Bowling is a Strenuous Sport Now?

My daughter Meg and her significant other Max invited me to a night of bowling; Max’s treat. As I am completely unable to turn anything down that is free; I leapt at the offer.

I was a bit hesitant at first though. I had not bowled in more years than I care to remember and back then I was not a great bowler, but a capable one. I could bowl almost silently with no loud crashes as the ball hit the middle of the lane. Things have obviously changed since I’d been an almost regular bowler. In the old days, you got told off for hurling the ball halfway down the lane.

Not now. I was about the only person who was bowling “quietly.” I was surrounded by the thuds of balls chucked ungracefully down the lanes. It almost sounded like bombs hitting, so much so that I felt like ducking for cover.

Still it was an enjoyable night and despite my protestations over my lack of practice and skill I managed to win two games and was well on the way to winning the third when our time ran out.

During the evening I only had one reminder of my age and that was when my knee “went” and I sort of hobbled my way to the line as I approached, ball in hand, to hopefully get a strike. I discovered that I wasn’t that bad even with the dodgy knee and I marvelled at the fact that I could even bowl at all. The last time I’d been down to a bowling alley you could still smoke as you played.

So the pleasant part of the evening was realising that I could still get the odd strike without smoking and without the aid of Anheuser Busch‘s Budweiser lager (beer). I guess it is sort of like riding a bicycle, you never really forget how to bowl.

The unpleasant part of the evening came the next day and the day after the next day. I felt like I had run the London marathon, twice. I went to roll out of bed the morning after our “bowl-a-thon” and wound up having to creep out slowly.

My catalogue of aches and pains started with my hips and moved on down my legs to my knees. I felt about a thousand years old and had definitely passed my “sell by” date. After taking my back pills it eased up enough that I was able to take my daily “heart” walk.

This morning, aka the day after the next day, I had the exact same experience upon waking. Creeping slowly out of bed was once again the order of the day and I was so sore that I actually cut my “heart” walk in half.

I am still amazed that the end result of such a non-strenuous activity could cause so much discomfort. A painful reminder of just how far I really have to go before I am even close to my old fitness level. It is a bit disconcerting.

Just as I am getting used to the steady daily improvement of energy levels and endurance levels, I go bowling and have a muscular set back that is as disturbing as it is amusing. I guess that before I go bowling again, I’d better train myself up for it.

Of course I could try something even less strenuous like competitive knitting although the damage to my wrists could guarantee that I never play the violin again. Perhaps Tiddly Winks or Jacks just to be on the safe side.

In reality though, I can be as competitive as I want on an on-line multi-player video game like COD or Black Ops II (which is just COD under a different name) and I will probably do that as soon as I’ve rested up from my one way excursion to Tesco.

I really would like to write more on the subject of my bowling night but it’s time for my session with some Deep Heat.

Now where did I put my Zimmer Frame

I may need this to get to the Tiddly Winks match…

Livid (2011): Ballet Boo

Livid (film)
Livid (film) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Written and directed by Alexandre BustilloJulien MauryLivid (or Livide) is Bustillo and Maury’s second collaborative effort. Their first was the 2007 film Inside which received rave reviews when it opened.

Unfortunately Livid has not been as well received. Although I’m at a loss as to why the film was viewed so negatively by the same folks who adored their first film. I can only put it down to the lads having a hard time living up to their amazing first feature.

Livid is centred around Lucie Klavel (Chloé Coulloud) a young twenty something who is training to be a home care nurse for the elderly.

The beginning of the film sees Lucie being trained by Mrs Wilson (Catherine Jacob) and we meet a few of her “new” clients. Mrs Wilson appears to be quite jaded at this point in her career as a home carer and Lucie shows a lot of compassion for her potential new charges.

The last lady they visit is Mrs Deborah Jessel (Marie-Claude Pietragalla) who is in a coma. She is incredibly old and is only being kept alive by a machine and blood transfusions. Mrs Wilson tells Lucie that the old woman has a treasure hidden somewhere in the crumbling mansion that is her home. Wilson also tells Lucie that she has looked for the treasure in vain for years.

Lucie Klavel aka Chloé Coulloud

After work Lucie meets her boyfriend William (Félix Moati) at the docks as he and his father come in to unload their catch for the day. William is a fisherman like his father, but he wants a lot more from life for less effort. He is tired of working hard for so little recompense.

Over drinks at a Bistro run by Will’s mother, Lucie recounts her first day as a carer. When Will tells her it sounds boring, she tells him of Mrs Jessel and her hidden treasure.Will becomes quite excited and tries to talk her into breaking into the mansion and stealing the treasure.

Lucie states firmly that it is out of the question, there is no way they are going to rob the old lady. But, once she gets home and finds that her dad will be moving his girlfriend into their flat just eight months after her mother, and his wife, killed herself she changes her mind.

William and their mutual friend Ben (Jérémy Kapone) all go to the house. Lucie sets the ground rules by saying they cannot break into the house and if they can get in they must damage nothing.

Of course once they get in the rules are abandoned and everything goes horribly wrong.

This was a compelling film to watch as the writers –and directors– cast their actors well and had written their parts to be more rounded than the usual horror film inhabitants. Lucie with her compassion, William with his laziness and Ben with his laissez faire attitude were very real feeling characters. Mrs Wilson seemed a bit odd and not very nice, we are soon shown why we have such misgivings about her.

Marie-Claude Pietragalla was terrifying as Mrs Jessel.

The scary Mrs Jessel putting her Ballet students through their paces.

The film looks beautiful. The colours and the textures of the film were close to breathtaking. The cinematography was crisp and spot on.

The actual plot of the film could have been construed as a bit convoluted or at least a bit muddled towards the end of the film, but neither my daughter nor myself felt too confused by the ending. Critics seemed to have a hard time following the ending, but then we all know that critics are not always the sharpest tool in the shed.

I was surprised at how good Livid actually was. I am not a huge fan of French cinema. They seem way too preoccupied with sex. Most of their cinematic offerings feel  over sexualized and full of gratuitous nudity. I hasten to add that this applies to “art house” films from the country.

Amazingly, it does not appear to be the norm in their horror films. These at least concentrate on scaring the pants off the viewer and not disrobing their actors on-screen.

My final verdict is that this is a two bags of popcorn movie. It moves at a good pace and it is scary enough that you just might lose part of that first bag of popcorn.

Intruders (2011): A Hoodie with a Difference

Intruders 2011

Directed by Juan Carlos Fresnadillo (28 Weeks Later, Intact) this Spanish horror/thriller is ‘a tale of two children’ who both share the same boogey man in two different time periods.

At the beginning of the film we meet Juan (Izán Corchero) and his mother Luisa (Pilar López de Ayala) they live in a small flat in a building that is being worked on. Juan is writing a ‘monster’ story and reading it to his mother. After she puts him to bed and goes to leave the room, Juan asks her to leave his window open so the cat can come in out of the rain.

Juan falls asleep only to be woken up by the cats meowing. He goes out onto the scaffolding outside his window to look for his cat. He notices someone in a red hooded outfit climbing up a ladder and when he reaches Juan’s floor he goes in through Juan’s open bedroom window.

Juan runs back into the flat and can’t find the red hooded thing anywhere. He then runs into his mother’s room and finds red-hood strangling her. He yells for it to stop hurting his mum and the thing goes to attack him. Red-hood then goes back out of Juan’s bedroom window and starts moving down the scaffolding.

Red Hood trips and falls off the scaffolding and is holding on with its hands clutching the metal frame. Juan who has followed him out is also on the scaffolding and Luisa follows them both. Red-hood grabs Juan’s feet and mum grabs his hands, they then  have a tug-of-war with Juan as the rope.  Juan then wakes up shouting for his mother.

The film then jumps to a skyscraper being built in England.  John Farrow (Clive Owen) is a foreman on the high-rise building site who is showing a new chap the ropes. He heads down to call his daughter Mia (Ella Purnell) who is at her grandma’s house with mum Susanna (Carice van Houten). John has to tell Mia that he’s going to be late from work and then asks to speak to Susanna.

While mum is on the phone, there is a very ‘Alice in Wonderland’ moment where Mia goes after a cat that has gone over the back garden fence. On the other side of the fence she finds the cat is in a tree looking at something. Alice climbs it to find a hole towards the top of the tree and seeing something in the hole reaches in and retrieves it, losing her bracelet in the process.

She has found a small wooden box with a slide top. Opening it she finds a piece of paper with faded writing on it.Later she starts copying what is on the paper and presents it as a story in class the next day. She has a nightmare that night, apparently induce by the story she’s writing.

The film then goes back to Juan and Luisa. He is having nightmares as well and they are of the same creature who has invaded Mia’s dreams. He is ‘Hollow face‘ and he steals children’s faces.

Intruders is very well put together. Fresnadillo does a brilliant job of keeping track of the two intertwining stories and weaves them together perfectly. The cinematography is clear and sharp, so sharp in fact that I thought it had been shot with digital cameras. Lighting is used to great effect, dark corners, closets, a damp spot on the ceiling all look so dark that they could be entrances to some scary place.

For the night time sequences Fresnadillo used filters to replicate the darkness that night brings naturally and it was done so well that I didn’t realise that he had used filters until I watched the ‘making of’ featurette on the DVD.

The two child actors were on top form here. Their performances really helped to sell the story and the film. Ella Purnell falls into the ‘Keep an Eye on This One’ category. In another few years she’ll be giving Keira Knightly a run for her money.

Clive Owen was doing what he does best. Act. Owen is another of those actors that Hollywood still hasn’t figured out how to best use him. I have always felt he was one of those ‘real’ actors. A ‘real’ actor is one who really makes you believe he is the character he’s portraying. Unfortunately I could not warm to Carice van Houten at all. I don’t know if it is how her role was written or some other reason, but, I did not like her at all. I’ll have to see some of her other film work and see.

It was fantastic to see Kerry Fox again. I haven’t seen her since she played Juliet Miller in Shallow Grave (1994). She is a cracking good actress who really delivered in her small, but, important role.

All said, I really enjoyed the film. It hooked me from frame one and kept me guessing and riveted till the end.

My final verdict is that Intruders is a two bagger. Two large bags of popcorn and a couple of Cokes. The ride the film takes you on isn’t of a high octane variety, but, it’s harrowing enough to cause you to convulsively keep shoving  popcorn in your mouth.

Hunger by Michael Grant: A ‘Filling’ Read

Cover of "Hunger: A Gone Novel"
Cover of Hunger: A Gone Novel

Hunger is book number two in Michael Grant‘s continuing story of the survivors of Perdido Beach California. Perdido Beach has been re-christened the FAYZ and it is a dangerous place to live. Still trapped under the bubble, they don’t know if there is a world outside or not.

Gone finished with an apocalyptic battle between the Dionysian forces of Caine, Drake and Diana and the Apollonian forces of Sam, Astrid and Edilio.

The survivors have lived to fight another day. And to starve.

Food is running out too quickly for the youngsters to replace. Albert, who has taken over the local Mickee D’s and Edilio, the fire chief and soon to be sheriff have decided to harvest the crops that are lying in fields around the town.

Their first attempt ends in disaster when they find that humans aren’t the only things that have mutated in their new little world.

Caine has been in and out of a coma since his close encounter with the evil in the mine shaft. Drake’s been a bit more fortunate in his dealings with the creature in the shaft. He’s gotten a nifty new arm and has become even crazier than he was before.

Sam is rapidly losing his focus as things keep spiralling out of control. Kids are dying, starving and scared. There is a ‘movement’ started by the “normal’s” to take over control from the freaks. Despite help from Astrid, Edilio  and Quinn, Sam’s spinning plates are wobbling and falling.

Caine’s now recovering from his fugue and is intent on taking over the nuclear power station. Drake is plotting to kill Caine and Diana is still playing them both against each other. The rest of Caine’s troops have deserted after he killed a boy while he was delirious.

Lana the healer of Sam’s group decides she has to kill the thing in the mine shaft as it continues to talk to her and Caine. She is afraid that if she does not destroy it everyone in the FAYZ will die.

The ‘mutants’ continue to appear and get stronger. But Little Pete is still stronger than anyone realises. He has been making monsters while he sleeps.

But more frightening than the monsters is the fact that Pete is talking to the evil living in the mine shaft. It is hungry and it wants to be fed.

Michael Grant’s story continues to move at break neck speed. Introducing new characters, new problems and solutions. Like Sam Temple, Grant is spinning a lot of plates but they are in no danger of toppling off their stands.

We are given a basic thread of hunger that spreads through every thought and action of all the characters. It drives much of what happens in the book and affects the outcome of things more often than not.

Sam is close to losing control and breaking down despite the strong support he gets from Astrid and his friends.

Both groups have to deal with treachery, civil unrest and madness. Their small captive world is dangerously close to unravelling.

Hunger was another ‘page-burner’ in other words, if I’d turned the pages any faster, they would have caught fire from the friction. Just like the first book in the series, Gone, Hunger grabbed my attention and did not let go until the very last page.

I am still completely transfixed by the two groups and their battles with each other and with themselves. I want to see them win, whatever that entails, and I want to be there when it happens. Lead on Mr Grant, I’m right behind you waiting impatiently for the end.

I will finish by saying that I am amazed that these stories are classed as Young Adult Literature. Like the Tales of the Otori by Lian Hearn, I think that this classification is wrong. Anyone can read these and get carried away by the writing, the story and the characters.

Thank you Michael Grant for writing them.

Michael Grant

19/08/1012