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. 

The Hunger For Closure

David Bowie’s performance in The Hunger, Tony Scott’s stylish vampire saga, suddenly has a newfound sense of poignancy after the shock of this week’s news. That 1983 movie was slated by many on its release, but it left an indelible mark on the minds of millions, not least because we saw the rock legend give such a memorable turn. 

Though for me his greatest will always be Thomas Jerome Newton in Nicolas Roeg’s The Man Who Fell to Earth, (he remains one of the finest screen aliens in history), it was inevitable he’d be cast as a vampire at some point. With that pale skin, those chiselled cheekbones and youthful appearance, it was easy to believe Bowie had made a Faustian pact at some point. 

But watching him age a lifetime before our eyes, thanks to the wizardry of make up artist Dick Smith, meant there was a sort of closure denied us this week. 

Image: MGM/The Richard Shepherd Company. Catherine Deneuve and David Bowie in Tony Scott’s The Hunger

At 69 he was obviously taken far too early, like director Tony Scott. 
I take some solace from his brother Ridley’s classic Blade Runner “The candle that burns twice as bright burns half as long, and you have burned so very, very brightly,” line. 

But we want our rock gods to burn twice as bright and live forever. 

Bowie fell to Earth in 1976, but kept rising again and again. 

Our hunger for his work was insatiable. 

He set trends, we followed and by the time they were mainstream, his latest creation was showing us the future. 

Like many weaned on his work in the early 1970s, I keep thinking I’ll wake up from this dream and he’ll be alive, well and just working on his next project. 

But while the world is a darker place all of a sudden, that bright, shining legacy is extraordinary. 

Some artists dream of creating a few good songs. He created the soundtrack to our lives. 

Back in 1984, during a school exchange trip to Oregon, I watched his Jazzin’ For Blue Jean video every night on MTV. Little wonder that when it came time to go clubbing in fancy dress, I went as his besuited character (and made up my exchange host’s daughter and fellow clubber as his flamboyant alter ego). 

He wasn’t as big a hit as Ziggy Stardust or Aladdin Sane, but that Bowie creation (Screaming Lord Byron) will always be a favourite because he touched a memory chord. 

Watching it again, The Hunger has stood up remarkably well. Its crisp, stylish visuals mixed with the problem of Bowie’s character’s sudden mortality makes it suddenly very relevant. 

We all hoped Bowie would live forever, but the sight of him prematurely aged in The Hunger is a remarkable achievement and an idea of the greatest rock star of our generation at the age he deserved to be. (He was supposed to be 110 in the movie according to Tony Scott). 

However, it’s also incredibly heartbreaking and proves harder to watch than ever. Fans wil shed fresh tears with every screening. 

At the risk of stating the obvious, in a world of advertising hype, David Bowie was the real deal. A genuine original whose work and memory will live forever. 

Rest in peace. 

Blade Runner’s Future Becomes History 


He will go on to see things we wouldn’t believe. Attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion. He’ll watch C beams glitter in the dark near the Tannhauser Gate. And he will go on to give Blade Runner’s Rick Deckard the biggest challenge of his life. Friday, January 8, 2016 marks Roy Batty’s incept date, or actual birth day as any fan of Ridley Scott’s 1982 sci-fi classic Blade Runner will tell you. 

As a 14 year old, I couldn’t believe my eyes after witnessing my first cinema screening in 1982; the thought of 2016 or 2019 being so far in the future, flying cars and off world colonies seemed perfectly feasible. 

When I emerged blinking into the light of a Wolverhampton high street that September, I couldn’t understand why my mates weren’t as thrilled with the movie as I was. They weren’t the only ones disappointed. Warner Bros hoped Scott’s dystopian vision of 2019 would be another smash for star Harrison Ford, but its lukewarm reception among the masses left them far from happy. 

But Blade Runner was a movie ahead of its time in more ways than one. It found a new audience on VHS where fans could pore over every frame of Scott’s meticulously designed Los Angeles, a world of eternal smog and rain, where the Nexus 6 brand of Replicants are so advanced, they prove almost impossible to detect, hence the need for Blade Runner detection units. 

Batty, the smartest of the six, would go on to do incredible things, but his life would be cut short due to his four year lifespan in November 2019. However, Rutger Hauer’s mesmerising performance as the android with a soul has proved timeless. 

With Sicario director Denis Villeneuve now hard at work on a sequel with Ford and Ryan Gosling, it’ll be intriguing to see how that long gestating project unfolds. 

For now I’ll be digging out my multi disc set and having my own special night marking the day when the future becomes history. 

Happy birthday Roy. 

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.