A review of the 2018 film “Destroyer”

August 30th, 2021 by Roger Darlington

This is a police thriller with a difference: the protagonist, a detective with the Los Angeles Police Department, is a woman – brilliantly played by Nicole Kidman – and the director is also a woman – Karyn Kusama whose partner Phil Hay is co-writer. The narrative centres around two bank robberies with many of the same participants, but these heists are 16 years apart and the account of the first is told in a series of multiple flash backs which makes the story difficult to follow at times.

Detective Erin Bell is not so much a hero as an anti-hero – she is not an honest cop and she is a bad wife and mother – and, in the present day scenes, the trauma is etched on her face so vividly that you’ll have never seen Kidman look so ragged and troubled.

It is an atmospheric movie, splendidly shot with some striking images and gripping sound, but it is slow with relatively little action. The film had a modest budget, but performed so poorly at the box office that it only covered half its costs. For all the limitations of “Destroyer”, I would recommend it if only for Kidman’s outstanding performance. 

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Statistic of the day: of 4.8 billion Covid vaccine doses delivered around the world to date, around 75% have gone to just 10 countries

August 26th, 2021 by Roger Darlington

The statistics are stark and shaming. During an exasperated intervention earlier this week, the World Health Organization’s director general, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, pointed out that of 4.8bn Covid vaccine doses delivered around the world to date, around 75% have gone to just 10 countries. The level of vaccine donations from richer countries, he added with some understatement, has been “really disappointing”. In Africa, where a third wave of the virus has been on the march since May, less than 2% of the continent’s population has received a first dose. While high-income countries across the globe have administered around 100 doses for every 100 citizens, the equivalent figure for low-income countries is 1.5.

This is the opening paragraph to an editorial in today’s “Guardian” newspaper.

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A review of the new movie “Free Guy”

August 23rd, 2021 by Roger Darlington

If you’ve never played a video game (I haven’t), you might struggle to work out what’s going on in the beginning of this movie. So it helps to know that it opens inside a video game where the human players are represented by characters with sunglasses and all the other figures are what are called non-player characters (NPCs). We immediately meet the eponymous blue shirt guy who is an NPC in the game Free City and he is portrayed by the ever-watchable Canadian actor Ryan Reynolds of “Deadpool” fame.

We learn later that the software for the game was originally developed by young programmers played by the British Jodie Comer and American Joe Keery, best best-known for popular television series. The villain of the piece is the owner of the video game played by New Zealander Taika Waititi (Hitler in “Jojo Rabbit”). I saw the movie with a 14 year old boy who not only knew immediately what was happening but recognised a number of gaming influencers playing themselves. 

Visually “Free Guy” is an absolute treat – we saw it in IMAX – with so many colourful characters, so much noisy action, and so many special effects. Plot-wise – once you’ve worked out what’s happening – it’s all rather simple and silly but, for the younger demographic at which this work is aimed, it’s enormously entertaining with a satisfying romantic ending. It’s a joy to see a film that isn’t a sequel or part of a franchise, although “Free Guy” is hardly a total original.

Think “The Truman Show” meets “The Matrix” with elements of “Groundhog Day” and “Source Code”. Among other movies openly referenced in this one are “Avengers” and “Star Wars”. Canadian producer and director Shawn Levy has form for this kind of multi-referencing movie since he was responsible fo the enjoyable “Night At The Museum” franchise.

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A review of the 2018 film “All Is True”

August 20th, 2021 by Roger Darlington

It was a brave man who thought that a commercially successful film – as opposed to a reasonably appealing play – could be made about the last three years of the life of English playwright William Shakespeare during which time he retired to his home in Stratford-upon-Avon, wrote nothing, and further ruminated on the death of his young son Hamnet.

That man was Kenneth Branagh who both produced and directed and plays the Bard himself. It is beautifully shot and wonderfully acted (Judi Dench and Ian McKellen make up a trio of thespian royalty) but, as cinema, it is slow and ponderous and verging on the dull. Viewed at home – especially if you’re a Shakespeare fan – it might be regarded as a gentle treat.

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The first reviews for my book of short stories

August 19th, 2021 by Roger Darlington

“Very good read witty & easy to read.”

“Would buy his books again.”

“Excellent and easily readable. Highly recommended!”.

“An excellent read, thoughtful and very well written.”

This is what they are writing on Amazon about my book of short stories titled “The Rooms In My Mind”. If you haven’t purchased it yet or think it would make a little gift to a relative or friend, please check it out here.

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Word of the day: larking

August 19th, 2021 by Roger Darlington

Larking is the art of looking for the little treasures that are all around us, on beaches (beachlarking), in fields (fieldlarking), at home (houselarking and gardenlarking) and of course mudlarking in rivers, especially on the River Thames, next to which I live.

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A review of the 2016 political thriller “Miss Sloane”

August 19th, 2021 by Roger Darlington

This film is a terrific reminder of a lesson too often forgotten in the world of movies: a really good film has to start with a really good script. Amazingly, the scriptwriter in this case, the British Jonathan Perera, had never written a film before this one which won him Best Screenplay from the Writers’ Guild of Great Britain. His legal and teaching background clearly helped but this is a man who has obviously devoured the work of Aaron Sorkin in “The West Wing” in order to produce this wordy and richly-textured script.

I confess that i could not catch all the dialogue and some of what i caught I didn’t understand, but the narrative is never less than compelling.

The next essential ingredient of a successful film is a fine cast. The eponymous role of Washington political lobbyist is brilliantly filled by Jessica Chastain. She is wonderful at playing strong women (think “Zero Dark Thirty”) and clearly relishes a wordy script (think “Molly’s Game”). But the support cast is excellent too with stars like Mark Strong, Sam Waterston and John Lithgow and newcomers such as Gugu Mbatha-Raw and Alison Pill.

Once you have the script and the cast, it all needs to come together with an able director and here we have more British talent with John Madden who gave us such character-driven work as “Shakespeare In Love” and “The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel”

If you want car chases and shoot-outs, this is probably not the film for you. But, if you care how laws are made in the USA and how guns are controlled (or not) in that country or if you just like a fast-paced political thriller with as many twists as a corkscrew, “Miss Sloane” is highly recommended.

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As we debate the admission of Afghan refugees, I’m reminded of the Evian Conference of 1938

August 18th, 2021 by Roger Darlington

The Évian Conference was convened 6–15 July 1938 at Évian-les-Bains, France, to address the problem of German and Austrian Jewish refugees wishing to flee persecution by Nazi Germany. It was the initiative of United States President Franklin D. Roosevelt who perhaps hoped to obtain commitments from some of the invited nations to accept more refugees, although he took pains to avoid stating that objective expressly. Historians have suggested that Roosevelt desired to deflect attention and criticism from American policy that severely limited the quota of Jewish refugees admitted to the United States.

The conference was attended by representatives from 32 countries, and 24 voluntary organizations also attended as observers, presenting plans either orally or in writing. Golda Meir, the attendee from British Mandate Palestine, was not permitted to speak or to participate in the proceedings except as an observer. The Soviet Union refused to take part in the conference though direct talks on resettlement of Jew and Slavs between Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union proceeded at the time of the conference and after it.

The conference was ultimately doomed, as aside from the Dominican Republic, delegations from the 32 participating nations failed to come to any agreement about accepting the Jewish refugees fleeing the Third Reich. As a bitter irony, the United States never filled its limited quota, admitting some 10,000 less than would have been permitted.

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Ever heard of Sobibor?

August 16th, 2021 by Roger Darlington

Sobibor was a Nazi concentration camp in German-occupied Poland where, on 14 October 1943, there was a mass break-out of the 600 prisoners, some 300 managing to escape but only around 60 succeeding in avoiding recapture. This remarkable story is told in a 1987 film with a cast including Alan Arkin and Rutger Hauer which was shot in Yugoslavia. At the end, a voice-over reveals that many of the roles were based on real characters and explains what happened to them afterwards. 

In this English-language production, the main role is given to the Polish leader of the revolt Leon Feldhendler (Arkin). In 2018, a Russian version of the event headlined the role of the Soviet soldier Alexander Pechersky (Hauer in the first film). Surprisingly, knowledge of the uprising was neglected until the 1970s and even today the revolt is not as well-known as it should be. 

Link: Wikipedia page on the camp click here

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How can one possibly understand the complex and tragic history of Afghanistan?

August 16th, 2021 by Roger Darlington

One way is to read these three magnificent novels by Afghan-American author Khaled Hosseini:

“The Kite Runner” – my review here

“A Thousand Splendid Suns” – my review here

“And The Mountains Echoed” – my review here

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