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Hamlet, Prince of Denmark: A Novel (Unabridged)
Hamlet, Prince of Denmark: A Novel (Unabridged)
Offered by Audible Ltd

6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Blows your socks off!, 24 May 2014
This audio has been well worth the money spent and the struggle to download and I shall be recommending it to friends and family. Well done, you guys, (Hartley, Hewson and Armitage), for writing and voicing such a splendid book!

The authors retell a well-known story and make it fresh and exciting once more. There are a handful of new characters that help to forward the plot and who give insights into the action and the politics of the original play (Young Yorick and Gregor, the Scottish mercenary); they invent very little that is new and what they do, such as the events surrounding Hamlet's birth and what happens to Ophelia, just make for a visceral tension and interest.

Out of all the characters, I loved to hate Polonius and I really warmed to Claudius, the 'wicked uncle', where the authors have made Polonius nastier and Claudius nicer: just some tweaks here and there, but these make all the difference to how we see them. Although Shakespeare doesn't give Claudius a totally bad press, in this book, I was touched and moved by his love for Gertrude and for the child, Hamlet, who was as a son to him; he is a good man who has got himself into a mess, rather like Macbeth, who wades so far into a sea of blood that there is no turning back. There are some interesting asides about Macbeth, especially at the end, not to mention two Scottish characters, beautifully voiced by Armitage who does an amazing range of accents and tones.

Hamlet is presented as being schizophrenic/bipolar and the listener is invited to ponder on the reality of his friend, Young Yorick. To invent a new character like this for Hamlet to interact with is a novel and interesting way to replace Hamlet's soliloquies and the authors have done brilliantly with this idea making Yorick an entertaining and important part of the book. Armitage's problem as Hamlet is to give him different voices for when he is manic, for when he is depressive and for when he is normal - different, but the same. He does this really well and Hamlet's last words - "The rest is silence" - are said wonderfully and made me want to cry.

The voices of the women, Ophelia and Gertrude, always a problem for male readers, are well done, especially for a man with a deep voice. And I loved the way that every character was given individual care and attention, such as one of the pirates who speaks as though he is missing his two front teeth, LOL! There was a great pirate captain too.

The pirate episode is is a good example of the way the authors plug the gaps in the stage play whilst staying - I must assure any purists - very close to the original in so many other ways. They make a whole thrilling episode out of the brief mention in the play and then weave the pirates cleverly into the plot. We also get to visit the court of Elizabeth I (again, totally justified), see much more into the plots and politics of the invading Fortinbras, rather than having some strange character appear right at the end, and we also get some insight into the travelling band of players who are named as Burbage and Kemp, two famous actors who were part of Shakespeare's Company. The delineation and conversations of these two made me really laugh, with Burbage sounding like Sir Donald Wolfit who was a very pompous and world-weary ac-tor.

The book is well-written and gripping whether you are into Shakespeare or not. If you know the play really well, you will get pleasure from some of the more subtle nods and winks to the text, just like it's fun to get the 'in' jokes of Terry Pratchett; if you only know it a bit, then you will get pleasure from seeing how they deal with the original plot and characters; and if you don't know it at all, you will enjoy it as an exciting and intriguing story which will enlighten you and help you to understand the play if you ever see it after listening to the audio. And, everyone will enjoy Armitage's performance and voice. It was, somehow, a very intimate performance and so well done that it has left me in awe of his versatility.

What a team these three have made! They will doubtless win some new fans both for Hamlet and for Shakespeare.

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey [Blu-ray + UV Copy] [2013] [Region Free]
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey [Blu-ray + UV Copy] [2013] [Region Free]
Dvd ~ Hugo Weaving
Price: £8.50

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful blu-ray transfer., 30 April 2013
After waiting for years to see this, I was not disappointed. It really is worth seeing more than once - or twice - and more - because of the loving detail that Jackson has put into his film. I enjoyed all the extra stuff from the Appendices and the insights into the dwarven kingdom. I even liked Azog and could perfectly understand why PJ elaborated on this character and made him into a nemesis: he helps to give a purpose to the early chapters of the book which are otherwise very linear and episodic. Loved the singing (how could some critics pan the Misty Mountains song?); loved much of the CGI (Gollum, of course, and the beautiful eagles scene at the end); loved the NZ scenery; loved immersing myself once more in Middle-earth. I even managed to cope with Radagast (good in parts) and the snot gags because I suddenly realised that the children in the audience were enjoying these aspects so much and that it was selfish to expect all of the film to just be for ME. The costumes, the make-up, the hair - all amazing!

Most of all, I enjoyed the acting. I'm not a great fan of Martin Freeman, but he was absolutely right for the role of Bilbo. Richard Armitage gave a layered performance as Thorin: great voice and a lot of acting just with his posture and his eyes. It was wonderful to see the return of some of the cast from LotR and they managed to look young enough for this "earlier" story. And Andy Serkis really deserves some kind of an award for his motion capture performance.

I saw many of the "big" films and Oscar contenders in 2012, but this really was film of the year for me. Looking forward to parts 2 and 3.

Weathering the Storm
Weathering the Storm
Price: £3.06

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars This author knows how to tell a story!, 20 April 2012
The first part of this novel, with its delightful hero and heroine, went down a path I expected it to go.....And then it took an unexpected turn and I was left not knowing how things would turn out. It was very difficult at this point to put the book down. Told with compassion, insight and realism, this lovely romance should please all readers who want to fall in love with the protagonists and who hate getting to the end of a great story, well-told.

A Heart for Milton: A Tale from North and South
A Heart for Milton: A Tale from North and South
Price: £2.39

10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Satisfying continuation of North and South, 2 Nov 2011
I clearly remember, after watching the marvellous BBC production of Pride and Prejudice, taking down from a bookshop shelf and reading the first chapter of a novel which continued the story. It was by a famous novelist who was cashing in on Darcymania - and it was absolutely dreadful. She had tried - and failed - to imitate Jane Austen's style and her characters bore no resemblance to their originals. Completely cringeworthy. In fact, it made me wonder if she had even read Austen's book.

In Trudy Brasure, we have a new writer who knows her stuff. She is obviously entirely familiar with Gaskell's North and South and is able to give us a continuation where we immediately recognise the characters and can relate to them as in the original book. She starts her novel some chapters before the end of Gaskell's story, changing the story in a way that some readers might appreciate because Gaskell was forced to rush to her conclusion by Dickens. The lives of John Thornton and Margaret Hale continue in a believable and satisfying manner and we meet once again many other supporting characters that we have grown to know and love in North and South. By the end of her story, Trudy Brasure has tied up every loose end in a most pleasurable way.

For lovers of a good romance, North and South and Elizabeth Gaskell.

Strike Back: Project Dawn [DVD]
Strike Back: Project Dawn [DVD]
Dvd ~ Philip Winchester
Price: £5.00

29 of 35 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Sadly, it's goodbye to John Porter but...., 29 Aug 2011
.....if you rate this new show after only seeing the first episode (or even only the first 15 minutes) before switching it off in disgust, then you're missing something. The first Strike Back, as poster JackB says, was a fine series, and I'm sure that many people sat down to watch this because of Richard Armitage who gave us such a memorable character in John Porter. But, the producers were left in the lurch last summer when Armitage, not surprisingly, went off to join Peter Jackson in New Zealand for 18 months to play the leading role of Thorin Oakenshield in The Hobbit. Obviously, there had to be a lot of rewriting and, without Armitage and with the Americans now involved, it was bound to be a different show.

To give the producers and the scriptwriters credit, the cameo from Armitage which was, quite possibly, filmed in a studio in NZ because he had no time to visit South Africa, is more a part of the story-line than one would expect. I've seen the first 3 episodes and JP is not only acknowledged in flashbacks and dreams but, by episode 3, we have the reintroduction of Kenneth Bratton from series 1 and a reminder that JP saved him when he was a hostage. IMO, Porter is given a heroic send-off and has been made a part of the over-arcing story-line. What more could they do if the actor isn't available?

And my opinion of Project Dawn? The first episode, setting up the story and with gratuitous sex scenes, thanks to input from Cinemax/Skinemax, was the weakest and doubtless lost a lot of potential viewers. But there were no sex scenes in episode 2 to hold up the action and the series has been bowling along ever since. It is exciting and entertaining, and, as in series 1, is spectacularly filmed in South Africa. The vistas over Cape Town in episode 3 were quite stunning. They also have a good bunch of actors on board: Sullivan Stapleton was in an Oscar-nominated film earlier this year, Philip Winchester does a great British accent and has a certain gravitas, while Amanda Mealing reminds me of a young Judi Dench in her M-style role as the chief of Section 20. All the stunts are extremely well staged, there is a good bromance developing between our two heroes, plus some excellent twists in the plot and some humorous dialogue. So far, it reminds me most of the last story in the first series and so it's not completely removed from its original source.

I am giving this 5 stars because, so far, for excitement and entertainment value, I think it's worth it. If it disappoints me in future episodes, I shall return and make some adjustments.

Edit: Well, I have seen the lot now and I haven't changed my opinion. Although the gratuitous sex scenes were a bit TOO gratuitous for my taste, had no bearing on the plot and held up the real action, this series thundered along to an exciting and well-executed climax. Series 3 has been announced and I shall be back to watch it.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Sep 15, 2011 6:07 PM BST

The King's Speech [DVD]
The King's Speech [DVD]
Dvd ~ Colin Firth
Offered by DVDBayFBA
Price: £2.95

5.0 out of 5 stars Not everyone's cup of tea but......, 20 May 2011
This review is from: The King's Speech [DVD] (DVD) was mine. I first saw it in a packed cinema and when I made my exit, there were queues down the stairs, through the foyer and out the door for the next showing. I haven't seen that in years. It didn't immediately sock me on the nose but, a day later, I realised that I had been totally absorbed throughout - something that rarely happens when I'm watching a film these days - and that I was still thinking about it.

The interesting thing about the other Oscar contenders - and I've seen quite a few of them - is that they appeal to only a section of the market: Inception interests the SF crowd and The Social Network draws in those who are on Facebook. You might think that TKS appeals only to the older generation or those obsessed with British Royalty. I was curious enough about the general audience response to check out reviews on YT. To my amazement, I found a whole cross-section of society proclaiming that TKS was the best film in a long time. They included little old ladies (of course) but also representatives of every age group and both sexes. I was surprised how many young lads thought it was marvellous and how the reviewers included a black rapper wearing his baseball cap back to front and those who you would think would be rooting for Inception or TSN but who chose this for best film instead.

You can't please all of the people all of the time and TKS has got a number of one-star reviews, as is to be expected. But this film comes close to pleasing an awful lot of people and not only in this country too. We should be thrilled that we have made such a success of selling our actors, our history and our film industry abroad. The number of Americans on other forums who have graciously said that Britain has all the best actors is also a really surprising response to this film. All this means more tourism and more jobs.

I go along with all the positive remarks that other reviewers have made about this film so I won't repeat them but I'll probably watch my newly-acquired DVD more than once and that's another thing that's unusual for me too.

Thor [DVD]
Thor [DVD]
Dvd ~ Chris Hemsworth
Offered by Quality Media Supplies Ltd.
Price: £14.20

7 of 14 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Reasonably entertaining., 12 May 2011
This review is from: Thor [DVD] (DVD)
However, after an hour, I looked at my watch. Bad sign. I think the problem was the sub-par Crocodile Dundee story - an "alien" lands amongst a different culture and much amusement ensues - but it wasn't nearly as funny or inventive as the original. It was nice to laugh a few times but I think Branagh could have given us a few more such moments.

The cast was pretty good although it mainly involved them trying to pump some life into 2D characters. I think that trying to force an international set of people to speak with an RP English accent makes them a bit wooden and I think it's about time that, if the film isn't set in England but in a fantasy world, they should all be allowed to use their own natural accent.

Chris Hemsworth had a certain charm as Thor and this role will probably make him a star.

All in all, it wasn't quite as good as I hoped it would be, but I just about got my money's worth.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Sep 26, 2011 10:22 AM BST

Inception [Blu-ray] [2010] [Region Free]
Inception [Blu-ray] [2010] [Region Free]
Dvd ~ Leonardo DiCaprio
Price: £7.00

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Well, that was fun!, 9 Mar 2011
I invited the family around to see this on my new blu ray player and a good time was had by all. Visually, it was stunning - it deserved the Oscar it won for its special effects. It's definitely beautiful enough to watch several times even with the sound off. Genius touch: the use of the Edith Piaf song. The only thing that vaguely irritated me was the occasional movement of the story-line which I felt was deliberately made obscure in parts in order to make it seem "deep". I don't normally like Leonardo DiCaprio but he gets better as he gets older.

Chris Ryan's Strike Back [DVD]
Chris Ryan's Strike Back [DVD]
Dvd ~ Richard Armitage
Price: £6.30

8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Strike Back is like Marmite........., 25 Jun 2010
Strike Back is like either love it or you hate it! Or so it would appear from the reviews I've just read here. What is it about the series that has created such passionate responses? I've watched it twice and I'm wondering if the negative reviews stem from the fact that Strike Back is not what some people expected it to be.

It is definitely not a cruel, realistic war film, although it does touch on unpleasant truths which give it credibility; in spite of the buckets of blood, particularly in the third story, it has that super-hero, fantasy element that has given it an entertaining edge that most viewers have enjoyed but others have found irritating or distasteful. Perhaps it also has an emotional softness at its core that really pleases some because it adds depth to the characters but annoys those who are looking for a pure shoot 'em up.

Strike Back is fun to watch and it is amusing to see the cliches being reworked - and yes, there are loads of cliches, but it's entertaining to see the way they are handled. After all, doesn't everyone love the prison break, the hostage rescue, the leap from the cliff into the river, the stroppy nun, the children in need? They're all played out here, but with plenty of added extras.

Once you know what you're getting, then this series is a very enjoyable experience. But, if you were expecting something else, then I can understand the disdain and the anger of the one-star remarks - although it was a shame that they failed to appreciate the excellent acting, the beautiful scenery, the exciting story-lines and the creation of a great new hero, John Porter.

Me? I loved it!!
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jun 28, 2010 7:47 AM BST

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