Late bar at Buckingham Palace

I remember the last time we in the UK got a day off to watch a Royal Wedding. It was 1981 and the wedding in question was that of Prince Charles and Lady Diana. Today, exactly thirty years later William, the eldest son of Prince Charles, married Kate Middleton.

I know England is most known for its ancient traditions, its resistance to radical change, its preservation of the past but what struck me most as I watched the Royal Wedding on TV today was just how much has actually changed in thirty years. Not the buildings which look exactly the same thanks to the builders and the painters; not the finery which saw the happy couple riding in a carriage which looked identical to the one in which William’s parents rode on their wedding day… None of that had changed. But the people…. the people had changed. A lot.

In 1981 Prince Charles had been a slim youth with thick, dark hair; today he was a wrinkled, balding old geezer. In 1981 Diana had been vibrant with life; today she was absent having tragically died in a car crash more than a decade ago. In 1981 Camilla had been a shadow in the background; today she was present as Prince Charles’s new wife. In 1981 William, Kate, Harry and all of the new generation of Royals were not even thought of; today they took centre stage. They should enjoy it while they can; in thirty years time it will be their turn to be wrinkly and white-haired. That’s if they’re lucky!

I suppose the reason today seemed so poignant to me was because I’ve also changed beyond recognition since 1981. Back then I was a skinny school kid with no worries, no responsibilities. Thirty years on and I’m a middle-aged bloke with bills to pay and a job to hold down. Time gets to us all, Royal or not. So basically we’re all in the same boat. The Princes and the Princesses riding in their carriages will all get old and die just like you and me.

So while we’re here, we may as well try to have a good time I suppose. Luckily, the bar in Buckingham Palace has got a late licence. I think I’ll head down there.

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Planet of the Anticipation

Can you guess which reboot of an old movie franchise I’m most excited about this Summer?

Answers on a postcard. No, actually just use the Leave a Comment facility.

Pick up The Hitcher? Carry on driving.

This blog is becoming a bit film-heavy, isn’t it? Sorry about that but I watch a lot of films. I promise I’ll be doing a wider variety of stuff soon because I just agreed to review some other, more interesting activities for a newspaper group so that’ll be coming up soon. Usually I try and write about a variety of things but, well, this bit is about another film, I’m afraid. Actually I was also going to do a review of Napolean Dynamite which I also watched last night but I couldn’t think of a single negative thing to say about that one so I decided to go with The Hitcher (remake) instead. I can think of plenty of negative things to say about that. You see the photo above this? That’s the best part of the film. Mmmm.

OK then; negative stuff first… the story is ludicrous and would insult the intelligence of an amoeba who was also a part-time beautician. Furthermore, it is totally, utterly predictable; the heroine ends up battling the psycho in just her underwear for example (OK this could also be seen as a positive point!). I haven’t actually seen the original movie with Rutger Hauer but I know that it MUST have been better than this! Another thing; Sean Bean is astoundingly rubbish. It’s probably more the fault of the director than the actor but Mr Bean comes across as nothing more than a pantomime villain. He may as well grow a mustache and give it a twirl. Will these third rate English actors do ANYTHING to get to Hollywood?! All of the characters are so clichéd and stereotyped they might as well be in Coronation Street.

Now for the positives. Er…. Sophia Bush. She is overpoweringly gorgeous. Sorry, I meant to say that she’s a great actress. And she is. Both of the above. Saved the film for me. Shower scene was good. Shower scene could have been a bit longer (2 hours?) and maybe the camera angles could have been a bit…wider. Gulp. Other positives? Er… the film starts off pretty good and there are moments of genuine suspense. Also, the photography of the desert landscape is absolutely beautiful. Which reminds me… Sophia Bush…

Basically this film is incredibly, overwhelmingly, Oscar-winningly, breathtakingly….. rubbish. It was supposed to be scary but the most scary thing about it is that Sean Bean may end up back in England making another 17 series of Sharpe. Be afraid, be very afraid.

The Eagle has landed

The Eagle was the choice of the person I was at Cineworld with, not mine, but sometimes you find an unexpected gem that way. That’s what this was; not a classic nor even a favourite but a really good, well-made, enjoyable film.

Directed by Kevin Macdonald, it stars Channing TatumJamie Bell, and Donald Sutherland. It was dapted by Jeremy Brock from Rosemary Sutcliff‘s historical adventure novel The Eagle of the Ninth (1954), and tells the story of a young Roman officer searching to recover the lost Roman eagle standard of his father’s legion which disappeared in the northern part of  Britain.

Maybe it’s because it was adapted from a novel from the 50s that it has such a strong, almost old fashioned story. I liked the unfancy way it was directed which gave it an effectively eerie atmosphere. Jamie Bell had the best presence on screen. Donald Sutherland was good, as always. Channing Tatum as Marcus was a bit like a block of wood (why do they always choose furniture to play American male leads?) but not on the scale of Mark Wahlberg or Keanu Reeves. Also there was a couple of jabs at the downside of imperialism; always love a couple of jabs at the downside of imperialism, me.

I hadn’t expected to like The Eagle because I had thought it was a Gladiator type movie and I HATED Gladiator. I was braced for endless battle scenes involving characters I couldn’t give a stuff about. There was plenty of bloody fighting but I did actually care about these characters so it was actually engaging to watch. The whole thing was like a sturdy but reliable car. It didn’t hold many surprises and wouldn’t come top of the list of many people’s favourites but it took me where I wanted to go and did it with a certain amount of style.

James Franco goes home

I just finished reading Palo Alto. It’s a group of short stories about young people who live in this part of California. It’s author comes from Palo Alto and is also known as a successful film actor and artist. For James Franco to write a book must have been a big task.

The book is a refreshing read because it’s approach is honest and unpretentious. The characters are believable and the way they talk rings true. It feels like there’s a lot of the author in there and the fine observations he makes of the little details of everyday life are fresh and perceptive.

You could maybe criticise the book for re-treading old ground and not doing anything that others haven’t already done (e.g. Salinger? Joyce?). But all ground is old ground these days, I reckon (and was already old when both Salinger or Joyce were writing). In that sense, there can never be anything new. But then again, it is new because these are new eyes doing the observing. If we were all defeated by the thought that there was nothing left that hasn’t already been done then no new books would ever be written, no new music would ever be made, no new pictures would ever be painted…

With his background in movies it might have been tempting for the author to write a book which read like it was a film. He hasn’t done that. This is a ‘proper’ book. It’s obvious that, as well as loving films, the writer also loves reading. Personally I thought Palo Alto was honest, emotional, perceptive and entertaining. James Franco’s new big task is to write another one.

Head in the sand

We went to Crosby Beach, Liverpool, UK to see the 100 cast iron figures ‘Another Place‘ sculpted by Antony Gormley. Each of the figures is life size and are staring out to sea. In common with most of Gormley’s work, the figures are cast replicas of the artist’s own body. As the tides ebb and flow, the figures are revealed and submerged by the sea. Gormley won the Turner Prize in 1994 with Field for the British Isles. In October 2010 he and 100 other leading artists signed an open letter to the Culture Minister Jeremy Hunt protesting against cutbacks in the arts.

Time traveller spotted in Charlie Chaplin film

Has anyone else seen this? The footage on the clip below is completely 100% genuine and was filmed in 1915 long before the first mobile phone was invented. It appears to show a woman walking in the background of one of the scenes and talking on a mobile phone!! It’s not a joke and is certainly not a fake; it’s genuinely taken from a silent Charlie Chaplin movie. What’s the explanation?