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One Movie, Two Movie, Three Movie, Four... - JayDee's Movie Diary

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Miss Vicky's Loyal and Willing Slave
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Year of release
2015

Directed by
John Crowley

Written by
Nick Hornby
Colm Tóibín (novel)

Starring
Saoirse Ronan
Emory Cohen
Domhnall Gleeson
Jim Broadbent
Julie Walters
Jane Brennan

Brooklyn

+

This isn't the type of film that I typically get all that excited about but I have to admit to finding Brooklyn to be a rather lovely experience. It's quite an intimate and simple little story that feels unashamedly old-fashioned and romantic. Now there are a lot of impressive facets to the film but whilst there is a lot of fine filmmaking to be found here, Brooklyn really does feel like it is Saoirse Ronan's film. She is the film's beating heart and it's her wonderful performance that really brings the film alive. She is just luminous as the young Irish immigrant, Eilis Lacey. Initially presenting this timid and tentative little girl she beautifully portrays her development into a strong, confident woman with a real grace and strength. It feels like Ronan has been on the periphery of really breaking out for a few years now, and this film should see her fulfil that potential and become a really hot property in Hollywood.

A sizeable amount of the growth in her character arises largely from her relationship with Emory Cohen's young Italian-American, Anthony Fiorello. His performance is one of both a macho strength and sensitivity. The relationship they form is rather delightful; really endearing and portrayed with great chemistry by Ronan and Cohen. The script by Nick Hornby also deserves credit for aiding in the development in Ronan's character and moulding the couple's romance. It's just a shame that the film stumbles a bit in its third act. When a tragic event forces her to return to Ireland she finds herself supposedly torn between returning to Anthony in New York and staying in Ireland with Domhnall Gleeson's Jim Farrell. I just never really bought it though. There didn't seem to be enough of a relationship there that would cause Eilis to be so conflicted; it felt like it rather came out of nowhere. Her indecision and passive personality in this stretch I found to be quite frustrating, and it's testament to Ronan's talents that we stick with the character during this stretch.

While the romantic side to the film was most certainly expected, an added bonus were the several moments of humour throughout which was a pleasant surprise. Like much of the film as a whole, the laughs arrive from a very small and human place. In this case they can mostly be found around the dining room table of the boarding house where Eilis lives; a boarding house run by the very traditionalist Madge Kehoe (the great Julie Walters).

I found it to be really quite gorgeous when it came to the visuals, and I'm surprised to find that it doesn't really appear to be in the running for Best Cinematography at the Oscars, at least not according to early predictions. I thought it was really warm and rich in appearance with some striking use of colour. The film frequently features Ronan wearing bold coloured clothing (reds and greens) in amongst crowds draped in shades of grey. It's a simple, obvious move but certainly an effective one.

I mentioned how simple the film is in a number of respects, and I do believe that this simplicity may hinder its chances of picking up the major awards come Oscar time. It feels like the Academy often tends to prefer bigger, more melodramatic fare. So while Ronan will almost certainly get nominated, and possibly nominations for costume design and make-up, it may struggle to accumulate many other nominations in the big categories (best film, director, screenplay etc).

It may not be a groundbreaking piece of cinema but for me Brooklyn was pretty great, and currently my favourite of the year when it comes to award-type films. It's got the vibe of a fairytale actually. I can picture it being perfect fare for a wet Sunday afternoon in the middle of winter. Just get all cozy in front of the fire and allow this movie to act as a comforting hug. And I'm guessing I'd fall in love with Saoirse Ronan every single time.



I was not a fan of that one personally, but I do think Saoirse Ronan was terrific as usual. Been a fan of hers ever since Hanna.



Miss Vicky's Loyal and Willing Slave
Yeah I noticed that you weren't a fan of it which is a shame. I'll need to check out more of Ronan's work after being so taken with her in Brooklyn. I'll definitely need to give Hanna a watch, always meant to catch that one at some point



Her indecision and passive personality in this stretch I found to be quite frustrating, and it's testament to Ronan's ______
End of second paragraph. Isn't something missing here?

Anyways, great little review, JayDee, I agree about the simplicity, which was definitely a great thing, especially how it was used to bigger effect, but all very subtle. And of course, Ronan was fabulous! I agree about the cinematography too, very well shot film. But the field is strong this year.

Always enjoy your writings, JayDee, looking forward to more.



Great review. I agree with everything that you said, especially the part about her relationship in Ireland with Jim Farrell. The movie never really gave us a chance to get to know him, so as far as we (the viewers) were concerned, this should have been a very easy decision for her.



Miss Vicky's Loyal and Willing Slave
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Year of release
2015

Directed by
Adam McKay

Written by
Adam McKay
Charles Randolph

Starring
Christian Bale
Steve Carell
Ryan Gosling
John Magaro
Finn Wittrock
Brad Pitt

The Big Short

+

God what an irritating film I found this to be. Adam McKay obviously felt that trying to tell the story of the financial crisis wasn't exactly a recipe for a thrilling film. To try and get around this he stuffs the film with all manner of tricks and gimmicks until it's absolutely bursting at the seams. It feels like the global recession as done in the style of a 1990s MTV music video. So we've got Ryan Gosling frequently breaking the fourth wall to deliver an annoyingly self-aware narration, several celebrities making a cameo to help explain what is occuring (including Margot Robbie in a bubblebath!), some larger-than-life performances and numerous video montages of pop culture touchstones to mark the passage of time. I can understand the attempts to inject some life and energy into a tale of mortgages, securities, CDOs and other such financial jargon, but for me almost every artistic choice was a mistake that more often than not hurt rather than helped the film. All of the interludes, while sometimes amusing, were in truth just very disruptive to the narrative in my eyes. In addition to all that gimmickery, the filmmaking in general is just so relentless. From its hectic editing to Adam McKay's hyper, fidgety camerawork I found the film to just be pretty damn exhausting. I think that doctors the world over may be diagnosing Adam McKay with Attention Deficit Disorder based on nothing but their viewing of this film. I can't help but feel that this whole film could really have done with a dose of Ritalin just to calm it down. It's just so willfully irreverent and longing to be cool. It feels like it desperately wants to be the new Wolf of Wall Street, but in my eyes it missed by a fair margin. Throughout The Big Short I keep wishing that it was an actual person so that I could punch it in its big smug face.

The performances across the board are largely unremarkable, and how exactly Christian Bale has managed to pick up so many nominations for his efforts is just absolutely baffling to me. The competing style of performances also feels like a bit of an awkward combination; its mixture of restrained, straight-laced performances alongside larger, more exaggerated turns striking an odd balance. Brad Pitt for example is really subdued and 'normal' as if he's starring in a more serious take on the situation (The Margin Call perhaps). And then you've got Steve Carrell's hedge fund manager who struck me as some kind of grotesque caricature rather than an actual person. As fans of the Muppets will know, the story thread of a rich businessman threatening to take over the Muppets studio/theatre is one that has been used on several occasions. Carrell's character reminded me of one of those people.

I found it really tough to connect with any of the characters and in turn the film as a whole. We don't really get to know the characters to any degree beyond their profession and their part in the financial crisis, namely benefitting from it. In addition the characters are split off into three seperate story strands, and despite what you would normally expect they are never really brought together in any fashion. As a result while the film jumps about between them it can feel really quite disjointed. I do think there's an interesting and entertaining film in there somewhere. When it's able to settle down somewhat and just play out like a standard film it can actually be a decent watch. However just whenever I started to relax it would break out another bit of gimmickery. I'll give the film some credit for having a righteous and indignant anger about it, and for making some elements of the financial meltdown easier to digest and understand. Those redeeming qualities aside though I really wasn't a fan.

As soon as the closing credits had started to roll the first thought that crossed my mind was that The Big Short was this year's American Hustle; a film whose starry cast and slick, glossy nature I believed had blinded substantial amounts of people to how distinctly average it actually was. I also assumed that people would come to their senses somewhat and it wouldn't really do much at the major awards shows; perhaps repeating the disastorous goose egg that befell American Hustle at the 2014 Oscars ceremony. Following its big victory at the Producers Guild awards however I'm no longer sure about that. I'll certainly be keeping my fingers crossed however that come this year's ceremony all the big awards go to literally anything else.



Miss Vicky's Loyal and Willing Slave
End of second paragraph. Isn't something missing here?
Nice spot MM. You were like the 7th or 8th person to rep that particular post, but the first to apparently notice. Says a lot for how much the other people actually read!

Anyway I'm not entirely sure what happened there, whether it was a thought that I never finished or if it's a little bit that somehow got lost as I was transferring it over to post. Not sure. I'm guessing it was something like - it's testament to Ronan's talent or charm that we stick with the character during this stretch. Something like that. I'll go back and add something in

Great review. I agree with everything that you said, especially the part about her relationship in Ireland with Jim Farrell. The movie never really gave us a chance to get to know him, so as far as we (the viewers) were concerned, this should have been a very easy decision for her.
Thank you GB. I wonder if some scenes perhaps ended up on the cutting room floor. Just Domhnall Gleeson seemed to be pushed quite heavily during the film's promotion but he really wasn't in the film all that much. Now that may just be down to him being better known than Emory Cohen but perhaps more stuff with Jim Farrell was filmed that would have made her decision seem tougher but it just didn't make the cut.



Good fix on the Brooklyn review. Also, I repped your review of The Big Short but I don't think I got it read.

Anyways, here I am post-reading and that's pretty much spot on and a mirror image of my own reflections on the film (lol, pun). But seriously, I agree about the technical approach. It felt hectic and full of gimmicky tricks and little things that just threw me off and ultimately annoyed me a whole lot. As I said earlier, the reason for the buzz around that this has to be the cast and then the last 20 minutes or so, which is more serious and basically the pay-off of the film - which is also the point where the characters, who has failed a lot, finally succeeds in a historically important time in our world - all something Award people love...

And yeah, I don't get the love for Bale either. His character was pretty interesting, at least as a rough sketch, but his acting is nothing much. Fine for the role, but not Oscar worthy or whatever.

Another great review, JayDee, even if the film fell short... big time; thereby the name, The Big Short.



Miss Vicky's Loyal and Willing Slave
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Year of release
2015

Directed by
Danny Boyle

Written by
Aaron Sorkin

Starring
Michael Fassbender
Kate Winslet
Seth Rogen
Jeff Daniels
Katherine Waterston
Michael Stuhlbarg

Steve Jobs

-


For whatever reason I had very little interest in seeing this film. Even when it was released to largely positive reviews from the critics it just didn't really appeal to me. As a result I was then very surprised by just how much I enjoyed it. As for why I enjoyed it so much that can predominantly be attributed to two people, Michael Fassbender and Aaron Sorkin. Fassbender is terrific as the enigmatic Jobs. He is a fantastically charismatic, engaging and magnetic presence which the film is built around; he really does carry the whole film from start to finish. Now as soon as the film was released, some individuals came out to criticise the film's portrayal of Steve Jobs as being unfair, arguing that it was a very negative take on the man. Now I have no clue as to how accurate it is exactly so I'm just judging his performance as a character, rather than as a portrayal of a real person. And on those terms I thought he was excellent, commanding my attention throughout.

While it really is a showcase for Fassbender he does get strong back-up from a near unrecognisable Kate Winslet as Jobs' right-hand woman and confidant, Joanna Hoffman. Even though I knew Winslet was in the film it still didn't click right away that it was her I was looking it. Her performance is certainly very deserving of the nominations and accolades that have come her way. Further strong support comes from sources both predictable and rather surprising. On the predictable front you have the great Jeff Daniels as Apple CEO John Sculley, while far more surprising was a solid turn from Seth Rogen as Steve Wozniak.

As I said the other contributing factor is the script by the great Aaron Sorkin. There really doesn't seem to be any writer out there who can make their dialogue sing and crackle quite like he can. Not everyone can handle this type of dialogue however, which is another reason why the cast deserve credit. Sorkin's creation this time out is a very theatrical one; in fact you could easily stage this as a play with barely a single change to his original script. All you'd basically need are a small handful of characters and a single location. The film unfolds in three distinctive acts, each coinciding with the release of a new product. Around the launch shows for the products the film builds a snapshot of Jobs' life, both professional and personal. We see his relationships, which are typically strained, with his co-workers and his daughter. Now you could accuse it of being quite contrived that all these elements would be so tightly intertwined around the chosen events, but it does prove to be a very effective and efficient storytelling device, providing a very tight focus with which to examine his character. The fact that Sorkin didn't receive an Oscar nomination for Best Adapted Screenplay has got to be one of this year's most surprising snubs.

While I did think the film was very good and enjoyed it substantially more than I thought I'm not sure it's the type of film I'd want to revisit that often. I think that with its rigid structure and presentation there isn't really much to be learned from repeat viewings, it's all kind of just right there.



Miss Vicky's Loyal and Willing Slave
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Year of release
2015

Directed by
Jay Roach

Written by
John McNamara

Starring
Bryan Cranston
Diane Lane
Helen Mirren
Louis C.K.
Elle Fanning
John Goodman

Trumbo

-

Trumbo falls into the pitfalls of many a biopic. It's a tad simplistic, a touch too glossy and has a tendency to both look and feel like a made-for-TV movie. And even though its story has several years to cover it still manages to feel a little long at just past the two hour mark. Despite these issues the film was able to keep me engaged for two primary reasons. The first is down to the performances of its very strong ensemble cast, headlined of course by a captivating turn from Bryan Cranston as the eponymous Dalton Trumbo. Between his eccentric nature, fantastic moustache and a cigarette holder as his near constant companion it actually feels a lot like the performance of a great character actor which has just been pushed to the forefront.

He gets strong support throughout the entire film with particular highlights including Helen Mirren's formidable turn as the repugnant Hedda Hopper and John Goodman as Frank King; a brusque, brazen film producer who is an unapolegtic schlockmeister. The other factor is just the fact that it has a fascinating story from which to work with. The Red Scare and its ensuing effect on Hollywood is a story of great interest, though admittedly not for good reasons. McCarthyism and the blacklist are a pretty shameful episode for America and Hollywood so make for compelling material though at times I did feel that the film perhaps pulled its punches a touch. For a film that should be grubby and angry it often feels either just too cosy or a touch too exaggerated and cartoonish.

What's really interesting is watching this film and relating it to the current day. Joseph McCarthy, the House Un-American Activities Committee, their assault on civil liberties and their calls for all communists to be thrown out of America are now rightfully seen as a black mark in American history. And yet at the exact same time as Trumbo was in cinemas we had to endure Donal Trump calling for all Muslims to be barred from entering the country. I'm sure there must be a quote about not learning from history and being doomed to repeat it but I just can't think of it.



I have to return some videotapes...
I hated Trumbo, Cranston shouldn't have been nominated imo, easily could have seen Tremblay or numerous others.
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It's only after we've lost everything that we're free to do anything.



Excellent reviews, JD. I've yet to see any of these films. I'm very much looking forward to Anomalisa. Anything birthed from the mind of Charlie Kaufman is going to be fascinating and unique. I can't say I'm in a rush to see any of the other films, though.
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Miss Vicky's Loyal and Willing Slave
From the brink of extinction, out of the ashes of time it rises. Yes I'm back on reviewing duties. Now I still have dozens of reviews kicking about in various places that I need to organise and post in my Movie Musings thread. However with this being a current film I wanted to get it out there just now so I've revived this thread for the time being.


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Year of release
2016

Directed by
Mel Gibson

Written by
Andrew Knight
Robert Schechkkan

Starring
Andrew Garfield
Vince Vaughn
Sam Worthington
Hugo Weaving
Teresa Palmer
Luke Bracey

Hacksaw Ridge

+

Plot - 471 military personnel were the recipient of the Medal of Honor for their heroic actions during World War II. Of those 471 individuals, only one of them received the honor without firing a single shot. That man was Desmond Doss (Garfield), an army medic who became the first ever conscientious objector to be awarded the Medal of Honor. His religious beliefs meant that he would not even touch a gun, let alone fire it. Despite this, he still volunteered to serve his country and would go on to do so with great bravery. His anti-gun stance certainly doesn't endear him to his fellow soldiers; during training he is marked out for abuse, both physical and verbal, as those around him attempt to drive him to the point of quitting. Doss' incredible conviction and determination will not allow him to give up however, and eventually begins to win over those who have doubted him. And when Doss does arrive in the field, at the hellish spectacle of Hacksaw Ridge, he will display a level of bravery that is tough to top.

Courage. It's a quality that features in just about every war film ever made. What sets Hacksaw Ridge apart from the crowd is the very different face of courage that it presents to us. I've seen my fair share of war films over the years and there's one thing I always come away with from them; the thought that I could never do that in a million years! I just can't conceive of the bravery required to do such a thing. Well the hero of Hacksaw Ridge goes a step beyond even that. Not only does he throw himself into the hellish fray of war, he does so without a weapon at his side! To put yourself in such a situation with no way of defending yourself strikes me as pure insanity. Well pure insanity or one of the most incredible examples of valour I've ever heard of. It's definitely one of those two.

His bravery is not restricted merely to the battlefield. Before we even reach the blood-soaked expanse of Hacksaw Ridge we are treated to numerous examples of Desmond Doss' courage and conviction. It's no surprise to find that his unconventional stance not only confused, but actually angered those that he served under and alongside. At every turn he finds someone pouring scorn on his beliefs and urging him to pick up a gun. No matter how often he is confronted by such attitudes however, and no matter how physical or abusive the treatment becomes, Doss never allows it to break him. He maintains and stands up for his beliefs throughout. And as for the actual actions that earned him his Medal of Honor, well they're extraordinary. So extraordinary in fact that for the film to work it really does need that tag of being 'based on a true story'. Without that you would just dismiss it as fantastical nonsense. It turns out however that truth is indeed stranger, and more amazing, than fiction. And the fact that it has taken so long for this story to be committed to film really is something of a mystery. I can only guess that perhaps Hollywood didn't know what to do with such an unconventional hero; he's not exactly Rambo after all. Films tend to prefer their heroes to be men of action, and by his own admission Desmond Doss was a man of inaction, at least when it came to taking up arms against his enemy.

In charge of conveying this incredible true story is Mel Gibson, making his return behind the camera after a ten-year absensce. Now if there is one thing above everything else that Gibson has proved as a director it's that he certainly knows how to deliver when it comes to grand spectacle, and that remains the case with this film. He is of course no stranger to delivering warfare on the big screen. Twenty years ago he not only directed but starred in Braveheart, depicting the 13th century war between England and Scotland. The manner in which Gibson has tackled the respective bloodshed however is quite different. Now don't get me wrong, Braveheart is not a film that skimps on the gore of war. It does however feature moments of levity (lifting the kilts en masse) and moments designed to have you enthusiastically pumping your fist in the air (Freedom!). There are no such crowd-pleasing concessions to be found in Hacksaw Ridge. The warfare that Gibson presents here is truly horrific; it's relentlessly ugly, it's inhumanely brutal and it shows some of the very worst things that humanity has ever done to itself.

I can understand war films inspiring people to join the armed forces for numerous reasons; being moved by the bravery of those that have gone before them and wanting to honour them by enlisting themselves for example. However I staunchly believe that no-one should be inspired because a film makes war look 'cool'. If that is the case then that individual is either mentally unsound or the film has been reckless and irresponsible in glorifying war. Well I certainly can't see anyone finding the combat of Hacksaw Ridge to be an appealing prospect. Now I'm sure that some people who view this film will take issue with its graphic portrayal of warfare; they'll argue that a film chronicling the life of a pacifist should not be so incessantly explicit with its violence, that the film is being hypocritical with its message. Well I don't consider this to be the case. I think that by presenting events in such an unflinching, and sadly realistic way, it highlights just how strong Desmond Doss' convictions were. It's one thing to say that you won't pick up a weapon when you're just in training, but to maintain that position when you're right in the thick of it, face-to-face with such horror, is a true testament to his character and certitude.

Film Trivia Snippets - History has it that Desmond Doss was responsible for saving 75 lives at Hacksaw Ridge. In reality it was likely much more than that as several witnesses who were there that day said that the total number was closer to 100. Doss himself, who was always very humble and modest about his accomplishments, had claimed only to have saved around 50 men. /// Descmond Doss is sadly no longer with us, having passed in 2006. His son, Desmond Jr., is still alive however and has seen the film. According to Mel Gibson he was moved to tears by the film and how accurate Andrew Garfield's portrayal of his father was. /// Hacksaw Ridge received its world premiere at the Venice Film Festival on the 4th of September. Following its screening the film received a standing ovation from those in attendance that lasted for 9 minutes and 48 seconds. Those exact numbers came from Mel Gibson himself, having personally timed it. /// The incredible story of Desmond Doss could actually have hit the big screen for the first time well over half a century ago. Casablanca producer Hal B. Wallis had tried to buy the rights to his story back in the 1950s with the intention that Audie Murphy would star in the lead role. Doss however had no interest in motion pictures and didn't want his story turned into a typical Hollywood movie.
If there's one criticism I would have of Gibson's direction it's that just on occasion he strays a little too far into the territory of canonising his subject. The actual feats that Desmond Doss performed are enough on their own to convince us of his heroic standing; Gibson doesn't need to force this feeling upon us. There's one moment, one image, in particular that harks back to one of Gibson's previous works, The Passion of the Christ. You almost feel like he is christening Doss as the second coming. Helping to balance out this eulogising admiration is the performance of Andrew Garfield as the stout-hearted Doss. I think it could actually be quite easy to turn against someone like Doss if the man portraying him really pushed his heroism, making him seem like the holier-than-thou individual that his fellow soldiers initially believe him to be. Instead, Garfield grounds his performance with a quiet dignity and grace that makes for a very honourable and likeable personality.

Given the group dynamic you find amongst the soldiers, war films are often real ensemble pieces. In this instance though, Hacksaw Ridge feels like a predominantly one-man show. Though Garfield does receive solid support all the way around. In particular I feel that I should give a mention to Vince Vaughn of all people, and no-one is more surprised about that than I am. He takes on the role of Doss' drill sergeant, Sergeant Howell, and it's about the most I've ever liked a performance of his. As a result I also have to give credit to Mel Gibson for having the vision to cast him as he certainly wouldn't be the most obvious candidate for the role. Where you to run through the roster of Hollywood actors alphabetically, Vince Vaughn, with those double V's, would place quite near the bottom of the list. However where you to run through the roster in terms of who'd be the most obvious choice, then I think he'd be even lower! Rather bizarrely, given the film's war context, it may also be just about the funniest I've ever found Vaughn to be.

For anyone who has seen even a small handful of war films in their lifetime there are several elements here that will feel comfortably familiar. For example we are treated to the none-more-traditional scene in which the drill sergeant, the aforementioned Vince Vaughn, dresses down his troops with a series of scathing but amusing insults. And while having a conscientious objector as the protagonist may provide a new twist, the actual journey that the character undertakes is rather familiar. The only difference being that it would usually feature a black man in his place; a black man who would overcome all the oppression and intimidation, gradually win over his comrades and prove himself to be a hero beyond all reckoning - Cuba Gooding Jr. in Men of Honor for example.

The opening exchanges of the film are predominantly dedicated to a budding romance that the lovestruck Doss strikes up with a local nurse portrrayed by Teresa Palmer. While I can imagine some people finding their relationship to be just a bit too precious, verging on the saccharine, I persnally found it to be utterly charming. To be honest much of the time that is spent depicting the pre-war home life of Doss is on the soapy side but I found that it worked, even if sublety is often left on the sidelines. In fact you could perhaps argue that subtlety is in short supply throughout the film as a result of some clichéd scenes and dialogue. However between the performance of Andrew Garfield, the powerfully delivered scenes of combat and just the story of Desmond Doss, I was certainly able to overlook any of those potential nitpicks.

Conclusion - Around these parts I'm aware that it's films like Moonlight and Manchester by the Sea that are getting the most love amongst the Oscar contenders. And that by comparison, Hacksaw Ridge may be a more traditional, old school slice of Hollywood filmmaking. However I personally found it a much easier story to invest in. It may not revolutionise the war film but it is a damn solid addition to the genre and the plethora of World War II movies in existence. Welcome back Mel.



F*ck... I just thought I could jump back into my reviewing routine without being trumped by anyone... and then comes my biggest rival and wreck the scene.

Heh, I will read once I return to the computer a bit later welcome back man