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Travel Book, Guidebook & Film Reviews

An Introduction

I have had the good fortune to read and experience many books in my travels. From novels that inspire, to guide books that send you down the wrong road. I've listed them here. Not to mention the odd movie review too.

If you've found this site a benefit, or would like to buy a book/dvd please use the links here to buy the book from amazon. You're buying direct from amazon at their usual prices. But they give me a small percentage of their commission and it goes towards a new guide book, or novel that I will read.

Tip: Click on a section heading or title to see the review
Travel Guide Books Travel Novels Travel Films


China

Europe on a Shoestring

Healthy Travel: Asia & India

India

Nepal

Pakistan

Philippines (LP)

Philippines (RG)


Down and Out in Paris and London

Giant Steps

Long Way Round

Mayada, Daughter of Iraq

Running with the Moon

Shantaram

Silk Dreams, Troubled Road

Red Dust

Blood Diamond

Hotel Rwanda

Into the Wild

Long Way Round

Shooting Dogs

The Last King of Scotland

War Photographer

I have many more recommended books, DVD's, and guides on my amazon travel store here,


Travel Guide Books Reviewed


 


China - Lonely Planet


Outline: A travelers guidebook covering all China. Offering accommodation reviews and prices. Where to eat and how much it costs. Chapters on political and cultural history, activities and itineraries. Maps of the country and cites. Tibet is included.

Review:

Costs: Lonely Planet put a lot of effort in getting the costs as up to date as possible for this one. Beijing 2008 would make this one a top seller. I found most prices pretty much bang on. Even with the economic downturn, it's still pretty accurate.

Maps & Cities: Again the main cities are covered well, and you won't miss ChinatakeChina2 too many wrong turns here. English and Chinese street names are provided throughout. Smaller more remote towns get a basic map as well, which is nice.

Tibet : It's in there, barely. The book is post riots so it goes on about traveling in Tibet. But with overland tours being the only option these days, it works only as a supplement. That said, all the main areas are listed in detail. So no complaints as it works out fine.

Overall: To be honest this is one of the best Lonely Planet Guide books I've used. It's more fact driven and honest than some of the more opinionated guidebooks they've come out with. Here they explain quite well how to get train tickets, how to avoid the push and who to travel China well. It gets a full rating from me.

Packing Space Guide: its 1028 pages. 1.6 inches thick and weighs about a pound and a half. Too big for a combat pants pocket, but the cover can take a beating from being dragged out of a daypack all day.

My Rating: 5/5  

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Europe on a Shoestring - Lonely Planet


Outline: A multi country guidebook covering Albania, Andorra, Austria, Belarus, Belgium, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Britain, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Rep, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxemburg, Macedonia, Malta, Moldova, Montenegro, Morocco, The Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Russia (limited to Moscow, St Petersburg), Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, and Ukraine.

Mainly geared towards the the general tourist and backpacker. Offering accommodation reviews and prices. Where to eat and how much it costs. Small highlights on political and cultural history, activities and itineraries. Trekking guides. Maps of the country and cites.

Review:

Costs: Strangely I found the opposite to most guide book flaws of outdated prices. Here Accommodation was highly inflated. Barcelona accommodation for the budget traveler starts at 30 Euro, while in reality hostels are 17 --25. Therein lies the flaw of a book trying to be a backpackers and all round travel book.
Maps & Cities: The main cities are covered well considering the size, and amount of countries within the book. Don't look for too many off the beaten path references. Nor smaller towns. But for the main tourist attractions, they are covered quite well.

Countries covered:Europe is a large region, with many many countries. Trying to get one book to cover all is very hard. Yet when choosing, one can't help but think Lonely Planet have made it difficult to buy just one. Why Morocco and Russia are in here taking up European space, when several other countries like Hungary could have been expanded I don't know. But for marketing it must work ...

Overall: There is no way a book this size can cover everything. And, I don't thing it should considering who it's geared for. With that in mind this book is surprisingly good. It contains a lot of multi cross border information that most European travelers need. And the city guides are well laid out. The only real flaw within this book is that while pertaining to be for the Shoestring traveler (backpacker) it contains many hotel and eating references way our of that budget category. If they'd concentrated on the books shoestring readership a bit more instead of trying to cater to everyone then it would get a higher rating for sure.

Packing Space Guide: its 1284 pages. 2 inches thick and weighs about 2 pounds. Won't fit easily anywhere but your daypack. .

My Rating: 4 /5  

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Healthy Travel: Asia & India - Lonely Planet


Outline: Written by a doctor who's a seasoned traveler and a panel of experts. This little book has a wealth of important on the road medical advise that can sort you out and a help you.

Review: I have used this book throughout my travels, extensively. Not just inLP Heath in Asia and India book cover Asia & India, but also in Africa. It's a goldmine of information that can help you out with all the medical problems you are likely to come across.

Symptoms, what to take, when to take it, and advise on what to do. Of all the things I carry, this one is one of the most important. From Malaria to cuts and scrapes, it advises you on what to do.

Overall:Full of advise, if there's one thing I really recommend to pack for people heading out for a while. It's this book.

Packing Space Guide: its a tiny 456 pages .9 inch thick and weighs about .quarter of a pound. It's small enough to fit the back pocket of a pair of jeans.

My Rating: 5 /5  

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India - Lonely Planet


Outline: A giant guide book for a giant country. Offering accommodation reviews and prices. Where to eat and how much it costs. Chapters on political and cultural history, activities and itineraries. Maps of the country and cites.

Review:

Costs: Surprisingly accurate, bar the usual 20% margin for error I give guide books in this area.
India2Maps & Cities: For once I have to admit the maps and city information listed are actually quite good. Well laid out, descriptive, and accurate. Even down to New Delhi's Connaught Place. A better guide to the inside of railway stations, and where they actually are in proportion to the city would be a great addition. Though the rail links they do give, are good considering India's vast network.

Everything in one book?:It's never going to happen. But just like with the China book, LP have done a good job here. All the facts are in there, turning a page in his book gets you straight to where you want to go. There are sub country guides, but if you are doing a full tour of India, you won't miss out here.

Overall: I found this book on my way through Pakistan. It's written by one of the same authors, so I nearly went with another. In actual fact this book is heaps better. The writing is factual, and the information accurate. Some will argue that India's too large for just one book, but then I can carry only so much. And this is the book I choose to carry.

Packing Space Guide: its 1236 pages. 2 inches thick and weighs about 2 pounds. Won't fit easily anywhere but your daypack. .

My Rating: 4 /5  

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Nepal - Lonely Planet


Outline: A guidebook covering Nepal for all types of traveler. Offering accommodation reviews and prices. Where to eat and how much it costs. Chapters on political and cultural history, activities and itineraries. Trekking guides. Maps of the country and cites.

Review:

Costs: Like all guide books the in country prices are out of date. Here, it's not too bad. But add on 20% to accommodation, eating and transport prices.

Maps & Cities: The main cities are covered well, and you won't miss out on much. Maps are quite good considering the maze that are Nepalese cities. If you are crossing up from India, don't expect a lot of detail about the border. Going to Tibet is covered in an abstract way, but they mention the main 4 agency's in KTM which will save you a fortune on the tour!

Trekking : A bare outline of some treks. There are really too many to mention, and they do say this. Go for a trekking specific guide book if you want great detail. However, if you are just looking to find out the in's and out's of various treks - it will do.

Overall: If you're looking to head out into the remoter areas, then you will in an additional book. But if you want to visit the main places of Nepal, get some trekking in, and spend a few weeks enjoying this great country this book will get you there and tell you where to stay and what to enjoy. There's rarely a traveler in Nepal that doesn't use this guide, probably with good reason.

Packing Space Guide: its 427 pages. 1.2 inches thick and weighs about 3/4 of a pound. Just about fits into a large trekking pants side pocket.

My Rating: 4.5/5  

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Pakistan - Lonely Planet


Outline: I used an older version than this, however I was lucky enough to sit down with the latest edition and compare. A guidebook covering Pakistan for all types of traveler. Offering accommodation reviews and prices. Where to eat and how much it costs. Chapters on political and cultural history, activities and itineraries. Trekking guides. Maps of the country and cites.

Review:

Costs: Here the prices are not so out of date, mainly due to Pakistan's past few turbulent years. Food is generally spot on, accommodation bit behind but still good. Trekking, very much behind as with transport all of which has risen.

Maps & Cities: Finally the LP's updated the cities. Accommodation is much improved here. Though the maps are still out quite badly in many places. Pakistan's cities are not the easiest to map out, but then neither are india's, yet they manage it.. Here it's borderline make believe in places. The local PTDC have better maps and city guides on offer.

Trekking and Travel: Again the guide book is pretty useless here with trekking details. More history lessons than practicalities, but a little better than before. Treks are mentioned, but how to get to the starting points are painful. Overland travel from Iran is again poor, but at least Taftan not described at all, bar a brief useless paragraph. Taftan town, is not written about at all. The Wagha border is mentioned for india, but details other than a bus number have been left out. The Karakorum Highway is described, but, you are also told to buy the specific KKH book for better details. In a word, useless.

Overall: Of all the LP guide books, this still lags behind. Better than the 6th edition by far. It's worth the effort just because there's not much else out there. There's a wealth of a history lesson on nearly every page, too much so. Most of the pages seem to have been injected with this to spruce it up. Save the history to those chapters, not the travel ones. Lahore seems to take up most of the book again and its described well. Again making me wonder if Lonely Planet does not have an investment in Regal Internet Inn as they again obsess about it. And, last time I stayed and recently checked, still no A/C rooms, yet the book says there is, prices are off too on the high side.

The trekking routes are still shamefully described in a practical sense. For people wanting to explore a country like Pakistan a guidebook is a probable must. Unfortunately there is little choice out there. Buy and take this book for the basics, on each city. But stop off in the first PTDC office you come across and stock up on better maps, and information, all of which is free. It only scores this rating, as there's not much choice out there Better than the previous edition, I would advise LP to dump the trekking section, put more into how to get around and update the maps.

Packing Space Guide: its 432 pages. 1 inch thick and weighs about 3/4 of a pound. Just about fits into a large trekking pants side pocket.

My Rating: 2.5/5  

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The Philippines - Lonely Planet


Outline: I first used the previous edition to this book. Then the Rough Guide, then finally was given this one. It's bigger than the previous edition, but the information is much the same.

Review:

Costs:I don't blame any guide book for getting the prices wrong. They are usually out of date by a year before it gets to print. I still don't understand why they don't add 10% on as a warning. In this case maybe 20+% for accommodation.

dcxMaps & Cities:I actually like Lonely Planet's maps. The Philippines is not the easiest to map when it comes to cities, but here are least you can make your way around. More detail would be nice for directions. If google can, so can Lonely Planet. Likewise for ferry routes and flights, they could have more information.

Overall:

Lonely Planet has a very well constructed book on its hands here. But, until like the previous version this one definitely slants more towards the tourist with more money. Resorts and tours are thoroughly mentioned. New ones added, and not much else. There are lots of new hotels not mentioned in this book and I wonder why? That said the information factually speaking is top notch. Though again geared towards package tourists. Making your own way as a backpacker will require many asking of questions to locals. Sadly Mindanao has once again been reduced to snippets and scant mentions. There's a lot in this region, and while there is trouble there at times, there's still plenty to see. Getting accurate information on the dozens of yearly indigenous festivals is not that hard.

Packing Space Guide: its a thick 492 pages. 1 inch thick and weighs about 3/4 of a pound. Has a problem fitting into a large trekking pants side pocket.

My Rating: 3.5/5  

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The Philippines - Rough Guides


Outline:The 'other' guide book series tries to make an impact here. It should be noted that it's older than the new Lonely Planet book. That said there is a wealth of nicely written material on the Philippines still to be read here.

Review:

Costs: Here the prices are simply way off due to the book being in print for the past few years. A good 30% + off and in some cases 50%+

cxdcxMaps & Cities: Here I have to say the book starts to suffer. The maps are terrible. Whilst they do show lots of smaller towns, the maps lack detail, and seem to have been rushed. Few reference points are mentioned making them hard to follow in real life travel.

Overall: I dearly want to support a guide book that's not the most well known. Sadly I found the Rough Guide to the Philippines a huge let down. The page numbering constantly had me turning back and forth with the actual information not on the pages it was meant to be on. Frustrating to say the least. Guides and tours are mentioned far too often and independent travel along with easily found contact information was scarce. These two things combined made traveling with this guide a painful experience for me on many an occasion. They do mention places in Mindanao, but then don't give complete details on how to get to them! Nor the struggle involved. For a guide book who's writing style I like, I found this a let down.

Packing Space Guide: its 544 pages . 1.1 inch thick and weighs about a pound. Just about fits into a large trekking pants side pocket, but heavy.

My Rating: 1.5/5  

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Travel Novels Reviewed


 


Down and Out in Paris and London - George Orwell (click image to buy)


Outline: Based on Orwell's own real life accounting of living in the slums of Paris and later in London. Orwell creates a fictional character that recounts his tales of reaching the lowest level in Paris and trying to survive at a similar level in London. Along the way meeting characters that help, hinder and create further interest.

Review: This is a great book that really sticks with you once you've read it.1984 is another Orwell classic, the concept is chilling and frightening Down and out in PAris and London reviewreal today. Down and out in Paris and London is a very different read. If you've ever wondered what it would be like to throw away all your cash, or what would happen if you lost everything in another country - this is a must read.

Orwell's character is there by choice, which makes it even more gripping. From living on penny's, selling, borrowing and avoiding all in Paris to living a homeless street life in London is visually descriptive and puts you right there with him. A great work of writing that one can relate to on so many levels.

Overall: I was not expecting this book to be so good. It's a travel book of a different kind that is often overlooked due to high brow literary write ups. For the traveler it's well worth picking this book up. For everyone else, it's just as good for the insight alone.

Packing Space Guide: its a slim 228 pages. .6 inches thick and weighs under half a pound. Fits nicely into a bag or large pocket.

U.S. Shoppers click the main image above

U.K. (Europe) Shoppers click here Down and Out in Paris and London

My Rating: 5/5  

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Giant Steps - Karl Bushby (click image to buy)


Outline: An epic journey spanning 6 years at the time of writing. In November 1998 Karl Bushby set out to be the first person in history to literally walk Giant Stepsaround the world. Starting on the tip of South America the book follows Karl's journey through S.A. across the perilous Darién Gap through North America to Russia; becoming the first man to swim the treacherous Bering Straits.

Review: I first discovered Karl's Goliath trip over ten years ago while making my own plans and looking for inspiration I have since followed his epic journey. Once I got my hands on his book, I finally understood more about what makes a man do such a thing.

Written in diary format the book is a fast read. The tales of epic struggle from not just travel, but love, finances and the past tie in throughout the book. One clear message dictates throughout though. And that is what every travelers comes to realize. 90% of the worlds population are good people, and we help each other along. I fine read for those wondering what makes some people tick. And for the others who wonder why we travel.

Overall: It's a journal into a mans mind, as he battles to become himself while over coming insurmountable odds. A quick read, and a page turner that's not just for the traveler.

Packing Space Guide: its 432 pages. 1.2 inches thick and weighs about 1/2 a pound. Packs up nicely.

U.S. Shoppers click the main image above

U.K. (Europe) Shoppers click here Giant Steps: The Remarkable Story of the Goliath ExpeditionGiant Steps

My Rating: 4.5/5  

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Long Way Round - Ewan McGregor, Charley Boorman (click image to buy)


Outline: Best friends Ewan and Charley set off to realize their dream to ride motorcycle from London to New York. Taking them across Europe, into Mongolia, Russia, Canada and the U.S.A., they laugh, cry and tell the tale of the journey.

Review: I saw the DVD TV series before reading the book. I loved the show Long Way Round book coverand was hoping for something just as good from the book. Extra bits that TV producers won't allow, real stories etc. It failed.

The book is basically a recap of the TV series and recapped in a rather bland way. Nothing too personal that made the original so good. Certainly nothing original. Even without the TV series the book hop skips and jumps too much. Almost as if, and probably was, only written to cash in. Such a shame. Watch the DVD instead.

Overall: I was really looking forward to this book. And was disappointed by it through and through. Where the TV series was excellent and I would watch again. The book is a commercial add on.

Packing Space Guide: its a chunky 384 pages .9 inches thick and weighs half a pound. Fits into a day bag well.

U.S. Shoppers click the main image above

U.K. (Europe) Shoppers click here Long Way Round

My Rating: 2/5  

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Mayada, Daughter of Iraq - Jean Sasson (click image to buy)


Outline:Mayada is the journalist daughter of well to do Iraqi family. She ran her own successful business and had high political contacts from Saddam Hussain other ministries. Then Saddam rose changed things, and soon Mayada was in prison with other women. No one knew what happened or were she went, torture followed and this is her tale.

Review: I picked this book up in Pakistan as there was not much else around. It turned out to be quite a find. A compelling story that focuses on Mayada book coverthe "Why is this happening" element of imprisonment during this time. Mayada bonds with her fellow female prisoners, each one with there own chilling story.

What's truly terrifying in this book is when the women hear the guards coming for them. Routine torture was a daily part of life. It's not written in a gruesome manner, but in an emotion tension building way. All the time we know what's coming.

Overall: I certainly found this book to be an incredible insight into what went on in Iraq's prisons. What's more you get to see a personal side to Saddam that's not often spoken about. Well worth reading by all accounts.

Packing Space Guide: its a chunky 352 pages 1 inch thick and weighs just over half a pound. Fits into a day bag well with strong binding.

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My Rating: 4/5  

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Running with the Moon - Jonny Bealby (click image to buy)


Outline: After Jonny's fiance Melanie dies while they are traveling Kashmir Jonny remains heartbroken and downtrodden for two years. Then with the aid of a friend he embarks on a north to south Africa overland on motorcycle trip. Only his friend breaks a leg, and now it becomes jonny's solo journey of self discovery.

Review: Overland, africa, motorcycles, travelogue, sounds like my kind of book. The actual gripping thing about this book is in the opening chapter when Melanie dies. You are hooked and feel for Jonny there after. Due to this I felt a little disappointed when ever he meets another girl en route. Then again that may just be me.

What's lifts the book up again is the route jonny takes, and how it effects his outlook on life. Travel is not so hard, even in Africa. But then in knee thick mud Jonny experiences a crises of the heart, and we are pulled back into his real quest of getting his life back on track. It's not a literary masterpiece, some of the best books are not. But it does shed light on what travel can do to a person, how it can heal, and what it can bring. There's not too many travelogue books out there that can deliver those things, this book does.

Overall: I expected something else, pure travel stories. I got travel stories and a mission to do with healing and moving on through travel. This book does both well, especially life as an overland solo traveler in Africa.

Packing Space Guide: its a slimish 352 pages .9 inches thick and weighs half a pound. Fits well into a day bag, book material travels well over time.

U.S. Shoppers click the main image above

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My Rating: 4/5  

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Shantaram - David Gregory Roberts (click image to buy)


Outline: An epic journey about an escaped convict with a fake passport that ends up living in the slums of Bombay. A hunted man Lin disappears in the underground world of con men, gangsters, prostitutes, drug lords and wonderful ordinary people that show him how to live again.

Review: I picked up a fake copy of this book from a black market street stall in Delhi knowing nothing about it. Maybe that's why I enjoyed it so much. Underlying romance, gutsy moves, a life on the run, a tortured yet sympathetic soul and a host of wonderful characters. It's a work of fiction that reads like real life.

Sometimes a little flowery in description, but then India can be larger than life so why not? There's a dark side to the book too, as we see inside this mans soul, his reasoning and we question him all the way to the end. Then we want more.
Overall: I really couldn't have asked for a better travel companion or read. Simply put, one of the best most enjoyable books I have read.

Packing Space Guide: its a whopping 944 pages. 4 inches thick and weighs about a pound. Worth every bit though.

U.S. Shoppers click the main image above

U.K. (Europe) Shoppers click here Shantaram

My Rating: 5/5  

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Silk Dreams, Troubled Road - Jonny Bealby (click image to buy)


Outline: About to set up a travel company with the woman of his dreams, Jonny get's dumped. He heads back to London and sets about pitching a video documentary idea about picking up a girl and heading across asia on horse back with her, then does just that.

Review: The third book from Jonny Bealby and I am beginning to wonder if this guy is unlucky in love. Either way, he writes a good book. What I like in Silk Dreams, Troubled Roadthis book is his idea. Running a contest to find a girl and then go traveling with her while videoing it all.

Without spoiling the book, Jonny's love life goes sour again. Thus making it a good read. I really enjoyed the start of this book. But about half way through I felt it wavered a little. But a girl I gave this book too loved the second part more as it was more emotional about his struggles with his feelings. It's got a good ending though, and kinda makes want the guy to write another book!

Overall: If you travel with a partner, this book might well open up some home truths that should be read. Likewise if you looking for a partner to travel with. If not, it's still got central asia on horseback.

Packing Space Guide: its snug 320 pages. 1 inch thick and weighs about half a pound.

U.S. Shoppers click the main image above

U.K. (Europe) Shoppers click here Silk Dreams, Troubled Roadc

My Rating: 3.5/5  

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Red Dust: a path through China - Ma Jian (click image to buy)


Outline: Set in 1983 the author Ma Jian, an artist disillusioned with life in Beijing sets out to explore China overland. Penniless, with only his writing journal and a camera for company he discovers what his homeland is really like. All the time watchful of China's police like state arresting him for the crime of travel and discovery.

Review: I first discovered this book several years before my own journey to China. I wanted an inside look at what might lie ahead, and what might have changed. Ma Jian travels like a vagabond. Unwashed, flea ridden, and hungry he takes shelter wherever he can. This is no modern day happy go lucky story. IRed Dustt's the tale of man traveling and earning what he can on the road.sd

From the modern capital of Beijing we follow the traveler as he makes his way to North China, central China, and Tibet using any means necessary. It will be hard for many people today to travel like this. Perhaps Ma Jian was the last true vagabond traveler from his home country. Some of the scenes are simply not pretty, but they are very real. Always looking over your shoulder for fear of being arrest for taking photos of cultural landmarks, the author comes across as a victim quite often. It's rare to read a book today about travel than mentions flea picking as much as Red Dust. Moreover, it's an insight into China that few can comprehend, but if you have been to China for any long length of time, then perhaps some of this will hit home to you.

Overall: I don't think this book will be for everyone. Those who've only spent a few weeks in China may not relate to Red Dust. Perhaps those living in rural parts of China would really find this book inspiring. If you like vagabond style travel, or like things rough around the edges, then Red Dust might just be for you.

Packing Space Guide: its snug 336 pages. 1 inch thick and weighs about half a pound.

U.S. Shoppers click the main image above or here Red Dust: a path through China

U.K. (Europe) Shoppers click here Red Dust: a path through Chinasac

My Rating: 4/5  

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Travel Movies Reviewed


 


Blood Diamond - Directed by - Edward Zwick (click image to buy)


Outline: The Danny Archer, a white African soldier-turned-diamond-smuggler hears about local village man Solomon's discovery of huge pink diamond. Ruthless Archer goes in pursuit, only to become the hunted, as Solomon's son becomes enlisted into a boy soldier army

Blood Diamond two Review:Having lived in this region myself I at first cringed at seeing DiCaprio in this role. But actually I enjoyed this movie more than most in that region. Largely due to DiCaprio's portrayal of a ruthless to the end foreigner striving for only one financial goal. Djimon Hounsou who play's Solomon, is stunning in his acting ability. And anyone who's lived in this part will recognizes the rage and stubbornness in this mans eyes. At point's gritty, at other point's touching on a sore spot to many. A local man gives a great one liner about 'We'll be in real trouble if they (white man) discovers oil here'. And a rare thing in Hollywood, a just ending.

Overall: I have now watched this more than once. My favorite line is still when Archer tells the Euro Journalist what for about, corrupt development agency's, self righteous journalists, and hand sanitizing volunteers who think they can change the world 6 month! It's not the best of my African picks here, but the more I watch it, the more I like it. Stands proud in any DVD collection.

Running time: 143 minutes

My Rating: 4.5/5  

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Hotel Rwanda - Directed by - Terry George (click image to buy)


Outline: The Rwandan genocide is brought to our screens based on real-life hero Paul Rusesabagina's story. A hotel manager who in 1994 saved 1,200 lives during the genocide that killed over 1 million.

Blood Diamond twos Review: There is no getting away from the fact that this movie will grip you. Genocide is a word associated with WW2, but this happened in 1994. I did find a certain something lacking in this movie as when it came to day to day life. But then the film is not about that, it's about our subconscious and why this happened. Watching Paul Rusesabagina (Don Cheadle) battle with himself, then his wife and then with just about everyone as he discovers the 'right thing' to do; is outstanding.

Overall: I watched this film when it came out. I then saw it again recently. With worldwide events as they are now, it makes more impact now then ever. If I were to choose Shooting Dogs or Hotel Rwanda, I would choose the former, just. And that's just for personal preference. If you need a gritty in your face reminder of what happened in Rwanda, look no further than this film. But be prepared for the after effects.

Running time: 121 minutes

My Rating: 4/5  

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Into the Wild - Directed by - Sean Penn (click image to buy)


Outline: The true story of Christopher McCandless. With a promising future, McCandless walks out of his privileged life in search of adventure. Along the way he transforms from a youthful wanderer into a fearless risk-taker who comes face to face with nature and life.

Review: I watched this before even knowing about the book. The first thing that captured my attention was Penn's ability to direct. I like it. We can relate to the lead character almost instantly, and know all too well the family characters that appear. While slated by some critics as being naive and stupid; it did happen. People do stupid things, sometimes they end up saving others in the process, or inspiring others towards different endings. That is life. Having said that, I think to benefit from this movie, you need to still feel a passion for making a change in the world and living a different life. Or at least remember a time in your life when you did.

Overall: I really enjoyed this film. It tweaked parts of my own life and travels and hit all the right places. I know it will never be a no.1 best seller, but then there's a reason for that.

Running time: 148 minutes

My Rating: 4.5/5  

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Long Way Round - Stars- Ewan McGregor And Charley Boorman


Outline: Best friends Ewan and Charley set off to realize their dream to ride motorcycle from London to New York. Taking them across Europe, into Mongolia, Russia, Canada and the U.S.A., they laugh, cry and tell the tale of the journey.

fReview: Like overland travel, best friends bonding, or motorcycles? Then Long Way Roubnd DVD coverwatch this DVD. Forget the star factor here. It's simply an well made TV series about two guys heading out to bond, accomplish a journey, travel, and learn along the way.

If you're into the star thing. Then you'll surely get a new respect for McGregor and liking to Boorman. The film crew get involved a lot here, which works, and the conflicts make for great watching. The travel itself makes for some great scenery. East Europe, Mongolia and Russia especially. The struggles, the strife and the journey. Excellent stuff.

Overall: There simply is not another TV series like this out there about overland travel, bike, bonding and the journey. If you're planning any sort of long haul overland trip it's really worth it to watch this DVD.

Running time: 600 minutes

My Rating: 5/5  

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Shooting Dogs - Directed by - Michael Caton-Jones (click image to buy)


Outline: Based on the real life tragedy in Rwanda. Joe Connor a fresh young volunteer arrives to teach at a local school. Soon after, the genocide starts and both Joe and a priest most make some terrifying decisions.

sReview: I watched this while living in a remote part of Africa. Low budget, this movie is about as realistic as any of the african movies I have seen. It's brilliantly acted, raw, intense, and realistic. Right from the start it portray's a beginners insight into the violent side of Africa. Not just the physical, but the mental side of things too. Hotel Rwanda is the better known story, but this is a better movie.

Overall:
Parts of this movie had me remembering my own time in Africa. It starts of with innocence, and ends in brutal truth. If you are planning to volunteer in africa, a must see. If it doesn't effect you, then something's wrong.

Running time: 115 minutes

My Rating: 5/5  

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The Last King of Scotland - Directed by - Kevin Macdonald (click image to buy)


Outline: Idi Amin was a real life Ugandan dictator, and this film shows his rise and fall with authority. Not just from a Ugandan perspective but from an African perspective, and it's terrifyingly well portrayed.

ssReview: The movie starts with a young scottish doctor arriving in Uganda to volunteer at a medical center. The doctor is the focus of the movie. But Forest Whitaker's acting of Amin is what truly grips you and shows you what can happen with power. It's an incredible performance. If you have ever seen a man who's become corrupt with power to the point of madness, then you will recognize it here in Forrest Whitakers eyes. From leader and friend to dictator and killer madman this film shows you it all. While hollywood tries to soften things up at times, the actors bring it back to reality.

Overall:
I didn't find James McAvoy's performance as many said, lacking. I think it played to the mad man very will with nativity. If you see this movie, you will touch upon real life corruption. Not in the events, but in the looks and feelings the actors get across. For this alone, it gets my vote as one of the best in the African collection here.

Running time: 123 minutes

My Rating: 5/5  

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War Photographer - Directed by - Christian Frei


Outline: An Oscar nominated documentary on real life war photographer James Nachtwey

Review: I picked this up based on the name and cover alone. I was glad I did. James Nachtway is one of the most celebrated war photographers alive today. And chances are you haven't even heard of him. I certainly hadn't. However once you start in on the film you'll instantly recognize some of his work. Kosovo, Indonesia, and the Palestinian conflict are just some of the places we get to see the cool walking cameraman dodge bullets. A tiny camera sits on his own camera's shutter throughout, capturing everything he sees and hears.
What's truly fascinating is the man's attitude. Calm, cool and collected. Methodical and graceful in face of some of humankind's worst atrocities. There's a great scene when CNN's Christiane Amanpour backs out of mass grave without a mask. James Nachtwey continues on unaffected, or rather more prepared. A must for any travel photographer that likes to get up close to the action. Or for those who want to see such a job can effect a person, or not, as the case maybe.

Overall: I was glued to this film. My only small quibble is the annoying camera clicks the video footage constantly picks up. Click click click. But still, I couldn't get enough of how the man completes his work. Interviews with his colleagues only create more depth to the man rather than the photo. But that's when we learn why he is so reclusive. The photo's tell the story.

Running time: 96 minutes

My Rating: 5/5  

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Sorry, it's still not been released officially in Europe. But if you want, here's a link to the Region 1 (USA) DVD that some sellers in the UK have for sale.

War Photographer [2001] (REGION 1) (NTSC)

You will need a multi region DVD player to view this film!

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Turkish Mountain
 

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Birkenau Camp, Poland

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The Taj

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Nepal, Annapurna Range

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Arches in a Pakistani Mosque

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