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Dominic Swayne (London)

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The Venetian Venture
The Venetian Venture
Price: 7.59

5.0 out of 5 stars Death in Venice, 11 Jun 2014
While Hill's previous novel was a whodunit, her latest offering ventures into thriller territory. It is a story of a quest. The particular Holy Grail plucky and adventurous Rosy Gilchrist (the heroine of A Little Murder) goes in search of is 'Bodger's Horace', a unique translation of Horace's Odes which her British Museum boss, Dr Stanley, has asked her to find. It is one out of only three and it is located in Venice; it is especially important because it has Bodger's signature and a dedication in his own hand. ('That'll put a feather in our cap...and more to the point, some shekels in the coffers.') But Rosy's Venetian venture is riven with great danger and indeed death. By its conclusion there are three corpses, at least one of which is disposed of in a startlingly unorthodox manner...

Like its predecessor, the novel is laced with lavish splashings of urbane drollery, sophisticated wit and period atmosphere: it is1954 and we hear about Eisenhower's war record, Mr Churchill's likely successor and Brigitte Bardot's pout. Venice is charming but also very sinister. (At one point a character refers to Thomas Mann's famous novella whose title Hill could easily have adopted for her own book.) If Dorothy L. Sayers' Busman's Honeymoon was a 'love story with detective interruptions', Suzette A.Hill's ingenious tale could be dubbed a 'comedy of manners with detective interruptions'. There is crime but we never see the police in action. The protagonists are a group of eccentric amateurs (society florist Felix, interchangeable twins Dilly and Duffy and of course Rosy.)

The dialogue and general verbal invention are, as one has come to expect of Hill, a delight -- a blend of E.F.Benson, P.G.Wodehouse and Noel Coward. We get ice-cream varieties with names like Chocolate Mussolini and Vanilla Fascista. Rosy dreams of 'the benison of the bed'. A valuable Murano vase without the Bodger Horace is 'like a vintage wine without a corkscrew: useless.' A smart lady's younger escort advises her to 'sleep with the bugger or something' (in order to get the Murano), to which she replies, 'It'll have to be "or something" -- I don't think he's up to the other."

Hill remains unaffected by fashion and her latest novel is an absolute must for all discerning aficionados of the currently overcrowded detective story genre; it will have a special appeal to those readers who continue to mourn the passing of its Golden Age and hanker nostalgically after the vanished world of gondolas gliding serenely past decaying palazzos and drinks at Harry's Bar.

Mr Jones [DVD]
Mr Jones [DVD]
Dvd ~ Jon Foster
Price: 5.00

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Hand-held horrors, 22 May 2014
This review is from: Mr Jones [DVD] (DVD)
The film has a curious starting idea -- a young couple become obsessed with a reclusive artist, the Mr Jones of the title, who lives in the forest and specialises in spooky scarecrow-like sculptures and they try to make a documentary about him (by means of hand-held cameras, naturally). However, after an intriguing five or ten minutes the film becomes so muddled, so unbearably tedious, as to be unwatchable. One wonders if the script-writers were high on something when they put their story together as a lot of it makes very little sense. There are elements that bring to mind The Blair-Witch Project and Jeepers-Creepers but it would be an insult to either of these excellent horror films to start comparing Mr Jones to them.

The Master [DVD]
The Master [DVD]
Dvd ~ Philip Seymour Hoffman
Offered by MusicnMedia
Price: 4.80

2.0 out of 5 stars strange religions, 11 May 2014
This review is from: The Master [DVD] (DVD)
Magnificently shot, expertly acted, the post-war period lovingly recreated -- yet entirely uninvolving. The two main characters -- the Master and his unlikely new acolyte -- remain undeveloped and unconvincing. There is no plot to speak of. Starts intriguingly but then becomes all too tedious. I feel disappointed as I expected much more.

Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones [DVD]
Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones [DVD]
Dvd ~ Andrew Jacobs
Price: 9.99

2 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Unsettling, 5 May 2014
Why does this work, for the most part at least, given that it is 5th in the PA franchise? Mainly because the characters are so likeable and you find yourself caring about what happens to them. The young actors are excellent, especially the two friends. The Hispanic setting is also extremely well done. The possession itself is predictable and cliched, yet the shocks keep coming and you find yourself watching on. The final nightmare in the hacienda with the innumerable rooms is quite scary. The film bears some resemblance to Chronicle -- in both films a teenage protagonist acquires super-powers, which he enjoys, not realising that is only the prelude to his gradual destruction.

Elysium [Blu-ray] [2013]
Elysium [Blu-ray] [2013]
Dvd ~ Matt Damon
Price: 8.50

0 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Equality for all?, 21 April 2014
This review is from: Elysium [Blu-ray] [2013] (Blu-ray)
It doesn't matter that the film is 'derivative', as some Amazon reviewer pointed out -- it manages to be at once suspenseful and exciting, imaginative and thought-provoking; most importantly, it holds the attention from start to finish. Beautifully designed and expertly shot, with several remarkable set-pieces. Matt Damon is the hero and Sharito Copley is the mad, bad and dangerous to know villain -- both excellent. (The latter's pronounced South-African accent contributes to the general uber-nastiness of the character he plays -- so, for that matter, does the name he has been given - Kruger!)

Blue Jasmine [DVD] [2013]
Blue Jasmine [DVD] [2013]
Dvd ~ Cate Blanchett
Price: 10.00

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Tragi-comic?, 19 April 2014
This review is from: Blue Jasmine [DVD] [2013] (DVD)
The story seems to be inspired by Tennessee Williams' Streetcar Named Desire, or should be taken as a kind of homage to it, though Jasmine is no Blanche Dubois. She is simply not particularly interesting as a character. Cate Blanchet is a wonderful actress, however I don't think she quite deserves an Oscar for this particular role. We were led to believe the film is exceptional, but it isn't. Even though Jasmine is not a particularly sympathetic character, one is surprised at the relentless awfulness of her fate which Woody Allen has chosen for her. Her descent into madness, whose main symptom is talking to herself, is forced, unconvincing and, ultimately, annoying. None of the secondary characters is in any way memorable either.

The Purge [DVD] [2013]
The Purge [DVD] [2013]
Dvd ~ Lena Headey
Price: 5.00

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Night of horrors, 16 April 2014
This review is from: The Purge [DVD] [2013] (DVD)
This is excellent: manages to be at once tense and suspenseful, terrifying and thought-provoking. Made me feel very sad at the end.

The Conjuring [DVD] [2013]
The Conjuring [DVD] [2013]
Dvd ~ Vera Farmiga
Offered by Discs4all
Price: 5.87

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Deja-vu dreariness, 15 April 2014
This review is from: The Conjuring [DVD] [2013] (DVD)
I expected much more, mainly thanks to the film's effective promotional campaign that must have cost a pretty penny and started months before the film opened, but was bitterly disappointed. If you have seen other films about demonic possession and visiting exorcists -- and heaven knows, there have been quite a few -- you will be completely, but completely unimpressed. The Conjuring is little more than a yawn-causing bundle of cheap, tired cliches, wearily protracted. For true originality and genuine spookiness, The Others still remains unrivalled.

Now You See Me [DVD]
Now You See Me [DVD]
Dvd ~ Jesse Eisenberg
Price: 5.00

4.0 out of 5 stars Revenge by Magic, 14 April 2014
This review is from: Now You See Me [DVD] (DVD)
Intriguing, if improbable, fast-moving and tremendously exciting. The four magicians are memorable as characters and they have been given some very clever dialogue. The only problem -- for me -- was that the speed-of-lightning action makes it difficult to follow the somewhat over-complicated plot in which revenge, bluff, counter-bluff, fantastical set-up stunts and flash-back explanations all play a part. Not as good as The Illusionist but infinitely superior to The Prestige, to both of which the film bears similarity.

The Box [DVD]
The Box [DVD]
Dvd ~ Cameron Diaz
Price: 4.52

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Facing Extinction, 10 April 2014
This review is from: The Box [DVD] (DVD)
The story is intriguing, suspenseful and thought-provoking, if somewhat obscure. The central performances are excellent, the depressing 1970s atmosphere and fashions lovingly recreated. Compulsively watchable thanks to its general off-beat oddity.

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