Sunday Rundown – That’s What She Read

book, book haul, books, currently reading, Gerard Butler, Netflix, Nicolas Cage, Penguin Books, rundown, Sherlock Holmes
This week has been awful. Last Sunday I came down with a bit of a cold that quickly turned into the worst thing that’s ever happened to me. I’ve spent this week at work feeling like I was submerged under water but at a depth that was causing me intense pain all over my body. There was genuinely a point when my headache felt like a bunch of tiny pixies were repeatedly stabbing me with their tiny pixie knives. Then there was the guy who was attempting to jab a screwdriver through my eyeball several times a day. It’s been dreadful. I tend to get a bit pathetic when I’m ill. I just lie down and accept death no matter what the affliction. So, I haven’t had a very exciting week. Especially considering I was expecting to have finished my current read by now. November and October were really shitty reading months for me. Must try harder in December.

Weekly Blog Posts

  • TUESDAY’S REVIEWS – Geostorm (2017)

I could have gone my whole life without seeing this ridiculous looking Gerard Butler film but, in a cold-induced haze, I watched it. It’s safe to say my life will never be the same. Find out more here.


Again, I genuinely planned on writing something this week but, you know, ill. It’s amazing I managed to do anything this week. I will start doing this on a regular basis soon… I’m sure of it.

  • TBT – Left Behind (2014)

After describing Gerard Butler as the new Nicolas Cage I decided it was only fitting to watch one of the Cagester’s films for this week’s TBT. I picked the shortest one I could find on Netflix because that’s the kind of approach I have to this segment. It was another life-changing watch. Read all about it here.

Currently Reading

  • Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead
As I’ve already mentioned, I’ve been so ill this week. I’ve been unable to do anything really so have let my reading get away from me. I’ve managed a couple of chapters this week so I really need to step up my game.

Recently Purchased 
  • Oxfam book haul

Another week and another couple of trips to the new Oxfam books in town. God I love this shop.

  • Surrender the Pink by Carrie Fisher – I bought this because, duh, I adore Carrie Fisher and this has one of the most intriguing openings I’ve ever read. “Dinah Kaufman lost her virginity a total of three times. Not because it was so large that it took three times to knock it out, but because she thought losing your virginity was supposed to mean something and it took her three strikes to feel that she was even remotely in the meaning ball game.” If you read that and didn’t think the phrase “three times to knock it out” was enough to make you buy it then we’re just too different.
  • Brighton Rock by Graham Greene – I bought another copy of this because it was a really simple but really lovely looking Penguin edition. You’ll definitely see it on my Instagram soon.
  • Sherlock Holmes: The complete illustrated short stories by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle – I own far too many different copies of the Sherlock Holmes short stories but this illustrated book was an instant buy. It’s gorgeous and was so fucking cheap.
  • The Vicar of Wakefield by Oliver Goldsmith – This was something of a guilty purchase because it was in the collectables section of the store. I’m talking locked in a fucking cupboard and everything. This is an illustrated edition of a novel of sensibility that I studied at university. It’s so beautiful and, despite being on the higher end of the charity shop scale, is still cheaper than a brand new paperback. I saw this and spent days thinking about buying it. I’m so glad I did.
Recently Watched 
  • Netflix Binges: Jonathan Creek, QI
To be honest, I couldn’t really remember what I’ve been watching this week. I think I’ve mostly fallen asleep trying to watch most things. I’m so pathetic at the moment. I’ll be better next week.

Tuesday’s Reviews – Geostorm (2017)

bad, bullshit, films, fucking awful, fucking ridiculous, Gerard Butler, reviews, terrible, uninspired, unintentionally funny

There was a time, back in about 2012, when I genuinely believed that Gerard Butler was going to be a great actor. I admit, this was mostly to do with the film Coriolanus where he blew everyone’s minds by being fucking awesome in Shakespeare. Since then, Hollywood has continued to cast him in underwhelming action movies or shitty romantic-comedies. How many of you out there can name a Gerard Butler movie that they enjoyed? Okay, I’m sure a few of you will have said 300 but then we have to get into the whole Zack Snyder debate. I mean the guy fucking sucks! Look at what he’s doing to DC. I mean I’ll give him Watchmen because I was one of the few people who liked it. Anyway, I can’t get into this again. So, ignoring 300 (because we’ll never agree) name a Gerard Butler film that you actually like? It fucking tricky, right? Can you even name 5 Gerard Butler movies? They all pretty much meld into one so it’s really difficult to tell them apart. Kind of like Vin Diesel, if you’ve seen one Gerard Butler film then you’ve seen them all. Or at least that’s what I thought before Geostorm came out. I genuinely believe that this film marks the very moment that Gerard Butler became the new Nicolas Cage. It was a film that looked so preposterous that I never planned on seeing it. The kind of film based around such dodgy scientific fact that you walk out of it feeling like fucking Stephen Hawking compared to the writers. Still, I wasn’t counting on being full of cold this week. I wanted to watch and review the new Netflix film Mudbound because it looks bloody amazing. My brain wasn’t quite prepared for that though. So yesterday, overcome by the various fluids that are slowly filling the hole where my face normally resides, I decided it was a good idea to actually watch the film that made Gerard Butler one of the most unconvincing American scientists ever seen on-screen. I mean, it is only about 109 minutes long. Even in as close to a snotty death as I was, that was a length I could manage.

Coriolanus (2011)

Brian Cox, drama, Gerard Butler, Ralph Fiennes, Shakespeare, tragedy, Vanessa Redgrave, war

Ralph Fiennes has a deep history with this particular Shakespeare play after his much appraised portrayal of the title character about ten years ago. With the help of screenwriter John Logan (GladiatorHugo) and cinematographer Barry Ackroyd (The Hurt Locker), Fiennes offers us an exciting modern adaptation of the little known and little loved play. Modern adaptations of Shakespeare are not uncommon but there is always the danger that the connection between the plot and the updated setting will start to wear a little thin. For example, I was lucky enough to see Michael Sheen in Hamlet at the Young Vic last Christmas. Not only was he amazingly talented, mesmerising and rather beautiful (in a crazy way) but the adaptation itself was pretty exciting. The action was set in a mental asylum where Claudius and Gertrude were medical staff and Hamlet their patient. This worked incredibly well until the plot demanded that the staff organise a deadly fencing match between their patients. Obviously there needs to be a suspension of disbelief but the scene did stand out as a bit much. When plays deal with plots set in the Elizabethan period there is bound to be a certain amount that doesn’t quite translate. The trick is making sure these elements blend in enough that it doesn’t really matter.

For Fiennes’ masterpiece, the centurions of Ancient Rome have been replaced with modern soldiers armed with the AK-47s and running the risk of getting caught up in impressive explosions.  Logan’s script cuts down the lengthy tragedy down to two hours of classic drama and heart-stopping action. It is a film that shows the necessary appreciation to its source whilst avoiding the potential trap of a straightforward and traditional production. Logan includes as much of Shakespeare’s language as is possible and all of the key scenes have been given due care and attention. Filmed on location in Belgrade, the costumes, props and cinematography could be taken straight out of most modern war films. Gone is the city of Rome and the action is placed in a modern Balkan like state. The political focus of this play fits well into the turbulent times we have all seen in the past few years. In Logan’s skilled hands and with a certain amount of help from modern scenes we are all familiar with (smart-phones, internet streamed assassinations and satellite news) this Ancient Roman tragedy becomes a modern tale of the struggle for power and respect. For my part, I enjoyed the way that certain conversations that organically would have taken place between Roman citizens were transformed into news items and interviews with experts. I can understand the reviewers who found it a little too tongue-in-cheek but I relished the cameo by Channel 4 news presenter Jon Snow and firmly believe he should do all news items in Shakespearean language from now on.  It is amazing how easily the play fits into this setting and it only goes to remind us how relevant the issues Shakespeare raised 400 years ago. The place which calls itself Rome could indeed be anywhere and the action sequences and rolling news could well have been seen on any news channel in recent times. 

Thanks mostly to the fantastic work of cinematographer Barry Ackroyd who most recently worked on the Oscar-winning film The Hurt Locker. As expected from Ackroyd he places the camera in the centre of the action creating scenes of shockingly realistic and immediate brutality. The action sequences themselves firmly place the play within a modern setting. Ackroyd is the main man when it comes to putting the shaky cam in the thick of the action. It sets us up for some exquisite visuals and effects as Coriolanus and his men advance on their enemy. Shakespeare’s own Rambo dispenses his brutal punishment on those who are posing a threat to his city and he walks out to meet his adversary covered in their blood. Fiennes has certainly ensured that, visually at least, his soldier is the centre of attention. In this modern setting Fiennes has transformed the Roman soldier into a Nineties Balkan warlord like figure. There is a striking image towards the end of the film when Coriolanus, with his shaved head and army fatigues, accepts his wife and mother whilst slouching in his chair surrounded by gunmen with his legs splayed. It is the ultimate sign of his manly arrogance and sums up his actions throughout the film. He is a soldier, a killer and he demands the respect that comes with it. Fiennes has never been one of my favourite actors but he shows a certain amount of restraint here but plays the title character with his usual intensity.
One of Fiennes’ greatest decisions was to surround himself with a supporting cast made up of truly wonderful actors. Despite placing himself in the key role, Fiennes takes a step back and allows seasoned performers like Vanessa Redgrave and Brian Cox do what they do best. Unsurprisingly, Redgrave gives us the standout performance of the entire film. In a case of life imitating art, this is a film that is dominated by Redgrave’s Volumnia, in much the same way as Coriolanus himself is ruled by his overbearing and belligerent mother. It is the scenes where we see mother and son together that really bring this film to life. The pair both flourish in their roles and Fiennes is able to allow Redgrave to show us all why she’s one of our finest actresses. Her performance is so mind-blowing that, at times, it would be possible to believe that Shakespeare first wrote the role with her in mind. In a more understated role, the ever reliable Brian Cox plays silver-tongued politician Menenius and gives us another exceptional performance. He doesn’t draw attention in the way that Redgrave is able to thanks to the dominance of her character but he is on hand to offer us a careful and considered performance.
To anyone who went into this film doubting Gerard Butler’s Shakespearean potential: shame on you. Yes, Butler has made some questionable, romantic-comedy based choices recently and is more of an action hero than a tragic one but he is no stranger to Shakespeare and this play in particular (having been cast in Steven Berkoff’s 1996 stage production). Taking up the role of Coriolanus’ adversary Tullus Aufidius, he gives a confident performance. Shakespeare’s words seem natural coming from the mouth of a man who is more used to playing action men of much fewer words. He plays the brutal Aufidius as a dangerous savage and worthy opponent to the mighty Coriolanus. The men have met each other in battle several times and the fact that he has never manage to best the General is a constant source of shame and anger for the beardy and brooding Aufidius. Fiennes’ casting decision may have been slightly bizarre considering the wealth of Shakespearean actors out there but, after his first dramatic scene, there is little doubt that Butler is the perfect actor to update the Volscian commander into a modern action man that would sit just as easily in the type of film Butler may usually be seen in.
What Fiennes has attempted to do with his directorial debut is create an adaptation of a play he is undoubtedly passionate about that will resonate with ardent Shakespeare fans and those who would normally find the Bard a little over facing. In some respects that is my major problem with the film. It doesn’t seem very complete or self-assured. The action elements and the Shakespearean dialogue fight for supremacy and often find themselves at odds with one another. Logan has obviously pared back the play to make it more cinema friendly but I can’t help but feel that more should have been made of Shakespeare’s words. Unfortunately, this film has not been handled correctly. The visual aspects, whilst stunning, don’t always work in harmony with some of the issues that are at the heart of the original play. Coriolanus may have contained the greatest number of battles of all the plays, but violence and war were never the major focus. This is a play about the character himself and the problems of mixing military might with political power. The greatest moments come when Coriolanus comes face to face with his mother and her plans for his future in politics. It is the politics of the family and the emotional and psychological elements that demand the floor but they are often partly overshadowed by the generic action movie imagery. What we have is a fitting debut in the director’s chair for Ralph Fiennes but it is far from being a perfect production.