Thursday, March 22, 2007

Undiscovered, James Morrison (CD)

Posted by lea at 12:27 PM 2 comments Links to this post
I don’t usually do music reviews because music is such a personal thing and I’d hate to be judged on my musical taste, however I have to make mention of this awesome CD cos I’ve been loving it for a number of months now and I’m STILL loving it.

I heard somewhere that James Morrison got discovered while busking on some English street, presumably in London, and I wouldn’t be surprised at all if that was the case. Imagine hearing that smooth husky voice singing passionately on a busy London street. You’d just stop and close your eyes and the sounds of traffic and people and noisy cars would melt away as you heard him sing: ‘You give me something/ that makes me scared alright/ this could be nothing/ but I’m willing to give it a try…’

Even now, after weeks of semi-continuous listening, I still love singing along – especially to You Give Me Something and Wonderful World – while driving. If the people in the vehicles in front of me were to glance in their rearview mirror, I’m sure they’d think I was nuts - singing at the top of my lungs, squinching my eyes (wanting to close them but can’t cos I have to see the traffic), tapping the steering wheel and smiling like a lunatic. Trust me, it’s the perfect solution to road rage. You just can’t get angry listening to this music.

It’s passionate, it’s heart-moving, it’s real and above all, it sounds awesome. While he’s only 21, he’s a great songwriter and manages to convey a lot of emotion through his voice. I can’t remember the last CD that gave me this reaction, and no other playlist on my ipod is getting this kind of airtime.

Rating 9.5/10

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

How To Be Good, by Nick Hornby

Posted by lea at 1:34 PM 0 comments Links to this post
Nat got this book for me from a second-hand bookstore. It’s still got the original English bookstore sticker on it and I really liked the fact that it obviously came from the country of the author’s birth (perhaps the left-behind item of a British backpacker). Either that, or the fact that I love Hornby’s other books, particularly High Fidelity and About A Boy, raised my expectations beyond the reach of this book.

It’s the story of Katie Carr, a doctor (her career is a very important fact, repeated throughout the novel until you sigh whenever you read: ‘I’m a good person, a doctor’) whose marriage is in jeopardy. She has an affair, which turns out not to be a deal-breaker as her husband, a cynical and sarcastic man who's made a career out of being angry, suddenly finds spirituality (not of the religious sort) with his spiritual guru, GoodNews, who so became via a club experience with ecstasy. Sound weird? It is. And never quite fully explained.

Overall it's a fairly bleak narrative of daily life in an unhappy marriage, punctuated with moments of clarity and revelation, followed immediately by the tedium of her ‘I’m a good person, a doctor’ outburst, always a justification for some perceived wrong she’s committed. I think Hornby is attempting to highlight the guilt we sometimes feel living in our three-bedroom homes with double incomes while being increasingly aware, through the media or other means, of the injustices and plights faced by people less well-off than we are. It’s about trying to ‘be good’ in a world where commercialism and selfishness is almost a necessary evil just to get through the day without going mad.

For me, he never quite struck the right note, and toward the end it seems as if Katie’s almost ready to accept (with some reluctance) her lot in life, with her new-improved husband and two growing children... then the last sentence of the book just kills it. You’re left wondering whether she’s going to commit suicide or something, because it ends on such a bleak note, with a stark realisation that no matter how she tries to improve things, it most likely will never change. Very abrupt and unnerving, the book ends like a greasy chinese meal with no tea to wash it down.

Sorry, bad analogy, but you know what I mean.
Rating: 6/10

Books I’ve been reading for ages and haven’t yet finished:

A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry
Quite a thick book, our next book club book in fact, but I stopped halfway through having been traumatised by a torture scene. Very bleak but well written read.
Down Under by Bill Bryson
No reflection on the book or its author – it’s a fantastic read, but I have a real problem picking up non-fiction after putting it down once.
Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
I'm re-reading this because I forgot the plot, but now I have no idea why I'm bothering because I lost interest in this series from Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire – it's pretty obvious by her writing that JK Rowling has lost interest too!

Monday, March 12, 2007

Hot Fuzz

Posted by lea at 2:01 PM 1 comments Links to this post
This movie was hilarious! It would be particularly appreciated by those who enjoyed the film-makers’ previous offering, Shaun of the Dead. This is seriously a laugh-out-loud movie that simultaneously mocks and mimics other action films while maintaining a touch all its own.

Sandford, a beautiful sleepy town and multiple winner of the annual ‘Best Village’ award, has no recorded homicides for over 20 years. However they have a suspiciously high ‘fatal accident’ record. Which turns out to be no accident at all.

Enter Nicholas Angel. A highly decorated officer who gets ‘promoted’ to Sandford because his top-notch arrest record was making everyone else on the London force (sorry, ‘service’) look bad. The gags are funny, the action scenes are great and the spoofs of Point Break and Bad Boys II are absolutely hilarious. The cast is perfect and I really really really enjoyed this movie. No more to be said. It’s great!

Prete-moi ta main (I Do)

Posted by lea at 1:58 PM 0 comments Links to this post
Synopsis: ‘immensely satisfying romantic comedy about a softhearted bachelor who pays a free-spirited young woman to pose as his fiancee.’ (www.frenchfilmfestival.org)

Luis, the main character, tries to deflect the attempts of his domineering mother and five sisters to find him a wife by asking the sister of a friend to pose as his fiancée. The plan is for her to dump him on the wedding day, leading to him falling into a great depression, so the grand dames of his family feel sufficiently sympathetic enough to hold off further plans for matrimony. Of course things keep going wrong and everyone has their own agenda, leading to many comical moments.

The charm of this movie is mostly in the fact that it is so very French, starting with Luis’s career as the ‘nose’ for a perfumerie. The characters are wonderfully passionate, the women are strong and dominating, and the mis-en-scene is filled with cafes and art and all things European. The humour was universal, however, and the opening scene is particularly hilarious, a black-and-white flashback that shows how Luis has turned into the player that he has become.

The cinema (in Paddington) was filled with Francophiles who laughed a little too heartily at each joke. Nat thought they were pretentious, and tried to make a point by laughing his version of a ‘cultured’ laugh (o-ho-ho-ho-he) during a quiet moment. Embarrassing, but I could totally see his point.

Overall it was a good movie with a reasonable number of laughs, but the downfall was that I could totally picture it as a Hollywood film. And what’s the bet a Hollywood version will soon come out? If it does, I’d recommend to wait until the DVD is released. In its present carnation however, it’s a worthwhile distraction for 2 hours that allows you to come out of the cinema feeling just that little bit more cultured. Unless, like Nat, you find that sort of thing pretentious!

Pan’s Labyrinth

Posted by lea at 1:55 PM 1 comments Links to this post
I watched this at Govinda’s in their upstairs lie-down cinema. Fantastically comfortable, but I was tense the whole time because the movie was so dark and gruesome. A fairy-tale in the original and oldest sense of the word, the audience is given a glimpse into the world of a girl whose spirit is the incarnation of a princess from another realm. In order to find her way back to that realm, she is required to complete three tasks that take her outside the world of her heavily pregnant mother, cold-hearted stepfather and the army base that he commands. Her stepfather is the villain of this movie – a strict military man with no human conscience who tortures and kills without blinking. His character gave the movie a menacing presence that had me flinching constantly at his brutality.

A darker but similar storyline to The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe, the movie is visually incredible as the real world and the secret realm weave in and out of the story. The secret world is not softened or toned down in a nod to the childish presence in the film, but there’s real death, real terror and real pain. The dichotomy between the use of a young child as the female lead and the graphic brutality portrayed throughout the movie made it very unnerving. Although it was a bit too dark for my taste, it was still an interesting portrayal of a mythical, fantastical story.
 

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