Heroes

Are we living in a time where more and more we need heroes? Could this be why comic book conversions to the silver screen are such big hits these days? Or has it always been this way since the times of Greek mythology? Have we always needed an escape and a role model or fantastical super figure to look up to and aspire to emulate? When there are no pillars of society, no paragons of virtue left in the real world and we feel we have no control of our lives is it then that we turn to the unreal for solace? Who knows. Not me. We never lost control…

The Man Who Sold the World is a really old David Bowie album from like when I was born, but it was on offer on Amazon and I like a little bit of Bowie and I love the title track (first heard it by Nirvana and then stumbled across the duet with Lulu) so I bought it… Supposedly marking the birth of glam rock it does have some T-Rex like sounds buried in its tunes but tends to lean towards harder rock like Led Zeppelin. Bowie’s vocals are jagged in the extreme at times and the lyrics cover all sorts of weird and wonderful subjects as you come to expect. ‘The Supermen’ for instance is about some all-powerful colossal mystical beings looking down us from ‘far out in the red sky’ – H. P. Lovecraft a go-go. I have not explored all the lyrics but I love listening to this while stuck in traffic. It does sound a bit dated but I like that, and because it’s an old album designed for vinyl it is shorter than modern albums so (7/10)

Talking of Supermen I picked up X-men First Class for a bargain price last weekend and proceeded to watch it. I was pleasantly surprised as I am not a huge X-men fan. I would go so far as to say it is at least as good as X-men and X-men 2, and might even be the best of the bunch – although as a prequel it is obviously bolstered by the ‘front-story’ provided by the other films. The director of Kick Ass was on familiar territory which helped, and the cast is excellent – showing people’s willingness these days to get on the comic book cash convertor without thinking it could be career suicide. Hugh Jackman even has a wonderfully quick cameo where he basically tells the eagerly recruiting Prof-X and Magneto (pals for most of the film) to do one. It was nice to see the yellow costumes of the TV cartoon series get an outing and it was clever how they meshed the story with the Cuban missile crisis and real documentary footage. On the flipside some of the mutants were really lame and I thought that James McAvoy would have made a better magneto and Fassbender a better prof-X – facially they seem better suited that way around to the older actors in the later films. (8/10)

Last night I watched Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy which is set after First Class during the Cold War environment of 1973. Gary Oldman expertly plays espionage veteran George Smiley in this adaptation of John Le Carre’s famous book. Smiley is forced from semi-retirement to uncover a Soviet agent within MI6. If I thought that the cast of First Class was good then I have to say the cast for this was awesome – a whole pantheon of British class. I knew that this film was going to send Siggy to sleep for two hours; it was unavoidable given the amount of dialogue and absence of any bangs or crashes beyond the shooting near the start of the film. However even I found the edit pedestrian, and I have survived through Seven Years in Tibet and The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford. I also found the interspersed flashbacks were at times not properly ‘flagged’ and therefore lead to some confusion of what time we were viewing (as it all looked suitably old fashioned to me), a clue was the hairstyles, but it detracted from me trying to figure out the plot. However as the jigsaw slowly comes together and Smiley gets his man it is a most satisfying film. I cannot comment on how well it mirrors the book because I have not read beyond the first page. John Le Carre was involved closely with the making of the film and even supposedly has a cameo so I guess it does follow the book nicely. I was about fourteen when I got the book from the library and after reading the first page on my walk back home I turned on my heel and went back the library and got a Stephen King book instead. (7/10)

On to sporting heroes, in this case Ayrton Senna. Along with First Class I got Senna the award winning documentary about the supposedly greatest F1 driver of all time – it was two for a tenner, and I had heard good things about this film. It follows Senna’s F1 career from his move from European go-karting to his fatal crash in the 1994 San Marino Grand Prix. The day before, Roland Ratzenberger died when his car crashed during qualification for the race and Senna’s reaction is caught on camera. It looks like Senna really did not want to be in the car the next day; the footage shows him shaking his head and rubbing his face distractedly. There are no smiles all weekend. The on-board camera shows the crash as it happens and it brought back memories for me of seeing it happen live on BBC1. The makers tread a fine line between glorifying the man and pointing out his faults. The inclusion of the Jackie Stewart (a three times winner himself) interview question is essential I feel – he puts it to Senna that he has had more crashes in the space of a few years than most drivers have over the whole of their career – a telling statistic supporting some driver’s views that because he was a devout Christian he drove dangerously as he thought he had God’s protection. All in all a very well put together documentary with some wonderfully insightful fly-on-the-wall footage from pre-race driver’s meetings, this is a must see for all driving fans (10/10)

On the gaming side I have done as much of Lego Batman 2: DC Heroes as I am going to and so I feel experienced enough to provide my views on the game. At last Traveller’s Tales has done away with the multi-language mumbled mimes for cut-scenes and are presenting exposition in English in the form of Gotham City News broadcasts from a character I can only assume is Vicky Vale, and that’s not all that’s different from the other Lego games I have played – this one has a much more ‘open world’ feel to it more akin to GTA. That said story levels are still accessed via a map (this time on the Batcomputer in the Batcave) and the best fundamentals are kept – red bricks, gold bricks, characters /suits with differing abilities. The game’s non-linearity took some getting used to after Lego pirates, but after a few hours play and the arrival of Superman navigation suddenly got a lot easier and the game became a lot more fun. The story is entertaining and for the most part well voice acted. There is a good degree of repeat playability and as far as I took it no impossible to get minikit parts. As usual with Lego games to ‘100%’ the game would require a level of patience and/or OCD which I have not got (9/10)

I must say on the basis of the heroes available in this game that DC do better villains and Marvel better heroes. It would be nice to see Lego X-men or Lego Avengers sometime in the future. What would really excite me (yes I am in my forties, I just don’t care!) is Lego Bond – yes imagine all the villains from all the films in one game – Odd Job with his hat, Jaws with his teeth, Scaramanga with his third nipple… erm… and all the gadgets – the submarine car, the invisible car… wowsers…

Can I mention a couple of female heroes (heroines?) of course I can. Here are two:

Hanna is a film about a genetically enhanced assassin. Yes this genetically enhanced killer thing is getting tiresome I know (see Bourne Legacy), but here we have a twist and the films unique (?) selling point – the assassin is a teenage girl. *cough*Hit Girl*cough* – yes I know it’s not unique – but this is real world not comic conversion so bear with it. *cough*Columbiana, Nikita, The Assassin, *cough* – none of them were teenagers, come on give me a chance… *cough* Leon *cough* .. I give up… Saoirse Ronan plays Johanna the assassin trained by her father Eric Bana (Hulk) in the snowy wilds of somewhere. She carries the role well, but anyone could have played the father. Equally so the ‘bad guy’ in this case Cate Blanchett doing that American accent she does – she’s like an evil Dana Scully – why they couldn’t have cast an American actor (e.g. Gillian Anderson) is beyond me. The film is short and sweet and a little clunky at times, and as explained above very derivative of other (better) films. (7/10)

My Week with Marilyn documents the tense production of the film The Prince and the Showgirl at Pinewood studios in the late 1950s. The film within the film stars Sir Laurence Olivier and Marilyn Monroe. We get the story through the eyes of Colin a third assistant director and self-proclaimed back-stage gopher (‘go for this’, ‘go for that’). Marilyn Munroe is played amazingly well by Michelle Williams (best known for Dawson’s Creek) and deserved Golden Globe winner, the naïve posh-boy Colin caught in her fickle drug addled web by Eddie Redmayne (the Good Shepherd) and lovey ‘Larry’ by Kenneth Branagh. It shows the complex character of the sex-bomb and the frustration of Olivier at being overshadowed by her method acting when he is trying to adapt to the silver screen rather than the theatre. All in all this is a very interesting film and Williams is captivating. (7/10)

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