I'm still in the process of adding old film reviews to the Blog, just not very quickly, must try harder...


Film (70) Music (12) Photography (6) Television (1) Writing (3)

Thursday, 29 December 2011

Keep Calm and Carry On, Watson

After a good, solid first outing by Guy Ritchie featuring excellent cut-and-thrust chemistry between Downey Jr. and Law, and a suitably mysterious and involving plot, I was unsure what to expect from the sequel, but there is no dip in form here, ‘A Game of Shadows’ is excellent, its canvas is the whole of Europe, Moriarty is on the move and the game is afoot! The action is well-paced, Holmes and Watson’s relationship is under strain and darkness and daring abound as a spate of bombings shakes Europe.

The introduction of Stephen Fry is inspired; he provides an excellent second foil for Downey Jr. and also a degree of gravitas that was missing before. Noomi Rapace is superbly cast, a pity she was not given more to do, but excellent to see her in a big circulation movie, hopefully more to come. The stand-out performance however is Jared Harris, oh how different from his meek and mild-mannered role as Lane Pryce in ‘Mad Men’, his Moriarty is superb; not a blustering caricature of evil, thank goodness, but the best kind of villain, a super-intelligent man of strong desires and no morality. The scenes that he shares with Holmes are riveting, none more so than the last one, which is superb cinema.

To conclude, despite the very tacky strap line ‘A Game of Shadows’ IS bigger, it IS better and it IS funnier, but not at the expense of an excellent Gothic action thriller with a tremendous denouement. Go and see it on the big screen NOW, TODAY! then see it again online and as a rental, fantastic stuff.

Monday, 26 December 2011

Absolutely Dire

As a child of the 60's, my musical hey day was in the early 80's. I've always had eclectic tastes, but it was the power and to some extent the bravado of Heavy Metal that called the loudest (literally) to me, I was too well behaved to be a punk, and only discovered the joys of The Clash and The Jam much later. Motorhead, Iron Maiden, AC/DC, Saxon, Scorpions were the staples, Black Sabbath, Rainbow were venerated high priests (oh yes, Judas Priest too).

Metalheads were sworn enemies of the New Romantics, I mean with a name like that, and those haircuts, it was a rivalry forged in the fires of hell. For that reason it was much (much) later before I could admit that Human League, OMD, Soft Cell, Duran Duran et al had some great songs too.

Amongst all this battle-of-the-charts nonsense (wasn't it great?) were certain artists that transcended genre, and none was greater in the early 80's than Dire Straits. Mark Knopfler had that skill that all truly great artists have, of melding supreme instrumental skill with peerless storytelling and making the whole thing seem effortless. I'm moved to write this as I listen to DS best of, 'Sultans of Swing' which my 17-year-old daughter requested for her Christmas (one of my greatest joys is that she has musical tastes every bit as eclectic as mine.) Knopfler's achievement is written clearly in the track list of that superb collection, but even more eloquently in the songs that there is no room for.

'Love Over Gold' was always my favourite Dire Straits record, DS songs were never short, but by 1982 Knopfler was unconstrained by the niceties of commercial songwriting. The shortest track was 5:49 (the poppy, radio friendly 'Industrial Disease'), and 'Telegraph Road' was a tour de force at a magnificent 14:21, but it is the album's book end 'It Never Rains' that was, for me, the most poignant and heartfelt on that record. Okay the riff is a bit repetitive and the song peters out through a solo that is not Knopfler's most inspiring, but the first 4 minutes are an emotional return to the fairground landscape of 'Tunnel of Love' - magnificent stuff, and he was born in Glasgow.

'Breaking' news...

Motion Capture

This photo was taken in Paris in February 2007 at the Centre Pompidou. My family and I were there to see a Tintin exhibition, which was superb, lots of original drawings and page masters, really incredible Herge archive material. My Sony DSC-72P at work again with f/2.8 and 1/8s, set to ISO 100 with +2 exposure bias.

I love the way that the camera can capture images that the eye can't really see. The exposure is long enough that people moving across the shot appear blurred, but some standing or pausing are frozen fairly clearly. The man in the foreground turned to look at the camera, conscious that he was in the shot, but not enough to stop.

The over-exposure removes the definition from the outside world, although the odd person here and there is still visible in the distance. There are almost no objects in the shot so it becomes all about the people and what the viewer imagines about them.

Saturday, 24 December 2011

I'd like to thank Orson Welles, without whom this would not have been possible

Welles filmed Kafka's 'The Trial' in Paris in 1962, using the abandoned Gare du Quai d'Orsay for many scenes due to insufficient funds to work in a studio. The old station was scheduled for demolition until Jacques Duhamel, Minister for Cultural Affairs ruled against it, no doubt because of its use by Welles and other filmmakers, and also for a time as an auction house and the base for a theatre company.

This photo was taken in April 2005 in the cafe situated behind one of the clock faces that bracket the frontage to the Seine, using my Sony DSC-P72 when 3.2 mega-pixels was a lot. Limitations of memory stick capacity meant I had it on VGA mode unfortunately. F/5.6 and 1/125s for anyone who's interested.

Camera Eye

It's been a long, long time since I blogged - in the interim since the Hangover II post (still stand by that), I have signed up to Twitter and found out at the I can't keep up with that either, at least my Fantasy Premier League team is up to date.

I've always wanted to 'do something' with my photography - the arty-farty, potentially pretentious stuff - Ash has a friend who started out trying to post a new photo every day - I'll never manage that! - maybe one a month, but then again I've got something of a back catalogue to work with. No time like the present.

This photo was taken in the Creston Valley on the shores of Kootenay Lake, British Columbia with by Minolta x-300 SLR (not digital, we're talking 1989!). This is a scan of the original print, pretty sure it was Ilford 125 film, but give me a break it was 22 years ago! The photo is called 'Spider', no prizes for spotting why.