Monthly Archives: May 2016



What a fancy it is to be greeted with tea,
Hot and strong and beautifully free,
With china cup, all delicate and small
And apple macarons piled so tall.

To Underland we go, once again with Alice,
Not down through a hole but a mirror in a palace,
With IMAX eyes we will witness the glory,
Of an adventure through time, for that is the story.

All is not well with the Hatter of late,
His madness casting doubt on his family’s fate,
Their demise long ago by a jabberwocky so cruel,
May not have been real, having played him the fool.

His true friend Alice must cross oceans of time,
To visit the past and determine the crime,
But Time, he will not allow this theft, this ruse,
For he cannot be beaten, broken or bruised.

The adventure afoot has one great folly,
In the shape of the giant-headed one not so jolly,
The Red Queen will have her revenge on them all,
Whipping her scenes into a venomous squall.

So delicious is she, that she puts in the shade,
All but Hatter and Time who play it for spades.
Bug of eyes and candied lip,
Depp shines vibrantly and still kookily hip.

But Alice is the true queen of this tale,
Her world run by men who won’t let her set sail.
Strong willed and brave, she never questions,
That anyone but her should make decisions on her ventures.

If missing Burton’s eye be a minor quibble,
James Bobin does taketh the reins to nibble.
His is a bright sweet trick of delight,
That makes Alice shine ever so bright.

And so as you venture into the dark,
Remember that this is where magic does spark,
Time will be ticking as the tale unfolds,
Time well spent on a tale well told.


Five things I’ve learned on the hunt for an agent…

So the writing posts have been quiet of late and as usual its not for the want of trying but rather I feel like the car I was travelling in has temporarily ditched me at the side of the road, as the driver (possibly Satan, possibly just a surly guy with long unwashed hair and a lot of denim) pulls the door to his mini shut and speeds away up life’s highway without me, his cackle still audible in the smoke filled air. I’m on a road I’ve never been on, with no idea where it goes or if my destination actually exists.  The regular asphalt has crumbled away, unearthing the scorching hot gravel that I must navigate in my bare feet with my lowly manuscript (sorry I meant magnificent, see No. 4) under my arm. Yes, agent hunting is a new world to me but I’m learning a few things as I go.

Here’s my top five:

1. You need a time machine.

No really – if there is ever a hope of getting an agent before I turn ninety, I’m gonna need one of these. With an average 12 weeks for a reply and a prevalent wish for exclusivity with each submission, this is going to take forever. I may have grandchildren by then, even a great grandchild. How nice it will be for them when their wizened old nan has her first book published. You may venture for multiple submissions but I learned very recently that some may put yours to one side if being read elsewhere. I can see their logic. Hence the time machine. Honesty has always been (perhaps to my detriment) the best policy. I may need to re-consider.

2. Don’t suppose for a second you can imagine who they are and what they want.

You don’t know these people. You may google them, follow them on Twitter, check out who they represent but really you don’t have a clue about what makes them tick. In my short experience, no two are alike, which makes sense as yes they are humans just like you and me. They are not Sauron-like, with their big fiery eye glaring at your pitiful work. Nor are they robots, checking your words for the perfect algorithm. They are people with good days and bad like the rest of us and you will find them having both.

3. Rejection is an armour piercing arrow.

Impossible to deny but much as you steel yourself for replies, the knockbacks and the comments do get through and they do hurt. This is something you care about and its like giving your child to a stranger to be slapped as you stand by watching. Maybe you’ll get a rejection and think ‘hey c’est la vie’ but maybe the next day, that arrow will hit you right in the ticker when you weren’t expecting it.  Their words will swirl around as you try to climb over them and the only thing you can do is move to the next agent on your list.

4. Doubt will be your daily burden.

Looking for an agent? You? With that book? And you will shrink at the thoughts of actually approaching one, let alone calling one and when you do get off the phone you’ll imagine all the really good things you could have said rather than all the pitiful garbage you did. You fool! Press rewind. What do you mean there’s no rewind? Where’s my godamned time machine?!

5. Be you because you can’t be what they want, if they don’t want it.

Much as your manuscript will divide so too will you. While you think your cover email/letter may be as concise as you can, you convey a little part of you and some will like it and some won’t and you can tell from the comments you receive back that some haven’t liked you or your book. Call it paranoia perhaps but this is personal. You are selling yourself too. So don’t compromise that. Just be yourself.

So onwards on the lonely road I go, book in hand with an old saying in mind – “what’s meant for you won’t go by you”. We shall see.

I shall adjust my armour, sharpen my spear and keep hunting.

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Red (Jason Sudeikis) in Columbia Pictures and Rovio Animation's ANGRY BIRDS.

Starring (the voices of): Jason Sudeikis, Josh Gad, Danny McBride, Bill Hader, Sean Penn, Peter Dinklage, Kate McKinnon, Maya Rudolph
Directed by: Clay Kaytis and Fergal Reilly
Cert: PG Running Time: 97 minutes

Turning out an animated feature film in under three years is something of an industry challenge and one met head on by directors Clay Kaytis and Fergal Reilly (seasoned animators here making their directorial debuts), for they have smartly rendered a film version of the global mobile game/epidemic almost as quick as it takes their feathered stars to shoot themselves across the sky. It may have helped that they made the film under the Rovio mantle, an animation studio set up by the games’ founders to directly develop the film on site themselves at their Vancouver base.

Part of Rovio’s success with Angry Birds was its simple and fun execution and Kaytis and Reilly haven’t steered from that formula in bringing it to the big screen. This is both a help and a hindrance of sorts. In a world where even animated plots can be intricate and twisty (as with Disney’s recent Zootropolis stuffed with plot and character development), The Angry Birds Movie keeps its premise as simple as the game itself. The flightless birds must catapult themselves through the air in order to defeat those pigs and win back their stolen eggs. Could the premise have been stretched further? Certainly – but why veer from the path of previous success? Instead the film makers have invested in making the characters cleanly and cleverly defined in a fun setting that you’re happy to spend time in.

Red (Jason Sudeikis) is a bird with very little patience, prone to episodes of extreme rage and anger over the simplest of things. When a ship laden with jiggly pigglys led by Leonard (Bill Hader) shores up on their island, the rest of the community are polite and welcoming but Red’s not buying the nice act even with their cowboy hats and leather chaps so when the piggys make off with all the eggs, it’s down to Red and his anger management class buddies Chuck (Josh Gad) and Bomb (Danny McBride) to bring the rage and save the day. Written by Jon Vitti (The Simpsons), the film is sprinkled with funny lines and sight gags from Daft Punk to The Shining and though one or two weaker gags loom in the air, most hit their target. Toilet humour is high on the agenda with the Lake of Wisdom, home to the Mighty Eagle (Peter Dinklage) hands down the funniest joke in the film.

Reilly, an Irish animator who’s spent almost two decades in the US working on the likes of The Iron Giant, Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs and Spiderman 2, along with Kaytis (Frozen, Tangled) have brought a vibrant rainbow of eye-popping colour to the screen that kids will adore. If you’ve played the game or seen the trailer, then you know firmly what’s in store. There are no major surprises here but then its as diverting and downright entertaining as the game.


I sat down recently with Fergal Reilly to talk about the film. Check out the interview here:



Starring: Tom Hiddleston, Elizabeth Olsen, Cherry Jones, Bradley Whitford, Maddie Hasson, Wrenn Schmidt.
Directed by: Marc Abraham
Cert: 15A Running Time: 123 minutes
Release Date: 6th May 2016

You can tell an awful lot about I Saw The Light by its opening credits. Hank Williams (a slim Tom Hiddleston) sits alone on a stool under a spotlight as he sings. The camera slowly revolves around him, half in shadow, half in light, his cowboy hat hanging low, covering his eyes. A thin silhouette with a beautiful voice, each note carefully measured. It’s a performance rather than an insight and that setup haunts the rest of the film like a spectre. Rather than getting a true sense of what made the musical ‘genius’ tick, we get a performance of him, one we can’t quite connect to – strangely distant, holding us at arms length.

Based on the book by Colin Escott, George Merritt and William MacEwen and adapted and directed by Marc Abraham, the film centres on six years of William’s life up until his untimely death at the age of 29. It begins as he marries Audrey (Elizabeth Olsen), a divorced mother-of-one who has singing aspirations of her own. Clashing with Williams’ mother (the excellent Cherry Jones) who has steered her son on the road to success, the air is rife for trouble between them but unfortunately it’s only touched on as the first third of the film focuses more on Audrey and Hank’s marriage. Herein lies the problem. There’s a distinct lack of chemistry to be had and Olsen, who can bring a soft ethereal presence to her roles, is perhaps miscast as his pushy wife. Audrey does have a lot to contend with married to a womanising alcoholic but it’s difficult to understand, after they argue, why he would want her back and she him.

Though Hiddleston’s accent and singing voice are both spot on, you can sense the labour behind it. Having so recently graced our living rooms in BBC’s The Night Manager it takes a good half hour to separate Hiddleston from his clipped English tones and let him become the ‘son of Alabama’. He relaxes a bit as he gets to show his darker side and though the story and script are lacking any hugely dramatic scenes, he does carry it along. From a music point of view, Williams’ biggest hits do get an airing but the film is peppered with hits rather than being an immersive look at his music. In a scene where Hank finds out his record has made it to No. 1 in the charts, there’s an interesting dynamic between him and his band and you wish that that could have been explored more.

The best scene in the film, notable for what it says about Williams in so little words, is Hank having a conversation with on-off girlfriend Bobbie (Wrenn Schmidt) as the two sit smoking cigarettes. It feels real and heartfelt from both of them and perfectly sums up Hank’s attitude to life and marriage. Comparisons to Walk The Line are inevitable and sadly I Saw The Light can’t compete with it when its comes to narrative insight. Fans of Hiddleston won’t be disappointed by his vocal prowess here but perhaps they needed a stronger tale to hit the emotional notes of the story of another lost legend.