Is Cork City losing its charm?

There are no Echo boys anymore. Only Echo boys all grown up and still calling the familiar chant down the city streets. I haven’t seen Michael O’Regan in quite some time. Maybe his absence is part of the reason I am becoming disenchanted with the city I call my home.
Living abroad puts double-glazed rose-tinted perspex on your glasses. You miss everything you’d normally miss about your hometown; the people you like; the restaurants and foods you’d normally get; your favourite bars and clubs; and the diversity and multicultural vibe that a city, especially Cork city, could bring. The longer you stay away the more obscure things you miss. I found myself missing the walk from the city out to Blackpool, of all things. While I would much rather walk the 20 minutes from the Opera House to the shopping centre than get on a shitty bus that takes 20 minutes to get from Parnell to the top of Patrick street, now that I have a car I’d rather drive! I missed walking down back roads, like. That’s what being away does to you. You may miss the countryside and develop a new found appreciation for the green grass and the rivers but you’ll also miss the familiarity of walking home from town through a somewhat rundown piece of the city.
To my credit, I didn’t lose my grá for the city straight away. I had some amazing nights out, some lovely afternoons strolling around and one lengthy walk from MacCurtain street to halfway up Washington street, just taking in all the things I hadn’t seen in a year or two. Walking around this Saturday morning dimmed this vision.

I decided to have a walk around the city before going into the library to read my book for a few hours. The rain kept me away from reading outside and the warmth of the library beckoned. I left Paul street and made right towards Grand Parade. I crossed over and walked up Patrick’s street, stopping in to Golden Discs and Easons along the way. Golden Discs was a ghost town and Easons is set to move location to make way for a Sports Direct. Savoy is closed down and an eyesore on the main street. Starbucks and Carrolls Irish gift shops line the top of the street before Merchant’s Quay. I turned down Winthrop street and walked in the direction of the bus stop, passing out coffee shops preparing for the wet day and the heavy black doors of closed pubs. Maybe it was the rain. Maybe it was the early hour and fact that the streets were fairly empty. Maybe it was a mixture of all of the above. There was no buzz in the place. Cork city just seemed like another commercial haven, sleepy-eyed workers resigned to opening up and suffering for another day.
Walking down South Mall towards Grand Parade was depressing. In a monotone street full of dull browns, blues and greys, Fred Zeppelins was the only beacon of colour with their flame dancing above the door. Two worn out bus drivers smoked fags outside the Maldron, glancing at me as I passed by. I started thinking about the city some more and the only word that came to mind was, “Miserable.” The new Lifestyle (new in the fact that it is one of the newest additions to Patrick street) just looms over the rest of the street. Grey and black fill the sky. Even the two McDonalds has conformed to the same dark green at Dawn’s Square and Winthrop street, uniform in colour and bubbling violence after nights out. The pubs and clubs all look the same in the evening, and I’m not even going to mention the menacing tension that pervades Oliver Plunkett street, Washington Street and the fountain after 2 AM. Queuing up for Hillbilly’s almost guarantees you a front row seat for a brawl, a scrap or handbags at ten paces.
Sitting in the library, in between reading and scrolling through Twitter, I couldn’t get my mind off of the state of the city. Cascades of sneachta and Class A fall from our pockets and rob us of our senses, fueling aggro and tension.

Something was rotten in the state of Cork. Perhaps the sheen on the city when I returned had turned to slime and I was watching it greasily slide over my home by the Lee.

Go tobann, I received a text from my girlfriend. On my walk up to meet her outside the hairdressers there was a bit more buzz around the place. Franchises and brands still filled the streets but once I left the main thoroughfare and stood on Paul Street I started to see a bit more of the city I left behind. Independent coffee shops and natural food stores popped up. Inside in the Cornmarket Centre, under TK Maxx and beside Lidl, Peacock & Ruby, a funky clothes shop, thrives.
North Main street may look bleak and dreary with roadworks and closed shops but Mad, Tony’s Bistro, St. Peter’s visitor centre and loads of other great Cork institutions still function and prosper.
After I met K, we got out of the drizzle to protect her new, beautiful haircut by treating ourselves to lunch in Bracken’s. I got the toasted sandwich with bacon, melted cheese and an Americano. It was unbelievable. I would recommend the cafe to anyone but particularly that sandwich. My mouth is watering just thinking about it.
Afterwards, we hurried down French church street and got mochas in O’Connell’s Hot Chocolate. We also treated ourselves to a brownie and a slice of carrot cake, slightly breaking one of our resolutions for the New Year. That’s for another post.

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Stunning art with important message beside Paul st. car park, Cork City

On the drive back home I noticed the stunning mural with a stark message on the environment on the wall beside Paul Street car park. The vibrant colours of the kingfisher in action trump any dreary Cork day anytime. Not to get too deep or preachy but I had a sort of epiphany. Driving through Blackpool past Murphy’s chipper reminded me of the hidden gems all around the city and its surrounding areas. The city is not the be all or end all. Take a drive out to Blackpool, or even walk 🤣 Go to the cinema, have a look around the shopping centre or get a sloppy foley in Murphy’s some evening. Make the treacherous journey to Wilton and have a late night Tesco shop. Great craic, I promise you. I don’t need to tell you about KC’s in Douglas, surely. In short, town used to be the place to be; hanging out on Paul street; drinking bottles at the 100 steps by the Heineken brewery; hanging out upstairs in Subway. As we got older it was nights out in Gorbys, Cubins, the Roxy, the Brog. You name it, we were there. Maybe as I get older the more I see the grimy side of Cork in the nighttime. Maybe I am becoming more cynical as I grow up. The fact remains, though, that while Cork city may lose some of its charm as we get older, if we don’t look in and around it, we’ll never find the magic again. It is there if we search.

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I’ll do my best to find more quirky, charming and cool spots in and around the city and shine a light on them!

Thunder Road

Title: Thunder Road.
Director: Jim Cummings.
Genre: Indie, Comedy, Drama.
Main Cast: Jim Cummings, Kendal Farr, Nican Robinson.
Runtime: 99 mins.
IMDb rating: 7.1/10.
My rating: 9/10.
Quick summary: A bizarre man goes through an extended mental breakdown as he loses all closest to him. This independent film was based on a short film of the same name which won awards at Sundance. A slow burner that always threatens to boil over the edge. Highly recommend.

Plot

Officer Arnaud (Cummings)

Jim Cummings plays Officer Jim Arnaud, a Deputy in what seems to be a small American town. He has just lost his mother, will potentially lose his daughter and judging by his descent into madness will probably lose his job too.
The film follows Officer Arnaud as he battles his own demons with the help of his partner and friend, Officer Nate Lewis (Nican Robinson), and his daughter Crystal (Kendall Farr).

Thoughts/Verdict

Crystal Aranud, played by the wonderful Kendal Farr

I really enjoyed this movie. From the very beginning we know that we have an extremely unpredictable protagonist, or antagonist depending on which way you view him. He is both endearing and alarming all at once. The opening scene in which Officer Arnaud reads an eventful eulogy at his mother’s funeral sets us up for the chaotic timeline we follow.
Although he is an unnerving man and a person we might all avoid if for some reason we were forced to be in a small room with them regularly, he shows an unconditional love for his daughter. The scene where he perfects the hand-clap game she plays with her friends is perfect. The camera pans to show his practice set up of drawn hands on a piece of paper sellotaped to the wall. It is superb storytelling that shows his true, kinder side that morphs back into his aggressive, macho side in one of the very next scenes.
This movie is not for everyone but if you give it a chance you might just laugh and smile throughout.

Jim Cummings is masterful and extremely funny as the neurotic Officer. This movie was based off a short film of the same name that won numerous awards at SxSW. I loved it and would recommend it to everyone. The last scene alone nearly moved me to tears with Jim sitting alongside his daughter watching a ballet recital. The camera pans to his face as he fights back tears and a strings performance of ‘Skinny Love’ by Bon Iver plays out. It is strangely beautiful, just like this movie.

Officer Lewis (Robinson) and Arnaud

A Guide to Hillwalking and Mountain-climbing for People who don't know what the F**k they're doing!

There used to be a time when I would scoff at the idea of doing anything productive on New Year’s Day. It was a day for the hangover and an evening for the bed. Sure look, you might be cheeky and go for one or five pints in the evening but that’d be it. The 2nd of January was always the day of reconciliation and getting back on the right track. Perhaps, depending on the day that the New Year fell, you might only start thinking about getting your act together on the following Monday.
This year, though, I joined a lot of others and made sure that January 1st was going to be a new start for me and not just the calendar year. Yes, I went out for New Years with my girlfriend, Katie, and we had an absolute blast. We weren’t out too late and were home at a semi-reasonable hour. We had plans for the New Year and we were going to stick to them.

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“A mother from Wicklow and a father from Rio. Neither a hurling stronghold!”

I wrote a little bit already about climbing the Sugarloaf. I’m talking about the one in Wicklow, not the one in Brazil. Neither a hurling stronghold. I think that the world needs something like a guide for people like me when it comes to outdoor hiking (as opposed to indoor hiking) and I’m willing to give it to them. So folks, count yourselves lucky as this is the very first edition of ‘A Guide to Hillwalking and Mountain-climbing for People who don’t know what the F**k they’re doing!” This week I give you my preparation and thoughts and feelings as I traversed the mighty cliff!

Preparations

First of all, I did not for a second think that drinking a fair amount of alcohol the night before was a good preparation for my first proper hike in years and my first of 2020. However, it worked, so here is a provisional list of stuff you need and things you need to do before your first climb.

  • Have a bit of a night out beforehand, as a treat. Nothing too mental, mind. Have a few pre-drinks, a nice meal out and maybe four or five double whiskeys and you should have just enough of a headache the next day for the fresh air to feel good in your battered body and mind.
  • Now, you should have your clothes ready, or at least have an idea of what you’re going to need. Most important are your shoes. I had no idea of the exact terrain we would be facing but I assumed a bit of mud and a few rocks. So, naturally, I went for old runners with half the sole worn off for maximum mediocre grip. Sorted!
  • You’ll also want to misjudge the weather and completely disregards weather apps by wearing at least two layers of coats and jackets, a hat but no gloves and light pants. Your legs and hands will be cold but your body and head will be burning up!

Thoughts Throughout

I journeyed through a thousand human emotions during this relatively short walk. I saw the face of God on top of that summit, and it was glorious. Alternatively, I stared into the sun for too long and almost collapsed. You decide.

  • Beginning: This actually isn’t that bad. It looks like it gets fairly steep at the top but Katie said it’s fine and I trust her. I’ll be fine. Grand.
  • First Slope: Oh God, I taste whiskey and duck empanadas at the back of my throat. Why did I get the last double when we were leaving? I hate myself. It’s so muddy!
  • Final Climb: I tweaked the muscle at the back of my knee there a minute ago. Ah fuck. I don’t want to tell Katie, though. I’ll be fine. The Gods blessed me with a spare knee, right? Oh, I’m light headed.
  • Summit: This is genuinely lovely. First achievement of 2020. This is my year. This is my decade. I am just in the happiest place right now. The climb wasn’t even that bad.
  • Descent: I am going to absolutely brain myself on one of these rocks. What fucking shoes am I wearing??!! OK, just slow down your breathing behind this random lady and her baby, you don’t want them to think you’re some ragged animal hunting them.
  • Bottom: Sweet Hallelujah, sweet level ground how I did miss you!

Afterthoughts

You know, I’ve recently found out that I can be a tad dramatic. Just a small bit. Just a smidge of overreaction. I didn’t voice any of this on the hike and a lot of this is exaggerated. I did have a little moment of, ‘Oh God, this isn’t that bad but I am still incredibly unfit.’ Maybe the excess of drinking, smoking and takeaway isn’t beneficial, even if it feels so good! That’s another topic for another post.
The Sugarloaf is easy. I was short of breath after reaching the top and the final climb over some rocks is a bit tough for my first climb in years but it is worth it for the views and the intrinsic sense of worth upon completion.
This weekend Katie and I are going to tackle the Cardiac steps and lads, I’m a bit nervous. The word ‘CARDIAC’ is in the name. She has assured me that they’re actually not that bad. While I trust her, she warned me that the Sugarloaf was fine and I almost died there….although I am a little overdramatic!

Types of People you Meet on Public Transport

Christmas is over! We’re halfway through the first official week back to work and for most of us that means we’ve been getting the dreaded beast that is… PUBLIC TRANSPORT! Delayed buses, slow trains and jam-packed coaches with no knee room are our new reality. I say ‘our’. I mean ‘your’. I own a car now. I’m a big boy.
Let’s have a brief look at some of the absolute creatures that board our buses, trawl our trains and assault our senses.

The Smell

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When it hasn’t been your day, your week, your month or even your year

I’m going to preface this one by saying that we don’t know a person’s background or the circumstances that bring them to have such a smell permeating the air around them. All I know is that they smell horrendous and it doesn’t matter how bad you feel for them, they are coming for the empty seat next to you, and they’re gonna encroach on your side of the seat. Smelly travels, fellow passenger.

The Leer

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“Do I look like a resonable man to you, or a peppermint nightmare?” The Hitcher, The Mighty Boosh, Season 1, Ep. 8

Oh, Jaysus. Look at the cut of this fella. It’s not even the way he looks or what he’s wearing. It’s the cold, dead look in his eyes that screams, ‘I’m undressing you with my eyes and there’s nothing you can do about it”. I mean, I find it uncomfortable when I glance over and a leer barely feigns breaking eye contact with me. I can only imagine the hardships the womenfolk go through day after day, leer after leer, uncomfortable encounter after uncomfortable encounter.
So I just wanna take a minute to say, stand up sisters! No more leers! No more leers! No more leers!

The Space Invader

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If I was an alien being brought to this world with no knowledge of the human race and someone asked me to point out a creep, I’d point all forty of my tentacles at this motherfucker. A close cousin of the leer, the space invader knows no boundaries. His knees touch yours with nary an invitation. His elbow takes the armrest even though he has the window seat. Come to think of it, it’s a booked seat and he doesn’t look like an Ellen.

The Talk Show Host

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“And next up on Samantha’s phone is Sharon! Sharon is having trouble with Mark, her on-again-off-again boyfriend of 12 years and father of her two kids. Tune in whether you like it or not because you forgot your headphones, there’s a traffic delay up ahead and Samantha is only itching to give some advice. STICK AROUND for the shock twist when Samantha rings Mark to tell him she’ll meet him ‘there in a minute la’. STICK AROUND AGAIN for Cameron, Sharon’s other best friend who is on the same bus apparently and hears the second phone call and confronts Samantha! I’m Cian Dalton, on the late bus to Mahon! BUSWATCH!”

The Group Project

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The boys cheering for the bus before coming on to intimidate me 😢

For some reason you sat on the top deck. For some reason you sat near the back. Suddenly, a group of young lads and girls get on and they’re all wearing similar clothes. They sit near the front and they are loud and boisterous, laughing and slapping each other’s shoulders. Could they possibly just be having fun? Could they just be kids joking between themselves? NO! NEVER! They’re laughing at me! They’re going to trip me up! They’re going to look at me over their shoulder and snicker and chuckle and it’s all about me!

The Luggage Carousel

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Imagine trying to squeeze past this A-hole on a packed subway!

This passenger comes in two forms and all shapes and sizes. They can be found after a full day’s shopping, possibly with a friend, occupying eight seats and avoiding all eye contact.
Other times they can be found on an absolutely jam-packed bus , one hand holding a pole to steady themselves and the other hand resting in the middle of the pile of bags strapped around their shoulder. You know what I’m talking about. They will maneuver this group of bags our of your way, into your way, around you and him and in ways that defy the laws of physics. Always when you’re trying to get off at your stop. Pricks.

Best of luck back on the grind, guys. Is there anyone I missed out on here?

Little Women

Emma Watson, Saoirse Ronan, Florence Pugh, and Eliza Scanlen in Little Women (2019)
Meg, Amy, Jo and Beth

Title: Little Women
Director: Greta Gerwig.
Genre: Drama, Comedy, Period piece.
Main Cast: Saoirse Ronan, Florence Pugh, Emma Watson, Eliza Scanlen, Timothee Chalamet.
Runtime: 135 mins.
IMDb rating: 8.3/10.
My rating: 7/10.
Quick summary: A genuinely lovely movie that packs a surprising emotional punch. Saoirse Ronan is phenomenal in this movie that deals with love, death and the rise of powerful women.

Plot

Emma Watson, Saoirse Ronan, Florence Pugh, and Eliza Scanlen in Little Women (2019)
There they are now, the four little women

Jo March, played by Ronan, is a writer and tutor living in New York. She is fiercely proud of her writing but needs money to send to her mother back home who is caring for her gravely ill youngest sister, Beth. Meanwhile, Amy March, the second youngest sister is completing her art studies in Paris with the rude, condescending sometimes benefactor to the family, Aunt March. Older sister Meg, who has always valued the high life, is living just above the poverty line with her husband and two the children.
The news that Beth is at death’s door reaches Jo. She immediately leaves New York, leaving friend and possible love interest Friedrich behind. As she travels home by train she reminisces on the four March girls growing up in modest circumstances while helping poor families around them. We see a blossoming friendship between Jo and Laurie, a local wealthy boy, and an unrequited love that forms. We see Meg fall in love, Amy grow bold and confident, a rivalry between Jo and Amy and Beth fall sick.
Throughout the film and the flashing back and forth we go on Jo’s journey with her; should she have accepted Laurie’s proposal?
Jo finds her love of writing return towards the end of the movie and begins writing a novel that tells the story of her and her sisters. It mightn’t be the most exciting story but it is something that she is passionate about. Getting a novel published has always been her dream and it happens for her right at the end, allowing the sisters to find happiness in the darkness that follows Beth’s death.

Verdict

Beth and I are all smiles for Little Women

A thoroughly enjoyable film, this one will be all over awards season. Saoirse Ronan is supreme as Jo March while Timothee Chalamet grew on me throughout. At the beginning I just couldn’t buy him in this period piece for some unknown reason but his charm won me over.
Florence Pugh was so funny and precocious in this movie. She is not so much a breakout star as a rising star in her own right but this performance will bring her to a wider audience. I would like to see her gain some nominations for her role. She can turn on the seriousness too, giving an impassioned speech about a woman’s worth in the male driven world, stunning Laurie into a rare silence.
It is told in non-linear fashion and can be easily followed. There is no real indication of which time we are in bar different hair styles and location but as I said, it is very easy to follow.
This adaptation is the first of the Little Women I’ve seen and it has made me want to read the book. It is beautifully told and wonderfully acted. Greta Gerwig is a magnificent story teller and her cast are magnificent. I would highly recommend this for a quiet Sunday evening. It will hit you in most emotional areas and leave you feeling full of love.

On the Dublin to Cork road in heavy rain – Poem

As soon as I turned onto the Cork road it began to rain.
Not just little droplets
But big, fat ones that spread out across the windshield,
Blurring my vision and causing me to slow down.

God forbid I go below 120 and stay safe on the road!
Especially when His Heavens have opened so magnificently above me.
I have places to go and people to see so I will
Break through Poseidon’s torrents and tear down the road.

Portlaoise, Mountrath and Cashel pass in the blink of an eye,
My old car flying by Audi’s, Corolla’s and other Renault’s indiscriminately.
On one stretch of road I weave in and out, meeting every car from Kilkenny, Tipp and Limerick, overtaking and letting mergers in, pulling in for faster cars,
All the while buffeted by watery bullets.

Towering trucks trundle along the highway,
Dangerous beasts flinging water from under their wheels to blind other drivers.
They use their large husks to rattle smaller vehicles as they dare overtake the mighty monsters,
Sometimes passing each other out at a rate of frayed knots.

Through a last toll and one last push to be at the top of the queue.
I roar along with my radio and my engine before coming to an abrupt stop.
Barely moving.
The open road closed behind me and the rain still pounding.

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Visual representation of me trying to overtake a lorry on the road this morning

United not on Target

The only thing you absolutely need to know from last night’s game is that Manchester United manages zero shots on target from a possible 12. A dire stat to take away from a mediocre game of football. Despite patches of link-up and individual brilliance from Mason Greenwood, Brandon Williams and Tahith Chong towards the end of the first half, United were on the back foot for most of the game. Indeed, if Doherty hadn’t fluffed his clear header and Raul Jimenez had struck the ball an inch to the left then United would be put out of their misery. Wolves will have to travel to Old Trafford for the replay, something they won’t relish despite being the better team. Which team of Ole’s will show up? The confident, almost cocky attacking wave?; the unsure youthful squad that look like conceding at any minute?; or the team that showed up last night, full of indecision and a lack of quality in the final third?

I am a staunch supporter of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. He should be afforded the time allotted to the previous two managers. He comes in for unfair criticisms from pundits and tweeters alike (Robiv Van Persie). He is giving youth a chance and selecting a team each week that are United through and through. There are mistakes being made by players and an indecision in attack that can be frustrating for us fans but there are chinks of light in the darkness.
Here are some talking points from the goalless draw.

Romero up for the game

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Romero in control

A pinpoint save to stop an almost certain goal has solidified Romero’s position as the best back-up goalkeeper in the world. This begs the question: Would De Gea have saved that shot? And should Romero get a chance at the first spot?

Williams should start

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Williams gives chase

Watching Williams tear down the wing in search of a ball that should have but never came was frustrating to watch. However, it was indicative of the lack of service United have received from left back in the years since Shaw’s injuries. Shaw offers more of a defensive quality and Williams needs to stop sliding in the box. However, if Romero and Williams start against Man City in the league cup on Tuesday it will show progress on Ole’s part.

Who’s in the box?

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Chong beats his man before being taken down

Ashley Young, of all people, was putting searching and stellar crosses into the box last night. Daniel James arrived late for one and nobody was to be seen. Greenwood seemed to be coming out to the right to collect the ball and leaving the box empty. While he and Chong linked up well on the byline he should leave the winger do his job and make life difficult for defenders in the box.

Another clear penalty!

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Wolves fan Paul Tierney

Another game and another clear penalty not awarded. Williams does well to recover and get in front of a clumsy Dedoncker only to be tripped up right in front of the ref. Again, if that was anywhere else on the pitch it is given as a foul. I thought the ref had a good game to be fair but that was a glaring mistake. The less said about the VAR decision as well, the better.

Doherty wasteful

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Doherty goal ruled out

United got away scot free last night. A brilliant save, Doherty bottling a free header amid woeful defending and Jimenez rattling the frame of the goal at an almost impossible angle meant that the Red Devils live to see another day. How was the Irish international afforeded a free header so close to goal at such a crucial stage in the match? The defence is vulnerable in these situations.

Rashford should have scored

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Impact sub Marcus Rahford

There’s no way around it; Rashford should have put that chance away. Ole he former super-sub has shown his knack for picking substitutes that may pay off. Pereira nearly scored against Arsenal the other day and Rashford hit the post with the help of a deflection. He really should have hit it straight away.

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Man of the Match

I could be extremely picky and mention Greenwood and Dalot being wasteful with the ball and the fact that once again Harry Maguire was muscled off the ball in the middle of the park but a clean sheet and a draw at the Molineux, a stadium where we have not been so lucky in recent times, can’t draw too much criticism. Obviously, Twitter was on fire with calls for Ole’s head and a new manager but once again, the problem is the Glazers and Woodward. The players mightn’t be the best but they are what we have at the moment. All eyes on Tuesday night at the Theatre of Dreams. GGMU.

Star Wars Episode IX: The Rise of Skywalker

In case you missed the final trailer!

Title: Star Wars Episode IX: The Rise of Skywalker
Director: J.J. Abrams.
Genre: Sci/Fi, Fantasy.
Main Cast: Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Oscar Isaac, Adam Driver, Carrie Fisher (RIP), Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford, Billy D. Williams.
Runtime: 142 mins.
IMDb rating: 6.9/10.
My rating: 8/10.
Quick summary: Not a perfect movie but the right blend of cheese, action and ridiculous humour that makes this an enjoyable film. Keep an eye out for Babu Frick, the alien equivalent of an aul lad at the back of the pub randomly cheering things for no reason.

Plot

Rey and Kylo Ren face off in the ruins of the Death Star

Like every Star Wars movie, there are multiple threads running at the same time. The scrolling text at the start reveals that the laugh we’ve heard in the movie’s trailer was also heard by pretty much everyone in the galaxy. Emperor Palpatine is back and ready to take over the galaxy again. Kylo Ren has taken Snoke’s position and is now Supreme Leader. Rey is completing her training at the resistance base while Poe Dameron, Finn and Chewie are out gaining intel from a spy embedded in the First Order.
First, we join Kylo Ren on his murderous quest to find Darth Sidious and make the throne his own. He comes face to face with the wizened body of the Dark Lord and is faced with a proposition; kill Rey and receive the might of Palpatine’s starkiller fleet.
Next, we join Poe Dameron, Finn and Chewie as they race through space to bring priceless intel back to Genral Organa at the Resistance base. They find out that Palpatine is definitely back and will launch a deadly attack in sixteen hours.
Rey is training to become a better jedi but her link with Kylo Ren and her obsession with her murky past slows her down.
We follow these three threads as they interweave and separate over the course of the movie. We find out more about Poe Dameron’s shady past on the planet Kimiji and meet my new favourite Star Wars character, Babu Frick. The little droid mechanic operates on C3PO’s memory bank to retrieve vital information about the location of Emperor Palpatine. Rey must decide whether she wants to make her vision of her sitting on the Sith throne a reality or if she wants to make her own destiny. Frick is voiced by Shirley Henderson, who most of us will know from her iconic performance as Moaning Myrtle in the Harry Potter movies! Worlds collide!

Shirley Henderson in Star Wars: Episode IX - The Rise of Skywalker (2019)

We see Kylo Ren shed his Sith skin and retake his old life as Ben Solo. The rise of Skywalker. He and Rey fight side by side once more against the greatest foe of them all in a battle scene that shows how far they have come as characters and showcases their individual fighting styles in ways that left me stunned and giddy for more. One thing that can be said about the new trilogy is that the fight choreography has gotten more and more elaborate and ridiculous and I feckin’ love it!

Verdict

Billy Dee Williams in Star Wars: Episode IX - The Rise of Skywalker (2019)
Smiles all around from Lando and I

I really enjoyed this move and I didn’t expect to in all honesty. I remember leaving The Last Jedi feeling disappointed for some reason. Perhaps it is because the characters have almost fully developed in this installment that I am more on board with them. In the second movie of the franchise the focus was more on Finn and Rey’s trajectories and how that affected the outcome of the battle between the darkness and the light. Now, Kylo Ren’s story was very much at the forefront too but it felt like his fate was decided as a byproduct of Rey’s actions. This time around his actions and journey towards his parents and the fight for good allow Rey to find out her identity and complete her own journey. Finn has his own revelation within the adventure and finds more defectors to the Resistance. Everything is wrapped up in a neat little package. The difference this time around is that there are some serious points along the way where you may not be sure if they are going to win or not.
My only problem with the movie and the reason that it loses a few points is that it doesn’t follow the ethos of the film. Leia says to Rey at the beginning of the movie to “Never be afraid of who you are…”. At the end when Rey is back on Jakku and the old woman asks her who she is, Rey looks around all pensively, sees the ghosts of Luke and Leia and replies, “Rey…Rey Skywalker.” All well and good. I wouldn’t deny Rey the chance to be a Skywalker. She had a close relationship with both siblings and was clearly never going to turn to the dark side. However, if she was being true to herself she would have said “Rey….Rey Palpatine.” A much more contentious name and one that would have showed she was now comfortable with herself. A final bit of character growth for our heroine.

Rey Palpatine

Go see Star Wars in all good cinemas. What is the best cinema you ask? Why, that’s the
Reel Picture located in Blackpool business park. Great location, fantastic staff and award-winning popcorn!*

*It literally has won awards.

*All images and videos © 2019 and TM Lucasfilm Ltd. All Rights Reserved.

New Year, New Me!

Possibly the greatest picture taken of me, ever!

A belated Happy New Year to my followers, friends and family. I spent the night eating tapas with my gorgeous girlfriend and had my best New Years Day ever with her the next day. We slept in before getting an unbelievable sandwich in Avoca that afternoon. We carried on from Dublin to Wicklow and climbed the Sugarloaf! There was literal climbing involved too, up and down jagged rocks and muddy ground. It was unreal and despite it being a relatively small summit I was chuffed. I am going to make it a priority to do more walks and mountain climbs this year.

The changing of the guard on top of the Sugarloaf


We drove into Dundrum in the evening and had a shop around. I got a Leinster Rugby tracksuit pants from Lifestyle and a hoodie from Hollister, just to complete my transition from Cork bai to Dublin ledge-bag! Absolutely sending it!
Herself and myself got food in Mad Egg… Lads. If ye haven’t had it already please go. There’s two in Dublin City as far as I know and one for sure in Dundrum. Their burgers are literally the best chicken burgers I have ever had and anybody who knows me knows I am a breaded chicken connoisseur. This is my official endorsement for that glorious restaurant. Try their Mad Yoke Craft Beer too.
Back to Naas we went and Herself indulged me and accompanied me to Kavanagh’s pub to watch United lose in miserable fashion. You can read my review of that horrible affair here.
Despite the result, it was the best New Year’s Day I have ever had. I got to spend it in good health with someone I deeply care about and love and am comfortable with. We got some exercise in and ate some unreal food. What more could you ask for?

Mad Egg is the best chicken-burger joint around!

I got a bit sidetracked there filling you in on my day! Jaysus, I’m just so interesting! Amn’t I a man about town, ha?! The real reason I am writing this post is to inform you that the blog has a new layout, feel and design to it this year. I rolled out the changes quietly over the last few weeks ahead of increased output, writing and production. Those of you who are following and enjoy my work, get ready for more rambles, reviews and regular content. Those of you who follow out of a sense of obligation on Facebook, Twitter or WordPress, get ready for the exact same.
There is no real set schedule to my work. If United are playing a match I will release a report and review the next day. If I watch a movie or t.v. show and deem it review-worthy I will write one. I have stuff planned for Barry’s Rants, poems and general pieces and will try to make them all more consistent. This is for myself more than anyone else and consistency is key, isn’t it?

Cian the Redeemer, Sugarloaf, Rio de Janeiro, 2020

If anyone has any suggestions or thoughts on the blog, please don’t hesitate to let me know in the comments below or via DM. I appreciate constructive feedback and love compliments 😀

New Year, Same Red Devils

Arsenal celebrate in front of dejected Fred, Matic and Maguire

It pains me to begin my new coverage of Manchester United with a demoralizing loss to Arsenal. A team on a woeful run and an uncertain start under a new manager proved far superior to Ole’s charges. This is something that I think should precede any points I talk about here. As bad as United were yesterday evening, Arsenal were unreal. They were fluid, solid and not one player turned in a bad performance. They looked like the team that came so close to winning the title in 2016. Though there are multiple issues with the current United squad, it would be unfair to discredit Arsenal’s performance.

Let’s have a look at some of the talking points of the game 👇

The Curious Case of Luke Shaw

Pepe leading Shaw on a merry dance

This might deserve its own blog post. Luke Shaw was run ragged by Pepe in the first half, almost giving away a penalty by diving wildly in the box. If he made any slight contact with the winger’s legs it would’ve been a clear call. He didn’t keep track of Pepe for the opening goal. He gave away the ball needlessly in the second half which almost led to another goal. Brandon Williams was sat on the bench for the entire game. It’s hard to imagine any reasoning for Solskjaer to prefer the lateral passing and lazy running compared to Williams’ forward thinking and aggressive nature.

Fred and Martial – dangerous duo

Fred worked his socks off

With Rashford subdued for most of the match it was left to Tony Martial to lead the line. That he did. He drove deep into the heart of Arsenal’s defense, somehow keeping the ball at his feet and almost scoring and creating chances nearly every time he got a sniff. He has stepped up big time in recent games amid criticism from pundits and tweeters alike. He can be proud of his performance last night.

The other United player that can be proud of his performance is the diminutive Brazilian, Fred. He is having an impressive season so far and has been United’s most consistent player over the last few months. He was battered and bruised last night and got on with, not looking for frees but looking for the next pass. A fully fit McTominay alongside Fred would be the start of something consistent and solid in my opinion.

Sub almost paid off!

Another anonymous performance from the Brazilian

Andreas Pereira, often cut down for his unfulfilled potential, almost turned the match upside down just a few minutes after coming on. His blistering shot hit the side netting and for a brief, agonizing second the ripple of the net fooled us all. If that went in I’m not sure the Gunners could have held on to the lead. Ifs and buts. Pereira was anonymous for the rest of the match, mind.

Arteta’s philosophy

Arteta and a rejuvenated Ozil

Just to reiterate, Arsenal were quality. I don’t like saying it and I don’t like seeing it, but here we are. They harassed and harried, pushed and pushed and splayed the ball from side to side with ease. When even David Luiz is threading passes through the lines you know you’re in trouble. Arteta may look like an exotic dancer ready to attack the dance floor with his furrowed brow but the man knows football. It’s just a shame it all clicked when they played United.

This does not take away from the fact that many United players looked like they didn’t want to be there. Perhaps the amount of games in such a short space of time has caught up with them, but there is an uncertainty rooted in the team that seems hard to displace. Ole places his trust in age and experience rather than trying out the youngsters in tough games such as these. However, when your experienced players like Shaw and Lindelof cost you goals, that’s when it’s time to pick Brandon Williams and Axel Tuanzebe, especially before the latter decides he needs regular first team football somewhere else.

Clear Penalty

Arsenal fan Christopher Kavanagh

Aaron Wan-Bissaka was denied a penalty at a crucial point during the match. Granted, he looked like he went down a bit easily in the slo-mo replay but Aubameyang’s leg cuts across his path and makes clear contact. I thought that referee Christopher Kavanagh was allowing some tackles that were borderline fouls in the spirit of letting the game flow. The penalty incident would have been a foul anywhere else on the pitch so I struggle to understand his reasoning in not awarding the free. Also, if he deemed it a dive then Wan-Bissaka should have been booked. The mind boggles.

Verdict

Matic and Fred chase down Lacazette

Not trying to be funny, but United kept up their recent form of underperforming against a team in the bottom half of the table. The inconsistency is rage-inducing. The lack of desire in some players is infuriating. The ineptitude at the back, including kick outs, created doubt in the rest of the team. It’s United v Wolves away in the F.A. Cup this Saturday and I’d be lying to you if I said I was in anyway confident. Wolves have this United team sussed and unfortunately, United don’t have anyone sussed. Another opportunity to come closer to the top four missed and more questions about the talent raised. Is this a sign of things to get worse this year? What do you think? Let me know in the comments below or online 👍

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