Saturday 7 September 2013

Where's Runnicles goes to the movies - Rush and Star Trek Into Darkness

It's been a while since I wrote a film review, so why not two for the price of one. As a fan of Formula 1 racing and, normally, of Ron Howard's films, I've been very much looking forward to Rush, which chronicles the 1976 title fight between James Hunt for McLaren and Niki Lauda for Ferrari. In the end, while it is good fun (particularly for this McLaren fan to see them winning races after the season they've been having), it does not rank among Howard's best films nor even among the best Formula 1 films: the Senna documentary is both more powerful and better made.

The film's biggest problem is that it feels slightly disjointed. The first half is very entertaining and light hearted, then, following the dramatic events at the Nurburgring the tone changes dramatically. This section of the film is probably the best, and certainly the most compelling, though there are a number of moments that are not for the squeamish.

The two leads, Chris Hemsworth as Hunt and Daniel Brühl as Lauda, are both solid. Indeed Brühl's Lauda is a pretty uncanny impression. It helps, no doubt, that Lauda is still alive and cooperated, but that said, impression still seems the best word for it. Neither performance shows much depth beyond that, though in fairness this is down to Peter Morgan's script which isn't in the same league as his previous sporting endeavour The Damned United, nor his previous Howard collaboration Frost/Nixon. The supporting cast is even more thinly drawn and the likes of Steven Mangan and Julian Rhind-Tutt seem a little wasted.

EIF 2013 - The Fireworks Concert

As ever, this year's fireworks concert was a dramatic and enjoyable finale to the Edinburgh International Festival (and, indeed, the summer festivals generally). The elements remain fundamentally unaltered: the Scottish Chamber Orchestra playing in the Ross Bandstand while above them the better part of four tonnes of explosives (or 400,000 fireworks, depending on which measure you prefer) are let off from Edinburgh castle. And while the display is tailored each year, the main variable is the exact musical accompaniment to which it is fitted. Well, the main variable within the control of the organisers, anyway: the weather usually plays some part.

Golden fan

This year it was the turn of Ravel's arrangement of Mussorgsky's Pictures at an Exhibition. This probably represents the most successful choice since 2009 when Handel's firework music last had an outing. The score has plenty of big bangs for Pyrovision to choreograph, but there is also fun to had elsewhere such as the alternating purple flares depicting the crooked legged gnome. Meanwhile the waterfall, my favourite moment of the display, was as beautiful as always. (As I did last year, I just sat back and enjoyed it, having captured it to my satisfaction a few years ago.) It was joined by a second series of mini waterfalls that also made for a nice effect.