Monday, 30 June 2008

The Song Inside

If anyone's near Birmingham next Friday evening (11 July 2008) I urge you to come and see The Song Inside at King Edward VI Five ways school. It's a stunning new one-act play by Paul Merrill, produced by He's Spartacus.

Come and see it if only for a chance to see me bearing my soul.


Quantum of Solace

Teaser Trailer anyone?


Dark Knight

No Birthdays, no coming soon, and I still haven't finished my random film review from the weekend.

However Dark Knight reviews are coming in thick and fast and it's looking like all the pre release hype was correct.

Why not spend the day going through the trailers on the official site and letting out a little wee in anticipation.


Sunday, 29 June 2008

Sunset Blvd.

1950. Dir: Billy Wilder. Starring: William Holden, Gloria Swanson, Erich von Stroheim, Nancy Olson and Fred Clark. ●●●●●

Now here's a random film that will test my mettle as a reviewer.

Sunset Blvd. is about as iconic as a film can get. The story of an ageing film star and her liaison with a on-the-make screenwriter is as indelible in everyone's minds as it was groundbreaking at the time. Who hasn't spoken to the mirror at one point or another: "All right, Mr. DeMille, I'm ready for my close-up."

Let's try to breakdown why this film has such an appeal and what factors have made it such a success.

The first reason for it's success was the uniqueness of the story. The narrator gives the end of the story away in the first five minutes. We know a man is dead, we know a movie star is involved, we know we're about to see a big story with a big ending. Yet we don't know enough to spoil the film, we don't yet know the identity of the killer or the victim.

From this magnificent opening sequence we flashback 6 months to Joe Gillis (Holden) avoiding the repo men and desperately trying to sell a script. Holden is great at this sort of loveable rogue part: dryly humourous, quick witted and with a hint of self absorbsion. It's to Holden's credit that as the film goes on we always remain on his side, even as his character is reveaed to be more and more of a heel.

In his attempts to secure his car from repossession Gillis hides in what appears to be an abandoned mansion. Only it's not abandoned - it houses silent movie goddess Norma Desmond (Gloria Swanson), her creepy butler Max (Erich von Stroheim) and a dead chimpanzee. Gillis soon finds himself moving in as an editor for Norma's screenplay of Salome.

Kudos to the art direction and decoration team because this mansion is a character unto itself. Opulent yet decrepit. Instantly showing what Norma once was and what she has become. As the story develops the house becomes more glorious, reflecting Desmond's renewed vigour and optimism.

It has to work hard though to keep up with Swanson. She is magnificent, playing a grotesquely caricutured version of old movie stars, possible even playing an version of what she could have become. This was her first film in 9 years, and her biggest hit since she was in silent movies. And she seems to know it. Norma Desmond is not just a monster, she's a fragile caring woman as well. Swanson is able to show all these layers, even as the characters sanity slips away.

It's not all about the cast, though. The real reason for the success is the script. Billy Wilder (and co-writer Charles Brackett) were to have many more successes, although not together, and here they were both at the top of their game. Every line is pure gold, and usually endlessly quotable.

Sunset Blvd. changed cinema. It created the career of William Holden (for years he played a variation of Joe Gillis), it gave Billy Wilder much more freedom to pick his projects. It's framing technique was revolutionary, imitated by American Beuty amog other. By turning its eye on the seedy side of Hollywood it influenced others like The Bad and Beautiful and Singin in the Rain. It's influence camn also be felt in any film with stars fighting against the passage of time like Whatever happened to Baby Jane and Sweet Bird of Youth. In fact Tennessee Williams' output could probably only be produced after this gigolo and an older woman had had their tryst.

Overall there are few films that are as exciting and vibrant as Sunset Blvd. Watch it as soon as you can.


Training Phase 1, Day 8

They are absolutely right.

Running in the real world is a lot harder than on a treadmill. Today I managed 6.3km in 40 minutes. That's a pathetic 9.45 kph or just 5.9 mph. At that speed, and there's no way at the moment that I could sustain that, the marathon would take me just over 4.5 hours. (Actually that's not so bad, but I'm sure I can do better over these short distances so I will carry on beating myself up about it.)

I'll certainly be mixing more road running into the training going forward.


Gary Busey

Happy Birthday to

Gary Busey

64 today
Up until recently Gary was most famous for being a bit character in Lethal Weapon, and riding the waves on Big Wednesday.
That was until the 2008 Oscar ceremony. When Gary Busey attacks!


Saturday, 28 June 2008

Training Phase 1, Day 7

Today I did 20 minutes. Managed 3.66 km, which means an average 5.28 in per km. That's nearly 11.4 km (7.1miles) per hour on average which is OK. I'm happy with that.

So far all this runnig has been on a treadmill (albeit only one weeks worth). Tomorrow I'm going for a run along the canal, I'll time myself and turn around at 20 minutes. Some people tell me that running on a treadmill is easier so it may be a bit of a challenge tomorrow.

I also spent 30 minutes in the pool. I'm a dreadful swimmer, I look a lot like a distressed walrus, only a lot slower. But I can keep going for thirty minutes straight, and that's got to be worth something.


Friday, 27 June 2008

Kathy Bates

Happy Birthday to

Kathy Bates

60 today

Kathy was a hard-working successful stage actress, until one small little film made her a hard-working sucessful film actress.

Kathy is much more than a knife wielding monster though. As well as having a talent for swinging a mallet later this year we'll be seeing her selling houses to Kate and Leo in Revolutionary Road, helping Michelle Pfeiffer let go of her younger man in Cherie and remainly perfectly stationary in The day the Earth Stood Still.

Klaatu Barada Nikto, indeed.


Out this week (27/06/08)

4* films out this week. In alphabetical order:
And with the all new, all signing, all dancing Runs like a Gay Excitometer coloured circles (10 means I've run so fast I'm already there, 1 is virtually running backwards)

Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian

The Pevensie children return to Narnia for a second helping of fauns, witches and talking animals. This time they meet the titular Prince and fight his usurping uncle. Less Christian allegory in this one.


Female Agents

Post vacant. Job description involves rescueing British War heores, killing Nazi officers and speaking French. Girls from all backgrounds (prostitutes, scientists and housewives) encouraged.


Married Life

Chris Cooper is married to Patricia Clarkson but is in love with Rachel McAdams. I can understand that. Then hatches plan with mate Pierce Brosnan to remove Patricia. (boo hiss). Is this is melodrama, noir or black comedy - the reviewers can't seem to amke up their mind?



James McAvoy proves he can open a film, with Angelina Jolie and Morgan Freeman, involving assasins, secret cults and amazing displays of aerobics and markmanship that he never knew he had. Directed with flair by Timur Bekmambetov. This is my key recommendation for this week.


*I know that technically there are 5 with A Complete History of my Sexual Failures, however I'm going to be really snobbish and ignore documentaries and re-releases on this blog. I've hears it's watchable, though.


Coming Soon (maybe)

Another round up of what's been tickling me over the last couple of days.

The Ghost

Pierce Brosnan has let slip to MTV that he's prepping for a new thriller from Roman Polanski, concerning dark secrets from a former UK Prime Minister (Brosnan) being uncovered by his ghost writer (Nic Cage - yes really). It sounds like a good mix to me - Polanski is always good at building tension and Cage's wig has an almost legitimate reason to be wild.

39 Clues

I don't really get this. Apparantly 39 Clues is some interactive, multi-media Kids thing with prizes and stuff. 10 books, and potentially 3 films are planned. Anyway Steven Spielberg has just brought the rights. I hope he doesn't direct as I'm still a fan of the 'berg and I'd rather see Tintin, Lincoln or the Chicago Seven than what to me sounds like gibberish. I mean how could I keep my head up high wandering into Smiths and buying a pack of trading cards?

Righteous Kill

Robert De Niro and Al Pacino are back. In a film from Jon Avnet, acclaimed director of Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe.

This is old news, I know, but it's new poster so I thought I'd show that.

To be honest I think I'd be more keen on this project if the film was going to be closer to Fried Green Tomatoes in tone and content.

Imagine, if you will, Chris O'Donnell and Leonardo Dicaprio visiting their elderly grandfathers, Pacino (terse and shouty) and De Niro (telling bad jokes and trying to still be with it), in a home for geriatric actors. As they recount stories of their glorious past Chris and Leo learn a lot about life and what it means to be an actor. Chris moves to the country to grow peanuts and Leo resolves to never make the same mistakes as his elders. In the flashback scenes we could use footage of actual films involving Pacino and De Niro, a la Whatever happened to Baby Jane.

To all Hollywood producers out there I'm waiting for your call. Anyone else feel free to leave a message about what you'd like to see De Niro and Pacino doing.


Thursday, 26 June 2008

Stannah stair lifts

Google ads have decided that Stannah Stairlifts are appropriate to advertise on my blog.

Does no-one have any confidence that I can run this marathon?


Training Phase 1, Day 5

I managed to get to the gym before work today. Slightly quieter which made it all the more comfortable.

Spent another 15 minutes on the treadmill. Managed 2.7 km, at 5.22 min/km which is fractionally faster than last time. Onwards and upwards as they say.

Increasing to 20 minutes on Saturday. Wish me luck.


Eleanor Parker

Happy birthday to

Eleanor Parker

86 today

When I used to watch The Sound of Music as a kid I adored the Baroness. In a story that shoehorned songs in at every moment she was always able to ignore the impulse to burst out. I liked that a lot. Of course she also did a lot of acting... Whether it was her icy conversation with Maria at the ball, or keeping her dignity as she lets Captain Von Trapp slip away, she was at the top of her game. And this is from an actress who gave superb performances in Caged and Detective Story, although she could be pure ham at times (see The Man with the Golden Arm).

Since I have grown older though her performance as the Baroness has dimished. I blame a close friend who I went to see a sing-a-long showing of The Sound of Music, and who shouted out during the ball: "Look at the Baroness's eyebrows."

They're all over the place - bouncing around her forehead from one shot to another. Go on watch the scene and you'll be surprised at how quickly they move.


Wednesday, 25 June 2008

Food and Nutrition - Water

Of course training for a big race isn't all about the running, it's also about eating the right balance of foods.

I will admit I don't know much about nutrition so in this first (of regular posts on the subject) I'd thought I'd kick off with an absolute basis fundamental.

We all need to drink water.

The human body is usually between 45 and 75% water. So in my case it's between 80 and 130 pounds or between 60 and 100 pints. It's estimated that over 60% of this have gone into my body from drinking.

This water is used (among other things) to:
  • Regulate our temperature
  • Transport oxygen and nutrients in our blood
  • Lubricate joints
  • Elimination of waste
  • Act as a major component of sweat and tears

That's pretty amazing, isn' it?

Becasue of the body's regular use of water we should really be drinking 4 pints per day, and that's just for dossing around the office. As I start to train more I'm going to need to increase that.

If I don't it's going to lead to difficulties with digestion, dry skin and dehydration (symptoms of which include headaches, cramps, seizures, fainting and finally delirium before death).

I'm off for a drink now.


Marley and me

If you're as bored during your lunch break as I am why not try watching a puppy run along a beach.

All together now. Ahhh.


Coming Soon (maybe)

Not a day goes by tht some film project isn't announced or changes production status or start trailering that I'm not in the least bit interested in. Here are some stories that have had me going hmmm over the last week:

The Archive

James Mangold (Walk the Line, 3:10 to Yuma) to direct a script from David Auburn (Proof, The Lake House). Apparantly the story revolves aroung time travel. It should be interesting. I like Auburn's theatre work (although it didn't translate well onto the screen) and James Mangold is a seriously underrated director. This could be one to watch out for.

Spider-man 4

Release date confirmed for 2011.

Um... Tobey Maguire and Sam Raimi have yet to sign on for this. Now I love me some Spidey, but I'm not so keen on studio cash ins.


Tuesday, 24 June 2008

Training Phase 1, Day 3

Today it was back to the gym, with a 15 minute jog on the treadmill in the middle of it.

I managed 2.8 km, so that's 11.2 km per hour. Oddly I'm not really sure whether that's OK or not. I know if I do a marathon at that pace then I'll finish inside 4 hours, if I don't collapse after 4 miles, which based on how I was feeling is a distinct possibility.

For the rest of my session I worked on my shoulders and triceps. I must admit sometimes going to the gym and doing weight training makes me feel a little paranoid. It's a good gym - Next Generation, West Midlands - but even there there are some gym freaks. You know the sort - masculine, confident, lifting very heavy weights with very little effort.

Generally I just keep my head down (and gaze longingly at them out of the corner of my eye; it's not my fault I'm a gay man it's what we do). However today I felt like a couple of them were sniggering behind my back at how little I was lifting.

I shall remain confident though - and in 43 1/2 weeks when I'm passing the finishing post who'll be smug then?

Any advice on how to feel better in the gym would be greatly appreciated.


Birthday Party fun

There's no-one with a birthday I want to celebrate today (I'm going to do about 4 days per week on average) so instead today I thought you deserve a regular birthday treat. A clown.

Why so serious?


Monday, 23 June 2008

The importance of stretching

A short post as the boyfriend is sleeping to my left.

Stretching is very important.

I am reminded of this today. Tomorrow I will stretch.


Frances McDormand

Happy Birthday to

Frances McDormand

51 today

Four time Oscar nominee, Coen favourite (it helps if you married to one of them) and all round good egg. We raise a glass to you today. And what better way to celebrate than to take a look at the internation trailer for Burn after Reading here.

Burn after Reading looks like classic comic Coen, and far more accessible than last years No Country for Old Men and with a cast that includes Frances, Brad Pitt, George Clooney, Tilda Swinton, John Malkovich, JK Simmons and Richard Jenkins what's not to love.


Sunday, 22 June 2008


1992. Dir: Regis Wargnier. Starring: Catherine Deneuve, Vincent Perez, Linh Dam Pham, Jean Yanne and Dominique Blanc. ●●●●○

Each week in this blog I will be offering a film review. If I'm sufficiently excitied about a new release I'll see that and review it. Other weeks I will simply randomly draw a film from my collection to review.

This afternoon I made that selection and my heart sank. It's not that Indochine is a bad film. It's just that this first selection will say a hug amount about me more than the film, and I've picked a long, sedate french language film. However to select another film would be cheating so here goes.

Indochine - the French name for their territory in SE Asia now Vietnam - opens during a funeral procession. Camille (Linh Dam Pham) has lost her parents, Eliane (Catherine Deneuve) her closest friends. Eliane has inherited thier estate, expanding her sizeable rubber plantation and has adopted their child. When Camille has grown Eliane enters a short but passionate affair with Jean-Baptiste (Vincent Perez), a French naval officer. Camille also falls in love with Jean-Baptiste after he saves her life. To protect her daughter Eliane pulls some strings to have Jean-Baptiste transferred from Saigon. All this comes out in a decadent party to celebrate Camille's graduation.

This would be enough of a film in itself but we're only about one third through and therein lies the major problem with Indochine. It is very very long, 2hours 40 according to the sleeve notes. It's never boring mind although the pace is occasionally glacial. There is just so much plot and story to get in it would be difficult to isolate anywhere it could be sped up or even where some judicious cutting may help.

The performances from Catherine Deneuve and Linh Dam Pham are absolutely superb, but it's the technical elements of this film that really carry it. From that opening funeral you made fully aware of a gorgeous score by Patrick Doyle, Pierre-Yves Gayraud and Gabriella Pescucci's superb costumes and Francois Catonne's precise cinematography. Catonne's art is especially keen when shooting water, in all it's forms.

In fact water is regularly used to signify the emotions of Eliane or Jean-Baptiste, this is underlined in an early auction scene where they bid against each other for a french landscape. For Eliane it's just a painting - she keeps her feelings buttoned up - for the more expressive Jean-Baptiste it's a coast he remembers almost ebing alive. And so Eliane is often surrounded by stagnant or still waters - the mist around the rubber trees, ceremonial ponds the day before Camille's engagement, Lake Geneva at the end. For Jean-Baptiste the water is always flowing; an outpour as he chases Eliane's car, the waterfall where he baptises his son, the sweat on his face after a nightmare.

Whilst we're talking about him sweating I have to point out that whilst we see other characters semi-naked or acting provocatively Jean-Baptiste is the only character who appears to be sexualised. Vincent Perez is mighty gorgeous though and it's difficult not to sexualise him.

Finally this film probaly gives a better understanding of Vietnam, and the conflict, than any American film. Showing as it does the background to the creation of Vietnam, the terrible acts of violence that had been imposed on the Vietnamese people, just the inhabitants of a colony. It's no wonder they fought so hard to keep their independence later.


Training Phase 1, Day 1

So the training has begun.

I have broken the training into 4 phases:

1) 6 weeks. Get used to running 3-4 times per week. Build up the stamina to keep going at a reasonable pace for 1 hours.

2) 12 weeks. Prepare for the Birmingham half marathon. I've done half marathons before but I am aiming to beat my best time (2hr 14 min).

3) 12 weeks. Build up to full marathon distance.

4) 14 weeks. Use what I've learnt so far as a basis to move on, working on both speed and stamina - I want to be able to complete the London marathon inside of 4.5 hours.

So today it's the first day of phase 1.

I went to the gym - spent 2 hours on a number of machines (and chest work - weights fans) - including 30 minutes on the treadmill during which I went 5.1km. That's just over 3 miles or 12% of the marathon distance.

That's truly horrible when I think about it.

It was a hard slog but I wasn't pushing myself for all I can, and it is only day 1.

Please feel free to make comments if you think my plan needs work, or if you have any suggestions to help my training - I'm off for a banana now.



Some measurements

Today is day one of the training regime, when I've written this post I'm off to the gym to work out a sweat and run a bit on the treadmill (I've still got 44 weeks I can afford to slowly get into it).

I thought before I started I'd write out some vital statistics. This will be useful as a guide of how much I've achieved by the time we're ready for the marathon, and to show you what a struggle it's going to be.

Height: 5 foot 7 inches
Weight: 12 stone 6 pounds

That's a BMI of 27.2, firmly in the overweight category.

Waist: 89-94 cm (35-37in) (I never know where to measure)
Chest: 115 cm (45 in)

I could go on measuring biceps, thighs etc but I think it's probably best to leave that to your imagination. Suffice to say I'm quite short and dumpy.

And there's lots of work to do.

I'l next do some measuring in 5 weeks time and we'll see where I changed.


Meryl Streep

Happy Birthday to

Meryl Streep

59 today.

Argueably the finest screen actress of all time Meryl has a 30 year history of constantly hitting the ball out the park when it comes to fantastic performances. In the next 12 months she's aiming for commercial success with the film adaptation of theatre smash Mamma Mia, based on the works of ABBA, and critical success with another less trivial stage to film adaptation - Doubt, which centres of alledged child abuse within the Catholic Curch.

Could it be Oscar number 3 for Ms Streep? A nomination at this point certainly looks like a good bet, a win may just depend on what else is out there.


Saturday, 21 June 2008

Juliette Lewis

Happy Birthday to

Juliette Lewis

35 today

Which is a bit of shock in itself.
What happened to you anyway? About 15 years ago you were going to be huge , then poof you disappeared. Please come back to good films.


Friday, 20 June 2008

Out this week (20/06/08)

Empireonline are listing 9 films out this week.

I can't say any are jumping out at me - I'm out both Friday and Saturday anyway.

If I had to choose I'd say go see The Escapist. Brian Cox is one of the most underrated brit actors working today, and he's taking a rare leading role in what sounds like a suitably gritty and griping prison break yarn.


Martin Landau

Happy Birthday to

Martin Landau

77 today

Whether you're treading on Cary Grant's fingers or calling Boris Karloff a limey c**ksucker, you're always eminently watchable.

And with "9" and Lovely, Still on the horizon, I'm sure we'll be watching (or listening) to you for many years to come.


The second blog (intro)

Don't worry, not all my entries will be titled like that. But this one is more about blogging than anything else.

Why am I here?

There are 4 things I intend to do in this blog:

  1. Fully describe my training for the Flora London Marathon, 2009.
  2. Wax lyrical about films that I like (or am looking forward to).
  3. Advertise my professional work (more on that later)
  4. Just general chit chat about my life (all names changed to protect the innocent)

That's my manifesto. Hopefully it will be interesting, even if it's only in a car crash way, and hopefully a few people will read this post in years to come and say "Wow, so thats how it all started."

If so I hope you're enjoying the read.



Thursday, 19 June 2008

The first blog

So this is my first blog, from my brand new blog site.

I suppose I could explain who I am and why I'm here - but I think that can all wait until after I've eaten. So back later...