‘A Walk in the Woods,’ directed by Ken Kwapis

Movie, 2015 Part buddy movie, part road movie, part environmental comment, in which Bill Bryson and his improbably addled friend set off to hike the notoriously unforgiving, 2,000 mile long Appalachian Trail. Robert Redford and Nick Nolte are even more grizzled than the bears they encounter, and deliver a decent, solid if hardly pulse-busting film. Gorgeous scenery, pot shots against all consuming ambition and the … Continue reading ‘A Walk in the Woods,’ directed by Ken Kwapis

“The Program”, directed by Stephen Frears

Movie, 2015 Account of the tragic rise and fall of American cyclist Lance Armstrong, and an expose and account of how his doping regime in his team led him to win the Tour de France seven times. Armstrong is played as a man hellbent on winning; while there is some sympathy for his suffering Cancer, for most of the film, that desire and dedication to … Continue reading “The Program”, directed by Stephen Frears

“Good Night and Good Riddance,” by David Cavanagh

Non-fiction, 2015 Examination of John Peel’s radio broadcasting career, through a chronology of some the dj’s shows. A book by an admirer rather than a blinkered fan, and obviously a music enthusiast with a turn of words. If some of the contextual details feel a little particular, this is no disaster, as the book moves along nicely, painting a picture of Peel and some of … Continue reading “Good Night and Good Riddance,” by David Cavanagh

“Gutshot,” by Amelia Gray

Fiction, 2015 Collection of short, usually very pithy narratives which feel confusing and almost confrontational on occasion. At their best – and there are one or two crackers – humour shines through the savagery of life and death situations and corporeal failings. There are, however, a number of less engaging pieces which, for whatever reason, don’t quite hit home. Still, well worth checking out for … Continue reading “Gutshot,” by Amelia Gray

“The Big Short”, directed by Adam McKay

Movie, 2015 Comedy drama based on the banking collapse in the USA in 2008, which in turn, led to a global financial disaster. One of those films whose strengths are also its frustrations; the greed and systematic complicity keeping bankers ahead and feeding on those lower in the wealth chain deserves blowing to pieces. Maybe a film like this can help. Stylish narrative tricks and … Continue reading “The Big Short”, directed by Adam McKay

"The Revenant," directed by Alejandro González Iñárritu

Movie, 2015 Revenge family drama in the trappers’ Wild West, with a bear-attack, some mastery in muttering and portrayals of Indians which feel a little tired and old-fashioned. The sentiments and narrative also feel a little overdone, but against all these criticisms, the locations are stunning and brought out by some wonderful photography. The action sequences are full of grit and gore, and things are … Continue reading "The Revenant," directed by Alejandro González Iñárritu

"The Story of My Teeth," by Valeria Luiselli

Novel, 2015 A novel about an auctioneer who loses his teeth when he’s robbed of everything he has, and the lives of those around him. This is a book whose narrative and conception are acutely self-referential, which cuts the flow, though doesn’t entirely bring things to a halt. A bold work which only half comes off – there’s much to admire, but the book has … Continue reading "The Story of My Teeth," by Valeria Luiselli

"Black Mountain Poets", directed by Jamie Adams

Movie, 2015 Low key love story among a group of poets on a retreat in the rainy greenery of Wales. While this is a piece which works well enough and delivers some good moments, there’s also something uneasy in the satire, which feels a little self-referential and apologetic. Lo-fi attacks low achievement; indie attacking independent, but with no incisive comment or defence. For all this, … Continue reading "Black Mountain Poets", directed by Jamie Adams

"He Never Died," directed by Jason Krawczyk

Movie. 2015 Downbeat, comedic and, in places, moving zombie film, which brings some interesting touches to a well-worn genre. Chief among these is the casting of Henry Rollins and his largely successful portrayal of the film’s anti-hero, particularly in his emotionally compromised interactions with the two main female characters. With a more coherent plot and a few tweaks on the gore and some of the … Continue reading "He Never Died," directed by Jason Krawczyk

"R.I.P." by Nigel Williams

Novel, 2015 Exploration of the unsightly behaviours and undignified actions following the death of the main protagonist. Through George, a retired bank manager’s eyes, a story slowly – sometimes too slowly, especially at the beginning – evolves, exposing a good deal of suburban middle-class rot, which ends up, almost, as a ‘whodunnit’. That the book isn’t a whodunnit, nor magical realism or more straightforward social … Continue reading "R.I.P." by Nigel Williams