A while back Ben and my sister Felicity (from now on to beknown as Philis) brought me to a late showing of Drive, a film based on the James Sallis novel of the same name. After some previewing review s from Ben’s brothers we were promised a very dark story which intrigued us boys, while the fact that Ryan Gosling was the star suited the interests my sister and the rest of the female cinema audience.

Drive dives right into the action with a slow but intense pre-credit scene involving Ryan Gosling’s unnamed character as the getaway driver for a heist job. As the scene shots are long and bulky from inside the car, the late night cat and mouse chase between Gosling and the police is effective and tense, magnifying the task that I other blockbuster would assume as easy.

In a way the rest of the movie, and particularly the first half of it, follows this theme of a simple plot that is just beautifully shot and acted. The storyline between Gosling and his love interest Irene (portrayed by Carey Mulligan) is modest and does follow a line of cliché romance but as a result of very little dialogue and good acting the characters’ desire for each comes across more charming than corny.

The technique also distracts the audience from the random eighties feel to the movie. The opening credits written in cursive neon pink to the backdrop of an amiable, girlish soundtrack makes the opening stage of the movie appear like a tribute to Dirty
or everything John Hughes.

What is most striking about this movie is the second part of the movie as it is dark, very dark. After a heist goes wrong right in front of Ryan Gosling’s protagonist he is backed into a corner and is spurred into defending himself and Irene against the mob of L.A. He unleashes some of the graphic violence in modern cinema. However contrasting to the likes of Hostel and Saw the violence in Drive almost seems necessary as Ryan Gosling’s hero antics are to protect Irene and her son. In a way it’s like a modern Jane Austin, chivalry isn’t dead but by the end it, half the cast will be.

When I look back at the movie now after a few weeks I can’t seem to find anything wrong with the movie. Every aspect of it seems to have been well done. The supporting cast sees the likes of Ron Perlman (Hellboy) getting back to playing what he does best; a villainous and unpleasant character. Bryan Cranston’s plays Shannon, a likeable rogue and Ryan Gosling’s boss. His character seems to be crossover between his two greatest TV roles; his Hal in Malcolm in the Middle and his Walter White in Breaking Bad. It’s appealing to a fan of either show but more importantly Shannon’s desire seem likeable to the rest of the cast makes up for the lack conversation of Ryan Gosling’s character and fills in the gaps of the storyline which would otherwise be lost.

If there is one thing wrong that I can find it is that for a movie called ‘Drive’ the chase scene in the middle part of the movie seems very short for what it could have been. High in the hills of L.A., a chase scene between a Mustang and Chrysler sounds mouth-watering. The choice of the cars and the roaring sounds of the cars’ engine should give the movie a Bullitt feel but it never achieves this.The very short outside shots of the cars driving try to induce the viewer’s impression of the reckless speed but instead the scene end up annoying the viewer with the constant cutting.

However this may be a result of the timing of shooting. One of the intriguing visual aspects of this movie is that the day shots seem to be set around dusk. The sun is low, shadows are elongate and actor’s faces are lit up naturally. This feature along with the choice of locations seems to reassure the viewer that L.A. can be a beautiful city. The violence of the movie of course would highlight the level of crime of the city but the scenery would do better than any Californian Tourism advert.

To wrap this review I would say that Drive is a beautifully made and portrayed movie which has all the potential to pick up next year’s Best Picture Oscar. The dark storyline along the beautiful photography and acting are so entertaining that my boyish crush on Christina Hendricks never noticed what a small role she plays. The film too has all the ingredients to expand into a franchise, something similar to what Sergio Leone made with his spaghetti westerns and their unnamed heroes. So as Ben’s brother put it to me, if you want to go see a good Ryan Gosling movie go see Drive, if you want to go see another good Ryan Gosling movie then go see Drive twice.

BEST SCENE: Ryan Gosling’s character and Irene enter a lift occupied a mob hit-man that is out for them. As they enter the lift the scene moves through a mix of emotions. From tense anxiety to sheer romantic passion and then it is suddenly ended with a dark ferocious fight, all of which take part within the confines of an elevator. Who knew a skull could collapse like that.


Smack to the Future

Last month in August a little part of my childhood died in me as I read that Hong Kong physicists had proved that time travel was impossible. At the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, a research team led by Du Shengwang carried out testing on a single photon, a unit of light, and verified that photons “obey the traffic law of the universe.”

However nearly month to the day from the announcement in Hong Kong the people of CERN were announcing that they may have found proof of particles travelling faster than the speed of light. After shooting a particle beam from Geneva in Switzerland to Gran Sasso in Italy it appeared that the neutrino particles were arriving 60 billionth of a second before light would. That means in travelling the 730 kilometre distance the neutrinos were arriving 20 meters before an incoming light.

Leaving many of the scientist bemused the experiment was then repeated another
15,000 times all resulting in the same outcome. The results have now been published
to the world and have also been sent to other laboratories in America and Japan for further analysis. Their assumptions on matter have yet to be circulated and it is doubtfully that they will announce anything anytime soon. As they to continue ponder, the issue carries on dividing the science world from the sceptics to optimistic, or in more striking terms, the old from the young.

Prof. Brian Cox and many other young physicists see the event as this generation’s
renaissance in the science world. Prof Cox commented in an interview that “If you’ve got something travelling faster than light, then it’s the most profound discovery of the last 100 years or more in physics. It’s a very, very big deal (and will) require a complete rewriting of our understanding of the universe.”

Yet the old guard in physics stands strong behind their scepticism. Professor Jim Al-Khalili at the University of Surrey said it was most likely that something was skewing the results and quoted that “It’s far more likely that there is an error in the data”. In a recent interview with ITV the ever enjoyable Patrick Moore also stated his doubt and said that “in the end Einstein would be vindicated”.

The dispute has also gone on to opening up a new world in quantum theory. Heinrich Paes at Dortmund University and colleagues believe it might be possible for neutrinos to move through hidden extra dimensions of space and effectively take shortcuts through space-time.”The extra dimension is warped in a way that particles moving through it can travel faster than particles that go through the known three dimensions of
space. It’s like a shortcut through this extra dimension. So it looks like particles are going faster than light, but actually they don’t.”

Another potential explanation for the observation was given by Alan Kostelecky at Indiana University. He proposed in 1985 that an energy field that lies unseen in the vacuum could allow neutrinos to move faster through space than photons, the particles that make up light.

Whether or not the issue will be ever resolved in our lifetime it is clear that  the work currently being done by CERN will have the same effect the space race did in the 1960’s. In science, in technology, and in fiction the depletion of the impossible will rekindle the imagination of youth. Fact or fiction we may indeed have a scientific rebirth before us.

Interesting Side Note
The original script of Back to the Future had a fridge as the time machine. After some production and legal evaluating it was changed to the DeLorean car after it thought that children may start climbing into fridges in the hope of going back in time.

The Dean Martin Game – the game for the jaded male

In a hospital bed I was once in the presence of visiting female who suddenly began to rage on about somebody whom had done them wrong. She was fiery and intense but due to the strength of my IV solution I had completely zoned out for the start of the outburst. When I had come to realised this I suddenly tried to grasp any understanding to the dispute but it was too late for it was long gone from me. (Eventually I came to understand that it all had something to do with a car and typically, another woman).

Now even though I was completely lost and was having very little input into the violent conversation, every once in a while there was pause and I was expected to issue a supportive response. Luckily though I’m a boy and have been in similar situations many times before. My body knew exactly to do.  I would fit a “Yea” here, a “You’re right there” there and sometimes a random “Yes you’re definitely, definitely right”. This continued for quite a while, back and forward in a routine manner with my visitor only stopping for air or for a forged kind approval.

I soon however grew uninterested of this and my mind again began to wander. Peering around my room for anything of interest my eyes noticed a free CD that had come with one of my Sunday papers. On the cover of the CD was Dean Martin and all of a sudden I found myself in a world of my own as my underperforming mind struggled to name any of his songs. Eventually I came up with two, Ain’t That a Kick in the Head and Memories Are Made of These.

As my female visitor continued on here wrath I soon became acclimatised to her anger and was no longer in fear of her temper. So to kill my boredom I decided to play a sort of counting game, a game to see how many Dean Martin lyrics I could fit into my part of the conversation before being found out.

So when an opening in the my visitors ranting came up I first stated

“Ain’t that a kick in the head?”

It worked. She nodded approvingly and kept on going never stopping to question my statement that should’ve seemed irregular to my usual use of vocab.

It soon came for me to reassure her again and I went for a different line from the same song.

“Ain’t that a hole in the boat?”

Again nothing happened I some came to realise that there was something to this and it had potential. Sadly however on that day when it came for me to respond a third time it soon became apparent that I had run out of appropriate lyrics and all I could do was repeat the first line

“Ain’t that a kick in the head?”

This time my visitor stopped for moment before continuing on. For the next few minute her suspicions rose at every response as all I could do was repeat the above two lines over and over. Eventually it came to the point where the distrust got the better of her when she said

“Are you mocking in?”

I didn’t know what say at first but suddenly remember some lyrics from the second song of Dean Martin’s I had previously remembered. As I slowly put my hand over my visitor’s hand all I said was

“Memories are made of these.”

As my visitor’s heart began to melt and as her eye’s began to flutter I suddenly snatched the tranquil moment by raising my arms and bursting out with the song’s back-up singers’ line of

“SWEET-SWEET memories you gave to me”.

My visitor was not amused and I was then reacquainted with the antipathy of woman.
Nevertheless she had just witnessed the creation of a great game, a game for the modern male in those social trapping times when a lady likes to rant.

Now of course for future playing the game is not constricted to just Dean Martin a player can easily expand to all genres of music. Recently I’ve wanted to try the following

“How long, how long must we sing this song?” – Bloody Sunday by U2
“(Well,) big wheels keep on turning.”  – Proud Mary by John Fogerty of Creedence Clearwater
 “One way or another you’re going get them….get them….get them!” – One Way or Another by Blondie

To the well listened reader you may have noticed the tweaking to some of the above lyrics. This is so the lines give sound slightly more innocent but that’s perfectly fine as long as the lyrics are distinguishable to a third party if they are listening. In fact this where even more fun can lie as bringing another friend into the equation can create more enjoyment.
More contestants mean more competition but this only heightens the entertainment value as the competitors are now forced to control themselves and not let on to the female. With additional players rules and themes can be set such as sticking to one band.

Take the recently retired R.E.M.. To play using only them one could us the following lines

“(That’s like) pushing an elephant up a stairs” – The Great Beyond
“Everybody hurts. Take comfort in your friends” – Everybody Hurts
“(Huh!! that girl is so head strong she wouldn’t even believe) they put a man on the moon” Man on the Moon

Again there clutching at straws.

I should probably finish with a note of caution to any player. This game was created as a bit of harmless fun but unfortunately boys will always be boys and sometimes their over eagerness to impress and outdo one another will go too far. It is for such reasons that this writer believes that any repercussions towards a player while playing in this way definitely had it coming to them.

All that being said, have fun.

Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy

On Friday the two Bens (from now on to be distinguished as Ben & Benny) brought me to the newly released Cold War spy thriller Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy. Being a Gary Oldman fan the film had been something I had been looking forward to for quite some time now so for me the fact that the rest of the cast was a build-up of a many household names was just a sweetener to the experience.

Like many British movies the tempo followed a slow pace throughout and I would imagine after a summer of blockbusters this aspect came as a bit of shock to any regular cinema goer. I thought I was going to fall into this category too but during the opening credits I was wonderfully distracted by film’s cinematography. The  director of photographer, the Dutch Hoyte van Hoytema, has been someone I have admired for quite a while now and although his work had been out of the English speaking spectrum his excellent work in the 2008 Swedish remake of Let the Right One In, probably led to how he became involved with Tinker, Tailor.

One of features that intrigued me on Friday for Tinker, Tailor was the “graining” focus of the camera shots. In the entertainment world today sharper and clearer imaging always seems to mean better but this was a wonderful exception to that ridiculous rule. This hint of blurring in many ways paid homage to the production of the 1979 mini-series version of the story but more importantly it went some way to hiding the fact the movie was made in the 21st century. Too often have recent period drama been diluted by the presence of the 21st century with something simple like a razor cut haircut or impeccable clean and tailored. When these items appear they are always brought into light so much more so when in HD photography and the notice of them can easily distract any viewer. During the trailers on Friday this was very true with Meryl Streep’s false teeth in her portrayal of Margret Thatcher in the upcoming Iron Lady. From that single trailer we watched it has all the makings of being a good comedy rather than serious biopic.

Coming back to point about paying homages to the 1979 mini-series, Gary Oldman’s performance of agent George Smiley had many echoing features of Sir Alec McGuiness’s Smiley in the 1979. His make-up had aged him to a similar frailty to where Sir Alec was in at the time of miniseries and Oldman mimics his predecessors voice perfectly too.  It truly was a perfect imitating of Sir Alec controlled, calm and melancholic Smiley and I just hope the whispers of an Oscar nomination for Oldman finally now comes to him, although with Hollywood you never know what may happen.

In a way Oldman’s acting was so good that it felt the high level of actors put beside him was out of respect to him and not for the movie itself. John Hurt was flawless as always and Colin Firth and Tom Hardy play their usually charming and masculine parts but as always both performed their characters perfectly. The momentum of Mark Strong’s career is forever strengthening, particular in the bad-guy market but in Tinker, Tailor he showed a much more compassionate and complicated character that he has hasn’t got to play since his television days in the nineties. In a way though the strongest supporting role was Benedict Cumberbatch (actor many may recognise from BBCs recently new revival of Sherlock Holmes). His part as Smiley’s right hand man, Peter Guillam, went some way to making up for Smiley’s lack of compassion and likeableness. His strong appeal along with the novelty appearances of Kathy Burke and Roger Lloyd-Pack (Trigger from Only Fools and Horses) meant that from the acting point of view, Tinker, Tailor was a marvel of everything that can be wonderful about  British film.

However the movie is not without its flaws. As a result of trying to be respectful to John le Carré epic novel there is a lot of details and names to remember and because of which the pace of the story at times slows right down and this may but off some viewers. I would advise anyone who feels like they fall into this category to have a quick brief over the main character’s name on the IMDb website before going to see it. It would certainly give the movie some justice.

Nevertheless, these negative aspects are just the end products of a well told espionage thriller. Any viewer should try to overlook these traits and concentrate on the beauty of this film. From Gary Oldman’s performance to Tom Hardy’s enchanting sheepskin jacket this is great piece of British cinema. It’s gritty, realistic and is a spy thriller that is completely opposite to the flamboyance that can come with a Bond movie. If there is one scene from it that I could I use to convince anyone to go see it, it would be the final shots in the story’s conclusion that is summed up to Julio Iglesias corny live version of ‘La Mer’. It is such a bold move to put a live recorded song into the background of a movie that one should admire the boldness of a move that is so very rarely made in mainstream cinema. With this brashness and everything else I give Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy two thumbs fresh.

a “Special” Moment

Even though it was only a long weekend away to London the fact that it was to be my first holiday in quite some time meant that it was going to be a very a special trip. In honour of the occasion I had gone all out. I had booked a hotel opposite Hyde Park and decided that I would fly with Aer Lingus, foregoing all my student cheap mentality. Everything was planned weeks in advances and the night before I packed my bag at least three times. I was ready and very excited.

However like many of the best laid plans in life things started to go astray on the day. The Aircoach that was to take me to the airport was late and was nowhere to be seen. As the minutes started to tick by it became clear that it the dooming solution to all was becoming more apparent. I would have to get a taxi.

Now I have no problems taxis but because I live in the suburbs the chances of seeing a taxi driving by in mid-morning is slim and safest bet in getting one quick is to call a taxi company. My local taxi company is Southside cabs and although their service is great and quick I have the unfortunate honour of always ending up with the weirdo driver.

Before that day the previous driver I had was a strange short chap who was on man mission to destroy Radio 1’s Joe Duffy. As he drove me to my destination he filled me in on his ludicrous plan on how he was going to out Joe’s supposed homosexuality on-air. Then my journey with Southside Cabs before that involved my driver telling me the top ten reasons of how the modern woman is quite like a computer. This was a man and a list that I had happily forgotten about until a few weeks later that same taxi driver made an appearance on Tv3’s version of ‘Take Me Out’ with that same list as his party piece. With these memories in mind I hoped and prayed to the taxi gods that the one coming to pick up was going to be normal.

When the taxi pulled up I thought I my prayers had been answered. My driver Patrick seemed like a proper nice bloke. He was polite, helpful and strangely cheerful for the early hour that was in it. This was of course all change when I made the faux pas of stating that I was flying with Aer Lingus.

“Patrick HATES Aer Lingus.”

This was the starting point of a conversation that led down to a list of the many things that Patrick the taxi driver hates.  Ryanair, Bureau de Change, Budapest trannies and most importantly the French were all touch upon in his little rant. As he spiralled into his contempt for everything and everyone I found myself in an agreeable loop of a simple “Yep” as I became more concerned at the quickly rolling meter before me.

Eventually though as we edged ever closer to the airport the conversation fell to brighter pastures. Patrick loves his steaks and gave me a couple of good tips. The first was to use two pans. He said that one pan should be extremely hot so that it sears the steak and the other pan set medium heat to cook.  His second tip was to use vegetable oil as it had a lower boiling point than olive oil and I was to smear the entire steak rather than drizzling it on the pan. It was sound advice.

When we arrived at the airport Patrick knocked off €10 from the bill and stated something about a “special”. I was well chuffed at this first but the more I thought about my simple repetitive “Yep” the more I began to think that he was referring to me as “special”.

What a prick.

(Coming soon: The wanders in Terminal 2)

To Blog or Not to Blog?

I should probably start it all by saying that I am not the blogging type. I am no other’s avid follower and God knows I have a poor history of keeping up anything over any length of time.

However for some reason a very small handful of people have mistaken my desperate attempts to appear witty as charming and are also under the strange impression that I have more “funny” and intelligent things to say.

Well I don’t think I do.

From a childhood of trying to fit in I seem to have developed my views and beliefs not far from the proverbial fence and I can’t imagine how any of my scribbles will tackle the great questions of mankind.

Nevertheless I did promise those misguided few that I would start a blog and even though that promise was purely made to get them to drunkenly shut up one night they unfortunately remembered and are now holding me to my word. So it here is my feeble attempt at a blog.

Yet you never know though, it may all be good for me. As I am to return to college in the upcoming weeks I imagine that I will have a lot more time on my hands. And with the soon to be clarified departure of the pretty “interiors” of the Berkeley library I will imagine my return will be a lonely one with very few appealing distractions. The blog may even go as far to improve my grammar but I can’t promise anything. I do however make one promise. It is simply that I will never bring up my blog in conversation. Everyone hates that’s guy who those and let’s face it, nobody is going to take the time to read this.

So here it is the big blog of John. I’m not exactly sure what topics will be cover along the way but they will probably follow along the lines of my interests. Those interests being in film, comedy, sport, economics, geography, television and my new found love for astronomy.  I must apologise that my first few posts will probably be long and all about my recent trip to London but I promise that this is not to be a travel blog. You will never have to read how I “found myself” in some exotic land and nor shall you have to hear about how I also found myself in some exotic lady boy.

See there’s that ever craving need for rumour.

Anyway, here it goes. Please enjoy it all and don’t forgot to be kind.