A Year in Film: December 2020

The final post in my Year in Film series. I’m not sure whether to continue into 2021. What do you think? Should I continue reviewing films on here or find another challenge? Let me know your thoughts below.

Even though I blogged daily for 24 days with my Christmas film advent calendar, David and I still had time to watch a further 16 films. Here’s what I thought about what I watched.

Christmas with the Kranks ✩✩✩

The Kranks scandalise everyone when they declare that they won’t be celebrating Christmas. But, when their daughter decides to visit home, they get off on a mad rush to organise a spanking Christmas.

David’s hairdresser suggested this Christmas film to us. So on a quiet weekday we snuggled up and gave it a watch. I enjoyed it more than David but it got us in a more festive mood.

Oceans 13 ✩✩✩

Danny and his gang of thieves have to pull off their most risky heist to defend one of their own. However, they are going to need more than luck to break the ruthless Willy and his casino.

A sequel to Oceans 12 but with a more star studded cast. Was an enjoyable heist and less confusing than the first movie.

Honest Thief ✩✩✩

Hoping to cut a deal, a professional bank robber agrees to return all the money he stole in exchange for a reduced sentence. But when two FBI agents set him up for murder, he must now go on the run to clear his name and bring them to justice.

Liam Neeson is back terrorising criminals in this revenge movie. Watchable.

Four Christmases ✩✩

Lovers Brad and Kate plan to go on a vacation to Fiji to spend the holidays. However, when their vacation plan is foiled, they are forced to visit all four of their divorced parents for Christmas.

David and I saw this film when it was released in 2008, when we where holidaying in Louth, Lincolnshire. I recall there being an interval and the cinema selling ice creams. The film was less memorable.

Ant-man ✩✩✩

Armed with a super-suit with the astonishing ability to shrink in scale but increase in strength, cat burglar Scott Lang must embrace his inner hero and help his mentor, Dr. Hank Pym, plan and pull off a heist that will save the world.

A watchable super-hero film. We only tuned in because Cinema Therapy on YouTube reviewed the movie. If you’ve not seen their channel, give them a go. They review films from the standpoint of a film maker and a therapist, look out for lots of emotion.

Zootopia ✩✩✩

When Judy Hopps, a rookie officer in the Zootopia Police Department, sniffs out a sinister plot, she enlists the help of a con artist to solve the case in order to prove her abilities to Chief Bogo.

Another Cinema Therapy review, this time with the implicit bias that is in Zootopia. I hadn’t heard of this movie before, but I thoroughly enjoyed it.

Carry on Camping ✩✩✩

A pair of likely lads trick their girlfriends into accompanying them to a nudist colony, but it turns out to be a family campsite. After they are persuaded to stay, the boys manage to find more mischief to occupy themselves when a coachload of teenage schoolgirls arrives at the site.

David suggested this film, I think it was in response to the passing of Barbara Windsor whose iconic bra bursting scene is so memorable. It was one of the better Carry On films.

The Great Outdoors ✩

It’s vacation time for an outdoorsy Chicago man and his family. But a serene weekend of fishing at a Wisconsin lakeside cabin gets crashed by his obnoxious brother-in-law.

David said that Kevin Hart was starring in a remake of this 1980’s John Hughes film, so we ended up watching the original. It wasn’t as funny as hoped. Perhaps the remake will be better?

The Holiday ✩✩✩✩

Two girls from different countries swap homes for the holidays to get away from their relationship issues. However, their lives change unexpectedly when they meet and fall in love with two local guys.

At the core of this film is the theme of love, in all it’s guises. I enjoyed the movie more than David and with a funky score by Hans Zimmer, it couldn’t possibly fail to entertain.

Runaway Train ✩✩

Two escaped convicts head full-steam for their freedom and inadvertently jump aboard a freight train. To their dismay, they discover that the train is barreling out of control without an engineer.

This film could have been so much better if the acting was any good, but it wasn’t. Forgettable.

The Switch ✩✩✩

An unmarried woman uses a sperm donor to conceive a child, much to the dismay of her best friend Wally. She remains in the dark for many years unaware that Wally had replaced her sample with his own.

How many films has Jennifer Aniston and Jason Bateman done together? Maybe five? Either way, you can see the friendship and respect they both have for one another. The Switch may not have been the greatest movie, but it was fun to watch.

Get a Job ✩✩

After college, Will is having problems getting a good, lasting job, as are his roomies, his girlfriend and his just fired dad.

This film irked me somewhat. I like Anna Kendrick but this film didn’t really showcase her talents. Perhaps one to miss?

Wonder Woman 84 ✩✩✩

Rewind to the 1980s as Wonder Woman’s next big screen adventure finds her facing two all-new foes: Max Lord and The Cheetah.

A bit of a confession to make. In the 1980’s I wanted to be Wonder Woman! As a six or seven year old, I watched reruns of Lynda Carter battling criminals! I used to prance about the house in shorts and boob-tube, wearing a paper tiara and bracelets. A skipping rope acted as my lasso of truth. The world stretched as far as my imagination, and I could be anything I chose to be.

Watching the new Wonder Woman films sadly to me are not the same. I preferred the 2017 film to this 2020 release but not by much.

Soul ✩✩

Joe is a middle-school band teacher whose life hasn’t quite gone the way he expected. His true passion is jazz — and he’s good. But when he travels to another realm to help someone find their passion, he soon discovers what it means to have soul.

In the run up to Christmas I saw billboards advertising Soul. I like my Pixar films so managed to get to see the movie. Again, I enjoyed it more than David. I liked the message of the film, life is worth living, even just for the small things!

Circle ✩✩✩

Fifty strangers facing execution have to pick one person among them to live.

My brother suggested this film for us to watch. Circle is a study of human psychology, for better or for worse. I enjoyed the experience and wasn’t really surprised at the finale.

The Platform ✩✩✩

In the future, prisoners housed in vertical cells watch as inmates in the upper cells are fed while those below starve.

Another film my brother suggested. This Spanish sci-fi, subtitled film really made me feel sad for the protagonists. The premise; in this vertical prison, there is enough food for everyone. However the greed of those on the above levels means that the ones further below have less and less to eat. Another film on the human condition. I enjoyed it none the less.

Have you seen any films recently that you have enjoyed or disliked? Any recommendations?

Thanks for reading!

Christine x

My Love for the Red Panda.

‘Panda’ from the Nepalese, nigalya ponya meaning bamboo footed.

23666_10150140661800271_1831177_nThe red panda was the first ‘panda’ to be know to the West as early as the 1800’s! In 1825 Frenchman Frederic Cuvier published an account describing the red panda and named the species, Ailurus fulgens fulgens, or shining cat.

By the 1840’s English naturalist Brain Houghton Hodgson had written a detailed study on the red panda or ‘Wah’. Focusing on habitat and diet.

It was not until 1869 that the giant panda was identified. However to distinguish the species, the first panda was renamed the lesser panda.

39755_425944215911_56676235911_4773054_7286609_nIt’s been eight years since I saw my first red panda, having been oblivious to their existence until then. For me it was love-at-first-sight! They seem to be a number of animals all rolled into one, which has caused countless debates as to what family or classification of animal the red panda truly is.

Are they bear-cats? They are cat sized (always a plus in my book) and rather bear-like, though they are not part of the ursidae family.

They bark like a dog: There is little published evidence but the red panda is highly susceptible to diseases like canine distemper.

Their vocalisations sound similar to birds:

A living fossil: Recent DNA studies have concluded that the red panda is in its own family of the Ailuridae, being part of the super-family the Musteloidea, (weasels, skunks and raccoons).

The only similarity with giant pandas is their diet (bamboo) and the false thumb, an elongated wrist bone that acts like a sixth digit. It helps with holding food and climbing, especially head first!

Red pandas are found largely in temperate, deciduous forests, from Nepal to China and Myanmar. There are two subspecies, Ailurus fulgens fulgens and Ailurus fulgens styani. Their red fur, one of the densest of all mammals (for insulation), is perfect camouflage during autumn.

Due to living in Himalayan regions, red pandas prefer cooler days. Winter is the best time to find them active.

Although they have a penchant for bamboo, eating up to 45% of their body weight a day, red pandas are classed as carnivores. They eat fruit, insects, eggs and small birds.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Feeding Red Pandas at Paradise Wildlife Park

Red pandas have a slow metabolism due to being unable to digest bamboo properly, hence being rather sedentary. I’ve noticed many zoo guests just walk past red panda enclosures because they have been asleep up a tree. In most cases you need to visit several times in the hope of catching one awake. Being a crepuscular animal doesn’t help either as they are more active at dawn and dusk.

They are solitary animals, only coming together for mating. The female is only receptive one day a year. The breeding season is usually January to April with birth around June/July. The litter usually consists of one to four cubs, but usually two.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Photo by David Evans

In 2010 I was honoured to witness Chester Zoo’s female red panda, Lushui move her cub, Lily from nest to nest. They do this to avoid predators. Cubs come out of the nest from around three months, and stay with their mothers for about a year before finding their own territory. Their lifespan in captivity can reach 15 years.

However beautiful red pandas are, they are classified as endangered by the IUCN. The main threats to them are deforestation, hunting, poaching and illegal trade. In China there is a traditional custom dating back to around the 13th century where red panda pelts are given to newlyweds as a sign of ‘good luck’. Red pandas are also predated upon by snow leopards and martens.

Conservation: Exact numbers of red pandas in Asia are relatively unknown, estimates say up to 10,000 adults. There is a worldwide effort to protect the red panda and its habitat. In many of the countries where the red panda is found, their habitat has been designated areas of protection, though these areas are hard to police. The Red Panda Network liaise with ‘forest guardians’ to educate and highlight the need to conserve red panda habitat. They are also working directly with the creators of the Panchthar-Ilam-Singhalila (PIS corridor), which will be the first Red Panda Protected Forest.

In captivity there are two long term initiatives for breeding, the Red Panda Species Survival Programme (SSP) and the European Endangered Species Programme (EES) which offers a ‘stud book’ of potential mates.

Popular culture: There have been a number of depictions of red pandas on many platforms over the years. Another name for the red panda is the Fire Fox. Mozilla use this name for their web browser, though their logo is ambiguous.

Cinema: In 2008 DreamWorks released Kung Fu Panda with Shifu, being a lose representation of a red panda! A year earlier an animated Barbie film, the Island Princess had a red panda as a friendly aide.

In 2013 Pocket Gems released a game called Animal Adventure with a red panda as one of the main characters.

14115498_10153971399038869_7066728288936528819_oThe future…is still uncertain.

At the time of writing, the WWF have announced that the giant panda’s status has improved from endangered to vulnerable. Hopefully the red panda being under the ‘umbrella’ of conservational efforts for the giant panda, will start to feel the effects of these protection methods soon?

 

And finally: Sadly, earlier this year, the Red Panda Network announced that poaching of the red panda had increased in 2016! Their annual International Red Panda Day (17th September 2016) will focus on anti-poaching initiatives.

The road ahead may still be long but there is hope for the future of the red panda. Conservation efforts are starting to produce results for not only the giant panda but tigers also, why not for the red panda? They have so much going for them. To me they are sweet, endearing animals, they are all superstars, none other than Ming Ming!

Thanks for reading.

Christine x


Further reading:

Angela Glatston: Red Panda: Biology and Conservation of the First Panda.

Whence the Red Panda? Flynn JJ, Nedbal MA, Dragoo JW, Honeycutt RL.

http://redpandanetwork.org/red_panda/about-the-red-panda/

http://animals.sandiegozoo.org/animals/red-panda

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Red_panda

If you have been inspired by what you have read, then why not continue the message? You can join in with this years International Red Panda Day at your local animal park/zoo.

‘Wild’ in Art!

WARNING! This post will be a COLOUR overload!

I was inspired to write this post after visiting Sheffield’s herd of elephants and writing about it in my Sunday Sevens #15. Mark at worldwarzoogardener1939 commented that Paignton Zoo are doing a trail with rhinos and Marwell Zoo have Zany Zebras gracing the streets of Southampton this summer! I would love to visit them all but 2016 seems to be the busiest year regarding animal street art in the UK! One of the biggest promoters of these events is Wild in Art, check out their website for past and future events.

Over the past eight years David and I have been lucky enough to visit a fair amount of trails, stretching as far north as Aberdeen, to Norwich in the east! My first encounter with these colourful animals was the Manchester Cow Parade in 2004. Since then there has been an explosion of animals gracing the cities and towns of the UK. From lions in Bournemouth to horses in Hamilton. Below is a selection of the trails we have seen. Enjoy!

2008 was the year of Liverpool’s Capital of Culture. During the summer, 120 6ft lambananas graced the city’s streets. I have fond memories of seeking each and every one of them out, there was even one atop Moel Famau in North Wales!

The winter of 2009 saw 135 5ft penguins bring cheer to the cold streets of Liverpool, St Helens and the Wirral. I don’t think they were as successful as the lambananas the previous year, even David seemed jaded in seeing them all. However I managed to capture them all on camera and even a few months after the auction date, acquired one for myself. A hint of madness but our home wouldn’t be the same without Snowy standing sentinel under the stairs!

Staying in the North West, Chester in 2010 had a herd of rhinos career through their streets.

Also in 2010, Skipton found they had a flock of sheep bringing cheer to their town…

..and we visited Newport for the first of their two Super Dragon trails.

2011 saw two very diverse trails. The first was in Congleton where a sleuth of bears had taken up residence.

The second was in Edinburgh, where the city was transformed into a jungle for the summer.

In 2012 it looked like David and I never visited any art trails, though in fairness we did buy our first house!

2013, looked more promising! My appetite was reawakened when I saw some of the Lindt Easter eggs. You can read my post here.

The summer of 2013 saw us visiting a spate of trails. We visited Manchester for the national tour of the Elephant Parade. Read my post here.

We then visited Norwich and Colchester to see both Go Go Gorillas and Stand Tall trails.

2014 saw David and I take a tour to Aberdeen, Scotland to see their pod of dolphins in torrential rain! Read my post here.

2015 saw us returning to Norwich to see their Go Go Dragons trail. I am always impressed with the quality of art from this city! I look forward to seeing what their hares look like in 2017!

Also in 2015 Liverpool had their celebration of ducks which commemorated the history of the city.

While Birmingham witnessed a parliament of owls in their Big Hoot!

As I’ve said previously 2016 will see more trails than ever before. There are pigs in Ipswich, snowdogs in Brighton and Hove and Newcastle and Tyne and Wearand lions in Paisley. That is just to name a few! Sheffield’s herd of elephants are on the streets until 5th October when they will be auctioned off for charity like most of the above. They are a great way of getting the public behind a charitable cause and can raise hundreds of pounds!

Have you seen/followed any animal sculpture trail? What do you think of the initiative? What kind of animal would you like turned into art next?

Christine x