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Thespionic "Thespionic" (West Country)

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A Streetcar Named Desire (Heinemann Plays For 14-16+)
A Streetcar Named Desire (Heinemann Plays For 14-16+)
by Tennessee Williams
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £9.75

5.0 out of 5 stars No Wonder It's a Classic?, 26 Feb. 2015
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I saw the film years ago! Of course, this is not a novel but a play, and so, you get a script to read? No problem! A couple of pages and you're into it. This is such a great story - believe me!
Blanc is a wonderful character and must be a riot to play, her dialogue is just superb, putting a class barrier of extreme proportions, between her and the working class hero, Stanley, - who actually, is quite rough around the edges, though he does have some logic in the way he works things through?
Stella is loyal to all, happy, a little naïve and a bit of a brick all round. Mitch is a nice guy but eventually ends up heartbroken.
Great characters, great storyline, wonderfully descriptive writing and whilst we couldn't hear the music and see the graphics, it still comes over crystal clear - no wonder it's a classic. I loved it. Finally, just read through the lovely expressions in the glossary - bobby-soxer, red hots, monkey doings, turn the trick, epic fortifications! - just brilliant dialogue!

The Old Man and the Sea (New Windmill S.)
The Old Man and the Sea (New Windmill S.)
by Mr Ernest Hemingway
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £9.25

5.0 out of 5 stars A Beautiful and Engaging Fisherman's Tale, 25 Feb. 2015
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This was Hemmingway’s last big success, it was written from his home in Cuba in 1952. It won the Pulitzer Prize and contributed to Hemmingway’s Nobel Prize for literature in 1954. The book sold 50,000 copies on its first print run. It was featured in Time Magazine, which sold 5,000,000 copies in 2 days. It was a book that revived Hemmingway’s reputation & legacy.
The first thing that strikes you about this ‘fisherman’s tale’ is that the writer clearly has a vast experience of sea fishing, small crafts and marlin, which unsurprisingly Hemmingway did! A classic case of writing what you know about.
It’s a pity in some ways that Hemmingway’s book written in 1952, has to now compete to some degree with ‘Jaws,’ which was written in 1974.
The whimsical Santiago is a lovely old character and I’m sure most readers were just willing him to hit the safety of the shores of Havana once again? Thankfully, his young sidekick, Manolin, will always be there to help him out?
This is a beautifully told story of less than 100 pages (hardback) but it is still very engaging and satisfying.

Round Midnight (1986) ( Autour de minuit ) ( Round Midnight )
Round Midnight (1986) ( Autour de minuit ) ( Round Midnight )
Dvd ~ dexter gordon
Price: £11.20

4.0 out of 5 stars Excellent Lead Performance, 24 Feb. 2015
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I unknowingly purchased the French copy, `autour de minuet.' There is quite a lot of French dialogue used in the film - perhaps I should have used sub titles? It didn't seem to detract from the film too much, though I think I missed out on Francis's family situation a bit?
The intimate clubs and the music are lovely. Dexter Gordon was nominated for an Academy Award for his performance of Dale Turner ... and I'm not surprised.
This is a nice film to sit and appreciate - alcoholic & drug dependant musicians are nothing new of course, Charlie Parker, Etta James, Chet Baker, Billy Holiday to name but a few, but this is very well done, but importantly not over done!
It's always been an oddity to me that so many jazz players play in front of such small crowds in the main, and the rank and file players earn a moderate living from what are highly technical skills? Yes, real jazz is a niche market, perhaps, apart from the few elite, it's the singers that earn all the money, especially those associated to the old swing bands & orchestras? - Fitzgerald, Armstrong, Charles, Sinatra, Bennett and more recently Winehouse, Buble and Gregory Porter, who appeal to a much wider audience. Some I'm sure would argue if some of these are really jazz musicians, as jazz now has so many genres and is hard to define from 'popular music or crooners? I digress - a nice film and definitely worth a watch - it's beautifully put together and filmed with lovely views of Paris initially and latterly New York too.

Of Mice and Men: With Notes
Of Mice and Men: With Notes
by John Steinbeck
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £7.75

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Thought Provoking Book & Mini Classic, 23 Feb. 2015
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The film, `Of Mice and Men,' - 1992 version, will always be one of my favourites. It encouraged me read this book. Firstly, I was amazed at just how short the book is at 150 pages! It's a book you can read in day with time to spare! The story though, still comes across as just fine and is never less than interesting and engaging with many topical points to dwell on.
This particular book is also written for GCSE study, which I don't intend to comment on, as many have already done so.
For me the main player here, and centre of attention, is Lennie. He is intellectually disabled, with a childlike imagination. A comparison to some degree would be Forest Gump or `Karl' from `Sling Blade.'
He drifts during the Great Depression, and looks for work under Roosevelt's 'New Deal' , with his best and only friend George, who continually mothers him and keeps him out of mischief. They are like chalk and cheese but need each other? They follow the American dream of one day owning their own bit of land - it eventually transpires that they are not the only ones?
Eventually they end up on a farm in California and this is where we meet several different characters and the story unfolds. Steinbeck's writing style describes them all perfectly well and this is a feature of his writing. It is also quite clear that he is very knowledgeable about farm life and also the countryside that surrounds it.
Whilst I'd seen the film first, I still found the book totally engaging, even though it was very similar to the film. The characters (including the leads) do leave a lasting impression and stir the old grey matter! They are all so different - even though the tale is so brief. They raise questions of: loyalty, pity, vulnerability, sadness, anger & inferiority, loneliness / isolation and of course, from that period - racism.
Finally, what helps to make this book such an interesting read is the dialogue and slang used - the book's glossary is very helpful.

Magnificent Obsession: Victoria, Albert and the Death That Changed the Monarchy
Magnificent Obsession: Victoria, Albert and the Death That Changed the Monarchy
by Helen Rappaport
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £18.95

3.0 out of 5 stars Nearly a Magnificent Depression!, 22 Feb. 2015
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This is a rather strange book to read and perhaps not what one would expect? The first 70 pages deals with the brief beginnings of Albert & Victoria's marriage, however, it quickly turns to the death of Victoria's mother - the Duchess of Kent, whom she'd fallen out with, sending Victoria into a state of guilt and depressive mourning - we've been warned!
Whilst this is prevailing Albert is making himself ill with his burdensome workload. As his health declines, Victoria seems blissfully unaware of the possible seriousness of the unfolding events? His declining health is updated daily from Victoria's diary - which is a mainstay of this book. It's all rather inevitable!
If we thought this was a bit of a bleak beginning, it's only a lead into the next 100 pages of Victoria's very depressing and obsessive mourning - now for Albert. This seems to go on and on forever. In fact, it'll take about 3 years before anything improves too much. This section of the book is not a bundle of laughs; Victoria drags everyone down with her. Her insistence on everything `Albert ` and her staff wearing black for the first two years and then 'solemnly' thereafter is self righteous, selfish and just plain ludicrous. At this point of the book I was happy to rename this book the `Magnificent Depression!' I wondered why anyone would write a book of this nature - the first 170 pages could easily have been condensed into half of that, and saved the reader a lot of grief!
Thankfully, the last third of the book livens up a bit and actually becomes quite interesting - hurrah! This for me, saves the book!
John Brown now enters her life and things slowly pick up, although she still hides herself away in Scotland. Whilst she slowly tries to ruin the good name of the `Royals' by her absences, and coming close to being forced out , she has a massive stroke of luck, Bertie, the very son she has maligned and blamed for Albert's death (now what loving mother would do that to her son?) becomes seriously ill. She has no choice but to rush to his bedside. All of Blighty rallies around their dying Prince and possible next King, and of course, the already perpetually grieving mother. The Royals are back in vogue!
Victoria seems a very contradicting personality doesn't she? Yes, she cleared adored Albert and was literally helpless and turned to stone without him there? However, she did not seem to overly love her children that much which is most odd for a mother? Towards the end of this book she has fallen out ( yet again), this time with her young daughter, Alice, who has been an absolute brick to her in her hours and hours, and hours, of need! Alice tragically dies, but Victoria can't even be bothered to attend her funeral - sending Bertie instead?
There's no doubt that the author has done her homework and one certainly gets to know Victoria pretty well via this book, though I'm not too sure if I like her that much!

Midnight in Paris [DVD][2011] [2012]
Midnight in Paris [DVD][2011] [2012]
Dvd ~ Owen Wilson
Price: £3.00

5.0 out of 5 stars A Feast for Your Eyes & Brilliant Movie, 22 Feb. 2015
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This film is probably one of the best portrayals of the `roaring twenties' that I've seen, second only to the brilliant `Great Gatsby' IMHO. Ironically, Scot Fitzgerald, who wrote the latter, is one of the many icons of that age who puts in an appearance here. His wife Zelda became a leading flapper of the period.
Others who we come across are: Ernest Hemmingway, Cole Porter, Picasso and Salvador Dali - not bad for a night down at the local!
This film has everything - beautiful Parisian scenery, a great story line, wonderful acting and superb wardrobe and backdrop all round. This is a stunning film in my opinion - a real feast for the eyes - glorious.
The roaring twenties erupted after WW1, the centres being the likes of New York, London & Paris - this was a playground for wealthy and not something that your average underling would have been involved too much with.
This for me is right up there with `Manhattan,' as one of my `Woody' favourites, and clearly a lot of fans thought the same too and headed to the flicks in their droves. It was Woody's greatest ever financial hit - costing 17 million $ to make and grossing an incredible 151 million $.
Unsurprisingly, it won an Academy Award and Golden Globe - enough said!

Sweet and Lowdown [DVD]
Sweet and Lowdown [DVD]
Dvd ~ Sean Penn
Price: £8.92

4.0 out of 5 stars A Good Night's Entertainment, 20 Feb. 2015
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This review is from: Sweet and Lowdown [DVD] (DVD)
This film is so Woody Allen! Emmet ( the (guitar player) is deep down quite soft, but feels that with his status and potential, he has to play the field. Hattie is lovely and deserves a nice guy, but being a `Woody' female has quirky characteristics - she never skips a meal!
Emmet is a very talented guitarist - forever on the way up. He enjoys the ride. This is the roaring 20's and the depression 30's! The attire is just brilliant. The men's & women's fashions are so lovely, elegant and suave; it's white - walled tyres and small intimate jazz clubs.
This film is very witty, immensely watchable and beautifully put together.
It has all the `WA' twists and turns. It's one of those films that you watch and are glad that you did!

by Michael Wood
Edition: Hardcover

5.0 out of 5 stars An Excellent Read and Well Put Together, 17 Feb. 2015
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This review is from: Conquistadors (Hardcover)
The Conquistadors are essential history I would say. Any armed explorers who had managed to wipe out two of the most artistic and fascinating peoples in our history should certainly be read? Of course they were courageous - not knowing what they'd be up against and the journeys undertaken are pretty mindboggling aren't they? Check out the quest for Eldorado - what an epic that is?
However, their utter greed and callousness puts them in a very special category? These people had no regard for human life and were totally driven individuals - nothing was going to stand in their way of fame and fortune?
But, let's not forget that most countries have skeletons in the closet? Our own British Empire was hardly a saint now was it? The slaughter of the Zulus, The death camps of the Boar war, the hangings in India - and so it goes on and on. You can't overthrow a country or state without bloodshed? War is death unfortunately and unfortunately, things never change do they - the 21st century is just as bad now isn't it?
I found this book a first class read and enjoyed all the tales, which were complemented with some lovely plates. This is a fine book no doubt and very well written, being very easy to follow and with differing outcomes too for the hardy conquistadors! So it wasn't all gory glory!

You Have Seen Their Faces
You Have Seen Their Faces
by Erskine Caldwell
Edition: Paperback

4.0 out of 5 stars A Very Poignant Read But a Tale that Needed Telling, 17 Feb. 2015
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This book covers the subject of the `Sharecroppers' during the Great Depression, when the drought brought havoc to the farming community, especially the cotton states of the Deep South, which had over-farmed their land, and whose land was less fertile than the neihbouring Mississippi region?
The writer is Erskine Caldwell, author of the very poignant and witty `Tobacco Road' & `God's Little Acre' - from the same period and landscape.
His overview, just 50 pages or so, of the sharecropper's lot, is excellent and it is clear he understood their plight and the politics of the National and Federal
authorities, as well as the local landowners - all too well.
This was yet another terrible miscarriage of justice against the `Blacks' & poorer whites in the Deep South and America in general. Caldwell as usual is very forthright in his analysis & views on the subject!
The book is complemented by the photos of Margaret Bourke- White - a prominent photographer of that time. The snaps capture wonderfully the poverty, hardship, strain and the effect of the sheer graft on the faces of the croppers and their folk, as they struggle to get by on a pittance in what was a gruelling lifestyle.
Some of the captions for the photos are so funny, but of course tragic as well - typical Caldwell! One forlorn older white guy looks into the camera, with the caption, "I used to be a peddler, until peddling petered out!"
One very `weathered - faced' mother looks into the camera and says, "Snuff is a great help when your teeth are aching!"
The book is not great quality and some of the photos look like they've been photo copied! This is a shame but the hard back versions are no longer available and stupid prices if they are! Whilst I feel this paperback is vastly over-priced and a bit like a school mag' too, I still thoroughly enjoyed it and it only takes a couple of hours to browse through - Anyway, someone has to stand up for the poor sharecroppers!
The book ends with Caldwell's possible solutions to help the croppers, However , this is before farming became mechanized and their labour just wasn't required in the South anymore! Most Blacks then emigrated to the North of America for jobs in factories. They certainly couldn't have been any worse off!

The Grapes of Wrath [Blu-ray] [1940]
The Grapes of Wrath [Blu-ray] [1940]
Dvd ~ Henry Fonda
Price: £8.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Agood Depiction of an Awful Time, 15 Feb. 2015
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Having read about the `Great Depression' very recently, I thought I would catch up with another film of that time - to enhance and to help to retain my knowledge.
This film is 75 years old now and was made 13 years before I was born!
The black & white film quality is not particularly good and I'm not so sure that Bluray actually improves it by much? The sound was faulty on my Bluray (no English) and so I had to use sub titles to watch it!
The picture is not great and the acting is a bit wooden places but the storyline is very good, if a little depressing, and historically is pretty sound in the main as far as I'm aware. Jane Darwell (Ma Joad) won an Oscar for her role and John Ford an Oscar for `Directing,' there were 5 other nominations, one for the sound, which quite ironic as I couldn't hear my disc!
Quite how that old banger got them to their destination is quite beyond me! They sure don't make `em like that anymore and that goes for them very enduring'Oakies' too!
I have previously watched `Tobacco Road' & `Gods Little Acre,' both written by Erskine Caldwell, which were similar but much more amusing - even if the story lines are not so comprehensive. More recently (2013) I would recommend `As I lay Dying,' (a Faulkner classic), which is beautifully filmed but difficult on the ear because of the Southern drawl! Again, use sub-titles and it'll be fine.

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