Old Heroes never die – James Garner

Hello Dear Readers

Old heroes never die. What makes me say that? The reason is simple, another of my favourite actors passed away this weekend. James Garner. He was one of those actors who you could trust when you watched him. He did not need to try hard in my view when he appeared. So why do I say never die? Very simple really, we can watch him time and time again.

I first saw him in the 70′s when I watched like millions of others The Rockford Files. That iconic investigator, slightly weather worn, sometimes sceptical of his clients, but always there for them. The stories were well crafted, around Garner and a small recurring cast. The role itself was basically a remake of his Maverick character, his first major role.

It was a very successful series but at a cost to Garner himself. He was in every episode and did all of his own stunts. Due to various injuries from the series Garner eventually quit even though the ratings were high. He would reprise the role later in 8 television movies in the 90′s.

Garner also starred in numerous movies including The Great Escape, which in itself has become a bit of a legend. Garner’s role was that of Flt. Lt. Robert Hendley, the “Scrounger”, one in which he draw on numerous people he had known. The film was a major success and is often shown at Christmas, Easter or just any time.

He also starred in a number of romantic comedies including a favourite of mine, The Thrill of it All as Dr. Gerald Boyer along side Doris Day. It was a very easy comedy that worked well. Basically the story involves housewife, Doris Day’s sudden rise to fame as a soap spokesperson which leads to chaos in her home life and her husband played by Garner. There are some wonderfully funny moments in the film, including Garner returning home only to find a swimming pool instead of a garage, sitting in the car as it sank and a conversation between Garner and his son Andy. The young boy answering questions on the phone with just nods and shakes to Garners questions. Brilliant.

One of Garner’s passions outside of acting was motor racing. He stared in one of the best racing films in the 60′s, Grand Prix. It also starred a number of real life formula one drivers. It won a number of oscars that year which was no surprise given the cast.

For me, James Garner was one of those actors I could just sit and watch. He was a hero in his roles, even the comedy ones. Along with the Thrill of it All, two others stand out for me, Support your local sherif and the follow up Support your local Gunfighter. Both films involve simple plots, Garner mistaken for someone else and making the best of it to good comic effect.

I do hope that the BBC will re-run a few of the Rockford files and Maverick in tribute to him. I, for one would enjoy seeing them again.

To me, old heroes never really die so long as you keep their memory alive.

Tagline: “This is Jim Rockford. At the tone, leave your name and message. I’ll get back to you. [Beep]“

 

Monty Python – The end

Hello Readers

This is a rather short review due to the watershed. Whatever that is on the internet, it best be short.

Last night I saw Monty Python almost live at the cinema. To be honest I did not read many of the critics reviews as I knew they would be split. I often don’t care for someone else to tell me if I might enjoy something untilI have seen, read or listened.

I grew up watching and listening to so much in my youth and Month Python was always considered funny but a little rude. To be honest if you look back and some other radio shows (yes radio) they pushed the boundaries just as much with the odd double entendre.

For me, the final show was a great trip into my past and a fitting farewell to a comedy group who did push boundaries. I sang along to all the songs and remembered most of the words. The Galaxy song a favourite of mine updated due to the 5 minute argument of a scientist and a comedic.

Some have claimed that it was tired and old. Hell the ages of the remaining Python’s were past 70! They dont move like they did, they did not need to for me. The show was a combination of past success and the clear brilliant idea of Eric Idle who masterminded Spamalot. Please note that show moves around with a young cast.
So to those who complained about the content, the editing on telly and more well you just did not get it, did you.

Long live Monty Python and forever be naughty boys!

Future Learning

Dear Reader

For the past 8 weeks I have undertaken an online course, Start Writing Fiction hosted on FutureLearn web site. I had already taken one course from FutureLearn which was very good. It was a criminology course, another short 8 weeks introduction very much a taster. These online courses give thousands the chance to see how education has changed or just explore a little further something that grabs their interest.

CSI, NCIS and shows of this nature have peeked many peoples interest into just what is the science behind these stories. These short courses give a glimse behind the real scenes. It was an opener indeed.

So when I saw the creative writing, I knew that was for me.  Signing up was simple, no requirements other than a wish to learn.  The course was run over 8 weeks like many other and had a good structure.  Each week was aimed towards the final short story by looking at characters, plot, editing and reading. Many might think if you read the types of books you wish to write, that it is wrong. It is the reverse. We also had to submit short 300 word pieces for others to comment on and help  understand what like minded people thought.

That could have been difficult, however Futurelearn did this rather well by keeping it to three questions. This helped teach how to read others work and comment without being negative. There is nothing worse than feeling dejected when you have crafted a piece of work, thought it was well written only to find the metaphorical rug pulled from underneath your feet. It can be difficult to take well constructed criticism sometimes and this course has helped in explaining it.

It is hard to put your work out into the open for others to read, but thats what you have to do if you wish to be published. The course finished with a final short 1000 word story. Not easy to do. However, I did complete the task and got very good comments which pleased me.  My story was a twist on an old sci-fi theme and I will rewrite it later for myself.

I enjoyed the course a lot, the structure made sense and it gave me a new insight into where I need to build. Over the weeks, I created a couple of characters which it turns out have given me ideas for stories. I also am close to finishing my first novel, which will then need a few edits.

Would I recommend this to others? Yes indeed I would for a number of reasons. if your interested in discovering more this free taster helps, it makes you think about progressing to maybe a degree or a weekend retreat. Don’t forget that it does cost to get a degree these days and many people can’t afford to waste hard earned money.

So what next for me? Well more blogs, short stories and developing the two characters into longer stories. Self-publishing is my next goal, which in itself is not easy.

FutureLearn has taken off in a big way. It is easy to do, you work at your pace at home, no messing around and understandable. There are people available to offer advice as well as many other students all wishing to learn. Is this the way to draw people into further education? Could well be in my view, but at the end of the day it is the cost of doing a degree which I would say puts off many mature students.

Tagline; “998 words for my final short story, which two words to add? The End”

 

Hay Day – Hay Festival

Dear Reader

It has been a while since I last wrote a blog, a review of Captain America. I do intend to review X-Men:Days of future Past very soon. This blog is or will try to be, different. Why? This past weekend I had the good fortune to visit the Hay-on-Wye book festival. It was very much a spur of the moment thing really. I have always wanted to visit this famous event and without knowing it I managed to plan a weeks leave at the right time.

Why was it so important to go? Because of my love of books and writing really. I have been to Hay a number of times and managed to find a book I long thought would never be found. In today’s world, I suspect I would have used the internet more and located a copy. As it was the fun of searching through second-hand bookshops made it more of a discovery to me.

The actual festival takes place just outside Hay, in a tented village very much like a few other places that appear these days. The festival has grown somewhat and given the attention recently from BBC Radio 2′s Chris Evans, it is in my view trying to fire the imagination of all writers and readers.

There is something to be said for acting on impulse. Sometimes it can bring surprising rewards and this weekend I had three. The setup of the festival was very straight forward, no need to pay to get in just wander round and enjoy the atmosphere. You could however pick one of a number of talks that were taking place throughout the day. Having looked at the various talks there were two that caught my eye both it seemed were fully booked.

Well, time to wander again. This is when good fortune smiled. I talked to one of the many volunteers who suggested we check the returns. A quick return back to the ticket sales and guess what, yes they had two tickets for a talk by Tom Hollander the star of BBC TVs show Rev.

I did mention impulse before. Well, it also pays to ask a second time. Good fortune smiled again and I got two tickets to listen to Benedict Cumberbatch and friends reading from a collection of letters.

To listen to any actor live is for me a joy. You can hear the true reflection of the character they are portraying in their voice. The letters were from a new book each one read by a variety of well known people. Every single person who came on stage delivered their letter with passion and energy, to the degree that you did feel the real emotions behind the words. There were so many people who appeared each one standing out. However two letters and their readers stood out; John Lloyd and Rob Brydon. John Lloyd delivered a memo which was both risky and so humorous, whereas Rob Brydon gave us Richard Burton in all his wonderful tones. If he had said, ‘Broadsword calling Danny Boy’ that would have been it.

The exchange of letters between two World War Two sweethearts as read by Benedict Cumberbatch and Louise Brealey (Molly from Sherlock) was almost as if they had written them themselves. Again the passion, tender care, the off-hand comments all shone through these two people. It was brilliant and I would recommend buying the books;

The second talk had an equally wonderful set up. Tom Hollander who starts as the central character from Rev, along with James Wood and Jon Canter have written the Rev Diaries. They talked about the creation of the book, why it happened and how it enabled the author to expand that world beyond the small screen. It was a very interesting insight into the whole process and once again showed the passion behind these characters. Tom Hollander read two parts from the dairy, which if you think about it, you could see the character thinking about but in a television show can’t always articulate. There was also the change to get the book signed which I did. However, I did not just wish to have my book signed without making at least one comment. That was to Tom himself on his wonderful portrayal of Dylan Thomas. I also shook his hand, to which I think he was a little surprised. That to me added to the signing and the day.

What did I take away from my first trip to this festival of literature arts? Firstly that books are alive and still doing well. Secondly, that the festival is also very much alive considering the number of people who attended. Thirdly, that impulse really does pay, as does asking just one more time.

Tagline: ‘Broadsword calling Danny Boy’.

 

Captain America – The Winter Soldier Review

Hello dear reader

For the past few years, Marvel has been producing a number of very high quality comic book films. Wheather it started with the first X-Men or Iron Man movie is subject to a small debate. For me, I believe they had a plan from both. In fact, I believe they have at least three strands going very much like the comics themselves.

This year, Marvel is hitting the big screen with four strands, each one pushing the universe just that touch further. The first of these is Captain America  : The Winter Soldier, the second in this series. This movie picks up a short time after the first Avengers with Captain America working for Shield and learning of the new World he has been thrust into. The opening scene shows our hero ‘jogging’ around a Washington land mark, passing others at ease. It is of course all part of the set up to the movie as well we know.

The movie quickly moves apace, yet it does not appear to miss anything in the telling of it’s story. The balance is possibly the best of all the recent Marvel movies. You have a number of well known characters, a few new ones and a really well designed plot. That is due in large parts to the huge story lines available from the comic books. Yet Marvel, for the most part, seems to be able to transfer those comic stories into first class film scripts. Given some of these stories span maybe 10 to 20 comics, it shows the great care and planning that is going into each one. With only one minor issue recently, IronMan 3 and the treatment of a certain villain, Marvel is showing how comic movies can be made.

The 2-diamentional paper characters have come to life in a very substantial way, so much so that a whole new audience may never have seen the Marvel comic universe before these movies started. It broke box office records, hit the number one spot with ease and will ensure at least one more Captain America movie.

As for the movie itself, spoiler alerts for anyone who has not seen the adverts or watched the films, yet.

Captain America, it is wonderfully crafted. The action is well designed, the script has just the right amount of twists and the supporting cast does do just that, support the movie. I did have a good idea of what this movie was about given that I have read the comics but seeing it is different to reading it. The plot unfolds and Steve Rogers (Captain America himself) feels even more out of time, even more betrayed than before. He has to take sides again and has no idea who he can turn to. He finds one man who has no special powers, just an ordinary man who he has to bring into this now complex plot.

There is an unexpected death but in comic books does that really ever happen? Well you would have to watch the movie to see. There are villains and this time they are well written and given proper time. You do have to watch until the very end of this film and I mean the very end. Marvel now has the habit of putting two extras in. Nick Fury makes another appearance, along with a couple of other recurring characters giving both scope and a feel of continuation to these films. They are linked just like the comics and again can be seen without really watching all the rest. Their appeal is certainly not slowing down, neither is the speed at which the films are being released.

I will happily watch this film again and add it to my growing list of Marvel movies. They are beating DC hands down and so far DC don’t seem to know what to do next. Apart from the Batman movies, the rest of DC’s attempts have been missing something each time. With another Spiderman, the movie of the year for me X-Men Days of Future Past and the new Guardians movie, Marvel is just capturing more and more of this market.

It looks like for me, I have a few nights planned at the cinema.

Tagline: ‘Winter it might have been but the plot was hot.’