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Max Planck (London E18)

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The Barbara Hepworth Sculpture Garden
The Barbara Hepworth Sculpture Garden
by Miranda Phillips
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars It's time, I think, for Tate Publishing to revisit, 5 Aug. 2014
Barbara Hepworth's home/studio/sculpture garden is wonderful, and should be an essential part of anyone's visit to St Ives.
As a memento, this book is adequate but not terribly inspiring. The composition of the photos, the layout of the pages, the quality of the print are certainly not poor - just nothing very special. There's a dated, humdrum feel to the book that makes it seem older than its 2002 publication date, and it evinces little of the garden's huge appeal. Tate Publishing need to find a talented photographer to shoot fresh images of the sculptures in their unique setting, and a designer who can make the book a striking, visual treat - even it it means hiking the cover price up to over the £10 mark. Then, it might come close to doing some justice to this amazing place.

Sophie's Choice (Vintage Classics)
Sophie's Choice (Vintage Classics)
by William Styron
Edition: Paperback
Price: £8.77

50 of 57 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars I'm totally mystified by its status and reputation, 26 April 2011
Many people love this book. Anthony Burgess included it in his "Ninety-Nine Novels" (Ninety-nine Novels: The Best in English Since 1939 - A Personal Choice) and it features in the Modern Library list of the 100 best novels (albeit at No.96). And you can see among the reviews on this page that many of your fellow Amazon shoppers hold it in high esteem.

But a few don't. And I'm one of them. I consider myself to be well-read in American literature, and have also read a number of other Holocaust-themed novels. For me, "Sophie's Choice" ranks as one of the poorest books in either category that I have ever read. A banal plot with dystfunctional, borderline-loathsome characters, all told in what must be one of the most grating, convoluted and....well....just plain bad writing styles that I have ever come across. Styron's prose is so awful that it took a Herculean effort for me to get through passages like this:

"I recalled once more (how many times had I summoned their sound?) the pellucid indecencies Leslie had uttered, and as I did so - the view-finder of my mind reshaping each crevice of her moist and succulent lips, the orthodontically fashioned perfection of the sparkling incisors, even a cunning fleck of foam at the edge of an orifice - it seemed the dizzyiest pipe dream that this very evening, sometime before the sun should fulfill its oriental circuit and rise again on Sheepshead bay that mouth would be - no I could not let myself think about that slippery-sweet mouth and its impending employments."

Now, if this sounds like your idea of "great literature" (and if it is, you're not alone) then you might enjoy wading through about 650 pages of similar prose. Me? I think it's just terrible, bloated, turgid and oddly amateur. Without a doubt, it is the worst 'great' novel I have encountered. I am totally mystified why anyone should love such a book because, frankly, I hated pretty much everything about it.
Comment Comments (8) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Mar 21, 2013 3:46 PM GMT

It's Only a Movie: Alfred Hitchcock, a Personal Biography
It's Only a Movie: Alfred Hitchcock, a Personal Biography
by Charlotte Chandler
Edition: Paperback
Price: £13.95

2.0 out of 5 stars Lightweight, inessential Hitchcock overview, 17 May 2010
This isn't a terrible book, but it certainly isn't scholarly or very enlightening.

Charlotte Chandler presents a chatty, anecdotal run-through of Hitchcock's career. There are thumbnail outlines of the plots of each film, followed by a handful of stories to do with its production, with lots of soundbites from those involved. It's only suitable, really, for someone who knows very little about Hitchcock and has never read a book on him before, and prefers stories about Hollywood personalities rather than a serious look at the films themselves. If you're going on holiday, and want to pack a non-fiction title that's easy to read on the beach, this would probably do it. Suitable only for a young teen who is getting interested in classic movies but doesn't want to read anything too heavy, or a grandparent who remembers the Hitchcock films and likes tales about old-time stars. For anyone else, I suggest something like "The Alfred Hitchcock Story" by Ken Mogg, which has a good mix of interesting images, plot outlines, production history and criticism on every single film.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Aug 31, 2010 2:27 PM BST

This Life +10 [2007] [DVD]
This Life +10 [2007] [DVD]
Dvd ~ Jack Davenport
Offered by babsbargains *** WORLDWIDE SHIPPING ***
Price: £28.99

4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Avoid this like you would a giant plague-ridden rat, 18 Jan. 2010
This review is from: This Life +10 [2007] [DVD] (DVD)
I'm compelled to add my voice to that of the many people who decry this abysmal, misconceived and entirely worthless afterthought to the two excellent series of This Life. It's not that a decade-later reunion is such a terrible idea in itself. But the execution is so woeful, the writing and direction so cringe-inducing, and the characters that you once loved are transformed into unbearable, practically unrecognisable travesties of the people you thought you knew them as.

If you have even a shred of love for the original show, listen to me, listen to others here, and leave this junk well alone. Don't be tempted to watch it out of sheer curiosity. It will tarnish your memory of a great show, and you'll be left like me - wishing you had never set eyes on it even for a minute. If I could erase my memory, I would. It really, really is that bad. No, really.

Chambers Card Games
Chambers Card Games
by Peter Arnold
Edition: Paperback

49 of 51 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Place your bets, 14 Jun. 2008
This review is from: Chambers Card Games (Paperback)
I went into a bookshop to look at a number of manuals on card games before choosing this one. It's much the best I could find. Not only does it list a great variety of games (100 in all), but at the back it indexes them by "Type" (e.g. patience, family, trick-taking, melding, casino, children etc) and by "Number of Players". So if, for example, you're looking for a gambling game for three players, a quick bit of cross-referencing will suggest that Skat is the game for you.

As well as clear, well-illustrated instructions for famous games like Bridge, Bezique, Euchre, Hearts, Whist, Canasta, Rummy (and its spin-offs) and Poker (and all of its variants), there are plenty of unusual games for seasoned, curious players, such as Pope Joan, Schafkopf, Quinto and Calypso.

Best of all is Peter Arnold's writing style. He is clear, but never dry. His introduction, plus chapters on card history, etiquette and cheating make for good reading. Whether you want to refresh your memory on the rules of Snap so you can teach it to a small child, or get a solid grounding in Texas Hold 'Em - this book covers them all.

By the way, I bought it not only for myself, but in an attempt to persuade my two young sons that not all the best games are on a PC. Now they're playing Pontoon, Go Fish, Rummy and a number of other games. Not only are card games more social, but are good for kids' numeracy skills.

I have to add that in my copy I have spotted just one or two typos, but nothing too serious. I thoroughly recommend this book.

Wim Wenders Collection [DVD]
Wim Wenders Collection [DVD]

16 of 25 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Hardly the cream of Wim, 1 Sept. 2007
This review is from: Wim Wenders Collection [DVD] (DVD)
Well, there's no doubt that both Wrong Move and The American Friend show Wenders in excellent form, but...the rest? Mostly of curiosity value. Be honest, now. If this box set contained those two films plus The Goalkeper's Fear Of The Penalty, Alice In The Cities, Kings Of The Road, and The State Of Things, you'd snap it up in a Dusseldorf minute, right? As it is, maybe rights issues mean that this set represents the best Wim currently available for DVD distribution. But that's not quite the same as very best of his career. Personally, I'm going to wait and see if a better set gets released in the next few years.

The Quay Brothers - The Short Films 1979-2003 (Two Discs) [DVD]
The Quay Brothers - The Short Films 1979-2003 (Two Discs) [DVD]
Dvd ~ Quay Brothers
Offered by A2Z Entertains
Price: £9.69

57 of 59 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Highly recommended - but unfortunately incomplete., 27 Mar. 2007
About twenty years ago, I was captivated by a season of Quay Brothers films broadcast on Channel 4. My favourite of all was called "Intimate Excursions", where the Quays created extraordinary visuals to accompany excerpts from pretty much all of Leos Janacek's major works. I still have it on VHS, taped from the telly, and as a marriage of animation and classical music, it sure beats the hell out of "Fantasia"! Anyway, when this BFI release was announced I was particularly keen to see a pristine digital transfer of this film, isn't included! I contacted the BFI, and their quick response was as follows:

"Unfortunately some titles have been impossible to put onto the DVD for a number of reasons. The reason for Intimate Excursions is that although the music is out of copyright, the recordings aren't. They were originally sourced from the Czech Supraphon label, which was state-owned until the Velvet Revolution (so relatively easy to clear for broadcast in the 1980s), but since then the catalogue has passed into private hands."

A great shame, but clearly the BFI are powerless. It's not a reason to not buy this excellent set, but I am only going to give it four stars because it isn't quite as comprehensive as its publicity would have you believe. Maybe one day we'll have a full retrospective of these great animators on DVD.

Texas Chainsaw Massacre - Beginning (Uncut) [DVD] [2006]
Texas Chainsaw Massacre - Beginning (Uncut) [DVD] [2006]
Dvd ~ Jordana Brewster
Offered by DVD Overstocks
Price: £3.84

5 of 12 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Symptomatic of our times, 3 Mar. 2007
I actually thought the 2003 "re-imagining" of "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre" was not at all bad. A good, grungey Southern Gothic feel with a cast of true eccentrics, some decent suspense sequences, Biel in a white t-shirt. But this more recent film is very much a part of the current trend of horror films that has deliberately moved away from edge-of-seat thrills and more towards, well, torture. Movies like "Hostel" and the "Saw" Trilogy have set the current trend. The thrill is no longer in the chase. Instead, the victims are caught pretty quickly, and then are subjected to plenty of toe-curling physical punishment. I suppose in the current climate, where we're used to seeing images of people being tortured, humiliated and generally treated like animals at Abu Ghraib, filmmakers have had to up the ante a little. How to compete with the images of horror we see each day in the news? So, here in "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre - The Beginning" we see people strung up, beaten, and their backs stamped on to break their spines. Not very enlightening or entertaining, and with absolutely no tension - which is what I like in a horror movie. It's just a bit unpleasant. I love horror films, but I'll be glad when this current torture-fixated cycle is over. And I've always liked Jordana Brewster - but this movie serves her far less well than "The Faculty" did.

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