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LXIX (scotland)
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A Beautiful Mind [DVD] [2002]
A Beautiful Mind [DVD] [2002]
Dvd ~ Russell Crowe
Price: £3.60

5.0 out of 5 stars A powerful movie, 6 Aug 2013
'A Beautiful Mind' is remarkable for two main things: the nature of the true story and the acting performance of Russell Crowe (fresh from playing Maximus in 'Gladiator', he demonstrated his tremendous range of performance when he took on the persona of the disturbed academic, John Nash).

When you watch a film that has won the Oscar for 'Best Picture', it's usually the case that it doesn't quite live up to all of the hype. However, I can see why 'A Beautiful Mind' triumphed - I couldn't during the first hour ... but after a series of twists and turns in the latter half, I was gripped and impressed at the same time (no plot spoilers).

This is a disturbing tale and a tragedy in many respects, but it's also a lesson in resilience and an example of how those with mental illness can make a substantial contribution to society.

The double DVD set is loaded with a large range of useful extras, including footage of John Nash.

The Angels' Share (Theatrical Version) [DVD]
The Angels' Share (Theatrical Version) [DVD]
Dvd ~ Roger Allam
Offered by MusicnMedia
Price: £4.65

4.0 out of 5 stars Another gritty Scottish film with dark humour, 1 Aug 2013
'The Angels' Share' is a watchable and rather fun 96 minutes. It combines gritty (realistic) violence with sprinklings of humour and is set against the backdrop of a young new father trying to escape a vicious cycle of crime and poverty in the East End of Glasgow.

I wouldn't go overboard and say that it's amazing (like some have here). Instead, suffice to say it's good and should be seen within the context of a long line of Scottish films in a similar vein: e.g. 'Restless Natives', 'Sweet Sixteen', 'That Sinking Feeling', 'Neds', 'My Name is Joe', 'Orphans', 'Man Dancin', 'One Last Chance', 'Red Road', and 'American Cousins' etc.

The acting is good here - in particular, the new leading man, Paul Brannigan, supports such as the community service supervisor (John Henshaw) and the whisky expert (Master of the Quaich) - Charles MacLean who is apparently the real deal in real life. The language is industrial throughout, but is also realistic at the same time. Some parts do stretch the boundaries - such as how Robbie, the lead rogue, suddenly becomes an overnight connoisseur of whiskies (but we'll give the producers some benefit of the doubt in terms of creative license).

Extras on the DVD include 9 deleted scenes (14 mins) and a 'Making Of' called 'Distilling The Angels' Share' (22 mins).

Greed Unlimited: How Cameron and Clegg Protect the Elites While Squeezing the Rest of Us
Greed Unlimited: How Cameron and Clegg Protect the Elites While Squeezing the Rest of Us
by David Craig
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.99

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A devastating critique of modern Britain's elites, 31 July 2013
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"Greed Unlimited" is an incisive deconstruction of how a minority within society (bankers, politicians, 'executhieves', senior bureaucrats etc) are doing very well while apathy and austerity rules across the nation. A Marxist would perhaps put this down to 'false consciousness' on behalf of the masses (who are usually more interested in football, soap operas and reality TV). While those on the right would point out the distortions of crony capitalism and imperfect market governance.

As Britain careers towards possible national bankruptcy around 2017/2018, this investigative offering explains how a narrow strata of ruling elites are conveniently rewarding themselves with largesse. In doing so, David Craig shines a forensic light on public sector officials and private sector boardrooms.

If you're beginning to get the feeling that we're perhaps living in a kleptocracy, then this book will confirm your worst fears. Personally, when growing up, I used to naively believe that politicians were in it to improve society. That view has long gone.

Unfortunately, this is a huge topic and I've no doubt that the author could probably produce several tomes of a similar ilk. In terms of content here, I think the book would have benefitted with more analysis of the BBC for example.

David Craig also blogs daily and his site is well worth a click. If you've not given up yet on the 3 mainstream UK political parties and aren't yet inclined towards alternatives, then you might very well change your mind after reading this useful and damning book.

9.1/2 Weeks [1985] [DVD]
9.1/2 Weeks [1985] [DVD]
Dvd ~ Mickey Rourke
Price: £4.25

0 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Where love compromises your identity, 13 July 2013
This review is from: 9.1/2 Weeks [1985] [DVD] (DVD)
I'm aware that this film was released about 1985, so it only took me all of 28 years to finally get round to watching it. In the post '50 Shades' era it's probably rather tame, but it's still a steamy passionate affair that revolves around a New York socialite relationship - that's basically the plot in a nutshell.

Elizabeth works in an upmarket art store/gallery and John is a rich playboy financier. They meet up and the story revolves around his outlandish sexual suggestions and her constant 'will she/won't she' attitude and reaction. Mickey Rourke sports a rather psychotic grin throughout the whole film and it certainly has its moments. Several issues are touched upon - such as domination, humiliation, food fetishes, tranvestisism and enforced lesbianism etc. It also has a useful soundtrack.

9.1/2 weeks has a low budget feel throughout. Its main selling points are its star billing and willingness to push cinema boundaries in the mid-80s. It's watchable and reasonably amusing, but nothing special.

The only extra on the dvd is a trailer.

A Year in Provence
A Year in Provence
by Peter Mayle
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Anecdotal and humorous, 10 July 2013
This review is from: A Year in Provence (Paperback)
'A Year in Provence' is a very famous book (helped along by the spin-off TV show ... and quite possibly by all those 'Place in the Sun' type TV shows that sprang up). Still, it took me 20-odd years to get around to reading this. When I finally did so, I found it to be full of lighthearted humour and an interesting insight into real day-to-day life in that part of the French countryside.

Note that there's virtually nothing here about the writer's background and how he came to be a gentleman of leisure in the south of France (he doesn't seem to do a day's work throughout the whole year); apparently the author is a self-made man who sold his business in England and upped sticks. Many people dream of such an existence, hence the broad appeal of the book (although I suspect most people would get bored eventually).

As you would expect from the title, the book is broken down into months, so the reader can experience the harsh winter (and the Mistral wind) through to the long lazy summer days when Provence is taken over by tourists). If you want a bit of escapism and you fancy an insight into how the other half live then you'll enjoy this. Less so if you're a vegetarian or an animal lover (food is probably the main ingredient throughout the prose - in line with the culture of the area).

Peter Mayle was also a neighbour of Ridley Scott and so collaborated in the subsequent Russell Crowe film 'A Good Year' (again, set in Provence). He also has a range of novels based in the region.

I did enjoy reading this and I'll probably read more Peter Mayle books. He achieved what millions dream of, and through his writing we can all get a little glimpse into what that lifestyle would be like, so good on him. As for the writing - it's accessible and is driven by the comedian's eye for seeing the humour in everyday things.

If you're a Francophile or someone who gets worn down by the cold British weather, then this classic book is for you.

Limitless [DVD]
Limitless [DVD]
Dvd ~ Bradley Cooper
Price: £2.88

5.0 out of 5 stars Great plot idea and a great movie, 9 July 2013
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This review is from: Limitless [DVD] (DVD)
'Limitless' is gripping viewing. Who hasn't wondered what they're capable of achieving in life if they could only tap into their true potential?

Based on a novel by the Irish writer, Alan Glynn - Limitless - this is a fast-moving and wonderfully acted film. The camera techniques are also clever, as is the use of colour (tinted and dull for 'Old Eddie' the struggling author, versus clear and bright for 'New Eddie' the corporate whizz and statesman).

Featuring Bradley Cooper, Robert De Niro and Abbie Cornish, the plot has already been discussed at length on this page so I'll sum it up as a fusion of drug abuse, human potential, corporate greed and underworld activity.

Extras include a Director's Commentary, an alternate ending, 'A Man Without Limits' (4 mins) and 'The Making Of' (11 mins).

A Good Year [DVD] [2006]
A Good Year [DVD] [2006]
Dvd ~ Russell Crowe
Offered by MusicnMedia
Price: £5.26

4.0 out of 5 stars Russell Crowe: From Maximus to Max, 3 July 2013
This review is from: A Good Year [DVD] [2006] (DVD)
Russell Crowe and Ridley Scott teaming up together immediately brings the international blockbuster "Gladiator" to mind; however, this cinematic venture is somewhat less well known and is something completely different (swap 'Maximus' the general-slave-gladiator ... for 'Max' the financier-vineyard owner). In a sense Maximus and Max share similarities as they both go through epiphanies (the former seeks honour over glory and the latter seeks quality of life over greed).

This adaptation is based on the eponymous novel by Peter Mayle, a neighbour of Ridley Scott (both of whom had residences only several minutes from the setting). The locations do look fantastic and provide the supporting backdrop to Crowe's aura and dominance of the movie.

I did enjoy this movie, more so the latter half than the slow-to-build early sections. It's interesting to note that although it's from 2005, it already has a dated feel in several respects e.g. the glorification of the fast buck made in the City of London (before the crash of 2008) and even the triumphal mentions of Lance Armstrong whenever the main protagonist passed a group of cyclists.

This film is probably best enjoyed with a glass of wine in your hand. The industrial language used seemed oddly out of place and probably moves this away from being a full family movie (I'm not sure why they felt the need to do this with the script). Overall, a watchable tale and a rom com carried along by Russell Crowe and the idyllic setting. Albert Finney is also very convincing as the deceased eccentric uncle and his recurring character is cleverly involved throughout via the device of narrative back-story flashbacks.

There are several extras on the DVD: "Postcards from Provence" - an audio commentary with 9 additional behind-the-scenes vignettes (40 mins extra running time), "Russell Crowe and Ridley Scott Promo" (2 mins), 2 Trailers (4 mins) and 3 Music Videos featuring Russell Crowe on vocals with The Ordinary Fear of God (12 mins).

How to Sound Clever: Master the 600 English words you pretend to understand...when you don't
How to Sound Clever: Master the 600 English words you pretend to understand...when you don't
by Hubert van den Bergh
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.19

5.0 out of 5 stars Expanding your vocab is a lifetime pursuit, 18 May 2013
Studies have shown that most people get by on a very limited vocabulary, so if you're planning on making a conscious effort to expand upon your vocabulary base then this hardback offering might merit a slot in your bookcase.

This book would suit students writing essays in further or higher education, budding writers or anyone who simply wishes to make greater use of the mighty English language.

Learning the meaning of a word is only half of the task - you also need to know how to internalise it and use it properly within the right context. A strength of this book is that examples of sentences are included for every entry, thus demonstrating their usage to the reader.

600 additional words won't, of course, turn you into a human version of the Oxford English Dictionary, but this is a good solid start. The words outlined here inhabit a zone that is above the average person, but not too far away from common usage to be arcane (hence, I would expect, the rationale for their inclusion here). You'll probably already know some of them, but should also pick up plenty of new words.

Strangely enough, after reading a book like this, you'll start to notice these words being used - particularly in broadsheet newspapers and novels.

A Streetcar Named Desire [1951] [DVD]
A Streetcar Named Desire [1951] [DVD]
Dvd ~ Marlon Brando
Price: £5.50

5.0 out of 5 stars An iconic slice of US cinema, 6 May 2013
'A Streetcar Named Desire' is an iconic piece of American cinema.

A former schoolteacher visiting her married sibling in a cramped apartment in New Orleans doesn't, on the surface, sound like much of a plot for a 2-hour movie ... but in reality there's enough rivalry and personality clashes going on here to make Eastenders look normal.

Adapted from Tennessee Williams's successful play, this film version still stands up - more than 60 years later - as the definitive version for the silver screen. Marlon Brando (Stanley) is brooding and menacing throughout; while Vivien Leigh (Blanche) is the fragile, fading, Southern belle trying to escape her past. The mix works like dynamite and fuels an engaging storyline.

This film has the feel of a spartan production, but in doing so it's much more authentic and captures the essence of a dramatic tragedy that was written to be acted out on the small stage.

This is a gripping film carried by the personae of the main actors, the endemic tension between the characters and a variety of dark themes including mental illness, bereavement, social class incompatibility, unbridled lust and domestic violence.

Star Trek - Deep Space Nine - Series 2 (Slimline Edition) [DVD]
Star Trek - Deep Space Nine - Series 2 (Slimline Edition) [DVD]
Dvd ~ Avery Brooks
Price: £12.50

5.0 out of 5 stars A series starting to find its way and flourish, 4 May 2013
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1993/4's 2nd series of "Deep Space Nine" sees a consolidation on the pilot series and includes the gradual introduction of The Dominion into the fray.

Extras include: "New Frontiers: The Story of Deep Space Nine" (15 mins), "Michael Westmore's Aliens" (12 mins), "Deep Space Nine Sketchbook" (11 mins), "10 Hidden Files" (22 mins), "Quark's Story" (12 mins), "Crew Dossier: Jadzia Dax" (18 mins) and "New Station, New Ships" (5 mins).

Note that these 'Crew Dossier' extras contain spoilers about episodes in future series.

The following is a brief plot summary of each episode in Season 2:

*Episode 1: "The Homecoming": The first of a 3-parter. An earring reaches Deep Space 9 and is symbolic evidence that Li Nalas, a famous Bajoran freedom fighter, has been secretly held for 10 years in a penal colony on Cardassia IV. Sisko agrees that Major Kira and Chief O'Brien can take a Federation runabout to rescue him.

*Episode 2: "The Circle": Part 2 of the opening 3-parter. Things heat up down on Bajor as a military coup by a group calling themselves The Circle is in progress. Major Kira is reassigned down to the planet and while resting at a monastery gets caught up in the internal politicking. Meanwhile, Quark becomes Odo's unlikely ally in the pursuit of information about the plotters.

*Episode 3: "The Siege": In the concluding episode of the opening 3-parter, Deep Space 9 is taken over by the Bajoran revolutionaries known as The Circle; however, after evacuating most of those on board, the main players mount an offensive against the intruders.

*Episode 4: "Invasive Procedures": A Trill uses Klingon mercenaries to help him raid DS9 during a plasma storm with a view to stealing Dax's symbiont.

*Episode 5: "Cardassians": A 12 year old Cardassian boy, Rugal, arrives on DS9 and it transpires that he is a war orphan who was left behind when the Cardassians withdrew from Bajor. His past is a complex issue that becomes a tug-of-war between the Cardassians and his adoptive Bajoran parents.

*Episode 6: "Melora": A new Starfleet cartographer, Melora, arrives on DS9. As an Elaysian, she cannot adjust to standard gravity. Bashir sets out to help her and a romance develops. Meanwhile, one of Quark's former smuggler partners is released after 8 years in a Romulan prison and comes seeking revenge.

*Episode 7: "Rules of Acquisition": Quark is given a golden opportunity to represent the Ferengi in trade negotiations in the Gamma quadrant; however, his choice of business partner turns out to be someone different from whom he assumed. As an aside, mention is made for the first time of the Dominion.

*Episode 8: "Necessary Evil": Quark is shot while helping out a Bajoran widow with a break-in. As he lies in a critical state, Odo investigates and uncovers a thread going back 5 years to when the Cardassians ran the space station. This episode includes a number of flashbacks that recount how Odo first became involved in policing and how he first met Kira Nerys.

*Episode 9: "Second Sight": Sisko has a sleepless night on the anniversary of his wife's death and during a walk on the promenade he meets an alluring and unusual woman called Fenna. After several meetings he starts to fall in love with her; however, she has puzzling behaviourial traits and he attempts to find out more about her. Meanwhile, eminent Federation terraformer and egomaniac, Gideon Seyetik, is also on DS9 as he plans an audacious attempt to reignite a dead star.

*Episode 10: "Sanctuary": An advanced party of bedraggled and homeless people called Skrreeans come through the wormhole and into the Alpha quadrant. DS9 tries to accommodate increasing numbers of them while trying to locate a planetary home for the asylum seekers.

*Episode 11: "Rivals": Martus, a visitor to DS9 sets up a rival gambling venue, threatening Quark's business. Meanwhile, O'Brien and Bashir fight it out to be racquetball champion as the laws of probability curiously fall out of sync on the space station. This has the feel of a filler episode.

*Episode 12: "The Alternate": Odo's original mentor from Bajor, Dr. Mora, visits him on DS9. They set off to a planet in Gamma Quadrant where they bring back a sample of an Odo-like lifeform. Back on the space station, problems then emerge.

*Episode 13: "Armageddon Game": Bashir and O'Brien are assigned to help two former warring planets destroy their weapons of mass destruction. Instead of their hosts' gratitude, their positions and safety are compromised.

*Episode 14: "Whispers": O'Brien steals away to the gamma quadrant in a runabout as another gives chase. This episode follows a backstory narrative about how the chief engineer felt DS9 had somehow been taken over in his absence and how everyone began treating him with suspicion and as an outsider.

*Episode 15: "Paradise": Sisko and O'Brien finds themselves marooned on an obscure M-class planet with a group of other humans who crash landed there ten years previously. Led by an unusual and highly driven matriarchal figure, the two Starfleet personnel have problems adjusting to the new social order.

*Episode 16: "Shadowplay": Odo and Dax investigate an unusual source of omicron particles, leading them to a humanoid planet in the Gamma Quadrant. There, they discover a small colony of people that has suffered a number of inexplicable disappearances and agree to help them.

*Episode 17: "Playing God": Arjin, a Trill with aspirations to become a host, is assigned to Jadzia for mentoring however personality differences ensue. Meanwhile, an infestation of Cardassian voles cause problems and an unknown form of matter threatens to exponentially grow and destroy the space station.

*Episode 18: "Profit and Loss": Quark's old flame, Professor Natima Lang, a Cardassian educator, takes refuge on DS9 from her own people due to her radical politics. The Ferengi tries to help her, but she spurns his advances after their 7 year hiatus. Meanwhile, Garak, the Cardassian tailor, shows his true colours.

*Episode 19: "Blood Oath": Against the wishes of Sisko, Jadzia Dax decides to continue with a blood oath that Curzon Dax had earlier agreed to with 3 old Klingon warriors. The oath means taking part in a daring revenge raid in another planetary system.

*Episode 20: "The Maquis - Part 1": 78 Cardassians are killed when one of their freighters is destroyed in a terrorist attack while departing DS9. This leads to high tension and a personal visit to the station by Gul Dukat. Meanwhile, Federation colonists inside the Cardassian part of the Demilitarised Zone decide to take up arms against their increasingly belligerent hosts.

*Episode 21: "The Maquis - Part 2: Sisko intends to track down the kidnapped Gul Dukat, Quark is in hot water again and the Maquis's clandestine activities take the Federation and the Cardassians to the brink of war.

*Episode 22: "The Wire": An implant device in Garak's head starts to go awry leading to him acting out of character and opening up about his past during the occupation of Bajor. Bashir sets about trying to cure him.

*Episode 23: "Crossover": Kira Nerys and Julian Bashir experience a malfunction while taking a runabout through the wormhole. They suddenly find themselves in a parallel universe where DS9 is Terok Nor again and the Cardassians, Bajorans and Klingons have formed an unholy alliance.

*Episode 24: "The Collaborator": With Bajor on the cusp of electing a new Kai, the two main rivals, Vedek Bareil and Vedek Winn, are drawn into a dark tale involving alleged collaboration with the enemy during the Cardassian occupation.

*Episode 25: "Tribunal": Miles O'Brien's plans to go on vacation with his wife are thwarted when his runabout is intercepted by the Cardassian security forces. Sent to Cardassia Prime for a trial that has already been decided, he faces execution for a crime that he is unaware of.

*Episode 26: "The Jem'Hadar": What starts as off a field trip to the Gamma Quadrant for Sisko, Quark, Jake and Nog becomes the first full scale and deadly confrontation between the Federation and the Dominion, a new formidable opponent.

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