Friday, September 30, 2011

Tome Time - Sweet Mandarin by Helen Tse

Started September 2nd, finished September 3rd.

This was the second of my holiday reading books in September.  I went away fro a quiet week with my friend to chill, read and test out the restaurants.

I picked this book up mainly because of the local connection.  The author and her sisters own a restaurant in Manchester's Northern Quarter.  This is the story of her family and how the generations moved from a small village in China to owning what many say is their favourite Chines restaurant in Manchester.

The main character for the first part of the book is the author's Grandmother Lily.  Hers is a wonderfully inspiring tale.  The admiration I felt for this woman was immense.  She is a truly inspiring woman.  Not written as saintly but faults and all.  This is s story of grit and determination coupled with hard work and a desire to succeed.

The story passes along the generations and leads to the sisters who now own and run a thriving, modern restaurant in my favourite part of Manchester.

I won't tell you any more as I think this book should be discovered for yourself.  Apparently it has been adopted by schools and added to their curriculum.  It is definitely something I would want any female offspring I had to read.

5 out of 5 pawprints

Next - Catwatching by Desmond Morris

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Deathtrap at Oldham Coliseum

This is the season opener at Oldham Coliseum Theatre.  It's described as a hilariously twisted comedy thriller.

I did quite enjoy the play but I had a couple of grumbles.

The cast were the best thing about the production.  It's always good to see Max from Brookside, especially when he's playing a role well :-)  The cast played the roles just a little OTT which is what the play required.  However these kind of plays are not my favourite kind of plays.  The best in the play was Helen Kay who plays 'the wife'.  Apparently she's also done some Big Finish stuff.  She was very convincing and had a great physical but subtle way of expressing her feelings.

The plot is great at its twists and turns.  That is definitely the best thing about the script.  My main grumble was that it went on just a bit too long.  I think I'm getting more impatient as I get older.  The endings went on too long for me.  They tied everything up well but seemed tacked on.

The set was done very well.  One of the best I've seen at the Coliseum.  It was the perfect setting and represented the characters well.

I didn't know that Rosemary's Baby was originally an Ira Levin novel until I read the programme.  That's one I'll have to look up soon.

I'd give this 3.5 pawprints out of 5.  It was done very well but wasn't quite to my taste.

Next on the season ticket is Equus.  I've informed my theatre buddies what we'll be seeing in that! 

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Tome Time - A Question of Belief by Donna Leon

Started August 31st, finished September 2nd.

Apparently this is the 19th in the Brunetti series.  I had no idea I had read so many.  Which is a good sign as as it hasn't begun to drag as so many crime fictions series' do.

I think the aspects of these books that I love most are the descriptions of Venice and of Brunetti family life.  Nothing set in a well described Venice can fail to enchant me.  A look at Italian politics and way of life as seen through Brunetti, his wife and his colleagues eyes doesn't ever stop being fascinating.

My only quibble with this book was the coincidences involved in aspects of investigations merging.  Though in an area with such a low crime rate maybe this is more believable.  Brunetti is looking into crimes seemingly committed by a 'bad' man and crimes committed against a 'good' man.  The book looks at what makes a man a good man.  It's no surprise where the politics of character and person lie in this book if you've read previous novels.

The scene is set in a Venice suffering a heat wave.  As always this is evoked perfectly.  You're wishing Guido can escape to the mountains whilst also wishing him to stay and solve the mysteries that have surfaced.

I love these books so I'm probably biased and they'll always be high on the pawprints.  I just hope she carries on writing them for a long time yet.

4 out of 5 pawprints

Next - Sweet Mandarin by Helen Tse

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Britfilm - Burke & Hare

This was supposed to be a restorative tonic on a Sunday afternoon.  I was suffering from wine flu and needed a little light entertainment.

I'm not a big Simon Pegg fan.  I think once you've seen one of his characterisations, you've pretty much seen most of his repertoire.  I am however a huge fan of Andy Serkis' work.  That and it being a film by the director of An American Werewolf in London hinted at a fine piece of screen filling.

Once I started to watch I was pretty amazed by the quality of the cast they had brought together.  Favourites of mine included Tim Curry, Tom Wilkinson, Jessica Hynes, David Schofield and the magnificent Sir Christopher Lee.  There are plenty more quality names in there too.  Let alone the people who came forward for cameos.  There's a cracking hound in there too.

However, I just can't rate this film highly.  The cast all looked like they had a fun time working on this.  It just doesn't do credit to its cast.  The film lacks the humour I so enjoyed in American Werewolf and is just silly.  No-one lets the side down really it just didn't make me laugh very often.  I was very disappointed overall.

I did wonder when I first heard they were making this film how they could successfully make a comedy with the subject matter.  That side of things wasn't too badly done really.  It didn't ever seem as offensive as it could have been.  It just wasn't dark enough for me.  I could always see where I was supposed to laugh but it just didn't amuse me as it should have done.  The laughs were too predictably placed.  It was silly but it had no clever side to it.  Maybe I was in a miserable mood?  I won't be giving it another chance though.

2 out of 5 pawprints.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Tome Time, The Haunting of Gad's Hall by Norah Lofts

Started August 25th, finished August 31st.

I was very worried that I wouldn't like the Gad's Hall books.  They're two of my mum's favourites and I'd hate to have to tell her they were a disappointment.  Luckily neither of them were.

I have to say that once again it wasn't a book that focused on the spooky very much at all.  There's enough of it in there to deny Trading Standards a collar but it's a very minor part of the story.

It continues where the first book left off.  In both time settings.  The vast majority of the story is dedicated to the historical family.  I was glad about this as their story was much more interesting to me than one set in more modern times.  This is a novel about family.  The trials and tribulations that families go through together.  Where is stands up well for me is the characters.  They are all vividly written.  It can't have been an easy job to write five very different female characters all so well.  I believed in each one and the actions they took.  It's not a sentimental book.  It writes its characters very honestly.  Faults and good points all included.

I'm not sure whether or not I would keep the supernatural element of the story in if I were to advise the author.  It seems only to be there to direct the tale back to the historical era.  I don't really think it's necessary.  It doesn't spoil the story but it does feel a little tacked on.  The historical tale is a great read and leaving it open to the reader to decide what was actually at work would have pleased me more.

I really enjoyed a story set in the not too distant past centred around well written women,

4 out of 5 pawprints.

Next - A Question of Belief by Donna Leon

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Apollo 18 (spoilers hidden)

I've been waiting to see this film for quite a while now.  It seemed designed for me.  Moon landings and aliens.  What more could you want?  I deliberately kept my knowledge of the plot as low as possible, though it seemed that the poster pretty well spelt it out.

I wasn't disappointed with the film.  It starts out looking very much like Apollo 13 in style.  There's some home video of the crew and their families.  Followed by more cinematic looking footage from NASA.  The actors are all completely new to me making it easier to sink into the telling of the story quite quickly.  The performances all held together for me.  They weren't great but good enough not to take me out of the story.

The story starts off explaining the 'found footage' with text across your screen.  Then it's all found footage throughout.  This is a good thing in my view.  The presence of 'conspiracy theorists' or deniers on screen would have weakened the viewing experience for me.  I enjoyed this film.  I haven't yet read any other reviews but I have seen some ratings.  It seems my appreciation is in the minority.  My only real bugbear which isn't huge, is in the spoilers below.

SPOILERS BELOW  rollover to view

I liked the inclusion of the dead Russian Cosmonaut and his ship.  It helped to give some warning signs to the men from the Lunar Capsule.  It also is a good explanation (in the realms of this being true) of why the Russians didn't take to the Moon after the US had abandoned their programme.  The added tension of a possible escape was used pretty well too.

It did seem blindingly obvious to me that the crew member who had stayed behind in the ship was never going to be allowed home.  The easiest solution to him ever spilling the beans seemed to be to not allow his return to Earth.  I'd already said goodbye to him before the Russian ship left the surface.

I did feel a little let down by the aliens.  However, on a low budget it was a clever idea to go small.  They stood up to on-screen scrutiny much better than something a lot bigger.  It would also explain why we hadn't noticed them before.  The idea of some of the aliens having returned to Earth on previous Apollo missions weakened it for me though.  That statement should never have been scrolled across my screen.  It would surely have occurred to the viewer anyway.


I thoroughly enjoyed watching this in the cinema.  I was going to give it 4 pawprints.  But, as I was writing this I started to see flaws I had ignored as I was watching.  I don't think this would stand up to repeated viewings very well.  I am glad I've seen it though and I'd mark it as a Damn Good Effort.  I definitely want to see more of Gonzalo Lopez-Gallego's work.  Mention has to be made of the miniscule budget.  I didn't feel this film looked cheap at all.  I'd lump it in with Moon.  Though not as great a film as Moon.

3.5 out of 5 pawprints

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Tome Time - The Death of a Mafia Don by Michele Giuttari

Started August 21st, finished August 24th

This is my favourite so far of this author's books.  Either he is getting better or I'm getting more accustomed to his style.

This is a very Italian crime novel.  Looking into the Mafia and what surrounds them.  The author is still enjoying planting the character he seems to write himself as at the centre of everything in the world he's created.  This irritated me less in this book than the others.  Described these books could sound very similar to the Brunetti series.  In reality I'd say they're very different.  I see this author as an Alpha Male describing himself as he sees himself in these books.  The other characters aren't as well described but that doesn't really cause me problems.

I found this a good story I rolled through quite easily.  I found the final chapters a tad fantastic but I let it go.  The bit I found most irritating was the the consequences of the final chapters wasn't ever looked into.  Maybe in the next book?  This is a fun crime story that can't be read with a critical eye.  Just roll with it.  I wouldn't advise reading this without reading the book prior to this though A Death in Tuscany, as that forms the backbone of a lot of this book.

3.5 pawprints out of 5

Next - The Haunting of Gad's Hall by Norah Lofts

Monday, September 12, 2011

Britfilm - The Inbetweeners Movie (no spoilers)

In the last few months I discovered The Inbetweeners.  I was very late to the party but glad I got on board.  The first series was one of the funniest things I've seen in a long time.  We got through the entire series in one night.  I can't remember that many belly laughs in one evening before.  Series two was also hilarious but seemed just a touch less funny.  Still brilliant though.  Series three I enjoyed but didn't feel it was as good as the first two.

I was therefore wondering what I'd get with the film.  Would it be a step too far?  Would taking the lads out of England lose the charm or would a 'lad's holiday' give them the material they needed to get the original spark back?

Well, I suppose it was a bonus that they had a new environment to focus on.  With all the 'traditions' they could use from a lads holiday.

I found the film very enjoyable and I laughed a lot.  Mr Meks felt slightly let down by the predictable parts but I took them as usual in this kind of film.  This is no cinematic masterpiece, it's just a fun watch.  In fact it's pretty much what you'd expect to see from The Inbetweeners on holiday.  It's predictable in parts.  Some of the storylines are believable some aren't.  

I'm not sure how I'd have found the film without knowing the characters from the tv series.  You'd still find parts laugh out loud I imagine but I don't think it would be as good a watch.

Will I ever watch this again?  Probably, when it's on Channel 4.  It's not one I'd go out and buy though.  I can't see what could be gained by a re-watch.  It definitely entertained me and I got my money's worth from the trip to the cinema though.

4 out of 5 pawprints.