Monthly Archives: December 2005

The Rules Of Christmas

Rule One:
If you have to make a train journey, you’ll regret it.

Having to stand in the train vestibule all the way from London to Torquay before Christmas was bad enough, but on the way back a journey that should have taken five hours took eight.

Eight hours! With a rat in a carry case, too! I could have flown to America instead! Minus Tumble, of course. I’m not sure she’d have qualified as hand luggage.

If that wasn’t bad enough, the train home was so packed that it stopped twice to throw standing passengers off and onto coaches instead (luckily I had a seat). Then a passenger was taken ill and we spent 45 minutes waiting for an ambulance. Talk about cursed!

Towards the end of the journey that, apparently, would never end, an old man climbed on board and I offered my seat to him, on the condition that he watched Tumble for me while I stood. Bless him; he kept peering into her carry case to check she was still there! I’m also happy to say that my act of selflessness prompted the miserable guy sitting next to me to stand up and offer up his seat to the old man’s wife – geez, how hard is a bit of politeness nowadays?

Eventually I arrived home in Richmond and nearly froze to death on the five-minute walk from the train station to my house – the worst part of the entire trip. Damn, it’s cold! Britain’s covered in snow, although all we’ve had here is freezing rain. God bless central heating. Very Christmassy, though!

Rule Two:
You will argue with your family.

Christmas Day. Conversation with my mother had started drying up the night before. We struggled on until 3 o’clock and then she got drunk. Long story short: I spent the rest of Christmas at my friend Biddy’s house.

It’s true what they say – you can’t choose your family. Thankfully, you can choose your friends. I had a lovely time with Biddy and her fiance and would like to say thanks! Sorry I insulted The Goonies, though, Huey. I didn’t know it was your favourite film…

(But honestly: it’s just a bunch of kids screaming non-stop for hours!)

Rule Three:
You can’t leave work behind.

BBC Radio Wales called me up as I was still digesting my Christmas dinner (two days after eating it, mind you) to ask me if I wanted to do an interview about Doctor Who and the resurgence of science fiction on our screens.

“Sure,” I said. “What time?”

“It’ll be 7.50am tomorrow morning.”

It was too late to back out, so I had to get up at 7am in order to be awake enough to speak. And then they bumped me to the following day because their show filled up! So I did the interview the next day instead – oh well, two early mornings won’t kill me.

I wibbled on about K-9 going rusty and how cute David Tennant was as The Doctor. I quite enjoyed it, actually. I just hope Wales did. If anyone was awake at that time…

Rule Four:
If you have a cat, it will do this with your wrapping paper.

Here’s my mum’s puss, Polly. Altogether now… “Awwwww!”

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Christmas Who

Christmas Day.

Doctor Who.

Fantastic!

And my love of it had nothing at all to do with David Tennant being bloody lovely, okay?

I need to watch him in Casanova again, right now.

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A Christmassy Carol

Ah, London: how I love it, especially at this time of year. Strolling along the Thames in the brisk evening air and finding a merry-go-round jangling away next to the London Eye; listening to carollers at Marylebone station; avoiding the unholy crush that is a Regent Street stuffed full of frantic shoppers with desperation in their eyes… oh, and going to the theatre to see Patrick Stewart in A Christmas Carol.

I’ve never felt so Christmassy in my life!

Stewart was amazing. I’ve heard about his one-man show for years and was thrilled to be able to see it at long last… and it was really worth the wait. No costumes, no props other than a few chairs, a writing desk and a table; it was all about his voice. And, of course, we all know that Patrick Stewart has A Voice. Whether growling, “Bah, humbug!” or squeakily impersonating Tiny Tim, Stewart sold Dickens’ classic to the entire theatre and received a standing ovation second-to-none. I’ve seen many plays this year but this was definitely my favourite – simple, effective and moving. Solid proof that sometimes plays can be a little too full of themselves and that stripping things back to basics is a good thing. But then again, how can you go wrong with an actor as dignified as Patrick Stewart and the words of Charles Dickens? Class. Pure class.

On the way back to the station after the performance, my friend Gillen and I were rather surprised to encounter none other than His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales and his new wife, the Duchess of Cornwall (Charles and Camilla to their mates). They were leaving a charity performance of Madame Butterfly at the Coliseum Theatre and the police had cordoned off St Martin’s Lane to ensure they could climb into their ridiculously enormous car unmolested. We watched from across the street as the camera flashes blasted them; Camilla kept her head down and smiled, while Charles – though I only saw the side of his face – looked rather like the comedian Eric Morecambe. Minus the glasses. How bizarre!

I’ve got nothing against opera and I hear this production of Madame Butterfly is wonderful. However, I have a sneaky suspicion they may have enjoyed themselves more if they’d watched Ebenezer Scrooge contemplate his own mortality, as we did. Now I want to read more Dickens… And wish you all a Merry Christmas, every one!

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That’s A Wrap! Or Not.

Oh dear.

Being that I’m somebody who’s pathologically organised, I finished buying all my Christmas presents three weeks ago and wrapped them up soon after. However, I didn’t have any gift tags, so in the meantime I left them in little piles so I’d know whose present was whose.

Unfortunately, since then they’ve been rearranged several times as I’ve shoved them out of the way, vacuumed under them or simply tripped over them.

Now I have no idea what each present is, or who it’s for. I’m going to have to unwrap them all to find out.

Someone, somewhere, is laughing at me. I have a feeling it’s Father Christmas.

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An Audience With Jack Black

Cripes. Woke up this morning to discover an oil depot in Hemel Hempstead had exploded and was pumping oily black smoke across the whole of London. I nipped down to Richmond Lock to get a better view and swear I saw the plume of smoke far off on the horizon – it’s bloody miles away, so that’s one HUGE plume. Now London will be afflicted with black rain and nasty smog; as though it wasn’t polluted enough! Still, on the plus side, nobody was killed, which is a miracle under the circumstances.

Funnily enough, I’m sure I should’ve felt the explosion this morning – it was even heard in Holland, according to Sky News – but at 6am I was so fast asleep I wouldn’t have noticed armageddon itself. Which makes me wonder if I felt a premonition the other night when I experienced the ground shaking… a taster tremor, just to warn me of what was coming?

I’m not saying I’m psychic, but my ancestry has been traced back to the witches of Pendle Hill in Lancashire, who were burnt at the stake, poor buggers. Spooky! Of course, back then you got burnt at the stake for anything, including liking cats. I love moggies, I really do. I could have just inherited the “must like felines” gene instead…

Well, Total Film’s latest deadline was struck on Friday with just 20 minutes to spare before I had to leave to see Jack Black. Hurrah! It was touch and go for a while and I worked two nights until 11pm to make sure I could get there. Strangely, it didn’t bother me this month: I wasn’t tired at all and had a good laugh with the team members who also worked late. Plus we got free pizza! What’s not to like?

With the issue sent to the printers, off I went to the Jack Black Q&A with a workmate. It was being filmed to show on Sky Movies 8 this coming Thursday, which is annoying because I don’t have that channel and don’t know anybody who has! Sod’s fecking law.

We had a few drinks in the green room beforehand after dodging the autograph hunters outside the National Film Theatre (Jack was running late, though, so I bet they didn’t get as much as a wave). Then we headed inside and had wicked seats – smack bang in the middle of the seventh row, great view! Our host for the next hour was comedian Phill Jupitus, who walked onstage and announced, “Right, got to interview Jack Black in a minute. Blimey, I’m shittin’ myself!” The floor manager kept giving him instructions we couldn’t hear; at one point Jupitus looked shocked. “Did you just tell me not to look so fat?” he wailed.

Black finally came onstage with a tired smile and nervous eyes, his entire body language reeking of an actor who’s spent the last week doing exhausting press junkets and knows there’s another month left to go. It took him a while to warm up – he was probably trying to suss out Jupitus’s cheeky brand of questioning, too – but once he did, he was hilarious. Both guys got told off for swearing by the floor manager; Jack proved he has a terrible memory and Jupitus made fun of his clothes.

At the end, two people in the audience got to ask Jack a question. By some fluke I managed to be one of them – there were about 200 people there, so my “waving my arm in the air” skills must be pretty damn fine. I asked Jack –

HERE BE A VERY SMALL KONG SPOILER, FOLKS! PLEASE SKIP BELOW UNTIL YOU’VE SEEN THE FILM…

– how he felt, delivering the immortal line “It wasn’t the planes that got him. It was beauty killed the beast.” Jack said he didn’t really think about how famous it was; he didn’t practice in front of a mirror or anything. Then he looked thoughtful. “Maybe I should have…”

Christ. If that had been me, there would’ve been 900 takes. It’s one of the most famous lines in cinema history! How can you not feel the pressure? I can see it now: “Can I just do that again, Peter? I’m not sure I nailed it… yeah, I know it’s 3am, but…”

…KONG SPOILER OVER!

After the Q&A they screened King Kong. Second time round, I loved it. I didn’t see a single flaw. It was perfect. I laughed, I cried, I listened to the crowd reacting to some of the brilliant, moving or gross bits, I lost three hours of my life without even noticing it. Again, I went to the toilet as the credits rolled and saw a line of women dabbing their eyes at the mirror, readjusting their makeup. I said to one girl, “I’m so glad I wasn’t the only one who cried!”

She laughed. “It wasn’t just us. As I left, I saw one guy just sitting there, staring at the screen in shock, tears rolling down his face.”

Now that’s a good movie.

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Moving Speech

The strangest thing just happened. I stopped off at my local Tesco store on my way home from work and, as I was queuing to pay for my healthy dinner (oh, alright, my loaf of bread and two chocolate bars), I felt the ground shake.

At first I thought my mobile phone was going off in my pocket; I had it on vibrate. But as I reached down to check I realised that the shaking was actually coming up through the floor and up my legs. I looked out of the window to see if a giant lorry was sitting outside and I was feeling the engine vibration, but there was nothing there. So I thought I was imagining it… until I saw some boxes of chocolates on a shelf next to me wobbling around.

And then it stopped. Nobody else seemed have noticed it. Shaken up – literally – I paid for my goods and walked a few metres down the road.

It happened again. The first rumble lasted 20 seconds or so; this one lasted 10. “Aftershock,” I thought, waiting for it to stop. Again, I couldn’t suss out what had caused it.

Minutes later, I walked into my house. My neighbour was standing in our communal hallway, going through his post. We looked at each other, realised we’d have to say hello, and introductions were made.

“Hi,” I said. “I’m Jayne. I live on the top floor. Are you from the garden flat?”
“Yes,” he replied. “I’m Giles. Nice to meet you at last!”
We shook hands.
“So,” I said. “Did you just feel the earth move?”

Let’s hope his girlfriend doesn’t hear about this.

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Gorillas And Dolls

I’ve neglected this blog for a short while because things have been so manic, but I’m going to make up for it now. Be warned – this entry will be a monster!

Oh, and speaking of monsters…

King Kong.

I’ve seen it.

It’s glorious.

Nothing else but the Eighth Wonder of the World would have gotten me out of bed at 6.45am on a Sunday morning; nobody but the Greatest Ape of All would have made me catch a train to the Odeon in Leicester Square when I should have been enjoying my weekend lie-in. The screening started at 10am and ended at 1pm (it’s a long movie), and I can say without exaggeration that the five minutes between 9.55am and 10am were longest five minutes of my life. I couldn’t wait for it to start… and the other journos in there with me seemed to agree, because boy, did they whoop and holler when it started! And they whooped and hollered during it, too, as well as at the end. It was lovely to hear, cos journos can be a hard-nosed, tight-assed bunch (excluding myself, of course, she says modestly).

As ever, there’s a pesky embargo preventing me from discussing the film in detail, although I really don’t imagine that Universal will be perusing random blogs to catch me out. There aren’t many of us who’ve seen it, either – apparently Peter Jackson finished the movie on Friday, it screened on Friday evening in New York, and today’s UK screening was the second one ever. Wow. Talk about feeling honoured!

I will say that it’s a bloody good movie. I adored it, although even with my Peter Jackson-loving-blinkers on I have to say it’s not perfect. The length, for one, is a problem, as are some of the FX shots – a few are wobbly at best. But it’s easy to overlook the faults when the end result is so gargantuan. Remember the tagline for Superman – “You’ll believe a man can fly”? The tagline for Kong should be, “You’ll believe an ape can fall in love.” Because he did. And it’s not icky in any way; it’s beautiful. I got misty-eyed at the end and bumped into several woman in the ladies’ afterwards who were also blowing their noses and adjusting their eye make-up, so it wasn’t just me. Strangely, this is a film that will appeal to both men and women: it’s an action-packed love story, really soppy in places but with a hard edge.

And there are dinosaurs everywhere. You gotta love the dinosaurs!

I’ll be reviewing it for SFX and the review should probably go up on their website on Friday, which is when the embargo is lifted. Strewth… now I’ve got to find the time to write it…!

Funnily enough, next Friday I’m going to be at the NFT for another Kong screening and a Q&A session with Jack Black (who’s surprisingly good as Carl Denham). I can’t believe I’m going to watch it twice in a week! Sadly, there’s a small chance I’ll have to miss it if Total Film’s latest deadline spills over into Friday night, but I’ll sacrifice a screeching blonde actress to King Kong himself to stop that happening. Fingers crossed!

It’s been a mighty fine week, all told. In addition to seeing Kong, I also finally managed to catch Guys & Dolls at the Piccadilly Theatre with the terribly lovely Ewan McGregor. I was in the second row, smack bang in the middle, with one of my all-time favourite actors mere feet away and a huge bag of Maltesers on my lap. Before it started I sent this text to my mate Biddy: “I’m almost on top of Ewan McGregor and I have chocolate. Don’t bother giving me my Christmas pressies, I’ve got all I need right here!” Of course, now I’d like to retract my offer because, um, I do want those gifts. Sorry, Biddy.

Anyway, Guys & Dolls was great fun, but I fear this kind of slapdash Hollywood musical isn’t for me. I like them a bit more serious, aka West Side Story or Sunday In The Park With George. Saying that, “Luck Be A Lady Tonight” was wicked and there was a hilarious dance sequence set in Havana (Ewan! Dancing! Right in front of me! Bliss!). I also should guiltily admit that, as much as I love Ewan, his voice wasn’t quite as powerful as his co-stars’ pipes. I’m also annoyed that his hair was slicked back; I like him with a floppy fringe. Still, I’ll get over it.

In case you think I’m shallow, I should point out that the theatre was stuffed to the rafters with women. The only men there had come with their partners and they all looked embarrassed. The entire front row was taken up with swooning teenagers who giggled and jigged and played with their cameras right up to the opening curtain – and then the orchestra leader turned round and politely informed them that they weren’t permitted to take photographs. When he looked away a girl in front of me whispered to her friend, “So we’re not allowed to take pictures of Ewan… but he didn’t say we couldn’t touch him, did he?”

Yeah, right. Like I’d have let her get to him first. Hah!

So that was my week. Big apes, cute Scotsmen. Oh, and speaking of Scotsmen…

Coming home from the Kong screening earlier, I walked by a guy at Richmond Station dressed from top to toe in Scottish dress – kilt, bagpipes and all. As I passed him a loud ringing came from his sporran and he pulled out a mobile phone.

I don’t know why, exactly, but I found this bloomin’ hysterical!

Night night.

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