Good Coffee in Mexico

Like millions I love to wake up to a good coffee. Today it’s a salted caramel strata accompanied by a chocolate and almond croissant. But I’m not at home or an overpriced high street chain.  
Instead I’m at the International Cafe on the Ruby Princess, and we’ve just arrived in Mazatlan Mexico. I embarked on Sunday in Los Angeles, and after two days of winding down at sea, had a day trip round the high streets of Puerto Vallarta, the place where Predator, Revenge (Costner) and Limitless were shot. 

Thanks to a technical snafu with my room card I wasn’t allowed off the ship until the tech problem was fixed, got separated from the rest of my party and my trip to a private island was scuppered. There are worse ways to spend a January than a five or six mile walk around town. 

After taking a well earned rest at that overpriced coffee chain – you know the one, I got chatting to one of the British musicians on a several month contract. 

Okay, it wasn’t on the itinerary, but proved to be a fascinating snapshot of daily Mexican life, and a lot less annoying than my previous experience on the other side of the country where street hustlers proved obnoxious. 

To be continued…


The Revenant – Review

The Revenant is not so much a film you enjoy as endure. The 19th century-set tale of revenge, fur trappers and one man’s survival in North America after being left for dead is an exercise in style and a lot of substance, but ultimately it felt like less than the sum of its parts. 

Opening with a stunning attack on the trappers’ camp, the camera follows Hugh Glass (Leonardo DiCaprio), Captain Andrew Henry (Domhnall Gleeson), John Fitzgerald (Tom Hardy) and company as they evade death and set up camp elsewhere. 

Leo and his grizzly fate

When Glass is later attacked by a bear (in one of the most prolonged scenes of torture porn in recent years), his colleagues drag him through the wintry wilderness until unhinged Fitzgerald and Jim Bridger (Will Poulter) remain behind to keep an eye on the suffering Glass. 
Woven into the story is a Native American Indian looking for his daughter and lots of backstory about Glass. 

It’s beautifully shot, directed and acted, though there were times when Hardy could have done with subtitles; his garbled dialogue could have been Klingon for all the sense it made. 

Mumble and Hardy. Come again?

The film is never dull, and though the engine which drives the story is pretty solid, there’s an inevitability to it all. Like sacrificial pawns in Bond movies, a character will help our hero before being killed off. There’s a brief sense of grief and we move on to the inevitable conclusion. 

I wanted to like The Revenant more than I did, probably because the symbolism tried to gloss over the wafer-thin story. 

Yes Leo is great, but the fact he’ll possibly win an Oscar is no great surprise. The fact Ian McKellen wasn’t even nominated for Mr Holmes is a travesty, but that’s another story. 

The Hateful 8 – Review

What happens when you mash up Agatha Christie’s detective novels, John Carpenter’s The Thing and Sergio Leone Westerns?

Answer: you get The Hateful 8, the eighth film from Quentin Tarantino. 

It’s a long movie at just under three hours; I saw the version without the intermission, but as I’d driven 44 miles for the experience, I didn’t mind a jot. On the bleakest of January days, with the news of David Bowie’s death sinking in, I needed a few hours in another world. And Tarantino did a fine job of transporting me and the handful of viewers. 

With glorious Robert Richardson photography and a fine Ennio Morricone score, the movie introduces its characters a few at a time, with Kurt Russell channelling John Wayne, Jennifer Jason Leigh morphing from a monotone victim to an unhinged nut job on a par with Amanda Plummer’s Pulp Fiction robber. 

Then there’s Tim Roth, sporting a superbly awful posh British accent, Walton Goggins bringing very little baggage to the table, Bruce Dern’s racist general, and best of all, Samuel L Jackson’s bounty hunter. 

Though QT dropped far too many N bombs, as usual, he once more proved to be a master storyteller. 

Okay, it could have done with some judicious pruning, like many of his movies, but for a film that could work just as well as a stage play, it was often a treat to behold. 

Jackson is the perfect mouthpiece for Tarantino’s work, loud, blusterous, over the top and utterly magnetic. 

Some of the violence veers into horror territory (at times it’s more Evil Dead than Western), but the twists and turns, unlike some of the characters, are beautifully executed. 

A shame Cineworld refused to show it because of problems with the 70mm format and a spat with a London cinema, but it’s their loss. This is well worth a look on the big screen before it’s relegated to TV where the scope of those vistas is lost, along with any tension as the all too easy pause button is exploited for loo breaks. 

Commit to one uninterrupted screening and it’ll pay off dividends. 

Joy – The Movie Review

The new film from David O Russell and star Jennifer Lawrence is a Joy by name and by nature. It’s a big film about one woman’s dream to create a mop. Yes, on paper it doesn’t sound like the most compelling subject matter; you can imagine the pitch to get the movie made was as difficult as the eponymous protagonist’s attempt to get a green light for her design and production. But it’s testament to the maker of Silver Linings Playbook and American Hustle that he made this as absorbent as the strands in said cleaning device. 

Lawrence, as always, is superb. She has a screen presence so magnetic it’s a wonder the audience’s eyeballs weren’t sprayed with minute iron filings and an electromagnet turned on every time she’s on screen. 

Bradley Cooper is also on good form as the QVC executive who may or may not help her on the road the success, while Robert DeNiro gives another good turn as Joy’s dad. 

As the film unfolds, the camera follows Lawrence, a little in love with her as she strides with purpose; her drive ever apparent. It’s a sight to behold as the odd smirk transforms that doll-like face. 

The movie ticks over with twists and turns sustaining the attention throughout. 

The score underlines the drama without getting in the way and though it’s a big film about nothing, it’s also about everything – following dreams, overcoming problems and the power of loyalty. 

Oh, and if you want to see a Venezuealan Simon Le Bon lookalike, the movie has that too.