Watching the English (Kate Fox)

Watching the English is a book by Kate Fox, who is a social anthropologist.

In the book Fox examines the English culture and tries to find the rules underlying English behavior. By participant observation and talking to loads of people she manages to outline the core values, attitudes and outlooks of the English people (at least as she sees them) and give explanations for their most typical behavior – for example why the English are so extremely fond of and good at queuing.

Whether or not you accept Fox’s definition of Englishness is of course up to you. It certainly won’t be the last word on the subject, nor do I believe that you can ever fit an entire culture into one book. But nevertheless, Watching the English is an amusing read.

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Step Up Revolution (2012)

Step Up Revolution
Director: Scott Speer
Writer: Amanda Brody
Sequel to: Step Up, Step Up 2: The Streets, Step Up 3D
Cast: Ryan Guzman, Kathryn McCormick, Cleopatra Coleman, Misha Gabriel Hamilton, Stephen Boss, Mia Michaels, Christopher Scott, Adam G. Sevani, Chadd Smith, Mari Koda, Peter Gallagher

Sean (Ryan Guzman) is part of The Mob, a dance crew that specializes in flashmob appearances with the videos of which they are trying to win an online contest and make some money. Meanwhile he is still working as a waiter in a hotel belonging to Mr Anderson (Peter Gallagher). When he meets Emily (Kathryn McCormick), the boss’s daughter who dreams of a career as a dancer herself, the two of them hit if off. And when Anderson’s real estate development plans threaten Sean’s neighborhood, he, Emily and The Mob start a series of dance-y protests.

For a dance movie, Step Up is actually quite fine. It does suffer from the usual dance movie clichés (though it manages to skirt some of them by having a slightly different plot than usual), but the choreographies are pretty damn good and it does entertain.

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The Bourne Ultimatum (2007)

The Bourne Ultimatum
Director: Paul Greengrass
Writer: Tony Gilroy, Scott Z. Burns, George Nolfi
Based on: Robert Ludlum‘s novel
Sequel to: The Bourne Identity, The Bourne Supremacy
Cast: Matt Damon, Julia Stiles, David Strathairn, Joan Allen, Paddy Considine, Édgar Ramírez, Scott Glenn, Albert Finney, Daniel Brühl

Jason Bourne (Matt Damon) is still running, hiding and not remembering. But then he stumbles upon an article by Simon Ross (Paddy Considine) about himself, the Treadstone Project and Operation Blackbriar. So Jason goes to meet Simon to find out his source and get more info about his past. But in the meantime Noah Vosen (David Strathairn) is on Jason’s tail – and he wants nothing more than to make Jason go away for good.

The Bourne Ultimatumg is a rather satisfying conclusion to the trilogy and to Bourne’s story, though I didn’t get into it as much as I would have liked.

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The Bourne Supremacy (2004)

The Bourne Supremacy
Director: Paul Greengrass
Writer: Tony Gilroy
Based on: Robert Ludlum‘s novel
Sequel to: The Bourne Identity
Cast: Matt Damon, Franka Potente, Brian Cox, Julia Stiles, Karl Urban, Joan Allen, Marton Csokas, Michelle Monaghan

Jason (Matt Damon) and Marie (Franka Potente) have been hiding for quite a while, but Jason’s past, while still not entirely clear for him, catches up with them in the form of assassin Kirill (Karl Urban) who, instead of killing Jason, ends up killing Marie. So Jason goes after him and the Treadstone project, trying again to figure out what the hell happened.

The Bourne Supremacy might not be quite as good as The Bourne Identity, but it’s still a pretty decent film with a very good cast.

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The Expendables 2 (2012)

The Expendables 2
Director: Simon West
Writer: Richard Wenk, Sylvester Stallone
Sequel to: The Expendables
Cast: Sylvester Stallone, Jason Statham, Dolph Lundgren, Terry Crews, Randy Couture, Nan Yu, Liam Hemsworth, Jet Li, Jean-Claude Van Damme, Scott Adkins, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Bruce Willis, Chuck Norris, Charisma Carpenter

Barney Ross (Sylvester Stallone) and the rest of his crew (Jason Statham, Dolph Lundgren, Terry Crews, Randy Couture, Jet Li and Liam Hemsworth*) have just saved a Chinese businessman who was kidnapped, when Church (Bruce Willis) calls in a favor: they are supposed to retrieve something from a safe in a crashed plane in the Albanian mountains. To crack that safe, they need to take Maggie (Nan Yu) along (though Yin Yang [Jet Li] stays in China**). What should be a very quick and not very eventful mission, goes south when Villain*** (Jean-Claude Van Damme) appears.

The Expendables 2 is everything The Expendables should have been already, but was too shoddily directed and taking itself way too seriously for. In this one, they just go with the flow and end up with a film that is pretty damn satisfying.

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ParaNorman (2012)

Director: Chris Butler, Sam Fell
Writer: Chris Butler
Cast: Kodi Smit-McPhee, Tucker Albrizzi, Anna Kendrick, Casey Affleck, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Leslie Mann, Jeff Garlin, Elaine Stritch, Bernard Hill, John Goodman

Norman (Kodi Smit-McPhee) would be a normal boy if it wasn’t for the fact that he is able to speak with ghosts. Which the people around him either try to ignore (his family) or use as an excuse to bully him (his schoolmate Alvin). Only his dead grandma gives him support and his schoolmate Neil (Tucker Albrizzi) tries insistently to befriend him. But everything changes when his (seemingly?) crazy uncle Mr Prenderghast (John Goodman) warns him of the witch’s curse – and that Norman is the only one who can keep the dead from rising.

ParaNorman is sweet and absolutely funny, made with a lot of loving references to the B-to-D-horror-movies that usually feature zombies. I loved it.

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Re-Watch: The Bourne Identity (2002)

The Bourne Identity
Director: Doug Liman
Writer: Tony Gilroy, W. Blake Herron
Based on: Robert Ludlum‘s novel
Cast: Matt Damon, Franka Potente, Chris Cooper, Brian Cox, Julia Stiles, Clive Owen

A man (Matt Damon) is found floating in the middle of the sea with several shot wounds. The doctor on board puts him back together again, but the guy suffers from amnesia. The only clue he has is a number to a Swiss bank account. When he follows that clue, he finds out that his name is Jason Bourne. And he finds himself hunted by several agencies. Finding an ally in Marie (Franka Potente) who gives him a ride, Bourne tries to piece back together his past.

The Bourne Identity is one of our modern classics, and with good reason. It’s tightly paced, very well acted and tells a good story that keeps you interested even after multiple viewings.

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Railsea (China Miéville)

Railsea is the newest novel by China Miéville, based a little bit on Herman Melville’s Moby Dick.

Sham recently started working on a moletrain, one of the many trains who drive through the endless railsea hunting moles. But his train, the Medes, is made special by the fact that his Captain, Captain Naphi has a philosophy: a giant yellow mole she lost a limb to and has been hunting ever since. But when Sham sees a few pictures he isn’t really supposed to see, his life gets entangled with the Shroake siblings Caldera and Dero and he is soon on a much bigger adventure than he ever thought he would be.

Railsea is an absolute joyride. Linguistically, it’s probably Miéville’s most idiosyncratic book, but it’s fast-paced, fun and bursting with ideas.

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Bakjwi [Thirst] (2009)

Director: Chan-wook Park
Writer: Chan-wook Park, Seo-Gyeong Jeong
Based on: Émile Zola‘s novel Thérèse Raquin (rather loosely)
Cast: Kang-ho Song, Ok-bin Kim, Hae-suk Kim, Ha-kyun Shin, In-hwan Park

Priest Sang-hyeon (Kang-ho Song) volunteers to participate in a medical experiment to find a vaccine for an infectious disease. But instead of helping science, Sang-hyeon gets infected with vampirism. But with a growing lust for blood, there are also other desires that are stirring within him. And in his childhood friend’s wife Tae-ju (Ok-bin Kim), whose relationship with her husband Kang-woo (Ha-kyun Shin) and his mother Lady Ra (Hae-suk Kim) is rather strained, he finds just the person he wants to fulfill those desires with.

This is a strange little film. I struggled a bit with it, but I was nevertheless drawn into its atmosphere and story.

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Chloe (2009)

Director: Atom Egoyan
Writer: Erin Cressida Wilson
Remake of: Nathalie…
Cast: Julianne Moore, Amanda Seyfried, Liam Neeson, Max Thieriot, Nina Dobrev

Catherine (Julianne Moore) and David (Liam Neeson) have been married for quite a while and they’ve grown rather distant. And then Catherine starts to suspect that David is having an affair. When by chance she meets the young prostitute Chloe (Amanda Seyfried), she asks her to try to seduce David to test his loyalty. Which can’t really end well.

Chloe is a good thriller with interesting dynamics between its main characters, especially Catherine and Chloe. But the ending did not convince me. I just thought that it went a bit over the top.

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