Happy New Year (Blogathon)…A Long Way Down

happynewyearblogathon5I can’t believe that we’ve already come to the end of another year. Or rather, the start of a new one. Well, bring it on…

…with The Happy New Year Blogathon hosted by MovieMovieBlogBlog.

I’m tackling A Long Way Down (not to be confused with Ewan McGregor and Charley Boorman‘s cyling trip Long Way Down). And…for those who glance through the story on the internet…don’t think it is dreary for New Year because of the “subject matter”.

What is it? Let me count you down:

10…Another one of those movies…the ones that I almost don’t watch, pick up when not really sure what I really feel like watching…and ending up thoroughly enjoying. This is one I went into with absolute no clue of the story.

9..The opening is what caught my attention. Not knowing who was in it or what it was about when I started out…having Pierce Brosnan show up meant it surely can’t be that bad. When his character announces that he’s decided to kill himself (on New Year’s Eve), first instinct was to switch off but shortly afterward I saw him trying to get a ladder up London’s Toppers building…and I was wondering what lay in store. Not in a morbid way.

8…The additional opening credits presenting me with Toni Collette, Imogen Poots and Aaron Paul likewise promised something good. Oh…Rosamund Pike and Sam Neill too.

7…Within the first four minutes, the mood is lightened  (dare I even say that) on the rooftop with the wonderful entrance of Maureen (Toni Collette)…spoiler alert…asking Martin (Brosnan) if he will be long and if she should wait somewhere. What a brilliant scene (although, actually not something to laugh at but this is probably deemed a black comedy after all).A-Long-Way-Down-Poster

6…By the time Jess (Imogen Poots) and JJ (Aaron Paul) turn up (independently of each other) with similar fates in mind, I know that this is going to be an interesting one.

5…Clearly, the chosen spot is a bit overcrowded and after brief introductions, they all go their separate ways…well, for a few minutes anyway…until fate has them all in Martin‘s car. The four former strangers decide to make an agreement. They will work at getting through their respective problems, together, until Valentine’s Day. So unravel the respective stories while four relationships develop.

4…Based on the novel of the same title by Nick Hornby, this isn’t such a dreary movie after all. It has some dark and light comedy moments with some really beautiful ones and other quite serious ones mixed in. The topic at hand is never made a joke of.

3…Directed by Pascal Chaumeil I found this movie really beautiful despite the many negative reviews it received. Here’s the trailer to give you a taste of what it’s about:

2…Another spoiler…but the movie ends on the following New Year’s Eve. And…well, because it would be totally wrong any other way, with all four of them still friends.

1…Happy New Year (what else does one say here?)



A Strong Character…

A few (I think) years back, the following ad caught me eye on TV (and I NEVER notice ads) not because of the brand being advertised…actually…give it a watch…I won’t need to explain:

So, I take it you know where I’m heading…definitely not the car route… 😉

But more specifically…one of these “bad” men…Mark Strong. Until recently, he was typically cast in the villain roles (hence the above appropriate clip). In fact, I’m often drawn to the actors not in the lead. And, don’t think bad of me, the villains are often exactly those that catch my eye. So much more exciting aren’t they? And just possibly a means of “living a little wild” from the safety of my mind…anyway, that’s not the point…but…hmmm….I assume that explains why a particular villain (or rather, the actor behind that villain) caught my eye in Robin Hood (2010). Yes…Godfrey, played so brilliantly by Mark Strong. Cold and calculating, ok, fine, sooooo cliché, let me start again…he was a man with an agenda…and played so convincingly.

MarkStrongRobinHoodIt was also at this point it dawned on me that I’d seen this actor before. In a number of roles. Yes, definitely a familiar face. Yet the person a mystery. But finally, with his role as Godfrey, I could put a name to the face. Off to look him up…and voila….you see…I was right…I HAVE seen him before. He was Wictred in Tristan + Isolde. And yes, at the time of watching this movie I’d also wondered who the actor was (I wasn’t focusing too hard on the leads and, I digress, I didn’t really mind Isolde being won by Mark…but that’s a topic for another day), but, because I never caught the character’s name I had no way of knowing the actor. And once again, a more “unsavoury” character…back-stabing and with a lust for power. One with some “oomph”.

Then came Lord Blackwood a la Jack the Ripper in Sherlock Holmes (2010). Oh what the perfect villain he makes. (cackle, cackle)

So, by this stage, I had a particular, should I say, “expectation”, of Mr Strong. Therefore, when The Way Back came along, I had a preconceived idea that his character Khabarov would be the “usual” up-to-no-good traitor or the like. I won’t, however, tell you if he is or isn’t. That would take all the fun out of this…wouldn’t it?

Now, I must tell you something terrible…I honestly cannot remember Mark Strong being in The Eagle, but apparently he was. I’m so sorry but I just can’t remember. Although, am I forgiven for saying I can’t remember another prominent actor (and I’m not talking about the two “leads”)?

JohnCarterAnd if I’m already on confessions…the only reason I watched John Carter (yes, I cringe too)…uhm…was for Mark Strong (and James Purefoy and Dominic West). And I only got as far as I did because of these supporting actors. Definitely wasn’t because of the story. But, that said, another fine performance by the actor I’m chit chatting about.

I’ll give you points for recognising Mark Strong in the movie Sunshine (he was in two Sunshine movies…here I’m on about the 2007 one, not the 1999 one). While not a big on-screen role, his actions play quite a part in the story. Need I mention that he isn’t the good guy? Oh but what I must mention is that this is such a superb movie that seems to have slipped under the sun radar.

welcome-to-the-punch-pic04Along came Welcome to the Punch, another one that didn’t get many positive reviews, but you know what? I thought it was great! Not only was one of my favourite “villains” back but the entire movie was fun (or at least I thought it was). And somehow, Strong‘s character Jacob Sternwood didn’t feel like such a baddie…

Hmmm…it is quite strange though, that the last two roles I’ve seen him in have not fallen into this “type” (for lack of a better word). Chronologically I know that Body of Lies goes somewhere into the midst of the movies mentioned above, but in my personal viewing history, it comes very recently. Here it has him as Hani, Jordanian General Intelligence Directorate head. I kept expecting him to be the main antagonist. *Sigh*


And the last, wonderful role I’ve seen him in (to date. More to come)…Merlin in Kingsman: The Secret Service. I absolutely loved this “lighter” role. Oh, the characterisation of Merlin, was, delightful superb. But then, would you expect anything else from such a dynamic actor?


Born in 1963, more specifically, on the 5th August 1963, this British actor complements any ensemble he joins. Perfect in any role. Be it the good (Merlin), the bad (need we mention roles?) or the ugly (Pinbacker). And, apologies if I have “pigeonholed” this wonderful artist….but oh how I do enjoy a good villain.

Thanks to the hosts of this wonderful Blogathon ( Outspoken & Freckled, Paula’s Cinema Club and Once Upon a Screen). This is my second time joining them and it is always a pleasure. Last year I covered Michael Wincott (here).


Wow…I’m on an adrenaline, stress high…

…but I feel good. For now. Until reality hits home. Then we’ll talk again.

Never did I realise what a big thing moving is. Not “down the road” big…but “to another country” big. “To another continent” big. 

I’m trying to find my feet but with family support and a relatively familiar environment (holidays are always different to living in a country though) I should be back to my usual comments and likes soon. Thanks for your ongoing support. I really appreciate the time you take to read my posts and comments and have felt really bad for being distant and distracted these past few weeks.  Thank you, thank you, thank you.

So, until my high crashes to a “what the *%#! have I done?????” low…I’ll take each blogging day as it comes. 

Have a wonderful weekend.

Movie Rob’s Genre Grandeur: Open Range (Western)

For this month’s next review for Genre Grandeur – Westerns, here’s a review of Open Range (2003) by Catherine of Thoughts All Sorts Thanks again to Catherine of Thoughts All Sorts for choosing this month’s genre. Next month’s Genre has been chosen by Sean of SeanMunger.com We will be reviewing our favorite Nautical Film. “Loosely defined […]

via Genre Grandeur – Open Range (2003) – Thoughts All Sorts

Or read it here…


Grace Kelly’s Mrs Kane in High Noon

High Noon (1952). A masterpiece western which I must admit, I appreciate more on viewing this time round than the first. It may be one of two reasons: 1) the fact that I know what it is about and so can concentrate on other aspects or 2) the fact that I viewed it with a focus on Grace Kelly for the Grace Kelly Blogathon. Either way, it is still a brilliant movie that has more to it than first meets the eye. But, that’s a topic for another time. Grace Kelly is the star for now (minus all the gossip that surrounds this movie).

Beautiful Grace Kelly plays devout Quaker Amy Fowler Kane, newly wed to Will Kane (Gary Cooper). And I mean newly, newly wed…as in the wedding takes place in the first few minutes of the movie. It is at this point that Will Kane hands in his marshal badge and intends to live quietly with his new bride. However, it is not meant to be…you see, the noon train is expected to bring Frank Miller (Ian MacDonald) to town. The problem? Will Kane had put this dangerous outlaw behind bars. Waiting at the station are Miller‘s gang (played by Lee Van Cleef, Robert J. Wilke and Sheb Wooley) setting up wonderful tension by simply “hanging around”. Kane feels responsible for the situation that will undoubtedly arise and cannot just ride away.

Amy, is expecting a quiet, peaceful life with her new husband so desperately wants Kane to get out of town, leaving it all to the new marshal (who is only due to arrive the next morning). She can’t understand why Kane won’t run. At one point she tells Kane “Don’t try to be a hero! You don’t have to be a hero, not for me!”. The thing is, if he does back down, he won’t be able to live with himself and there will probably always be some sort of animosity towards Amy. It really is a tricky situation but personally, he has to do what he does. It is at this time that one already wonders why these two are together. They seem so different. I just don’t understand why Amy doesn’t support her husband. Surely, being married, they are now a team? Instead, she takes the easy option out and buys a ticket on that very same dreaded noon train that is bringing in Miller. To me, Amy becomes as much an antagonist as Miller. She’s a problem (among others) that Kane shouldn’t have to deal with at this perilous time. I’m not sure Amy is quite convinced about her actions. Yes, she decides to wait in the town hotel because she’s nervous of the gang waiting at the station. But, I think her heart isn’t totally in it. She’s hoping he will change his mind but also, giving her the benefit of the doubt, she’s not ready to abandon Kane just yet.

There’s a part of her that is intrigued by her husband hence she keeps asking the hotel clerk about him, hoping for more information than he gives. Clearly she doesn’t really know Kane as well as we’d expect (and we never get any insight into their relationship before the wedding). This is also confirmed when she goes to see Kane‘s former girlfriend Helen Ramírez (Katy Jurado) who tells Amy that if she doesn’t know Kane, she doesn’t know her husband. That she asks around confirms that she does care about him. If she didn’t ask at all, I’d say she was indifferent and probably not worth Kane‘s hand. It also shows that she isn’t just the helpless damsel. That she does actually have some oomph as it must take quite some courage to face your husband’s former lover on your own.

This courage shows itself when she finally helps her husband (and so, in my opinion, she redeems herself). In fact, she’s the only one in the entire town who comes to his aid. She does the unexpected (I won’t reveal) which symbolises to me that she is, after all, committed to the relationship which one questions during the rest of the movie, especially when she steps onto the that dreaded noon train.

I’m not big on finding hidden meaning in movies but it seems fitting to me that Grace Kelly is always in her white dress when everyone else is darkly dressed (Kane has a mix of white and black and I think this shows his inner torment).  It is very interesting how at the end, as the show-down is about to begin, both Amy and Helen, one dressed in white, the other in black are side-by-side in the carriage going to the station. It is almost like good and bad, right and wrong being represented. The angel and the devil sitting on Kane‘s shoulder. In the same way we have both Amy and the outlaws waiting for the same train.

Directed by Fred Zinnemann, High Noon was nominated for 7 Oscars and won 4 (Best Actor in Leading Role, Best Film Editing, Best Music (Scoring of a Dramatic or Comedy Picture), Best Music (Song)).

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Interesting stuff…Morgan’s trailer and AI

I read something really, really cool this morning…on my company’s news site of all places! I was sure my colleague had posted in the wrong spot but no! I have recently been ‘playing’ around with IBM Watson Analytics as part of my job. Up to now, the usual business stuff.  The real appeal just revealed itself….I’m soooo excited (and freaked out)…IBM Watson was used in the making of the Morgan trailer. Very interesting…

What is Watson? Well, as this is not a technical blog, I won’t go into the details (you can look those up yourself) but, in a nutshell, Watson takes data it has been given, assesses it, together with any outcomes or responses (so this requires some sort of human input) and tries to “teach” itself patterns or other possible outcomes.

Now for Morgan (2016) the new movie about an AI being. Apparently Watson analysed a large number of horror trailers to determine what type of scenes, music etc. would be best suited for the Morgan trailer and from this isolated a handful of clips that were ultimately used.

While for me the trailer is very creepy and uncomfortable to watch (ok, I don’t think Morgan is something I’d watch anyway) I think the result is fascinating (and maybe just a little scary from a technology perspective). Does the trailer work? I don’t know. Is it different to what humans would come up with? I don’t know. Possibly? After all, Watson has based the clip selection process on assessing other human-created trailers. What I did notice is that after watching I still wasn’t sure as to what the movie is about (maybe all-revealing trailers are a thing of the past?). But what better way to create a trailer about an AI being than with AI?

Here it is (watch to the end for a commentary section):