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crimecatuk (Norfolk, UK)

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Painting Furniture
Painting Furniture
by Rosie Fisher
Edition: Hardcover

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars What a little lick of paint won't do ..., 9 July 2006
This review is from: Painting Furniture (Hardcover)
Painted furniture is as old as the Egyptians, assures us Rosie Fisher at the beginning of her introduction into the history of this beautiful and often amazing art form, and then goes on to give an informative overview of the different periods, styles and influences. The main section of the book is then dedicated to examples of decorated, marbled, laquered, gilded or in other ways painted furniture in modern homes, and the photographs show an eclectic mix of some stunning pieces and interiors and some that even Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen would shirk away from (although I am not sure that was what the author intended with her selection).

"Painting Furniture: A Practical Guide", claims the title. Alas, this is rather misleading. Interspersed in the main section of the book are five projects, all five differing widely in the level of skill required. Most readers could probably manage to produce the children's crayon box but I don't see many turning their Ikea kitchen cabinets into a Trompe l'oeil masterpiece (and the co-ordinated bathroom will easily lower the value of your house by a third.) Equally disappointing is the last section of the book which gives an overview of the different techniques used in furniture painting. The most commonly used techniques are demonstrated in step-by-step instructions, but, even so, I doubt that any but the most experienced decorative painter would feel sufficiently confident to tackle any of the projects in the book (well, with the possible exception of the aforementioned crayon box.)

"Painting Furniture" is a nicely illustrated book, filled with lots of ideas to inspire the reader, but definitely not a practical guide to turn those ideas into reality.

Decorative Painting Techniques Sourcebook: Step-by-step Decorative Brushwork
Decorative Painting Techniques Sourcebook: Step-by-step Decorative Brushwork
by Sybil Edwards
Edition: Hardcover

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brush Up on Your Painting Techniques, 9 July 2006
This book is, without doubt, one of the best reference resources for anyone interested in decorative painting. It starts out with the obligatory introduction into the subject: Concise and informative sections on all the "basics" from equipment, paints, and brushes to preparation and finishing touches. By far the largest and most impressive section of the book, though, is dedicated to brushwork techniques - and it covers absolutely everything, from simple dots and lines to the most demanding double loading techniques. The instructions are clear and perfectly illustrated by step-by-step photos. On top of that, there are frequent smaller and medium-sized projects which show the different techniques as part of a larger decoration (templates for these projects are included). And for all those who are not easily disheartened there are also photographs of finished works by different artists, beautiful, stunning pieces which show what can be achieved with the right techniques ... and amazing talent.

Edwards states that her book also serves as a kind of painting class for beginners and will, if you follow the instructions and practise the different strokes and techniques, teach you everything necessary to become an accomplished artist yourself. That is more than possible. On the whole, though, the book is probably better suited for the more experienced, who will find many useful information as well as lots and lots of inspiration within its pages.

Fog, The [2005] [DVD]
Fog, The [2005] [DVD]
Dvd ~ Selma Blair
Price: £2.75

8 of 12 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars The Ghosts of Fog Past, 3 July 2006
This review is from: Fog, The [2005] [DVD] (DVD)
Question: What would you do if, quite suddenly, sea water dripping foot prints appeared on the ceiling of your room? Scream? Hide? Run? Or would you stroll half naked to the water's edge and stare dreamily into the spooky fog while listening to an even spookier voice whispering your name? Well, Maggie Grace opts for the latter and, given her shapely legs, it is one of her finest moments in the film. I'm still not quite sure whether her almost total lack of facial expressions or even rudimentary acting is due to the absolutely absurd situations the script forces on her or to temporary locked-in syndrome. But as disappointing as she is in this movie, she is only the very tip of the iceberg.

Although initially not as successful or critically acclaimed as, for example, "Halloween", John Carpenter's "The Fog"(1980) has managed to build quite a cult following and has gained steadily in recognition. It is a tightly scripted, nicely thrilling little ghost story, despite all its flaws and shortcomings. The budget didn't allow for any fancy special effects, and fans and critics alike are quick to poke fun at the slightly ridiculous looking glowing fog billowing through a model town set. With a much more generous budget and modern CGI technology director Rupert Wainwright was all set to, finally, turn the fog into one of the leading characters, as he claims. And he did. The fog is just as unconvincing and lumbering as all the other "actors". Or the Ghosts. Carpenter once said his biggest mistake in the original "The Fog" was the fact that you can see the red eyes of the ghosts. One of the biggest mistakes of the remake is the fact that for roughly half of the film you cannot see the red eyes of the ghosts ... or the ghosts, for that matter. And when you eventually do see them they look suspiciously like shadowy versions of the Black Eyed Peas (anything to do with the fact that their singer Fergie was rumored to play "Stevie Wayne"?) By the time you finally get to see the ghosts in all their rotting, or rotten, glory you are begging for the red eyes.

Like so many horror film aficionados, I am not impressed with the recent trend to remake all the classics from the 70's and 80's, the Golden Age of the Slasher Movie and the reinvention of the genre. Viewed today, some of these films might not always live up to their own legends but their inventiveness and a certain raw edge which they, however different, all have make them unique. Still, some of the remakes have a certain slick appeal and turned out to be less disappointing than feared, even though so far none has actually added anything substantial to their original idea. The 2005 version of "The Fog" is no exception. Both the original and the remake are set in a small coastal community named Antonio Bay which is currently celebrating the 100th anniversary of its founding, only this time around it seems to be a town almost exclusively populated by late teenagers and weird old men. We have essentially the same set of characters: a fisherman (Tom Welling), a hitchhiker/girlfriend of said fisherman (Maggie Grace), a drunken and remorse-stricken priest (Adrian Hough), a woman broadcasting her own radio show from a lighthouse (Selma Blair), her son, the babysitter, and Dan The Weatherman (Jonathon Young). We have essentially the same plot and the same scenes in the same order with the same people dying. Only the deaths are, despite being more graphic, strangely less gory (yes, I know that the original wasn't that gory either). And there is less suspense. And there is no fight-for-your-life on top of the lighthouse. And it all makes a lot less sense ...

While some of the scenes, even some the images, are copied almost one to one, all the changes made are changes for the worse. There was something quietly threatening about the hooks the ghosts were armed with - in the new version there are windchimes made from large fishing hooks dangling somewhere in almost every "scary" scene. The ghosts, on the other hand, now prefer to throw things: knives, oil lamps, people. Or they cause car crashes. In the 1980 film, the fog, and the ghosts, appeared and disappeared within a time frame set by the infamous betrayal, in the new version they appear and disappear seemingly at will - or without any rhyme or reason, to be honest. And whereas Carpenter's ghosts demanded six lives in revenge for their betrayal, Wainwright's ghosts are satisfied with four (and a few bonus ones) - the descendants of the former conspirators (an idea which was first introduced, though later all but abandoned, in the 1980 version). I could go on - and so does the film: roughly 10 minutes longer than the original, and a totally wasted 10 minutes they are. In fact, the whole of the 98 minutes running time are wasted. This is not the slicker, faster, more tongue-in-cheek version so many remakes became, this is a mindless, scareless, useless film that should be avoided, even if you have never seen the original.

The Last Shot [DVD] [2004]
The Last Shot [DVD] [2004]
Dvd ~ Matthew Broderick

3.0 out of 5 stars How to catch a Mafia boss with tinsel(town) ..., 28 May 2006
This review is from: The Last Shot [DVD] [2004] (DVD)
Steven Schats' (Matthew Broderick) biggest dream is to sell his movie script, "Arizona", the story of a cancer-suffering woman's "spiritual journey to find herself and the Hopi Indians" - all supposedly based on his sister's true-life story. But even though he was raised in "the business" - his family runs a "Bonanza"-style show for tourists - Schats is just one of the many, many hopeless hopefuls littering the streets of Hollywood. His luck is about to change, though, when he meets a movie producer (Alec Baldwin) who not only offers to turn the script into a movie but wants Schats to direct it as well. The only catch is that "Arizona" will have to be filmed in Providence, Rhode Island. Why? Because, unbeknownst to Schats, the "producer" is actually a FBI agent and the whole project is an undercover sting operation to catch some mobsters ...

Set in the 1980's, "The Last Shot" is based on a true story, a real-life mob sting operation which was exposed in the Details Magazine article "What's Wrong With This Picture?" by Steve Fishman. A truly bizarre story it is. And so is this movie. It seems that it's never quite sure how to tell the story, exactly: as a comedy, a satire or a mildly moralistic tale.

Hollywood always seems a little uneasy when portraying itself and its inhabitants, especially when it's making fun of itself. "The Last Shot", too, is marred by this uneasiness: The movie is timid where it should be brazen, conciliatory where it should be accusatory. It has a decent cast, delivering decent performances (Broderick, especially, is outstanding), but the actors have nothing much to work with, really, as the film skips from one short scene to the next without ever giving plot or characters room to develop. Thus it is, more than anything, the cameo-like appearances of the supporting cast which stick in mind: The brilliant Toni Collette as an over-the-hill starlet looking for a comeback; Calista Flockhart as Broderick's in every sense hysterical girlfriend; and Tim Blake Nelson as Broderick's utterly pathetic brother. And there are some exquisitely funny moments: When Schats is offered Providence's municipal dump as a "stand-in" for the Grand Canyon, for example, or the whole script-finding sequence. Still, the film is failing in the most essential parts: Everyone - FBI agents, mobsters and assorted nobodys alike - desperately wants to be "in the pictures", but this desperation, need and urgency is never really felt by the audience, just as there is never any real bite to the satire. And so the whole thing remains, despite its great potential, ultimately bland.

The DVD also features a number of extras (among them a commentary by director Jeff Nathanson and Matthew Broderick). The most interesting - as well as revealing - of these is a meeting between Dan Lewk and Gary Levy, collectively the true-life inspiration for the Schats character, and Garland Schweickhardt, the real-life FBI agent in charge of the sting operation: Lewk and Levy's career in the movie industry was, despite a promising start, de facto destroyed by their - unwitting - participation in the FBI operation and under their somewhat forced it's-all-water-under-the-bridge attitude you can still glimpse the anger and the sense of betrayal, and even Schweickhardt's platitudes that, at least, they helped put away some dangerous criminals cannot quite make up for the damage done.

Poseidon Adventure [DVD] [2006] [Region 1] [US Import] [NTSC]
Poseidon Adventure [DVD] [2006] [Region 1] [US Import] [NTSC]
Dvd ~ Adam Baldwin
Offered by supermart_usa
Price: £1.95

6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars stink or swim ..., 15 April 2006
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
In 1972, „The Poseidon Adventure" - the unforgettable movie about a capsized cruise ship and the desperate struggle upwards to safety of its survivors - set new standards amidst the flood of disaster movies which swept through the cinemas in the 1970's. Somehow it succeeded where all the others failed - despite some admittedly cheesy moments it managed to engage, thrill and captivate the audience. And along the way it gave us some of the most iconic images of this genre: The upended christmas tree becoming an escape ladder; the little boy's dilemma in the upside-down men's room, the group of disoriented, zombie-like passengers filing past in the wrong direction, to name but a few ... It is hardly surprising that, amidst the flood of remakes which sweep through the cinemas and across the small screen today, someone came up with the glorious idea to „revive" this cult classic - twice, in fact, once for the silver screen and once for TV. This is the TV version. Now, despite all its limitations and restrictions, TV has produced some stunning mini series in the past and, undoubtedly, will continue to do so. This two-parter, though, is not one of them.

I find it hard to admit, but this „Poseidon Adventure" is doomed to sink right from the start (and I do apologize for the awful pun but it is, sadly, in keeping with the reviewed material). To up-date the story - and to stretch it sufficiently to fit into two parts - we begin with the by now prerequisite dastardly and somewhat Arabic looking, Russian looking, Irish looking terrorists planning a number of major blows against the evil American Empire, by land, air and sea. Luckily, they are stopped and killed by DHS agents, but not before setting one of their plans in motion: The sinking of the cruise ship SS Poseidon (using bombs which are altogether too reminscent of another sea-borne disaster movie, „Juggernaut"). The reason for chosing this target in particular? Well, all the other, more logical targets are too well protected ... Not very convincing? Sadly, this kind of sloppy, listless plotting is the hallmark of the boring, uninspired and incompetent script, complemented perfectly by the boring, uninspired and incompetent direction.

Quite honestly, I would have expected so much more - Gallico's original story has so much to offer and the cast boasts many decent actors. But whereas in the 1972 movie version the actors managed to rise above the mediocre script and invest their characters with real emotion, here, in the almost 3 hours long version, they have absolutely no room to develop. In fact, the characters are so empty and superficially drawn that they would have needed to be fleshed out just to become mere stereotypes! Rutger Hauer obviously labours under the misapprehension that his character's first name is „Bishop" - he has absolutely no spiritual or religious dimension, and if he has any sort of crisis of faith I must have missed it when I blinked. Adam Baldwin, as DHS agent Mike Rogo, is the tough-guy professional, I guess: His job seems to consist mainly of bullying and suspecting everyone around - apart from the real terrorists on board. Peter Weller, as the ship's captain, seems to have lost all ability to deliver his lines without inexplicably pausing after every second word. Bryan Brown, who has given us so many marvellous villains over the years, obviously decided that this role would be the right moment for an image change, thus cold-hearted reality-tv producer Jeffrey Anderson comes across as slightly less menacing than Winnie the Pooh. And I won't even mention Steve Guttenberg and his utterly annoying family ...

The DVD offers decent - full screen - picture quality and 5.1 Surround Sound, interviews with members of the cast, and a „director featurette" (in which John Putch describes the filming and the set in an utterly bored voice ... Did you know that they actually had to turn the whole set upside down? Amazing, isn't it?) The DVD version also proudly claims to contain 40 additional minutes of never-before seen footage. This can only be classed as inhuman cruelty. Quite often, such out-takes consist of scenes which give more background and depth to the individual characters and the story, but, with all the gigantic holes in the plot and the excruciatingly lifeless characters, I fail to see any improvement. This TV production should by rights be called „The Poseidon Disappointment", as it manages to waste a good cast, a thrilling story line and, obviously, a fair amount of money to deliver one of the most unadventurous disaster epics of all times.

Keeping Up Appearances - Series 1 & 2 [1990] [DVD]
Keeping Up Appearances - Series 1 & 2 [1990] [DVD]
Dvd ~ Patricia Routledge
Price: £6.90

37 of 38 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The lady of the house speaking, 10 Mar 2006
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
The three DVDs of this box-set contain all 16 episodes from series 1 and 2 - and that is all they contain. There are no extras whatsoever. Which is a shame, especially as there would have been a host to choose from, "Routledge/Funny Women" or "Comedy connections", for example. (If you are interested in those, as well as in a chance to actually see ALL episodes of the show, you will have to look for the Region 1 edition.) This edition doesn't even give the titles of the episodes, which - though, strictly speaking, "unofficial titles" - are used even by the BBC itself. So, if you want to know what, exactly, you are getting, the episodes included are:
Series 1 - "Daddy's Accident", "The New Vicar", "Stately Home", "The Charity Shop", "Daisy's Toyboy" and "The Christening".
Series 2 - "A Strange Man", "Driving Mrs Fortescue, "The Candlelight Supper", "Hyacinth Tees Off", "Problems with Relatives", "Onslow's Birthday", "Singing for Emmet", "The Toy Store", "The Three-Piece Suit" and "A Picnic for Daddy"

Personally, I found the picture and sound quality acceptable (although, admittedly, compared to watching the episodes on terrestrial TV in Norfolk, everything is.)

"Keeping Up Appearance" is not and never has been "cutting-edge" comedy. It is funny in a warmer, more comfy sense, and watching it is a bit like putting on a pair of nicely worn slippers: You know what is coming, and part of the fun is waiting for it to happen. There will always be a cheerful "The Bouquet residence, the lady of the house speaking", there will always be Liz, the hapless neighbour, spilling her coffee, and there will always be a phone call from darling Sheridan, asking for money - but at least he and his friend Tarquin will not let themselves be distracted by dalliances with girls. It might not be up-to-date, but it has a timeless quality which makes it so appealing. It is particularly nice to have another chance to see the first-ever episode (and the first season as a whole) which is hardly ever repeated. Here, the characters are edgier, Daisy and Onslow's house and home life are dingier, and there is Shirley Stelfox as Rose - although, brilliant as she is, I must admit that I prefer Mary Millar's even more over-the-top drama queen antics.

All of which makes this DVD box-set a good buy, even though its presentation is rather listless. But then again, "Keeping up Appearances" doesn't really need any extras to be a hit, does it?

The Architect
The Architect
by Keith Russell Ablow
Edition: Hardcover

12 of 14 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Architecturally unsound ..., 25 Oct 2005
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: The Architect (Hardcover)
If you've read and liked "Psychopath", you will probably like this book - although, if you have read "Psychopath" you, essentially, know the story of "The Architect" already, so why bother reading it again? "The Architect" presents us with yet another psychopathic genius in search of Inner Truth and Beauty (no, not Clevenger - he is the alcohol-addicted genius in search of Inner Truth and Beauty), who is willing to kill to fulfill God's Plan - in this case while working as an architect, hence the title. Billy Bishop has problems with drugs and violence. Clevenger has problems with alcohol and Billy. Clevenger can't make the relationship with the woman he loves work (yes, it is still Whitney McCormick). Sounds familiar?
Ablow isn't the Shakespeare of psychological thrillers. He isn't even the Grisham of psychological thrillers. He writes mildly chilling and not overly ambitious books about strange murders and even stranger murderers which are perfect for commuter journeys, holidays or a cosy evening at home. But "The Architect", sadly, marks an all-time low, even by his standards.
What could be an entertaining, nicely thrilling read is spoiled, once again, by Ablows' slipshod writing. In fact, his carelessness is getting worse. Maybe he has too much on his plate nowadays to concentrate on his writing as well. "The Architect" contains many of the mistakes by now typical for all his books: Misspelled names of real-life people, misrepresented real-life crimes, characters who inexplicably change their names halfway through a book. And, of course, Billy Bishop's ever-changing life story: By now, Ablow's short recapturing of Billys history bears practically no resemblance whatsoever to the plot of "Compulsion". But then again, Ablow obviously assumes (or hopes) that his readers have a short memory, as he shamelessly copies his own sentences from "Compulsion" and uses them again in "The Architect". Can there be a more obvious sign of an author's arrogance and disrespect for his readers?
All this is even more annoying because Ablow probably could do better. But it seems that, by now, he is content with churning out roughly 300 pages roughly once a year, with no regard for his own writing, or for his readers. One can only hope that Mr Ablow will eventually return to the kind of writing that originally made him a bestselling author.

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