BARCE: WHERE RIGHT AND GLORY LED DURING WORLD WAR II

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The town flag of Barce. Copyright Lloyd Marken.

The artillery unit at Gallipoli Barracks, Enoggera Qld is 1 Regiment Royal Australian Artillery. They have deployed gunners over the past decade on secondment to the British Army in Helmland Province, Afghanistan. 105 Battery is part of the Regiment which fired in support of 6RAR at the Battle of Long Tan. The regiment has a long proud history dating back to World War One. However their lines are named Barce and in a building within those lines hangs a flag in memory of victory won long ago in another war. 2/1st Field Regiment was raised on 31OCT1939 in Ingleburn, NSW. They were the namesake of 1 Field  Regiment from World War I which saw action at Gallipoli and in France. 2/1 Field were sent to North Africa to fight with the 6th Australian division which was the first of the Australian divisions to be raised and sent to fight in this new war. It was in North Africa that something truly unique took place for an artillery unit.

 

05FEB1941 D Troop was sent forward to occupy a position with an OP overlooking the town of Barce and the coastal road. Its object was to engage any enemy moving westward from Barce but htat escape route was devoid of all signs of life. The town of Barce was alive though and the troop commander Captain Vickery looked in vain for the customary white surrender flag. He bracketed the town, one round plus, one round minus, still no white flag. He shortened the plus range a little, fired and up went a white flag. Lieutenant Lester and four O.R.s (Other Ranks) clambered down the escarpment, and were met by a group from the town carrying a white and the town flag which they handed to our boys, they in turn accepted the surrender on behalf of 2/1 FLD Regt and the Army of the Nile. That town flag resides at the Barce Lines today.

Later on a more formal surrender was taken by the 2 I/C Major Young. At 7:3opm the town was handed over to 6 Div Provost Company. During its short period of control, and with only the threat of its guns somewhere up on the escarpment, the Regiment supressed a Bedouin uprising. It also took great delight in arranging a formal welcome for the infantry, the 2/8th Battalion, when they entered the town. Barce was the last town of any size to be taken before Benghazi.

The story that circulated in the regiment, was that this was the first time in the history of the British Empire that Regiment of Field Artillery had captured and taken surrender of a town without any assistance from any other branch of the armed services.

Disputing or confirming this is irrelevant to the true significance of the battle.

Bardia which was Australia’s first major battle of World War II had just taken place and 2/1st Field Regiment had served on the gun line throughout the entire battle. Taking Tobruk from the Italians had been next. 2/1st Field Regiment would go on to fight in Greece and through two campaigns in New Guinea. By war’s end 77 members had been wounded and 33 members had died.

But as the men of 2/1 Field Regiment went to bed on the night of the 5th of February, 1941 they could sleep having taken a town with no deaths of their own, the enemy or civilian.

It was a great victory.

-Lloyd Marken

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Bir Asluj, Palestine, 12th May 1940. Guns of 2/1st Field Regiment during practice shoot. Courtesy of Australian War Memorial.

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Near Bardia. Gun Grew of No. 3 Gun, E Troop, 2/1st Field Regiment, Relax after Christmas Dinner. L to R, Gnr Trouville, Gnr Morrow, Bdr Hitcher, Gnr Sing. In front are Bdr Elliot and Sgt Firth. Courtesy of Australian War Memorial.

 

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Near Bardia, Cyrenaica. Underground Command Post of I Battery, 2/1st Field Regiment before the Battle of Bardia, December 1940. Courtesy of Australian War Memorial.

NEAR BARDIA - A GUN CREW OF B SUBSECTION OF 2/1ST FIELD REGIMENT. LEFT TO RIGHT: SERGEANT D.A. JACK: LANCE BOMBARDIER LOPEZ: GUNNER W.A. MOSS: BOMBARDIER WOOD: GUNNER T.H. O'NEILL AND (STANDING) ...

Christmas dinner at their gun site, near Bardia. Christmas Day, 1940. L to R: Sgt D. A. Jack, L Bdr Lopez,  Gnr W. A. Moss, Bdr Wood, Gnr T. H. O’Neill and standing Gnr Roach. (Negative F. Hurley.)

 

“E” Troop, 2/1 Field Regiment in position near the Bardia Front. (Negative by F. Hurley.)

BARDIA, LIBYA. NO. 5 GUN CREW, 1ST BATTERY,

No. 5 Gun. E Troop, near Bardia Christmas Day 1940. Gnr Hillcoat, Gnr O’Sullivan, Bdr Frankfort, Gnr Krumback. Courtesy of Australian War Memorial.

Haywood, E.V. 1959. Six Years in Support : History of the 2/1 Field Regiment. Angus and Robertson.

LLOYD MARKEN: SUNSHINE BLOGGER AWARD

CFY Sunshine Blogger award

I consider myself very lucky and grateful to have been nominated for the Sunshine Blogger Award by Alan over at Content For You. Alan’s Blog is a great source of information, predominantly full of entertainment industry news, film reviews and interesting pieces of trivia about films and those that make them. Always eager to reblog something he enjoys from another blogger, his site allowed me to learn of the work of not just him but other fellow bloggers whose work I’ve come to enjoy. Please check out his answers here.

The aim of the game with the Sunshine Blogger award is to answer 11 questions Alan asked of me and then write my own questions for 11 Bloggers I nominate to answer. Thanks once again Alan, you’re a champ. I hope to avoid asking too many questions people have already received from previous nominations.

 

First up Alan asks the following 11 questions, any other readers please put your answers in the comments section

  1. You are on a desert island for a year, you can only take 3 movies with you, 1 action, 1 comedy and one drama, what would they be? I humbly submit Thelma and Louise could serve as a perfect example of all 3. Off the time of my head let’s throw Lethal Weapon and About Time in there too.
  2. Pick your favourite actor who played Bond? Sir Sean Connery. Accept no substitutes.
  3. Name a movie which you love but hardly anyone else seems to like? Only my wife and I seem to have seen About Time. What is wrong with you people?
  4. An actor or actress who no matter how bad the movie is you still want to watch it because the actor or actress is so good? I’ve followed Harrison Ford through some dog shit and loved him in it.
  5. What would have been the greatest decade for most high quality movies released? I don’t think you can beat the 1970s for American movies. I’m still hoping to see so many titles from that era and of course I grew up in the aftermath of that period that influenced so many of the movies I went and saw. I’ve noticed lately I’m getting nostalgia for films from the 90s more and more and I think that has to do with what the time meant to me as much as anything but it’s the 70s kids.
  6. What movie do you never want to see again, even if your life depended on it? If my life depends on it, I’ll see it okay! I will say the worst movie I ever saw was Aqua Teen Hunger Force: Movie for Your Colon or something like that. Ten minutes in I treated it like an endurance test and a matter of pride to sit and watch the whole thing. Years ago I watched the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre believing it was more than based on actual events. That dinner sequence at the end was excruciating but at least I can see the craft and success in what Tobe Hooper achieved there. Aqua Teen Hunger Force just sucked. I hated, hated, hated it.Image result for aqua teen hunger force movie for colon
  7. Of the current crop of teen and 20s actors-actresses who will still be a big star when they are 55? There’s no doubt in my mind that Elle Fanning and Emma Watson are fantastic actresses. Whether they’re big in 30 years is a crapshoot. Hollywood has no rhyme or reason and we’ve got a long way to go before there’s more roles for women over 40. Is it bad that girls came to mind. I thought of Felicity Jones immediately but she’s in her 30s. I think Aaron Taylor-Johnson had a moment in Kick-Ass. I’d like to see him still around too.
  8. For every one movie you watch in a theatre how many do you watch at home? That’s a tough one. Maybe 4.
  9. If you could spend one hour with a movie star past or present who would it be and why? James Stewart. Part of it would be that he is a Vet. Why I don’t’ know. I mean I’m not going to ask him about the war. I’d like to pick his brain though. Oh who am I kidding, it would be Jennifer Garner. I’d just sit there and drink it in. Maybe David Letterman, Johnny Carson, Christopher Reeve, Harrison Ford, Robin Williams….you get the idea.Image result for jennifer garner dinner texas buyers club
  10. Apart from your own, what is your favourite non commercial hobby movie blog? I have a few favourites. If you’re one of the 11 I chose I’d say you’re one of them. But if it has to be one, it’s Cindy Bruchman. She’s given me confidence in my own blog and there’s never post on her’s I skip. No post is ever too long or too short and they’re about subjects that interest me.
  11. How many movies do you think you watched in the last 12 months? Including ones I’ve already seen I think it could easily be over 400.

I nominate       Cindy Bruchman

GP Cox

Beetley Pete

VinneH

Paul S

Windswept and Interesting

It Rains…You Get Wet

A. Gray

Assholes Watching Movies

Eddie@Jaccendo

Feralc4t

Jimmy

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Anybody familiar with the excellent Inside the Actors Studio will recognise some of the questions below but they’re still interesting to ask them of you and the rest I came up with myself.😛

  1. Where were you born?
  2. What sound or noise turns you on?
  3. What sound or noise turns you off?
  4. What is your favourite curse word?
  5. What is your favourite late night talk show host?
  6. What is the attribute you’ve admired most in a long term partner?
  7. When you arrive at the pearly gates, what do you hope God will say to you?
  8. What was the first James Bond you saw at the movies and was he your favourite Bond?
  9. What is one of the sexiest things somebody ever did for you?
  10. Did you or somebody close to you ever serve in the military?
  11. There is no such thing as an ugly person only somebody who doesn’t see how beautiful they truly are. Nonetheless out of modern celebrities who do you find the most attractive? Screen persona can inform this as well as the obvious physical attributes.

WHISKEY TANGO FOXTROT IS PAPA FOXTROT GULF

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When you get to a certain age you start using a new sentence, “I was going to but…”. Whatever you were going to do sounds amazing and whatever stopped you never sounds as impressive to your own ears let alone others. I was going to but… We’ve all got regrets and we’ve all got reasons and responsibilities but there’s a sting in that sentence you’ll find in few others. Journalist Kim Barker doesn’t have to say that sentence because she said another “I’ll do it.” A journalist with the Chicago Tribune in 2004 as Operation Iraqi Freedom was getting hot, she put her hand up to cover Operation Enduring Freedom while the more experienced high profile correspondents were in Baghdad. Barker was in that part of the world for the next five years from 2004 to 2009.

Resulting exploits were covered in the resulting bestseller The Taliban Shuffle: Strange Days in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Hollywood came calling with screenwriter Robert Carlock dropping the time in Pakistan and producers advising they’d beef up the romantic angle of a relationship by telling the story of Kim Baker. Clever. Going off the events of Whiskey Tango Foxtrot, The Taliban Shuffle should be an interesting read. The film effectively plays out as a career comedy with two significant premises. Baker as a woman excels in a workplace, war, country and culture that is male dominated and secondly with the threat of death ever present and removed from direct supervision the journalists play up merry hell allowing the film to indulge in gender politics and crass humour at the same time.

Kim Baker arrives in Afghanistan green and out of her depth relying on everybody else to show her around. She is greeted by Fahim Ahmadzai played by Christopher Abbott who is her ‘fixer’ (local who acts as translator and guide) and carries himself with a quiet dignity.  Alas her cameraman doesn’t get the same amount of screen time. The new kid on campus is set up in a cheap local quarters with other journos including Tanya Vanderpoel (Margot Robbie) and Iain MacKelpie (Martin Freeman another talented Englishman in a long line that proves only a Scot can play a Scotsman). Vanderpoel is friendly with no agenda and MacKelpie is friendly because he has an agenda. Or is that the other way around?

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Baker starts going on assignments and finds not only does she have the knack for the work but also the nerve putting herself in harm’s way repeatedly to get the story in all its glory. Baker starts to lose sight of what normal life is, dodging explosions and competing for the next big scoop in between bouts of partying like there’s no tomorrow. Tomorrow though despite not being guaranteed keeps on coming.

There are deep themes here for a mainstream film, Whiskey walks a fine line addressing them while insistently maintaining a light touch. The fears and stakes for Aghan nationals in the war, the young soldiers shot or wounded, the addictive nature of war for people caught up in it, the kidnapping of Westerners, sexism and misogyny in the workplace and in a national culture, the corruption of the Afghan government, the fickle changing interest of the public in world affairs. WTF won’t reveal a great deal of insight about these issues but like its protagonist it takes you through the war and feels something but tries best not to dwell too long on the consequences of it.

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The cast is uniformly excellent straddling this fine line with Margot Robbie ‘a hot chick’ relishing the opportunity to play off a woman and not be a love interest or figure of lust but an actual career orientated individual. Margot you’ve come a long way with your acting since Vigilante and you should be very proud, I know I am to have worked with you once upon a time. Martin Freeman must also be enjoying a different type of role playing a romantic lead in a big American film and remains as charming as ever. Billy Bob Thornton looks the part of an Army Officer although I wonder if his uniform could’ve looked a bit crisper even if on operations. A facial reaction done by him could provide the film’s biggest laugh. Alfred Molina delights as a corrupt Afghan official who takes more than a passing interest in being ‘grilled’ by Kim. It is Abbott as the noble local though that has the most interesting character, the relationship between Ahmadzai and Baker has the biggest and most significant arc in the film. Thanks to Abbott’s performance you will google to find out what happened to the real Kim Barker’s fixer.

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Long before the film went into production there was mention of how Kim Barker was similar to Tina Fey, and while there are many talented comedic actresses out there, that the casting the star feels almost like destiny. The SNL alum was also a fan of Barker and is relishing the opportunity to do a role that honours her father who was both a veteran and journalist. No matter how quirky and beautiful Fey reveals herself to be, her comedy always first and foremost projects her fierce intelligence. It is no different here and if you like Tina Fey you will enjoy this film. If you don’t like Tina Fey then… what do you mean you don’t like Tina Fey?

Directors Glen Ficarra and John Requa shot in New Mexico which convincingly stands in Afghanistan for the most part and the scale and scope of the film is well done bar one car explosion early on that looks Movie World Stunt Show fake. Considering they worked with a modest $35million dollar budget the filmmakers have done exceedingly well. Some fantastic aerial shots with helicopters can’t help but give away we’re in America but they’re also spectacular.

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Whiskey Tango Foxtrot tells another story from the War on Terror, it invites us to laugh and then maybe to think but mostly the coda for the film is to live your life to the full, embrace the challenges, get through them and then move on and live your life the best you can now. Like in war. Operation Enduring Freedom ended on the 31st December 2014. US Troops remaining in Afghanistan serve as part of the ongoing Operation Sentinel’s Freedom.

-Lloyd Marken

 

SOME STATS FROM 2016

This is just a quick stocktake for the second quarter of the year to see where we stand heading into the last third of the year. Think of it as less a self-congratulatory pat on the back and more a shameless plug for previous posts.

Image result for united kingdomConsistently most of my views come from the USA ( who overtook the top spot from Australian readers early this year and don’t look like handing it back anytime soon), Australia, the UK, Canada and then Spain. Early this year Brazil powered ahead to No.5 but Spain has shot back in the past couple of weeks. Near the end of August Great Britain had the most views for the month but then the world turned, the East Coast woke up and America took out the No.1 spot just like they did in the Olympics. I wonder if the U.K. could take out a month though in the future.

Top 5 Most Views by Country 2016

  1. United States 1,209 Views
  2. Australia 922 Views
  3. United Kingdom 811 Views
  4. Canada 220 Views
  5. Spain 122 Views

Top 10 Most Viewed Posts 2016

  1. Captain Reg Saunders of the Australian Army 129 Views
  2. Eye in the Sky is Pure Perfection 77 Views
  3. The Heroes of Kibeho 76 Views
  4. 10 Pics from the Sticks Part IV: Flaxton Mill Road to Mapleton Falls and Back Again 66 Views
  5. South Vietnamese General Ngo Quang Truong’s War 56 Views
  6. 10 Pics from the Sticks Part V: Lake Baroon to Kondalilla Falls 55 Likes
  7. Youth is Wasted on the Old 54 Views
  8. Suicide Squad Will Test Your Will to Live 52 Views
  9. Deadpool: Finally a Happy Ending for Ryan Reynolds 45 Views
  10. Stars Wars Has Return to our Screen and Our Hearts 45 Views

Top 15 Most Liked Posts

15. A Couple of Nice Guys to Spend Time and A Brave New World with New Ghostbusters

Rounding out the Top 15 are the last two film reviews with 10 Likes equally. On paper one is a old school masculine driven film and the other a revived franchise that re-casts women as the central heroes. Both have similarities though, in The Nice Guys a young daughter is usually the most sensible and smartest person in the room despite the guys loudly throwing punches and shooting guns, she maybe the one who makes the biggest difference. Both are also about people having to face overwhelming challenges to find out who they really are and take up that mantle. In one two damaged but good men discover they can do the right thing and in the other women surrounded by naysayers prove they maybe the only ones who can save us from Ghosts. Sadly I found The Nice Guys a delight despite a third act finale that didn’t quite take off for me but Ghostbusters was another example of a tired old regular reboot blockbuster. Not bad by any stretch but lacking the laughs and confident subversion of Paul Feig’s previous films.

14. Hail, Caesar! A Lovely Film For Those Who Loves Films 10 Likes

As a film buff, Hail, Caesar! may speak to me more than the average cinema goer. There’s the usual clever Coen dialogue to be found here and even a lot of depth underneath the surface. I doubt it will go down as one of their classics, it feels very much like an inbetweener (yes I know this isn’t a real word) for them but I liked it quite a bit and you can’t deny what the heart wants – the heart wants.

13. Lance Corporal Michelle Norris MC 11 Likes

Those who may say women can’t serve in combat may want to look up Cpl Norris. A 19 year old medic when deployed to Iraq she became the first female soldier ever to be awarded the Military Cross. Subsequently 3 other female soldiers have earned the Gallantry Award.

 

 

 

 

 

12. 10 Pics form the Sticks Part V: Lake Baroon to Kondalilla Falls 11 Likes

1711Part of an ongoing series of blogs about hikes I’ve been on, I gained confidence from the excellent Cindy Bruchman’s series Five Shots to post these and they seem to have gone down well. When my sister came over from England with her Canadian partner I decided they would enjoy the spectacular views of The Sunshine Coast Hinterland Great Walk. That day was even  more enjoyable for the opportunity to get acquainted with them. A wonderful memory.

11. South Vietnam General Ngo Quang Truong’s War 11 Likes

It may surprise some to find out that the South Vietnamese military had one particularly good leader who was respected by all sides and would eventually turn back a North Vietnamese invasion in 1962 when mass American ground troops had left South East Asia. He lost the war he fought and his country but he never stopped rising to every occasion including re-settling in America with his family and making a new life.

 

10. The Year of Blogging Dangerously 11 Likes

Well this is awkward, this was a similarly themed post from April and includes shouts outs to reviews from previous years like my love for About Time, Craig Ferguson and David Letterman.

 

 

9. Birth Days 11 Likes

A little short story I wrote for university that played with narrative structure. Essentially relating birth moments throughout a lifetime with certain patterns emerging again and again over the years. It means a great deal to me all the positive feedback I’ve received for it.

8. Alice Going Through the Looking Glass and the Sequel Motions 12 Likes

Not a particularly good film or good review but it’s nice to have fans.

 

 

 

 

7. Love and Friendship: Too Sorely Needed Attributes 13 Likes

Image result for love and friendship movieWhat I like to call a clean review. Fairly concise, not too boring to read hopefully and sums up what is good about a pretty decent movie. The number of likes probably reflects an interest in the film itself which has been getting good notices.

 

 

6. Central Intelligence – There’s Worse Films Out There 13 Likes

I felt inspired writing this review to touch upon this guy I knew in high school who became a bit of a success story. The film itself didn’t bowl me over but there were funny moments to be had and The Rock and Kevin Hart are two very likeable star personalities who played well off each other.

5. Suicide Squad Will Test Your Will To Live 14 Likes

Image result for amy adams vanity fairThe film depicts the character of Harley Quinn, Amanda Waller and Deadshot very well. I’m intrigued to see a better film with these performers playing off the dynamics of their core relationships. That unfortunately is not what this film was and a rant and Amy Adams Vanity Fairs photo shoots ensured. People seemed to enjoy reading which is a relief because it was one of my longer rants of late.

4. Star Trek: Beyond Covers Familiar Ground 14 Likes

star trek star review trek beyondStar Trek: Beyond has been well received by most critics and fans so pay to attention to my opinion but here it is for those that are interested and it seems to have intrigued some.

3. The Hunt for the Wilderpeople Turns up a New Zealand Gem 20 Likes

Out of the 2016 films I’ve reviewed so far the best ones have been Eye in the Sky and Hunt for the Wilderpeople. Those that have seen the film seem to have been enchanted by it and that good will meant people were just happy to share their joy of the film here on this post as well. It really is a gem, be sure to check it out.

2. 10 Pics from the Sticks Part IV: Flaxton Mill Road to Mapleton Falls and Back Again 20 Likes

1619Karen and I went hiking one day up at the Sunshine Coast Hinterland Great Walks and came across an echidna in the wild which was a real treat. I also touch upon a trip we took with her grandfather to the same area not long before he passed away.

1. Captain Reg Saunders of the Australian Army 51 Likes

Blame GP Cox and his amazing blog which started about retelling the experiences of his father as a Paratrooper in the Pacific during World War II and now is just a fine source of history from that period. When GP posts something within 24 hours he receives 100 Likes, goodness knows how many views. He’s built this following up over time with fine consistent work and consistent supportive interest in the blogs of his followers. As soon as he reblogged on his site my post about the first known Aboriginal to be commissioned as an officer in the Australian Army – the stats on that post shot up. Captain Reg Saunders was a war hero who endured much upon his return home and always overcame the racial indignities of his time with humour and resilience. We could learn a lot from his example.

 

For Your Consideration

I don’t think of myself as a particularly good writer but nonetheless sometimes I’m excited by what I come up with. Other times I can’t help but feel it is a bit messy and has nothing of interest to add. My review for Captain America: Civil War for example lacks any real hook. I list a few things I like and what narrative threads may have consequences throughout the franchise but it’s a joyless review for a film that was quite joyful. Suicide Squad an imperfect frustrating film on the other hand led to a funny review (an attempt at being funny anyway) and one that was relatively painless to write. Here are the posts that I’ve enjoyed compiling and seeing reactions to that you may have missed.

Cpl Bryan Budd VC

Published March 29 3 Likes

article-1216591-025CB87C000004B0-562_470x423[1]The closing paragraph I’m particularly proud of but at the end of the day this soldier’s story tells of extraordinary courage and sacrifice and should never be forgotten.

 

 

 

 

Eye in the Sky Is Pure Perfection

Published March 29 8 Likes

The first great film of 2016 has a lot to say without clamping down on one agenda either way. It will spark debate, discussion and thoughts about many aspects of modern warfare but in the end it is a poignant tale about one girl selling bread on a street corner and whether she will survive to see tomorrow.

 

Brooklyn: An Old Irish Tale for Our Times

Published March 21 6 Likes

Brooklyn maybe my favourite film of last year, maybe not the best I’m quite happy Spotlight won the Oscar, but my heart literally swells right now thinking about Brooklyn. I felt like I went to three different funerals while watching it. It’s about falling in love, chasing dreams and planting your feet about who you and where you’re headed in life. It made me think a great deal about my little sister and how much I love her.

Deadpool: Finally a Happy Ending for Ryan Reynolds

Published March 17 6 Likes 

I went for broke trying to be funny here and I’m quite happy with the results. It’s the first time I got to write about Jennifer Garner and I hold no shame in that. People have gone cold on the film already saying it’s not that original and the marketing sold it. Fuck them. Any idiot could say the filmmakers edited around a standard origin story but there’s wit here that you just don’t get in many blockbusters anymore and it punches above its weight in terms of budget and action sequences. In a summer of disappointments Deadpool stands tall against all odds as the little blockbuster that could AND DID.

Youth Is Wasted on the Old

Published January 10 3 Likes

Youth didn’t light up the box office or feature much in the end of year award shows. For me though Youth stays in the mind for a long time after. Michael Caine gives another stellar performance as an ageing composer facing up to what he’ll do with the time he has left and what he has lost along the way.

Thanks again to all those reading and have a great weekend.

-Lloyd Marken

A QUICK WORD TO MY SPONSORS

I’ll try to keep this light and quick.

I had to go radio silent for a while from WordPress. I read a little here and there and I posted one or two posts but from May to August not a lot was going on between me and WordPress. When I got back on in early August I set about making up for lost time. I read through most of the post on my reader from May 23 to July 23. I only follow about 50 bloggers but it took me roughly a month to cover two months. I noted that on any given day there might be 20 posts to read through and I can’t possibly read them every day.

This presented a conundrum. How do I continue to read all the posts? The short answer is I wouldn’t. Maybe if I was a speed reader, I could but I’m not and I can’t. It doesn’t help either that despite some efforts to resolve this, I found that my reader page doesn’t load when I’m out and about on my phone. There’s ways around that but it is an inconvenience.

Okay so I’m not going to read all the posts. So who I am not going to read? People who don’t like my posts? That would be petty to say the least and one large problem with that- I enjoy a large number of those posts! Well how about if I only read posts where the subject matter grabbed me? That seemed fairly limiting to not go outside my own interests and learn something new. Then there is the simple fact that even if I applied all these criteria I would still struggle to keep up reading all the posts that remained.

I don’t know how some of my fellow bloggers do it! I’ve done some rambling posts well over 1,000 words and they’ve consistently read, liked and commented on my posts and must have done for others since they’re incredibly popular bloggers with large followings. If anybody has advice, let me know but I’ve decided that the solution will simply be this. When I can take some time to read blogs, I will. I’ll go from the current day and go back through until I run out of time. If I don’t get through everything, I’m just going to have to live with that. There are only so many hours in the day.

I’d like to take this time to thank all those that have ever stopped by, read, liked or followed my little ole blog. I will always be grateful for that and thank you from the bottom of my heart. For those that manage to read and correspond with so many more blogs, my hats off to you – I don’t know how you do it. I don’t mean to sound as if my presence is widely needed but to all the bloggers I follow I wish to say that I even if my presence is less pronounced in the months to come I still enjoy your work, I still hope to be around soon enough and keep punching.

-Lloyd Marken

LOVE AND FRIENDSHIP: TOO SORELY NEEDED ATTRIBUTES

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Love and Friendship is a welcome respite from the noisy yet underwhelming blockbusters of this season that have taken up residence in multiplexes across the country. Fans of Jane Austen’s film adaptations may find themselves pleasantly surprised, gone is romance for the most part but in it’s place is a rebellious cheeky sense of humour and Kate Beckinsale with her best performance in years.

She stars as Lady Susan Vernon, a very different type of Austen heroine. The film begins with Lady Susan being kicked out of the Manwaring estate. Such words weren’t of course used in that time but the gossip that could result from such an event could be a great deal more vicious. Susan Vernon is a ‘lady’ who reputation precedes her as she arrives at the home of her brother-in-law Charles Vernon (Justin Edwards) and his wife Catherine (Emma Greenwell). Catherine and her brother Reginald DeCourcy (Xavier Samuel) are well aware that Susan Vernon is a lady of ill repute despite what Charles says, however Reginald is a man you see and Lady Susan knows how to deal with most men unless they are as she notes “Too old to be governable and too young to die.” Soon the earnest Reginald is quite taken with Lady Susan as she attempts to marry her daughter Frederica (Morfydd Clark) off to the insufferably buffoonish but sufferably wealthy Sir James Martin (Tom Bennett). Sir James has come to the Vernon’s estate Churchill as Frederica has run away from the boarding school that Lady Vernon packed her away to.

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Part of the charms of these films can be found in how the stories expand with a growing roster of characters in the ensemble becoming relevant to the plot. These include Susan’s best friend Alicia Johnson (Chloe Sevigny) and Stephen Fry as her disagreeable husband Mr Johnson. For some this will prove a special treat reuniting director Whit Stillman with the two stars of his The Last Days of Disco 18 years later, even more special considering Sienna Miller was originally cast as Lady Susan. Image result for love and friendship movieThe chemistry between the two is most enjoyable here, Susan Vernon is a sly woman who trusts Mrs Johnson with all her schemes and private feelings and their dialogue is deliciously polite while speaking ill of others. Why Susan who seems aware nobody can be trusted shares so much perhaps suggests a need for friendship above all else. After all as cruel and manipulative as Susan Vernon proves to be, she is navigating a world that can be cruel to women indeed and despite using her daughter as a pawn Lady Vernon points out to Frederica in one key scene the options available to women in their position and how to make the best of it. Women did have their own power in domestic circles back then, at one point Catherine Vernon informs her husband he has business in London because she wants to go there and after a moment of perplexity he nods and agrees.

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There are themes here that were ever present in Austen’s work, the way young women could have their reputation destroyed in one impetuous moment by following their heart while young men could survive the scandal and how fortunes could be lost with a deceased husband leaving you at the mercy of the kindness of snobby relations but the key difference in Love and Friendship is the heroine. Lizzie Bennett dreams of being an independent woman respected her for her smarts nobly and patiently overcoming the patriarchy of the day before ultimately marrying for love. Lady Susan is not noble or patient, she’ll have her cake and eat it too, the film based on a posthumously published epistolary novel Lady Susan it may surprise some to learn it was one of Austen’s earliest writings.

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Love and Friendship differs from other Austen adaptations in other regards too. Shot on a relatively low budget mostly in Ireland, the film has no sweeping vistas, soaring musical scores or romantic lighting. It is shot rather matter of fact, framing everything in a realistic low key manner although the costumes by Eimer Ni Mhaoldomhnaigh are gorgeous and well presented. Pay attention and you can see Lady Susan dresses reflecting her changing circumstances. Title cards and musical cues introduce characters in a modern and humorous way but like everything else in the film is done in an elegant and understated way. Only Tom Bennett as Sir James Martin goes big as a man not without good intentions but rather socially awkward and well…moronic. Bennett plays his stupidity just the right side of good natured that he is a delight for the audience whenever he appears onscreen.Image result for love and friendship movie

This is Kate Beckinsale’s film though, after some period pieces as a cute young ingénue early in her career she made a splash with a pair of leather pants  kicking ass in the rather unworthy Underworld. Since then she’s played the hot wife/girlfriend or hot action babe in her most high profile American films; Van Helsing, Total Recall, Click, Contraband, The Aviator, Pepsi Ads, Serendipity, Underworld: Awakening and Pearl Harbour. The once enrolled Oxford student here is back in a period piece but instead of a rose cheeked innocent infatuated with her beau, she’s a kittenish vixen who fails to blush no matter what she is being accused of. Remaining calm and clever under all circumstances Lady Susan outwits those against her plans and remains insistent of her own good character with so much confidence that you admire the character for her own steadfastness and defiant self-interest. You wouldn’t want to be a relative of Lady Susan but she’s entertaining to watch from beginning to end. I note with interest despite her wit and composure that the object of her affections the married Lord Manwaring (Lochlann O’Mearain) and a huge driver of the plot remains little seen throughout and is given no dialogue. No doubt though, he looks like a right prick.

Love and Friendship is Austen but not as you know it and Beckinsale is as good as you have ever seen her. Hopefully this is a sign of things to come in the next stage of her career.

-Lloyd Marken

Love & Friendship (2016)

SUICIDE SQUAD WILL TEST YOUR WILL TO LIVE

Image result for jared leto the jokerImagine a comic book movie of refreshing anti-heroics, witty repartee amongst its characters, well choreographed action scenes and attitude to burn. Imagine no more. You can grab a DVD of, download, stream, get from vending machines or hang out on a mate’s couch looking at him as he play acts out the whole movie of Deadpool or for that matter 2013’s Guardians of the Galaxy. It will be cheaper and depending on your friend’s acting prowess a damn sight better than seeing this new Suicide Squad at the movies.

Whoever created the trailers for Suicide Squad should be hired to do the work for the next Ghostbusters movie by Sony.

Those trailers popped with energy, eye popping visuals and sass. You can’t deny the Brothers Gibb and Queen helped up with that, (Bohemian Rhapsody and Becky Hanson singing I Started A Joke played over the trailers) but after lacklustre marketing for Independence Day: Resurgence, Ghostbusters, Star Trek: Beyond and X Men: Apocalypse the Suicide Squad trailers promised at the end of this summer there would be one bright spark of originality and fun. Then Batman’s Mum Has the Same Name As Superman’s Mum came out and underperformed and there were rumblings of re-shoots, cuts for PG-13 audiences and instead of rejoicing about the fact that Suicide Squad would be vastly different to the current DCEU light lifters instead there was disquiet and a need for re-direction. Now Jared Leto is nodding his head as interviewers note his on air screen time is so small you could argue his role is that of a cameo and he’s playing the Clown Prince of Crime for fuck’s sake.

Somebody call Al Pacino, Gene Hackman,

Samuel L. Jackson, Kurt Russell or Billy Bob Thornton or anybody else who’s played a legendary movie coach and sent them over to Warner Bros. and TELL THEM TO GET THEIR SHIT TOGETHER! FYI Warners this is what shit together looks like.

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Honestly I would’ve been kinder to Batman Vs. Mopey Superbeing Who’s Superbummed About Rescuing People Cause Feelings and His Girlfriend Is Super Nice and Looks Like This, Image result for amy adams vanity fairhad I known how underwhelming the rest of the blockbuster season would be except for you Ricky, you brought it little buddy. HUNT FOR THE WILDERPEOPLE   hunt for the wilderpeople

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Harley Quinn was created in 1992, by Bruce Timm and Paul Dini for the much respected Batman animated series of the time, which is relatively recent by comparison for most DC comic book characters as for example the Joker whom first appeared in 1940. Dr Harleen Quinzel has built up quite a fan base in the relatively small time, studied for the contrast of her kick ass persona that still is very much under the spell of a man who may not really value or treat her well. Someone who has robbed her of autonomy and sanity but also made her a stronger individual rebellious of society’s expectations. Fans have been waiting a long time to see her on the big screen and Margot Robbie does not disappoint. There’s no denying the attractive actress wears hot pants well but Robbie subtlety shows that her sexuality is just another weapon in this character’s arsenal. An important aspect of the character is she appears a harmless beguiling woman capable of inflicting incredible violence with no restraint. In addition to being a fighter she’s also lovesick for the Joker. Image result for jared leto margot robbieYet how much can two insane and immoral characters be with a messed up power dynamic be in love? Does the Joker really love her and does she really love him? These are intriguing questions. The Joker appears throughout the story focussed on being reunited with his incarcerated woman, risking much but she’s also partly incarcerated due to him abandoning her. She exists this way because of his brainwashing, is there affection there or are they merely playing the part of a couple. It is a new take on the Joker being done on film to give him a lover and their relationship could prove fascinating but the bulk of their only time onscreen are mostly brief flashbacks that barely establish their relationship let alone probe the dynamics of it. Which is a shame because it’s the most interesting thing above the film. Talks of a Harley Quinn spin-off should be met with approval and despite the film’s flaws, getting the adaptation of a beloved character right straight out of the gate is rare and should be celebrated.

Image result for suicide squadIn fact most of the squad are full of interesting characters well realised by the actors playing them. There’s Amanda Waller played by Viola Davis, an intelligence operative who puts the squad together and sees metahumans as the next strategic upper hand in world affairs and deterrent. The most powerful being in the squad is Enchantress, a witch goddess who has taken over the body of the archaeologist who found her Dr. June Moon (Cara Delevingne). Dr. Moon can bring her forth but can’t necessarily control her. Leading the team is her boyfriend Colonel Rick Flagg (Joel Kinnaman) who is looking for a way to free June from the Enchantress. Actually he’s not, he’s not doing much of anything actually for a Special Forces soldier he spends most of the film being rescued and losing everybody’s respect. Being a good guy not as powerful as evil people he has to lead could have been a fascinating dynamic but mostly he just stands there and points guns until it’s all a bit too much for him. His only real display of a personality comes when he is dismissive of hitman Deadshot (Will Smith) despite their shared military background.

Anybody holding their breath for Will Smith to play against type as a ruthless killer should start inhaling now. Smith plays Floyd Lawton, a father and a good man who just happens to shoot people for a living but hey we only see him kill a criminal. Smith one of the most likeable movie stars on the planet is cool, funny and sympathetic here but the most prickly he gets is being a smartarse to Flagg. The Fresh Prince made the smart play segueing into a different kind of character as apart of an ensemble film rather than rehash past glories but the film doesn’t reward his choice and I really would have liked to see Captain Steve Hiller return. Image result for will smith jeff goldblumAs Richard Jackson pointed out he concludes many scenes with “let’s do this” which remains unclear since they basically were doing the same thing they are doing now. Quinn and Lawton form a bond in the movie although why is unclear except maybe the two characters are aware of the good chemistry that Robbie and Smith had in Focus. Rounding out the team is gangbanger El Diablo (Jay Hernandez) who has the superpower of projecting flames (arguably one of the most powerful members so naturally he doesn’t want his powers following a tragic incident from his past), bank robber Captain Boomerang who has some reaaallly cool Boomerangs, a mutant played by Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje called Killer Croc (although nobody is going to use the word mutant in DCEU film), Slipknot (Adam Beach)who is really good with ropes and Flag’s bodyguard Katana (Karen Fukuhara) who wields a magical samurai. Most of these members are hardly super powered but apparently the powers that be see them as a fallback if the next Superman goes rogue. Why use bad guys too after Batman worked so hard to lock them up? So that they can be plausibly denied and expendable except we never see these guys do harmful things to innocent people (an effective choice in say The Godfather but here denies the whole point of what makes these characters different in this genre). Image result for amanda waller viola davisWe see Amanda Waller kill an innocent in cold blood which is supposed to make her look cool and ruthless but makes her more evil than the squad. Interestingly Viola Davis read M.E. Thomas’s autobiography Confessions of a Sociopath to prepare for the role and described Waller as “relentless in her villainy” so the act is true to the character but is not as appealing as other aspects of her character. Or again we don’t really see enough of the character to understand the complexity and contradictions at the heart of her. That’s the problem with the film, Waller, Quinn, Joker, Deadshot and Killer Croc are interesting characters and Davis, Robbie, Leto, Smith and Akinnuoye-Agbaje are good actors but we get tantalising glimpses rather than hard looks.

The attitude and sass of these characters is infectious and the saving grace of the film, a scene in a bar late in the film has the right kind of energy that should have appeared in bigger doses to establish characters and develop relationships.

The most disappointing aspect of this action film is the action scenes often boil down to people shooting at things and lacks real excitement and inventiveness. Given the expensive sets and effects it is disappointing that they weren’t put to more effective use with the set pieces, cinematography that includes spectacular shots like this film jared leto cara delevingne suicide squad margot robbiefilm jared leto cara delevingne suicide squad margot robbiethat are sadly not in abundance throughout. Former submariner and director David Ayer made the critically acclaimed Fury and End of Watch but here with a $175 million budget something has been lost. Speaking of lost, many questions are raised by the editing of the film suggesting that key scenes were scrapped and re-shot hurting the narrative flow of the story.

Suicide Squad frustrates with missed opportunities, an action film that fails to excite with its action scenes, a film of bad guys that don’t appear to be all that bad and flashbacks that hint at a story we’re not told. Suicide Squad was the last and great hope of 3 weeks of watching disappointing blockbusters that kicked off with Central Intelligence. None were bad and none were great, the best thing that can be said about Suicide Squad unlike most of the others is that it makes you excited to see these characters again in a film worthy of them.

-Lloyd Marken