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Dr. Vernon M. Hewitt (Bristol, UK.)

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Twilight (2 Disc Special Edition) [DVD]
Twilight (2 Disc Special Edition) [DVD]
Dvd ~ Kristen Stewart
Price: £2.17

4.0 out of 5 stars A job well done, 4 May 2009
I have to say that this is a job well done, deftly loyal to the book and skillfully filmed. Pattinson gives Edward eactly the right sort of spooky angelic `I am not a monster?' role and Hardwicke is in fact more compelling as Bella than the character in the novel. Sweeping camera shots. good location and Pattinson's solo piano workout make this look classy and they are supported by a good cast which breath life into what must be the oldest high school cliche since Buffy landed on the planet: and long may it continue! The only weak spots were, for me, James as the pyscho-killer: bad Vampires are invariably just too bad and too derivative of extras stil looking the The Lost Boys film set. (minor aside: the one belly laugh from me, to the shock and Ssssushing of my local film theatre was when one of Bella's class mates points out Jasper and says `he's the one who looks like he's in pain' - Rathbone is a beautiful actor but he should lighten up just a tad!)

Supernatural - The Complete Third Season [DVD]
Supernatural - The Complete Third Season [DVD]
Dvd ~ Jared Padalecki
Offered by Helen's Goodies
Price: £16.48

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars never ending stories, 5 April 2009
I am afraid to say that I am entirely HOOKED on this damn series. I came to it rather late in the great scheme of things, and having watched Wendigo (series one) and - I am ashamed to say - screamed rather a lot - I have never looked back. Series three is wider and deeper than the other two, with some really outstanding episodes that caricature the genre affectinately and intelligently: Dream A Little Dream of Me and Ghostfacers are just incredibly inventive, the one a very touching spoof of a very good film, the second just a very good send up: Sam and Dean, Bella, Ruby: this is TV fantasy as its very best and its most beautiful.

Heroes and Villains
Heroes and Villains
by Angela Carter
Edition: Paperback

4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars clever, sexy and dark, 11 Feb 2009
This review is from: Heroes and Villains (Paperback)
I first read this in the mid 1980s and it left an indelible impression on my mind, especially Jewel, who became ever after an archetype of whimsical masculine beauty and intrigue. I have come back to this novel through later, slightly derivative fiction, especially Jim Younger's High John the Conqueror, and find it as fresh and as audacious as ever. The story is a short, packed with singular characterisation, Mrs Green, the Doctor, the idiot boy, and set deep within a post holocaust landsacpe of ruins, verdant greens, a land of the Professors (from `the deep shelters') the splendid if regressive barbarians, and the Out people. Each character is part of a rich genre, a clever intellectual read about social order, myth and still after all these years, subversively feminist: Marianne and Jewel's dialogue are perfectly done, only Carter could in effect convey the wit without making it seem fake or patronising:
`I'll leave you' she said furiously, `as soon as the baby is born!'
`You'll never' said Jewel contemptuously, `you're creaming for me now, this very minute.' He thrust his hand between her legs but she said
`That doesn't mean I won't leave you'
`Nor does it.' he agreed `but it suggests you might find going more difficult than coming' (p 126). Moving and rather haunting, it is both very much of its time (1969-70) but quite timeless in its appeal. Carter, her joy of sex, and the sheer imaginative power of her prose, is much missed.
Comment Comments (4) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Sep 13, 2011 8:58 PM BST

The Road
The Road
by Cormac McCarthy
Edition: Paperback

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The fate of the earth, 27 Dec 2008
This review is from: The Road (Paperback)
MaCarthy's book is a notable - even possibly exceptional - contribution to a grim genre of fiction. I grew up with Angela Carter's Heroes and Villains, Wyndhams The Chrysalides, and progressed from there: through a landscape of ruinous barbarism, accusatory and hopeless, in which writers of various kinds and nationalities challenged us to imagine a collective, species extinction. Few I think have succeeded quite so well, and quite so poetically, as MaCarthy. I found the style difficult at first, disjointed, displaced, but eventually its imagery and its curious style eased me into the horror of a sort of Saga, the epic of an end of days: haunted by stark images - a train in a wood, a baby on a spit - gratuitous - shocking, but not so much perhaps as the image of a world without sunlight, of beaches littered with millions of fish bones. MaCarthy understands the convention well - no need to detail how, when, but that it happened: like an adult version of Lord of the Flies, in the end, stripped of all conceit, there is murder and death and almost NO good guys left.

One can quibble about that, perhaps, or question the metaphor of the light, the symbolic innocence of the boy, the stylised horror of cannibalism and catamites, but these are minor mutterings. What I found most moving was not just the end itself, but the final paragraph itself, archaic, heavy on the eye, but stark in the simple counterpoint of revealing the enormity of what has been done: a lost imagined world of wild trout in a stream, of lost gin clear waters, a world that cannot be put back.

Although not a work of fiction, it is often said that Schell's fate of the earth, serialised in the New Yorker, and published by Picador in 1982, was a crucial step in underscoring the impossibility of nuclear war. In a famous chapter (An Republic of Insects and Grass), Schell reiterated that we could and MUST comprehend the imagery of collective death above our own: MaCarthy, in an era of global climate change and possible collapse returns us to a fictional genre with much the same effect: there is hope here, but the crime is so monstrous as to almost overwhelm the power of literature to convey it.

Romeo And Juliet [DVD] [1997]
Romeo And Juliet [DVD] [1997]
Dvd ~ Leonardo DiCaprio
Offered by best_value_entertainment
Price: £5.79

1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars sound and vision, 21 Dec 2008
I first saw this movie in 1997; insecure in my late 30s, and superficially outraged by what I took to be the self evident bastardisation of text and content. In 2008, insecure in my late 40s, I came across it again and was pleasantly horrified to find that I was much changed. So often, like a good wine, a film needs some time to lie in order to see it for what it truly is. What I saw recently was a vivid and imaginative interpretation - as visual as it was textual - aimed at an audience who were - and let is not beat about the bush, still are - basically illiterate. An audience who see Shakespeare like my generation saw calculus, needlessly hard, irrelevant, utterly Greek. A generation that live in a different medium, moved by speed (drugs, colours, noise) startling vivid imagery, violence and sex. They are alarmed - not touched - by language. Language is hard, a veil over the object itself, it requires effort to think it out. This is a generation that would give birth to a texting revolution intent on reducing the English language to a series of acronyms and phonetic dots and dashes - who would render `Would you like to come out for a meal' to the bleak barbarism of `you eat yet?' Newspeak is a way of life to them: yet the film was a massive success.

In 1996, the Shakespeare fascists recognised this success and yet despised what it represented - Shakespeare lite, Shakespeare filleted and served with weird costumes, random `thee's, thou arts, and what tos,' but with no relationship to (that most powerful word) the play, and so edited, so contrived as to be (and I quote) textual vomit. This was not Romeo and Juliet for god's sake, this was a sort of teen love fest followed by a bad trip and an ugly, prolonged come down, a sort of Buffy meets the Goths. De Caprio was only in it because he was pretty - unfortunately prettier than Juliet as it turned out, so much so that when he strips off with her there is a certain frisson of a same sex relationship - all guaranteed to get the young into theatres to ooh and ahh at the visual bits wedged between the - well - what is the word - dialogue.

But this contempt actually just missed the point - the real quality of what this film was and is. What Shakespeare fascists didn't get (and I confess this myself, tearfully) is firstly, that even the attempt to introduce Shakespeare was miraculous; it was the equivalent of teaching goldfish to sing Handel, and secondly, that the film as a whole has a sort of alchemy, a transformative power that is more than the sum of its parts. Some of the parts of pretty awful, but some are astounding, and in some extraordinary way, through the visual imagery, the language of Shakespeare is carefully insinuated, it creeps out, it inspires, it actually tells the story as much as the fireworks and the cars. Perhaps my generation were as bewildered by the imagery as the infamous MTV generation was by the language - but they work on each other. It just tells it in a different way. I was mesmerised by some of the performances here, de Caprio is a radical, subversive Romeo: he is so androgynous, so beguilingly beautiful, but his language is beautiful too, its mad, it doesn't make sense, but actually it does. And as rightly commented at the time, Claire Danes sounds like she actually speaks Shakespeare at home with her family on a daily basis: even the news commentary intro is inspired, the pathos is not a thrown away use of text, the reinterpretation isn`t random, it has purpose.

I guess what I am trying to confess is that in 1997 I came to this film from the wrong direction - from a historical, rather stultified conception of the text and not through the performative act; where `taking liberties' was a reative decision, not crassness. I also came to it as a man conceited in my belief that I `got' Shakespeare and not from the route of someone who had never opened or read a play. I had yet to see Sussman's direction of Othello set in Apartheid South Africa, or the clever version of it as about racism in the metropolitan police, or even (and seriously) the Levi jeans dig at Midsummer Nights dream. Adapting Shakespeare is what Shakespeare is about, creative pedagogic contrivances to get the barbarians back to civilisation, and hopefully, to bring some of their barbarism with them. I did not understand that in my late 30s. I think now that this is an iconic film, and deservedly so.

Great Expectations [DVD] [1998]
Great Expectations [DVD] [1998]
Dvd ~ Ethan Hawke
Offered by best_value_entertainment
Price: £2.89

1 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A successful adaption, 1 Oct 2008
I am not usually one for adaptions. Something invariably gets lost, and the result is either too clever, too irrelevant, or too wooden, as if an attempt to re-image a classic requires it to be either ignored, or followed too slavishly. I still wince, for example, over Toya Wilcox in The Tempest, and Jarman's Edward II. Here, however, the adaption of Dicken's gothic rags to riches story is lovingly, almost whimisically transported to the Gulf of Mexico and the 1980s. Assisted by a deft use of the camera, and a cast that includes Bancroft, Hawke, DeNiro and Paltrow, this is a beautiful film. The children who play their adult counterparts are also brilliant, and although there are some odd moments - the sound track IS a little suspect - the essence of Dickens is perfectly rendered here. DeNiro IS a modern Magwitch, the final scene with him (held, dying by Hawke) perfectly sublimates the death of Magwitch in the Thames, secure in the knowledge that Pip (Finn) is now a gentleman. The subplot with Stella as Magwitch's daughter has been dropped, but Bancroft as Miss Haversham is hammy and operatic, perfect - the crumbling out door wedding feast beautifully nuanced, the ruined house and garden excellently executed. Hawke is perfect here, perhaps too vulnerable, sometimes perhaps too clueless. But what some reviewers here saw as wooden is more a desire, I think, to show the relationship between Stella and Finn as allegorical: it isn't real, like the landscape, the kent marshes morphed into brilliant tropical seascapes and the cries of gulls, this is not a love story, its a story of expectation, of illusion, of disappoinment and stocism. I defy any critic to compare the scene where DeNiro reveals himself to Hawke in the studio apartment with the original, the young Guiness as a lawyer, and not be impressed. And as for what Dicken's would have thought - we will never know. He was a reformer and a bit of a modern - I think he would have been touched.

City of the Sun
City of the Sun
by David Levien
Edition: Hardcover

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Good but flawed, 27 Aug 2008
This review is from: City of the Sun (Hardcover)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
This is a good, basic thriller, but it is a little slow to get going, and in many senses, a little too derivative of the genre to be truly original. The story is dark and distressing - a young boy, Jamie, is taken early one morning from a paper round - and we are confronted with the horrors of an organised, trans-national sex trade in children; the indifference and negligence of the police, and the terrible pressures such a loss generates for the parents of Jamie. As guilt and resentment fracture their lives and their ideal, model home, Paul - Jamie's father - is put in touch with Behr, the quintessential private detective, misanthropic, divorced, respected and disliked by his old police force, but a force of nature, and used to the darkness of his own loss. Through an elaborate narration, the book ends up in Mexico. It could have been better. Levien writes in a sort of minimalist style, like a camera, panning a lifeless, suburban landscape. It has its moments. Behr's introduction is a classic, mistaken as he is for a down and out. Elsewhere, the writing is weak: an idiomatic `american' that makes the book curiously illiterate in places, and Behr is so quintessential as to border on cliche. Some of the dialogue is almost a send up of the film noir genre itself. It is saved by its plot, some of the baddies, and does certainly engage the reader by about page 80. There is a strange obsession with body building and masculinity that could have been used much more imaginatively, but, bottom line: I read it and I enjoyed it. I would like to see Behr again, slightly more alive next time: part of the genre but not defined by it.

Moominpappa at Sea
Moominpappa at Sea
by Tove Jansson
Edition: Paperback

33 of 34 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars On the eve of adulthood - Kafka meets the Buddha, 22 Jun 2008
This review is from: Moominpappa at Sea (Paperback)
As has been said below, Moominpappa at Sea (MAS), along with Moominvalley in November (MIN), represent the height of Jansson's achievements in the Moomin series. They also, of course, conclude it. While all the novels are unique and oddly unsettling, these last two installments are almost existential, poetic, almost saga like. I should explain that I read all of the Moomin books in the 1970s, and have - in my own middle aged crisis perhaps - returned to them. At the age of 14 I felt about MAS and MIN very much what I feel now - only the language of comparison has changed. Now in my late 40s, it is Moominpappa and oddly the fisherman/lighthouse keeper that I identify with most, not so much Moomintroll - and I am filled with new admiration for the mystery of Little My. When I first read this I could not understand why they left their valley, how they knew where the island was, or what had happened to the lighthouse keeper. Now I know. I also know what happened to the Groke, who Jansson, in her deep humility, finally saves, like Prospero saving Caliban. MIN occupies the same temporal frame of this novel, depicting what is going on `back home' - and it is all written in the same minimalist, insightful way. At onelevel the characters are oddly dysfunctional and lost, at another, they are sublimely knit into a world of nature and light. I am relieved to think that much of this magic touched me when I was 14, but how strong it has grown over the years! There is something almost numinous here. I urge you to read these two together, and then to find and enjoy the earlier and more carefree installments, especially Moominsummer Madness, Moominvalley in November and Tales.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Mar 31, 2010 1:22 PM BST

V for Vendetta [DVD] [2006]
V for Vendetta [DVD] [2006]
Dvd ~ Natalie Portman
Price: £3.99

6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars view from a distance?, 21 Jun 2008
This review is from: V for Vendetta [DVD] [2006] (DVD)
I enjoyed this film, I enjoyed the moral ambiguity at the centre of the character V, and I enjoyed the absurdity that many here found irritating. Cliched imagery works because they are cliches - obvious symbols known and (too readily?) understood - but the film works only at a distance: it probably would not merit re-watching, and, as many reviewers have shown here, it doesn't submit well to scrutiny.

It offers a colourful and entertaining warning to the logic of tyranny, but is neither convincing or plausible about the content: fascism of the 1930s European kind in the UK is a notoriously difficult to visualise, partly because it failed even in the circumstances of the 1930s. Slightly outside the cacotopia genre, more convincing portrayals are the surreal movie BRAZIL, which depicts British authoritarianism as an over blown and (still) incompetent bureaucracy, replete with sporting metaphors and shopping malls, again with terrorism at its heart, So too, in a different way the TV series A Very British Coup. But BRAZIL was a commercial failure on release, and A COUP was hardly sci-fi, being basicallt an attack on the British establishment.

The difficulty with main stream sci-fi is that the politics has to be reduced to very crude sign posts or flashbacks - or as in V footage of riots, people in pubs and families on sofas. GATTICA and, to some extent, EQUILIBRIUM are slightly more successful in depicting the context of a totalitarian system, but V DOES try hard to show the banality of evil, and the sense that, superficially at least, it might look rather similar to what we have now.

Much of the imagery here is clever but not seemingly thought through. I was confused (as many reviewers were) by the reference to Guye Fawkes. Only a catholic and a recussant would have seen the attempt to blow up Parliament in 1605 as the triumph of an `idea' worth emulating - many saw Fawkes as indeed as a foreigner working to subvert the English way of life. Perhaps, like V's treatment of Porter, this is a deliberate attempt by the film to confuse its moral purpose - certainly the final stages of the film are impressive and symbolic indeed - but strikingly ambiguous. I was also bothered by the mass grave scenes, partly because they needed more careful placement. I do not object to the referencing of the holocaust, and to an image that returned to Europe as recently as the 1990s in the Balkans, but I wanted to know the moral shortcut that led scientists to do that in more detail - fear does make us complicit in our own terror, but can it by itself strip us of humanity so quickly? Is it so skin deep?

(PS anyone reading this might help me out with a question: the BBC produced in the late 1970s or 1980s a TV drama about a fascist British state - any clues as to what it was called?)
Comment Comments (4) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jan 7, 2012 12:08 AM GMT

The Holy Fox: A Biography of Lord Halifax
The Holy Fox: A Biography of Lord Halifax
by Andrew Roberts
Edition: Hardcover

9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars not so much black as grey, 5 May 2008
I thoroughly enjoyed this book - having reservations about the subject, and in truth, about the author. However, Roberts portrays the complexities and contexts which have gone into making Halifax such a controversial figure. I also have to confess, at the onset, that I have always bought the line that Halifax was not so much a traitor, as a man devoid of a moral center. However paradoxical this may seem for a man of faith, Halifax's ability of dealing in absolutes probably encouraged a rather brazen realist streak in him, that coupled with Chamberlain, set him so apparantly apart from Churchill's audacity and faith in what Britain should stand for. It is on the strength of Robert's work here, on the skill, humour and sensitivity in which he presents this gaunt, silent man, that my views have been much modified. What is especially outstanding here, is Robert's ability to portray Halifax and yet retain his praise of Churchill - overcoming the crude polarity of the good and the guilty, the black and the white, that has so often distorted the historical account. There were places here where I laughed out loud and also, I am unashamed to say still, where a lump rose in my throat for all those people, `appeasers' and none-appeasers alike, who has the singular misfortune to live in a time when each choice was fraught with danger. There is some beautiful writing here.

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