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Jaybird (London, UK)

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The Diving Bell And The Butterfly [DVD]
The Diving Bell And The Butterfly [DVD]
Dvd ~ Mathieu Amalric
Offered by rsdvd
Price: 5.49

123 of 125 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A masterpiece, 18 April 2008
The Diving Bell and the Butterfly tells the true story of a Jean Dominique Bauby, the debonair editor of French Elle, who suffered locked in syndrome following a devastating stroke. After the stroke he can only communicate by blinking his eye.

Everything about this as a premise for a film sounds terrible - he does not move, so what is filmic about it; he does not communicate verbally, so where is the dialogue or the relationships; he reflects on his life and his mortality, but how do you show that?

Do not be put off. The film is beautifully made, turning faces into landscapes and using careful palettes of colour to distinguish pre and post stroke scenes. The film shows how Jean-Do becomes a cypher for those around him, providing meaning to their lives, even though inside he is intrinsically himself. In the end, the film is about the meaning of this man's life and all our lives, clear-eyed and fearless.

It is moving without being sentimental or mawkish, insightful, funny, beautiful and intelligent. An absolute must see.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jul 7, 2010 8:53 PM BST

No Title Available

4.0 out of 5 stars Funny and intelligent, 14 Feb 2008
Juno's story of a young girl who becomes pregnant accidentally and decides she cannot go through with the abortion she planned, is clever, charming and funny.

Ellen Page gets great lines, but the real heart of this film is her rite of passage, as she grows up to understand what her decisions mean and how her actions affect others around her. Whilst Ellen Page knows how to throw out a sassy line, it is when she does vulnerable that you really believe in her character.

She is ably supported by Alison Janney, in particular, as her stepmother and Jennifer Garner as the prospective adoptive mother.

This is not a perfect film: Ellen is much too smart and cool to be a realistic representation of a 16 year old girl. Her parents are far too perfect for any real parents to live up to, even in their eccentric quirks. Boys are definitely excluded from the picture - this is serious chick flick territory, which is a shame, because it would be good to engage them in discussion about the issues.

Much has been written about the brilliance of the writer, Diablo Cody. Whilst I am not denigrating that, I suspect part of the reasons for the interest in Cody is because she once worked in the sex industry. The writing is not noticeably better than the acting. Equally, it has been directed with a nice, light touch.

What Juno has to tell us, what lifts it above the usual rom-com, is about how teenage girls explore sexuality, about their vulnerability and, to some extent, their expectation that adults will protect them. And Juno does that bit very well.

This is a great little film. Definitely a cut above the usual, even if the story is a bit of a stretch sometimes.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Mar 16, 2008 11:37 PM GMT

A Long Way Gone: The True Story of a Child Soldier
A Long Way Gone: The True Story of a Child Soldier
by Ishmael Beah
Edition: Paperback
Price: 6.29

17 of 17 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Heartbreaking story of a war victim, 14 Feb 2008
Ismael Beah's story of being caught up in the civil war of Sierra Leone, of witnessing and then taking part in atrocities, is simply written, but no less powerful for that. He writes as a child of 12, although it is clear from his afterword that he has chosen this style to give greater impact, and that as a wrtier he is capable of a much more sophisticated analysis.

This approach works and definitely makes the book accessible to teenagers, particularly teenage boys.

He has a great ear for the nuances of childhood, you can immediately connect to both his feelings of excitement, loneliness and fear in the earlier parts of the book.

His book describes all the initiations of a child soldier - the drug addiction and violent initiation ceremonies, but skims somewhat over what happened between being forced to be a child soldier and his rehabilitation.

You are also left with a feeling that some of the process of rehabilitation has been left private. There is a difficult line between honesty and indulging the reader's voyeurism. this is not a book which indulges in violence for its own sake.

That said, Beah's description of what must have been an incredibly painful journey towards self-acceptance and rehabilitation is sometimes skimmed over. He was a child, with no real choices, but he also did some terrible things and deep down he must know that. There is none of the masterful, and intensely painful, self analysis of, say, Roman Frister, in his book "The Cap, or the Price of a Life". Perhaps Beah is still too young to write that book of his life, but I think he may have it in him.

So, an excoriating description of life in Sierra Leone, which leaves you to fill in some the gaps yourself. An important book, because it is an honest account of a devastating issue, and an extraordinary work, given Beah's youth and disrupted education. Recommended for adults and older teenagers.

However, Beah's great work on this subject is, I suspect, still ahead of him.

Imagine Finding Me
Imagine Finding Me

5.0 out of 5 stars Simple, elegant and beautifully accomplished book, 4 Feb 2008
This review is from: Imagine Finding Me (Paperback)
Chino Otsuke's book follows her tracing her steps back through a series of childhood photographs, inserting herself into these images as she is today.

In this way she revisits her memories of her childhood, but also appears as her own mother, sister, friend and supporter.

The photographs are beautiful, touching and delicate. The technical accomplishment with which she has inserted herself and her shadows is extraordinary.

Superficially lovely to look at, but having sometihng deeper to say about memory - definitely a book worth looking at.

by Neal Stephenson
Edition: Paperback
Price: 7.19

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Pacy and engrossing, 24 Jan 2008
This review is from: Cobweb (Paperback)
Cobweb suffers a little from history, as it was written during the first Gulf War, when Saddam Hussein's chemical and biological weapons were a real issue. Reading about them as a genuine fear, feels slightly awkward in 2007.

It is a testament to the authors that they manage to hold the reader nonetheless, with interesting characters, and a nice dry, cynical wit.

The story is sufficiently complicated to keep you guessing, and sufficiently clear that you can anticipate some of the moves (always makes me feel smug and clever when that happens).

Highly recommended for lovers of detective stories.

Neris and India's Idiot-Proof Diet: From Pig to Twig
Neris and India's Idiot-Proof Diet: From Pig to Twig
by India Knight
Edition: Paperback
Price: 6.29

50 of 54 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Funny and insightful more than just a diet book, 7 Jan 2008
This book essentially documents how the two authors lost about 10 stone between them on a high protein/ low carbohydrate diet.

High protein diets have fallen somewhat out of fashion, but this book is worth buying if only because of the supportive tone and honest insights of the authors. No haranguing or making you feel like you are the greediest, vilest scum of the earth because you are fat.

The diet works and is easy to stick to, after the first couple of weeks. The recipes are delicious, but this is not a recipe book - instead it is a day by day, or week by week, companion to keep you on track, often by suggesting little shopping sprees, haircuts or some new moisturiser to celebrate having lost some weight. An expensive strategy, but one that works.

The advice is funny, empowering and full of common-sense.

The book has been re-edited since the hardback version came out, with some of the irritating errors in that version now corrected.

The downside is that a high protein diet is always going to be difficult to achieve on a budget and this is definitely not a cheap way to eat. Whether it is healthy or not, is not for me to say. It is not balanced from the outset, but is by the end.

I would recommend it

Circular Walks Around Rowley Hall (Atlas Anti-classics)
Circular Walks Around Rowley Hall (Atlas Anti-classics)
by Andrew Lanyon
Edition: Hardcover
Price: 14.58

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Exuberant outpouring of this artist's fertile imagination, 7 Jan 2008
Andrew Lanyon is an artist and painter, with an equal facility for writing.

This book is beautiful, clever, funny, silly and insightful all at once.

Definitely worth buying and loving and, as it is a limited edition, even more worth keeping and dipping back into from time to time.

The Book Thief
The Book Thief
by Markus Zusak
Edition: Paperback
Price: 5.59

41 of 46 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Touching story of World War II, 3 Jan 2008
This review is from: The Book Thief (Paperback)
The Book Thief is the story of a ten year old orphan girl in Germany in World War II.

It is narrated by Death, who adds a wider historical perspective to the particular story of this little girl's coming of age. If this device is a conceit, it works pretty well. After a while, Death is just another character or narrator, with an adult, dry sense of (black) humour. In many ways the use of Death as a narrator reminded my of The Lovely Bones. Readers who enjoyed that book will welcome this one.

Marcus Zuzak handles his themes of loss and love deftly, and the story is made more interesting because it is the story of decent, unpolitical German people, who sometimes do wrong and sometimes do right; a book of moral contingencies then.

The writing is fluid, charming and genuinely touching. This book is highly recommneded.

Knocked Up [DVD]
Knocked Up [DVD]
Dvd ~ Seth Rogen
Offered by gowingsstoreltd
Price: 2.75

2 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A film with charm and spontaneity, but over-hyped, 3 Jan 2008
This review is from: Knocked Up [DVD] (DVD)
Knocked up is a decent film, funny in parts, insightful in others.

The premise of the film is that beautiful ambitious Alison, superbly played by Katherine Heigl, becomes pregnant after a one night stand with an affable, lazy, unattractive stoner - Ben - played by Seth Rogen.

The story is more than a bit of a stretch. There is, for example, no serious consideration (at least by Alison)of terminating the pregnancy and no real explanation of why she decides to go through with it).

But then, is she had had an abortion there would have been no film.

There are some moments of real joy, some well rounded characters, and some great ensemble play. And there a fair few jokes of the farting and pooping level of maturity.

It works fine, but is a bit slow to be honest. A decent watch, but not a great one.

The Golden Compass [DVD] [2007]
The Golden Compass [DVD] [2007]
Dvd ~ Nicole Kidman
Price: 2.00

1 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars extraordinary richness in the sets, that was not reflected in the script, 27 Dec 2007
I have to admit to having been nervous about seeing the film, as I loved the book so much. I never really thought that the film could live up to the book.

And the problem is that the film is so rich, so packed with ideas that need time to be explored, that what you can understand them fully.

So, you are left with a beautiful and spirited quest, but without the complexity that lifted Pullman's original above the ordinary. So the tension between the factions, such as the University, and the different branches of the Magisterium, is not as clear a theme.

In the book sexuality is another important area which is handled with extraordinary delicacy and intelligence by Pullman. The daemon represents more than just a soul, but also their emotional life of a person, their ego or id - demonstrated by the freedom of the beautiful witches to fly apart from the daemons, and again by the fixing of a daemon's form at the time of puberty. So,taboo of touching another person's daemon, the sense of shame, that was implicitly understood by children who have had abusive experiences, was discreet enough not to disturb children who have not.

Although included in the film, it can never match the book for exploration of ideas.

Dakota Blue Richards put in a good performance, as did Nicole Kidman, who was suitably sinister and manipulative. I was disappointed by Daniel Craig, who was far too approachable and twinkly-eyed uncle for my liking. I anticipated something more devastatingly powerful, attractive but intimidating.

All in all, an enjoyable watch, sometimes even exhilarating, and hopefully a film that will hook more readers into the books, but not the book.

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