Our Man In Havana (Graham Greene)

Havana, frozen as it is in time since 1959, is a special, exciting and fascinating place to be. The Havana described by Greene from this 1950s slice of fiction is still very much there to see, albeit in its 21st Century version. Anyway, this light hearted novel is uncannily reminiscent of The Tailor of Panama. A spymaster and an expat on the ground in Cuba manage to concoct between them, but entirely without each other’s knowledge, a fantasy international plot, which allows the “source” to receive generous ex-gratis payments, and the spy to convince his masters in the UK that he is doing something useful, thus worthy of a generous budget. The joke wears off when people start to get killed; but they’ve started so they have to finish.
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Man and Superman (George Bernard Shaw)

A first for this blog, I’m reviewing a play. But not any old play, one of the greatest of all time, penned by one of the greatest playwrights. The central question the play explores is the one that confronts every one of us: what is the most important thing I’m going to spend my life’s energies on, given our temporary time on this earth? In the preface to this play, Shaw said: “This is the true joy in life, being used for a purpose recognized by yourself as a mighty one; being thoroughly worn out before you are thrown on the scrap heap; being a force of Nature instead of a feverish selfish little clod of ailments and grievances complaining that the world will not devote itself to making you happy. The only real tragedy in life is being used by personally minded men for purposes you recognize to be base.[Read more…]

The Blood Beast Terror (1968 UK)

A Hammer imitation from Tony Tensor’s Tigon films, only made on a lower budget and with noticeably less enthusiasm, this is actually a lot more entertaining than it really ought to be. The film is obviously made on a lower budget than Hammer had to play around with at the time and this occasionally shows through, particularly in the creature’s costume. However, a fine British cast do the job and veteran director Vernon Sewell puts in a solid if unremarkable job. The script is literate, the locations good and the movie well-filmed. A load of old mothballs this may be, with too much dialogue, but I had low expectations beforehand. [Read more…]

Purple Rain (1984 USA)

I despise motion pictures with no real importance that take themselves too seriously – and this is the pinnacle of that description. If you want to hear Prince’s music, his score for the first “Batman” is infinitely superior. To me, Prince was a brown American David Bowie. (But not as good a songwriter or dynamic a vocalist) Intensely self-conscious and always posing. A bit like a shop mannikin. This is a self-serving, ego-maniacal extended music video. But Prince can’t act while his slutty girlfriend can barely stand up. She is here to convince any doubters that the effeminate-looking Prince is really a hetero who can slap a bitch around. [Read more…]

The Dog Of The South (Charles Portis)

This is one of those books that will make you shake your head in wonder at how much contemporary fiction is dull, lifeless trash, just because it’s so subtle and hilarious that to admire its virtues is to bring the flaws of others into sharp contrast by implication. The Dog of the South provides a sprawling panoramic view of a particular strain of American culture, with its mix of simple, uncomplicated religious belief and modern economics that seems to winnow the very life and meaning out of the country.  The prose style is very artful and the character of the doctor is an American type very reminiscent of the traveling hucksters and other marginal types found in Mark Twain’ or in O’ Tooles “Confederacy of Dunces”. [Read more…]

Spectre (2015 United Artists)

The Sam Smith theme tune is s**t, obviously, but the rest of Spectre is quite superior to most other 007 entries in the long and tortuous franchise going back to before most of us were even born. Heck, this may even be my favourite. If you’ve wanted a Bond film that successfully merges Craig’s gritty Casino Royale, with all the old school touches, look no further. Director Sam Mendes tries to create massive story-arcs that span 4 films! Adding to that he attempts to weigh in on Bond’s steely personality, giving him a back-story that almost turns him into Bruce Wayne. (Don’t laugh) In modern parlance, this is some deep s**t. [Read more…]

Night Gallery (1969–1973 USA)

night-gallery-season-2-billboard-rod-serling-600x300After “Twilight Zone” was canceled Rod Serling’s “The Night Gallery” appeared some years later. It was hosted by Rod Serling himself, a bit older than he looked when he hosted “Twilight Zone” as he walked us through an art gallery replete with strange, demonic, often very intimidating artwork. Each work of art told a story which was the focus of each half-hour episode. The series did very well and it was a more intense follow-up to “Twilight Zone”, which suffered from a rather static and preachy talkiness and far more censorship. Because it was the early 70’s, the episodes of Night Gallery were a tad more uncensored and graphic. [Read more…]

Murder On The Orient Express (2017 USA)

An update on the much revered original of 1974, here is the ultimate luvvie himself, Kenneth bloody Branagh, and he has actually come up with the goods here. Ignore the nay sayers…they declare he’s derailed Agatha Christie’s novel– but I say (and its my blog, so I can) that he’s certainly breathed enough steam into the old locomotive to keep it chugging to its destination: an entertaining and involving cinematic experience. Even Kenny’s much maligned mustache deserves an Oscar for effort. This is facial art without peer. [Read more…]

Shattered (1991 USA)

Wolfgang Petersen directs this suspense thriller with some skill, so most intelligent viewers should be intrigued enough to be seduced by it up till the very end. Even though Shattered has been compared to Alfred Hitchcock movies and the novels of Agatha Christie, it does go a lot further and is far more daring then anything that Agatha Christie or Alfred Hitchcock ever wrote or directed. The reason it seems that so many people are turned off by this motion picture is that it not only went the full nine yards to tell it’s mystery/suspense story with an out of the blue surprise ending, but it goes the entire length of the football field in telling it. [Read more…]

The Ax ( Donald E Westlake)

Wanted: Middle management for the oversight of an assembly line in an industrial paper factory. College degree and experience a must. Homicidal maniacs welcome to apply. Burke Devore is a typical middle-aged guy with a steady job, a wife and two kids. When he gets laid off he spends 2 years looking for new employment and realizes that there are too many people with more education and experience looking for similar work. Donald Westlake wrote this in 1997, but his publishers missed an opportunity during the last economic bust to reissue this book with great fanfare because it’s even more poignant now. There is not a single dull moment in the entire novel and to top it all off, the ending is even more brilliant.
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