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Aidan J. McQuade (Ireland)

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Justified - Season 2 [DVD]
Justified - Season 2 [DVD]
Dvd ~ Timothy Olyphant
Offered by Leisurezone
Price: £6.85

30 of 33 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Trouble with kin and feuding in Kentucky, 28 Jun. 2011
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Justified - Season 2 [DVD] (DVD)
Season 2 of Justified kicks off exactly where season 1 ended, with Raylan, Boyd and Ava fighting for their lives against assorted Miami and local "gun-thugs". The season proceeds with the two inter-related stories of Boyd trying to go straight, and Raylan reviving an old feud with the Bennett family, most notably their terrifying matriarch, Mags, who runs a variety of criminal activity, including the weed business, in Harlan County.

As with the first series this one is marked by a strong character driven narrative, spiced with sharp moments of violence. The script is often extremely funny and always highly literate. The dialogue could almost be Appalachian Sheridan or Shaw, though it probably more truly echoes a 19th Century American language, little changed since the Civil War. Raylan is very much a 19th Century figure: As his boss Art tells him, he is a lousy marshall, but a good lawman, guided more by a personal sense of honour than codified law. In this regard he is more like his old friend Boyd than he might care to admit.

In describing things one often seeks comparisons. However I can't think of anything else like this on television; perhaps if one could conceive of the movie Winter's Bone with jokes? It is out of the ordinary and brilliant.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Dec 18, 2011 10:26 PM GMT

The Shadow Line [DVD]
The Shadow Line [DVD]
Dvd ~ Chiwetel Ejiofor
Price: £7.49

8 of 11 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Just because you're paranoid doesn't mean they aren't out to get you, 18 Jun. 2011
This review is from: The Shadow Line [DVD] (DVD)
Shortly after getting released from prision with a royal pardon a drug lord is found shot dead. Both the police and the murdered man's gang start investigations into the killing. Meanwhile the gang's new leader, Joseph Bede, carefully trys to resurrect their narcotics importing operations, and the police's cheif investigating officer, newly returned to work after having been shot, tries to remember who tried to kill him and understand why.

Hugo Blick, who wrote and directed this, takes this relatively straightforward crime scenario and infuses it with some of the menace of the great American "paranoia thrillers" of the 1970s such as The Parallax View. In this series few people are what they seem, and, just as you feel you understand what is going on, the plot twists in another direction often by means of some shocking act of violence.

The cast is excellent, though some are burdened by bits of clunky dialogue. However in the midst of some of the finest actors currently working Stephen Rea's performance as the menacing Gatehouse is outstanding, demonstrating conclusively why he has generally been regarded as the greatest Irish actor of his generation, and indeed one of the greatest actors alive. His scenes with Anthony Sher are a masterclass.

Overall bleak, compelling, gripping viewing.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Dec 18, 2011 10:14 PM GMT

The Lincoln Lawyer [DVD]
The Lincoln Lawyer [DVD]
Dvd ~ Matthew McConaughey
Price: £3.55

58 of 62 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars What some lawyers get up to is plain criminal, 17 Jun. 2011
This review is from: The Lincoln Lawyer [DVD] (DVD)
Matthew McConnaghey plays a defense lawyer with an array of shady clients amongst the criminal fraternity of Los Angeles. However his life gets complicated when he is hired to defend a rich kid accused of rape.

McConnaghey I generally find an unappealing actor, someone who's career is predominantly marked by a series of forgettable films through which he sleep walks. However in this film he actually acts, and acts well, presenting a credible portrayal of a likeable man who maintains his decency, and many of his principles, in spite of making a career defending the guilty. His scenes with Marissa Tomei and William H Macy are beautifully played conveying the depth of feeling and history amongst the characters. Ryan Phillippe, a very underrated actor in my opinion, as the client, displays once more his range and talent as a man who may, or may not, be guilty.

The plot is satisfingly twisty while retaining its intelligiblity. Overall the movie is a professionally done, highly entertaining piece of work, composed of good writing, good acting and unfussy direction, the combination of which are disappointingly rare these days.
Comment Comments (4) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jun 11, 2013 2:28 PM BST

Asking for Trouble: The Autobiography of a Banned Journalist
Asking for Trouble: The Autobiography of a Banned Journalist
by Donald Woods
Edition: Paperback

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Giving journalists a good name, 17 Jun. 2011
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
Donald Woods was that very rare sort of journalist who gives journalists a good name: a brave and principled man who fought apartheid and, following the assassination of Steve Biko which he did much to expose to the world, was "banned", that is put under house arrest, by the South African government for his troubles.

He wasn't always this though and his autobiography is an honest account of his education from a prejudiced youth to freedom fighter and prisoner of conscience, though he would probably never have described himself this way: his autobiography suggests he was a man who had a lovely sense of humour about himself and the world. This, and his passionate rage against injustice illuminates his account of his life reporting apartheid South Africa, which is told in the snappy prose style of a gifted newspaperman.

Another Day of Life (Penguin Modern Classics)
Another Day of Life (Penguin Modern Classics)
by Ryszard Kapuscinski
Edition: Paperback
Price: £8.99

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A dreamlike account of the beginning of a nightmare, 14 Jun. 2011
One of the finest books about modern Angola Kapuchinski's eyewitness accounts of the evacuation of the Portuguese, independence, the South African invasion and the beginnings of the Angolan civil war crackles with versimilitude, and reads like poetry.

He captures beautifully the city of Luanda and the sureality of its emptying of settlers in the face of decolonisation, the terror of road convoys through bloodily contested countryside, and ordinary rhythms of life that go on in the midst of cataclysm.

It is an extraordinary work of journalism, gripping as a thriller and moving as a tragedy. Beautiful.

Newfield Jack : Robert Kennedy: A Memoir (Plume)
Newfield Jack : Robert Kennedy: A Memoir (Plume)
by Jack Newfield
Edition: Paperback

5.0 out of 5 stars America's loss, and the world's, 14 Jun. 2011
In his autobiography of his life as a campaigning journalist, the great Donald Woods wrote of a meeting he had with the South African prime minister in 1968, having just spent some time with Robert Kennedy and his presidential campaign. The prime minister asked: do you think Kennedy will win? Yes, said Woods, he's too rich to be bought, too idealistic to be corrupted and the young people, the blacks and the hispanics all believe in him and he doesn't want to let them down. The South African prime minister buried his head in his hands and said, my God. If Kennedy wins, God help South Africa!

Jack Newfield's memoir of Bobby Kennedy and his 1968 presidential campaign catches the hope that Woods saw and communicates to the reader, even decades on, the devastating tragedy of Kennedy's death. With it the promises of a negotiated end to the Vietnam war, concerted action against apartheid in South Africa, and renewed effort on the struggle for civil rights and an end to poverty in the United States, were snatched away.

There are certainly more scholarly works about Bobby Kennedy, but this book conveys in a viceral way just what Kennedy meant to that generation who hoped for a better world in the 1960s. It is a powerful testament of the possibilty of politics as well as the price it sometimes exacts of those who assert principle.

An exquistely painful book.

Exodus [DVD]
Exodus [DVD]
Dvd ~ Paul Newman

11 of 15 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Let my people go!, 10 Jun. 2011
This review is from: Exodus [DVD] (DVD)
There is a story that one Jewish critic stumbled out of the premier of this movie and pointing to the audience demanded of Preminger, the director, "Let my people go!"

Having watched Exodus its easy to understand his reaction to being stuck in a cinema with little option but to endure watching this to the end. This is a film that takes its worthiness seriously and the result is a desperately boring affair. This is not helped by what seems to have been an artistic decision to keep almost all the action off screen. This helps from a propaganda perspective of not depicting the civilian carnage, as well as British military deaths, wrought by the Israeli Irgun bombing of the King David Hotel. But it doesn't add to the entertainment value of the film. Only the prison break sequence does much to get the pulse racing.

The disputes on methods between Hagannah and Irgun are touched upon, but then skated over: the Irgun are portrayed as serene and thoroughly humane despite their adherence to terrorism. Strangely though the character based on Menachem Begin is shown as wholly untroubled by the King David bombing, which he ordered, while accounts suggest that Begin was in fact deeply affected by the unintended civilian casulties. Though this does not appear to have dimmed his ruthlessness in the course of his subsequent career it does indicate a deeper human conflict that would have been artistically interesting to explore.

Politically the film makes some interesting points, expressing hope for a sharing of the land amongst Jews and Arabs, though the reasons why this hasn't happened are barely touched upon.

The acting in the film is a mixed bag: Paul Newman, Eva Marie Saint and Lee J Cobb are of course consummate professionals. Sal Mineo and Jill Haworth as young refugees and lovers are pretty woeful, not helped by the fact that their characters are stereotypes. The cinematography is exquisite. The score is justifiably legendary and promises something much more than the director managed to deliver. In fact it is the score rather than the director that gives the film any emotion it has.

A film to watch perhaps from an interest in cinema history, perhaps from an interest in the portrayal of Israel in contemporary cinema, perhaps for an understanding of how Americans understand Israel. Not something to watch, I think, if you want to be entertained or moved.
Comment Comments (18) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jan 13, 2013 5:00 PM GMT

Eureka Street
Eureka Street
by Robert McLiam Wilson
Edition: Paperback
Price: £9.99

5.0 out of 5 stars The finest novel ever written about the Troubles in the North of Ireland, 3 Jun. 2011
This review is from: Eureka Street (Paperback)
I started reading this book with no expectations. I was hooked by the first page. In the end I had to take an afternoon off work to finish it I was so gripped. This is the Irish War and Peace, with better jokes than Tolstoy.

At the core the book is a "buddy movie" about the friendship betwen Chuckie and Jake. One is Protestant and the other Catholic, but this is incidental. There is no heavy handed nonsense about friendship across the barricades in the book. Such friendships are commonplace in Belfast as elsewhere. Rather the book is about ordinary young people trying to live ordinary lives in Belfast in the early 90s. Hence this involves drinking, chasing girls and trying to make a living.

The result is one of the funniest books I've ever read as it details Jake's efforts to recover from a broken heart and Chuckie's efforts to become rich. Of course this is Belfast during the Troubles so violence intrudes shockingly: modest dreams are no defence against buffoons with guns and bombs intent on putting the world to rights.

The book is a testimony to why Belfast is the greatest city in Ireland - blasted to bits for years by invaders and locals alike and still a home to great love, great humour, great decency and great tea!

A masterpiece!

Sir Gawain and the Green Knight
Sir Gawain and the Green Knight
by Simon Armitage
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.98

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An exquisite translation of an Arthurian legend, 3 Jun. 2011
One new year a Green Knight interrupts the feasting at Camalot and challenges the assembly: this day he will stand still an receive one blow from any one of them with his axe. But the following new year the person who deals the blow must likewise stand still and receive a blow in return. Sir Gawain accepts the challenge and cleaves the Green Knights head from his body. The body promptly pick up the head, which reminds Gawain of his vow, and gallops off into the night.

Hence the following winter Gawain sets off to find the Green Knight and keep his bargain.

As with Heaney's Beowulf, Armitage's voice in this translation is recogniseably modern but rendered in the faithful service of the original poetry. Many of the descriptive passages of hunting are particularly memorable. There is also palpable tension in the finely drawn sequences when, towards the end of his quest, the wife of Gawain's host attempts his seduction.

All in all one of the most deeply satisfying books I have read in a long time.

by Eoin Colfer
Edition: Hardcover

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Follicly challenged Paddy as knight errant, 29 May 2011
This review is from: Plugged (Hardcover)
This book marks Eoin Colfer's move from children's to adult fiction with the introduction of another serial character: Daniel McEvoy - ex Irish army sergeant, now working as a doorman in a sleasy New Jersey nightclub, worrying about losing his hair and trying to stay out of trouble.

McEvoy is an attractive character and his reflections on life and death, as he tries to extricate himself from increasingly complex and life-treatening situations, are very entertaining and often insightful. However in spite of the violence the book is more of a comedy than a thriller: except for a few scenes there is little sense of menace, and the wise-cracking, though generally entertaining, on a number of occasions simply does not ring true, disrupting any tension that had begun to accumulate. Hugh Laurie managed the combining of comedy and thriller better in his novel "The Gun Seller" in no small part by cutting the wise-cracks from the action scenes. (Paradoxically real life can produce unbelievable dialogue: George McDonald Fraser notes in his memoir of the war in Burma, "Quartered Safe Out Here", that he once heard a comrade shout, after having been shot, "They got me the dirty rats!", something, he says, that despite being true was so unbelieveable he would never have used it in a work of fiction.)

These points aside, the plot is compelling and satisfyingly twisty, drawing upon the roots of modern crime fiction: Dan carries with him an echo of Chandler's Marlowe as a fundamentally honourable man, a contemporary knight errant, in a corrupt metropolis. The jokes are generally very good indeed. And many of the characters, particularly, I thought, Zeb and Simon, well drawn. It also highlights the courage and experiences of UN peace-keeping forces (Dan is a veteran of the operation in Lebanon), something rarely touched upon in popular culture, and something that deserves greater attention.

And the book kept me up at night so I could finish it and find out how the various strands resolve: one should never quibble too much about a book that can do that.

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