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Jamie Sleeman "Reader,writer, philosoposophizer! :-D" (Hampshire, England)

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The Chocky Trilogy [DVD]
The Chocky Trilogy [DVD]
Dvd ~ James Hazeldine
Offered by Revelation Films Direct
Price: 9.99

25 of 28 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Mork calling Orson... come in, Orson..., 23 Mar 2011
This review is from: The Chocky Trilogy [DVD] (DVD)
Who could resist this? I was about eight when I first saw this show and thought I'd spend a happy few hours perusing Memory Lane and see if it rang any bells.

I am left with mixed feelings. Series one, based on an excellent John Wyndam novel, is engaging, rather well acted, and has a plot that leaves you gripped. Well, that's where it ends, really.

Series two and three are, to be completely frank, total rubbish...

Series one tells the story of a twelve year old boy who suddenly develops an imaginary friend called "Chocky", who turns out to be the entirely real mental projection of the mind of an extra-terrestrial, scouting the universe.
Chocky attempts to school Matthew in advanced knowledge, but with depressing predictability, something so valuable, instead of being valued and venerated by the human race, is regarded as something to squabble, kidnap and threaten over.
For Matthew's sake, Chocky departs his life forever (yeah, right!) saying to his father that all she'll do in the future is prod earth scientists in the occasional right direction over a century or two.

Chocky's Children then explodes that entirely and retcons Chocky's intentions. Although she hasn't been directly communicating with anyone else, she has been prodding them with a much larger stick than she said she would at the end of series one. This produces, among others, a girl called Albertine who is a maths prodigy who it proves can communicate telepathically with Matthew.
The last two episodes rehash Matthew's fate at the hands of government forces in series one, with the exception that Matthew rescues Albertine and the evil bad guys are laid low with some bizarre powers. (They are somehow knocked out with mass telepathic mumbling.)

Chocky, for a super intelligent being, doesn't learn basic lessons however, so it's then on with Chocky's Challenge, in which many children she has "coached" come together in Cambridge to work on a device for generating power through the capture of cosmic radiation. (So much for the subtle approach, eh?)
This series is a garbage-fest of Jedi mind powers, the worst acting until Eldorado, and yet more hokey bad guys, this time from the British government.
Somehow, in both series two and three, the police turn up as a deus ex machina at precisely the right moment and arrest all the government officials.

Chocky herself evolved from someone who can barely communicate with anyone into someone who can materialise at will to anyone she chooses. In series one the barely audible electronic warble of her voice conveys that only Matthew is able to hear her and it adds mystery and imagination to what she really is. By the end of series three hardly ten minutes goes by without a blue whispy thing manifesting and warbling to everyone in earshot with perfectly audible tones.

Whereas in series one the only irritating thing about the cast was that James Hazeldine (easily the best actor in all three series) didn't staple Carol Drinkwater's mouth shut (she will REALLY get on your nerves by episode six), series two and three, neither based on books by Wyndam but created freestyle to only bear the lightest of passing resemblances to the original, comprise of plots that make no sense, constantly contradict the past and are full of actors who can't act and spend long amounts of time repeating the word "Chocky!" over and over, in a bleating, talentless monotone.
This is particularly true of the girl who is allegedly from Hong Kong, but actually sounds like Helena Bonham-Carter. Casting director Julian Oldfield didn't ever deserve to work again.

Among the child actors, Andrew Ellams (Matthew Gore - central protagonist of series one) is the only one with a grain of talent anywhere at all. He carries the first series. But Annabel Worrell who plays Albertine Meyer from series two onward is irritating and mostly talentless. I say "mostly" because Freddie Brooks (annoying Michael Jackson wannabe), Katrina Wilsher (from Hong Kong, twinned with Knightsbridge) and Paul Russell (the one who does nothing but grin gormlessly, cry and put up missing posters looking for his chin) produce performances that are entirely talentless.

Now this is cannot ENTIRELY down to them. Series 2 and 3 are produced in such a shambolic, unprofessional way that there is little chance they could have been anything else. Even Ellams comes across as dull and listless from series two onward. His being in the whole series would have added something to series three, but at the time he was more concerned with his O Levels and so was largely written out. Because of that the focus was on Albertine, which was a critical mistake. (Although not so big a mistake as bothering to produce the second and third series at all.)

And Ellams appearing dull points out the biggest flaw of the latter two series: the first consisted of a plot written by a very talented writer (John Wyndam) that conveniently fit into six episodes. Two and three were money-making exercises cobbled together out of bric-a-brac by a second rate screenwriter, that consisted of a non-plot that should have been stretched to three at most, but were extended, like a man on a torture rack, to the full six so they could get a series out of them.

I would still buy it though, because the first series is worth it and the whole thing is a nostalgiafest for me. Just don't expect the latter two thirds to entertain you. Use the DVD's as mug coasters or something.
Comment Comments (3) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Apr 18, 2012 11:45 PM BST

Tom Brown's Schooldays
Tom Brown's Schooldays

3.0 out of 5 stars A brave stab, but wide of the mark, 3 Aug 2009
This review is from: Tom Brown's Schooldays (DVD)
I've reviewed all of the other three screen adaptations of this novel on Amazon, and now I've finally watched this one, the first one ever produced.

Within itself it's a pretty good film by the standards of 1940, but it loses its fourth and fifth stars because large portions of the plot have been warped, and needlessly so.

In this version, like the 2004 Alex Pettyfer/Stephen Fry version the bare-knuckle boxing match is between Tom and Flashman. This one actually deals with it better, although the choreography is rather cringeworthy by today's standards. In this one Tom takes the worst of it (not surprising considering Flashman is what, three or four years older than him?) but still makes a brave stand, not backing down, until the fight is disrupted by the arrival on the scene of Doctor Arnold.

The really strange and utterly unexplainable plot deviation is that in this version, East shouts at Tom to give Flashman "one for the roasting" during the fight, a reference to Flashman's torturing of Tom in front of an open fire. This is overheard and the Doctor hears about it, resulting in him mildly chastising Tom for fighting, then surprising Flashman with an immediate expulsion when he goes in for what he thinks is going to be his turn.
Word gets round the school that Tom told tales to the headmaster and our hero finds himself a sudden social pariah. This lasts for a short time until School House Captain, Brooke, hears about it and sets the record straight.
Unfortunately by this time, Tom and East have fallen out further: Tom "borrowed" a cart to stop a letter he'd written in haste and suspicion falls on East because he was out of bed at the time (our of bed trying to help Tom get in through a window, as it happens). Tom refuses to speak up, telling East he'll just have to tell the Doctor it was him, then he can know what he's been putting Tom through when everyone treats him as badly as Tom has been.
Tom, totally numpty that he is, doesn't suspect for a second that East won't speak up in his own defence and just goes to sleep, fully expecting to be sent for by the Doctor in the morning.
In the morning he hears the school bell tolling (only done in the film when a boy is about to be expelled) and realises that East hasn't told, assuming that the doctor is about to expel his erstwhile friend for the incident with the cart. What he doesn't know is that Arnold is already aware that Tom took the cart and the bell is actually tolling for HIM, Arnold being about to despairingly expel him for letting East take the blame.
Full of horror, Tom races over to the Doctor's quarters and nearly runs into the headmaster at his door, desperately telling him it was him that took the cart and yadda yadda yadda.
A very relieved Doctor Arnold dolls out a "mere" thrashing as Tom's only offence now is the taking of the cart. (Asleep yet? I was too.)
Tom's classmates, informed by Brooke that Tom isn't a tell-tale, apologise to him and offer him their hands, but East, who thought up until a minute ago that Tom was going to let him be expelled, refuses and the two are then split apart and enemies for the rest of their school careers, only making up some eight years later, when they accidentally run into each other at the site of Arnold's grave in the Rugby School Chapel.

All in all it's a rather bizarre way of showing that Tom has moral courage and totally pointless. George Arthur has been removed from the story completely, presumably because after the above, the writer/s felt there was no need to further demonstrate Tom's inherent goodness.


But as a time-capsule of history, it's pretty watchable nonetheless. Lydon's Tom Brown doesn't come across as rambunctiously as he did in the novel, but he is nevertheless more so than the insipid, rather nauseating version played by John Howard-Davies eleven years later. He's probably on a par, allowing for the time difference of thirty one years, with Anthony Murphy in the 1971 TV series, and quite a lot behind Alex Pettyfer's 2004 incarnation. The shame of the 2004 version is how stupendously badly it was written, as with Pettyfer as Brown and Stephen Fry as Arnold it should have been the best yet.

The biggest plus this version has that none of the other three even attempt to address, is that like the novel, Tom Brown ages over the course of the film, going from a new boy in the lowest form, to a strapping sixth former who is the Captain of School House and the cricket XI. By the standards of 1940 this is rather cunningly done, considering Jimmy Lydon plays the character throughout.
He was seventeen (apparently) at the time of filming, but looks younger, so by the time Tom is a sixth former, he is shown standing next to the Doctor and being of comparable height - done presumably by having him standing on a raised platform. Also, when the sixth-former Brown is shown talking to new boys, these are now considerably younger than the actors playing Tom's contemporaries when HE was a new boy. A cunning plan...
By the time Tom and East meet in the Chapel though, Tom would around twenty one or twenty two years of age it's quite obvious he isn't.

On one last plus point though, a quintessentially English schoolboy being played so well by an American actor is rather an excellent achievement.

Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines (Two Disc Set) [DVD] [2003]
Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines (Two Disc Set) [DVD] [2003]
Dvd ~ Arnold Schwarzenegger
Offered by Springwood Media
Price: 2.60

4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Bad, bad BAAAAAD!!!!!!!, 14 July 2009
This could and should have been a very good film, but it was frankly appalling. There are a number of reasons for this...

1/ Nick Stahl is twenty million miles from the level of gritty-faced rebel that Christian Bale is. I'm not bigging Bale up particularly, I don't really like him, but this role should NEVER have gone to someone like Stahl.
Whether he was told to play John Connor as a whiny tosser by the director, Jonathon Mostow, or whether that was just his natural take on the character I don't know, but it didn't work at all.

2/ This is a B-movie. The first two films in this franchise were international blockbusters that broke the boundaries in effects, storytelling and acting (Ah-nuld excepted, naturally). This offering is cack.
Like sequels such as Ghostbusters 2, the values are way below that of its more successful predecessors, as is the directing and editing. It is a disgrace to place such a lame offering in line with two pieces of cinematic genius like The Terminator and T2.
How in the name of all that is sacred Jim Cameron could honestly describe this as "In a word... great!" is beyond me. Compared to his offerings in this franchise, it is unmitigated garbage.
I think it might have been the LA Times which said the movie was "content to be a B-movie and remain loud, dumb and obvious."
Couldn't have put it better myself.

3/ The continuity has been ripped to shreds.
We know the original film's events were set in 1984, with the future Kyle Reese had just come from - the year the war against the Machines had ended in victory for the human rebels - being 2029.
This was established in T1 and reconfirmed in T2 when John's birth date is categorically shown (on the police computer, searched by the T-1000) as being the 2nd of February 1985 and his current age being ten years old. This would probably place the events of T2 in 1995.
Things then start to fall apart in the first seconds of T3 when a voiceover from John says "when I was thirteen, they tried again". Huh? Where did the extra three years come from? Did they do this so that John's "making out" with Kate when he was a child wouldn't sound just a bit too precocious? A ten year old "making out" is kinda unwholesome, after all.
If it was true though, then that would place the events of T2 in 1998, which was actually a year after the war should've originally started, until the events of T2 postponed it. Errors number one and two...
John Connor is supposed to be, I think 22 during T3. That places the events of T3 during the bulk of 2007. They are actually taking place (as confirmed in T4) during 2004. Error number three...
Sarah Connor's birth and death dates as revealed on the fake tombstone in the mausoleum, have to push the events of T1, when she was nineteen years old, back to 1978 if they are to make any sense, which would place the events of T2 in 1988, but would make the 2004 John in T3 a ripe old 26, not 22. Continuity errors four and five...
There are probably more, but by now I've lost the will to carry on, so I'll stop. I'll just finish by repeating that this is a pale shadow of the first two films and that the writers and director should be fired from all future projects and thrown out of their trade associations. This film was crying out for James Cameron to have had something to do with it. I just hope T4 doesn't suffer similarly from his absence.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Aug 17, 2012 12:23 AM BST

Tom Brown's Schooldays [1971] [DVD]
Tom Brown's Schooldays [1971] [DVD]
Dvd ~ Iain Cuthbertson

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The third version of this story that I've reviewed, 1 Jun 2009
. I gave the 1951 film one star out of five, the 2004 TV film three out of five, this one I have to award a four.

I was rather surprised to find myself enjoying this one more than any of the others, as it departs significantly from the book in many places. Like the 1951 film version with John Howard Davies, Tom Brown is not portrayed as the basically good lad with an errant flaw, but as pretty all-round sickeningly wonderful throughout. On the one occasion when Tom acts a wee bit naughty, it's so far from the delinquency of the book that Tom occasionally strayed toward that it's laughable. Unlike the '51 version however, he doesn't make me feel ill when I watch him from sheer chuffing resemblance to a cherub.

The only occasion Tom gets into trouble at school in this version is when he is framed by an evil plot hatched by arch-bully/villain, Flashman ("done up like a kipper", as they say in 1950's films, in incredibly unconvincing cockney accents) and is publicly (not to mention, incredibly severely!) flogged before the whole of School House. Naturally, the truth eventually comes to light and Flashman finds himself deeper in the dark, brown smelly stuff than a dung beetle in Paradise, with Tom being fully restored to his position as most generally wonderful and nauseatingly sweet boy in the school.

This version greatly expands the characters of "Mucker" Diggs, "Madman" Martin and Flashman himself, all to the benefit of the production. In this version the driving force behind Flashman's treatment of Tom is that he is being directed by his father, who was incensed by Tom before the youngster was originally sent away to Rugby.

A lot of treatment is also given to Dr. Arnold, one of the most celebrated educational reformists of all time, and immortalised in this story. He is given numerous story arcs where we see him battling against the odds and parsimonious school governors to improve conditions and the curriculum at the school. Not as well acted as Stephen Fry's Arnold (but then, who in the name of Satan's pants could possibly compare to Stephen Fry anyway?), but wonderfully developed and reasonably well portrayed by Iain Cuthbertson.

I would dearly like to know incidentally, which character in this production that previous reviewer, "D. Schulten" played, as I can find no reference to him in the credits. Was it a non-speaking part and thus uncredited?

So where does this series lose its fifth star? Well, it seems that PC taste has won out somewhat, as according to other reviewers who saw this when it originally aired, several scenes have been excised, such as the boy who was Flashman's toady getting flogged by Brooke. Apparently, it might have been felt that this was out of taste with today's values (corporal punishment of children of all ages was very much still in practice in both state and public/private schools in 1971, when this was filmed). Personally, I think people should stop fiddling around with such things and if necessary, simply raise the certificate of the DVD. This was a PG, but it would have lost nothing from being a 12.

The second place I would criticise this, is that the physical acting is totally laughable. Diggs's bare-knuckle boxing match against Flashman's lieutenant is so horribly choreographed and unconvincing for the most part, that I was in real, loud peals of laughter watching it. Likewise, the corporal punishment scenes, far from being "graphic" as D. Schulten avers, are rather ridiculous. Apollo 13 was closer to the moon than the cane was to various miscreants backsides, and the acting at these times was also rather unconvincing (although I have to give credit where credit is due and say that Anthony Murphy managed pretty well), particularly in the case of Flashman, who was about as convincing, to steal yet another line from Rowan Atkinson, as a drag act by W.G. Grace. Compare this to the (otherwise inferior) 2004 film version with Alex Pettyfer and Stephen Fry and you'll see what I mean.

So despite the departures from canon and the limitations that the age placed on the production (such as the sometimes wooden acting and the "assembled school" appearing to number no more than about fifty boys), I was actually surprised by how much I enjoyed the whole thing. Most satisfying of all, is that this adaptation deals with Flashman in the most dramatic and comeuppance-inducing manner possible. Both he and his villainous father go down at the end in a very satisfying manner, considering what they conspired to do to Tom, which was, rather horrendous.

Huzzah for School House!

Late edit:- Despite this being my favourite version thus far viewed (not yet seen the 1940 one starring Billy Lydon), it rather strangely seems not to have been shot at Rugby school, which the 1951 and 2005 versions both were. Instead it seems to have been shot in a castle in some remote, rural location. Puzzling.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Feb 12, 2010 7:55 PM GMT

Tom Brown's Schooldays (1951) [DVD]
Tom Brown's Schooldays (1951) [DVD]
Dvd ~ John Howard Davies
Price: 12.90

7 of 15 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Not a good film at all - and that's coming from a FAN of this story!, 1 Jun 2009
Okay, this time I'm going to fall prey to the Jeremy Clarkson view of amateur reviewers and give this film the bottoms.

This was the first adaptation of TBS I ever saw, a VHS black and white "original" version, about eighteen years ago. After hearing about the book and my father recounting incidents in the film with great relish, I was rather looking forward to it. I was therefore extremely disappointed when it turned out to be a complete turkey of a film. (My father's recollections turned out to be of the 1971 TV series.)

Like all 40's and 50's films, any decent action is either entirely removed or sanitised to the point of being sickening. I imagine the casting of John Howard Davies was something to do with this.

The Tom Brown of the novel is a rambunctious, courageous and extremely physical schoolboy who is in his early or mid teenage years throughout the majority of the book. He also has a streak that can turn to somewhat wanton and undisciplined behaviour, but has a great deal of heart and moral courage.
The character as written in this film contains almost none of these, nor does John Howard Davies (who looks about eight years old and so fragile you could blow him away with one violent exclamation of "Sink me, sir!") convey any of it.
Frankly, to steal a couple of lines from Rowan Atkinson, he's wetter than a fish's wet bits and less convincing than a giraffe in dark glasses trying to get into a "polar bears only" golf club. Not at all how Tom was portrayed in the book and if you read it for the first time after watching this, the difference will astound you.

The Tom of the book is turned around for good when Headmaster Dr. Arnold pairs him up in a study with a weaker young boy who's just started at Rugby, George Arnold. This development, done quite deliberately by Arnold, masters Tom's more childish impulses and turns him into a responsible young man.
In this film, Tom doesn't stray from the straight and narrow by so much as a thou of an inch, which makes him a rather vapid and shallow character and really not very inspirational in turning wayward young men onto the straight and narrow, which is surely what Thomas Hughes originally intended in the novel?
There seems therefore, no moral or wise point in Arnold putting Arthur into Tom's care at all, which makes the character totally irrelevant. He only serves as a catalyst for the already cherubic and utterly nausea-inducing Tom to restore his friend, East's faith at the climax of the film.

The most famous other face in this is that of Robert Newton, playing the world's most famous headmaster, Doctor Thomas Arnold, a great educational and moral reformer of schooling in the mid-1800's. Sadly, the warm, nurturing side of his character doesn't come through at all and Newton shows only one onscreen moment of non-sternness. Most disappointing.

The final scene is, frankly, utterly bizarre, with Tom and East's team (presumably School House) scoring a punted goal on the football field and then for some reason East congratulates Tom (who played no part in the goal), and then both boys charge away from the game like hares, toward the camera, to a rising and triumphant musical crescendo, into the school building. I assume it was supposed to be a dramatic close, but I think it looks silly and rather affected.
But then, just about every scene in every film at this time was, wasn't it?

So, in true Clarkson-Amateur style, I rate it as one star out of five, and then only because there's no option for zero. It's an awful, slush-filled film with no redeeming features (apart from the actor who plays East, who is quite frankly, excellently convincing, despite it being in the 50's and a rather horrible, if refined, Flashman). Go for one of the other three adaptations made of it instead, or better yet, if the art of reading not yet be lost, buy the book and read that.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Apr 21, 2013 10:20 AM BST

Tom Brown's Schooldays [2004] [DVD] [2005]
Tom Brown's Schooldays [2004] [DVD] [2005]
Dvd ~ Julian Wadham
Offered by skyvo-direct
Price: 9.33

20 of 24 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A horrible waste of a good opportunity, 16 May 2009
Perhaps this was doomed to mediocrity from my point of view, because I have read and loved the novel on which this was based.

It falls at many hurdles, not the least of which are: the horrible machete-job done to the plot; the distortion of key characters; the PC'isation done, presumably, to not offend anyone (seemingly a capital offence these days); and some woeful acting from the supporting cast, in particular, the actor who plays East - who to me, seems about as capable of delivering his lines convincingly as a six year old in a Nativity play. He also seems to be younger than Tom, which is totally at odds with the book.

1/ Tom is now something of a boorish oaf, who borders on open rebellion against the Doctor Arnold's new ways, which is a departure from the book. Tom was always a good lad in the book, if somewhat prone to being rather inconsiderate and laddish, to use a modern term.

2/ Why in the name of Thomas Hughes's grave-bound spinning remains, does George Arthur die? It didn't happen in the book and it doesn't serve any purpose other than to make all the female viewers go "aaahhhhhh" at Tom's tears.
The manner in which he dies also means Flashman has effectively committed manslaughter, which in my view is totally inappropriate.
To have his funeral as the last scene in the film ends the entire thing on a massive downer and is something for which the chief writer deserves to be sent to the Tower for (the Tower of London, not the Birching Tower at Rugby, or to give it the ridiculous name this film does, the "Caning Tower").

3/ Some seriously flaccid script writing. Tom says things sometimes that, if included at all, would be the viewpoint of a 40 year old Old Rugbeian, not a 13 year old boy.

4/ The book covers Tom's career as a Rugbeian from twelve or thirteen years old, right up until he's nearly nineteen and leaving. Like other adaptations before this, the story of this film seems to cover only one or two terms at the school before ending. Of all the actors who've played Tom Brown, Alex Pettyfer is probably one who could have been depicted as being several different ages in the same film.
John Howard-Davies looked (and sounded) like an androgynous six year old chorister and nothing anyone could have done would have made him look or sound any different, Pettyfer was a different matter, even if his voice had already broken.

But in true defiance of Jeremy Clarkson's opinion of amateur reviewers, I have given this three stars, not one. So what are the redeeming features?

1/ Stephen Fry. Seriously, this man could be in a documentary about buttons, cow-pats or teaspoons and make it interesting and redeemable. There are a few scenes with him that are complete inventions, but he conveys that which Robert Newton (the actor who played Arnold in the only other adaptation of TBS that I've ever seen) conspicuously lacked: humour, warmth and sincere affection.
H was apparently completely had by one of the actors (I think the one who played Hall) during filming, after he accidentally hit him across the hand with a cane for real when filming one scene. The next day he asked him if he was alright and the lad said, "Well, they took me to casualty and the doctor said it's only a cracked bone, so yeah, I'll be fine."
A mortified Fry was thinking, "Oh my God, what have I done?!" when he saw the grin starting to surface and realised the "little git" had been playing him along.

2/ Alex Pettyfer does a pretty reasonable job of being Tom Brown. Any complaints I have with the character are with the awful lines he's been given, and the way he's painted by the writers.

If you like Olde Englande stories and haven't read the book, you'll probably like it. If, like me, you know and love the novel, you probably won't.

Boy: Tales of Childhood
Boy: Tales of Childhood
by Roald Dahl
Edition: Paperback

5.0 out of 5 stars Insightful and revealing, 17 April 2009
At the time of writing this I am almost two weeks away from my thirty-first birthday. I started reading Roald Dahl books from my village library from, as near as I can date it, around the age of seven.
That means I've had nearly twenty four years of reading his books (twenty four years of being one of "Dahl's Chickens", as the BFG might have said), and my biggest regret is that he didn't live long enough to write twice as many.
Oddly enough, I've only just read Boy, Dahl's self-proclaimed autobiographical non-autobiography. Having read it after all these years of imbibing his other, fictional works, one suddenly "gets" the sincerity and realism with which Dahl wrote his fantastically vivid stories.
Passages leap out of the pages that are near identical (particularly noticeable with Danny The Champion Of The World) to real life experiences, either from Boy or interviews he's done for television.
This sense of sincerity and first-hand knowledge, is one of two things that make this man one of the greatest, if not the greatest author of children's literature I've ever known. (And by all accounts, he was a dab hand in the adult market as well.)
The other thing, is his ability to describe a thoroughly grotesque or serious scene in a manner which has the reader in fits of (literal) laughter. Whether it's the eye-watering aftermath of the real-life "Great Mouse Plot" or the BFG's cave being invaded by one of his larger and evil cousins, Dahl's word imagery is totally capable of conveying horror whilst causing the reader, to steal a line from Eric Idle, to always look on the bright side of life.
I've heard people say that Dahl has lived wishfully through his books, such as making Danny in Danny The Champion Of The World's father the one he never had (due to a childhood bereavement), or making Miss Honey in Matilda the teacher he always wished he'd had. I have a different theory, and one that would probably make Dahl himself shudder with disgust.
Having listened to a multitude of Dahl family members describe him, I think that these characters and their positive personality traits were actually displaying the man Roald Dahl grew to be and the one his family and readers loved so much.
I think the coincidence between everyone who knew him saying how interesting, sparky, humane, kind, protective and unique a man he was and those exact traits being present in his hero characters is too great to be a coincidence.
Not that I think he was boasting! Perhaps it's just that he constantly observed the people around him and created a caricature of what sort of person would alleviate all the ills he suffered as a child, then modelled himself and characters like Danny's dad and Miss Honey on it.
So to conclude, if you're a fan of Roald Dahl, your book collection isn't complete without this one. Buy it, get it from your library, borrow it from a friend, but READ it!

Danny the Champion of the World
Danny the Champion of the World
by Roald Dahl
Edition: Paperback
Price: 5.24

5.0 out of 5 stars The best book from one of the best ever authors!, 13 April 2009
Simply put, this is the master's masterpiece. This is a book which will enthral children and transport hem into a world which, while real (unlike Dahl's other efforts with The BFG and Matilda), is going to be one outside their experience.

It's a charming and very realistic story of how a boy and his father combine to foil a dastardly villain (a "dirty dog", to use Dahl's own favourite term). How they do it is original, amazing and thoroughly hilarious. Defeat not only comes the bad guy's way but total humiliation as well.

Seriously, if you let your kids grow up without having read Roald Dahl to them, and this book in particular, they'll never forgive you. Heh heh.

Danny - The Champion Of The World [DVD]
Danny - The Champion Of The World [DVD]
Dvd ~ Jeremy Irons
Offered by hunting_for_a_bargain
Price: 28.98

7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars It only has five stars because I can't give it six!, 13 April 2009
The heroes are thieves, the local policeman and doctor are both corrupt and the headmaster is a drunk. And these are the good guys! One could also argue that the bad guy is a victim of classicism.
Yes folks, it can only be a film adaptation of a Roald Dahl book, the biggest stalwart of the few remaining bastions that stand against that oncoming, sanitising tsunami that is political correctness and modern thinking.
Is it possible to administer a knighthood or peerage posthumously? If so, I'd like to recommend Dahl for one.
Samuel Johnson noted that the most truthful people in society are children, and thus it is no surprise when you find that a man who died nineteen years ago and set most of his books in societies of yesteryear, is still one of the most popular authors among kids the world over.
Kids know rubbish when they see and hear it, no matter how much inconvenience it causes adults. As a result, the sort of story that is totally free of PC claptrap and suitably dark in the right places, scores very highly with them.

This particular adaptation is one of those rare creatures that improves over the book in certain places. It's also a rare thing among Dahl stories, because the setting is a very normal, everyday one. There are no child-eating giants, lunatic-run chocolate factories, whizzpopping or the Queen of England anywhere in sight.
For those of you who don't know, the eponymous hero is a nine year old boy who lives an idyllic rural life in the mid-1950's, and who has a rather unusual and amazing father.
They run foul of a new, nouveaux-riche landlord who is trying to buy up all the local land for a nefarious scheme and is frustrated because their small plot lies smack in the middle of all his plans.
How father and son team up to foil the "Dirty Dog" (to use Dahl's own term) and foil his plan, is a charming, sometimes horrible and always hilarious story that will have you simultaneously laughing and crying (and quite often crying with laughter).
By English standards the cast is star studded, with Jeremy Irons bringing as much class and skill to this role as he does to any other; Robbie Coltrane (best known as Hagrid in the Harry Potter films) oozes comedic villainy like a twenty five stone Dick Dastardly, as the evil landlord, Victor Hazell; Cyril Cusack (the real-life father-in-law and grandfather of the two main heroes) playing a rather nice, if utterly daffy village doctor; Jimmy Nail as a rather brutish gamekeeper; Lionel Jeffries as a decent sort of headmaster with a penchant for gin (not as awful as it sounds, trust me) and Ronald Pickup, as the second, slightly minor Dirty Dog, Danny's form teacher Captain Lancaster (based on a real teacher of the same name that Roald Dahl knew when he was nine).
The film significantly develops a sub-plot of the book, which is Danny's time at school. Lancaster is a rather severe, ex-military chap with a track record of handing out rather draconian punishments to the children in his "care".
In the book, the last we see of him is when he rather viciously canes Danny and his best friend for a minor misdemeanour. The film however, makes a a rather nice job of tying that loose end up, with Danny dealing the evil teacher a knock-out blow just as well as he does to Victor Hazell in the final scene.

I should probably close by saying a few words about Sam Irons, who delivers totally as Danny in what I think was his only ever film role, despite sounding a bit like a pre-broken voiced Sean Connery. (We should probably be grateful he didn't have to say the word "sit" during the film.)
He specialises in dread-leaden facial expressions, which come especially in handy during his scenes in the school. The looks on his face following Ronald Pickup's lines, "Smith, here" and "Smith, I haven't finished yet", will have all the girls in the audience going "awwwwwwwwwwww", trust me. It certainly seemed to work for all the girls in the class anyway. (If he ever reads this review, twenty years on from when he did it, he's going to be cringing like hell, reading that. * snigger * )
One can only imagine why he didn't follow his father and grandfather into the Business, instead of pursuing a career in photography, as I don't imagine he'd have ever had a problem getting work.

So in closing (for real this time), this is a film for all the family where the kids will love the feeling of adventure and the parents and grandparents will love the nostalgia of a Britain gone into the past.
Every generation of the family will love this, quite possibly more than the book (a rare thing, in my opinion). There is no excuse not to get this film and experience a very real and utterly true, happy ending. If I could give it six stars out of five, I would.
Comment Comments (3) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jun 27, 2014 9:41 AM BST

The Karate Kid [DVD] [2005]
The Karate Kid [DVD] [2005]
Dvd ~ Ralph Macchio
Price: 3.39

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An original film that inspired a generation and created "wax on, wax off", 27 Dec 2008
This review is from: The Karate Kid [DVD] [2005] (DVD)
It's gotta be said that this film is a Hollywood gem. There is wonderful chemistry between the two actors playing the hero and his older mentor, Ralph Macchio and Pat Morita. The differences in the two characters play off against each other perfectly from the moment that Miyagi reveals his secret karate skills when Daniel is getting a terrible beating, by leaping a fence like a twenty year old and laying waste to the main villain and four of his friends in less than twenty seconds.

Daniel Larusso is a young guy in his late teens who is moving to the LA area from the east coast with his mother, following the death of his father. He is a troubled teenager, wracked with low self-confidence, and finding it difficult to get over the loss of his father, whilst bitterly resenting his mother (who to be fair to him, comes across on screen as a complete moron) uprooting him and moving right across to the other side of the country. The one thing he does seem to enjoy in life is karate, which he is learning rather laboriously from a book without the benefit of a real teacher, owing to the family's constricted finances.

He does manage to strike up a relationship with a girl called Ali, but wouldn't you know it, she's the ex-girlfriend of the chief antagonist, Johnny Lawrence (William Zabka), the leader of a gang of bulying karate students, taught by a vicious and unprincipled sensei called John Kreese (Martin Kove).

A beach party turns into a fight when the gang (known as the Cobrai Kai, after the name of their dojo) arrives and Johnny gets involved in an argument with Ali, which end up in him shoving Daniel. The two fight and the difference between book learning and proper training very quickly becomes apparent, with Johnny beating Daniel nearly senseless.

The two are natural enemies from that moment on, with Johnny retaliating brutally for a prank Daniel plays on him at a Halloween party, resulting in Daniel being beaten nearly unconscious with one of the Cobras holding him upright for Johnny to keep beating on. At this point Mr. Miyagi, the elderly Japanese janitor of the apartment block Daniel lives in, vaults a nearby fence and lays waste to all five Cobras without breaking a sweat.

From here it's not a long jump to Daniel asking Miyagi to train him, which the old man agrees to, after a fruitless trip to try and sort the situation out with the Cobra Kai dojo ends with Miyagi laying a challenge down on Daniel's behalf, to be fulfilled at the upcoming under-18 All Valley Karate Tournament, a title of which Johnny is the reigning champion.

The quixotic old man trains Daniel in more than just fighting though, teaching him the benefits of self-confidence and respect through a series of ever more unlikely and unconventional methods. This results in Daniel growing more as a man than he does as a fighter.

The film climaxes with the tournament and true to Hollywood form, Johnny and Daniel meet each other in the final. The match is a mixture of drama and suspense, with Daniel pitted against the odds and a team of opponents whose instructor is quite willing to cheat to gain victory. The match ends in spectacular fashion, with the writers and director somehow making an incredibly big deal ("if do right, no can defence") of a karate move which is, at most, a glorified jumping front snap-kick.

It's an original script with lots of screen chemistry and was followed by a nearly as good sequel, albeit which one might consider slightly insulting to modern Japanese culture. The last two films in the series were completely and utterly awful, sadly, but this one is a gem and well worth spending a few pounds on. Get it, you won't regret it.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jul 30, 2010 9:25 PM BST

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