Wednesday, 1 March 2017


I've started writing another novel. Well, to be honest I'm writing two. Watch this space.

Tuesday, 21 April 2015


Well, I say summer.  Let's just say we'll use that as a focal point and work around it - it is only April after all.   There are some very big crowd-pleasing franchise releases this year, so here's my rundown.

It's already had its World premiere, but Avengers: Age of Ultron will doubtless be one of, if not THE most popular films of this year (until a certain release in December).  Its success is assured with a long line of Avengers-canon films already in the pipeline for the foreseeable future.  With another Marvel-universe release following a couple of months later, I'd predict that the mid-credits scene for this one will introduce Ant Man, but I don't know.  If you usually stay behind for the post-credits scene, you might want to know that it's been revealed that Age of Ultron doesn't have one this time.
Following fast behind will be the return of Max Rockatansky with Tom Hardy taking over from Mel Gibson in Mad Max: Fury Road.  Words wouldn't do justice to the visceral thrills that the trailer promises with original helmer George Miller seemingly afforded carte blanche to justify the film's greenlight after such a wait.   Hardy is contracted for another couple subject to how this one fares, so I'd suggest fans should flock to see it.  What it does have in its favour on that front is that it's likely to be mainly dialogue-free with rarely a moment's downtime when it comes to the action, which should serve an international audience well. 

Another franchise that hasn't been on the screen for a while is that one with the dinosaurs.  Jurassic World is attempting to revitalise the action on Isla Nublar with Jurassic Park now having been open to the public for the last 10 years.  I'm sure it'll be better than Jaws 3, which had the similar basic premise, but will it be able to reach the heights of the classic original?  It's a new cast with BD Wong being revealed as the only returning cast member.  He played the scientist featured in the velociraptor laboratory birth scene in the original, so don't worry if you can't remember him.  Chris Pratt leads the new cast, following on from his star-turn in Guardians of the Galaxy resulting in him being touted about as a possibility for the Indiana Jones reboot.  As long as it improves upon Jurassic Park 3, that's what I say. 

Yet another sequel/reboot on the horizon is Terminator: Genisys with Schwarzenegger returning to the role that made him famous.  I feel that I already know too much about this from the trailers.  So, if you're familiar with the first two (never mind 3 and Salvation) and you're interested, I won't say too much about it in case you'd prefer the spoiler-free approach.  It's not the only film you can catch Schwarzenegger in during the upcoming months.  In what looks like somewhat of a departure from his usually fare, he takes a step into Arthouse cinema in Maggie.  He stars as father who protects his daughter, played by Abigail Breslin, when she becomes infected with a zombie virus.  That doesn't make it sound like it's going to be too different from his usual big-budget action movies, but if you check out the trailer you'll get what I mean.  It's more of a dramatic horror with it seemingly drawing something from him probably similar to his performance in End of Days.

Shifting the focus to unfamiliar works origin-wise, I'll start with The Age of Adaline.  Blake Lively takes the lead in this fantasy-drama-romance as a woman born at the turn of the 20th century who stops aging after an accident at the age of 29 and stays that was for 80 years.  It's not ageing backwards, but the premise reminds me of The Curious Case of Benjamin Button.

If you're up for an extreme special-effects spectacle à la 2012 or The Day After Tomorrow, Dwayne Johnson stars in San Andreas as a rescue-helicopter pilot making a treacherous journey to rescue his estranged daughter in the aftermath of a massive earthquake.  Visually it is very striking and will hopefully turn out to be great entertainment, but these kind of films have the potential to be terrible.  Personally, the director's filmography doesn't instill me with excitement, but there's a 1st time for everything.

Something that should be entertaining, considering the parties involved, is Spy, the latest comedy from director Paul Feig (Bridesmaids & The Heat), whose next film will be the long-awaited/dreaded Ghostbusters reboot.  Collaborating in what would be the 3rd time from the aforementioned 4 is Melissa McCarthy.  As long as the script was good, Feig should have had an easy job prising a solid ensemble performance from a cast that includes Jason Statham, Rose Byrne, Jude Law, Bobby Cannavale, Allison Janney, Morena Baccarin and Miranda Hart.

As I said, this Summer is full of returning successes.  Amongst them you'll also find Ted 2, Sinister 2, Insidious Chapter 3, Mission Impossible 5, a Fantastic 4 reboot, Magic Mike XXL,  a Poltergeist remake, Minions without Gru and a National Lampoons Vacation reboot sans Chevy Chase.

Wednesday, 15 April 2015

Movie Review: LOST RIVER

Lost River is a dark and suspenseful semi-futuristic fable from début writer-director Ryan Gosling.  It's set in a run-down American town that seems to have been left behind by a worsening economy.  Mad Men's Christina Hendricks plays a single mother of two, desperately trying to save her family home from being repossessed and demolished by the bank.  She takes on a mysterious job offered to her by Ben Mendelsohn's villainous bank manager as a means to earn extra cash to repay her arrears.  The job turns out to be a performer at a torture-themed nightclub.  Her son, played by Marvel's Agents of Shield's Iain De Caestecker, tries his best to contribute by scavenging copper from derelict properties scattered amongst the deserted areas of the vicinity.  However, this angers the local thug, played by a shaven-headed Matt Smith of Doctor Who fame, who has laid claim to all of the copper as his own.


It's a simple story with unfortunate encounters stimulating cat-and-mouse conflicts between its characters.  Its setting is grim and mainly devastated yet the film is consistently visually-arresting.  I'm a big fan of Nicholas Winding-Refn's films, with whom Ryan Gosling collaborated by starring in Drive and Only God Forgives.  It seems that Gosling  shares a similar style when it comes to the tone on display here.  Elements of horror are then introduced with a slight adjustment in tone and visuals suggesting an influence akin to David Lynch.  The film brings compelling mystery with little signs of hope emerging from a disturbing story.  The performances are solid and it's an ambitious piece that has the potential to become a cult favourite in the future.

It's not perfect but at 95 minutes it's the right length for this nightmarish modern-day fairy-tale  about family and survival.  I imagine that the original cut, before the film was picked up by a distributor, was much longer and has been subject to compromise.  I remember seeing a clip months ago that hasn't ended up in the version released.  It's a promisingly brave directorial début from Ryan Gosling, a piece of Arthouse cinema that won't be to everyone's tastes  for the same reasons I gave when I reviewed Only God Forgives a couple of years ago, but Lost River was right up my street.

Lost River is in cinemas and available On-Demand now.

Tuesday, 24 March 2015

Unfinished Business: A Flash Fiction Short


   Following a dignified service, the mourners had filed out of the church after the coffin, which had now been lowered into the grave.
   Stephen stood beside the grave and looked around at the hypocritical presence surrounding him.  He could have laughed, but he refrained.  He was aghast at how so many people could be so brazen as to show up at the funeral of someone that they had previously treated with such appalling disrespect.
   The rain was pelting down, but he could not feel it.  The sky was as grey as the faces of the mourners standing at the graveside.
   He looked at his mother and felt a pang of heartbreak as he saw the tears flowing from her near-bloodshot eyes.  His sister, Joanne, was standing next to her, practically holding her up by the arm the that she had wrapped around her.
   Unsurprisingly, there was a sombre tone to the occasion but, more than anything, Stephen was overcome with a sense of anger.  He was incensed that one man in particular had decided to make an appearance amongst them.
   Scott Danielson was unashamedly lining up behind one of Stephen’s old friends, Gabriel Michaels, preparing to participate on the formalities that involved throwing a handful of earth onto the coffin in the grave before paying his respects to the grieving family.  Stephen gritted his teeth and stared at him, but Scott did not look his way.
   After a few seconds, Stephen scanned the rest of the gathering.  His Uncle Harry was whispering something to his cousin, Donna, and his Aunt Deborah was speaking to the Vicar.  Then he caught a glimpse of an unfamiliar face. 
   There was a woman standing beside his Uncle, someone he did not recognise.  She stood out from the crowd as she was wearing a beige knee-length skirt over a white blouse and a grey cardigan.  Everyone else was wearing black.  He was surprised he had not noticed her earlier.  She was mid-thirties, pretty.  Moments later, the mystery woman noticed that Stephen was staring at her.  She smiled.
   Taken aback at her acknowledgement, Stephen blushed.  He looked away, embarrassed as she began to approach him.
   “Morning,” she said to him.  “I’m Maria.”
   “Stephen,” he blurted after a brief moment of hesitation.
   “How did you die, Stephen?”
   Stephen scowled.  “I was murdered, but it was made to look like a suicide.”
   “I’m sorry,” Maria said.  “So, you’ve got unfinished business too, huh?”
   “Too right I have.”  He looked at Scott once again and glowered.  “I got knocked out in a fight when I found out that my best friend had been sleeping with my fiancé.  She’s not here today, but he’s had the audacity to show his face.  Turns out I was found on the bathroom floor with my wrists slit.  I didn’t do that.”
   “That’s awful.”  Maria turned to see who Stephen was glaring at.  “Is that him?”
   “It is.”
   “What a nerve,” she said.
   Stephen shook himself and looked Maria in the eye.  “Anyway, what happened to you?” he enquired, realising he was being rude by not expressing an interest in his new-found acquaintance’s situation.
   “Car accident.  Two weeks ago now.”
   “And you’re still hanging around?”
   “We’ve all got unfinished business to take care of, Stephen.”
   “I suppose,” he said.  “You learned anything about haunting the living since you passed?”
   Maria looked in Scott’s direction again and grinned.  “Sure, I could teach you a few things.”


Wednesday, 25 February 2015

Excerpt from novel, DISPOSITION

dis-po-si-tion (noun).  A habitual inclination; a tendency

   Having spent the week executing what turned out to be the fruitless task of interrogating suspects, Liza felt it was reasonable to take the afternoon off for an appointment with her psychiatrist.  There had been a couple of anxious occurrences of recognising a couple of men amongst the stills from the videos of the people of interest.  She remembered them from one-off encounters that she had arranged at a hotel through the internet.  She called in sick on the day of one of the interrogations and strategically arranged to be stuck in traffic on the day of the other one.  It was unusual for her to shirk her responsibilities, so nobody questioned her inconveniences to be anything but genuine. However, she was accustomed to keeping things to herself, despite the strain she felt.  
   She had been seeing Dr Simone Anwar for the last five years after being referred to her by a colleague.  As well as heading her own practice, Dr Anwar occasionally consulted for the police as a forensic psychologist.
   Liza found the psychiatrist's office waiting-room to be a peaceful place; somewhere to contain the calm before the storm.  There was never anyone else sitting there but her.  The patients were scheduled in a way that ensured they didn't overlap.  One patient never saw another unless someone was unnecessarily very early for an appointment.  Liza appreciated the privacy.  As she sat alone, she periodically stared at the two oil paintings hanging on the green walls adjacent to the chair.
   The first painting that she gazed upon was the lone silhouette of a rambler scouring the countryside.  Liza was always drawn to the large shadow that he cast.  The painting on the opposite wall was a landscape portrait of tumultuous waves crashing against the face of a tall cliff on a sunny day, with a lone cloud hovering in the blue sky above.  Liza had been staring at the painting for years and was still not decided as to whether she should have been imagining standing at the top of the cliff looking down at the crashing waves or staring out at the seemingly endless ocean on the horizon.  On that Monday afternoon, she was thinking that it was more likely that she felt like the lone cloud in the sky when her mobile rang in her coat pocket.  It was Morgan Stone, so she answered the call with a despairing sigh.
   "Can't you just give me a break?" she said.  "Just one afternoon, for crying out loud."
   "I know, but it's important," Stone reasoned without apology.
   "I'll be the judge of that.  What do you want?"
   "Where are you?"
   "What do you want?"
    "I've got a new lead."
   "Great, but, couldn't that have waited?  Stone, give me a break.  Deal with it yourself and don't bother me until tomorrow at the earliest."
   Liza terminated the call and switched her mobile off, cursing Stone for disrupting her serenity.  She focussed on the painting of the cliffs again and tried to compose herself.     A minute or so later, Dr Anwar opened her office door.
   "Liza, sorry I kept you waiting," she said.
   "Don't worry about it," Liza said.  "That's what the room is for, isn't it?"
   "That's certainly a positive way to look at things.  Come in."
   Dr Anwar extended her arm to point the way.  She was in her late forties and had a warm yet firm manner.  Every time Liza had seen her, she was wearing a black suit and heels over a white blouse with a wide collar. 
   The office was four times the size of the waiting room and almost the same size as Liza's apartment
   "It's been a while," Anwar said as Liza entered the room.
   "I was doing well, or at least I thought I was.  I thought I didn't need the therapy as much, but then I had a relapse."
   "You'd better sit down."
   "On the clock already?"
   "Well, I do have other patients.  It's your time, so make the most of it."
   There were no paintings hanging on the walls in the office, just framed certificates of Anwar's qualifications.  The decor was bland; a desk, a bookcase containing reference books, two chairs and a couch.  Liza always sat in a chair facing the chair where Anwar sat.
   "So, a relapse, you say," the psychiatrist prompted.  "Would you care to elaborate?"
   "You know what I mean."
   "I recall us establishing the conjecture that your condition was ultimately a very subjectively measured one.  You eventually insisted that a specific criteria for defining it was absent."
   Liza rolled her eyes and conceded to Anwar's point.  "Okay, that's right.  Maybe society has the problem and I'm just projecting a cultural aversion towards sexual liberation."
   "Is that how you feel about it?  You resent having to feel shame?"
   "I was just responding sarcastically to what you said."
   "Tell me about your relapse, as you call it."
   "I just gave in to it.  Saturday before last,"  Liza said.  "I hadn't been with anyone for about a month and it was just nagging away at me, like an itch I couldn't scratch.  I tried satisfying myself to ward off the urge, but it's just too insatiable.  After a while, it starts to interfere in the everyday stuff.  I get tense at work and, you know, I don't interact well with colleagues.  So, I just threw caution to the wind, logged on, had a few drinks and arranged a date.  As easy as that, I had an intimately dispassionate encounter that very night."
   "So, you acknowledge that surrendering to your compulsion doesn't result in satisfaction.  You're saying it doesn't appease the need?"
   "We're going over old ground here, but, okay. Yes; exactly.  It's like I give in to it because there is a brief moment where the tension fades, but it just makes things worse when I reflect upon it in the cold light of day.  Then, there seems that there'll just be one thing that'll sort me out again."
   "And a self-perpetuating cycle ensues," Anwar added.
    "Have you kept up with your medication?"
    "I may have eased off during the last month or so."
    "May I ask why?  I didn't advise you to."
    "I wanted to eliminate the side-effects.  It's hard to be effective at my job when I'm losing interest and I stop caring all the time.  I usually love my job , but recently I haven't taken much pleasure from it and I don't want to talk to anyone."
    "That's called anhedonia," Anwar interjected.  "It's a common side-effect of the antidepressants that I prescribed you, but it usually passes in time.  You should give them another chance."
   "I got by without them for years.  What is it they're supposed to do exactly?"
   "What?  The tablets?  You know what they're for.  You wouldn't have taken them to start with otherwise.  And another thing; you really think you were getting by?"
   "Just remind me."
   "Okay, I'll play along and indulge whatever game you're playing.  It's your time after all.  If you need me to explain that the antidepressants will suppress your relatively excessive sexual urges, I can do that."
   "Relatively excessive, you say?"
   "It depends whether you're measuring your behaviour against social norms or not."
   "How do they work?"  Liza asked.
   "What do you mean?"
   "What's the science behind them?"
   Anwar frowned as she paused for a moment, unclear as to why Liza was uncharacteristically testing her.  She seemed more embittered than usual.
   "Why are you so interested in the science?"  Anwar enquired.
   "I want to know what the other potential side-effects are.  What harm could they do to me?"
   "So, you blindly engage in a lengthy string of sexual encounters with strangers, risking infection, disease and who knows what else in the process, and now you claim to be concerned about what medically prescribed drugs can do to you?"
   "Maybe it's because it's the only risk I've been able to control lately.  To everything else, I yielded.  The drugs have been what I chose to stop."
   "Yes, in a sudden fashion, which by proxy put an end to your sexual abstinence."
   "How do they work?"  Liza insisted.
   "They're called selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors.  They're a psychotropic drug that correct chemical imbalances in the brain.  They specifically block serotonin from being reabsorbed by the nerve cells in the brain, therefore releasing it and lifting your mood as a result.  Liza, you know this, surely."
   "And there I was thinking it was just Prozac," Liza said with a smirk.
   "Prozac is just a brand name for fluoxetine," Anwar corrected her.  "You're on Paxil, which is a brand of paroxetine."
   "Am I pissing you off, Doctor?"
   "No.  Let's just say that your hostility is quite infectious this afternoon.  I'm sorry."
   One of the symptoms Anwar had been treating Liza for was a condition called hypersexuality.  When the therapy sessions started, Liza thought it was going to be a short-term arrangement.  Five years had since passed and it seemed that she was still going to be in need of Anwar's services for quite some time to come.  Hypersexuality was the label that Anwar applied to Liza's dysfunctional preoccupation with casual and non-intimate sexual encounters.  They still had not established what the probable cause for Liza's condition was, and Anwar stressed that maybe they never would.
   After apologising for allowing her professionalism slip, Anwar remained silent and waited for Liza to resume the conversation.  It was around thirty seconds before Liza broke the silence.
   "I've got a new case," she said.  "A murder.  You probably saw it on the news."
   "The woman found in Sutton Park?"
   "That's the one."
   "There's a lot about her we haven't made public."
   "You know that whatever you tell me stays in this room."
   "I know.  It's just, well, some of the details are a bit close to home."
   Anwar stayed quiet, leaving the talking to Liza. 
   Liza continued, "We found videos and photographs of her with lots of different sexual partners.  You could argue that she makes me seem normal by comparison.  So, obviously, she's being called a slut and a whore by anyone who comes across the evidence.  It's clear that she was discreet enough to keep her Messalina complex a secret while she was breathing.  Of course, everyone's in shock now, especially her husband.  I try to appear indifferent.  I can't explain to them that I understand where she was coming from."
"Why not?  You can control how much you reveal."
"They'd probably call me detective nympho, or something as equally derogatory."
"I see.  It's unfortunate you don't feel that you can provide an informed insight with confidence."
   "If a man was just as promiscuous, he'd be hailed, celebrated even.  A man's ego can't deal with a woman having a greater libido than his, so then the double standard is applied."
   "Moral regard, as quite often conveyed either frankly or indirectly by society, is most certainly malapropos and doesn't support your affliction.  It's up to you to improve your situation, Liza.  Yes, I'm here for your therapy, but the rest is your responsibility.  Open your mind to the world's possibilities outside the sex-related experiences.  Concentrate on emancipating yourself from your addiction and seize control of your actions.  That will put you on course for achieving true satisfaction."
   "You make it sound so easy, Doctor."
   "I know it's not.  Start by taking your medication again.  You're in no position to cut it out as drastically as you have.  Maybe in time we can look at reducing your dosage, but now isn't the time.  I'll write you another prescription.  On one hand, you're saying that it's affecting your work.  But, on the other hand, you're restraining the use of your experience when it could benefit your investigation."
   "Okay, sure," Liza conceded.  "Whatever you think will work."
   "I don't make any promises, Liza.  Didn't you mention something about a holiday a couple of months ago?"
   "Well remembered, yes.  Or was that in your notes?"
   "You said it was booked for sometime around now, didn't you?"
   "Five nights in Lanzarote in about three weeks' time, which I'm thinking of cancelling.  I'm too busy with work."
   "I'm sure they could cope without you for a week."
   "I'm sure they'd be glad that I wasn't there for a week."
   "So, why don't you go as planned?"
   "I could take a holiday anytime."
   "You say that, but then you also say that you maybe can't take this one because you're too busy."
   "I'll think about it."
   "I hope you do."


Sunday, 22 February 2015


I think this year is going to prove to be mostly predictable, but we'll find out in a few hours...

Best Director
The Nominees
Wes Anderson, The Grand Budapest Hotel
Alejandro G. Iñárritu, Birdman
Richard Linklater, Boyhood
Bennett Miller, Foxcatcher
Morten Tyldum, The Imitation Game
Should Win
Linklater for the dedication and consistency over 12 years.
Will Win

Best Supporting Actress
The Nominees
Patricia Arquette, Boyhood
Laura Dern, Wild
Keira Knightley, The Imitation Game
Emma Stone, Birdman
Meryl Streep, Into the Woods
Should and Will Win
Arquette. Obvious.

Best Supporting Actor
The Nominees
Robert Duvall, The Judge
Ethan Hawke, Boyhood
Edward Norton, Birdman
Mark Ruffalo, Foxcatcher
J.K. Simmons, Whiplash
Should and Will Win
Simmons.  Obvious.
Best Actress
The Nominees
Marion Cotillard, Two Days, One Night
Felicity Jones, The Theory of Everything
Julianne Moore, Still Alice
Rosamund Pike, Gone Girl
Reese Witherspoon, Wild
Should and Will Win
Moore. Again, obvious.

Best Actor
The Nominees
Steve Carell, Foxcatcher
Bradley Cooper, American Sniper
Benedict Cumberbatch, The Imitation Game
Michael Keaton, Birdman
Eddie Redmayne, The Theory of Everything
Should Win
Would be hard to argue against Redmayne.
Will Win
Michael Keaton is probably in the lead, but it could be a flip of a coin here.

Best Picture
The Nominees
American Sniper
The Grand Budapest Hotel
The Imitation Game
The Theory of Everything
Should Win
"Boyhood." Come on, it took 12 years to make and it's brilliant.
Will Win
Odds are that Birdman will take it.  I've seen it twice and  could easily watch it again, so wouldn't mind either way.

Friday, 20 February 2015


During a recent visit to London, I was looking for something to do on a Thursday afternoon and came across the London Film Museum in Covent Garden, where the Bond in Motion exhibit is currently based.  If you're a 007 fan, I'd highly recommend it.  It's the official exhibit of the vehicles that have featured in films and is the largest of its kind in London. The latest James Bond film, Spectre, has started filming and will be released in November with Bond driving the new Aston Martin DB10.  Only ten are being produced and it was designed especially for the new film to mark the recent fiftieth anniversary of the company's involvement in the franchise. 

The day that I visited the exhibit coincided with the first on-location footage from Austria being released, revealing that Bond will once again battle villainous henchmen in the snow, as in On Her Majesty's Secret Service and For Your Eyes Only amongst others.  As always, it's a globe-spanning mission with other filming locations including London, Mexico City and Rome.  At this early stage, the premise for Spectre is still unsurprisingly vague: A cryptic message from an unlikely source sets James Bond navigating the layers of a sinister organisation known as SPECTRE.  As M continues fighting political pressures that threaten the future of MI6 Bond draws closer to uncovering a hidden truth that threatens to destroy everything he has fought to protect. Of course, all of the key players from Skyfall are returning (Daniel Craig, Ralph Fiennes, Ben Whishaw, Naomi Harris and Rory Kinnear) and new cast members include Two-Time Oscar-winner Christoph Waltz, Monica Bellucci, Lea Seydoux, Dave Bautista and Andrew Scott.  It's too soon for news on who'll record the theme song, but my bet would be Adele returing to follow-up the award-winning Skyfall.  With Oscar-winning director Sam Mendes also returning behind the camera, it's doubtful that it’s going to disappoint.

Anyway, back to the Bond in Motion exhibit at Covent Garden.  Adult tickets are £14.50 each and, as I say, this is quite a treat if you've seen all of the Bond films with child and family tickets available.  None of the items on display are replicas.  Every vehicle is the original high performance one used in filming, most of which are on loan from EON productions' archives.  Some of them have been restored whereas a couple of others are still in the write-off state that resulted from the chase at the start of Quantum of Solace.  It's not just cars.  There are loads of the gadgets, weapons, aircraft, aqua vehicles, motorbikes and other props from down the years, including passports and a driving licence (he had 4 penalty points on it).  Most of the vehicles are accompanied by a large screen showing the scene for which it's most famous.  I'd say that the BMWs featured in the Dalton years have dated, but the timelessly classic Aston Martin takes centre-stage and all of the glory.  Some of these vehicles have provided some of the most memorable images in movie history, such as the speedboat from Live and Let Die, the submersible Lotus Esprit from The Spy Who Loved me, Goldfinger's Rolls Royce and the Q Boat that raced along the Thames in The World is Not Enough.

The exhibit also gives you a glimpse of the creative process from pre-production and how the artistry on the storyboards has changed over the years with never-seen-before concept drawings, script pages and miniature models also on display.        

It was highly enjoyable and fascinating to be in the presence of iconic items from movie history with plenty of photograph opportunities.