30 Dec 2013

Enders Game

Director:       Gavin Hood.
Screen Play: Gavin Hood (based on the novel by Orson Scot Card.)
Starring:       Asa Butterfield, Harrison Ford, Hailee Steinfeld,                                     Ben Kingsley, Viola Davis and Abigail Breslin.

Sorry this is a bit late, my PC has been having conniptions.

I think that Science Fiction films are having a good run at the moment, which will hopefully mean more and more hit the big screen.  Ender's Game  is the adaptation of a good book, by a bad author. That is my personal opinion and for this post I am just going to focus on the film.


Earth came under attack by an alien race and millions died. But at the eleventh hour the alien threat was defeated and Earth was saved. Ever since, Earth has been preparing for the next attack.

The world has united under a single government and military against a common enemy, and they are recruiting children to train up to be the best soldiers in a war which could spell the extinction of the human race.  Ender is one such recruit. Both his older brother and sister have failed the training program; Peter, his brother failed for being too aggressive, and Valentine for being too compassionate. Ender is desperate to succeed where his siblings have failed.  Ender has a gift; he can observe and understand his enemy, their strengths and weaknesses, and in doing so he can defeat them. This gift is of great interest to the military, but Ender first has to balance his more aggressive nature and his compassion.

Ensue child soldier antics.

Asa Btterfield ( Hugo) is very good as the brilliant but conflicted Ender. Unlike the book this Ender is a slightly more identifiable character. Ben Kingsly as the half Maori Rackham was also good, but his performance was let down by his South African/Australian/ UK accent masquerading as what can only be intended as a New Zealand accent.  It was very distracting  for me, maybe the rest of the world will not notice, but I suspect Kiwis will disconnect from the film. Come on Ben we expect better, say it with me; fush und chups, and repeat.
Gud'day maate

At 71 Harrison Ford gives a superb performance as Colonel Graff, and while the younger cast are good in their respective roles, Ford's scenes as the tunnel visioned Graff versus Viola Davis's conscientious Major Anderson were the stand out performances.

Ender's Game  has some of the best visuals since 2001: A Space Odyssey. The image of the training station orbiting the earth is spectacular, and one that sits in my mind. The wonderful cinematography, matched by fantastic music by Steve Jablonsky, could have made this into a real space opera.

Unfortunately the film suffers from a lack of exposition and a rushed story. Like all film adaptations the writers and directs have to balance being true to the original story, with practically transferring that story to two hours on the big screen. They run the risk of departing from the original material so much that too much is lost to be enjoyed ( I am Legend) or far too much (The Hobbit). Ender's Game really needed about 30 seconds of exposition to clarify the world we entered. Why was the fact that Ender was a third child so important for example? Also the training of Ender appeared to be too quick, while we don't need to see fifteen minutes of battle room training, maybe the montage could have been extended by another thirty seconds to really show the passage of time.

The ending also seemed forced and weird. But I don't really want to discuss that too much. Fans of the book may be dismayed by the slash and burn of story from the book, but of course the book covers a long period of time (around six years from memory) and the minor political story lines would only detract from Ender's own story.  It is not a bad film, it looks and sounds great, and has some very good acting. But there is so much lacking in the film's execution, you will probably walk out feeling that that it was wanting in some way.

Six monkeys from me.

16 Dec 2013


"The only exercise I take is walking behind the coffins of friends who took exercise."

02 August 1932 - 14 December 2013

Best known for playing T. E. Lawrence in David Leans Lawrence of Arabia Peter O'Toole was a sensitive and talented actor of the very old school. Nominated for eight Academy awards, the only one he won was in 2003, and that was an honorary award for his contribution to cinematic history. O'Toole he did however win a plethora of other awards through out his career. I remember him not only in Lawrence, but in  Stardust, Zulu Dawn, Man of La Mancha and The Lion in Winter.  He was a contemporary of Katherine Hepburn, and fellow irishman Richard Harris and a damn fine actor'

 2012 For Greater Glory: The True Story of Cristiada
Father Christopher
 2012 Highway to Hell (Video)
Narrator (voice)
 2010 Eager to Die
Lord Pelican
 2009 Iron Road (TV Mini-Series)
 2008 Thomas Kinkade's Christmas Cottage
 2008 My Talks with Dean Spanley
Fisk Senior
 2008 The Tudors (TV Series)
Pope Paul III
 2007 Stardust
 2007 Ratatouille
Anton Ego (voice)
 2006 One Night with the King
Samuel, the Prophet
 2006/I Venus
 2005 Lassie
The Duke
 2005 Casanova (TV Mini-Series)
Older Casanova
 2004 Troy
 2003 Imperium: Augustus (TV Movie)
Augustus Caesar
 2003 Hitler: The Rise of Evil (TV Movie)
President Paul von Hindenburg
 2003 Bright Young Things
Colonel Blount
 2002 The Final Curtain
JJ Curtis
 2002 Rock My World
Lord Foxley
 2002 The Education of Max Bickford (TV Series)
- One More Time (2002) ... Sidney McKnight
 1999 Jeffrey Bernard Is Unwell (TV Movie)
Jeffrey Bernard
 1999 Joan of Arc (TV Movie)
Bishop Cauchon
 1999 Molokai
William Williamson
 1999 The Manor
Mr. Ravenscroft
 1998 Coming Home (TV Movie)
Colonel Edgar Carey-Lewis
 1998 Phantoms
Dr. Timothy Flyte
 1997 FairyTale: A True Story
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
 1996 Gulliver's Travels (TV Movie)
Emperor of Lilliput
 1995 Heavy Weather (TV Movie)
Clarence, Earl of Emsworth
 1994 Heaven & Hell: North & South, Book III (TV Mini-Series)
Sam Trump
 1993 The Seventh Coin
Emil Saber
 1992 Civvies (TV Series)
Barry Newman
Lord Sarn
 1991 Isabelle Eberhardt
Maj. Lyautey
 1991 King Ralph
Sir Cedric Charles Willingham
 1990 The Nutcracker Prince
Pantaloon (voice)
 1990 The Rainbow Thief
Prince Meleagre
 1990 The Pied Piper (TV Movie)
John Sidney Howard
 1990 Wings of Fame
Cesar Valentin
 1989 Up to Date
Prof. Yan McShoul
 1989 The Dark Angel (TV Mini-Series)
Uncle Silas Ruthyn
 1988 High Spirits
Peter Plunkett
 1987 The Last Emperor
Reginald 'R. J.' Johnston
 1986 Club Paradise
Governor Anthony Cloyden Hayes
 1986 The Ray Bradbury Theatre (TV Series)
- Banshee (1986) ...
 John Hampton
 1985 Creator
Dr. Harry Wolper
 1984 Supergirl
 1984 Kim (TV Movie)
 1983 Pygmalion (TV Movie)
Professor Henry Higgins
 1983 Sherlock Holmes and a Study in Scarlet
Sherlock Holmes (voice)
 1983 Sherlock Holmes and the Baskerville Curse (TV Movie)
Sherlock Holmes (voice)
 1983 Sherlock Holmes and the Sign of Four
Sherlock Holmes (voice)
 1983 Sherlock Holmes and the Valley of Fear
Sherlock Holmes (voice)
 1983 Svengali (TV Movie)
Anton Bosnyak
 1982 Man and Superman (TV Movie)
Jack Tanner
 1982 My Favourite Year
Alan Swann
 1981 The Antagonists (TV Mini-Series)
General Cornelius Flavius Silva
 1980 The Stunt Man
Eli Cross
 1980 Strumpet City (TV Series)
Jim Larkin
 1979 Zulu Dawn
Lord Chelmsford
 1978 Power Play
Colonel Zeller
 1977 Rogue Male (TV Movie)
Sir Robert Hunter
 1976 The Far Side of Paradise
 1975 Man Friday
Robinson Crusoe
 1975 Rosebud
Larry Martin
 1972 Man of La Mancha
Don Quixote de La Mancha / Miguel de Cervantes / Alonso Quijana
 1972 The Ruling Class
Jack Arnold Alexander Tancred Gurney - 14th Earl of Gurney
 1972 Under Milk Wood
Captain Tom Cat
 1971 Murphy's War
 1970 Country Dance
Sir Charles Ferguson
 1969 Goodbye, Mr. Chips
Arthur Chipping
 1968 Great Catherine
Capt. Charles Edstaston
 1968 The Lion in Winter
Henry II
 1967 Casino Royale
Scottish Piper (uncredited)
 1967 ITV Play of the Week (TV Series)
Garry Essendine
- Present Laughter (1967) ... Garry Essendine
 1967 The Night of the Generals
General Tanz
 1966 The Bible: In the Beginning...
The Three Angels
 1966 How to Steal a Million
Simon Dermott
 1965 The Sandpiper (voice, uncredited)
 1965 What's New Pussycat
Michael James (as Peter O'toole)
 1965 Lord Jim
Lord Jim
 1964 Becket
His king / king henry ii
 1962 Lawrence of Arabia
T.E. Lawrence
 1959-1961 Rendezvous (TV Series)
 1960 The Day They Robbed the Bank of England
Capt. Monty Fitch
 1960 The Savage Innocents
First Trooper
 1960 Kidnapped
Robin MacGregor
 1959 The Long and the Short and the Tall (TV Movie)
877 Privale Bamforth, C.
 1958 The Castiglioni Brothers (TV Movie)
 1956 The Scarlet Pimpernel (TV Series)

1 Dec 2013

The Hunger Games Catching fire

Note wee spoilers follow

For the fans of the Hunger Games series the second film has finally been released.  Catching Fire continues on from The Hungers Games with Peeta and Katnis now living the high life as victors. The high life apparently consists of living in a house with running water and a roof in the isolated victors village.

But success has brought Katniss new problems. Even though her family is safe and she is free to be with Gale, she still struggles to let herself open up to Gale. This is further complicated by the public perception that she is with Peeta, and the PTSD that she suffers from.

But victory isn't just electricity and  access to regular food, as the victors of the 74th Hunger Games they must conduct a tour of the Districts under the close eye of President Snow and the Capital.

Unbeknownst to Katniss her performance in the last games has triggered something in the districts. The discontent of the poor has risen to boiling point and various districts are rioting.  The people have found a symbol to rally behind, and it that is the defiance and compassion that Katniss demonstrated during the games. For President Snow the 74th games were not a exhibition of power and oppression, but of hope.

But as a victor Katniss has fame and a certain security which makes it difficult for Snow to eliminate her.  However, a new game maker and the 75th Hunger games gives him the opportunity. This year the reaping will be from the existing pool of victors.,which means Katnissas, the only female victor in district 12, must return to the games.

Ensue more death!

Francis Lawrence replaces Gary Ross as the director. You might know Francis Lawrence from I am Legend and  Constantine, but despite those films Catching Fire doesn't suck. He has given the film a newer flashier look, for example the peace keepers are different and more Haloesque, and less of the classic science fiction feel that the  Hunger games  had which I missed.
However the new look works though as the story spends less time in the ghettos of District 12 and more in the Capital. The film needs that flash to create the decadence of the Capital.

The performances are still very good, Jennifer Lawrence and Josh Hutcherson have a plausible awkward on screen chemistry, although poor Josh gets regulated to almost a damsel in distress figure.  Lawrence is a more sympathetic and considerate character than the Katniss of the books, which makes her more enjoyable to watch. I thought the scenes depicting her suffering with PTSD were particually well done. 

The confusion and tension between Liam Hemsworth and Lawrence as the other side of the love triangle continues at a believable pace. Hemsworth as Gale trying to connect with Katniss, but with Gale's concerns over Peeta, and their contradictory views on the future of Panem, they find their romance stuttering. It certainly seems more real than most love stories aimed at teenage girls.

But the real stars of Catching Fire for me were Elizabeth Banks, Stanley Tucci and Donald Sutherland.
I particually liked Elizabeth Banks as the vacuous Effie, whose dedication to the Capital and the games is starts to unravel once Peeta and Katnis are called to fight again. Effie is still a ridiculous figure, but Banks gives her more depth than you expect.

Sam Claflin as Finnick and Lynn Cohen as Mags as the tributes from District 4 were also favorites of mine. 

The elderly Mags was Finnick's mentor when he was in the games, and the bond the two have  as adopted mother and son is probably the best on screen chemistry in the movie.

I was worried that the violence would be too much for the 12 year old that I watched with, but it turned out to be fine. She loved it and now has 12 months to anticipate the final in the series.

Catching Fire is well made, with a good pace and story it was over too soon, which for a 146 minute film is a great sign. . As a sequel it carries the franchise on without trying to be the first. I think I enjoyed this more than the first film, but now that I have read the books that may have made the difference.

If you are a fan you won't be disapointed, and unlike most film adaptaiton of books this is not only very close to the original stories, but in someways a lot better.

 7.5 from me.

24 Nov 2013

50 years of Doctor Who; The Day of the Doctor

As a young boy I was an avid watcher of Doctor Who. In New Zealand we were blessed with most of the seasons, so I had the opportunity to see old episodes with Patrick Troughton and the great three doctor’s episode.  For a lot of people Doctor Who is an iconic part of our child hood, part of our culture. You ask most people, and they will have a Doctor Who story from when they were a kid. Most commonly enough it will involve hiding behind a couch. 
This Doctor Who episode has given me a life long disgust of maggots
Doctor Who is the time travelling adventurer who comes out of nowhere and saves us from the terrifying monsters that lurk there.  He is an exciting type of hero because he will save you with cleverness and kindness, and he might even take you with him on his adventures. He might be rude, but never cruel or violent.  He has endured for 50 years and I think we are better off for it. 

The 50th anniversary has been greatly anticipated all year. Especially in my house as my fiancé is a born again Whovian, and proud of it.   

And how was it?

Wee spoilers follow

The 50th anniversary brings David Tennant and Matt Smith together in a confrontation with their darkest secret, played by John Hurt.  Tennant and Smith's chemistry is like Doctor squared. Both actors bringing together their own blend of humour and pathos, different but familiar, funny but sad.  Introducing John Hurt as their younger incarnation, their secret incarnation, who is no Doctor.   

On the whole I enjoyed it. It was fun and very entertaining. In one respect I thought that the story was slightly disappointing.  A certain element that I liked was changed, so I was a little disappointed.  I understand why they made that change, and how it was important, but I was a tiny bit disappointed none the less.
And I was alone in this.

With a lounge full of Whovians, they were entranced and astounded, and a great time was had by all. The story was accepted and revelled in by my friends and family together.  The 50th anniversary brings the Doctors together to pay homage to the past and bring in a new future, and it also reflect what Doctor Who is all about, hope.   

It was a grand eisode and I think Doctor Who fans will love it. 

And I hope you do too.

19 Nov 2013

The Butler

I love a good ensemble movie I really do. The well placed combination of excellent performers can make for a spectacular movie. This film interested me not just because of the ensemble cast; Alan Rickman, John Cusack, Vanessa Redgrave to mention but a few, but because these great actors are only cameo roles. 

That is because this story is, as the name maintains, about the White House Butler, and not so much about the Presidents. But more than that it is a story of the civil rights movement in America as told through a man who lived through most of last century. Born on a plantation and then serving every American President from Eisenhower through to Regan.  

Forest Whitaker plays the central character Cecil Gaines and gives a very  balanced, if quiet, performance of a man devoted to service, even at the expense of his family. It is certainly a good performance of  a man who is exceptionally grateful for his lot in life, and  is completely alienated from his son Louis (David Oyelowo, who I still remember as Danny from Spooks) who is heavily involved in the civil rights movement. 

But I think that it was Oprah Winfrey who gave the strongest performace as the mother and wife who had to cope with both. Yes both Whitaker and Oyelowo gave good performances, but Oprah gave the most memorable. It is easy to forget that after years of being a day time talkshow host that she is an academy award winning actress. 

But of course it is an exceptional cast and wonderful to see. James Marsdon, Alan Rickman and Robin Williams were great as JFK, Regan and Eisonhower respectively. Vanessa Redgrave retains a screen presence even now at 76 that stays with you despite being in the film for less than 2 minutes.
Cuba Gooding Jr and Lenny Kravitz were also very good. And this film is carried by the strength of these performances very well.

 The Butler  has gotten a fair bit of comment for its subject and its depiction of the almost mythologcal heroes of Amercias past, its presidents. It is hard for me as a non American to understand their devotion to their leaders. In my country our prime ministers are hardly the sort of  men and women that inspire that sort of loyalty or affection. 

The most notable is the depiction of Ronald Regan by Alan Rickman.

Michael Regan  the son of the president wrote in an article on Newsmax
"'Portraying Ronald Reagan as a racist because he was in favor of lifting economic sanctions against South Africa is simplistic and dishonest," 

Writer Danny Strong and director Lee Daniels have certianly taken a "creative" approach to this story. The Butler is inspired by the real life White House butler Eugene Allen. His story was captured by Wil Haygood five years ago in an article in the Washington Post.

But it is important to remember that unlike a film like RushThe Butler  is a work of fiction. An artistic vision inspired by Eugene Allen's career in the White House, to depict the struggles of the civil rights movement in America, not so long ago.

But in trying to depict one aspect of American history does it distort another? Was Regan as unsymapthetic to South Africa as he was depicted, or were their wider considerations. Another criticism has been the influence that the Gaines character has on the presidents he served under. But I am not so sure that I agree with that.

I think this year is an interesting year for Hollywood with films like  The Butler, and 12 years as a Slave show casing African American history and talent. These films are important and certainly controversial.

But more  importantly to you my reader, it is a good film to watch, and not just because of the subect.  The Butler  is entertaining, interesting and packed with good performances.

8 Monkeys

9 Nov 2013

About time

I hadn’t heard much about this film, but after a particularly poor choice on my behalf I had given my girl a golden ticket. This ticket is basically an IOU voucher to see any film she wanted, without complaint or wriggling from me. The ticket also included the added value of an apology and possibly a dance.  I cannot remember the particular cinematic breach of human rights that led to the golden ticket, but there you are. 

Richard Curtis is the king of the British romantic comedy.  With his awkward and very sympathetic characters stumbling and bumbling through their stories, Curtis usually manages to draw us in despite ourselves. He is a good writer and director, and while there is a regular familiarity about Curtis’s films, they remain enjoyable and entertaining.  

 His latest film is full of familiar faces like Rachel McAdams and the great Bill Nighy, who is usually reason enough to watch any film.  But it seemed fun, and with her choice confirmed my girl presented me with her  golden ticket and off we went armed with a orange choc chip to see what Mr Curtis had to offer.

Tim Lake  (Domhnall Gleeson) has a pretty reasonable life, he has a good and loving family who are well off, his best friend is a complete dick, and he is utterly socially awkward, especially around girls. After a typically disastrous new years eve party Tim's dad (Bill Nighy) reveals a fantastic secret. The men in the family can time travel.  Only backwards, and only within their own experience.  Tim decides he will use his power to to his best advantage. He is going to get a girl friend! After moving to London he meets Mary (Rachel McAdam) and tries to use his power to win her heart. 

Ensue time travelling hijinx.

Like Curtis' Love Actually, About Time is not a cliched story about an awkward young man eventually finding love. The story progresses far beyond Tim's quest for Marys heart, it is really about how we spend our time with the ones we love. Curtis (that clever bastard) keeps his romantic comedies fresh and funny, because he incorporates the recognisable with the eccentric and ludicrous. 
His characters are charming, interesting, useless but still human. Unlike the sometimes perfect characters we see in Hollywood, Domhnall Gleeson and Rachel McAdams (who seems to be addicted to men who can time travel) are convincing as the central characters. Bill Nighy is wonderful as Tim's dad, and easily my favourite character. But I want to mention Richard Cordery who played Uncle D. It is hard to describe his performance, but it was highly memorable. 

If you liked  The Boat that Rocked, Love Actually  or Death at a Funeral  I think you will really enjoy this film. It is a funny entertianing and thoughful film and an excellent choice for a date night. 

Seven and a half Monkeys

P.S. bring tissues.


31 Oct 2013

Review of Thor: The Dark world. Or pants are compulsory

I was lucky enough to be gifted with two tickets to the pre-release of Thor: The Dark world.  I wasn’t incredibly enthusiastic, but my girl was, and the promise of seeing the movie first was exciting.  We fortified ourselves with wine and sat down in the Titan XC cinema in Reading to watch.

After the battle in new york (Avengers) Thor has returned to Midgard. But the destruction of the Bifrost Bridge has brought chaos and war throughout the nine realms.  Thor (Chris Hemsworth) is leading the Asgardians in battle to restore order and peace, which he does so successfully, but his heart is with Midgard and the mortal Jane Foster.
Loki (Tom Hiddleston) has been imprisoned for his crimes against Earth by Odin (Athony Hopkins). His life was spared after his mother Frigga (Renee Russo) pleaded with Odin to spare their adopted son that she loves so much. Now he rots in a dungeon below Asgard.

Back on Earth Thor has been away for two years and Jane Foster (Natalie Portman) is trying to get on with her life.   She is in England at the request of Doctor Selvig (Stellan Skarsgård) who has discovered the alignment of the nine realms, and the danger this alignment poses to Earth. 

As the alignment of the Nine realms approaches, it is watched by Nelson Mandela (Ildris Elba) the guardian of Asgard. But hidden even from him an ancient enemy of the Asgard stirs, wating to return and threaten Asgards authority,and the very existence of the nine realms.

ENSUE Stan lee action.

Thor: The Dark world is a well-constructed movie.  It manages to carry action, humour and a little poignancy surprisingly well. The direction by Alan Taylor and good performances by Hemsworth, Portman and Tom Hiddleston, who plays Loki, keeps the pace flowing and the audience entertained.  The humour is well placed and entertaining, but does not diminish the story in anyway.  Little elements like Loki’s choice of disguises and Dr Selvig thinking better with his trousers off were great comic moments.  The chemistry between Hiddleston and Hemsworth as conflicted brothers is good, and Loki adds a degree of wit and humour to balance Thor’s brooding.
Dude less of the brood
But while he does brood at times Hemsworth is able to play the hero, the conflicted son, and the roguish warrior equally well.  He is a talented thoughtful actor with the build of an 80’s action hero. Which brings me to the last element of his and the movie’s appeal. Not only does Thor have good action and humour, it also has Hemsworth in a gratuitous bathing scene. Oh yes the gasps and delighted murmurings from the ladies (and the gentleman in the front right of me) told me that the female demographic thought their money was already well spent.

Just a quick note to add the Skargard, Ildris Elba, Renee Russo and Anthony Hopkins were also very good, as you would expect. 

Marvel has really learnt a lesson that Warner Bros should learn, fight scenes can be epic, but also need to balance with the pace of the movie, and do not require the destruction of an entire city. If you compare the big fight in the end, with the one in Man of Steel, it is shorter, funnier than and just as violent as you would want.  You will not be bored.  Oh, my favourite fight scene, Frigga kicking ass.

The production was very good, and the scenes set in Asgard were magnificent. The production team really took to heart a Scandinavian theme, and the dark elves look great, if a little reminiscent of Hellboy2. But I didn’t mind that at all.

Fine I admit it, I really liked it.  I didn’t think I would, but I think that with this Marvel franchise of Avengers and their own movies that Thor: The Dark world will be right up there with Avengers. While you could say that that the character development for Thor’s friends was lacking, or the tension between Sif and Foster was incomplete there is only so much you can put in 120 minutes before it gets dumb or muddled.

 I saw it on a massive screen in 3D, but while I recommend you see this on the big screen, the 3D was pointless and added nothing at all.


Thoroughly entertaining movie

7 and a half monkeys