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M. Gardner "Afro Matt" (Somerset, England)

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The Rehearsal
The Rehearsal
by Eleanor Catton
Edition: Hardcover

5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An excellently written book, 26 Aug. 2009
This review is from: The Rehearsal (Hardcover)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Eleanor Catton is clearly an excellent writer. Her prose is playful, languid and has an originality that belies her age and experience. The Rehearsal is a book all about desire, it's a book all about being a teenager, and it's a book all about gossip. It is a book about playground rumours and the power of information. When a music teacher at an all-girls school has an affair with one of his students, the girls and their parents are thrown into disarray, and the fact that the neighbouring drama college decides to devise a public piece around the events throws more anxiety and pain into the mix. It is not a plot that I thought I would find terribly interesting. Indeed, it's not a book that I thought I would enjoy at all, but Catton's narrative is one where people speak their minds all without consequence. It is an interesting device that makes more some hilariously perverse dialogue and some genuinely tense moments. Her focus is on the personal, and her main characters are few in number and all the better for it. She mainly focuses on the characters of the 'sullied' student's sister, her eventual boyfriend, and several others from the school's jazz band, not to mention an exquisitely drawn hub of gossip and confessional figure in the character of the saxophone teacher, whose voyeuristic puppet-mastery reminds one of Notes on a Scandal. Imagine Notes on a Scandal actually, but from the student's perspective and you get the idea. But this is a very different book because of it. Every line is charged with heightened eroticism, every word carefully chosen, and whilst I found the plot to be somewhat lacking in the end - and the last chapter or two seem to rush a little bit - the prose completely sucked me in. Taboos are a strong theme, and the prose perfectly mirrors this: it is delicate, tempting and curious. The Rehearsal is an assured debut, confident in voice and in tone; and it is a confidence that will make pages turn and books fly off of shelves. I really want to see what Catton's next novel will be like.

The Take [DVD]
The Take [DVD]
Dvd ~ Tom Hardy
Offered by Game Trade Online
Price: £3.98

56 of 58 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Shocking, gripping television, 8 July 2009
This review is from: The Take [DVD] (DVD)
I haven't read the book....but this was fantastic.

Tom Hardy (dear god he's one to watch!) turns in a magnificent performance as freed man Freddie, freshly released from prison and up for some violent mischief and ziggurat climbing. Imagine an East End Goodfellas and you're not far off. As things go on the plot twists and turns, the bodies stack up and Freddie's hands get bloodier and bloodier, pulling his cousin Jimmy down with him. It's a rollercoaster ride of murder, extortion, sex, drugs and betrayal.....and it's brilliant!

The cast are excellent in their roles, although Brian Cox's accent shifts all over the place. Hardy is a revelation. I can't speak highly enough of this performance. He is both menacing and sometimes endearing. Both at times incredibly funny and chillingly sadistic. His Freddie is both psychotic powerhouse and vulnerable child, driven at times into furious tantrums that always end in bloodshed. Whilst the plot may be predictable at times (after a while you can begin to anticipate a looming fatality), the character profiles are so well drawn by their respective actors that you are utterly sucked in to this world of grimy, sordid violence.

I wouldn't say that this is enjoyable television. Don't expect cathartic escapism or easy viewing. But finally we have a slick, sharp, gritty mini-serial to rival some of the American imports flooding our channels in lieu of programmes like Waking the Dead. There needs to be more television in this country like this: Ambitious, cinematic, gripping, story driven television. Television that grabs us by the throat and forces us to watch.

This is a primal scream of televisual achievement. Make sure you hear it.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Apr 25, 2014 8:22 PM BST

Chuck: Season 1 [DVD] [2008]
Chuck: Season 1 [DVD] [2008]
Dvd ~ Zachary Levi
Offered by Springwood Media
Price: £4.49

16 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Pure escapist joy!, 8 July 2009
This review is from: Chuck: Season 1 [DVD] [2008] (DVD)
Taking the secret world of the spy and turning it on its head, Chuck (Zachary Levi in a career-making turn) is all about a nerdy sales assistant who one day unwittingly has all of the CIA and NSA's secret files downloaded into his brain. Now a walking database of informative espionage, he must be protected at all costs as he slowly finds himself being dragged further and further into his handlers' (the ever excellent Adam Baldwin and the extremely capable Yvonne Strahovski) world of danger, double crossing and occasional death.

Well there's the blurb out of the way.

This show has everything: humour, action, romance, twists, lies, excitement and things that go boom! Levi is frankly excellent, and in this casting Schwartz has managed not only to nail his demographic, but also make the character of Chuck almost universally likeable. Levi is so endearing that you are constantly rooting for him in life, love and laughs. He is matched by an excellent supporting cast. Adam Baldwin is cranky as ever and Yvonne Strahovski impresses not only on the eyes but also in terms of her character. Sarah, and particularly her relationship with Chuck, proves to be nearly central to everything. Although seen through Chuck's eyes, she is bound up in everything as the agency member increasingly torn between duty and desire. Sarah Lancaster is brilliant as Chuck's concerned sister, and Ryan McPartlin provides ample comic relief as her fiancee. The staff of Chuck's workplace - the Buy More - are all superbly cast, with Joshua Gomez's Morgan working the geek bromance comedy with effortless ease.

The concept is ridiculous, the situations often laughable; but this is the finest piece of escapist television I've seen in a while. The action is good enough to appease set-piece junkies. The comedy, whilst not perhaps always laugh-out-loud, is certainly well timed. The relationships between the characters and the onscreen chemistry is spot on. Slick, well executed and genre-spanning. Chuck is a well worthy addition to your boxset library. Let's just hope Season 2 gets released quickly over here on dvd too!

Coupling: The Complete Fourth Series [DVD] (2004)
Coupling: The Complete Fourth Series [DVD] (2004)
Dvd ~ Jack Davenport
Offered by FREETIME
Price: £8.09

13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Still funny.....but no matter what, it was always going to suffer, 8 July 2009
Imagine taking Joey out of Friends. Imagine taking the Cat out of Red Dwarf. Imagine removing Baldrick from Blackadder's side. What if there was no Barney in How I Met Your Mother, no GOB in Arrested Development or if Green Wing was lacking Dr. Alan Statham. Such occurances would by no means spell the end of a show (probably for commercial reasons), but they should. Ensemble comedy is exactly that. There are several cogs, and they are all integral. Yeah the show can go on, but it won't be quite as good.

The same can be said of Coupling Season 4. No Jeff means less laughs. Not necessarily because Oliver, try as he might, is any less technically funny, but because over three previous seasons we've grown to love and appreciate everything that Jeff did and said. Would the show be the same if Patrick or Steve had left? No, it would have suffered greatly. The same for the characters of Susan, Jane and Sally.

The trouble with this season is that it's different. The emptiness left by Richard Coyle's departure is felt all the more keenly precisely because Oliver is basically superfluous. We already had a witty, nervous, wreck of a man in Steve,, and the sheer bizarre audacity of some of Jeff's comedy is sorely lacking.

Moffat's writing is still sharp as ever, and the rest of the cast are on form as always. The feel is the same, the tone identical. But the dynamic has changed, and not for the better. Unavoidable perhaps, but lamentable all the same.

Give it a try. There are still some very funny laugh-out-loud moments, and the character development of the old core five is excellent. But there is definitely something lacking. And his name is Jeff.

S. Darko [DVD]
S. Darko [DVD]
Dvd ~ Ed Westwick
Price: £2.59

19 of 27 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Oh dear...., 7 July 2009
This review is from: S. Darko [DVD] (DVD)

Don't do it.

This film is terrible. It takes the wonder that was Donnie Darko and strips it of all the things that made it good. Where there was symbolism and prophetic, allegorical mystery, now there is only pretention. There is a reason that this film was barely shown in the cinemas over here. Go watch the first one again and you'll realise that a second movie was a stupid idea to begin with.


Nuff said.

In Silico
In Silico
Offered by best_value_entertainment
Price: £3.97

5.0 out of 5 stars Who cares about genre when the music is this good?!, 7 July 2009
This review is from: In Silico (Audio CD)
Is it Drum `n' Bass? Is it rock? Do we care? The answer is no. Whatever you may have heard about Pendulum, whatever you're opinions may be regarding one genre or the other, put them away and give this record a listen. If you like your music heavy, with a pulsing, rib-cracking beat, then this will be you're new favourite album. Hold Your Colour was a debut album of D'n'B mixed with rock sensibilities underneath, enticing a few of the long haired horn-throwers onto the dance floor. Imagine that album on steroids. In Silico presents both genres, feeds them a bunch of performance enhancing supplements, and watches them bash ten tons of awesome out of one another. Rob Swire's vocals feature a lot more on this record, but they're anthemic, simple and made to be shouted whilst pogoing like a loon. The guitar work here is exemplary, backing up the breakbeats and the pounding bass riffs, with the volume set most of the time to 11.

The opener `Showdown' sounds off like a call to arms with a riff that threatens to rip your face off. `Propane Nightmares', much overplayed but for good reason, is a visceral affair that leaves you wanting more. Even the slight lulls in this album are worthy of note, with `9000 Miles' proving to be a frankly excellent night driving track, one part atmospheric acoustic guitar and one part building bass beats. Finally the album ends with epic track `The Tempest', a seven-and-a-half minute long behemoth of a track that starts relatively slowly before kicking into a riff that threatens to bring the sky down. And just when you think it's all over the best, most effective riff sequence of the entire album kicks in to leave your head spinning once playback is complete.

Pendulum will probably have alienated some of their hardcore underground fan base with this album. But with the millions of converts this will bring - those who like their music fast, hard and chest-beatingly adrenaline-fuelled - they probably aren't too bothered.

The Eyes of a King
The Eyes of a King
by Catherine Banner
Edition: Paperback

3.0 out of 5 stars One to watch....but I'd wait a little while, 15 Jan. 2009
This review is from: The Eyes of a King (Paperback)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
The Eyes of a King is a good read. A solid read. But it is far from spectacular. The narrative pacing is non-existent, as is any and all tension or suspense in the novel. But Banner does tell a good story. Her prose is tailored towards the teen audience for which she seems to be gunning, but the imaginative nature (particularly in the final few chapters when things finally begin coming to a head) of her writing will appeal to fantasy lovers of all ages. Her craft will improve with age, I just hope it doesn't come at the expense of her vivid, magnificent imagination.

I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell
I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell
by Tucker Max
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.59

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Lewd, Crude, Offensive and Utterly Reprehensible......But Incredibly Funny, 13 Aug. 2008
Tucker Max describes himself in rude terms. He has no illusions about the depravity and (frequently) disgusting nature of the antics he and his friends engage in within this book. But that is what makes it so very funny. We've all had drunken nights, and we've all had things go wrong on such nights, and we've all told these stories to our friends the next day. Tucker Max's stories are better. Written in unashamed fashion, the wry narrative and the drunken detail are wonderfully endearing and conversational. These stories had me laughing out loud every time I read them. Often you'll laugh because of a similar experience. Often it wil be simply be because you're glad such events happened to someone else. But for whatever reason, you will laugh. There is a film coming out based on these tales, but it'll have to be damn good because this is the perfect medium for Tucker and friends' drunken shenanigans: a pocket sized collection of pub style anecdotes that are devilishly well written and instantly accessible. Life affirming stuff.

Jumper [DVD] [2008]
Jumper [DVD] [2008]
Dvd ~ Rachel Bilson
Price: £1.26

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Disappointing........Wait for the sequel, 11 Aug. 2008
This review is from: Jumper [DVD] [2008] (DVD)
Let's get this straight riht away. Jumper is popcorn fluff. It is a lazy movie with lazy plotting and lazier dialogue. Asan action movie it takes itself far too seriously whilst having little else to support it other than nifty special effects (which are fantastic). There are some good points. The jump effects are brilliant and the fight scenes are pretty pleasing to watch. Jamie Bell is on fine form and should really have been given a bigger role. He is colourful where Christensen is bland, peppering the action with acerbic wit and snappy quips, and generally carrying the movie whenever he's in a scene. Unfortunately the positives end there. There is little character development and we just don't care about Christiansen's character. It might have worked had he and Bell swapped, but unfortunately the team behind this went for aesthetically pleasing American plank over fine British acting talent. Shame. Rachel Bilson doesn't really have much to do except stand around pouting in much the same way as she did on the OC, and Samuel L Jackson's contribution is undermined due to horrible writing cliches and 'big impact lines' that just sound cheesy and forced. If there is a saving grace it is that the movie is so obviously geared towards a sequel that a second movie might well be better. I can only hope that it is.

No Country For Old Men [DVD]
No Country For Old Men [DVD]
Dvd ~ Tommy Lee Jones
Price: £2.65

1 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An event of a movie that is sure to divide, 7 Aug. 2008
This review is from: No Country For Old Men [DVD] (DVD)
No Country for Old Men is a film guaranteed to divide. For many it will be a soulless shell of a tale with little impact and a simple sour taste after viewing it. However, for others, like myself, it is surely a sparse masterpiece. Bardem's Anton Chigurh is the very epitome of menacing. His voice sounds almost subterreanean and his fatalist coin toss has echoes of a certain Harvey Dent. Soulless is a word that may be used by this movie's detractors, but then again such a concept is everywhere in this movie. In Bardem's eyes, in the dusty corpse ridden plain where Brolin's protagonist first finds the briefcase of money, indeed every camera shot is breathtakingly beautiful but also incredibly stark, removed. Chigurh's presence infects the very nature of the film from cinematography to the sparse, haunting score.

It is a film that is similar in many ways to The Proposition, another inverted Western where the outlaws seem to have the upper hand over the ageing, jaded Sheriffs. Recognition should go to Brolin, whose performance would tower here were it not for Bardem, and Jones, and to the Coens themselves for successfully translating an excellent book into an excellent film. The pace and the mood is spot on. The ending though is troublesome. By following the book and leaving the ending open the film runs the risk (and a glance at some of the reviews on here will testify to this) of concluding limply. But for myself, the result was one of speechless wonderment. It is not a film one might particularly enjoy. It is not one that I necessarily want to see again any time soon. But I am certainly glad that I did see it and if you haven't, I suggest you buy, rent, borrow, or blag. Because it is a film that everyone really does need to see. At least once.

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