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So Much for That
So Much for That
by Lionel Shriver
Edition: Paperback
Price: £5.59

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Blood letting and leeches, 15 July 2011
This review is from: So Much for That (Paperback)
Best Shriver since Kevin. Full of surprises, some shocking, some satisfying. The characters are expertly drafted, sometimes annoying, sometimes endearing and always entertaining. The angst and confusion of white middle class America is conveyed with humour, irony and contradiction. For me the pivotal theme of disease (specifically rare conditions) and one botched plastic surgery dominates the narrative by trapping the characters in a seemingly endless maelstrom of emotional and financial trauma. As a result Shriver's characters expose the shortfalls and misplaced optimism of the medical profession, the grotesque and hidden limitations of healthcare insurance and the hopeless grind of keeping up appearances. Escape, physical and spiritual, proving a far better option than staying the course, provides the respite these characters so desperately require. Fantastic.

Whatever Works [DVD] [2009] [Region 1] [US Import] [NTSC]
Whatever Works [DVD] [2009] [Region 1] [US Import] [NTSC]
Dvd ~ Evan Rachel Wood
Price: £5.81

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Love & Quantum Mechanics, 13 July 2011
"I'm dying" screams Boris to his wife, "shall I call an ambulance" she shrieks, "no, not now, I mean eventually" is the reply. For me Boris is the archetypal Woody Allen character (middle-aged, neurotic, divorced, misanthropic, cantankerous) and Larry David the perfect actor for the part. Initially I found it impossible to avoid thinking about Larry David in "Curb Your Enthusiasm", particularly the scenes where Boris, proclaiming his genius credentials, talks directly to the camera. For me this film benefited from the best of both worlds as the self righteous Boris hectors all those around him with his hilarious, pathetic, preposterous, intolerant, arrogant views on all matters existential. But this man has a soul and on occasions it all becomes a bit too much. Still Boris, has the incredulous good fortune to bag himself the beautiful, young, naive, optimistic Melody, who, Pygmalion like, morphs into a mirror image of himself. This film has many hilarious, classic Allen moments and the up beat whatever works message offers hope where perhaps there seems none.

Love And Human Remains [1994] [DVD]
Love And Human Remains [1994] [DVD]
Dvd ~ Thomas Gibson
Price: £6.95

3.0 out of 5 stars The Consequences of Unrequited Love, 12 July 2011
Arcand's English language outing is a strange affair. Put simply, this film centres on the comings and goings of a couple of thirty something singles. Candy is a straight woman and David a gay man. Candy passionately seeks love, whereas the cynical David does not. They share a flat and spend most of their time discussing some of aspect of gay/straight, straight/straight, gay/gay relationships. Thomas Gibson (David) and Ruth Marshall (Candy) convey a likeable duo who convincingly portray the trails and tribulations of lives caught up in a seemingly endless round of dating and knock backs. The misery and consequences of unrequited love and confused sexual identity (Candy/Jerri or David/Bernie) provide the backbone to this movie and are cleverly exploited to conjure up some rather dreamy and ambiguous encounters. But, for me, the film lacked the inventiveness of other Arcand movies. The serial killer murder mystery plot device felt a bit like a add on and was heavily handled with no clear meaning unless it was if you don't love me I'll kill innocent people. The red herrings were weak as was the eventual revelation culminating in a frenzied psychopathic performance from the chisel jawed Cameron Bancroft. All in all i would recommend watching this movie if you have an interest in Denys Arcand. Otherwise it might all seem a bit predictable and unfulfilling.

Cookie's Fortune [DVD] [1999]
Cookie's Fortune [DVD] [1999]
Dvd ~ Glenn Close
Offered by CP UK And Global LTD
Price: £2.43

4.0 out of 5 stars Don't get caught with your hand in the cookie jar., 8 July 2011
What I enjoyed most about this whimsical film is it's dramatic irony and care free attitude. A comedy about a murder that is not a murder. Like "Short Cuts", Altman intentionally develops characters to initially confuse the viewer, a sort of satisfying misrepresentation which, for me, leaves a smile on the face. Take the black man Willis (Charles S. Dutton) who is first seen drunk, stealing half a pint of Wild Turkey from a bar, breaking into a large house and raiding a gun cabinet. Or the obviously wealthy homeowner, an elderly white woman Cookie (Patricia Neal), who appears to be dementing and vulnerable. What ensues is funny and moving. Not least for its Southern setting whose racial harmony and community spirit is beyond reproach. There are no villains as such. The nearest would be Camille Dixon (Glen Close), a control freak who is obsessed with family reputation. Even she, however, is shocked to discover the consequences of her instinctive actions. The scene with her hand in the cookie jar was magnificent. The material is familiar but Altman's touch adds a depth of feeling rarely encountered in these types of comedy murder mysteries. For instance, Cookie's love for her departed husband is so intense and genuine that I understood why she did what she did. Similarly, Willis is a faultless character, a man who's loyalty and integrity surpass mere mortals. Even the seemingly lecherous fishmonger Manny Hood (Lyle Lovett) turns out to be as benign as the rest of the small town's inhabitants, including the police who are probably the most polite and endearing butch of cops I've ever seen.

by Marquis de Sade
Edition: Paperback

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Unforgiving, 7 July 2011
This review is from: Juliette (Paperback)
The best way to describe this book is to use Sade's own words: an "encyclopaedia of inhuman practices" (p.1130). For me reading this book was, on the whole, an uncomfortable literary experience. Page after page of the most abhorrent atrocities all committed in the pursuit of carnal pleasures. Sade's libertines are grotesque, caricature monsters, possessing incredulous appetites and gargantuan attributes. They are not of this world, they are a product of Sade's incarcerated mind, polluted by bitterness, anger and self pity. Groomed from a young age Juliette is trained in the art of libertinage, where she excels, becoming incredibly rich and influential. Alongside her chief occupation, Juliette is schooled in the art of philosophy by one libertine after another. The principle tenets are: God does not exist, nature is as indifferent to humans as it is to ants, virtue is a chimera, vice is fun, morals are irrelevant. A sort of nihilistic, murderous misanthropy and Juliette enjoys putting it into practice. Superficially, and as Sade teasingly states, the book is no more than a recycled catalogue of libertinage, mass murder and corruption. But is it? To some extent, Sade's enquiring and curious mind conjures up surprises. The philosophical treatises and debates are explored with depth and understanding, empirically supported by numerous examples. Sade is innovative in his Enlightenment thinking. Such as his visionary pre- Darwinian views on the concept of the survival of the fittest. Similarly there is significant attention given to the consequences of over population (Malthusian growth model perhaps?). It is interesting that Juliette is a woman, I felt a feminist murmuring throughout the novel, particularly in the Durand character. Libertine women, at least, are treated as equals. In presenting one brutal libertine action after another is Sade reflecting back to the reader the actual brutality of man? I think so because Sade goes to great lengths to suggest this through his repeated references to uninterrupted warfare, executions, tortures, assassinations, rituals. Religion features high on Sade's list of human made atrocities. And, by way of example the Pope and his workforce make a memorable contribution to many infamies in this book. It is also interesting the note the tone of Sade's descriptions of his libertines in action. The use of almost comical military euphemisms to describe the libertine's activities is rife, as is the over the top and impossible theatricality of Sade's blindly choreographed set pieces.

The Incredible Shrinking Man [DVD]
The Incredible Shrinking Man [DVD]
Dvd ~ Grant Williams
Price: £5.00

4.0 out of 5 stars To Infinity And Below, 7 July 2011
For me this film continues to be a source of enormous pleasure regardless of age and pre CGI pedigree. As with most science fiction the viewer must abandon reason and accept the tenet that, in this case, a mysterious radioactive cloud can deposit glitter on an unfortunate victim causing irreversible shrinkage at an atomic level. Similarly that the shrinking man (Scott Carey) can retrospectively narrate his story but from where? The infinite and infinitesimal yonder? For centuries people have been fascinated by human miniaturisation, such as Swift's Gulliver, Carroll's Alice, the 1960s TV series "Land of the Giants" or the recent "Honey I Shrunk The Kids" movie franchise. As a variation on a theme the film's entertainment centres on the increasingly threatening nature of living in a typical domestic dwelling dominated by oversize everyday objects and oversize everyday animals. The action sequences are nail bitingly tense (pet cat, mouse trap, paint stick, flood and house spider) and the unwavering loyalty of Carey's wife adds an intimate emotional depth. Like a modern day Odysseus, Carey' heroic attempts to escape his incarceration in the cellar of his home leads to a metaphysical conclusion where "to God there is no zero". This DVD edition offers a crisp transfer and decent soundtrack.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: May 23, 2012 1:54 PM BST

Liverpool [DVD] [2008] [Region 1] [US Import] [NTSC]
Liverpool [DVD] [2008] [Region 1] [US Import] [NTSC]
Dvd ~ Juan FernŠndez
Offered by supermart_usa
Price: £10.41

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Irritably good, 4 July 2011
I enjoyed this film but I'm not sure why. Put simply Alonso's movie is about a merchant seaman who takes shore leave to visit relatives in desolate and wintry Tierra del Fuego. There is very little dialogue and the viewer (me at least) is left guessing as to whether or not Farrel (excellent minimalist performance from Juan Fernandez) has, for instance, a personality. In the absence of dramatic devices, Alonso substitutes something ethereal, of this world, but locked up in the mind of an enigmatic character. The sequence of events (there is no plot) is conveyed through moments of intimate close up and introspection or the use of long real time takes. Most of the time Farrel is seen to want to be on his own. You'd think a bit of leave would be most welcome and you have a bit of dosh, but Farrel spends his free time drinking cheap liquor, hitchhiking and sleeping rough, as he makes his way to his hometown. Like in Akerman's "Jeanne Dielman", Alonso films everyday activities with a stylistic formality that makes the most mundane activities interesting to watch. Technically the film is beautifully photographed and the use of natural lighting adds to the stark realism of what unfolds before the viewer. This is visceral cinema, like the principle character, his hometown seems soulless, steeped in poverty and populated by people who do not want to know him. Except a girl who experiences the only moment of tenderness in the movie. Alonso has been described as a New Realist or a New Depressive in festival circles. Whatever label this film has it certainly is not a film to ignore for the poetic treatment of practically non-characters like Farrel adds something very different to the history of cinema.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Dec 30, 2012 11:09 AM GMT

Northern Skirts ( Nordrand )
Northern Skirts ( Nordrand )
Dvd ~ Nina Proll
Offered by DaaVeeDee-uk
Price: £24.69

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Consequences of war, 3 July 2011
This review is from: Northern Skirts ( Nordrand ) (DVD)
For many people (me included) living in relatively peaceful Western societies world conflict is witnessed from afar, invariably through TV news reports. Although the suffering and deprivation is very real for those involved the impact and consequences are far removed from our everyday lives. Take the Balkans conflict for instance, unless you had a relative in the peace keeping force, interest beyond the news headline is practically negligible. Proximity, however, changes everything and in Albert's excellent fragmentary examination of the lives of several young people (some who are Balkan refugees), who live in an Austrian town close to the Slovenian border, the conflict casts a psychosocial shadow that permeates many aspects of their behaviour. Particularly Austrian bakery worker Jasmin and ex Yugoslavian nurse assistant Tamara who meet at an abortion clinic and end up sharing a flat. Jasmin is slovenly, directionless and reckless. Her behaviour exposes her vulnerability and her careless attitude leads to an alcoholic binge that leaves her unconscious, lying in the snow. Similarly Tamara haunted by what is going on back home tries to keep in touch with relatives with varying degrees of success. The stress and strain is clear but there are no solutions on offer. These lives act as a backdrop to conflict, at home and across the border. For me Albert's film is about victims, people who have little control over what is happening to them.

Fish Tank [DVD] [2009]
Fish Tank [DVD] [2009]
Dvd ~ Katie Jarvis
Offered by A2Z Entertains
Price: £6.99

1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Packs a punch, 2 July 2011
This review is from: Fish Tank [DVD] [2009] (DVD)
As with Wasp (included as a special feature), Andrea Arnold has developed an amazing talent to depict characters that at first seem to be, for instance, irresponsible, ignorant and aggressive but gradually morph into sympathetic, more complex characters, who genuinely seek to rise above the suffocating bleakness of their fish tank lives. With Fish Tank the viewer is immediately thrust into the life of Mia, a very angry teenager whose language is littered with invectives for almost everyone around her and whose violent nature has attracted the attention of the authorities. Faced with institutional care, Mia's behaviour becomes more and more uncontrollable. Home life consists of rows with her single mum, who welcomes the impending incarceration of her daughter, as does her foul-mouthed younger sister. Occasionally Mia does escape from her self-induced behavioural maelstrom as she secretly and skilfully dances in an abandoned flat and, show compassion for a horse belonging to travellers who she thinks are abusing the animal. For me a pivotal moment in the film is when Mia discovers that the horse she cares about is dead not because of lack of care but because it was old. Perhaps Mia was judging the horse's owner and stereotyping travellers as animal abusers? Such questions underpin Arnold's skill at developing characters from a raw, unsympathetic perspective where the viewer (me at least) is irritably prone to negatively judge person and circumstance. But as with cases in life Arnold shows how wrong people can often be. For Mia is a vulnerable and deep down a very sensitive individual: the horse, the dance audition, the flattery of her mum's boyfriend. And in the last of quarter movie I was tense with concern for Mia's plight. The scenes on the marshes were riveting as was the final satisfying denouement. Fantastic. I'm looking forward to seeing Wuthering Heights.

Wonderful Town [DVD]
Wonderful Town [DVD]
Dvd ~ Aditya Assarat
Price: £12.09

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A long time to heal, 2 July 2011
This review is from: Wonderful Town [DVD] (DVD)
On the whole I enjoyed this film for its haunting, melodic and serene style. Assarat's intent is to clearly convey the catastrophic aftermath of the 2004 Asian Tsunami. For me the presence of the sea remains a pervasive element throughout the movie. Occasionally the camera cuts to the beach where benign waves lap the shore with gentle caresses. For me these peaceful scenes were accompanied by my TV news memory of the horrific deluge of water that destroyed so many people's lives. Indeed a central theme of this film involves the reconstruction of a battered beach resort hotel where nearby lies the fenced in remains of a seaside villa. Here Assarat's camera hovers intimately over ruined household fixtures, where, perhaps the hallucinatory echoes of lost lives still inhabit this space. The locals talk of ghosts. The nearby coastal town (Takua Pa) is sparsely populated, a place where tourists are yet to return. However, it is in this traumatised landscape that a young Bangkok architect (Ton) and a shy, hotel owner (Na) find themselves attracted to one another. The relationship is developed through a series of intimate moments, superbly portrayed by Anchalee Saisoontorn and Supphasit Kansen, such as Na pressing Ton's bed linen to her face or Ton helping Na with her personal laundry on the roof of her somewhat tired and empty hotel. This burgeoning love affair is deeply moving as the viewer learns more about the characters complex personalities. Like the building project he oversees and the wider environment, Ton is damaged spiritually and emotionally. Na's nervous gestures and repressive glances convey a dread of being found out. The locals are gossiping and rumours inevitably emerge. After all Ton is temporary, a stranger from the city, who knows not of this town's pain and suffering. As with the spectre of the giant wave this film is infused with its aftermath, a literary form of communal post-traumatic stress disorder, whose most serious manifestation is Wit, Na's brother, a self-centred thug who aggresively preys on the vulnerabilities of the outsider and the future happiness of his sister. Nevertheless this is a gentle movie more about tone than exposition, accompanied by a ghostly soundtrack and beautiful photography.

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