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Archive for January, 2008

Sicko (2007)

With ‘Sicko’, as always, Moore takes a heavy subject but his way of getting his message across means that watching it is never hard going.

The film lambasts America’s healthcare system, giving examples of how the terrorists involved in 9/11 receive better healthcare than the volunteer workers on that date, and how people are allowed to die as long as it saves the system money.  Being from the UK, it is a totally alien concept to me that someone should be refused healthcare because they cannot afford it.  People may knock our NHS system, but the truth of the matter is that if someone collapses from a heart attack in the street, it doesn’t matter if they have any money, it doesn’t matter if they have a job or a home, it doesn’t even matter whether they are from the UK or not – they will receive the treatment they need.  Moore also suggests that Americans are taught to dislike France and Cuba (for example), because the powers-that-be don’t want people finding out that healthcare is so much better in those countries.  He says that Americans are taught that the Canadian healthcare system is bad for it’s citizens, to cover up the fact that actually, it hugely benefits it’s citizens.

The thing with Michael Moore is, I always feel that I am being emotionally manipulated by him when watching one of his movies, as he is SO one-sided, and doesn’t even attempt to give a balanced view.  He’s pretty honest about this though, so as long as you bear that in mind, his movies are always worth a watch.  He makes them interesting and entertaining, and more enjoyable than you might expect for such a heavy subject.

I am quite surprised that he got an Oscar nomination for this although I do think the nomination was just Hollywood’s way of saying that they are not threatened by him, but it’s just a token gesture.

Year of release: 2007

Director: Michael Moore

Writer: Michael Moore

Main cast: Michael Moore

(Author’s website can be found here.)

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This is a fabulous, if very sad book, and one that I think everybody ought to read at least once.

The narrator is Paul Baumer, a young man who is one of many young Germans sent from his class at school to fight on the front line in World War I. Through Paul’s eyes, we see how he and his fellow German soldiers lost their innocence due to the horrors they see, and indeed are involved in, and how even those who survived the war were victims.

Paul says how he believes the wrong people are fighting each other (suggesting that the leaders of the two countries should slug it out on a boxing ring instead), and talks about how someone can become an enemy simply because of an order given by someone else.

Conversely, he also demonstrates the closeness of the friendships which he forges with his fellow soldiers, and shows how adversity can bring people together.

Paul’s disillusionment grows throughout the book, as he realises the extent of the wasted lives caused by the war. I honestly don’t believe I can do this book justice in any review. It’s beautiful and moving, and a very important book.  So important that Adolf Hitler banned it and burned it, and the author was turned out of Germany.

My advice is just to read it. It’s an excellent book.

(For more information about the author, please click here.)

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This is the first book in the Aberystwyth series, by Malcolm Pryce, and I really enjoyed it. The book is a pastiche of the pulp fiction books from the 50s, and while it should be silly and completely unbelievable, it is far better than that. Yes, the story is too incredible to be really taken seriously, but when I was reading it, I really found myself getting sucked in to it.

Louie Knight is a private detective in Aberystwyth, in the 1980s. The mysterious and beautiful singer Myfanwy Montez asks him to investigate the disappearance of her cousin Evans, and despite his initial reluctance, Louie finds himself getting drawn into the mystery. Evans is just one of a number of schoolboys who has disappeared recently, and Louie has to find the connection between all the missing boys, as well as finding out who might want to hurt them.

Louie is a likeable hero, and is the only character who really stood out for me – the others will probably fade fast once the book is finished.  But that doesn’t really matter – this is his show and he should be the star.  His character is clearly an homage to the likes of Chandler’s Philip Marlowe, and mixed in with the quirky settings and situations, this combination works well.  The Aberystwyth depicted in this book is a deliberately skewed version of the real place – it’s run by the crime lords (druids) and there are all sorts of unusual comings and goings.

The book is populated by unusual characters, and the incidents pile on top of one another at a furious pace. In fact, that is my only slight complaint. Because things happen at such a rapid rate of knots, I found myself getting a bit confused as to what was happening, and how it connected with what had already happened. But don’t let that put you off. Overall, this is a hugely enjoyable, amusing read.

(Author’s website can be found here.)

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What a lovely book this is. This is the story of Charlie St. Cloud, a man who has been consumed by guilt ever since his brother died in a car accident which Charlie survived.  Charlie still communicates with his brother Sam, and is able to see and interact with him.

Charlie meets a vibrant young woman named Tess Carroll, who makes him realise that life is about looking forward and moving on, instead of living in the past.  But Tess is about to realize something about herself that will change everything for her.

This is a beautifully written book, with well developed characters, who it was easy to care about.  The prose flowed well, and kept the story moving.  I did guess the twist in the tale, but that did not detract from my enjoyment.

This is a very uplifting book about the choices that people make. I thoroughly enjoyed reading it, and would recommend it.

(Author’s website can be found here.)

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I really enjoyed this book. It centres on a young Detective Sergeant, Anna Travis, who gets involved in a hunt for a serial killer. Anna finds herself getting drawn further into the case, but has to make sure that she does not screw up, as a lot rests on the outcome.

The tension builds up quickly, and this is a real page-turner, very pacey with lots of twists and turns. It was the first book I had read by this author, and I have already acquired the next book in the series. 

My only – very slight – complaint is that there was a romantic subplot, which I thought was unnecessary, but this did not really detract from my enjoyment.

Travis is a very likeable and believable heroine, and I found myself rooting for her at every turn.  This book has ‘tv adaptation’ written all over it!

Great read!!

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I like Nick Hornby’s books as a rule, and this one is no exception, although having watched the film based on it, I will forever see Hugh Grant as Will.  (For fans of the film, it may be worthy of note that there were some big changes to the storyline in the transition from the page to the screen).

The story concerns Will, a 36 year old man who has never really grown up and accepted responsibility in any form, and the friendship he forms with 12 year old Marcus, who has probably had to grow up far too quickly and take on more responsibility than a boy of that age ever deserves. While Will’s life revolves around women, looking good and listening to the right kind of music, Marcus finds himself taking care of his emotionally fragile mother and dealing with being an outcast at school. Circumstances cause their two lives to collide, and just maybe they can both learn something about life from each other.

Nick Hornby has an easy writing style, which flows well.  He brings his characters to life, and I felt that both of the main characters – and the lesser ones – were well rounded.

There’s humour running throughout the book, but it also takes on some tougher issues.

All in all, definitely worth reading.

(For more information about the author, please click here.)

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