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Legal Vampire (Buckinghamshire, England)

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Leon: Director's Cut [DVD] [1994]
Leon: Director's Cut [DVD] [1994]
Dvd ~ Gary Oldman
Offered by DVD Overstocks
Price: £9.87

5.0 out of 5 stars I doubt Director Luc Besson or actress Natalie Portman will ever make a better film than this, 19 Sept. 2017
I doubt that either the director & script writer Luc Besson or the actress Natalie Portman, here in her first screen role aged 12, will ever make a better film than this.

‘Leon’ (as it is known in Britain; ‘The Professional’ in the USA and ‘Léon’ in France) I saw more than 20 years ago and loved it. Seeing it again recently, I am pleased to find it is just as good and has lost none of its impact.

The first few scenes seem almost to be trying to win a prize for the maximum number of people shot in the opening minutes. However, if you get past that, the core of the film is about the relationship between Leon, an illiterate immigrant in New York City, and a 12 year old orphan Mathilda, whom he informally adopts. When Mathilda finds out what Leon does for a living she thinks it is cool and insists that is what she is going to do too. Despite his reluctance, as he does not think of it as a job for little girls, Mathilda persuades Leon to train her in it. The complication is that he is a professional hitman.

Leon himself is played by Jean Reno, recreating a similar paid assassin role he played in the same Directors earlier French language film ‘La Femme Nikita’ (This film Leon is in English).

The film builds to a spectacular confrontation with corrupt drug-dealing policemen led by a half-mad, classical music-loving, ruthless villain played by Gary Oldman, who has a particular talent for playing villains.

The film ‘Leon’ has style, originality, interesting characters and drama, but is not too bothered about strict realism.

This release includes a couple of scenes, cut from an earlier version, suggesting what Mathilda believes is her early sexual awakening. It also has some interesting documentary features including details about, and interviews 10 years on with, Luc Besson, Jean Reno, Natalie Portman and others involved in making the film.

I found particularly interesting the details about the making of the charter of Mathilda. Besson was determined not to do what many films and TV series do and cast someone several years older to play a 12 year old. However, he struggled to find an actress that young who could not only play the role but whose parents would allow her to appear in a film like this. Besson did not want someone old enough to “know sex”, but someone on the cusp of adolescence who “does not know sex but thinks she knows sex”.

Natalie Portman after reading the script even at that age had both the judgment and the determination to insist, rather as her character Mathilda would probably have done, against her parents’ strong doubts, that she had to play the role. Thank goodness she did. The costume designer also deserves credit for giving her character a distinctive but appropriate look.

Pretty Little Liars S7 [DVD] [2017]
Pretty Little Liars S7 [DVD] [2017]
Dvd ~ Troian Bellisario
Price: £14.99

5.0 out of 5 stars So, here it is, goodbye forever to Alison, Aria, Emily, Hannah and Spencer, 12 Sept. 2017
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So, here it is, the seventh and final Season. Then, whatever else these mostly young actresses and actors may achieve in the future, it is, sadly, goodbye forever to their screen characters of Alison, Aria, Emily, Hannah and Spencer and their families, also to Toby, Ezra Fitz, Caleb etc.

Devised originally as a series of books aimed at adolescent girls, supposed to be a kind of junior ‘Desperate Housewives’, Pretty Little Liars somehow ended up one of the best television series ever, that can be appreciated by people of most ages and both sexes.

This Season, amongst other developments too numerous to mention, Alison gives birth to Emily’s twins, the girls accidentally behead someone, their new foe ‘AD’ devises yet new and ingenious ways to torment them; and by the very end our heroines are all are married or engaged.

Generally, this Season is as good as ever, but it also felt right to end it now.

It would also have been nice if the third from last scene, with the five girls together and at last free and happy, could have been the very end. However, I can understand why the short two final scenes, which do not feature any of the 5 heroines, were included, to suggest that the same kind of story will continue for other people.

It would also have been nice to see:

-More of Holly Marie Coombs as Ella Montgomery (Aria’s mother) this Season as I particularly liked her in previous Seasons

-A little more acknowledgment for the author Sara Shepherd who created the characters and original story, although she did have a couple of cameo roles in previous Seasons and was interviewed in the ‘extras’ for Season 1. [Another series of books Sara Shepherd wrote ‘The Lying Game’ was apparently also televised (with Charisma Carpenter of Buffy the Vampire Slayer fame in a supporting role) but the series is unfortunately unavailable from Amazon UK.]

-Some way just once to include the full version of the ‘Secrets’ song by The Pearces, part of which has been the theme song played near the beginning of every episode.

The final episode contains some good things but sometimes stretches credibility beyond breaking point. A plot that depends on two characters in the series both having a long-lost identical twin and a whole house, garden and convincing imitation sky constructed underground are among the several things harder than usual to believe in. I am also not 100% convinced by one actress’s attempt at a working class English accent in the last episode, unless that is just because after 7 years of seeing her play an upper middle class American that I now find it hard to accept her as anything else.

However, strict realism and plausibility have never been the most important things in ‘PLL’. It must be impossible to make a programme that runs for 161 episodes over 7 years completely flawlessly.

‘Pretty Little Liars’ remains to the end clever, dramatic, well-acted, well-dressed, enthralling and unlike any other series I have ever seen. While I shall miss it, I am glad that they were able to end it while it was still going strong.

When this series began many of the cast were too young to have appeared in many other screen roles, and for the last 7 years Pretty Little Liars must have taken up so much of their time they have had limited opportunity to appear in anything else.

What other roles we may see them playing in future mostly remains to be seen, but I wish them success, along with everyone else involved in making this programme.

Jackie [DVD]
Jackie [DVD]
Dvd ~ Natalie Portman
Offered by LOVE DVDS
Price: £6.79

3.0 out of 5 stars What this film does, it does well, but its scope is limited, 12 Sept. 2017
This review is from: Jackie [DVD] (DVD)
This ‘fiction based on fact’ film is about a few days, only, in the life of Jackie Kennedy, wife of assassinated American President John (or ‘Jack’) Kennedy.

The talented actress Natalie Portman gives a skilled and convincing performance, enhanced by the work of costume and make up people, in the title role. There is generally good support from other members of the cast like Peter Sarsgaard as Robert Kennedy and Billy Crudup (odd last name!) as a journalist. A lot of work went into creating accurate sets to stand in for the White House interior as it was in Jackie’s day, built in France using some of the same suppliers from whom Jackie had ordered furnishings and wallpapers.

Even so, I can only give the film 3 stars overall.

It covers, mainly from Jackie Kennedy’s point of view, a few days in 1963 beginning with when her husband the President was shot dead beside her while they were processing through Dallas, Texas in a motorcade.

We see the Vice President Lyndon Johnson hurriedly sworn in as John Kennedy’s successor in Jackie’s presence, while her clothes are still stained with the murdered President’s blood.

Jackie Kennedy has to explain to their young children that their father cannot be with them anymore because ‘a bad man’ has shot him and he is now in Heaven.

Despite her own shock and grief she has to consider arrangements for the President’s funeral and burial, including whether security will let her walk through the centre of Washington behind her husband’s coffin, since they do not yet know if her husband’s assassin Oswald acted alone or whether others are waiting to strike. Jackie then has to pack her things and leave the White House as the new President Johnson and his wife move in. She sees them already discussing how they are going to change the decor that Jackie had spent the past two and a half years redesigning.

That is about it, except that the main story is intercut with scenes from an interview with a journalist, to whom Jackie Kennedy confides some things but makes it clear that she is also protecting her own and her late husband’s public images and privacy. He is only allowed to print a partial version of the truth. She is evidently still thinking as an image-conscious politician’s wife.

There is a fairly short but quite interesting ‘Special Feature’ about the making of the film, including short interviews with the director and main members of the cast, in which the lead actress Natalie Portman both looks and sounds very different as herself rather than when playing Jackie Kennedy.

What this film does, it generally does well. However, its scope is quite limited. Anyone expecting a portrayal of Jackie Kennedy’s life may be disappointed that the vast majority is left out entirely. One would not know for example that she later remarried, to a Greek shipping magnate, and became Jackie Onassis.

There is almost nothing about why Lee Harvey Oswald chose to murder John Kennedy or how he was able to succeed, nor, though the President’s younger brother Robert Kennedy plays a prominent role in the aftermath of the assassination, is there any hint that Robert Kennedy would also be assassinated a few years later.

Perhaps most importantly, we see almost nothing of what John Kennedy, Jackie’s life with him or his Presidency were like. Consequently, although the whole film is about how Jackie, her country and the world are grieving for having lost something, the impact is lessened by the fact that we do not really know from this film what it is that they have lost.

Atomic Blonde 
(DVD + digital download) [2017]
Atomic Blonde (DVD + digital download) [2017]
Price: £9.99

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Charlize Theron in a cross between James Bond and John Le Carré, 30 Aug. 2017
While of course there are many other people involved, ‘Atomic Blonde’, is essentially Charlize Theon’s film. Her production company Denver and Delilah Productions took a lead role in making it, she plays the title role and is also credited as a Producer.

Charlize T has appeared in everything from low budget, serious, intellectual films to, as here, bigger budget action films with no pretention to be more than just entertainment. However, no matter what kind of film I have seen her in, she always puts a lot into it.

In ‘Atomic Blonde’ she plays ‘Lorraine Broughton’ a sort of female James Bond on a dangerous secret service mission in Berlin just before the end of the Cold War, in a Le Carré-like world with Western and Communist Bloc intelligence networks each trying to infiltrate each other. No one can trust anyone else and violent death may be just around the corner.

‘Atomic Blonde’ will play better on big screens than smaller ones and is stronger on style than substance, but style it certainly has. It can be confusing as to who is betraying whom at any one time, but following that is not the most important thing in a film like this.

Although aged in her early forties, Charlize T really throws herself into the many action sequences, including martial arts combat, gun fights and car chases, some of which must have been dangerous as well as hard work to film; she does many of her own stunts. According to Wikipedia she had no less than 8 trainers to help her prepare and needed surgery for an injury to her teeth in training.

Having worked hard to lose her original South African accent (she grew up speaking Afrikaans) to sound American so as to have a Hollywood career, in previous films Ms Theron avoided doing any other kind of accent. Unusually, in ‘Atomic Blonde’, she has a quite posh English voice, and speaks short snatches of German and Russian. I occasionally thought her English accent just slightly not right, but that could be because I am so used to hearing her sound American that it feels wrong for her to sound English.

As personal taste that not everyone will share, I still prefer some of Charlize Theron’s other films, including the more ‘serious’ (for want of a better word for it) films like Monster, or even her early crime comedy ‘2 Days in the Valley’, than as she is here in ‘Atomic Blonde’ as a cross between James Bond and a John Le Carré story. On the other hand, again just as personal taste, I prefer this film to James Bond or John Le Carré.

If Amazon allowed I would give this between 3 and 4 stars overall, with Charlize getting 4stars for acting 6 stars for effort; but as Amazon do not allow that, a strong 3 stars for the film is closest.

Valerian and the City of A Thousand Planets [DVD] [2017]
Valerian and the City of A Thousand Planets [DVD] [2017]
Dvd ~ Cara Delevingne
Price: £9.99

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Enjoyable, if long, film - a bit like Star Wars but perhaps a little more intelligent, 23 Aug. 2017
'Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets' is an enjoyable big budget film, a bit like Star Wars but perhaps a little more intelligent as well as quirky, although with a less memorable villain.

It has strong visual impact and may be best suited to the cinema (where I saw it) so try to see it on as big a screen as you can. On the other hand, at 2 hours 18 mins it felt a little too long in the cinema, but that does not matter at home where you can take a break or view it over more than one day as you wish.

The 'City of a Thousand Planets' of the title is a gigantic space station where beings from many planets co-exist.

This is 'science fiction' only in the sense that it is set in the future in space, but it is not much concerned with hard science. It does though use the possibilities of other worlds, future technologies and alien races to explore imaginative, fantastical situations. The hero and heroine Valerian and Laureline are taken, I understand, from a French comic strip of that name, although the film is in English. The Director Luc Besson is French but has made films in both French and English. He has been called as the most Hollywood-like of French Directors.

The singer 'Rihanna' appears in the second half of the film as a shape-shifting character called 'Bubble'. She does not sing here but does perform an exotic pole dance, using her character's ability to change shape and appearance. For straight acting ability Rihanna will not win Oscars, but she is suited to a film like this that aims for spectacle.

If Amazon allowed I would give this between 3 and 4 stars, but as I cannot, consider this '3 stars plus'.

The Strange Death of Europe: Immigration, Identity, Islam
The Strange Death of Europe: Immigration, Identity, Islam
by Douglas Murray
Edition: Paperback
Price: £13.34

21 of 22 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars implies unpleasant choices most of us would prefer not to have to make, and most politicians dare not make., 7 Aug. 2017
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Are you in favour of a Europe that:

-allows women freedom to live and to dress as they choose, not as men choose for them;

-tolerates homosexuality;

-safeguards civil liberties;

-is compassionate and welcoming to those fleeing danger, oppression and poverty in the Middle East, Africa and Afghanistan?

If so, sadly, you probably delude yourself. The first 3 of these may be compatible with each other, but the last of them threatens to drive a steamroller over all the rest.

This book, written in a considered, intelligent way, explains why.

It also touches on the improbability of Europe continuing to afford First World standards of living and welfare provision while allowing everyone in the Third World who wishes to come here and share them.

The author is fully aware that this implies some very unpleasant choices most of us would prefer not to have to make, and which most politicians dare not make.

Yet with the armadas of dangerously crowded, rickety boats now setting out across the Mediterranean, with those on board expecting to be rescued at sea by European navies, coastguards or NGOs (politicised charities) and taken to Europe, the Continent is changing so rapidly that it would be grossly irresponsible not to face the long-term consequences. Let us be honest:

No, life in a European country with an ever increasing Muslim population cannot possibly be like it was before.

No, European workers competing for jobs with ever increasing numbers of people from poorer countries willing to work for less cannot seriously expect to maintain the standard of living they once had.

No, it does not make sense to support gay rights, yet also support mass immigration from countries where homosexuality is considered a sin punishable by death.

No, you cannot admit large numbers of migrants who are, disproportionately young men, from countries where ‘respectable’ women cover themselves from head to foot, to countries where teenaged girls wear mini-skirts and bikinis, and expect those girls to be respected and unmolested.

The author cites a case of a young woman working for the NGO ‘No Borders’ helping migrants at a crossing-point between Italy and France who was gang-raped by Sudanese migrant men in 2015, but told by her co-workers not to report it to the police for fear of the bad publicity for the NGO’s cause, and accused by them of ‘spite’ when she eventually did.

Perhaps by itself that one sad case proves relatively little, as unfortunately probably some men in every nation, race and religion commit rape. Yet a study in 2016 found that young men of Somali origin in Denmark were 26 times more likely to be convicted of rape than native Danish men of the same age group. This does not make all Somali men rapists, nor only Somali men rapists, but it is surely cause for concern, especially since Denmark is unusual in having figures for this. The authorities in many countries are so embarrassed about discussing whether some ethnic groups are more likely to commit sex crimes, or crimes generally, that this may be the tip of the iceberg.

In the 1980s, under the then GLC, London was famously (or notoriously, depending on point of view) ahead of the rest of the country in supporting gay rights. Yet a recent YouGov poll found London is now the region in Britain where the highest proportion of people say homosexuality is morally unacceptable. The change is almost certainly because, in the years in between, even as the native British population gradually became more liberal on this issue, in London, where native Britons are now a minority, the very high level of immigration has brought less tolerant attitudes with it.

Douglas Murray has written a good and important book that the large number of reviews already posted here suggests is being widely read.

It is no major criticism of his book to say that the last couple of chapters I found not necessarily wrong but somewhat less interesting, and that a few perhaps even better books on related subjects were published a few years earlier. However, Murray’s book is more up to date than these as it covers the current Mediterranean refugee crisis that began in 2015 due to the Syrian and Libyan Civil Wars, and to Angela Merkel.

If you only read one book on this subject, this one is therefore particularly relevant to our current situation. However, if you read more than one, then I recommend:

-Christopher Caldwell’s ‘Reflections on the Revolution in Europe’ about similar subjects and perhaps an even better book, but less up to date

- Ayaan Hirsi Ali’s ‘Infidel’; the autobiography of an ex-Muslim, Somali immigrant to the West

-Ed West 'The Diversity Illusion'

-Peter Townsend ‘Nothing to do with Islam’ & Ibn Warraq’s ‘Why I am not a Muslim’ and (edited, with A. Bostom) ‘The Legacy of Jihad’, on why modern Islamist terrorists and militants cannot be dismissed as aberrations from a supposedly peaceful and tolerant ‘true’ Islam.

-and, but only if you can cope with her often brilliant, sometimes mad and always politically incorrect style, Ann Coulter’s ‘Adios America’, about the partly similar situation regarding recent mass immigration from the Third World to the United States.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Aug 13, 2017 9:34 PM BST

All Out War: The Full Story of How Brexit Sank Britain's Political Class
All Out War: The Full Story of How Brexit Sank Britain's Political Class
by Tim Shipman
Edition: Paperback
Price: £5.99

4 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars really good, revealing account of the Referendum campaign, 26 July 2017
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“Dare to dream that the day is dawning on an independent United Kingdom. If the predictions are right, this is a victory for real people, a victory for ordinary people, a victory for decent people”
- Nigel Farage, leader of UKIP around 4 a.m. 24 June 2016

“Blame the voters”
– Ryan Coetzee, of the Remain campaign, interviewed for this book

For those not yet totally 'Brexited' out, this is a really good, revealing, although long, account of the short and medium term lead up to the Referendum on 23 June 2016, when the people of the United Kingdom voted to be an independent nation state again, with, at time of writing, unknown consequences for our economy, migrants and much else.

This book also covers the immediate political aftermath, including David Cameron’s resignation, the consequent Conservative leadership contest, and why there was no such contest in the Labour party, despite recriminations about Jeremy Corbyn’s failure to campaign effectively to stay in the EU. Several leading politicians made serious miscalculations during this period, perhaps because they were so tired after the months of the Referendum campaign.

In some ways the Referendum result is remarkable, considering all the forces lined up on the side of Remain: the majority of the Conservative Government including the Prime Minister, most of the Labour Party, the Liberal Democrats, the Scottish and Welsh Nationalists and the Green Party, all living former Prime Ministers, the CBI, most big companies, most Trade Unions, the City, the International Monetary Fund, President Obama, most people in the BBC and academia, the Guardian, The Times, the Daily Mirror, the Financial Times and the Economist newspapers, major charities like Oxfam, and many famous actors, artists, pop stars and such like.

Against all that the Leave side basically had: UKIP, Boris Johnson, the ghost of Enoch Powell and a few determined Labour back benchers like Kate Hoey and Gisela Stuart. They did have the support of several, especially of the more popular, newspapers, but in the age of the internet newspapers do not sell as many copies or have quite the same clout that they used to do.

The Leave campaign was bitterly divided. Nigel Farage, the politician most strongly associated with the cause of leaving the EU, was popular with some voters but alienated many others.

So how, despite everything, did Leave win? To judge from this book, the most important reasons included:

-The designated ‘Vote Leave’ campaign had a ruthless, effective young organiser called Dominic Cummings. Having been in a business venture in the semi-gangster state of Putin’s Russia, he had learned to survive in a very tough environment. (The story in this book of how he frustrated the attempts by MPs and others on the Leave side to replace or to side-line him is at times quite funny.)

Cummings cleverly down-played the immigration issue at the start of the Referendum campaign to establish ‘Vote Leave’s’ respectability to the liberal Guardian–reading types at the BBC, to ensure that, regardless of their personal views, they gave ‘Leave’ a reasonably fair hearing during the campaign. He then turned up the volume on the ‘need to control immigration’ towards the day of the vote, to appeal to not only, but especially, poorer, less educated, more patriotic, and, dare I say it, white, voters.

-In the run-up to the Referendum, the Prime Minister David Cameron harmed the Remain cause by trying with conspicuously little success to renegotiate the UK’s terms of membership of the EU to make it more acceptable to British voters. Pro-Leave Conservative politician Daniel Hannan said:

“Britain banged the table and aggressively demanded the status quo. The EU, after some mandatory faux-agonising, agreed”


“I cannot overestimate the impact of the deal. The view was, if this is how they treat us now, when we are about to vote on leaving, imagine how they will treat us the day after we vote to remain.”

- Conservatives like Cameron, and Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne, took the lead in the Remain (’Stronger In’) campaign, partly by default when the Labour leader would not, but also from the prestige of having won the last 2 general elections. However, they did not understand non-Conservative voters. When Osborne warned that Brexit could lead to a 10%-18% fall in house prices, he expected this to worry older, prosperous, property-owning voters, to whom the Conservatives were used to appealing, into voting Remain; yet many younger and less wealthy voters actually wanted house prices to fall; they might at last be able to afford to buy a home.

A Labour member of the Remain campaign complained:

“When we started saying ‘The economy will be f***ed’ it showed what a misunderstanding they had of Labour motives. Across the north-east and the north-west people already felt like the economy was pretty f***ed and not working for them”

-On immigration, the author says:

‘’Stronger In’ saw the economy and immigration as separate campaign battlegrounds. Cummings and Farage [on the Leave side] understood more clearly they were the same issue…George Osborne admitted to aides after the Referendum that “I have to accept that people saw immigration as an economic issue, not just an identity issue. They felt that their economic circumstances were being undermined by immigration.”’

-The Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn and his close associates supported Remain at best ambivalently; there may at times have been deliberate sabotage. Corbyn went round the country speaking to audiences of hundreds, but at the wrong times of day to maximize impact on news bulletins watched by millions. He spoke in favour of EU membership, but emphasised so many things about the EU that needed to change that his audiences must have wondered if leaving it was really such a bad idea.

All living past and present Labour party leaders supported Remain, but they would not put aside past differences to show Labour united to campaign for it. Corbyn refused to appear at any event with former Labour Prime Minister Tony Blair and had mention of Blair's pro-Remain speeches removed from Labour press releases. Corbyn was even reluctant to appear on the same platform as Gordon Brown, who himself refused to appear with Blair.

- Leave had several themes that resonated with many voters: loss of national sovereignty; the billions the UK paid to Brussels; and uncontrolled immigration leading to the loss of national and community identity, competition for jobs and housing and pressure on social services.

On the other hand the Remain side neither articulated nor inspired much positive enthusiasm for the EU. Their most successful argument was the unpredictable economic consequence of leaving: ‘a leap in the dark’ George Osborne said. Yet when Osborne’s Treasury department also said that leaving the EU would make “the average household in Britain £4,300 a year poorer by 2030”. In focus groups, voters reasonably asked how he could forecast the consequences so precisely, if he also said that leaving the EU was an economic ‘leap in the dark’.

-Pollsters left out of their calculations people who said they never voted at elections; yet many such people did turn out to vote in the Referendum. There are many reports of middle aged and older people at polling stations asking what to do as they had never voted before; the majority of these probably voted Leave.

-The 16 million who voted Remain must have included many people who are not remotely part of ‘the Establishment’. However, the Leave campaign managed to present the Referendum, with at least some truth, as ‘The Establishment versus the people’. Daniel Hannan said of professors and famous people in the 'arts' coming out for Remain:

“They campaigned, as far as I could see, chiefly through letters by hoary-headed grandees in the Times saying we are ordering you little people to vote Remain, to support our income. You had to be an actor, or an academic, not to understand that the rest of the world just sees a privileged group trying to hang on to its subsidies.”

The ‘anti-establishment’ sentiment as a reason for voting Leave, while not universally held, was real: born of years of annoyance at ‘political correctness’, uncontrolled mass immigration, and surrender of national independence to Europe (“Is this what we fought the War for?”). One can argue whether these things are good or bad, but it is hard to deny that they were imposed on the people by a liberal-ish elite who never asked if the people wanted them, and who dismissed contrary views as ‘racist’ or ‘whipped up by the vile gutter press’, without trying to understand them. As the author says of the concerns about the scale of immigration that helped Leave to win the Referendum:

“It may at times have been an incoherent cry of rage, but it still deserved a better answer than Remain gave it.”

The Hound of the Baskervilles
The Hound of the Baskervilles
by Arthur Conan Doyle
Edition: Paperback
Price: £13.18

3.0 out of 5 stars Not as good as the short stories, 26 July 2017
This is a full length novel in which the great detective Sherlock Holmes & his friend and chronicler Dr Watson investigate a case involving legends of a ghostly gigantic hound on a Devon moor. It has some interest, but is not as good as the Sherlock Holmes short stories.

If you have not read much Sherlock Holmes, do not start here. Start with a short story collection like ‘The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes’ or a modern ‘Best of Sherlock Holmes’ compilation. Once you have adjusted to the slightly old-fashioned style and world in which they are set they are usually good. For modern readers they tell us something about the times in which they were written, and they have something about them that leaves a more lasting and substantial impression than the works of some later detective novelists like Agatha Christie.

The author Sir Arthur Conan Doyle was not a great literary author for subtlety of style or sophisticated insight into the human soul, but for the short stories he did not need to be. He could get on with the intellectual puzzle of solving the mystery, given added interest by the striking character of Sherlock Holmes. The author’s talents were less suited to padding out a story to novel length, as here.

Everywoman: One Woman's Truth About Speaking the Truth
Everywoman: One Woman's Truth About Speaking the Truth
by Jess Phillips
Edition: Paperback

5 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars interesting, informative, lively little book, but hard to explain what it is about!, 20 July 2017
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‘The reason you are reading this book is most likely because you have heard of me. The reason you have heard of me is because I make a lot of noise. Shameless self-promotion is what many people call it. What I say to those hecklers is, if you sit around waiting for other people to promote you, it’s no wonder I have never heard of you.’
(From this book)

This is an interesting, informative, lively little book, but hard to explain what it is about. If Amazon allowed I would give it four and a half stars, but as they do not 5 stars will do.

The authoress Jess Phillips has been Labour MP for Birmingham Yardley since 2015. You need not share her politics to like her book.

It is not quite an autobiography although she tells us a good deal about her life, family and career before and after entering politics.

The book is organised into chapters entitled ‘The Truth About…’ containing the authoress’s comments on a variety of topics from motherhood to equality for women to internet trolls, related to her own experiences and to her reasons for entering politics. It is not a comprehensive statement of her politics and says little about some subjects e.g. ‘Brexit’ on which she has expressed views elsewhere.

At times she uses more words than necessary but I still like her style of expression. There is something engaging about her personality, as it appears from these pages.

Asked in interviews how she ‘copes’ as an MP with children, Jess Phillips tends to give one of the following answers:

‘Would you ask me that if I were a male MP with children?’

‘I cope with my children exactly as I did before I was an MP, very badly’

or ‘Oh, those aren’t my children, I just hired them from an agency to make me look human on the leaflets’


To cynics who dismiss her views with ‘You would say that, wouldn’t you [being a politician/ feminist [or whatever]’) she replies:

‘Yes, I would say that because I am both learned and experienced in the field, so what I say is based on evidence. What about you?’


On the sentimentality by which the public give more readily to some charitable causes than others:

‘The amount of money given in charitable donations every year in the UK to donkeys is more than the amount given to women’s charities. In 2008, Refuge, the Women’s Aid Federation and Eaves Housing for Women had a combined annual income of just £17m[illion]. By contrast, a donkey sanctuary in Devon received £20m in one year. I’ve no idea how many donkeys there are in the UK; I rarely meet them on the bus or down the local pub, so I’m guessing they are outnumbered by women. The money being devoted to donkeys leads me to believe that they are well rich….Maybe they have very expensive tastes and need to be bathed in Evian.’


Despite writing about some sad subjects, including mentioning the murder in 2016 of her friend and fellow Labour MP ‘Jo’ Cox, Jess Phillips writes in a surprisingly cheerful way, which makes her book enjoyable to read despite the serious subjects.

She writes for example about the appalling online abuse, rape threats and death threats that women like her who express views about political matters routinely encounter [in her case most often from the right for expressing left-wing and feminist opinions, although sometimes by the 'hard' left for daring to criticise Jeremy Corbyn. I have also read of women of conservative views or who question feminist opinions receiving similar online storms of threats and abuse, which is equally wrong].


I do not agree with everything Ms Philips says. I give one example to end this review, which it will take a little time to explain. However, even if she is mistaken about this it cannot justify the deluge of online rants and threats she received for this and it does not stop me recommending her book.

She seeks to justify her controversial comments on the BBC’s ‘Question Time’ in January 2016 about the mass sexual assaults and thefts committed mainly by recent immigrants from North Africa in the centre of Cologne that New Year.

Having worked for a charity for the victims of domestic violence, the authoress knows that women can suffer assault at the hands of men from every social class, race and religion. She therefore said that we should not single out North African migrants for blame following the events in Cologne, because women can also be sexually molested by e.g. white British men while on a night out in Broad Street, Birmingham.

The latter point may be true, but the way Ms Phillips used it is an example of what is now sometimes called ‘Whataboutery’: deflecting the subject to avoid facing an unpleasant truth as e.g. those who refuse to condemn the monstrously cruel Kim dynasty in North Korea because ‘What about Britain and America? They are not perfect either!’, which is true but irrelevant, and hardly an equivalent standard of evil.

There must have been many native German men and visitors from other countries in Cologne that New Year, but most or all of those arrested for the incidents were found to be recent immigrants from North Africa, many of whom had taken advantage of German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s recent offer of asylum. The far larger number of participants who got away were also reported by witnesses to be overwhelmingly if not entirely of North African or Middle Eastern appearance. People present at previous New Year celebrations in Cologne said that what happened in 2016 was definitely not normal.

Large scale assaults committed at the same place and time by men of a particular origin implies some planning in advance by a large number of men. It may therefore say something about the culture in which they grew up that it is possible to find so many men who agree in advance to participate, with none feeling it their duty to try to prevent it by warning the police.

This may in part have been the technique of pre-planned, organised sexual assault (and sometimes actual rape) in public under cover of a crowd, originating in North Africa about 12 years ago, called in Arabic: 'taharrush jamai'. A news website in India, where the practice has recently also appeared, describes it thus:

“The mass sexual assault of women in public has been documented in Egypt since 2005. Typically acting under the protective cover of large gatherings, assailants encircle a woman while outer rings of men deter rescuers.”

In North Africa, where the practice began, the victims are often local Arab Muslim women. However, I do not think we can exclude the possibility that, when practiced by Middle Eastern migrants in Europe, it sometimes says something about their lack of respect for the western countries that gave them refuge, and for western women.

So, Jess, this was probably something different from and worse than a drunken white British yob molesting a girl in a mini skirt on a night out in Birmingham, even if we would not condone that either. You may be doing women in western countries no favours for the future by pretending the problem has no connection at all to immigration from the Middle East.

Winchester 73 [DVD]
Winchester 73 [DVD]
Dvd ~ James Stewart
Offered by FREETIME
Price: £4.85

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A film from another time, 20 July 2017
This review is from: Winchester 73 [DVD] (DVD)
A film from another time. A western, popular and famous in its day, filmed in black and white and starring James Stewart, competing in a rifle shooting competition with his unscrupulous brother for the prize of ‘One in a Thousand’ Winchester ’73 repeating rifle, with the increasing risk that they will turn their guns on each other.

(The Winchester is a ‘One in a Thousand’ because even though manufactured in the same way almost every rifle turns out with a slight bias in the direction in which it fires the bullet. This particular specimen is one of the ‘one in a thousand’ rifles that miraculously come off the production line with perfect accuracy.)

However, society and culture have moved on since films like this were made and they no longer have the same impact that they once did. I am sorry if this offends some people to say this, but today, even many famous westerns like ‘Shane’, ‘The Searchers’ or this one, ‘Winchester ‘73’ mean much less now. While they have some interest, they are no longer really essential viewing.

(I do though still like another James Stewart western ‘Destry Rides Again’, co-starring Marlene Dietrich, but that tale of a pacifist Sheriff trying to keep order in a tough frontier town is a much less typical western).

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