‘Tis the season to be Neeson

Well the summer’s here (or on the way hopefully) and it’s time for the summer blockbusters at the cinema. We actually went to see one the other day with our grandson Georgie – Toy Story 4. It was our first visit in years and we enjoyed it. But the movie being promoted madly on our tv screens at the moment is a little harder-edged than Disney/Pixar are offering. It’s the annual action revenge thriller starring Liam Neeson, Cold Pursuit. You know the plot; in response to something awful happening to one of his family he embarks upon a killing spree to seek retribution. It’s summed up by his words, ‘I will have blood for blood’. And he does, finding ever more gruesome ways to despatch his enemies. Here’s the toned down trailer ….

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ET, extra special

ET

Well I’d nearly had enough of the festive tv fare. If I see another bloody charity advert imploring me to dig deep IMMEDIATELY! for homeless children in Syria or Ebola victims in West Africa or starving people in the Sudan or tortured bear cubs in Turkey or homeless dogs in the home counties, I think I’ll scream. I know it’s a well-trodden path to hit on people’s emotions when they’re feeling festively jolly and presumably in a generously-spirited mood. But boy can you get mean-spirted quickly, even with such deserving causes, when your senses are assaulted by all that misery. Sorry if I sound all curmudgeonly but I never respond to these ads anyway and they just antagonise me to the causes, which is counter-productive isn’t it?

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The Godfather

I don’t know if I’ve mentioned this before but I happen to really like the film The Godfather. Even now I can watch it, fascinated. And that’s exactly what we did last Monday evening. But rather than view it on the small screen, C and I were treated by our lovely daughters E and S (and husbands of course) to a night at the Royal Albert Hall where Francis Ford Coppola’s timeless masterpiece was shown on the big screen whilst Nino Rota’s immortal score was performed simultaneously by the Philharmonia Orchestra. It was fabulous. And here’s the haunting overture just as a reminder…

If you can think of a better opening soundtrack, well, shout but I’ll take some convincing. And don’t forget I’m a superstitious man, and if some unlucky accident should befall your suggestion; if it should get shot to pieces by a police officer, or if  it should get hanged up to dangle provocatively, or if it were to get struck by a bolt of lightning, then I’m going to blame some of the people in this posting. And that, I do not forgive.

But, that aside, let me say that I swear – on the souls of my grandchildren – that I will not be the one to break the hearts of those who may make alternative suggestions here today….

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ps the performance was absolutely sold out and here’s a view of the stage and the screen from our seats just before the show began. Incredibly we got there early for once! It seems like a long time since I was managing all the corporate hospitality for Cellnet/O2&BT and had the best box in the house, immediately overlooking the stage and attending all the great RAH events; Clapton, Cirque, Cream, Carmen, Carmina, Cliff and the Christmas Carol Concert sponsored by BT (and getting to events with seconds to spare). Actually I never went to the last two. Anyway I’ve never been up in the circle before and it was brilliant. Thank you guys LY D x

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Soundtracks

You’ll have to excuse me. I was out with old friends from BT days on Friday (we get together on an occasional basis having worked as a small project team during the Rugby World Cup in 1999) and although it was a low turn out – just C, P and me – I had a blast and one or two drinks. Then last night we had dinner and a lot more drinks at old friends J & D and lovely daughter A . I think we finished around 5am which is outrageous but we were having a laugh at a video D shot of my 40th birthday do, which I haven’t seen in 20+ years. I have to say we had some fab parties at our old place in Buckingham and this was a prime example. Seeing family and old friends 20 years younger dancing away to ZZ Top is a real hoot, especially after one or twenty glasses of wine.

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Disney’s world

One of the absorbing things about the Xmas holidays is the great selection of family films to see on the TV. Of course we’ve seen many of them lots of times before and a lot of them are so painful I’d rather not see them again. I avoided ‘The Holiday’ the other evening thank God but it’s set to be on again on New Year’s Day and definitely on C and R’s viewing schedule. I suppose I could get lucky and catch the novovirus.

But it’s not all grim. I have to admit I got all engrossed in the movie Zulu yesterday. I must have seen it a dozen times but it’s ages since I saw it all the way through and, if you ignore all the Welsh boyo stuff (like Ivor Emmanuel singing Men of Harlech whilst being attacked by 4000 warriors with assegai) it’s really quite a good historic drama. I especially enjoyed re-seeing a young Michael Caine playing the toff officer Lieutenant Gonville Bromhead (whose name would make a great anagram).

For my sins though I was obliged to watch Carrie and the girls last night as I mentioned in the previous blog. I thought I might have escaped any further torture but bugger me what should be on tonight but Love Actually. Actually I only loathe half the film’s characters – the bereaved father’s precocious son, the Laura Linney character, all that unrequited love for Keira Knightley and that stuff between the Prime Minister and his tea maid was just too damn unbelievable. Sorry girls but hey the other stuff really isn’t too bad.

But film-wise I’ve been struck by two movies these last few days. The first I haven’t seen since I was 8. Released in 1960 I was enraptured as a boy by the Disney movie Swiss Family Robinson which I must have seen a 4 or 5 times at my local Rialto cinema. It tells the tale of a family who, en route to a new life in New Guinea, become shipwrecked on a deserted but idyllic island somewhere in the East Indies where they live in amazing tree huts and fend off pirates and have all sorts of adventures. It’s absolutely ridiculous of course but it was great escapism for a young lad fed up with watching Blackpool lose and the incessant winter rain. And I’d stumbled over it again after all these years on one of the TV channels. Of course I watched it all the way through and whilst it was charmingly out-dated it still made me smile. But as I watched the film I slowly recalled an uneasy feeling I had all those years ago. It was nothing to do with the unlikely plot (perhaps Richard Curtis was influenced by the film too…?) but the rather odd cast of animals that inhabited this exotic Pacific island. You might get a clue from this album cover for the film’s soundtrack:

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Ostriches, elephants and monkies?  Then there were the zebra and the tigers (that the youngest boy trapped and hid in pits to scare the pirates – I know, I know). Plus an anaconda. It’s this Disneyesque vision of the world that’s just so eclectic and weird. A Pacific island that happily contains animals exclusively found in Africa and India and S America. I can’t believe the Disney organisation have ever employed somebody to do validation or background checks for accuracy purposes.

Their views of England are always so chocolate box and completely off the mark that it’s laughable. Who can ever forget Dick van Dyke’s attempt at a cockerney chim chim cheree accent? And only yesterday I watched a little of the re-make of ‘101 Dalmations’  starring Glenn Close, the one where a clutch of this country’s indigenous animals join forces to help the pups to be reunited with doggy parents Pongo and Purdy. Well I watched it until I became hysterical at being expected to buy into Disney’s catalogue of animals native to this country;  shire horses and olde English sheepdogs were fine but racoons? I can’t believe that Hugh Lawrie, educated Eton and Cambridge, who played one of the baddies and who encountered the rodents, didn’t point out to the film crew that we don’t have these critters running wild in Oxfordshire. Nor skunks, one of which clambered into Cruella’s car in a later scene.

Skunks!!

So Dear Disney this is an open letter saying that I’m very happy to put myself forward as your all-things-English correspondent. You need the role filling – desperately. Because authenticity-wise you look like bloody imbeciles from this side of the pond guys. And I’ll happily do it for a 6 figure sum (£ not $!).

Yours

pp

battle of britain or pearl harbor?

I’ve written before about the quality of Italian tv – it’s basically an excuse to oggle attractive women. Which is just fine,  for a while but, believe me, it gets wearisome pretty quickly because there’s no depth to the people nor the programmes. The women who present the major sports shows for example look and dress quite sensationally but their contribution doesn’t compare to, say, a Claire Balding, who in a million years would never be considered a forces pin-up but has succeeded because of her journalistic/presenter  skills – she at least knows her subject matter. Even so I don’t think Claire’s a patch on some of the great male sports presenters in the UK; old school – Brian Moore, Harry Carpenter and Richie Benaud as well as ‘new’ boys Martin Tyler, Jeff Stelling and Martin Brundle for example. She’s good but nowhere near top gun. In Italy the female presenter’s primary task it seems is not to offer insight but a sight of her plunging neckline and/or oh so short hemline as she moves off and on the studio high stool (it’s a challenge repeated dozens of times, often not perfectly demurely) whilst shouting inanities increasingly loudly over the many  voices of the assembled throng of old and seedy-looking former players and has-been male commentators.

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at the movies

I took my grandson S to watch Ice Age 3 at the local multi-screen Vue cinema in Staines this week. He’s great fun to take to watch a film and as it was an afternoon screening I promised him we’d have lunch at the cinema. He’s a big fan of hot dogs and Ben & Jerry’s ice cream and all the other  crap they sell in their foyers. But I’d forgotten just how crap the food choice is for more grown-up tastes. From a very very short list of hot foods (two items) I ended up choosing natchos with extra mushy jalapenos and this container of bright orange gloop which they assured me was the melted cheese dip. No it wasn’t. It was re-processed lipstick. Urgghh. Why is there nothing decent to eat at all in a cinema? Is it inconceivable that they could have a decent fast food place and maybe even a bar located within one of these multi-screen complexes? I reckon they’d do OK from those of us older than 17. Anyway the film was great. For all of 20 minutes we were the only ones in screen room 1 and we were so looking forward to whooping and hollering all alone to the antics of Manny, Diego and Sid – my personal favourite. We booed quietly when the other 15 joined us during the Pearl and Dean bit until a very old white-haired guy came in all alone. I whispered to S that he probably remembered the last Ice Age – and I didn’t mean The Meltdown. We giggled like only granddads and grandsons can. Such fun.  Sorry old guy, hope you enjoyed the movie:

Ice Age 3 Dawn of the dinosaurs