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December 28, 2007

The Golden Compass

This is a review of the movie, not the book, though as my title isn't "Northern Lights", UK based people could probably work that one out. Unusually for me, I think the Americans were right to rename this for their market. The Golden Compass makes a lot more sense, and fits into the naming schema of the other two volumes (The Subtle Knife, and The Amber Spyglass).

There is a lot to commend this film. The effects are marvellous, with more CGI animals morphing from rats to birds or fighting each other than you can shake a stick at. And there are armoured fighting polar bears of course. The pace never lets up and the tension is high throughout so it never gets boring. The acting is on the whole very good, though Lyra's accent is all over the place, and Mrs Coulter whispers menacingly a bit too much for my liking. Nicole Kidman is perfect as Coulter though.

I won't reveal much of the story, except to say it's a fairly standard fantasy quest, but with some serious religious overtones that you can in fact choose to completely ignore, which the kids will do. A likable pre-teen girl (Lyra) travels to the frozen north to search for her friend, and other children who have gone missing, presumed kidnapped. This takes place in a parallel world to ours, which is similar in many ways, but subtly different. One main difference, is that everyone's soul lives outside their body in the form of an animal, called a daemon. These daemons are a marvellous creation, giving the story much of it's narrative, and the film a lot of its eye candy.

Fun for all the family.

Posted by se71 at 02:45 PM | Comments (0)

December 19, 2007

Sword In The Storm - David Gemmell

Sword In The Storm

Truely excellent heroic fantasy from the sadly missed David Gemmell, no one does it better than he did. This is the start of the Rigante saga, and I'm really happy that I have another three books to go.

This volume concerns the early life of Connavar, also known as Sword in the Storm, also known as Demonblade. He lives in a remove community of people in Rigante tribe. They have battles with neighbouring tribes, but in general live a fairly settled life. Connavar gets to know a traveller from the distant land of the Stone people, who says that one day their way of life will be destroyed, when these fearsome warriors come across the sea and enslave them. So Connavar decides to travel to this land to find out what can be done to protect the Rigante.

As usual, we have magic, tragic deaths, heroic actions, and very real people who are neither black nor white in character - everything has subtle shades of gray. There is also an awful lot of sex, this book is not for kids. Gemmell tackles all sorts of issues, including disability, adultery, illigitimacy, prostitution, paedophilia; they may have a medieval leverl of technology, but their human problems are still relevant and understandable to us. His people live short but fast and very hard lives, but do love the good times they manage to make for themselves. The darkness is always tempered by light, which is one of the authors great skills.

If you could level one criticism, it would be that occasionally coincidence and fate play too much a part - but then, this is fantasy, not historic fiction - it goes with the territory. Also, the main narrative does not resolve the story, so you really do need get th next one.

I loved this book, and I'm well into the sequel already (Midnight Falcon), and loving it too.

Posted by se71 at 10:16 AM | Comments (0)

December 11, 2007

Led Zeppelin

Originally uploaded by se71.
Yes, I got tickets to the concert of the century.
No, it did not disappoint.
Yes, Led Zeppelin still rock.

Posted by se71 at 10:39 AM | Comments (0)

December 07, 2007



As silly family Christmas films go, this is a rather good one. Will Ferrell (Buddy) is completely inoffensive as a human who accidently gets adopted by Elfs, and works in Santa's grotto at the North Pole. When he grows up, he finds out the truth that he is adopted, and heads off to New York to find his father.

Even though he isn't a very skilled Elf, in human terms his skills are prodigious such as throwing snowballs with complete accuracy, making christmas decorations out of anything. These get him out of, and into, a lot of scrapes. But it is his inexhaustable good cheer and enthuasism (perhaps caused by the mountains of sugary food he eats) that is infectious and makes this feel-good movie feel good

The supporting cast are all good, Zooey Deschanel as love interest pays it just right as a cynical girl won over by the Christmas spirit at the end. And the ending (spoiler alert) where Buddy saves Santa, and everyone sings carols, is not cloyingly sentimental, just really happy.

Add in some knockabout slapstick comedy, one of the funniest lines I've heard this year "He's an angry elf" and you've got a film with just about nothing wrong with it.

Posted by se71 at 02:45 PM | Comments (0)

Before Sunrise

Before Sunrise
Amazon link

This was highly recommended to me, and that would usually be enough. However, because I knew something of the plot, and know there is a recent sequel, Before Sunset this piqued my curiousity even more. So I watched this basically just so I can watch the sequel.

Julie Delpie and Ethan Hawke play Celine and Jesse, a young couple who meet on a train and decide to spend just one magical evening together in Vienna. Apart from a few very brief walk-on parts, theirs is the only dialog, as they talk about life and love whilst walking around the city by day and through the night until morning.

That's it - this is not a plot driven film, the only thing to wonder is will they or won't they consummate their relationship, and will they actually just split up in the end. I'm not giving either of those away.

It't very romantic, very slow, the actors are charming, even if their performances are a little amateur at times. I liked it, though I wouldn't rave about it, and I am a little disappointed that some strong language took it to a certificate 15, otherwise it could easily be a family film.

Looking forward to seeing what happens in the sequel though - it should be very interesting to see whether the acting is better, and to see how their lives turned out. And I hope Hawke has gotten rid of his ridiculous goatee beard.

Posted by se71 at 02:08 PM | Comments (0)