Thursday, 15 December 2011

Film review: THE MAGIC BOX

Staring Robert Donat; Made in 1951 for the Festival of Britian.

With Martin Scorsese's film 'HUGO' the adaption of Brian Selznick's novel 'The Invention of Hugo Cabret' still fresh in my mind I found, as sometimes we do on the the internet an absolute gem of a film (DVD) by sheer chance, in a bargain classic section (part of the Boulting Brother's collection)!

After just seeing the end of this film I just had to type, so rare to be educated and entertained these days.

From a side-show attraction to the modern cinematic technology of the 1920's, this enthralling and sometimes tragic film recounts the life history of the British inventor of the moving pictures on celluloid Mr. William Freise-Greene! A man driven to strive to perfection of the moving image and a pioneer of colour film for motion pictures. Robert Donat plays Mr. Freise-Greene superbly and is supported by over 50 of the cream of British cinema, far to many to list (if you wish to comment and list them after viewing the film please do so).

What better way to spend a cold wet Sunday afternoon than to sit down and be drawn in to a World of an inventor, a Tinkerer if you will that saw that people would want to see moving pictures not just photographs projected from a magic lantern, and had the vision that this was a new Art-form. Now that movies are made in High Definition digitally we should not forget who’s shoulders we have stood on to get where we are today.

We as a nation should be very proud of this pioneer - Mr. William Freise-Greene 1855 - 1921

Sunday, 11 December 2011

Merry Christmas!

Santa and his helper ride in Victorian splendour. Photograph taken on the spur of the moment..!

SteamPunk review: Captain Swing & the Electrical Pirates of Cindery Island

'Captain Swing & the Electrical Pirates of Cindery Island' By Warren Ellis, Illustated by Raulo Cacers. Published by Avatar (2011). ISBN 1-59291-136-6

Warren Ellis an English author of comic-books, who has written 'Excalibur' for marvel, 'The Authority' for Wildstorm (DC), and 'Ministry of Space' for Image Comics among others, has put pen to paper, and finally finished this four part mini-series after much anticipation, and now the Trade paperback is out too!

This neo-Victorian fantasy rides on the waves of the popularity of the SteamPunk genre. Set in 1830 the title character taking the immortal alias of the Luddite saboteur 'Captain Swing' who sounds more like a modern Advocate of Internet Freedom – with a rallying cry of “Knowledge should be free”, and the use of a technology possibly inspired from the film 'Stardust' makes an interesting figure.

You will follow Constable Charles Gravel an honest peeler, and see his character grow as he is swept up in a storm of political high adventure.
The woodcut style of the illustrations by Raulo Caceres are a welcomed sight throughout this comic-book and offset the artwork in the panels.

One for your collection I think.

Sunday, 4 December 2011

Film review: Dean Spanley

Dean Spanley
A film given to me as a gift, and a surprise.
A drama of high whimsy, set in England after the second Boar War. Adapted from Lord Dunsany's novel 'My Talks With Dean Spanley', a most charming and well acted film, featuring the talents of Bryan Brown, Jeremy Northam, Sam Neill and Peter O'Toole. Released in 2008 and easily accessible on DVD.
Sam Neil as the Dean is one of his best performances you really do believe what his character is telling you after he has had his favourite tipple. With Bryan Brown playing the unlikely colonial purveyor of wine or any contents of a box (not cocktails, or F/Xs this time) brings a Victorian style all to his own, and with Peter O'Toole giving gravitas to this unfolding tale, as the father who morns the lost of his eldest son, as well as other losses.

It will make you think about Man's relationship with dogs (our best friend), and may I say some of the tale reminded me the animation 'Watership Down'!
A film not for the weak minded, but a film that you will warm to, now that the days get shorter and the nights grow cold. Like a good book you go back to again and again.

Wednesday, 16 November 2011

Victoriana: An Englishman's home is his.....

A fine day out walking with an old friend, I stumbled across this fine Des res, another Water company's Victorian building, no doubt full of machinery.
But the thought that popped in to my head was, what a nice private home for a bachelor!
As they say “ An Englishman's home is his Castle”
Just needs a trap door in the middle of the bridge to keep the Chavs out!
Oh dear I forgot about the waterline being so low, oh well.

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

Victoriana review: STONE'S FALL

STONE'S FALL by Iain Pears
Publisher: Vintage (2010)
ISBN-10: 0099516179
ISBN-13: 978-0099516170
First Edition;Publisher: Jonathan Cape; (2009) Hardback

On the cover of the book you can see the words Love, Murder, Espionage these are a poor approximation of the themes within this unravelling historical enigma.
Firstly set in 1909's London of the Edwardian era, then the second part in Paris in 1890, and the final part in Venice in 1876

As your knowledge of the main characters traverses forward in much in the same way as a viewer's interpretation of the film 'Rashomon', as the journalist Braddock is privately engaged to investigate the death of the capitalist weapons manufacturer John W. Stone and the mystery of his wealth, we are then moved on to intelligence officers discovering a plot to attack England and the Empire by a most modern notion. Interwoven into this tale is the mysterious Countess! What follows is an English inventor's meeting a businessman and that the World needs battleships and torpedoes.

This newly written Victoriana was such an intelligent read it has inspired me to reread 'The Difference Engine'.

Wednesday, 19 October 2011

SteamPunk Review: The Invention of Hugo Cabret

The Invention of Hugo Cabret By Brian Selznick (2007) Published by Scholastic Press – ISBN 978-0-439-81378-5
A book, although set in the1930's has a air of wonder from the past, of a boy living off this wits in a railway station, you can almost smell the smoke from the steam engines, how he bumps in to a young girl who’s godfather runs a small toy kiosk. The boy's father – a watch maker, one day finds an old and abandoned automaton in a museum's attic and vows to fix it, and of memories that a father gives his son.
How motion pictures for the fist time brought people's dreams and imaginations to life. You will read of magicians long since forgotten, in this most delightful illustrated book.

Enjoyable for parents with young children (Coglings), and those of young at heart with a euphoria of innocence. With a cinematic style of its own. - Now made in to a Motion Picture.

Sunday, 2 October 2011

SteamPunk Review: A Connecticut Yankee at King Arthur's Court (1889)

A Connecticut Yankee at King Arthur's Court (1889)
by Mark Twain and original Illustrator Dan Beard
Published in 2007 by Penguin Classics ISBN 9780141919928

A defining novel of a modern World, all be it the 1880's, and a fine example of what the 21st. Century's hopes to achieve with fictional alternate histories such as the Worlds that SteamPunk fiction resides in. The worlds of “what ifs” leading to a sideways take on past events, pushing ahead to new futures, not all of them turning out to be Utopias!

On a Literary note with Edgar Allen Poe being the Founder of Science Fiction (later to be nicknamed 'The sham technical' by other authors), I find that Mark Twain dipping his toe in to the domains of Scientific Romances, when his character (the Boss) imposes19th. Century's political, economic, and industrial might on the Old England of King Arthur's realm and his Knights, is by our definition SteamPunk without a doubt.

Has modernisation shockingly moved to fast for the 19th. Century's Mr. Twain, and who would oppose science in King Arthur's realm, you will just have to read and find out!