Category Archives: Reviews

More thoughts on The Rise of Skywalker

NOTE. Spoilers follow!

A couple of days since I saw The Rise of Skywalker, my desire to see it again keeps getting stronger. Our middle son gets back from university this afternoon, so the plan is to watch our DVDs of Episodes VII and VIII, then go back to the cinema to see IX.

The same day I first blogged about this film, my long-time friend and colleague Matt Wedel also wrote about it (amusingly, leading off with the same opening image), and he has already followed up with a second post: I recommend both.

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A few thoughts on The Rise of Skywalker

WARNING. This article will be full of spoilers. Don’t read it if you haven’t seen the film yet. Or, if you do, don’t complain. Spoilers follow the spoiler space.

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Richard Shindell’s song The Next Best Western

Let’s just pretend today’s election never happened, and speak of better things.

Around the turn of the millennium, I worked at a small company in North London. We had a shared MP3 server: we all put some of our favourite songs on it, and we could all listen to each other’s. That’s how I discovered the brilliant singer-songwriter Dar Williams, who was the choice of my colleague Andrew Eland. In 2009, reading a review of one of Dar’s albums, I read on to the second half of that article which was about Richard Shindell’s album Reunion Hill. Based on the very positive review, I bought the album and loved it.

The opening song on that album is The Next Best Western, and it quickly became one of my favorite songs: so much so that when in 2011 I started playing and singing in folk clubs, it was the very first song I ever performed. So it’s particularly special to me.

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What I’ve been reading lately, part 33

Ordeal by Innocence — Agatha Christie

Apparently one of Christie’s two favourites among her own books (along with Crooked House), and I can understand why. The two books share dark atmospheres, with the multi-generational inhabitants of houses deeply mistrusting each other. Some of Christie’s books feel like games; this one feels serious. The protagonist is a man who was unwittingly the alibi of a murder suspect who was convicted two years earlier and has subsequently died in jail. When he realises this, he goes to the dead man’s family to tell them the good news that he was not, after all, the murderer — only to find that they are not delighted. He had failed to realise that his news meant that one of the other family members had done it, and that they were therefore still living with a murderer. Good stuff; but not a good jumping-on point for new readers, as it’s rather atypical. Continue reading

What I’ve been reading lately, part 32

Popcorn — Ben Elton

More Elton, this one the story of a film director, clearly based on Quentin Tarantino, who makes very violent but very stylish films; and about two copycat killers who break into his Hollywood mansion and hold him hostage.

Again, fast-moving and compelling. Ironically, though, it falls into exactly the trap that it’s accusing Tarantino of falling into: making the mindless violence seem exciting and sexy. I would like to think that Elton did this deliberately, as a sort of meta-comment, but I’m not sure he’s that clever. Continue reading

What I’ve been reading lately, part 31

Breakfast at Tiffany’s — Truman Capote

I went back to read this source text after having been fascinated by the film. The novella is perfectly written: terse, just as descriptive as it needs to be, and economically outlining a Holly Golightly who is more to be pitied than envied or held in contempt. In both book and film she is an enigmatic figure, always holding contradictions in tension, and Capote was completely mad to think that Marilyn Monroe should have been cast for the role. Having read the book, I now see Audrey Hepburn as even more perfect for it than I already did — she has a combination of elegance, haughtiness, playfulness, shamelessness and insecurity that no-one else could have nailed so precisely.

Well worth reading the book first, then seeing the film. Continue reading

Hulks (five different ones). Part 4: the 2008 proto-MCU movie

I have much less to say about 2008’s The Incredible Hulk movie than I had to say about 2003’s Hulk, because the film is much less ambitious. It’s a strange thing to say about a superhero movie, but it feels … conservative. Safe.

It’s not a bad film. Apart from making Betty Ross a cipher, a love interest and nothing more, it really doesn’t do anything wrong. It makes a series of competent steps from its premise — that Banner has been living with his condition for five years — to its conclusion. You can’t criticise any of them; but you can’t really get excited about them either.

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