Sunday, December 25, 2011

Giving this Christmas

One of the many things you won’t be able to ignore at this time of year is the tin-rattlers, the bucket shakers and the direct-debit collectors who line the high streets and stalk train station entrances, fishing for donations.

I don’t think there’s probably a good way to encourage people to give; whatever your methods, there will always be some who find it intrusive and aggravating. But sometimes charities do not help themselves.

When, on a three hundred metre stretch of Kentish Town High Street, there are three World Wildlife Fund fundraisers, who make it possible for you to be approached three times in less than three minutes – then you’re taking the p***.

I won’t be giving them any money I think*. Nor will I be giving money to the children’s charity, shaking buckets outside East Croydon station who thought they’d illuminate the evening for commuters by playing Christmas songs out of a small stereo system. As I passed it was playing “Rock ‘N Roll Christmas” by Gary Glitter – not exactly an appropriate choice.

I’m happy to give money to charity. But I think I’ll reserve it for charities whose fundraisers are more tactful, and who act as adequate ambassadors for their cause.

* although in part that's because I prefer to give to people charities.

Sunday, December 18, 2011


I'll be putting off that visit to HMS Belfast till next year then.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Word of the Week


1. to change repeatedly one's attitude or opinions with respect to a cause, subject, etc.; equivocate.

2. to turn renegade.

Monday, December 05, 2011

November Film Highlights

You will readth ye olde 50 Word Film Reviews blog.

The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn (2011) Jamie Bell, Andy Serkis, Daniel Craig, Toby Jones, Simon Pegg, Nick Frost. Dir: Steven Spielberg.

Tintin sets off on an adventure to restore a drunken captain’s fortune. You need space to tell a story, but there’s so much action there’s not time to establish Tintin as a character, nevermind make you care or understand what’s happening. Cast’s perfect and animation spectacular, but that’s not enough.


The Rum Diary (2011) Johnny Depp, Aaron Eckhart, Michael Rispoli, Amber Heard, Richard Jenkins, Giovanni Ribisi. Dir: Bruce Robinson.

An alcoholic journalist starts work at a Puerto Rican paper and gets mixed up with an amoral entrepreneur. Fizzes, but never pops. Depp spends first half just watching things unfold, with the anarchy and wit of Thompson’s prose spread too liberally. Second half is better, but it’s far too leisurely.


Way Out West (1937) Stan Laurel, Oliver Hardy, James Finlayson, Rosina Lawrence. Dir: Stan Laurel, Hal Roach.

Stan and Ollie are delivering an inheritance to a young girl, but are tricked into giving it to her guardian. Plenty of great routines, yet even at 65 minutes, the pace’s leisurely at best. Still, each section has much to giggle at, although the dancing sequence is an unnecessary interlude.


Batman: Mask of Phantasm (1993) Kevin Conroy, Dana Delany, Hart Bochner, Stacy Keach, Abe Vigoda, Mark Hamill. Dir: Eric Radomski, Bruce Timm.

Movie based on Batman: The Animated Series. Batman investigates murders committed by a vigilante, while an old flame returns. Does what the Burton films didn’t – creates a distinctive visual world while telling a convincing character story. Dialogue is bare but has a structured plotline, not just a succession of set-pieces.


Taste the Blood of Dracula (1970) Christopher Lee, Geoffrey Keen, Gwen Watford, Linda Hayden, Peter Sallis. Dir: Peter Sasdy.

Three amateur practitioners of black magic are tricked into resurrecting the Count. A really good premise is totally wasted, and soon things are back to the old stalk and bite routine. A few interesting moments liven it up, but it’s very uneven and would really benefit from having a central character.


Midnight in Paris(2011) Owen Wilson, Marion Cotillard, Rachel McAdams, Kathy Bates, Michael Sheen, Corey Stoll. Dir: Woody Allen.

A frustrated writer finds a way to travel back to 1920s Paris and mixes with art legends. A charming light comedy about the pleasures and flaws of romanticism and nostalgia. The affectionate send-ups of artists are delightful, although other characters are left with little. The denouement falls a little flat.


Days of Heaven (1978) Richard Gere, Brooke Adams, Sam Shepard, Linda Manz. Dir: Terrence Malick.

A landowner falls for a working girl; her lover convinces her to marry him, believing he’s months to live. A film that loves the landscape, charting a romance against the changing seasons, something beautiful but fragile and unforgiving. Arguably the story’s slight, but few movies are so gloriously cinematic.


Alien Resurrection (1997) Sigourney Weaver, Winona Ryder, Ron Perlman, Dominique Pinon, Gary Dourdan, Michael Wincott, Brad Dourif. Dir:Jean-Pierre Jeunet.

Ripley is cloned in a space lab, with an alien inside her, then a group of mercenaries stir up trouble. The same stuff over again, but less effective, with another gang of who-cares getting picked off in a noisy but unsuspenseful fashion. Even Weaver seems to be slipping into self-parody.


Saturday, December 03, 2011

A New Bad Trailer

Now here's a film that's got it all. Walking... Standing... Sitting down... Running... A big white house... What else could you possibly want?