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The Demon Pazuzu (Georgetown, UK)

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Last Battle
Last Battle
by Stephen Harding
Edition: Hardcover
Price: 12.59

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Tremendous padding, not so tremendous battle, 16 Jan 2014
This review is from: Last Battle (Hardcover)
I was really excited to read this interesting-looking book after getting it for Christmas. Just my kind of thing: crazy true stories of warfare you'd usually expect in a movie. Unfortunately, if the book were a 90min movie, the action doesn't start until the 70th minute and lasts only 12 minutes. In fact, for a book about a battle, called The Last Battle, it's almost a breach of the Trades Descriptions Act!

The initial setting up of places and characters takes up the first three-quarters of the book before we even get to the assault on the castle, convincing me the author found an intriguing brief tale of enemies coming together, then, on realisation it wasn't enough to fill a book, padded it with chapter after chapter after chapter of needless, and ultimately boring, character histories of the VIP POWs. Why we need to know so much about these people who appear as little more than a footnote during the actual battle is beyond me.

I don't think it's a poorly-written book per se, but it's definitely a poorly-constructed book with way too much emphasis on background than on what must be many people's sole reason for buying it - the battle! But even then, what we are told of the "battle"/"assault"/"skirmish", call it what you will, isn't even exciting. It's told in way too many broad strokes, with little emphasis on people or the immediate danger they are in, and the battle itself peters out into non-existence like an early morning mist - no tension, no peril, no humanity.

As an aside, I'm sure The Last Battle could make an exciting movie, but it would need a very creative screenwriter to transform just 25 pages of action (from a 173pg story) into something a cinema audience would be prepared to sit through for two hours. The author probably wrote it with the hope of attracting a film deal, but even if he gets one, I'm sure what he ultimately sees on-screen will bear little resemblance to the stagnant essay he wrote.

An extremely disappointing read which I'm glad I didn't pay for myself.

Birth of a Nation [Blu-ray] [1915] [US Import]
Birth of a Nation [Blu-ray] [1915] [US Import]
Dvd ~ D. W. Griffith

3 of 9 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Technically good but with a vile & despicable message, 11 Jan 2014
No matter how much I agree DW Griffith was a great film-maker, I can't agree that Birth Of A Nation is a great film. Don't get me wrong, I'm not one of those embarrassing, middle-class, white liberals who tries to make friends with every black person they meet out of some sense of historic guilt (you pathetic saddos), but this is definitely one sickening and disgusting piece of storytelling. You can't deny the camerawork and editing, but you can certainly deny everything else.

- A would-be black rapist chasing the angelic white virgin...
- Drunken black politicians in the seat of government as their same-race colleagues jump around like the animalistic primates they're clearly meant to be...
- The heroic white-hooded members of the Ku Klux Klan chasing down the evil black peril on horseback?
- And who could forget the moment the KKK's white hood is invented when some white kids are seen scaring a black kid with a pillow case? Inadvertent comedy at its best.

What a story to show your children!

Films like this should not be banned, they should be seen, debated and critically destroyed. But what solidifies its reputation as vile art is its cause of the eventual foundation of the 2nd generation of the KKK, the 1st generation organisation having already been dead many years before this film appeared in 1915. By 1920, the KKK's membership had risen from a handful of self-loathing chicken farmers with designs on their sisters to over 100,000 white southerners hell-bent on killing as many black people as they could get away with. The fact Birth Of A Nation was used as a recruitment tool by the KKK to achieve this, only sickens me further.

Everyone, watch this film. It will divide opinion like no other.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Apr 21, 2014 1:15 PM BST

Citizen Kane [Blu-ray] [1941]
Citizen Kane [Blu-ray] [1941]
Dvd ~ Orson Welles
Price: 7.00

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Restoration? What restoration?, 15 Nov 2013
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
The picture quality on this BFI "restoration" is a disgrace. It was so bad, I was actually angry watching the film. Yes, there is fine detail here but the image is chock full of print damage with flickering, vertical white lines throughout, accompanied by an overly bright image that gives a drab greyscale of no real blacks and no real whites. My anger then worsened when I switched on the restoration featurette to hear the nerve of the BFI actually saying the image quality wasn't cleaned up properly because it "wouldn't have looked right" and would have "compromised the age and authenticity of the film" (actual quotes). What an unbelievable, patronising thing to say, put up against the superb restoration work done by the people at Eureka and Criterion. I mean, what are those latter two video labels thinking by making old films look pristine and beautiful again? They should hang their heads in shame!! The BFI know best! Maybe Eureka and Criterion should start releasing their new Blu-rays with the prints looking as though they've been dragged along the floor of a pine forest and through the occasional muddy puddle. As the BFI might say... that's the way to do it!

I'll leave you with this verbatim final quote from the restoration featurette by Paul Collard, Vice-President of Film & Digital Services at the BFI. He says...

"We're very, very sensitive to how much restoration we do, and it all comes down to experience of knowing what to leave in and what to take out".

Well, in that case, Paul, maybe it's about time you and your team were taken out of all future restorations at the BFI, as it seems you have little regard for film restoration and little regard for the people waiting to buy your product. You should be ashamed of yourself!

Van Vliet Jujube Hard Double Salt 1 Kg
Van Vliet Jujube Hard Double Salt 1 Kg
Price: 5.52

1.0 out of 5 stars Too salty, 14 Nov 2013
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
I love the single salt variety of liquorice, so I thought I'd go double salt. Yuk! They're horrible. Way too salty. And besides, these aren't even hard, they're squeezy, making them too easy to chew, so they don't last long. I'm going back to Zoots from Belgium, not this Dutch horror show. Zoots are hard and taste perfect, not too salty but definitely not sugary.

Who Dares Wins [Blu-ray] [1982]
Who Dares Wins [Blu-ray] [1982]
Dvd ~ Lewis Collins

4.0 out of 5 stars Shouldn't work, but it does., 25 Oct 2013
As the heading says, this is a film that shouldn't work. The script is shockingly bad with childishly embarrassing dialogue exposition and a laughable political set-up. Also, for such a hard-nosed terrorist leader, the girl falls in love way too easily (overnight!?) with someone she must suspect is working undercover. But, heh, so long as her carnal desires are satisfied, to hell with the revolution!

You've got lame background terrorists, Edward Woodward doing his cartoon police commissioner complete with wooden stick slapping leather gloved palm, a constantly-pouting Lewis Collins, Judy Davis's character getting upset at the death of a US general when she's already prepared to drop a nuclear bomb on Scotland, the plothole of "Why not just kill Skellen?", the plothole of "Why allow a known SAS undercover agent to mingle freely around terrorists with machine-guns?", and of course the most head-in-hands moment of all: two SAS troopers approaching the front of the building, dangling on wires beneath a helicopter like some mad circus act, hoping none of the terrorists aren't clever enough to just look out of a window and pick them off like two bottles on a fence. Would the SAS really do that? Like hell they would!

But, on top of that, you have a superb, pulsating score, two great fight scenes (one with the wonderful Ingrid Pitt), some fine action direction, strong supporting actors like John Duttine & Tony Doyle, the fantastic mews rescue sequence (my favourite scene), the top-notch editing, and of course the iconic final showdown with its realistic choreography of room-clearing, abseiling and aggressive evacuation of the poor hostages (I remember the Iranian Embassy survivors saying they were herded like cattle by the SAS), and you have the necessary ingredients for a really enjoyable and exciting British action-thriller (something hard to come by in the 1980s).

Regardless of the appalling script, I think the film just made me proud to be British again (something we've lost in recent years as America's toy poodle) by realistically showing the workings of, still, the finest special forces regiment in the history of the world's military - 22 SAS. Even Lewis Collins, at the time already a paratrooper in the Territorial Army, couldn't resist applying for 21 SAS (the TA regiment), passing his entrant's exam, only to be refused acceptance on the reasonable grounds he was famous and could jeapordise the organisation's strict rules on anonymity. I bet he was gutted, as I'm sure he'd have done well.

As for the Blu-ray, the PQ is disappointingly poor. Nothing more than an upscaled DVD. Probably the best it's ever going to look, but that shouldn't in any way excuse what we get here. There's no fine detail at all and there's an annoying edge-blur around many of the people and buildings in some scenes. The audio is very good, but, for me, Blu-ray is about picture quality and Who Dares Wins falls on its backside in this regard.

As for the extras, we get a commentary between producer Euan Lloyd & director Ian Sharp who give quite a bit of interesting information on the film's production. Notably, that the guys in black storming the outside of the building at the end aren't actually stuntmen or actors... but actual SAS personnel using their own helicopters as way of a training exercise (or probably just to get themselves in an action movie!).

All in all, a fairly well-made film about the greatest heroes Britain will probably ever produce: highly-trained military personnel risking their lives in the most dangerous of situations to simply rescue the good guys by killing the bad guys. Yes, those boys deserve a better film, a better script, but Who Dares Wins is still a good job and, in my opinion, doesn't denigrate them in the slightest. And it's far better than that Ross Kemp Ultimate Force rubbish!

Spike Island [Blu-ray] [2012]
Spike Island [Blu-ray] [2012]
Dvd ~ Elliott Tittensor
Price: 8.00

1 of 7 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars What a waste of everyone's time... especially mine, 20 Oct 2013
I'd been looking forward to this for a while. Was never a big Roses fan (the Mondays were my bag), but it's my era and I expected it to be almost as good as 24 Hour Party People (a masterpiece).

Well, it isn't. It's really poor. The script, by Chris Coghill (Bez in 24HRPP), is a one-dimensional, unengaging, almost completely unfunny 'journey' about a group of teen schoolboys and their mission to get to the famous 1990 Stone Roses gig of the title. The trouble is, Coghill has no understanding of character development and rarely climbs above the use of cliched dialogue and set-pieces that show very little, or no, imagination at all. And not even the acting can save it. The young male leads give overcooked performances which should have been reigned in by the director who clearly couldn't see that his young actors weren't being natural enough to be engaging to an audience, or even funny or sympathetic.

Only the production design, photography and soundtrack have the ability to save Spike Island, but even they can only do so much (the soundtrack is great) and the resultant snoozefest resembles the bad old days of appalling British cinema, which I thought had pretty much gone (barring the Danny Dyer tripe we still get tortured by on, what seems, a monthly basis). Above all though, the main blame has to lie with Coghill and his lifeless script that should never have been greenlit until after there'd been at least one or two rewrites, or even a co-writer had been brought in.

A dull waste of time. Full of cartoon stereotypes that bear little resemblance to real-life people and a big disappointment to someone who expected a lot more from such an interesting premise.

Stone [DVD] [1974]
Stone [DVD] [1974]
Dvd ~ Ken Shorter
Offered by A2Z Entertains
Price: 9.84

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Someone drop a Stone on this turkey, 11 Oct 2013
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Stone [DVD] [1974] (DVD)
What an abysmal film this is. About as enjoyable to watch as having a carrot inserted ceremoniously into each nostril with all the tenderness that a pounding jackhammer at top speed could have. The lead actor has about as much charisma and screen presence as a wilting water lily, and the script plays like it was the collected result of two upturned tins of alphabetti spaghetti. Believe me, I can't knock anyone for getting out there and shooting a low-budget movie, and the director does try his best, but anyone who finds this boring circus show entertaining really needs their head examining by someone with a wee bit more medical knowledge than Baron von Frankenfurter. Avoid, for your sanity's sake. Please.

Runaway Train [Blu-ray]
Runaway Train [Blu-ray]
Dvd ~ Jon Voight
Price: 12.25

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Runaway Train - the quintessential existential action thriller, 25 Aug 2013
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Runaway Train [Blu-ray] (Blu-ray)
Runaway Train is an incredible and unique film. A three-times Oscar nominated quick-paced action movie with an existential script but financed by the same cheap-tat label that brought us the Chuck Norris dross and Death Wish sequels of the '80s - and yet, it could be the deepest action film ever recorded onto celluloid. Not only does it work as a straight all-out action thriller about two escaped convicts unwittingly hiding on an out-of-control locomotive, it's also a study of the destructive nature of the male version of the human animal, directed, written, played, edited, and photographed superbly all the way to its haunting climax.

The Arrow Blu-ray itself is very satisfying, the picture being excellent while just falling short of today's ultra-sharp 1080p standards. But the sound is really what marks this out. With the main action taking place on and around the booming train, a rich, lossless track is what's needed here, and this is what we get. The audio is cracking.

Voight & Roberts are excellent as the two escaped cons and fully deserved their Oscar nominations, and John P. Ryan does a great turn as Ranken, Voight's prison governor nemesis who personally goes in pursuit of them. But there's a flipside. The director made a big casting mistake with Rebecca De Mornay in the role of the 'stowaway' rail engineer. In one of the four lengthy bonus interviews, Andrei Konchalovsky states he was courted by Jodie Foster, who badly wanted the role, but told her she was too beautiful to be believable as an engineer working on the desolate and harsh railroads of deepest Alaska. What an error! Not only is Foster a more accomplished actress than De Mornay, De Mornay has always been incredibly beautiful and feminine (even here with dirty hard-hat & overalls, yet striking blue eyes), something Jodie Foster has never been with her stern look and deep voice - both easily passable for a woman doing such a masculine job. De Mornay did okay alongside the two male leads, but she clearly lacks the depth of Voight & Roberts and the thought of Jodie Foster taking that role could have taken Runaway Train into an even greater three-way tour-de-force, not to mention an almost certain fourth Academy Award nomination.

As it is, Runaway Train remains a great film and this is a great Blu-ray with some fine extras, particularly Jon Voight's 40min recent interview and the anecdote of a little Angelina Jolie sitting beside him at the Oscars, consoling her daddy when he lost out to William Hurt.

The Birds - 50th Anniversary Limited Edition [Blu-ray] [1963] [Region Free]
The Birds - 50th Anniversary Limited Edition [Blu-ray] [1963] [Region Free]
Dvd ~ Tippi Hedren
Offered by ZavviOutlet
Price: 15.89

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not in same league as Psycho, 21 July 2013
I bought THE BIRDS on Blu-ray, having always remembered it being a very good horror film and similar in power to PSYCHO. How the memory plays tricks! Having now watched it for the first time in many years, I actually think it's overrated.

Its main black mark is its unbelievably slow start. For a two-hour horror film, I think it's unforgiveable nothing of any note happens until the halfway point. It's not as if the characters are well drawn and interesting to draw you in as the tension builds - they're not. The love story is so nonsensical, it's embarrassing. This is nothing like as well written as PSYCHO. It's even more annoying Hitchcock (because he didn't like location shooting) constantly switches between outdoor shots and back-projected studio shots within the same scene! What was the great man thinking? That the audience wouldn't mind? It looks lazy and shoddy and completely takes you out of the reality of the mood and the story. It also doesn't help that Tippi Hedren looks pretty much out of her depth during the terror sequences, showing nothing more on her face than annoyance and mild distress, even though the dozens of gulls and crows around her are meant to be trying to kill her!

On a positive note, the Blu-ray picture quality is very reasonable. Not outstanding by any means. Sometimes Hedren, in close-up, looks like she has a fine mesh placed between her and the camera, but many of the outdoor shots (presumably when Hitchcok could be bothered to shoot on location) show very good detail and there's nothing more intrusive than a light sheen of grain. Although the sound quality is nothing special, the fact Hitchcock chose not to use a musical soundtrack very much aids the mood of the film and makes some scenes verge on the creepy when background music would completely have diluted the effect of the moment.

You can also see very clearly where Stephen King got his inspiration from for THE MIST, especially when viewing THE BIRDS during the restaurant scenes. Extras-wise, the main feature is the 80min documentary from the old DVD that's very informative and explains almost everything there is to know about the film.

THE BIRDS isn't a bad film by any means, it has some very good moments, but is clearly PSYCHO's inferior younger sibling on all counts from direction, script to acting.

The Wildest Dream [Blu-ray] [Region Free]
The Wildest Dream [Blu-ray] [Region Free]
Price: 8.19

4.0 out of 5 stars Good documentary, not quite the cigar, 7 July 2013
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
As my title suggests, this is a well-made documentary that falls short of being a great one - due largely to it feeling too stagey at times, almost too scripted, with the American climber Conrad Anker laying it on thick for the camera. There's also a very poor sound mix that COMPLETELY drowns out the narration at times. This is no exaggeration. As has been mentioned by other reviewers, when the music builds to a crescendo during narration (luckily only affecting a small portion of the film), it becomes impossible to hear what is being said, and as there's only one audio track, there's no way of finding out what you missed. I have no idea what happened with this terrible sound mix, but it's a shocking mistake by someone.

As for the positives, there are thankfully many with some stunning vistas and some equally stunning animated visuals on this very clean and crisp Blu-ray picture. Okay, the image gets grainy in places and the picture would have been much better had it been a 1080p transfer rather than 1080i, but I got this in the Amazon '2 for 10' offer and, for 5, this is incredible value for a documentary that tells the iconic tale of George Mallory & Sandy Irvine's ill-fated 1924 climb up Everest. The shots of Mallory's porcelain-like corpse on the 28,000ft high slope he still rests on make you wonder whether you are looking at a mannequin placed there for the cameras. But you're not. That is indeed George Mallory - the man who may (or may not have) reached the peak of the tallest mountain on Earth 29yrs before Hillary & Tenzing.

As for that very question: Did Mallory reach the summit? Sadly, we'll never know. The missing photo of his wife (something he promised her he would leave at the summit) points to him realising his dream, as his body lies so close to the top. But, alas, it proves nothing. It could have easily just blown away through his fingers as he lay dying on that very slope, taking one last opportunity to gaze at the woman he loved before finally succumbing to the conditions and departing the world into legend. My guess... I'll say 60/40 he and Irvine made it. Would someone with his drive really get 800ft from the top and then turn back, storm or no storm?

Great visuals, good transfer, great story, poor sound at times, definitely worth a fiver.

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