Wednesday, 22 January 2014

Cross the bridge

I heard this track by Mint Royale last Sunday, which must be one of their latest.  The tingling bells at the start have featured heavily on BBC One's programme introductions since the new year, but what follows is an inspiring voice-over monologue from Willem Dafoe.

As well as being a decent tune, I'd say it speaks to us all.  I chose to cross the bridge today and then burned it down.  That is to say, I did something I hadn't done before and now there's no turning back.  I was fed up of all of the clutter - inside and out of the house.  Inside, I've got so much sensitive paperwork that it would take months to shred it all.  It's tempting to just put it in the bin for recycling, but you never know what can happen.  In the age of identity theft and fraud, it would most probably be a dumb move.  The thing is though, the amount that I've got would take months to shred.  I haven't got the time,  commitment or the tolerance to withstand the boredom threshold to do what's required.  I've found old, mouldy nets and curtains under the stairs that have been taking up valuable storage space for about ten years.  These things have to go.  Then, outside, there's the three dead Christmas trees that I haven't got rid of yet.  I would chop them up and put them out for the fortnightly garden waste collection, but the council don't offer this any more.

So, I bought a garden incinerator.  It's one of those steel bins with a hole to emit the smoke on top.  Yes, I'd prefer to dispose of my waste without the emissions, but I going to be considerate about which time I choose to burn stuff.  I'll make sure it's not a time when people are going to have stuff hanging out on their washing line and all that.  I could stuff the manky old curtains  into bin bags and leave them out for the rubbish men, but I think it's better to disintegrate them rather than have them taken to landfill.  It was a good start.  I've made some space and I've begun to get rid of some of the clutter.  It's the way forward - getting rid of what I don't need.

I'm also going to have to 'cross that bridge,' as the lyric goes, and do something I haven't done before once I've finished editing my new novel.  I don't know what that something is yet, but it's linked to marketing.  I'm close to having 'Disposition' ready for distribution and I'm hoping its going to reach further than 'The Ellroy Deflection' and 'Barren Endeavour' have.  It's a challenging marketplace, emphasised by an article I read this week.  Most writers earn less than £600 a year apparently.  CLICK HERE to read it.  Its not surprising.  Watch this space...

Wednesday, 15 January 2014


Box-office-wise, 2013 was cinema’s biggest year yet.  Leading the way was Iron Man 3, taking over $1.2 billion as it became the 5thbiggest film of all time.  Clearly, the comic-book superhero movie genre is the biggest genre for the studios alongside the family-favourite animated features.  Thor: The Dark World saw the successful return of another Avenger and we’ll see him again in 2015 when the Avengers re-assemble. 

But, before that, Steve Rogers will have another entry in the series with Captain America: Winter Soldier next year as well as the movie debut of The Guardians of the Galaxy arriving in the summer.  Zack Snyder’s Superman-reboot Man of Steel did well enough this year to ensure a return in 2015, with Ben Affleck and Gal Gadot recently cast to join the sequel as Batman and Wonder Woman.    Another group of superheroes set to stick around would be the X-Men following the success of Logan’s second solo outing this year in The Wolverine, next year’s epic-scale sequel/prequel Days of Future Past with another sequel, Apocalypse, already greenlit for 2016.

A long loved-character that seemed to have transformed into a superhero this year was John McLane in the disappointing A Good Day to Die Hard.  Bruce Willis’ tough New-York cop seemed to have superpowers of invincibility during his trip to Russia to rescue his secret-agent son.  I was defiantly willing myself to like the film because I’m a huge fan of the series.  But, there’s no denying how bad it was.  I’m in two-minds as to whether I want a 6th entry, which is inevitably going to happen because of the amount of money this one still made.  On the one hand, this was bad and maybe enough's enough.  On the other, I’d really like to see the franchise redeem itself with a return to the standard of previous instalments.  Disappointments this year, however, were few and far between.  On the other end of the scale, there were plenty of triumphs and, without a doubt; the film of the year was Alfonso Cuaron’s Gravity.  Not only was it an amazing technical achievement, but it was a gripping thriller with an outstanding career-best performance from Sandra Bullock.  It won’t pack as much of a punch on the smaller-screen, so I’d urge you to catch this one in 3D on the biggest screen available if you can.

Now, I haven’t seen all of the films released this year.  So, before you accuse me of omitting to mention a few that may have impressed you this year, I’ve been told good things about Captain Phillips, Philomena and Prisoners, which I look forward to seeing in the new year.

What I was first-in-line for on the day it came out was Rush, portraying the true story of the exhilherating rivalry between racing drivers James Hunt and Niki Lauda.  If you don't know their story - lucky you.  Ron Howard's made a lot of good films, but I'd say this is his best.  You don't even have to know anything about Formula One motor racing to enjoy this one.  It was expertly written, shot, scored, acted, directed and it's out on Blu Ray and DVD at the end of January 2014 if you want some enthralling entertainment.  Other fantastic dramas that you should check out, if you didn't catch them, would include The Place Beyond the Pines, The East and Mud.

Some of my favourites this year have been visually-stunning offerings from some of the most artistically-visionary directors in the business today.  The first was a film from Nicholas Winding-Refn, which divided audiences and critics alike, called Only God Forgives.  I gave my thoughts on it back in August, so click here for my review.  Another film that divided opinion was Terrence Mallick's To The Wonder, which might have just caught me the right mood as I wasn't a fan of last year's Tree of Life at all.  Then there was Chan Wook Park's English-language debut with Stoker, an excellent gothic drama written by Wentworth Miller (Schofield from TV's Prision Break).  Park's most famous film was 2003's Oldboy, of which Spike Lee's remake was released recently.  I had been looking forward to it, but the reviews were terrible.  So, I didn't bother.  Many of Oldboy's reviews have cited Sharlto Copley's villainous performance as one of the worst of the year, which is surprising considering I'd say he was the villain of the year in Elysium.  Elysium was one of the sci-fi hits of the year, amongst Star Trek Into Darkness, World War Z, Hunger Games: Catching Fire, Pacific Rim and Oblivion, which was a relief after the tedious and predictable After Earth from M.Night Shamaylan.

If, like me, you enjoy a good scare, there were a few crackers to make the hairs on the back of your neck stand up - Mama, Evil Dead, Dark Skies and The Conjuring.  But, if you'd prefer a good laugh, some of the more successful rib-ticklers this year were Alan Partridge: Alpha Papa, This Is The End, Warm Bodies, The Heat and The World's End.  I hope I'm not wrong, but I took Pain and Gain to be a comedy, even though it's a Michael Bay film, and it featured one of two subtle crowd-pleasing performances from Mark Whalberg, with the other following in the comedy-actioner 2 Guns.  The only remaining comedy from my list has only just been released.  I haven't seen Anchorman 2 yet, but I don't doubt that any fan of the first is going to love this one just as much. 

In summary, here are the films I enjoyed the most this year:

10. The Hunger Games: Catching Fire
 9.  Frances Ha
 8.  The Hobbit: Desolation of Smaug
 7.  Stoker
 6.  The Way Way Back
 5.  The Secret Life of Walter Mitty
 4.  Only God Forgives
 3.  Les Miserables
 2.  Rush
 1.  Gravity