MAJOR RICHARD WINTERS

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Major Richard (Dick) Winters passed away 02JAN2011 aged 92 years.

He was a paratrooper and an officer during World War II with the 506th Regiment of the 101st Airborne. Most notably as a platoon commander within and then company commander of Easy Company who were the subject of the bestselling book written by historian Stephen E. Ambrose and published in the early 1990s. The book was then adapted into a television miniseries, it was called Band of Brothers.

Easy Company exploits as a result are well known including those of Winters himself who was often noted as a commander who led from the front. On D-Day he landed in France without a weapon or equipment “Not a good way to start begin a war.” he later recalled. Later that day he led twelve men in a successful attack of a German gun battery consisting of roughly 50 enemy and four 105mm Howitzers. The Howitzers were firing onto a causeway exit at Utah Beach where US troops had landed. The successful attack saved countless Allied lives. It’s still taught at West Point as a textbook assault on a fixed position. His war was just beginning, he later served in Operation Market Garden and was Battalion XO when the 101 famously held the line at Bastogne during the Battle of the Bulge. Sgt. Floyd Talbert, one of the many men under his command wrote to him a the end of the war “I would follow you into hell. When I was with you I knew everything was absolutely under control.” On the evening of 06JUN1944 Lt Winters lay down to sleep and made a promise to himself: if he lived through the war, he was going to find an isolated farm somewhere and spend the remainder of his life in peace and quiet. He did. Happily married for 52 years he leave behind his wife Ethel Estoppey and two children.

Talbert once wrote to him later in life “Do you remember the time you were leading us into Carentan? Seeing you in the middle of that road wanting to move was too much!…Dick this can go on and on. I have never discussed these things with anyone on this earth. The things we had are damn near sacred to me.” Talbert was and is right. Some things are sacred.

Some people too.

-Lloyd Marken

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THE SEVEN AGES OF CLINT EASTWOOD

All the world’s a stage,
And all the men and women merely players;
They have their exits and their entrances,
And one man in his time plays many parts,
His acts being seven ages. At first, the infant,
Mewling and puking in the nurse’s arms.
Then the whining schoolboy, with his satchel
And shining morning face, creeping like snail
Unwillingly to school. And then the lover,
Sighing like furnace, with a woeful ballad
Made to his mistress’ eyebrow. Then a soldier,
Full of strange oaths and bearded like the pard,
Jealous in honor, sudden and quick in quarrel,
Seeking the bubble reputation
Even in the cannon’s mouth. And then the justice,
In fair round belly with good capon lined,
With eyes severe and beard of formal cut,
Full of wise saws and modern instances;
And so he plays his part. The sixth age shifts
Into the lean and slippered pantaloon,
With spectacles on nose and pouch on side;
His youthful hose, well saved, a world too wide
For his shrunk shank, and his big manly voice,
Turning again toward childish treble, pipes
And whistles in his sound. Last scene of all,
That ends this strange eventful history,
Is second childishness and mere oblivion,
Sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything.

-William Shakespeare

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Hello and welcome to the first edition of The Seven Ages of where we will be discussing Clint Eastwood.

A few things to keep in mind, inspired by Shakespeare’s words I am endeavouring to relate the trajectory of a career and lifetime of an artist through these seven ages. Whether it is where the actor was in their career and where the character was in their life will be the criteria.

I’ll admit it was hard for me to decipher what each age would be about and found the website Quora most helpful to that end. By all means check them out.
Effectively for the purposes of these posts the Seven Ages will refer to these criteria.

  1. Infant – This could be an early role of little note when the actor just got their foot in the door or their first starring role.
  2. Schoolboy – Yearning for freedom and adventure but still reliant on the protection of their elders. Perhaps where the actor shows raw talent or does a terrible film or still works under a more esteemed mentor. If not fresh faced and young then still a relatively new quantity to the audience.
  3. Lover- I think Shakespeare intended this age to reflect lust, hot air and a lack of awareness that comes with youth. For the sake of this I might consider that or just put it down to their most romantic role.
  4. The Soldier – Essentially the age while still relatively young somebody decides on their code and goes out into the world to conquer it and being highly competitive to do it too. For an actor this maybe the moment where they truly define a persona for themselves that will stick. If they’re already a star it might be where they re-invent themselves and perhaps not without controversy.
  5. The Justice – maybe the height of someone’s stardom where they’re aged but established. Powerful even if coasting on their achievements from when they were the age of the soldier. Reflection comes to them too now and with it wisdom.
  6. Pantalone – Now the inevitable decline begins. Still in the world but it is passing them by. For a star who is smart this will often seem them partnered with a new up and comer or Lover or Schoolboy if you will.
  7. Old Age – For most actors this may be a pitiful last appearance which only embarrasses old memories or it may be a performance of a character at this stage of life. At death’s door what will be their parting wisdom, their learned lesson?

This hopefully will be an ongoing series and I fully intend to do Gene Hackman (as soon as I see Night Moves and I Never Sang for My Father, c’mon Netflix Australia!), stars from the Golden Age of Hollywood like Bogie, Hepburn, Tracey, Fonda, Grant and actresses like Sigourney Weaver, Shirley Maclaine and Meryl Streep. I chose Clint Eastwood straight up because there are few films of his that I haven’t seen and I would prefer someone over 70. Please note these seven ages refer to Eastwood and his acting performances. You could do a whole other one of him as director. This is also not a list of his best films or my favourites otherwise Firefox would be in there. If you think other ones will be a better pick for an age feel free to chime in. Do you have a landmark role for each decade Eastwood has been on the big screen? Let’s dig in.

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1. Infant – A Fistful of Dollars (1964)

Early films of no note include Eastwood playing a jet pilot in Tarantula. The TV series Rawhide made Eastwood a star as drover Rowdy Yates. I’ve seen neither. Clint Eastwood the movie star began with the Dollars trilogy and they begin with A Fistful of Dollars. A remake of Yojimbo, Eastwood starred as The Man with No Name (well marketing would have you believe anyway) riding into a border town and using the rivalry between two crime families to his own advantage. An immoral anti-hero, outnumbered, fearless, barely speaking and scowling a lot behind cigar smoke to add to the mystery. When people do impersonations of Eastwood they’re channelling everything he did in this performance. He picked the items for his costume in Beverly Hills before leaving for Europe already an assertive collaborator but Eastwood the man tipped his hat to directors Sergio Leone and Don Siegel later in Unforgiven, he learnt from them and it all started here at the infancy of his career.

Runners Up: Tarantula, Rawhide, The Good, The Bad and the Ugly, Dirty Harry.

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2. Schoolboy – Dirty Harry (1971)

Don Siegel directed Clint Eastwood in four movies, encouraged him in his own aspirations to direct and with Dirty Harry gave him a new kind of iconic role that didn’t involve him riding a horse into town. In Eastwood, Siegel got a star like no other and this was the apex of their collaborations. Before Dirty Harry Eastwood is making the genre rounds after Leone, a cop thriller here, a war movie there and even a musical. Afterwards Eastwood has his second massive hit and starts to control more of his career. As far as characters go there’s nothing childish or self-pitying about Lt Harry Callahan but there is idealism albeit not a very conventional one. Dirty Harry keeps bending the rules because he wants to protect the innocent and stop the criminals. We may not agree with the tearing up of civil rights but he in his own way believes in a better world. Lt Callahan could right the wrongs we couldn’t’, punish the attackers we feared, tell the bureaucrats where to go. Pure fantasy, a movie star persona all the way.

Runners Up: The Good, The Bad and the Ugly, The Beguiled, Coogan’s Bluff, Where Eagles Dare, Paint Your Wagon, Kelly’s Heroes.

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3. Lover- The Bridges of Madison County (1995)

Like all tough guy stars the romantic roles are few and far between for Mr Eastwood even after all these years. He’s explored sexuality for sure often with strong women threatening him in The Beguiled. Tightrope questioning men’s lesser base natures and conversely the need to protect their women. Close to two decades before Fatal Attraction came out, Eastwood himself made a film about a one night stand gone awry in Play Misty for Me. Clint shared warm chemistry with a dozen female co-stars not the least of which was real life love Sondra Locke.

Yet when I think romance and Clint Eastwood I think about that old man standing in the rain at a service station smiling. Clint was 65 in that film, fans of the book probably would have had him as their last choice to play photographer Robert Kincaid but he’s perfect in it. Robert is on assignment in rural Iowa to photograph some bridges and strikes up a relationship with housewife Francesca Johnson (Meryl Streep) while her family is away. Passionate and tender like he’d never allowed himself to be on screen before. Streep famously related a story where he turned away from the camera in one scene. “No they can’t see the tear.” He said of his audience and yet we know it’s there and we’re right there with him.

Runners Up: Play Misty for Me, The Beguiled, Heartbreak Ridge, Tightrope.

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4. The Soldier – The Outlaw Josey Wales (1976)

You could argue the Dollar films were Eastwood establishing himself or Dirty Harry or High Plains Drifter. There is one film though that I think shows Eastwood as a full entity in his own right with still white hot ambition. In a career of great films and great performances The Outlaw Josey Wales might be it. Eastwood still plays him as a superman able to outdraw 3 men at once, fearless again with a mean streak of humour but maturity is creeping in. The story goes that Wales is a simple farmer who loses his family and fights in the border clashes of the U.S. Civil War. While an invincible superman the realities of war and loss surround him and the family he mourns come to be replaced by another forcing Wales to admit on some level he is still capable of love and vulnerability. It’s interesting to note that Wales cannot win the day without said family. Eastwood is pushing his boundaries here and one could argue he never made a better film than this. Coincidentally Wales the character is a soldier of a sort.

Runners Up: Dirty Harry, The Good, The Bad and the Ugly, Play Misty for Me, High Plains Drifter, Heartbreak Ridge.

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5. The Justice – Honkytonk Man (1982)

The biggest movie star in America for many years Eastwood always had a great grasp of his star persona and long before Unforgiven he would like to play different takes on it. Bronco Billy’s cowboy was shoe salesman case in point, Sudden Impact put Harry Callahan in the position of bringing a rape victim to justice. In Thunderbolt and Lightfoot Eastwood played well a worn down bank robber given a new leash of life from Jeff Bridges. In Heartbreak Ridge at the height of Rambomania he made a service comedy that got the danger of combat and tasked his ultra-macho Marine with finding a better way to express his love for a woman as retirement loomed. You don’t need Grenada in that movie, he’s not teaching his platoon to win wars he’s teaching them to be good men. Anybody who’s been through military training will understand the power of that.

Yet what was the most personal film he ever made at the height of his star power? During the Great Depression Eastwood as a boy drove around with his family as they looked for work. In adapting Clancy Carlile’s novel Honkytonk Man Eastwood shows us a similar time and journey, telling us the story of Whit ‘Hoss’ Stovall accompanying his Uncle Red during the Great Depression as Red, a singer, attempts to make it to the Grand Ole Opry. Eastwood sings in the movie and there are plenty of slapstick adventures along the way kind of like a boy’s own adventure. Kyle Eastwood (coached a little by Locke) acts damn well opposite his father projecting wide eyed naiveté and worldliness about how imperfect his Uncle is. A scene late at night in the car involves one of those late night drive conversations you might have with an elder and how many regrets and lost loves will stick with you down through the years. Eastwood felt no need to apologise for this film in any way, there’s no real action or bell and whistles. It’s a character piece and maybe Clint Eastwood’s best performance as a man….just a man like the rest of us with hopes, dreams, frailties and Marys we could have done more right by.

Runners Up: The Dead Pool, Sudden Impact, Unforgiven, In the Line of Fire, Heartbreak Ridge, Thunderbolt and Lightfoot, White Hunter Black Heart, Pale Rider.

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6. Pantalone – In the Line of Fire (1993)

Eastwood segued nicely into playing older men with reduced abilities happy to share the spotlight with younger co-stars or make fun of the cop genre Callaghan spawned. In Unforgiven he took everything he knew about his persona and the Western and turned them on their head. Showing a gunslinger in reduced ability that may have only ever had it because he was fearless when drunk. Yet it is a treatise on his career and more impressive for his directing than his acting. For me In the Line of Fire is the performance I’m more drawn to for this age. Eastwood saves the day in his first scene every bit the movie star persona as Secret Service Agent Frank Horrigan. Soon though we see that façade fall, the criminal he is trying to stop played by John Malkovich outwits him at every turn and is always one step ahead of him. Horrigan never proves smarter than his antagonist throughout the whole film. In a few moments Eastwood even shows Horrigan clearly afraid of him and afraid of death. It makes the Agent’s choices in the finale that much more powerful. Physically Eastwood who has always kept himself in good shape allows himself here to be seen old, napping, sweating and lonely in his little old apartment even as he tries to talk like a man on the make with a woman half his age in fellow agent Lilly Raines played by Rene Russo. He doesn’t even get to win arguments against bureaucrats anymore. Yet Eastwood the star is more compelling with his vulnerabilities not in spite of them and when the time comes to squint those eyes and shoot straight you better not bet against Clint!

Runners Up: Unforgiven, Absolute Power, True Crime, Bloodwork, The Rookie, Million Dollar Baby, Honytonk Man, Bronco Billy, Space Cowboys.

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7. Old Age – Gran Torino (2008)

Million Dollar Baby haunts like few films can. Easily one of Eastwood’s best in the past year and with a character in Eastwood who is full of regrets and seldom few things to look forward to but if there is a message about life it is given by Hilary’s Swank’s Maggie and Eastwood as director. For a last great performance from a man who is facing death, lost a great deal and imparts one final wisdom then it is the character of Walt Kowalski. A Korean War veteran, retired auto factory worker and widow Walt is quickly becoming isolationist in his demeanour and circumstances. The neighbourhood he lives in has changed, the values he was raised on have been left behind, the family he provided for have no time for his harsh words and stern judgement. Then he is forced into action to protect others and finds himself re-engaged in the world, he finds purpose again and community and with it vulnerability. If Eastwood was afraid to show his tears a decade earlier in Madison Country here he goes for it and after a lifetime of playing violent avengers Walt finds a new way to stop the cycle continuing to spin that requires more courage than raising a gun.

Runners Up: Million Dollar Baby, The Trouble with the Curve, Pink Cadillac.

Well feel free to let me know what your picks would have been in the comments below and thanks for reading.

-Lloyd Marken

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THE YEAR THAT WAS 2016 ON LLOYD MARKEN WORDPRESS

This post is the concluding chapter to my best hit adverts from earlier in 2016, which every four months would track changing statistics. First up the United States of America had the most views this year taking over Australia’s lead from the year previous. British views also saw a sharp uptick almost knocking Australia into third. Canada followed in fourth I’m pleased to see and Spain and Brazil battled it out for fifth with Spain ultimately proving victorious.

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Top 10 Most Views by Country

  1. The United States of America                                                                                     1,712 Views
  2. Australia                                                                                                                              1,145 Views
  3. The United Kingdom                                                                                                      1,120 Views
  4. Canada                                                                                                                                 312 Views
  5. Spain                                                                                                                                     181 Views
  6. Brazil                                                                                                                                     118 Views
  7. Germany                                                                                                                             117 Views
  8. France                                                                                                                                  103 Views
  9. New Zealand                                                                                                                     78 Views
  10. India                                                                                                                                      43 Views

 

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Out of 57 posts published for the year the following 25 got the most views. I’m happy to see so many views for the post on the Kibeho massacre. That story should never be forgotten and those who were there should always be thanked for what they endured and accomplished. In 2015 the blog started to grow with 1,609 views, 333 visitors, 23 Likes and 30 comments. In 2016 the blog received 5,673 views, 3,206 visitors, 546 Likes and 751 comments. This was helped in no small part thanks to the support and interest from my fellow bloggers.

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Top 25 Most Viewed Posts 2016

  1. Captains Reg Saunders of the Australian Army                                                   133 Views
  2. Lloyd Marken: Sunshine Blogger Award                                                                 104 Views
  3. The Heroes of Kibeho                                                                                                    97 Views
  4. Eye in the Sky Is Pure Perfection                                                                               91 Views
  5. The Hunt for the Wilderpeople Turns Up a New Zealand Gem                        87 Views
  6. South Vietnamese General Ngo Quang Truong’s War                                        81 Views
  7. 10 PICS FROM THE STICKS PART IV: FLAXTON MILL ROAD TO                       67 Views MAPLETON FALLS AND BACK AGAIN
  8. A Quick Word to my Sponsors                                                                                    59 Views
  9. Bad Moms is Pretty Bloody Good                                                                               59 Views
  10. Deadpool: Finally a Happy Ending for Ryan Reynolds                                        56 Views
  11. 10 PICS FROM THE STICKS PART V: LAKE BAROON TO                                      56 Views KONDALILLA FALLS
  12. Youth is Wasted on the Old                                                                                         55 Views
  13. Star Wars has Returned to Cinemas and Our Hearts                                           53 Views
  14. Suicide Squad Will Test Your Will to Live                                                                52 Views
  15. Batman Vs. (What the Hell was that V All About?!) 50 Views Superman Rant
  16. Sully: The Man in the Air                                                                                               48 Views
  17. Star Trek: Beyond Covers Familiar Ground                                                             48 Views
  18. Whiskey Tango Foxtrot is Papa Foxtrot Gulf                                                          46 Views
  19. The Big Short: A Comedy to Get Angry About                                                        43 Views
  20. Finding Dory Fails to Find All of Pixar’s Former Inspiration                             42 Views
  21. Birth Days                                                                                                                           42 Views
  22. Love and Friendship: Too Sorely Needed Attributes                                            40 Views
  23. Brooklyn: An Old Irish Tale for Our Times                                                              40 Views
  24. A Brave New World with New Ghostbusters                                                           40 Views
  25. A Couple of Nice Guys to Spend Time With                                                             39 Views

One of the most interesting things I take away from the stats is that sometimes what I don’t think are my best posts still get interest if the subject matter appeals and in particular if there is very little on the web about something. Take for example General Ngo Quang Truong. Also if a film is popular a post about it will retain interest with examples including Finding Dory or Star Trek: Beyond.Whereas I’ll be sitting here hoping more Sully, Brooklyn and Youth.

Top 10 Most Liked Posts 2016

10. Love and Friendship: Too Sorely Needed Attributes                                               14 Likes

9. Lloyd Marken: Sunshine Blogger Award                                                                     14 Likes

8. Barce: Where Right and Glory Led During World War II                                        14 Likes

7. ABFAB Still Fabulous Enough Darling                                                                         14 Likes

6. Bad Moms Is Pretty Bloody Good                                                                                   14 Likes

20161030_1641215. 10 Pics from the Sticks Part VII: Mt Bithongabel and 3rd Times a Charm         14 Likes

Image result for superman the movie4. Suicide Squad Will Test Your Will To Live                                                                   15 Likes

16193. 10 Pics from the Sticks Part IV: Flaxton Mill Road to Mapleton and Back         21 Likes

Again

2. The Hunt for the Wilderpeople Turns up a New Zealand Gem                            24 Likes

Image result for captain reg saunders1. Captain Reg Saunders of the Australian Army                                                           51 Likes

For Your Consideration

Finally I’ll quick just give a shout out to the posts for better or worse that I take some pride in writing last year.

My film reviews for Youth (mortality), Brooklyn (my windswept and interesting younger sister), Eye in the Sky (war), Deadpool (comedy) and Eddie the Eagle (the drudgery of working live compared to dreaming dreams).

My short story Birth Days, which received some positive feedback which just meant the world to me.

Out of the 7 hiking posts I put up I am most sentimental about the one where Karen and I first discovered Mapleton Falls of which later we would take her grandfather to and hiking with my sister to Kondalilla Falls.1619

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My posts about The Heroes of Kibeho and Victoria Cross Winner Corporal Bryan Budd I hope struck a nerve. It meant a great deal to me that Sgt Terry Pickard who was Kibeho commented on it.

If you have a particular favourite please let me know and I will endeavour to maybe write more like that although in the end all writers are stuck writing what best compels them if they are to have any chance of amusing others. I feel very blessed to be part of my small blogging community, I don’t always get to read as much as I used to and wonder how they manage to keep up with my output. A particular highlight for me this year was receiving a Sunshine Blogger Award. Effectively the awards are chain letters but I don’t care – I was chuffed and tell everybody now about my award winning blog. I am very grateful and thank you all.

-Lloyd Marken

RAY KROC…WHAT AN ASSHOLE!

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The Founder is one of the earlier Oscar bait releases with the resurgent heat of Michael Keaton at its centre with a performance no less engaging than his recent ones in Spotlight and Birdman. Slickly directed by John Lee Hancock with an award winning cast and something to say about one of the lynchpins of latter 20th Century Western consumerism, if there is a shortcoming it is this pure and simple, Ray Kroc ‘The Founder’ of McDonalds was an absolute prick. A mean cruel man ruthlessly destroying lives for his own selfish needs that at the end of it didn’t get anything coming to him. Without the duality of say a character like Tony Soprano it’s hard as an audience member to watch this and not leave the theatre a little bummed out. The only justice to be found maybe in the fact that maybe this outrage will grow in numbers due to the film’s release.

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Fifty two year old travelling salesman Ray Kroc is selling milkshake makers in 1955 when he receives an order from two brothers running a diner out in San Bernardino, California. There he meets Maurice McDonald (John Carroll Lynch) and Richard McDonald (Nick Offerman) who has perfected a system of making consistently uniform food of good quality delivered instantly as you place the order. Kroc is blown away by their innovation but it is when he sees their failed franchise venture complete with Golden Arches that he possibly falls in love for the first time in his life. Related image

He has reached an age at that time where he could comfortably slip into retirement and have a good life. Ray does not want a good life though, he wants a great life and Ray proves most sympathetic when we see him dismissed at every turn for his failed ventures and looked down upon by others who have enjoyed more success. Unfortunately he does not value personal relationships nor the loyalty, kindness and trust of others. His wife Ethel played by Laura Dern is a buttress of patient support while dealing with her own loneliness and his deceit. Married younger women whispering down the end of telephone lines “Are you a bold man?” get him more excited.

McDonalds feeds 1% of the entire global population on a daily basis. Could something that big be built without ruthlessness shown to others. The McDonalds brothers themselves exasperate Ray at various points as he sets up their franchise stores because they don’t want to compromise the quality of the store at any cost. If they’d had their own way would McDonalds exist today? Robert Siegel’s screenplay has some great moments describing how The Golden Arches would become synonymous with America as much as Church Crosses and court houses were and how your own personal identity let alone your business can be bought and stricken from the record if the law and big money is on the other guy’s  side. It’s well made and a little fascinating but it sure as hell won’t make you feel like ba da ba ba bah lovin Ray Kroc.

-Lloyd Marken

DOCTOR STRANGE STRANGELY FAMILIAR YET NEW

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Doctor Strange does a lot of new interesting things on film, stitched together by many influences of before. Fights between souls, palavers with galactic beings, and foot chases along New York skyscrapers may remind modern audiences of The Matrix, Inception and various comic books but never before has it been seen on such a scale and never before with the witty and ass-kicking Cloak of Levitation. The Marvel Cinematic Universe is expanding possibilities for future adventures and even daring to switch up how their third act climaxes play out.

So it’s a little sad to report that Stephen Strange follows the path of Tony Stark a little bit. Stark was of course an arrogant tech genius lay low by a life threatening experience and imprisonment. While wounded his gifts and expertise remained unharmed even if his purpose in life was changed. Stephen Strange is arrogant as an incredibly gifted and brilliant neurosurgeon that has a car accident. It’s a key difference that Stephen’s gifts are taken from him and his arrogance takes a lot longer to be stripped away. Casual fans though may find too much familiar in this comic book origin story. The film becoming more interesting as he leaves behind love interest Dr Christine Palmer and sets forth for Nepal to find Kamar-Tag and learn how to heal himself from the teachings of the sorcerer The Ancient One ( Tilda Swinton). doctor strangeStrange proves a quick study (maybe a little too quick his first showdown with powerful sorcerers sees him handle himself very well for a rookie) getting help from Karl Mordor (Chiwetel Ejiofor) and Wong who is the keeper of Ancient Texts and gets most of the film’s best bits (Benedict Wong). Related imageThrough them Dr. Strange becomes a healed man immersed with a new identity and purpose when a disenchanted former follower Kaecilius (Mads Mikkelsen) starts an all-out war against the Ancient One and those that stand with her.

The action scenes and effects are first rate not just for their look but also for how fresh they feel. Marvel films recently have been criticised for all retaining an aircraft hangar/industrial park aesthetic and director Scott Derrickson may go some way to challenging this with old fashioned dressed up studio sets but also real location shooting in Kathmandu, London, New York and Hong Kong on the streets that look characteristic of those cities in particular. The cast which includes Rachel McAdams and Michael Stuhlbarg sometimes feel wasted here but the dynamic between Strange, Mordor, Wong and the Ancient One is strong. Mikkelsen may not get too much either neither being particularly threatening nor scenery chewing but he still gets a few chuckles and does his fight scenes well. The film is alive with the possibilities that this character and his realm of influence opens up. As the second half rolls on, Strange takes up his new mantle a bit too easily and set piece after set piece follow each other without any real further character development but the finale flips Hollywood conventions and revels in the tricks that Strange can pull off. There is a lot here to enjoy and with a little bit of luck it won’t be long before we see Dr Strange again.

-Lloyd Marken

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THE BLAIR WITCH REVIVAL

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Teenagers love horror films and I partook my fair share as a kid. Around about the time a friend dragged me to Hostel I found I’d had my fill and was over the genre. In that time while the gore carried less impact the cruelty of the films and some of the poor writing pointed me in the opposite direction at 23. I was 18 when the original The Blair Witch Project came out. I’d been sitting around camp fires as a Cub Scout for years hearing ghost stories before venturing back through dark woods in the middle of the night with older boys playing pranks and rattling my tent. You stare into shadows long enough and they move. Children tucked up in their beds at night know this and in the shadows anything can be lurking.

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The Blair Witch Project knew the power of these truths, despite the genius of its marketing at the dawn of the internet which lead people to believe it was footage of people who had actually gone missing its real power was not in the highly effective marketing but in recognising these truths. By the time the film reached Australian shores we knew the cast were safe and sound but the power of imagination and fear of the unseen still remained the real drawing card of the film. The tale of a witch strung up by townsfolk in the woods 200 hundred years ago pulling her limbs to new deformed lengths is a good ghost story. Another story about children missing in those woods years later or a man being instructed to kill in the 1940s in a cabin that nobody can found out in the forest is another. The premise of The Blair Witch is as strong as that of Freddy or Jason. Another strength of the original was the limitations of then hi-tech video cameras. Night vision and low light can only do so much, point and shoot into the woods and things will come into focus slowly. What are those low grey dots in the haze? The end of branches or two eyes looking at you? Two eyes of a creature that you do not want to meet. Your mind can terrify you more than any gore or jump scare. Image result for the blair witch projectFilmmakers Daniel Myrick and Eduardo Sanchez knew this and they made what was at the time a surprisingly effective low budget horror film. Found footage films no doubt had existed before this but this effectively kicked off the modern era and after Australia’s Mad Max had held the world record for budget versus gross for two decades The Blair Witch Project unseated it costing $35,000 for principal shooting and editing and grossing $246 million dollars. A sequel followed the following year but failed to meet the same acclaim and the series slowly languished as time went on until now.

Blair Witch directed by Adam Wingard sets the film years later where the younger brother James (James Allen McCune) of film student Heather Donahue who went missing in the original film’s events is investigating whether she could still be alive. New footage has been unearthed from Burkittsville locals Talia (Valorie Curry) and Lane (Wes Robinson) and he sets off with friends Peter (Brandon Scott), Ashley (Corbin Reid) including film student Lisa Arlington (Callie Hernandez) to hike through the woods to try and find some answers. What could possibly go wrong?

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Blair Witch follows the plot of The Blair Witch Project very closely. We are introduced to these people and see them joking around and preparing for a bit of an adventure. They descend into the woods and are disturbed at night by continually escalating weirdness as their group dynamics break down. This slow burn building of dread and plot while also allowing time to get to know the characters is commendable but only if the characters are really likeable and the dread is unpredictable. Those unfamiliar with the original may get a lot out of this bit and interestingly enough as the third act begins small uses of CGI became apparent. While still being shot on digital cameras and remaining low key sequences include giant old oak trees collapsing, tents flying high into the air and shadowy figures lurking in the background scurrying across walls.

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While not bringing anything truly original besides some better production values this is a respectable enough attempt at a sequel. The performances are good and there is some variations with the use of new technology like drone cameras and bluetooths. Was I scared? Yes and even more so after the film when I strolled around my house late at night and suddenly noticed the dark shadows in the corners when I turned out some lights.

-Lloyd Marken

THE APPROPRIATELY TITLED JACK REACHER: NEVER GO BACK

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You go through comments sections on a few film websites and sooner or later the old line about Tom Cruise will come up. “Say what you will about Tom Cruise but he always gives 110%.” Various riffs on what he always does will appear from there. In a decade where his personal life has caused headlines in a negative way and his box office has diminished there have always been a core group (not even fans of the man) who couldn’t deny that the bulk of his work was consistently good and his work ethic remained strong. Jack Reacher was a case in point, fans of the Jack Reacher books couldn’t get past Cruise playing their buffed giant but those who actually showed up to see the film enjoyed it for its pithy dialogue, interesting crime story and solid action scenes. Reacher is a man without a home, Cain of the modern era, wandering from town to town righting wrongs and moving on tied down by no family or necessities. Maybe some of the edges of the character were chipped away for a major Hollywood blockbuster but he remained reliably fatalistic, confident even dismissive, single minded, black humoured and deadly. If you haven’t seen it, go check it out, it’s a classic throwback to the kind of testosterone fuelled fantasies of yesteryear.

The original film got what was so appealing about the character and this sequel directed by Ed Zwick now asks what if you play a variation on that and place that character into situations he doesn’t often find himself in. It’s one thing to mansplain to Rosamund Pike while she sits back in a dress that makes her bosoms heave. It’s an entirely different thing to find out you may have a teenage daughter and try to get her to listen to you.time jack nothing reacher

As the film opens Reacher has assisted a Military Police Major Susan Turner in the arrest of some bad hombres and they begin a cross country correspondence. When he finally makes his way to Washington for them to meet up he finds she’s been arrested on charges of treason and breaks her out. Now the two of them are on the run and take on a girl who has filed a paternity suit against him and is now in mortal danger from the people who framed Major Turner and have targeted Reacher too creating a make shift family dynamic. Reacher has always been protective of women and respectful of strong ones but now he is being forced to display emotions that he hasn’t had in a while and ponder the answers to questions that are never asked. Zwick who can do action epics and small character dramas was a natural fit having also worked with Cruise before on The Last Samurai. Alas the script is just not quite there. Related imageThe crime mystery itself is less clever and involving and the action scenes here less believable and gritty almost seeming to occur out of obligation rather than tactical inevitability. The talented Cobie Smulders as Major Turner never quite sells herself as a career military woman. A scene with her on a bed in a bathrobe suggests a an authentic earthy sexuality and she plays well off Cruise in this scene provoking him on many levels but think how fucking cool it would have been if Demi Moore had been cast in this role!!!

Jack Reacher: Never Go Back is a standard action film, nothing more and nothing less but Reacher deserves better. Tom Cruise has never done a sequel to one of his films outside the Mission Impossible series and the character of Reacher remains so compelling that we can only hope for another film but right now the saying might go “Say what you will about Tom Cruise but he really shouldn’t do sequels.”

-Lloyd Markentom cruise stunts mission impossible rogue nation jack reacher christopher mcquarrie