

In the instance of this film the body which gets wind of the plot and set out to prevent activation of the virus is the World Health organisation with its team led by a former love relationship of Tom Hanks, a Harvard professor with the ability to decipher codes and an in depth knowledge of the works of Dante.  He wakes up in a hospital in Florence with a vague memory of having a syringe in his neck area which has left a rash and removed his immediate memory of who he is and, why he is in Florence. He is told and believes by the English speaking attractive doctor, aptly named Sienna who knows who he is from having attended one of his lectures as a girl that he is suffering from a bullet wound which narrowly affects his scalp and therefore raises the issue of how come such a limited injury has the effect it is claimed to have. Moreover when it is agreed to contact the US embassy for help a hired female assassin arrives dressed as  a local police motors cyclist who starts shooting people  and  attempts to get through the various doors which are shut as Sienna opts to try and get Hanks out of the hospital to the safety of her apartment and where  in the hospital and in the apartment Hanks starts to have hallucinations of the end  of world according to  the  terror  the virus is destined to unleash and it is only towards the end of the film that  it is disclosed that Sienna is in fact the partner of the billionaire who has committed suicide rather than reveal how the virus is to be activated and when after he has sent the world an ultimatum for change in a video. To add to the plot someone purports to also be a member of the WHO organisation has knowledge and wants to get hold of the virus to sell on the international market.

Because of the possibility of being stopped the billionaire has provided  a second option in the form of an elaborate series of clues provided in the death mask and paintings of Dante and his view of Hell which has been depicted in Sandro’s Botticelli’s Map of Hell and  which is contained in what appears to be a secured vial, first thought to be the virus container  but is in fact a kind of pen projector (Faraday) which reveals a changed version of the map and only Hanks appears able to interpret with the practical assistance of Sienna.

The search leads them from Florence to Venice where Hanks in wanted by the police locally because he and the Museum Director are seen stealing the death mask Tom and Sienna work out has been taken back to Florence, is retrieved and on the base of it is a further clue which   leads them to Istanbul.  We also learn that after the death of the billionaire the head of his intelligence operation attempts to follow previous instructions and ensure that Hanks get the information and with the help the staged female assassin using blanks is part of the plot get Hanks to help Sienna doctor ensure release of the virus. However, as the action develops the orders are to kill Sienna and capture Hanks. The doctor kills the assassin through making her fall through the priceless decorated ceiling of the Museum as the two attempt to escape crossing the rafters. They also manage to kill the arms dealers when in Venice and at this point the double dealing of Sienna is revealed.  Hanks is reunited with his former love at the WHO and they are also assisted by the former head of the Billionaires private security service.

This takes them to Istanbul and the Cistern where a gala evening party  is being held with orchestral music  among the columns and red floodlit waters which is very specular and beautiful.  The virus is in already in a container in the waters which is housed by the authorities in a secured way before Sienna can set off explosion to cause the its release and dies along with some of her local pre-arranged helpers.  Hanks and the head of the WHO rue their passed missed opportunity and that the present requirements of their work means they are kept apart, but are they? The world is saved to continue on its path of self-destruction as before but the audience leave the theatre entertained by the spectacle.

However, those with knowledge of the book, appreciate a very different outcome. The virus has already been released into the water with  Sienna attempting to stop and destroy fearing that the authorities would retain and that it would fall into the hands of those seeking to convert into weapons. The impact is that about a third of population will become sterile thus having a positive effect on future population. Sienna does not die and is given amnesty because she is a doctor and knows of the work is given a job with the WHO. She and the female head of WHO work together but decide not attempt to reverse the sterilization accept that the billionaire had a point.  A message which understandably Hollywood and the USA government would not want to have shown and where I suggest some of the more recent plague outbreaks may not be as natural as might be supposed.  I also suspect on terms of rational thinking that other ways to control human behaviour have been decided, including the use of addictive substances as well as digital communications

Wednesday, 19 October 2016

Department Q Keeper of Lost Causes TV film in Danish

BBC TV 4 film  Saturday 15th October 2016 one off Danish Film Department Q. The Keeper of Lost causes based on a book and which been followed by two other films although these are not to be shown I watched but I cannot say it was an enjoyable experience. Following an incident when one of a team of three detectives is murdered and a second finds himself paralysed, the third who was also shot but survives to physically recover is relegated to permanently close the accumulation of cold cases and is appointed an enthusiastically Muslim with a taste for loud contemporary music. His assistant selects the first batch of cases with a parade of photographs and which includes one, Carl, the reluctant boss knows something about the case of a young woman politician who is believed to have committed suicide disappearing from a ferry leaving her brother with what first appears to be severe learning difficulties from head injuries in a car accident which killed their parents.

The unravelling of what actually happened is thorough and clever and early on we learn that the young woman was in fact kidnapped and is being kept in a decompression chamber which limits the confined area and also enables the perpetrator to changing levels of physical unpleasantness. There is a credible method for of food and water dealing with sanitation and the provision of food and water but it stretches credulity that the woman is able to survive this limited environment for year upon year.

As this is a one off TV showing and the film is not on general release I am not inhibited about revealing the story which emerges.  A boy is travelling with his younger sister at the back of a family car and is overtaken by a second car in which a young girl looks out and they interact, but she places hands over the eyes of her father who is driving in front of her and this causes the accident in which everyone is killed except the boy who is badly affected, the girl and her brother. The boy is understandably affected by what happened although the girl given her subsequently life appears less so. The boy is prone to violent outbursts is placed in a children’s home where he has one friend who he can exercise influence.

The detectives establish that the young women have attend a conference and are able to acquire photographs taken at the event and follow up the men with her. One of these turns out to be the friend of the boy at the school, but it is discovered that he also has appeared to have disappeared in a boating accident and later from the use of CCTV they are able get confirmation that the man at the conference is the surviving boy and not the friend. As the detectives begin to track down the culprit, still not knowing if the young woman is alive they are warned and then stripped of their authority pending disciplinary enquiries. To add tension, the perpetrator reveals himself and therefore why and warns the young women that the time is approaching when he uses to tank for her to give her an excruciating painful death.

Fortunately, as tension mounts and when it looks that have failed to rescue the woman before she is killed he sees something which suggests she is being held in a situation where a petrol powered generator is being use. The main detective is nearly killed while the assistant although shot is able to disabled and brutally kill the assailant. The begin to recover in an appropriate decompression chamber in hospital with uncertainty about her eventual state. It was the persistence of the assistant befriending the brother, who appears more traumatised than physically damaged who establishes that the photograph is not that of the man believed to have disappeared but the boy at the home and circumstances in which he went into care.

The detective is rewarded with a medal and a return to his previous duties but he elects to continue with the work, with his assistant and a full time Secretarial assistant/PA. As I saw I thought the film unpleasant and the story full of questions.  6 out of 10 no more.

Sunday, 9 October 2016

The Free State of Jones

On Wednesday 5th October 2016 I experienced what I anticipate is one of the films which will feature in the various international awards ceremonies including the Oscars and the Baftas, the Free State of Jones.  The film has some historical basis with several academic studies in attempt to establish fact from legend and myth. The film confronts a number of fundamental issues which are at present once again to the fore of political and social on both sides to the Atlantic. It is therefore not a film like to appeal to the majority of people going to the pictures every weekend and on 2 for 1 Wednesdays.

From listening to the conversations which people have on exiting a film theatre and cinema complex, and where it is often possible to hear the reactions of those attending films you have not seen or not about to see, I will assert that the majority go to be   entertained, thrilled, shocked horror, see their phantasies realised or imagine themselves in some of the roles portrayed. Only a minority go to be inspired and made to think. Some now go to see if the agree with the reviews of Dr Mark Kermode and Simon Mayo and also to see if they can spot the Director’s deliberate reference to previous films or provide their own.

The story is of the Free State of Jones told primarily through the experience of Newton Knight a small farmer in Jones County in Mississippi. Wikipedia provides the relevant historical information on Jones County past and present. The county is named after John Paul Jones, the early American Naval hero who rose from humble Scottish origin to military success during the American Revolution.

The size of the county is huge given its population with less than 70000 today covering 700 square miles compared say to Nottinghamshire in England of 825 square miles and a population of over 750000. Part of the reason is that the county has a large area of swamp lands which features in story as the place where a mixture of deserters from the Confederate army, oppressed small poor farmers and runaway slaves first hide out and then decided to take control of their homelands. Only a small area of land was suitable for cotton with the consequence that only 12% of the original population were slaves and most of the farmers did not own slaves. This is one aspect of why many of those drafted to fight in the confederate army were unenthusiastic especially as back home their wives and children suffered as livestock and crops were taken to feed the army and those used to in effect pillage and then draft all the men and then the boys.

The story begins with the senseless way wars have been conducted until recently with quickly trained infantry told to attack or defend positions in solid ranks often against superior weapons of in fire power and from cavalry, machine gun, tank, and rocket and in which large number were expected to die, lose limbs and other life changing injuries.

The film centers on Newton Knight who although able to shoot and kill was used as a field nurse (a fact) but deserts in order to return the body of the young son of a relative in law who he attempts but fails to protect.  This is fiction and although not a pacifist Jones is said to have argued that a man has the right to determine what he lives and dies for. In fact, he is known to have enlisted twice, returning home with permission in between to assist his ailing father. He is also known to have married before the war commenced establishing a small farm with his wife and children. When away in the war it is said that his sister’s husband took over as head of both families and physically abused Newtons children, and in the film his wife, and Newton on return kills his in law. Factually someone believed to be the individual became a convicted murderer.

This sense of the right to control one’s life and be free is a core aspect of the traditional independent USA citizen, anti-government anti-gun control anti-paying taxes, to follow one’s religion and to make better one’s life. However, this approach only applied to white people which involved the taking of land from indigenous people, enslaving and exploiting all workers and killing anyone who stood in the way of acquisition of land, wealth and power for oneself and family. In fact, Jones was the grandson of one of the biggest slave owners in the county, but is has been established that he was cut from a different cloth in part because of a Baptist background and someone who did not drink and treated women in particular with respect and all those who found themselves in a similar position to himself. It would not be surprising that he stood up for black people given his subsequent relationship with a black woman which led to the birth of son.

One focus in the film and where there is said to be evidence is that he and others were prepared to live in swamp as outlaws and only commenced to retaliate in response to the violence and the thieving and destruction of property by others. Newton was captured, imprisoned and tortured because of his desertion.

What has been established to some extent is that Newton came to lead a significant group of men supported by their families who commenced to control Jones and other neighbouring counties by successfully preventing the taking of food and taxes and so through the use of force in number of recorded incidents described as skirmishes. There are different views whether the group as far as declaring themselves a separate and free state and I do not know if as in the film they were thwarted from this ambition by the failure of the Unionists to provide horses and weapons. The success of the rebellion leads to a force strong counter move and the execution of ten people including two relatives of Newton. The film plays into the justified fears of all local communities, regions and states that the price of joining into larger groupings is always at the cost of losing individual and local collective rights. Interestingly in terms of USA politics, Newton, the unionists and those anti-slaveries in the south supported the Republican Party and former Confederates and slave owners the Democratic Party,

The film is also about the belief that those of white skin are superior to the others and that if one cannot own others as property to used and discarded at will then everything is justified which attempts to retain power and control by other means.  The covers the attempt after the Civil war ended to retain slavery a form of low indentured labour, by preventing the right to register and then to vote, and by intimidation and killings with the rise of Klu Klux Klan, burnings, rapes, torture and killings.

The film also centers on his relations with two black individuals one an escaped slave who has repeatedly run away after his wife and child are resold separately take away to another state. After they are united but the husband is hung by the Klan when he successfully begins to gather a number of registration forms

The second is an abused female slave from the major local plantation owner who is able to assist those living in the swamp with food and with information. For me this role did not ring true in terms of the ability to repeatedly travel back and forth and even less convincing although not say such situations did not arise is the attempt to link the relationships between Newtons first and second wives and that it is the first wife who brings up the white looking son created by the second.

The film is interspersed with a legal case 85 years later when the great great great grandson has married a white which considered illegal in local community because he was classified as black although only of one eighth blood. Under the local justice he is sentenced to five years after refusing to disown the marriage but the sentenced is set aside on appeal as unconstitutional. 

The reality is in some ways more interesting and challenging. After the ending of the first marriage Newton did marry a former slave, Rachel, owned by his grandfather and cross over between races and within extended families continued in the next generation resulting in three interracial marriages. Rachel Newton has several children by Newton who went onto live to the age of 84 until 1924.  One of his sons published a book about his father, The Life and activities of Captain Newton Knight. A great niece also published a book as - An American tale about the Governor of the Free State of Jones. Academic studies were also published in 1984 and more recently in 2003.

I enjoyed the film which was also thought provoking but could not help feeling that many of the issues have been covered before with greater impact and that those making the film were anxious to show they had moved on from recent Oscar night when the lack of diversity in films and performance was highlighted.

Without the monthly subscription I would have paid £7.36 going towards the £17.40 monthly subscription and thus a net saving of  £2.72  to date.

Saturday, 8 October 2016

Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children (and me)

On Monday October 3rd 2016 I went to see Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children at the Cineworld Bolden in 3D using the monthly subscription for the first time in the month.  As a Black card holder, issued after one year of Red card membership I gain 25% on food, drink, sweets and ices purchased from the cinema instead of the first year 10% in addition to the 25% reduction available from three onsite restaurant chains. I have not checked the position of the coffee shop within the cinema building as I prefer the coffee from the onsite Macdonalds. We used to gain free attendance at Relays but with their expansion and price increases all card holders get a reduction of at least 50%, similarly the premium for 3D films appears to have been removed for everyone and the number of 3D version of films also appears reduced and those still being released concentrate on providing a clarity of depth rather than a constant barrage of things flying out from the screen at you. Despite the astronomical cost of buying extras at the Pics these days with my card I can still have a one scoop tub of the flavour of the month ice cream for under £1.40 although this is limited to a once a month a treat as also the half price sweets and quarter price popcorn from the neighbouring supermarket are banned in the effort to get below 16 stone by New Year and for the first time in a decade.

 I was attracted to seeing the film for two reasons. I like the concept of Peculiar Children, preferring this to the politically correct terms for children who are at the ends of the spectrum of the norm. As a child before going to school I did not know I was different except that I did not have a mother or father but lived with six aunties one of whom was married with five and then six children. Because those first five years covered the second world war, I knew terror, not directly in the sense of death or permanent disability from the bombing and the rockets but because the aunties were in a constant state of fear clutching their Rosaries and reciting the Hail Marys and Our Father endlessly while we waited in the Anderson Shelter. I retain a vivid memory of a V1 rocket, these flew lower and lower than the V2, as the siren went in daytime and I could see the rocket coming towards, cutting out and falling before it reached but I did not equate this with the potential pain and sorrow had it reached.  I came to know pain briefly when a nail in the Shelter pierced my upper leg and I had to be taken to hospital with the scar only disappearing decades later. It is possible to remember but without a clear chronology, events which can be said with hindsight to mark a growing awareness of being different, of feeling an inarticulate understanding of what was being said and happening in the adult world, a sense of be different and separate. The head teacher of the Catholic Preparatory Day school I attended gave me a letter when I left aged 12 having been made two stay two years in one class before failing the 11 plus and it was only before my 60th birthday that I learned what that letter meant, the first and only letter I was to receive until applying for a job at the age of 16.

Nor can I remember now when I commenced to read about psychology and whether this was before or after I stayed in prison for six month knowing that I could leave at any time but it was from studying psychology part of in Public and Social Administration as part of the Oxford University Diploma in public and Social Administration and Home office arranged and funded  attendance at a child care training course at Birmingham University that I developed a Freudian and not a Behaviour understanding of my development from child to adult. Another two decades were to pass before I learned than my brain wiring was different from that of other people and what other aspects of being different meant, particularly in terms of relationships with others and a potential role in society.

So from almost the point of being aware of the separateness of others I felt but could not explain why I regarded as different seeing the world differently. Because of the choices made as a young adult who choose to leave school at sixteen years and work rather than attempt the sixth form and to get to a seminary to be a catholic priest, staying in prison for six months, rejecting the alternative to prison offered, switching from a diploma course in Politics and Economics to a social work base course in public and social administration which included psychology and then undertaking another university and  Home Office approved and sponsored course in social work as a child care officer, I first explained myself to myself as consequence of having been brought up first as an orphan by aunties who spoke a different language which they did not  teach me, because of being raised as secret child with  fundamentalist  Catholic  beliefs,  then  because of the perspective  of  fundamentalist  Freudians and Behaviourists, as an anti-totalitarian, anti-capitalist  anti-fascist pro Satyagraha socialist and only in my forties explained myself because of my physiology and brain being wired differently from others.

Despite the various explanations of why I thought I was behaving, feeling and thinking as I have done and do, I have always retained the belief in having behavioural and decision making choices but understood that the freedom to exercise choice was limited by the absence of freedom from. In my early twenties I agreed in part with the view of Erich Fromm that every child should have the opportunity to develop their innate and acquired abilities and interests to their maximum potential but not that these were natural or God given but depended on the form of state and government in which one was raised and worked and that the concept of being a subject of a state, region, community and tribe, and in which one is in part dependent, is valid and that in reality all men and (women)  are not borne equal or able to function as equals.

There has always been a role for the Wild Duck, the thirteenth at table, the child who asked why the King was wearing no clothes, together with Alice and Peter Pans, just as there remains a role for the self-sacrifice of a seer, missionary, soldier or spy.

Because of viewing human life and society from the perspective of the creative artist as well as from, constitutional government, politics and economics, and from science and academic research,  I have watched and re-watched the most popular film series of the past decades all centring on children with missions because of unique and special powers –  The Alice in Wonderlands, The Lord of the Rings and the Hobbit, Harry Potter and the X  men and women and it was thus I went to see Miss Peregrines Home for Peculiar Children. I like Peculiar because it sums up how society in general treats children who are different. a threat, fear and hate, instead of special and a valuable social resource.

As in this film, a feature of the other film series mentioned is that the heroes and heroines do not know they are special and are often protected by those who understand their potential because of the knowledge of how society and other children will react. The protective desire to give children the opportunity to be viewed by others as normal is responsible and is part of age old question about at what point do you  explain to a child they have been adopted, they are illegitimate, one of their parents  is  another, a  parent was a murderer, committed  suicide, mad, a traitor, a professional  criminal, bisexual, a paedophile or other sex offender or the basics of sex as well as the reality of adult relationship, the different view of a God or no God?

The main subject of this film is a normal boy where it is grandfather (Terence Stamp) who fills his head about a children’s home where the adolescent children all have unique special powers who face a threat from monsters. The boy, Jake, grows up and as a teenager is called from work by someone concerned that his grandfather is suffering from dementia but his grandfather urges him not attend but Jake ignores the advice finds the grandfather at death’s door but able to imparts request to find a bird, a loop and the significance of a date during World War II, which transpires to be the date of a German bombing raid which destroys the Children’s Home and those in it. The bird? It is no plot spoiler to mention the title again Miss Peregrine, or that the loop involves the concept of time being circular as well as linear. Jake also sees an apparition in the form of a monster, the head monster in fact, played by Samuel L Jackson, who is also a shape shifter and where a description of his roles in the film would be plot spoilers.[CS1] 

Reminding of the relatives of Harry Potter who brought him up in a cupboard under the stairs, and of my own childhood where I would be banished to silence for hours in an upstairs bedroom when relatives and friends of the aunties visited, Jake is made to attend sessions with a psychiatrist to overcome the trauma of his experience, his grief at the loss of his grandfather and what  he views as a waking nightmare, something which I also experienced as a child, when ill and also of a consuming devil subsequently made similarly real by the latest CGI techniques in a film whose name I cannot immediately remember. The Psychiatrist is played by former West Wing Whitehouse media officer Allison Janney.  She becomes the bridge between what he believes he witnessed and his rationality and agrees to him going to island of the Children’s Home as a way of re-establishing reality and achieving closure.

Jake is taken to the Island off the coast of Wales by his rejecting father played by Chris O’Dowd where another aspect of his character, his perpetual innocence and naivety comes to the fore (again something which I am able to identify). Fortunately, he is able to visit the site of the former Children’s Home and enter the time loop which protects them, meeting Miss Peregrine and the adolescents who all have different powers but are divided between those of normal appearance and CGI adapted creations. They re-live in a protected enjoyable form of Groundhog Day but aware of a threat from what can be described as Fallen Angles and another Jekyll and Hyde experiment gone wrong. Jake becomes aware that he has a special role to play in not only the continuing protection of the children but the survival of other special children at other locations in protected environments and that the threat from the role played by Jackson and his associate shape shifters spells the end of everyone in a gruesome way so that this is not a film for children despite its title. It is no give away that Jake is successful and the special ones learn how to protect themselves in the future and the setting of great battle in Blackpool is noteworthy one of the great holiday playgrounds of the last century before the freedoms of the sixties left the town to become one of the drink, drug and sex pleasure grounds of western Europe. The film ends with Jake faced with the choice of living in reality of the present or locked within a circular past romantically happy. Judi Dench plays one of the associates of Miss Peregrine.

The Associates can be regarded as Priests and Priestesses with leadership duties and responsibilities which sets them apart even from those they teach, care and protect and which means they are unable to lead what is presented in the media and also in the arts as normal lives.

The film is based on the three novels by Ransome Riggs with the second called Hollow City and the third, Library of Souls The original intention of Riggs was to create a graphic novel and this was adapted by Cassandra Jean and published in 2013.

Possessing 3D glasses the cost to me booking on line as a senior would have been £7.36 offset as part of a monthly subscription of £17.40