Thoughts and scribblings of an overactive mind.

Review

Absolutely Fabulous The Movie Review

Let’s prefix this by saying that I love Jennifer Saunders and Joanna Lumley. Comedy legends, actually just legends in general. But……

The movie was a disappointment. Why? *cough cough* not really very funny *cough cough*

The main thing really was that there wasn’t anything new. It was weird, it was very much set in 2016 and one of the themes of the film was how Eddie and Pats were feeling out of touch with modern life. And yet there was actually very little of modern life in there, and because of that I think a lot of comedy opportunities were missed. 

Modern life is ridiculous and hilarious, all the crap you see on social media, the ever growing army of hipsters on the streets, even the way people talk, it’s all “cray cray” this and “bae” that. Eddie and Patsy would have been the perfect mirror to hold up to all of that and rip the piss right out of it, but instead there’s some outlandish plot about Kate Moss getting killed by Eddie. It’s the sort of thing you might expect in Johnny English III (God forbid!) but here it just seems unnecessary.

There are chuckles along the way of course, but they tended to raise a smirking kind of smile rather than a belting out loud laugh. Even as I write this, only a couple of days after watching the film, I’m struggling to think of one specific moment that made me giggle. I know at least a couple of bits did, but I can’t seem to remember them specifically. So that’s not a good sign either.

Joanna Lumley is outstanding as you’d expect, and she savours every line she’s given. In fact all the actors do a great job, it’s just that the material they have to work with just isn’t really there. It felt a bit like the 1990s dressing up as 2016 and sneaking in to the annual barn dance for 2016s. Something just wasn’t quite right, something was missing. We’d been there before.

Before I sign off, I will say that I’m sure writing the movie was no mean feat, so I am in no way disrespecting Jennifer Saunders for her writing ability. She’s an amazing talent. I just think that with this one, she might have missed the mark.


The Butterfly Effect

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At the moment i am reading Andrew Marr’s “The Diamond Queen.” I’ve wanted to read it since the jubilee in the summer, but the sometimes tightwad that I am I never shelled out the cash for it. However, as we get closer to Christmas and people start to forget about how much they love the Queen once more, I happened to find Marr’s work en masse in “The Works,” apparently having found itself unloved and failing to sell. At a discount price of £3.99 though, I couldn’t help myself.

I’m only about a third of the way through and it is jolly interesting from all sorts of angles – historically, socially, patriotically and just as an interesting book for a enthusiastic young monarchist like myself. Today though I’m thinking about it in philosophical terms. Marr points out on several occasions how different our royal history might have run if such and such a thing had not happened, or had happened. The butterfly effect from within the royal family is really quite immense – the nation we now live in might have been a very different place and it was only the smallest of instances which made it what it is today. The biggest one is that the Queen was never really meant to be Queen – a fact itself predominantly due to the fact that her father, King George VI, was never meant to be king. Even when her father did become king after his brother Edward VIII abdicated (another butterfly moment) it would have seemed an extreme unlikeliness to young Liz that she would ever be queen. She would have expected to probably have a younger brother at some point who would overtake her as the heir – she certainly wouldn’t have expected her dad to die such a relatively young age as he did. Marr points out that King George could have well reigned into the 1970s had he kept his health. If that had happened then the queen wouldn’t have even yet celebrated her golden jubilee, let alone her diamond.

It just goes to show what a funny and unpredictable old man history can be. Things that we today take as such ordinary facts of life – i.e. the Queen is the Queen – have only come to pass because of relatively small decisions or occurrences. Things could have been so different, so easily.

It makes me almost fizz with excitement at the though of all those what ifs floating about in history. I read the other night that when the royal family were in the process of changing their name in WW1 they considered reusing the name “Tudor.” Imagine if that had happened!!! We’d be living in the second Tudor age! That would have been amazing!

You can’t help but then wonder, given all these historical butterflies flapping their wings, of whether similar changes are happening to our own futures. Our lives will likely never be chronicled to the extent that the Queen’s has been, we will likely never have a historian picking apart our pasts and saying whether if this had happened then actually we’d have more likely ended up living here or doing this. But it does make you think – where are even the smallest of my choices leading me? What impact will that event have on my life? We all have the potential to live a million different lives, but we only actually live one. What decisions make us live it, and why? Food for thought!

Matthew out.


Hotel GB Review

I’ve been dipping in and out of hotel GB the last few nights. I don’t know quite what to make of it if I’m being honest.It’s entertainment, there’re no bones about that. Who doesn’t love watching useless youngsters embarrass themselves and then getting into trouble with Mary Queen of Shops or Gordon Ramsey from cooking? But I’m trying to figure out its worth, from a humanitarian point of view. And I’m struggling.

If I’m being honest, I’m more than a bit suspicious of Mary. She’s trodden these boards before, promising to turn young lives around and help youth unemployment. She’s the Mother Teresa of the job centre. There was her clothing range, her knicker factory – her grand crusade to get Britain manufacturing again! Yes! But wait…….where are those people now? Do they still have jobs? Is Mary still showering them with that tough love lesbian affection she does so well? I’m not convinced.

I think, I think it’s because I know there are no quick fixes to the “jobs” problem. These sort of shows seem to be performing miracles when in reality they’re not really. Dusting down a few ex-cons and alcoholics and giving them a job for a week is quite easy really. If they screw up, they get fired and another social down and out for whom our hearts are meant to bleed gets shipped in. Easy. Then at the end channel 4 can pack up Paddy McGuiness and leave, and all our poor down and outs will be down and out again (except for a grand total of two who will get jobs.) Gordon quite assuredly tells them they’re getting a years work experience in a week, which to me is like trying to square a circle. A week is a week. What, just because you’re celebrities your time is worth 52 times as much? You can’t substitute time, there just isn’t a quick way round it. Experience speaks volumes but you have to have proper experience. Just because you’ve been helping to get breast milk for David Guest (bluergh don’t get me started) it doesn’t mean you’re now an experienced hotelier.

Still, it is entertainment like I say. I think if it had just sold itself as that then maybe I’d be a lot more agreeable to it.

Oh and on a side bar, I started my promotional short story last night. It wasn’t a huge start and I may have to rewrite a bit of it already. But it’s a start.

Matthew out.


“The Boy who Never Forgets” – Channel 4

Well I must say I was surprised to tune in to channel 4 last week and see a younger, fresher faced, slightly more well spoken, slightly more effortlessly stylish version of myself doing a documentary about not being able to forget!

 

I jest of course, but the subject matter of the programme did ring several bells with me. Andrew recommended it for viewing as he said it reminded him of me and when my friend Kirsty came to visit she said that when she watched it she had thought the same thing. Of course, the people in the show could “not forget” a lot more than me – and it was slightly creepy to watch Orellian (?) and that American woman recall days from years and years ago with deadly accuracy.

 

I do think there’s something in it. The narrator of the show seemed quite suspicious of it all, but then I suppose that was his job. I was fascinated to hear the brain doctor guy talk about how they don’t really know how or why we forget. Obviously there are things like Dementia and genertal old age/break down of cells – but what makes us just forget things. Who do we forget what happened on June 16th three years ago? Why don’t we remember that? Do we just not have enough gigabytes in our brains? Are most people the 16 gig iphones and these special people the 32 gig iphones? I’m probably somewhere in between, 24 I bet.

 

Let me test myself then. June 16th I said – three years ago. I promise to you I just picked that date at random. So that’s June 16th 2009 – right around the time I left uni. The question is when exactly did I leave? Oooh, oooh wait – my Topman interview was in June, and I’d swear it was something like June 10th. I was still in Canterbury for a while after that because I specifically remember telling everyone in the kitchen there that I’d got the job – I said I had a big announcement and Jason asked if I was getting married, then everyone laughed because I’d been engaged for 6 months at that point. Hmmm but June 16th. Let me just check what day it was – cheating a bit I know but evidently I’m not as good as Orellian. Okay, just checked and it was a Tuesday. No that doesn’t help.

 

Right, I admit defeat. I can’t remember like that. But I can remember stuff that happened around that time. Give me a month and a year (within the last five years for accuracy) and I can probably tell you something that happened, probably several things. I do believe I have some mild strain of this not being able to forget “disease” if that’s what it is. It’s more than just a good memory, I’ve always said that. A good memory would mean you’d remember important stuff. I’m always forgetting important stuff like how to do my job and when certain birthdays are. It’s not forgetting, that’s definately what it is. I don’t need or necessarily want to remember a lot of the things I do. There’s one day in particular I would quite happily wipe from my brain if it was possible but it’s sealed on there in vivid detail, every second of it.

 

I suppose I quite like it in a way, it makes me interesting. Makes people interested in me. Without it I wouldn’t be writing this blog, that’s for sure. So, a 24 gigabyte memory then, to go with my 24 years of age. Not a 32 gig like Orellian, but I don’t think I’d want it. I’d only fill it up with useless clutter and believe me when I say, there’s more than enough useless and even harmful clutter in my brain as it is.

 

Matthew out.


The Angels take Manhattan Review

Companion exit stories always end up being some of my favourite Doctor Who episodes. I imagine that’s because as a writer, I’m drawn to emotional and dramatic stories – and exit storylines are always emotional and they are always dramatic. They’re packed with those poignant, touching moments which fill me with passion and inspiration, reminding me of my own plots and my own stories. There was the tragedy of Rose at the end of series 2, Martha’s subtle but touching exit at the end of series 3 and then of course there was the ultimate heartbreak at the end of series 4 when the doctor faced saying goodbye to not only his dear friend Donna but also to all of his companions again in one big emotional episode. I was really looking forward then to Amy and Rory’s last episode and I wasn’t disappointed – well nearly not disappointed anyway.

I’ll start with some other details of the plot other than the actual departure. Let’s have a little chat about the Angels themselves. For me, they were more effective here than they were in series 5’s episodes “The Time of Angels” and “Flesh and Stone.” No longer running around breaking people’s necks they’re now back to their old trick of sending people back in time – much more effective and much creepier – wise move Mr Moffat. However, in saying that they still weren’t as effective as they were in their debut episode “Blink” and sadly I feel that they never will be again. I had a couple of genuine jumpy moments because of them, particularly in the Winter Quay scenes – and the baby angels were freaky – but the scare factor just wasn’t there like it once was. Also the decision to make the Statue of Liberty one of them was a poor choice in my mind, it added little to the story, the thudding footsteps of its arrival made me think we were back on that dinosaur spaceship, and when we finally saw the lady herself she looked very terribly CGI. It took me out of the moment if I’m being honest, a singular, normal angel would have sufficed.

River was also back in this episode and I have to say I enjoyed her a lot more than the last time we clapped eyes on her. She seemed older, a bit wiser if that’s the word I’m looking for, a bit less of a shameless and slightly cringey flirt and a bit more of a mature “wife” – although I don’t personally like using that word to describe her. I liked her moments where she put the doctor in his place, questioning him about his (my opinion) stupid decision to wipe himself from history, scolding him for using his regeneration energy on her wrist ( a great plot device by the way,) and warning him not to travel alone. If she stays on being like this then I’m happy to see her again in the future, possibly for the fiftieth.

And now the big goodbye itself. Bittersweet is perhaps the best word I can use. Like all of the best goodbyes I’m left not knowing how to feel. Happy yes, that Amy and Rory do get to lead a full life together. But sad for the doctor that it had to end so suddenly and so finally – and sad for Amy and Rory that whilst they are together and technically happy they are still marooned in the past without family (poor Brian!) friends or colour tv. I guess in the end the crux of the heartbreak is, as it always is in Doctor Who, the end of a friendship. One which, in this case, started so very long ago with a little girl praying to Santa in her bedroom. Tears fell from my eyes at 3 parts – 1) When Amy and Rory fell to their apparent deaths, 2) When Amy said her goodbye in the graveyard “Raggedy Man! Goodbye!” – the final look Gillan gives the doctor at that moment says it all, and 3) When she asks him in her afterword to visit little Amelia in the garden. That was a very sweet, very sad, moment.

Before I conclude I must give huge credit to Murray Gold and his amazing musical talents. Epic versions of familiar themes were used superbly and the use of “A Lonely Decision” at the end of the episode was perfect. It’s a track I’ve loved since series 5 and I’m so pleased it was used prominently here.

To conclude, “The Angels Take Manhattan” works brilliantly as a farewell episode IF you don’t start looking too closely or asking too many questions. Like why can river get that book to Amy but the doctor can never see her again? And how does the doctor now visiting little Amy and telling her all about the adventures she’ll have fit in with established timelines? And how comes the angels didn’t move when she didn’t look, or he didn’t look, or she didn’t? There are plotholes aplenty if you choose to look. My advice would be to just not look. We could pull apart every episode of Doctor Who if we wanted to by saying “but surely…..?” If we did that though it would largely defeat the point. The point is that it was a great piece of television – it did it’s job. I’ve never been a huge Amy fan, but this episode had me crying for her by the end. That, in my eyes, is a success.

Farewell Pond.


C J Sansom – Dark Fire Review

I finished Dark Fire by C J Sansom last night. You may recall from my review of Dissolution that whilst I wasn’t head over heels in love with his first book, I could tell there was potential for a cracking read so I wanted to read on. And Dark Fire comes an awful lot closer to that expectation. I wouldn’t say that it meets it 100%, but for me it was certainly a much better read than Dissolution.

I think the thing with Dissolution was that it was probably 80% monastery based – all the action taking place in that one enclosed set of buildings. You didn’t get much of a feel for the age in which the book was set. Dark Fire is 100% set in London, and that gives the story a whole lot more scope for experiencing an entire range of historic 16th century delights. Because of the nature of the story where Shardlake has to take on several investigations at once (and the time limit that is put upon him,) you are constantly flitting from place to place – sometimes several places just in one chapter. This could be seen as risky – it could disorientate the reader and to be fair you have to pay attention otherwise you might forget where he’s been and when he went there. But for me it worked well – you went from the stinking disgustingness of Newgate prison to the sweet poshness of the aristocratic Lady Honor’s House of Glass within a matter of pages. You experienced the whole spectrum of life at the time – something which I was crying out for with Dissolution.

In terms of story, I have to admit it kept me guessing a lot more than Dissolution. I got a part of it right, but to be honest the main part of the story was so complex with so many suspects all swearing innocence that it got difficult to pin them down. This again could be part to do with the fact that the story was moving about all over the place – there wasn’t much time to get fully aquainted with all the characters, which I think could be a bit of a flaw. And in the end I have to admit that I wasn’t 100% happy with the outcome – particularly because it seemed that it was all for nothing, that for all their discoveries it didn’t really matter in the end anyway. The fact that the main overall  culprit was a real famous historical figure meant that you knew as soon as they stepped into the room that they weren’t going to get caught, which again was a bit dissapointing. Another minor niggle I have is that like Dissolution we don’t actually see any justice being served. No gory executions – which pesonally I would have quite liked to see. All those involved either got killed before the story was finished or they just died in prison – and one you don’t even hear what his fate was. Sansom teases us with mentionings of hangings and burnings and drawing and quarterings, but you never actually witness them through his eyes, which is to me a shame as again it’s one of those things that is typical of that time period – it would be nice to experience it to get the whole effect. I felt sure we would at least witness Cromwell getting his head hacked off, but that is just a passing note at the end of the book. Still never mind.

I did love some bits however. I loved the introduction of bananas to the upper class diners – that was great fun. There were some great action sequences that genuinely got your heart beating faster and your eyes reading quicker. Toky and Wright made excellent villains, and you felt as though you might be being watched by them too as you read through the story. I did enjoy the character of Lady Honor, but then her ending was really quite dissapointing and I was just left thinking she was a bitch after all. Oh and also the “Giants” bone in the pub – that was a nice touch too.

Overall then, I did enjoy it a lot more than Dissolution (for all my moaning) – although there is (as always) – still more room for improvement. Next stop: Sovereign.


Dissolution: C J Sansom Review

For a long time I’ve had a fear of reading books, probably because I’m afraid that I’ll read one page and despair at how much better it is than my (as yet) unpublished works.

It was with great trepidation then that I agreed to read C J Sansom’s “Dissolution” – the first of the Tudor crime novel series starring hunchbacked lawyer Matthew Shardlake as the protagonist.

I thought it was good. Yeah. Thankfully I wasn’t reading it thinking that it was better than mine, because a) it was just so different to my work, and b) I honestly don’t think it was better than my work. But it was a good book. Excellent? Outstanding? Maybe not.

There were a few moments which genuinely made me gasp, which is always a good sign. I would say perhaps three in total, three genuine gasps of shock, those kind of “ahhhhhh-hahhhhhh” moments. They were good. The chapters set in London were my favourite ones, as I felt there you really got a sense of the times when the story is set. Rotting heads on spikes, people wondering in amazement at Parrots – creatures that hadn’t been seen in England until that point. Brilliant, yes – those chapters stood out. Unfortunately, most of the novel was set in the fictional monastery of Scarnsea somewhere near Rye on the south coast, and it was there that I sometimes forgot that this was a Tudor tale. Monks are monks, at the end of the day – the occasional use of the word “ye” was the main indicator of the 16th century. Maybe I’m being a bit harsh, all I know is that the scenes in London had me reading more keenly than the scenes in Scarnsea.

I was dissapointed too that at only a quarter of the way through I had guessed the culprit behind the primary murder in the story. It was sort of obvious, which is a shame as I really wanted to be suprised. And the culprit of the subsequent murders, well, I didn’t guess that for sure, but it still wasn’t a shock because to be honest, I didn’t care that much by that point. I didn’t form an attachment to that character at all, I didn’t love him nor hate him, and so when I found out he was the murderer it was just a bit of an “oh” moment really.

Talking about forming attachments, I didn’t remotely become attached to Matthew Shardlake. I can’t say I loved him, and I can’t say I hated him. He had moments of vulnerability which were nice, but still I can’t say I really warmed to him. I warmed to Mark Poer no end (I even shared Brother Gabriels lustings somewhat) and something about the way he was written just made him leap off the page. I was dissapointed with the way it ended for him – and to me it seemed almost out of character. There had been some suggestion of a falling out between Mark and Matthew, but it seemed really odd that suddenly he was pulling daggers on his master and shoving him in a cupboard to run off with a murderess – no matter how pretty and sharp minded she was. It stuck in my mind that earlier in the story he had been willing to defend Matthew against ignorant and narrow minded people who took the mickey out of him for his deformity, he really felt like a son, but also a best friend. Then suddenly he turns. Well, that’s just my feeling anyway.

I must just also quickly praise Brother Gabriel. Sansom did a great job there – and that was a character which I was sad to see die. Some could say I’m biased, and maybe I am, but I just felt so sorry for the bloke – after all, he clearly couldn’t help being gay. His lust for Mark was understandable, and in a time when gays could be executed, it was very sad. My redeeming moment for Matthew was that he didn’t entirely condemn Brother Gabriel – he clearly didn’t entirely aspprove, but he showed humanity and compassion towards someone who was also suffering with an “affliction” that society condemned.

Overall, despite a few nagging points, I say bravo. I must have liked it well enough as I want to read the next one – that’s always a good sign.