Benandjerrygirl's Blog

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Jake Gyllenhaal stars in the film Enemy, playing two characters who are identical physically but differ emotionally.

Adam is an assistant professor at a University who teaches on the topic of panem et circenses and the repetitive nature of government control cycles. Although his lectures are contentious he seems oblivious of the fact that he is living under such control himself. He is self-contained – although he has a very attractive blonde girlfriend – and never watches films. A colleague seems to be trying to tell him something and he suggests that Adam watch a particular film. The film he watches has a doppelganger in it and this proves to be the turning point for Adam. He still seems to ignore dictatorship graffiti on the underpass and gigantic spiders dominating the skyline as he turns his energies to investigating why he looks so much like a minor actor.

The actor Anthony has appeared in three minor roles but seems to live a more luxurious life. His wife – also blonde – is six months pregnant but Anthony is emotionally removed from her. He is seen at the beginning of the film watching a woman in heels ritually kill a spider with her high heels in the company of men who seem to be secretive and paying for the privilege.

Gradually the film explores emotional connections, physical similarities and dangerous liaisons.

There are repetitions, meetings, odd conversations, deaths and spiders.

The final scene to me indicated a final understanding that Adam’s life was a construct and that he had been under the control of those in power all along. But, what do you think?



Gone Again – Doug Johnstone

It’s difficult to write a review of Gone Again without giving the plot away. Cut from the same cloth as the thriller genre this novel starts and ends around the potential beaching of whales on Portobello Beach in Edinburgh. The protagonist is a photographer for an Edinburgh newspaper who needs to cut short his attempt to capture the whales in distress because he receives a phonecall telling him his wife hasn’t turned up to pick up his young son from school.

What follows is either an exploration of the father/son bond in trying circumstances or a thriller which picks up the pace as the story progresses depending on your point of view.

The story flip-flops between exploring a marriage which may or may not be in difficulty and examining a man who seems to be in control until the pressures on him build up to an explosive conclusion. The son seems improbably bright, the father annoyingly reckless and the police spectacularly inept as we make our way towards the beach in the final reel – and I say that as I think this has been written with one eye on a future screening.

Considering the writer has a PhD and has worked with Irvine Welsh, I expected more. It is certainly compact and a page turner so as a book to take on a train journey it is ideal. However for me there were too many bits where I needed to suspend my disbelief for it to work fully.

Screams in the Dark, Anna Smith

Rosie Gilmour, the central character, is a Glasgow journalist who thrives on adventures to get to the centre of the action despite advice to the contrary. All the stock characters are there – the jaded hack who can’t quite be trusted, the gruff editor with the heart of gold, the supportive colleagues and the boyfriend who may or may not be having an affair.

Glasgow offers up a wealth of characters for novels like this. In this instance the High Rise flats offer a backdrop for refugees escaping war-torn climes only to meet the hatred of uneducated locals and the dangers posed by legal aid lawyers, office cleaners and the pharmaceutical industry.

There are many “Come on!” moments where you will have to park your disbelief and there are similarities with Denise Mina’s “Paddy” Meehan character. But, if you like your Noir “tartan” this may well be the book for you.

Park Hotel, Kilmarnock

When we arrived yesterday it coincided with a wedding which was about to take place. It’s bizarre that wedding guests can mingle in the bar area while waiting to go through to the venue proper and I wonder what they thought of us in our jeans and tops while they were decked in Killie tartan and lace, satin and fake diamonds. We were piped in by a lone piper “just in case” and saw the table top magician putting on little shows while the bridal party went to various locations to get their photos taken.

We were there for lunch and a catch-up. Although I like the look of the Park Hotel inside and there is always lots of parking, I find the bar food to be mediocre and basic. In the past I’ve had dried out baked potatoes, tough steak sandwiches and salty pastrami. I decided to go for a BLT which normally can’t go wrong. The BLT was passable but I’ve had better versions of it elsewhere.

Where the Park does do well is in the area of cake and coffee. There were others having afternoon tea who seemed to have a good selection on the cake stands and that might be a better option for us next time. I had the brownie which was delicious and we also had a couple of coffees and a soft drink all of which came to £15 per head including a £5 tip. The staff are really friendly so we keep going back but the mains in the bar area need some pepping up. The Blues bar and Bistro upstairs has a much better menu and a disabled lift for those who need it.

Alston Bar and Beef, Glasgow

The Alston Bar and Beef is located at the Gordon Street exit to Glasgow Central Station. There is a coffee shop next door which appears separate but is actually the entrance to use if you want the lift down to the basement. The stairs are open metal and difficult for someone with walking sticks.

The Alston is apparently famous for its assortment of gin but they don’t do Bombay Sapphire or Gordon’s. The ones they do would probably meet most needs and it is an opportunity to try something different if you are a creature of habit.

I had been looking forward to a T-bone steak since watching Gino D’Acampo cook Bistecca alla Fiorentina on STV the night before. The Alston version was cooked to perfection – I like mine medium rare – and was served with mash and a holandaise sauce. The rest of us had various burgers and steaks from the set menu. The set menu offers two courses for £14 so is a bargain if you aren’t lusting after a special cut.

We were too full after our mains for any desserts so just went straight to the coffee and tea stage. The teapot was so lovely I wanted to take it home, but didn’t.


A neat touch is the departures screen for trains in the station so you could drink up and leave in time for your train when it is called.

Seamill Hydro, Ayrshire

Seamill is somewhere I used to take my daughter on holiday when she was younger. We enjoyed the walks along the beach, the swimming pool and the table tennis outhouse. We stayed in both the hotel and in the section outside the main hotel where meals were not included. It was the kind of family-friendly hotel that had a Kids’Club and even separate tables for the grown ups while the children had their fish fingers.

On the 3rd as the weather was nice I decided to go back and have lunch there. We were a bit late in setting off so by the time we arrived there were very few parking spaces left so, note to self, leave to arrive on time next time. We entered the door that we had used last time but that seemed to be the way out now instead of the way in. There may well be signs telling you which way to go but we didn’t spot any until we arrived at a “No entry” door.

The restaurant is now called The Orangery and has been massively extended since we last ate there. There is a large area with vistas all the way to Arran which I’m sure is very pleasant. As we hadn’t booked we got shown through to a back area which is not quite so pleasant. They have tried to address this with a large mirror which reflects the views from the window but it is not quite the same. The airiness of the area facing the water is much superior.

We ordered the prawn and salmon salad and the lasagne al forno as our mains. The lettuce was that kind that gets caught on your throat on the way down so keep water handy. The garlic bread was floppy and untoasted. However both mains were tasty enough.

Created with Nokia Smart Cam
Created with Nokia Smart Cam

Created with Nokia Smart Cam
Created with Nokia Smart Cam

Afterwards we wanted to have desserts followed by coffee and tea. We asked specifically for our drinks to be served after the dessert but as each person is responsible for only one part of the meal the girl doing the beverages arrived a good ten minutes before the desserts. My coffee was stone cold by the time the dessert was finished. When our final waiter asked if everything had been all right I pointed this out but although he apologised he did not offer a top-up or take anything off the bill.

The views probably swing the decision about whether I would give it another chance but overall not as good a meal as the star rating implies.

Created with Nokia Smart Cam
Created with Nokia Smart Cam

Grand Piano

Grand Piano is a taut thriller cast in the 39 Steps mould of a character trapped on stage knowing that if they do the wrong thing they will be shot.

A virtuoso pianist is returning to the stage five years after his attempt to play a reputedly unplayable piece “La Cinquette” by composer Patrick Godureaux ended in failure due to stage fright. Elijah Wood’s character Tom Selznick has been persuaded to return by his beautiful wife Emma who is feted for her singing and has become the more famous of the two. Tom has various comedic moments of terror en route to the stage, like his desire for the plane to go down, then his conducting a telephone interview for a radio show whilst getting changed into his tux in the back of a limo. A vacuous blonde friend of his wife, Ashley and her boyfriend Wayne turn up late-ish due to going for a drink and have to sit in the good seats in the stalls rather than in the side box where Emma and her entourage have been seated. Ashley is not best pleased. This becomes an important plot device later.

An already nervous Tom sees notes written in red on his manuscripts telling him he will be killed if he plays one wrong note. His wife is also clearly under threat.

Tom and the viewing audience are never entirely sure who can be trusted and who can not. As people are picked off one by one and only Tom remains aware of what is going on his bizarre stage behaviour is put down to nerves while he frantically tries to comply with the extraordinary demands, just enough, to keep everyone safe and play his nemesis.

The acting is very good, the piano playing looks believable – but I’m no virtuoso – and the tension builds throughout. The antagonist came as a surprise to me and the ending is satisfying while slightly enigmatic.

Grand Piano has the feel of an updated film noir classic. Colour is used sparingly at times as part of the blocking to convey danger. Montage is used in scenes such as the cut from a drawing of a sharp object across someone’s throat to the drawing of a bow across strings. A clever drama, albeit with a few questionable plot holes, and one to be savoured if you like your thrills to have a musical element.

The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August – Claire North

The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August – Claire North explores what would happen if some humans kept coming back to relive their lives. Still human enough to try to make connections with family or love but with every life acquiring more and more knowledge about science, politics, how to acquire money etc. Meeting others with the same capacity can be a blessing or a curse. The novel bounces around between the lives as the further down the line Harry gets, the more patterns he starts to spot and he uses knowledge from a previous life to help him with a tricky problem in his current one.

Why it might be happening at all is examined as is the ripple effect of doing something outwith its expected time-slot.

We probably imagine that if we just killed Hitler in his mother’s womb that the atrocities of WW2 wouldn’t occur but life as we know is more complex than that.

Harry meets some people who are constant in his life – constant helpers or antagonists but mostly the novel is about Harry trying to prevent an upcoming catastrophe without drawing too much attention to himself.

I read this in several sections rather than as a long read over a short space of time. I think it would benefit the reader to finish it off less disjointedly than I as at times I was confused about which life we were in.

Overall, however, a solid 7/10.

His Father’s Son – Tony Black

According to the blurb, this is “soulful and stunningly written”. The quote is by Lisa Jewell, an author of chick lit fiction.

I was hopeful when I got this book from the local book club as the cover showing a boy standing on a piece of flotsam on a shore with arms stretched out, Christ-like, as he gazes across the water implied something interesting. Added to this is the fact that Tony Black was highly thought of by Irvine Welsh, who called him his favourite British crime writer. This novel however is semi-autobiographical about a boy, Marti, and his father Joey/Bluey who start off in Australia living with the mother Shauna.

If you choose to read this novel there are some phrases that you’d better get used to: – “the black dog, a reddener, the hot arse, a holy show…” to name but four. Presumably the character of the boy is being repetitious because he is young and confused and an unreliable witness but the fact that every other chapter is written in his voice became tedious for me after a while. Stereotypes abound and even although there is an attempt to round out the characters of the parents, reading of drunken men gambling away every penny they have, porridge kept in a drawer and cut into slices and the cabbage farm that is threatened every time the black dog happens made this a novel where likable characters are few and far between.

The only thing that was vaguely interesting was the description of what bold boys get up to when they go on the mitch. Life in a school run by brothers was funny to read about and it gave me my only page-turning moments and a few laughs.

There could have been a good novel in here somewhere but I suspect that too much of the good stuff has been edited out in favour of the “Oirish” to appeal to maybe an American market who mist over when they hear the strains of Danny Boy, begorra.

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