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Review: Hanna

When The Adjustment Bureau came out some hack wrote “its Inception means Bourne” and this was used in the marketing. It kinda makes sense, they’re too successful, well reviewed flicks but it clearly wasn’t true, the film was nowhere near as complex or interesting as Inception, and it didn’t have the urgency, kinetic energy and engaging qualities of Bourne. It was an average sci-fi thriller carried by Damon’s charisma.

Similarly, Joe Wright’s thriller Hanna has been compared to Leon, primarily because of the fact both films feature young female assassins. But they’re really not that similar, its like comparing Operation Dumbo Drop with Apocalypse Now just because both are set during the Vietnam war.

Leon, was about an innocent adopted by a professional killer, offering him a chance to form a human relationship that had been missing in his life.

Hanna, is a very different beast.

16 year old Hanna (Saoirse Ronan) has been raised by her father Erik (Eric Bana) in the Scandanavian wilderness, where he has trained her to hunt, fight and generally be a killing machine. This is all for the day when Hanna will chose to reveal their presence so she can kill Wiegler (Cate Blanchett) a CIA officer.

Hanna kills Wiegler’s double while in custody and escapes having discovered that Erik is a former CIA agent who has been on the run having betrayed them and has knowledge the agency wants keeping quiet.

Hanna falls in with a middle class travelling family (the parents played by Olivia Williams and Jason Flemying) who decide to help her on her journey to Berlin, having believed the cover story she has been taught by her father and where she is to meet up with Erik.

Wiegler enlists three hitmen, two fellas who look like they’re from the National Front and their leader, a peroxide blonde, whistling and camp killer (Tom Hollander).

Having killed one of the assassins and escaped Hanna heads for Berlin, with Wiegler taking the family into custody and Erik heading to Berlin as well, now aware that Wiegler is still alive.

Hanna becomes aware that her father’s version of her past is not exactly true and that she is part of a government programme to genetically enhance babies into killers.

I won’t tell you what happens in the German capital but you can probably guess that they don’t sit down and sort things out over a cup of tea.

Its all a bit of a departure for Joe Wright, who’s only previous work I’ve seen is the Keira Knightley version of Pride And Prejudice, which was alright but hardly action packed. Yet, he shows a knack for action sequences, with the film possessing an intense kinetic energy with well edited fight scenes, which are filmed with the same quick paced, intense realism made popular by the Bourne films (part of me misses the kind of overly showy, choreographed 90s fight scenes best evidenced in the films of John Woo). There’s a real brutality in the film’s combat scenes, yet Wright doesn’t sensationalise it in any way.

Helping give the film momentum and enhancing the feel is a phenomenal soundtrack by The Chemical Brothers, which is a pulsating, driving musical backing track for the film, and has now been added to my music wish list.

On the wish list

I don’t want to make it sound like some MTV, fast cutting action fest, in between the fights Wright shoots the film beautifully, from the snowbound isolation in the opening chapters to depicting Wiegler’s intense, ordered personal life as well as lyrical scenes that capture Hanna’s wonder at the new, vibrant world she discovers. The different tones and atmospheres are realised completely, yet the changes in gear are smooth, with no jarring between the elements.

Wright is aided by three brilliant central performances. Bana is the least showy roles as Erik, giving the character a quiet intensity and nobility, and Bana looks and moves like someone who knows how to handle himself.

Bana- Intenisty and nobility

He doesn’t get much dialogue but in his few lines he conveys an inner dignity and the impression of a man uncomfortable with emotions yet who still feels compassion and affection for his daughter.

In the title role, Ronan is phenomenal, her large blue eyes give her an almost unnatural look, which fits with the films backstory and perfectly captures Hanna’s hardened, well trained, almost cold blooded approach to life. But there are glimpses of childlike enthusiasm and innocence as she experiences a wealth of new experiences in the wider world.

Unnatural- Ronan in the title role

But the star of the show is Blanchett as the devious Wiegler, who begins the film as a ruthlessly efficent, ordered proffesional character yet as the film progresses her cool exterior begins to crack. Wiegler’s evil side is never overplayed, and Blanchett conveys it through simple mannerisms, including a sharklike smile.

Wonderfully shot and paced thriller, with strong performances and a blinding soundtrack, and really not that much like Leon. 4/5

Tied to the 90s: In defence of Aqua

I grew up in the 90s and so the music from that decade has a special place in my heart, it was my introduction to pop music and the soundtrack to my early teens and childhood.

So when the Huffington Post tweeted that the worst song of the 90s had been decided clicked the link and found an article about a Rolling Stone poll that named Aqua’s “Barbie Girl” as the worst song of the decade.

Aqua- Unfairly dissed

I’m sorry but I have to disagree. In fact, I feel a lot of the list is unfair, as while many of the songs are far from genius they’re the kind of feelgood bubblegum pop that gets people dancing and puts a stupid grin on your face (“Achy Breaky Heart”, “Tubthumping”, “MMMBop”).

And “Barbie Girl” definitely fits with that, sure its a slightly creepy, not brilliantly sang ode to a toy but its hardly an utter travesty of a song, hell its not even the worst Aqua song of the 90s, have another listen to “Doctor Jones”, its awful.

BG is naff and daft, but that’s the appeal. Pop music needs to hold on to the bands who have a sense of humour, otherwise its just all people trying to be cool and pouting. People don’t realise that the Aquas, Billy Rays, MC Hammers and Hansons are just as much a part of what makes pop music great. This obsession with cool is not what music is about, music is about provoking emotional reactions, sometimes this is with sad songs, or rage filled calls to arms for the disaffected, and sometimes its just a dopey song about a plastic lady that makes you smile and have a dance.

I defy anyone to listen to it and not smile a little bit.

Anyway, this whole thing got me thinking about the 90s and so here are my personal top 10 worst songs of that decade, in no particular order (all gleaned from Wikipedia’s list of 90s number ones, yes these were all number ones):

1. Chocolate Salty Balls- Chef from South Park

A weak joke that got old real quick. Isaac Hayes, how the mighty fell.

2. Because We Want To- Billie

Before she became Billie Piper, average actress she was Billie, below average singer. Her debut hit was this irritating effort clearly meant to capture youthful rebellion albeit in a smiley, innocent way.

3. My Heart Will Go On- Celine Dion

The reason for my cousin’s middle name (I’m not joking, my mum’s side are a little chavvy) and the soundtrack to one of the worst films of the decade, this hung around the charts like a bad smell. My big sis had the Titanic album, and I should have a medal for not killing her with it.

4. Any of Robson and Jerome’s Three (yes, three) number one singles.

The most persuasive argument in the “Simon Cowell is evil and a cultural vandal” theory, he convinced the favourites of the nations mothers to release an album. Bland covers of iconic tracks followed, and its only Robson Green’s bizarre likability that stops me from hating them completely.

Okay, I might have a minor man crush on Robson Green after his swimming show

5. C’est La Vie- B*Witched

The 70% denim girlband burst onto the scene with this infuriating, nonsensical single. They embraced they’re Irishness by doing some awful riverdancing and inexplicably went on to have 3 more number one singles, and if you can name more than 1 of those, kill yourself now.

Far too much denim in one photo

6. ????- Westlife

Pick your least favourite, which is a tough choice, its like picking which type of cancer you’d least want to have.

7. Candle In The Wind 1997- Elton John

I like the original, its a touching song about a guy discovering Marilyn Monroe through cinema and lamenting the hard times she went through. But Elton John ruined it by gracelessly tweaking the lyrics to commemorate the life of Diana Spencer (and cash in on the ridiculous, disgusting public grief). Urgh.

8. Tragedy- Steps

Take a quality Bee Gees track, give it to 5 Redcoats with ideas above their station, add a stupid dance routine, repeat ad nauseum, destroying the original’s appeal and giving idiots something to dance to at weddings and school discos.

Now I like cheesy pop, but I loathe Steps. Unlike S Club 7 there was no sense of fun, because looking into H and Co.’s eyes you could just see a vaccuum of despair.

9. Blue- Eiffel 65

Do I need to explain why this song is awful?

10. Millenium Prayer- Cliff Richard

Ah, Cliff Richard is as much a part of Christmas as the rise in domestic violence. This was probably his worst effort as he crowbarred the words of the Lord’s Prayer to the tune of Auld Lang Syne. Truly remarkable in the depths of shite it plumbs. Can we bring back feeding Christians to lions for one last performance?

Now I don’t want to end negative so here are my top 10 best 90s songs! Again, they’re in no order.

1. Torn- Natalie Imbruglia

My Neighbours crush could never hope to match this simple, beautiful ballad which has probably become one of the classic pop songs for the ages.

2. Parklife- Blur

Britpop was brilliant, the rewriters of history may poke fun at it now but it was part of an early 90s optimism and confidence. Of the big 2, I’ve always been slightly more in the Blur camp and this witty tale of everyday life is one of their best efforts and for me is the sound of the 90s.

3. Its Like That- Run DMC vs Jason Nevins

Just a great dance track.

4. Gangsta’s Paradise- Coolio feat. L.V.

Coolio never got anywhere near matching the quality of this effort, and no matter how many stupid reality TV appearances he does this will be his legacy. Its a brilliant, atmospheric rap track that helped bring the genre into the mainstream and is one of the genre’s all time classics.

5. I’d Do Anything For Love (But I won’t do that)- Meat Loaf

Its Loaf at his overblown, campy best with a power ballad of truly epic proportions.

6. Jump Around- House Of Pain

Still makes a party go off. A plethora of cultural references make it very much of its time and its probably one of my favourite all time songs.

7. Don’t Speak- No Doubt

No matter how rubbish Gwen Stefani’s solo output got you kept hoping she’d strike the form No Doubt had. This heartfelt, melancholic ballad about a relationship falling apart is wonderfully crafted and still sounds great.

8. Baby One More Time- Britney Spears

Britney’s debut song is still among her best and for purely selfish reasons it reminds me of my second major popstar crush (after Louise) and of my teenage years. Its also taken from the first album I ever bought, and it was on cassette. Christ, I’m old.

The first album I ever bought

9 and 10. The Kids Aren’t Alright by The Offspring and What’s My Age Again? by Blink 182

The 90s were the heyday of punk pop and for about 6 months, all I listened to were Offspring’s Americana and Enema of the State by Blink 182, they soundtracked pretty much all my teens and these are my two favourite tracks from those albums. Its before Blink 182 went all serious and when The Offspring were probably at their best at amalgamating punk and pop.

Enema Of The State- My family probably got really sick of this album being played over and over again

Any thoughts? 90s songs you love/hate? You know what to do. LLAP.

Sri Lanka 9 Stuck

If you want to make God laugh, tell him about your plans“- Woody Allen

Part 1- 1st August, 11:21am

Arugam bay, s***, I’m still only in Arugam bay.

I thought my next entry would Batticola, Pollonaruwa or scribbled on a sweaty bus journey.

But I’m not. I’m lying on the balcony of the cabin.

I have been struck down.

It started yesterday afternoon with a slught grumbling in my guts. I ignored it- spicy food and I’d been loose for a while.

But by the evening it was worse and this morning I was forced to abandon my trip North.

I’m really gutted about it! The feeling in the camp has improved after a few minor falling outs last week, but still I was looking forward to lighting out on my own and seeing the ancient cities of Pollonaruwa and Anuradhapura.

It’d give me a chance to see more of the country and break out of this kind of loafing, beach bum existence I have here in Arugam Bay, which while fun is starting to feel like a wasted opportunity.

Also I kind of wanted to get away and having some time to myself.

But feeling this rough I didn’t fancy a long bus ride. So the plan changed today I would recuperate- sleep, lots of water, read some Keith Richards, listen to podcasts and scribble away in the hope that by the evening I’d be feeling better.

And so I am living by one of this trip’s oft-repeated phrases:

Make a plan, change a plan

So tomorrow if the PTB smile upon me I will go to Ella and then Kandy before reuniting with the guys in Colombo.

Hopefully next time I write I’ll be up in the hills.

Part 2- 1st August, 5:35pm

Well, the proposed Ella-Kandy trip has bitten the dust. There’s only one train and it arrives in Kandy at 2:30am.

Hmmmm, I’m out.

So no solo jaunt on this trip.

Okanda with the guys tomorrow and then bussing across on Wednesday.

Hopefully the full day in Colombo will make up for it.

Random Musings

As this is a bit of a short post and I want to get the Sri Lankan ones out of the way, here’s a bunch of random things I scribbled during the trip:

20/7

Who in the hell would by condoms called “rough riders”? Its a truly hideous connotation to apply to them? Seriously, just a stupid name. Although, thinking about it I’ve never seen why they picked Trojan either, as isn’t the entire point of Troy was that the Greeks got in. I just have the image of sperm sawing and hammering a wooden horse together to trick the rubber.

* * *

The Boss’ original of “The Ghost Of Tom Joad” is nothing like the Rage Against The Machine version, but both are brilliant. The Boss’ has a kind of simplistic beauty and captures the desperation, which the RAtM version does as well but adds anger and turns the “I’ll be there” refrain into a battlecry.

* * *

Sign that it’s been too long since I’ve had sex- listening to Gillian Anderson’s Desert Island Discs episode I got a little thrill, that voice!

Gillian Anderson, be still my beating heart.

* * *

George Foreman will now be my hero and inspiration. This is due to hearing about his come back to boxing to be champ at 45.

Foreman becomes World Champion at 45 and gives Sports Illustrated to use an extremely cheesy headline

* * *

A week of no TV and my mind is constantly replaying a scene from The Big Bang Theory that I watched on the flight. Here you go:

Sri Lanka Part 1- Swansea To Colombo

I should have slept.

I got back from work at around 8am, and the plan was to crawl into bed for a 3 hour power nap so I’d be okay to get up, sort stuff out and be on the road before 3. However, despite being knackered I was suddenly seized by nervous excitement and restless energy, instantly began sorting stuff out for the trip, rechecking I’d packed everything and of course, the most important thing, sorting out my iPod.

Good tunes are vital for travelling. I found this out on the Morocco trip, the pod helped me to pass the time on the buses and buoyed my spirits when I was feeling low. Sure, I wouldn’t be alone on this trip but still, there were long trips ahead and who knows, by the end of the 3 weeks we might not all be talking. Three weeks is a lot of Chris exposure.

I also wanted some podcasts to listen to, as these would help me fill the siestas during the hot days (this has already been proven, although I now wish I had some proper iPod earphones as my massive headphones are essentially noisy ear muffs in 25+ degree heat).

Time got away from me and the morning passed quickly, but the excitement was keeping me going and so I didn’t feel tired.

This changed when I got in the car though as, like a child, I find it very easy to drop off in transit. I was out like a light.

I was awake as we (Llywelyn, Hannah and myself) entered London and sought out Heathrow, which should be easy to find due to its size but chock-a-block traffic and poor lane markings make it a bit stressful, but nonetheless we managed to make it to the car park okay and shuttled to the airport.

We met up with the rest of our party, Laurence and Ashley, and checked in.
Llyw and Laurence’s boards were taken off to be packed aboard, as was my backpack, as apparently rucksacks are dealt with seperately (I have no idea why, is it just a Qatar airline thing? Or is this now standard?).

Heathrow departure lounge is massive and we hung there for a while, leading to the first drama of the trip. Hannah’s attempt to withdraw money failed, as the special card she had put cash on had not registered her money. Things got a bit tense, but Llyw, in a big brother masterclass stepped forward and provided her the cash for the trip. I feel if this had happened to the Page family the results would have been different, and as my sibling turned to me with tear-filled eyes and informed me that their cash wasn’t available my reaction is more likely to be “Who am I going to lend money off now?” as opposed to stepping into the breach and solving the problem.

Crisis averted we wandered about and stopped at a bar, which was out of Bow and Corona, so I settled for a Beck’s. Wandering about after I looked for magazines, played with a Blackberry playbook and then sat down to wait to see which gate we needed.

When called we sat by the gate, the only white faces in a horde of Asian and Arabian faces all heading for Doha.

I was meant to be sitting next to Ashley, due to the lottery of seat assignment but agreed to swap with Hannah, meaning I was now between Llywelyn and Laurence. Ashley’s seat was broken however, in that it tilted back uncontrollably and this meant that the girls would probably be moved. Maybe even upgraded to first class.

That didn’t seem fair! I’d given up an aisle seat out of kindness so that the two friends could sit together and now it appeared as though I’d be missing out on the promised land of extra leg room.

As it was, only Hannah was moved, and this turned out to be just further along in economy.

I must admit I was nervous about the flight as I’d never been on a flight for more than 3 hours, and this first leg would be double that.

Long haul was a whole new world and luckily the time passed fairly quickly. I watched The Adjustment Bureau (little cheesy but enjoyable enough, carried by Damon’s likability) and some episodes of The Big Bang Theory.

Stepping off the plane at Doha was like stepping into a wall of heat. Dry, dusty and feeling as though it had been decades since the last breeze had blown through.

When I’d first heard about the plans for air-conditioned stadiums at the 2022 World Cup I’d thought “Pansies”.but now it made perfect sense. It was about 7:30am and already the temperature was climbing into the 30s. Walking from the plane to the bus was sweat inducing, so I could imagine that you’d have to be superhuman to survive even a kickabout in the afternoon heat.

I freshened up over a bathroom sink and helped myself to an Irishman’s bath at the Armani stand in Duty Free. Then we queued and boarded our second flight, a shorter, 4 hour hop to Colombo.

I slept for the first two hours of this flight and spent the rest of the time reading and following our progress on a frankly useless computer display, which had the plane displayed at such an out of scale size that it looked as though if I walked the length of the plane in Doha I’d have arrived in Colombo.

The second leg, maybe due to us being on a smaller plane was a lot bumpier. Of course, the PTB showed their usual cruel sense of humour in saving the worst of the turbulance for when I had gone to the bathroom. I’d only just closed the door when the Captain announced we should all return to our seats and fasten seatbelts. I was then bounced around inside the tiny compartment in an extreme test of my bladder control.

Finally, we levelled out and I was able to go about my business.

This experience did make me aware that the Mile High Club must consist entirely of anorexics, midgets and contortionists. I know I’m on the larger side and the kind of woman I like tends to be the curvier, Dors Feline type. so it would definitely be impossible, but I think even two “normal people” would struggle to couple in such a confined enviornment. Also, would you want to? It is a toilet, afterall. (He wrote, somewhat hypocritically)

Colombo was warm, but there was moisture in the air and so nowhere near as uncomfortable. However, there was some drama as Llyw’s board hadn’t made it and was still sitting in Heathrow. Llyw, too his credit, remained friendly, polite and calm, while I think had my luggage gone missing I’d have Hulked-Up in seconds.

It was set up that Llyw could pick it up the next day and we boarded our minibus and drove through the hot, sweaty streets with us all eagerly drinking in sights and marvelling at the daredevil style of the cyclists and tuk-tuk drivers.

We got to our hotel and headed out for some food.

TTFN

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