Wednesday, 29 February 2012
Tuesday, 28 February 2012
Sunday, 26 February 2012
Saturday, 25 February 2012
Sunday, 19 February 2012
Saturday, 18 February 2012
Sunday, 12 February 2012
Thursday, 9 February 2012
Wednesday, 8 February 2012
Tuesday, 7 February 2012
Monday, 6 February 2012
Sunday, 5 February 2012
Star rating – 6/10
This is a bit of an odd offering from Chilean director Pablo Larrain, which is just out on DVD. It is the juxtaposition of a film about social misfits, with the backdrop of the brutal 1973 military coup that overthrew the socialist Government of Salvador Allende.
Mario is an assistant in a pathology lab in Santiago, who is a loner and an odd looking chap to say the least. He is strangely obsessed with his neighbour, the dancer Nancy. He turns up at her work and they begin an odd and very brief ‘relationship’ which is distinctly one sided.
Then the military coup led by General Pinochet causes chaos and much bloodshed on the streets. Nancy’s home is raided and her family taken away. Mario is affected at work as well as at home, as body after body arrives with gunshot wounds to be catalogued and covered up. Then comes a very sinister request to do a top secret and highly political autopsy, which is understandably more than his colleague Sandra can bear.
It’s an interesting, if very odd watch, and I was not entirely sure what Larrain was trying to say. Alfredo Castro is suitably odd, not to say creepy, as Mario, and Antonia Zegers is great as the heartless and troubled Nancy. In truth it felt like two films in one, both of which might arguably have benefitted from a separation from each other. It ends suddenly and oddly, not entirely out of keeping with the rest of the story.
Star rating – 5/10
Maybe I was spoilt by the genius set of the Ladykillers at Liverpool last year, where the stage design added so much to that glorious production, but from the off I was bewildered. The set of ‘An Inspector Calls’, currently on a triumphal national tour after a sell out West End run for the former National Theatre production, was so distracting that it was a hindrance rather than a help to the performance.
Such are the accolades this production has received, I was expecting great things, but found the play decidedly average, predictable and totally farfetched. I understand that J.B. Priestley was using it as a vehicle to get his moral and political point across, and so was not too bothered about the story not ringing true. I have no problem in theory with that at all. But I just didn’t buy this production.
Maybe if the action had been taking place in a living room as was originally intended, instead of a dolls’ house of a set that obscured most of the dinner party in the wealthy pre First World War family house, then it would have been better. The merriment is interrupted by an Inspector Goole (the clue is in the name) who calls with news of the horrible suicide of a young woman in a nearby hospital, and continues to reveal how each member of the party has had some hand in her tragic demise.
It is a morality tale, and I heartily agree with the sentiments expressed, but the production simply got in the way. For half the time I thought the actors were going to fall off or trip up on the elaborate set. For the other half I didn’t care what happened to them at all. I am not sure if it Priestley himself who I blame, or director Stephen Daldry, but it was not a night to remember for me at all, even if for the characters in the play it was allegedly a game changer.
Wednesday, 1 February 2012
Star rating – 7/10
Espionage is back in vogue following last year’s big screen adaptation of John le Carré’s classic novel ‘Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy’. And this very well written debut from Chris Morgan Jones delves into the murky world of Russian espionage, only this time it is ‘business intelligence’ that it at the heart of the story. To you and me that means powerful oligarchs paying people to spy on their competitors - and much, much worse besides.
Morgan Jones would certainly be an interesting person to meet at a party and have a casual chat with about his own background advising wealthy bankers, governments and corporations around the world on business intelligence – although I’m sure he wouldn’t give many secrets away. And he is clearly on home turf with this thrilling book which sees journalist Ben Webster emerge from a tragic loss in Kazakhstan a decade earlier, to his current job as a private spy. He is assigned to help a rich Russian businessman sniff out trade secrets about the decidedly dodgy dealings of one of his business rivals, Konstantin Malin.
Webster finds himself locking horns with the respectable face of this particular oligarch (don’t you just love that term); his English lawyer Richard Lock. Lock seems to be the heart of multimillion dollar deals, named as he is as the owner of many of the newly acquired assets involved. But Lock soon begins to feel very hunted himself, and turns to Webster as his only way of escape.
The writing is pacey, intelligent, and very involving. One weakness for me is in the motivations and backgrounds of Lock and Webster, the two main protagonists. I wasn’t quite convinced of how suddenly Lock could become aware of the moral bankruptcy of his lifestyle, and more to the point that of his bosses, after over a decade of illicit dealings and lavish trappings. And I was also not quite convinced of the motivations of Webster, whose character is not fleshed out in great detail, but who seems to be working for a Russian who is little better than Malin.
But maybe that is part of the point - that espionage is not all black and white like a James Bond film, but rather moral shades of grey. This is a very enjoyable ride at any rate, and hopefully will be one of many offerings from Morgan Jones. And if you think the plot of Russian oligarch backed industrial espionage and murder is a bit farfetched – then you clearly haven’t been watching the excellent series about Vladimir Putin’s Russia on BBC2....