Category Archives: Movies

Cloud Atlas, by David Mitchell.

 

A book sitting on my shelf, waiting for me to read at my leisure, has now become must read soon. Because if it’s anything as good as this movie trailer suggests it may be, then Cloud Atlas, by David Mitchell, could very well be the best book I’ve read in a long, long time.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9DhJsPW862k

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The Daily Whatever: On James Bond and ‘Skyfall’.

So now we know. After three years of negotiation, the 23rd installment of the longest film series in history is now in production. The “will-they-won’t-they” confusion is at an end, and by this time next year, cinema goers all around the world will be able to make up their own minds as to whether Skyfall is any good or not.

The signs are good. Daniel Craig returns to the role and will continue to add steel to the coveted role of 007. It’s my feeling that this will be his last performance as James Bond. Give it socks, Daniel! Go out with style.

We have Oscar-winners galore. Dame Judi returns as M (maybe her last performance, too), Javier Bardem will be the bad guy, and Sam (American Beauty) Mendes steps into the director’s chair. This should be an intriguing prospect. But something has me worried. Before the official unveiling of this project’s title, a Sky News reporter suggested that Skyfall would be concentrate less on action and more on characters.

To this I say: What. The. F**k?

This is James Bond, movie people. We fans want action, gadgets, girls and exotic scenery. Okay, the last two Bond films featured a return to basics form of storytelling. Nothing wrong with this. But the problem would appear to be preferring one style over another. I have no problems with intelligent storytelling; in fact I demand it. But if I want a spy story that explores the nature of the business and why people keep secrets, I’ll go see Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy. (I did, and it was brilliant.) With Bond I want something else. Escapism, danger, derring-do, humour, and a script that won’t insult my intelligence in the same way Die Another Day did. With Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace, a balance was found and I would like this to be maintained.

But I still want to see stuff get blown up, okay?

100 Words, 100 Days: Day 72. On Smiley.

No, not the emoticon but the character: John Le Carre’s famous spymaster, George Smiley. Coming out of a screening of the recent adaptation of Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, I thought about fictional characters authors are most famous for. Fleming has Bond, Lee Child has Jack Reacher, Conan Doyle had Sherlock Holmes.

For people of a certain age, Sir Alec Guinness’s portrayal of Smiley was the benchmark by which Gary Oldman would be judged. But now Le Carre’s creation has a new lease of life, and  I would love to see him return for another adventure.

Classic characters will live forever.

 

100 Words, 100 Days: Day 64. On Spy Stories.

With the release of the movie version of John Le Carre’s Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, and the return of Spooks to the BBC (its 10th and final season), there is, for me, a renaissance of the spy thriller. The Bourne trilogy of movies resulted in a more pared-down, gadget-free James Bond, focusing more on the people involved in the business of spying than outrageous plotting.

You see, spying is a sleazy industry: keeping secrets from some, extracting them from others, without letting your emotions get in the way. It can come at a price, though.

You may lose your humanity.

 

100 Words, 100 Days: Day 16. On Tommy Lee Jones

Tommy Lee Jones is one of those rare actors that can take material, whatever its quality, and add a certain je ne sais quoi to it. Whether he is the leading actor in the piece (No Country for Old Men) or a supporting one (The Fugitive), Jones’ mere presence adds gravitas and a macabre sense of fun.

Take Captain America, for instance. Already a decent enough flick, but the addition of Jones gives lines like “Whatever’s on your mind, now would be a good time to keep it to yourself” added oomph.

Give this man another Oscar now, damn it!

 

100 Words, 100 Days: Day 13. On Reboots

Rise of the Planet of the Apes arrives in our cinemas shortly. It’s yet another attempt by the moneymakers of Hollywood to ingest life and interest in a franchise that was cut dead by Tim Burton’s 2001 reimagining of Charlton Heston’s classic original.

By all accounts it looks alright – but I still think film producers are lazy. I could bemoan the lack of originality and risk-taking in the film industry but it would take a post longer than 100 words to get my point across.

As it stands, I may or may not go see it. What about you? Do you care?

 

The King’s Speech: A Personal Consideration

I went to see The King’s Speech this evening with a friend. For those of you who don’t know too much about it, the movie tells the story of how King George VI overcame his speech defect – he had a stammer – and led England through World War II. He struck up an unlikely friendship with his speech therapist, an out-of-work actor called Lionel Logue, and it was through this friendship that the monarch gave his defining speech to the nation on the day war broke out. This post is not a review of the movie; although Colin Firth (as George) and Geoffrey Rush (as Logue) deserve what awards that undoubtedly will come their way (including, hopefully, an Oscar or two), my never-ending love for the force of nature that is Helena Bonham Carter (who plays Queen Elizabeth) grew deeper. I’ve never had a crush on a royal before – but I do now. Tim Burton, you are one lucky guy.

When I was younger I had a stammer. I remember all too well an incident at school when I was asked to read out a passage in French during class. It was there, written out in front of my eyes, ready for oration in front of the class. But the words wouldn’t come out. If anyone sees the movie and recalls the very first scene where Prince Bertie (as King George was known to his family) is about to give a speech, you will know that he is struck dumb, to the obvious embarrassment of his wife, servants, subjects and himself. I know exactly how he felt. There is nothing more painful, more humiliating that knowing how to speak, but failing to do so. That was my lot in my early teenage years. In primary school, certain sections of unthinking morons bullied me for it; but in secondary school, I was enabled my friends and teachers to come to terms with it. I didn’t go to a therapist because I didn’t know they existed. It didn’t always happen, though; there were times when I was able to read aloud in front of the class. But I suppose a lot depended on where my head was at the time.

And then it went away, all on its own. In my late teens, I was on live TV, participating in televised Mass for RTE, reading from a Bible in front of camera and whoever watched Sunday morning Mass on television. I spoke on stage, too, as part of song and dance show with my class mates and girls from another school. (That’s when I discovered women, by the way.) But my crowning moment occurred when I was in college.

I announced my candidacy for President of the Students’ Union, and so I was required to speak at the Hustings. For a man with a history of freezing at inopportune times, this speech was fraught with danger. But I gave the speech of my short political life. For five minutes I was brilliant and I was elected by a landslide. To this day, any time I have to speak in public and I’m feeling nervous, I look back to those times (especially that day in college) and realise that nerves are natural to the best of us. I just take a deep breath and then get on with it.

Now it comes back every so often, mainly at times of stress, or when I’m tired – or when I don’t know what the hell I’m talking about. What I do then is slow things down, organise my thoughts and carry on. I find making a joke about it lightens the atmosphere considerably. So there you go, that’s my personal take on what is a marvellous film. Do yourselves a favour and go and see it.

Note to Colin Firth fans (of which there are many): He is fantastic in this film, but he does not take his shirt off. Thank you for reading.