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Archive for January, 2016

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James Wayland (Tim Roth) is an alcoholic, epileptic, unemployed genius, from a rich and powerful family. Accused of raping and mutilating a prostitute, he is taken into a police station where Detectives Braxton and Kennesaw (Chris Penn and Michael Rooker respectively) give him a lie detector test. However, they have under-estimated their adversary, who is soon able to manipulate them with their own issues – Braxton has gambling problems, and Kennesaw is convinced his wife is cheating on him. What follows is a tense and sinister stand off between the three men, interspersed with flashbacks of events leading up to the interrogation.

I wanted to watch this film because Tim Roth is one of the main stars, and I wasn’t disappointed. Here, he plays a deeply unpleasant character, who may or may not have committed a particularly gruesome  murder (no spoilers here!) There are plenty of psychological mind games afoot, and the truth behind what actually happened is revealed bit by bit. However, as the flashbacks are seen from the points of view of the characters, you are never sure whether what they are remembering is accurate or not, thereby keeping the viewer in the dark along with the detectives.

Super acting from all three of the main cast makes this film a worthwhile watch. As a lot of the film takes place in a single room in a police station, the atmosphere is suitably claustrophobic and there is always a disturbing undertone.

I think my only niggle would be that some of the events that take place in the second half of the film are just not believable – they simply couldn’t or wouldn’t happen. Nonetheless, if you are willing to suspend your disbelief, this shouldn’t hamper enjoyment.

Special mention for Renee Zellweger in a departure from her usual roles – she is superb as the murdered prostitute, Elizabeth.

Overall, if you are a fan of psychological thrillers, give this a watch and prepare for a few surprises.

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Year of release: 1997

Directors: Jonas Pate, Josh Pate

Writers: Jonas Pate, Josh Pate

Main cast: Tim Roth, Chris Penn, Michael Rooker, Renee Zellweger

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It’s 1912, and the Torrington family are at their grand old house Sterne, for daughter Emerald’s 20th birthday. Once rich, but now on the verge of financial ruin, Emerald’s stepfather has gone to try and borrow money to save the property. Meanwhile, Emerald, her thoughtless brother Clovis, their manipulative mother Charlotte and eccentric youngest child Smudge are awaiting the arrival of their guests. But the evening is interrupted by a group of strangers who arrive at Sterne. They have been in a train accident and there is nowhere else for them to go while they await help from the railway company.

With little choice, the Torringtons invite the rag-tag group of victims into the house, but before long events take a strange turn and the family start to wonder if they have invited something more malevolent into their home. Over the course of an evening and a night, secrets are revealed, true colours are shown and everybody learns something about themselves and each other.

I’m not entirely sure what to make of this book. I definitely enjoyed it and it was a fairly quick read for me; however it started out as one thing and then took a different turn. If you asked me to put it into a particular genre, I would struggle – it is described as a dark comedy of manners (and it certainly was funny in parts – the descriptions made me giggle, often). However there was a more sinister undertone, and a definite sense that evil was never too far away from the Sterne house.

I felt that the characters were well described, if not all particularly likeable. My favourite characters were Smudge, and siblings Patience and Ernest. Most of the others featured somewhere on a scale of unpleasant to horrible.

I enjoy books that take place in a single location, and also books that take place in a short span of time, so for me this was ideal. I was never able to predict exactly what was going to happen next, although I did guess the twist at the end- that said, their were clues to the twist throughout the story.

Reviews for this book seem very mixed, and I can see why it would not appeal to people. It’s hard to get a hold of, and almost defies description. However, I liked it a lot – certainly enough for me to seek out other work by this author. I would recommend with caution.

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Despite the slightly misleading title (more on that later), I enjoyed this book. The author, a senior lecturer in Psychology at Keele University, discusses the benefits and pitfalls of certain ‘bad’ behaviours, including drinking, driving too fast, swearing, time wasting and dying (!) using various tests and experiments conducted by scientists to do so.

As he explains in the introduction, he doesn’t delve too deeply into the science side of things, but explains experiments conducted and their results in layman’s terms (good for a person like me). At the end of each chapter he does provide a list of references and suggestions for further reading.

Stephens is a genial and engaging narrator – a lot of how he writes is in the kind of language you might use having a chat in the pub with friends – which makes for a fun read as well as an informative one. I’m still not convinced that some of the behaviour is beneficial or indeed that all of the behaviour constitutes ‘being bad’ – and certainly there are limits drawn; for example the book acknowledges that excessive drinking is bad for health, while pointing out that drinking in moderation can have health and psychological benefits, but then I wouldn’t say that moderate drinking is ‘bad’ behaviour anyway. As another example, the chapter on swearing states that swearing in certain situations is beneficial, but that there are of course some circumstances when swearing is entirely inappropriate.

Little niggles aside however, overall this book is interesting and provides some food for thought. I’d definitely read more by this author.

 

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