The Book Thief – 7/10.


Death tells a story.

The Book Thief is a pretty conventional world war two story in the vein of The boy with the striped pajamas, Schindler’s List, The Pianist etc etc but it also makes some really unconventional decisions. For example TBF is narrated by that old joker the Grim Reaper. There is no explanation for this it is just a thing. Also the decision to have the characters speak in English is fine (it is set in Germany) but you can’t then just have them randomly speak German as well from time to time. It is an engaging and well acted story however. Director Brian Percival has quite a lot going on but the story never feels rushed. Emily Watson plays that same strong headed matriarch she so often plays but when she is so good you can’t really begrudge her it. More impressive is the excellent Geoffrey Rush who not only makes a marvellous villainous pirate but also a charming father figure here. Relative unknown Sophie Nelisse is impressively strong through out, fellow child actor Nico Liersch however is enthusiastic but completely out of his depth. The Book Thief is a steady if unremarkable addition to an already swollen genre but I would say it is worth watching once.

Equilibrium – 8/10

Patrick Bateman becomes Winston Smith in Dystopia.


Equilibrium has been dismissed as ‘Matrix with guns’ pretty much since its release which is very unfair. Whilst there are undeniable similarities (primarily the colours, never has a film utilized so many different shades of grey), Equilibrium is in many ways more intelligent than The Matrix.

Whilst there is absolutely no subtlety here (the drug people take to stop them feeling is called ‘Prozium’, not too difficult to work out this a dig at Prozac and and Valium) the message is no less important. Obviously the ghost of George Orwell looms large over everything, not just the dystopia of 1984 but also the privileged hypocrisy of Animal Farm.

Christian Bale was on a golden run around the time this film was made (American Psycho, The Machinist, Batman Begins, The Prestige etc) and he is once again brilliant here. He can convey more with his eyes than Kit Harrington has throughout the entire run of Game of Thrones. Speaking of GOT, Sean Bean **SPOILERS** meets his demise very early on even for his standards and the film does suffer slightly for this. Emily Watson is also underused as she smoulders when on screen and Taye Diggs is so crap as Bale’s sidekick that he threatens to derail the whole movie. I’m surprised this never became a cult classic as I loved it on release. It would make a brilliant tv series…

Angela’s Ashes – 8/10.

Follows the story of a poor Irish family told through the eyes of a young boy.

Ireland in the 1930’s and 1940’s is portrayed as a very bleak place. It actually feels like George R R Martin was involved in the script writing process such is the rotating list of characters (mostly children) introduced and then killed off. The juxtaposition of constant infanticide coupled with the presence of Father Ted’s Mrs. Doyle is an odd one to handle! Underneath the misery and poverty and possibly the worst patriarch committed to film, there is a lot of hope and positivity to take from Angela’s Ashes. Aforementioned father and head of the family Malachy is a very interesting character but in the hands of an overacting Robert Carlyle, he is not as fully realized as he could have been. Elsewhere Emily Watson is superb as Malachy’s long suffering wife (no Oscar nod surprisingly) and all the child actors actually go beyond my normal prerequisite for child actors to ‘say the lines – don’t be annoying’ to provide pretty much wonderful support throughout. If you enjoy the work of Ken ‘It’s grim up North’ Loach but prefer a story told with a bit more humour and optimism (and who doesn’t want that?) then you can’t go far wrong with Angela’s Ashes.

Gosford Park – 7.5/10.

The portrayal of upstairs guest and downstairs servants in a stately home in the 30’s.


Featuring every British actor ever (Helen Mirren, Kelly Macdonald, Clive Owen, Maggie Smith, Emily Watson etc) and nominated for 7 Oscars (winning 1 for best original screenplay) Gosford Park comes highly recommended. The problem is this is essentially a film of people talking for two and a quarter hours. Luckily the script is a cracker and Gosford Park manages to avoid being too frumpy, particularly when focusing on the servants.
If the previously mentioned list of national treasures isn’t enough, even Stephen Fry pops up in the second half as an incompetent policeman. All this adds up to a very English costume drama but one that is enjoyable if you devote yourself to it. If you don’t concentrate this will be lost on you however as I found to my chagrin when I found myself ideally staring at a dog that trotted past my house, resulting in me having to rewind…