Monthly Archives: June 2015

7 things I’ve learned re-writing my novel

So while I’m writing my proper second draft (tidying up the first one doesn’t count, this is the sweat inducing one) here’s what I’ve learned:

  1. My thesaurus is my best friend, confidant, champion, partisan, right-hand, sectary…and it’s a book not an internet tool. The flicking of the pages is key, you might stumble on something else.
  2. Sometimes the simplest word is the best.
  3. If I have to look a word up in the dictionary don’t use it.
  4. With dialogue less is more. Don’t mince your words, or theirs.
  5. If you need a PowerPoint doc to keep track of a plotline (or to make sense of it) so be it.
  6. Keep your goal in sight at all times. The finish line may seem far away but didn’t we think that too on the first draft and we got there didn’t we?
  7. Accept the frustratingly bad writing days. There’s another good one coming soon and it will be glorious.

 

 

Review – MR. HOLMES

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Starring: Ian McKellan, Laura Linney, Milo Parker, Hiroyuki Sanada, Frances de la Tour, Hattie Morahan, Patrick Kennedy, Roger Allam and Phil Davis.
Directed by: Bill Condon
Cert: PG Running Time: 104 minutes
Release Date: June 19th 2015

At the height of his success Sir Arthur Conan Doyle wrote a letter to his mother saying he was thinking of ‘slaying Holmes’ such was his frustration at his creation’s success and demands from publishers to write more and more stories of the infamous detective. Almost 130 years later there is no sign of that popularity abating and here we have yet another look at the beguiling detective. Based on Mitch Cullin’s novel ‘A Slight Trick of the Mind’, it offers a fresh perspective on the man who has bewitched us with his intellect for over a century, presenting Holmes as a real person who did indeed solve crimes with Doctor Watson, who detailed their cases in his best-selling books, thus gaining Holmes infamy throughout the world.

Ian McKellan, in an Oscar worthy performance, portrays the detective in old age, long retired and living out his days in his country residence on the Sussex coast in 1947. Now 93, he is succumbing to dementia and the machinations of his mind are no longer what they were. He is haunted by a case he solved thirty years earlier (told through flashbacks), the outcome of which he has misplaced in the corridors of his mind. In trying to unlock the puzzle, he strikes up an unlikely friendship with his housekeeper’s son, Roger (an excellent Milo Parker) much to the disdain of his mother (played by Laura Linney).

Young Roger is in awe of the great detective and particularly admires Holmes’ ‘trick’ of reading people. A scene in which he asks Holmes to look at his mortified mother to figure out what she’s been doing that day is genius in McKellan’s hands and there’s an emotional punch that creeps up on you as their friendship grows. Milo Parker is a real find and Laura Linney though playing with a very tricky accent gives a smart and understated performance, allowing Parker and McKellan to shine.

As Holmes goes to great lengths to help retrieve his memories, we also see him in flashback on a journey to Japan in search of a herbal remedy to his dementia. He is desperate and a visit to the ashen landscape of Hiroshima mirrors the charred remains of Holmes’ memories as they crumble into his lonely existence, bereft of all his companions, now long passed.

Bill Condon, who also directed McKellan in the excellent Gods and Monsters allows the film to move slowly, carefully taking its time to bring together its conclusions. The pace is gentler than most current cinema fare but there is a reward in that of an intriguing story well told.

There is a nod also to the character’s everlasting appeal and longevity in a cameo by Nicholas Rowe, the former star of the 1985 Young Sherlock Holmes who appears as a fictionalised version of the sleuth proving that Sherlock may be 93 but he lives on forever.

***

Review – ENTOURAGE

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Starring: Kevin Connolly, Adrian Grenier, Kevin Dillon, Jerry Ferrara, Jeremy Piven, Emmanuelle Chriqui, Perrey Reeves, Rex Lee, Billy Bob Thornton and Haley Joel Osment.
Directed by: Doug Ellin
Cert: 15A Running Time: 104 mins
Release date: June 19th 2015

In 2011 when the boys flew off on their private jets into the sunset in the eighth and final season of Entourage, the show had neatly tied things up with a slick and shiny red bow. Set in tinseltown, the question of a movie version though was inevitable and four years later we find ourselves back with the boys as they take Hollywood for real.

Everything has been amped up for their big screen debut. There are more girls, more parties, more bro-talk and more cameos. For fans of the show the Piers Morgan hosted look at the life of movie star Vincent Chase (Adrian Grenier) and his entourage at the beginning is unnecessary, but for new viewers it lays it out pretty easy. Vince is the pretty boy movie star, E (Kevin Connolly) his best friend and manager, Drama (Kevin Dillon) his jobbing actor half-brother and Turtle (Jerry Ferrera) is their buddy and driver.

The film opens with the boys joining Vince in Ibiza for a yacht party as his five day marriage has just gone down in flames. Vince is on to his next conquest and acting job, telling ex-agent Ari Gold (Jeremy Piven) now head of one of the major studios, that he wants to direct. Taking a punt on him, Ari fronts the studio’s money but when Vince needs more, the studio investors get uneasy. Texan billionaire Larsen McCredle (Billy Bob Thorton) sends his son Travis (a suitably repulsive Haley Joel Osment) to LA to see a rough cut of the movie before deciding whether to release any more funds.

The show’s creator Doug Ellin (who also produces and directs) has written a tight script that weaves a decent story strand for each of the five main characters, if perhaps E is given the most unlikely both in execution and resolution. Ari has always been the main reason to tune in and still is. At his best when the verbal abuse is flowing, his performance is pure genius and Piven is clearly having a ball.

When the film threatens to spill over with excess, particularly in its depiction of sex, Ellin pulls it back throwing moral caution to the wind and countering it with genuine romance. There’s a balance to the bro-ishness and bawdiness that’s needed to stop them just being a bunch of vacuous frat boys. As with the TV show, the film is crammed with cameos with producer Mark Wahlberg, Liam Neeson, Jessica Alba and a very funny Kelsey Grammar being standouts.

Entourage is a diverting, entertaining, funny movie that doesn’t stray from the formula that made it a success. It won’t change the world but its escapism delivered in a luxurious Hollywood package. Newcomers may find themselves reaching for the box set.

***

Review – SPY

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Starring: Melissa McCarthy, Jason Statham, Rose Byrne, Miranda hart, Bobby Cannavale, Alison Janney, Peter Serafinowicz and Jude Law
Directed by: Paul Feig
Cert: 15A Running time: 119 mins
Release Date: June 5th 2015

There’s a secret rhythm and chemistry to great director-actor pairings. More often showcased with male directors and actors from Tim Burton and Johnny Depp, to Scorsese and De Niro, that unique relationship can be priceless when it comes to the onscreen magic it inspires. Third time out, writer/director Paul Feig knows how to get the best out of Melissa McCarthy and it’s a collaboration that is getting stronger and funnier as they go. With Spy they have delivered a laugh-out-loud hilarious comedy that blends humour and action in a gorgeously spiky Bond inspired cocktail.

McCarthy plays Susan Cooper, a CIA operative who has found herself behind a desk for most of her career as the eyes and ears for superspy Bradley Fine (played by Jude Law). She has been in his earpiece on every mission but when the identities of all of the CIA’s top operatives are exposed in the hunt for a stolen nuclear weapon, Susan offers herself as an unlikely replacement in tracking the bad guys led by Rayna Boyanov (Rose Byrne).

There’s lots of humour wrung from the various false identities Susan takes on, typified by ‘the cat lady’ but it’s when she transforms herself into spy femme fatale that the funniest digs are thrown. Byrne goads her repeatedly about the absolute state of her in that ‘abortion of a dress’ while McCarthy takes shots at her ‘slutty dolphin trainer’ outfit and oversized hair. Their constant trade of vicious barbs is comedy gold. As irreverent as her character in The Heat, this is no holds barred and McCarthy unleashes her foul-mouthed tirades with relish in a script that is cuttingly sharp and bitingly funny.

Jason Statham, as a fellow agent objecting to Susan’s mission, is like a kid in a comedy sweet shop. His unhinged, been-there-done-it spy is joyous in his meanness towards inexperienced Susan and Statham unleashes a flair for physical slapstick comedy that sends up his usual cool action man persona. Law also revels in his goofier moments and a scene early on with McCarthy as he bestows a gift of jewellery to her is priceless. British comedienne Miranda Hart pops ups as a co-worker in the rat infested CIA basement office (an amusing running joke) and while initially she looks out of place, her interplay with McCarthy grows and she comes into her own. Also Peter Serafinowicz as Aldo, an Italian agent with his roving eye and wandering hands, makes for some deliciously inappropriate moments.

Peppered with moments of shocking violence, gratuity, and inopportune vomiting, you never see what’s coming next. This is not a spoof of spy movies but rather a funny, riotous homage. The only misstep in the two hours is unfortunately a cameo by McCarthy’s husband Ben Falcone (who last directed her in misfire Tammy). It seems rushed, like he just happened to be there that day and they grabbed him. It’s the only joke that falls flat.

McCarthy proves herself yet again with her fearlessness and ninja comic timing. Reportedly next up for her and Feig will be the female-led Ghostbusters reboot. Can’t wait! ****