Tuesday 31 July 2012

The Amazing Spider-Man

If you've been reading super hero comics for as long as I have, you get used to two things: 1. people asking "You don't still read that crap?" and 2. seemingly endless reboots, re-imaginings and resurrections of long-running characters. And so it goes with silver screen supers too. I was initially dubious about the idea of Sony rebooting the Spider-Man franchise so soon after Sam Raimi's trilogy. Did we really need yet another version of Spidey's origin story? Couldn't the new director, the appropriately-named Marc Webb, just Recast And Carry On? Well, apparently not.

The good news is this latest version actually works. ( In my humble opinion of course. ) Many elements of the story and character ( Spidey's wise-cracking, the mystery of Peter's parents, the non-biological web-shooters ) hark back to the original Lee/Ditko/Romita days... which is fine by me. Marc Webb may not have Raimi's hyperactive, idiosyncratic vision but he can certainly frame a decent shot and can show off our friendly neighborhood web-slinger at his spidery best in the action scenes, while not being afraid to slow the pace to allow the characters room to breathe.

I'm still not totally convinced by the look of the costume: it strikes me as too fussy and over-designed after the simpler version in the previous movies, but ( despite the photo above ) at least Andrew Garfield keeps the mask on longer than his predecessor. It's always bugged me ( hah! ) in super hero movies when the main characters are so careless about their secret identities that they'll unmask in the middle of a crowded city and expect not to be recognised. I blame the actors :-)

Oh yeah, the actors. Brit Andrew Garfield is a gawky, moody Peter Parker - not as nerdy as Toby Maguire's take on the character, but still a convincing outsider, with a note-perfect American accent. Emma Stone is a perfect fit for the caring, compassionate Gwen Stacey. She brings a real warmth to a relatively under-developed character. The scenes between the two "teen" characters are beautifully underplayed and believably awkward.

The older members of the cast are fine too. Martin Sheen, Sally Field and Dennis Leary are all perfectly cast as the harassed adults struggling to deal with heroes, villains and teenagers, while Rhys Ifans makes a convincingly driven, one-armed scientist as Dr. Curt Connors, but is less confident as generic villain, The Lizard.

So, I'd award this movie Three Out Of Five Web-Shooters as a solid introduction to the new series, especially for the pairing of Garfield and Stone, but I'd like to see something a bit more er, Spectacular next time...

I'll leave you with this lovely, retro-styled look at Spidey and Gwen by Steve "The Dude" Rude.

Saturday 28 July 2012

Things I haven't blogged about recently

We've been down in our beloved Cornwall for the last week so I haven't been able to do any blogging.
( I know, I know... what's my excuse the rest of the time? ) Above is a picture Sophie took of the beach at beautiful, legend-shrouded Tintagel... a wonderful place that I've wanted to visit for years. There will be plenty more pics of glorious Cornwall to come.

Also on my mind at the moment:

On a sadder note, two former Doctor Who actresses have passed away recently: Caroline John and Mary Tamm. Although their characters were both relatively unsung companions ( possibly because they both only appeared in one season each ), they were however fine actresses who rose above the often limiting material they had to work with back in the day. There are plenty more tributes on t'internet in the usual places but I will just say that both of these ladies feature in two of my fave Who stories ( the tense, apocalyptic Inferno and the witty, summery Androids Of Tara ) and they will be greatly missed.

Sport isn't a subject that crops up very often at TGWS ( if at all ) but very occasionally an event comes along ( like the recent Federer/Murray match at Wimbledon ) that grabs my attention. Like this understated little happening taking place in that there London town:

Of course yesterday was the Opening Ceremony of the 2012 London Olympics, which turned out to be spectacular and slightly bizarre... in a very British kind of way. Danny Boyle's celebration of our idiosyncratic Brit culture took in Beatles, Blake and Bond, with a celebration of UK life from maypole-dancing rural idylls, through dark Satanic mills of the Industrial Revolution, through the ever-accelerating changes of the twentieth century, to the Information Age of today. Loads of great music complemented the spectacle: Pink Floyd, The Sex Pistols (!), Blur, Led Zeppelin, The Specials, The Who, The Jam, Muse, Dizzee Rascal etc. with Sir Paul Of McCartney finishing the show with The End ( of course ) and Hey Jude.

Now, after all the pomp and circumstance it's the turn of the athletes to do their thing...
( Cue gratuitous photo of Jessica Ennis... )

Thursday 19 July 2012

Sing if you're glad to be Gaye ( Advert, that is... )

Back in the day, Gaye Advert was the Punk Pin-Up bass-player ( TM ) with spiky, seriously-underrated misfits The Adverts. Apparently never happy with all the media attention that focused on her looks and drop-dead cool attitude ( often at the band's expense ), Gaye retired from music after the band split up, whilst her other half Tim "TV" Smith carried on in his own, idiosyncratic, inspired way.

Long time readers of this 'ere blog will know that I'm a huge fan of TV Smith and the Adverts and that I met the great man at a gig in Bristol last year, where he turned out to be an absolute gentleman as well as a fantastic performer. And last weekend I got to meet Gaye as well...

This was at a benefit gig for SWARD ( an anti-toxic waste-dumping charity ) in the genteel surroundings of Bishop Cleeve's historic Tithe Barn. Most of the music played that evening was of the Maroon 5 / dreary acoustic genre, but the fresh-faced lads above ( Prodigal Sun, ex-schoolmates of my daughter, Sophie ) provided a little touch of Punk-pop fun with some fine songs and pretty good vocals. Ones to watch.

I've vaguely known Gaye Advert's sister, Wendy, for a little while and she was kind enough to introduce me and my mate Glenn to her ex-Advert sibling. Here we are, looking suitably star-struck :-)

I'd heard that Gaye was a very private person who shunned the limelight nowadays, but I found her to be lovely - very chatty and down to earth, with an infectious laugh and a wicked twinkle in her eye. We talked at great length and I managed not to embarrass myself too much by rambling on about days gone by and bands from the dim and distant past. Gaye is an artist as well as a curator of exhibitions, so she had plenty of interesting tales of the art world... as well as stories of her and Tim's youth back in Devon, and her love for Black Metal. And I must say that talking about the history and purpose of Tithe Barns with a former Punk Goddess was a truly bizarre experience...

So, a great evening with some wonderful, relaxed company. We even gave the two lovely ladies a lift home, something I never would have imagined when playing Crossing The Red Sea all those countless times as a wannabe teenage Punk - an Advert in the back of my car? WTF?

Of course, I couldn't resist asking Gaye to sign my copy of the first ( and best ) Adverts album. Hey, I'm only human...

Monday 16 July 2012

Highnam Court Gardens

Taking advantage of some pretty decent weather for a change last weekend, we visited a local country house here in Gloucestershire, Highnam Court. We'd long wanted to have a look around the place and, as the famous gardens were open in aid of the Cobalt Unit ( a fantastic charity ), we went along to give our support and have a walk and a picnic in the grounds.

Highnam Court is a beautiful manor house with some gorgeous landscaped gardens, ranging in style from the more formal, typically Victorian gardens, to ones in the Italian and Japanese styles.

The gardens are home to many eye-catching sculptures, some in a classical style...

And some more modern...

It's a beautiful, well-designed place with so many interesting features around every corner - well worth a visit if you're in the area...

A perfect way to spend a warm Sunday afternoon: in an English country garden.

( The rest of my weekend was a bit more rock 'n' roll, but that's the subject of my next post... )

Tuesday 10 July 2012

Moonrise Kingdom / Dark Shadows / Woody Allen: A Documentary

We've seen a diverse selection of films at the good ol' Gloucester Guildhall in the last week or so, starting with Wes Anderson's latest,
Moonrise Kingdom.

I was so impressed that I saw it twice, once with Sarah and once as part of the Guildhall Film Club. It's a quirky, magical little movie with some wonderfully understated performances, a wryly funny script and Anderson's gorgeous visuals. ( The eagle-eyed among you may have spotted a frame from the film as this 'ere blog's header. ) If you want to know more about this lovely, lovestruck film ( and I'm sure you do ) I reviewed it for the Guildhall's blog here, under my "real world" name...

Next up was Tim 'n' Johnny's latest love-in, the revival of campy '60s Gothic soap opera, Dark Shadows. A suitably over-the-top and knowingly corny romp, the film tells the story of Barnabas Collins ( Depp ), an 18th century fishing magnate (!) cursed by a witch to become a vampire and then buried alive ( undead? ), only to be revived in 1972 to carry on his feud. As is the case with most Tim Burton films, Dark Shadows has a few cool moments, some wonderfully gloomy art direction and a number of funny lines... but it just doesn't hang together or make a lot of sense. Characters are introduced then disappear for whole stretches of the film, plotlines dangle, forgotten, and actors of the calibre of Chloe Grace Moretz and Michelle Pfeiffer are left with very little to do. However, Depp is reliably weird and funny, the '70s ambiance is good fun, and Eva Green is suitably slinky and seductive... as the following picture shows. ( Yep, I'm being as superficial as ever. )

In total contrast...
Last night I saw Woody Allen: A Documentary, a comprehensive look at the great man's life, from his childhood in Brooklyn, through his gag-writer / stand-up days, and all through his career as a film-maker, right up to Midnight In Paris.

As an authorised, official documentary there's nothing too controversial or critical here ( although the film-makers are unafraid to mention Woody's notorious divorce from Mia Farrow and the failure of some of his more recent movies ) but it's a treat to see clips from Woody's early appearances on American TV ( "prostituting" himself as he puts it ) and outtakes from Sleeper which will probably never see the light of DVD.

So, a pretty good run of movies in our favourite venue. I'm guessing that my next movie experience may be bigger and more, er, spidery...

Soundtrack: Given To The Wild by The Maccabees


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