Sterile spirit at the heart of The Golden Compass
Dear Editor, I found the controversial film The Golden Compass long and complicated.

Despite good acting and wonderful special effects, the story is ultimately lifeless. Much of the movie takes place in the polar north, and the iciness of the setting is a perfect metaphor for the chilly, sterile spirit at the heart of the story. Anyone expecting a playful children's fantasy would do well to look elsewhere.

The movie takes place in a parallel world similar to Earth, but dominated by a sinister quasi-religious authority known as the Magisterium. This powerful elite seeks to "protect" people - for their own good - by shielding them from scientific knowledge. More specifically, the Magisterium abducts young children and literally kills their souls, thereby extinguishing the spirit of free thought and inquiry.

The aggressively anti-religious, anti-Christian undercurrent in the movie is unmistakable and at times undisguised. When a warrior ice bear - one of the heroes of the story - breaks into the local Magisterium headquarters to take back the armour stolen from him, the exterior walls of the evil building are covered with Eastern Christian icons. And for Catholics in our own world, of course, "Magisterium" refers to the teaching authority of the Church - hardly a literary coincidence. Also, standing in contrast to the Catholic belief in heaven, is author Philip Pullman's afterlife that consists of bodies breaking into particles and being recycled into the material world.

Strangest of all - and in striking contrast to the Narnia stories - is the absence of joy or any real laughter in the movie. The talented child actress who plays the film's leading role is hobbled by a character that is uniformly unpleasant, rebellious, belligerent and honourless.

Obviously, parents are the primary teachers of their children. They need to use their own best judgment about whether such a film is suitable for their families.
AL SMITH, By email

Horrified by some drivers
Dear Editor, I'm not surprised the West Midlands has one of the worst road crash rates in Britain.

I'm unfortunate enough to have to commute into Birmingham along the M42 and M6 every day, and I'm constantly horrified by the way in which my fellow motorists drive - cutting each other up, tailgating at over 80mph, swerving between lanes of traffic in order to get a couple of inches extra advantage.

The only thing that amazes me is that there isn't a fatal accident on these roads every day. Even when you try to leave a safe distance between yourself and the car in front, someone will always pull in between you, forcing you to slam on your brakes.

And despite the current short days, dark nights and icy roads, they don't seem to moderate their driving at all.

These selfish people should be banned from the roads until they have retaken their driving tests and can prove they are capable of driving in a safe and considerate manner. Let's take action before more lives are lost.
 FRANK BLETCHLEY, Birmingham

United States of Europe
Dear Editor, He's done it. Unless parliament refuses to ratify the Lisbon Treaty, we shall become a part of a United States of Europe dominated by Germany.

Having given away our independence, we shall not be able to remain in the Commonwealth - a true family of 54 nations spread around the world, all British and the vast majority subjects of the Queen. Will she have to move to another country, or does the Commonwealth just fall apart?

And what about our 14 dependencies? The Falklands, St Helena, Gibraltar, etc.

Surely the sacrifices made in the Second World War will be wasted. They were made for freedom, not for us to be ruled by unelected commissioners in Brussels.

Wake up, Members of Parliament.
 Coun PETER HOLLINGWORTH, Harborne

Looking for dynamism
Dear Editor, Tory leader David Cameron wants to model his party's future on the partnership forged by Birmingham's very own Batman and Robin - Mike Whitby and Paul Tilsley.

Just how familiar with our city's leadership is he?

If, when he finally gets into power, he wants to form an administration that is interested in maintaining the status quo and keeping Labour out of office, then he couldn't have chosen better heroes.

If he wants to be known as a dynamic prime minister - reforming, achieving, improving - perhaps he would do better to look elsewhere. How many days have we been waiting for New Street now?
 BRIAN POSTANS, Birmingham

'HIPs' debacle
Dear Editor, So the "HIP effect" has well and truly struck. Despite the Government's assurances Hips would speed-up housing transactions, it's the detractors who have been proved right, with the project pulling the rug from under an already shaky housing market.

With reports that premises in London are already dropping by as much as £20,000 per week, we can only hope the Bank of England will see sense and push through further interest rate cuts.

Estate agents have been desperately talking the market up for months - as you would expect - but I don't think even they can talk their way out of this one alone.
 ROBYN TYLE, Solihull

Thanks for kind and honest hearts
Dear Editor, I would like to thank the person who handed in my purse, which I dropped outside the Symphony Hall last Sunday.

I would also like to thank the security man who helped me when I was in a panic. I shall be forever grateful. Thank you.
 EUNICE GILES, By email