Tales from Fraggle Towers ~ August 2022

The end of August is nigh, and the official the end of summer. According to meteorological seasons, the first day of autumn arrives on 1 September and then according to the astronomical calendar, autumn will begin on Friday 23. Oddly, The Meteorological Office, which forecasts our weather (or tries to anway) uses the astronomical calendar. 🤷‍♀️

My autumn begins when the green leaves turn gold/red/brown and that isn’t happening yet, so I’m still in Summer, albeit the latter stages. August has been full of the drought, and then torrential downpours which did nothing to alleviate the problems drought is causing. Up here we haven’t had too bad a time of it, no hosepipe bans, and the crops and fields look healthy when I’m driving about anyway, though ponds have dried up across the way.

I got the results of the lung screening back, and whilst I haven’t got lung cancer, there’s a different issue shown up which has to be addressed, and is being. My hedonistic past catching up with me 🙂 . I may, or may not write more about it later, but it’s all a bit new at the minute, anyway I’m not at death’s door so yay!

Work has been mad busy as always, there’s a lot of ear wax in this world! I’ve got a week off coming in September which I’ll be glad for, it will be a staycation as no-one sensible would try and look after our cats, but we’re having a night in Edinburgh as the Scale Scotland Model show is on and it’s one of Phil’s faves. We’re only staying for one night and our lovely next door neighbour Cheryl will come in and put food down for them.

August is when the schools shut for summer, and I had Cal and Liddy to stay and took them out for a trip to the Northumberland Zoo whilst their Mum went to a funeral.

us at the zoo
snack break

Liddy loves horses and has riding lessons everyweek, but on bigger ones than this chap.

Mini horse

They loved the marmasets and Cal turned his camera round so the little guy could see himself! 🥴

selfie

This is a Scottish Wildcat, and the first time I’ve managed to see it as it hasn’t appeared on the other occasions I’ve been, it’s usually hiding, which is pesky, surprise surprise. Caught it at feeding time though.

Pesky Scottish Wildcat

The café at the zoo is pants, so I took them to Northhumberlandia which has a nice one, and hadn’t expected it to have 300 Harley Davison riders in it’s grounds. I got chatting to one of them in the café queue and he was telling me that most weekends, chapters of the riding groups meet up and go riding to places together. Their next event was the following weekend in Scotland, which is apparently the most anticipated and best of the year.

Angels of Hell, (and Scotland and Wales).

It was nice to spend some time with the kids and they had a sleepover.

Winnie and Lord Vincent have been enjoying the nice weather

Winny and Vinnie

also their assassination rates have gone up somewhat. Winnie has brought home 3 shrews and a rat and left them on our dining room floor mat to be admired, her modus operandi is unknown as they are always perfectly intact with no sign of damage.

a shrew

Lord Vincent is a different matter. He has caught two small mice which he announced by mewing loudly so we’d come and look, but he wouldn’t give them up and ate them 🥴. Sigh. Vinnie also caught a small bird, parts of which we found one morning in the living room along with copious amounts of feathers. I don’t mind about the rodents really, they’re not endangered species, (well maybe to Winnie and Vinnie), but I hate it when one of them gets a bird. What can you do? They both have noisy bells on their collars at least or it would be a massacre out there.

It was my birthday last week and I got taken out to dinner, to an Italian Restaurant over the train tracks in Pelaw. It’s called the Olive Verde and is above a rough and tumble pub in the main street, it does a small but very nice menu, has friendly staff and the food is good quality and (so far) is reasonably priced.

Happy Birthday to me

The big plus is it’s only a 10 minute walk from home and we were treated to a little sunset over the metro station on the way home.

I haven’t done much with my Fuji, and Sophie has only been home for the Raby weekend but I’ve been employing the iPhone camera and hipstamatic app when necessary, and am still taking my Contax Aria in hand, with a film sent off and one on the go. But I do belong to The Scavenger Hunt group on Flickr where there are 50 items to shoot within a year’s timeframe. I particularly liked my attempt at ‘Spices’.

Spices.

I’ve watched a few films this month,

The Gray Man starring Ryan Gosling.~ Netflix. A so-so action movie, a good review HERE by Dix/Eddie/the Pesky Scot, delete as applicable.
Samaritan starring Silvester Stallone. The reviews I read liked it better than I did- nicely filmed, minimal CGI but hokey script and acting veering between OTT and wooden. Still, it’s Sly, so there’s that.
Dog starring a wonderful dog, and Channing Tatum. Highly recommend it, did I mention the wonderful dog? She is fab, Tatum does OK too. Eddie has an excellent review HERE.
The Railway Man starring Colin Firth, Jeremy Irvine and Nicole Kidman. A true story about a chap called Eric Lomax who becomes a POW in a Japanese POW camp in Singapore and has to work on the Thai-Burma railway. In spite of being tortured for a spurious offence, he manages to survive the war, but suffers PTSD for a long while after, until there’s a reconciliation at the end. (Trying not to do a spoiler but it’s a true story so that doesn’t matter really 🙄). Phil had read the book, and felt though it was told in a different way than the autobiography the movie was based on, it was all there, the flashback sequences being particularly good. Definitely recommend. Eddie wasn’t as keen so for a different POV his review is HERE.

So that’s about it, I’ll be back when September ends, so stay tooned.

Monday Movie

There used to be a French school called  L’Institut Jeanne d’Arc in Frederiksburg just west of Copenhagen.

On March 21st 1945 the British carried out a bombing raid on the Gestapo headquarters in the commandeered Shell building in Copenhagen, at the request of the Danish resistance. This in spite of the fact that Danish prisoners were held on the top floor as a human shield. One of the planes in the first wave hit a telegraph pole and two 500lb bombs carried by the aircraft were torn off and exploded, killing twelve civilians. It crashed into a garage near the French catholic school in Frederiksburg. The other airplanes in that wave successfully unloaded six bombs into the Shell building, killing 6 of the prisoners. Unfortunately the second and third waves were confused by the smoke and flames resulting from the crashed Mosquito airplane, and thought that was where their target must be. Apart from 3 aircraft, all the Mosquitos dropped their bombs on the French School.

In the school were 529 people. 482 children, 34 catholic nuns, 8 civil teachers and 5 parents or workers. 86 of the children and 16 adults, mostly nuns, were killed, and 67 children and 35 adults were wounded.

The Danish movie currently showing on Netflix, The Bombardment, is about this event. I’ve seen a lot of movies I’ve really enjoyed since I stopped reviewing, but until now had not been moved to recommend any. This one is absolutely worth your time. It isn’t about the pilots, who get about 10 mins of screen time if that, but about some of the civilians we meet prior to the event, who we see coping during it and the aftermath. And mostly, it’s about the kids. Wonderful acting from all involved. Hard not to fall in love with little Eva played by Ella Josphine Lund Nilsson or laugh with Rigmore played by Ester Birch, and feel compassion for Henry (Bertram Bisgaard Enevoldsen) who becomes mute after seeing a distressing event prior to the bombing. The adults are not too shabby either, with a sterling cast showing us distinctive characters that have an emotional impact as you follow their lives.

Of course it’s impossible to ignore the parallels to what’s happening to Ukraine, nothing really changes in our human endeavours to kill each other and the planet we live on.

If you have a lily on your liver or your heart is inclined to faint this is probably not the movie for you and Netflix still have several cheesy romcoms for your amusement, none of which I’ve seen. But for those of you made of stern stuff this is a must-see. Also FYI the version on Netflix is not dubbed, there are subtitles, but the trailer on Youtube is dubbed.

😉

Tales from Fraggle Towers

Now that the abominable 365 has ended over on the Universe blog, it’s time to re~open The Other Place and pop in with some thoughts and pictures.

January has been a fairly busy month, Phil had 2 weeks annual leave and has done house jobs in between playing his bass and starting a new big tank, not sure where he is going to put it when it’s finished.

Big Stug Little Stug

At the beginning of the month we bought a new mattress for our bed, it’s very high-tech compared to ye ol’ spring and bounce jobbies. Memory foam sort of stuff. We paid a bit extra to have our old one taken away when the new one was delivered, but that all went tits up and we ended up clambering over our old mattress for a week, no small feat as it is 6’6″ x 6′. After a couple of back and forths with the delivery company and a reply of not much use from the mattress company, Phil’s final email is a masterclass in getting things sorted out…

Allow me to explain the facts again. The mattress I purchased from you was scheduled by Route 1 to be delivered between 10.00 and 1300 on Saturday 15th of January. I had also paid for the option of having my old mattress collected. The driver turned up at 0900 which we were unprepared for (we were still abed 🙄!)but nevertheless we were able to take receipt of the mattress. However, the driver explained that as the truck was full of deliveries there was no room for the old mattress. It would seem the transport manager at Route 1 was more focused on profit and efficiency than sticking to the pre arranged agreement. Being sympathetic to the driver’s predicament, I agreed to his suggestion that as he would be travelling through my area upon his return from Scotland’ he would call back for the mattress and gave me his word he would return. He didn’t, not even a phone call to explain why. I am now left with a super king size mattress that I have to clamber over to enter the bedroom. Further to your above email that Route1 would come on Thursday, I have since received a generic delivery of goods email from them claiming the next delivery date is Saturday 22nd which I have declined, I have no wish to have another weekend ruined by their incompetence, and in the meantime have received no apology or explanation despite responding to their feedback page. I will attempt to contact them again but would appreciate you explaining my situation to them  directly.Thank you P A Hyslop.

They came on the Thursday 🤣.


Phil also decided it as time for a new kitchen tap (faucet USA folks!) as our old one was looking shoddy, so he purchased a new fangled jobby that has a hose and spray integral to the unit.. Our plumber couldn’t come for a couple of weeks so Phil decided he could save himself a few quid and do it himself. With me as his trusty labourer. Winnie was surprised!

Plumber Phil

So far we’ve had no leaks so a job well done and £60 saved on a proper plumber! Reee~zult!


I’m continuing to de-wax the ears of the nation, and last week our boss has gone and got herself a new puppy. Regular readers will remember her Billy, her lovely deaf spaniel who died a couple of Christmas’s ago. This time she’s gone for something called a Pomegranite or similar crossed with some other breed, I can’t remember which one. His name is Teddy.

Teddy on our office manager Lynn’s desk

He is very cute and funny, but he also chews things a lot and barks at clients, and his toiletting is a bit hit and miss as well. The Boss is going to Grand Canaria on holiday next week so the girl who works in the printers opposite our unit is taking him for the week, but as the printer also brings a dog to work, will leave him with Lynn and I during the day. That’s going to be fun. 😳


We’ve watched some movies and there are a couple I’ll recommend for anyone who likes true story spy movies.

First up is Mr.Jones.

In 1933, Gareth Jones is an ambitious young journalist who has gained some renown for his interview with Hitler. Thanks to his connections to Lloyd George the former British prime minister, he is able to get official permission to travel to the Soviet Union. Jones intends to try to interview Stalin and to find out more about the Soviet Union’s economic expansion and its apparently-successful 5 year development plan. Jones is restricted to Moscow but jumps his train and travels unofficially to Ukraine to discover evidence of the Holodomor (the devastating famine in Ukraine in which millions died) including empty villages, starving people, cannibalism and the enforced collection of grain. On his return to Britain, he struggles to get his story taken seriously.

The director is Agniezka Holland, and it stars James Norton, Vanessa Kirby and Peter Sarsgaard who are all top notch, as is the ciematography. Most excellent movie.

Then we did The Courier

Directed by Dominic Cooke and starring the ubiquitous Mr.Cumberbatch, Merab Ninidze, Jessie Buckley and Rachel Brosnahan it recounts the activities of British businessman Greville Wynne in helping MI6 with the penetration of the Soviet nuclear programme during the Cold War. Wynne couriered information from his Soviet source, Oleg Penkovsky (codenamed Ironbark), which provided crucial intelligence about Soviet nuclear capabilities and the cuban missile crises. Again, superb acting and faultless cinematography, another Most Excellent.

Both of these are on Amazon Prime, Mr.Jones is free, you have to rent The Courier but it’s under a fiver and very well worth it.


Last weekend we had our pals Paul and Lorraine over for the first time since lockdown 1. We used to have each other over to dinner quite often before the plague so it was good to get together as if everything was normal. I cooked a chinese feast which went down well and everyone had too much to drink but we had a good time and will look forward to our next happeniing.

Paul and Lorraine

WInnie has been a constant source of amusement. Does anyone remember the Andrex Puppy?

Designed by Winnie.

I’s been quite cold of late and she has found a new way to warm up after she’s been out and prior to having a snooze.

Hot botty.

She hasn’t caught any birds of late (that we know about) however, I heard a cafuffle in the garden one day which sounded like an unhappy animal and when I went out to look, saw Winnie coming back across next doors fence and on our conservatory roof, and this..

She must have chased him but there’s no-way she can climb that high. At least I don’t think she can! He stayed there a good 1/2 hour and I kept her in until he turned round and scarpered.


Finally, we’ve had some cracking sunrises and sunsets this month, so I’ll say ta ta for now, and leave you with some spectaclier skies!

Not the 365 -Monday Movie Special

Yes I know it’s Tuesday, but a title is a title whatever the day.

This will be the last review for this year, as life has got a bit too busy and the 365 takes priority until the end of this year at least. But we’ll go out with a bang of sorts.

This week on Sunday, sees the 20th anniversary of 9/11, and there have been many, many documentaries about it and a fair few movies as well. This week we have been watching a six part series on National Geographic, entitled 9/11- One Day in America. Directed by Daniel Bogado a British Paraguayan documentary maker in association with the 9/11 Memorial and Museum. You would think with all the previous documentaries there would be nothing different to show or say about it all, but you would be quite wrong. Bogado and his team have eschewed using any narration, reconstruction or visualisation, the whole thing is archive footage, more than I’d ever seen before, including building 7, the Marriot hotel, the Pentagon, and new interviews with survivors and relatives or friends of those who died on the day.

Bogado in an interview with Nat.Geo. – ” “I watched as many documentaries as I could to see what was already out there. I didn’t see the point of just doing something that had already been done. But I didn’t see anything that was like what we were doing. What we were doing was a series, which gave it a much wider canvas. What it allowed us to do was to play the archive long. We didn’t want to do illustration – we wanted to do immersive.”

I can’t recommend this highly enough. Yes it’s sometimes harrowing, and brought me nearly to tears, but also it’s uplifting in the stories told by those on the ground, the quiet heroes and the survivors. I also recommend reading the interview with Bogado HERE.

Phil has the DVD of the Oliver Stone Movie World Trade Center, (2006) starring Nicholas Cage and Michael Pena as Sgt John McLoughlin and Officer Will Jimeno respectively. They are both real people, Port Authority Policemen who were trapped under lots of heavy rubble after jumping into an elevator shaft in the concourse between the towers, when the North Tower collapsed. Also  Officer Dominick Pezzulo (Jay Hernandez) is trapped with them and tries to free Jimeno as his legs are being crushed by a concrete block, but when Building 7 collapses is killed by falling debris.

The movie tells the story of their rescue by two marines, David Karnes (Michael Shannon) and Jason Thomas (William Mapother) and a paramedic  Chuck Sereika (Frank Whaley) and NYPD ESU rescueman Scott Strauss (Stephen Dorff). The movie also covers the effect on their families, Maria Bello as Sgt McLoughlin’s wife Donna, and Maggie Gyllenhaal as Jimeno’s wife Allison. The actors put their hearts into it and you can’t ask for more than that in a ‘real life’ movie.

Jimeno was rescued first, having been trapped for 13hrs, and McLoughlin who was even more severeley injured after 22 hours, they were the 18th and 19th people to be pulled out alive. They both had many surgeries and McLoughlin in particular was put into a coma for 6 weeks and ended up having 27 operations. They are both retired, and received the Police Medal of Honour. There’s a lovely scene at the end of the movie where they give a Bar-B-Q for all the people who helped them, and the real guys are attendees in the scene.

Of course it’s an Oliver Stone Movie so there’s always controversy, with people accusing him of pursuing a conspiracy theory, but he didn’t, there’s no sign of anything political, it’s a straightforward story of what happened to these guys. The Marines were both played by white actors when in fact Jason Thomas is black, and Stone’s excuse for that was that they hadn’t realised he was black and had already started filming so carried on with Mapother. McLoughlin, Jimeno and their wives were heavily involved in the making of the movie, with Donna saying  “We got involved because we felt it needed to be done accurately. We wanted to do the right thing and I think the filmmakers wanted to do the right thing too.” Officer Pezzulo’s wife Jeanette was not happy about the movie, nor was she happy with McLoughlin and Jimeno, which is a shame, I think they did a great job. The movie does not show that the 2 marines and the paramedic were the only ones trying to rescue the chaps for a full 20 minutes before the ESU men showed up and they were not involved in the making of the movie, so felt a bit shortchanged, but I get why Stone condensed it and I did feel their heroism was catered for.

The documentary has an episode covering the rescue, and Jimeno, Sereika and Thomas all give their accounts, and we were surprised how well Stone did keep to the facts. Also the amazing scenes of the destruction in the movie look just as real as the footage of the time. All in all a Top Notch endeavour by everyone involved.

I would think that most of my regular readers can pinpoint where they were on that morning, I was scrubbed up assisting in a TKR (Total Knee Replacement) operation in Theatre 4 St.Albans City Hospital when someone came in and told us what had happened, we got through the op and then hightailed it to the coffee room to watch events as they unfolded, all of us in shock at the magnitude of it all. And although it was America, and in particular New York which took the hit, the ramifiactions were worldwide, and everything changed that day.

What struck me most watching the documentary and the movie, was the incredible kindness of strangers during those first hours, I don’t know if they were democrats or republicans, but they were black, and white, and asian, mexican, all nationalities young, and old. Helping each other to escape, survive. And the first responders, the firemen, ambulancemen, medics, the police working their butts off to try and help people, save people, dig through dangerous rubble, all the while hugely traumatised by the event, by the loss of their comrades, The amazing heroic actions of those men, told by the people they saved with teary eyes but steady voices and so much gratitude. Bogado has done an exceptional job of showing the humanity that came out of the tragedy.

Nearly 3,000 people died that day, 90 countries lost citizens in the attacks, and more after because of breathing in the toxic powdered concrete, and severe injuries were sustained by many people. The ripples outwards are uncountable.

20 years, and now this is just a history lesson to a generation who were not born when this happened, though it doesn’t feel like that to me. And I wonder if something like this happens now, in this era of hatred for people from other lands, other beliefs, other political ideologies, where it’s every man for himself and ‘sod you Jack, I’m alright’, if the selflessness and sublime humanity that 9/11 engendered, is also consigned to the past.

Monday Movie reports is produced by Fragglerocking Inc, and may or may not be back at some point. Or something else will turn up in it’s place, who knows? Not me at least.

🙂

Not the 365 – Movie round up

We’ve gone a bit retro this week, digging back into our DVD’s and Blurays, so there’s a chance these will be familiar to you dear reader. First up is Phil’s choice….

Robocop 1987

Directed by the much revered Paul Verhoeven, it’s set in a dystopian future Detroit, on the brink of financial and social collapse. Due to these circumstances and the resulting rise in crime, the police force has been handed over to a private mega-corporation, Omni Consumer Products (OCP). The movie starts out in the OCP boardroom, where the vice-president Dick Jones (Ronny Cox) is demonstrating a large robot, the ED-209 a law enforcement droid, which is supposed to replace policemen. It malfunctions and exterminates a board member quite spectacularly. This allows an ambitious junior executive, Bob Morton (Miguel Ferrer) to push his own idea of Robocop to the Chairman – known as The Old Man (Daniel O’Herlihy), by-passing Dick Jones, who is none too pleased about that. Pretty sure everyone knows the story of how Sgt Murphy (Peter Weller) was horribly killed, converted into a programmed cyborg, and then regained his humanity whilst chasing down the bad guys. Edward Neumeier the writer, wanted to satirise the business culture of the 80’s, noting the aggressive American response to Japanese influences, and that a 17th century Japanese book – The Book of Five Rings- on effective killing was a big hit in Wall Street. The idea of Robocop came to him while he was learning film techniques on the set of Blade Runner, and his inspiration from mature comic books gave the story it’s platform.

The ED-209 made me laugh, especially when it fell over and squealed like a girl. Obviously a stop-motion model when it moved, it was the tech they had back then, and model makers are still making scale models of it in Model shows today, so it’s well loved. Weller got the part over other actors considered (Arnie and Rutger, Tom Berenger) as he was a smaller chap, had martial art skills and actually wanted the part to work with Verhoeven. He was the best choice in the end. The gory violence is so over the top it becomes funny, as it was intended to be by Neumeier and Verhoeven, but we never lose sight of the journey Murphy-Robocop-Murphy is on, and the scene where he visits the home he used to share with his wife and son, who have left, and remembers happy times, is so poignant.

Phil Rating:- a classic movie, an original story, there was nothing like it at the time. Great special effects and an exceptional robot in ED209. Top notch!

Fraggle Rating:- It was nearly as much fun watching Phil watch this than seeing it myself.


Backdraft 1991

Directed by Ron Howard, Backdraft tells the story of a Chicago fire department who are putting out the fires of a serial arsonist and focuses on two brothers, Lieutenant Stephen “Bull” McCaffrey (Kurt Russell) and Probationary Firefighter Brian McCaffrey (William Baldwin) and also Inspector Donald “Shadow” Rimgale, (Robert DeNiro) who is an arson investigator trying to track down the arsonist. The brothers are estranged, and there’s a fair bit of sibling rivallry going on, with both wanting to honour their Dad Captain Dennis McCaffrey (also Kurt, briefly) who died in a fire when they were little boys. Bull is separated from his wife Helen (Rebecca de Mornay) and Brian is picking up again with an ex girlfriend Jennifer Vaitkus, (Jennifer Jason Leigh) who also works for Alderman Marty Swayzak, (J.T.Walsh) who has supported fire department budget cuts for nefarious purposes. Scott Glenn plays the part of Senior Firefighter John “Axe” Adcox, who worked with the brother’s Dad, and is like an uncle to the brothers. Donald Sutherland has a small but effective part as Ronald Bartel, an imprisoned arsonist who set the fire that killed Dad McCaffrey. That’s it for spoilers just in case anyone hasn’t seen it!

Fraggle Rating:- I loved this movie back in the day, I have a thing for fires and explosions and this was full of them. The sound they give to the flames is amazing. The main actors went to Chicago’s fire training school to learn firefighting for real so they did look the part, but fire fighting professionals did note that how the fires depicted in the movie are not true to life as mostly you can’t see for smoke. But that’s fine by me, who wants to sit through 1 & 1/2 hours of watching smoke? The story is just another take on needy social services being cut by government departments resulting in a more dangerous and less effective service which then engenders an over the top revenge response, so nothing new there, but kudos though as they didn’t give it a Hollywood Happy Ending. The fires were brilliantly done, amazing! Did I say that already? 😊


Robocop 2 1990

Pfft. 🥴


The Magnificent Seven. 1960

No need for plot I think, we’ll go straight to the rating!

1960! I saw this as a kid, and remember it so well! Which is bonkers as I have a really bad memory for movies, it’s why I can rewatch them and not realise I’ve already seen them. Regular readers will know I had to see this again after watching the (inferior) Magnificent Seven 2017 I did last time out. (review Here). It was a complete joy to see it again. All my ‘heart-throbs’ from back then in one place, Yul Bryner with that walk he did, Steve McQueen with those eyes, Charles Bronson with those lips, and James Coburn with that cool dude attitude. Sigh. Anyway, it’s held up well considering it’s 60 years old. Of course you couldn’t get away with any of it these days, ‘white saviours’, diminished lady rôles, and diversity issues such as a Mexican – Chico- played by the German Horst Bucholz, and a Mexican old man played by Russian Valadimir Sokoloff (great name) but back then they could and they did. Eli Wallach (another diversity issue) as the baddie bandido ripping off the fruits of the mexican villagers labours with his bunch of swarthy ne’er do wells. The script is hokey, the actors in lesser parts over doing it (as did ol’Horst), but seeing Bryner, McQueen, Coburn and Bronson doing their cool cowboy thing again, well, it was magnificent! 😊

Not the 365 ~ movie round up.

Mission Impossible III(2006) and Mission Impossible Fallout (2018)

We are currently doing (and re-doing some of) the Mission Impossible Movies, somewhat out of order but other than a few follow ons you can guess at, it doesn’t really matter in which order you watch them. I’m not going to do plots as I’m reasonably certain everyone knows from the TV series let alone the movie franchise, that Tom Cruise as Ethan Hunt, and his bunch of merry men and ladies form the IMF (Impossible Mission Force, and not the International Monetary Fund) are duty bound to save the world by wearing latex masks and doing death defying physical feats. We have only these two on DVD and BluRay, and whilst Fallout is superior in terms of film & sound quality and a more cohesive directing style (Christopher McQuarrie for Fallout and J.J.Abrams for III) the action is terrific in both movies. What is more interesting, at least to me, is that in watching ‘the making of’ special features on both of these, all the CGI we thought had been done, actually wasn’t, and whatever you think of Cruise’s acting abilities, his committment to keeping it real is 100%. There are reoccurring characters throughout the series, Simon Pegg as Benji Dunn starts out in III,as does Michelle Monoghan as Julia Meade-Hunt, Ethan’s wife and ex-wife to be) Rebecca Ferguson as Ilsa Faust an ex MI6 operative who started her run in Rogue Nation which we’ve yet to see. Special mention goes to Ving Rhames as Luther Stickell who has been in all the MI movies to date. If you like action movies the MI series should be up there near the top of your list purely for the amount of innovation and skill the crew and cast go through in order to bring the quite gob smacking set pieces to your screens. When Tom Cruise is dangling from a helicopter at a great height, he actually is. These movies are all the better for not using green screens, and nice that people still want to make actual movies and not rely on a computer program for the good bits.

Fraggle Rating : Top Notch action entertainment.


Once Upon A Time in Hollywood (2019)

I’ve seen all of Mr.Tarantino’s movies, with the exception of Django, and for me this is his finest and most nuanced piece of work. Set in Hollywood and L.A in 1969, it concerns a fading character actor Rick Dalton (Leonardo DiCaprio) and his stunt double and best pal Cliff Booth (Brad Pitt) as they navigate a changing film industry. At this point in time The Manson Family were living in an old movie lot called Spahn Ranch, and though the murder by them of Sharon Tate et all is not a thing in this movie, the fact that we meet Manson briefly, and his followers, puts that thought in the back of your head. I hadn’t read any reviews or spoilers before seeing this movie (though not sure how that happened!) so I’m not going to do too much of what happens as it was much the better for not knowing. Tarantino has beautifully recreated Hollywood in the late 60’s, the cars, the clothes, the scenery, all lovingly filmed, it is a feast of memorabilia for the eyes. A cornucopia of excellent actors have cameo’s, Michael Madsden, Kurt Russell, Zoë Bell being frequent collaborators on Tarantino movies, and Damien Lewis, Dakota Fanning, Al Pacino, have small parts which they nail. Tarantino has Rick Dalton living next door to Sharon Tate (a luminous Margot Robbie) and Roman Polanski (Rafal Zawierucha) although Polanski is a bit part and her pal Jay Sebring (Emile Hersch) stays with her whilst Polanski is off directing a movie somewhere in Europe. Tarantino takes his time with his main characters, Dalton, Booth and Tate, and the actors give him great performances, with Pitt winning the Academy Award for Best Supporting actor, well deserved it was too. Special mention must go to Brandy the dog and really there shoud be an Academy Award section for mutts in movies, Brandy would be well up in the running! There are a lot of laughs along the way throughout the movie, and yes there is some Tarantinoesque violence but only at the end of the movie, and it’s a cathartic kind of violence that makes the world the movie is set in, a better place than it actually was.

Fraggle Rating: I can’t recommend it highly enough.


The Magnificent Seven (2017)

If you are a film maker or a knowledgeable movie buff, you can call yourself a cineaste apparently, a term I learnt reading proper eminent movie critic’s blogs/reviews. I would imagine most cineastes would tell you the movie Seven Samurai (1954) directed by Akira Kurosawa, is on or near the top of their all time best movie lists, and didn’t or doesn’t need a remake. Luckily I’m not a cineaste just an enthusiastic punter, so I’ve not seen that epic movie, or laud it beyond any other. Also luckily John Sturges decided to take Seven Samurai and turn it into an epic Western, starring Yul Bryner, Steve McQueen, James Coburn, Robert Vaughan, Charles Bronson et al. Now THAT was a western that didn’t need remaking, and I will be re-watching it shortly, but today we have a remake of the remake directed by Antoin Fuqua, who was inspired by Shinobu Hashimoto’s writing- a frequent collaborator with Kurosawa. Denzil Washington has been in a couple of Fuqua movies, ‘Training Day’ and ‘The Equaliser’ remake, and takes the Yul Bryner type part in this version of the seven. I do like Washington in most things, and he does a steady job here. Chris Pratt was chosen for the Steve McQueen type character when Fuqua offered him the part he sang ‘Oh Shenandoah’ to the director who exclaimed ‘He’s it, he IS Steve McQueen’. Well that’s patently not the case as Mr. McQueen is pushing up daisies. He’s not in Steve McQueen’s league here, or anywhere else I suspect but he does a competant job and is the main ‘light relief’. Ethan Hawke takes a similar part to Robert Vaughan and he’s the standout for me in this movie. Fuqua was very politically correct by hiring a diverse cast, substituting the original Hilario (Jorge Martinez de Hoyos) with a young widow played with gusto by Haley Bennett. James Coburn’s part is taken by Byung-Hu Lee and Manuel Garcia-Rulfo takes over the Brad Dexter part. The only actor I did think a bit strange was Peter Sarsgaard  in the baddie rôle, he looked like he was high on some nefarious substance with rolling eyes all over the shop. The plot is very similar of course, but somehow the warmth and pathos of the original is lacking. The action sequences are well done, and no-one phones it in in the acting department, but there’s nothing new or innovative here and it just seems a bit pointless.

Fraggle Rating : a serviceable western, especially if you haven’t seen the original, but found I was haunted by the ghosts of Bryner, McQueen et al throughout, and that’s the one to go for.


Chernobyl 1986 (2021)

A while back we watched the excellent HBO 5 hour mini-series Chernobyl (2019) starring Jared Harris, covering the nuclear plant disaster and the political idiocy and tragic ramifications that followed. It covered the fallout of the events and the stories of its real heroes and victims in as faithful, informative and confrontational detail as the drama allowed. In answer to that the Russians have made their own movie about it, which has just turned up on Netflix and is a bit of a mixed bag really. The director Danila Kozlovskiy also is the main star, the fictional Alexy, who is a firefighter and has worked at the reactor. The movie starts out with him re uniting with an ex-girlfriend, Olga (Oksana Akinshina) and discovering he has a 10 year old son. Alexy comes across as a bit of a dick in truth, but very quickly we get into the explosion and Alexy becomes a bit of a reluctant hero. Somehow he manages to be at the scene of the reactor burn-out, then at the hospital, then in the evacuation of the nearby towns, then in the strategy meetings, and finally in the dramatic dive into the radioactive waters of the reactor to save the day. A fair amount of dramatic licence is used here, and the scale of the deaths, diseases and ruined towns which are to this day still radioactive to a dangerous degree, is barely touched upon. Surprisingly a few of the characters do blame the bureaucrats for the cutting of corners which compromised safety, but mostly the focus is on the heroics of the firefighters and Alexey himself. The movie does have it’s saving graces though, with Oksana Akinshina acting her socks off, and the scenes taking place in the reactor site are quite amazing, the soundtrack in particular is almost a character itself as you hear the groans and clangs of the collapsing structures and the wierd sounds that a nuclear fire makes.

Fraggle Rating: worth a watch for the Russian take on this and the brilliantly filmed radioactive underwater scenes and firefighting scenes. On Netflix where you can choose a horribly dubbed verson, or have it in Russian with subtitles, which is much better.

Not the 365 Movie reviews

The Tomorrow War (2021) Amazon Prime.

Chris Pratt, moonlighting from fighting aliens and saving the world in the Guardians of the Galaxy, takes time out to star in The Tomorrow War, in order to fight aliens and save the world. Directed by Chris McKay this is a scyfy military action movie that involves time travel and scary aliens. Thirty years into the future, aliens have more or less wiped out most of the people, and there are only 500,000 left. They’ve jerry-rigged a time machine that can only do there and back again to send a group of people to todays’s time, and ask for people to go back with them to help fight the aliens, known as Whitespikes (they’re a whitish colour and shoot lethal spikes from their tentacles.) The world govt’s decides to help and so all the world’s armies go off to fight and when they run out of those, they draft people, anyone is eligible. Notably they get very little training, and are automatically jumped back from the future after a 7 day stint. Only 20% of them are surviving, and the ones that do need a lot of therapy. Pratt plays Dan, a former Green Beret but now a biology teacher. His wife Emmy (Betty Gilpin) is a councellor for returned draftee’s and they have a daughter, Muri, played by Ryan Kiera Armstrong initially, and Yvonne Strahovski further up the timeline. Of course Dan is drafted. J.K.Simmons plays Dan’s estranged Dad, Sam Richardson is Charlie who becomes friends with Dan. There’s a small part for Mary Lynn Rajskub (who I really liked as the grumpy Chloe O’ Brian in the TV series 24) and Edwin Hodge is Dorian, on his third tour of alien duty because he’s dying of cancer anyway and he wants to go out in style. (mini spoiler- he does). So no more spoilers from me.

Fraggle rating ~ a better than average popcorn movie. Visually stunning and I found no problems with the acting, everyone was on board. The aliens are Designed by Ken Barthelmey who did the Grievers for Maze Runner. They’re like a mash up of those in The Quiet Place, Captive State, & Starship Troopers with a bit of Alien chucked in and they move like the Zombies in World War Z, fast and furious. They get a goodly amount of screentime anyway, (unlike Captive State!). Eminent critics have criticised it for being derivative of other, better time travel movies, or other, better alien movies, that’s probably true enough, but Phil & I enjoyed the twist, and how they put it all together. Besides, they’re ALL derivative of H. G. Wells’ The Time Machine in one way or another! Get some popcorn and a beverage, suspend belief, and have a blast!


Flags of Our Fathers 2006

Phil and I have been re-watching the excellent Hanks/Spielberg series The Pacific, set in WW2 and as a supplementary movie, we re-watched Flags of Our Fathers, one of two companion films co-produced and directed by Clint Eastwood (who also wrote the score). Written by Wiliam Broyles Jr and Paul Haggis from the 2000 book by James Powers and Ron Bradley, (the son of Doc Bradley) it covers an incident that happened on Iwo Jima when five marines and a Navy Corpsman (medic) raised the American flag at the top of a cliff on Mount Surabachi, and the effect that had on the rest of their lives. What complicated matters is that the flag was actually raised twice, due to the Secretary of the Navy wanting the flag for himself as a souvenir. It gets taken down and another one is sent up with Corporal Rene Gagnon for the troops. Mike, (Barry Pepper) Doc Bradley (Ryan Phillipe), Ira a Native American, (Adam Beach) Rene (Jesse Bradford), and two other Marines (Corporal Harlon Block and Private First Class Franklin Sousley) are photographed by Joe Rosenthall as they raise the second flag. The photograph becomes famous and becomes a big morale booster. Rene is asked to identify the 6 and he does so in spite of Ira not wanting to, and he also misidentifies Harlon as Sgt Hank Hansen, who actually took part in raising the 1st flag. Rene, Ira and Doc get sent home to do the raising of war bonds, and they are not happy that Harlon has not been given his dues, but  Bud Gerber (John Slatterly) of the Treasury Dept tells them the country cannot afford the war and if the bond drive fails, the U.S. will abandon the Pacific and their sacrifices will be for nothing. The three agree not to tell anyone that Hank was not in the photograph. Both Hank and Harlon die in the subsequent fighting. It also shows what happens to the three after the war, with Ira coming to a sad end, Rene ending up as a janitor unable to find meaningful work, but Doc, who is awarded the Navy Cross for extreme heroism during the battle, buys a funeral home and makes a success of his life. He tells his story to his son James on his deathbed, and James it is who wrote the book.

Fraggle rating:- Can’t fault any of it, the fighting scenes don’t hold back and the politics regarding the war bond subterfuge are handled sympathetically. The acting is spot on. As critic Richard Roeper writes “a patriotic film in that it honors those who fought in the Pacific, but it is also patriotic because it questions the official version of the truth, and reminds us that superheroes exist only in comic books and cartoon movies.” Looking forward to Letters from Iwo Jima, when Clint does it all from the Japanese perspective.


Fast & Furious: Hobbs & Shaw (2019)

In spite of being a petrol head I have not followed the Fast & Furious franchise, but in need of an action movie and with Jason Statham and Dwayne Johnson starring I thought it wouldn’t matter that I didn’t really know their back story within the franchise. I was right, it didn’t matter. Directed by David Leitch who cut his teeth on John Wick and followed up with Atomic Blonde and Deadpool 2, all of which are great action movies so I was expecting a good one. Hobbs (Johnson) a DSS guy and Shaw (Statham) ex British Forces & MI6 operative have to work together in spite of their mutual animosity to help Shaw’s sister Hattie, (Vanessa Kirby) also MI6. She has led a team of agents to recover a programmable super virus from techno-terrorist organization Eteon. As they find it the baddie turns up, Idris Elba as Brixton Lore, an Eteon operative with cybernetic implants that allow him to perform superhuman feats. Hattie injects herself with the virus and does a runner, whilst Brixton and his henchmen kill off the rest of the MI6 agents. No more spoilers.

Fraggle Rating: The plot is ridiculous, the script is hokey, and the action preposterous but fabulous. Car/bike chases and choreographed fight pieces are very well done as one would expect. Statham is Statham, Johnson is Johnson, and Idris Elba is just wrong. The highlight and saving grace of this movie is Vanessa Kirby, who performs some excellent kickassery, and who’s acting chops are far better than this movie requires.


Letters From Iwo Jima (2006)

Clint Eastwood’s companion movie to Flags of Our Fathers, and the two movies were shot back to back. This time we see the battle from the Japanese point of view, and the movie has subtitles as everyone is speaking Japanese, as they would. The movie begins with present day (ish) archaeologists digging in the caves on Iwo Jima, and one of them finding a buried cache of letters from the men who were living in the caves. Through the letters we get to know a little of the lives of some of the main characters, General Tadamichi Kuribayashi (Ken Watanabe) and Private First Class Saigo, (Kazunari Ninomiya). The story starts with the Japanese getting ready for the inevitable US invasion, and shows their poor living conditions, poor diet – weed soup is the menu du jour, dysentry is rife. Then the US marines land and over run the beaches, climb Mount Surabachi and we follow Saigo as he avoids being killed, survives being ordered to kill himself, and gets to join back up with General Kuribayashi. No need for more than that. We all know how it ended.

Fraggle rating : It’s a Clint movie, so the cinematography and direction is top notch. The actors give it their all and both Saigo and Kuribayashi are sympathetic characters. Eastwood has not portrayed them as evil gits, but tries to escape from those stereotypes, which was appreciated by Japanese audiences, as was the fact that it was also scripted with excellent research into Japanese society at that time. However it has been criticised for having Japanese characters that were capable of being decent, caring fellows, just so long as they’ve spent some time in the United States as Kuribayashi and another ‘kind’ officer had. Not sure I agree with that as a I researched the ‘real’ people and not all the good guys had been to America. Anyway, it’s a good movie well done, which is what I expect from Mr. Eastwood.

Not the 365 – Movie Round Up

13 Hours – The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi (2016) Amazon Prime

On the whole, director Michael Bay is much maligned by proper film critics for his OTT productions, his objectifying of women, his use of offensive racial stereotypes as comedic relief;  extreme patriotism, juvenile humor, excessive product placement and (horror) oversaturation of gold and teal colour grading. I can’t argue with that but also none of that applies to this 13 Hours movie. A true story, the movie covers the attack on an American compound in Benghazi and  follows six members of the Annex Security Team who fought to defend it, after several waves of attacks by militants on September 11th 2012, the anniversary of the 9/11 attack on America, and during a visit by the US Ambassador to Libya. James Badge Dale, John Krasinski and Maz Martini are the main stars but there’s plenty of back up by Toby Stevens, Dominic Fumusa et al. There’s a goodly amount of build up and scene setting, the back stories of the main characters are given some love, and the action is superbly filmed, as you’d expect from Bay. There is controversy attached as the film portrays the CIA chief in charge of the security team telling them to ‘stand down’ when the poop hits the fan, and eventually they just go to help anyway. That was disputed by the real (unnamed) CIA chief but corroborated by members of the team and others. Also the Libyans were not exactly happy with the portrayal of their people, yet the movie does show the help the team get from the 17th Feb Martyrs Group.

Fraggle Rating ~ Another Rorkes Drift moment in US recent history, it’s told and acted well and we liked this as much as The Outpost from my last review.


The Meg (2018) It’s on Prime for rent but we have the bluray.

Due to the ongoing problems Phil is having with his eyes, we’ve moved the sofa nearer to the TV screen, so he has had to recalibrate the 11 speakers in the room in order to have the optimum sound for where you sit to watch the movie. Why am I telling you this? because after all the fannying on he then has to sit and listen to one of his familiar movies that has a dolby ATMOS soundtrack. Unfortunately he’s loaned them to a work pal and hasn’t seen him for 4 months to get them back. So when it came to Phil’s choice for Thursday movie night, he pulled out The Meg, starring Jason Statham which has a great ATMOS soundtrack. Directed by John Turteltaub and with a supporting cast including the wonderfully named Li Bingbing, Rainne Wilson, Ruby Rose and Winston Chao this is a pretty far fetched story about a pre-historic ginormicus shark called a megaladon. Set on an underwater research facility, Mano One, funded by billionaire Jack Morris (Wilson) and run by Dr. Minway Zhang (Chao) and his daughter Suyin (Bingbing). Statham plays Jonas Taylor a rescue diver who retired after an unpleasant experience where he lost 2 men. Because his ex-wife Lori (Jessica MacNamee) is the pilot of the downed sub, he is persuaded to join the Mano One as one of their subs has been bashed about by the meg and is in need of rescue, which only he can do. After that it’s lots of rescues, a burgeoning romance between Jonas and Suyin, a cute kid, Suyin’s daughter (Sophia Cai as Meiying), hostility from the onboard Doctor Heller (Robert Taylor) who blames Jonas for the previous disaster, a sad death or two, and a happy ending.

Fraggle rating ~ Yes it’s a ridiculous story, but it’s fun, and a different kind of rôle for Statham who usually martial arts his way around the screen, he’s actually really good in this, but sadly there’s only one scene where he has his shirt off. Critics bashed it mostly, but who cares about them, it made a shed load of money because it’s a great popcorn movie, and I’ll definitely be watching it’s sequel which is in the works, and will be directed by Ben Wheatley.


The Ice Road (2019) Netflix

If you see Liam Neeson headlining a movie you can be pretty sure there will be a fair amount of action, and The Ice Road is no exception, though more of a spectacle type of action than Neeson fighting his way through a plot. Well he is 69 yrs old, we can give him a break. Directed by Jonathon Hensley it is a bog standard story of corporate greed versus the little guy worker bees, but set in a diamond mine in Manitoba, which are accessed via ice roads. Neeson, plays Mike, a trucker and has a brother Gurty (Marcus Thomas), an Iraq war veteran soldier and excellent mechanic who suffers from PTSD & aphasia. They are fired from the hauling company they work for when Mike decks a bloke for calling Gurty a retard. When what appears to be a methane explosion happens at the diamond Mine, Ice Road truckers are needed to deliver well heads from Winnipeg up to the mine to free some trapped miners. Unfortunately it’s the just about the end of the season where the ice is safe enough to travel on and most of the truckers have gone home. Jim Goldenrod, another ice road trucker,(Lawrence Fishburn) agrees to run a rescue mission, and employs Mike & Gurty, he also gets another driver out of jail, Tantoo, a Native American girl (Amber Midthunder) whose brother is trapped in the mine along with the 25 others. They team up and set off with 3 wellheads in 3 different trucks, and an accompanying insurance risk assessment dude, Varnay (Benjamin Walker). They’ve got 30 hours before the miners run out of air. It becomes a very eventful journey, and I’ll say no more than that because that would spoil it for you.

Fraggle Rating ~ Not well liked by the critics, but Phil and I enjoyed it. I used to see the odd episodes on TV of the real Ice Road Truckers and it always fascinated me, so the movie gave me the same sort of feels, but with added drama. The script was a bit hokey in places admittedly and the baddie a bit unlikely, but the trucks are great and it was filmed on actual ice roads in Manitoba so the scenery was authentic. Not much in the way of backstories, and the action scenes are not ground~breaking, but on the whole it’s a serviceable action film for a Saturday night in.


The Foreigner (2017) Netflix

I’d always thought of Jackie Chan as a comedic martial arts guy from the couple of movies I’ve seen in the past, but the trailer for this movie didn’t look martial arty and had a plot dealing with a (hopefully fictional) new branch of the IRA, the ‘Authentic IRA’. Directed by Martin Campbell, it stars Chan playing Ngoc Minh Quan, a Nung Chinese man who runs a restaurant in London, but is also a former Vietnam War special forces operator. His daughter is killed by a bomb at the beginning of the movie, and the plot revolves around Quan finding out who killed her. Pierce Brosnan plays Liam Hennesey, a Sinn Féin politician in the Deputy First Minister of Northern Ireland who was also in the Provisional IRA in his former years. I am stopping there as I don’t want to do spoilers, it’s worth going in without knowing too much. I will say there is a fair bit of martial art stuff from Chan, and a bit of McGuyver thrown in, but no comedy. I was letting Neeson off his action chops being 69, but Chan is 67 and he is still kicking ass, though hurting after it too. Chan definitely does not lack the gravitas to pull off the rôle of a broken hearted father, which surprised us, he is very good in this. Phil and I were complementing Pierce Brosnan on his authentic sounding Irish accent, then I found out he was born in Drogheda, County Louth in Ireland! 🙄 The supporting cast give good performances, Orla Brady as Hennesey’s Missis, Michael McElhatton as Hennesey’s head of security, (loved him as Roose Bolton in GOT) Ray Frearon escapes his mechanic’s job in Coronation Street to become Commander Richard Bromley, head of the Met’s Counter Terrorism Command.

Fraggle rating: top notch! A twisty, bracing, political action thriller!!

Not the 365 ~ Movie Round Up

Here we go again wiith a swift appraisal of our latest batch of movies over the past couple of weeks.

Captive State (2019)

A Sci Fi movie directed by Rupert Wyatt and starrting John Goodman, Ashton Sanders and Vera Farmiga. The movie is set in 2027 in Chicago, which, like the rest of the world, is under the control of aliens who landed in 2019 and subjugated all humans. Well most humans because there is the resistance of course. The aliens are known as the Legislators and they conscript people to build underground bases for the aliens, that can only be accessed by government officials. John Goodman is Special Branch Commander William Mulligan tasked with finding the resistance, known as Phoenix, and Ashton Sanders is Gabriel Drummond, the young son of Mulligan’s deceased partner, and the brother of Rafe Drummond (Johnathon Majors) a member of Phoenix. Vera Farmiga plays Jane Doe, a prostitute running a brothel who has bugged her appartment in order to glean secrets from her governmental clients. No spoilers, but obviously it’s about taking the world back from the aliens.

Fraggle rating: well, it was OK though we were disappointed the aliens didn’t appear very often. It’s filmed to look dark and murky and really it wasn’t as exciting as you’d want a sci fi to be, but I can’t find fault with the committment of the actors. They haven’t re-invented the wheel here, but if you fancy riding the bicycle of alien invasion & resistance, there are worse choices you could make.


The Outpost (2020)

A war movie directed by Rod Lurie and based on the 2012 non-fiction book The Outpost: An Untold Story of American Valor by Jake Tapper. Starring Scott Eastwood, Caleb Landry Jones, Milo Gibson, Orlando Bloom amongst others, it recounts the Battle of Kamdesh in the constantly at war Afghanistan. In 2006, Combat Posting Keating was one of several US Army outposts established in Northern Afghanistan. Located in a remote valley surrounded by the Hindu Kush mountains, the base was regarded as a deathtrap; the troops stationed there faced regular attacks by the Taliban culminating in one of the bloodiest American engagements in Operation Enduring Freedom. The film tells the story of the 53 U.S. soldiers and 2 Latvian military advisors who battled some 400 enemy insurgents at the Battle of Kamdesh. Eastwood plays Staff Sergeant Clint Romesha a real person who was in the battle and wrote a book about it, and Landry Jones plays Specialist Ty Michael Carter also there at the time- he also has a cameo in the movie.

Fraggle Rating. An excellent recount of the battle, with all involved giving of their best. I felt old seeing Clint Eastwood and Mel Gibson’s sons in starring roles, both look and sound like Dad and though neither is quite as handsome, the acting chops are apparent . This is a Rorkes Drift situation for the Americans, and Lurie has been very careful to represent the situation faithfully, the film was praised by veterans, including those who fought in the battle, for its realistic depiction of warfare, everyday soldier life, and the looks of the base.  The Battle of Khamdesh left 27 Americans wounded and 8 dead, and Romesha and Carter each received the Medal of Honour, members of what became the most decorated unit of the war. All good!


Wag The Dog (1997)

I chose this movie as it was mentioned in glowing terms by Eddie or Alex, can’t remember which. It’s a political satire black comedy, directed by Barry Levinson and stars Dustin Hoffman, Robert De Niro, and Ann Heche. The plot centres on a spin doctor Conrad Brean (De Niro) brought in by presidential aide Winnifred Aimes (Heche) to sort out a scandal with the US President as he’s been caught in flagrante delecto so to speak, in a cupboard with an underage girl and it’s two weeks before his next election is due. Brean decides the best thing to have to distract the American public from the scandal is a war. He meets with a hollywood producer Stanley Motts (Hoffman) to create the fictional war which is to be set in Albania, and this includes a theme song (enter Willie Nelson) and fake footage of an escaping orphan refugee (Kirsten Dunst). Dennis Leary is in as the ‘Fad King’ (wasn’t sure what he was doing for the movie and he talked at 90miles an hour so didn’t get much of whatever he said either), Woody Harrelson as a criminally insane Army convict, William H Macy as a CIA agent, and a few other famous faces pop up here and there. I won’t do spoilers but I will leave a link to Eddie’s review as he liked it more than we did.

Fraggle Rating. A clever movie still relevant in the fake news world we now live in, and as it coincided with the Bill Clinton-Monica Lewinsky affair was often compared with all the shenanigans around that. Although we appreciated the cleverness we found the acting too cartoonish, Hoffman in particular seemed to be hamming it up, although he was nominated for an Oscar so what do I know? Heche seemed a bit OTT and De Niro more or less phoned it in. For a more in depth and worthy review visit Eddie here, https://film-authority.com/2021/06/09/wag-the-dog/ .


Sexy Beast (2000)

Jonathan Glazer could not have picked a better movie for his debut directing gig if he tried. A crime film starring Ray Winstone, Ben Kingsley and Ian McShane. Winstone plays retired criminal Gary ‘Gal’ Dove living high on the hog in a Spanish Villa with his wife Deedee (Amanda Redman). His best friend Aitch, and Aitch’s wife, Jackie live nearby. Not longafter the movie starts Ben Kingsley turns up as Don Logan, an old criminal associate and a complete psycho/sociopath and tells Gal he has to go back to London to do a job for the crime lord Teddy Bass (McShane). Gal tries to decline but things go tits up at the villa and he has to go to London to do the job. That’s it for spoilers!

Fraggle Rating. I can’t recommend this film enough, it really is a good watch. We’ve seen Winstone many times as a London gangster/criminal but this is his piece de resistance in our view. Kingsley knocks it out of the park in a part you would not expect from the esteemed luvvy, and the interaction between these two is electric. No idea why it’s called Sexy Beast, there’s no sex in it and no beast. There’s not much violence in it, but what there is is quite visceral, but also cathartic :).

That’s it for now, will be back in a couple of weeks with some more (hopefully) good movies!

Not the 365 ~ Movie Round Up

We are starting out with the Netflix movie ‘Army of the Dead’, (2021) written and directed by Zach Snyder, and starring Dave Bautista and a few other people I didn’t really recognise. Anyways, the people don’t really matter in this movie, it’s a zombie/heist fest. Now most people who know me know that I don’t like or do horror movies, but I don’t class Zombies as horror, and have been a fan of ‘The Walking Dead’ for all 10 seasons. I loved ‘World War Z’, ‘The Train to Busan’ and ‘Legend’, my top 3 Zombie movies so far. I was expecting Zach Snyder- he of the visually arresting ‘300’, and the amazing subversive superhero movie ‘Watchmen’- to topple all the zombie movies that came before, and was left disappointed in him. The basic plot is that a group of mercenaries are hired by casino owner Bly Tanaka (Hiroyuki Sanada) to enter Las Vegas and retrieve $200 million from the casino vault. The catch is Las Vegas is now a walled off city inhabited by zombies. Dave Bautista heads the mercenaries as Scott Ward, and along with his team meet up with his estranged daughter Kate (Ella Purnell) who is working in the quarantine centre just outside the city. There’s also going to be a nuclear strike on the city so time is of the essence to get in, get the dosh and get out again, thwarting smart zombies along the way. That’ll do, I can’t really recommend it. Dave Bautista is great in the Marvel series of Guardians of the Galaxy, a good comedic turn from him, but as a leading man he has the charisma of a brick out-house and comes off like a poor man/woman’s Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson (who at least can emote a bit). Ella Purnell is adequate as the daughter but the character is both annoying and dim. “Stay with the group, don’t go off on your own’ so what does she do? Goes off on her own. Duh! I didn’t care about any of the characters, they’re all clichéd and one dimensional, and the only time I did feel an emotional scene was when the zombie King (Richard Cetrone) (spoiler) finds the zombie queen (Athena Perample)has had her head chopped off, finally someone cared!

Fraggle rating:- Pfft.


Next up onto something far superior. I got the bluray Lucky Number Slevin (2006) a crime thriller directed by Paul McGuigan and including a great cast that bring their A game to the parts. The plot follows the path of Slevin Kelevra, (Josh Hartnett – looking pretty buff I must say 🤩 ) who is staying in his friend Nick’s (who has mysteriously disappeared) apartment. He meets a neighbour from across the hall, Lindsey (Lucy Liu) and not long after is kidnapped by two henchmen, who take him to “The Boss” (Morgan Freeman) in a case of mistaken identity as they think he is Nick. It becomes apparent he’s caught up in a feud between two gang lords, The Boss and Ben Kingsley playing “The Rabbi”. Bruce Willis comes along as hitman Mr.Goodcat and Stanley Tucci as Detective Brikowski investigating the crime lords. A fun movie with a great script, witty dialogue, and some cool twists in the plot. Slick, pacy direction, and a cast obviously enjoying themselves.

Fraggle Rating:- Top notch.


Next up Synchronic (2019) another Netflix offering, this time a science fiction thriller, written and directed by Justin Benson and starring Anthony Mackie and Jamie Dornan as Steve and Dennis respectively, who are two paramedics called out to incidents where people have strange injuries they died of, or are totally non-compos mentis. The cases are linked to a new drug ‘synchronic’ and they find that Dennis’s daughter Brianna (Ally Ioannides) has taken some and disappeared. They discover that the drug alters the pineal gland’s perception of time, so users disappear into a different time zone and if that happens to be a place where they get killed, they come back dead. Children/teenagers pineal glands are not calcified so can pass through time, whereas adults can only partially move through. Steve finds out he has cancer in his underdeveloped and non-calcified pineal gland and so buys up a shop’s cache of drugs to use to find Brianna and bring her home. That’s it, any more would be spoilering it. I loved how this was filmed, it had a look and feel to it different from most sci-fi movies. I do think Benson tried to put too many aspects into it, Dennis has a troubled marriage that doesn’t add much to the story really but took time away from exploring the time travel part which I think could have been expanded. All in all though an interesting movie with good performances all round, even Jamie Dornan has improved enough to not let his Irish accent get in the way. Anthony Mackie is the main event here though and he carries the movie effortlessly.

Fraggle Rating :- Interesting and thoughtful, great to look at and devoid of patronising explanations, well worth a watch.


Assembly (2007) is a Chinese civil war movie, directed by Feng Xiaogang, and follows the character of Gu Zidi (Zhang Hanyu) a Captain in the People’s Liberation Army as he leads a small regiment of 46 soldiers left to defend a coal mine on the banks of the Wen River, from the onslaught of the National Revolutionary Army. The attack and defence that occurs is brutal and lengthy, and all are killed in the end except for Gu. Later he fights in the Korean War, and saves the life of his commander Zhao (Den Chao) who becomes his good friend. The 46 men lost in the coal mine have never been found, and are listed as M.I.A so their relatives get little compensation. Gu goes back to the area to find them. Of course it is much changed, and the entrance to the mine where they are buried is no longer apparent, so Gu keeps digging and digging. He doesn’t find them but years later the men are found during an excavation for an irrigation project, and Gu finds peace in that. As with most Chinese war films we’ve seen the battle scenes are just amazing, fire & brimstone, explosions galore, bullets zinging, horrendous deaths and epic sacrifice. The human cost is not passed by though, and the main characters are by no means one dimensional, the inscrutibilty sometimes ascribed to Chinese people is not on show here, they run the gamut of emotional turmoil and it gives the whole experience depth and pathos.

Fraggle Rating :- A compelling war movie, recommended by Pete (thanks) and now by me!


And a couple of pics for fans of Lord Vincent

Not the 365 ~ Movie round up

My first on the list is The Evacuation (2015) also known as Come What May and En mai, fais ce qu’il te plaît;  a French war movie. In May 1940 the Germans invade Belgium and France. In the village of Lebucquière, the prefecture recommends that the whole village packs up and leaves to avoid being overrun by the Germans, and head for the south coast. Paul, (Olivier Gourmet) the headman of the village is in charge and leads the group, and tries to maintain order, whilst his wife Mado (Mathilde Seigner) plays music and tries to entertain the group of villagers. Prior to them leaving a German anti-nazi activist Hans (August Diehl) finds short-lived sanctuary in the village with his young son Max (Joshio Marlan). But Hans gets arrested when the kid accidentally speaks in German and someone reports them. Max is taken under the wing of Suzanne,(Alice Issaz) a young teacher, and she scouts the route the villagers are taking. Hans escapes accompanied by a Scottish officer, Percy, (Matthew Rhys) whose entire unit died under German bullets, and tries to be reunited with his son.

The actors do a great job, there’s lovely cinematography by Pierre Cottereau, and a great score by Ennio Morricone. Directed by Christian Cabon who loosely based it on his mother’s evacuation experiences. Yes there’s CGI planes & battles, some eye-popping plot co-incidences and some soapy dialogue here and there, but there’s also a duck, and a big feel good factor ending.

Fraggle rating: Well I enjoyed it immensley, it has to be said it’s not as harrowing as perhaps it should have been based on the reality of the displacement of 8 million French people, and as one critic put it –If you ever wanted to see a wartime movie that feels directed by a kinder, gentler Michael Bay “Come What May” is right up your alley. It plays like a more cultured—and very French—version of “Pearl Harbour”. But I’m OK with that! It’s on Amazon prime under The Evacuation title.


Our next movie is Hunter Killer (2018) directed by Donovan Marsh and starring Gerard Butler, Gary Oldman and Common (real name Lonnie Rashid Lynn), and the late Micheal Nyqvist in one of his final rôles. This is an action thriller involving American and Russian submarines, and has a dastardly Russian Admiral doing a Coup d’etat and capturing the Russian President and trying to start a war by torpedoing one of his own subs as well as an American one, the USS Tampa. Navy Seals under the command of Lieutenant Bill Beaman (Toby Stephens) are given the task of rescuing the Russian president whilst Commander Joe Glass,(Butler) commanding officer of USS Arkansas investigates the Tampa incident. Nyqvist plays Captain 2nd Rank Sergei Andropov, commanding officer of the damaged RFS Konek, Gary Oldman plays the warmongering Admiral Charles Donnegan, Common is in charge of the naval command centre as Rear Admiral John Fisk, and Linda Cardellini is Jayne Norquist an NSA security analyst.

Fraggle rating:- Butler and Oldman, both have made some great movies, and both some duds, and this one falls in between. Nothing new in this plot really, it’s a serviceable addition to the genre, but as I found it whilst looking for Hunt For Red October, I’d advise you to watch that one instead. Again on Amazon Prime.


Next up we have Liam Neeson in Honest Thief (2020). Directed by Mark Williams, Neeson plays Tom Dolan, an ex-marine who has been robbing banks without getting caught for 9 years but turns over a new leaf when he meets and falls in love with Annie Wilkins,(Kate Walsh) a psychology graduate student working at a storage unit facility. He wants to give himself up to the FBI, pay the money back, do a short jail sentence and then get on with his life. Enter two corrupt FBI agents Agent John Nivens (Jai Courtney) and his partner Agent Ramon Hall ( Anthony Ramos), who for want of a better phrase f**k him over with the money and hurt his lady. Robert Patrick and Jeffrey Donovan play good FBI Agents Sam Baker and Sean Meyers respectively. No spoilers but I bet you can guess the rest of what happens.

Fraggle Rating :- It’s nothing new really for Neeson who is making a mint out of playing old tough-guy goody/baddie ex marines finding and killing people etc, but he gives a committed performance, as do the others, and at just 90 minutes you could do a lot worse. Amazon prime.


Onwards ever onwards then. Page Eight (2011). A British thriller for a change, and done in a very British manner, which is to say, no action, we’re talking cerebral thrills here. Produced for the currently beleaguered BBC, and was written and directed by David Hare with an excellent cast in tow. Bill Nighy, the quintessential Englishman plays long serving MI5 officer Johnny Worricker caught up in a tangled thread of misinformation and lies induced by the British Prime Minister, Alec Beasley (Ralph Fiennes). Michael Gambon plays Johnny’s Director General who is also his good friend Benedict Baron, whilst Rachel Weiss does a good job of being Syrian activist Nancy Pierpan The cast are impeccable with Marthe Kellar, Holly Aird, Saskia Reeves and Judy Davies all bringing their A game. No spoilers at all for this, you need to go in cold.

Fraggle Rating:- This is a little gem of a political intrigue movie that you need to keep your wits about you to follow but is worth the time. Billy Nighy is just superb, the plot believable and the ending doesn’t disappoint. This one is on Netflix.


Last but not least we have The Man in the Hat (2020). Another British Film, ostensibly a ‘comedy’ but really it’s more ‘light-hearted’ than outright funny, it made me smile a few times but I also was WTH? a few times too. It stars Ciarán Hinds in the titular rôle, and is set in the beautiful South of France. It is the directorial debut of composer Stephen Warbeck and has a kind of plot, though ‘plot’ may be too strong a word. It starts out with The Man (Hinds) driving through the French countryside in a Fiat 500 (old style) with a photo of a woman in the passenger seat. Whilst having dinner al fresco one evening he sees 5 men get out of a Citroën CV and throw what looks like a wrapped up body into the harbour opposite. They see him looking and start walking towards him so he scarpers, and the rest of the movie is about his journey. Kind of like a road trip/chase movie through France, but a very slow one. There is very little dialogue, and what there is is French with subtitles and a lot of what happens doesn’t make much sense, but I think that’s kind of the point. Stephen Dillane plays The Damp Man, Sasha Hailes is The Woman, and there’s a few cameo’s dotted about of people I don’t recognise.

This is what Warbeck says about it “The Man in the Hat represents an everyday man character who reflects that we all experience lives full of peculiarities and unexplained encounters. But as the film progresses, this sense of unfamiliarity evaporates and becomes a ray of positive light. “He is a very solitary character,” Mr Warbeck explains. “During the film we know something tragic or sad is happening in his life but little by little with contact he is warming up and rediscovers warmth in relationships with other humans.”In a way, The Man in the Hat is like a little island who reaches out and starts to contact other people.” And Ciarán Hinds I think sums it up best : “This won’t take too much of your time. And you don’t need to be blown out of your seats; you can just be a human being and watch this little journey and feel things. It has its own heartbeat, unlike anything else”

Fraggle Rating:- I enjoyed the scenery and for me the car was the star. I didn’t mind the whimsical nature of it all and just enjoyed the scenery and music and acting, but Phil would have preferred a proper plot I think as he kept saying he had no idea what was going on. Back to Prime for this one.

That’s a wrap folks!

Not the 365 ~ movies, cats, stuff.

Another catch up post, as it’s been a couple of weeks or so since the last one. First let me tell you about the movies we’ve watched of late.

On Netflix ~Black Hawk Down (2001) Ridley Scott has to be my favourite director and it’s easy to see why in this movie. Based on the real life event of the US Army raid on Mogadishu in 1993, it stars Josh Hartnett, Ewan McGregor, Eric Bana, Sam Shepard, Tom Hardy and Tom Sizemore. Delta Force, the 75th Rangers and the 160th SAOR (Night Stalkers) get into terrible trouble when one of their helicopters is brought down in the middle of Mogadishu. It’s ‘on the edge of your seat’ stuff and a part of history I knew nothing about.

Fraggle rating~ bloody brilliant. )Also Josh Hartnett, he’s so cool 😍).

Next up and also on Netflix is the fantastic Ed Harris in Kodachrome (2017) directed by Mark Raso and also starring Jason Sudeikis and Elizabeth Olson showing her acting chops when breaking away from the Marvel franchise. It’s a road trip sort of movie and deals with the failed Father/son relationship. Ed Harris is the irrascible Father dying of cancer, and he asks his son Ben (Sudeikis) to drive him to Dwayne’s Photo lab in Kansas as it’s the last shop able to develop rolls of Kodachrome, and Dad has 4 old rolls he has to get developed before the shop stops doing it. Olson plays his put-upon nurse. It’s all a bit predictable, I’d guessed what was on the rolls of film 5 minutes into the movie, though you don’t find out why they’re so important until the end, but Ed Harris, I’d watch him act the telephone book and he is SO good in this. Nice cameo performances from Bruce Greenwood and Wendy Crewson as Dad’s brother and wife who brought Ben up.

Fraggle rating: Excellent for Ed Harris fans, good enough for anyone else who wants a nice looking American road trip movie with smiles and pathos, good acting and a well cool car.

Phil dug out his old DVD of Stigmata (1999) directed by Rupert Wainright and starring Gabriel Byrne, Patricia Arquette and Jonathon Price. It’s a supernatural horror film about an atheist hairdresser (Arquette) who gets given a Rosary once owned by a dead Italian priest who was afflicted with stigmata. Somehow the Rosary has the same effect on Arquette and we get to see her beaten and bloodied by something invisible, all stigmata marks. She also has flashbacks of Jesus getting the same wounds she receives. Bryne plays a Catholic priest & scientist who investigates miracles and the like, and is sent to see her. At first sceptical he comes to see that it’s all happening for real and has to find out how to stop it before Arquette dies. It’s all to do with a lost gospel written by Jesus himself, that the Catholic church don’t want people to know about, as Jesus writes there’s no need for church buildings and preachy priests etc as God is within you and everywhere. Some nifty special effects in this without CGI so kudos to them for that. Byrne and Arquette have a good chemistry but the plot really is a bit daft. (Says she who loves Marvel movies 🙄 ) I should imagine it naffed off a lot of Catholics but it did really well at the box office, not so much with critics.

Fraggle Rating: Not so good for Catholics. Not so good for horror afficionado’s as it’s probably a bit tame by today’s gory standards. Good for horror-lightweights like me though.

Last and possibly least, Wild Horses (2015) written by, directed by and starring Robert Duvall. I found this when looking for Josh Hartnett movies and he is in it too, as is James Franco. I think this must have been a vanity project for Duvall. It’s a Western Crime movie and also stars his wife Luciana Duvall as a Texan Ranger investigating the 15 year old disappearance of a young man who was found by Duvall in bed with his youngest son (Franco). Hartnett plays his older brother, and Devon Abner as the eldest brother. Duvall’s character is the main suspect for offing the missing young lad, as he hates gay people. The gay issue is actually well addressed, and Franco makes his gay character just a normal guy, no camping it up.

Fraggle Rating: Apart from those wishing to ogle Mr.Hartnett, I can see no reason to recommend this one for anyone really, the script is hokey and the acting wooden in places, perhaps because he gave some parts to actual real people not actors. You need subtitles to understand Mr.Duvall’s mutterings, and the plot has more holes in it than a packet of Polo’s. There are a few scenes with the brothers and Duvall, collectively and individually where it’s really good to watch them play off each other, but they can’t save this from being a dud.

OK onto Books I have read.

I’ve just finished reading for the second time Child of The Morning by Pauline Gedge. Never mind your Cleopatra/Anthony/Caesar romp, this is about Hatshepsut, one of the first female Pharaoh’s and lived 3,500 years ago. Her life is equally fascinating as that of Cleopatra (who’s been done to death) if not more so, and deserves a great movie, but so far no-one has picked this up. Gedge’s writing is just beautiful, lyrical yet straightforward, and reading the book is like stepping back in time. The characters come to life in your head as you read it, and you can feel the breeze from the Nile. It’s impeccably researched and I highly recommended this for anyone who loves tales of ancient Egypt.

A short story from blogger Mae Clare called In Search of MacDoogal about a chap who sells his girlfrends favourite painting, and then has to retrieve it. This took me an hour to read, and I smiled or laughed all the way through it as he and his friend encounter much upheaval along the way. A fun read on a rainy afternoon.

Work and life go on much as normal. We’ve managed to visit Shelley and the kids last weekend and sat in the garden in a cold wind with a flask of coffee. It was nice to see them though, it had been quite a while.

Livvy egging it.

We still have Sophies cats, and still don’t know when Sophie will get back. They’ve been indoor cats up to now, but Winnie has been trying to escape, and has managed a couple of times. We’ve got her vaccinated now and so are allowing them out. We thought Vinnie wouldn’t be so bothered as he never seemed to be interested,but boy were we wrong! He loves it! He has a little patrol he does around the back garden, then down the side of the house to the front where he sniffs every plant and bush, then he comes in for a snack or a kip and then does it all again, all day long. Winnie is beside herself, climbing fences, on top of my shed, on top of next doors fence and shed, but she runs in every 30 minutes to make sure we are still here, and then goes out again. Everyone happy, and we can now have our doors and windows open when the weather gets warmer!

Prowler
Basking

Most of you who visit here also know my 365 is going on over at the Universe Blog and have seen the Blossom tree doing it’s thing and Lucy the visiting Hedgehog, so I’ll skip those but it has had me off on walks for photographs and Phil and I trotted over to the Nature reserve, and I went one day to the secret lake, so here are a few from our wanderings.

The Blackthorne blossom was in full bloom when I went over to the secret lake, lovely to walk through.

A procession of Blackthorn

Some of the route is lined with gorse bushes.

Gorse

Mr.Lonely at the secret lake, hope he finds a mate.

Mr.Lonely.

Phil has had to take time off work as he is having great problems with his eyes, possibly a flare up of his glaucoma, so we went out for a walk to the nature reserve to get him out for some excercise.

The male ducks were all chasing the lady ducks at the pond, and this lady was not in the mood. Well maybe she was but playing hard to get! 😊

the chase

Two swans live on the reserve and have swanlets every year, I think Mr. Lonely must be last years offspring. Lady Swan was hidden in her nest, could only just see her, but Lord Swan was patrolling the perimeter and keeping an eye on her.

On Patrol

When we got home my little 500 looked so cute next to the Happy Eater tree.

Minty and tree

and lastly, this little long tail tit is a daily visitor the the H.E.Tree

Mr.L-of-the-T

So that’s my catch up for now. I’ll be back at some point .

Stay frosty people! 😊