Sunday, 16 September 2012


Kit, Ellie and I decided to take advantage of 'Orange Wednesday' and hit the flicks ... the trouble was, what to see. So, with no great enthusiasm we trailed off to see 'Lawless': I'm no great fan of Shia LaBeouf and I wasn't in the mood for something the trailer suggested was just a gangster movie.

How wrong I was!

Set during the Prohibition Era, in sum the story (screen adaptation by Nick Cave) relates how the three hick Bondurant brothers become the preeminent bootleggers in Franklin County, their position threatened when a Special Detective Rakes (played by a brilliant Guy Pearce) arrives on the scene demanding a cut of the profits. Led by the uncompromisingly thuggish elder brother, Forrest (wonderfully portrayed with monosylabbic intensity by Tom hardy), the three resist which, of course, result in lots and lots of violence.

In the wrong hands this could have degenerated into just an excuse for murder and mayhem, but the script treats the violence almost as an aside, the thrust of the story revolving around the relationship between Forrest and Maggie, the 'girl trying to escape a troubled past'; Forrest and Jack his younger brother and 'the runt of the litter'; and between Jack and the preacher's daughter, Bertha. It is the way these strands intertwine and develop that gives 'Lawless' its power and it's emotional bite.

It's a story helped by some first-class performances but, remarkably, the stand-out is Shia LaBeouf. In a truly remarkable turn he manages to convincingly portray vulnerability, frustration and exasperation. This guy can act!

Not an easy film to watch at times (the throat-cutting scene was particularly gruesome), but certainly the best thing I've seen this year by miles. The girls concur, and these are young ladies not enamoured to shoot-'em-ups.

A very well deserved 8/10.

The Birmingham Independent Book Fair

Went to Birmingham at the weekend to attend The Brimingham Independent Book Fair (and for Kit and Ellie to attend GateCrashers but that was by-the-by). The great thing was that the fair was amazingly well attended, loads and loads of people wandering around sampling the very diverse books on offer (including, inter alia, Jewish-centric arts, LGBT literature, local history and steampunk) and enjoying themselves as they did so.

The nice thing was that a couple of our friends had a stall and it was great to see Peter and Jan making such a success of Alchemy Press.

Jan Edwards (Alchemy Books) on the left and Emma Barnes (SnowBooks) to the right

I'm a fan of independent publishers. They seem to me to be the ideal compromise between the corporate publishers and the self-publishers, giving a whole clutch of authors who ain't able to get a mainstream gig with the support they so often need. Independents provide that oh-so-vital arm's length critque of a book and that oh-so-vital editing which can turn an OK novel into something worth reading. I think any wannabe writer who has Peter and Jan looking after their work can be reassured they're in a safe (and constructive) pair of hands.

I was also impressed by Emma Barnes's 'SnowBooks' imprint. The CARE she takes over the presentation of her books is really quite wonderful ... though not quite wonderful enough to prevent me groaning when I realised that the hero in 'The Curious Case of the Clockwork Man' was Sir Richard Burton. Not again!

A good day and Birmingham was as lively and sparky as ever.

Saturday, 1 September 2012



I’ve never been a great fan of Arnie (or of Paul Verhoeven for that matter) so I was kinda indifferent to seeing the remake of their ‘Total Recall’ but Ellie is something of a fan of Colin Farrell (this girl has a worrying taste for rascals) so it was off to the cinema we went, teenage lust trumping old-age indifference.

Not a bad film … but by no means a good one, and what it did do was confirm a worrying trend I’ve noticed in recent Sci-Fi films. Sci-Fi now seems to be a euphemism for ‘shoot-‘em-up’, where plot, dialogue and characterisation are jettisoned in favour of CGI action. I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised: with the globalisation of the film business producers are looking for things that will work in a myriad of languages. Action and violence seem to be the lingua franca of world cinema.

And action and violence ‘Total Recall’ has in spades, all Colin Farrell (and after ‘In Bruges’ this man can do no wrong in my eyes, I’ve even forgiven him for ‘Alexander’) is required to do is look permanently bemused, hit people and run around a lot. Now I know he was reprising Arnie’s role but couldn’t the director (Len Wiseman, he of ‘Underworld’ fame) have streeeeetched him just a little. I mean when Colin is on the run from his ‘wife’ Kate Beckinsale (the best thing in the movie) couldn’t he be allowed some surprise when he’s rescued by Jessica Biel (awful throughout). I mean is it too much to ask for a ‘Hello, who are you?’ from the scriptwriters, or even a ‘Do I know you from somewhere?’.

In fact the lack of chemistry/dynamics/rapport between Farrell and Biel was the reason the second half of the film felt so very flat. There was absolutely no connection. Strange.

That’s the word to describe this movie: ‘flat’, as though everyone (with the exception of Beckinsale) was just going through the motions. And a long motion it was: 118 minutes which was at least 38 minutes too long. Shame, because with just a few tweaks it could have been really very good. Maybe the scriptwriters should have paid more attention to the source material: Philip K. Dick would never have allowed something so banal to leave his typewriter.

Score: 5/10