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Aidan J. McQuade (Ireland)

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The Ides of March [DVD]
The Ides of March [DVD]
Dvd ~ Ryan Gosling
Offered by HarriBella.UK.Ltd
Price: 10.00

4.0 out of 5 stars Bloody hands and feet of clay, 8 April 2012
This review is from: The Ides of March [DVD] (DVD)
In this movie Ryan Gosling plays Steven, an idealistic staffer working on the presidential campaign of Mike Morris (George Clooney) a Democratic hopeful who is beginning to look like a near certainty for the White House. A threat to Morris's ambitions begins to emerge in a tightly fought Ohio primary, which brings the principles and ideals of all the protagonists into sharp focus.

Clooney directs in his typically generous fashion taking only a supporting role for himself and using his time behind the camera to allow Ryan Gosling to demonstrate further why he is one of the most interesting actors working at the moment. The rest of the supporting cast is flawless, with some of the finest actors working including Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Paul Giamatti, Evan Rachel Wood and in a small but crucial part, Gregory Itzin as a Democratic leader and the father of a young intern on Morris's campaign.

This is a fine, morally complex and convincing film drawing on the film makers experiences in politics - it is based on a play by Beau Willimon who worked on Howard Dean's 2004 presidential campaign, and Clooney's political involvement is well documented, not least with his own father's congressional campaign. The result is a chilling exploration of the compromises, ambiguities and ruthlessness behind the impressively idealistic public face of a political campaign.

Route Irish [DVD] [2010]
Route Irish [DVD] [2010]
Dvd ~ Mark Womack
Price: 6.99

5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars An honourable but flawed exploration of the illegal invasion of Iraq, 7 April 2012
This review is from: Route Irish [DVD] [2010] (DVD)
There is an element of the Reed's Third Man about this movie in its dealings with the aftermath of war and a conspiracy. It also begins with a funeral when Fergus (Mark Womack) an ex soldier and mercenary shows up to the funeral of his best friend and fellow mercenary Frankie (John Bishop). Finding the accounts of Frankie's death in Iraq unsatisfying, Fergus starts his own investigation.

The purpose of this movie is considerably more political than Carol Reed's earlier masterpiece, exploring the devastation brought on Iraq by the 2003 invasion and particularly by the invading forces profligate use of mercenaries. The hypocrisy of the west is also touched upon: as an Iraqi character Harim (Talib Rasool) indicates - thousands of Iraqis were murdered as a consequence of the invasion, what makes the killings at the core of this movie interesting to Fergus, and by extension the audience, is that one of the casualties was British.

Mark Womack delivers a frentic performance in this movie as a man driven to murderous rage by guilt. Andrea Lowe is a more nuanced presence delivering a beautifully subtle performance as Frankie's widow, Rachel. Fergus's fury echoes that of the movie itself, rendering both, at moments, less articulate and coherent that one would hope. Still the movie is an honourable exploration of the consequences of the illegal invasion of Iraq by a director, Ken Loach, whose work has consistently embodied what is best about British society.

Three Stations
Three Stations
by Martin Cruz Smith
Edition: Paperback

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Renko returns to the mean streets of Moscow, 4 April 2012
This review is from: Three Stations (Paperback)
In the years since Investigator Arkady Renko's first appearance in Gorky Park his fortunes have waxed and waned with the politics of Russia. This has brought him threat of execution, exile on a factory ship as a political undesirable, and rehabilitation in Yeltsin's Russia.

In Three Stations Renko is once more out of favour with the powers that be. In spite of this he begins to ask awkward questions relating to the dead body of a young woman found with no obvious injuries. Elsewhere Renko's young friend Zhenya takes it upon himself to try to help a young girl who's baby has been stolen, also in Three Stations. Their investigations bring them into contact with the excesses of Russia's contemporary oligarchs and the desperation of the abandoned children who live at the margins of Moscow society.

Renko must rate as one of the nicest detectives in modern crime fiction: the tragedies of his life, his deeply regretted, but very useful, capacity for violence and the mundane horrors of his work never undermines his inate decency, wry humour, and unfailing politeness. In many ways he's like Inspector Morse but without the grumpiness in a bloodier Russian milieu.

While there is little of the shock of the new that came with Gorky Park's exploration of Soviet bureaucracy this book is still a cracking thriller, and a return to form of a great series that has lagged somewhat of late. As always Renko is like the most dependable of old friends, a compelling guide and knight errant in the midst of a brutal labyrinth. Great stuff!

Indian Summer: The Secret History of the End of an Empire
Indian Summer: The Secret History of the End of an Empire
by Alex Von Tunzelmann
Edition: Paperback
Price: 6.29

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The setting of the sun on the British Empire, 31 Mar 2012
The sub-title of this book, "The secret history of the end of an empire" is probably a bit misleading. It seems to derive from the author's very sympathetic exploration of the not very secret menage à trois that developed between Edwina Mountbatten, Nehru, and Edwina's husband Louis, the last Viceroy. Rather than a secret history this is a fine narrative history of the coming of Indian and Pakistani independence and the bloody aftermath. Nehru and Edwina Mountbatten are the author's particular heroes, though she also seems to have a healthy respect for Jinnah and Gandhi, and a soft spot for Lord Louis "Dickie" Mountbatten who, for all his limitations, comes across as a very likeable and fundamentally decent chap.

There is much else to admire in the book, not least the author's portrayal of the true awfulness of the carnage that erupted with partition and her assessment of controversies, such as the origins of the Kashmir conflict, I found fair-minded and careful. Personally I was left with a much more negative opinion of Gandhi as a result of reading this book: He was unquestionably a brave and principled man of exceptional moral courage, but his calling a halt to the campaign for the British to quit India in the 1920s seemed to have meant the loss of an opportunity for Indian independence unsullied by partition, and the holocaust that entailed. Others, however, with deeper knowledge of this aspect of history may prefer to emphasize the role of twentieth century British policy towards India, up to and including the management of their departure.

As a bonus the author also has a lovely gift for humour and the narrative is peppered with some excellent jokes that emerge naturally from her account, rather than being shoe-horned into it. The result is an elegantly written and erudrite popular history of run up to Indian independence and the bloody chaos of the sub-continent's partitioning.

An Evil Eye (Yashim 4)
An Evil Eye (Yashim 4)
by Jason Goodwin
Edition: Hardcover
Price: 12.36

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Affairs of state, murder, intrigue, and good cooking in Istanbul, 16 Mar 2012
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: An Evil Eye (Yashim 4) (Hardcover)
This is the 4th novel in Jason Goodwin's very entertaining series about the investigations of Yashim, a eunuch in the service of the Ottoman state. The fact that he is a eunuch is important in that he is allowed access to the harem and the world of women, as well as that of men.

The sprawling plot of this novel - drawing together the body of a murdered man dragged from a monastery well, the changes of the harem arising from a new sultan, and a threat of betrayal to the Ottoman state - can be confusing and rendered moreso by the array of characters over multiple locations. But the journey through the labyrintine plot brings with it huge pleasures, including asides on the history of the Ottoman empire, the machinations of the harem, evocative descriptions of the city of Istanbul, and good cooking: Yashim takes his cooking seriously and frequently unpicks plot difficulties while chopping his vegetables.

So an enjoyable, evocative read, that illuminates, most entertainingly, an unfamiliar time and place.

All Hell Let Loose: The World at War 1939-1945
All Hell Let Loose: The World at War 1939-1945
by Max Hastings
Edition: Hardcover
Price: 22.86

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The worst of times revisited, 11 Mar 2012
With this book, Max Hastings has completed a body of work on the Second World War comparable to Shelby Foote's magisterial history of the American Civil War. This book fills some of the gaps in the history of the war not covered by his more detailed studies (Overlord on the battle for Normandy; Armageddon on the last year of the war in Europe; Nemesis on the last year of the war in the Pacific; Warlord, his study of Churchill's war leadership; and Bomber Command). So there is greater consideration here of, for example, the invasion of Poland, the war in the Mediterranian, the major naval campaigns such as the Battle of the Atlantic and the Artic Convoys, and amongst the most chilling chapters, a discussion on the war in the Balkans. Naturally, however the discussion of the war's final campaigns are more cursory here given Hasting's other writings.

One of the things about Hastings work that is so delightful is that even if one is familiar with much of the narrative of the events he will often bring new detail or insight to the discussion. This book does not disappoint in this regard: the retreat from Stalingrad, for example, is told principally from an Italian perspective; and the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki is discussed through the idea of "technological determinism" which Hastings sees as shaping key aspects of the Allied campaign, particularly the B29 bomber offensive on Japan. By this he means that when a military capacity exists there can become an overwhelming motivation to use it irrespective of the strategic value: it is an idea that also helps illuminates the dynamics behind some questionable dashes into war, such as the 2003 invasion of Iraq.

Overall the work is pervaded with a great sense of humanity and of the pity of war. There is also a great fairmindedness to Hastings writing, acknowledging, given the comparable horror of both Soviet and Nazi tyrannies, that for many eastern Europeans the war never could appear the clear cut battle between good and evil it has become in Anglo-American mythology. Hastings also points out how that Anglo-American myth must take some tarnishing given Britian's role in the Indian wartime famine, the Anglo-American betrayal of Poland, and some of the needless blood shed by the Allies in the Pacific.

Overall a great work of narrative history, elegantly written with a seeming effortlessness that belies the great learning it contains.

The Bottom Billion: Why the Poorest Countries are Failing and What Can Be Done About It
The Bottom Billion: Why the Poorest Countries are Failing and What Can Be Done About It
by Paul Collier
Edition: Paperback
Price: 7.99

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Important insights marred by irritating writing style, 10 Feb 2012
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This book is well worth reading for presenting some new and very powerful insights into the causes of conflict and poverty from some imaginative economic analysis. However Prof Collier does rather overegg his argument with the tiresome use of straw men: assigning to his imagined opponents views which almost no one holds. For example how many leftist political scientists would regard the Lord's Resistance Army as anything other than a manifestation of murderous craziness? Prof Collier suggests at one point that there is some latent sympathy for them in vast swathes of academia.

He also asserts support for his analysis from some dubious historical examples: for example he argues that UNITA's welcome demise in Angola arose from the imposition of effective measures against blood diamonds, which reduced UNITA's natural resource wealth.

I worked in Angola when some of these measures were put in place and certainly was a vocal supporter of such sanctions as a means of reducing UNITA's capacity to kill. But I think most people who know a little of the Angolan conflict would feel that the provision of American intelligence to the Angolan Armed Forces had more of an impact on the destruction of UNITA's armed insurrection, leading ultimately to the killing of their psychotic leader Jonas Savimbi.

So overall a book worth reading for the important insights drawn from fine research, but requiring of something of a strong stomach to get over Prof Collier's irritating tendency in this book to suggest that he is the only wise thinker on conflict in the world.

Me and Orson Welles [DVD]
Me and Orson Welles [DVD]
Dvd ~ Zac Efron
Offered by qualityfilmsfromuk
Price: 9.99

12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Welles was a genius, even if he said so himself!, 29 Jan 2012
This review is from: Me and Orson Welles [DVD] (DVD)
An immensely entertaining film focussing on the rehersals for Welles legendary production of Julius Caesar in 1937. The story is told through the eyes of a fictional character, Richard Samuels, played beautifully by Zac Efron, a young man who lucks into the part of Lucius after encountering the Mercury Theatre Company, and Welles, in the street.

Both in form and in content there are strong echoes of "Shakespeare in Love", but with the startling originality of Christian McKay's performance as Welles, which captures Welle's genius, charm, ego, pettiness and ruthlessness in a seemingly effortless sweep. The movie is worth watching for this alone, but it also has much else to recommend it: a deeply entertaining behind the scenes account of the production of a great play; a touching portrait of a youthful affair between the lovely Clare Danes and Efron; and the great Eddie Marsden, who has over the years produced some memorable performances as terrifying characters, here playing the gentleman that was John Houseman.

The looming tragedy of World War 2 is underplayed in favour of a sense of youthful hope in the spite of the encroaching fear and disappointment: even the worst circumstances are replete with possibilities as Efron's character ultimately learns.

Kernleder-Rennsattel Team Pro Special
Kernleder-Rennsattel Team Pro Special
Offered by Sportsandmoreshop
Price: 120.89

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A startlingly comfortable and stylish piece of equipment., 18 Jan 2012
I bought myself this saddle for Christmas on purely aesthetic grounds - it looks lovely - and used it to replace the existing gel saddle that had come with the bike. I was startled by just how comfortable this saddle is: in spite of being very hard to the touch it is several orders of magnitude more comfortable than most of the soft saddles I have previously used.

Clearly it is a riskier investment (more likely to be stolen) than less eye-catching saddles and as a piece of leather requires signficantly more maintenance than more run of the mill saddles. But if you are happy to put up with these difficulties it is a lovely piece of equipment.

The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo [DVD] [2011]
The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo [DVD] [2011]
Dvd ~ Daniel Craig
Price: 3.00

6 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Dark, electifying movie making, 15 Jan 2012
Most folk should be familiar with the story by now: disgraced left-wing journalist Mikael Blomkvist is hired by a wealthy industrialist to find out who killed his beloved niece 40 years ago. Blomkvist hires as a research assistant the titular character, Lisbeth Salander, and together the two uncover the hideous and frightening truth.

For my money this is a superior version of the rightly celebrated book than the original Swedish cinema version (though I've not seen the extended tv version). David Fincher, the director, places his trademark noirish stamp upon the movie. The result is a dark and exciting film with much to enjoy even for those familiar with the story. But like its fine Swedish predecessor it is not an easy watch: as a movie about violence againt women it does not flinch from some harsh depiction of such violence.

The cast is stellar, with Daniel Craig giving his charismatic best as Blomkvist. However at its centre this movie has an electrifying performance from Rooney Mara as Lisbeth, catching every nuance of her complex personality from her prickliness to her vulnerablity and tenderness. Its an amazing piece of acting. One must hope that plans are already afoot to permit her to reprise the role in film versions of the rest of the trilogy.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Feb 29, 2012 8:09 AM GMT

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