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Brian Levine

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Hot Fuzz (2 Disc Special Edition) [2007] [DVD]
Hot Fuzz (2 Disc Special Edition) [2007] [DVD]
Dvd ~ Simon Pegg
Price: 3.17

2 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Two hours of English deadpan humour, 25 July 2007
Simon Pegg and Nick Frost engage in a crusade to clean up the vilest 'model village' in England.

The supporting cast is drawn from the mid-list of British comedy: you recognise the faces but can't always place the names (apart from Bill Nighy and Steve Coogan). I think Martin Freeman was wasted - or perhaps should have been wasted - and that the old man with the big guns under his coat stole the show - the same chap who polished Ali G's third leg in 'Indahouse.'

There's enough blood and gore to keep the teenagers happy and enough crisp cinematography and clever sequences (wry grins rather than belly-laughs) for the oldies amongst us (ie not in the 15-30 bracket). I liked the absurdness of the humour and the director's fondness for jump-cuts and fast editing. The choice of Wells was inspired and the beginning, middle and end worked well: a complete story.

You do have to like this particular brand of humour to enjoy this film - think BBC3 - and I enjoyed it immensely.

My favourite line: 'I like a little midnight gobble.'

It's a great film.

The extras aren't bad - the typical mix of out-takes, fluffs and an over-arching director/writer's commentary which shows you that the best comedians aren't always naturally funny...which I find rather comforting in a peculiar way.

The Departed (2006) [DVD]
The Departed (2006) [DVD]
Dvd ~ Jack Nicholson
Price: 3.52

5 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Watchable - but overlong and greatly in need of voice-coaches, 22 July 2007
This review is from: The Departed (2006) [DVD] (DVD)
Very watchable film, lots of twists and turns in the cop-undercover vs mafioso undercover and Damon and DiCaprio put in great acting performances. A couple of the twists I found a little convenient, and poor old Martin Sheen was to me a little miscast. He seemed as unlike a chief of police as one could find. Also, his lieutenant was a stereotypical badmouthing cynic who conveniently drops out of the story like the invisible man only to resurface poignantly at the end...

At around 2.5 hours I found it perhaps 30 minutes too long, and no-one can dispute that some of the protagonists accents were worthy of an over-dub.

I felt Jack Nicholson didn't quite pin down his role because it didn't seem clear why he was doing what he was doing...he looked like he should have left the mafia game years before and now be propping up a bar in Palm Springs.

Not really an Oscar winner, other than it was Martin Scorsese's turn. To call it a five star film is pushing it. Four, yes, because it's good, but it doesn't have the specialness of a 'Scarface' or a 'Leon', two different but comparable tales. And it's not really up to 'Chinatown' standard on the script front.

But if you want a good long night in watching a good story, this fits the bill. Just don't expect to see greatness.

Babel [DVD]
Babel [DVD]
Dvd ~ Brad Pitt
Offered by best_value_entertainment
Price: 2.72

8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A multi-location 'Crash'?, 23 Jun 2007
This review is from: Babel [DVD] (DVD)
Very well acted film with intelligent use of local extras shot in four different countries. I found the plot device of the crucial gun's actual provenance slightly convenient, although truth is often stranger than fiction.

At times a little art-house - with some clever nudity and use of the concept of the loneliness of the deaf - this film is like the 'world' version of 'Crash', the interlinking of lives around a single incident which affects people in different ways.

Good use of non-chronological story-telling: every story must have a beginning, middle and end, a wise man said, but not necessarily in that order. The director has achieved an excellent film, and I single out Brad Pitt in particular for a superb performance as man struggling to keep his marriage and his wife alive.

The Last King Of Scotland [DVD] [2006]
The Last King Of Scotland [DVD] [2006]
Dvd ~ Forest Whitaker
Price: 2.70

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Stand up please the last king of Scotland!, 23 Jun 2007
Great film, fast-paced - especially the lead-in first few minutes which sets up the story of the young idealistic (and fictional) doctor, played well - albeit belligerently - by the diminutive James McAvoy who suddenly via a chain of coincidences finds himself as Amin's (and his polygamous family's) personal physician.

I found that some of Corrigan's decisions/consequences didn't quite ring true: for example, the decision to take the job in the first place was naive. Also, the two-dimensional portrayal of the English ('English bad, Scottish good') who woo Corrigan then put him in an impossible situation.

However, the portrayal of Amin by Forest Whittaker is masterful and well-deserving of the Oscar. His ego and force of will subjugate all those around him, and relegate McAvoy to supporting cast even though the story could be interpreted as being more about McAvoy than Whittaker.

I liked the return to reality with the documentary footage of the real Amin, which is when you realise just how good Whittaker's interpretation is - it is not an impersonation, more the classic implementation of what a great actor must do: draw from within.

Well worth watching, although the cinema is more suitable for superbly shot African countryside. Wonderful cinematography and superb music - very atmospheric and it makes you want to journey to Africa to pick up some more of the vibe, although the violent reality of much of it makes this less of a practicality.

One Day In September [DVD]
One Day In September [DVD]
Dvd ~ Michael Douglas
Price: 6.99

9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Better than a feature, 31 May 2007
This review is from: One Day In September [DVD] (DVD)
If you do not watch documentaries, watch this and you will be converted. The slow release onto the celluloid is mesmerising and compelling: it just keeps getting better and better.

No padding, no dodgy dialogue, no script boobs; just an incredible story packed into a relatively short period of screen-time. It feels as though every image, every frame has been chosen specifically to drive the story.

Basically, this film sucks you in, grabs you by the neck and delivers such a painful sucker-punch that it leaves you shaking, quite literally.

Buy it, watch it and wonder how the hell someone let the mess in 1972 ever happen.

Lord of War [DVD]
Lord of War [DVD]
Dvd ~ Nicolas Cage
Offered by DVDBayFBA
Price: 4.43

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Too nice to be an arms dealer?, 31 May 2007
This review is from: Lord of War [DVD] (DVD)
Nicholas Cage puts in a great performance as the gun-running Yuri Orlov who rises Scarface-like from poverty to control a massive 'empire' that involves doing governments' dirty work without, as he so neatly puts it, 'leaving the fingerprints on the hardware.'

The film leaves the internal dilemma largely unexplored: everything seems too easy for Yuri, and it therefore comes across, for a certain segment of the audience (which does not include me) as a recruitment drive for arms dealers.

The sub-plot with Ian Holm's Roller-driving rival was a little superficial and undetailed, and I would have liked to see more of the real nuts and bolts of the operation, not just the simple bribery that went on: bribery is the staple of the arms trade and I failed to see what Yuri's USP was, why he made it to the top whereas others failed. He was ingenious, but most of the time Nic Cage looked just a little too nice to be an arms dealer, and I wasn't sure if his motives for becoming one were to get the girl (a beautiful Bridget Moynihan) or to better himself or if he was simply addicted to it as he states late in the film: 'I'm just good at it.'

The acting was almost faultless, but I couldn't help but not be totally convinced by Nic as the good guy turned bad guy.

Definitely worth seeing.

The Physicists (Acting Edition)
The Physicists (Acting Edition)
by Friedrich Durrenmatt
Edition: Paperback
Price: 9.50

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A study in insanity, 12 May 2007
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
How sane are we? That is the question Durrenmatt poses in this tight little play which combines the metaphysical with the absurd. A murder in an asylum - another nurse dead - and inmates who believe they are Einstein and Newton. Perhaps they ARE Einstein and Newton, or perhaps Newton is Einstein and vice-versa.

Genius or madman? The ambiguity in the mental health of the madhouse staff adds to the fun: it is absurd, it is not going to be everyone's cup of tea, but as the book of the play, you can read this in less than an hour and come away wanting to see it on stage.

My only criticism is that the translation falls down in a couple of places: if possible (and you read German!) try and read it in its original language. Some of the word-play only works with the exact words Durrenmatt used, in German.

Alfred the Great
Alfred the Great
by Justin Pollard
Edition: Paperback
Price: 8.40

26 of 29 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The man behind the myth, 11 May 2007
This review is from: Alfred the Great (Paperback)
Justin Pollard's strength is the canny way he brings ancient stories to life by focussing on the human, emotional drivers that set his protagonists into action. The social and political context of Alfred's world is dealt with sensitively and non-judgmentally, leaving the reader to draw his/her own conclusions with the assistance of Pollard's meticulous research.

An excellent work: a readable and informative benchmark for the subject matter. Pollard's thesis, that Alfred was the greatest Englishman, is highly persuasive.

by James Patterson
Edition: Hardcover

8 of 11 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars An unbearable Cross, 26 Jan 2007
This review is from: Cross (Hardcover)
Violence is used as a substitute for plot and characterisation and the disjointed way the book is split into 122 chapters - most of which are 2 pages long - grates very quickly. The book reads as though written by an eighteen year old with no sense of suspense or style. The story challenges believability numerous times - Alex Cross appears bumbling and inept which cannot be right for the hero that has spawned a veritable literary dynasty.

Most annoyingly, you think you're reading a 390 page book when in fact, if you take away the chapter breaks and take into account each page is only 27 lines at best, it equates to 180 pages - ie novella status.

Don't buy it.

The Rise and Fall of Alexandria: Birthplace of the Modern Mind
The Rise and Fall of Alexandria: Birthplace of the Modern Mind
by Justin Pollard
Edition: Hardcover

23 of 25 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An eye-opener, 27 Dec 2006
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
Pollard and Reid throw us into a wondrous world of forty-storey lighthouses, Manhattan street-grids and inquisitive minds circa 300BC. Ancient Alexandria spawned an astonishing number of breakthroughs across physics, astronomy, medicine and mathematics, all carefully logged in its grand library which sadly ceased to exist many centuries ago. A wonderful example of early 'open-source' software, the library attracted its disciples, each working on the discoveries of his predecessor in order to progress to the next level. Much of this work was lost for centuries, re-discovered only recently and it is surprising how much of Alexandria's output affects our lives today.

This is an important book written in an accessible style which succeeds in piecing together a reconstruction of a long-gone ancient civilisation influenced by the Greeks, the Romans and the Egyptians.

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