Wednesday, 27 March 2013

27 March 2013 - Reading Stephen King - THE SHINING

I was 15 when I first read The Shining. It was my first encounter with the literary force of nature that is Stephen King and my first, tentative dabble into the supernatural and horror genres. I had safely stuck to spy thrillers and crime novels up to that point. My life was about to change.
The Shining terrified and chilled me to the bone. It terrifies me to this day.
The words 'RED RUM'; Room 217; The old lady in the bathtub; The monstrous elevators; The masked hotel guests; The garden hedges shaped like animals; Images and creations that contributed heavily to my teenage bouts of insomnia and burned themselves into my adolescent memory.
15 years later I decided to re-visit one of the best horror stories of all time and the finest piece of writing by Stephen King.
For those unfamiliar to The Shining, I'll begin with the synopsis.

Jack Torrance is a man terrorised by demons. He loves his wife, Wendy and his gifted five-year old son, Danny. But Jack is also the product of an abusive father and has a dangerous drinking problem.
A violent outburst at a school costs Jack his teaching job and nearly his marriage. In an attempt to clean the slate and make a fresh start he takes up the job of caretaker at the Overlook Hotel -a sprawling luxury hotel situated high in the picturesque Colorado mountains. During the winter months, the hotel is closed to guests and Jack hopes that this time of seclusion will act as a healthy retreat for him and his family, to reconnect and rebuild, and also allow him to focus on his hobby as a writer.
But The Overlook is an entity in itself - a hotel with a dark and violent past. Like Jack, The Overlook is also terrorised by demons - the kind that take physical form and can do physical harm and these demons are particularly interested in his son, Danny.
Because Danny has a gift - 'the shining' – a psychic, extrasensory power that enables him to read people’s thoughts, communicate telepathically to others with the gift, and see the future. As heavy snow and strong blizzards cut off The Overlook from the outside world, Jack begins to lose his mind, a murderous rage takes over him, the evil force within the hotel gathers force and Danny's visions spiral out of control...

Immortalised on film by Stanley Kubrick in 1980 and now 36 years after it was first published in 1977, The Shining remains a glowing example of supremely confident storytelling by Stephen King and showcases his unfathomable powers to hypnotise and terrify his readers across generations. Perfectly paced without any clutter or unnecessary characters, it is a 512 page, paper tomb of tension, dread, horror and claustrophobia. It is also a frighteningly real depiction of addiction, abuse and human relationships.
In keeping with the conventional traits of the genre, there are plenty of jolts and shocks, gore and violence, but all these elements are carefully crafted and controlled and the reactions are entirely human. There are no ridiculous heroics or ominous ghostly moans. Just a slow build-up of fear and foreboding that creates an eerie atmosphere that hangs over the whole thing, over every word and every character, so much so that the book itself, the cover and the pages, start to feel wrong in your hands.
As the forces in the Overlook become stronger, symptoms of isolation creep in and Jack begins to lose his mind, King blurs all the boundaries between reality and the dreamworld, sanity and madness. Never for once losing his grip on characterisation or attention to detail, he merges fantasy with reality, the grotesque with the carnival and the horror with the ordinary.
King asks readers to make up their own minds about Jack Torrance; has he become possessed by the spirit of the Overlook or is he really just a recovering alcoholic undergoing slow, total, mental breakdown. King cleverly leaves this question wide open. There are no easy answers in The Shining or The Overlook.
Amidst all the imagery and symbolism however, what stayed with me 15 years ago and what continues to stay with me is the character of Danny. The gifted five-year old who in the wise words of old Mr Hallorann is a 'shiner', "aglow with psychic voltage." Jack may be the charismatic, brute power of the book but Danny is the unforgettable heart and soul of the story.
It is Danny who leads us through the Overlook and takes us through the plot; through the maze-like corridors, never-ending passage-ways and haunted rooms. As we follow Danny through this nightmarish landscape, we love him, we feel for him and we root for him. He's the innocence, sanity and salvation in a world where human and inhuman monsters have been let loose. As Danny becomes part of the story and a witness to the horror, so do we.
Like all great works of fiction, I believe The Shining will still be read, studied and debated 20, 30 and 50 years from now. Yes, it is a horror novel. But, as with most of King's novels, the true, real horror presented is not solely of a supernatural nature but made up of things we visit upon ourselves and each other.

Saturday, 15 December 2012

15th Dec 2012 - My Favourite Films of 2012

Moonrise Kingdom
Jared Gilman, Kara Hayward, Bruce Willis, Bill Murray, Edward Norton
Dir. Wes Anderson
The Master
Philip Seymour Hoffman, Joaquin Pheonix, Amy Adams.
Dir. Paul Thomas Anderson
Ben Affleck, John Goodman, Alan Arkin.
Dir. Ben Affleck
Jean-Louis Trintignant, Emmanuelle Riva
Dir. Michael Haneke
Daniel Craig, Javier Bardem, Judi Dench, Ralph Fiennes
Dir. Sam Mendes
Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Emily Blunt, Bruce Willis
Dir. Rian Johnson
Killing Them Softly
Brad Pitt, Richard Jenkins, James Gandolfini
Dir. Andrew Dominik
Silver Linings Playbook
Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence, Robert De Niro
Dir. David O Russell
End Of Watch
Jake Gyllenhall, Michael Pena
Dir. David Ayer
Rust And Bone
Marion Cotillard, Matthias Schoenaerts
Dir. Jacques Audiard
The Intouchables
Francois Cluzet, Omar Sy
Dir. Olivier Nakache, Eric Toledano
The Raid
Iko Owais, Joe Taslim, Donny Alamsyah
Dir. Gareth Evans
Liberal Arts
Josh Radnor, Elizabeth Olsen
Dir. Josh Radnor
The Dark Knight Rises
Christian Bale, Tom Hardy, Anne Hathaway, Michael Caine
Dir. Christopher Nolan
The Avengers
Robert Downey Jr, Chris Evans, Mark Ruffalo, Scarlett Johansson
Dir. Joss Whedon
Tom Hardy, Shia LaBeouf, Guy Pearce, Jessica Chastain
Dir. John Hillcoat
Seven Psychopaths
Colin Farrell, Sam Rockwell, Woody Harrelson, Christopher Walken
Dir. Martin McDonagh
The Grey
Liam Neeson, Frank Grillo, Dermot Mulroney, Dallas Roberts
Dir. Joe Carnahan
The Cabin In The Woods
Kristen Connolly, Chris Hemsworth, Anna Hutchinson
Dir. Drew Goddard
The Hunter
Willem Dafoe, Sam Neill, Francis O'Connor
Dir. Daniel Nettheim

Thursday, 8 November 2012

08 Nov 2012 - Now


That the storms have passed,
The winds have calmed.
The rainclouds have ceased,
Their relentless outpouring.

That we've cleared the debris.
And witnessed the aftermath.
Found solace in eyes,
And shelter in arms.

That we've dug new tunnels,
And escaped the labyrinth.
Laid down a fresh canvas
For the patchwork of our dreams.

That we've broken the cycle.
Torn up the strategies.
Thrown away the pens,
So the pages can write themselves.

That we've lit new fires.
Covered walls with our shadows.
Kissed life back into,
Parched lips and bodies.

Do you see what I see?
Do you feel what I feel?

By Saud S Undre 08/11/2012

Tuesday, 30 October 2012

30 Oct 2012 - Skyfall - Film Review

Bond Is Back.
Its been a while since I've uttered those three words and actually meant them. Skyfall is a spectacular return to form for the world's greatest spy and the longest running movie franchise in cinema history.
Producers Barbara Broccolli and Michael G.Wilson rope in prestigious director Sam Mendes and a powerhouse supporting cast (that includes Javier Bardem and Ralph Fiennes) to helm this 23rd outing and Mendes undoubtedly delivers something special to his superiors - a supremely stylish, exhilarating and unapologetic British Bond movie that manages to take the iconic character to uncharted, gutsier and audacious dimensions. It's the benchmark for future Bond movies to come.

An adrenalin-fuelled chase sequence on the rooftops of Istanbul, with the Blue Mosque and the Grand Bazaar in the background, kicks off proceedings before Adele's deep, velvety vocals play over a Gothic title sequence that gives tantalising clues about what lies ahead for the next 146 mins. What lies ahead is both a dance with tradition and a stroke of genius.
A mysterious nemesis from M's past has returned to personally target the offices of MI6 and M herself. When the threats become real and the danger gets too close to home, Bond is dispatched to terminate the threat. The reason behind the threats, the identity of the man that it stems from and how it all plays out, is what gives Skyfall the emotional depth and distinction criminally absent from the films with the exception of Casino Royale back in 2006.

In so many ways Skyfall is both a Bond movie and the antithesis to a Bond movie. There are nods to previous films and previous Bonds, tastefully done to please the fans and to celebrate the franchise as it clocks in a glorious 50 years. The touch with the Aston Martin DB5 is sublime and the third and final act, beautifully shot in the Scottish Highlands, is perhaps the greatest tribute one can give to Sean Connery.
But the emphasis of what makes Bond tick, who he is, brief glimpses into his traumatic childhood and questions about the tactics used by modern day intelligence services gives the film an air of relevance and reality and roots it firmly in the world around us.

If the writing, scenery, cinematography (Roger Deakins proves once again that he's God behind the camera) don't manage to blow you away then the level of acting on the screen certainly will. Mendes has always had the skill of extracting fine performances from his actors and the acting talent here is phenomenal.
In the pivotal role as M, Judi Dench gets more to do here than ever before. She takes up the challenge and embellishes the role with a lifetime of grace, experience and authority.
Ralph Fiennes is commanding and polished as M's devious and bureaucratic new boss - you're never quite sure what side he's on. But Skyfall ultimately belongs to two very defiant and powerful performers - Daniel Craig and Javier Bardem.
This is Craig's third and finest outing as 007 and he's never been more confident, complex, in-control and assured as James Bond. He's the first Bond to be on par with Connery and may just be able to step out of the long shadow that Sean has placed on the character and the films.

The decision to cast Javier Bardem as Silva was a masterstroke. He's the most terrifying Bond villain to date - cold-blooded, camp, calculated and with a serious grudge against MI6. Silva brings Bond to life and their scenes together crackle with tension, innuendo, the fear of death and some great, great writing. Two dedicated professionals, two immensely talented actors having the time of their lives confronting, mocking and outsmarting each other.
Lifelong fans couldn't have asked for a better way to celebrate the 50th Anniversary of James Bond.
Sam Mendes, thank you for Skyfall.

Saturday, 27 October 2012

27 Oct 2012 - Argo - Film Review - LFF 2012

Ben Affleck should start drafting his acceptance speech because Argo is the strongest contender for Best Picture or Best Director come Oscars night.
Depicting the life-or-death covert operation by the CIA to rescue six Americans during the Iran hostage crisis in 1979, Argo is proof that Hollywood can still produce a film that will knock the living daylights out of you.
Tense, daring, suspensful and ingeniously written, Ben Affleck's third outing behind the camera (and his most accomplished film to date) is a dazzling mix of history, espionage, politics and satire.
From the outset, with its historical accuracy and attention to detail, Argo feels like the terrific Alan J Pakula thrillers of the 70's - superbly written, brilliantly acted with lines and characters to die for.
It isn't just fascinating because it's a declassified true story. It's fascinating because Affleck tells the story intelligently and so well, building tension, creating exciting set pieces, yet always maintaining the humanity of the characters.
As a real-life drama, Argo is extraordinary. As a nail-biting movie experience, it's unmissable. One of the best films of 2012.