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Mr. I. S. Fairholm "epilepticgibbon" (Cheltenham, UK)

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The Losers [DVD]
The Losers [DVD]
Dvd ~ Jeffrey Dean Morgan
Offered by HarriBella.UK.Ltd
Price: £3.30

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Neither a winner nor a loser, 30 Dec. 2011
This review is from: The Losers [DVD] (DVD)
One of 2010's many ensemble action films, 'The Losers' is based on a comic book series (which I'll admit I've never read) and is genuinely much better than the similarly themed 'The A-Team' and 'The Expendables' combined.

There are star turns from Chris Evans (best known now for starring as Captain America in the film of the same name and 'The Avengers') as one of the Losers (an elite black-ops team) and, in a villainous role, Jason Patric, whose performance may well represent the best villain in a mainstream action movie since Heath Ledger's Joker from 'The Dark Knight'. There are also some great action sequences throughout.

However, the tone is uneven (probably because it can't quite work out what audience it's aiming for - teenage boys or adults), the dialogue is pretty poor and the whole film just feels a little hollow. You get the feeling that if someone like Quentin Tarantino, Joss Whedon, or Brad Bird had been on hand to polish the script and direct this could have been genuinely brilliant. Instead it's fun and certainly has its moments, but ultimately it disappoints, given that with a bit of extra work it could have been so much better.

I think it deserves a sequel because I'd genuinely like someone to take these characters further and deliver on the moments of promise this first film offers, but I fear the box office figures may not justify that. A shame really.

Being Human: Bad Blood
Being Human: Bad Blood
by James Goss
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.99

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Bad Blood but great Being Human novel, 12 Sept. 2011
This review is from: Being Human: Bad Blood (Paperback)
Okay, first admission, I'm a big 'Being Human' fan. The second key bit of information you need to know is that this is the third in a series of three 'Being Human' novels, with the earlier books being 'The Road', and 'Chasers'. 'The Road' isn't bad, though does rather feel like an average filler episode of the TV series. 'Chasers' is better still and is on a par with some of the better episodes of the series, though it's not perfect. It's worth noting that there's an ongoing story that develops throughout the first two books, concluding here with 'Bad Blood'. The story is not so major that you have to read the first two books before you read this one, but it will help.

And onto 'Bad Blood' itself - it's easily the best of the three books and the only reason I didn't give it five stars is because it slightly backs itself into a corner towards the end and the eventual resolution of the story is therefore a little disappointing and anti-climatic.

Nevertheless, if you like the 'Being Human' TV series you should still love this, partly because James Goss is clearly a fan of the show too. He has a great ear for the style of dialogue and comedy that makes the show work so well and he does an excellent job of capturing the personalities and mannerisms of Mitchell, George and Annie. In addition Goss creates an interesting new character in the form of Denise, one of Annie's old friends, a party girl with a mystery illness and a strange effect on the three housemates. There's good continuity with the rest of the series, but it's not essential to know the whole show inside out (though you will pick up on a few running jokes the more familiar you are with it).

But the best thing is that Goss is a witty writer with a smart and original story to tell. He takes the world of 'Being Human' but does something a little different with it, taking a few more risks than his predecessors did with the earlier two books in the series. In fact I detected a little of Douglas Adams' irreverent style and imaginative twist on very ordinary things in Goss' writing. If you like the idea of Douglas Adams writing for 'Being Human', well this may be as close as you're ever going to get to that. But my main point is that Goss is an exceptional writer and has a great future ahead of him, certainly if this novel is anything to go by. He's good at comedy, drama, horror, plotting and action. It's just a shame that after a brilliant first three-quarters the final quarter of the novel falls a little flat. That aside though, if you like 'Being Human' the series you should love this - it should help to fend off those cravings whilst you're waiting for the fourth series!

On Winsley Hill
On Winsley Hill
by Alan Richardson
Edition: Paperback
Price: £8.99

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Stephen King meets Will Self?, 4 Sept. 2011
This review is from: On Winsley Hill (Paperback)
Is this really like Stephen King meets Will Self then? Well, yes, and no.

In the last year I read Stephen King's impressive psychological horror story 'Bag of Bones' and earlier this year I read Will Self's equally impressive but excessively wordy 'How the Dead Live'. Whilst I doubt that Alan Richardson has read or been influenced by either novel I couldn't help but see assorted parallels between the three books.

'On Winsley Hill' almost reads like an English 'Bag of Bones' - there's forbidden love, dark secrets of the past, the power of history, black humour, magic and other strange forces. But I stress the Englishness of this story - don't go expecting King's very American style for this is very English in its reluctance to dip into sentimentality and in its particular landscape and approach to spirituality.

And there's something of Self's taste for biting cynicism and his desire to astonish here too, whilst Richardson's Rosie Chant feels as well-rounded and real as Self's equally vivid and formidable Lily Bloom. You wouldn't want to mess with either of these two ladies, who both move towards the ends of their lives with similar degrees of regret and bitterness.

But ultimately this is Richardson's own unique vision of a love story, of sorts, between a charismatic but equally slimey American archaeologist and the aforementioned young Rosie, who has a fierce temper and strange gifts.

Powerful, atmospheric, wickedly funny, and at times extremely moving, this is my favourite read of 2011 so far. It's not perfect - at times I felt excluded from some of the mystical language, which comes from a tradition I'm not familiar with, whilst I felt some of the description at times was a little overzealous. But these are minor points and over the 114 pages of this short novel all my reservations were abandoned as I came to appreciate all the characters and was gripped by the developments of the story and by Richardson's turn of phrase. A truly magical novel in more ways than one and even when you finish it I'm sure you will take something of it away with you.

The Book of Eli [DVD]
The Book of Eli [DVD]
Dvd ~ Denzel Washington
Offered by DVD Overstocks
Price: £3.25

0 of 2 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Denzel, what were you thinking?, 8 Jan. 2011
This review is from: The Book of Eli [DVD] (DVD)
A loner walks a post-apocalyptic landscape with loads of guns and a Bible. It's basically 'The Road' with more violence and a lot less humanity. The Hughes brothers direct with some style but the normally dependable Denzel Washington looks bored, Gary Oldman chews the scenery in his now overly familiar Hollywood villain role, the continuity and plot is all over the place & the twist ending is one that even M Night Shyamalan would have balked at. Ultimately the film starts well enough but continues to go downhill rapidly from there on in. I really couldn't recommend watching it (I'd say watch 'Mad Max 2' again instead if that's the itch you're looking to scratch, and if you haven't seen 'Mad Max 2' yet, what are you doing wasting your time with this?) but obviously your mileage may vary.

The Illusionist [DVD]
The Illusionist [DVD]
Dvd ~ Edward Norton
Price: £3.79

0 of 2 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Well made but ultimately disappointing, 20 Aug. 2010
This review is from: The Illusionist [DVD] (DVD)
The first thing to say is that two films were made and released at around the same time (2006) - this, 'The Illusionist', came out in the UK first, I believe, and was followed later by 'The Prestige'. Both are about magic, or perhaps more appropriately I should say illusion. Both are set in the past rather than in contemporary settings; both in late 19th or turn of the 20th century time periods. Both are duplicitous mystery thrillers, leading you up paths, only to turn around and reveal something else - back to that earlier point about magic and illusion. Both are basically well-made, look stylish and have big name casts. The problem is that despite all of these similarities, one of these films really works... and the other is 'The Illusionist'.

Starting off with the good side, 'The Illusionist' is beautifully crafted, starts off promisingly enough, and features a fine and nuanced performance from Paul Giamatti as a conflicted police inspector. But what really lets the film down are three things: slow pacing, most of the other key acting performances and an immensely disappointing and predictable ending.

The performances include an unusually muted turn from Edward Norton, an unconvincing and mis-cast Jessica Biel, and a hammy and intensely OTT Rufus Sewell.

But it's the extreme predictability and disappointing nature of the final third of the film that caused me to give this two-stars rather than the three-star rating that it perhaps would otherwise deserve. For a film like this, the cleverness of the illusion is fundamental. But here that illusion is shattered because it becomes all too obvious what the central twist is well before the end. Like any trick, once the all-important illusion is broken the film loses most of its magic, tension and ability to astound and impress. The final revelations therefore feel flat and unimpressive rather than clever and rewarding.

Ultimately, for me at least, this felt like a fairly shallow and even dull historical mystery. Lovely to look at, yes, with that excellent performance from Giamatti, but otherwise very slow and nothing to get your teeth into. I'd recommend that if you're looking for something clever within this general vein that you instead go for the multi-layered and more fascinating 'The Prestige' - now that's magic!

Timecrimes [DVD]
Timecrimes [DVD]
Dvd ~ Karra Elejalde
Price: £7.78

2 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Prepare for a headache but terrific nevertheless, 15 Aug. 2009
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Timecrimes [DVD] (DVD)
Time travel films - there's no shortage of them but most leave you wanting, for one reason or another. This one doesn't, though prepare for a headache as you try to work out what's going on and how. It starts off simply enough but just when you think you've got your head around it and you're feeling smug, well then it throws another temporal twist into the works. It's as much a crime thriller (sort of an unorthodox who-dunnit) as it is a science fiction film, though the time travel elements and the philosophical questions they raise are extremely well handled and interesting throughout. Try imagining 'Groundhog Day' mixed with 'Memento' but throw in some ingenious time travel twists, turns and paradoxes, and you'll just about end up with 'Timecrimes'. There's some wry humour, some clever and thoughtful writing, and tight direction throughout (essential in a film such as this). In fact probably the worst thing about the film is its terrible title. Heck, even the subtitles are visible throughout (and how many foreign language films can you say that about?). Overall, an excellent oddity that deserves multiple viewings, but do prepare yourself - you may need to lie down for a while in a darkened room afterwards.

The Devil You Know: A Felix Castor Novel, vol 1
The Devil You Know: A Felix Castor Novel, vol 1
by Mike Carey
Edition: Paperback
Price: £9.99

10 of 13 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Let's put this in perspective, 4 Aug. 2009
Carey is a clever guy, a good writer and someone who has written some of the most interesting fantasy and horror comics of the last decade. But this novel, the first in his Felix Castor series, is distinctly average. This is simply what it is, the first in a series of supernatural whodunnits, and obviously it has a lot to set up (the universe we find ourselves in, the rules, the background and the soon-to-be regular characters) but it takes too long to do all that, unfortunately, and suffers a little as a standalone novel in its own right.

Carey presents an alternative London, one he's partly borrowed from Neil Gaiman's 'Neverwhere' (a series Carey clearly loves because he adapted the 'Neverwhere' novel into a comic book series), but 'The Devil You Know' lacks the full three-dimensionality and sense of fantastical history of Gaiman's hidden London novel. Carey's London is one full of all forms of risen dead and other supernatural beasties - ghosts, zombies, succubi and werewolves. As I say, there's a lot to set up and Carey takes a fair stab at introducing us to a world that is very like our own, except that the supernatural is just a little more commonplace than we're used to. Carey dabbles a little in the legal and social consequences of such a world, but that's hardly his main focus.

Our view of this world comes via Felix Castor's first person perspective. Castor is an exorcist, a job that is slightly more commonplace in his world than ours, though Castor is also basically a gumshoe detective (by any other name), a smart-mouthed cynic with little money, few job prospects, and even fewer friends, who gets dragged reluctantly into apparently simple cases but quickly finds himself in over his head. Here he's brought in to investigate... sorry, exorcise a veiled ghost haunting a place of work. But what starts out as a seemingly simple case becomes increasingly complicated as Castor finds himself dealing with police, gangsters, rogue exorcists and even demons. What you get, if anything, is stylistically more akin to Philip Marlowe or Sam Spade, or even Inspector Jack Frost, than John Constantine (for those of you expecting more 'Hellblazer'-type stuff from Carey), it's just that this private detective novel has ghosts and monsters in it. It's a neat trick and overall Carey just about carries it off.

As has been said elsewhere, there's a lot of padding in the story - some of it is necessary to set-up Castor's world and back story, but arguably this 470 page book would have been better had it been trimmed down by about 100 pages. There's just not 470 pages worth of story here, unfortunately. Some story elements could have been easily jettisoned or tightend up, which would have produced a far less flabby and much more punchy opening to the series.

The characters vary in how interesting they are. Castor himself is promising with his world-weary atheism and smart mouth, but he seems to have limited abilities in this first novel. Too often Carey doesn't seem to know what to do with the character. Thankfully this is resolved by the second book of the series, though if anything he perhaps becomes a bit too much of a superhero or a James Bond-style hero by then. Here Castor is perhaps a bit too passive and indecisive, even pathetic at times, but by the second book Carey has perhaps toughened him up a touch too much. It'll be interesting to see how things develop with the third book onwards. Other characters are less well developed, in some cases because they don't need to be, and in other cases because they get further coverage in later books. The supporting cast, like Castor, show potential but at this stage that's all.

In the end, this is a promising start to a series that has the potential to be something really interesting. The second book in the series represents a big step up in terms of quality and although I guess you could skip straight to that you'd perhaps miss out on a few nuances and story-arc plot points in the process. But if you like the idea of what is basically a twisty-turny supernatural detective thriller then this should deliver most of what you'd what. It perhaps lacks some of the magic, awe and wonder that Carey has offered in comic book series like 'Lucifer' but this is aimed at a considerably more mainstream audience so it should come as no surprise. Anyway, this is a good start, albeit not a great one, but the second book, 'Vicious Circle', is where things definitely start to pick up. See this as the appetizer before the main course perhaps.

Margerine Eclipse
Margerine Eclipse

4.0 out of 5 stars As someone else said, more like four and half, 22 Mar. 2009
This review is from: Margerine Eclipse (Audio CD)
This was the band's first album following the death of longtime Stereolab member Mary Hansen. Her contributions of keyboards and backing vocals were such a critical part of the Stereolab sound and following such a tragedy you might have expected the band to split up, or at the very least to produce a dark and brooding album, one that mused on the futility of all things and the cruelty of chance. But far from it - driven by the feeling that Mary wouldn't have wanted Stereolab to stop or to dwell on the negative, the band seem to have chosen to do the complete opposite, not just by carrying on but by releasing one of the brightest, most upbeat, and life affirming albums of Stereolab's career.

Long ago I assumed that Stereolab was a French band, though in fact with this album I discovered that they are primarily of British origin and it's only lead vocalist Laetitia Sadier who has a nationality link that reaches directly across the channel (she was born in France).

Stereolab's music is a bit hard to describe but I suppose it draws on the sounds of lounge music, movie soundtracks, dreamy ambient pop, with bits of disco and progressive rock (the latter is suggested by their use of wacky shifts in time signature) thrown in for good measure. I've picked out, from the twelve tracks on this album, what sound like nods to the music of Malicorne, Burt Bacharach, Sally Oldfield, and even Blondie, whilst I'm almost certain that Stereolab have, in turn, been huge influences on the music of Air, Mellow and various bands of that ilk.

'Margerine Eclipse' is largely a lesson in just how perfect inventive and intelligent pop music can get, particularly on early tracks like 'Vonal Declosion', 'Need To Be', 'Cosmic Country Noir', and 'La Demeure'. Some of the later tracks get a bit darker or more experimental, and my favourites of these are 'The Man With 100 Cells' (with lyrics like 'The sea is rough now, the sky is rumbling, darkness descending' and 'You are the captain, do you feel equipped? You have now taken the helm of your ship', some people have seen this song as being about Bush's America, now thankfully a distant memory), the lengthy 'Margerine Melodie', and the tribute to Mary Hansen, 'Feel and Triple'.

There are occasions where the tracks get a bit samey, as though Stereolab are writing on auto-pilot, though these are thankfully rare and certainly every track contains something of interest.

At its best, 'Margerine Eclipse' is an elegant and charming album, full of irresistible melodies and lilting Gallic vocals and, although it doesn't quite maintain its heavenly pop perfection throughout, it's always interesting and assured.

Best tracks: 'Vonal Declosion', 'Need To Be', 'Cosmic Country Noir', 'La Demeure', 'The Man With 100 Cells', 'Margerine Melodie'.

Stephen King's Cat's Eye [DVD]
Stephen King's Cat's Eye [DVD]
Dvd ~ Drew Barrymore

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars In the cat's eye of the beholder, 10 Feb. 2009
One of those films that is best appreciated late on TV when you've nothing better to do and aren't expecting too much of it. It's not one of the best films adapted from the works of Stephen King but if you like his short stories then there's much to appreciate, particularly the very black comedy and paranoia of the first part, as James Woods regrets his decision to try and give up smoking when it's obvious the firm he's hired to help him crack the habit will go to any length to make sure it happens.

The second story is extremely tense and really had me biting my nails as our hero tries to walk/edge round the side of a building in an effort to win a bet against the husband of the woman he's been having an affair with. If you don't like pigeons or heights then you'll want to give this section of the film a miss but for every one else it's gripping entertainment.

But the final section, with a young Drew Barrymore and the cat of the film's title, is a bit of a let-down and the connection between the three stories is rather tenuous (the ongoing adventures of the aforementioned cat is what links them together) . But for Stephen King fans with low to average expectations, or people who used to enjoy 'Tales of The Unexpected', this is pretty good fun.

The Brentford Chainstore Massacre (Brentford Trilogy)
The Brentford Chainstore Massacre (Brentford Trilogy)
by Robert Rankin
Edition: Paperback

5.0 out of 5 stars Rankin's best?, 22 Jan. 2009
As someone who enjoys Rankin's work, but who doesn't feel that he always writes to his potential, this was a welcome and pleasant surprise. Easily the best of the Brentford books (the increasingly inaccurately named trilogy) so far and quite possibly Rankin's best novel full stop.

This one has it all: a plethora of really great gags (some running, some not), one of the strongest Rankin storylines (i.e. not just a series of sketches slung together, as is all too often the case with Rankin's plots), a range of typically bizarre Fortean-style phenomena, and of course there's the much loved characters of Brentford who are on their finest form.

What's more, though, amongst the silliness there's a touching, almost mature quality to this book, which is quite unlike anything I've ever read in a Rankin novel before. There's almost a sense that this is Robert Rankin for grown-ups, which is not to ridicule the rest of his work but for me it's his most well-rounded and truly intelligent book, as well as having a lot of heart, plus all the wit and weirdness that you'd expect from a Brentford book.

Avoid the nay-sayers. They're just saying 'nay'. This rocks, said a lady in a straw hat.

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