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Recent reviews

All reviews - Movies (3) - Books (4)

Don't turn away

Posted : 8 years, 7 months ago on 11 November 2008 04:48 (A review of A Mighty Heart)

I think it is an important film, as well as a great film.

You wonder whether anyone said to Pitt/Jolie at the start, "What's the point of a film about the hunt for a kidnapped journalist, when everyone already knows the outcome?" Indeed, Daniel Pearl's beheading by Jihadists (recorded on video by the kidnappers) hangs heavily over the film. But it still works, because it's a film that tries to answer the question, how does a woman cope? How does she survive something so terrible? To be a pregnant woman, whose husband has disappeared, who has been accused of being a CIA/Mossad agent, to then be murdered so atrociously and so publicly.

What stands out, among the inevitable chaos of the Third World urban setting, is the camaraderie. These various individuals who came together to try to rescue Daniel, to protect Marianne. The tenacious police work.

Being a Michael Winterbottom film, it does not flinch from showing the crushing everyday poverty in Pakistan. The privileged lifestyles of the westerners, with their fine wine, servants and 4x4s. The torture of suspects.

So when the moment comes, and the video camera is unwrapped like a relic, so grimly portentous - it is expected, the heart rending outpouring of grief. Yet, after the journey, it feels necessary to go the final step.

I don't know how Marianne could have brought herself to watch that video. I do believe Daniel was brave at the last, in a way that I could never be, and that is a small act of defiance in a tragedy that is essentially absurd. The reason for his kidnap was supposedly to demand an end to suspects being held at Guantanamo. The film ends with a comment that the suspected murderer is now himself in Guantanamo. The cycle goes on. Marianne and her son Adam must live their lives. But there is never truly any justice.


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Journey into the extraordinary

Posted : 8 years, 12 months ago on 4 July 2008 09:45 (A review of The Raw Shark Texts)

You may have to open your mind to let this book in, but I think you'll find it's worth it.

A man wakes up to find he has lost his memory. He starts to explore his previous life, and makes a mind-bending discovery - that he is hunted. By a shark. But not a physical one; a conceptual one.

He discovers that there are beasts in our world that feed off the waste of our ideas and thoughts. With the help of the enigmatic Scout, he makes a last stand against the shark.

There's an old-fashioned kind of adventure at the heart of this story, in fact the finale is almost plagiarized. But the inventiveness of the story, and of the way the book is printed (there are all kinds of text artworks/clues scattered through it) makes this a one of a kind.


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LIfe is absurd

Posted : 9 years, 4 months ago on 5 February 2008 02:18 (A review of The Myth of Sisyphus: And Other Essays)

The book Camus wrote after L'Etranger (the Outsider), in which he expounds his theory of the absurd.

This is radical stuff. Every teenager discovers for him/herself that life and all its social rules is a frustrating game against which you can rage but rarely win. Camus takes it a step further. He compares our daily lives with Sisyphus rolling his stone up the hill every day for eternity, only to see it roll back down again; and he analyses how we are to survive this puzzling, pointless strife we call life. And surprisingly, he finds a streak of hope.


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A diary of hate... or is it?

Posted : 9 years, 4 months ago on 5 February 2008 02:12 (A review of The End of the Affair)

My introduction to Graham Greene, and what an introduction. A passionate affair, broken up by a blitz bomb, that turns into jealousy and intrigue.

*SPOILER*

But in the most unexpected way, it turns out to be about love after all. And not just love between 2 people, but between man and God.

The character of Henry intrigues me now; nothing so ridiculous as a jealous husband, as Greene says, but in some ways he seems to represent another kind of love, one that is self-effacing, that acts truly without thought for self.

The film with Ralph Fiennes and Julianne Moore is excellent, although they make the major change of having Sarah visit a priest rather than a humanist.


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A study of grief

Posted : 9 years, 5 months ago on 13 January 2008 11:21 (A review of Solaris)

[NB mild spoiler]
Atmospheric, ominous, beautiful cinematography and music. But what's it about!?

I think you have to be able to suspend your analytical self to appreciate this film, because otherwise you get bogged down in trying to work out what's happening and why. Ultimately, I think Solaris is like a big "what if?" What if someone dead from your past could come back?

Clooney is brilliant, a completely different person from his Ocean's 11 franchise. He represents the grief of bereavement. grief that passes all understanding. This may be scifi, it may be psychological, but at the end of the day, it's about grief.


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unexpected subtlety from Almodovar

Posted : 9 years, 8 months ago on 29 October 2007 02:32 (A review of Volver)

A feminist tale, with Penelope Cruz a little too glamorous despite her wardrobe. A family coping with the loss of their mother come face to face with a ghost, who helps them put their lives back together. The gorgeous flamenco song of the title is sung by Estrella Morente.


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Working class dad finds Buddhism

Posted : 10 years, 1 month ago on 3 May 2007 10:28 (A review of Buddha Da)

Written in Glasgow slang, the story of how painter/decorator Jimmy discovers Buddhism and yearns to find some of the contentment that he can see on the faces of the Buddhist lamas he meets.

But his family start to pay the consequences as he turns away from his old ways, and their suspicion begins to push them all apart.

Not at all proselytizing, this isn't about how great Buddhism is - it's about the consequences of becoming self-aware and trying to change your life. You can sympathise with all involved: Jimmy just wanting to feel happy, wife Liz not wanting to be ignored or judged, daughter Anne-Marie trying to discover herself.

A gentle, warm drama.


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