Saturday, March 28, 2009


Oliver Stone is no stranger to political films with a Presidential focus with previous outputs on JFK, Nixon and now on Americas 43rd leader George W Bush.

The film itself, although released in 2008, only goes as far as the American led invasion of Iraq in 2003. For the most part, the film tells the story of Bush from the mid-60s as a college student to the end of his first term as President in a back and forth manner which suggests that earlier actions and events effect later decisions. However, this does not work well as a story driven method and I would have preferred a straight chronilogical narrative.

Stone weaves a blend of fact and interpreted fiction, which at times, due to the character of Bush, tends to lean towards a comedic aspect - his blunders and inability to prounounce words giving the film a subdued edge and makes you wonder why Stone didn't make this this an out and out satirical movie rather than make a hash at serious interpretation of Bush's life.

Ingaging at times, the film lacks any real spark to give much emphasis on any serious decisions reached and one does not care much for any of the characters concerned, at least from a personal point of view. Bush himself is played with suitable aplomb by Josh Brolin. However, some of the roles played, especially by Colin Powell (Jeffrey Wright) and Condoleezza Rice (Thandie Newton), are at best unconvincing.

Ultamitely W is a sluggish genre-crossing behemoth that doesn't quite know where it belongs and falls through the cracks in what it tries to achieve.
Everyone will have their own opinion on this President, and in Stones case, it's not one I much care for.

I would give this film 5.2 pretzels out of 10


Thursday, March 12, 2009

Emilíana Torrini, Waterfront, Belfast

I suspect most people have never heard of Emiliana Torrini. Up until recently I had no idea who she was either although its fair to say that millions of people have heard her sing as she performed "Gollum's Song" during the ending credits of Peter Jackson's film The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers.

Interestingly she also co-wrote two songs for Kylie Minogue and has guested on numerous artists albums and toured with the likes of Moby, Sting and Dido. So you might well be wondering - why the hell is Phil listening to her?

Well, for a start, these pieces of music has little to do with her own style which, if pigeon-holed could be described as soulful indie folk pop or some such nonesense.

I came accross her latest album late last year, 'Me & Armini' which is her 7th album although only the last 4 have been released outside of her native Iceland.

Last night she performed in the Waterfront's Studio room to a enthusiastic, diverse and enthralled audience. Obvioulsy with such a back catologue, a lot of the set wasn't from her latest album but I found them instantly enjoyable and I shall soon be tracking what I can of her discography especially her previous outing, 'Fishermans Woman' of which several songs were performed.

Torrini herself can only be described as humourously quirky and although her chat between songs was limited, it was memorable and endearing.

The songs themselves are also strengthened in a live setting and there are lots of mid-song instrument changes and musician flourishes by her band members if you can take your eye off Torrini whose presence draws your attention with her passionate singing and stage charm.

Overall, an enthralling evening with one encore clearly leaving the crowd wanting more and hopefully she will return and give the people another magical performance.

Emiliana Torrini: Official Website

A Tale Of Two Fares

Since coming back to Belfast and starting a new job, I'm back to using the local public network of the Metro buses. For a year in New Zealand I had the luxury of living a half hour walk away from work and my time in Sydney was divided between a train or a ferry, the latter being more enjoyable but ultimately more expensive and lengthy.

The cost of a bus ticket has increased dramatically since I've left, most likely due to petrol prices sky-rocketing and other factors relating the economy set against Translinks own internal infrastructure and business plans.

Nevertheless, costs go up and this piece is more about the incongruities between the pricing structures of paying in cash and using a Metro card for your journey.

In order to get a bus into town from where I'm living now - Dunmurry incidentally - it will cost you £1.80. Taking into account my 10 journeys back and forth during the working week, you're looking at a total of £18 a week. If you buy 10 journeys using a Metro card, this falls to an incredible £13.50 - a saving of £4.50 or 25%.

Two questions come to mind. Firstly, why rip customers off who are paying in cash for the same journey and secondly, in knowing this, why do people still use cash for their journey when there is a vastly less expensive (and let's face it) more convenient way of cashless travelling?

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