book: Simon Kernick “The Murder Exchange”

February 23, 2012

This is the first book I’ve read by Simon Kernick (yet another recommendation from Lou at your friendly second had book / coffee shop: Biblocafe).  It took me a while to get into this plot, probably more than half the book, and I think this was due to the story jumping around a bit to start with.  Each chapter is more or less split into two, written from two different protagonists point of view, however the two plots didn’t overlap directly enough to make much sense for a long time.

Eventually they come together and at that point it gets really interesting and starts to get moving.  The two characters in question are a DS Gallan who is investigating a murder and Max Iversson is a former soldier who gets involved in a murder … well several murders I think.  But none of these are anything to do with the murder that Gallan is investigating.  Eventually it is apparent that they are speaking to the same people but, as I mentioned, it does take a while for these to actually tie together.

Suffice to say that this book was interesting enough for me to have a look at some other books by Simon Kernick.

theater: All New People

February 20, 2012

Friday 17th Feb, R&L took us to the Theater :-)

All New People” was written, directed and currently starring Zach Braff (the bloke from Scrubs) and has become the highest-grossing drama of all time at the King’s Theatre, Glasgow.

It’s the dead of winter and the summer vacation getaway of Long Beach, New Jersey is desolate and blanketed in snow. Charlie is 35, heartbroken and just wants some time away from the rest of the world. The island ghost town seems to be the perfect escape until his solitude is interrupted by a motley parade of misfits who show up and change his plans. A hired beauty, the townie fireman and an eccentric British real estate agent desperately trying to stay in the country suddenly find themselves tangled together in a beach house where the mood is anything but sunny.

This angst-fuelled comedy opens with Charlie (Zach) about to kill himself.  This leaves him with the first of many dilemmas, how to put out your last cigaret when you are standing on a chair with a noose around your neck.

“Unfortunately” he is interrupted when Emma (Eve Myles from Torchwood) an absent minded real estate agent comes in expecting the place to be empty and ready for a viewing she has.  While Charlie tries to get rid of the talkative Emma she is joined by her firefighter buddy Myron (Paul Hilton) to come assess the situation. Later on, the high-priced escort Kim (Susannah Fielding) arrives, courtesy of one of Charlie’s friends.

While they try to talk Charlie out of killing himself we gradually find out more about each of them both through the action on stage and four video flash-backs which fill in some back story about them.

I thought this use of video was really clever, not only the way it was done technically but also because it gave us close ups of the actors on stage giving another dimension to what was going on as well as asking more questions and answering some.  It was a very clever way to intersperse the live action with plot details which otherwise would be very cumbersome to interject.

The play was extremely funny in parts and didn’t lag or slow down at any point.  The performances were excellent and the technical production flawless (apart from one light that fell down back stage at one point).  A great night out.

All New People following its showings in Manchester and Glasgow is now on at the Duke of York Theater until April.

movie: Casablanca

February 13, 2012

Casablanca, probably one of the greatest films ever made.  Certainly one of the most recognisable, most frequently quoted and often miss-quoted movies ever made.  Yes “Here’s looking at you kid“, “Of all the gin joints, in all the towns, in all the world, she walks into mine” and “We‘ll always have Paris.”  all appear as do several “play it” but never can the words “play it again Sam” be heard in this film.

D and I went to see this in one of our favorite cinemas, The Grosvenor in Ashton Lane and even splashed out for one of the comfy sofas at the back.  I’ve seen the move several times, but never at a cinema and first of all I’ll mention in passing a couple of problems.  Firstly, the sound volume was a bit low and in particular the DJ in the Loft bar above the cinema could be heard through out the performance.  Secondly it was extremely hot.  Eventually it was so uncomfortable that I popped out to the foyer and mentioned these two things to the staff and was told that they would pass this on the the projectionist.  Also, they said that as the movie is in mono the sound is only coming out of the front speakers so the sound is not at the normal standard.  However, given that very shortly after returning to my seat it was noticeably cooler and louder.  Thank you Grosvenor!

This old movie is showing at the Grosvenor this week because of valentines day, which I didn’t really get at first as I’ve always thought of it as a war-movie, but of course it is one of the great love stories of classic Hollywood.  Released in 1942, like much of the output of Hollywood at the time, the movie also serves as war propaganda showing the Germans as evil, strutting, bullies even in this more or less neutral country.

I think it is useful when watching Casablanca now to have a little knowledge about how Morocco, being a French colony came under the control of the pro-Axis Vichy regime when France was invaded by Germany.  Therefore it was nominally on the side of Germany, although an active resistance movement operated and (key to the plot) it formed part of a route out of Europe.

What is perhaps most surprising about Casablanca is just how funny it is.  Yes it is a story of resistance during WW2, and yes it is a story of love, a broken heart, love re-found and sacrificial love.  However, there are so many throw away lines that might raise a smile when watching this movie at home cause a cinema audience to laugh at the shared experience.  Here are just a few:

Captain Renault: What in heaven’s name brought you to Casablanca?
Rick: My health. I came to Casablanca for the waters.
Captain Renault: The waters? What waters? We’re in the desert.
Rick: I was misinformed.

Ilsa: How nice, you remembered. But of course, that was the day the Germans marched into Paris.
Rick: Not an easy day to forget.
Ilsa: No.
Rick: I remember every detail. The Germans wore gray, you wore blue.

Captain Renault: Carl, see that Major Strasser gets a good table, one close to the ladies.
Carl: I have already given him the best, knowing he is German and would take it anyway.

Yvonne: Where were you last night?
Rick: That’s so long ago, I don’t remember.
Yvonne: Will I see you tonight?
Rick: I never make plans that far ahead.


book: Jack Higgins “The Valhalla Exchange”

February 5, 2012

The Valhalla Exchange” is an intriguing story set in the dying days of World War Two.  Berlin is gradually being captured by the Russians in his concrete bunker Hitler is loosing his mind and communications are crumbling.  But one man, Reichsleiter Martin Bormann, Adolf Hitler’s secretary has a plan to use some important prisoners in his own daring plan to escape.

At least that’s what I think this was about.  The problem was that I read this book off and on between various other ones and have more or less lost track of the main reason why Bormann was trying to get to the prisoners and not just flee when he could.  I’m also not sure about a certain twist of whether this is Bormann or a double which makes it even harder to make sense.  However, I do think this is more my fault for the fractured reading pattern of this book rather than any fault of the author.  I’ve read a number of Jack Higgins books both set in WWII and post war action books and they have never failed to engage and entertain, till this one which I am just glad I finished and have no idea of what it was about.