Movie Review: Immortals


If we were to do this review in a tweet it would have read; “Theseus the Greek Superman rocks into town to save known universe from a wrestler King called Hyperion and spills a little blood. OK a lot!”

We don’t see much from director Tarsem Singh but with a cinematic spectacle like ‘The Cell’ on his CV and the producers from 300 on board we anticipated that this would be a great use of screen real estate. From start to finish whether up close in the fight or the expansive view of lands, sky and ocean, we can say that Immortals magnetically draws the eye. What will be a feature of this review however is the carnage that has to be warning to those expecting a romantic beefcake journey reminiscent of a digital remake of movies like the 1981 Clash of the Titans with Harry Hamlin. 

Talk about Gods, abs and Greeks and you’re inviting a certain crowd to the cinema. Like loyal followers of Lord of the Rings, there are the ‘knowits’ and the ‘knowitalls’. So don’t mess with the Greek Mythology people, this isn’t some reboot of a superhero plot. Somehow the writers for this 300 style deviation didn’t get the brief of historical accuracy and so we mutate various time and story lines to get a cinematic piece that’s become a hit with under 18 year old males according to user voting at IMDB. What is also a surprise is the next highest ranking is given by all females up to age 29. Surprising, because apart from the shirtless routine that paraded the screen this was a combination of B grade movie blood fest on a new CGI/3D inspired scale and overkilled slo-mo fight sequences that would have had the Wachowski Brothers bored.

In the original myth Theseus is half man and half God thanks to Mum playing around. It’s the whole Hercules thing again. For this story with nearly no basis on the ‘original’ he is the peasant son mentored to fighting prowess by Zeus (John Hurt) in the guise of an old man playing with mankind’s destiny. Henry Cavill fills the role of Theseus well if not with a stray accent now and then that we hope he has cleared up by the time we see a spectacled version in the 2013 Superman release. Theseus is the hero we see step from his life in the shadows as this son is forced to watch as his mother is killed before him by the King of Crete, Hyperion. After wallowing as a slave he is reconnected to his destiny by the Oracle Phaedra (Freida Pinto) and channels his bottled drive for vengeance back into leading his people and fulfilling a higher calling. In Greek history Theseus is seen as the founder of Athens but this story doesn’t connect the dots the same way so don’t expect it to be the high school history lesson bus tour to the movies.

In the other corner of this myth revisionist landscape is the peasant turned evil ruler Hyperion superbly played out by Mickey Rourke. King Hyperion has given up on faith and is intent on manufacturing his legacy through the age old rape and pillage approach. The irony of his reasoned strategy to a reign of terror is that Hyperion seeks the power of the Gods by hunting high and low for the Epirus bow. Knowing the Oracle holds the key to its location puts the life of the priestess at risk and brings him on a prophesied collision course with Theseus. With this weapon of the Gods at his hand Hyperion can release the Titans locked in Mt. Tartarus and rule the world. You can see that Rourke has relished every moment of screen time as his character deploys masked minions of death throughout his rule. The rejuvenated Rourke career exudes cruelty at every pore as he subdued his conquests and confirmed his menacing tyrant status.

So where does the blood flow start and end. From the beginning any fight scene is beautiful in the shot and gory in the aftermath. Spears accomplish their pierced targets and swords sever limbs and heads. While men of war do what men of war do the body count should have been sponsored by a subtly placed bottle of Heinz tomato sauce. And just when the mortals had completed their place on the battlefield it’s time for “Batter Up” to the God’s as Apollo plays melon head and you’re convinced that we all have Raspberry jello mounted on our necks. A lot of the online chatter about Immortals seems to validate the video game alignment that is coming to the silver screen that this isn’t about a storyline but instead about reaching the next level and a fresh high score.

Tarsem Singh may need to bet his renewed directing licence on his next release of Mirror Mirror starring Julia Roberts and Sean Bean. This will be one of a two soon to be released Snow White interpretations. The other fairy tale remake is Snow White and the Huntsman with Chris Hemsworth and Charlize Theron. The Immortals as a movie has been carried by the same 300 shooting style and edits that worked for TV series like Spartacus but will it cover up for a lack of storyline, bad dialogue and errors in continuity?

This is one of those love ‘em or leave ‘em movies that you just wish had been that much better. The complicated script doesn’t carry and you feel that the only reason you hung in to the end was to make sure Mickey Rourke has his day. It’s hard to rate this movie based on the technical piece versus the story cinema experience and I feel I will be like a lot of the user reviews that are scoring either low or high with only an average to tell the tale.

2 out of 5 popcorns

Reviewed November 2011

An Attitude of Better Days

An Attitude of Better Days Ahead

Just might bend but I won't break as long as I can see your face.
– MercyMe (Move from The Generous Mr Lovewell Album)

Every now and then we face a road block, an unwanted waiting room or the injury of heart, body or mind that brings us to a grinding halt. I'm facing that right now and I, like you may have at one time or another, feel moments of confusion and to some extent like I've had the wind knocked out of me. A gratefully appreciated friendship over coffee has reminded me of the passion, direction and vision that still beats within me but I'm still 'on hold' so what's gone wrong at the 'telephone exchange'? I don't feel connected to God or His direction for my life. There doesn't appear to be any communication coming back down the line. I feel like I'm on one of those dodgy Skype calls where my own voice is clear to me but the voice on the other end of the line sounds quiet or under water.

Continue reading “An Attitude of Better Days”

Time and Slumber

Time and Slumber

Time and Slumber

Time is measured by the once
but pleasure by the pound
We forsake the hour's warning tide
Sit back with men feeling warm inside

Did Christ enjoy social expense
Or sit in critique at a neighbour's fence 
His time was ours he spent it well
Used healing hands to salvation tell

Why do you slumber instead of march
Is this gratitude, limbs stiff as starch
Accept what yours, forgiveness free of charge
Heaven's transport flown, not a deathly barge

Author: Andrew Pitchford

Movie Review: Coriolanus

Coriolanus - Ralph Fiennes

What do Shakespeare and Chechnya have in common? Not a lot until Ralph Fiennes decided to take the Shakespearean play Coriolanus and interpret it through the modern eyes of urban warfare. Although written around 1605 the story line takes us into the days of Rome as the people are revolting for lack of food and the powers of the day have enforced a military regime.

As well as directing Fiennes sits well in the leading role as Caius Martius the saviour of the people. He has returned a champion of the day in the quarters of battle. Now as the victor he is transported into the lofty seats of power in part because of the pushing of his ambitious mother Volumnia played by an intense Vanessa Redgrave.

Through the process of politics an undermined Caius is driven out of town by the spin doctors. Here he does the unthinkable and engages with the enemy to war against Rome. His skills of war are well received in the rebellion and Rome begins to panic at the potential onslaught of their favourite son.

Leading the Volscian army is the commander Tullus Aufidius played by Gerard Butler. As sworn enemies who had often met many times on the field of war Tullus and Caius are happy to spill blood for their cause. So when Caius comes into the enemy camp with cap in hand to fight with the Volscians the scene is set for betrayal and survival.

This directorial debut is a winning effort from the English actor and gives us exciting potential for the future. The script is Shakespearean but the deliveries are timed to perfection to give a beautifully paced drama. The backdrop is modern European civil war and the warriors arm up as urban soldiers weaponised with modern guns and grenades. The rebels give a sense of being the peoples defenders sourced from a skin head convention but equally are to the task of tactical man to man combat in settings that would make a battle worn Kosovo look chic. The concept of Shakespeare’s sonnets meeting Call of Duty can be a bump in the road to your thinking but it’s a great clash.

While this may be a triumph for Ralph Fiennes as a Director it shouldn’t be overlooked that he owns the screen in this movie. If you thought classical theatre was boring, wait until you sense the passion and righteous anger in the face of Fiennes. This won’t be the last we see of Fiennes behind the camera. He already has an intriguing title in the works with the scheduled 2013 release of The Invisible Woman, a tale of Charles Dickens.

As you consider whether to see this modern Shakespearean plot, take a risk, love the drama and be amazed that a story can live in any time and any place.

Spiral Jail

Spiral Jail

Spiral Jail

Cries of anguish spout forth in fear
Who can I believe?

The postman is my wife's best friend
My heartache a banker's leer
Our priest buys his VCR, our sacrifice 
My own resolutions end this January hour

So I delve into the closet for a skeleton feast
Place them in a heated age
Let loose the flow into a sculptured mould
Cool past the molten phase
Because man is made man and not a priest 
We make mistakes from embarassed rage
So forgive us for our lives which now unfold
Trying, we're blocked by the wall amazed


My heart should be flushed, rid of doubt
Which way will I turn?

The corner store is poverty's struggle
Oceans separate blood by water
Sex becomes video's smorgasbord selection 
This home is shelter against my mortgaged soul


Author: Andrew Pitchford
Written: 22/11/1990 

Movie Review: Margin Call

Movie Review: Margin Call

Margin Call was a movie we should have seen released in New Zealand a lot earlier. It wasn’t that long ago that the acronym GFC was sitting alone on the shelf without meaning. Then the Global Financial Crisis hit and banks paying out executives as the ship went down became the daily headline. Suddenly GFC had found life purpose and we wondered what would happen to the family mortgage. What I don’t understand is how a movie this good with award nominations and high screen ratings gets released nearly nine months after the US launch.

The work of writer and director J. C. Chandor has class written all over it. While the script is well paced to provide the tension and drama suited to a screen filled with ‘suits’, the depth of on screen talent is superb. While Margin Call cast members like Simon Baker, Zachary Quinto and Demi Moore dance well together I love the return of Paul Bettany’s sardonic wit as we first experienced it in Knight’s Tale.

Our story joins the trading floor of a large Manhattan based institution on the day that two thirds of the floor will lose their positions in a cost-cutting exercise. While the young execs run for cover the floor’s head of risk management works on a problem he sees looming. A drop of Stanley Tucci never goes amiss and his role provides the key to the jigsaw puzzle. The surprise of the day is when Tucci’s character Eric Dale is lined up and led off the premises with other staff. No questions, no right of reply and if you contest the decision the chances are you will lose the last drop of benefits the company can offer. So out the door Eric goes only at the last minute to pass a USB drive of his project into the hands of young trader Peter Sullivan. It’s Quinto’s character Peter who then turns the key and finds the mounting disaster facing the trading floor. 

Interspersed into the story are the veteran trading floor manager Sam Rogers (Kevin Spacey) and the CEO who is ‘paid’ to listen to the ‘music’ of the market John Tuld (Jeremy Irons). These brilliant performers keep the tension as they decide between the important things in their life. Are they the companion dog with a liver condition costing $1000/day or is it a glass of red wine on the top floor of your building overseeing your dominion. Self-absorbed or purely full of greed, Spacey and Irons show the essence of each human condition.

When given actors of the class of Jeremy Irons and Kevin Spacey Chandor had this to say;
“I also came into it with this insane confidence that I’d been waiting 15 years for this opportunity. This is making a little bit light of the situation, but essentially, I walked on to that set saying, ‘Who gives a crap if this is Kevin Spacey? He is an amazing lump of clay who is probably going to give me a greater performance than anyone else I could have cast in that role, but I’m here to make the movie I know I want to make.”

You’re probably picking up how impressed I am. You can’t argue when a director can write a script about a bank and assemble character actors to make greed, delusion and the momentum of a real world event carry like a secret agent conspiracy. Take the time to see Margin Call and check your mortgage interest rate.

3.5 out of 5 popcorns

Written for the One I Love

The One I Love

Written for the One I Love

When darkness fades
And glory shines you open your eyes and hope to find

A starling on your pillow
A valentine in your arms who nestles cheek to breast

You alight from bed to floor
Going to prepare a succulent feast as you tiptoe out the door

Content, refreshed and showered
From the house you leave with love you cleave to crack the open sky

Find a spot, a secluded one
Walk hand in hand alond silk golden sands and learn to dream

Cleanse your soles together
On salty shores reveal your souls to heavens soouthing balm

Talk becomes priceless time
When sipped between friends as a sweet chilled wine

Trust and open "Pandora's Box"
This woven basket of picnic pieces satisfies the prevalent appetite

Singing waters beckon bathers
to soak embracing all of natures reviving good cheer

Stroke the passioned stallion's mane
You fire his heart a firebox of embers, nostrils race with steam

Should one be one alone
No let them come intertwined as love's evergrowing vine

All money spent is lost
when trying to win your love my motives must be clear

The precious memories held
Will note be bought to corrode in life and bring us fear

Today we built a friendship
Intimate in detail, purest of materials, loved in conception and still real!

Author: Andrew Pitchford

Written for Cheryl for Valentines Day 1991. We won a bottle of wine when this was submitted to the local paper, the Te Awamutu Courier when they ran a Valentine Day's competition.


Mate! That’s a Great Story

Great Story

When it comes to any form of Media the core component, the Holy Grail or quest of the writer is simply a Good Story. It's the missing ingredient to many films that dazzle with special effects but leave you empty when it comes to thirsting for a victory or having empathy with the characters who you felt had no demon to conquer or soul to save. In the music industry they're fighting to find new melodies but  even the lyrics are in need of a good story that says more than "Baby, Baby, Baby!"

If you're looking to write a movie script, novel or make your song lyrics more than a syrupy sick commercial jingle then you need to find the essence of story. A really good yarn making consists of four core tenets – the “4 Es”: We can talk about the character backgrounds, the story arc and the pacing but underneath all of that you need to EEEEs into the minds of the people who just sat down around the campfire to hear a good tale.

[quote type=center] Capture me as a slave for your camel train[/quote]



Am I transported? When I read your story will I leave my world or just look out the window of mine? Entertainment brings in the shutters of our everyday experience in order that the theatre lights can dim the periphery  world and focus us on what the storyteller wishes to reveal. The voice, the set, the emotional journey are all meant to amuse and divert. We may feel emotions that toss and heave but the experience should be like that of a roller coaster. I was scared, I was exhilarated but in the end I want to do it all over again. Take me away from the monotony of my everyday ride to work and capture me as a slave for your camel train or let me discover treasure in the wilderness that only a hot air balloon could see. Touch my heart strings and not just to tune them but to pluck and strum at a pace that is in line with the heart beat of your story.

[quote type=center] The quintessential magnet for every 10 year-old boy is they want to ‘be’ the hero.[/quote]



How does the story foster participation with the reader? Have you asked yourself whether your story is simply enticing window shopping or has the reader stepped into your world with their heart open like a shopper's wallet. One of the greatest critiques of modern literature is that it talks at the reader rather than inviting them to become part of the story. Think about the renaissance of the Super Hero movies. The quintessential magnet for every 10 year-old boy is they want to 'be' the hero.  As you write ask yourself 'who would I want to be' in this plot? And don't leave that thought. Ask who you would not like to be for life or money. Take a moment and see if there is room in your writing for a reader to answer your questions, delivery your solutions and save the day. Or at least a chapter. The crime novel of the whodunit genre has been where the audience has enjoyed the deepest engagement. Better than a crossword puzzle there are not one by five solutions. The part I play is not one of a simple minded spectator but the personal assistant to the great Hercule Poirot.

[quote type=center]So walk a mile in the moccasins of your characters[/quote]


Light has an amazing characteristic. It reveals perspective. In writing our story we should ask what light it casts for the reader. What nuances and attributes of life will the reader absorb giving them an opportunity for change of thought. Will I be confronted by the reflection of my life to the extent I am willing to ask myself hard questions, uncomfortable questions. Do I see you, my life or the world beyond the sea any differently than when the story began? This is the juncture at which we as writers ask "Whats the point?" Remember the reader will not be willing to ask themselves before they hear the voices of your characters face their own epiphany. So walk a mile in the moccasins of your characters and see how they face the conflict and triumph of your plot. What do the participants of your stories learn and perhaps teach others in the process of their journey? How does the story make you feel about yourself, your culture or your environment? If you aren't changed in some capacity by the writing experience then will the reader be?


Some may feel that including 'Experience' in this set of essential story elements is a duplication of the 'Experience' factor. The key difference here is that Engagement takes place as we live through the story where as Experience lives outside of the walls of the story's tale. Some of the most popular stories evoke an experience beyond the pages of a book or the walls of the cinema. Some bring together socially conscious tribes where others participate in character centric revelry. Trekkies, LoTR aficionados and Harry Potter fanatics have one thing in common. They experience the story.  It began with engagement and then through the embedded storyline of the imagination a tribal mentality lived on. To a certain extent this final element is a by-product of the success of the other three but it takes an imagining to ask whether someone would be willing to live out our story to know it has that potential. Sure it was helped in the experience by costume and fan fiction but the experience mulitplies the impact of story.

As you write your next story, take the time to ask whether you have covered these four elements. As you dreamed about this story you will have already thought through the characters. The theme is in place with a setting that now needs your words to paint its backdrop. Remember that no plot is complete without a sense of struggle or conflict. Triumph comes when victors overcome.

Leave a comment after this post on how important you feel these points are. Do they only apply to the saga of a fiction novel or does the story in the paper or on  the evening news need the same ingredients for a quality story sized meal.

Movie Review: The Grey

Movie Review - The Grey

So how does a survival movie fare with a pack of hungry wolves hunting their human prey? How do the audience feel when the humans are low on respect for life, their fellow man and themselves? Despite the feel that this movie had only one way to turn we still went along for the ride. Similar to the Titanic you feel you know what’s going to happen but you simply can’t look away and want to see it through to the end.
Looking at reviews prior to attending a movie review is considered wrong by most reviewers. I agree, the whole idea of attending the review is to judge the unobstructed impact on yourself and the audience. So what drew me to investigate “The Grey” prior to attending this review I don’t know. Possibly the topic matter of humans on the run from wolves meant I wanted to check the ‘scare’ factor to see who I would invite along for the ride. This presented me with a conundrum as the movie was rating over average but the general public who had seen it were split at the extremes. Some saw it as an existential masterpiece and scored it 9 or 10 out of 10 while others couldn’t believe the stupidity and scores ranking in the 1s and 2s followed.
The storyline takes us along with some of the roughest scum on the planet as they leave their work in the Alaskan oil fields to fly out for a break back in civilisation. After a plane crash puts them down in an artic wilderness its survival time with a the local wolf pack guarding their territory against the quibbling intruders. Liam Neeson plays Ottway, a hunter who’s been hiding from life in a job where his role has been to protect the pipeline workers from the hungry wildlife who stalk the workers. He’s a mixed up bag as he saves others but seems bent on his own destruction. After the plane crash he starts to try and bring direction and unity to the surviving band of misfits with no purpose. They are less than impressed with being told what to do and like any organisation, their disunity brings decay and decay brings death.
I’m not going to tell you the outcomes blow by blow, that’s the nature of this style of movie as one event leads to another as the ‘red-shirt’ members of the party fight to live. So why did the audiences love or hate this release. Was it the expected ending, the cast or worse the soundtrack. Director Joe Carnahan has proven himself a great director and for those who have enjoyed The A-Team and Smokin’ Aces its easy to see he’s putting out some good content as both writer and director.
[quote type=”center”] I’m concerned audiences are starting to see him as gravy beef [/quote]
If you’ve seen both of these previous productions you’d also be aware that their story-lines have their fair share of humour. That I think is where Joe went wrong even if it was without intention. The movie is visually impressive. The tension builds well as the cast look to avoid becoming top of the wolf menu and there is a reasonable amount of both humanity and distain built around the cast to make you want to see them survive or die. Where the movie fell on its face is a couple of times where the physical or visual result on screen was so outside realism that the tense audience burst out laughing. The story then lost momentum and I don’t think it recovered. It didn’t matter then how much strong language, gutsy characters or grotesque scenes you threw in, it still was off pace with the rest of the movie. All up a great movie spoilt by two episodes that probably take up one minute of the whole film.
Joe Carnahan has lots more to offer so I hope he learns from this outing. Another person I hope learns a lesson is Liam Neeson. He must be considered the ‘rabbits foot’ of the movie industry at the moment. The number of movies that require the ‘Neeson’ attachement is astounding. Since 2008 he has been in at least 18 movies and three TV productions of which three were voice roles. You can’t get away from the fact he is a talent but I’m concerned audiences are starting to see him as gravy beef because of the volume of appearances when he should be the scotch fillet. Lets get back to the quality we know and expect when we remember Schindler’s List.
All up a good experience if you like your movie on the edge.
3 out of 5 popcorns


Parachute 2012 was a great introduction for The Rocket Summer the solo project of Bryce Avary. You can see from his "New Zealand Adventure" video on his YouTube channel that he loved the down under experience as well. One of the songs that I took away from Parachute for a lot of post festival thinking was called "Walls" by The Rocket Summer. Take a few minutes to read the lyrics, watch the video and leave a comment at the end of the post. Thanks!


The Rocket Summer

Lyrics to Walls :
The story of my life
I can’t quite comprehend
Don’t tell me if you know how it ends
When everywhere you go feels like a mirror maze
And you’re not sure how you’re stuck in this place

And you got nowhere else to go
And you’re lost within your own home
And you’re trying so hard to win
You keep trying its embarrassing
And how you don’t even know
But you know you’re off the tracks
And how did you get in here
Thinking how did I get in here

I’ll help you break the walls down
I’ll help you break the walls down
And bust you out and take you home
Believe in me you are not alone
I’ll help you break the walls down

Does anybody know a February wind
I was hoping that by now
We would be the end of this
When you open up a book
And read a thousand lines
But you don’t really read
You just move your eyes

And you got nowhere else to go
And you’re lost within your own home
And you’re trying so hard to win
You keep trying its embarrassing
And how you don’t even know
But you know you’re off the tracks
And how did you get in here
Thinking how did I get in here

I’ll help you break the walls down
I’ll help you break the walls down
And bust you out and take you home
Believe in me you are not alone
I’ll help you break the walls down

And I know this is random
But just this morning I saw
The sun reflecting off the window
Oh I don’t know why
But I thought you should know

When you got nowhere else to go
And you’re lost within your own home
And you’re trying so hard to win
You keep trying its embarrassing
And how you don’t even know
But you know you’re off the tracks
And how did you get in here
Thinking how did I get in here

I’ll help you break the walls down
I’ll help you break the walls down
And bust you out and take you home
Believe in me you are not alone
I’ll help you break the walls down

And all the weight will carry
Will disappear and I will willingly
Embrace your soul
Lay your head
So come on home
come on home
come on home
Yeah yeah
Yeah yeah
Yeah yeah