Film Review: The Foreigner

The Foreigner coverGenre: Action Thriller 

Starring: Jackie Chan, Pierce Brosnan

Based on: The Chinaman, 1992 novel by Stephen Leather 

Release Date: 30 Sept. 2017

Director: Martin CampbellProduction Company: Huayi Brothers


A humble businessman with a buried past seeks justice when his daughter is killed in an act of terrorism. A cat-and-mouse conflict ensues with a government official, whose past may hold clues to the killers’ identities.”

I watched this on Netflix UK.

Jackie Chan, star of Martial Arts movies such as Project A (1983), Police Story (1985) and Armour of God I and II, stars as Quan Ngoc Minh; a Chinese single parent, living in England with his only daughter.  Pierce Brosnan, former James Bond, is Northern Ireland deputy First Minister, Liam Hennessy, a former IRA member who is publicly open about his past but now in his later years, is keen to keep the peace accord in place. In the opening, Quan’s young teenage daughter is killed in a terrorist bomb attack – the quiet man sets out on a vendetta to find his daughter’s killers.

I have been watching Jackie Chan movies since the early 80s, and am very familiar with his fast-paced action style, his well-publicised injuries during filming, his comedic roles and Buster Keatonesque scenarios. So this was a bit of a mental adjustment. Chan is now 63 years old and although he cannot do the ridiculous acrobatics he performed in his earlier films, he can still move with astonishing speed – when he needs to. I was totally impressed with his physical stamina; and this film does have some pretty harsh fight scenes. He is mostly pitted against men who are twenty to thirty years his junior and is tripped, thrown and felled to a degree you wonder how his ageing body can take it.

However, what affected me most was his very moving performance as a deeply distraught father who simply wants the names of his child’s murderers. He drifts like a ghost, stands in his daughters bedroom and stares, he shuffles like an old man. When his offer to pay the police for the names of the bombers is refused, he decides to take matters into his own hands. And here; along with the First Minister, we discover Quan’s history. It is both tragic and fearsome – the Minister and his men are tested repeatedly by this quiet foreigner who wants, not only justice, but revenge.

The film is interesting for its pitting two older men against one another; neither are completely innocent; both have violent pasts. There is a resilience one could call stubbornness in both men. Both have their own moral codes that one could say have become rigid. There are thrilling fight scenes, but not so many – this is mature martial arts – when Chan is knocked flat on his back on a rooftop my ageing bones empathised. This is also the first time I have ever seen Chan cry.

It’s an oddity too. The bad guys are Irish, or more precisely, the IRA. The IRA ceasefire was called about 20 years ago, so to someone who grew up in England during The Troubles, with Irish parents, it seems dated. Plus, there are moments in the film in which some characters refer to Chan’s character as ‘the Chinaman’ – I couldn’t decide if it was racist, a hint that Brits and Irish are racist, a nod to the original novel title, or lazy updating of terms. Some of Hennessy’s henchmen can come across as a little too predictable, too generic and the theme could said to be dated – but – I did enjoy it; if enjoy is the right word to use for such a dark, troubled and sad film.

I give The Foreigner – 

4 stars

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So, You’re Making A Documentary?

Some basic advice for students…

As a Media Student, you will be asked to complete a number of videos. Music videos, Presentation Techniques and Documentaries (more than one; yes)

Having watched the process, what have I discovered is the hardest thing for young film/documentary makers to do? Use a camera? Film in inclement conditions? Edit? No. what I have discovered is – students find it incredibly hard to ASK strangers to be in their productions. It’s all fine and dandy in the comfort of your own classroom or college studio, filming your friends and fellow students – but it isn’t going to cut the mustard when you get to Level 3!

You have to get out there and SPEAK TO PEOPLE YOU DON’T KNOW!

Students, when interviewing, don’t scratch you feet!

Making a Documentary may require you to get out of the classroom and into the street – especially if you’re doing a Vox Pop. Here’s a little advice for the shy or reluctant.

Apart from the expected equipment – camera(s), spare batteries, Rode mic, camera operative etc, you might also consider:

  • Carry I.D with you – your college I.D/Student Union card.
  • Consent/Release Forms – and a pen or two!
  • Mobile Phone with college number – someone might ask for further proof.
  • Umbrella if it is raining – people do not want to stand still for any length of time in the rain.


  • Practise what you’re going to say – don’t get caught blathering!
  • Take a friend for moral support.
  • You know what you want, you know your questions; and the kinds of answers you’re after. Pick your target; but do not harass. Many people feel on their guard when approached by a stranger.
  • Take a deep breath – you aren’t the first person who has had to do this, and it won’t be the last time you do.
  • Be friendly and polite.
  • Introduce yourself, explain where you are from and, briefly, what you are doing – they don’t need your educational life story.
  • Now ask if you can film them.
  • Explain how long it will take and how much footage you will use. And who will be viewing the final piece, e.g; classmates, tutor.
  • Get them to sign Consent Form.
  • Film what you need as quickly as possible – remember, they are doing you a favour!
  • Thank them.
  • Move on and do it again.

It’s okay if you’re shy, people are generally fine when they discover you’re a student. It will not be easy, but nothing worth having is easy. If you’re going into the Media Industry, whether Film, Television, Radio or Journals, you will need to work on communication skills – primarily verbal.

Just do it.

Oh, and good luck!

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Media Students interview for Vox Pop. Have fun!

Let’s Hear It For The Boys

or – In Praise Of Good Men.

There has been a LOT of negativity in the news and social media recently about men and the awful things some of them have done. It is quite right; I believe, that injustices should be highlighted, wrongs righted and awful people who do not know how to treat others with decency get their comeuppance. 

But there are LOTS of men out there who are wonderful, delightful, loving and thoughtful human beings. Most of my friends are male, and I have noticed some of them curling in on themselves, like shy flowers or wilting petals, as a daily barrage of negativity streams from the radio, TV and so forth. They feel they cannot say anything for fear it will be misconstrued, twisted or misunderstood, so they remain quiet as though waiting for a tsunami to pass.

In typical fashion (in line with my perverse nature), going against the zeitgeist, I decided to write in praise of men. Some you might have heard of; others not so much. They have done, or continue to do things for other people, and those other people include women. Some are Random Acts of Kindness that display a thoughtfulness and caring side we do not normally report about men. 

Arunachalam MurugananthamCoimbatore, India. He is the inventor of a low-cost sanitary pad-making machine and is credited for innovating grass-roots mechanisms for generating awareness about traditional unhygienic practices around menstruation in rural India. “It all started with my wife,” he says. In 1998 he was newly married and his world revolved around his wife, Shanthi, and his widowed mother. Muruganantham discovered that his wife could not afford sanitary products; as it was with 1 out of 10 women in his and surrounding villages. He even made himself a false ‘uterus’ so he could test the absorbency of his new pads! He suffered terrible shame, ridicule and was even feared by some, his wife, unable to stand the ignominy any longer, left him. He spent five years perfecting his affordable sanitary towel. BBC Radio 4 even aired a drama about him in April 2017 – ‘The Man Who Wore Sanitary Pads’.

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Muruganantham with sanitary pad machine

Julian Rios Cantu – Mexico. Is the inventor of a bra that can help in the early detection of breast cancer. Cantu said he was inspired inspired by his mother’s battle with the disease which eventually lead to both her breasts being removed. The bra; named EVA, was developed with three friends; and have since gone on to form their own company Higia Technologies and was created primarily for women with genetic predisposition to cancer. Breast cancer, if caught early, has a survival rate of nearly 100-percent. The bra is in its early development stages and as yet, is not on the market, but, this is a man, making something for women – and he is only 18 years old.

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Cantu with the sensing device from bra

David Schwimmer – USA. (Previously from TV sitcom ‘Friends’). Is a member of The Rape Foundation Board – along with, Thomas Pfister, James T. McCracken, M.D, Stephen Davis and more. The Rape Foundation is dedicated to providing expert, comprehensive care and treatment for sexual assault victims – children and adults; prevention education programs to reduce the prevalence of sexual violence; training for police, prosecutors, school personnel and other service providers to enhance the treatment victims receive wherever they turn for help; and policy reforms and other initiatives that increase public understanding about rape, encourage victims to report these crimes, and foster justice and healing.

The Rape Foundation's Annual Brunch - Arrivals
Schwimmer and Sarah Paulson at Rape Foundation event

Cesar Larios – Florida, USA. Offered himself as a human chair to an elderly lady when the elevator they were in got stuck. He remained on his hands and knees for 30 minutes until the elevator was repaired.

Liam Roberts – Liverpool, UK. This 15 year old saves up his pocket money, to buy ingredients to cook food for the homeless. Once a month, Liam heads out with hot food for the homeless he has prepared himself.

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Roberts handing out hot food

Tamas Nadas- Albuquerque, New Mexico. Officer Nadas bought food and drink for 20 needy people when he saw their day shelter had no power one day. He said it felt like the ‘natural’ thing to do, to help out, regardless of whether in uniform or not.

Johnny Bobbitt Jr- Philadelphia, USA. A homeless man, he helped out a woman whose car ran out of petrol on an interstate. He made her stay in the car with her doors locked and walked a few blocks and bought her some with his last 20 dollars (£15).                                                          

Martin Gallagher- Liverpool, UK. Helped a student with train fare. After Grace Georgina was stranded in London; because she lost part of her ticket, Gallagher paid £159 so she could get home.

Thanks for reading, if you have a good man in your life, give him a hug from me!

‘Why Can’t a Woman Be Like A Man?’

Women are irrational, that’s all there is to that!
There heads are full of cotton, hay, and rags!
They’re nothing but exasperating, irritating,
vacillating, calculating, agitating,
Maddening and infuriating hags!
Pickering, why can’t a woman be more like a man?”

Asks Professor Henry Higgins in My Fair Lady; the musical based on the play Pygmalion by George Bernard Shaw. The gist of the tale is –  Higgins picks up a Cockney flower girl in order to prove he can change her accent to deceive others of her station – but he is not doing it for Eliza, out of the goodness of his heart – it is for his own sense of importance. Eliza doesn’t get an education, she gets trained like a performing monkey. Made in 1964, the musical is revealing in it’s shocking attitudes towards female education.

So when and how have females been educated? Have we really progressed? Were women educated equally to men – once upon a time? Find below a brief race through our educational history.

  • In ancient Greece – although it was generally unacceptable for women to be educated, the Pythagoreans and Epicureans allowed women, such as Lastheneia of Mantinea and Axiothea of Phlius, both disciples of Plato, to participate in schooling as well as symposia. Female poets were more common, including Erinna, Corinna, and Praxilla. Pythagoras believed that reason was the most important human characteristic, and that it was unaffected by gender. He felt that both males and females should receive the same skills and there should be no differentiation between the topics of education.

  • In ancient RomeEducation of women began around the 2nd century BC. The education of elite Roman women was normal. Education meant literacy, numeracy, knowledge of both Latin and Greek languages and reading in both languages, and also history. Girls were educated along with boys in some households, but as they grew older they started to learn different things. Literary education beyond the basics of reading and writing was available to some elite girls. These girls received such education, however, not to prepare themselves for future occupations, but to increase their value as wives.

  • 5th to 15th century – During the Middle Ages, schools were established to teach Latin grammar, while apprenticeship was the main way to enter practical occupations. Two universities were established: the University of Oxford followed by the University of Cambridge. A reformed system of “free grammar schools” was established in the reign of Edward VI of England. The earliest schools in England – at least, those we know anything about – date from the arrival of St Augustine and Christianity around the end of the sixth century. It seems likely that the very first grammar school was established at Canterbury in 598. Educational opportunities for many were slim, for women it was marriage or the nunnery.

  • Early 16th century – many boys still went to chantry schools, whilst girls; in a rich family, had a tutor who usually taught them at home. In a middle class family their mother might teach them. Upper class and middle class women were educated. However lower class girls were not, neither were lower class boys.

  • 17th and 18th century – following the reign of Queen Elizabeth I who was a brilliant and highly educated woman, women’s education suffered a serious setback. Powerful men opposed the education of women beyond reading and writing their names. King James I, successor to Elizabeth, rejected a proposal that his daughter be given a classical education saying, “To make women learned and foxes tame has the same effect – to make them more cunning.”

  • 19th century – Education greatly improved for both boys and girls. In the early 19th century there were dame schools for very young children. They were run by women who taught a little reading, writing and arithmetic. However many dame schools were really a child minding service. Girls from upper class families were taught by a governess. Boys were often sent to public schools like Eaton. Middle class boys went to grammar schools. Middle class girls went to private schools were they were taught ‘accomplishments’ such as music and sewing. In 1811 the National Society for Promoting the Education of the Poor in the Principle of the Established Church (The Church of England) was formed. The state did not take responsibility for education until 1870. Forsters Education Act laid down that schools should be provided for all children. If there were not enough places in existing schools then board schools were built. In 1880 school was made compulsory for 5 to 10 year olds. However school was not free, except for the poorest children until 1891 when fees were abolished. From 1899 children were required to go to school until they were 12.

  • 21st century – onward and upwards. We are informed that girls are overtaking the boys; though there is still institutional bias; at Oxford and Cambridge the majority of students are male, and women hold only 20% of professor roles in UK. Boys and girls are pretty equal when it comes to A Level results, and girls are more likely to go to university.

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Women Know Your Limits; Harry Enfield’s 1950s parody.

Some educated women from history –pre 19th century

  • Hildegard of Bingen; (1098 –1179) Saint Hildegard of Bingen, O.S.B., also known as Saint Hildegard, and Sibyl of the Rhine, was a German writer, composer, philosopher, Christian mystic, Benedictine abbess, visionary, and polymath. She wrote theological, botanical and medicinal texts, as well as letters, liturgical songs, and poems, while supervising brilliant miniature illuminations.

  • Cleopatra VII; (5th c BC) studied philosophy, literature, art, music, medicine, and was able to speak six different languages. These languages were Aramaic, Egyptian, Ethiopian, Greek, Hebrew, and Latin. Being very educated, she soon learned of all her political surroundings and of her father’s status and power he had as Pharaoh. When the Greeks ruled Egypt in the first century B.C., they stressed education for both royal boys and girls.

  • Queen Elizabeth I ( 1533 – 1603) Her studies included languages, grammar, theology, history, rhetoric, logic, philosophy, arithmetic, literature, geometry, and music. She was also taught religious studies.

  • Margaret More (Thomas Mores daughter) one of the best educated women in Tudor England. The first female commoner to publish a book. Educated equally to her brother by her father; a Humanist education that included ;grammar, writing, reading, religion, Latin, Greek texts (usually women were not allowed to read these)

  • Hypatia (ca. AD 350–370–March 415) was a Greek Neo-Platonist philosopher in Roman Egypt who was the first historically noted woman in mathematics and the first woman to make a substantial contribution to the development of mathematics .As head of the Platonic school at Alexandria, she also taught philosophy and astronomy.

  • Mary Astell (1666–1731); was an English philosopher. She was born in Newcastle. Today she is best known for her theories on the education of women and her critiques of Norris and John Locke.

  • Mary Wollstonecraft, (1759-1797); Anglo-Irish feminist, intellectual and writer. Established a school at Newington Green, when she was 24 years old. In 1788 she became translator and literary advisor to Joseph Johnson, the publisher of radical texts. In this capacity she became acquainted with and accepted among the most advanced circles of London intellectual and radical thought.

  • Boudicca (d. AD 60 or 61) ;was queen of the British Iceni tribe who led an uprising against the occupying forces of the Roman Empire. Dio says that she was “possessed of greater intelligence than often belongs to women”.

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You don’t get to be as prominent as Cleopatra without having plenty of smarts.

Q: Why can’t a woman be like a man?

A: Because they haven’t been allowed to (mostly)!


Gillard. D (2011) Education in England: a brief history

Maggie Hunt; Greek Art and Archaeology, May 1, 2004

SFA Post – Echolalia and Emma

Here’s my latest post as guest content writer for the School For Autism Blog – Chikitsya. If you’ve been following this series, you will be familiar with the object of my posts being of a personal nature – my experience of working with young people with Autism over a number of years.

                         ‘One job I did was to create a temporary mural in a centre for young people and adults with Autism – many with severe forms of Autism. The centre referred to the users as client-students. I went daily for over a month to work with the client-students on planning and then after draughting out the design was assisted by a few of the more able ones. It was here I met Emma*.’

Continue reading at –


Edit, Compile, Publish???

I am currently editing and compiling a series of my own short stories.

No! No more editing, I can’t take it anymore!

They were begun in 2014, when I first became involved in the world of Steampunk, and continued until 2016. Initially posted on a, now closed, blog the first story having been published in a Steampunk magazine also, I have decided to compile them all into one volume.

The stories are based on the characters that my daughter and I assumed as part of the ‘costume’ for events, gatherings and annual Asylum Festival. These events involve people from all over the country, and in the case of The Asylum Festival, the world, dressing up in faux Victorian clothing; often hybridised from various literary characters, films, Industrial mechanisms and so forth.

This is not ‘serious’ literature – and was never meant to be; more a romp through various countries and continents with varying degrees of success. Lucy Lockhart and Theodora Doppler are a pair of adventurers, aka thieves, who collect treasures ostensibly for the Royal Society in London; think Harry Flashman crossed with Indiana Jones in female form! It is pulp fiction (no, not the film), in the style of the penny dreadfulsdime novels, and short-fiction magazines of the 19th century

The issue I have is that over the course of a writing career – especially at the beginning, one’s style and skill changes and grows – the earliest pieces reflect this, and can be seen as the development of these skills.

But do I publish? Of course, no actual publishing house is going to want to publish a set of stories about a philandering, thieving, amoral, (sometimes murdering), woman, set in an alternate 19th century, so it will be a self-published project – if it happens!

pulped fiction
Pulped fiction

Book Review: Bonfire by Krysten Ritter

Genre: Crime, Thriller, Mystery
Pub Date: 9 Nov. 2017
Publisher: Hutchinson
Length: 288 pages
Hardback: £12.99


Abby Williams returns to the small town where she grew up. Now working as a successful environmental lawyer in Chicago, she has been tasked with investigating Optimal Plastics, the town’s economic heart. Abby begins to find strange connections to a decade-old scandal involving the popular Kaycee Mitchell and her friends—just before Kaycee disappeared for good.

As Abby attempts to find out what happened to Kaycee, troubling memories begin to resurface and she begins to doubt her own observations.”

Krysten Ritter, star of American TV shows such as Jessica Jones and Don’t Trust The B**** in Apartment 23, has published her début novel, Bonfire. I have to admit I had mixed emotions; unsure whether this actor, who I have been a fan of for some years, would be skilled enough to pull off a novel ( I think it was J G Ballard who said one shouldn’t not write a full length novel for a first outing). Bonfire has been described as being ‘dark, disturbing and compulsively readable’ amongst the blurb.

I found the writing to be mature, I don’t know why I was surprised, but I was. Ritter keeps the writing tight and moving along at a fair pace. The protagonist, Abby Williams, is deftly portrayed, she has a strong voice and reminded me a little of a cross between the two characters Ritter has played in the aforementioned shows; intelligent, forthright and possibly a little bit sexy. Other characters are portrayed well with sparse use of adjectives, yet we get to see them clearly.

Abby has tried hard to move away from the memories of her home-town. Memories dominated by the popular girl Kaycee Mitchell, memories of her bullying, of becoming her friend, of Kaycee’s clique of hangers on, like the appalling Misha, and ultimately the illness that gripped Kaycee and the others. To Abby, there is a connection between the illnesses and Optimal Plastics and she sets out to prove it.

Bonfire is dark and compulsive reading, but the disturbing not so much for me. I found myself thinking of The Virgin Suicides (1993), Mean Girls and a little Twin Peaks. So, not hugely original or with a shocking or surprising outcome. Maybe because I am British, but I found it quite difficult to relate to many of the characters; do high school students really behave like that in USA?! And I simply could not get my head around the idea that school-age Abby wanted to be friends with such a bitch! But maybe I’m not the target audience.

Although there are a couple of close moments between the protagonist and other character, there is no reason why this cannot be read by those aged 16 years.

I’m giving Bonfire 3 stars

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