Saturday, 9 January 2016

A Paper Free 2016

A couple of years ago I decided to try and do a year without using paper; while I felt it was a success there were times I didn’t stick to the rules. 2016 is going to be different, I will not buy a diary this year nor use a notebook. I will be completely and utterly paper and pen free, both at home and at work. This could be interesting as I aim to get a new business off the ground, and this time I have rules, they are as follows:

The rules of going paper-free
I cannot use or buy a newspaper or magazine
I cannot buy a book, either second-hand or new
I can use the library
I can continue to subscribe to Empire magazine as it is already paid for and I get a free tablet version
I cannot write using a pen and paper, all my writing will have to be on a pc or on the tablet
I cannot use a diary

So what will I be using?
My phone as my personal assistant, it will be my diary, my notebook, as well as my source of information.
I can go to the library and take books out, but will have to use the Kindle for personal reading.
I will use my Kindle Fire as my buddy, giving me access to everything that I have access to already: books, social media, music, and movies.

CD’s and DVD’s contain paper elements in the packaging, so they are out. Downloads only if I want some music and a DVD will have to wait until 2017, although I can use Lovefilm who I am with.

Let’s see how far I can go without using any paper whatsoever and if it makes a huge difference to life in general. 

But what is the point of this? Well, it is better for the environment for one; but I am intrigued to know if technology today can enable us to be paper-free, and if so what that could mean. I am excited to be reliant on modern technology, having downloaded apps on my phone including Word and a dictaphone. This could be the start of something new.

I will, however, miss my moleskine diary!

Sunday, 3 January 2016

The Best Films of 2015

The Best Films of 2015 of which I have seen, those that garnered two or more stars:

Captain Phillips
The Expendables 3
Under The Skin
Edge of Tomorrow
The Grand Budapest Hotel
The Fault in our Stars
Mr Turner
The Imitation Game
Avengers: Age of Ultron
The Invisible Woman
Mad Max: Fury Road
Ant Man
It Follows

The best:             Mad Max: Fury Road, a rollercoaster that never lets you stop for breathe. Intelligent, exciting and original.

The worst:          Gone Girl, utter boredom set in when watching an I really couldn't have cared any less for the central characters, who were both vile. 

The biggest film: Jurassic World, just held on to the top spot after stiff competition from Star Wars; this was a surprise smash and has unlocked another franchise.

Most anticipated: Star Wars: The Force Awakens, this had been building for about two years and under the helm of JJ Abrams, it became the most wanted film, going on to be one of the biggest and the quickest to reach $1 Billion worldwide.

Oscar Winner:   Birdman, I liked this, others I knew didn't; Michael Keaton gives a brilliant performance as a washed-up actor struggling with his superhero past. Very funny and very enjoyable.

Saturday, 26 December 2015

Is DIE HARD the Ultimate Christmas Movie?

Is Die Hard the ultimate Christmas movie?
Forget It’s A Wonderful Life, which only sees its denouement set at Christmas time, Die Hard is the movie that really gets the Christmas spirit going.  What’s not to like about this festive treat?
It has bucket loads of action; a character with a heart; a villain in the best pantomime tradition and Dean Martin singing at the end as paper falls in a snowy fashion from the Nakatomi Plaza.
Bruce Willis has rarely been better than in this movie. Here he brings his television persona into a more adult content with relish, and he appears to be enjoying himself.
“Now I have a machine-gun, ho-ho-ho.” Is one of the best lines in any movie, and deserves to be up there with ‘may the force be with you’ or ‘here’s lookin at you kid’.  The line is delivered with deftness and evil by the brilliant Alan Rickman, who nearly steals Willis’ thunder. The scene between the two of them on the roof is so tense that repeat viewings still make the heart flutter.
Yes there are other Christmas movies, Die Hard 2 for example; but they just don’t compete with a film that brings you everything that most of today’s blockbusters do not. It gives you a reason to feel for the main character, a simple plot that is never convoluted, a villain that you feel scared of and an ending that is satisfying. Unlike its sequels, which have not aged well, this is an Eighties movie that can be enjoyed time and again.
I can now admit, being a (cough) forty-something (cough), that I went to see this perfect action movie while under age. It was the Spring of 1989, and looking older than my sixteen years, I managed to get myself and a good friend into the cinema one cold night. The movie was being played in screen three of the ABC cinema at Tunbridge Wells, a beautiful cinema sadly no longer standing. Like Nakatomi Plaza, it was destroyed by greed and villainy. The last Bruce Willis film to play there was also one of his best performances, The Sixth Sense, which contains that classic line ‘I see dead people’.
Die Hard has proven to be a classic, and long may it remain so. It gave us Bruce Willis as a new John Wayne type, something that he struggled to remove himself from and his ease at producing yet another Die Hard movie would suggest that not many good parts are coming his way. Yet he should be proud of this film, it has heart, soul and action. It is a blockbuster in the truest sense, the Towering Inferno action movie. Long may it reign.
Box Office
$28,000,000 (estimated)
$81,350,242 (USA)

Sunday, 20 December 2015

Movie Memories

The ABC cinema in Tunbridge Wells was magical; a wonderful art-deco structure with a large screen one, and two other more intimate screens. It used to house a bar, which then became a small sweet shop, and in the foyer was a ticket booth where the metal machine would spit tickets out to you in short stubs. That was part of the magic of the cinema.

The foyer also had a long counter for popcorn and bags of sweets and hanging up at the back of the counter were posters of the current movies. Remember those, special collector’s editions? I remember a Return of the Jedi poster and collector movie book which had behind the scenes photographs.

That was part of the magic of the movies. It gave a sense of excitement and anticipation that is only matched by the release of the latest film in the Star Wars saga, The Force Awakens.

Perhaps it is a Star Wars thing, although there was similar anticipation when Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom was released. The movies of Spielberg and Lucas got the imagination caught into their net. They played the long game, giving out snippets of information in much the same way that J.J. Abrams does now. Too many times a trailer reveals all (remember the trailer for Terminator Genesys, which revealed everything and made watching the movie utterly pointless?), and too many times a movie fails to deliver on its promise (remember the prequels anyone?).

So what is it that has changed dramatically about the movies? Well, nothing. It is still the money-generating machine that it always has been from the first nickelodeon. It still demands imagination, albeit more limited now with the advent of computer technology. The thing that has changed is the cinema experience.

All you have to do is take a look at the buildings that house the cinema screen and digital projector these days to realise where the magic has been lost. Why have the homes of the movies been stuck in out of town lego-style complexes that offer no form of meaningful entertainment other than a bowling alley and a plastic looking pub? This is taking away the art form of the cinema. A theatre, a cinema and a church should form the hub and central ideal of a town. It is where people congregate
to enjoy an event together. In the town centre you can then enjoy a drink or a meal afterwards, not if you’re stuck in the middle of nowhere.

I remember going to see Schindler’s List at our ABC and then all of us going for a pint to drown our sorrows after the movie. I remember seeing Batman in 1989 and enjoying a matinee performance after meeting all my mates in the town.

Town centre cinemas are not just the past, they are the future, they should be the norm. It was a travesty for town planners to remove their cinemas and place them in the middle of a developed field that has been concreted over.

Monday, 7 December 2015

The Top Movies of the 1980's

Top Movies of the 1980’s

Something special happened during the 1980’s; consumerism was born; brands became more popular and pop-culture grew. The 80’s was the decade of the teen-movie, of the video-store; of Tom Cruise in his pomp; of Star Wars and Star Trek, of Spielberg dominance, and of Eddie Murphy. So the top films of the 80’s make for some interesting reading.

1980: Top grosser: The Empire Strikes Back. The best of the trilogy kicked off the decade with an enormous $209m take at the US box office. Its nearest rival was 9 to 5, starring Dolly Parton with a comparatively meagre $103m. This was the year of Airplane! And Stir Crazy, but was more of a continuation of the Seventies than a dawning for a new era, that wouldn’t happen until 1982.

1981: Top grosser: Raiders of the Lost Ark. Indiana Jones ran away with the year as George Lucas took top spot again. This time his nearest rival was On Golden Pond and Superman 2, but both fell way short of Dr Jones. This was also the year of the Cannonball Run, which mimicked the formula of Smokey and the Bandit. This is not seen as a great year for the movies.

1982: Top grosser: E.T. Spielberg’s alien weepie made a staggering $359m at the domestic box office; that’s brilliant in today’s numbers. This was the game-changer, with many studios following suit with the formula and proving that kids could sell movies. Dustin Hoffman also struck gold with Tootsie, which made an impressive $177m.

1983: Top grosser: Return of the Jedi. Star Wars took top spot again for the year as the series came to an end. Many studios kept a wide berth this time around, but what was noticeable of the year was the rise of Eddie Murphy, from nowhere in 48 Hrs from 1982 to Trading Places in ’83, both scoring good numbers and proving that he could open a film. He had a major challenge for his next movie.

1984: Top grosser: Beverly Hills Cop. Murphy vs Aykroyd again and the stars bagged to top two grossers with Cop just outdoing Ghostbusters. This was a good year, with Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom also doing well, beating Gremlins into third place. Eddie Murphy was now a bone fide star.

1985: Top grosser: Back to the Future. It came from nowhere and had a tv sitcom actor as its star, but Back to the Future became the biggest film of the year with $210m, beating nearest rival Rambo by $60m. This was a good year for Sylvester Stallone, whose Rambo just beat Rocky IV into second place.

1986:Top grosser: Top Gun. Cruise hits the big-time and stays there for thirty years. The film had stiff competition from Crocodile Dundee but beat it by a mere $2m. Notable for this year was a top ten place for John Hughes teen movie Ferris Beuller’s Day Off, which took a very impressive $70m domestically. It would go on to be a huge hit on VHS video. ’86 also scored the highest grossing Star Trek film with The Voyage Home finally breaking the $100m barrier.

1987: Top grosser: Three Men and a Baby. Who would know that a movie about a baby, starring three b-movie actors and directed by Mr Spock could go on to be the biggest movie of ’87? Especially when it was up against Fatal Attraction and Beverly Hills Cop 2. Both those scored great numbers, but could not beat the magic of Selleck/Guttenberg/Danson. Whatever happened to Steve Guttenberg?

1988: Top grosser: Rain Man. Tom Cruise scored two top ten movies with Rain Man and Cocktail, but Rain Man won the day. Starring alongside Dustin Hoffman, it swept aside the likes of Who Framed Roger Rabbit and Coming to America to score the biggest box office of the year. We now had two enormous movie stars in Eddie Murphy and Tom Cruise, and it seemed that everything they touched turned to gold. How long could it last though?

1989: Top grosser: Batman. The decade ended with something we have become very used to but then was a big risk, the comic-book movie. Tim Burton’s gothic extravaganza made a cool $251m, beating a host of sequels in the guise of Lethal Weapon, Ghostbusters and Back to the Future, as well as a third Indiana Jones helping.

The following year would be the bubble bursting for Murphy and Cruise, who dominated most of the decade, their films: Another 48 Hrs and Days of Thunder respectively, would fall far from expected grosses and saw the pair get a reality check for their popularity. It also taught us that it is not just star power that can provide a hit, but story, and the 1980’s is testament to that.

In this day of sequels and prequels, it says a lot about the decade that we are seeing re-boot after re-boot of films that originated and were sourced in the decade of glowing in the  dark socks, leg warmers and perms. 

Saturday, 28 November 2015

2015 has been a good year at the movies

The Hunger Games may not have surpassed Mockingjay Part One, but with the success of Spectre, as well as the surprise hits of Jurassic World and Furious 7, 2015 has been a good year for many at this year’s box office. Universal especially have a good year, with Jurassic World surpassing all expectations to become the highest grossing film of the year so far, usurping the mighty Avengers: Age of Ultron. With Star Wars yet to open, this could hold out to be the biggest movie of the year, as Star Wars will surely add a hefty amount to its run during the opening days of 2016.
Sony has also performed well, as have the Disney corporation, who easily off-loaded the loss on Tomorrowland with Avengers and Ant-Man, notwithstanding the Pixar Studios helping them out this year with two offerings, Inside Out and The Little Dinosaur.
Spectre has really taken off worldwide, which is fast becoming far more important to the Hollywood studios than domestic takings. Previously, it was all about the North American market, but now that American films have caught the imagination of the world (and the recent glut of superhero movies is probably to blame), then studios look at the bigger picture for their hits and misses.
So what are the misses of the year, well Tomorrowland is one big one, based on a Disney theme park ride a la Pirates of the Caribbean and starring George Clooney, this had hit written all over it. We have The Man From U.N.C.L.E, which really should have done better and is Armie Hammer’s second successive loser after The Lone Ranger. Entourage didn’t transport well from the television and another notable miss is Pan, which lived up to its name with the critics.

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2’s $100 million opening, though good, is down on part one and this may suggest a feeling of fatigue among audiences for the overblown finales of these type of films. It just worked for Harry Potter, but that franchise was not the norm. With the Divergent series looking to mimic the success of both these franchises, the omens don’t look good. Speaking of fatigue, the Avengers were expected to wipe the floor with the competition this year and it didn’t happen as Jurassic World took top spot. Are we seeing a droop in Marvel’s domination of the superhero genre? Ant-Man, though a hit, was not of Guardians of the Galaxy proportions and next year we have the double DC whammy of Batman versus Superman, and the very intriguing Suicide Squad; a film that could blow the doors off the whole genre. 2016 promises to be an interesting year, but with Star Wars waiting in the wings, everything could be changed.

Saturday, 7 November 2015

The Call Centre, a poem.

I am currently taking a self-teach poetry course and one of the exercises was to look at the environment around you and write about it; though I do not work in a call centre, my current workplace does feel like one at times. I hope you like what I have written.

The Call Centre

Darkened windows mirror the gloom,
PC screens stare wantonly;
"It's got October!" She screams as
the PC pushed itself harder.
"How long ago did you download?"
Never. "Is there an 'R' next?"
Brilliant white, star-like lightening
stares down on the brow.
Heads throb as the day wears.
Cluttered spaces; shattered faces;
empty gazes; waiting for the call.