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Birdman (DVD) 15/03/2016

Big Bird has gone bad

Birdman (DVD) " Popularity is the slutty little cousin of prestige." Mike Shiner The prestige Riggan Thompson is looking for when he stages a Broadway play is nowhere to be seen. A one time Hollywood A lister who made his name donning a feathery superhero costume craves both the adoration he once had and the respect of his contemporaries and thinks an old fashioned play on Broadway is the way to reinvention.The narrative could be a straightforward one about one man regaining some dignity, but no. The turkey and the albatross The film is shot as one long take leading up to the play's opening night. Filmed almost entirely in the theatre, we watch as the previews lurch from bad to worse. It doesn't help that the play itself is dire and yet Thompson has mortgaged his Malibu pad to finance his dream. The peacock Two of the funnier scenes both involve Ed Norton. Mike Shiner is one of the best regarded thesps on Broadway and doesn't like having a flaky Hollywood has-been in his territory. Manipulative and arrogant, he knows the play's on a tight budget but still orders in a sunbed because, as he says, his character's a redneck who's bound to be tanned. Possibly the most taxing aspect of this role for Norton was agreeing to spend so much screen time in his white underpants. Not to be outdone, Thompson also has a 'wardrobe malfunction' which leaves him sprinting around the theatre near naked and surrounded by theatregoers who recognise him. Meanwhile, Emma Stone is perfectly cast as ...

The Monuments Men (DVD) 11/01/2015

Not truly monumentally flawed...

The Monuments Men (DVD) "If you destroy their achievements, their history, it's like they never existed." Frank Stokes. It's 1944 and a New York lecturer gives an impassioned speech to the US President about saving the art of occupied Europe before its all seized or trashed by the Nazis. After some basic training, the seven men who are selected travel across to Normandy to start their rescue mission. Liberty Frank Stokes feels driven by the idea that he should chase stolen art across Europe before it vanishes. George Clooney as Stokes sums it up by saying "If you try get rid of a people they just move back, but get rid of their culture, paintings, books and you destroy their heritage." As a cowriter, Clooney has a hard job of convincing the audience that the liberation of any art is important at a time when millions of people are facing death in concentration camps. Perhaps having starred in too many war films before, he feels a need to show plenty of 'gritty' stuff; front line soldiers, bloodied victims, battle scarred towns. As a result, this film wavers between being a serious war film and one of high jinks (think Oceans Eleven, but saving rather than taking), but it doesn't deliver as either. Equality... .. is well camouflaged in terms of the actors used. With an eye on American audiences only two of the seven main characters are not American. Oh well. The real Monuments Men were made up of several hundred people from 13 different countries. Hugh Bonneville plays the lone Englishman ...

The Grand Budapest Hotel (DVD) 30/10/2014

No reservations here.

The Grand Budapest Hotel (DVD) “When you’re young, it’s all fillet steak but as you get older, you have to move on to the cheaper cuts.” Monsieur Gustave H. Gustave is concierge at the titular spa hotel between the wars. He keeps the wealthy female guests happy from the glitzy lobby to their bedrooms. When one of his favourite guests, octogenarian Countess Celine Villeneuve Desgoffe und Taxis (Mrs D) is bumped off after changing her will in his favour, he becomes prime murder suspect. If that storyline sounds unimpressive, don't worry, this is a Wes Anderson film and they are rarely that simple. There are more murders, a prison breakout and a stolen Renaissance painting. There is also a love interest for the new lobby boy, a young orphan called Zero who has been taken under the wing of M. Gustave. While this has all the silliness of Anderson's earlier film The Life Aquatic, there also quite dark undertones. Set in a fictional Eastern European country called Zubrowska, fascist and communist regimes both consider it ripe for invading. Anderson's microcosm has its own language, currency, even diseases! How to describe the storyline is more difficult though. Before we reach Gustave and Zero we are shown various timelines. the film opens with a young girl paying tribute at the statue of Zubrowska's favourite author. We then flip back to 1985 to hear the author talking about his masterpiece, The Grand Budapest Hotel. Further back in time we go to 1968 to see the young author meeting his unlikely muse; an ...

The Butler 10/02/2014

All the Butler's men.

The Butler "Everyone knows about the concentration camps but we've had ours for 200 years" Cecil Gaines. Probably one of the most memorable films I've seen on the American civil rights movement is Mississippi Burning. While that was criticised for the double whammy of having black characters who were mainly passive and featuring white protagonists I can't help feeling that Alan Parker's film was less manipulative than screenwriter Danny Strong is here. Aside from a couple of scenes, the violence happens mainly just off screen, but rather than promote outrage it seems to slip into sentimentality. This was from the start with a young Cecil Gaines seeing his father shot dead by their plantation owner. Other reviews I've read of this film have compared it most to Forrest Gump and I can see why. It's glossy and easy to watch, and if the writing seems a little formulaic then that's probably because it features events - and people - that most of us know. The big draw for me was that this is based on a real life butler (Eugene Allen) who worked for eight different Presidents. Gaines starts working for Eisenhower in 1959 and ends with Reagan in the 80s. I don't have any complaints with the cast; they're strong and mostly A listers, but the Presidential characterisation is cartoonish and missed a wonderful opportunity to show us something new. An irascible L B Johnson (Liev Shrieber) is shown shouting orders from his loo, whilst John Cusack plays a bloated, sweaty Nixon just before his ...

Lanolips 101 Ointment 05/12/2013

My lips are sealed.

Lanolips 101 Ointment For as long as I care to remember cheap lip salves have served me well. Or so I thought. Last winter I felt I had to look for something better, fed up that no matter how many times I applied them, they couldn't stop my lips from drying out and chapping. Good old fashioned Vaseline was on my bedside table and one of Boots own lip salves in my handbag. Perhaps if I'd paid more attention to the ingredients I would have sussed out why much sooner. I'm sure the Petroleum jelly used in both these products is high grade stuff, but it's also the reason why they're so cheap. Along with the Mineral oil used in the Boots lip salves, the jelly works as a barrier between the skin and the air. While it might stop any moisture from naturally leaving my lips, it doesn't actually bring anything to the party either. Having wasted time and money with the cheapies, I started reading the labels. Boring yet interesting how so little says so much. The first one I tried that actually seemed to make a difference was by Burt's Bees. It's still one I keep in my handbag, but now I've tried this Lanolips one, its relegated to second favourite. I cant remember where I first heard about the lanolips range, their website lists a whole range of various beauty industry awards that they've won over the last few years but I don't usually take much notice of that kind of thing. At over £10, I could buy 5 tins of vaseline, or 3 of the more effective Burt's Bees for the price of a tube of 101 ointment, but ...

Love And Death On Long Island (DVD) 16/11/2013

Meet the Chattertons, old and new.

Love And Death On Long Island (DVD) The plot Having gone to the cinema expecting to see an E M Forster adaptation, a high brow novelist who is somewhat out of step with the modern world finds himself watching an American teen flick instead. Once Giles De'ath catches sight of one of the young actors on screen, a passing interest quickly turns into an obsession which sees him flying to New York to seek out Ronnie Bostock at his home in Long island. How will De'ath's infatuation with Bostock and their improbable meeting pan out, if not destructively? The characters With only three main characters and the other speaking roles probably in single figures, at least there isn't the complaint that the film introduces unnecessary characters. Although Giles De'ath (pronounced Day-ath) is snobbish and completely detached from modern life, as the film progresses he becomes a more sympathetic character. Recently widowed, he spends most of his spare time at art galleries or private members clubs, with friends who wouldn't seem out of place (or time) in an EM Forster book themselves. This is (or was, it was filmed in 1997) for me one of Hurt's best performances in a long time. It would have been easy to give the character a one dimensional dourness, but it's offset by a twinkle in Hurts eye and a droll delivery. Although De'ath is undoubtably manipulative an innocence shines through too thanks to the actor. The antithesis then, is Ronnie Bostock. A B list Hollywood hunk who wants to break out from the teen market ...

Skullcandy Ink'd 2.0 20/10/2013

My pink ink's.

Skullcandy Ink'd 2.0 My last headphones were from Sony and have survived regular use for a couple of years before the left side stopped working. Good quality and a good buy, but I thought I'd venture into the unknown with a pair of these Skullcandy ones recently. Unknown because although there are loads of reviews on this pair (Amazon has somewhere near 200) they're mixed; neither overwhelmingly good or bad. At £9.99 I figured they were cheap enough to take a chance on, and they had to be better than the alternative. Nothing could persuade me to go back to using the ones apple give away with their mp3s, they're awful. Unless of course you like scratchy plastic in your ears, with mediocre sound quality to top it off. I also didn't want to buy some of the chunky headphones. These may not appeal as much to fashionistas as the over the head ones, but they are more portable and less obtrusive, which suits me perfectly. The fact that these are bright pink and black shouldn't put prospective buyers off though, Skullcandy have a range of colours - from lime green to their tricolour rasta ones up to NBA (whatever they are). These just happen to be what I saw on offer. ~ I should like what I'm hearing ~ I have music from the 60s onwards uploaded on my iPod. It's an eclectic range asking for a good quality pair of headphones. These are not them. Abba isn't to everyones taste, but their vocal range was superb. The nuances are missed using these. The range of The Boss might not be so great, but he ...

Sainsbury's Taste the Difference Belgian dark chocolate coated stem ginger cookies 07/10/2013

For the chew-sy chocolate lover.

Sainsbury's Taste the Difference Belgian dark chocolate coated stem ginger cookies If I'm an average consumer, then biscuit manufacturers must have to tread a fine line. Too chocolatey, or gooey, and I would rather opt for a bar of chocolate, which I prefer. Too little and I'll avoid buying. I've bought these so often, I can't remember why I first chose them. Perhaps the fact that they are boxed rather than in the usual standard film based plastic wrapping suggested they might be rather special, like all the biscuit assortments that only seem to be on sale around Christmas time (in which case I'm far too biddable, but I struck gold. Or stem ginger). Or perhaps it's because they aren't designed to appeal strictly to children, which a lot of chocolate seems geared towards. Anyway, I parted with £1.65 and I'm still very partial to them. Once inside the box, the eight cookies are arranged in a plastic tray, but to get to them you have to open some flimsy plastic wrapping. The wrapping may not be recyclable, but at least it does seem to keep these cookies fresh and - together with the plastic tray - undamaged. First impressions are very good. I find the rich chocolatey smell hits me as soon as I open these. The dark chocolate certainly hasn't been scrimped on, these are neither pale or insipid looking. The chocolate and ginger (Sainsbury's use candied ginger from Australia for these) is plentiful - these cookies are really thick - far more substantial and better to bite into than say a McVities chocolate digestive. The texture is rippled and slightly uneven ...

Johnson & Johnson 1 Day Acuvue Moist for Astigmatism Contact Lenses 26/09/2013

There isn't a dry eye in the house.

Johnson & Johnson 1 Day Acuvue Moist for Astigmatism Contact Lenses I've tried various contact lenses in the decade that I've been wearing them. Starting with monthly disposable ones, I switched to Acuvue dailies a couple of years ago. After that came their daily moist ones which were recommended as my eyes became drier. Aside from being soft lenses what they've all had in common is that they're the more usual spherical ones. Perfect for those without astigmatism. However on my most recent eyesight test, the reason for my worsening vision in one eye was revealed to be the changing shape of the eyeball from roundish to more that of a rugby ball (although the optician didn't couch it in those terms). Fortunately astigmatism isn't the problem it once was. Eyesight test over, my optician was happy that the toric lenses by Acuvue would be suitable so arranged for a trial supply to be ordered for me. Once tried and tested I started purchasing them (from Tesco Opticians) at £38 for 30 pairs. Aside from the convenience of buying them from the same place as I had my eye test, it seems to be competitively priced and in fact cheaper than my previous online supplier charges. Unlike the trial pack which came in bright yellow packaging, the 30 pairs come in typical Acuvue packaging: light blue and white boxes. The blister packs are, as ever, in rows of 5 which are easy to tear off and easy to peel open the two that you need. Although these are made from the same materials as the other Acuvue lenses which I found reassuring they feel thicker, like ...

Bumble and Bumble Creme de Coco Shampoo 01/09/2013

The bee's knees from Bumble and Bumble.

Bumble and Bumble Creme de Coco Shampoo Having bought the smaller sized bottle of this Creme de Coco shampoo - at 50 ml this is probably the tiniest bottle of shampoo I've ever bought - yet at £5.50 it was hardly inexpensive. I like to use a smaller or trial size first with any new haircare product in case it doesn't agree with my hair or skin. The claims Bumble and Bumble make sounded impressive enough for me to want to try it though. Described as "an extra-mild, luxurious cleanser with a blend of moisture-rich Coconut and Murumuru Butters" it aims to help restore sheen & softness, improve flexibility and minimise frizz". I wouldn't say I have a problem with frizzy hair, but because I often have my hair highlighted and use a hair dryer and GHD's I think a good quality shampoo and conditioner are in order to help keep it looking its best. Despite this being the smaller of the two sized bottles, it has the same flip top lid as the 250 ml bottle. This was fine until I got to the very end of the bottle and found it easier to dispense the shampoo by unscrewing the lid. The shampoo itself is creamy coloured and slightly pearlescent. This, together with the consistency lends itself to the "luxurious" claim as this is a nice, thicker consistency than most other shampoos without being gloopy or unmanageable. As expected, the scent is primarily of coconut although I think its a more subtle smell than a lot of other coconutty shampoos. It isn't too noticeable on my hair after I use it either, but that's fine with me ...

All Saints Church, Burnham Thorpe 26/08/2013

In war and peace.

All Saints Church, Burnham Thorpe "Thank God I have done my duty". The Battle of Trafalgar may well be where these last words were spoken by Admiral Lord Nelson, but his first could have been gurgled here, the small Parish church where his father Edmund was the rector. The Rectory has long since gone, but All Saints church is still present. Horatio, the sixth of eleven children, was baptised here on 9 October 1758. On the North Norfolk coast, Burnham Thorpe is one of a few villages collectively known locally as The Burnhams. Burnham Market is probably the largest and fairly easy to get to by car, but once there directions to the smaller Burnham Thorpe are limited and confusing. It's almost as if the locals don't want a constant stream of visitors. Although its strange given that Nelson is England's greatest Naval hero, it's understandable given that there really isn't much to see if you can find your way here. His birthplace was torn down in 1803 and his state funeral took place in St Paul's Cathedral three years later. Having found the village this church is well signposted with directions leading up a little lane to the church and its parking area. I changed my mind when we arrived: parking is on a large expanse of grass just outside the churchyard, almost bigger than the churchyard itself. Visitors were welcome after all, although we could see that the church doors were shut from the car, and hesitated before noticing a young family leave the church. Although from the outside the church seems modest ...

DKNY Watch NY4796 Ladies 12/08/2013

My Donna Karan New York watch.

DKNY Watch NY4796 Ladies After spending weeks looking for a new watch I finally chose this one. I dislike wearing metal watches and my last watch was a cheapo but long lasting one with fabric straps which sort of velcroed together. It was properly waterproof but had little else to recommend it. This DKNY one finally caught my eye after traipsing around many jewellery shops. The design The unusual coloured strap is described by DKNY as clearwater green shimmer patent leather. it's an attractive colour, and yes there is a slight shimmer to it which is subtle enough not to scream tacky. Having quite small wrists I hadn't wanted anything too bulky and this is perfect for me. The dial is also unusual in having a mother of pearl effect rather than being plain white which is nice to look at. The dial is round (and again, not too overwhelming for my wrist), and the twelve markers are silver coloured indices. A nice touch is the crystal accents at the markers like mini Swarovski jewels. Oh well, I can dream. Overall, the design is attractive and subtle without being too blingy. As I don't have a separate dress watch, this is a nice cross between a casual watch and something smarter. Functionality and comfort If you want a watch with some fancy sub dials on it then this isn't for you. This simply tells the time, which is all that I wanted. What I like is that this has a seconds hand which I find more useful than, say, a little date window. It is apparently water resistant to a depth of 50 metres, ...

L'Occitane Lavender Shea Butter Extra Gentle Soap 01/08/2013

This beats the rest.

L'Occitane Lavender Shea Butter Extra Gentle Soap I can't remember how I first came across this soap as some of my early experiences with L'Occitane products were disappointing insofar as their hand creams are just too rich for my skin. This is described as being extra gentle and containing Shea butter as well as lavender so try this I did and I'm so glad I have. ~ Less provincial, more Provençal ~ Lavender has a bit of an outdated rep. Mostly, I associate it with products from the likes of Yardley, Crabtree & Evelyn or Woods of Windsor. The sort of olde worlde and typically English products which seem to be marketed as much towards tourists as anything Prince George could shake a rattle at. I have no idea whether French lavender is any the nicer than its English counterparts, but L'Occitane state that: "fine lavender or true lavender (Lamiaceae family), fills the mountains of Provence with its vibrant colour and scent, at altitudes from 600 to 1,500 meters. The Protected Designation of Origin (P.D.O.) label is only granted to lavender that is grown at altitudes above 800 meters, in Haute-Provence. This is the lavender of perfumers, with its small violet-blue flowers and its fine, subtle scent." The vibrant colour has gone - this soap is white, but the scent is certainly natural and strong without being overpowering. Not only is it a true lavender scent, which is lovely from the time the paper packaging is opened, but it lasts. Not for the duration of a bath, but unlike other soaps I've bought, the scent doesn't ...

The Brudenell, Aldeburgh 21/07/2013

A Suffolk gem.

The Brudenell, Aldeburgh A promise of hot weather coincided with a recent news article I had read describing some of Britain's best beaches. The ball soon started rolling: find a seaside resort which is pooch friendly in high season, with dog friendly accommodation nearby, and which wouldn't be overrun with other visitors (people sunbathing and one very nosy Labrador simply don't mix well). Suffolk may as well have been the Himalayas, so often have I visited. And to think Ipswich isn't really any further distance than Bournemouth, yet lovely Bournemouth is far better known to us than the Suffolk coastline. As well as to most of southern England judging by how busy the beaches get there. Having narrowed our search down to two hotels which both appeared to be ideally suited, we plumped for the Brudenell in Aldeborough, Suffolk. The words 'boutique hotel' would normally leave me quivering in my muddy walking boots, but not at the Brudenell. Small and tastefully furnished it may be, but the trump card as far as we were concerned is its location... .. slap bang on the beach front. Situated near the end of a tiny cul de sac (Crag Place), with nothing but the narrow road and the sea wall between the hotel and the shingle beach, it really couldn't be better located. Clearly it makes sense to place the restaurant and bar on this side of the building, but the terrace which spans the entire length of the hotel was the icing on the cake for us. What better place to enjoy breakfast or dinner? Privately ...

Ambre Solaire Light & Silky Medium Protection Milk SPF 20 10/06/2013

Sun, sun, sun, here it comes.

Ambre Solaire Light & Silky Medium Protection Milk SPF 20 ~ Flaming June ain't no oil painting ~ After such a dreary spring I was almost convinced summer would be another washout. Thankfully there have already been a handful of occasions when I've been proved wrong and found myself seeking sun protection before going out. Usually I choose moisturisers for my face which have a SPF included, so it's only when I'm in short sleeves or wearing sandals that other sun protection creams get brought out. June is the month when the sun is at its hottest in the northern hemisphere so decent sun protection is necessary, even if it feels daft applying it in cloudy weather. This Ambre Solaire Light & Silky was one of the items I had bought for a foreign holiday last year. As it wasn't high season I thought this sunscreen with an SPF of 20 would be appropriate. I have the lotion although it can be bought in a spray. ~ Promises, promises ~ The bottle has a flip top lid which is easy enough to open but firm enough to stay shut when not needed. More importantly though is the blurb. Having a SPF of 20 means it will take twenty times longer for the UVB rays to start their damage than it would without this on. The star rating is just as crucial as that gives an indication of the protection the lotion should provide against UVA rays and the dreaded wrinkles and premature ageing. This has a star rating of 4 which is good. The best rating is 5 stars which indicates that the lotion provided equal protection against UVA rays as it does UVB. ~ ...
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