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chinhealer "Chinhealer" (Staffs, United Kingdom)
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Moonlight Mile: 6 (Kenzie and Gennaro)
Moonlight Mile: 6 (Kenzie and Gennaro)
by Dennis Lehane
Edition: Paperback
Price: £8.99

20 of 21 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Pale shadow of former glory... one eye on the movie sequel rights?!, 30 Jun. 2011
I sped through this greedily like I have most of Dennis Lehane's Kenzie and Gennaro novels. I can't help myself. I have such a good time in their company. It's always a pleasure. And it was a pleasure this time too. I mean, Lehane has proved over and over again that he can write. That he can build believable characters (and not-so-believable, but unequivocally loveable characters like Bubba!) That he can paint portraits of Boston that manage to get under the skin of the city. I was thoroughly entertained by Moonlight Mile. And I was willing to go with the premise and was intrigued to see where the case in question would end up. Unfortunately, by the end of the book, I felt somewhat cheated. I could handle the world-weariness of the PI husband-and-wife team. I could handle their domesticity. I was even almost convinced by the imagining of Amanda McCready in her steel-souled, wise-before-her-time early adulthood. What I could not handle was the sheer preposterousness of so much of the plot. I could not handle the half-baked quality of most of the characters - both the major players and the incidental ones. I was disappointed with the sometimes lacklustre dialogue (dialogue, above all, was Lehane's forte in his previous novels in the series.) Everything seemed so cobbled-together. The germ of a good idea was here. Maybe, after the harrowing and deeply moral and deeply intelligent Gone, Baby, Gone I expected far too much in this sequel to that fantastic novel. But Moonlight Mile feels so lightweight in comparison. Farcical, even. Everything is done and dusted at such hyperspeed that the more profound themes of the novel are never given the chance to mature. My suspicion is that there was a commercial imperative to come up with a sequel to Gone, Baby, Gone so that it could be adapted into a film as soon as possible. I will be interested to see how the inevitable film of this book turns out. (Especially if the supremely watchable Casey Affleck again takes on the role of Patrick.) It's just a pity that Lehane has written what, to me, is easily the least impressive novel of his career so far.


Winter's Bone [DVD] [2010]
Winter's Bone [DVD] [2010]
Dvd ~ Jennifer Lawrence
Offered by best_value_entertainment
Price: £9.48

7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Some outstanding performances. Absolutely authentic. Occasional cliche alert!, 29 Jun. 2011
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Winter's Bone [DVD] [2010] (DVD)
This was a very interesting watch for me. Contrary to those on Amazon who are bemoaning its supposed 'tedium', I was very comfortable indeed with the snail's pace and the gentle unfolding of an admittedly uninspiring plot which rarely surprises. Probably the biggest reason for my forgiving the film its minor (and even major!) faults is the remarkable central performance of Jennifer Lawrence as Ree. (The only other thing I've seen her in is the recent and excellent-in-a-blockbustery-popcorn-foddery-kinda-way X-Men: First Class in which her considerable talents are merely adequately used.) Winter's Bone is an unflinching look at smalltown/rural life amongst a certain subset of the white working class. (In fact, I think I'm correct in saying that there are literally no non-white faces on screen. Which is unusual, to say the least, in US films today. But since most of the film is set within the microcosm of a single, extended, white family, I don't think that is a problem. In fact, giving Ree a black best friend or making the Sheriff Latino or whatever would have smacked of tokenism of the sort that Hollywood can't resist most of the time!)
The film's locations are utterly authentic. The houses are exactly like many I've seen in rural, smalltown, Midwest America. The people, the grocery stores, the natural environs... all exactly as I've known them. Oftentimes, Winter's Bone doesn't feel like a film. It has a documentary feel about it. This is no sanitized, idealized, Hollywoodized version of these characters' lives. It is a grimy portrait of a tough backwoods life blighted by a Meth cottage industry. But, above all, it is about familial love. The determined, relentless, fierce love displayed by Ree for her much-younger siblings is incredibly moving. And their childish innocence (and her single-minded motherliness) in the midst of great criminality, immorality and selfishness is a powerful force for good. I'm struggling to remember a recent performance from an American actress that tops that of Jennifer Lawrence in this film. The fact that she failed to win the Best Actress Oscar is baffling to me. I have yet to see Black Swan, but I'd be amazed if Oscar-winner Natalie Portman's performance is as real, as incredible as Jennifer Lawrence's. And I doubt whether Portman's performance will leave me simultanously heartbroken, uplifted and in awe, as Lawrence's did!


Under the Dome
Under the Dome
by Stephen King
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.99

1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Lots of fun and games..., 17 Feb. 2011
This review is from: Under the Dome (Paperback)
Well let's be honest. This hasn't exactly set the literary world on fire. And, to be fair, I think the days of Stephen King doing that are well and truly behind him. I'd be delighted if he were to prove me wrong, but on the evidence of Under The Dome, I reckon King's (largely) devoted readership will have to be content with entertaining potboilers which retread a lot of old ground, say very little that's new about smalltown U.S. life and fall back on the King formula to such an extent that this novel often reads like a highly skilled pastiche of King.
Yes, it has a charismatic (if slightly unbelievable) pantomime villain in the form of Big Jim Rennie. But I remember being far more chillingly seduced by Leland Gaunt in Needful Things.
Yes, there is a pleasingly retro, 50s B-movie feel to the entire proceedings in terms of the overall set-up, the science fiction elements and the Everyman figure of Dale Barbara. But I remember being far more intrigued and satisfied by the similar set-up and overall execution of The Tommyknockers.
Yes, King has come up with a fairly diverse dramatis personae which he manoeuvres with some, deft skill. But I remember there being greater diversity in The Stand, another behemoth of a novel which had a range of characters who were more interesting than the largely anodyne lot in Under The Dome.
Yes, King has constructed a page-turner of a plot which propelled me through it at some speed. But I remember the pages of The Green Mile turning far faster and my being far more immersed in that, particular hermetically sealed world than I was in Chester's Mill.
I could go on and on with examples of how King has done practically everything you will find in Under The Dome better in his previous work. I still haven't finished Duma Key after speeding through three quarters of it a few years ago. But I know that I found that to be an interesting work with some of King's best writing in ages and an interestingly different feel which made it seem quite distinct from his other novels. I thought at the time that King seemed to be flourishing in his late period. Maybe the visceral power and even poetic sensibility of that novel derives from what seems to be its origin in King's own horrific experiences with his 'accident'. There seemed to be a real emotional truth to it all. But with Under the Dome, it feels as if King has abandoned that inner source of inspiration for his material in favour of a determination to create some sort of politically charged quasi-satire on George Bush's War on Terror. But the satire doesn't have legs, the targets are easy and obvious and there were far too many caricatures rather than characters in the novel for my liking.
Yet, in spite of all this criticism, I'm still giving Under The Dome 3 stars. I guess, in the end (and the novel's ending seems ridiculously rushed and cliched and poorly thought-out and is deeply, deeply unsatisfying)I still have to admit that I had a whale of a time reading this novel. I enjoyed a lot of the humour. I enjoyed the narrative twists and turns. I enjoyed the few times when my heartstrings were pulled. And even cartoon Stephen King is superior to many other writers' best work. But when a writer has set the bar so high so early in his career (and sporadically thereafter) even monumental efforts like Under The Dome can feel as if they are falling short.


Splice [DVD]
Splice [DVD]
Dvd ~ Adrien Brody
Offered by A ENTERTAINMENT
Price: £2.35

10 of 13 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Frankendaughter!! Deeply flawed... and yet... fascinating..., 2 Jan. 2011
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Splice [DVD] (DVD)
It's so frustrating when you are confronted with a piece of art of any sort that - like Splice - has so many intriguing elements and the kernal of a classic which ultimately fails on too many levels for comfort. The central conceit - which is admittedly somewhat unoriginal - is nevertheless a potentially fascinating updating of Frankenstein (itself something of a Promethean homage) for the genome generation. Unfortunately, despite the lovingly created lab-based, almost futuristic sets, the CGI Fred and Ginger - the initial artificially created chimaeras - are less-than-convincing. They LOOK like computer graphics and make it very difficult for you to suspend your disbelief. And even though the overall look of Dren - the ultimate humanoid chimaera - is more convincing (at least once she matures) there is still plenty wrong with her physiognomy. And with her linguistic and emotional maturation. And yet, there is considerable pathos in her character. (Which has much to do with Delphine Chanéac's lovely performance.) The same cannot, however, be said for her creators - played by Adrien Brody and Sarah Polley. Again, the performances themselves are excellent. But the characters seem poorly thought-out. Underwritten, even. In fact, the overriding impression I have is of a movie which is far too short to do proper justice to the whole concept which includes themes of parenthood, feminism, the snowballing of technology into apocalyptic and unforseen directions etc. Yes, I enjoyed the ride. Yes, I laughed out loud on several occasions. Yes, the movie challenged me to confront my own prejudices and attitudes towards its subject matter. And, yes, it managed to elicit a variety of emotions within me which most movies fail to do. Hence the four stars. But I have to stress that I felt incredibly short-changed overall. The relentless pace of the movie meant that too many corners were cut for me. There was too much ellipsis. There were so many themes to be explored and yet, having to shoehorn so many into a conventional film's running time meant that any such exploration was only superficial. Again and again I wished the filmmakers had put their energies into a TV series. Or even a mini-series. (Imagine how monumentally frustrating Twin Peaks would have been if David Lynch had condensed it into a movie rather than into the beautifully nuanced and perambulatory masterpiece of television that it ended up as!)
I wholeheartedly recommend you see the film. It did, after all, provoke major debate in my household! (We were still picking it apart nearly two hours after it ended!) But be prepared to be let-down like no other film I can think of!


The Inbetweeners - Series 1-3 - Complete [DVD]
The Inbetweeners - Series 1-3 - Complete [DVD]
Dvd ~ Simon Bird
Offered by mikes_store
Price: £9.87

5.0 out of 5 stars Puerile, morally corrupt and corrupting... GENIUS!, 4 Nov. 2010
The Inbetweeners is one of the most reprehensible TV shows ever. It is chock-full of quasi- and actual criminal behaviour, it has a plethora of unhinged, amoral and occasionally sociopathic characters. The various situations involve little more than teenage humiliation in extremis. It contains some of the lewdest and crudest dialogue you will ever hear. Its fairly overt misogyny is equalled only by its overt misandry. Anyone in their right mind would prohibit any underage children from watching it. It is a damning indictment of society, life and teenagerhood today. In many ways, it is horrific and appalling and utterly, utterly decandent. It is also the funniest thing on television and, overall, is a work of total, sheer, unparalleled genius!! (File alongside Superbad.)


The Happening [DVD] [2008]
The Happening [DVD] [2008]
Dvd ~ Mark Wahlberg
Offered by best_value_entertainment
Price: £1.30

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A lesser Shyamalan is still worth watching, 11 Oct. 2010
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This review is from: The Happening [DVD] [2008] (DVD)
Wow! Shyamalan sure has fallen from grace in the eyes of many critics and in the eyes of many denizens of Amazon too! I'm not really sure why. Maybe it's got something to do with an impatience with his more mystical/cod-philosophical/predestinatory leanings. But, hey, I'm a sucker for mysticism, cod-philosophy and predestination, so much of his work resonates with me! Together with the rest of the world - as far as I could tell at the time - I was gobsmacked with the virtuoso filmmaking and performances of The Sixth Sense. Together with a far smaller proportion of the world, I was deeply satisfied with Unbreakable, Signs and The Village. And I felt very lonely indeed in loving Lady in the Water! And so we come to The Happening which, to me, is probably the least successful of Shyamalan's offerings. Exactly why is difficult for me to articulate. After all, I was intrigued with the goings-on from the beginning. (Although I was initially vaguely reminded of Stephen King's novel Cell.) There was a definite creepiness and heart-in-mouth feeling for most of the movie. There was a cracking pace which suited the story well and there were some very endearing performances - notably from Mark Wahlberg and John Leguizamo. But the ending of the 'happening' of the title didn't quite work. I'm pretty sure I understood what Shyamalan was getting at - and it was a noble idea, a decent premise. But it didn't quite resolve satisfactorily. And I'm sure this was a blessing for many, but for me the movie was too short. I really enjoyed the epic feel of some of his earlier work. But The Happening felt a lot more like a throwaway B-movie. But I still maintain that Shyamalan is a significant mainstream artist with plenty to say and a distinctive way in which he says it. Personally, even with the many caveats above, I will still look forward to seeing all of his work to come. (Even if I am approaching The Last Airbender with some great trepidation based on the rather naff trailers I've seen!)


The Radleys
The Radleys
by Matt Haig
Edition: Paperback
Price: £10.00

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Some lovely writing, some lovely comedy... but not enough flesh!, 10 Oct. 2010
This review is from: The Radleys (Paperback)
This straddles an awkward line between teenage and adult fiction. It has many adult themes that are treated a bit too flippantly for my taste. And some of the teenagey aspects are a bit too knowing, perhaps. And what's the point in teenage fiction anyway?! (Discuss.) I think I understand the age-busting appeal of the Harry Potter books. (Even though I'm not exactly ga-ga over the ones I've bothered to read.) Aside from the underwhemling Over Sea Under Stone, I am still enchanted and/or terrified by much of the Dark Is Rising series by Susan Cooper. And I fully and unreservedly appreciate the pan-demographic appeal of Philip Pullman's myth-of-a-generation, His Dark Materials trilogy. And Alan Garner, Tolkien, C.S. Lewis and David Eddings with the Belgariad are other authors who have managed to create superb - if occasionally flawed - immersive fictive worlds which cater for imaginations of all ages.
The Radleys, unfortunately, pales quite a bit in comparison to the aforementioned. I got the feeling throughout that Matt Haig's relatively fresh spin on an over-recycled mythos would have been far, far better either as an all-out children's/early teen-type novel in the Roald Dahl-vein or as a full-on adult novel like a Stephen King or Clive Barker or James Herbert which universally appeals to teenagers anyway. (Or, at least, used to in my day!) But by keeping one eye on its potentially adult readers and another on its pubescent readers, Haig fails to make The Radleys both horrifying enough and magical enough. The hints at adult-sex and realtionships are a bit limp. And the slightly 'whateva!' clever-cloggedness of the teenage milieu tends to annoy.
Having said which, I did enjoy some of the writing. Haig can write some fairly economically poetic prose. And there is a good deal of wry humour. And I breezed through the novel in no time at all. So I must have been having some fun along the way. Sure, I wanted to know what happened next. Unfortunately, what did happen next was all a bit pedestrian. And, to be honest, I didn't for a minute believe the whole set-up. I especially didn't believe the police involvement. Funnily enough, I've just seen the first three episodes of the late 90s Channel 4 series Ultraviolet which I AM, for the moment, able to suspend my disbelief for. (Even though Ultraviolet is a lot more po-faced and generally less fun than The Radleys.)
But, ultimately, my biggest problem with Haig's creation is his characters. Not that they're exactly unlikeable. But they are a bit too dull and middle-of-the-road. And the purportedly evil Uncle Will is no more than cartoon-evil. I couldn't really bring myself to give a flying monkey's about any of them. And that's quite a fatal flaw in most types of fiction, I reckon. But especially in a vampire novel where, on the whole, success surely depends on the cult of personality?


Peggy Sue Got Married [DVD]
Peggy Sue Got Married [DVD]
Dvd ~ Kathleen Turner
Offered by Atronica
Price: £18.66

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Decent date movie - not up to Back to the Future standards..., 10 Oct. 2010
This review is from: Peggy Sue Got Married [DVD] (DVD)
Another film that passed me by in the 80s. And, in spite of its various and occasionally exasperating failings, it still has a lot to recommend it. Kathleen Turner is a very decent lead even though, as has been remarked before, she looks like no teenager I've (or you've) ever seen! Nevertheless, many of her reactions to reliving her High School past have the ring of authenticity about them. And whilst the script is not quite as sharp as it could (or should) have been, there is plenty going on to sustain a smile on your face for much of the film. Nicholas Cage is somewhat drippy as well as somewhat likeable if you can forgive him his not-quite-convincing adolescent voice. And the period recreations are rather enjoyable if - as one suspects - somewhat overly sentimentalized. And I liked a lot of the minor characters. But just wished they had been better fleshed out. In fact, I think the film overall might have benefited from being longer. Everything just seems to breeze along at a medium pace and the rather modest story is told rather modestly. Even as I was enjoying most of the film for what it was, I couldn't help wishing it had a little more oomph to it. And, in comparison to Back to the Future, Peggy Sue really does appear pretty lame. (At least, in comparison to my childhood memories of Back to the Future.) The urgency, the thrills, the imagination at work and the superior script of BTTF ultimately show up Peggy Sue for what it is - a mediocre film which fulfills its mediocre ambitions without exactly setting the screen alight!


Sherlock Holmes [DVD] [2009]
Sherlock Holmes [DVD] [2009]
Dvd ~ Robert Downey Jr.
Offered by best_value_entertainment
Price: £1.25

5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Hyper-kinetic, slightly mad, less sophisticated companion piece to the great, recent BBC series, 5 Oct. 2010
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This review is from: Sherlock Holmes [DVD] [2009] (DVD)
After enjoying almost every second of the brilliantly modernised (and brilliantly realized) recent BBC series Sherlock starring Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman, I approached Guy Ritchie's version with less than high hopes. And, no, I don't think he does match the brilliance of Mark Gatiss's vision. But, on the whole, I'd say Robert Downey Jr's interpretation of the character is deliciously unhinged, arguably more endearing than Benedict Cumberbatch's and almost as much fun. And the period recreation is sumptuous, if a little fairytale-like. (Except when it is necessarily decrepit!)
Jude Law makes a likeable-enough Watson, although Martin Freeman's was far superior. And Rachel McAdams provides a feisty-enough (though wearingly inevitable) love-interest. The plot is a Hollywoodized bit of nonsense which may amount to some sort of sacrilege for the Conan Doyle purist, but manages to incorporate quite a bewildering amount of fin-de-siecle preoccupations and sensibilities and philosophies in quite a virtuoso way. Throw in some quite exuberant acting from all the major players (and most of the minor ones too!), plenty of Illuminati/conspiracy theory-references, a number of preposterous fight scenes and chases and a large dose of quasi-Victorian Spiritualism and what we're left with is a pretty bonkers mess. But it is an entertaining mess. A rollercoaster ride of a film which, whilst not exactly amounting to very much, does have a lot to recommend it and feels as if it was lovingly crafted. A superior blockbuster then with just about enough wit and chutzpah and energy to make it memorable. Whether the whole mise-en-scene created by Ritchie can sustain a bunch of sequels remains to be seen. I somehow doubt it. In the meantime, you could do worse than spending a couple of hours watching Robert Downey Jr at his bravura best.


Midnight Mass
Midnight Mass
by F Paul Wilson
Edition: Mass Market Paperback

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Decent premise, missed opportunity, slightly anaemic..., 1 Oct. 2010
A frustrating book, this. It jumps straight into the action, it has some likeable characters, its pace is breathless and, occasionally, thrilling, and I gobbled it up in a few short reading sessions. So F Paul Wilson was doing something right. Unfortunately, for my taste, he was doing a helluva lot wrong too. The whole thing felt like a very lightweight read. It is a relatively short book - quite feasibly the start of a series or trilogy or whatever - which cries out to have been twice or thrice as long. In the hands of a Stephen King, this story would have been an epic. It would have taken its time to build up, to create its vision of a post-apocalyptic world overrun by vampires, to do more than merely sketch out its characters. And, above all, it would have been scary. Terrifying, even. But so many elements of Midnight Mass are really half-baked. In spite of some horrific violence in the book, I was left feeling completely short-changed when it came to the evil characters. The vampires themselves were largely toothless. Maybe that is a consequence of over-familiarity or even overkill - if vampires are as numerous as portrayed in the book, they lose a lot of the mystery, the feeling of the unknown, the uniqueness that marks out Bram Stoker's Dracula as - still - the finest example of the genre that I know. Having said that, Richard Matheson was able to create an incredibly oppressive and horrifying tale in I Am Legend even though that modern classic has a similar premise to Midnight Mass and is even shorter in length. But, again, Matheson's vision seemed very believable. Whereas Wilson's premise that the vampires easily rampaged through largely non-Christian areas of the world like China and India and the Middle East since those populations wouldn't have access to enough crucifixes or knowledge of vampire lore is ridiculous. As is the idea that, out of a world population of more than 6 billion, only a motley crew of decent, smalltown East Coasters have the wherewithal, the God-fearing resolve and heroism to properly resist the vampiric hordes.
F Paul Wilson is obviously a populist writer who, perhaps, has more in common with Dean Koontz than King. But, like Koontz, he seems overly concerned about thrills and spills and pace to particularly worry about creating interesting, multi-layered characters. There are too many stock types in this novel. And, in the case of the cowboys, they all seem to be denim-clad, Heavy Metal-loving, sexually voracious, murderous buffoons. That aspect of the novel really grates. And having Slipknot's Iowa, for instance, as the soundtrack to their violence is neither cutting-edge nor anything other than a monumental cliche!
And, really, the writing itself is really perfunctory. With nothing distinctive about it at all. So, the more I think of it, the more exasperated I become at the many inadequacies of this really insignificant contribution to the vampire genre. Hell, even the Twilight and Tru Blood series contain more invention and interest and gravitas than the barely acceptable quasi-screenplay that is Midnight Mass.


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