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Cinema: Paddington

Reviewed by Michael Dalton

How long has it been such since cinemas welcomed a family film that plays as broadly and as enjoyably as Paddington? Sharply coloured, perfectly paced, and just plain irresistible, Paul King’s live action adventure starring the lovable bear is a winner. Starring Hugh Bonneville, Sally Hawkins, Julie Walters, Jim Broadbent, and a very naughty Nicole Kidman, this is one of the year’s best surprises and certainly the most fun.



Blu Ray/DVD: The Wind Rises

Reviewed by Michael Dalton

Apparently director and animation master Hayao Miyazaki’s recent declaration that The Wind Rises will be his last film is not a first. He’s said as much before but if it’s true this time, he’s going out on a triumphant note for this Oscar nominated film is one of his most beautiful excursions and can proudly stand along side Ponyo and the cult classic Kiki’s Delivery Service as essential entries to his filmography. It is a perfect mix of fantasy, romance, and adventure and it is one you must see, not just for the exciting characters or for the, as usual, affectionately rendered scenery, but for the sly message buried within its folds. Listen closely to The Wind Rises for there’s a lot more going on than just the inspiring story of a young boy who dreams his dreams alive. 




Blu Ray/DVD: Grave of The Fireflies

Reviewed by Michael Dalton

There's no other film in the Studio Ghibli canon as moving as Isao Takahata’s Grave of the Fireflies. The story is simple and heartbreaking yet it plays out with stunning intensity. It remains their most unique work. Even with the studio's later successes like Spirited Away, Howl's Moving Castle, Ponyo, and, Arrietty, none have burned into the memory quite like Fireflies. Released to critical acclaim in 1988 before the heightened styles of animation we take for granted today, it remains a suspenseful and exquisitely detailed work.



Blu Ray/DVD: Dead Snow 2: Red Vs. Dead

Reviewed by Michael Dalton

One thing’s certain. Tommy Wirkola knows what to do with a sequel, especially one that has to follow a story as wacky as the Norwegian cult classic Dead Snow was. A group of Nazi soldiers, chased into the freezing mountains of Oksfijord by its residents and presumed dead, only to return as zombies, waged war on a group of seven enjoying their Easter holiday. It all concerned a treasure that is rightfully the town's but the soldiers stole it and they were determined to recover every trinket. The film was pure splatter, crazy and brutal, and it ended with a nifty cliffhanger. Dead Snow 2: Red Vs. Dead picks up perfectly and precisely where the last one left off with the only survivor Martin (Vegar Hoel) in his car, unwittingly in possession of a gold coin andl trying to escape the murderous clutches of the Nazi leader General Herzog (Orjan Gamst).



DVD: The Keeper of Lost Causes

Reviewed by Michael Dalton

Earlier this year, the thriller The Keeper of Lost Causes screened as part of this year's Scandinavian Film Festival where it chilled audiences to the bone. Directed by Mikkel Norgaard and adapted from Jussi Adler Olsen’s novel by Nikolaj Arcel who co-adapted The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo (the original and the best), this brooding, deliciously eerie story of a detective relegated to the cold cases department is a brilliantly constructed exercise in control and terror.



Willful Subjects



Reviewed by Jay Daniel Thompson

In  Willful Subjects, cultural theorist Sara Ahmed provides a history of willfulness. Her study reveals some significant and fascinating aspects of this history, and points to areas of future scholarly enquiry. 


Mothers and Daughters


Reviewed by Gemma Collett

Kylie Ladd’s fourth novel Mothers and Daughters begins with David Campbell’s poem of the same name; it speaks of ‘the cruel girls we loved’ who are now middle-aged and their daughters, who have ‘stolen their beauty’ and ‘mock their anxious mothers / With their mothers’ eyes’. 


Waterloo: A New History of the Battle and its Armies


Reviewed by Donald Lawie

The battle of Waterloo can be described as the world’s most written about battle. The bicentenary of Waterloo occurs in 2015 and interest in Europe will temporarily eclipse the ongoing World War One centenary commemorations. More books will be written about the battle, and Gordon Corrigan’s Waterloo, published in 2014, is one of the harbingers of the bicentenary. Why did he write it, what new perspective of the battle does he bring us, and why should we read Waterloo? To begin, Corrigan, as a professional soldier, writes with informed knowledge of combat. He has written a biography of Wellington and has minutely studied the history of the battle of Waterloo and the ground on which it was fought. He has examined the conflicting histories and has drawn a story thread that brings us the most likely course of the fray. Why read it? Corrigan is a superb story teller, bringing in discursive asides that enlighten without losing the momentum of the story. He deals sympathetically with Napoleon and gives cogent reasons for l’empereur’s continuing hero status in France. 


DVD: Still Life

Reviewed by Michael Dalton

Early in the beautiful film Still Life, a woman comments to the hero John May about how strange his job is. He’s not offended by her remark. She doesn’t mean it cruelly, only as an observation. Mr. May does have a strange occupation, one few of us would even think exists. It is his job to deal with the deceased when their lives have been forgotten. He does it with dignity and grace, gently and thoroughly. This is a nuanced film, sensitively written and directed by Uberto Pasolini, yet its neither mawkish or phony nor is its champion a martyr. It is quiet, authentic, superbly acted, and deeply moving.



The Headmaster's Wife



Reviewed by Leanne Weymans

From the time the police ask ‘Why don’t you tell us what happened?’ in the first pages of The Headmaster’s Wife, until the final chapter, author Thomas Christopher Green has the reader hooked in an intriguing tale of Arthur Winthrop and his wife, Elizabeth. Arthur is the headmaster of Lancaster, an elite prep school, where he and Elizabeth reside on the school grounds. They take dinner with the students and other members of the faculty and occupy a privileged position within the school community. It is a shock to all then when Arthur is discovered walking naked through Central Park. The reader is then privy to Arthur’s explanation when he is interviewed by police and reveals the circumstances that led to this watershed moment. As Greene unfolds this tale he employs literary devices of structure, narration and characterisation to explore notions of love loss and grief, resulting in a compelling and unsettling tale. 


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