The final few months of The Great War have rarely got the focus of those that proceeded them. The final offensive that finally silenced the guns and ended the slaughter was one in great contrast to the static game of inches of the years before. In The Last Battle, histoian Peter Hart superbly manages to show us the great scope of Foch's great offensive while putting us in the mud with the men tasked with marching to the "green fields beyond".
Lynne Ramsey returns with a brutal, difficult film that has a very genuine heart. Joaquin Phoenix is Joe. Joe recovers girls who have been trafficked. When Joe takes on a job to recover the daughter of a New York senator, things take a dark and violent turn. While not an easy watch, the heart Ramsay and Phoenix instil make this a remarkable film.
After 60 years languishing in the Russian State Military Archive, Heinrich Gerlach's novel of his experiences in Stalingrad is finally published. Uncompromising and oppressive, Breakout at Stalingrad is a remarkable testament to the horror war and the affect on the men caught up in it.
Paul Thomas Anderson returns with Daniel Day-Lewis (in what is possibly his final role) as Reynolds Woodcock. Reynolds is a dressmaker in 1950's London whose latest muse, Alma (a sumptuous Vicky Krieps), gets deeper under his skin than he expects or believes is possible. Phantom Thread is an astonishing acheivement by all involved.
Michael Longhurst's production of Peter Shaffer's Amadeus returns to the National Theatre. With Lucian Msamati as Salieri, Adam Gillen as Mozart and an incredible Flreu de Bray as Cavalieri, it is an ambitious, barnstorming and utterly, utterly wonderful production.
Robert Harris' Cicero Trilogy is brought to the stage by the Royal Shakespeare Company in Imperium Parts One and Two. In six plays, we see the rise and fall of Cicero and the last days of the Roman Republic. Robert McCabe is masterful as the Roman orator and the cast bring the fractious world to vivid life before us. The RSC has created a masterful adaptation of Harris' superb novels.
Rex wants to be a good dog. He lives for the moments when his master tells him he is a good dog. Rex’s master gives Rex things to do. Rex, because he is a good dog, does the tasks he is given. In Adrian Tchaikovsky's novel, we view a rapidly changing world from the viewpoint of the cause of that change, a seven foot dog with guns on his back.
2017 is almost done, but it hasn't been all bad, right? In this post, I look back at the things I've loved and discovered in 2017. I look at Books, Films and Podcasts as these are the things that have taken up most of my free time. Hope you like it.
A spoiler free review of our latest journey to A Galaxy Far, Far Away. Star Wars: The Last Jedi picks up where The Force Awakens left us. The Resistance is having to escape and Rey has found Luke Skywalker. Will the escape succeed? Will Luke train Rey? What are those Porg things? These and many other questions may well be answered in the two and half hours of our latest adventure.
The race to go faster, further and higher has intoxicated man since before Icarus took to his wings. In the 20th Century, man didn’t just take to the air, but slipped it’s confines for space. A very select few (a total of 24 men) were able to gaze back and see our home in all it’s glory. With The Earth Gazers, Christopher Potter looks how those men got up there and how what they felt was as important as what they saw.
America City by Chris Beckett, set on an environmentally challenged Earth a 100 years hence, is speculative fiction at the highest level and rather uncomfortable reading. To celebrate it's release and that it has been chosen as Simon Mayo's choice for the next Radio 2 Book Club, I am giving away a signed copy. Full details in the post.
Rarely does adaptation work well. Most of the time you hope for the best and accept OK. With Hap and Leonard though, Joe R Lansdale's novels live and breathe on the small screen. This is a look at how that transfer works so well, from the eyes of a fan on a couch in leafy Surrey, a long way away from East Texas.
Clare Mulley's latest book, The Women Who Flew For Hitler, is a fascinating look at two remarkable and complicated women, Melitta von Stauffenberg and Hanna Reitch. As test pilots for the Third Reich, they were at the forefront of aviation and tumultuous times. The book is an intimate and honest biography and Clare has kindly taken some time to answer a few of my questions about it.
With the welcome announcement of Bond 25, I default into worry at where we stand with our current Bond run. Daniel Craig, should he return, deserves a great Bond send off. But the corner EON has painted themselves into post SPECTRE means the wicket is rather sticky.
Finally get around to getting to Paris, on my final day in the City of Lights, I ventured to The Louvre. Surrounded by incredible art and yet heart broken at how it was displayed, I found myself with an odd feeling to go with my old friend disapointment, a strong desire to return. If only to say hello onc again to La Bella Nani.
A love letter to the finest TV Show on air at the moment, Hap and Leonard. No spoilers contained within, just an attempt to spread the joy of proper television and two towering performances from Michael Keneth Williams and James Purefoy.
With the recent publication of Daughter of Eden, 2013 Arthur C. Clarke Award winner Chris Beckett completed his trilogy of novels set on the sunless planet Eden and the The Family that inhabits it. The trilogy is wonderful and to celebrate the novels, Chris very kindly put up with me and answered my Eden related questions. I hope you enjoy our chat.
Robert Harris' new book Conclave is out now. Having visited the Henley Literary Festival and meeting up with Robert, amidst 300 others, I have a spare copy to give away. See the post for details and a recording of the conversation Robert Harris had with Paul Greengrass. Yes, THAT Paul Greengrass, who was a delight.
In this new, reasonably regular, series, we’re going to look at some of the photographs that have affected me over the years. The old adage “A picture paints/is worth a thousand words” is going to be our dictum. Over the course of a thousand words, we’ll tell the story of the image, the photographer and the subject and try to add a bit of depth to the image. The first is Sharon Tate by Terry O'Neill