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pattiemason

pattiemason

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Reviews written

since 25/11/2002

20

The Ring (DVD) 16/08/2003

Beware What You Pick Up In Blockbusters

The Ring (DVD) I’m not really one of those people who has to sleep with the lights on after watching a horror film. There’s nothing scary about your average, unimaginative Nightmare on Elm Street type stuff. Killers with joke shop type gimmicks, hockey masks or unfeasibly long fingernails, chase spoilt and quite stupid teenagers round houses with too many unlocked doors and dark basements. So many of them are the film equivalent of paint by numbers. Sitting down to watch The Ring, I was preparing to laugh my way through similar silliness as soon as the opening scene started with two teenage girls discussing an urban myth about a video tape. Apparently when someone watched this video, just after it finished they would get a phone call and the voice on the other end of the line would tell them they had seven days to live. Oooh spooky. So sure enough one of the girls has seen the video and the next thing we know she’s dead. So far, so typical teen horror flick. The dead girl’s aunt, Rachel Keller (Naomi Watts) happens to be a reporter for a Seattle newspaper and on overhearing some of her niece’s friends talking about this killer video she decides to look into it. Her initial investigations lead her to an isolated motel in some bleak country location where she finds the video, and somewhat foolishly settles down to watch it. It’s a fairly haunting set of bleak black and white, Dali-esque images no real gore but pretty creepy. No sooner has the tape ...

Heaven (DVD) 12/07/2003

Hardly Heavenly

Heaven (DVD) There’s a theory that if you give enough monkeys typewriters they’ll eventually produce the complete works of Shakespeare. However, the problem is that the monkeys seem to be too busy writing film scripts. I really can’t see any other explanation for “Heaven”. Cate Blanchett stars as Philippa an English teacher living in Turin. With her husband recently dead from a drugs overdose and her complaints to the police about the local drug lord, Vendice, being ignored she decides to take justice into her own hands by planting a bomb in his office. Unfortunately, the plan goes wrong and the bomb ends up killing an innocent man and his two children along with an elderly cleaner. It all starts quite promisingly with the bomb being planted, it’s pacy and sharp and gets your interest. Not for long though. Next thing we know Philippa is hauled off to the police station for questioning. The hapless police think she’s a member of a terrorist organization and don’t believe her story about Vendice. All the letters she had written to the police about him have gone missing as have the copies she kept in her own home. There’s some corruption afoot obviously. It’s not looking good for Philippa. As luck would have it though the young and innocent policeman, Filippo (Giovanni Ribisi) falls in love with her based on a two minute conversation. Obviously we’re supposed to think it’s something deeper, some soulmate kind of ...

ocado.com 01/07/2003

The Best Online Shopping Experience

ocado.com If you frequently find yourself stressed out on Saturday mornings steering your trolley through crowds in the supermarket then it really is time to take up online shopping. I have long been a convert to the virtual supermarket experience and they just seem to get better and better. Ocado.com is the delivery partner of Waitrose, so basically you are buying Waitrose produce, which is no bad thing. You have to register to use the site, but this is very simple and basically just consists of entering your e-mail address, thinking of a password and a couple of other details and you’re up and running. The Site and What you Can Find… Once you log in the site is really easy to navigate, on the first page you are the five main categories of produce. The standard three are Food & Drink, Toiletries & Baby, Household & Pet Care. The remaining two are Special Offers and at the moment Summer. Special Offers contains…yes you guessed it, special offers. It’s worth having a browse around, you’ll find plenty of products that are two for the price of one and also a few discounted items. The Summer category is I assume seasonal, and at the moment contains items such as disposable barbecues, various food items to burn, oops sorry I mean cook, on the barbecue, along with summery drinks, sun protection products, etc. You get the picture. At Christmas I’m sure it’ll be fairy lights and and Christmas slices. Quite an interesting category to browse through if you’re not entirely sure what you ...

Marks and Spencer 13/06/2003

Ready Meal Heaven

Marks and Spencer Over the last year I’ve become a bit of an expert on Marks and Spencer foodhalls. It’s the nearest supermarket to my work, so convenient for lunchtime sandwiches, quick snacks and those evenings when you know there’s nothing in the fridge at home. Marks and Spencer have had some image problems over the last few years, mostly to do with being a bit staid and boring, especially in the fashion department. However, there’s nothing dull about their foodhalls, especially if it’s convenience you’re after. They have an extensive selection of good quality ready prepared meals, where the only cooking involved is removing the cardboard box and piercing the film with a fork before popping in the oven and putting your feet up for 20 minutes. There are a number of ready made ranges, from the usual Indian and Italian range to the more original Café Culture range which is a selection of dishes that you might find on the menu in your local brasserie, such as braised lamb shanks or Galician meatballs with spicy potatoes. The other fairly recent addition is the Steam Cuisine range, this is a selection of healthy low fat options that you can steam in the package in the microwave. Dishes include things like salmon with minted new potatoes and vegetables, or Thai style chicken with noodles. Perhaps their best range is “Count On Us” which is calorie counted and low fat. Again, there’s plenty of choice - fish, chicken and meat dishes. My personal favourites are the Ham and Mushroom pizza ...

Rachel's Organic Greek Yogurt with Honey 11/06/2003

The Caviar of the Yoghurt World

Rachel's Organic Greek Yogurt with Honey There’s so many mediocre yoghurts out there. You know the kind of thing, a couple of bits of slimy strawberry, some false colouring, a handful of additives. You finish them and then ten minutes later you’re wondering what you can have for pudding. Well not anymore, this is the yoghurt to put all other yoghurts to shame. It has a thick, creamy consistency with a slight vanilla yellow tinge presumably from the organic honey. Taste wise it’s absolutely gorgeous, just the right amount of honey so it’s just sweet enough without overdoing it. If you haven’t got a sweet tooth then you might want to go for the plain Greek Yoghurt which is also available. Not only is this yoghurt delicious, it’s also organic so you can be sure of what you’re eating here, no synthetic thickeners, no GM derivatives, sweeteners or additives. Just milk, cream and organic honey. Rachel’s Organic Dairy originally started from the family farm in Aberystwyth. If you’re up on your organic credentials, then you might be interested to know that this was one of the first certified organic farms in the Britain and is also the one with the longest, continuous record of organic production. But they have added one thing, those healthy bacteria we’re always hearing about these days, or “bio live cultures” as the more technical refer to them. Apparently they are good for your digestive system. This particular Greek Yoghurt is available in family size 450g tubs or smaller individual tubs of 125g. If you ...

Frys Turkish Delight 10/06/2003

Full of Eastern Promise

Frys Turkish Delight Well, that's what it says on the packet. Eastern Promise for 48p I thought? That can't be bad. (Before I stopped to wonder about ... what is Eastern Promise anyway? Answers in my guestbook please!) It's a sort of meaningless slogan when you think about it, but it must do the job okay as this snack bar has been around as long as I can remember. I've recently rediscovered it. The bar comes in a pinkish/purple foil wrapper. It looks a little old fashioned compared to some of the newer products on the shelves, but don't be put off by appearances. Inside you'll find a bit of a different take on Turkish Delight. Like me you may expect Turkish Delight to come in a lovely little box, that reveals delicate little cubes of delight all covered in a sort of floury icing sugar. Well that's not what you find here. Instead, this looks like a chocolate bar, until you bite into it and discover what those geniuses at Cadburys have come up with. It's actually just a thin layer of chocolate covering a gorgeous darkish pink piece of Turkish Delight. The Turkish Delight itself is quite a thick consistency compared to some types and extremely sugary. Also I must admit it does look a bit synthetic...but it tastes gorgeous. This is what I look for in sweets, lots of sugar, and a delicious combination of chocolate and filling that satisfy a sweet tooth. There's more good news about this bar as well. Not only is it delicious, it's also ... good for you. Okay, that might be a bit strong, but ...

Kelloggs Nutri Grain 06/06/2003

Wrongness in a wrapper

Kelloggs Nutri Grain I've only tried the blueberry flavour of this bar. This comes in a blue foil wrapper and on the outside it says “A soft golden baked crust made with wheat and whole-grain oats, with a blueberry filling”. Well I was in a hurry, had skipped breakfast and this sounded like it would keep me going for a while, in fact it sounded quite yummy. Soft, golden, blueberry, hmmm. Plus the whole blueberry and cereal thing sounded quite healthy. It doesn’t look that delicious when you open the wrapper, but if you squint slightly you can make out a slight golden, baked sheen on it. Fair enough I guess. They’re hardly going to describe it as a grainy looking, slightly yellow bar. Anyway the appearance of food doesn’t bear any relation to its taste. Marmite for example – looks hideous, tastes gorgeous. (Yes, I know not everybody will agree with that!). However, in this case you can judge the book by its cover so to speak. Frankly it doesn’t look that great and I thought it tasted absolutely vile. It’s surprisingly soft when you bite into it, there’s a grainy cereal type outer layer that once you start chewing turns into a horrible sort of pasty texture. The filling is to blueberries, what a fish is to a pencil sharpener, completely unrelated, not even a faint connection that I could fathom. So that’s what you get, sort of floury pasty flavour then sticky, sweet, allegedly blueberry filling. So all in all not an experience I would want to repeat. This is obviously supposed to be ...

Fiesta - Ernest Hemingway 06/06/2003

A Hemingway Classic

Fiesta - Ernest Hemingway “I mistrust all frank and simple people” declares Jake Barnes, the cynical narrator of this torrid tale of dissolute expats. Luckily for Jake there aren’t that many frank and simple people in this story. Set in Paris in an undetermined period after the First World War the novel follows the lives of a group of American and British expats. Jake recounts the goings on to us, in between working the odd hour in his job as a reporter for an American newspaper. Mostly there’s an awful lot of sitting round in cafes having lunch, then moving on to brandies, then pre dinner drinks, then dinner, then dancing. Various degenerate characters come and go from this rather fluid social circle, the days and nights pass in a seemingly endless gin haze and apart from Jake, not a single mention of any kind of employment for any of them. However, underneath this whirl of drinks and dinners and dancing all is not well. Jake is in love with the gin supping, English aristocrat Lady Brett Ashley, she’s in love with him too but it can never be for reasons I’ll leave you to discover for yourself. Brett has her own problems, awaiting her divorce and having several affairs during the course of the book, she’s deeply unhappy with her shallow romances and endless free time. There’s no pleasing some people. The action really kicks off when they all head down to Pamplona for the bull running fiesta. Seven days of all night and all day drinking in a small town in the north of Spain leads to a lot of ...

28 Days Later (DVD) 23/05/2003

Blood and Gore and Traffic Free Roads

28 Days Later (DVD) Think “Outbreak” but without the Hollywood high drama, with a hint of old style zombie films thrown in, and you’ll have some idea of what to expect from this British Horror film. Jimmy (Cilian Murphy) is a cycle courier who, after being involved in a car accident, awakes to find himself in an empty hospital. Wondering out on to the streets of London he realizes the problem is more than just an NHS budgeting issue, the city is deserted. These opening scenes are very atmospheric and there’s a certain fascination to seeing London filled with nothing but discarded newspapers and litter. Not a person in sight, not even a dirty pigeon. It feels a little like a strange dreamlike scene. For reasons that remain unclear Jimmy decides to head into a church, now as all good cinema goers should know, a church is the last place you want to go when something spooky is going on. It only ever seems to spell out trouble, so it’s no surprise that he finds a crazed priest and a crypt full of corpses. Except they’re not corpses and they come to life and start coming towards him, sensibly he doesn’t stick round to have a chat about their motives but heads off back into the empty streets at a fast pace. Nobody would have much of a chance fighting off a gang of zombies singlehanded, so it’s a lucky break that at this point he bumps into Mark and Seline. Like modern day Mad Maxs they’re tough and ruthless and managing to survive in this new ...

Morvern Callar DVD 22/05/2003

Weird name for a weird story

Morvern Callar DVD So one day you walk into your home to find your boyfriend has committed suicide, what do you do? Hmm...well the chances are you'd be quite upset, after all it's almost the ultimate rejection. Never mind getting dumped and the angst that goes along with that, in this case your partner has really left you for good. On the bright side you'd never have to suffer the horrible morning after feeling when you wake up and remember that drunken, desperate 2am reconciliation phone call you made. Oh come on, we've all done it! At this point I must confess, I loved the book and hated the film so my review is really about Morvern Callar the novel and not the screen experience. "He'd cut his throat with the knife. He'd near chopped off his hand with the meat cleaver". This is the opening of Alan Warner's excellent "Morvern Callar". The impact of this as an opening line, is not easily transferred to screen. Stumbling upon this scene in the book Morvern does what many of us may do, she lights a cigarette and has a cry. This is where normal reactions end. She then proceeds to tell...er...nobody. Instead she takes his cash card and claims the novel he'd left on his PC as her own. Not really the makings of a sympathetic character, but there's something strangely beguiling about her as a heroine and narrator. It just doesn't transfer to the screen. You need time to read about her, digest it and think. She's a weird narrator for a weird story. Stuck in a dead end job in a small town in ...

Weight Watchers 21/05/2003

The old ways keep on working

Weight Watchers Think of Weight Watchers and what springs to mind? For me it was always draughty church halls, humiliating public weigh ins with the instructors giving you a dressing down for eating too many biscuits. Perhaps on sale they would have some dusty books about calorie counting illustrated with 1980’s type pictures of women in leotards. I had no idea what the meeting itself would consist of, I imagined people who had done particularly badly being forced to confess to the group how many cakes they’d eaten that week, and why exactly they’d chosen to sit on the sofa watching TV rather than going jogging. So during all my many struggles trying to shed pounds, not the monetary sort, I’ve always avoided Weight Watchers. Instead I’ve preferred to go for diets based entirely on eating spinach, or no bread, or solely soup, or just lemon juice on Wednesdays, etc, etc. The list is endless. This January, with the post xmas bulge causing me some angst, I decided to approach things differently. So with all my ill informed preconceptions, I set off to my nearest Weight Watchers meeting. It was in a church hall, so I was right there. I was wrong about pretty much everything else. No dusty books, no public humiliation. I joined the queue and paid my fee of £4.75. There is usually a new members’ registration fee of £9, but for the last month or so they’ve had a special offer on whereby registration is free. You then have to pay £4.75 every time you visit. So what do you get for your money? ...

Y Tu Mama Tambien (DVD) 21/05/2003

Worth the subtitle reading

Y Tu Mama Tambien (DVD) Much has been made of the sexual content of this film and yes, it’s probably not something you would want to watch with your parents in the room. However, this is a film of many layers and there’s a lot more to it than a bit of nudity and liberated behaviour. The comparisons that have been made with glib American productions like “American Pie” do absolutely no justice to this thoughtful, melancholy and beautifully shot film. The story revolves around Tenoch (Diego Luna) and Julio (Gael Garcia), two seventeen year old boys, one middle class, one more upper class and well connected. Like adolescent boys do, they go out drinking and, having waved their respective girlfriends off on a holiday in Italy, they look for women. At a family wedding they bump into Luisa (Maribel Verdu), the Spanish born wife of Tenoch’s obnoxious writer cousin, and offer to take her on a trip to the mythical beach of Boca del Cielo (Heaven’s Mouth). Understandably she refuses. However, a few weeks later after a confessional call from her cheating husband she decides to take them up on their offer. Like true teenage boys they are more mouth than trousers and this sudden decisions flusters them, but they come up with the car. The road trip begins. What follows is a scenic story, with self-involved youth driving through the beauty of Mexico, oblivious to the ugliness around them. The armed soldiers at a roadblock detaining the poor, the corrupt politicians reaping ...

Birthday Girl (DVD) 20/05/2003

Life's too short for films like this

Birthday Girl (DVD) Imagine this - you’re a single man, in your late twenties, you have a not particularly satisfying job, you live in a small town, you have no friends, you’re bored and lonely and sick of eating unpleasant meals for one every evening in your kitchen. Obviously unsatisfied with your life, what do you do? Look into other career opportunities? Sell your enormous house and go off travelling? May be join a couple of clubs, get out more, make some friends, get involved in life. No, you log on and buy yourself a Russian bride with your credit card. This is what John Buckingham (Ben Chaplin) the mild-mannered bank clerk and main protagonist of Birthday Girl decides to do. So far, so completely unbelievable. The Russian bride, Nadia (Nicole Kidman) turns up at the airport, she doesn’t speak a word of English and chain smokes all the way back to John’s suburban retreat. “Are you a giraffe?” John asks in a spot English test, “yes” she replies failing. So back home boring John proceeds to call up the agency through which he bought Nadia to see if he can return her and get someone more fitting. But gradually Nadia works her way into his affections, predominantly through sexual favours. It all seems to be going well and John has a new spring in his step, but events take an unexpected turn when Nadia’s Russian friends turn up to celebrate her birthday. Without spoiling the plot for you, suffice to say, Nadia is not quite as sweet as she seems and her friends are part of an elaborate set ...

Tesco.com 29/01/2003

Stress free supermarket shopping

Tesco.com Let’s face it, supermarkets are not fun. The crowds, the trolleys that always veer one way (usually the way you don’t want to go), the endless wait as someone attempts to buy something with a damaged barcode, then there’s all that hauling the bags home with the plastic handles cutting into your hand. No, supermarket shopping has never been my idea of a good time, shoe shopping yes, food shopping no. So I was delighted when supermarkets started to offer online shopping. I started using Tesco.com simply because they are one of the first supermarkets I heard of that offered online shopping. I’ve been happy with their service ever since so haven’t changed. The service is very easy to use, you simply go to the website and register. They ask for your details including delivery address and contact telephone numbers, you decide on a password and then you are set up to start using the service. In the virtual supermarket you find everything you would in the real supermarket and a little bit more. There are various ways to shop for products, you can simply browse around by clicking on the departments option, similar to wondering the aisles trying to find something you fancy for dinner. Alternatively you can use the express shopper function, which is basically a search function, type in “tomatoes” and it comes up with all the different types of tomatoes available. Click on the “Add to Basket” key and there you go, they’re in your basket. If you have shopped with Tesco.com before ...

The Little Friend - Donna Tartt 17/01/2003

A tale of the deep South

The Little Friend - Donna Tartt This is Donna Tartt’s long awaited second novel, it’s been some ten years since The Secret History was published to wide acclaim. Was it worth the wait is the question that springs to mind. The book is set in smalltown Mississippi in the 1970s and opens with the death of nine year old Robin Cleve. Robin is found hanging from a tree in the garden of his family’s house. The murder is a mystery, and a mystery that his sister twelve year old Harriet intends to solve one languid Southern summer. Harriet was just a year old when her brother was murdered, but still lives with the repercussions of the tragedy. Robin was the golden child, adored by everyone and his loss is obviously still felt years later. As a result Harriet has a mother who is permanently dosed upon tranquilizers and spends most of the day in her room and a father who lives in another town, having left after the murder, unable to cope with the grief. This leaves Harriet and her sleepy teenage sister Alison more or less unsupervised except for their elderly, eccentric aunts and their somewhat frightening grandmother, Edie. In the steamy heat of a Southern summer, school is out and Harriet has little to do so along with the help of her friend Hely, she sets upon the idea of solving her beloved brother’s murder. An eleven year old murder that months of intense police investigation have been unable to clear up, but this doesn’t thwart Harriet. Despite the fact that none of her aunts want to even discuss the topic ...
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