The pen is mightier than the sword

penbluePicture this: you’re in a fight, possibly to the death, and you’re on the brink of losing. You’re scrabbling around to find purchase on something, anything to give you an advantage. Your fingers grasp a thin object. Dimly, through the red mist, you realise the tides are turning, your luck is in; for you have come into your possession a weapon mightier than most in the world of movies: the humble pen.

Many a movie fight has conveniently been won this way. I suppose this is typical of the cinematic world because we all know, in real life, you can never find a bloody pen when you want one. And the chances of one finding your questing fingers during a fight are next to nil.

But then, maybe that’s why it works. Fate is a cruel mistress and likes to throw us a lifeline when we least expect it. Anyway, moving on. To celebrate the pen (and pencil), let’s look at movie scenes where this unassuming little object has briefly taken the limelight.

The Bourne Identity (2002)

Guy flies through the window with a machine gun then comes at you with a knife, what do you do? Calmly grab a pen and dispatch him, that’s what. Jason Bourne, still absent memory, demonstrates how lethal a biro can really be. Pen vs. knife? The knife stood no chance.


Liar Liar
(1997)

‘The colour of the pen that I hold in my hand is…ROYAL BLUE!’ Jim Carrey at his overacting best in the late ’90s, as a lawyer condemned to tell the truth as the result of a birthday wish made by his son. Silly, but entertaining stuff.

The Naked Gun (1988)

The Japanese fighting fish; beautiful, graceful and elegant. Quickly gets skewered with a rare Samurai pen by Lieutenant Frank Drebin, Police Squad! The pen in question being unbreakable, impervious to everything but water. Pure comedy gold.


Shaun of the Dead
(2004)

‘You’ve got red on you.’ Shaun’s pen leaks on his shirt early on in the film: a portent of things to come and an observant nod to the mindless and banal comments people say every day. Here’s a little compilation from the film. Ah, zombie-filled memories.

The Dark Knight (2008)

“Give me one reason why I shouldn’t have my boy here pull your head off? ‘How about a magic trick?'” Quite simply one of the best character entrances to a film in recent years. Heath Ledger’s Joker took us all by surprise. He begins with a simple pencil…


Batman
(1989)

Another entry for the Joker, this time Jack Nicholson’s flamboyant portrayal. Here he sports a wonderful feather quill pen, used to chilling effect to spear someone in the throat. Was Heath Ledger’s version in The Dark Knight an update of this scene? Both dark and compelling with a macabre sense of humour.

The Faculty (1998)

Always considered this film, directed by Robert Rodriguez, a bit of a guilty pleasure. With slightly cringing lines like ‘Aliens are taking over the fucking school’ and Famke Janssen asking for something ‘cherry flavoured’. This pen-related scene sees Josh Hartnett’s character stab his teacher in the eye, then watch in horror as he visibly dissolves.


Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade
(1989)

You’re Dr. Jones (Sean Connery) and you’re trapped in the body of a steel beast, otherwise known as a tank. You spot a chance to escape and end up grappling with the nearest Nazi soldier. Victory comes in the form of a squirting ink pen, leading your companion, Marcus Brody, to exclaim ‘The pen is mightier than the sword!

Goldeneye (1995)

Click, click, spin, click, spin, spin…BOOM! The old exploding pen trick. A classic Bond scene, building to an explosive finish. Pierce Brosnan’s Bond held captive, watching a programmer attempt to break a guidance code before Sean Bean’s bad guy rocket plummets back to earth. Little does he know he holds an explosive pen in his hand.

I want to ride my bicycle

‘I want to ride my bicycle, I want to ride my bike. I want to ride my bicycle, I want to ride it where I like.’ Freddie Mercury, Queen.

Whether you’re gunning the throttle feeling the wind in your air or simply pushing pedal power to the max, there’s something free-spirited and rebellious about a bike. And if you disagree, you probably haven’t ever ridden one. Or forgotten what the feeling is like. tomasEither way, shame on you. Dust off your leathers or stabilisers (delete whichever appropriate) and read this piece.

Recently I was gallivanting around Cat Ba island, Vietnam on a motorbike and it was, oh so much fun. Ok, well, it was a scooter, but I still felt like a young tearaway, trying to look cool with my big shades and little helmet. Aiming for more Easy Rider than total disaster, but who knows how I looked to locals. Particularly given the fact I was exploring the island with a young Austrian chap who was the epitome of cool; a cross between Steve McQueen and Errol Flynn (see the picture). Anyway, as you might imagine my little two-wheeled jaunt in Asia inspired me to dedicate this piece to my pick of bike scenes from movies I love.

The Place Beyond The Pines (2012)
An intelligent, dreamlike, almost melancholy drama that caught most moviegoers and critics unawares, anchored by strong performances from Bradley Cooper and Ryan Gosling. The latter playing motorbike stunt rider Handsome Luke, who turns his hand to bank robbery to support his newborn child. In the clip below Director Derek Cianfrance breaks down a key scene, where Luke’s world begins to unravel as he desperately flees a bank robbery.


Terminator 2
(1991)
This scene in question sees a young John Connor (Edward Furlong) being chased by the creepy, unstoppable T-1000 (Robert Patrick) in a juggernaut lorry. Closely followed by the achingly cool T-800 (Schwarzenegger), calmly reloading his shotgun one-handed before launching his Harley off the edge of a wall. Somehow he lands it then zooms up the inside of the lorry to scoop Connor off his bike, seconds before the T-1000 crushes them both. Quite simply, Director James Cameron at his best. A controversial statement given Titanic and Avatar, but I’m sticking with it.

Skyfall (2012)
Bond films need a big, brash opening scene to set the tone. Happily Sam Mendes delivered this with gusto and glee last year, in this breathtaking, rollicking ride; a bike chase across the rooftops of the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul. Watch this fascinating behind the scenes look at how the stunt coordinators and team put this chase together.


Indiana Jones and The Last Crusade
(1989)
Ok, I’m putting it out there. The Last Crusade is the best Indy film. There, I’ve said it. Connery, Ford, Nazis, what’s not to like? Well maybe not Nazis, but everyone loves to hate a baddie right? So in that sense, Indy sticking it to the Nazis on motorbikes is an easy win. The scene where Dr. Jones (Junior and Senior) flee the Nazis on a bike with a sidecar is action at its best. Particularly the inspired use of a flagpole for jousting.

The Goonies (1985)
Let’s all sing together, ‘good enough, Goonies ‘R’ good enough, ya, ya, ya, ya!’ C’mon you know the words. Written by Spielberg and Chris Columbus and directed by Richard Donner with a fantastic Cyndi Lauper soundtrack, this film was a defining coming-of-age flick. I sincerely mean that. This scene sees Mikey (Sean Astin) escape his older brother Brand (Josh Brolin) to begin their adventure. One of the best kid’s films of the ’80s.


Matrix Reloaded
(2003)
Can’t believe this film is ten years old now. Let’s face it, the Wachowski siblings set the bar extremely high with the original and, following the first film, the trilogy did somewhat lose its way. What with an overcomplicated plot involving Zion, the machines and whatnot, we all began to lose interest, slowly but surely. That said, Reloaded has some fantastic action scenes, In particular Carrie Ann-Moss’s Trinity racing the wrong way down a freeway.

The Dark Knight (2008)
Problem: your car has broken down beyond all repair, what do you do? Well, in Batman’s case you hit the self-destruct button and from the wreckage of the Batmobile the Batpod bursts forth. A vast beast with 20″ front and rear wheels. Cue a Chris Nolan speed chase special, with the dark, winged one in full pursuit of Heath Ledger’s manic Joker. ‘Now there’s a Batman.’

Cate Blanchett – modern day screen goddess

blanchett galadrielA few days after seeing the latest in the Middle Earth saga, The Hobbit, I realised a particular scene involving Blanchett had burrowed its way firmly into my subconscious.

Taking place in Rivendell, it focused on a tender moment between Gandalf and Galadriel, as they discussed the rise of a potential necromancer.

As it had been quite a few years since the LOTR trilogy I’d half forgotten how ethereal and captivating Blanchett had made Galadriel. Few actresses could have portrayed the elven queen the way she did.

This got me thinking of other characters she’s played that have had a similar impact on my subconscious, albeit for various different reasons. Galadriel aside, here’s my list:

Katharine Hepburn – The Aviator (2004)

Playing such an iconic individual was never going to be easy. Blanchett, though, made it look effortless, with a captivating and compelling performance. She clearly revelled in the part too, adding layers to Hepburn that delighted and surprised in every scene. So much so, that the results deservedly won her an Oscar for Best Supporting Actress.

life aquatic cate blanchettJane Winslett-RichardsonThe Life Aquatic (2004)

Securing a part originally written for Kate Winslet, hence the character’s name, she played a reporter who draws both the affections of Owen Wilson’s Ned and Bill Murray’s Zissou.
Her character’s relationship with Ned was wonderfully sweet and affecting and gave the film a lot of heart.

Irina SpalkoIndiana Jones: Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (2008)

Granted her character is a one-size-fits-all, clichéd Russian baddie, but this type of adventure action movie is a guilty pleasure, so surely that’s the point? That said, in a role that could’ve been one-dimensional, Blanchett gave Spalko depth and intensity. Her climactic ‘I vant to know’ scene cemented a place on this list.

marissa weigler cate blanchett hannaMarissa WeiglerHanna (2011)

Directed by Joe Wright, this dark, intelligent, fairy tale-esque action film played like a Brothers Grimm version of a Bourne film. Or a thinking person’s Kick-Ass. Here, Blanchett played an immoral and ruthless CIA agent, bent on chasing down Saoirse Ronan’s teen assassin Hanna. Another over-the-top villain? Possibly, but still a great performance.

Daisy FullerThe Curious Case of Benjamin Button (2008)

To say this film divided people is an understatement. From two reviews I read earlier – both well-respected critics – one gave it one star and one gave it five. Love or hate the story, it’s difficult to fault Blanchett’s beautifully nuanced performance, as the love interest to Brad Pitt’s increasingly youthful Benjamin Button.