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LXIX (scotland)
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Ae Fond Kiss [DVD]
Ae Fond Kiss [DVD]
Dvd ~ Atta Yaqub
Offered by The Happy Zombie
Price: £3.00

4.0 out of 5 stars Ken Loach's kind of 'Jazz Singer', 16 Oct 2014
This review is from: Ae Fond Kiss [DVD] (DVD)
'Ae Fond Kiss' has shades of the classic 'Jazz Singer' movie as families are ripped apart in the name of religion and forbidden love.

Instead of the Jewish musician falling for the white woman, here we have the white female musician falling for the Muslim man. Instead of New York, it's all set in the south side of Glasgow in 2003 (with a little bit of Spain thrown in) and it makes for a colourful narrative despite the modest budget.

Does it work? Yes, it's watchable and is a fairly amusing way to spend about 100 minutes of your time. Ironically, the star of the show is probably the late Gerard Kelly's in his brief - but high-impact role - as the fire-and-brimstone, traditionalist, parish priest.

This film is an interesting commentary on modern day multiculturalism - from both perspectives - and I think that's its main strength. Entrenched views and ethnocentric biases are explored throughout. Some of the language is industrial and a few steamy scenes are thrown in too. Put it all together and you have an educational, interesting and entertaining tale.

Note that this DVD is also really good value for money as it also contains a 23-minute 'Making Of', a Director's commentary, deleted scenes, a 46-minute interview with Ken Loach at the Edinburgh International Film Festival and a theatrical trailer.

House of Cards [DVD] [1990]
House of Cards [DVD] [1990]
Dvd ~ Ian Richardson
Price: £7.00

4.0 out of 5 stars Drunk on Power and Absolutely Corrupting, 17 Sep 2014
This review is from: House of Cards [DVD] [1990] (DVD)
'House of Cards' charts the dark tale of a ruthless Scotsman (Francis Urquhart - commonly known as FU) who works his way up from Chief Whip to Prime Minister. Anyone who stands in his path is eliminated (sometimes by his own hand) to the extent that he makes Machiavelli look like an altar boy.

As well as the elaborate skullduggery of the plots, the nostalgia of Britain in the early 1990s is notable too (for example, no mobile phones or Internet). The first person narrative asides provide soliloquies throughout as Urquhart keeps the viewer informed of his scheming and internal thoughts.

This full package contains 3 double-sided DVDs - one for each series, with 12 episodes in total. Subtitles are optional.

'House of Cards' is acclaimed British television and this small box set provides good value for money.

Prisoners Of War \ Tv Series [DVD]
Prisoners Of War \ Tv Series [DVD]
Dvd ~ Prisoners Of War \ Tv Series
Price: £17.45

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars 'We wept, when we remembered Zion' ... and when we got back too, 5 Aug 2014
I'm glad I discovered this small box set on Amazon (3 DVDs) as I found 'Prisoners of War' Series 1 to be compelling viewing. I limited myself to one episode per day, and during the working day I found myself greatly looking forward to a quiet night in with the lights off and my daily 'fix' (perhaps I'm just getting on a bit).

The plot follows 2 former Israeli soldiers who are trying to adjust to day-to-day life back in Jerusalem after 17 years of brutal captivity in the Lebanon. There's very little miltarism or politics here, though; instead this is about post-traumatic stress disorder and human relationships. Several other spicy ingredients and subplots are thrown into the mix such as elements of Stockholm syndrome, Freudian sexual desire and even a little bit of the supernatural.

Note that this box set is entirely in Hebrew with English subtitles (they come on automatically). You adjust to this very quickly as you're lured into the gripping story lines (which are all linear connected but with flashback scenes to the captivity). Also note that the duration of the episodes varies from 39 minutes to 61 minutes (unlike most US box sets which usually come in at a steady 42 minutes or so per episode) - perhaps Israeli TV has erratic schedules and variable advertising rules). There are no extras here either.

As I write, Israel is at war once again (in Gaza this time) and the IDF (Israeli Defence Force) is centre stage on our news every night. 'Prisoners of War' is no Zionist warcry; instead it lifts the lid on the domestic lives of the ordinary soldiers and their families.

All in all, a very engaging viewing experience and a wonderful contribution to world television.

Flying Free
Flying Free
by Nigel Farage
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.99

10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Colourful, candid and informative, 15 July 2014
This review is from: Flying Free (Paperback)
'Flying Free' is a colourful and engaging read about the rise of both Nigel Farage and UKIP. The man, who is synonymous with this party, is often considered to be an alternative to the 'professional politician' and this book is an affirmation of this. For example, some of the language is strictly 'after the watershed' and you simply couldn't imagine any other prominent politician writing like this.

Nigel Farage did not study PPE at Oxbridge or serve an apprenticeship as a political advisor or spin doctor. Instead, we have a man with a genuine enthusiasm for his causes. You do not have to agree with his politics to acknowledge that he has helped build UKIP from an atom to a prominent place on the periodic table of the UK political landscape (even winning the 2014 Euro elections on seats and share of the national popular vote).

This book is quirky in places and remarkably candid. It's written in the first person. Some notable parts include him surviving a serious accident with a car, his battle with testicular cancer, getting sacked once whilst working in the City, his role in keeping UKIP together despite the myriad clash of personalities and incidents involving key figures, the conservatives making overtures to him, his underdog tenacity despite losing many by-elections, the media ridicule, his early impressions of the European Parliament and his regular run-ins with the authorities there who oversee that grand monument to conformity.

All-in-all this is a very enjoyable read and a political autobiography with a difference. Nigel Farage rallies against modern machine politics that is dominated by technocrats, careerists and Yes-men. His success means that part of him has to become systematic and more savvy; however, this book makes clear that he is also highly idiosyncratic and remains so.

One newspaper referred to him as being like someone who has stepped out of an Ealing comedy. Well, his book is full of good humour and despite experiencing much more adversity than the average person (including surviving a plane crash during the 2010 election campaign) he remains focussed, resolute and a highly effective politician.

UKIP will be snapping at the heels of the establishment parties for many years to come. If you want an insight into their development and the man who is their figurehead, then this is clearly the book for you.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jul 17, 2014 3:03 PM BST

Shot at Glory [DVD] [2002] [Region 1] [US Import] [NTSC]
Shot at Glory [DVD] [2002] [Region 1] [US Import] [NTSC]
Dvd ~ Robert Duvall
Offered by supermart_usa
Price: £5.29

4.0 out of 5 stars Something different and altogether unusual, 27 May 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
Robert Duvall ... Ally McCoist ... Owen Coyle ... Andy Gray ... a Mark Knopfler soundtrack ... Didier Agathe ... Hugh Dallas etc ... it's difficult to imagine this project ever getting off the ideas board, but somehow it did. 'A Shot at Glory' is a curious little tale about a lower league Scottish football team signing a double Golden Boot winner (ex Celtic then Arsenal) who happens to be married to the manager's daughter. I'm sure the irony of Ally McCoist having to adjust to the 2nd Division will not be lost on viewers now. He even had dark hair back then and was something of a pin-up.

The plot follows their fairy tale journey to the Scottish Cup Final. It's a shame there are no subtitles here as they would have been helpful when the legendary Duvall spoke in a Scottish accent (but all credit to him for at least coming over and giving it a go). In fact, there are no extras at all. When you pop this into your dvd player the film starts immediately.

There are plenty of unfortunate stereotypes in here about Old Firm rivalry and the city of Glasgow, but if you take this bizarre and quirky offering for what it is - something out of leftfield and a cross between Brigadoon, River City and Roy of the Rovers - then you might just find it watchable and a little nostalgia trip.

Sword Of Gideon - Extended 173min Edition [DVD] [1986]
Sword Of Gideon - Extended 173min Edition [DVD] [1986]
Dvd ~ Michael Anderson
Offered by czech.out
Price: £8.98

5.0 out of 5 stars The predecessor to 'Munich', 21 May 2014
'Munich' by Spielberg is the well-known film about the Israeli government's covert response to the 1972 Munich Olympic outrage (Operation Wrath of God). This film, however, precedes it by almost two decades. Note that both are based on the George Jonas book 'Vengeance'.

If you're familiar with 'Munich' then you'll immediately be struck by the lower budget here. 'Sword of Gideon' was made for TV (HBO) - therefore it has a more minimalist feel and less extravagant production values (although it does include a large number of on-location scenes including Rome, Paris, London and New York, and plenty of pyrotechnics).

Despite its modest outlay, this film fills in some gaps that were in the 'Munich'. At 173 minutes long it speeds over the actual hostage taking and instead focuses more on the adventures of the assassin team in Europe. Particular noteworthy scenes not in the 'Munich' version, but here, include the shoot-out in the Swiss church and a much more elaborate (and very tense) scene about the death of Robert, the bombmaker.

'Sword of Gideon' is a good accompaniment to 'Munich' and fans of one will no doubt enjoy the other. This original does not feature the Cyprus bed bomb incident or the run-in with the KGB in Athens, but it does feature a Paris car bomb scene and a greater angle on the human consequences of their deeds (such as waiting in a Paris hospital to find out if they've succeeded in killing a target and visiting the wife of one of the group after his demise to break the news in person to her - only to be subsequently thrown out of the flat).

Some of the acting is a touch wooden here (particularly at the death of one of their number in Frankfurt), but Michael York and Rod Stieger add their usual dose of cinematic gravitas.

This film is almost 3 hours long. It's engrossing viewing and another insight into one of the most famous counter-terrorism missions in world history.

Open Range [DVD] [2004]
Open Range [DVD] [2004]
Dvd ~ Kevin Costner
Price: £2.73

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Honour on the prairies, 7 May 2014
This review is from: Open Range [DVD] [2004] (DVD)
'Open Range' is a slow-burn story combining a more realistic take on the stereotypical cowboy - but within the trappings of the Western formula. Without spoiling things too much, it's worth mentioning that this film is a long way in before a shot is even fired - this works, though, as it all adds to the climactic tension of the plot.

It's 1882 and four 'freegrazers' wander their livestock into an area where the local cattle boss does not tolerate transient competition. Intimidation leads to murder and culminates in a long gunfight sequence. The subplot involves a love interest between one of the cattle men (Kevin Costner) and the local doctor's sister.

This film is quite long (130 minutes) but Costner's Westerns do tend to follow a pedestrian narrative. The gunfights are rather realistic here (people don't drop dead easily and most shots actually miss). The British and Irish accents were also an authentic touch as many of the 'Wild West' settlers were first-generation immigrants.

This is mildly enjoying and a different take on the genre - as it all seems more down to earth. Ultimately, this is a tale of honour and a salute to the gritty nature of the hardy people who moved West and gradually built modern America.

Desperado [DVD] [2011]
Desperado [DVD] [2011]
Dvd ~ Antonio Banderas
Offered by DVD Overstocks
Price: £2.85

3.0 out of 5 stars Part spoof and part semi-serious, 23 April 2014
This review is from: Desperado [DVD] [2011] (DVD)
If you like watching lots of baddies getting splattered by guns, knives and even rocket launchers, then this is for you. If you're expecting a serious and gritty modern take on the Western, then look away.

Desperado is something of a hybrid genre: part tangible-attempt-at-a-narrative and part tongue-in-cheek. Mind you, the actors looked like they had fun making this and in true Hitchcock style, Tarantino makes his anecdotal guest appearance.

This is 100 minutes of pulp movie reel that might be enjoyed after the pub with your mates. Just don't take the guitarist-turned-annihilation-machine too seriously ...

The Quick And The Dead [DVD] [1998]
The Quick And The Dead [DVD] [1998]
Dvd ~ Sharon Stone
Price: £3.60

4.0 out of 5 stars A Western Fairy Tale, 18 April 2014
Two things stand out in this Western: the all-star cast and the novelty of a female gunfighter.

Take this film for what it is: a Western fairy tale with a goodie and a baddie. Everything else is circumstantial and all the stereotypical ingredients are here in the tried-and-tested Western formula: guns, revenge, horses, a simple dusty town, a saloon, a marshal's badge, an Indian, a preacher, hookers, guys in long coats on rooftops with rifles, Spanish music ... you get my point.

Gene Hackman, Sharon Stone, Russell Crowe and Leonardo DiCaprio combine well to create a watchable little tale here. Life is cheap in this brutal backwater and the gunfight contest serves as the narrative device for bringing out the minimalist plot.

If you can get over the idea of Sharon Stone being an ace shooter, then you'll find this to be mildly amusing. Instead of playing the alpha female, feminists would no doubt have taken umbrage with her 'strong' female-led resorting to stereotype (via flashes of her black stockings and breasts). Still, Western enthusiasts probably did not complain too much.

The cleverest scene is probably the comical allusion to the villain's heart. Blink and you'll miss it. After all, it is a gunfight and speed matters.

Memphis Belle [DVD] [1990]
Memphis Belle [DVD] [1990]
Dvd ~ Matthew Modine
Price: £3.60

5.0 out of 5 stars How the few saved the many, 14 April 2014
This review is from: Memphis Belle [DVD] [1990] (DVD)
It's 17th May 1943 and the crew of the Memphis Belle, a US bomber based in Eastern England, sets out on its 25th mission - a sortie to destroy a German fighter aircraft facility in Bremen.

The first 40 minutes of this film actually takes place on the airbase, while the remainder follows the trials and tribulations of the perilous mission. Suffice to say it's not plain sailing for the bold young crew.

Films like this help us to appreciate the sacrifice that these brave airmen made. You're also struck by just how young and ordinary they are (enjoying horseplay and a good lark).

Note that there are no extras on this DVD beyond a trailer and subtitles.

Postscript: As I tend to drive old cars that have been around the block a fair bit, I've always had an affinity with this film as someone named my first car the 'Memphis Belle' (as every time I took it out, I couldn't be sure that it would make it back). The name stuck and I was even given a small engraved plaque which to this day I keep in the glove compartment (I'm onto Memphis Belle 3 now) - a bit silly, yes, but when you think about the ordeals and challenges that these guys went through then it kind of puts life in perspective

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