Merry Christmas 2019!
Greetings, Christmas Eve is here once again and it is time for me to wish you a Merry Christmas and a happy New Year! There is only one blog update left for this year and, as hard as it is to believe, this decade. I think that it is pretty neat that I will soon have a record of blog updates that ranges over a complete decade which could be looked back on as time goes by. I’m sure that there will be plenty of new blog updates in the future from myself as well as more stories for Write Wise. The next blog entry will be uploaded in exactly one week’s time on New Year’s Eve in which I will go over some of the media I enjoyed in 2019 and write about some of my favourite entertainment from this year.
I should say that I enjoyed reading and participating in our little Write Wise tradition over the past few days. The entries were well written pieces and excellent additions to the site. I did find it interesting that despite being very different entries, they did have some similar subjects running through them all. I am looking forward to what Write Wise stories we will get in 2020. I already have designs to start my impersonation series in which I try to recreate or mimic the general themes, common creative traits and writing style of other Write Wise authors. Have a Merry Christmas!
Quote of the Day
Aw, come on, Dad. This could be the miracle that saves the Simpsons' Christmas. If TV has taught me anything, it's that miracles always happen to poor kids at Christmas. It happened to Tiny Tim, it happened to Charlie Brown, it happened to the Smurfs, and it's gonna happen to us!
Greetings, Joker is a 2019 film that was directed by Todd Phillips who co-wrote the story with Scott Silver. Philips is perhaps known best for his roles in producing comedy movies, most notably the Hangover trilogy and the 2004 Starsky and Hutch film, before directing this box office smashing hit. The main cast isn’t particularly large in size as is befitting this isolated, claustrophobic story. It stars Joaquin Phoenix as Arthur Fleck, the man destined to become the Joker, Robert De Niro as the popular comedic talk show host Murray Franklin, Zazie Beets as Sophie and Frances Conroy as Penny, Arthur’s ill mother. The music was conducted by Hildar Guðnadóttir who was involved in the Sicario movies as well as the 2019 mini-series named Chernobyl. It also includes many tracks from artists such as Frank Sinatra and Jimmy Durante during pivotal, emotive scenes. This film is very different from the family friendly affairs of superhero movies that are currently dominating the cinematic world as this is a dark and brooding psychological thriller that serves as the origin story for one of DC’s most infamous villains.
The plot begins in Gotham City in 1981, before the creation of the Dark Knight, at a time in which tensions are running high in the city. Unemployment is high and the streets are rife with violence, causing a general sense of unease among the populace. Basic services are beginning to falter under the strain and garbage men are on strike, allowing litter to fester on the roads. As Gotham falls further into the dark depths, the aspiring comedian and mentally unwell Arthur Fleck is trying to live his life as best he can while caring for his frail mother. Arthur suffers from a neurological condition in which he laughs uncontrollably when nervous or when he is upset. As such, he is very reliant on the social services for his medication to keep him in check. Due to budget cuts, Arthur’s local social services facility closes down and leaves him unable to acquire anymore of his medication. Arthur is attacked while working as a sign spinner by a group of young delinquents and is left badly beaten. The thugs also damage his sign in the process, causing friction between Arthur and his boss who doesn’t believe his claim and is annoyed by the damaged property.
Randall, one of Arthur’s co-workers, gives him a gun for protection when he heard the news of the assault. Upon gifting the weapon to Fleck, Randall despairs of what is becoming of Gotham. One highlight in the otherwise bleak nature of Arthur’s life is his newly arrived neighbour, Sophie, whom he is romantically attracted to. Arthur manages to convince Sophie to come see his stand-up routine after stalking her for a while. Sophie is impressed by Fleck on the night and the two begin dating. Disaster falls upon Arthur as his gun falls out of his pocket while he was performing as a clown in a children’s hospital. The serious oversight leads to his dismissal from his job. Later in the day, a down in the dumps Fleck, still in his clown attire, is riding the subway where he unwillingly gets involved in a confrontation with three inebriated employees of Wayne Enterprises. Arthur defends himself from the physically aggressive men by shooting two of them and brutally murders the last one who tried to flee the crime scene. News of the three rich victims is caught by the media and reports of a killer clown captures the imagination of the public who take on the image as a protest symbol against the elite. Gotham, a city on a powder keg, is on course to be set a light by Arthur and the chaotic creation of the Joker is about to unfold.
Despite the overblown warnings from the media on security concerns, this is one of the few modern DC films to have performed well with audiences. DC had been doing poorly previously, especially in comparison with their competitors in Marvel, although they have had some recent successes in Wonder Woman, Aquaman and Shazam. I believe that part of the reason for this is that Joker is designed as standalone movie and is not linked to any of the DC’s shared cinematic universe. Its adult themes also contributed to its popularity as it took inspiration from Scorsese’s filmography with both ‘The King of Comedy’ and ‘Taxi Driver’ being two of the main influences in particular. I thought it was a daring and an interesting choice to have a Batman film without the famous crime fighting hero. The Joker seems to have become a real cultural phenomenon as this particular version of the character has now been used in protests around the world as a symbol of dissatisfaction. Hong Kong protestors are among those who have adopted the clown make up in their struggle against Beijing. There are murmurs of a sequel being made due to its overwhelming success but, as this was such a tour de force, I would be concerned about another installation ruining its legacy. I would be more interested in the rumours of other Batman rogues getting their own dark origin stories and have heard that a film centred on Harvey ‘Two-Face’ Dent is being considered next.
Quote of the Day
As you're always saying, the Beastie Boys fought and possibly died for my right to party.
The Quiz Part 11
Greetings, the cold month of November is here and so the last quiz of the decade is now upon us. This is the 11th quiz you will have participated in as part of an annual tradition that started way back in 2009 when the blog was relatively new. When completing the quiz, please be aware that the answers are stated below and don’t forget to write your scores in your comments. Last year, Mark came in first place with 9 out of 10 while Joh managed to land second position with 7 and Aaron came in third with a score of 5. The title of winner usually switches between Mark and Joh but it has sometimes ended in a draw in the past. As far as the records show, with some being incomplete in the early years, Aaron has never won one yet but this could be his year. Let’s see how well you all do with these new questions!
I would also like to state that my entry for Write Wise’s annual Christmas challenge is going well and I am making good progress on it. Like my previous entry, The Bizarre World of Victor Victorious, this is also a new story that isn’t based on my other works. While I will be rather tight lipped on the details, I can confirm that it is something of a light fantasy and will perhaps prove to be the strangest, most unusual story on the site so far. Now on with the quiz:
1. Joker is the knockout film of 2019 but which actor played the deranged Arthur Fleck who would eventually become the clown prince of crime?
2. Who said this? – “You're gonna need a bigger boat.”
3. In which war did British forces, led by Major General Robert Ross, burn down the White House?
4. What renowned actor stars in all of these David Lean epics, Bridge on the River Kwai (1957), Lawrence of Arabia (1962) and Doctor Zhivago (1965)? A. Alec Guinness B. Peter O’Toole C. Omar Sharif
5. The critically acclaimed television show Mad Men ran from the years of 2007 to 2015 but how many series did it have during that time?
6. HAL 9000, the antagonist from 2001: A Space Odyssey, sings during a prominent scene in the film, which is a reference to the first real world demonstration of computer speech synthesis, but what is the title of the song that he sings?
7. Name the character
8. Unscramble the letters to reveal an actor- YTNNHAO KOPNISH
9. What series in Write Wise currently has the highest number of entries?
10. Which playable Team Fortress 2 character is missing from this list?- The Engineer, The Medic, The Scout, The Heavy Weapons Guy/Heavy, The Solider, The Pyro, The Demoman and The Spy
1. Joaquin Phoenix
2. Chief Martin Brody
3. The War of 1812
4. A. Alec Guinness
5. 7 seasons
6. Daisy Bell (Bicycle Built for Two)
8. Anthony Hopkins
9. Kittelson Mystery series
10. The Sniper
Quote of the Day
I know what it's like to lose. To feel so desperately that you're right, yet to fail nonetheless. It's frightening, turns the legs to jelly. But I ask you, to what end? Dread it, run from it, destiny arrives all the same. And now, it's here. Or should I say: I AM.
Avengers: Infinity War
Greetings, Ghost Stories is a 2017 British horror film which was directed by Jeremy Dyson and Andy Nyman. It is a filmic adaptation of a 2010 play of the same name which was also written by the two aforementioned directors. The cast consists of Andy Nyman as the sceptical protagonist Professor Philip Goodman as well as Martin Freeman, Paul Whitehouse and Alex Lawther who are the primary actors involved in this movie. The music was composed by Israeli conductor Frank Ilfman who does not seem to have worked on any other notable projects and includes the song ‘Why’ as performed by Anthony Newly during a particularly tense scene.
The plot begins in 1979 where a young Philip Goodman watches helplessly as sister is thrust out of his family by their strict father. She had been dating a South Asian man, an inexcusable act of betrayal in the eyes of her traditional father as it flew in the face of his beliefs. The plot moves some decades into the future when a now grown up Philip is a television presenter and debunks showmen psychics that he believes are taking advantage of vulnerable people who have suffered through loss. Philip’s rationale for doing so is that he doesn’t want the superstitions that ruined his family to be able to destroy others as well. His work catches the eye of Philip’s personal hero, an aging paranormal investigator named Charles Cameron, who had dedicated his life to disproving supposed supernatural happenings. Cameron had been famous during the 1970s but had long ago disappeared mysteriously and was declared missing in the decades since. Philip is invited to meet his idol and, motivated by his curiosity, agrees to speak with him.
It is soon revealed that Cameron is living in a caravan, is on his deathbed and is now impoverished despite his earlier fame. The frail Cameron shocks Goodman by revealing he now believes that all his previous cases were real and that paranormal entities are authentic. Cameron gives his fan three supposedly separate cases to solve as he himself couldn’t conclusively prove that there were no unnatural elements at play. Philip accepts the challenge and interviews his first person of interest, a standoffish security guard called Tony Matthews. After managing to chip away at Matthew’s defences, Philip discovers that the man was beset by family troubles that included a wife who died from cancer and a daughter who suffers from locked-in-syndrome. A frightened Tony tells his tale, reliving his unusual experience when he had seen an apparition during a night watch at an abandoned asylum for women.
I really enjoyed this movie but I would state that it had more of a creepy, unnerving vibe running thorough it as opposed to having any particular terrifying scenes that stood out to me. The film also ends on a well-crafted twist that I appreciated and thought was nicely foreshadowed throughout the movie. It would be my opinion that even non-horror fans should watch this film as it has a well thought out plot, interesting characters and is brilliantly shot as well. I’m unsure of what Jeremy Dyson and Andy Nyman have planned for future projects but it is unlikely that there is a Ghost Stories sequel in store as it seems to be a standalone movie, especially when considering its surprising ending.
Quote of the Day
Power, I said! Power to walk into the gold vaults of the nations, into the secrets of kings, into the Holy of Holies. Power to make multitudes run squealing in terror at the touch of my little invisible finger. Even the moon's frightened of me! Frightened to death! The whole world's frightened to death!
Dr Jack Griffin
The Invisible Man
Greetings, Casino is a gangster film from 1995 that was directed by Martin Scorsese and stars Robert De Niro, Sharon Stone and Joe Pesci as the primary cast members. James Woods and Don Rickles also appear in the movie and are the more prominent actors from the supporting cast. The film is based upon the book ‘Casino: Love and Honour in Las Vegas’ by Nicholas Pileggie which is a non-fiction novel that focuses on the life of Frank ‘Lefty’ Rosenthal, a casino executive and an associate of the mafia known as the Chicago Outfit. It was the second collaboration between Nicholas and Martin as they had worked on Goodfellas, another epic crime film, five years prior to Casino. It was also the eighth movie that both De Niro and Scorsese had worked on together with some of their previous projects including Mean Streets, Taxi Driver and Cape Fear. Like other Scorsese movies, the soundtrack contains many songs from the era that were sung by numerous artists including Louis Prima, the Moody Blues, Fleetwood Mac, Brenda Lee and Tony Bennett.
The plot begins in 1983 with the attempted assassination of casino owner Sam ‘Ace’ Rothstein in which a car bomb detonates as Sam clambers inside the vehicle. After the supposedly grisly end for Rothstein, the film reverts back to 1973 when the man was a sports handicapper for the mob and it is made apparent that he was very effective at calculating winners. Sam’s talent for handicapping ensured the higher ups of the mafia took a great interest in him and sent Rothstein to Las Vegas where he was to effectively run the Tangiers Casino without acquiring a gaming license. Sam performed his duties well, much to the pleasure of his Mafioso partners, and ensured any cheaters were quickly identified and dealt with as befitting a gangster’s idea of just punishment. Sam’s work is threatened by the arrival of fellow mobster and a personal childhood friend of his, Nicky Santoro, who is renowned for his violent temper. Nicky had been sent by the Chicago Outfit to protect Sam’s enterprise which was monetarily benefiting the syndicate as they skimmed the casino’s profits.
Nicky proves to be nothing short of a headache for Sam as his confrontational attitude gets Santoro banned from every casino in Las Vegas and it starts to draw unwanted attention to Rothstein. With nothing else to do, Nicky decides to start burglarizing homes without the consent of the mob. Meanwhile Sam begins to fall for Ginger McKenna, a hustler and former prostitute, who eventually marries Rothstein and the two conceive a daughter. Despite the initial strength of their marriage, it quickly begins to deteriorate due to the presence of Ginger’s old boyfriend, Lester Diamond, and the two begin hating each other as Sam starts restricting Ginger’s access to Lester. The poisonous relationship between Sam and Ginger is one of the many threads that threatens to destroy Rothstein’s personal life and his entire career.
Overall, I liked this film and I would recommend it to fans of the gangster genre. This is especially true if the person enjoyed Scorsese’s previous crime movies. In my opinion, there are many similarities between it and Goodfellas in terms of narrative structure, themes and its overall style but it doesn’t quite reach the same standards as the earlier instalment. There is certainly a very notable absence of humour in Casino that was present in the 1990 film and I consider Joe Pesci’s character of Nicky Santoro to be essentially the same as his earlier role of Tommy DeVito. Both characters are volatile, aggressive and short tempered and there is a similarity in the two character’s arcs. Despite this, Casino is still definitely worth your time and I look forward to exploring more of Scorsese’s work in the future. I am particularly intrigued by the Irishman which is due out later this year.
Quote of the Day
You might very well think that. I couldn't possibly comment.
House of Cards
A Clockwork Orange
Greetings, A Clockwork Orange is a famous dystopian novel by Anthony Burgess and is particularly well known for the senseless violence contained within its pages and the controversial Kurbkick movie adaptation from 1971 that had drawn the attention of the British censors. The film, which is a must see for any cinephile, stars Malcolm McDowell as the sadistic and youthful protagonist Alex DeLarge who has a penchant for classical music. It follows the book’s plot very faithfully bar a few minor role changes. Interestingly, the original novel never provided the character of Alex with a surname and ‘DeLarge’ was an addition made by the movie that is based upon a line in the source material. Burgess continued to write for decades after his breakthrough novel but his other works never surpassed the reputation of ‘A Clockwork Orange’ in popular culture.
The plot begins in the near future. A future in which Britain has become a bleak nation rocked by escalating violent crimes that target society’s weak and vulnerable. One of those who commit this aggression upon the helpless, now called ‘ultra-violence’ by the authorities, is Alex and his small group of psychotic friends. Alex, a boy of fifteen, is the leader of his band of ‘droogs’ which consist of the tag along Pete, an ambitious Georgie and the idiotic member of the group who is named ‘Dim’ for his mental slowness. After drinking their ‘milk-plus’ which is milk laced with a narcotic substance at the Korova Milk Bar, the delinquents decide to have a night about the town. Their activities including terrorizing a homeless man, fighting a rival gang for the sake of it and joy riding a stolen car into an isolated area where they begin their next criminal acts. Alex tricks the inhabitants of a nearby cottage to open their door to him by pretending to be fatally wounded and in need of medical assistance. The door is hesitantly opened and Alex’s friends rush the woman who had let them in. The woman is horrendously coerced into sexual acts while her author husband is savagely beaten and unable to save her from the rowdy gang.
After some time it becomes apparent that Georgie has desires to become the new leader of the ‘droogs’ and proposes a new plan to rob the home of a rich and elderly woman. Alex quickly crushes the mutiny of Georgie and Dim by fighting the former and slashing the hand of the latter. In an attempt to smooth over the quelled insurrection, Alex agrees to Georgie’s plan and they all target the woman’s house. DeLarge successfully breaks in but has to knock the old woman unconscious as she had become aware of his unwanted intrusion. Alex unlocked the door for his fellow friends but is shocked to discover that the whole plan was a rouse against him. Dim vengefully strikes DeLarge as retribution for earlier and his former companions leave him to be caught by the police. Alex is hauled away by law enforcement and held in custody when he learns that he had actually killed the older woman as opposed to knocking her out. DeLarge is convicted of the elderly woman’s murder and is sentenced to fourteen years behind bars when news of an untested rehabilitation programme comes to his attention.
While the novel is relativity short, it may take the reader a while to progress through the book as it contains heavy use of the fictional language of ‘Nadsat’. The language is primarily English in nature but it involves some Russian vocabulary as well and is mixed with words that Burgess had invented himself. It is also topped off with Cockney rhyming slang which provides the first person narration with a very distinct style. There is a discrepancy between the length of the book in the original English publication, which contains 21 chapters, and the American version which omitted the last segment. This was because a more depressing conclusion was thought to be more palatable to US readers. Kubrick’s film followed the outline of the American publication and ends on a darker note than the more optimistic final chapter of the British one.
Quote of the Day
This is the first time anyone has ever sat next to me since I successfully lobbied to have the school day extended by 20 minutes!