“Whiplash,” directed by Damien Chazelle

Movie, 2014 A film whose plot could be summarised as one man struggles to teach another man who struggles to learn how to play drums. What this precis omits, however, is a psychological study which all too often, and all too readily feels farcical and overbaked. A film which tries to focus on the obsessions of a couple of people, which in succeeding in its … Continue reading “Whiplash,” directed by Damien Chazelle

“You Can Drum But You Can’t Hide,” by Simon Wolstencroft

Non-fiction, 2014 Memoir of ex-Fall drummer, and his life in Manchester, almost joining The Stone Roses and The Smiths along the way. A fast-paced book and pretty easy to read, in which Wolstencroft covers but doesn’t drill too much on the ups and downs and so isn’t too self-indulgent or miserable. A good balance and chipper overall. Potential readers who don’t have an interest in … Continue reading “You Can Drum But You Can’t Hide,” by Simon Wolstencroft

“Magic in the Moonlight”, directed by Woody Allen

Movie, 2014 A charming romance, with hints of Pygmalion and con-artist films of old simmering away underneath plot turns which divert a little, here and there, but which head towards an inevitable ending. If this is a film where the director’s treading water, it’s still entertaining and a decent story, for all its predictability. Colin Firth seems a little hesitant as the main lead, although … Continue reading “Magic in the Moonlight”, directed by Woody Allen

“Pawn Sacrifice”, directed by Edward Zwick

Movie, 2014 Account of Billy Fischer’s world championship chess match against Boris Spassky in Reykjavik and how he got there. An entertaining, thoughtful film which tries to cover maybe a few too many bases. In part, biography, in part Cold War intrigue, in part history, in part sports movie. In the end, it all feels a little breathless, particularly as the wobbly mental health and … Continue reading “Pawn Sacrifice”, directed by Edward Zwick

“Love and Mercy”, directed by Bill Pohlad

Movie, 2014 Brian Wilson biopic, focusing on both the recording of The Beach Boys’ Pet Sounds and a period later in Wilson’s life and his relationship with a used car salesperson, whilst being shackled by a personal minder. The decision to have two actors playing Wilson pays off, with the different times in his life related, but almost inconceivably connected to the same man. The … Continue reading “Love and Mercy”, directed by Bill Pohlad

“Ex Machina”, directed by Alex Garland

Movie, 2014 Science-fiction looking at the AI/human interface. While this is a good looking film, there’s a coldness, which while coming with the territory, is hemmed in and relentless. Characters butt up against each other and big philosophical questions raised, though the nod towards cold war creepiness and similarities to films like Solaris don’t help the film, which struggles to get over a sense of … Continue reading “Ex Machina”, directed by Alex Garland

“Brew Britannia,” by Jessica Boak and Ray Bailey

Non-fiction, 2014 A history of cask and craft ale and the spirited fight back against the big brewers and bland beers, featuring a cast of plucky eccentrics, improvisers and risk takers. A well written book, although this could be deadly for anyone not interested in the history and development of beer. This could both restrict the book’s audience and make for hard work for the … Continue reading “Brew Britannia,” by Jessica Boak and Ray Bailey

"Bleeding Edge," by Thomas Pynchon

Novel, 2014 While tight by Pynchon’s standards, this cracked, paranoia-driven novel straddling the attack on New York’s twin towers is still a wild assault of almost too many characters, wisecracking, referencing and floating in and out of the central narrative with mysterious dynamism. If things get hard to follow, the quality of the writing, the keen descriptions of geeks, street life and catastrophes are all … Continue reading "Bleeding Edge," by Thomas Pynchon

"The Monuments Men," directed by George Clooney

Movie, 2014 A strange throwback film featuring a crack cast playing a crack gang of allies foiling Nazis in a covert mission. In this version, it’s not a breakout or assassination, but the recovery of artwork. In a way, this is an easy film to like, though with the Germans stereo-typically mean and some of the cliches of camaraderie and character pumped to bursting, it’s … Continue reading "The Monuments Men," directed by George Clooney

"Gone Girl," directed by David Fincher

Movie, 2014 Genre inspired, slightly sprawling film which delivers plenty of solid entertainment and thrills despite its length and despite being a little stretched in places with regards the plot and a sprinkling of wooden acting, here and there. Credit, however, due to pulling something in that ultimately feels quite tight, even if some of the initial build up feels a little lethargic and could … Continue reading "Gone Girl," directed by David Fincher