Friday, 23 August 2013

The long and short of film-making: films worth getting (un)comfortable for

A bad film - no matter how short - can feel too long. After all, if it’s no good then all you’re thinking about is how much longer you have to sit through it. How much longer must you wait before you can leave? If a film is good though, really good, time flies. You can sit in a cinema for hours and be so taken in by the story that, before you know it, three hours have gone by! Some stories, often those which are more complex, more elaborate and more detailed, simply cannot be told in 90 minutes. Or at least, they cannot be told well.

Before seeing Cloud Atlas on the big screen, I had heard plenty about how very long it was but, having already struggled with the immensely complex novel on which it was based, I was prepared. I nipped to the loo, ran for the premiere seats, and marvelled at one of the most ambitious, most impressive films I have ever experienced. Cloud Atlas lasted 172 minutes (just under three hours) and there is not one scene I would have lost. Enough had been trimmed already in order to make the story more palatable.

Similarly, Zero Dark Thirty was a film of great depth which dealt with political controversy and the very real and current events we all witnessed post 9/11. It had an incredibly impressive story arc and followed one woman’s determined mission to track down the world’s most wanted man. The final twenty minutes were so unbearably tense, I almost forgot to breathe. Zero Dark Thirty ran for 157 minutes.

We may not have the grand sweeping epics of earlier Hollywood these days but, for those who are still able, some filmmakers are, fortunately for film-fans, brave enough to make films that make you think, make you sit back in awe and ultimately just make you sit still for more than ten minutes. Which, in the current climate of speed and technology, may just be a marvel in itself.

Do you have a cut off time when it comes to cinema outings? What longer films do you think are worth sitting that long for...?

Sunday, 11 August 2013

Book Review: Joyland by Stephen King

Is there anything Stephen King can't do? Apparently not. 

For his latest novel, Joyland, King has turned his incomporable writing style to a piece of pulp fiction which follows a young man as he recovers from his break-up, by working at an amusement park. 

As is always the case with King's stories, each and every character - no matter how small - is so intricately woven that you care about each relationship, each event.

Joyland is more of a coming-of-age tale than anything else for the most part but throw in a haunted ride legend and a mystery woman with a sick kid and you have every ingredient for a great King tale.

Joyland is endearing, adorable, frightening and it really is a joyous read.


Saturday, 10 August 2013

The Female Doctor Arrives: a fan's love letter to the sexists

I never imagined that writing an article where I simply raised the question of whether or not it was time for a female Doctor Who would get such an insane reaction. Apart from the many who simply said they would rather the Doctor remained a man (fair enough!), there was also numerous so-terrifying-it-was-positively-hilarious comments on the article, ranging from the notion that I was simply being PC for PC's sake to the belief that a woman as the Doctor would never work because she would be on her period and doing her make-up all the time.

So, in answer to all those narrow-minded sexists, I have written my own little intro for a new Doctor who likes to go on adventures, take a companion along for the ride and visit new worlds. She also happens to be a woman. 

Matt Smith's Doctor is no more and his overly long locks have grown even further into those of a female. 

Doctor: I'm a woman! Oh this is going to be fun! Wait, where did Clara go?

Assistant: She had to leave. Figured it was time for her to go, seeing as she'd already saved you over and over. Some women just can't help saving you, huh?

Doctor: Yeah I do kind of bring that out of people don't I. Well, women. Ooh like me now!

Assistant: But I thought Timelords were all men?

Doctor: Why?

Assistant: Well it is Timelord isn't it?

Doctor: So? Who do you think gives birth to them all?

Assistant: I guess. 

Doctor: Besides. You're all human aren't you. I mean there isn't a huwoman race out there I've been missing is there?

Assistant: Nope. Just us.

Doctor: Wait up. You're a guy!

Assistant: Yup. Sometimes guys want to be whisked away by a woman for an adventure you know. Times change.

Doctor: Excellent! Where shall we go first then? I'm driving.

So where should they go next?

Thursday, 8 August 2013

Book Review: World War Z by Max Brooks

World War Z by Max Brooks is more of a sociological report than a novel, beginning with the origins of the undead outbreak and taking the reader on a journey across countries as each society deals with the threat in their own way. As people join forces or cut their losses, Brooks uses the very unhuman undead to explore the human psyche, the need for survival and the lengths people will go to out of fear and desperation. After all, you may be able to avoid being bitten by a zombie, but will you manage to stay warm, find food and continue living?

Every few pages, the interviewer (who is never revealed - though I suspect may have led to the Brad Pitt character in the film adaptation) moves on to a new subject in an apparently never-ending attempt to understand what happened and how it all began. Some stories are very personal about average people surviving against all odds while others look at military personnel and officials. But each story is unique and compelling in their own right. My personal favourite involves a blind man who survived in the forest by himself!

The detail of the zombies is beautifully captured, too, as it is done through the eyes of so many different interviewees.

The interview style and the fact that the stories are broken up so regularly makes the novel something of a difficult read but it is easy to keep picking it back up and delving further into the story of a planet in crisis.
Book - 4.5 FOBLES - fascinating and beautifully crafted

Having not seen the film I am in no position to compare the two but from what I've been told, the film is massively different. Have you seen it? What did you think?