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Mike Brecher (London & New York)

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Run [DVD]
Run [DVD]
Dvd ~ Olivia Colman
Price: £10.15

2.0 out of 5 stars Screams Grittiness, But..., 26 July 2015
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This review is from: Run [DVD] (DVD)
...surprisingly obvious and superficial. Well-acted, but the stories suffer from underdevelopment and a lack of imagination.

Aerolatte Black Milk Frother
Aerolatte Black Milk Frother
Price: £7.89

1.0 out of 5 stars Milk Goes Flat Faster Than the Speed of Light, 5 July 2015
Maybe it depends on what you want it for. I like cappuccini on the weekend and because we have stovetop cafetieres, I thought I could get away with making my coffee in a cafetiere and then adding milk frothed by the aerolatte, instead of buying a whole fancy cappuccino-maker. The aerolatte IS easy to use, and it does froth the milk successfully, but the problem is that -- for me, at any rate -- milk frothed this way and then added to hot coffee sinks back into ordinary flat milk within seconds -- faster than I could walk my cup from the kitchen to the table. I guess there's a reason cappuccino-makers use steam..
Comment Comments (5) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jul 16, 2015 9:28 PM BST

by Ian McEwan
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.74

3.0 out of 5 stars The honeymoon is just about over, 22 May 2015
This review is from: Saturday (Paperback)
Like so many ordinary readers of Ian McEwan--as opposed to professional pundits, who clearly embrace him unconditionally--I'm consistently blown away by his masterly control of language, which enables him to produce writing that is stylish without ever seeming forced or self-conscious, unlike so many of his 'literary' contemporaries. But at the same time I'm frustrated by how many of his books--not quite all, but most--are just not terribly interesting.

In my view, McEwan's much-vaunted skill for meticulous research and minute observation does little more than impose tedium on his work. 'Saturday' is a prime example. Perhaps he actually lives in the London neighbourhood he describes in excruciating detail; if not, you can't help but picture him, camera and notebook (or some digital memo contraption) in hand, pounding the pavements capturing every crack, lamppost, mail-box, street sign, graffito and crumbled brick--but does he really have to subject us to them? Also within its pages you will discover far more than you ever wanted to know about poetry (and certain poets), medical procedures and the game of squash. For all I know, McEwan spends half his life on the squash court, but I'm pretty sure he isn't a neurosurgeon in his spare time, so I suppose you have to admire the doggedness of the research even as you skip-read many a section.

Other than the main protagonist--whose head we spend the book inside--the characters are little more than cyphers; unfortunately, even Perowne isn't a very believable fellow: are there really doctors out there who view all the nuances of life and the world around them in terms of anatomy and physiology? (Hope not; it would make them about as much fun as a burst appendix.) The book comes to a (somewhat predictable) boil 50, 60 pages from the end, but before you get there you have to negotiation 240 pages that are a bit of a slog. As a reader, I've always subscribed to the view that it's not good enough for the destination to be breathtaking--the journey has to be interesting as well. Otherwise, a book is merely that much valuable reading time you'll never get back.
Comment Comments (3) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jul 15, 2015 7:21 PM BST

Skyfall [DVD]
Skyfall [DVD]
Dvd ~ Daniel Craig
Offered by DVD Overstocks
Price: £8.50

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Making Widgets, 6 April 2015
This review is from: Skyfall [DVD] (DVD)
Even an old-timer like me has to admit that Daniel Craig's Bond is the best--okay, one of the two best--ever, so it's a real pity that his stint looks increasingly likely to end up a wasted opportunity. 'Skyfall' IS better than the dire 'Quantum', but not by nearly enough. The requisitely exciting pre-credit sequence is workmanlike rather than original (echoes of 'Casino Royale') and leads into one of the least interesting theme songs of the entire series.The next hour features plotting that is downright tedious, dialogue that falls flat time and again. Things pick up a bit with Javier Bardem, but his villainous characterisation starts and ends with a bottle-blond hairdo and a foppy voice--hardly a classic. The storyline that develops following his arrival has more to it than the decades of plotless Bonds that preceded Craig, but a few moments' thought will make you realize that it has more holes than it takes to fill the Albert Hall, The climax is fumbled. They supposedly waited for Sam Mendes to be available to direct 'Spectre'; on this showing, they needn't have bothered.

With 'Skyfall' having been the highest-grosser in the franchise, the producers probably see no reason to learn the lesson taught by 'Casino Royale': that even action movies benefit from a plot and good writing. But so long as they don't, they'll have a business that makes money out of widgets, not films.
Comment Comments (4) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jul 15, 2015 6:40 PM BST

The Debt [DVD]
The Debt [DVD]
Dvd ~ Sam Worthington
Offered by best_value_entertainment
Price: £3.68

2.0 out of 5 stars Great Actors Wasted..., 3 April 2015
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This review is from: The Debt [DVD] (DVD)
...on mediocre story with two-dimensional characters, so-so dialogue and action sequences that are only marginally involving. Don't wish to give too much away, but the basic premise doesn't really make much sense. There are several ways the plan could have been resolved in 1965 that would not have given rise to the supposedly devastating secret on which the film's plot turns.

The Jury [DVD]
The Jury [DVD]
Dvd ~ Julie Walters
Price: £7.10

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Passes the Time, 1 Mar. 2015
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This review is from: The Jury [DVD] (DVD)
You don't expect courtroom dramas to be realistic, and in that respect this one doesn't disappoint. Realism and plausibility are in particularly short supply in 'The Jury'. Among its lowlights: The kid with Asperger's who looks like he should be preparing for his GCSEs, not sitting on a jury. The woman with the mysterious agenda who effortlessly obtains a seat in the gallery for every session of what is supposedly a high-profile trial, when, in reality, she'd be lucky to get in for half a day. A defence barrister (Walters) who routinely meets with her client alone--perhaps the budget didn't stretch to an extra pretending to be a solicitor--and gives an opening so lame--it can only serve to antagonise the jury--that most clients would have dumped her before she sat down. Barely a single admissable question asked by either counsel, who seem to prefer speechifying, waxing sarcastic and leading the witnesses. A judge who rarely bestirs himself to remind them that this is supposed to be a trial, not an audition for Gilbert and Sullivan. A prosecutor (Allam) who makes a slew of unsupported assertions that Walters is either too gracious or distracted or just plain inept to challenge. A script that can't make up its mind whether it is proselytizing in favour of jury trials or pointing out that jurors often behave so irresponsibly they risk causing a mistrial and ending up in the nick themselves.

At this point, minor spoiler alert! Just when you're wondering what possessed the Crown to retry this case, Allam freely admits that 'we never really had anything on' the accused, which suggests his dishonour in taking the case and gross dereliction of duty on the part of the CPS.

For all that, this 'The Jury' (not to be confused with its far better predecessor series) is mildly diverting, thanks to an ensemble that works wonders with a script that doesn't deserve the cast or the wonders. Unlike the judge, you probably won't fall asleep.

Any Human Heart [DVD] [2010]
Any Human Heart [DVD] [2010]
Dvd ~ Jim Broadbent
Price: £5.99

3.0 out of 5 stars All in the Eye of the Beholder, 22 Feb. 2015
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This review is from: Any Human Heart [DVD] [2010] (DVD)
Reactions to this mini-series are going to be very personal. Like the book, it suffers from something that some will find a grave weakness: the dramatic climax occurs barely halfway through. The rest of the story is a long-drawn-out descent into predictability and mundaneness. Judging from most of the other reviews here, many don't mind that. Some will argue that that's Boyd's point: a life once full of promise often ends up a disappointment; indeed, that the 'message' of the story is that life can be full (as Logan's undeniably is) yet ultimately unfulfilling. For me, it made devoting a couple of weeks' worth of precious reading time, and then 4 1/2 hours of TV-watching, seem rather empty experiences.

Acting and production generally top-notch, with the proviso that Jim Broadbent isn't given that much to do. He spends two-thirds of the film looking anguished, maudlin or regretful in close-up but saying nothing (bar an occasional voice-over), and then the last third having to speak fairly banal lines.

Fortitude - Season 1 [DVD]
Fortitude - Season 1 [DVD]
Dvd ~ Sophie Grabol
Price: £13.99

36 of 61 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Collapsed Souffle, 13 Feb. 2015
This review is from: Fortitude - Season 1 [DVD] (DVD)
They're screening a kind of 'Fortitude' marathon on an American backwater TV channel at the moment, so I happened to catch some last night while on a visit to the US. I was delighted at the opportunity, because I'd seen trailers last month in London and fancied the series, but gave up before the end of Episode 3. This attempt at a Brit version of Nordic Noir, which Sky presumably expects to the jewel in its 2015 drama schedule, sinks under the weight of expectation and its overegged recipe. A cast packed with assorted street cred for this kind of thing hams its way--Michael Gambon, unfortunately, included--through a clunky script in a manner which produces much Sturm und Drung but little genuine suspense. And as for the scenery...! I believe they carted cast and crew off to the frozen north, but they might as well have stayed at Elstree. For some reason, most of the location work looks like it's been shot on a small back lot on sets comprising polystyrene ice castles and discarded bits and pieces from Roger Moore-era Bond movies. Weird.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Mar 2, 2015 12:01 AM GMT

The Chief - The Complete Fourth Series [DVD]
The Chief - The Complete Fourth Series [DVD]
Dvd ~ Martin Shaw
Price: £18.50

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Another Square Peg., 9 Oct. 2014
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Like some others, perhaps, we bought DVD sets of the two latter 'The Chief' series because we have liked Martin Shaw in 'Gently" and 'John Deed". Don't remember "The Chief" from back when it originally aired on TV. IMO, it hasn't worn well. By the current standards of crime drama, many of the storylines are thin and resolved perfunctorily, and the supporting characters one-dimensional -- a symptom, possibly, of the episodes being 50 minutes long (when nowadays 90 minutes, 2 hours, or even longer are the norm). The makers might say that "The Chief" was never meant to be about the plots, but rather about the main character and the issues he faces. If so, then the problem is that over several decades Martin Shaw has pretty much cornered the market in square-peg-in-round-hole authority figures, so that watching "The Chief" after seeing his more recent series feels like a dose of same-old-same-old.

Ripper Street - Series 2 [DVD]
Ripper Street - Series 2 [DVD]
Dvd ~ Matthew Macfadyen
Price: £7.40

5.0 out of 5 stars Pity About the Title!, 7 Oct. 2014
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It's easy to imagine that, in hindsight, the makers of this terrific series are sorry they yielded to the temptation to hook it to Jack the Ripper -- unnecessary, since it's not about the JtR at all (and occasional references to him are the one false note in the show). That may do more than anything to explain viewing figures that proved a disappointment to the Beeb. Many potential viewers probably stayed away, assuming that it would be just another retread of a tired idea, only recently worn to the rims by the vastly inferior 'Whitechapel'. I nearly avoided it for exactly that reason.
In fact, 'Ripper Street' is imaginative, exciting, superbly written, produced and acted -- one of the very best things on TV at the moment. Thank goodness Amazon has saved it from the axe. As others have commented, it's enough to make one resent paying the license fee when the BBC demonstrates that it would rather keep pumping out cheap reality and cooking shows, decades of 'Top Gear' and 'Strictly' than world-beating drama because the latter -- as if drama were no different than a new ready-meal from M&S -- isn't moving off the shelves in sufficient millions a week to satisfy management.

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