Tuesday, August 3, 2010

The Karate Kid (2010)

It’s not often that I rave about films; because it’s not often I see a film worth raving about. In the 6 months I’ve had my Cineworld unlimited card I’ve seen about 40 movies. There have been some good ones: Kick Ass, Inception, The A-Team and Cemetery Junction and lots of bad ones: Chloe, Clash of the Titans and Legion, to name but a few.
Until tonight Perrier’s Bounty was the best film I’d seen all year. Now it’s going to have to share the top spot with another real gem, The Karate Kid.

I have very fond memories of the original film, shown endlessly when I was younger. I’m also normally very sceptical about re-makes. So I entered the cinema expecting something decent but probably not memorable. Director Harald Zwart was a wild card, the only film I know he’s directed before this was the second pink panther re-make, which I haven’t seen but have heard nothing good about.
The plot is exactly the same as the original. Boy meets girl and angers girl’s boyfriend (kinda). Boyfriend and his Kung-Fu gang start bullying boy. Boy enlists the help of ag├ęd (kinda) mentor to teach him to defend himself but has to enter a Kung-Fu tournament to drive off the bullies for good.

There are differences. Firstly, the characters are all younger. In the original movie Danny (the main character, played by Ralph Macchio) was in his late teens, in the re-make Dre (played by Jaden Smith) is only 12. All the kids, who make up most of the rest of the cast, are about the same age.
Jackie Chan as Mr Han is also a bit Younger than Pat Morita’s Mr Miyagi.

The other major change is a shift of location from California to Beijing. It’s actually a change that’s massively beneficial to the film as the sense of alienation is a real drive for Dre, especially in the opening third.
The move to China also allows the director free licence to use some amazing photography. There are stunning shots of busy Beijing and the tranquil rural areas of China littered throughout the picture and they all earn brownie points in my eyes. Even the obligatory and totally cheesy shots of Dre training on the great wall are just too well-crafted for even my cynical soul to gripe about.

However there are three things that really make this a great film, and believe me, it is a great film. The first is the casting. Jaden Smith and Jackie Chan are perfect for this movie. Jaden Smith has whiny kid out to learn life lessons down pat while Jackie Chan as the slightly odd, hilarious, Kung-Fu master couldn’t have done better. This is miles better than any Jackie Chan film I’ve seen before and has earned Chan some grudging respect in my eyes.

The second component is humour and emotion. There are jokes littered throughout the film. Some of them are based on the similarities with the original but there’s fresh material and Chan’s interaction’s with Smith get real laughs the whole way through.
There’s also a touching side to the plot with more heartfelt moments as the bond between Mr Han and Dre strengthens. Both actors do well in the more dramatic sequences.

Lastly and unsurprisingly it’s the action that really makes this movie. The fight scenes are brilliantly choreographed and superbly executed. They all look authentic and even without computer graphics you’ll be wowed by some of what you see.
It’s also very well shot, at no-point is the camera too close to make out what’s happening or too far away that we lose the sense of excitement and uncertainty in the outcome of a fight.
Crucially Dre’s development in the movie is totally realistic. Unlike in the original, Mr Han really puts Dre through the paces, and over the film we actually do see Dre becoming more muscly and fitter. I totally believed that Dre had enough preparation for the tournament and that he could do the moves we see him do in the film.

Although I was never bored, this film is a little on the long side, clocking in at 2 hours 20 minutes. It delights me to say that’s my only criticism; the acting, casting, drama, plot, action and suspense are all top notch. This is a must see film whether you loved the original or have never heard of the Karate Kid before now. Go see it.


Thursday, July 22, 2010


A siren wails out across the city as the thunder finally rolls in. A tom cat, stalking mice down an alley scurries for cover amongst the bins. A torrent descends on to the streets of Dublin. A wave, washing fag butts into gutters, sweeping discarded chip bags and the night’s vomit from the pavement, crashes on the late night shore. Each rain drop strikes the concrete like a cymbal, bringing the storms crescendo higher and higher.
Eric O’Gorman notes the storm as it thunders against the skylight above his bed but he’s disconnected from it. He watches it as through a screen, he hasn’t been following the drama and has no interest in it.
He sits, his back set in the corner his bed has been squeezed into. His whole existence compressed into a tiny room on a small street in a city he has never cared for.
On the table beside Eric’s bed is a recently emptied bottle of cheap wine and two crushed and discarded beer cans. A glass sits by the room’s only lamp, a fag end polluting the last mouthful Eric didn’t finish.
They all lie on top of faded newspapers and torn magazines. On the covers jaded girls trust their tits out towards the camera. On the floor at the foot of the table, almost against the bed, is a vodka bottle, the top missing.
Eric holds a framed photo, so old the colours have bled. The edges of the frame are worn down from years of Eric clutching it in his big hands. In the picture is a small boy, curly blonde hair flowing down to his shoulders. The boy is being held by his dad, the man with Eric’s eyes.
He sits there staring vacantly at the glass, as he has done since midnight. The two figures, happy, all smiles, stare back.
Eric’s eyes screw up tight and his fists contract and shake as they clutch the frame. His knuckles go white before he drops the photo to the bed with a strange sob, like all the air has been knocked from his lungs.
He gasps, he can’t breathe. He doubles over on the bed and shakes. For 10 long minutes he silently sobs, his whole body wracked with an anguish he cannot fight and cannot control. Finally the shaking passes and he reaches down and swipes the vodka bottle. He takes a swig but wretches on the cheap vodka.
Eric grabs the glass from the bedside table and tosses the fag end and the last mouthful into the bin. He wipes it out with his fingers and with an unsteady hand pours half a glass. He spills vodka all over the magazines and newspapers but he doesn’t care.
He starts searching for mixer but the bottle of coke he had started with earlier is empty. He staggers from the bed, spilling the vodka on the floor. He leaves the glass on a cluttered counter and searches the fridge. There’s nothing in there but milk and that’s out of date.
He curses to himself and throws open his two battered cupboards. He finds an empty cereal box and a half loaf of bread already going mouldy. In the other is pasta and rice, but nothing to cut his drink.
He drops into his only arm chair and begins laboriously to put on his shoes. He grabs his coat and searches the pockets until he finds his keys. He searches the dining table, cluttered with crap, for his wallet. He leaves. A moment later he returns for his coat.

Outside the gutters are overflowing. The cat has had to make a break from the bins, which now sit in a couple inches of water. He is perched instead on the alley wall, directly in the rain. Eric leaves his dingy flat and steps into the alley, straight into a huge puddle. He sighs and pulls the collar of his coat up around his neck. He looks up and down the alley and heads south towards the city centre.

Dorset Street is deserted as Eric shuffles by. The pubs, long shut, are locked up tight. Even the adult stores are closed, their neon lights extinguished as if by the rain.
Eric doesn’t see anyone until he passes Blessingston Street. Then a lone tramp scurries by him without even a glance.
At Parnell Square Eric turns and trudges towards the river. The rain is so heavy that he can only see the lights ahead. As he crosses Parnell Street a taxi speeds at him from the rain and Eric has to leap to the pavement to avoid being hit. The angry driver shoves his fist against the horn until he’s well out of sight.
Even O’Connell Street is empty, the combination of driving rain and the late hour keeping even the usual night owls safely tucked away. Only a Garda, sheltering under the portico at the GPO watches Eric as he heads south.
As he comes to Abbey Street a peal of thunder rattles off against the buildings and Eric is suddenly afraid.
The haze of the alcohol is flushed from his head as adrenaline kicks in and his heart starts to pump. What is he doing wandering around in a thunderstorm at 4am? He considers going back but he’s come too far now. He ducks into the only shop still open and grabs a large bottle of coke. He goes to the counter and reaches for his wallet. He knows even as he opens it that it’s empty. He spent his last twenty on the bottle of vodka nine hours previously.
He opens it anyway and then pats his pockets looking for change. He doesn’t have any, so he sighs, puts the bottle back on the shelf where he found it and trudges out into the rain.
Around the corner on Abbey Street he finds an ATM and withdraws a twenty euro note. As he takes his bank card from the machine his stomach grumbles and he changes his mind about buying the coke. Instead he crosses O’Connell Street and ducks into the burger king, which is always open, unfailingly, like a church for the unwanted and malnourished.
He orders a burger and sits, munching on it, staring out into the rain.
Through the thunder clouds dawn is breaking and Eric, alone with the two staff joking behind the counter, sees the rare beauty of a dawn storm.
With his burger finished and shivering from his damp clothes, Eric leaves the fast food joint and heads home.

By the time he reaches his flat Eric is so cold that his hands shake too much to get the key in the lock. Only after breathing on his hands for a minute can he open the door.
As he steps into his flat the smell of vodka greets him like a veteran’s wife. He ignores it and turns up the heating. Before the door swings shut behind him he’s already pulling off his sodden clothes, piling them on the floor where they bleed out.
Eric hates his flat but the old place has one saving grace; the electric shower with its constant supply of hot water. He sticks it on and within a minute the waters warm and feeling begins to return to Eric’s legs and arms.
He spends twenty long minutes in the shower before climbing out and towelling himself off. He steps back into his five by four metre kitchen, living room and bedroom which is now toasty from the electric radiator. He flicks the heater off and moves to the bed.
He removes what few real possessions are on his bedside table and bins the vodka soaked newspapers and magazines in one go. He thinks briefly with regret about Tabitha, who liked cats and had a great rack but the magazines are too saturated to save.
Then he mops up the remaining vodka with paper towels, takes the photo from the bed and without looking at it puts it on the table, facing away from the bed. On the back of the frame is written in his mother’s handwriting: James and Eric, aged 6.

Still naked, Eric pulls the blankets up over his head and goes to sleep. Above him the rain drums on the skylight as the sun rises behind the clouds. Outside the cat is gone.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

This Earth

In a moment, in a blink
The present moon begins to sink,
The future sun,
Is rising now
And at it’s head a shining prow.
Built by men to forge a dream
The White Knight waiting
To redeem
The pettiness of human life
As it rises like a knife
Through the clouds and dust and air
To soar to space and to repair
Our hope, our hearts
Our drive and worth
And show us all our place;
This earth.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Backpacking, Wanderlust and Edinburgh

There is, in my view, only one way to see the world. If you travel and stay in hotels and cart around ridiculous amounts of clothes, in cases you could be buried in, you never really experience what travel is all about. It’s about taking the smallest amount of stuff you possibly can, shoving it into the smallest bag you can possibly fit it in and forgetting everything that you’ve left behind.
Travel is about turning up in a city that until that day was just a name, and finding in it treasures you’d never imagined. Travel is about staying in tiny dorm rooms when you have to and cozying up with fellow travellers when you can.
Travel is about things working out when by rights they shouldn’t and things going terribly, scarily wrong and being able to laugh when they do.
I love backpacking and I love travel. The two for me are inseparable. It’s sad that in the past couple years I’ve done so little of it; especially this year, when I’ve had so few commitments.

I went to Scotland first and foremost to see my brother, who lives near the border with England. As soon as I’d booked the trip I realised I needed the break. Staying in Ireland for too long makes me jumpy and cranky. I love Ireland and Dublin but travelling is a passion and wanderlust an infection I’ve carried a long time.

I considered seeing both Edinburgh and Glasgow but on the advice of just about everyone I opted to avoid the more industrial city.

My flight to Edinburgh was due to take off just after lunch last Wednesday, which coincidentally was when my airline, Aer Lingus, had said they’d start flights again after the Eyjafjallajokull ash cloud.

I didn’t expect the plane to take off. So I went through the considerable rigmarole of packing (love travelling, hate packing) without a lot of optimism. I got a bus to the airport, again, expecting the worst. There was a tiny queue to check in, which took a ridiculous amount of time to clear and when I got to the desk I was surprised to be handed a boarding pass straight away.

After that the trip was plain sailing. I spent my time doing what I most enjoy, wandering around a city to get a feel of it, reading books (I bought 6, read 4) and when the urge struck me, writing.

Edinburgh is a really gorgeous city. My hostel was smack in the middle of the Old Town and that meant I didn’t have to see many modern soul-less buildings or wander very far to see the sites.

I went pub crawling with the hostel crew each night I was in Edinburgh and discovered that I am currently a backpacker magnet, although why this is I have yet to decipher. I don’t intend to analyse it too much, lest I break the magic.

My trip south was less impressive. The train from Edinburgh to Carlisle cost me £40 which shocked me a bit, and the terrain in Southern Scotland (the lowlands) is really not as impressive. They did have some awesome castles down there though.

Seeing my brother was great. In the last five years I’ve only seen him a handful of times and he and his girlfriend provided some really awesome meals for me while I was down there.

In all it’s been a good trip. However I’m left with a stronger sense of wanderlust then ever. I want to start an epic trip, drop everything and just keep moving. It’s starting to get higher on my list again. When the marathon is run and the 365 challenge over I think I might take out my backpack again.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Photos in Absence

All the shots I uploaded to flickr while I was in Edinburgh but didn't get a chance to post them to Facebook or Twitter:

Friday, March 26, 2010

Where do the months go?

I started this blog to help me write. It was something I could turn to with random musings and quirkey ideas. Sadly it hasn't worked so far. Instead it's been 20 days since I last updated and out of the 85 days so far this year I've failed to write even a single word on 21 occasions, thus failing my challenge pretty horribly.

So what gives Robin? Why the lack of writing?

I think the problem is my current lifestyle and the sheer amount of things i've given myself to do. ALong with the challenges I have websites to build and a marathon to run. Those last two have been taking up more and more time. Thankfully the current site will soon be done, the marathon however will stretch on, becoming more and more imposing until October.

Most of the writing I have managed to do has been superficial. I did manage the first draft of a short script back in January. I was reasonably pleased with that, but it was but a week's work amongst a sea of self-serving blog posts (like this one) and pretty bad poetry.

This week I did start a new play, but even with a strong initial concept I've been struggling to flesh out the characters and real interactions to push the piece forward.

For good or bad I've signed up for Script Frenzy to try turn it into a proper 100-page play by the end of April. Considering everything else going on at the minute I'll be amazed if I manage that. Still, worth a go, no?

Friday, March 5, 2010

The Beauteous Night

I watch the stars each night,
Stricken low with an empty longing,
Knowing the vastness
That reaches us over a million years
Will drain my soul
And blow it out to space.
Solitude is finite.
Loneliness is endless.
We are but specks in a limitless ocean.
Drifting into contact at the whim of laws
Our minds are still too tiny to conceive.
And yet the sky is beautiful.
And in a way, that is the problem.
The vast emptiness is all too easy
To embrace, leaving behind
All those things that make us human.