Tuesday, 21 August 2012

Holiday Reading: Mark Kermode, Film Club, Robopocalypse

So the honeymoon wasn't all wildlife spotting, swimming, traveling, tropical rain, forest trekking, volcano climbing and hot springs dipping.  In amongst all that, I got time for some serious sunbathing and reading too.  I was worried that after so long of not following the latest movie news, I might get back and have nothing to blog about so I chose my reading materials carefully.

The three books I raced through in the 18 days I was away were:

It's Only a Movie: Reel Life Adventures of a Film Obsessive by Mark Kermode

The Film Club by David Gilmour

Robopocalypse by Daniel H. Wilson

All three are very good books and I would recommend each of them.  I know lots of film bloggers worship Kermode but I find him to be pretty annoying and pretentious sometimes.  I'm not sure if reading a book about a film critic is the most exciting thing in the world but Radio 1's celebrated film critic litters his prose with so many film references that it's hard for film fans not to enjoy.

What I really liked about It's Only a Movie is finding out about Mark Kermode's early career as a film journalist; how he got into writing and then radio and then television.  It was also interesting to hear more about his love of horror.  Many know him as the guy who won't shut up about The Exorcist but his passion for horror extends far beyond that classic of the genre.

Kermode and Herzog before the shooting
It's great to see a film critic getting to write a book about their adventures in film journalism but apart from the highlights such as the infamous interview with Herzog where the pair were shot at and Helen Mirren giving Kermode a good telling off at the Baftas, it's not an overly exciting read.  Still, it's informative and entertaining enough for any wannabe film critic to give it a read.  If you haven't seen Herzog get shot, check it out below:

My favourite quote from the whole book and one that I wish all filmmakers could read before they suggest that film critics are a complete waste of space is this:

'Despite my reputation for lambasting movies with a passion which borders on psychosis I remain genuinely stunned that anyone can ever get a film - any film - made at all.  I've been on movie sets where I've witnessed the corpulent chaos of  filmmaking first-hand and the sheer logistics of making sure everything doesn't go belly up on day one are mind-boggling'

David and Jesse Gilmour watching films
The Film Club  is the true story of a film critic who lets his teenage son Jesse drop out of school as long as he watches and discusses three film's of his father's choice each week.  This book is incredibly moving.  Gilmour narrates the tale of watching his son growing up while they get to have their little film club three times a week, watching classic films like The 400 Blows, La Dolce Vita and The Bicycle Thieves to less demanding fare like Basic Instinct to downright crap like Showgirls.

Gilmour talks to his son with honesty, intelligence and emotion.  Even when Jesse dabbles in cocaine and goes through heart ache with troublesome girlfriends, Gilmour is there for him, showing him great films and teaching him life lessons through the appreciation of those films.  I found myself choked up on more than one occasion.  I wish every boy could have a relationship with their father as open, honest and loving as this one.

Toby Young said of the book that it is 'an object lesson in how fathers should talk to their sons'.  I can't recommend it highly enough!

Spielberg is directing the film adaptation of Robopocalypse for a 2014 release.  Drew Goddard is writing the script but there have been no casting announcements yet.  I thought I'd get in early and read the book before the film comes out and was not disappointed. 

It is very similar to the book of World War Z in that it is an account from the perspective of many different characters of a significant and catastrophic event in human history.  Instead of zombies though, this has a robot uprising.  Like Skynet's rise of the machines, Robopocalypse has Archos, a super-intelligent computer that turns the machines against the human race.

It's going to make a brilliant film with it's action packed story and fascinating vision of the collapse of civilization when technology turns on us.  The book is divided into five parts; Isolated Incidents in which the robots begin to show signs of freaking out; Zero Hour in which all hell breaks loose; Survival in which the survivors of Zero Hour get their shit together; Awakening and finally Retaliation in which you can probably kind of guess where the story goes.

While it is a really exciting and a cool dystopian vision of the future, it felt rushed and I think this book could have been like Stephen King's The Stand at around 1000 pages rather than around the 350 mark.  I wanted each part to go on for much longer than it did.  Also this book was a little better than World War Z in that there were some frequently recurring characters and it's always nice to have more of a thread and therefore characters that can you can start to care about.

That was my honeymoon reading.  Anyone else read anything interesting recently?  Have I convinced you to give any of these a try?  Best of the bunch has to be The Film Club in my opinion.  I recommend it to anyone, especially if you've got a few daddy issues.  Next I think I'm going to read Ben Elton's Popcorn.

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