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Vera - Series 3 [DVD]
Vera - Series 3 [DVD]
Dvd ~ Brenda Blethyn
Price: £15.60

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Evocative Northumberland Mystery Series, 22 Oct. 2013
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Vera - Series 3 [DVD] (DVD)
The best mysteries transcend the genre to encompass a wide range of life-issues; "Vera: Series 3" explores this complexity beautifully. Filmed in clouded northern light, with nuanced shades of human emotion, "Vera" is a tremendous visual and imaginative treat. Always superb, Brenda Blethyn is the driving, elemental force that is Detective Chief Inspector Vera Stanhope: salt of the earth. Blethyn's face is as expressive and interesting as the blustery northern English landscape, weathering storms of conflict within and without. This superb actor grew up in unpretentious, working-class circumstances, and she brings that wealth of experience to her role. DCI Vera Stanhope's unresolved pathos over her lonely life underlines the narrative. Slugging down whisky under sullen clouds, Vera once declared that solitude is not for the faint-hearted. Northumberland is another character, its rolling hills and rough coastline, the heavy line of the sea, castle ruins, and towns hit hard by decades of economic hardship, providing a unique canvas for these mysteries. Houses huddle under a leaden sky that slams down at the end of the street, a permanent dead-end. The northern dialect, strewn with a heritage of Viking remnants, is as hefty and delicious as meat-pies and ale. Northumberland's northern light and wave-tossed seascapes provide a timelessness to the human narrative strewn upon the landscape.

The haunting soundtrack, by Ben Bartlett, adds an ominous depth to the series. The marvelous Brenda Blethyn is amazing as Vera, she and the rest of the talented crew authentically bring alive the mystery novels of Ann Cleves. The series is further enlivened by a great cast. David Leon is excellent as Detective Sergeant Joe Ashworth, coping with Vera's dark moods and worrying over her health. Jon Morrison plays long-suffering Detective Constable Kenny Lockhart, Paul Ritter is great as the creepy Pathologist Billy Cartwright, Sonya Cassidy perfectly depicts Sergeant Joe Ashworth's wife Celine, and Clare Calbraith is newcomer DC Rebecca Shpherd. In the U.K., theater, movie, and television productions value actors who are robustly, deeply human, and provide venues like this series that share this wealth of talent. All the guest stars are top-notch.

The four episodes include: "Castles in the Air," "Poster Child," "Young Gods," and "Prodigal Son." Running time: approximately 352 minutes. Note: English subtitles are helpfully provided.

Castles in the Air: Written by Paul Rutman & Gaby Chiappe, this opens with the death of physiotherapist Lizzie Faulkner (Eva Quinn), shot to death outside a vacation retreat at Meadow Pond. DCI Vera Stanhope (Brenda Blethyn) impatiently notes that "bloody lampers" have been about, shooting local wildlife. Robert Doran (Richard Riddell) comes under suspicion, as his cigs, DNA, and gun match elements found at the scene. It turns out, DS Joe Ashworth (David Leon) have a history together, and the situation is more complicated than it first appeared. Lizzie may not have been the intended target, and the motive could possibly hark back to previous incident, years ago. Grieving father Justin Bishop (Shaun Dingwall, Doctor Who) may be involved, whilst son Sam (Alexander Arnold) keeps an even keel. Frustrated with the investigation, Vera declares that you can't "shave a pig and call it a ham." In one wonderful scene, she shows a particular concern for Joe, that involves burning something...

Poster Child: Written by Paul Rutman, this story takes us to Tynside and Newcastle. After their father is brutally killed, Karen Marsden (Amy Cameron) and her adopted, diabetic sister Mira (Shifaa Aafan) are kidnapped. Their mother (Saskia Reeves) frantically calls in DCI Vera Stanhope and her team at the Northumberland & City Police. Jonah Regan (Dean Andrews, Life on Mars), a mysterious photographer, seems to know more than he lets on, while an illegal immigrant, Malik (Amir Boutrous), is struggling with his demons. The stark landscape, with violently blue clouds and sea, is a perfect backdrop to this stark story of loss and identity.

Young Gods: Written by Gaby Chiappe, this mystery opens in Northumberland's autumn woods. A group of students witness the awful death of Gideon Frane. Vera and DS Joe Ashworth (David Leon) give a lift to one of the young students, Ruthie Culvert (Rebecca Benson), who lives in a chaotic home with her grieving mother (Matilda Ziegler) and grandfather (Kenneth Colley), who is ex-CID. With this third mystery, we finally get something there should be more of: time with Vera in her cottage. Thirteen minutes in, she's frying sausages. Too often, Vera drinks her dinner. She and Joe interview Gideon's old girlfriend Izzy Rawlins (Jodie Comer), who he terrified. Joe accuses her best friend, spirited Kit O'Dowd (Kevin Trainor is marvelous) of murdering Gideon. Kit scoffs, "Have you seen the bloody kit I have back at work? I've got a cutthroat razor. I've got scissors that would take your ear off. Why would I bloody burn a man to death!?" St. Finan's school principal Dr. Ripman (Maureen Beattie), and former students Jamie Levinson (Mark Quartley) and Sister Claire (Pippa Bennett-Warner), come under Vera's radar. In a nod to the Catholic roots of Northumberland, a revealing reunion occurs between Vera and her former teacher at St. Anselem's, Sister Benedict (Ruth Davies, always a treat). Don't miss café owner (Simon Barks) and his donuts (he will not lie and conceal their existence from Vera). Thanks to director of photography, Jean Philippe Gossart, this is a gorgeously filmed episode, from the lichen on a fencepost, to Northumberland's Vermeer-lit autumn sky.

Prodigal Son: By Marsten Bloom, a mystery unfolds on a promising night with a man and a woman meeting at Tuxedos Bar. Janna Jeffries (Emily Taaffe) thought she was going to have fun with the bloke, but the evening goes awry when John (Alan Westaway) gets stabbed to death on a cobbled side street. Initially, no one knows the victim's last name; he had a BMW with false plates and a stash of money hidden within. Janna turns out to have a friend named Carrie Kinsdale, whose significance we glimpsed in the first mystery. Cara is Vera's half-sister. Appropriately, she lives across the street from a graveyard; will Vera garner enough courage to meet her? Newcastle forms a perfect backdrop to this story, which involves a brewery, hostile takeovers, and John's lost-love Lisa (the great Christine Bottomley, The Street). Vera tells Lisa's abusive husband Ross, "And she has to settle for you over the cornflakes." John's sister is engaged to a brewery owner (Liam Cunningham); was John involved with his lovely daughter (Sophie Stuckey)? This dark mystery has lighter moments, with one of the cutest art-cards ever (wait for it), and the hope for a new life. Thanks to the director of photography, Adam Suschitzky, BSC, this is another masterful visual treat, with Northumberland snow, sea, and sky, wind turbines, and an old churchyard under a mantle of clouds.

Thankfully, "Vera" has been renewed for a 4th season. We look forward to more of the quick-tempered, cantankerous DCI Vera Stanhope; hopefully the series will continue for many more seasons. And the evocative, bleakly beautiful Northumberland landscape is a welcome, perfect stage for these mysteries. The deeply talented, always compelling Brenda Blethyn is wonderful in the sharp comedy Saving Grace, and graceful dancing with Alfred Molina in Undertaking Betty (Plots With A View), with cats Fred & Ginger.

The Village - Series 1 [DVD]
The Village - Series 1 [DVD]
Dvd ~ John Simm
Price: £10.06

12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Bones of a Landscape, 18 Oct. 2013
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This review is from: The Village - Series 1 [DVD] (DVD)
It's clear that writer Peter Moffat knows what he's writing about in his depiction of working-class village life at the turn of the previous century. His Scottish grandfather and great-grandfather were shepherds ("Doctor Who" fans, he is unrelated to Steven Moffat). A relative of ours lived from 1883 to 1986; the changes witnessed in her rural life were remarkable. Moffat's wonderful narrator, Old Bert Middleton (David Ryall), begins this story as the 2nd oldest man in Britain (and by episode 3, the 1st oldest man has perished, leaving our Bert in the place of honour). Vivid writing, a fine cast, and superb cinematography create an utterly believable world.

The summer of 1914 was the first time ever a bus came to Bert's Derbyshire village, no one expected anyone to actually get off. Young Bert Middleton (exquisitely played by Bill Jones) was only 12 years old, but he fell in love immediately with new arrival, young Martha Lane (Charlie Murphy). He still loves her 100 years later. Bert's older brother Joe (perfectly portrayed by Manchester native Nico Mirallegro), is a servant in the Big House and he also falls for Martha. Both boys are afraid of their tormented father John, a drunken Peak District farmer (the always remarkable John Simm, catch the Manchester drama Life on Mars). For context, Simm himself researched what the life of his struggling-against-the elements farmer would have been, reading local history in Milk, Muck and Memories: Farming Lives Collected by Margaret Wombwell. Maxine Peake is mesmerizing in her powerful performance as the long-suffering boy's mother, Grace Middleton (see her in Moffat's Criminal Justice). Grace is a ballast for her family.

Old Bert is asked what his childhood was like. His answer: "Short." What made it short? Wryly, he says, "Being poor and being hungry." This first collection covers the period from 1914 to 1920, with the harrowing fallout from World War I, with tragic consequences to the Middleton family, the entire village, and Bert's gentle schoolteacher Mr. Eyre (Matt Stokoe), who protects him from a bullying colleague. Eyre gifts the teenaged Bert (Alfie Stewart) with a camera, and we are thus treated to "historic" photos of a lost time. A menacing character is Detective Stephen Bairstow, darkly played by Joe Armstrong (we noticed an uncanny resemblance to another great actor, Alun Armstrong, and later discovered why).

An enormous feature of "The Village" series is its topography. Cinematographer David Odd captures a landscape where nothing is straight. The stone walls are the bones of the land, green with lichen and moss, seemingly holding the land together under a vast cloud-driven sky. Absolutely beautiful.

Thankfully, there is a second series in the works for 2014; this will progress the series into the 1920s. There is speculation that future series may also be created, to cover World War II, and possibly post-war Britain. We look forward to more!

354 Minutes on 2 Disks, English subtitles provided.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Dec 23, 2014 7:22 AM GMT

John Henry Newman: Prayers, Poems and Meditations
John Henry Newman: Prayers, Poems and Meditations
by A. N. Wilson
Edition: Paperback
Price: £9.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "True faith is what might be called colourless, like air or water..." - John Henry Newman, 9 Sept. 2013
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It is hard to describe the wonderfully peculiar way this saintly man has graced our lives, and this really isn't the venue. But for those seeking a selection of daily meditations to deepen their spiritual lives, this collection may momentarily slake their thirst; it's a good start. We finally finished Newman`s Unquiet Grave: The Reluctant Saint, and look forward Ian Kerr's John Henry Newman: A Biography. Newman was instrumental in influencing the conversion of J.R.R. Tolkien's mother. Having savoured Tree and Leaf: Including MYTHOPOEIA, the following quote is apropos, "Even on the ... legends of a popular mythology He casts His shadow, and is dimly discerned in the ode or epic, as in troubled water or in fantastic dreams. All that is good, all that is true, all that is beautiful, all that is beneficent, be it great or small, be it perfect or fragmentary, natural as well as supernatural, moral as well as material, comes from Him" (Newman, as quoted by Wilson, 2007:11).

George Gently Series 5 [DVD]
George Gently Series 5 [DVD]
Dvd ~ Martin Shaw and Lee Ingleby
Price: £12.99

32 of 38 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars North Country Mysteries, 21 Jun. 2013
This review is from: George Gently Series 5 [DVD] (DVD)
Previews of this series don't do justice to Martin Shaw's masterful, powerful acting, or the show's high-production values. Happily, although Series 1-2 were filmed in Ireland, all the subsequent collections are actually filmed in England's North Country, in Northumberland and the beautiful old city of Durham. So those of you who enjoy Vera Series 1-2 are in for a treat. In the late 1960s, Inspector George Gently (Shaw), who had witnessed his lovely Italian wife's murder via a hit & run (Series One), is as honest and stalwart as they come. Martin Shaw is superb as DCI Gently, as is his sidekick, Lee Ingleby, as Detective Sergeant John Bacchus. You may recall the fine Ingleby from his inimitable turn in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, as the conductor of the Knight Bus, Stan Shunpike. Blessed with abundant talent and a memorable voice, Lee Ingleby is also pitch-perfect as the menacing Vic Tyler in the highly regarded 1970s police/time-travel hit Life on Mars. Another constant is PC Taylor (Simon Hubbard), who grumblingly serves many a cuppa of PG Tips tea with plates of biscuits. World War II veteran George Gently mentors young John Bacchus, a young man desperately in need of guidance, adrift in the swirling social turmoil of the 1960s. Before moving on to Series Five, you don't want to miss evocative earlier episodes, such as "Gently in the Blood " in Series Two. It features another fine British actor, Andrew Lee-Potts (great in Primeval, should be next Doctor Who).

Series Five ends on a disturbing note, cliffhanger, where the fate of our main characters is unsure. But rest assured, another four episodes are in the works. There are English subtitles, for those of us who do not want to miss one word. The run time is 354 minutes, plus a 3 minute bonus "Behind the Scenes" featurette; for a three-dimensional taste experience, you may want to indulge in some Northumberland style bangers & mash, with classic Newcastle Nut Brown Ale (a favorite of Bacchus') to top it off. Enjoy!

Episode 1, "Gently Northern Soul"
Martin Luther King was assassinated on April 4th, 1968. Later that month, in Northumberland, 1968, the shadow of racist tension lurks, although young people are keen to get into a dance club where they can thrill to imported soul music. When a beautiful young black girl, Dolores Kenny (Pippa Bennett-Warner), is murdered after a night out, DCI George Gently (Martin Shaw) and Sergeant John Bacchus (Lee Ingleby) discover not only "racialism" within the police force, but strong anti-immigrant feelings. Bacchus winds up falling for Delores' friend Carol Morford (the wonderful Lenora Crichlow, Being Human). Delores' father, Ambrose Kenny (Eamon Walker), is a WWII vet, now bus-driver, who has valiantly fought racism all his life, his son Joseph (Gary Carr) is less patient than his father. Yet beneath these tensions, other motivations may have been responsible for the murder. Gently and Bacchus fight to untangle a web of violence, while in one scene, a telly broadcasts the notorious "Rivers of Blood" speech. Weaving history and mystery, the Race Relations Act 1968, immanent in 1968, this is a topical, courageous story, with classic soul music.

Episode 2, "Gently with Class"
British drama and mystery series often delve into frank discussions about "class." In this story, also set in Northumberland, 1968, a blue Austin A40 Farina, registered to local aristocrat, Hector Blackstone (the wonderful Richard Lloyd Pack, in "Doc Martin" and The Vicar of Dibley), turns up crashed in a river. In the passenger seat is a drowned, beautiful young woman, and no driver is found. It seems that a local girl was abandoned to drown in the river alone, with no help from her date. It turns out that the victim was gifted musician and free-spirit Ellen Mallam (Ebony Buckle). Against the will of Hector's second wife, Countess Alethea Blackstone, Ellen had been involved with the Countess' son and heir-apparent, Lord James Blackstone. Ellen's father (wonderfully played by Christopher Fairbank), dying of throat cancer, is suspected when James is in hospital. Gently is furious when he discovers that Bacchus crossed a line due to his dislike for the Blackstone's snobbery and obstruction. Meanwhile, Gently, like Hector Blackstone, is haunted by the loss of his wife, plagued by dreams of drowning.

Episode 3, "The Lost Child"
Camera gently panning a street in Durham, 1968, postwar families enjoy a "lovely life." Children play on sidewalks, mothers walk baby-filled prams, front yards are meticulously maintained, and nary a rose is out of place. This bucolic setting is suddenly disturbed when baby Faith is snatched from her crib, from her "perfect" home. She had been adopted three weeks ago by respectable, middle-class Stephen Groves and his wife Frances (pitch-perfectly played by Helen Baxendale). Suspicion initially falls on the birth mother, Susan Faulkner (luminous with Holly Lucas), whose heart is breaking for her lost daughter whilst she and her other baby, Faith's twin brother Thomas, find refuge by the sea with her friend Hazel Joyce (another gem, Faye Castelow). George Gently and John Bacchus discover that Susan had misgivings about putting her child up for adoption in the first place, and that both Susan and Hazel have reason to dislike the adoption agency's Mrs. Dunwoody (the always excellent Alison Steadman). Further investigation rolls across gorgeous Northumbrian moors, and our George (ex-boxer) makes a delightful threat against a suspect who'd better not try to abscond; a ransom note turns out to be blackmail. The Groves, Faith's well-off adoptive parents, come under suspicion. A mysterious young fellow named Gareth (Jordan Dawes) turns up, to tragic consequences. Meanwhile, George Gently expresses compassion to John Bacchus, who is trying to resolve old tension with his hyper-critical father Peter (the wonderful Tony Haygarth) and balance his relationship with his daughter Leigh Ann (young Katie Anderson is delightful, and Lee Ingleby works beautifully with her). Another fine episode, and clearly, the set designers, from clothes to props, had a ball.

Episode 4, "Gently in the Cathedral"
In Durham, 1968, the forces of evil that tragically disrupted George Gently's life in 1964 re-emerge in this dark season closure. A young, newly married police officer, Gavin Henderson (Lee Armstrong), is murdered, leaving his pregnant wife Bernie (beautifully played by Angelica Penn) in dire straits. The force believes the death was suicide, so she can't rely on a pension or insurance for support. George Gently stands by her and tries to help, whist she moves to Rothbury. Meanwhile, Melvin Rattigan (Ralph Brown), a violent, notorious career criminal, is released from Durham Gaol early, after years of planning his revenge upon DCI Gently. Another criminal is found dead, but was he who he appeared to be, a bad bloke named Rivers? Our George made a number of enemies in his relentless pursuit of truth; he unearthed a myriad of police corruption during his career at the Met in London (and beyond). Foes have now cleared Rattigan on the grounds that any evidence against him was falsely concocted by Gently. Another detective is found murdered, D.S. Bill Denmore, turns out he was working undercover. In Durham, an old colleague, Donald McGhee (Kevin Whately, of Lewis) arrives, and soon after, George is accused of money fraud and murder, his world begins to crumble around him as the Fraud Squad entices DS John Bacchus (Lee Ingleby is also great in a dark, menacing turn in The Street) to provide evidence against his boss. A job at the Met is used to entice his ambition, and Bacchus' loyalty is tested to the limit. At least the tea and biscuit proffering DC Taylor (Simon Hubbard) defies the bullying, as does Bachuss' ex-wife Lisa (played with perfect-pitch by Melanie Clark Pullen). Gently is suspended, left in vulnerable position while he must face the past and fight for his reputation and his life. Ironically, one sanctuary is with Rattigan's defense lawyer, Gitta Bronson (the charismatic Diana Quick, also in Case Histories - Series 2), and her delightful, eccentric butler Tim (Philip Fox). Gently must fight for his life against deep-seated corruption in a classic cliff-hanger episode. Martin Shaw as DCI George Gently delivers some of the most masterful acting you'll ever see. Even the cinematography (by Ulf Brantas) is superb, note the scene towards the denouement, with Gently contemplating the crisis before entering Durham Cathedral. Enjoy!

Midsomer Murders Series Fifteen [DVD]
Midsomer Murders Series Fifteen [DVD]
Dvd ~ Jason Hughes
Price: £17.80

11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Midsomer's Treacherous Beauty, 29 May 2013
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
Midsomer is a remarkably deadly place, a deceptively delicious chocolate box filled poisoned confections. Generations of loyal inhabitants risk life and limb to live in Midsomer's bucolic hills and dales. Its coziness has a macabre stain; like a lace doily blotched with tea, darkness lurks at the edges. In Midsomer County's dangerous environs, denizens inflict and suffer numerous creative malaises. DCI John Barnaby, a cousin of our original curmudgeon, is wonderfully played by Neil Dudgeon. And he has a dog companion, the emotive Sykes; England, this blessed plot, rife with delightful dogs and detectives. DCI John Barnaby is as gifted at detection as his cousin Tom. The Barnaby line is rooted in Midsomer's earth, they are dependable in never being surprised by bizarre occurrences. Nothing flummoxes a true Barnaby. Jason Hughes is intrepid as Detective Inspector Ben Jones, his wry humor is the perfect foil. With the exception of the first episode, these stories return to the offbeat, humorous alternative universe that Midsomer fans crave.

The U.K. boasts numerous fine (and often underrated) actors. You may want to catch Neil Dudgeon's unforgettable performance in a superb story (episode 3) in the BAFTA Award winning series The Street, the first season. He plays Brian Peterson, a teacher accused of being a flasher. Ultimately, who is the betrayer? His wife claims she has never known him, perhaps it is the other way around. As Brian Peterson gazes out of a taxi window passing street after fogbound street, you understand that each street is full of stories, each person's life with its moments of mystery. Be aware that The Street is gritty, rough, and harrowing, quite unlike Midsomer!

The Dark Rider
This first episode is fairly preposterous, even by Midsomer's generous standards that encompass a broad width of deviant behavior. Written by Michael Aitkens (who foisted "Death in the Slow Lane" on viewers; an abominable intro to DCI John Barnaby), this is a poor indication of how good the rest of the collection is. Barnaby and Jones investigate a series of untimely deaths are linked to sightings of a headless horseman. The mystery revolves around the gentrified DeQuettevilles, who stage an historic battle re-enactment every year. Just get through it to the subsequent epsidodes. At least we get to see more of Barnaby, his wife (Fiona Dolman), Jones, and last but not least, the emotive Sykes. It gets better after this!

Murder of Innocence
Written by Elizabeth-Anne Wheal, this moody Midsomer inveigles DCI John Barnaby (Neil Dudgeon) and DS Ben Jones (Jason Hughes) with the protection a hated offender, released from jail, to lodge in a dismal cottage. A local barrister dies in suspicious circumstances, whilst past and present collide. The culprit claims to be innocent of the crime he was locked up for in the first place. Barnaby and Jones must delve deeper into previous events to identify the real murderer.

Written in the Stars
Will we ever get a chance to meet Ben Jones' gran? She of the portents and folk-superstitions? Writer Steve Trafford delivers a plot that will keep you guessing! Up on this Moon-mad Midsomer Ridge, a crowd gathers to watch an eclipse, ignorant that a murderer lurks within their midst. An astronomer is bludgeoned by a meteor, and an astrologer claims to predict each subsequent murder. Rivalries and illicit relationships amongst stargazers are unearthed.

Death and the Divas
This is a standout episode, classic Midsomer, wacky and weird; thanks to writers Rachel Cuperman & Sally Griffiths for satisfying loyal Midsomer fans. The Midsomer Langley Film Festival is underway, and it turn out our Barnaby is a fan of the main actress, and of these campy thrillers. Harriet Walter does a fine turn as an obnoxiously successful actor, returning to Midsomer to upstage her sister, the star of the festival and of the early films. During the festivities, a writer is murdered whilst a campy horror classic plays on the telly. The murder is ghoulishly like one that occurred in a cult 1960s horror film. This being Midsomer, further murders ensue, each one reenacting a cult-film classic. Enjoy!

The Sicilian Defense
Who knew that the world of chess could be so fraught with danger? But this is Midsomer, after all, and writer Paul Logue keeps us guessing as to how a young girl wound up in a coma, and whatever happened to her boyfriend? When the girl awakes, murders ensue . . . Midsomer's classic formula features charming villages with a high body-count.

Schooled in Murder
This is a classic, with a brutal murder of a dairy worker involving weaponized cheese, as can only (one would hope) occur in Midsomer, at the famous Midsomer Blue cheese factory. Writer Lisa Holdsworth delivers a great story. Thankfully, we are not inflicted by rubbish school kids, but witness a war between staff and school board, along with the cheese-mystery. Enjoy!

All Cats Have Asperger Syndrome
All Cats Have Asperger Syndrome
by Kathy Hoopmann
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £9.99

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful for Aspies of all Ages!, 29 May 2013
In thirty years of living with an adult Aspie, I can't recommend this delightful, insightful book enough. We have found Hoopman's books more helpful than Asperger themed textbooks. Each photo and caption describes the finer nuances of Asperger Syndrome beautifully; my Aspie-cat-person enjoys reading it too. I find Hoopman's combination of imagery and text tremendously helpful in better understanding particular Asperger behaviors that are part of the wonder of living with a brilliant, sensitive, unique "eccentric" Aspie. Even down to the exceptional hearing, sense of smell, need for predictable meals, bonding with those much older, fascination and curiosity with numerous subjects with an amazing attention to detail. Hoopman's insights have increased my compassion, and encourage Aspies to have more self-acceptance. Also excellent: Inside Asperger's Looking Out. Enjoy!

Midsomer Murders Series Fourteen [DVD]
Midsomer Murders Series Fourteen [DVD]
Dvd ~ Jason Hughes
Price: £13.99

9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Macabre Midsomer, 16 May 2013
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
Midsomer is a remarkably deadly place, a deceptively delicious chocolate box filled poisoned confections. Generations of loyal inhabitants risk life and limb to live in Midsomer's bucolic hills and dales. Thankfully, DCI John Barnaby is as gifted at detection as his cousin Tom. The Barnaby line is rooted in Midsomer's earth, they are dependable in never being surprised by bizarre occurrences. Nothing flummoxes or gobsmacks a true Barnaby. The excellent actor Neil Dudgeon enriches Midsomer with his wry nuance. And Jason Hughes is intrepid as Detective Inspector Ben Jones, his humor adds another level of complexity to the series. Coziness in the U.K. has a macabre stain; like a lace doily blotched with tea, darkness lurks at the edges. In Midsomer County's dangerous environs, denizens inflict and suffer numerous creative malaises.

The U.K. boasts numerous fine (and often underrated) actors. You may want to catch Neil Dudgeon in an unforgettable performance in a superb story (1st season, episode 3) of the BAFTA Award winning series The Street. Neil Dudgeon plays Brian Peterson, a teacher accused of being a flasher. Ultimately, who is the betrayer? His wife claims she has never known him, perhaps it is the other way around. As Brian Peterson gazes out of a taxi window passing street after fogbound street, you understand that each street is full of stories, each person's life with it's moments of mystery. Be aware that The Street is gritty, rough, and harrowing, quite unlike the beguiling charms of Midsomer!

Several episodes in this collection have missteps, no fault of the cast, that may disappoint dedicated fans. The first episode, "Death in the Slow Lane," is a somewhat disorienting introduction to DCI John Barnaby. Producer Brian True-May inflicts shrill drug taking schoolgirls on viewers. Where is screenwriter Tony Horowitz when you need him? Later, the third episode, "Echos of the Dead," panders to graphic CSI style, featuring a dismembered female corpse, with a saw placed on her bare rear-end. This gratuitously lacks the dry humor of Midsomer classics, as in the memorable murder via trebuchet and wine bottles.

Death in the Slow Lane
DCI John Barnaby, a cousin of our original curmudgeon, is wonderfully played by Neil Dudgeon. And he has a dog companion, the emotive Sykes; England, this blessed plot, rife with delightful dogs and detectives. Midsomer's classic formula features charming villages with a high body-count. But this episode, written by Michael Aitkens, despite moments of great dialogue, is off-kilter. The trite titillation of chattering schoolgirls is a malformation of Midsomer, straining to be topical; a poor way to meet new DCI John Barnaby at work! Barnaby's relationship with DI Ben Jones (expertly played by the wry Welsh-humored Jason Hughes) is off to an uneven start. All is not well at a girls' boarding school. Was a past death really suicide? There are hints at some form of incest, a relatively (pun intended) common Midsomer sin. A local DJ is stabbed by a gorgeous red sports car prior to his judging a classic car show. His body being rolled-away on a gurney, weapon wobbling, is classic Midsomer. A humorous aspersion is cast at redheads/ginger, "they are all sex-mad and ill-tempered." The best scenes involve Barnaby being greeted as "Tom," meeting his overly-friendly neighbors, and enjoying delightful conversations with his precocious dog.

Dark Secrets
This episode, again written by Michael Aitkens, again features quaffs of incest on the menu. But "Dark Secrets" boasts the classic Midsomer oeuvre viewers expect, with a rambling old manor amidst gorgeous English countryside The mansion is inhabited by eccentrics, William Bingham (Edward Fox) and his wife Mary (the wonderful Phyllida Law). They rattle about, subsiding on tea and pizza delivery. Our DCI John Barnaby's wife, Sarah (Fiona Dolman), arrives in Midsomer to find that her husband has neglected to unpack. She is the new head teacher at Causton Comprehensive, and receives an unenthusiastic welcome, though she finds a clever way to unpack. Meanwhile, after the body of a social worker is found floating in a river, the reclusive Bingham couple come under police scrutiny. Barnaby and Jones unearth scandalous family secrets, and decipher astronomical charts to discover the murderer. This episode continues a Midsomer theme: a generation went wrong in the 1960/70s, threw off Edwardian sensibilities, and replaced repression with indulgence, to the harm of future generations.

Echoes of the Dead
Despite beauty of Midsomer village Great Worthy, this episode, written by Peter J. Hammond, is like spoiled clotted cream. Producer Brian True-May goes awry with the second murder's exploitative, graphic ugliness; it has none of the macabre humor true to Midsomer's spirit. You know things are off when the dialogue descends to discussing "butt-plugs." Newly single Dianne Price is discovered strangled, dressed like a bride, and laid out in a bath. A lipstick-written warning is scrawled on the bathroom mirror. At first, all seems like vintage Misdomer. The incident spurs copycat wedding-themed murders. Barnaby and Jones investigate a host of suspects, including a corrupt ex-colleague of Ben's, an cop who runs a pub with a former brothel madam, who happens to be his wife. But (yet again) religious fanatics are the worst culprits. The detectives realize that the cases have eerie similarities to past notorious murders. If only they resembled Midsomer's infamous, but charming, macabre heritage.

Thankfully, the following stories return to the offbeat, humorous alternative universe that Midsomer fans crave. Midsomer writers hit their stride, providing an exceptional cast with more worthy material:

Oblong Murders
Sharp dialogue stands out in this episode, written by reliable Midsomer vet David Hoskins. The opening scenes wonderfully depict the world from a dog's eye-view. John Barnaby takes his dog Sykes for a ramble along a path, passing other dogs being walked along the way. Later, forensic medical specialist David Bollard (John Barnaby once called him bullock) asks Barnaby to help find Lucy Oliver, a daughter of his friends. She went missing after becoming involved with a secretive new-age cult, the Oblong Foundation, located at Malham Hall. Long-suffering DI Ben Jones is forced to forgo his vacation to go undercover among the cultists. Finally, viewers see his old humor and charm return (the prior episodes turned him dour). He discovers that the accidental deaths involving the previous owners of Malham Hall may have been murder. Jones copes with several eager females, while navigating the Oblong Foundation's philosophies ("be a tree") promulgating free-love. He discovers money-laundering, and a secret relationship between an Oblong Foundation leader and the missing girl. Fortunately, Ben is intrepid and fast on his feet! And Sykes make some new friends.

The Sleeper Under The Hill
What could be more enticing than pints of bubbly cider with DCI John Barnaby (Neil Dudgeon) and DI Ben Jones (Jason Hughes)? But beware, in Midomer County, even Beltane celebrations are treacherous. Children dance around a Maypole, whilst fat sausages roast under the refreshments tent, and the cider is not all it seems. Midsomer fans know that under the cheery, bucolic surface of Midsomer's green hills and dales, a darkly pagan heart fiercely lurks; this helps explain the untoward death-toll. On Crowcall Farm, Alex Preston wants to plow Gorse Meadow. But local New Dawn Druids desire free access to the Meadow, since it contains the sacred stone Crowcall Circle. In a typically gruesome Midsomer death, Preston is found disemboweled on the central stone of the sacred circle. The farmer's wife is too glamorous, and indulges in a dalliance with her fencing-master. A poacher is accused of malfeasance, whilst lay-lines and archaeological artifacts come into play. Barnaby and Jones must unearth local village gossip and history to solve the mystery.

The Night of The Stag
Watch out! It's another pagan holiday in Midsomer County, where moonshiner investigators have it hard. Why ruin a vat of cider with a corpse? Answer: this is Midsomer, after all! And poor DCI John Barnaby gets quite sick on the unsavoury stuff. His dog Sykes is not impressed. During Beltane celebrations, an investigator of illegally produced alcohol is found dead in cider-vat. Barnaby and Jones believe the whole community is somehow involved. Families go so far back that they call one orchard-owner "French" because his ancestors only came over with William the Conqueror. The unsavory murder may be related to the revival of an old, pagan Midsomer traditions, while guest-star Warren Clarke does a memorable turn in a deer-skull. Beware horns in Midsomer!

Sacred Trust
After a chapel's lovely stained-glass window is broken, a nun is found murdered in Midsomer Priory, a secluded community in a lovely edifice that houses the nuns of the Order of Saint Mathilde. The murder forces the nuns to permit the outside world access into their world; enter our intrepid detectives Barnaby and Jones. They discover that the community is vulnerable to relinquishing ownership, and their priest is no help. The Priory is subject to a Deed of Trust that only allows the Order to remain living there only as long as there is a viable community. If the Order fractures, the ownership reverts to the original benefactor's heirs. Beneath the calm face of the Priory, Barnaby and Jones must untangle a skein of motives, while the Order's ancient silver goes missing, and teenagers run amiss.

A Rare Bird
Beware the power of the tweet. The president of the local Ornithological Society, Patrick Morgan, is a brittle bloke, myopic about birds, distracted by binoculars, and his delicate Russian ballerina of a wife is preggers. Without much assistance from said ornithologist. So he suspects every man in Midsomer-in-the-Marsh of impregnating her. The rare Blue Crested Hoopoe has made a controversial appearance in the village, setting birders against one another. DCI Barnaby annoys his dog, and his wife, with his surprising lack of map-skills in the woods. Death looms like a loon-call on a lake, and Patrick is lured to his demise. Barnaby and Jones face frustrations whilst investigating Midsomer-in-the-Marsh's binocular-weaponed world of bird watching.

Each episode is 90 minutes long, and has subtitles for those with trouble hearing the telly. Special Features: Cast Filmographies, Picture Gallery, Writer Biography, Broadcast Dates.

I also highly recommend the gritty Northumberland, U.K., mystery series, featuring the wonderful Brenda Blethyn: Vera: Series 1-2 .
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jun 21, 2013 9:16 PM BST

Crawfords Garibaldi Biscuits 100 g (Pack of 12)
Crawfords Garibaldi Biscuits 100 g (Pack of 12)
Offered by Top Brand Discounts 4 u
Price: £13.13

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Delicious Bite of England, 16 May 2013
Now I know why DCI Gene Hunt (Philip Glenister) of Life on Mars loves these crispy biscuits! Garibaldis aren't too sweet, the flavour is old-fashioned in an appealing, gentle way. Between thin, golden biscuits, currants are squashed in a paste; some say this resembles an Eccles cake. Another biscuit brand, McVitie's, claims that 52 digestive biscuits per second are consumed in the U.K. per day. This robust figure doesn't even include Garibaldis! Upon informal occasions, they may be dunked in tea. Enjoy!

Each slim 100g packet of "Golden crispy biscuits filled with currants" contains 2 layers of thin biscuits, divided into five sections. Ingredients include: Currants (40%), Wheat Flour, Vegetable Oil [not hydrogenated Palm Kernel, thankfully], Sugar, Dried Skimmed Milk, and Baking Soda.

Dean Spanley [DVD]
Dean Spanley [DVD]
Dvd ~ Jeremy Northam
Price: £2.74

5.0 out of 5 stars Dog Backwards, 14 May 2013
This review is from: Dean Spanley [DVD] (DVD)
A remarkable treasure for dog-lovers, whimsical dreamers, and philosophers alike. Perhaps even the odd cat fancier could appreciate its charms; animosity between cats and dogs is humorously depicted. I don't understand why this beautifully filmed, surprisingly profound story isn't more widely known, a gem bought to life via a collaboration of British and New Zealander talents. It's directed by New Zealander Toa Fraser, and boasts a superb script by British writer Alan Sharp, with his adaptation of Irish author Lord Dunsany's "My Talks with Dean Spanley."

Sam Neill is superb as the Dean, with his finely nuanced performance as a respectable Edwardian English cleric who remarkably can recall his past life when plied with ample quantities of golden Hungarian Tokay wine. I enjoy first-person narratives, and Jeremy Northam is superb as Henslowe Fisk. His curmudgeon father (the inimitable Peter O'Toole), Fisk Senior, brusquely calls him Fisk Junior on his son's regular Thursday visits. Father and son suffer from prolonged grief from the loss of Henslowe's younger brother Harrington (Xavier Horan), who was killed in the 2nd Anglo-Boer War. His mother was felled by this loss, dying shortly after, and Fisk Junior blames his father for his mother's premature death. She had no one to turn to in her husband; his feelings are closed.

In an attempt to entertain the brittle and caustic Old Man, Fisk Junior wheels him out one autumn afternoon, while leaves blow like memories across sidewalks, to a lecture by swami (Art Malik). The subject is the transmigration of souls, or reincarnation. Talks of this type and the occult fascinated the British public after waves of war and loss. The lecture is attended by local clergyman, Dean Spanley (Sam Neill). The swami seems to pull thoughts out of the heads of his audience, especially old Fisk Senior and Dean Spanley, much to the umbrage of two ladies who love cats. Later, at their Gentleman's Club, Fisk Junior speaks with Dean Spanley, and something the Dean says about the complexity of spiritual reality prompts Fisk Junior to want to further his acquaintance. The Dean has a pronounced fondness for Tokay, so as his bargaining tool, Fisk turns to Wrather (Bryan Brown), another gentleman at the lecture, who is a "procure," to acquire this rare delight.

And then the story takes off, wandering to paths both wondrous and mysterious. Judy Parfitt, as house keeper Mrs. Brimley, is also wonderful. O'Toole masterfully depicts the slow crumbling of cold Fisk's brittle, cold persona in the face of the numinous. It's hard to describe how moving these scenes are, set around a crackling fire in an Edwardian town-home, and then moving to the trampings of dogs. All the listeners are entranced, as the rich memories unfold. Even Wrather discovers something about himself. A breakthrough not unlike Scrooge's caused an immense change in Fisk Senior, and for the first time, love and understanding draw father and son together, when the wound of grief is finally opened to comfort. This is a story that pleases the imagination, and is surprisingly meaningful, whatever the truth of dogs, life, death, and beyond. Enjoy!

Though set in another time-period altogether, for those of you willing to on a wild, uncanny ride into rough 1970s-era England, I also highly recommend: Life on Mars.

Call the Midwife - Series 1 [DVD]
Call the Midwife - Series 1 [DVD]
Dvd ~ Jessica Raine
Offered by The Happy Zombie
Price: £3.40

5.0 out of 5 stars Real Worth, Beautifully Written, 14 May 2013
This exquisitely written series makes me want to read the memoirs by the late Jennifer Worth, who landed as a newly qualified nurse/midwife at the charitable Nonnatus House, amidst the poverty and disease of 1950s East End London. Her life had already been disrupted by WWII and an intense affair when she was only 16. Worth's luminous observations on the human condition, our quest for meaning in the darkest despair, her pointing out what really matters, are strewn with keen compassion and intelligence. Her narrative shines amidst. The superb script is beautifully written by Heidi Thomas. Jessica Raine is perfection as the naïve, tormented young Worth, and the whole cast is marvelous, from Judy Parfitt (Dean Spanley, Vera) as the light-fingered nun, Sister Monica Joan, to the gifted Miranda Hart as the plain, upper-crust yet down to earth Chummy Browne. Chummy is dominated by a cruel mother, yet she overcomes her limitations and discovers love. Among other fine cast members, Jenny Agutter is Sister Julienne, Helen George is Trixie Franklin, Pam Ferris is the cake-loving Sister Evangelina, and Bryony Hannah is perfection as Cynthia Miller. Cynthia is moved by the tragedy of a deeply loving couple expecting their first-born, when the wife suffers from eclampsia. This show isn't for the faint-hearted, blood and birth are vividly depicted, as is the poverty and grime. But this grittiness only adds depth to the subject matter. Highly recommended.

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