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Valerie J. (West Yorks, UK)

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Price: £2.22

4.0 out of 5 stars Old-fashioned romance - sweet and amusing, 11 May 2015
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I bought this book because I had seen the (1991)movie Enchanted April [DVD]which is based on this book. The book has an old-fashioned style about it, romantic without the sex, amusing relationship complications. Four unhappy ladies from different backgrounds rent a castle in Italy and it transforms them in the way they behave and the way they think. It opens them up to a whole new, beautiful, world. The story is funny without being farcical.

I foolishly paid for my version of Kindle which has images but really it wasn't worth paying the extra money. There are plenty of typos which don't spoil the story but when you are paying for a book that is so much cheaper without images, and is actually FREE on the Project Gutenberg website (many older books are available for free on that website), you don't expect to find quite so many typographical errors. By the way, Gutenberg books can be downloaded onto Kindle ebooks.

For the story itself, it's a pleasant, inoffensive read and a refreshing change from modern-day literature.

VJ - Movies and Books World

Marvellous (BBC) [DVD]
Marvellous (BBC) [DVD]
Dvd ~ Toby Jones
Price: £6.50

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Just Marvellous - based on real life, 29 April 2015
This review is from: Marvellous (BBC) [DVD] (DVD)
When Neal Baldwin (Toby Jones) asks for help, he's already decided the answer before a reply is given. Nor does he wait to be invited to do the things he does. He's happy to tell people about his friends, including the Archbishop of Canterbury, and that he works at the Keele University. He's a little out of the ordinary, one might say, with far from ordinary friends. An ex circus clown who lives with his mother (Gemma Jones) Baldwin readily admits that 'his face didn't fit' when he's telling Stoke City manager, Lou Macari (Tony Curran) the reason he's no longer part of a circus. Macari generously gives him a job as the 'kit man' and never looks back.

I was unsure whether or not I was going to enjoy Marvellous (2014) for the first couple of minutes, then the movie grabbed me. Neal Baldwin is for real and Toby Jones did a wonderful job of portraying the older man. We see the real Neal right at the very beginning of Marvellous when he states 'this is my story' and Toby Jones, sitting next to him, says 'right!

It's an inspirational story about a man who, despite the obstacle of learning difficulties, seems to find no obstacle in using his persuasive powers on others. There are some absolutely hilarious scenes which sometimes defy belief but this is based on real life and Neal Baldwin is about as real as you can get. It says it all when Keele University says this about him:-

"[Neal Baldwin] serves the students offering advice and support to students, remaining steadfastly proud and loyal to Keele. In doing so, he has openly defended Keele and voiced his concerns about any issue that has or would affect Keele to his numerous contacts within parliament, the various leaders of Christian denomination churches,volunteer organisations and business leaders across the country, of whom he regularly visits."

VJ - Movies and Books World

What We Do In The Shadows [DVD]
What We Do In The Shadows [DVD]
Dvd ~ Jemaine Clement
Price: £7.00

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Has good and bad points, 29 April 2015
Four flatmates are having a documentary made about them: what they do in the shadows. Viago (Taika Waititi) is a sensitive kind of vampire. One might say, a bit camp. When he was human he was considered a bit of a dandy and has a tendency to be rather fussy. It's frustrating that he cannot see himself in the mirror, and he's certainly not happy that Deacon (Jonathan Brugh) has not done the 'bloody' washing up for 5 years even though it's his turn on the rota. Vladislav (Jemaine Clement), a bit of a ladies' man and self-confessed former torturer, agrees. Deacon should clean up. Petyr (Ben Fransham), the oldest by far at 8,000 years old, has nothing to say, full stop. He lives in the cellar and only seems to socialise when he goes out for a bite. Their strange lives become even stranger when another newly-made vampire called Nick (Cori Gonzalez-Macuer) goes around broadcasting that he is a vampire. They much prefer his human friend, Stu (Stuart Rutherford).

What We Do in the Shadows (2014), a New Zealand movie, is certainly a different slant on the vampire theme. It's received mixed reviews but came out with a pretty high rating on IMDB. The idea of a bunch of blood-sucking flatmates getting along, mostly, and facing the challenges of mundane and not-so-mundane every-night existence is a fun idea and I have to say that the characters and the actors who play them are just great. Viago is cute; Vladislav is sexy; Deacon is a rebel, and Petyr would best remain in his concrete cupboard!

However, even though the documentary format works, the script and storyline needed a bit more work. More depth. At times it felt like one long joke being stretched out. It wasn't enough to keep showing spouting blood, bitching about housework and so on. It wouldn't work for a documentary about humans and it didn't work for a documentary about vampires. It needed more. All the same, even though there were dull moments, there were also moments that made my sides hurt with laughter.

There isn't anything to rave about regarding special effects, the bats, the blood, the flying bats, etc and that works too. The spurting jugular scenes are more absurd than horrific and would fit well into a Tarantino movie. When Viago emerges from his coffin in an early scene, stiff as a board, there was no grace involved. The only vampire that looks frightening is Petyr who is a kind of Nosferatu.

There is some strong language and many a gory scene, which has earned What We Do in the Shadows (2014) a Certificate of 15. There is also some adult humour too which is generally subtle and funnier for it.

I was torn as to what rating to give it because when it's good, it's very, very, good, and when it's not, well, it isn't. So I've gone down the middle with a rating of 3 out of 5
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: May 20, 2015 10:53 PM BST

Roald Dahl's Esio Trot [DVD] [2014]
Roald Dahl's Esio Trot [DVD] [2014]
Dvd ~ Dustin Hoffman
Price: £7.00

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Hoppy making Happy, 25 April 2015
Shy and reclusive Mr Hoppy (Dustin Hoffman) is madly in love with the gentile Mrs Silver (Judi Dench) and has been since she moved into the apartment one floor below his, but she only has eyes for Alfie, her pet tortoise. As he looks down upon her from his verdant balcony, he yearns for the affection that she belows upon the tiny creature; if only Alfie would grow bigger. Mrs Silver believes that size matters. Mr Hoppy, a man of limited stature himself, devises a rather silly plan to make the rather gullible Mrs Silver happy and, with luck, maybe they will one day become more than neighbours who chat politely from their balconies, or meet only in the lift. That is, if the obnoxious and insensitive Mr Pringle (Richard Corderey), who lives in the apartment next to Mr Hoppy, doesn't get in the way.

Roald Dahl's Esio Trot (2015) was shown for the first time on UK television as a New Year treat. And what a treat. Veteran actors, Dame Judi Dench and Dustin Hoffman wove their magic over tortoises and plants, and I became so spellbound with the wonderful, romantic, aesthetically beautiful, story that the 88 minutes flew by. For me it was almost perfect.

I say almost because it lost points due to a narration that might have been necessary to the weaving of the tale but jarred me out of enchantment and threw me into reality. I don't blame the narrator, James Corden, for this, I blame those who made the casting decisions although they were spot on with Dench and Hoffman. The movie needed someone, perhaps more mature, who seemed more empathetic and in tune with the plight of two lonely old people. There was enough apathy in Esio Trot with the rather pompous and over-bearing Mr Pringle.

Quote: Mr Hoppy to Alfie:

"However many years we live, and you're a tortoise so you're in for a lot of them, there's probably only ten moments that really matter. Ten key moments that seal your fate. Where we get the chance to change our lives. Get the job we always dreamed of. Get the perfect girl. Well, I've had my share of those moments and I've blown every single one of them."
(c) BBC

Emily Ralph, who plays a little girl, the daughter of the narrator, is a scene stealer. She, the little girl, certainly has a very precocious appreciation of life - and death." (c) BBC

There is very occasional use of moderate swear words.

VJ - Movies and Books World

The Pyramid [DVD]
The Pyramid [DVD]
Dvd ~ Ashley Hinshaw
Price: £7.00

3.0 out of 5 stars A Mixed Bag of good and bad, 25 April 2015
This review is from: The Pyramid [DVD] (DVD)
Nora Holden (Ashley Hinshaw) and her father, Miles (Denise O'Hare), are archaeologists and they have made an amazing discovery in Egypt: a three-sided pyramid buried under the sands of time! While civilian unrest breaks out on the streets of Cairo, the archaeologists, a robotics scientist (Amir K), and a couple of journalists, Fitzie and Sunnie (James Buckley and Christa Nicola) are unearthing the pyramid and making a documentary about the discovery. A few metres from the Apex, they discover an entrance. When an Egyptian soldiers arrives, telling them that they must leave and get on the next plane out of Egypt, Nora persuades her father to take a quick look inside before they leave. All five go inside together. Getting in is easy, getting out is another matter.

What lets down The Pyramid (2014) are frequent scenes of wooden acting and delivery of lines as well as a script which could have been better at times: (about 5 minutes into the movie) 'Pyramids don't normally have Apexes at the entrance' said Miles Holden. Shouldn't that have been: 'Pyramids don't normally have entrances at the Apex?' I'm just asking... There's lots of shaky camera work too and, when it gets to one of the later scenes, the filming is so dark that I could only hear what was going on but couldn't see. That was really annoying.

It's hard for me to know whether the direction could have extracted a better performance out of the stars - after all, Denis O'Hare is a well known actor who has been in numerous major movies - but after a seriously poor start, it does pick up after about the first 35 minutes when an accident doth happen! Don't supposedly intelligent scientists know about the Law of Leverage?

Anyhow, after 35 minutes it is all rather reminiscent of The Descent 2005, though hardly in the same league. I admit I did jump at one point (reminiscent of Alien 1979) and it is rather creepy, with a deliciously sick ending. Stick with it. You might have fun.

VJ - Movies and Books World

Song One [Blu-ray] [US Import]
Song One [Blu-ray] [US Import]
Price: £10.35

2.0 out of 5 stars One Song gone wrong, 25 April 2015
Franny (Anne Hathaway) is studying for her PhD in Anthropology abroad when her mother (Mary Steenburgen) rings with news that her musician brother, Henry (Ben Rosenfield), is in a coma in hospital. Feeling guilty after an argument with Henry and not speaking to him for six months, Franny is torn apart. Using his private diary as a guide, she frequents the frequently favoured haunts of her brother and in the process cultivates a friendship with musician James Forester, of whom Henry is a fan.

Song One (2014), a musical of sorts, is a one note song. The beginning was very low key, showing Henry busking in a subway, and then the storyline proceeds to, well, not a lot else really. There was an amusing (kinda) side to this comatose inspiring story where the mother is saying how she could only do her best raising her son, warning him of dangers, while sucking on a ciggie before lighting yet another. Franny, back from living abroad, stays in Henry's room while he is helpless in hospital. What else could she do in a situation like that than to go ransacking through all his private stuff and read his diary?

Song One could have been a magical romance between Franny and James Forester but it never takes off. Apart from doing the horizontal lambada with her, he doesn't seem to show any other kind of animated interest in her and if he secretly considered Franny boring, what about the man himself? For some reason Johnny Flynn mostly spoke his lines nervously as if he were saying his last words before being shot at dawn. Why? It did nothing to improve the movie.

Anne Hathaway's performance is ok, but that's all. The same applies to Mary Steenburgen whose character seems to spend half her time smoking and the rest drunk.

The soundtracks not bad and I should note that Johnny Flynn is not only an actor but a composer/musician. If he wasn't miming, then he's gifted. His songs and voice were sweet whereas Henry should do what Franny said and go back to college and study something else.

Extraterrestrial [DVD]
Extraterrestrial [DVD]
Dvd ~ Brittany Allen
Price: £2.00

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Has its moments, 25 April 2015
This review is from: Extraterrestrial [DVD] (DVD)
April (Brittany Allen) and her boyfriend, Kyle (Freddie Stroma) are off to April's parent's cabin in the woods. It should be a good time, just the two of them, except that Kyle has invited his obnoxious friend, Seth (Jesse Moss) along, together with his girlfriend, Lex (Anja Savcic) and another friend, Melanie (Melanie Papalia). Oh, and a dog. They don't realise that the area they are about to visit has an increase in mindless crime with animals being cruelly butchered, not to mention a girl disappearing into who knows where. Sheriff Murphy (Gil Bellows) is trying to get a handle on what is going on and it is natural enough that he doesn't think for a moment that the slaughter is the work of aliens.

Extraterrestrial (2014) isn't perfect as far as Sci-Fi movies go but it's still entertaining to a degree. It fluctuates in quality in that some of it is downright awful (I was hoping foul-mouthed super-moron Seth would get killed off good and early) and other parts are quite good. The visual effects aren't bad at all. E.T. isn't quite so benign in this one but won't give you the shivers like Ridley Scott's Alien could. The U.S. Government is involved, so that makes it extra worrisome.

There are scenes that resemble other alien movies but that doesn't spoil the fun even though other reviewers have griped about it. What spoils the fun is that the soundtrack, which at times is great, is positively absurd at others. There's a scene close to the end where I thought the two characters had slipped into the Twilight Zone, or La La land. I think we were supposed to be lulled along with it. The twee visual side of it was bad enough without the silly choice of soundtrack. Anyway, although Extraterrestrial will never be in my favourite alien movie list, it was very much ok, even good at times, and passed a pleasant enough 100 minutes.

I was glad to see Gil Bellows and Michael Ironside (as a once 'Nam veteran turned paranoid whacko) adding a bit of their acting expertise to Extraterrestrial. However, the only character I really cared about was the dog.

VJ - Movies and Books World

The Signal [DVD]
The Signal [DVD]
Dvd ~ Laurence Fishburne
Price: £8.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Sci-Fi - A bit different, 25 April 2015
This review is from: The Signal [DVD] (DVD)
Nic (Brenton Thwaites) has a serious condition that is impairing his ability to walk, and it's only going to get worse. Naturally, he's not happy about this. Nor is he happy that his girlfriend, Haley (Olivia Cooke) is leaving him for a whole year and moving to California. He thinks she's dumping him. Friend of both, Jonah (Beau Knapp), joins Nic and Haley on the road to her destination but her leaving isn't the only reason for the young men's road trip. Someone called Nomad has hacked into their university's, Massachusett's Institute of Technogy, server and, during a computer 'cat and mouse' exchange of messages, they've discovered where Nomad is located. They suspect it might be some super-smart kid and they are out to confront him. When they arrive at a decaying shack in Nevada woods, neither Nic nor Jonah feel worried enough not to get out of the car and investigate the property, leaving Haley alone. They should have been. They had every right to be worried. Suddenly they are in a whole new world.

The Signal (2014) was a pleasant surprise and a bit--no, a lot--different to SciFi's that I can recall seeing before. Although much of the science (fact or fiction) was either beyond my comprehension or implausible, it didn't spoil the movie. For sure there were impossibilities regarding the science but, after all, it's only a movie.

It's difficult to say much about it all without writing spoilers but there was enough of a mystery about the storyline to keep me hooked and guessing, and a good enough cast (including Laurence Fishburne) and script to keep my attention and make me appreciate it for the fine science fiction movie it really is. Sadly, I guessed what was to be revealed right at the very end, quite early on. Even so, it's not glaringly obvious and should come as an absolute surprise to many who haven't seen quite as many sci-fi's as I have. There were certainly plenty of surprises despite that.

There's some clever visual effects to entertain and although The Signal could have been better with a little more action and a little less dialogue, it's certainly one to watch.

VJ - Movies and Books World

John Wick [DVD] [2015]
John Wick [DVD] [2015]
Dvd ~ Keanu Reeves
Price: £12.25

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars All-action lovers with love this, 22 April 2015
This review is from: John Wick [DVD] [2015] (DVD)
John Wick (Keanu Reeves) former hitman who packed in his day and night job and settled down to marital bliss, is now a lonely widower. Recently bereaved, all he has is his fancy car and a cute present from his wife. Then some Russian son-of-a-gangster, Iosef Tarasov (Alfie 'Game of Thrones' Allen), decides he wants the car and suddenly poor Johnny is left with nothing at all to love. All he can do is take revenge and Iosef's daddy, Viggo Tarasov (Michael Nyqvist) cannot allow that.

John Wick (2014) is possibly the perfect movie for those who love action-a-plenty and aren't too worried about what else might go with it. Keanu Reeves was at his acting best and I was so looking forward to seeing the movie, after seeing the trailer which shows the best part of it, only to be disappointed. The beginning was so great, and the end was so great, and the stuff in between was, well, pure action and lots of it with not-so-great dialogue. As I say, if you love action you will love this but I prefer a lot more drama in my movies, but that's just me. Had to laugh though: John was said to have killed three men in a bar with a pencil. Wow. He must have had some lead in it because he didn't seem quite so adept in one-on-one combat, except when he had about thirty gangsters baying for his blood. Good job they only came at him one at a time (in real life they'd have come at him all at once and sorted him out). One guy fell down and John hadn't touched him. Neat! Whenever I see fight scenes such as this, I think of the superbly choreographed fight scenes in the Bourne movies (like the scene in the bathroom) with Matt Damon's character showing us how it's done - now that's action and then some.

I liked the way the movie had been put together though, with all too brief quiet periods, like the dark, cool, guy behind the hotel reception (Lance Reddick). Those scenes reminded me, for some reason, of The Shining (1980) and Scatman Crothers. I was waiting for blood to pour out of the lift. At times the movie seemed quite classy although I thought the killer female, pouty-mouthed Ms Perkins (Adrianne Palicki), lacked credibility and did much to ruin what could have been a superb movie if only less-is-more had been taken into consideration. Michael Nyqvist was credible though, and so was Willem Dafoe as another hitman, and Ian McShane as a shady guy called Charon (of all things) but my acting vote goes to John Leguizamo who, for me, stole the show in his very brief, but very cool, role. More Leguizamo please.

Still Alice
Still Alice
by Lisa Genova
Edition: Paperback
Price: £3.85

4.0 out of 5 stars A lesson to be learned, 22 April 2015
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Still Alice (Paperback)
Scientist John Howland toasts his wife, Alice, on her 50th birthday as being the most beautiful and intelligent woman he has ever known. An academic and respected lecturer in linguistics, Dr Alice Howland is happily dining out with her husband, two daughters, and her son. Everything seems right with the world, but it isn't. Shortly afterwards, Alice becomes all too aware of increasing memory lapses and confusion. Medical investigation confirms that she has Early-onset Alzheimer's disease which is, in her case, genetically passed on and progressing rapidly. In no time at all she loses the ability to continue her work and cope with every day life.

Although the movie, Still Alice (2014) is very emotive, Lisa Genova's book drags you down into the bottomless depths of Alice's despair as her memory fails her. She loses the ability to articulate, to remember who people are, what she did yesterday, what she did five minutes ago. She is, however, aware of how colleagues, who she once considered family, react differently to the new Alice, as if the disease were contagious. She despairs at the thought of forgetting the man, John, who she loves so much, and of forgetting her children, and all the things she learned on the road to be coming a well-respected Professor at Harvard.

Reading the book, it was almost as if I was reading about someone with Locked-in Syndrome as the disease progresses. Alice's frustration was almost palpable. Although Lisa Genova writes in third person omniscient she uses a clever device of repeating sentences voiced by Alice, and repeating the thoughts of Alice. In that way, we, the readers, feel a strong understanding of, and empathy towards, Alice's predicament.

There is little, if any, humour in this well-written book but it does act as a window to a deeper understanding of what Alzheimer's Disease victims go through. I'd recommend it as reading for those who live with victims of Alzheimer's although I don't think I, personally, would want to read it if I were faced with going through it myself. I don't know. I hope I never have to decide. On the one hand, the horror of it would be too much. On the other hand, knowing what is going to happen might give one the chance of some kind of preparation, perhaps. It's a rock and a hard place.

The only negative thing I might say about this excellent book is that there is a fair amount of scientific, technical detail which perhaps is necessary but which slowed down the reading somewhat.

As I say, there is little or no humour in this but the insight makes it worth reading.

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