Game over, man. Game over.

This evening has been blighted with the news of the passing of the master of the one-liners, Bill Paxton, at the all-too-young age of 61. A hell of a supporting actor, he may not be a famous name to many, but to genre fans he was legendary, particularly those of us who lived through the ’80s.

Aw hell, 2017 is fast becoming as brutal as 2016. Sad news indeed.

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February 21st, 2013

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Today is the fourth anniversary of losing our King Charles Cavalier, Barney. The days and nights and weeks and months have rolled on four years now- at once it seems a long time ago and only yesterday. A gentle rolling mystery of the workings of relentless Time- how can it seem so long ago and yet also seem just a few months ago? So much has changed and so little. It seems a particularly cruel twist of fate that in those four years we have gained and loved and lost another dog, too. With thoughts like that, Barney seems a long distant memory, lost in the tumultuous shadow of our still-intense grief over young Ben.

And yet, today, standing in the back garden where he used to love to run and play, near the sundial that marks where where we buried him, Barney seems to be only yesterday. I can see the bright glitter of his eyes and hear his bark and remember the feel of his fur under my fingers, his weight on my lap (not inconsiderable, he did go to doggy Fat Club, after all). “First rule of Fat Club, we don’t talk about Fat Club,” I used to tell him. “The second rule of Fat Club…” well, you know how that goes, and I’m sure Barney did too. I used to talk to him as if he were human and he used to look back at me with the wearisome patience only dogs have, as if they understand everything and humour their owners with a bored wag of their tail as they wait for mealtime to arrive. Barney sure did love his food. But he did beat Fat Club; he got his weight down -and even featured in our local newspaper, a moment of fame- and lived a month shy of thirteen brilliant years.

The price of loving is the weight of grieving, the currency of love our tears- I shed plenty over Barney. That last week was pretty brutal.

I do think of him often, it’d be impossible not to. Memories of him are everywhere in the house, and the garden. But the tears have dried up, I think, replaced by the fresh ones over Ben. I can think of Barney with warmth and fondness, the sadness faded, while thinking of Ben is still shards of glass twisting in my chest.

As is our tradition, we bought flowers and placed them above the spot where we buried him in our back garden the day after he died. I reserve a special hate for that day, just a week after my birthday that year, digging a hole for my dog under a bitter-grey sky that shed flakes of snow. Why is it that memory reserves a particular ability to remain vivid when it concerns such unpleasant times? It’d be so much more merciful to forget days like that.

Later, we play a disc of video footage of Barney, a time machine to priceless moments that we relive around this time of year. Suddenly he’s alive and barking, its Spring of 2009 and he’s chasing his ball as I kick it around that back garden where he rests now forever. His loud barking fills our room and our Westie, Eddie starts barking back, annoyed at the mystery of a room suddenly filled with the joyous barking of a strange dog.  In the same way as starting  a new journey and adventure with a perfect puppy named Ben helped heal the pain over Barney, the new experiences of our Westie puppy Eddie is helping us heal the pain of losing Ben. I always thought that Ben was a blessing, and the same is true of Eddie. Dogs can be the cure of sadness just as they can be the inescapable cause of sadness.

So today we remember Barney, as we will when its the anniversary of his birthday next month, and we recall birthday morning treats when we gave him a croissant to eat. Yeah, the first rule of Fat Club…

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Eddie on the run

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Slow news day, so a picture of Eddie from this morning’s walk. Bit blurry, as it’s a snap taken with my phone, but you can tell the little fella was enjoying himself. He did insist on running through mud which necessitated a bath when he got back so his good mood didn’t last long (Westies seem to despise baths/water- at least, this one does).

I’ve been ‘off the grid’ for a few days (Tron lives forever). Its birthday week, you see, in which my family has five birthdays within the space of a week, with Valentine’s day thrown in the middle just for good measure and further expense at the card shop. So its a belated Happy Birthday to me (last Wednesday) and an apology for breaking my daily postings if anybody out there is noticing (hey, I managed from Jan 1st thru to middle of Feb, so not bad).

So whats happening? Well, I’ve been progressing through season 4 of Person of Interest as I bought season 5 a few weeks back and I’m adamant that I’m not buying discs just to leave them on the shelf. I’ve been reading Carrie Fisher’s memoir The Princess Diarist (birthday present) and listening to Max Richter’s Three Worlds: Music From Woolf Works (another birthday present). No doubt I’ll enlarge upon them on subsequent postings. Oh, and I’ve been wasting time shooting bad guys on Sniper Elite 4 of course. The only good Nazi is a dead… well, you know how that goes. And I pulled a 14-hour shift at work on Friday. So I’ve been tired all weekend, but it’s been a great weekend with young Eddie.

 

Valentines Day Nazi Massacre

se4Sniper Elite 4 is out today- most couples will be out on romantic dates tonight so it seems rather incongruous that I’ll be having a fine time shooting nazi scum instead. The Sniper Elite series with its x-ray cam death-shots with exploding tesicles and shattered eye-sockets is the very definition of gamings guilty pleasures- its nothing like real war, or a quality triple-A game; it’s more like an exploitation  video nasty from the ‘eighties, a Grindhouse video game, and nothing wrong with that.

Well, ok, there won’t be much time on the Playstation this evening to be honest, but the bizarre choice to release a game like this on Valentines Day of all days had me thinking. So here’s a list of Valentine’s Day movies. There may be a few titles that aren’t really movies at all. Can you spot them, or perhaps suggest some of your own?

Shirley Valentine

My Bloody Valentine

The Caveman’s Valentine

My Fat Valentine

Private Valentine: Blonde & Dangerous

Blue Valentine

Vampire Valentina

I Hate Valentines Day

Kiss Of The Valentine

The St.Valentine’s Day Massacre

Valentine of Terror

Valentino: The Last Emperor

Maid Valentine

The Valentine’s Night Horror

Surrogate Valentine

Lost Valentine

My Funny Valentine

Blind Valentine

The Valentine Lovers

 

Red Windmill!

moulin1Watched Moulin Rouge! yesterday for the first time in a few years. Extraordinary film. As subtle as getting slapped in the face with a wet kipper. Its the kind of film that the term ‘Pure Cinema’ was coined for, a veritable feast of the senses, bold, loud, incredible. I love it, its one of my favourite films- up in the Top 20 infact. I just can’t believe I left it so long between viewings – indeed, although I bought the Blu-ray a few years ago, I may not have watched it; I have suspicions that my last viewing of this wonderful film was on DVD.

Shocking! Hang my head in shame. Another shocking fact: this film was nominated for Best Picture at the 2002 Academy Awards but lost to Ron Howard’s A Beautiful  Mind. Another case of Oscar getting it wrong.  Yet another shocking fact- the film was released way back in 2001. It can’t possibly really be that old, can it?

It certainly comes even more alive in HD. It looks almost beyond gorgeous on a great-featured disc. You can tell it comes from the peak of the Blu-ray format (are we in a decline?) as its got a remarkable PiP feature commentary that branches off to seperate featurettes during the film. Its absolutely fascinating, and is something of a depth that we don’t find on new releases. Studios don’t seem to think it’s worth the expense (like the three-hour plus Dangerous Days doc on the Blade Runner set, it’s a case of the film coming out at just the right time as they wouldn’t get that same treatment now). Yeah, if ever we needed proof of Blu-ray as a declining format then it’s in the special editions we have now being nowhere near as special as the format’s younger days.

moulin2Just look at that. Gorgeous. Beyond the visuals though the energy of the performances is almost exhausting to watch. No doubt much of that is from the tight (some might suggest frenzied) editing, but I wonder how they filmed this film, maintaining the incredible energy level that runs throughout? Its full to bursting with such energy and exuberance. Its strange to think scenes were filmed across days or weeks and they would shoot some bits in a morning, some mid-afternoon, and yet it all comes together with such an intense level of excitement. Its so larger than life. Its a 1950s Technicolour musical fantasy merged with an 1980s pop video, ultra-modern and yet with such old-fashioned  melodrama. Its quite like no other film I can remember; sure there are better musicals out there but nothing quite as intoxicating as Moulin Rouge!

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The Take (Bastille Day)

take12017.13: The Take (2016) – Amazon Prime/VOD

The Take is one of those films… well, its enjoyable enough. Its an action thriller set in Paris, in which an apparent terrorist plot to set off bombs during the French national holiday Bastille day celebrations is in fact an elaborate ruse in the Die Hard tradition to disguise the real bad guys motives to steal a fortune during the ensuing chaos.So its instantly familiar, and its stunts and action sequences have a Bourne Identity-feel to them too, only reinforcing the seen-it-all before feel about the whole enterprise. It is competently made and it all seems very sincere, but that familiarity undermines it all.

If nothing else, it offers a glimpse of what a James Bond movie might have been like with Idris Elba in the starring role (although my wife thought he was channeling his BBC tv-character Luther through the whole thing). His CIA agent however is, like all of the films characters, woefully paper-thin, and while Elba does his best he can’t lift the character into anything really interesting. He is something of a rogue, doesn’t conform to procedure and authority figures well, can handle himself in a fight- what this film desperately needs is some character beats, to get under his skin, which it fails to do.  Possibly it’s a ninety-minute film that really needed to be two hours long, but its so cautious of modern viewer’s attention spans it lacks conviction enough to give that thirty minutes of character beats and narrative foundation. If this were a film made in the 1970s I’m sure it would have been more substantial. In 2016… keep it slick, keep it quick. So we get the explosions and chases and fights and shoot-outs but that’s about it. Pretty vacuous, but efficient.

Unfortunately for the film, it will likely be most widely remembered for the timing of its cinema release prior to real-life terrorist acts in France that caused it to be pulled from cinemas there. As silly as some of these films seem to be,  it’s clear that their plots are uncomfortably close to reality and an indication of how messed-up our world is.  Its a cautionary reminder.

 

Eddie in the snow

p1050418-2Woke up to a little snow this morning, not much more than a dusting really, although it continued to fall up to early afternoon. It gave young Eddie his first experience of the white stuff and he relished racing around in it. Dogs are weird.

Of course, I simply had to take photos to record the event. Dog owners are weird too.

 

The Fall of Apollo

hatch1God, I’m really getting a bit peeved at having to write these memoriam posts. The news yesterday that Richard Hatch, the actor likely most famous for his role as Apollo in the 1970’s Battlestar Galactica tv series, died on Tuesday was another of those sobering moments that is becoming all too frequent these days. Must definitely be a sign of growing old and the cultural icons of my generation inevitably getting older- it was almost a shock to learn that Hatch was 71. I thought he was younger than that, but now that I think about it, it just makes sense, considering that BSG dates back to 1978.

So thats Carrie Fisher, Miguel Ferrer, John Hurt… and now Richard Hatch, in the space of just two months. I know other celebrities and authors etc have passed away in that timespan too, but on this blog I’m just noting the passing of those cultural icons that made some impact on me growing up. And I’m doing so all too frequently.

While he will be best remembered for playing Apollo in the original BSG, I much preferred him in Ron Moore’s BSG reboot, in which he played the terrorist/politician Tom Zarek, a  very complicated role which he gave a very nuanced and impressive performance in a recurring part through the series. Compared to the frankly one-dimensional part of Apollo, Zarek was a dark and conflicted character that you couldn’t really trust but you really wanted to be able to like. Maybe a part of that latter was his Apollo personna bleeding through. In anycase, I always enjoyed seeing him turn up in the BSG reboot and it always signalled an interesting episode.

I recently started a re-run of the BSG reboot, and not long ago watched the first season episode that featured the introduction of his Tom Zarek character. Yeah, he was just fascinating to watch in that, and of course he just got better in the role as he returned during the series. I must say he surprised me; I thought his casting was a bit of an obvious publicity gimmick at the time, and a clever one at that as the reboot struggled to gain a reputation and justification in the eyes of fans of the original show. But beyond that publicity thing I didn’t see much point, but I was proved wrong. I really didn’t expect to see him so good in such a different role, but he pulled it off and yes, I was always glad to see him turn up again later in the series. He certainly went up in my estimation as an actor.