The Native Star (M. K. Hobson)

The Native Star is M. K. Hobson‘s first novel, and the first in a series.

Plot:
Emily Edwards is a witch in a version of the late 19th century USA that is full with magic and warlocks. She has spent her life in a small town, practicing her spells and healing, when Dreadnought Stanton comes along – a studied warlock who wants to educate her and her father on the theory of magic. Emily is less than overjoyed but when there’s a problem with the zombies in the close-by mine, she accepts Dreadnought’s help. Unfortunately things go a bit wrong and Emily ends up with a huge rock in her hand – a rock that absorbs all magic. For a lack of better options, she decides to go to San Francisco with Dreadnought, in the hopes that the university of magic there can help her remove the rock.

I enjoyed The Native Star. The world building is nice, it’s an interesting new genre – Hobson calls it bustlepunk (because everything’s punk) and Emily is a good heroine. But her romance with Dreadnought left me completely cold and I generally never got really emotionally invested.

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Desdemona

[Festwochen.]

Desdemona was written by Toni Morrison, directed by Peter Sellars, with music by Rokia Traoré and starring Elizabeth Marvel.

Plot:
Desdemona is a feminist reworking of Shakespeare‘s Othello: Desdemona (Elizabeth Marvel) remembers her life from her grave. She tells her story to her African nurse Barbary (Rokia Traoré), who answers her with songs about liberation, freedom and love.

Desdemona starts off well but then kind of peters out (probably at the same rate the oxygen left the room, so it might not be entirely the play’s fault). It’s a professional, very well-made production. It just didn’t speak to me at all. Though I did like the music.

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Alfred Dorfer: Bisjetzt

Alfred Dorfer is one of the biggest Austrian comedians. His current program bisjetzt [untilnow] is a Best Of of his stand-ups.

Plot:
Alfred Dorfer looks back on his more or less fictionalised life and Austrian history with his mix of political and personal stand-up and a few musical numbers. As usual, his band accompanies him and band member and comedian in his own right Gunkl [German] gets a couple of bits, too.

Alfred Dorfer really is one of the best comedians we have in Austria and in bisjetzt, he manages to tie his former programs together nicely. Even though I knew quite a few jokes already, it was really very entertaining and can only be recommended.

[I’m keeping this review short – as an Austrian, you will already know Dorfer, and if you’re not Austrian, you’re probably not interested anyway. ]

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AUN: The Beginning and the End of All Things (2011)

AUN: The Beginning and the End of All Things is the newest film by Edgar Honetschläger, starring Yûki Hiyori, Rosane Mulholland, Yôsuke Saitô and William Ferreira.

Plot (I’ll just copy part of the official description because the film is very hard to sum up):
The Japanese scientist Sekai [=the world] (Yôsuke Saitô), seeking a bright future for mankind, invents a motor that burns water. His wife Hikari [=the light], dies when giving birth to their son Aun [the beginning and the end of all things] (Yûki Hiyori). As a toddler Aun discovers an unusual sea snail at the beach. Sekai uses it for experiments involving his own body, which ultimately kills him. Twenty years later Euclides [=number theorist] (William Ferreira), a deaf scientist from Brazil’s capitol – the modernist Brasília – carries on Sekai’s experiments. He believes the sea snail to be the missing link to a livable future and therefore asks his wife Nympha [=pupal stage of butterfly] (Rosane Mulholland) to find Aun.

AUN is a bit of a mindfuck. It doesn’t make much sense, it’s extremely absurd and bizarre, which could have been okay. Unfortunately it was also rather boring and I couldn’t help but fall asleep.

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Never Let Me Go (2010)

Never Let Me Go is Mark Romanek‘s (director) and Alex Garland‘s (writer) adaptation of Kazuo Ishiguro’s novel, starring Carey Mulligan, Keira Knightley, Andrew Garfield, Charlotte Rampling, Sally Hawkins, Andrea Riseborough, Domhnall Gleeson and Charlie Rowe.

Plot:
Kath (Carey Mulligan) watches Tommy (Andrew Garfield) go in for his probably final donation and uses this time to reflect upon her life: How she grew up at Hailsham together with Tommy and Ruth (Keira Knightley), slowly discovering and coming to terms with the path chosen for her by her mere existence: she like all the other children at Hailsham is a clone, built for donating her organs and ultimately her life.

Never Let Me Go is an excellent adaptation, though it doesn’t manage to be quite as good as the book. Which probably wouldn’t have been possible anyway. But with a brilliant cast, wonderful soundtrack and very nice cinematography it has everything you need.

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Never Let Me Go (Kazuo Ishiguro)

Never Let Me Go is a novel by Kazuo Ishiguro.

Plot:
Kath is at the end of her career as a carer and uses this time to reflect upon her life: How she grew up at Hailsham together with her friends Tommy and Ruth, slowly discovering and coming to terms with the path chosen for her by her mere existence: she like all the other children at Hailsham is a clone, built for donating her organs and ultimately her life.

I know that the phrase “devastatingly beautiful” gets thrown about quite a bit – it’s one of those phrases book reviewers love to use. I’m sure I’ve used it myself. But there’s hardly a book that deserves it as much as this one. It’s fantastic.

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Wastwater

[It’s Festwochen time again.]

Wastwater is a play by Simon Stephens, directed by Katie Mitchell, starring Linda Bassett, Amanda Hale, Jo McInnes, Paul Ready, Tom Sturridge and Angus Wright.

Plot:
The play consists of three loosely connected scenes. Harry (Tom Sturridge) takes his leave from his foster mom Frieda (Linda Bassett), probably forever. Lisa (Jo McInnes) and Mark (Paul Ready) meet in an airport hotel to betray their respective partners. Sian (Amanda Hale) sells Jonathan (Angus Wright) a child from Southeast Asia, despite his hesitation.

I just had a first look at the reviews Wastwater has been getting – and they’re toroughly mixed, which I don’t really understand. I think Wastwater is what theater should be like: it’s excellently written, has a great cast, a beautiful stage design and was very well directed. You could wish for nothing more.

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Arthur (2011)

Arthur is Jason Winer‘s remake of Steve Gordon‘s 1981 film. The new version stars Russell Brand, Helen Mirren, Greta Gerwig, Jennifer Garner, Geraldine James, Luis Guzmán and Nick Nolte. (And in small cameos: John Hodgman and Scott Adsit.)

Plot:
Arthur (Russell Brand) is the epitome of the rich kid: never had to work or worry about anything, always had his driver (Luis Guzmán) and nanny (Helen Mirren) to take care of him and spends money on frivolous things just for the hell of it. Now that he’s more or less an adult, his life consists of parties, sex and alcohol. When his mother (Geraldine James) tells him to marry Susan (Jennifer Garner) who she thinks the perfect person to take over her business later, Arthur is less than overjoyed since Susan is a bit of a psycho. But the threat of losing all the money is enough to make him comply. It’s only when he meets Naomi (Greta Gerwig) that he thinks about maybe taking charge of his own life.

I was pleasantly surprised by Arthur – the trailer made me laugh but after all the bad press the film was getting, I was afraid that they had all the good jokes in there already. But not only does the movie keep up a stable level of humor, it’s generally a very nice and sweet film – that gets the love story completely right.

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