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Irrational Man [DVD] [2016]
Irrational Man [DVD] [2016]
Dvd ~ Joaquin Phoenix
Price: £5.99

4 of 7 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars IRRITATED MAN, 27 Feb. 2016
This review is from: Irrational Man [DVD] [2016] (DVD)
In this film Woody Allen revisits the theme of self-justifying extremity that he explored – with varying degrees of success – in earlier essays such as "Crimes and Misdemeanours" (well-handled with insight, sensitive conviction and some humour), "Cassandra's Dream" and "Match Point" (both derivative, not altogether convincing and perhaps signposts on a downward slope which hit rock-bottom with the embarrassing puerility of "To Rome with Love"). The Great Man has in the deepening twilight of his career redeemed himself occasionally – there have been the excellent "Midnight in Paris" and the somewhat less engaging but nevertheless commendable "Blue Jasmine." But "Irrational Man" sends us reeling back into the depths. One of its problems lies in its dogged determination to approach yet again a problem that is interesting when stated once and considered at leisure, but which, rehearsed yet again in a new costume, simply transforms this into the emperor's new clothes. It suffers cruelly from the ineptitude of its contrivance – improbable situation, one-dimensional characters and unpersuasive dialogue rigged against a soundtrack organised with such tedious and repetitive banality that one reacts with disbelief at the named contributors in the mercifully closing credits. Added to this is the point that in so many of his recent films every character awarded a voice-over is afforded a soliloquy that is identical in rhythm, tone and stilted vocabulary. T. S. Eliot thought initially of calling "The Waste Land" "He Do the Police in Different Voices." Well, Woody Do Himself and Everybody Else in the Same Voice. And unfortunately Abe, "the brilliant philosophy professor," seems to be caught throughout the movie on days when his towering intellect is wandering vacantly in the foothills of sophomore sophistry or in the dullest valleys of philosophy 101.

Woody Allen's corpus of work is, broadly, wonderful, but when, as here, his gift deserts him the result is devoid of novelty, perception or interest and informed by a mind-numbing pretention. Somewhat perversely, I suppose, I harbour an admiration for those of the Woodster's works – "September" and "Interiors" for instance – which are couched in Scandinavian severity but at this stage I'd readily subscribe to the Glaswegian injunction to "g'awn and gi'e's a laugh."


A Moveable Feast
A Moveable Feast
by Ernest Hemingway
Edition: Mass Market Paperback
Price: £6.99

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars more an extended menu, 10 Feb. 2016
With this book figuring on the Daily Telegraph's current list of best-sellers I thought I should re-read my venerable copy which has stood untouched on the shelf since I last laboured through it several years ago. My recollection of it was far from amiable, a condition which my return to it has done nothing to dispel. The greater part of the narrative is a farrago of juvenile self-regard mitigated only somewhat by the chapters on Scott Fitzgerald (which at least convey a hint of the mechanics of the relationship between the two writers) and the concluding chapter on Paris itself (which captures something of the atmosphere of the time and place). But this is hardly enough to counterbalance the utter banality rest of the work. Take this, for instance, as an example of its admirable insight: "I saw he [Fitzgerald] had very short legs. With normal legs he would have been perhaps two inches taller." This sort of inconsequential aside is by no means untypical. Throughout the book we are treated to a tedious litany of restaurants and the extracts from their menus to which Hemingway devoted himself. And the style reads like an inept self-parody in its terse repetitions and laconically but toe-curlingly dreadful dialogue between Hemingway himself and a catalogue of literary luminaries to whom most of this is attributed. If these exchanges are to be taken as accurate we have vastly overrated these prominent poets and novelists, including Ezra Pound, Ford Maddox Ford, James Joyce, Wyndham Lewis and, of course, Scott Fitzgerald. But my own inclination is to accept that their reduction to vacuous, often bitchy nonentities is the result of Hemingway's tireless self-promotion, or, more charitably, to his failing recollection. In fact Hemingway took the trouble to amuse himself by writing a parody of Sherwood Anderson's style (The Torrents of Spring) but nothing in that volume exceeded the unrelenting puerility of the bulk of A Moveable Feast. Often he proved himself a great writer, as he adequately demonstrated in so many of his short stories (to which his studied style seemed best suited) and novels such as A Farewell to Arms and For Whom the Bell Tolls, but to those who respond positively to A Moveable Feast I feel obliged to say, with only the mildest regret, nothing will persuade me to join your ranks.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jul 20, 2016 11:15 AM BST


CHESTERFIELD DIAMANTE BUTTON HEADBOARD IN 2ft6,3ft,4ft,4ft6,5ft,6ft !!!!NEW!!!! (RED, 5FT (KINGSIZE) PLAIN BUTTON)
CHESTERFIELD DIAMANTE BUTTON HEADBOARD IN 2ft6,3ft,4ft,4ft6,5ft,6ft !!!!NEW!!!! (RED, 5FT (KINGSIZE) PLAIN BUTTON)
Offered by crownbeds
Price: £47.95

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars a boudoir bargain, 7 Feb. 2015
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The item is robust, easily assembled and not without a certain regal elegance! The only complaint is that unpacking the back of the headboard led to the exposure of a good deal of sharp-ended stapling. All in all well worth the money.


Solitaire
Solitaire
Price: £5.18

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars a gallic giant, 11 Sept. 2013
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This review is from: Solitaire (Audio CD)
For songs that sound as if they have always been out there in the ether, those of Le Grand Georges are hard to beat. Wry melancholy, quiet insight, a sense of loss, nostalgia or commitment can all be found among them. This collection is as attractive as most of his earlier work, and his recent death has deprived us of a unique and wholly unforgettable talent.


1500 General Knowledge Quiz Questions and Answers
1500 General Knowledge Quiz Questions and Answers
Price: £0.99

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars general, maybe: knowledge, hardly, 11 Sept. 2013
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Questions relating to the point value of letters in Scrabble and an unrelenting concern with obscure phobias tend to encourage a tailing off of interest in the challenge


Atheist responses to religious arguments (UPDATED)
Atheist responses to religious arguments (UPDATED)

3 of 5 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars oh god!, 17 May 2013
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Despite years of effort my ability to communicate in Spanish seems restricted to remarking that "My camel has hepatitis," perhaps not the most conveniently deployable assertion to be dropped into casual conversation or as a response to a waiter's inquiry about my culinary preferences. And I have a Spanish friend who has a firmer grip of English than that I exercise over his language but who constantly resorts to perfectly comprehensible but not quite accurate observations such as "So you come by leg!" I mention these linguistic eccentricities because this book is a joyful compendium of so many similar assaults on our mother tongue that one is driven to debate the author's own provenance. Maybe he has suffered these indignities at the hands of whoever concocted the eBook version of his tome, or maybe he's a five year old Pole or Korean struggling with what will in time become his second - but never entirely familiar - language.

Have a quick look, for example, at this not uncharacteristic extract: "This is because physics and well established laws of physics allows (sic) for very effective predictions to be made. Hence eye witness not need. We have evidence, please use Google or read my other book if you need to see it." This is wonderful entertainment, not only for its semantic oddity but for the less than rigorous science it promotes. While not wishing to denigrate the enthusiastic endeavours of contributors to the Google multiverse I would hesitate to promote them as uniformly reliable - a mild criticism that might apply equally to Mr Butcher's other masterwork.

There are plenty of other such dubious referrals, assertions and infelicities. Here, for instance, are the winding up sentences in three consecutive "answers" - "In conclusion almost feasible to see why people would interpret it this way, but still wrong;" (a powerfully articulate indictment of any opposing view, eh?); "So in conclusion, not science;" (this summarising the author's own two sentence dismissal of a significant chunk of the Koran - pretty definitive, would one say? I suppose it could also be said that Keats's Odes are not maths); "Science has lots of evidence to show the actual age of the earth, you just have to look it up;" (did I really read that properly? In a book attempting scientifically to refute the claims of religion, the reader is enjoined to "look it up")!

But the real difficulty about entertaining a serious view of this juvenile document is that the fish in the barrel of religion have already been shot by far more efficient marksmen like Hitchens, Dawkins and Harris. There is nothing original here, and the second-hand arguments have been rendered ineffectual by their grossly inadequate presentation. As a long-lapsed Catholic and committed atheist I often find myself resenting the description "lapsed" as if at some future juncture I'll be brought back to my devotional senses. It's quite possible, of course, that in this debate neither side is likely to convince the other, with cloudy dictum on one hand and vinegary logic on the other. For all that, it seems to me that the case against the nonsense of religion (for which our generation ought to feel compelled to apologise to posterity) is ordinarily overwhelmingly persuasive. So, once the laughter has subsided, I find myself resenting publication of a book like this that renders embarrassing by the writer's sheer incompetence arguments that should continue to be advanced with clarity and urgency.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jul 12, 2014 3:41 PM BST


Island Life City Lights
Island Life City Lights

1.0 out of 5 stars brace yourself, 10 May 2013
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Probably because I have a dicey misanthropic inclination to verbal extremity I'm one of those people who value protection from some forms of incursion. That's why I favour the regular deployment of gatekeepers. I have relatives who live in a "gated community," which I imagine to be a fastness intended to protect those within from the attentions of orcs and morlocks. Similarly a relative is a hospital consultant who would be overwhelmed by legions of hypochondriac self-diagnosers (like me) were it not for the cordon provided by the GP service. And as a frequenter of the sort of establishment where we Celts are prone to seek intoxicant solace I appreciate the presence of those (usually) East European colossi barring entry to snacking teetotallers.

Now, until recently we readers were afforded protection by another sort of gatekeeper - the literary agent who generally kept at bay those aspiring authors whose singular talent lay in visiting depredation on the language and inflicting suffering on the unwary bibliophile. Unfortunately that apotropaic bulwark has been removed by the proliferation of self-publishing outlets and it's all too easy to wander unsuspecting into the lexical morass - the environment inhabited by this book. In short, I should have known better than to buy a book because it has a decent title.

No later than the second paragraph of this magnum opus this appears: "to get back to the beginning I, Mark Borthwick, had to get away from Edinburgh" - this immediately following on from the preceding sentence: "But I had to get away..." Engaging with such non-repetitive Parnassian prose you might entertain the notion that what had been driving the egregious Mark from the Caledonian capital was a posse of outraged critics demanding that he desist from further scriptory endeavour. But no - he had "sweated (sic) the classic blood, sweat (sic) and tears" in developing his "powerful" reputation as an architect, only to be shunted aside by "ordinary, dreary and uninspiring" people. So it had been they - and not scandalised reviewers - who had harried Mark off in search of Greek love.

Much of what comes next is a litany of encounters with neo-Adonises with, for example, "a well-developed hairy chest and pleasantly tanned skin colouring... dark eyes and... curly, slightly long, dark hair [finishing] the look." This one "looked amazingly handsome and slightly vulnerable." Dining with Mark, this über-hunk asks, "So who's going to start?" provoking "Start what, I thought. Instant flutter in my heart."

But don't be misled - not all of the narrative rises to such eloquently stylistic depths. I'm not familiar with the island where much of this dispiriting farrago is set and in case it's something in the air or water there that is responsible for this rhetorical barbarism I'd be reluctant to cultivate an acquaintance with it. For the same reason I'll steer clear of Edinburgh (the location of the eponymous city lights) where the denizens apparently indulge in such lyrical scintillation as: ' "Dear heart, I'm gay. Not a drag queen," I quipped, keeping the atmosphere as light and frothy as possible.' And ' "You're a deliciously good looking guy and you know I fancy you... You never know I might like a clandestine fumble with you now and again... I could mould you into being a great lover with me but saying I could is not saying that I will." '

Still, there are compensations - an anthology of hilarious solecisms and the fact that ploughing these otherwise barren tracts in the creative wilderness is so mind-numbing as to dull the edge of the relentlessly wearying experience. The author should now rest on his laurels secure in the knowledge that every word he desists from writing will increase the esteem in which he is held.


Ultrasport Aerobic Step
Ultrasport Aerobic Step
Price: £19.99

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars curate's egg, 8 May 2013
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This review is from: Ultrasport Aerobic Step (Sports)
While the step serves its basic purpose this particular item resolutely refuses the fitting of the extensions designed to raise it to the 6" level. I don't know if this is an inherent design fault or one peculiar to this particular example but given the low price there seemed little point in returning it and obviously it can be used readily enough at its modest 4" setting. Ambitions to achieve Olympian fitness therefore remain on hold but at least I'm no longer overtaken by elderly nuns with Zimmers when I'm out gently jogging.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: May 10, 2013 12:51 PM BST


Why God Won't Go Away - Engaging with the New Atheism
Why God Won't Go Away - Engaging with the New Atheism
by Alister E. McGrath
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.99

11 of 25 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars god not going away? or never having been there in the first place?, 29 Mar. 2013
In this book McGrath tries to take to task some of the more prominent New Atheists - among them Sam Harris and Christopher Hitchens. The former, he observes, is guilty of "above all a failure to engage with the massive scholarly research on religion." Since the evidence for a deity is of the same order as that for the pillar of turtles on which all existence is balanced, maybe some "massive scholarly research" can establish the extent to which that balance is either precarious or firmly founded. No doubt the outcome of this "research" would profoundly inform the lucubration of theologically, scientifically and philosophically inclined pernoctalians. And of Hitchens he remarks "he is great with words if possibly not quite so hot on facts." What are the convincing, verifiable, demonstrable, indubitable facts about god or his haunts that would formulate or underpin our noetic structure? You might be a confirmed solipsist and doubt the very existence of the bus hurtling at you, but it's a safe bet all the same that you'd get yourself swiftly out of its path if your reason was still more or less intact. In other words some "facts" do serve necessarily to sustain our rationality, while other "facts" - about god, for example, or about the angry hen shut out of the third universe on the left - are little more than a synonym for "assertion." So as a retired Catholic I find it difficult not to be amused at McGrath's deadpan deployment of terms like "analysis," "informed debate" and "the limits of reason." Wouldn't it be great if someone could come up with an acronym for the Great Ontological Delusion? Oh, hang on...


To Rome With Love [DVD] [2012]
To Rome With Love [DVD] [2012]
Dvd ~ Woody Allen
Offered by HarriBella.UK.Ltd
Price: £9.83

9 of 16 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Oh no, Woody!, 14 Feb. 2013
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Until last night when I watched this eagerly awaited film I numbered myself among the Woodster's most devoted fans. It's an office I don't want to demit, but "To Rome With Love" has driven me close to the exit.

It's a farrago of tediously inconsequential, totally unconvincing dialogue which serves neither to further the pointless, wholly uninvolving, painfully constructed plots nor to flesh out the perfunctorily sketched nonentities who populate them. I struggled through the whole relentlessly boring affair on the mistaken assumption that things could only get better. Trying to outstare the sphinx would be vastly more entertaining.

"Midnight in Paris" represented a real renaissance in the formerly Great Man's efforts, but the ludicrously misconceived "To Rome With Love" suggests an early demise after that re-birth of his talent. Devoid of the wit, existential angst and amusing observation of the human condition that informed so much of his earlier work, this film is a black hole into which the once wonderful Woody has shamefully deposited his gift.

Save your money and watch Annie Hall or Manhattan again.


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