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Reviews Written by
Tim Coleman "Jesus freak movie geek" (Coventry, UK)

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Inglourious Basterds [DVD] (2009)
Inglourious Basterds [DVD] (2009)
Dvd ~ Brad Pitt
Offered by best_value_entertainment
Price: £3.56

8 of 12 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars WWII Re-imagined, 28 Sept. 2010
"Inglourious" is an escapist slice of what WWII might have been, in a Brothers Grimm-surreal-fairy-tale kind of way. Covering the overlapping stories of a Jewish-American hit squad scalping Nazis, a murder-while-I-smile SS Colonel and a French Jewess who escaped his clutches, the film unfolds in sequential chapters culminating, somewhat symbolically, in a cinema. It's a bold reimagining of WWII, and one that has upset more than a few people.

"Inglourious" does have much to commend it, the most obvious being the absolutely faultless and Oscar-winning performance by Christopher Waltz as SS Colonel Landa. He absolutely dominates the scenes he's in, and his dark, satanic shadow falls long and hard across the whole movie. The opening scene is a case in point, and beautifully illustrates how deft and accomplished a director Tarantino can be. Similarly, a later scene in a Parisian cellar shows how good Tarantino is at rachetting up the tension with characters just sitting around a table, talking. To my mind these scenes are almost pure cinema, and should the whole film have been of this calibre it would have been a success.

But it isn't. "Inglourious" suffers from being long winded, with a lack of characterisation of most of the players. Indeed we learn almost nothing about the hit-squad, and Brad Pitt's lamentably wooden performance ensures we care even less. Also, Eli Roth (as baseball wielding Nazi-killer Donny) comes across as more of a deranged psychopath than avenging angel - something that perhaps shouldn't surprise us considering he made the "Hostel" movies.

On a symbolic level the film could ultimately be read as how cinema can be used to maintain or overthrow oppression - in the climatic sequences Josef Goebbels is screening his latest propaganda movie when, in the "Inglourious" movie, events diverge markedly from the historical account of WWII. Tarantino apparently said he wanted to show Hitler being defeated by cinema, and I guess in that he succeeds. However when one character says in the final moments "I think this is my masterpiece", the resounding reply from the audience is "No Quentin - it's really not".

District 9 [DVD] [2009]
District 9 [DVD] [2009]
Dvd ~ Sharlto Copley
Price: £2.70

4 of 7 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Hardcore Prawn, 27 Sept. 2010
This review is from: District 9 [DVD] [2009] (DVD)
"District 9", the directorial debut by Neill Blomkamp, is something of an anachronism: part social commentary, part big-guns-splat-`em-up, it has made a big impact worldwide and developed a huge fanbase. So is it worth the hype?

At it's core, the film is a deeply accomplished piece of sci-fi writing. To summarise the plot, the film is set 20 years after a flying saucer comes to rest over Jo'burg, South Africa, and the aliens within were allowed to settle in a refugee camp near the city. Skip forward to today and this camp has become a massive shanty town (the eponymous "District 9"), with the aliens socially excluded, poverty stricken and feared by the general populace. The humans want the aliens moved onto a "resettlement camp" far away. Amid this backdrop our protagonist Wikus, a mid-level bureaucrat and bumbling goof-ball, enters District 9 to manage the resettlement only to become embroiled in secret plots being laid by both the humans and the aliens.

First the good. The plot does what all truly great sci-fi aspires to - it tells us something about our present. The parallels with apartheid in South Africa are pretty stark (signs on street corners saying "No non-human loitering", etc), and the film does an excellent job of "humanising" (for want of a better word) the aliens, beginning with news footage of the aliens as feared "Others" and then gradually revealing their personhood later on. In this the film is rich and incredibly moving, illustrating the horrors of apartheid in a fresh and revelatory way.

However where I feel the film falls down is the violence. Now let me say from the outset that I do feel violence can play an important dramatic role in cinema, and up to a point I feel this is how "District 9" begins. However the film quickly degenerates into extreme (and I do mean extreme) levels of gore, to the point that I am truly baffled as to why the BBFC deemed this to be a 15 certificate film. The film was produced by Peter Jackson, who began his career with low-budget schlockers like "Bad Taste", and the violence here is pretty comparable - heads explode, bodies pop and the whole thing smacks of the fantasies of adolescent guys. The reason I feel this is so deeply inappropriate is that it demeans the aforementioned merits of it's apartheid parallels - we literally go from gritty cinema veritie to blood drenched exploitation with hardly a batted eyelid. These two sides of the film do not sit well together at all, and made me feel like Blomkamp couldn't decide whether he wanted to make a serious social comment or a splatterfest: he tries to do both and, I think, fails.

This film revolted me: at first I felt that that was the point, as it was a revulsion against human indecency and injustice. However this quickly turned into a revulsion against the blood, guts and offal exploding against the screen, and for that's when it stopped being fun.

The Shawshank Redemption (BFI Film Classics)
The Shawshank Redemption (BFI Film Classics)
by Mark Kermode
Edition: Paperback
Price: £9.99

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Modern classic analysed by Dr K, 19 Sept. 2010
"The Shawshank Redemption" is a film beloved by millions; a modern classic whose twin peaks of gritty realism and transcendent hope continue to inspire movie-goers the world over. In this short book, Dr Mark Kermode goes some way into unpicking the film's almost universal appeal, with a healthy dose of analytical criticism thrown in along the way.

The book reads like a dissertation, helpfully illustrated with with full colour screen shots of relevant scenes from the movie (as do all 'BFI Film Classics' books). Broadly following the chronological order of the movie as the anchor for his analysis, Kermode focuses a lot on the Christian iconography used throughout as well as the idea of cinema as an alternative religion, offering some interesting textual observations. Though I felt he went a little too far in making some points (e.g. that Andy procuring beers for his inmate buddies whilst tarring the roof of the prison building is a Last Supper/Communion symbol - something I found a bit of a stretch) he does offer a number of interesting interpretations which I think genuinely add something to decoding this genuinely enthralling film.

On a practical note, this book is written in rather scholarly language which may not to be everyone's tastes. That said, if this is not something that bothers you there is much to take away from Kermode's arguments, even if you don't agree with everything he says. Recommended.

Black Hawk Down (2 Disc Set) [2002] [DVD]
Black Hawk Down (2 Disc Set) [2002] [DVD]
Dvd ~ Josh Hartnett
Offered by Qoolist
Price: £2.69

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Much maligned modern masterpiece, 15 Sept. 2010
Black Hawk Down appears to get people's backs up. This seems to be largely down to the fact that lots of people see the film as another American flag-waving, gun-ho "Shoot up the foreigners" actioneer. I can understand such opinions, but think they miss the point, and here's why-

BHD mainly focuses on a 24 hour period in October 1993 when US Forces descended on Somali capital Mogadishu in a snatch-and-grab operation. Rather than being "in and out within the hour" as they predicted, the operation spirals hopelessly out of control and the soldiers find themselves in the middle of an escalating and chaotic combat situation. As such the film unashamedly focuses on delivering the visceral experience of what it must have been like to be in the thick of that protracted and terrifying battle. The majority of the film covers a relentless and frankly exhausting retelling of events, without much time spent on philosophising, like, for instance, "Apocalypse Now", "The Thin Red Line" or "Platoon". BHD is, at it's bruised and beating centre, about viscerality.

Because of this step by Ridley Scott to focus so exclusively on the immersive combat sequences, characterisation is kept to a minimum both pre- and post-battle, and not much time is given to personalising the Somali characters (unlike, for instance, Mark Bowen's book on which the film is based, which gives an excellent insight into the simmering anti-American tension in the city before this operation). Some see this as an unforgivable omission, and might point out that though 19 Americans lost their lives in this battle, over 1000 Somalis were reportedly killed. However I would (perhaps controversially) argue that this is not so much the point of the film, as it is to give an insight into what it would have been like to be on the ground there. As one character observes midway, "I can't negotiate... I'm just a solider": indeed, and it is this soldiers' eye view which Scott captures so magnificently.

For this the film is a roaring success, and although it is not without it's flaws it leaves one poignantly considering the cost of war on those that fight it - albeit from a one-sided point of view.

Never Let Me Go
Never Let Me Go
by Kazuo Ishiguro
Edition: Paperback

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Heartbreaking, 7 Sept. 2010
This review is from: Never Let Me Go (Paperback)
I'm a long standing Ishiguro fan, with his seminal "Remains of the Day" being a favourite novel of mine. However, I think with "Never Let Me Go" Ishiguro has perhaps surpassed himself, and here's why.

Ishiguro's previous novels, such as "Remains" and "An Artist of the Floating World" dealt with unreliable narrators gradually facing up to some dark truth in their past. They demonstrate Ishiguro's wonderful ability to let the reader glimpse some secret through what remains unsaid, sub-textual, and just slightly out of frame. His language is always precise, his plot arcs revealed in a non-linear order, his themes often dealing with memory, self-deception and thwarted love.

In "Never Let Me Go" a lot of the above remains true, though the plot is more chronological. What we have here is a narrator, Kathy, retelling her life story and the events that brought her to her present station as a carer, six months off finishing that job forever. Gradually, as more and more details are filled in, the full Orwellian horror of what is happening is revealed and one closes with an absolutely heart breaking finale full of truth, grief and dare I even say despair.

Whilst technically the book is masterful, it is in this deep seated ability to emotionally affect the reader that Ishiguro succeeds. The tenderness, insight and uncanny ability to handle these big feelings in an understated away that is consistently amazing. I for one was left somewhat undone by the end, and remained tearful for a few hours afterwards.

This is first rate stuff, and deserves not only to be read within the canon of modern literature, but alongside such classics as Shelley's "Frankstein" about what it means to be human, with all it's subtleties, longings and pain. That some reviewers have raised objections to scientific implausibilities and frustrations with unanswered questions, I would say this is a novel of the heart, not a text book, and ultimately needs to be read as such. In this it resolutely succeeds, and deserves to be read for generations to come. Absolutely outstanding.

Ultimate Maths Invaders Version 2
Ultimate Maths Invaders Version 2

5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Maths Brain Training from 5 to 105, 5 Sept. 2010
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
To be honest I got this for myself, as a 28 year old guy looking to brush up on my maths and mental arithmetic. This, whilst aimed squarely at kids (as the box says, ages 5-15+), also serves my needs rather well.
The parameters for how complex the maths gets are fairly versatile, allowing you to begin with questions as easy as counting the number of planets in a box, for instance (something I'd imagine is ideal for younger children). This quickly progresses however up to times tables, square roots and beyond. I quickly met my match - however as it's laid out as a game of space invaders I was left with the competitive desire to better my own score. It's a clever way of making maths appealing. My wife is a teacher and, looking over my shoulder, confirmed that this would be just the sort of product to get young people learning, almost covertly! Further benefits include the ability for parents to look at how their children are progressing and even print off progress reports, which is a nice feature and a good way for parents to show their kids that they are taking an active interest in their achievements.
The only minor criticism I'd make is that this game only offers variations on the space invaders theme - some different game types would have been nice. However as this is retailing for around the £13 mark, which feels about right, so one can't ask for too much.
Overall this is a worthwhile product, both for young people learning maths for the first time as well as adults (parents included!) who feel like they need to brush up. Good stuff.

At Home: A Short History of Private Life: Complete and Unabridged (BBC Audio)
At Home: A Short History of Private Life: Complete and Unabridged (BBC Audio)
by Bill Bryson
Edition: Audio CD

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Interesting... up to a point, 5 Sept. 2010
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Bill Bryson has built up something of a reputation for his inquiring mind. Along with a slew of brilliantly funny travel tomes, Bryson has more recently turned his attention to matters of a more scholarly pursuit (Shakespeare / natural history), and this latest publication falls squarely into this second half of his work. Taking his own home, a converted Rectory, as the jumping off point Bryson goes from room to room giving a history of private life and domesticity in general.
First, the good. Bryson has always been an eloquent writer and his gifted word-craft is on display everywhere. He has seemingly read almost every source available in his hungry research, and then recounts his findings in immaculate detail, giving us many endearing factoids to pinch and reuse oneself. Some points are genuinely interesting, and on this audiobook edition Bryson speaks with clarity and an obvious love of his subject.
However after a while the book suffers from the flip-sides of some of the above positives. His anecdotes become increasingly tangental and one feels as though Bryson is trying to recount everything he knows simultaneously. He perhaps shares too much, and the book could have done with some prudent editing. Listening to these CDs, therefore, does give the uncomfortable feeling at times that one is stuck in an elevator with a frightful bore who doesn't quite know when to stop talking.
Bryson is capable of so much more than this. His affable wit, gracious command of English and unashamed intelligence have all been deployed to better effect in previous works, and one can only hope will be again in the future.

Final Cut Pro 6.0 Training DVD - Level 1 (Mac/PC DVD)
Final Cut Pro 6.0 Training DVD - Level 1 (Mac/PC DVD)

3.0 out of 5 stars Not sure what the point of a PC compatible training video for a Mac based programme?, 15 July 2010
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
I know this is my fault, but I ordered this without doing my research and didn't realise that Final Pro was a Mac programme. As a PC user, I now have this redundant training package on my shelf (which will play on a PC, though I'm not sure what the point is), waiting for the day when I will upgrade to a Mac for video editing. I'm sure the training video is good and helpful, but not for me - not yet anyway. So if your a PC editer - this ain't for you.

Easy Tasty Italian
Easy Tasty Italian
by Laura Santtini
Edition: Hardcover

0 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Unconventional cookbook, 15 July 2010
This review is from: Easy Tasty Italian (Hardcover)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Well presented offering from Laura Sattini which flies in the face of more straight-forward cookery books. TV chefs the likes of Oliver, Lawson, Harriet et al have got us used to a simple A-B-C formula of recipes to get us to cook - a kind of "cook by numbers" if you like. What Sattini does is turn that on it's head, and try to get the reader to enter more deeply into the world of Italian cooking without relying on idiot-proof instructions. This is closer, I would argue, to the original spirit of cookery, though will require a departure from habit for those used to the more formulaic books mentioned above.

Call Of Duty: Modern Warfare 2
Call Of Duty: Modern Warfare 2
Price: £7.99

9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars The grandeur and the hum drum background noise, 14 July 2010
I was pretty excited about downloading this album: since the first time I played MW2 I was struck by the cinematic quality of the score, and so regularly checked to see if it was available for purchase. This month it was finally released, and I downloaded it eagerly.

First the good. The opening titles are helmed by movie composing heavy weight Hans Zimmer ("Gladiator", "The Rock" etc), whilst the rest of the album is composed by Zimmer's protege, Lorne Balfe, meaning that the whole score has strong cinematic leanings. Balfe (like that other Zimmerite, Steve Jablonsky who composed the scores for the recent "Transformers" films) sticks closely to his masters style so what we're left with are strong motifs, beautiful strings sections and thundering bursts of militaristic urgency. Classic scenes from the game are brought right back to memory in tracks like "Derail" (the theme to taking the oil rig in "The Only Easy Day... was Yesterday") and "Safeguard" (the snowmobile escape). Other stand out tracks are "Retreat and Reveille", "Code of Conduct" and the absolutely beautiful "Coup de Grace" (the soundtrack to "Loose Ends" where Ghost and Roach make it back to the chopper before THAT plot twist). This finale is really the thematic heart of the score, and would not be out of place in a blockbuster like "Gladiator".

However, there is also a lot of filler. The above named tracks are rather bunched in the 2nd half of the album, with the earlier numbers often being rather lack lustre. What's more, the theme music for the "Takedown" mission in Rio (all strings and Brazilian drums) is disappointingly absent - for me this was one of the musical high points of the game, so it's a real shame it's been omitted whilst lesser tracks have made it through.

As such it's a mixed bag, with some worthwhile numbers alongside some instantly forgettable ones. Perhaps the best solution is to download the hits, of which there are certainly a few.
Comment Comments (4) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Aug 2, 2010 12:43 PM BST

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