October 30, 2015

Book Review—The Heart Goes Last by Margaret Atwood

America is in the middle of an economic collapse, with all the social turmoil and unrest that goes with it. Unemployment, homelessness and crime are all up, and even those with once promising careers and lives are caught in the downturn. Stan and Charmaine are part of the many, now living in their car and surviving on a single, menial income. But things look up when they get into the Consilience/Positron program, a social experiment in a closed off community. In Consilience they get a comfortable house, jobs, and purpose. But every second month they swap with their ‘Alternates’, another couple with whom they share their new prosperity, and for this second month Stan and Charmaine live separated lives in Positron, a prison around which this community is built. The truth behind the gleaming fa├žade soon comes to the fore, and Stan and Charmaine become entangled in the sleazy, gruesome underworld.

The stability they craved becomes the very thing that leads Stan and Charmaine wayward. Both seemingly adapt, but transgression becomes the ever present focus of their minds. And despite being marketed as the ideal community, neither Charmaine nor Stan establish bonds with anyone else in Consilience. Apart from the ever declining interactions between themselves they make no connections, save for the forbidden cavorting with their ‘Alternates’. There is a pastiche of other dystopic works, with hints of The Stepford Wives, a debt to Never Let Me Go, and a dose of Brave New World for good measure. This, along with the Yuppie-inspired Newspeak and plethora of pop culture references, does crowd the narrative. And while the recurrence of 1950s style and icons is effective, with its prim and proper gleefulness covering repressed lust, greed, and longing, the use is far from original and loses much of its ironic heft.

It may not have the bite or depth of Atwood’s earlier works, but The Heart Goes Last has involving characters, enjoyable dark humour, and an entertaining plot.


October 26, 2015

Film Review - And so it goes By Director Rob Reiner

And so it goes stars Michael Douglas and Diane Keaton. Oren Little doesn't make it easy for people to like him, he is a difficult and an obnoxious realtor.

Hoping to sell his prized family home and retire in peace, everything is going to plan until his estranged son turns up with his granddaughter he has never met before to be looked after. He struggles at first and thanks to his kind and helpful neighbour Leah becomes a more loving and caring person. This is a funny and uplifting movie.

October 23, 2015

Book Review—Arguably by Christopher Hitchens

The late Christopher Hitchens was a divisive voice in American and international politics and culture. He came to international prominence with God is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything, which, if the title doesn’t ring a bell or make entirely clear, takes a severely critical view of religion, although his firebrand polemics covered a much broader array of topics. He was, for example, one of the few left-wing supporters of Bush and Blair’s War on Terror. Arguably collects this variety of Hitchens’ works.

What distinguishes Hitchens is not his clear prose or his extensive knowledge, although these are striking features of his writing, but his passion. Every topic, book, action, person, and event are examined and spoken of with unrelenting clarity of view and purpose. You very quickly learn his angle on the topic and most importantly the reasons behind those views. This is Hitchens’ strength, and why even those opposed to his views maintained a fascination with his output. He takes even the most assumed common sense, the most assured convictions, and questions them relentlessly. There are definitely blind spots, and Hitchens abounds in many seeming contradictions, and, arguably, many of his opinions are not as revelatory or original as his most ardent supports may claim.

Arguably will not be to everyone’s taste and will leave many people bemused, annoyed, and angered. But I would argue that is exactly the reason why everyone, at least everyone convinced of the strength of their own convictions, should read it.


October 21, 2015

Film Review - Ghost Directed by Jerry Zucker

Ghost stars Patrick Swayze, Demi Moore and Whoopi Goldberg. Winner of 2 Academy awards including best supporting actress. This 1990 American romantic fantasy follows the life of a young women- Molly and the ghost of her murdered lover.

The story is tragic but a moving love story, showing that love knows no boundaries. There is an amazing pottery wheel scene between Sam and Molly that is unforgettable. Anne

October 19, 2015

Film Review - The Theory of Everything By Director James Marsh

The Theory of Everything is based on the relationship between renowned physicist Stephen Hawking and his beautiful wife, Jane Wilde. Through their struggles and with Hawking's diagnosis at age 21, they defeat the odds. With Jane strongly supporting him he embarks on his most important work- the study of time.

This is an uplifting and beautiful love story and is based on the memoir' Travelling to Infinity : My life with Stephen' by Jane Hawking. Anne

October 16, 2015

Book Review—The Buried Giant by Kazuo Ishiguro

In a time after the Romans and when the knights of Arthur still live, England is in a time of despair. Ogres are constant nuisances and dragons occasional perils. But worst of all is a mist that has gathered over the moors and valleys, and everyone is caught in a state of amnesia. Axl and Beatrice, an elderly couple, start to ponder this strange state that has befallen them and their fellows, and decide to go and see their son, who is also a vague memory. Along their journey they meet many dwellers in this cursed land, each with their own affliction and hope to be freed of the mist.

The novel provides many allusions to epic tales and literatures that creates a dense atmosphere. From the despair created by the psychopomp who is in turn tormented by the neglected wife of a passenger, to the heroic warrior with echoes of Beowulf, the conniving monks and treacherous kings, and the legend of Arthur hovering over everyone’s lips. The first few chapters of the novel promise a surreal take on the fantasy genre, with strange omens and eerie sensations. But as the chapters progress these hypnotic passages blend into staples of the fantasy genre, with quests and burdens that need to be fulfilled. There remains a subversive allure, where Arthur’s knight is weary, and the heroic warrior is as motivated by personal grudges as heroic duty, but often these seem more contrived to toil in the genre, and many passages and narrative shifts have little place other than convenience.

But Ishiguro's ability to move from heart-warming elation to devastation is perfect for the search for memories at the heart of The Buried Giant, with memories having both the power to relive past ecstasies but also to inflict regret and lamentations.

October 12, 2015

Film Review - The Musketeers Season 1 by creators Adrian Hodges, Simon J. Ashford and Simon Allen

The Musketeers are a group of highly trained bodyguards and soldiers to the king. Atho's, D'Artagnan, Aramis and Porthos all have their own troubles and secrets which surface throughout the series.

The Cardinal's scheming plans with the seductress Milady will keep you intrigued.
From affairs of the heart to defending the confused king, this series has something for everyone.
Filled with action and excitement there is true character development throughout the series.

October 09, 2015

Film Review—Foxcatcher

Mark Schultz (Channing Tatum) is an Olympic Gold Medal wrestler struggling to make ends meat while preparing for the next Olympic Games. He trains with his brother David (Mark Ruffalo), a fellow gold medalist and coach, who raised Mark in the absence of their father. Mark receives an invitation from John E. du Pont (Steve Carell), of the wealthy du Pont family, who wishes to establish an Olympic wrestling team with Mark and David coaching. John and Mark form a strong bond, but this is overshadowed by John's overbearing mother, Jean, the Foxcatcher Estate matriarch, and his increasing jealousy of the closeness Mark shares with his brother.

The film’s strength is the performances by Ruffalo and in particular Tatum and Carell as the damaged duo seeking fulfilment. The mix of seeking both a father figure and a brother or friend marks their connection and explains the depth of the disconnection that occurs. The negotiations between friendship and dependency complicate the relationship, as do the need both Mark and John have for acceptance from their parental figures while at the same time trying to transcend the confines of those relationships. With both already having strong links with dependency they find themselves dragging each other with in their downward spirals, with personal hopes and dreams left on the wayside.

A portrait of the conflict between bonds and selfhood, Foxcatcher provides engaging performances and an arresting story.

October 05, 2015

Book Review - The diet trap : feed your psychological needs & end the weight loss struggle using acceptance & commitment therapy / Jason Lillis, PhD, JoAnne Dahl, PhD, Sandra M. Weineland, PhD.

The Diet Trap helps you to step out of the weight loss struggle by helping you change the way you relate to food and exercise. This is done by proven effective methods based in acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT). This book will help you cultivate more mindful eating habits, self compassion and a deeper connection with your own core values.
The three authors all have PHD's in the field of psychology and have clinical experience using acceptance and commitment therapy.

The Diet Trap is filled with beneficial examples and exercises to work through. I found the book to be refreshing and it offered a different view and path to permanent weight loss.

October 02, 2015

Book Review—The Good Lord Bird by James McBride

The abolitionist John Brown is terrorising the Southern states with tales of his exploits reaching boogeyman proportions. One day he wanders into Dutch Henry’s tavern and meets Henry Shackleford and his Pa. After a botched liberation he takes Henry into his army, although believing him a girl and calling him “Little Onion”. Henry witnesses Brown’s life and exploits as well as the social turmoil Kansas experiences at the idea of liberating slaves in the lead up to the Civil War.

The child narrator features prominently in the Southern literature from Mark Twain to Harper Lee. McBride adopts a similar position, but in his tale the ridiculous elements are heightened. Although this adds playfulness and wit to the tale, it does not shy away from more troubling elements, like the hanging of several slaves believed to be planning an insurrection, and Henry is far from the wide eye innocent child of earlier works dealing with slavery or race relations. He knows the vile habits and the treachery of the whites, as well as how to play the game of the ‘good negro’ in order to survive. Henry being mistaken for a girl and his willingness to don a dress and play that role divulges the spuriousness of this world. The more ridiculous and hyperbolic elements reflect the absurdity of the social structure of the South but without it becoming fanciful or otherworldly. It is simply the reality, the strange, twisted, paranoid reality that provided the institution of slavery with its constancy.

A modernisation of the slave narrative, The Good Lord Bird removes all innocence while revealing the farcicality of reality.