Category Archives: Uncategorized

Grand Budapest Hotel – Movie Review

The film starts in the 1960s dilapidated Grand Budapest Hotel where the owner and former lobby boy describes the hotel’s heyday in the 1930s centred on his mentor, concierge Gustave (played by Ralph Fiennes). All the 1930s scenes look like a stage set, brightly covered in pink and purple colours. The dialogue is witty and the pace very fast centred on the story of the disputed inheritance of a work of art left by a wealthy patron of the hotel. A lot of celebrity actors (such as Bill Murray, Owen Wilson, Adrien Brody and Jeff Goldblum, to name a few) take on cameo roles and are for the most part quite unrecognisable.

I did have one problem with this film, despite its originality I just didn’t find it funny. 3 stars(just).

The Racketeer

The book is written mostly from the point of view of Malcolm Bannister a small town lawyer serving 10 years for a money laundering crime he did not commit. I thought there was a lot of padding in the first half of the book covering Malcolm’s backstory but I did find the description of life in an open prison reasonably interesting.

Malcolm cuts a deal with the FBI where in return for his release he reveals the identity of a murderer of a Federal judge. After his release it soon transpires that Malcolm has his own agenda and plays a cat and mouse game with the FBI. There is more padding in the second half with a lengthy description of Malcolm playing the role of documentary film director. By this time I could see the big twist coming.

While quite readable this book is not up to Grisham’s usual standard. There is too much padding and the main character while at first sympathetic as the little man against the system, turns into a cold blooded operator with secret agent skills way beyond any small town lawyer. 3 stars (only just).

The Monuments Men – Movie Review

Another disappointing film. The Monuments Men was neither fish nor fowl. It was part action war movie and part art heist caper but failed in both. The action consisted of a lot of short scenes which felt disconnected and for the most part lacked tension or drama. The art-history part of the movie had a preachy feel to it, the audience repeatedly being told of the importance of art. I think it would have been better to have produced a documentary instead. 2 stars (only just).

Book Thief – Movie Review

I haven’t read the book but I found the movie version of The Book Thief disappointing. The film observes the rise of the Nazis from the point of view of a young adopted girl, Liesl. The setting is a chocolate-box small town in Germany and our heroine, illiterate at first, has a fetish for stealing books. There are some dramatic moments in the film, but I did find these rather weak. The characterization was weak as well exacerbated by the lead actors speaking English but with ham German accents. An original touch was casting the narrator as Death himself, although I suspect even this literary device works better in the book. 2 stars.

Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom – Movie Review

Although I quite like biopics, they’re not my favourite genre. I think the reason for this is because I’m usually familiar with the subject matter beforehand. For a biopic to be really good it needs to tell me something I didn’t already know or focus in detail on one dramatic event in the protagonist’s career as was done with the recent Lincoln film.

The problem with Mandela: was that it tried to cover too much. Although I liked the period detail and the depictions of racist incidents the pace of the first half was much too fast. For example the film covers Nelson Mandela’s courting, marriage, bringing up children, wife beating and divorce of his first wife all in a couple of minutes. The pace does slow in the second half, covering Mandela’s imprisonment, but I found the insertion of contemporary news footage of events such as the Soweto uprising and Free Mandela concerts irritating.

However I thought Idris Elba’s acting was excellent. Although he didn’t look like Mandela he did capture his speech and body movements. Naomie Harris did a good job of depicting Winnie Mandela too.

I think you could have made two films just on Mandela’s negotiations from prison and the breakdown of his marriage to Winnie. Both these aspects were briefly covered in the film.
Despite the above comments, overall I still thought it was a reasonably good film. 3 stars.

The Railway Man – Movie Review

I liked The Railway Man. It’s about Eric Lomax(Colin Firth) an introverted man obsessed with railways who at the age of 60 meets future wife Patti (Nicole Kidman)on a train journey. Shortly after the wedding we see the first example of a post-traumatic stress disorder episode; a flashback to the time when Lomax was a POW working on the Thai-Burma railway after the fall of Singapore to the Japanese in 1942.

The film alternates between these flashbacks, showing Lomax’s brutal treatment as a POW, and Patti’s attempts to coax him out of his shell. The younger Lomax is played by Jeremy Irvine. The film ends with Lomax reconciling with his former Japanese tormentor.

I thought the film was well acted and directed. There were a couple of oddities. First was fellow officer Finlay (Stellan Skarsgård) : Finlay was supposed to be Scottish but spoke with a Swedish accent throughout. The second more minor point was the use of 1960s train carriages despite the 1980 setting: something Lomax himself would have been first to spot. 3 stars.

Rush of Blood – Book Review

This was my first Mark Billingham book and overall I thought it was OK. The story starts with three British couples who meet on holiday in Florida but on their last night a teenage girl goes missing. After the holiday they keep in touch by each couple hosting a dinner party in turn. I found the first quarter of the book hard going. The chapters are not chronological: one chapter discussing dinner party preparations after the holiday, the next going back to the holiday itself. The couples are all unattractive small-minded people who dislike each other. The plot does get going about a quarter of the way through, and while I was hooked by this stage I still found the dinner party dialogue boring with too much unnecessary detail which slowed the pace down far too much. There was a twist at the end but unfortunately I could see it coming. Two and a half stars.

Killing Floor – Book Review

This is my second Jack Reacher book; my first was The Affair which I thought was OK. This book is much better; above all it has an excellent plot. I liked the short chapters and apart from the first tenth of the book, which I thought was a bit slow, the story moved at a cracking pace. I liked the description of Margrave as a small town perfect on the surface; something out of the Stepford Wives.

While I agree with those reviewers who point out the short sentences, the repetition and the vigilante nature of Reacher’s character, I found this didn’t bother me. Maybe the use of the first person point of view make the short sentences seem to reflect Reacher’s thought processes rather than the author’s writing style.

There were a fair number of coincidences and leaps of faith but again, with one exception, I could accept them as part of the story. The exception was Reacher deducing, with hardly any evidence, a character’s alias and location.
Overall a very good book. 4 stars.

Movie Review – Gravity

This is the most visually stunning film I’ve ever seen. I generally don’t like GCI films; they never seem real to me. But Gravity, which I saw on a large screen in 3D, really makes you feel you’re out there in space. There’s not very much in the way of plot and a few of the scenes like credibility. The movie is short, 90 minutes, which is about right given it’s all about showing off the cinematography. The soundtrack is excellent too.

Librarything Giveaway Ends

Last full day of the Librarything Giveaway. 5 e-book copies of The Banker are to be won.