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filthmonkey (UK)

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Everything Is Illuminated [DVD] [2005]
Everything Is Illuminated [DVD] [2005]
Dvd ~ Elijah Wood
Offered by westworld-
Price: £20.00

3 of 15 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Pretentious cliche fest, 3 Jan. 2009
This film suffers from every cliche under the sun. The straight-laced protagonist who thaws emotionally in the end but whose cartoonishly oversized glasses hint at vulnerability, the insecure but worldly-wise and endearing grandfather figure we see in every other film, and the infuriatingly well-intentioned youth whose good will prevails over immaturity. None of these characters is developed, merely drawn in as the trustworthy caricatures the film's creators must have hoped will get them through. Judging from the generally positive reviews here and elsewhere, it's mission accomplished. But trust me, you've seen it all before and done better.
But there are two particularly unwatchable elements: the first of these is the use of cliches as surrogates for emotion. The main character, Jonathan, "endearingly" collects souvenirs throughout the story, as though to make him see more human against the background of Elijah Wood's feeble performance. (There is literally a scene in which he cannot peer into the far distance convincingly.) It turns out, in the end, that some other characters do the same - and reach back from the tragic past to deliver various trinkets in a profounder-that-profound tribute to the power of memory. It's nauseating stuff, particularly when the drama of it all is forced down your throat through the exhausting repetition of long, dramatic shots of people looking at each other wistfully through moist eyes.
Secondly, the Jewish holocaust is hijacked. I'm not objecting here to the idea of its mention per se, or that its tragedy is paid insufficient homage. Rather, the problem is that the film lacks any emotional gravitas whatsoever and sets the plot, therefore, against the backdrop of Holocaust history - what could be more emotive than that, right? It's a cheap trick and it doesn't cover up that one is seeing is a hollow and pretentious production calling on every aesthetic it can to seem meaningful, poignant and deep as camouflage for the fact it just isn't. The Holocaust here is make-up. It's a terrible ploy.
Indubitably the book is better; few things could be worse than this pile of pretentious, underaching, self-involved twaddle. Of all the characters, by far the most captivating is a deranged dog whose involvement is peripheral at best. From the film's conception to its finish, somewhere along the line it suffered at the hands of emotional cripples, and probably cynical ones at that. Stay well clear of this. Little Miss Sunshine tries the same thing, but actually succeeds - try that instead.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Dec 9, 2012 2:04 PM GMT


Sony DVD Minus (16X Speed) 50 spindle
Sony DVD Minus (16X Speed) 50 spindle
Offered by Stuff-UK
Price: £14.49

5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Very fragile DVDs!!! BEWARE!!!!, 7 Aug. 2008
I have used many different brands of DVD-Rs over the years and none have been as flimsy as these! Basically, the slightest tiny scuff can wreck the whole thing. To give you an idea, the disks come on a spindle, resting one on top of the other. If you store them that way, the fact that they rotate on the spindle can mean that the data side of one disk can become sufficiently scratched - merely by rubbing against the next disk's embossed writing on the title side - that it means you lose data. I think they must use some very cheap plastic coating on the back of these things. By contrast, I've had no other disks give these problems. For example, I've put Emtec disks through a lot worse (took them on holiday to New Zealand on a spool) and they were fine. Even when scratched a lot worse than the Sony ones. Stay away. Get a different brand.


In God We Doubt: Confessions of a Failed Atheist
In God We Doubt: Confessions of a Failed Atheist
by John Humphrys
Edition: Hardcover

45 of 51 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Odd mixture, but very careless., 10 Sept. 2007
The first thing to note is that this book does not deserve to be judged as a thesis or a manifesto. Humphrys is a self-professed agnostic, but that does not mean he argues in favour of that position.

Humphrys career as a famous public broadcaster gives him some interesting material for this book: unique interview material from his BBC Radio 4's series "Humphrys in Search of God" with leading religious figures, and a host of letters responding to the broadcasts of these interviews.

Humphrys describes himself as a "failed" atheist, but successfully manages to persuade the reader from early on that he has a keen eye for spurious religious arguments (including those offered by such illustrious people as Rowan Williams, Jonathan Sacks or Tariq Ramadan). The first part of the book is a romp through the case for belief in God, and goes pretty well. The light, almost conversational style serve well - the book is actually a fairly quick read (I read it in one day).

Where he thinks it is appropriate Humphrys shows his dislike of "militant" atheism, and singles out Richard Dawkins for it. Actually, his criticism is well made and deserved. Though Humphrys does not make a meal out of this.

The second part of the book (roughly) deals with belief in god, what it is, how atheists explain it (though Humphrys prefers to consider only naturalistic explanations from evolution, rather than anything from, say, psychology - which is a disappointing limitation to discover).

Finally, although he recognises the dangers of religion in its institutionalised and radical forms, and even though he denies such things as the divinity of Jesus or the authority of scripture, Humphrys does assert three key things that prevent the triumph of atheism:

1. Ethics. It is plain that we have instincts which evolutionists regard as having come from the preservation-of-self and preservation-of-genes instincts, but at times these conflict and what we choose to do is chosen by "something else".

2. Harm. Religion is obviously harmful at times, but also extremely comforting, and it does well to make sense of love that people enjoy, which is quite removed from what evolutionists enjoy talking about.

3. Atheism did not prevent, but was responsible for the greatest evils of history (he mentions Stalin and Mao).

I'll just briefly comment on the last of these points: Stalin and Mao used a perverted quasi-religious ideology for their own ends. Marxism alone does many of the things that religion does: it has its "scriptures", its narratives, its interpretation of history, its moral imperatives, injunctions and prohibitions, its ideologue(s) and its sense of eschatology (the sense of how things will turn out in the end). When Stalin replaced the head of the orthodox church, the Tsar, he effectively replaced the nations tyrant and godhead at the same time. People were used to being oppressed by esoteric doctrines, were used to worshipping a man-god and so on... all of these, and the required credulity, were provided by a prior religious climate.

To return to Humphrys book: there is one thing that really disappoints about it. Its sourcing of information. For the dozens of quotes given, there is not a single citation or reference. We read "Dawkins wrote..." but no book title, year or anything are given. There is no index, no footnotes, no references at the back. This is very lazy. What is even worse though, is that on several occassions he mistakenly gets the name of atheist Sam Harris wrong. He writes it "Sam Smith". Not just once but on several occasions. It's definitely Harris though, since he refers to him specifically as the author of "Letter to a Christian Nation". As though this wasn't bad enough, he does it again in the case of the Polish woman Irena Sendlerowa (aka Sendler), whose name he writes "Sendlerova" (with a v, not a w). Surely Humphrys would know to be careful; his name has been written in innumerable incorrect permutations (Humphries, Humphreys...).

The end of the book summarises Humphrys' reluctance to give up on the idea of God, but he acknowledges that "atheists have the best arguments". So instead he presents God not as an intellectual concept, but an emotional one which is merely useful in getting through life.

But that is a simplistic view which is not sufficiently developed and over-romanticised by far in the book. It raises imporatant questions about the morality of believing something that is false, and that comfort does not confer truth content.

Throughout the book Humphrys says he would like to believe in God, but it is not well explained as to why he wishes this to be the case.

All in all, the first part is very worth reading for some original content and some great debates with major religious figures (e.g. on the problem of evil) and Humphrys gets into full stride with his scepticism. In the second half, we see an attenuated resistance to some nebulous idea of God, which Humphrys is sort of willing to embrace. But we don't know why, or what it is, other than that it has something to do with vague notions of love and beauty.
Comment Comments (4) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Sep 23, 2009 9:56 AM BST


Apocalypto [DVD] (2006)
Apocalypto [DVD] (2006)
Dvd ~ Rudy Youngblood
Offered by A ENTERTAINMENT
Price: £2.69

19 of 74 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Absolutely terrible., 22 Jun. 2007
This review is from: Apocalypto [DVD] (2006) (DVD)
Seldom does a book or film deserve as low a score as 1/5. But I've found no better candidate for that dishonour than Apocalypto.

Mel Gibson's latest offering, is in actual fact as dedicated (if not more so) to senseless and uninformed violence, predictability and aversion to plot as was The Passion of The Christ, but with the excuse of tradition missing.

The first 20 minutes of the film revolve entirely a joke about male genitalia, impotence and animal testicles. The character on whom the focus of this falls turns out, soon afterwards to have been completely secondary to the main thrust of the film. What on earth is the point of that? At times I wondered how embarrassed the film's creators must be feeling each time they consider the paucity of the movie's content. It's so bad it hurts.

That is not to say that the entire film has no good points. The portray of ancient Mayan civilisation is, at least to the amateur like me, convincing and atmospheric. The use of the original language (the film is subtitled throughout) is, again, something Gibson continued from The Passion of the Christ, and, as it happens, it works relatively well in both films.

Otherwise Apocalypto really has nothing else to offer. It is simply 2 hours of pure violence: fighting, rape, pillaging, distress, human sacrifice - it virtually never even pauses. Nor does the concomitant flow of blood. Everyone is continuously being bludgeoned, knifed, or subjected to the ritualistic removal of internal organs. This last act is the left to high priests who kill the enslaved protagonists fellows to satisfy their god. (How, by the way, Gibson draws religious faith from the gore of Christ's story but happily portrays the senseless blood loss in Mayan culture as manifestly primitive, without realising the irony he's displaying for the world is quite a mystery).

I watched this film with a friend. Tiring as it was proving, I took a 15 minute break in the middle (my friend continued suffering with it). When I returned and asked what I missed, there really wasn't much to report. I missed simply 15 minutes of bloodshed, destruction, mutilation and rape. That's all.

I would love to be able to spoil the plot of this film for those that haven't seen it, so as to put you off from considering it. But I can't even do that; there literally is no plot to spoil.

I truly believe this is the worst film I have seen all year. It could have been so much more engaging. Gibson took all the potential the idea had and bled it dry. Even the tag line is an infuriating and submental tautology: "No one can outrun their destiny." If you consider yourself to have any say in your destiny at all, I would recommend missing Apocalypto all together as a sensible part of that plan.
Comment Comments (5) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Oct 1, 2014 9:41 PM BST


The Matador [DVD]
The Matador [DVD]
Dvd ~ Pierce Brosnan
Offered by A ENTERTAINMENT
Price: £5.36

4 of 11 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Utterly average., 21 April 2007
This review is from: The Matador [DVD] (DVD)
The worlds of two men, a salesman (Kinnear) and an assassin (Brosnan), collide to create an unlikely relationship affording the latter an opportunity to explore his own character by confronting the lonely and heartless existence he's carved out for himself, and to form a friendship, possibly for the first time in his life. The film conjures memories of those wonderful 1980s comedies with John Candy and Tom Hanks - only here the jokes are scarcely funny and the sentimental moments (which you forgive in the outdated 1980s films) are misplaced and overplayed. The chance for some clever angles on the characters' interaction is spurned: it is obvious at some points that they feed off one another in mutual admiration, but nothing ever comes of it, and the salesman's wife never develops into the complication the film yearns for. Kinnear is distinctly average, playing... well... Greg Kinnear, whilst Brosnan utterly fails to sell his character as convincing. Yes, he plays the slimy repressed and crude individual, but you never quite believe it, and not because Brosnan played James Bond, but because The Matador at once wants to ride on that previous image of Brosnan as Bond (Bond and hitmen have not a little in common) but at the same time move away from it by having a much more greasy, neurotic killer in his stead. In the end it gets caught in limbo, a fault, ultimately, of casting. Furthermore, even the hitman scenes are either stereotyped or plain and uninspired.

This was never supposed to be an action-adventure, it isn't funny enough to qualify for comedy status, there is virtually no mystery about the plot, the actors are at best mediocre as is the direction, and the character development is a missed opportunity.

If you're fairly bored and haven't anything else to do, then yeah, ok, this film might be alright for a couple of hours. Otherwise, I'd probably give it a miss. I certainly won't watch it again in a hurry. For a superior film in the same genre, try The Whole Nine Yards.


Casino Royale (2 Disc Collector's Edition) [2006] [DVD]
Casino Royale (2 Disc Collector's Edition) [2006] [DVD]
Dvd ~ Daniel Craig
Offered by 247dvd
Price: £2.99

1 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Probably the best Bond film yet., 16 April 2007
This film marks a very welcome departure from the past Bond movies. It is manifestly slicker in its direction, introducting a slower paced plot, dropping the desperate reliance on gimmicky badies (think Jaws with his metal teeth or little men with razor-sharp flying hats - none of that here) and with an arch enemy who is merely mortal, not some psychopathic cyborg evil demigod. The camera work is a creative mixture. Action scences have a fresh cut look, keeping, as you would expect of a Bond film, apace of the action movie front. There are still fancy guns, fancy cars and fancy gadgets. And, of course, the customary Bondgirl (Eva Green).

But this film has the human touch, particularly for Bond who Daniel Craig plays brilliantly as a more tortured soul (and body!... yes... there is a torture scene). He is affected by emotion: confusion, anger, love and revenge. He is vulnerable and mortal, facts that are underlined with frequency, shedding a new light on a favourite character - how refreshing!

The film is not flawless. Bond fans will demand gadgets, action and James to get his end away with all the dependability previous films have us expecting. And these things ARE all here, but travelling a slightly different curve. The film acquires a lovely sophistication to adorn the Bond genre - which saves it from stagnation - but there are some drawbacks. The film is longer than expected, maybe slightly too long. And the mid-section of the film concentrates on a poker game between Bond and his nemesis, affording scant opportunity for action, which is in relatively short supply. The plot twists are, perhaps, too obvious and somehow do not hold enough gravitas - not enough impact is made to the flow of events by them. In addition, Judi Dench puts in a lacklustre performance, her character M. interrupting with obvious commentary for an otherwise enjoyable plot, and with all the wooden wisdom she's never been able to shed in previous Bond films either. As characters go, Q is missing altogether, though Felix Lighter returns - an interesting cameo at a crucial point for Bond's campaign.

If it hadn't been for this film, one might well think the Bond genre would become stale and predictable with only newer gadgets as icing on an otherwise tried and tested formula spy adventure. But the appointment of Craig to the role is inspired, the focus on his character and its weaknesses, and the move away from the cheesier components serve to redeem Bond altogether. There is room for improvement, also. The script is not sharp enough. The flirtatious and smug Bond requires work, but this is a relatively small complaint.

Amongst action films, it gets 4 starts from me. But in comparison to other Bond films, it is a definite 5. Well worth a look if you're in the market for some exciting and re-invigorated action-adventure.


Against All Gods: Six Polemics on Religion and an Essay on Kindness (Oberon Masters)
Against All Gods: Six Polemics on Religion and an Essay on Kindness (Oberon Masters)
by A. C. Grayling
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £9.98

45 of 141 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Very poor - all assertion and no argument, 7 April 2007
Doubtless, fanatical atheists will in time come to review this book on Amazon and hail it for extolling the truth: that there is no God and that to live as though there were is not only to delude yourself but outight dangerous, possibly even immoral.

However, it is virtually impossible - and I grant you, it is a VERY short book - to find a single argument within these pages. It's more of an atheist's outburst really. Grayling, I'm led to believe an otherwise respectable philosopher, is here incontinently assertive, without a shred of research or argument to back any of it up. Despite the different chapter headings (or "essays") and therefore, presumably, intended topics, Grayling invariably returns to pounding on the open door of "religion has done lots of bad things". Yes. Lots of things. Agreed. Though it has done many a good thing also (read Ward's eloquent study "Is Religion Dangerous" for a proper discussion). And for some strange reason, Grayling appears to have a fixation with comparing the suffering of Jesus during the crucifixion to that of childbirth! Or, the suffering of Jesus to other historical figures. On this basis (and I must have missed a beat or something) he asks why it is that Jesus is worshipped, when others have suffered so much more? (Though I'm not aware of any Christians who assert their belief in Christ on sheer tonnage of pain he endured). Grayling expresses his loathing for the practice of religious groups seeking government endorsement. One would feel that the topic has the makings of a political discussion, but alas the thread is lost and we're back to you know what again! In short, I can't see what this book is for. The essays are too short, ill thought out and angry to allow for a proper discussion. It's even a hardback - making the whole thing more expensive, presumably. Most of Grayling's remarks are equivalent to those he made about religion in his book "The Meaning of Things", where at least other chapters had a lower quotient of jejune remarks. It's as though Grayling sees red when religion comes up, and all reason is lost. The final "essay" of Against All Gods promotes Humanism. At least there Grayling is a little calmer.

If you would like to read about atheism, there are far better polemics than this one. Try Daniel Dennet's "Breaking the Spell", Richard Dawkins' "The God Delusion" or Sam Harris' "The End of Faith", though MUCH MUCH better than those, go for Feuerbach or even Bertrand Russell's "Why I am Not A Christian".
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: May 21, 2012 11:22 AM BST


THX 1138 - The Director's Cut [DVD] [1971]
THX 1138 - The Director's Cut [DVD] [1971]
Dvd ~ Robert Duvall
Offered by Jasuli
Price: £14.95

5 of 7 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars It's ok, 16 Jan. 2007
THX 1138, George Lucas' directoral debut, counts as one of the innumerable quasi-alternative cautionary tales about the imprisonment of man's love and freedom in a fictional dystopia. It's message is clear, idealistic and political. The protagonist, numbered not named, lives inside the belly of an antisceptic dictatorship where confession, sedation and mechanical work are encouraged, whilst the virtues of love and creativity are actively suppressed, not least by faceless automated law enforcers. Can he break free?

The film is a near-minimalist portrayal of technology's steely (and bleepy) grip on the human soul - it's a real struggle of flesh against metal, of soul against transistor (or vacuum tube?). Despite its authentic 1970s style, where computers still filled rooms and all-knowing hi-tec surveillence traced its subjects on analogue displays, the film has aged relatively well. However, a film these days adapting the same monolithic depiction of a prison-society could easily be seen as trying too hard; our fears may not have changed, but their slippage into our lives seems to demand the realisation of a far more fluid force - a concept out of reach for Lucas 40 years ago. So for that you'll have to compensate when watching.

Duval's performance never rises above adequate, but neither is it asked to. And of course the tyranny against which his character strains must, in the end, be self-defeating.

THX 1138 finds itself in the stellar company of Brave New World and Nineteen Eighty-Four as far as its message is concerned, but it never impresses quite as much nor does it offer anything new.

No surprises in this film, no scintillating performances or original ideas. It is tolerable for the 80+ minutes it lasts. Although alternative-loving film buffs will no doubt delight in this piece of vintage cinema, its slow-paced understated sense of adventure and the fact its old-Lucas, old-Duval, etc.


Is Religion Dangerous?
Is Religion Dangerous?
by Keith Ward
Edition: Paperback

25 of 26 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Well worth reading, 25 Dec. 2006
This review is from: Is Religion Dangerous? (Paperback)
Keith Ward is a relatively accessible writer, knowledgable and well worth reading. His style of writing leaves something to be desired, but that's only a minor point. In this book Ward explores the defence of religion before the criticism it has endured in recent years by the anti-theists who seek to prove it as dangerous.

This is a short book written to set some relatively straight forward but forgotten or misinterpreted facts in their right place. In light of the fashionable debate between atheists and religous figures about the danger of religious belief (refer to Sam Harris or Richard Dawkins for the atheist perspective), this is a very welcome sober contribution. Religion is not so easy to reduce to the status of a dangerous superstition, it turns out.

Framed simply, how is religion dangerous? If your first answer harks back to the Crusades, there's something in this book for you for sure. Though the value of Ward's work here shines through beyond that.

Having recently heard Ward speak on his promotional tour, I found out that he is an open and smart man. He speaks and writes clearly for the masses, which is valuable in itself, regardless of his conclusions, which incidentally aren't too far off the mark.

If you've been seduced by Bertrand Russell, Sam Harris, Richard Dawkins or Daniel Dennet, give this a go. It won't cost you much, and it will certainly give you an alternative perspective. This is a defence of religion without asking you to convert. It is therefore a smart, ballsy and much needed addition to the ongoing theist - anti-theist debate.


Why Read Marx Today?
Why Read Marx Today?
by Jonathan Wolff
Edition: Paperback
Price: £9.98

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant summary, 25 Dec. 2006
This review is from: Why Read Marx Today? (Paperback)
Wolff provides a masterful summary of Marxist thought in this short and to the point book. The Marxist take on religion, politics and economics are all well handled, and the book ends with Wolff expressing succinctly his own view of Marxist thought. The book begins with biographical facts about Marx, his early thought, his relationship with Engels, the First International, his view of religion, his criticism of capitalism, and his proposals for a communist society that might replace it.

The book itself is a short and accessible paperback written in an easy style. Fuller puts Marx in context well without getting too involved or detailed. This book is a brilliant introduction. Recommended highly.


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