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Andrew Morton "Andrew At The Croft" (Lockerbie Scotland)

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Charlie Chaplin - Modern Times [1936] [DVD]
Charlie Chaplin - Modern Times [1936] [DVD]
Dvd ~ Charles Chaplin
Offered by rbmbooks
Price: £42.72

5.0 out of 5 stars A Masterpiece, 2 Jan. 2011
I'm not a Charlie Chaplin fan. Never have been. This, though, is a masterpiece. Produced in 1934, when the Great Depression was in full swing, it mixes comedy with a sense of moral outrage in a winning and wholly accessible way. As we go through another recession it is a timely reminder that those who are out of work are not "scroungers" - often they are just plain desperate. This film consistently places the smug, secure middle-class lifestyle alongside the realities of life for the poor, and it does it with such humour, such lightness of tone, that you just keep wanting to watch. Brilliant.

Of course there is the issue that Paulette Goddard's "Gamin" is half Chaplin's age, and playing a juvenile, when they fall in love. On the other hand, my Granddad married a young woman less than half his age around about the same time. Maybe it was different then.

So - watch it and enjoy it on its own terms. It's subversive and glorious.

The Passion Of The Christ (2 Disc Director's Edition) [2004] [DVD]
The Passion Of The Christ (2 Disc Director's Edition) [2004] [DVD]
Dvd ~ James Caviezel
Price: £7.35

6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Only 1 Flaw - the Subtitles, 11 Dec. 2010
Let's say this upfront - I'm a bit squeamish. I've put off watching "The Passion" for about a year since I bought it. Having seen it I have to say it is one of the finest films I've seen in a very long time.
OK - I'm a practising Christian and the story means a lot to me; but leaving that aside, by any standard this is a tour de force of film-making. The cinematography is magnificent, the acting superb and the pacing spot-on. Hristo Shopov is an excellent Pilate and Jarreth Merz's portrayal of Simon of Cyrene is genuinely moving. Perhaps the only weakness is Christo Jivkov's John, who seems to be stunned a lot of the time.

The biggest applause,though, has to be for the direction. Mel Gibson took a big risk in having everything spoken in the original languages, but it works. It's just a shame there's no option on this DVD for "words only" subtitles, rather than "English for the hard of hearing". Subtitles like "Sentimental music playing" are, at least initially, distracting for those who can hear the music. This did not "ruin" my enjoyment of the film, but it irked me a little.

That, though, is a quibble. This film is beautifully shot, thoughtful, well-edited, well-acted and magnificently directed. Whether you are religious or not I urge you to watch this (but be aware there are some gory bits). It is a masterpiece.

The Devil's Delusion: Atheism and Its Scientific Pretensions
The Devil's Delusion: Atheism and Its Scientific Pretensions
by David Berlinski
Edition: Paperback
Price: £9.99

30 of 41 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Shade Too Pugilistic, 12 Nov. 2010
As a Christian and a Science Teacher I enjoyed this book. The style is forthright and eminently readable, though the tone can be a little too pugilistic for my taste in places and sometimes a little hectoring. Also, when Berlinski is on slightly weaker ground he does seem to compensate with the same kind of bluster he identifies in those whose writings he criticises.

That said, he makes a number of highly valid and important points. He is, of course, right in pointing out that Science is not purely logical, rational and detached - nor should we imagine that it is or could be; it is an activity carried out by human beings who are not purely logical, rational and detached. He is also right in taking to task the suggestion - implied, usually, rather than baldly stated - that we are a hairsbreadth away from a complete naturalistic scientific understanding of everything and in suggesting that a determination to forbid God from "getting a toe in the door" lies behind such hubris.

He makes some valid points about the evidence (or its lack) for the theory of evolution by natural selection - as against the bald fact of evolution. I disagree with him, but am aware that the elegance and simplicity of Darwin's theory are contributory factors in its acceptance (which I share). Where I strongly agree with Berlinski is that there should be no question of attempting to stifle debate on this issue or any other in Science. That there have been such attempts - for purely dogmatic reasons - is clear from the examples he provides; indeed I recall a few years ago Scientific American magazine campaigned for students from schools that taught Intelligent Design to have that held against them in their application for university places.

And that brings me to the nub of my concerns, concerns which Berlinski highlights. As a Science Teacher I have noted an increasing disenchantment with Science. Part of that disenchantment springs from a perception that Science is dogmatic and claims certainty where certainty is not possible. It is hard enough to get children interested in Science without people like Dawkins and Dennett suggesting that they have to hold a particular viewpoint on religion to do Science "properly". As a Christian and a Science Teacher I am clear that militant atheism has done neither religion nor Science any good - but that more harm has been done to Science. Berlinski explains why this is with great lucidity
Comment Comments (5) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Sep 29, 2014 8:17 PM BST

Doctor Who - Attack of the Cybermen [DVD] [1985]
Doctor Who - Attack of the Cybermen [DVD] [1985]
Dvd ~ Colin Baker
Offered by ____THE_BEST_ON_DVD____
Price: £5.99

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Much Better Than I Expected, 9 Nov. 2010
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
I sort of lost touch with Dr Who during the Peter Davidson years and the glimpses I got in later years didn't make me want to cancel all other engagements to watch. I was, therefore, surprised by how much I enjoyed this. OK, there are weaknesses, but let's deal with the strengths first. Colin Baker's Doctor - love him or loathe him - is a full blooded performance. This is a Doctor with character flaws and unsettling edges - let's call that personality. The costume is mince, but the character is fine. The plotting is good and the Cryons are an interesting creation - one wonders how they evolved on a planet like Telos, but there you go. I liked the ambiguity of Lytton - his repeated apparent shifts of allegiance were nicely done.

On the downside "Attack" was broadcast when the BBC were experimenting with stories with 2 episodes of 45 minutes. This didn't really work as the overall pacing did not change from the previous 25 minute episode structure. We are therefore left with 2 fewer cliffhangers than this pacing would require. Additionally there are some desperately clunky lines and unfortunately the last line is one of them. Some have said that this is a "continuity heavy" story. It probably is, but I don't think that's a real problem.

I've mentioned the Doctor's costume; I also find myself wondering who thought that putting Nicola Bryant in a tight-fitting, low-cut top and shorts would be appropriate for an action adventure. Whoever it was has my gratitude

Doctor Who - Planet of Evil [DVD] [1975]
Doctor Who - Planet of Evil [DVD] [1975]
Dvd ~ Tom Baker
Price: £6.70

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Thoroughly Enjoyable, 8 Nov. 2010
When I was a teenager I sort of fell in love (is that the right noun?) with Elisabeth Sladen as Sarah Jane Smith. This may mean that my reviews of this period of Dr Who may be a little biased. I do think, though, that the Hinchcliffe period was one of the show's strongest and this story doesn't disappoint.

The story is a rather weird conflation of "Jekyll and Hyde" and "Forbidden Planet" that doesn't really address the core idea of either. That sounds like it shouldn't work, but it does because the two precursors are simply influences on what has become a new and original tale. The script is taut and the characters are well-drawn and sub-plots like the antipathy between Salamar and Veshinsky, are allowed to play out believably.

Tom Baker is beginning to get into his stride as the Doctor. He is still evidently more comfortable when the character is in "dynamic" mode, but he is still a joy to watch. Elisabeth Sladen is well-established in her role and she delivers a confident performance that I could watch again and again. Frederick Jaeger and Ewen Solon were, at this time, established actors and their performances do not disappoint. Neither does that of Prentis Hancock.

Special mention should be made of the set design, which is top-notch, and the "monster".

Why not 5 stars? Only two real weaknesses. Firstly it was probably a mistake to make the "parallel universe" one of antimatter. Too much is widely known about antimatter to make the idea of being "infected" by it entirely believable. Secondly, there should have been a better way of presenting the "infected" Sorensen than going caveman. These are minor points, though. Enjoy.

Cloverfield [DVD]
Cloverfield [DVD]
Dvd ~ Lizzy Caplan
Offered by best_value_entertainment
Price: £1.37

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A Decent Enough Ride But..., 6 Nov. 2010
This review is from: Cloverfield [DVD] (DVD)
On the whole I enjoyed Cloverfield. It is a well-made thriller in that the pacing is good, the creatures that invade Manhattan are well-enough realised to avoid giggles, the acting is pretty good. Killing apparently central characters helps to keep the threat level up and the telling of the story from the point of view of a camcorder gives the action an immediacy that keeps the focus of the film, and its audience, on the adventure.

That said, the use of camcorder in this way results in the film's major weaknesses. Firstly, the set-up before disaster strikes is way too long because all the strands of the characters' back-story have to be delivered from a single perspective. Secondly, one can't avoid the niggle at the back of one's head that when you are running for your life you might unburden yourself of a camcorder. This is a particular concern toward the end when the camcorder wielding Hud is killed by the creature and, despite the shock and terror, Rob remembers to retrieve the camcorder before running for safety. Thirdly I would have liked to know what these creatures actually were - this method of storytelling prevents that.

I picked up Cloverfield for £3 at Tesco. I can't say it wasn't worth the money. I was entertained. If I had paid £15 for it I would probably be rather disappointed.

Doctor Who - The Aztecs [1964] [DVD] [1963]
Doctor Who - The Aztecs [1964] [DVD] [1963]
Dvd ~ William Hartnell
Offered by best_value_entertainment
Price: £9.22

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Proper Classic, 19 Oct. 2010
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
For the first season or so Doctor Who stories alternated between "historical" and "futuristic" settings. The historical stories were generally more expensive to make and garnered smaller audiences and eventually faded out. On the basis of "The Aztecs" this is a real shame. This is a proper classic of 60s television and it deserves and rewards rewatching.

Special mention must be made of John Lucarotti's script, which is taut and deftly avoids the kind of histrionics that a story involving human sacrifice could all too easily fall prey to. Aztec society is presented sympathetically despite its bloodthirsty side and quite complex themes of cultural paradox play out in a realistic way. This is a genuine achievement.

The performances of the cast are also of a high calibre. Hartnell's Doctor could be abrasive - a quality seen on display when he berates Barbara for her meddling with history - but here we see a sensitive side in his dealings with Cameca. The relationship between them is beautifully portrayed. Jacqueline Hill and William Russell turn in solid performances; the dialogue between them when Chesterton brings home to her that she is not only taking on the priest of sacrifice, but a whole culture is a genuine delight. Special mention should be made of John Ringham's performance as Tlotoxl. He brings to life a rounded character that could all too easily have been a two-dimensional scenery-chewing caricature.

Yes there are failings - the visible edge of a cyclorama here, a broken prop there - but these are the failings of television of the time, and it is unreasonable to hold them against what is an excellent entry in the Who cataogue

I Shall Wear Midnight: (Discworld Novel 38) (Discworld Novels)
I Shall Wear Midnight: (Discworld Novel 38) (Discworld Novels)
by Terry Pratchett
Edition: Hardcover

6 of 9 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Very Good In Many Ways, But....Not His Best, 17 Oct. 2010
I'm a great fan of Terry Pratchett's work and have bought them as soon as they came out since "Sourcery", I think. Some of them I would give 6 stars out of 5. Some, inevitably, are weaker. I fear this falls into the latter category.

Part of the problem is the central character. Maybe it's because, as a teacher, I work with teenage girls all day that I just don't find Tiffany Aching to be convincing. It's telling that every so often the author feels that he has to remind us that she is only 16 as if he too is aware that her behaviour and sense of self-awareness don't quite match up with her age. Part of the problem is, I think, that Pratchett invests quite a lot of himself in his central characters - or perhaps the self he'd like to be - particularly those characters that bear substantial moral authority With Samuel Vimes and Granny Weatherwax this works like a dream. With Tiffany Aching? I'm not so sure.

All that said there is much that is enjoyable in the book. As always Pratchett fills the novel with memorable characters that bound into life on the page. From the Duchess you just know is going to get her come-uppance, to the Old Baron, to Preston with his huge vocabulary, to Eskarina sent slightly ditsy by time travel - you just can't avoid getting a clear picture of these people in your head. Nobody has done this sort of things as well as this since Dickens. The Mac Nac Feegle are always fun and you just can't go wrong with Nanny Ogg.

The Cunning Man is an interesting idea - though it's the kind of thing Pratchett has worked with before. As always with his novels, this one has a strong moral spine and reflects the author's beliefs about humanity and about right and wrong. As a Christian I find it interesting that this Humanist writer so often writes about Satan.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jun 10, 2011 1:39 PM BST

I Am Legend [DVD] [2007]
I Am Legend [DVD] [2007]
Dvd ~ Will Smith
Offered by SweetBuzzards
Price: £2.62

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars One Day They'll Make The Original Story, 25 Sept. 2010
This review is from: I Am Legend [DVD] [2007] (DVD)
There's much that is good to be said about this film. Will Smith's performance is top-knotch. The photography its direction are excellent; they way that the outdoor images constantly remind us of the time of day - an important aspect of this story - maintains the tension the film requires. The script captures well the effect of isolation and sense of guilt on the central character, Robert Neville. I loved the relationship between Neville and his dog, Sam. For all these things I'm awarding this film 3 stars for being a superior entry in the "small group surviving among a population of monsters" genre. Compare it with, say, "Resident Evil".

The film would have picked up the remaining stars, though, if it had remained true to Richard Matheson's novella. In the book infected humanity are not raging monsters. They are more akin to vampires. The virus has been in action for much longer than three years and infected humans have started to breed. They are intelligent, rational and form family units. The title "I Am Legend" comes from the central character's realisation that, coming in the "night" and killing and taking family members he has become the "monster". There were frustrating hints that the film was going to go that way when the infected man (the captured woman's husband) comes screaming into the daylight and when Neville is trapped by a snare. Too bad they bottled out and took the "Omega Man" route.

Doctor Who - The Claws of Axos [DVD][1971]
Doctor Who - The Claws of Axos [DVD][1971]
Dvd ~ Jon Pertwee
Price: £5.23

4.0 out of 5 stars A really Good Pertwee-Era Story, 23 Sept. 2010
I vaguely remember "Claws Of Axos" from its original screening and recall enjoying it. I enjoyed it again on DVD. Very much. In this outing Pertwee is at his magisterial best; his characterisation of The Doctor - always more acerbic and abrasive than Troughton, hs predecessor, and Baker, his successor - is particularly well drawn. Constantly chafing against the military and against bureaucracy, The Doctor has plenty of both to get on his wick in this outing.
Bureaucracy takes the form of Chinn, a civil service mandarin, whose greed and unquestioning nationalism almost bring the world to destruction. A different kind of greed - for scientific prestige - inspires others who welcome a gift of "axonite" from extraterrestrial visitors.
In support, Nicholas Courteney turns in a polished performance as the Brigadier and Roger Delgado reminds us why he remains, for a generation, the Master of choice. Katy Manning still can't act, but her skirts are pleasingly short.
Direction is good and the pacing keeps one glued to the seat. "Monster" costumes are, well, Dr Who monster costumes; but they are some of the better ones and they eschew bubble-wrap. The script contains some good ideas - especially that of the Axons, their "ship" and axonite all being part of the same organism.
I would quite happily give this 5 stars if the bonus material was a bit better. The short documentary explaining the conversion of recordings from PAL to NSTC and back was interesting, but rather fell between the two stools of technical language and layman's terms.

Altogether, though, well worth having.

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