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Filth [DVD] [2013]
Filth [DVD] [2013]
Dvd ~ James McAvoy
Price: 10.00

4.0 out of 5 stars Detective Sergeant, not PC, 1 Mar 2014
This review is from: Filth [DVD] [2013] (DVD)
If you're part of that large and vocal community who thinks that there's too much political correctness about these days, Detective Sergeant Bruce Robertson (James McAvoy) is the man for you. Nothing of the Guardian reader about DS Robertson, as his views on race, women and homosexuality illustrate. He rails against "airy-fairy, namby-pamby, care-in-the-community, human resources, left-wing bulls&*@". He's hard-drinking, drug-taking and womanising - and he's determined to get promotion.
So far as he's concerned, he towers above his rivals, who, in his view, are either the wrong sex, have the wrong sexual orientation, come from the wrong side of the religious divide, are inadequately endowed or are too stupid - although, as he puts it, "When did a single-figure IQ hold anybody back in the police force?"
It's all a game to him, and as with any game, "same rules apply". These rules include backstabbing and seeking whatever way you can to humiliate your opponents. But as he finally admits, he's as scared of the world as anyone else: "I just don't let people see it....that's what the games are."
Set in Edinburgh and based on an Irvine Welsh novel, this was never going to be an Oor Wullie and The Broons view of Scotland; it gets as dark as you would expect and treads a fine line between comedy and tragedy. I must admit to my own prejudice: that James McAvoy can do no wrong. His portrayal of a self-deluding man who is in freefall and who misses out on his only chance of redemption is up there with anything he's done. Great performances, too, from Jamie Bell as comparative rookie detective Ray Lennox and Eddie Marsan as nerdy accountant Clifford Blades, who has an opposites-attract friendship with Robertson.


English Electric and Its People Volume 17 December
English Electric and Its People Volume 17 December
by H. Nevillie Davis
Edition: Paperback

4.0 out of 5 stars Pure nostalgia, 24 Jan 2014
I recently bought Volume 21 of this publication, so presumably Volume 17 is from four years earlier, in 1962, and like mine is a year's supply of a works magazine but of much higher quality than the bland, anaemic output of some PR firm which passes for a company newsletter these days. English Electric was one of those large, paternalistic companies which employees joined on leaving school and often stayed with until their retirement 50 years later. Here in Stafford, where it employed thousands, you could look to it not only for your livelihood but also for your leisure activities, whether you were interested in drama, sport, photography or whatever. Some of the writing looks a bit stiff now, but it gives a real insight into how these people worked and played.
The company was involved in a huge range of activities, from fighter aircraft to road signs, and this is reflected in informative articles which are neither over-technical nor patronising. In those days, companies prided themselves on making virtually all the components which went into their products; outsourcing was much less in evidence, so factories employed people with many different skills.
People serving apprenticeships there ended up all over the world; my stepfather, who became a transformer designer at Stafford during the 1950s/60s, now lives in Canada, having spent much of his life in the industry there. One of his colleagues, Henry Bonshek, who was also at English Electric in this era, ended up in Australia. His journey to Stafford, via a Siberian Gulag, can be found by Googling him.
It's a real time capsule because not long after this, the company experienced the kind of upheavals which changed the face of British industry.


How I Live Now [Blu-ray]
How I Live Now [Blu-ray]
Dvd ~ Saoirse Ronan
Price: 8.33

18 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Famous Five meet the Third World War - and it works, 22 Oct 2013
This review is from: How I Live Now [Blu-ray] (Blu-ray)
This movie is about two teenage lovers torn apart by a third world war and determined to be reunited. It goes from the comical to the lyrical to the romantic to the threatening to the frightening to the grisly and never lost my attention for a moment. That's quite an achievement given that I'm a grumpy old man who soon gets irritated if writers, actors or directors don't do their job properly.
Acerbic American teenager Daisy (Saoirse Ronan) arrives in England to stay with her cousins. There's 14-year-old Isaac, a laid-back soul who meets her at the airport and subjects her to a scary ride home in a messy old Land Rover. "Home" is a ramshackle farmhouse and her other cousins are Piper (10-year-old Harley Bird), who is more chatty and friendly than Daisy cares for, and Edmond (George MacKay) who is the eldest and doesn't say much. There's unwashed crockery and meals are a disorganised affair; mother (Anna Chancellor) spends much of her time in her study and soon jets off to Geneva on a mission apparently connected with averting an apocalypse.
Daisy, who has OCD, is neurotic about the food she eats and is on medication to quell voices in her head, finds this environment somewhat challenging. She reacts by sulking in her room until the warmth of her cousins draws her out. It then becomes reminiscent of the Famous Five (Daisy has more than a passing resemblance to George) with swimming in the river, picnics and so on. But Daisy and Edmond aren't children and the hormones start to flow.
If the Famous Five were the optimistic face of the fifties, the threat of nuclear annihilation was its darker face. Contrary to many people's expectations it didn't materialise then but in this story, set in the near future, a nuclear bomb is detonated in London; there has already been some kind of bomb in Paris. It's all to do with unspecified terrorists. Sorry, war enthusiasts; if you want that kind of detail you've come to the wrong film.
Martial law is declared as Daisy's and Edmond's love is flowering so who can blame them for getting into bed together? The sex scene isn't as explicit as you may have been led to believe; more heart-warming than erotic or voyeuristic.
Their post-coital slumbers are interrupted by soldiers bursting in, guns blazing, to cart the boys and girls off to separate camps. Like many teenagers caught up by war before them, Daisy and Edmond vow to return home to each other.
The movie concentrates on Daisy's and Piper's experience in the work camp and subsequent escape. They see death - and not just of strangers - and anarchy which puts vulnerable females in danger. Hungry, thirsty and exhausted, Piper is a child trying to do her best to keep going, with Daisy pushing her to the limits and getting shirty with her in the process.
It was to be expected that Ronan would give a good performance - her best yet, I reckon - but Bird certainly didn't look out of place in such distinguished company. And thank goodness that director Kevin Macdonald concentrates on telling the story in a way which keeps the audience engaged; many a good film is spoiled by directors who forget that no matter how good the material or the actors, you'll send the punters to sleep if you don't give them enough variation of pace and tone. The film in which Ronan had her last outing , Byzantium, was an example of this.
Let's hope that after that and the cinematic disaster which was The Host, this nuclear disaster opens a new chapter in Ronan's career. She deserves it.
SPOILER I can think of other actresses performing with their fathers in films - Henry and Jane Fonda, John and Hayley Mills - but is there another example of an actress killing her father in a film?
Comment Comments (21) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jan 21, 2014 6:51 AM GMT


Byzantium [DVD] [2013]
Byzantium [DVD] [2013]
Dvd ~ Gemma Arterton
Price: 6.98

1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars To be taken with a large dose of caffeine, 5 Oct 2013
This review is from: Byzantium [DVD] [2013] (DVD)
This is a vampire movie for someone who likes their heroines strong and their heroes with a soft centre. Just don't call the heroines vampires; they're soucriants, a name borrowed from Caribbean folklore, although the film doesn't tell you this.
It tries to dispose of the usual clichés; mother-and-daughter soucriant team of Clara (Gemma Arterton) and Eleanor (Saoirse Ronan) do not have to avoid crosses, daylight or garlic. They don't have fangs, just a long thumbnail each, referred to by someone else in their fraternity as "the pointed nails of justice". Stop laughing; this is serious. Clara goes for the jugular, while Eleanor generally prefers the wrist. Either way, they'll drain your blood more quickly and thoroughly than any NHS donor session, and without the questionnaire on sexual habits, drug use and trips abroad. Considering the amount of blood in a human body, where do they put it all?
The movie does stay faithful to one vampire tradition: they have to be invited across a threshold. But when you're as good-looking and self-assured as Clara that's not a problem.
One cliché, well-beloved of novelists and dramatists, which the movie uses is that of the prostitute who transforms her vulnerable position into one of strength. Some time around the start of the 19th century, innocent young Clara is despoiled and forced into prostitution by Captain Ruthven (Jonny Lee Miller). It's only a matter of time before she's pregnant and consumptive. She deals with the first problem not by smothering the kid, apparently the preferred method of those in her profession, but by paying for her to go to an orphanage. That way, she figures, the girl will be spared the sexual degradation which was her lot. Yes, you've guessed it; she got that one wrong.
Fortunately, when it happens to Eleanor - and at the hands of the same man - Mum is able to do something about it. By this time she has, by very underhand methods, got herself initiated into a hitherto all-male soucriant sect, with eternal life as one of the fringe benefits. The men don't like it but can't do anything about it unless she breaks the rules, which she proceeds to do by initiating her daughter. This stores up trouble which, 200 years later, brings the story to a thrilling climax.
Eternal life has its problems, one of which is that you have your teenage offspring for ever. In the 21st century, Clara is still having to go on the game to support Eleanor, and they both need blood supplies. Clara usually gets hers from nasty pieces of work which the world would be better without, although you could end up a victim just by being a bit too nosey about her. Eleanor is more fastidious, choosing old and terminally-ill people who are ready to die. "A vampire version of Dignitas," commented Jonathan Ross when he interviewed Saoirse Ronan on his show.
So having moved from place to place for 200 years, they end up in a tacky English seaside town. Clara's first client is Noel (Daniel Mays), who has just lost his mum and bursts into tears when she tries to get down to business. When she hears that his mum left him a run-down hotel, she senses a business opportunity and suggests they go back to his place. Within no time she's got a couple of Eastern European prostitutes in and turned the place into a nice little earner.
Eleanor meets leukaemia sufferer Frank (Caleb Landry Jones), who according to her mother is "about as sexy as a pair of shoes". That's mothers for you. In fact, he has this fragile beauty; I could understand what Eleanor saw in him and I'm a bloke.
But the real bone of contention between mother and daughter is Eleanor's desire to tell the world their story. This is definitely a no-no to Clara. You know what fraternities are like; they must have their little secrets. Eleanor continuously writes the story down and throws the pages to the wind; if she did that round our way, she'd soon be picked up by the council's CCTV cameras and given a fixed penalty.
There's a lot to be said for this movie. There's colour, some action and the horror scenes you'd expect. Arterton's spirited performance as an admirably ruthless woman who will do anything to protect her daughter gives the whole thing energy, and this is balanced by Ronan's more pensive portrayal of Eleanor. Daniel Mays' and Caleb Landry Jones' performances are gentle and sensitive.
The trouble is that Ronan does most things at half speed, including telling her story with ethereal music in the background. She does it beautifully, as you'd expect from an actress of her calibre, but there are only so many slow, lingering scenes that an audience can take. You may not need the ministrations of a soucriant to render you comatose; director Neil Jordan's failure to provide enough variety of pace and tone might do the trick.
By all means watch this film, but keep a pot of strong, black coffee at your side.


How to Eat Out
How to Eat Out
by Giles Coren
Edition: Paperback
Price: 6.29

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A strange breed, but somehow engaging., 3 July 2013
This review is from: How to Eat Out (Paperback)
Giles Coren's life has been more privileged than most. Son of a famous father and sent to posh schools and Oxford, he ends up as restaurant critic of the Times, paying more for a meal than some families' monthly food bills. Yet even if you live on benefits in a bedsit and your idea of posh nosh is pie and chips with cheap cider, that's not going to stop you liking this book. Perhaps, like some of the food he eats, it will be an acquired taste, particularly as he tends to rant and his views can be quite right-wing. Here's a sample: "I hate people who witter on about how different Indian food is from what we think it is.....I hate them, the bargain-hunting, just-back-from-Goa b*@%ds with their sandals and henna tattoos.....I don't have any colonial guilt. I am a Hungaro-Pole....so I am not going to turn vegetarian and pretend I like Bollywood movies just because you lot wanted a continent to shoot tigers in."
It's not all like that and to be fair, this is a preface to a visit to Southall at the invitation of a Sikh couple, where he does find there is some enjoyable Indian food to be had. And the opening chapter is a fond-memories-of-childhood one which is gentle, touching and while humorous, also sad because his father basically smoked himself to death.
What is refreshing about Coren's no-holds-barred prose is that it cuts through the pretentiousness of eating out, so that you can ask for what you want in a restaurant, be it some Michelin-starred affair or the local Italian, without being either overawed or boorish. He once was a waiter himself so he gives useful advice from that side of the counter.
He can also debunk some of the health fascists; his chapter on salt was great fun to read. But this isn't just a book which does what it says on the cover; even if you never eat out, it is still a hilarious read.
One reviewer complained that this book reproduces many of his Times articles. I don't buy that paper often enough to comment (although I did recognise the salt article) but I'd say they are well worth reading twice anyway, so unless you've kept a Giles Coren scrapbook, I'd recommend this.


Carnage [DVD]
Carnage [DVD]
Dvd ~ Jodie Foster
Offered by filmrollen
Price: 4.00

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars It's a play, not a film, 24 Jun 2013
This review is from: Carnage [DVD] (DVD)
It's about two sets of parents meeting to discuss a fight that their kids have had, and to sort the matter out in a civilised way. Predictably, when they start arguing they're worse than kids. I bought this on my daughter-in-law's recommendation. She definitely saw my son in the man constantly interrupting the conversation to take calls on his mobile (we've all met dozens of those). I thought it entertaining but it was so obviously a one-act play which I thought was stretched a little too thinly for even a short feature film.


Our Girl - Lacey Turner - As Seen on BBC1 [DVD]
Our Girl - Lacey Turner - As Seen on BBC1 [DVD]
Dvd ~ Lacey Turner
Price: 10.91

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Seems like Army PR, but worth watching, 3 May 2013
This film looks as if it has the Army's stamp of approval all over it, but it is rescued by a great performance by Lacey Turner, playing an 18-year-old Londoner, Molly Dawes. She looks at her mother, married to a layabout and pregnant for the umpteenth time, and sees her future self if she just sits back and lets life happen to her. The Army doesn't seem like an obvious choice of career for someone with a natural tendency to question authority, and the run-ins with Corporal Geddings (Matthew McNulty) are enjoyable, but she develops a strong bond with her fellow recruits and is quick to spot if any of them are in trouble; she's the sort of person to have in a tight spot. She takes the shy, socially-awkward Katy (Katherine Pearce) under her wing and ensures that she doesn't just sit in the corner while the others are enjoying themselves. Being in the Army puts her in conflict with her family, her boyfriend and her civvy mates, so she has to make hard choices.
It would be difficult to make a film like this without Army co-operation, but I think that although it puts across the Army's view of itself, it is not so blatantly propagandist as to spoil the enjoyment. It is keen to tell us that the Army doesn't aim to turn people into automatons and that having a strong personality is not a disqualification for military service. "Yes, but...." you might say.
I was less keen on the film's portrayal of Newham, Molly's home turf; I'm a provincial but I do know the area and when I go there I see lots of hard-working people from all races and religions who seem to rub along remarkably well together, not racists complaining about foreigners taking their jobs. All the same, the scene where Molly has to stand up before her fellow recruits and describe her background is a compelling piece of drama.


Anna Karenina (DVD + Digital Copy + UV Copy)
Anna Karenina (DVD + Digital Copy + UV Copy)
Dvd ~ Keira Knightley
Price: 3.00

25 of 30 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A disappointment, but I'll still buy it., 31 Oct 2012
Anna Karenina (DVD + Digital Copy + UV Copy)I used to think that you could say what you like about director Joe Wright, but he never let his artistry get in the way of telling the story. My opinion, after watching this, is: you can say what you like about Joe Wright.
As a young man, I read this classic story of a high-class, 19th-century, Russian woman who dumps her husband, a highly respected public official, for a young military officer. I was probably too inexperienced in life to fully appreciate it at the time, so I was looking forward to seeing Wright's masterly handling of it. I knew that his was an unusual take on it, with most of the action taking place in a run-down theatre, but I trusted him not to metaphorically dance in front of the camera shouting, "Hey, look, everybody, at what a fantastic director I am!" I was wrong.
Though lavish and demonstrating Wright's appreciation for good music, it was so stagey that at times I thought I was watching a ballet. He re-uses some ideas from his earlier films; we get a scene with Anna and Vronsky dancing together as if they are alone in the room, which is a rehash of a scene between Elizabeth and Darcy in Pride and Prejudice but without the brilliance with which that scene was handled. I didn't get any handle on who Anna was, or why she would fall for someone who still seemed wet behind the ears. At her best, Keira Knightley can act, but this isn't her best. You'd think Aaron Taylor-Johnson could look the part of a dark, handsome fellow for whom Anna might fall (although sounding it is another matter), so why he plays Vronsky as practically a blond is beyond me. Despite supposedly being a cold fish, Jude Law cut a more sympathetic figure as her husband.
The other love story, between the idealistic Levin and the inexperienced Kitty, is well done. A landowner who wants to put the world to rights with schemes to improve the peasants' lot, he has somewhat rigid ideas about an ideal of womanhood which are shattered by Kitty's interest in Vronsky. I was touched by the way she had to explain to him that as a young girl, she could hardly be expected to be sure of who she was and what she wanted. However, this secondary storyline didn't compensate for the failure of the main plot.
It's never bothered me in the past that Wright is regarded as arty. Atonement is my all-time favourite movie and not only did I love Hanna, but so did my 13-year-old grandson and 70-year-old sister, neither of whom go in for arty stuff. This time, however, he hasn't got his priorities right. I'll buy this dvd because it's a movie that's sumptuous to look at and I want to see if I've missed anything - I'm getting a bit deaf in my old age, and whoever's in charge of the sound system at the local cinema doesn't know the difference between volume and clarity - but I'm not sure I'd recommend it to anyone else.
Comment Comments (4) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Mar 26, 2013 8:21 PM GMT


The Promise [DVD]
The Promise [DVD]
Dvd ~ Claire Foy
Price: 6.75

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars an epic, 31 Oct 2012
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: The Promise [DVD] (DVD)
The Promise [DVD]The Promise is two stories in one. In 2005 an 18-year-old Londoner, Erin, agrees to accompany her best friend, Eliza, to Israel, where she has to do her National Service. Eliza's parents live there in some luxury, and so far as Erin's concerned, it's just a great holiday. For a couple of months, she'll give Eliza moral support while she completes her basic training. Eliza will only be home at weekends, so the rest of the time Erin will chill out by the family swimming pool. When we first see her, she seems quite a moody and superficial girl - her main interests appear to be shopping and clubbing - and she certainly doesn't have a political brain cell in her head.
The other story starts in 1945 and is about Erin's grandfather Len, a sergeant in the Parachute Regiment. He has come through the Second World War where his last task was to liberate Bergen-Belsen concentration camp. The experience is worse than anything he has witnessed in the war; not only are there piles of emaciated bodies, but people are still dying in large numbers because they are too weak to be saved. As a career soldier, he is then posted to Palestine, occupied by the British at that time, where he is shocked to find that he has to intern Jewish holocaust survivors, who are flooding into the country, behind wire fences. The authorities fear that allowing unrestricted immigration will spark an Arab revolt.
Erin hardly knows her grandfather, who is in hospital with a stroke, but she finds a diary of his from the time and takes it with her to Israel. Her learning about the conflict then, with the Jews fighting against the British for independence, runs in parallel with learning about the present-day conflicts in the country, and the film draws on the similarities between the two. So far as the British authorities were concerned, the Jewish freedom fighters were terrorists; in the Israel in which she finds herself, that label is given to Palestinian fighters. Len gets into a relationship with a Jewish holocaust survivor but also becomes friends with an Arab family. Erin is introduced to the modern-day complexities by Eliza's peacenik brother and through him meets an Arab. There's an entertaining scene where she invites him back to the house and you'd need a chainsaw to cut the atmosphere; Eliza's parents are liberals, but this is a relative term in their world.
Having read in the diary that her grandfather has left unfinished business in the country, she sets out to find the people involved. This takes her into dangerous territory with heartbreaking results and her loyalties tested. Len experiences similar dilemmas as the conflict intensifies.
What moved me was the sheer humanity of the main two characters. Although a battle-hardened soldier, Len is sensitive and caring; you'd want him as a friend. Although she's had a much easier life, Erin displays similar qualities of courage and compassion when tested. Claire Foy and Christian Cooke give terrific performances as Erin and Len, and are well supported by the cast. Katharina Schuettler is impressive as Len's girlfriend Clara, and Luke Allen-Gale as Len's best mate, cheery cockney Jackie Clough. Perdita Weeks as Eliza also gives a good performance as a liberal Londoner whose attitudes harden as she becomes an Israeli soldier.
This is one of the most powerful dramas I've ever watched, but I wouldn't take anything in it as Gospel. It has, however, given me a desire to learn about the actual history and present-day situation in Israel.


Tamara  Drewe [DVD]
Tamara Drewe [DVD]
Dvd ~ Gemma Arterton
Price: 3.75

4.0 out of 5 stars A good laugh, 30 Oct 2012
This review is from: Tamara Drewe [DVD] (DVD)
Tamara Drewe [DVD]While the Dorset writers' retreat in the film is advertised as being "far from the madding crowd" and one of the guests is writing a book on Hardy, I didn't spot the glaringly obvious parallels between our heroine, Tamara, and Bathsheba in the Hardy novel - a woman with three admirers striving to be taken seriously et cetera. I was too busy laughing. Humour is a personal thing; I'm not on the same wavelength as the reviewer who said Hot Fuzz was funnier, but my daughter enjoyed this and she doesn't always share my sense of humour. Star of the show for me was Tamsin Greig, who I think is a great comedienne, as the long-suffering wife of a serial adulterer. The humour generated by Dominic Cooper as a spoilt-brat rock drummer and Jessica Barden as a trouble-causing 15-year-old was broad-brush but that was fine. The scenery is chocolate-box but the film didn't advertise itself as stark realism. It was a funny, escapist film, not a work of art worth watching more than once, but I didn't feel I'd wasted two hours.


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