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The Squid And The Whale [DVD] [2006]
The Squid And The Whale [DVD] [2006]
Dvd ~ Jeff Daniels
Price: £4.95

4.0 out of 5 stars The Squid and the Whale, 21 Jun 2012
Before Zuckerberg...There was Eisenberg...

Not often can a film be so bitter and so funny. The Squid and the Whale tells the story of two arrogant and stubborn parents who split their family right down the middle. The father Bernard Buckham (Daniels) is the former great now on a steady decline whilst his wife Joan (Linney) is a rising literary star. The tensions and dynamics and beautifully crafted. It is of little wonder why Noah Baumbach received an Academy Award for best original screenplay.
Like many, my parents are divorced and like many I can remember it happening. It wasn't quite like depicted in the film but it is still a matter I can relate to. The characters are so perfectly human in all their flaws and traits that it is impossible not to impart affection toward them.
Jeff Daniels is one of a fast growing list of comic actors that have proven they can also act very well in a traditional manner on screen. His portrayal of the bitter father, staunch in his belief but ultimately a man who contradicts himself comes across very well.
I feel however one of my favourite screen presences, Laura Linney, steals the show whenever the camera is near her. As Joan she gives us the underlying problems in the marriage and truths that Bernard would rather not face the reality of. In an instant she can put the man in his place.
The story however is really about the sons; Walt (Eisenberg) and Frank (Kline) who play off each other superbly. We are now familiar with Eisenberg's style, his awkward looks and almost monotone low key voice and this is where it all started. Walt takes after his father, and Frank takes more after his mother and the two become split into factions. Kline is hilarious as the experimental twelve year old, drinking whiskey, throwing up and masterbating into socks.
Eisenberg is also amusing if only for his awkwardness and perfection of the nerdy character.
The entire film is shot on Super 16mm using a handheld camera and coupled with the soundtrack gives the feature a charmingly 1980s feel. This film really is a joy, it is bitter, tragic, sweet and has moments of genuine comedy. The acting is of a high standard and the screenplay is just awesome. If you like heartwarming cinema with true acting and true writing then don't hesitate to add this to your wish list.

Captain America - The First Avenger [DVD]
Captain America - The First Avenger [DVD]
Dvd ~ Chris Evans
Offered by best_value_entertainment
Price: £12.72

5 of 9 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Captain Whatever, 13 Jun 2012
Captain America: The First Avenger is the latest installment of superhero films sweeping the globe and also a very good example of why filmmakers should spend more time working on the script and less time in the VFX (Visual Effects) department.

I am for the meantime going to forget that this is based on a Second World War propaganda figure because this film has been made seventy years later and in the 21st century there is a responsibility for the stereotypes we portray. Suffice to say, Captain America is not going to win the heart of the Middle East. This film is fraught with negative stereotypes from the tousle-haired scientists to the alluring secretaries in pencil skirts to the gruff old General who thinks he knows best despite all evidence suggesting the contrary. In this regard, Captain America bored me immensely. I have said before that an original concept is not a necessity as long as you can tell it in a new and refreshing way. Captain America fails by telling a re-hashed story in a re-hashed way.

Captain America or, Steve Rogers is played by Chris Evans who does a decent job of showing us more than a generic action hero. There is a little depth to Captain America when he slows down and becomes Steve Rogers again. Okay, he pales in comparison to say Christian Bale's performance of Bruce Wayne/Batman but Evans gives us enough to connect with Rogers in between the explosions. The rest of the cast however is pretty forgettable and I vaguely remember Tommy Lee Jones playing the stubborn General mainly, it would appear, because he has the correct accent.

Even Hugo Weaving seems to fall short as his portrayal of Red Skull/Johann Schmidt was one dimensional. His German accent was appalling and his voice came across more as the lovechild of Elrond and Agent Smith born into America's vision of what Nazi Germany was like.

Is it the one ring? Or the Matrix in a box?

But, let us not forget this is based on a comic book. So why am I expecting anything more? I feel like I should from a film whose budget was $140million. Chris Evans has the potential to be a decent actor when not in the glow of Weaving's natural screen presence (the only redeeming factor from his performance). He's charming and delivers his lines with natural wit. And of course, has the body to attract the necessary female quota.

It seems though that this film had little point to it. When it was released we all knew that The Avengers was just around the corner and this film felt every bit it was just an excuse to introduce Captain America and get it out of the way. At the start of the film Steve Rogers is skinny and in poor health yet shows tenacity and willpower as well as remarkable selflessness. The moral seemed to be that size and muscles don't matter but personality does yet everything in the film tried to bludgeon us into thinking the opposite. When he's skinny he's unpopular, assaulted, beaten down, ridiculed and unable to get a date.

This all changes when he is genetically enhanced. I understand this is because he's a superhero but what's the message? What is the point of making him skinny in the first place if all his character traits are then made irrelevant? He is supposed to be the natural leader and the most selfless of people yet these qualities seem vastly under exaggerated at best and very overly cliche at worst. The film only becomes interesting at the end when he awakes in the present day, greeted by Nick Fury.

So the CGI, why haven't I mentioned that yet? Because frankly it is also very forgettable. It's slick and well put together and all those basic things one now expects from mainstream cinema but it's nothing new and a lot of it feels like another excuse to have the tightly clad Chris Evans drive away from fireballs on a motorcycle.

Captain America feels like a wikipedia link. It is so blatant a set up for the summer blockbuster The Avengers. Unlike its peers of the vastly superior The Incredible Hulk, Iron Man and to an extent Thor, Captain America fails to deliver anything more than a few well put together explosions amongst its frustratingly generic stereotypes and empty plot.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jul 22, 2012 10:42 PM BST

Tron Legacy [DVD]
Tron Legacy [DVD]
Dvd ~ Michael Sheen
Price: £3.00

4.0 out of 5 stars Beautifully Confusing, 13 Jun 2012
This review is from: Tron Legacy [DVD] (DVD)
There's not often, as I've said it before, a time when a poor script can be hidden behind very pretty CGI. The original Tron was an understandable concept. The world was a metaphor for in insides of a computer. In Tron: Legacy Jeff Bridges reprises his role as Kevin Flynn, the former CEO of ENCOM (some sort of software company). The basic premise of the film, I think, is that Kevin Flynn has gone missing and twenty years later his son, Sam Flynn (Garrett Hedlund) tries to find him in `the grid'. The Grid I think is...either the internet or the inside of a computer. Or both.

To be honest with you I have watched this film twice and I have no idea what happens.

But with Tron:Legacy, I really don't care. The film is achingly pretty, visually stunning, witty and sufficiently well acted. The performances aren't ground breaking and this was never going to be Jeff Bridge's best work but I get the characters, I understand their troubles and their motives. They aren't wooden and there are colourful cameo's from Daft Punk and small roles from Michael Sheen that give the cast a bit of edge.

The action sequences are so well constructed and breathtakingly shot that you forget the big picture (even if you had figured it out) and just let Tron: Legacy grasp you and thrust you into a whole new world of bright lights and dazzling spectacle. What makes me forgive my confusion is that I understand that basic premise which is well communicated. A Son is trying to find his Father and in the way are some bad guys.

What really sells Tron: Legacy is the visuals. I haven't yet seen anything like them on the big screen.

The contrasts are so delicately and effectively balanced and the blend of extreme light and dark is very aesthetically pleasing. I could go on and on about it but I fear that may ruin it and bore you. So I think it's just picture time.

No I don't know why they all wear funny suits with light bits, but it doesn't really matter if I did know why. The only part where the CGI falls down is the rendering of young Jeff Bridges. It is a bit of a shock when we first see him and he looks odder still next to the real Jeff Bridges. This is the only flaw I can see with the visuals though and human faces are by far the hardest to accomplish because people are very good judges of faces due to the fact that we see lots of different ones every day.

Bridges and Sheen anchor the two young guns of Hedlund and Oliver Wilde who provide a pretty and convincing drive to the film.

The soundtrack too is awesome and in someways Daft Punk was born to score this film and he his helped by composer Joseph Trapanese. Together they have done a brilliant job and the music fits perfectly to the visuals.

The bottom line to Tron:Legacy is that it is a flawless exercise in film engineering. That does have it's place. The acting is never going to win awards and nor is the script but from visual to sound to concept this film is definitely worth seeing. I don't know about you but I like being blown away visually and I like sitting in the cinema just in awe. I believe you have to either come down on one side or the other. Either you have a great script that is performed to a high standard (this film was never going to rival something like Goodfellas), or you have a decent enough script that is packaged in a delicious spectacle. Tron:Legacy is the latter.

Son searching for Father, bad guys in the way. That is enough to get you through the film. Accept it for what it is and enjoy it.

The Wrestler [DVD]
The Wrestler [DVD]
Dvd ~ Mickey Rourke
Offered by Champion Toys
Price: £3.29

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The People's Hero, 12 Jun 2012
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: The Wrestler [DVD] (DVD)

The Wrestler (2008)

Mickey Rourke? Who's that? Within five minutes of watching The Wrestler you are no longer looking at Mickey Rourke. He is Randy "The Ram Robinson.

Spellbinding, mesmerizing, captivating, awesome. All these half corny words are ground out for a performance like this but what it really is, is beautiful. Rourke has always had presence and he showed he still has it during his comeback as Marv in Sin City. As Randy the Ram however it is something else.
I'm going to be bold and say not since Viggo Mortensen became Aragorn in the Lord of the Rings Triology, not since Robert De Niro became Jake LaMotta in Raging Bull, and recently as Meryl Streep became Maggie Thatcher in The Iron Lady. This is where Rourke's performance stands, in the beyond great category (yes there are more but I am trying to be concise).

Randy the Ram is a past his prime wrestler, forced to do local gigs with minimal crowds. His boss (Todd Barry) belittles him for spraying himself with fake tan and rubbing his lycra clad body against other men on weekends. He fruitlessly pursues a single mother, Cassidy (Marisa Tomei) who works as a stripper where he drinks every night. It seems like his life is down and out but Randy opens up just a little for Cassidey to persuade him to reconnect with his estranged daughter (Evan Rachel Wood).

It's through this almost reluctant attempt and reconnection that we see the real Randy. The man that put aside everything to become a wrestler because he felt that was the only place he was ever loved.

The supporting cast is brilliant. Marisa Tomi (Before the Devil Knows you're Dead, Anger Management) graces us with a sublime performance and easily the best of her career.

Director Darren Aronofsky's (Requiem for a Dream, The Fountain and recently Black Swan) direction is subtly brutal. He tiptoes around Randy's personal life as if we were on his shoulder and not supposed to be there. Yet it does not feel invasive despite the film's strong realism.
Randy does only ever have one place he loves. The same place he is worshiped. The ring. Everything else he does seems to go wrong, and some of the mistakes he makes we can see him as he's making them. The film is deeply tragic in that sense. But we root for Randy, and we side with him taking hold of the `me against the world' mentality. At least I did.

What's fascinating is the world of wrestling and Rourke, aged 56 at the time of filming, is in phenomenal shape. He did a lot of the of the stunts and both of his trainers Jon Trosky and Tom Farra have parts in the film. All of the locker room scenes were improvised and this genuineness is great. The film takes us through the whole aspect of being a wrestler. The fake tanning, the shaving of body hair, the hair dye and the steroids and weight room. Like it or hate it you can still respect these guys as showmen and professional athletes and stuntmen.
A lot of professionals praised the film. Vince McMahon called it "deeply touching". Bret "The Hitman" Hart, "Rowdy" Roddy Piper and Mick Foley all came out in praise for the film.
This film is a real film. There are no special effects, there are no gun battles or car chases, there are no cheeky blonde girls in bikini's (yes there is a strip club but it's not glamorous). There is just the camera, great locations, great directing, great script and beautiful acting.

Into the Wild [DVD] [2007]
Into the Wild [DVD] [2007]
Dvd ~ Emile Hirsch
Price: £3.90

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Supertramp, 11 Jun 2012
This review is from: Into the Wild [DVD] [2007] (DVD)
There are those that say this film is boring. I fear these are the kinds of people that say, "Outside? What's that?". Into The Wild is going to be one of those films you love or you hate and it will very much depend on your own personal views on life.
For me, I loved it, and some day I am going to follow in the footsteps of Christopher McCandless. It is a voyage that is best suited to the wilds of the USA as here in Britain it is quite hard to travel for 10 miles without stumbling across a village of some sort. There aren't as many panoramic views or long stretching highways or indeed as many strange but incredibly friendly people.

Hitchhiking. Hirsch as McCandless
Emile Hirsch appeared from nowhere to claim the leading role in this film, perhaps being best known for the piece of drivel The Girl Next Door. Although Lords of Dogtown was quite good. Anyway, I like it when a film uses an unheralded name and to all intents and purposes Emile Hirsch delivers the goods in his first real leading role.

The Iconic `Magic Bus'
Christopher McCandless (Hirsch) is a recent college graduate and sick of the lies and deceptions of his constantly arguing parents whose only concern seems to be status. He could not care less for having a faster car or a posh girlfriend or a six figure salary. So he gives all of his money, $24,000 to charity, burns his car and vanishes with little more than a backpack, sleeping-bag and large bag of rice.

Beautiful Scenery
The film is beautifully shot and Eric Gautier's cinematography is stunning and his location scouts should be given gold stars and cookies. But then, if a professional filmmaker had failed to capture the wonderful scenery of open America you would really wonder if he or she had chosen the right career. So often we, particularly us Europeans, view America as this fat hamburger eating loud obnoxious nation of slobs. In reality this could not be farther from the truth. America is a tremendously diverse country rich in different cultures and we can forget at times how vast the land itself is.Christopher McCandless takes us into the wildness of it all.

Nature film quality footage
Along the way we meet some great characters and the casting crew did a great job of filling the roles with experienced actors with presence. One of my favourites was Jan played by Catherine Keener. On the surface she is a witty hippy full of the joie de vivre. However there are darker undertones that Keener hints at us until they are fully revealed and her subtle presentation should be praised. Vince Vaughn continues a line of comic actors who prove that they can be more than just a comedian. Although Wayne Westerberg (Vaughn) is still very much a Vaughn type character; loud, in your face and smelling a bit boozy, upon meeting McCandless we see he is scared. He likes the comfort of the society he's in and Vaughn does well in portraying this. There is a great cameo from Hal Holbrook as Ron Franz, a lonely pensioner with a huge heart.

A captivating Hal Holbrook along side Hirsch in one of the films more powerful moments
The only unwelcome face, for me was Kristen Stewart who again presents a bland and non-smiling forgettable character. She serves as McCandless's brief love interest although to my relief he is sensible enough not to pursue her.

Back to the Vampires please Kristen.
The journey and the people encountered are what drives this film. Hirsch is a joy to watch and successfully mixes a blend of naive happiness and lonely realization. The message is clear; happiness is best when shared. Throughout the film McCandless opposes this doctrine and states to Westerberg, "You're wrong if you think joy can only come from the presence of other people." He is a character I can highly relate to and his openness and willingness is refreshing to see on the big screen.

The cold wild. A lonely McCandless struggles.
This film was inspiring for me. McCandless throws away the map and the rule book and with no plan sets off into the world to experience for what it is, renaming himself `Alexander Supertramp'. I have yet to talk about the best part to this film though. That is the soundtrack. The soundtrack is truly awesome and nothing I can say will justify it. You simply must watch this film. Then you must simply buy Eddie Vedder's CD.

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time
by Mark Haddon
Edition: Paperback
Price: £3.85

4.0 out of 5 stars Life on the outside, 11 Jun 2012
There is not often times I read a book and reevaluate how I see the world. A Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime is one of those books.
Christopher Boone is a `mathematician with behavioral difficulties'. He suffers from autistic spectrum syndrome. The book is told from his point of view and it is wonderfully charming. Crucially we never feel sorry for Christopher or pity him, if we were the book would very soon lose its authenticity and realism and would become an exercise in seeing how depressed an author can make a reader feel.
Many of us will take the world for granted and this is just how things are. Basic things like being able to communicate emotion by way of expression or language. It allows us to judge situations and for most of us is something we do without even thinking. Christopher cannot do this unless he is told very clearly. Through seemingly small but ultimately huge differences Christopher's world is entirely different to yours or mine. Mark Haddon weaves us through his world which all starts with the murder of a dog.
Although Christopher struggles with human emotion and communication he is highly intellectual and very gifted at maths and science. Although for some this may have the feeling of Rain Man about it, Haddon shows us a similar character from a different perspective. There is no Tom Cruise character here. It is just Christopher.
For some this may be a difficult book to read as Haddon has written it as if Christopher was writing. The writing style is very matter of fact and basic and people have likened it to Forrest Gump in this way, however Hadden still uses punctuation.
The journey is heartwarming and Christopher slowly seems to grow. The story really is about an outsider. This is a novel of difference and really one of the more interesting themes is how people react to Christopher. From his parents who know his troubles, to strangers who assume he's just a bit weird.
This book, I hope, will impact on you much as it has on me. It will make you reflect on basic human mechanics we take for granted and will help you to understand those that feel as if they are on the outside looking in.

The Town [DVD] [2010]
The Town [DVD] [2010]
Dvd ~ Ben Affleck
Offered by best_value_entertainment
Price: £2.72

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Affleck's Redemption, 8 Jun 2012
This review is from: The Town [DVD] [2010] (DVD)
Ben Affleck is usually a name I associate with an inevitable sense of dread. Oh no, what's he gone and made this time? Some people may never forgive him for the butchering of Pearl Harbour (2001) or you may have forgotten who he was even whilst watching Daredevil (2006). Affleck actually had a decent start to his career appearing alongside Bruce Willis in the perfectly decent blockbuster Armageddon (1997) and he did a good job as Matt Damon's down to earth buddy in Good Will Hunting (1997). For most though, Affleck had become a bit of a no-name of late appearing in a string of mediocre B movies. That is until now.

The opening is something we've all seen before, in fact the premise of the film is something we've all seen before but the cleverness of The Town is not in the what, but in the how and the why and the who. To write a good story you do not always have to come up with an original idea, you just have to tell it from an original viewpoint or in a different way.

We see that in the opening scene with Affleck's character, Doug MacCray, telling his fellow heisters the plan whilst an overweight security guard delivers money into a bank and we think, okay I know what's going to happen. Not since Heat (1995) have we seen bank robbery portrayed in this way. The start of the heist is silent. The imagery is harsh and brutal, the four characters really know exactly what they are doing. The film, overall in this aspect is very slick. The action is thoughtful and very well executed and the shots flow together almost seamlessly. this is all down to Affleck's direction and he has done a very very good job.

Where The Town differs from a lot of these types of films, and what makes it stand out is the people. The film is set in Charlestown and from almost the moment the film starts you know this is where you are. The characters are likeable and whether you relate to the misguided Doug, the relentless FBI Agent Frawely played very solidly by Jon Hamm or Claire (Rebecca Hall) who is just caught in the middle. The performance is stolen though by another fantastic portrayal by Jeremy Renner as `Jem', a man just looking for an excuse to fight, bitter from his past.

Affleck has in my mind given us his best performance since Good Will Hunting, when this film slows down from all the bank robbing and action he really shows us the other side to MacCray, his humanness and ultimately his loneliness and desire for something better. The supporting cast also does a phenomenal job and they have been well chosen from the late Pete Postlethwaite as `The Florist' to a very real portrayal of MacCray's harsh father from Chris Cooper. Others, Slaine and Blake Lively really help bring the film to life.

We've come to expect good picture quality from modern films but it is amazing how many films still fall down in this area. Thankfully The Town is not one of them. The film has been shot through a filter reminiscent of Saving Private Ryan (1994) but not to that extreme. The picture has a higher blue contrast to give it a darker and bleaker feel so typical with the Boston, Massachusetts area.

The quality is high and sharp and in the long shots the viewer experiences the depth of field. If there was nothing else to say about The Town, you could at the least acclaim it is very well executed technically.

The sound is again well executed and mixed to a fairly high standard. The music from Harry Gregson-Williams and David Buckley is thoughtful, well chosen and well composed. However sometimes you may feel the sound lacks a bit of punch and you feel the music could play a bigger part as, although fitting it is a bit understated. If you were listening to this film through a lower quality sound system or on a lower volume you may lose a few of the whispered lines.

Again, comparing this film to Heat I felt the sound could have been more aggressive. In Heat the gunshots ring out and a highly realistic manner very uncommon in typical hollywood films that prefer a glossier sound. The Town falls somewhere between the two and leaves you wishing that they'd maybe either gone for one extreme or the other. However it is not an area that will ruin the film for you by any means.

The Extras are actually decent and there are a few behind the scenes options as well as a look at the real Charlestown. There are short segments which show you Affleck as a director and an actor. There is also the usual commentary. The extras though are quite short but there are enough to add an extra flavour to the film. In the extended/unrated version there is also 28 minutes of extra unseen footage.

The Bottom Line
The Town is a slick crime drama that is well polished and well executed. It separates itself by showing us the world of Charlestown and the people in it. The cast is superb and has been nominated for many awards and really do an excellent job of bringing the film home. Whilst there is nothing truly groundbreaking and the bare plot is nothing we haven't seen before, what makes The Town special is the way it is told, the way it is shown and how it is portrayed.

It is what I'd call a true actors film that doesn't rely on overuse of special effects or gimmicks. It is a good story told to us by a very capable director and cast. Ben Affleck, you have redeemed yourself.

The Terminator [DVD]
The Terminator [DVD]
Dvd ~ Arnold Schwarzenegger
Price: £5.66

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Cult Classicinator, 8 Jun 2012
This review is from: The Terminator [DVD] (DVD)
Schwarzenegger; love him or hate him you have to give him credit for knowing what he is and what he isn't. He knows his acting presence is never going to be mentioned with the same breathless awe of Meryl Streep. Arnie does a great job of choosing roles that suit him perfectly. One of those roles is the near monk-like silence of the cult classic killing machine known as the Terminator.
We can overlook the fact that Skynet chose to send back a Terminator with a heavy Austrian accent to 1980's America because over the twenty or so times I have seen this film I really could not care less. This is probably Schwarzenegger's greatest film. The role doesn't ask too much of him and he plays it perfectly. As soon as Arnie is teleported, crouching fully naked beside a dump truck he is the Terminator. Many people would demean him, claiming it only works because he cannot act. I disagree. Acting is making the viewer believe and whilst watching this film you don't see former Mr Universe, you see an unstoppable cyborg killer would will not stop and not rest until he has completed his task.
What works for The Terminator is the simple premise and James Cameron's ability to put a new spin on something we've seen before. He did it with Alien and like it or not he did it with Avatar. The rules of time travel are well worked out and simply explained. Nothing dead can travel back in time (Hence why we get treated to Arnie and Michael Biehn's buttocks at the start of the film). The Terminator itself cheats this rule by being living organism over metal skeleton.
Perhaps most striking about this film, given that it was made in the action hero 1980s where machine gun wielding bodybuilders was the norm, is that the hero character is female. Sarah Connor (Linda Hamilton) is now an icon. She's not the atypical screaming woman who's running up the stairs instead of out the door. She's a normal woman, working part time at a diner, living with a roommate and struggling to find a boyfriend that isn't more concerned about his car. When the time comes, she steps up to the demands of the film. She never thought she could be a hero or brave or fight a cyborg from the future but she does all of these things and the film is really about her and her journey.
Much of the colour and explanation comes from the haunted but utterly devoted Kyle Reese (Michael Biehn) who successfully balances the forlornness of the future with his love for Sarah and determined resolve to protect her. He is the underdog in this fight and it's hard not to root for someone so passionate.
A supporting cast of Paul Winfield, Lance Henriksen and Earl Boen as the psychiatrist add a light-heartedness to a very bleak and depressing environment. It works. Cameron's direction and pacing transition well between visions of a possible future and the unravelling present.
There is a reason this film was selected by the Library of Congress for preservation in the National Film Registry a requisite being `culturally, historically or aesthetically significant'. The Terminator is all these things. It is a film that has referenced and inspired so many others and if it's not on your list of films to watch before you die, then you are a fool.

by Sebastian Faulks
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.39

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Engleby, 7 Jun 2012
This review is from: Engleby (Paperback)
For me there are not a lot of books being written today that can top Birdsong. Until Faulks wrote Charlotte Gray. For me Engleby tops both of these. Sebastian Faulks is a beautifully well written author and very engaging to his reader.
It is a distance from his more traditional subjects although I cannot say why without spoiling the book for you. Faulks takes us inside the mind of Mike Engleby, a working class boy who manages to win a place at an established English University. He is somewhat of an outcast but incredibly bright, thoughtful and daringly witty. The story is driven by his pursuit of Jennifer, a girl he swoons after from a distance, who disappears fairly early on in the book.
As always Faulks has done extraordinary amounts of research and the intellectual application really separates him from a lot of writers. Technically I don't think Faulks has written this well since Birdsong. The structure and flow of the narrative is almost flawless as we are plaited between a serious principle and playful fulfillment. The experience is compelling and truly brilliant.
Engleby darts between the cold ruthlessness of human existence and witty banter with exhilarating results. This is a book you will proudly keep on your shelf and find yourself re-reading many a time.

My Legendary Girlfriend
My Legendary Girlfriend
by Mike Gayle
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.99

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars The Bridget Jones Man, 6 Jun 2012
`Chillax' is one of those words I reserve animosity for. `Synergy' is another. The term to discuss this book `Lad-lit' falls into this category. The very utterance of the word sends shudders down my spine. The author, Mike Gayle, was a former Agony Uncle and it really does show.
The witty blurb was what enticed me, "Meet Will Kelly. English teacher. Film Fan. Pot Noodle Expert. Ex boyfriend". The story revolves around this young man Willy Kelly who by all counts is useless at being a human being. It could be funny, it could be endearing but alas it is not. It is exasperating to watch this moron sink into cold dank nothingness.
He is not, if you hadn't already gathered, a character I particularly admire. He is lovestruck. We've all been there, smitten and hopelessly convinced of a `one'. Will I fear takes this several steps too far. Obsessed is an overstatement.
The book is quite clearly based on Gayle's own experiences, either personal or as an Agony Uncle and the story is an accurate portrayal of a day to day life. The problem I have is; I don't want to read my own life. I like to be taken somewhere, shown something new or see a different point of view or just even read about an enjoyable character. If Will was in anyway likeable this book could have worked. The basic ingredients are all there but when I finished reading I found myself putting the book down and forgetting most of what happened.
I don't think Gayle really grasped the core of what his story was about. Was it about Will moving on? Or was it a coming of age story? Or is it a love story? It is sort of some of these things all meshed together and the result is a bit faceless and unadorned.
There are funny moments and the book is solidly written. It is an easy read and pieced together well enough to make you keep reading. There are elements which I could and many people will relate to. Fundamentally though, My Legendary Girlfriend leaves me unfulfilled and wishing for more. It is the written equivalent of a romantic comedy film. It is a chick-flick in the form of a novel.

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