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LXIX (scotland)
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The Corporation [DVD] [2006]
The Corporation [DVD] [2006]
Dvd ~ Mikela Jay
Offered by skyvo-direct
Price: £4.50

4.0 out of 5 stars Monsters of profit?, 28 Dec 2013
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: The Corporation [DVD] [2006] (DVD)
First up, there are no subtitles on this DVD. 'The Corporation' is an intriguing analysis of the 'persona' of the legal entity of a company owned by shares. As it is incorporated, it claims to be a unique individual; therefore, the premise here is that a firm can be subjected to the same kind of psychological scrutiny as a human being. In doing so, the conclusion is quickly arrived at that corporations are actually psychopaths.

This documentary is an interesting analytical slant on the malevolent, profit-hungry, nature of business and, in particular, the multinational. Its behaviour is rational - but only in terms of its prime directive - i.e. to make money for its owners (shareholders). Having lectured at various universities on business management programmes, I can say that this film is rather thought-provoking, but I learned little new from it.

The format is based on snapshot contributions from a number of parties including Chomsky and Michael Moore, and the running time is 2 hours and 24 minutes. If you're a Marxist, this documentary will hit your ideological buttons like a sledgehammer. In fact, the rallying cry at the end for public ownership and nationalisation wouldn't have been out of place in Marx's 'Communist Manifesto' of 1848. In the interests of balance, the case for raw capitalism is also made at various junctions, but the underlying message that corporations are inherently evil is seldom deviated from.

This production raises a fundamental issue - if most of us want capitalism, then how can we control and deliver it better? In an age when multinationals can ride roughshod over national governments (e.g. through 'tax efficient' corporation tax avoidance schemes) the reality is that money talks and in our divide-and-rule era of globalisation, multi-nationals are actually becoming stronger and more ruthless in the pursuit of profit. Organisations such as UK Uncut have worked hard to raise aware among High Street consumers about issues such as tax responsibilities, but as Marx said 'false consciousness' remains a deeply embedded issue as most people are more interested in soap operas, football and reality TV.

Interestingly, this documentary was put together in 2006, before the financial crash of 2008. I'm sure the producers would have had a field day with that event.

It also features footage of gleaming wind turbines - before the backlash started against them due to the costs involved in green energy and the subsequent impact of massive power bill increases on poor families.

There are no extras on this DVD.

Wall Street 2: Money Never Sleeps [DVD]
Wall Street 2: Money Never Sleeps [DVD]
Dvd ~ Michael Douglas
Offered by MusicnMedia
Price: £3.18

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Gekko the merciful, 27 Dec 2013
A lot of reviewers may have marked this down as, after having spent "122,000 hours in prison", Gordon Gekko is now relaunched as a wise sage author and reformed character, rather than the pantomime villain megalomaniac who stormed onto the silver screen in 1987; however, this belated follow-up should very much be seen as a product of its time.

Coming just after the financial crash of 2008, it has a much more moralistic tone. It also has a different feel to it - it's slower, the plot is more multi-faceted and complex, and even the soundtrack is one of melancholy soft rock, which all combines to serve up a rather curious dish of a movie. It's also long - 2 hours and 7 minutes and it may perhaps have benefitted from a bit of trimming down.

So, this is not as enjoyable or as gripping as 'Wall Street' but it's probably not trying to be. There are strong political undertones to the depiction of the behaviour of the 'masters of the universe' in high finance and a system that lets them ride roughshod over the populace. Indeed the phrase 'moral hazard' is recurring throughout the movie and investment banks are the number 1 target here.

There's also a 9-minute extra about Gekko's changed character following his release back into the office ... but ... has he really changed??
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Feb 16, 2014 12:10 PM GMT

GBXperience Anthems Vol.5
GBXperience Anthems Vol.5

4.0 out of 5 stars One long mix, 26 Dec 2013
George Bowie's Saturday evening show on Clyde 1 is a fixture in a lot of people's lives as they preload and get ready for a night out. This CD reflects the continuing popularity of the show's fan base (spanning generations and a number of listeners outside the West of Scotland too).

GB Xperience Anthems volume 5 is a marked departure from the first 4 offerings in terms of its production - here you're getting 14 tracks all mixed into 1 long track. This might actually work better if you're putting it on during a house party, but if you're looking to skip between the songs then you're going to have issues.

The total playing time is 1 hour 12 mins. Highlights include Tiesto, Love Inc, Planet Perfecto and Rhythm Quest.

The Ascent Of Money [DVD]
The Ascent Of Money [DVD]
Price: £5.90

5.0 out of 5 stars Sweeping overview of financial history with useful anecdotes, 24 Dec 2013
This review is from: The Ascent Of Money [DVD] (DVD)
'The Ascent of Money' boxset contains 2 DVDs with 6 episodes - each is 48 minutes in duration. Topics covered include the history of banking, bonds, hedge funds, housing, share ownership and the rise of China as an economic power.

I wouldn't liked to have tallied up Niall Ferguson's carbon footprint by the end of this series, but his jaunts from Bolivia to Glasgow, to Venice to Chicago and from Tokyo to Buenos Aires etc do make for interesting and informative viewing. I remember studying 'Economic History' at school (many decades ago...) so I've always had a personal interest in this topic.

Ferguson is an engaging presenter with a rather unassuming style. The topic is potentially so vast here that he can only really touch on various drivers behind finance's pivotal place in the world today. In particular, I found the history of the banking system and the story of the world's first limited liability shareholding firm (the Dutch East Indies company) to be educational.

Due to the scale of the subject matter, some episodes seem a touch arbitrary; however, all in all I found this to be compelling viewing.

Perhaps a follow-up will eventually be made e.g. on subjects such as gold and precious metals, the history of taxation, currency unions, central banking, and even bitcoins in the digital era.

As an aside, Professor Ferguson seems a decent guy too - a while back I emailed him (a complete stranger and out of the blue) and he emailed me back 2 days later with a personal reply. That was a nice touch and appreciated.

Black Swan [DVD]
Black Swan [DVD]
Dvd ~ Natalie Portman
Offered by The Happy Zombie
Price: £3.75

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Psychodrama with finesse, 14 Dec 2013
This review is from: Black Swan [DVD] (DVD)
Shot on a budget of about $13 million and on a 43-day timetable, 'Black Swan' is a gripping, dark, psychological thriller that was a critically-acclaimed box office smash.

Nina Sayers (Natalie Portman) is a 20-something ballerina with a tendency for minor self-harming. She is also sexually repressed and inhabits a world that is controlled by her domineering mother in their small New York flat. She lives under the disciplinary demands of the ballerina lifestyle and the relentless competitiveness that goes with it. All of this comes to a head when she is promoted to play both the white swan and the black swan in a new edgier version of 'Swan Lake' at a premier New York venue. All hell breaks loose as she becomes increasingly delusional and the pressure gradually takes it toll in the build-up to the opening night.

I'm not usually one for ballet films, but this dark tale would have been worthy of a Stephen King novel. I enjoyed the interaction between the 4 leading ladies against the backdrop of Clint Mansell's take on Tchaikovsky's timeless score and the grainier (almost documentary) production values.

The spiral into mental illness is disturbing, but engaging, and marks a sharp contrast between the beautiful art form and the uglier dark corners of the human mind.

Extras include a very interesting behind-the-scenes 48-minute documentary - 'Black Swan Metamorphosis'.

by Alan Glynn
Edition: Paperback
Price: £5.59

5.0 out of 5 stars Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde in the 21st century, 2 Nov 2013
This review is from: Limitless (Paperback)
Yes, okay, so it was the film that eventually led me to this book, so I can't claim to be on the cutting edge of literature. If you enjoyed 'Limitless' the movie then you'll also relish this original (re-titled) novel. It's sufficiently different to the screen edition to avoid the feeling that you're simply going over old ground. I don't want to include plot spoilers, so I won't outline these.

Most people probably feel that they're underachievers in life, so the premise here may fire up your imagination into a new zone of possibilities as an ordinary Joe Public becomes the lynchpin in the USA's greatest ever corporate deal (think the AOL Time Warner deal at the turn of the century for a parallel to the sense of scale).

I found this debut novel by Irishman, Alan Glynn, to be well written, engaging and a modern take on older tales about the pursuit of human potential (instead of a potion, it's a pill here). Again, there are also moral undertones to the dangers of messing with nature and the 'natural order'. Ultimately, this is a book about human identity and that little voice in our heads that says: 'Have you really achieved what you are capable of...?'

Beyond old fashioned crime writing, those interested in parapsychology would also enjoy this tale. I don't read a lot of fiction, so it says a lot that I was gripped by this. In terms of the structure, the segmentation of the chapters really helped as I like to read in small doses.

They say that you write about what you know about, so the book is riddled with New York geography and little tips-of-the-hat to the author's experiences in publishing and of teaching in Italy.

I've no doubt that a lot of people would take MDT if it were available, regardless of the consequences. The author subtly postulates that perhaps something similar is already out there.

Overall, a great read and a great story. Well done Alan Glynn.

Sliver [DVD]
Sliver [DVD]
Dvd ~ Sharon Stone

5.0 out of 5 stars Voyeurist thriller, 17 Oct 2013
This review is from: Sliver [DVD] (DVD)
'Sliver' is a good old-fashioned who-dunnit mystery set in New York in early 1990's. Starring Sharon Stone and William Baldwin, the setting is a stand-alone tower block of executive apartments on East 38th street, populated by bohemian types such as writers, editors and lecturers.

This uncut version is a steamy affair and at times you'd think the producers were out to challenge '9 and a Half Weeks' e.g. in the restaurant scene. It's not an elaborate production and actually has a made-for-TV feel to it at times. Still, it's an interesting 103 minutes and a quirky watchable tale of lust, voyeurism and murder.

Agatha Christie might have been rather proud of this one. The setting may not be on a train, or a country mansion, but the building is eerie and haunting enough to also play a key part in the narrative.

Also listen out for the soundtrack featuring UK acts such as Bristol's Massive Attack and Birmingham's UB40.

The DVD has no extras (beyond subtitles).

A Brief Guide to Judaism: Theology, History and Practice (Brief History)
A Brief Guide to Judaism: Theology, History and Practice (Brief History)
by Naftali Brawer
Edition: Paperback

4.0 out of 5 stars Useful introductory overview of Judaism, 14 Sep 2013
This book is a well-written useful overview of various aspects of Judaism. Covering historical developments and aspects of day-to-day practice, it provides informative insights for the beginner.

Some 'brief' introductory books are nothing more than a thin fly-through of various elements, but this is a more substantial offering (270 pages) and has a good structure: 12 chapters across 3 main sections covering "Theology", "History" and "Practice". Each chapter has subsections, making for a better read. There are also 16 illustrations (in black and white).

I found this to be a worthwhile read and reasonably priced.

The Prime Ministers
The Prime Ministers
by Yehuda Avner
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £19.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Intriguing first-hand insights into various Israeli administrations, 24 Aug 2013
This review is from: The Prime Ministers (Hardcover)
This is a big book - hardback and with 700 pages. After buying it, it took me a year to get round to reading it and I have to say that I wasn't disappointed.

If you're interested in Israel, Israeli history or the workings of the Israeli government, then this eyewitness testimony account will be right up your street.

Yehuda Avner, English by birth but Israeli by instinct, was a state employee who enjoyed privileged access to the inner sanctum of a number of Israeli PM's. Through his press and diplomatic work he was therefore privy to a host of events that took centre stage in world news, such as the Six Day War, the Yom Kippur War, the raid on Entebbe, the Sinai peace agreements between Israel and Egypt and the Israel/Lebanon War of 1982.

Although these occurrences were of key geopolitical importance, I found his anecdotal tales to be very interesting too. The author mentions his admiration for Menachem Begin and this is also manifest in the amount of space allocated to that particular PM. All the prime ministers are brought to life here as multidimensional characters - including non-Israelis too such as Henry Kissinger, Anwar Sadat, President Carter, Margaret Thatcher, Charles & Diana, and Ronald Reagan.

Overall, covering the tenures of Eshkol, Meir, Rabin and Begin, this book will probably stand tall as a unique and revealing insight into the personalities who helped shape the apex of Israeli government in the first 35 years of its existence (1948-1983).

It's worth noting that this book is also wonderfully written. I don't mention that often when reviewing books, but this author has a particularly engaging turn of phrase.

Raid on Entebbe [DVD] [1976]
Raid on Entebbe [DVD] [1976]
Dvd ~ Peter Finch
Price: £6.60

5.0 out of 5 stars Good dramatisation, 10 Aug 2013
This review is from: Raid on Entebbe [DVD] [1976] (DVD)
Note that this review pertains to the uncut UK Region 2 version (not the imported Dutch version).

'Raid on Entebbe' is a 139 minute movie based around true events that took place in the summer of 1976. Despite the big name cast, it does have a made-for-TV feel to it (due to the small budget, reported to be only $3.5 million). It's also worth noting that there are no subtitles or extras on this DVD, so I missed a few snippets of dialogue despite turning up the sound and rewinding several times.

This is a gripping tale of international terrorism in the old days when the protagonists used to barter with each other and not fly them straight into buildings. It spans 3 continents and therefore allows a role for the colourful Ugandan despot, Idi Amin (brilliantly played by Yaphet Kotto of previous 'Live and Let Die' fame).

Operation Thunderbolt played its part in cementing the Israeli psyche for bold military manoeuvres (later followed by events such as the long range bombing of Saddam Hussein's nascent nuclear reactor in 1981). It's also worth noting that the only Israeli commando killed in the mission, Yonatan Netanyahu, was the older brother of Benjamin Netanyahu who was to become Prime Minister of Israel.

This movie is something of a 70s niche classic (helped along by Charles Bronson) and to some extent it captures a more naive time when guns and grenades could be smuggled onto planes. It was a very bold and daring mission; however, it didn't stop the man who ordered it (Yitzhak Rabin) subsequently having to resign office the following year (due to a scandal involving his wife's bank account) and then being assassinated years later.

Overall, a minimalist DVD product but a good dramatisation that even includes a rousing version of "Hine Ma Tov".

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