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After 100 million copies sold, a budget of £110 million, hundreds of tabloid inches and years of waiting, the Harry Potter movie is finally here. Well, almost. You still have to wait until Friday but I was one of the lucky ones who saw an advanced screening. I adore the books and having had Hollywood ruin some of my favourite books, I was wary of the film. I can happily tell you there was no need to worry. It’s not an easy film to classify. It’s funny but it’s not a comedy, it’s a children’s film but will equally appeal to adults. There are elements of fantasy, action and even bits that could’ve been lifted from an American TV movie. The cast is truly stellar but you’ll be amazed at how little of these superstars appear on screen. Julie Walters and John Cleese each appear in one scene and have just a few lines with the emphasis is firmly on the children, Harry, Hermione and Ron. The search for the actor to play Harry took place all over Britain (JK Rowling insisted on a British cast, leaving one Haley Joel Osment very disappointed) and in the end the role went to Daniel Radcliffe, a relative newcomer who had only been in one other production, the BBC version of Great Expectations. He certainly looks the part (the author felt she’d been reunited with a long-lost son when she saw his audition tape) but can he act? Yes, but he can also overact. He wears a constant expression of surprise, with wide eyes and arched eyebrows but he coped well in the emotional scenes and he certainly got better as the film went on. Ron and Hermione (Rupert Grint and Emma Watson) were better and much more as I imagined them to be but both had some OTT moments, particularly at the end. The best child actor by far is Tom Felton, who played Draco Malfoy. He not only looked the part but underplayed his role and came across as a spoilt rich kid rather than an evil bully. Likewise Alan Rickman played Potions teacher Snape and car ried off the role with menace and nasty without going for the obvious way of being just evil. Robbie Coltrane (Hagrid), Maggie Smith (Prof. McGonagal) and Zoe Wanamaker (Madame Hooch) also did a great job but the cast was let down by Ian Hart (terrible overacting and quite unbelievable as Quirrell) and Richard Harris (too cold and unfriendly as Dumbledore). The film is surprisingly British, not just as far as the cast is concerned but the language, the settings, the scenery and the humour as well. The American director, Chris Columbus, treated the book with the reverence it deserved and didn’t compromise to make it more appealing to the American audience. It seems unthinkable nowadays for a book to be adapted without major changes but that’s exactly what happened here, thanks to the involvement of Joanne Rowling. All the major (and most of the minor) events from the book are in the film and this has to be one of the reasons why it is so enjoyable. So many elements are just as I had imagined them, such as Diagon Alley, the Hogwarts Express and the Gryffindor Common Room. I had trouble picturing things like Quidditch and it is here the film really proves itself, adding new dimensions to the world of Harry Potter. There are some amazing scenes including the Quidditch match, the troll, Wizard Chess and the Invisibility Cloak, each using incredible computer graphics but the film certainly doesn’t rely on these to tell the story and keep the audience’s attention. I quite liked the score and thought it added something to certain scenes but as recent tests have shown that an unborn foetus knows more about classical music than I do, I’m not really the person to ask. The sets were amazing, with so many little details that it was clear how much work was put into them and the scenery and school itself were quite breathtaking. To sum up, you simply have to see this film. Not only because it’s a classic and probably film of the year but also because you’ll be left out of every conversation at home, work or school until Christmas if you haven’t. For once believe the hype, this film really is magic.
Much has been written over the last few days about the British general election. From Hague’s resignation and the embarrassing Mandelson speech to the saccharine soaked Blair family pose. But in the eyes of the media the one thing worse than all these in the percentage of people who actually voted, down from 71% in 1997 to 59% in 2001. Young people are the worst “offenders”. This significant drop has been attributed to laziness, a rather ironic choice of explanation when you consider how little time and thought went into concocting it. Now, let’s look at the other reasons. First of all the timing. Currently A-Levels and university exams are going on, which affect a large proportion of young people who simply can’t afford the time to vote. If people were truly passionate about politics they wouldn’t let anything stop them for voting. So what does this tell you about the political parties? They simply don’t cater for them and don’t deliver on issues they think of as important. Young people obviously don’t feel that they are represented by the parties and don’t care enough to vote. No one likes to be labelled. By voting Labour, Conservative, Lib Dem or any other party you are being put into a box and judged because of this. There is no one party who truly represents the voter's view. It is easy to admire Labour’s policy on education and yet disagree with their lack of interest in the environment. Perhaps you like the Tory idea of keeping the pound but wish they’d take a modern stance on gay rights. Until parties can ask people what they really care about rather than what they think will grab headlines, the percentage of voters will fall. Another possibility is that people simply don’t trust politicians. They are very aware that the promises sprouted in the run up to the election are often conveniently forgotten about when the party gets into power. But could it just be laziness? Could the nation’s youths just not be bothered going out to vote? Well perhaps that has a little to do with it but take the case of the Big Brother 10. All they had to do to vote was cross the kitchen and into the diary room, much simpler than any obstacle people outside have to contend with, and yet three of the ten didn’t vote. I don't want to preach, there's been enough of that in Britain in the run up to the election, but look beyond this perceived laziness and see the real reasons for a lack of voting. Here lies the real problems the government will face and here also lies the key to solving these problems.
Have you ever dreamt of giving up everything and moving to another country, slipping into the gentler lifestyle and experiencing, and indeed being part of, a whole new culture? Do you long to pass your lane in the rat race onto someone else? In that case read A Year in Provence at your peril, because by the end of chapter one you’ll have sold your suburban semi and bought a crumbling Mediterranean maison. Like so many, the author Peter Mayle and his wife shared the above dream, the only difference being they turned it into a reality. Mayle’s book is an autobiographical account of their first year living in Provence, an idyllic rural region in Southern France. The book chronicles the excitement and problems each month brought in the first year, examining the idiosyncrasy and quirks of rural French life along the way. Though the just miles from their native England, life couldn’t be more different. Life was reduced to a pace usually only reserved for snails, and of course snails themselves took on a completely different purpose too. While the English lunch was popping out for a minute to get a chicken and mayo sandwich, the French equivalent was a three-hour extravaganza of talking, listening, bartering, dealing and enjoying good company and even better food. Football and cricket became boules and goat-racing as they crossed the English Channel. Neighbours automatically become close friends, business partners, helpers and confidants in France rather than a nodding acquaintance, as so often is the case in Britain. Television is a tool for those who can’t appreciate the beauty around them and the finer things in life instead of a purpose for living. Wine is something to be savoured and enjoyed, a vital part of life and something you purchase by the gallon, not by the 750ml supermarket bottle on sale. Lazy unreliable builders who promise everything and deliver nothing become, well lazy unreliable builders who promise everything a nd deliver nothing. All these stories are told in Mayle’s book and recounted in such a way that his warmth and enthusiasm for the area and its people clearly shines through. A Year in Provence opens up this exclusive culture to an audience of anyone interested, and judging by the enormous sales, that’s a lot of people. It takes more than the region to keep everyone interested and it’s Mayle’s style and evocative descriptions which have earned the rave reviews and make it such a joy to read. The beauty of Provence is captured in print quite superbly and if you close your eyes you can fully imagine an August evening in Provence, the sun warming your exposed flesh, the humid wind tickling your body as you lie beside the swimming pool, only opening your eyes to pour another glass of local wine. Now, where’s that estate agent’s phone number…
John Grisham is undisputedly the king of legal thrillers. A lawyer himself, he wrote his first novel, ‘A Time To Kill’, in his spare time, getting up at 5 each morning and writing for a few hours before he started work. Book two followed, ‘The Firm’ and that’s when things started. By the time the celluloid version featuring Tom Cruise had appeared, Grisham was a sensation. Since ‘The Firm’, Grisham wrote a new book every year and the film adaptation was never far behind. February 2001 brought ‘A Painted House’ but this Grisham book was a little different, there wasn’t a lawyer in sight. A Grisham himself puts it, “There is not a single lawyer, dead or alive, in this story. Nor are there judges, trials, courtrooms, conspiracies or nagging social issues.” Instead Grisham revisited his childhood and writes about an extended family of cotton-pickers in rural Arkansas. The protagonist is a bit different deviates from the norm as well, instead of Harvard graduate lawyer it’s a seven year old boy, Luke Chandler. The story is told through Luke’s eyes, and his musings on the important things in life, baseball, his Saturday trip to the cinema and the object of his affections, 17 year old Tally. He loathes the pain of picking cotton and aspires to be a professional baseball player, playing for his beloved Cardinals. His mother shares his dream and wants her son to be the first Chandler to leave the poverty trap of the family farm. The story revolves around the cotton-picking season, a three month period in the autumn which determines whether the family will survive the incoming year or not. The mammoth back-breaking job is too much for a family and so they must hire workers. In this case the workers are the Spruills, a troublesome family from Eureka Springs and a group of ten Mexicans. Over the course of the three months lives are changed for all three groups amidst a backdro p of murder, harsh labour, secrets, pregnancy and the Korean War. Plenty of action, just what you’d expect from John Grisham. So how does this book compare with his others? Has the change of direction been a wise move. In my opinion this has been one of Grisham’s best. Initially I was sceptical but the book is so involving and absorbing that it can be impossible to get started. John Grisham really proves himself as a master storyteller with ‘A painted House’, expertly weaving stories, anecdotes and observations together. In particular he shows a great talent for creating people, rather than characters, Grishams’s unknown depths are untapped in this book. Grisham has made a costly gamble in writing this book, a love letter to his childhood, though in my mind it has definitely paid off, finally showing Grisham’s true abilities.
You know things are bad when you’re home on a Saturday night. You know things are catastrophic when you’re home on Saturday night and watching TV. Take “Stars in Their Eyes”. No seriously, someone take it and dispose of it now. The premise is interesting enough (karaoke with dressing up) quite novel and clever. Or at least it was, 10 years ago when it first started. Now it’s dull, boring and, thanks to ITV’s sudden realisation of its popularity, over-exposed. We now have two series of it each year, a spin-off CD and book, Christmas show, 3 Celebrity specials and recent EuroVision style version, “Stars in Euro Eyes”. The presenter is Matthew Kelly, an irritatingly chirpy man who seemingly can only talk in puns and large hints as to which singer who’ll be represented next. He is simply too enthusiastic and I have violent fantasies about embedding his sparkling waistcoats in a variety of orifices. Still, fun can be had when he clearly doesn’t know who the singer is but still insists the contestant is a dead ringer for them. The programme lasts 50 minutes, a third of which is taken up with appalling footage of the partakers shopping/playing with their children/at their job while claiming that music is the most important thing in their life. Only occasionally is this the spouse or children. Not content with inflicting this much information about their dull lives onto the audience, the contestant insists on telling Matthew Kelly hilarious anecdotes about the time they were in Marbella. They also give supposedly unusual information about the star they will be before disappearing into a sea of dry ice and coming out as their chosen singer. The celebrity chosen is another depressing factor. In one series you are guaranteed a Celine Dion, a Frank Sinatra, a Madonna, a Marty Pellow, a lesser member of the Rat Pack, the latest teen queen and a Mariah Carey. The transformations range from 220;Wow, that’s him!” to the much more likely “Oh, it’s that milkman who got drunk in Marbella with a wig on.” Of course the contestants aren’t picked on their physical likeness, rather their aural likeness, though sometimes you have to wonder. Clearly sometimes the producers are so desperate for the latest stars to be impersonated they let the quality control slip a little (eg Elderly Austrian woman tries to be Craig David). Luckily the audience (usually home to the complete family circles of the contestants don’t care and clap heartily, generally before the singer has got to sing a note. Unfortunately it is these people who have the power to choose the winner. Ten crazy wannabes later and we have a grand final. The difference this time is that the programme is live and the viewers (up to 20 million of them) vote for the winner. But by stage it's a case of "Tonight Matthew I'm going to be sticking my head in boiling vats of acid rather than watch it."
“One half of the world cannot understand the pleasures of the other.” remarked Jane Austen once (as do Waterstone’s bags). Personally I can’t fathom football. 22 men running after a ball for 90 minutes. Even more confusing than the appeal of football is the appeal of watching it. It costs time, self-esteem and a lot of money. Or at least that was my opinion until I read Nick Hornby’s debut Fever Pitch. Chronicling his love-hate relationship with Arsenal, the book was published to great acclaim in 1992. In it Hornby highlights individual football matches, from 1969 to 1992, offering a rare glimpse into the mind of a football fanatic. One of the things I enjoyed most was that Hornby is the first to criticise football and football obsessives like himself. In doing so Hornby also reveals the glory of football when everything goes right, from beating an old rival to winning the league. As a critic from the Independent on Sunday put it “His triumph is that, without glossing over its large-scale stupidities and discomforts, he makes the terrace life seem not just plausible but sometimes near-heroic in its single-minded vehemence, its heart-shaking highs and lows.” Within the area of football he offers his opinion on football-related violence, racism in football, season ticket prices and tragedies like Hillsborough, as well as opening up debates about the behaviour of clubs towards fans. He is much more successful than any politician can ever be because he has been there and knows just what he’s talking about. He has anecdotes for every football situation that he effortlessly weaves into the book, not for comic or dramatic effect but simply because he loves the game and wants to share with people. Through his stories he involves the reader, even 9 years later when football has progressed so much. Football isn’t all he covers. Along the way he talks about his fears about relationships and his career, both contributing to his depression. This is a subject he talks freely and impassively about, not in a Frank McCourt way, though always keeping the focus on football. His vulnerable side is exposed for everyone to see and from this it’s easy to see why he’s the founder of contemporary male fiction (or lad-lit if you insist). So what have I learnt from reading the book? I've also considered just how far football seems to have strayed from its roots and how little the clubs seem to care for the fans. Well, I definitely think football fans don't deserve the poor opinion so many hold of them. After reading 'Fever Pitch' I consider fans like Nick Hornby heroes and I can even see a little why they want to devote everything to following their team. One thing I still don't know, just what is the offside rule?
After Survivor held captive the attention and imagination of American viewers last year, mercifully deflecting attention from the dire Who Wants To Be A Millionaire, British TV bigwigs decided that they’d like to get it into the act. BBC started first with Castaway 2000, planting 36 people on a remote Scottish island for a year. Then the summer brought Big Brother. On paper it sounds quite boring – one house, ten people – but it turned out to be the television sensation of the year. Within days we were glued to the antics of Craig, Sada, Nick, Caroline, Tom, Anna, Mel, Andy, Darren and Nichola. Friday night became eviction night were we waited with breath which for once truly deserved the description as baited. Then there was Nickgate and school and work became nothing more than somewhere to discuss every details of the lives of the magnificent ten. Since Nasty Nick was giving his marching orders, to the chorus of “I’m very disappointed in you”, television has been looking to recreate the excitement of Big Brother. A new buzzword was created to accommodate the phenonemen, “watercooler television”, the idea of programme that would be the soul topic of conversations around the watercooler. Except of course Britain rarely has such luxuries but “small pile of yesterday’s doughnuts television” somehow lacks the panache. So watercooler television it was and soon every channel needed a programme so addictive that it would make the viewers question the importance of food, hygiene and work. This came in the shape of Popstars, ITV’s version of the Australian hit show where a pop group was formed through nationwide rehersals. The programme looked at the auditions, the recalls, the tears, the tantrums and countless versions of “Bridge Over Troubled Water” and emerged as a big hit, injecting some much needed excitement into the Saturday night TV schedules. As British readers will know, the ubiquitous Hear’Say were formed and their debut single, released in Britain this week, is worryingly one of the fastest selling singles ever. But for every Popstars there’s a Public Property, ITV’s other reality TV programme. It took seven people and aimed to transform their lives in three months, showing the results every weekday in a half-hour show. Mind-numblingly boring is simply too good a label for this programme and after six weeks the programme was axed. The reality TV barrel was then scrapped to prodcue Touch the Truck where 20 people had to touch a truck. One by one the dropped out and the winner was the one still touching. Temptation Island involved couples being transported somewhere exotic to have their fidelity being tested by ex-Playboy models. Now we have Chained, based on a Dutch programme where someone is chained to five members of the opposite sex for a week. It’s difficult to see where the reality of “reality TV” applies in these casestudies. Is reality tv's 15 minutes going to run out soon? Unlikely. With Celebrity Big Brother just ended, Big Brother 2 arrives this summer, along with a different spin on Castaway, more Shipwrecked while ITV is planning a supermodel version of Popstars. Love them or loathe them, one thing is certain, more than Big Brother is watching.
Is originality dead in Hollywood? The film industry has just celebrated its 100th birthday. And in true Hollywood style, the story of the cinema is a rags to riches story. From the humble beginnings in the backroom of a Pittsburgh shop offering films for 5 cents to today’s sprawling industry, grossing nearly $8 billion in ticket sales last year, the film industry has transformed over the last 100 years. Of course the black and white silent films of the start of the 20th century bear little resemblance to the blockbusters of the start of the 21st. Million dollar budgets, all star casts, animatronics, Cgi, superimposition, neo-realism – all these things have helped revolutionise the film industry. So in this metamorphosis, it’s good to know that at least one thing is staying the same. The stories. In recent years Hollywood inspiration seems to have run dry and so they turn to new sources, the most popular being books. So far this year there’s been the choice between Hannibal and Chocolat, depending if you prefer your food carnal or confectionery. And if neither of those appeal to you, there’s always Bridget Jones’s Diary, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone and The Lord of the Rings to be released later in the year. Last year was much the same with celluloid versions of Frank McCourt’s childhood memoirs, Angela’s Ashes, the cult classic The Beach, about life on a secret island and Stuart Little, the children’s favourite from E.B. White about a family who adopt a talking mouse. A great diversity, yes, but not very original. One of last year’s biggest films was Gladiator. The story of a Roman general, betrayed and forced to become a roman fighter was hardly cutting edge, and yet won 12 Oscar nominations. Then there was Mission Impossible 2, a sequel to a big screen adaptation of a sixties TV show, losing originality points on both accounts. For children there were the suc cessors to Toy Story, 101 Dalmatians and Pokémon all released last year. In fact it seems the only place Hollywood has originality is in finding new sources to rip off. Recently they’ve turned to computer games (Tomb Raider), comic books (X-Men) and folklore (Urban Legends). The well-trod path from small to silver screen continues with Charlie’s Angels, I Dream of Jeannie, Scooby Doo, The A-Team, Bewitched and Spiderman. Of course turning a book into a film is hardly a new phenonemen; Hitchcock took most of his ideas from books while author Michael Crichton has always supplied Hollywood with many of their summer blockbusters. Even classic films like It’s A Wonderful Life, Gone With The Wind, Lawrence of Arabia, The Godfather and The Graduate were inspired by books while Casablanca was based on the play Everybody Comes to Rick’s. But never have their been so many adaptations. A quick look at the Best Picture category for this year’s Oscars show this; Chocolat, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and Traffic are all book adaptations while the other two, Erin Brockovich and Gladiator, are a true story and a rehash of 60 years worth of Roman epics respectively. Five years ago the Academy nominated just one film for Best Picture based on a previous work. Hollywood’s other favourite trick is remakes. Recently we’ve seen reincarnations of Shaft, The Haunting and The Mummy as well as a scene-by-scene remake of Psycho and the new A-list version of Planet of the Apes. So what does Hollywood do when their spring of inspiration runs dry? Well, they turn to the old classics. Following the Valentine’s Day re-release of Breakfast at Tiffany’s, E.T. and The Exorcist will also be resurrected this year. Digitally re-mastered as standard, but still the same old films. But what about the British film industry? We may have put Hollywood to shame with films ranging from 30s classic The 39 St eps to last year’s Billy Elliot but we’re just as guilty on the counts of being unoriginal, once there’s a hit British film. Just look at Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels. It has inspired legions of other British gangster films - Circus, Honest, Gangster #1, Going Off Big Time, Sexy Beast, Love, Honour and Obey, Essex Boys and Guy Ritchie’s follow-up, Snatch - each featuring the obligatory wise cracking, gun wielding cockney geezers. Not so much jumping on the bandwagon as vaulting onto a convoy of juggernauts. So as we approach the second century of the motion picture, what can we expect? In short, sequels. It’s clear that Hollywood believes good things come in threes with a third Pokémon film, the final instalment of the I Know What You Did Last Summer trilogy, Jurassic Park 3 as well as the third Terminator film. Oh, and Blair Witch 3 and the tertiary chapter of Crocodile Dundee. More television shows will be plundered. More remakes. More re-releases. More adaptations. So what has happened the film industry? Has the field of originality been overgrazed or is it just fallowing? Are we just experiencing what is essentially the art of storytelling, with the same tales being passed from generation to generation, with just the slightest changes? Or is it just laziness? And why, when everything we’ve seen we’ve seen before, was 2000 the highest grossing year for Hollywood since 1974? Perhaps the truth lies in the Roger Ebert quote; 'Critics want something different. The audience wants the same old thing.'
This CD has always been one I planned to get but I'm ashamed to say that I only bought it a few weeks ago. Within the first listen I was hooked and it isn’t an exaggeration to say it has barely left my CD player since. I was able to rediscover classic songs like ‘Holiday’, ‘Lucky Star’ and ‘Vogue’ and remember just how good they are, as well as my favourite ‘Like a Prayer’. The album covers her best hits from ‘Holiday’ in 1984 to ‘Vogue’ in 1990, and it’s amazing the different styles on the album from the emotion of ‘Crazy For You’ to the Spanish influenced ‘La Isla Bonita’ and the gospel tinged ‘Like a Prayer’, proving that Madonna’s constant reinvention is nothing new. Madonna is probably the most famous woman on the planet and if you're looking for any justification of this, get this album now.
When life screws you over you have two choices :- a) you can lock yourself away from the world and cry b) you can get very drunk But Vonda chose hidden option c, turning your experiences into intelligent, emotional and beautiful songs. By 7:30 contains these types of songs, each weaved with different emotions and thoughts, each song delivered in a beautiful and unique style. When I listen to this album, I can't help but wonder why Vonda isn't as well-known as her contemporaries Sarah McLachlan and Sheryl Crow. Vonda could even be called one of the pioneers of the 'tortured goddess' music, starting over a decade ago in the late 80s. She writes, plays her own instruments and co-produces her material, a lot more that can be said for the Britneys of this world. Her songs are all so different, from the funky 'Confetti' to the tender duet, 'Baby, Don't You Break My Heart Slow', via the soul-searching of 'Mercy', Vonda proves herself as so much more than 'the singer from Ally McBeal'.
The music industry is dying. According to themselves, and their marketers, at least. And the disease that is causing this mighty giant to fall? Napster. Their dying cries are of treason. They claim Napster is infringing on copyrights, allowing approximately 70 million users to steals from them. There were 1 billion such thefts last year. It is easy to be swept up in the enormity of it all but ask yourself, if this truly is the end of the music industry then why did music sales rise by 8% last year. Curiously, much of this is down to Napster. Statistics show that most users who download the music will buy it if they like what they hear. Statistics show that Napster users buy more than three times as much music as non-users. Napster is nothing more than a promotional tool, like television or radio, an opportunity for people to listen to music before buying. Three weeks before The Dave Matthews Band released their album, Everyday, the first single, "I Did It," was featured on Napster at the band's request. Now they've got the #1 selling album in America. The number two slot is occupied by Shaggy, due to the international smash hit, "It Wasn't Me", which became popular when an Hawaiian DJ discovered the song through Napster and began giving it airplay. As Damian Harris, owner of SKINT, musical home of Fatboy Slim points out, “The amount of time companies spend stressing about getting a record on radio, you would think that the idea of some big, global listening post would make perfect sense.” As television and music plunge to the depths of musical shallowness, it has become almost impossible for fans of anything vaguely alternative to hear the music they love. Napster provides relief from teen queens and boybands, offering a platform for all types of music, regardless of image or reputation. Napster has won its place in modern culture and musical history, not through style or image, but by giving people what they want. In the music folders of Napster, Frank Sinatra resides happily alongside Slipknot. Where else is this possible? The judge in the lawsuit against Napster, Marilyn Hall Pate, claims that there are no lawful uses for Napster. What about an opportunity to hear music by artists and bands who would otherwise be ignored by the music industry. Each week on napster.com, six unknown artists or bands are highlighted and profiled, giving them a chance to be heard, in theory, by those 40 million thieves who are Napster users. Napster also lets the user access rare, deleted and unavailable tracks. People can rediscover music they have lost over the years. Luddites can abandon their abraded vinyl for the same music at near-CD quality. Travellers can leave their CDs at home and simply download their favourite tracks. To conclude, let me remind you of a similar case twenty-four years ago. In that case Goliath was played by the film industry, David by the electronics firm Sony. Sony had produced the first VCR and was accused, just like Napster, of copyright infringement. The film industry wanted it banned but, in time, they saw how they could use the VCR to their advantage and the first pre-recorded videos emerged from the film studios. The home video market has been highly lucrative, providing considerable income for film companies. Last year alone they earned the film industry $20 billion. And all this came about after the media giants tried to ban something which they claimed would threaten their very existence.
There's nothing I can say about this film that hasn't been said already so instead I'll concentrate on the features of the DVD. One of the most talked about features is the commentary by director Sam Mendes and screenplayer Alan Ball offering some fascinating insights into the film. My one criticism of it would be that Mendes barely lets Ball get a word in, a shame as Ball seems very interesting. There's also a featurette with a few interviews and behind the scenes stuff, which is all fairly light-hearted . The storyboard presentation compares some original storyboards and the final shots, commentated on by Mendes and the cinematographer, Conrad L. Hall and focuses on some of the more technical aspects, particularly lighting. The final feature is 2 trailers, each quite different and showing the film in an alternative way. While admittedly they could have done more with the DVD it offers some great features and is a must for anyone who loved the film.
I was looking for something to read apart from my usual 'depressed thirtysomething living in London' novels and found 'Pay it Forward'. I had heard about it from some friends and saw it for just £4 so I decided to buy it. The story revolves around 12 year old Californian Trevor who is inspired when he meets Rueben, his new English teacher, a permanently scarred Vietnam veteran. Reuben sets the class the assignment where they simply have to change the world. Trevor is one of the few in his class who puts any thought into the project and comes up with ‘Pay if Forward’, an ingenious scheme were someone does three good deeds to three different people and instead of those people paying the do-gooder back, they pay it forward to three different people. If the plan works all 6 billion people in the world would have a good deed done for them and so the cycle would continue. Originally I wasn't expecting much as the storyline seemed steeped in saccharine and a bit far-fetched (a 12 year old changing the world?) and as I started reading it I wasn't particularly impressed. However I kept reading and by the second half of the book I had become addicted. The book offers several different points of view, as well as telling the stories of those whose lives were changed by 'paying it forward'. The ending came a bit of a shock and brought me close to tears, something which I've rarely experienced with other books. A really beautiful book which looks to become even more popular as the film version with Oscar winners Kevin Spacey, Helen Hunt and Oscar nominee Haley Joel Osment.
Nick Hornby claims that Bridget is the 'creation of a comic genius' but I have to disagree. I think that the key to her success is that she is no different from thousands of women all over the world. I wasn't sure if I could take 300 pages of a neurotic thirtysomething rambling about her weight and number of cigarettes she'd had but I became completely hooked, reading roughly half the book in one day. It then just took me another two days to finish and I now feel that I know Bridget than I know any of my friends. This book isn't just a string of funny situations interspersed with drunk ramblings, it's a clever, hilarious and touching book that, in the words of so many broadsheet culture commentators, eptimoses the zeitgeist of post-modern singletons. In other words, buy it. Before Hollywood changes the ending.
When I first heard of this book, I thought it sounded very gimmicky and had no interest in reading it. However when I read some of the customer reviews on book websites and from friends, I was impressed. Almost every reader said they found it hilarious and would award the book a near perfect score. Based on these rave reviews I bought the book and, while it was a little confusing to begin with, I loved it. I laughed out loud countless times and I genuinely didn't want the book to end. There are some amazing incidents in here, featuring Coca Cola, Aqua, Gloria Hunniford and Britain's favourite porn channel. They really have to be read to be believed. The characters can all be recognised by the reader, even if they've never worked in an office. Having said that, the author never lapses into stereotypes, instead providing hilariously believable characters like Pertti Vanhelden, the britcom loving Finnish advertising executive and Pinki who has two things no adwoman should have - underarm hair and a conscience. Add to that Nigel (who uses e-mails to flog sandwich toasters), Susi (a luvvie secretary) and back-stabbing snob Simon (who thinks of Genesis as cutting edge music) and you've got a diverse range of utterly hiolaruous and impeccably written characters. The one disadvantage would be that it is a little short but there's always "The E before Christmas" which has just been published. And in true cutting edge style it can be downloaded as an e-book. Truly e-xcellent. (Oh please, I had to get a pun in somewhere).