A Year in Film: July 2020

The list of films watched in July has equaled June’s tally of 16 films! Though its certainly been a mixed bag of movies! Let me know if you have watched any good films recently?

Extraction ✩✩✩

A black-market mercenary who has nothing to lose is hired to rescue the kidnapped son of an imprisoned international crime lord. But in the murky underworld of weapons dealers and drug traffickers, an already deadly mission approaches the impossible.

This wasn’t a bad film. Lots of action and suspense. I partcularily liked the on screen relationship between Chris Hemsworth and young actor Rudhraksh Jaiswal who plays the boy Hemsworth is fighting to save.

Advent Children ✩✩

An ex-mercenary is forced out of isolation when three mysterious men kidnap and brainwash the city’s children afflicted with the Geostigma disease.

I only really wanted to watch this again due to recently playing the PlayStation game, Final Fantasy VII Remake. It was nice to see the beloved characters fighting the bad guys (again), but there wasn’t much of a story.

Greyhound ✩✩✩

U.S. Navy Cmdr. Ernest Krause is assigned to lead an Allied convoy across the Atlantic during World War II. His convoy, however, is pursued by German U-boats. Although this is Krause’s first wartime mission, he finds himself embroiled in what would come to be known as the longest, largest and most complex naval battle in history: The Battle of the Atlantic.

If you like your World War Two films, then you will like Greyhound, with its moments of tension and threat. It is quite amazing how anything got through the North Atlantic with German U-boats on the prowl.

The Wrong Missy ✩✩✩

Disaster strikes when a man invites his dream girl to an island resort — but a previous blind date shows up instead.

I laughed at this film more than I expected. A comedy with no pretensions. Lauren Lapkus was hilarious as the bat-crazy Missy!

Stuber ✩✩✩

A quick-tempered cop who’s recovering from eye surgery recruits a mild-mannered Uber driver to help him catch the heroin dealer who murdered his partner. The mismatched pair soon find themselves in for a wild day of stakeouts and shootouts as they pursue violent criminals through the seedy streets of Los Angeles.

Another comedy I enjoyed, more silly fun to switch off too.

Amundsen ✩✩

Roald Amundsen was the first researcher to reach both the North and South Poles. The British explorer Robert Scott was hot on his heels on the trip to the South Pole 1910-1911. The discoverers were in a bitter competition with each other. Amundsen’s expeditions were largely organised and financed by his brother Leon. However, there was constant conflict and conflict between the two.

I wished this film had been better than it was. Amundsen sure was a man who continued to explore until his death. Inspiring story but a rather lackluster way of telling it.

National Treasure ✩✩✩

Benjamin Franklin Gates seeks a war chest hidden by the Founding Fathers during the Revolutionary War. He must find it before his competitor does and also avoid getting arrested by the FBI.

One of Nicolas Cage’s better films, full of action and adventure. Another movie to switch off to at the end of the day.

National Treasure 2 ✩✩✩

Ben finds that his ancestor was implicated in the assassination of Abraham Lincoln, a president of the USA. Through the help of a clue in a diary, he ventures out to clear the name of his ancestor.

Perhaps not as good as the first movie in the franchise, but an enjoyable romp as Cage follows a trail to the legendary City of Gold.

A Street Cat Named Bob ✩✩✩

A stray ginger cat changes the life of James Bowen (Luke Treadaway), a homeless London street musician and recovering drug addict.

Knowing that poor Bob had recently passed away, I thought that we’d give the film based on his origin a watch. I really enjoyed the portrayal of struggling man meets cat whose presence actually helps save his life. A heart-warming tale of redemption and how animals can offer solace in the darkest of times.

Fight Club ✩✩✩

Discontented with his capitalistic lifestyle, a white-collared insomniac forms an underground fight club with Tyler, a careless soap salesman. The project soon spirals down into something sinister.

I’d seen many references to Fight Club in popular culture but never actually watched it. Rather bizarre in parts, I think it was a well made foray into the instability of mental health.

Hotel Mumbai✩✩✩✩

A hotel staff risks everything to keep its patrons safe during a terror attack, especially a British heiress, her husband and her infant.

I really enjoyed this film! It was full of edge of the seat tension and being based on true events made it all that more poignant.

Old Dogs ✩✩

Two best friends and business partners on the brink of finalising a huge deal are forced to take care of seven-year-old twins and get into a series of misadventures.

Not the best film of either Robin Williams or John Travolta. It tries too hard to be funny when its not!

Faster ✩✩

After serving a ten-year sentence, Driver sets out to avenge his brother’s murder while being pursued by a police officer and an assassin.

A rather forgettable film by Dwayne Johnson. That memorable neither David nor I could remember the plot.

Night at the museum ✩✩✩

Larry, a night security guard at the Museum of Natural History, gets some help from the exhibits who come alive at night to foil a robbery attempt of a magic tablet and proves that he is not a loser.

A staple family feel-good movie, always good no matter how many times you watch it.

Vacation ✩✩✩

Rusty Griswold plans a cross-country road trip with his wife and two sons in a bid to revive the lost ties between them. However, their trip turns into a series of mishaps for the family.

A sequel to the National Lampoon films, and if you like the humour of the first films then you’ll enjoy Vacation. David really enjoyed this film, more so than I did.

Corporate Animals ✩

An egotistical megalomaniac CEO leads her staff on a corporate team-building trip that involves a weekend of caving in New Mexico. When they become trapped underground after a cave-in, the group must pull together to survive.

Another comedy that tries too hard to be funny and ends up being the antithesis. Sadly a waste of an hour and a half.

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

Thanks for reading!

Christine x

A Year in Film: June 2020

I can’t believe that David and I have watched 16 films in June! That’s a record in this A Year in Film series! Perhaps not having Final Fantasy VII Remake to play has impacted on the number of films watched? I have completed the game platinum style and now eagerly awaiting when the next installment will be, (I won’t hold my breath). I have to say when I finished the game I was a little sad as it was only a fraction of the original story. Though David has been playing his GTA5, we’ve still had many evenings free, hence the high film count, however some films were better than others.

What films have you seen this month?

Alien ✩✩✩

The crew of a spacecraft, Nostromo, intercept a distress signal from a planet and set out to investigate it. However, to their horror, they are attacked by an alien which later invades their ship.

As a creature of horror, the alien is my all time favourite design, facehuggers included. Though made in 1979 the claustrophobic tension on the Nostromo, of its crew awaiting the appearance of a certain alien, makes this film just as watchable today as it was when it was released. Somehow I had only seen clips of this movie. There are many parallels with this film and the more recent offering of Prometheus which is a prequel to the Alien films.

Aliens ✩✩✩

Ellen Ripley is sent back to the planet LV-426 to establish contact with a terraforming colony. Once there, she encounters the Alien Queen and her offspring and has to fight them to survive.

A much more shoot ’em up, action film in relation to its predecessor, Alien. However at two and a half hours long, it felt never ending. A decent venture into the realm of the alien though.

Dawn of the Dead ✩✩✩

Survivors of an epidemic which causes the infected to turn into flesh-eating zombies take refuge in a shopping mall. In addition to battling the undead, they also have to tackle problems from within.

One of the better zombie films made, and one that can be watched time and time again. I’d recommend a watch if you like gore.

Birdman ✩✩✩

Riggan Thomson, a fading cinema superhero, plans to resurrect his career with a passionate Broadway production. However, during rehearsals, his co-star is injured forcing him to hire a new actor.

I’d heard this film being talked about during awards season but hadn’t got round to watching it until now. The film is presented in a continuous shot and is done relatively well. The cast, starring Michael Keaton and Edward Norton are the best things about the movie!

Fences ✩✩

Troy, an African-American man who once longed to be a baseball player, misses the opportunity due to racism. A dejected man, he takes out his frustration on his loved ones and ruins his son’s future.

I had an adverse reaction to Denzel Washington’s character in this film. Yes, the man was disillusioned with life but I found it heinous that he scuppered the future of his son and then expected his wife to clean up after his misdemeanors. Wasn’t my favourite film of Washington.

Train to Busan ✩✩✩✩

Seok-woo and his daughter are on a train to Busan on the latter’s birthday to see his wife. However, the journey turns into a nightmare when they are trapped amidst a zombie outbreak in South Korea.

I love this film! It’s one of the best zombie, apocalypse films I’ve seen. Even seeing it a few times, it never gets tired. What is your favourite zombie film?

Hereditary ✩✩

When the matriarch of the Graham family passes away, her daughter and grandchildren begin to unravel cryptic and increasingly terrifying secrets about their ancestry, trying to outrun the sinister fate they have inherited.

I’d had this film recommended to me by a few people. So one afternoon when David was working from home and I was at a loss at what to do I decided to settle down and watch it. I was slightly disappointed with the film. Though there was tension laced throughout the two hours, I wasn’t freaked out or surprised by the ending.

Have you been disappointed in a film you hoped had been better?

White Noise ✩✩

An architect’s desire to speak with his wife from beyond the grave becomes an obsession with supernatural repercussions.

This 2005 supernatural film tries to be scary but has very few scares. Not one of the better scary movies made.

What’s your favouite scary movie?

In Time ✩✩✩

In a future where people stop aging at 25, but are engineered to live only one more year, having the means to buy your way out of the situation is a shot at immortal youth. Here, Will Salas finds himself accused of murder and on the run with a hostage – a connection that becomes an important part of the war against the system.

I remember watching this film when it came out in 2011. It shows a rather bleak world of the haves and have nots, with peoples’ time being currency and Timberlake’s character trying to upturn the establishment.

The Men Who Stare at Goats ✩✩✩

After his wife leaves him, Bob, a newspaper reporter, sets off to Kuwait to cover the ongoing war. He gets more than he bargains for when he meets Lyn Cassady, an ex-U.S. Army Special Forces operator.

A rather strange satire with Ewan McGreggor and George Clooney about the US military’s branching out into psychic abilities and the paranormal. I rather hoped it was a better film than it was.

RV ✩✩

Bob Munro and his dysfunctional family set out on a road trip to the Colorado Rockies. He decides to rent an RV for the vacation but things do not go as planned.

Stuck for something to watch, David clicked on this Robin Williams film from 2006. It was watchable but not of the usual calibre from Williams.

The Interview ✩✩

Dave Skylark and his producer Aaron Rapaport run the celebrity tabloid show “Skylark Tonight”. When they land an interview with a surprise fan, North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un, they are recruited by the CIA to assassinate him.

David follows an airline pilot on YouTube and this was a recommendation from him, thanks Kelsey!! The film stars Seth Rogan and James Franco and follows their OTT satire on US and North Korean politics.

The Contract ✩✩

A father and his son attempt to bring in an assassin to the authorities, but his dangerous associates have other plans.

Something different from Morgan Freeman who is a baddie in this film, however his onscreen presence doesn’t help with it’s rather pedestrian pace.

Creepshow 2 ✩

Based on the EC comics of the 1950s, George A.Romero and Stephen King bring 3 tales of terror to the screen.

Oh dear! David just can’t get past the 1980’s when it comes to films. It may have been good for the day but in 2020 it was piss poor!

Radioactive ✩✩✩

A story of the scientific and romantic passions of Marie Sklodowska-Curie (Polish scientist) and Pierre Curie, and the reverberation of their discoveries throughout the 20th century.

I really enjoyed this film on Marie and Pierre Curie’s discovery of radioactive elements Radium and Polonium and of their impact for good or bad on human history.

Hot Air ✩✩✩

The life of the conservative radio host Lionel Macomb is completely turned upside down when his 16-year-old niece Tess suddenly shows up. The teenager questions everything he stands for and what he believes in.

Steve Coogan is an American radio chat show host with strong beliefs but when his niece shows up unexpectedly, it makes him question his life. It wasn’t a bad watch.

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

Thanks for reading and stay safe!

Christine x

A Year in Film: April 2020

final fantasy 7 remake

Final Fantasy 7: Remake

Well, it’s been a whole month of David working from home and myself not knowing whether I will be Furloughed or not. In a strange way I have enjoyed my time off work. I take Riley out every day on my Boris walk and check up on my mum and brother, who live next door and also some of my more vulnerable neighbours. In a stroke of luck, a new game for the PlayStation® was released which has occupied my afternoons. It’s been a long time since I was a gamer but the release of Final Fantasy VII: Remake has made being at home that much more bearable. Whilst playing the game and heavily reminiscing on the 1997 original release there has been little time to watch films, so below is a mixed bag of films watched in April.

The Two Towers ✩✩✩✩✩

While Frodo and Sam edge closer to Mordor with the help of the shifty Gollum, the divided fellowship makes a stand against Sauron’s new ally, Saruman, and his hordes of Isengard.

Before the arrival of my copy of Final Fantasy VII: Remake, I spent my Covid-19 afternoons either reading whilst sunbathing (April was a very sunny and dry month), or watching my extended versions of the Lord of the Rings Trilogy.

Mo’ Money ✩✩

A con artist manages to find a job in a credit card company and falls in love with one of the employees. However, he soon finds himself drawn into a world of crime.

David chose this film as he remembered it being good in the day. Being from 1992 it really has aged and wasn’t that funny to be honest.

The Return of the King ✩✩✩✩✩

Gandalf and Aragorn lead the World of Men against Sauron’s army to draw his gaze from Frodo and Sam as they approach Mount Doom with the One Ring.

The finale of the Lord of the Rings Trilogy, where good overthrows evil and friends are reunited. It is a film that always gets me crying at the end.

Brahms: The Boy 2 ✩✩✩

When a young family moves to the Heelshire’s residence, terror strikes when a boy from the family discovers a doll called Brahms that appears to be eerily human.

I really enjoyed this sequel to the 2016 film, there was a lot of suspense and the manikin of Brahms is unsettling!

My Spy ✩✩✩

Nine-year-old Sophie catches JJ, a hardened CIA operative, spying on her family during a routine surveillance operation. In exchange for not blowing his cover, JJ begrudgingly agrees to show Sophie how to become a spy. What at first seems like an easy task soon turns into a battle of wits as Sophie proves you don’t need much experience to outsmart a seasoned agent.

I didn’t think I would enjoy this film as much as I did. A good family film with lots of jokes and action.

Like a Boss ✩

Best friends Mia and Mel run their own cosmetics company — But they’re also in over their heads financially, and the prospect of a buyout offer from an industry titan proves too tempting to pass up. The beauty business is now about to get ugly as the proposal puts Mia and Mel’s lifelong friendship to the ultimate test.

Oh dear. I was looking forward to seeing this film but from the beginning it was appalling. It wasn’t very funny!

The Help ✩✩✩✩

Skeeter, an aspiring author during the civil rights movement of the 1960s decides to write a book detailing the African American maids’ point of view on the white families for which they work, and the hardships they go through on a daily basis.

Looking for a feel good film to cheer us up from all the depressing news around, I picked this title from 2011. With an all woman cast and great story, I thoroughly enjoyed this film.

Fallen ✩✩✩

Detective John Hobbes witnesses the execution of a demonic serial killer, Edgar Reese. However, the killings resume and are very similar to the style of Reese.

David chose this supernatural thriller from 1998 unfortunately I fell asleep for the majority of the film and woke up at the end. Oops!

The Current War ✩✩

Thomas Edison and George Westinghouse — engage in a battle of technology and ideas that will determine whose electrical system will power the new century. Edison dazzles the world by lighting Manhattan. But Westinghouse, aided by Nikola Tesla, sees fatal flaws in Edison’s direct current design. Westinghouse and Tesla bet everything on risky and dangerous alternating current.

Another film I was looking forward to watching but was left feeling disappointed. Nikola Tesla is a hero for both David and myself and we were hoping for more of him in this film but it was mainly from the view point of an arrogant Edison and an impotent Westinghouse.

Misbehavior ✩✩✩

A group of women hatch a plan to disrupt the 1970 Miss World beauty competition in London.

Surprisingly a film I wanted to watch and actually enjoyed, with an all star cast and set during the second wave of feminism. It was a few hours well spent.

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

Thanks for reading and stay safe!

Christine x

A Year in Film: March 2020

The year 2020 is going very well, is it? After stormy February we now have pandemic March. I’ve been grounded since the 24th and my mental health is in a state of flux. It’s been a mixed bag of films watched this month also!

Godzilla: King of the Monsters ✩

The members of Monarch, an crypto-zoological organisation, must rely on Godzilla and Mothra to defeat King Ghidorah and Rodan, after the former awakens other dormant Titans to destroy the world.

Oh dear, I don’t even know why we watched this film as I’m not a fan of computer monsters fighting. I quickly got bored watching fight after fight. Have you ever watched a film that bored you?

I am Legend ✩✩✩✩

Robert Neville, a scientist, is the last human survivor of a plague in the whole of New York. He attempts to find a way to reverse the effects of the man-made virus by using his own immune blood.

With all this talk of pandemics interfering with life as we know it, the first title that popped into my head to be re-watched during this stressful time was, I am Legend. Its a scary movie about a cure for cancer which has lasting after effects on those cured. The scenes of empty New York streets foreshadow our now quiet roads.

The Night Listener ✩✩

Gabriel Noone (Robin Williams), a writer and host of a late-night radio show, begins a phone correspondence with Pete (Rory Culkin) a teen who claims to have survived a nightmarish childhood. Though he becomes close to the youth and his mother (Toni Collette), Gabriel must begin a harrowing search for the truth when questions about Pete’s real identity begin to surface.

Searching for something to watch one night we stumbled upon this 2006 film by Robin Williams. A more straight role for Williams but it wasn’t his best.

Contagion ✩✩✩

The death of Beth Emhoff and her son leads to the discovery of a deadly virus. While the US Centers for Disease Control struggles to curb its spread, a worldwide panic ensues.

With all the rising tension surrounding Covid-19 we just had to watch Contagion a film from 2011. Pretty scary times we are living in!

12 Monkeys ✩✩

James Cole, a convict, decides to volunteer for a mission, wherein he has to travel back in time to learn about the main reason behind the outbreak of a virulent holocaust.

I see a theme developing with the type of films watched this month! I really wanted to like this film, but in the end I just couldn’t. I’ve come to the conclusion that I don’t like Terry Gilliam films!

The Grudge (2020) ✩✩

A detective investigates a murder that has a connection to a case that her new partner handled in the past. The killings occurred in a haunted house that passes on a ghostly curse to those who dare enter it. Soon, the curse spreads to a terminally ill woman and her husband, and another unsuspecting couple who were in the wrong place at the wrong time.

David doesn’t like scary movies so I watched this one on my own. I like The Grudge 2 so was hoping this would be good. It had a good premise but the end was a bit disappointing. I wonder if anyone can ever defeat The Grudge?

The Invisible Man ✩✩✩✩

After staging his own suicide, a crazed scientist uses his power to become invisible to stalk and terrorize his ex-girlfriend. When the police refuse to believe her story, she decides to take matters into her own hands and fight back.

I really enjoyed this edge of the seat film. Elizabeth Moss was good as the ex-girlfriend being stalked by the Invisible Man! There were some genuine stomach churning moments and a truly satisfying ending!

Onward ✩✩✩✩

Two teenage elf brothers, Ian and Barley Lightfoot, go on an journey to discover if there is still a little magic left out there in order to spend one last day with their father, who died when they were too young to remember him.

Onward was such a lovely film. I knew I would have a tear in the eye come the end but I thoroughly enjoyed this animated film. The voice actors were fantastic and there were some laugh at loud moments. I’d definitely recommend a watch!

The Fellowship of the Ring ✩✩✩✩✩

A hobbit, Frodo, who has found the One Ring that belongs to the Dark Lord Sauron, begins his journey with eight companions to Mount Doom, the only place where it can be destroyed.

Since David is working from home and I am grounded, there’s been nothing for it but to dig out my old extended DVD’s of The Lord of the Rings trilogy. This extra long fantasy is perfect for sick and pandemic days.

Underwater ✩

Disaster strikes more than six miles below the ocean surface when water crashes through the walls of a drilling station. Led by their captain, the survivors realize that their only hope is to walk across the sea floor to reach the main part of the facility. But they soon find themselves in a fight for their lives when they come under attack from mysterious and deadly creatures that no one has ever seen.

Oh dear, this film was appalling, we probably should have read reviews before hand. The premise sounded good, similar to alien (1979) but under water, however the final cut was lackluster and forgettable.

Downhill ✩✩

Barely escaping an avalanche during a family ski vacation in the Alps, a married couple is thrown into disarray as they are forced to reevaluate their lives and how they feel about each other.

I was in the mood for a comedy and thought this was going to bring some chuckles, in the end it was lifeless and had no touch of comedy at all. Best to avoid this film!

Bad Boys for Life ✩✩✩

The wife and son of a Mexican drug lord embark on a vengeful quest to kill all those involved in his trial and imprisonment — including Miami Detective Mike Lowrey. When Mike gets wounded, he teams up with partner Marcus Burnett and AMMO — a special tactical squad — to bring the culprits to justice.

We weren’t having much luck with our film choices, and I was worried Bad Boys would be the same but it was an ok watch. There were some jokes, lots of action and an abundance of car chases. If you like action films, you’d enjoy this too.

How are you coping with this quarantine? Are you a key worker? Have you seen any films recently that you have enjoyed or disliked? Any recommendations?

Thanks for reading and stay safe!

Christine x

A Year in Film: February 2020

What a horrible stormy month February has been! Most evenings I’ve locked the front door, blocking out the cold, driving wind and howling gales outside and hibernated. Listed below are the films we’ve watched this month.

Harriet ✩✩✩

The extraordinary tale of Harriet Tubman‘s escape from slavery and transformation into one of America’s greatest heroes, whose courage, ingenuity, and tenacity freed hundreds of slaves and changed the course of history.

The month began with two films adapted from historical moments and people. I never knew about former slave Harriet Tubman and her colourful life. From becoming a Union spy during the American Civil War to being the first woman to lead an armed military raid that saved 700 slaves. She was a brave lady. I just wish the film had been that little bit better!

Midway ✩✩✩

On Dec. 7, 1941, Japanese forces launch a devastating attack on Pearl Harbor, the U.S. naval base in Hawaii. Six months later, the Battle of Midway commences on June 4, 1942, as the Japanese navy once again plan a strike against American ships in the Pacific. For the next three days, the U.S. Navy and a squad of brave fighter pilots engage the enemy in one of the most important and decisive battles of World War II.

The Americans are very good at making patriotic films, full of heroics and Midway is no exception. If you liked Pearl Harbor, then you’ll like this.

The Hustle ✩✩

Josephine Chesterfield is a glamorous, British woman who has a penchant for defrauding gullible men out of their money. Into her well-ordered world comes Penny Rust, a cunning and fun-loving Australian woman who loves to swindle unsuspecting marks. Despite their different methods, the two soon join forces for the ultimate score — a young and naive tech billionaire.

The Hustle is a female remake of the Steve Martin and Michael Cane film, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels ✩✩ which we watched a few days later, just to compare. I chose two stars for both films as Dirty Rotten Scoundrels looked dated and some of the jokes in The Hustle fell flat. If you like comedy, you’ll like these films. 

Dolittle ✩✩✩

Dr. John Dolittle lives in solitude after losing the love of his life. His only companionship comes from an array of exotic animals that he can speak too. But when young Queen Victoria becomes gravely ill, the eccentric doctor and his furry friends embark on an epic adventure to a mythical island to find the cure.

I read that this film had a lot of bad reviews but I actually enjoyed it. It was a good family film with cute animations of animals and I was entertained by the fantasy adventure.

Jumanji: The Next Level ✩✩✩✩

When Spencer goes back into the fantastical world of Jumanji, pals Martha, Fridge and Bethany re-enter the game to bring him home. But the game is now broken — and fighting back. Everything the friends know about Jumanji is about to change, as they soon discover there’s more obstacles and more danger to overcome.

This film was another good adventure romp into the video game world of Jumanji. I’d say the first film, Welcome to the Jungle was slightly stronger but with the same cast and peril at every turn it was an enjoyable watch.

Jumanji ✩✩✩✩

Two children come across a magical board game. While playing it, they meet Alan, a man who was trapped inside the game for decades, and face a host of dangers that can only be stopped by finishing the game.

We thought we would go back to the beginning and watch the original Robin Williams Jumanji. Though now 25 years old the film is just as good a watch in 2020 as it was back in 1995.

Countdown ✩✩✩

When a nurse downloads an app that claims to predict exactly when a person is going to die, it tells her she only has three days to live. With time ticking away and a figure haunting her, she must find a way to save her life before time runs out.

I thought this wasn’t a bad thriller/horror, definitely a social commentary of today’s world of apps. A few jumps but with a predictable ending setting up a sequel. Do you like scary movies?

JoJo Rabbit ✩✩✩

Jojo is a lonely German boy who discovers that his mother is hiding a Jewish girl in their attic. Aided only by his imaginary friend — Adolf Hitler — Jojo must confront his blind nationalism as World War II continues to rage on.

The Hitler Youth and Nazi Germany isn’t a subject that comes to mind for a comedy but JoJo Rabbit is a satirical film centered on a young boy, brain washed into thinking the ideologies of Hitler. When JoJo meets Elsa, a Jew his mother is protecting, he first see’s her as alien but as the film progresses they become friends and JoJo soon comes to question what he has been told. 

Spies in Disguise ✩✩✩

When the world’s best spy is turned into a pigeon, he must rely on his nerdy tech officer to save the world.

I’ve been wanting to see this film since I saw the trailer for it. The fact pigeons were a major part of the plot made me think of David and his pigeon friends. Sadly the film didn’t live up to my expectations and I found the film wasn’t as good or as funny as I had hoped. However there’s enough action to keep kids entertained.

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

Any recommendations?

Thanks for reading,

Christine x

December Photo Challenge 2018 – Day Thirteen

Day Thirteen: Today’s photo prompt is Christmas movie. There are so many Christmas movies that I found it hard to pin it to just one. So I decided to pick two.

Love Actually

All forms of love are in this feel good movie from 2003. There’s young love to unrequited love and even love betrayed. With a stellar cast and excellent soundtrack, what’s not to love about this film?

Krampus

Now to the extreme with this 2015 fantasy horror/comedy starring Toni Collette. Krampus is the demonic opposite to the giving St Nicholas. Whilst St Nick doles out gifts to those who have been good, Krampus visits those who have been bad! I enjoyed this film for its mock horror.

What are your favourite Christmas movies

Thanks for tuning in,

Christine x

A Year in Books 2018 – July to September

the-year-in-books

A Year in Books

Thanks to Laura at Circle of Pine Trees for creating the challenge, The Year in Books.

The summer months for me always seem to be the hardest when it comes to reading. Even when we’ve had such a wonderful summer as 2018. This year, I’ve managed to sit in the yarden and sunbathe while delving into a novel or two, but my tally is still low compared to cooler months.

This quarter I have managed to read nine books. Much better than last years quarter but no where near my tally for April to June this year. Here’s what I read this quarter.

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine – Gail Honeyman

After what seemed like an age, I finally managed to get my hands on this Costa award winning novel and it didn’t take me long to love it! Eleanor is a young woman struggling to cope with a traumatic event from her childhood. She has been mentally and physically scared and her out look on life is shaped by her past. This book is not only about survival but about facing and dealing with daemons. It is funny and sad but ultimately it is about redemption.

What are your thoughts if you’ve read this novel?

Bird Box – Josh Malerman

As a suspense novel, the narrative just didn’t grab me. Perhaps it had a lot to live up to after Eleanor Oliphant? Even so, despite the tension, this Stephen King-esque failed to hit the mark. There were some weird episodes but I couldn’t feel for the characters and was left feeling deflated at the end of the novel. It felt like a poorly written M Night Shyamalan script.

The Ice Twins – S K Tremayne

This was a novel suggested by my mum. The premise was of twin sisters, where one had died. A year on the surviving twin begins to believe she is the dead sister. Did they get the identity of the dead twin wrong? The narrator, Sarah is estranged from her husband and still mourning her daughter. Angus (the husband) inherits a house on a remote island on the west coast of Scotland and moves the family there. This isolation brings the psychological drama to a head. It was a quick read but I didn’t enjoy it as much as Tess Gerritsen’s Playing with Fire.

Animal Farm – George Orwell

Surprisingly I enjoyed this political satire. George Orwell wrote his critique on the Russian Revolution but in theory it could be a reflection of any revolution. The animals of Manor Farm have had enough of being ruled by farmer, Mr Jones and stage their own revolution led by the intellectual pigs. However as time progresses, life under the new regime seems at odds with the origins of the revolution and to stop the dissenting farm stock the pigs unleash a brutal regime which cripples, maims and kills many of the cast. You can’t but be sympathetic to the likes of Boxer and Clover who are ground down by the machine that the pigs enact. The final act of betrayal is when the pigs are seen to walk on two hooves. This can be read that the pigs are just bad as the humans they hoped to replace. It is a piece of writing that makes you think!

Have you read this satire, what were your impressions?

Sarah Millican – How to be Champion

I am not a reader of autobiographies. I only downloaded this book as it was on offer for .99p. It took me a while to get into the narrative but I quite enjoyed it in the end. Sarah isn’t much older than myself and I noticed we did similar things and used the same items when we were both growing up in the 1980’s.

Outlander – Diana Gadaldon

I’m still slogging my way through this tome, and there are several more sequels in the series! Though a good premise, of a woman from the 1940’s travelling back in time to Jacobite Scotland, however I found the narrative boring. I don’t think I’ll be reading any more of the series. Perhaps the TV adaptation is better?

Have you read this book? What were your impressions?

Swim Wild – The Wild Swimming Brothers

I delved into the realm of wild swimming again. This time I quite enjoyed reading about the tales of the three brother’s expeditions, of swimming the entire length of the River Eden and the maelstroms around Norway and Scotland. The narrative is fractured by personal reveries and memories of growing up by the author, Jack Hudson, but I found it a nice book to read none the less.

If you’d like to read more of the Wild Swimming Brother’s adventures, then follow the link to their blog.

Me Before You – JoJo Moyes

I bought this book on the recommendation of comedienne Sarah Millican, from her autobiography (see above). I got into the first person narrative quickly enough and really enjoyed the banter between Louise and Will. Both characters are scared but in different ways. I liked how the writer sculptured their unlikely relationship and the ending had me shedding silent tears. I am a softy sometimes!

If you have read the book? Seen the film? What did you think?

The Girl in the Spider’s Web – David Lagercrantz

I thought I would give this sequel to the Millennium trilogy by Stieg Larsson a go. I really enjoyed The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, the other sequels not so. So far it seems a slow burn. I’ll let you know how I go.

Have you read any good books lately, any recommendations?

Thanks for dropping by,

Christine x

Sunday Sevens #15

Phew! These past seven days have felt like a long week! I was thankful for the weekend!

TroyDavid and I have been worrying about our owl finch, Troy. He became ill on Sunday last, sitting on the floor twisting his head. The phenomena is called twirling. It is very upsetting to witness. All week I have felt helpless. We have put him on a course of anti-fungal medication in the hope that it is an ear canal infection. Troy seems to rally of a morning but come nighttime he relapses again. We have isolated him, in the hospital cage and will try anti-mite treatment next week. His mate, Tux has joined him in his cage for company. The picture featured is of Troy in good health.

I think I’ll get all the sad news out of the way first! One of the main events on the world stage this week, has been the attack on Bastille Day revellers in Nice. In Liverpool, in a recurrent display, the iconic St Georges Hall was sadly lit up with the colours of the tricolour in solidarity.

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41dd4ZhCx5L._SX310_BO1,204,203,200_I finished the latest book I’ve been reading, Rachel Kelly’s Black Rainbow. I read it for an online book group. It was only 99p, which was a positive. The prose is about the author’s two bouts of depression and how ‘words healed’ her, though I think it was prescription drugs and support by health professionals and her family who contributed to her recovery. I was not enamored with the book. I drew nothing from the narration, indeed halfway through the book the author’s attitude really alienated me and I grew quite hostile! The many interjections of ‘supportive’ poems really didn’t call to me, highlighting that depression is an individual illness. My own mental state may have caused my severe reaction to the book, but on completion, I felt empty, devoid of any feelings, not even relief in finishing the book. Have you read the book? Perhaps you gained more insight than I did.

And now for the good stuff!

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On Friday, David and I attended the Liverpool Playhouseto see the Globe Theatre’s touring production of The Merchant of Venice, starring Jonathan Pryce. I was amazed to have acquired tickets as the play was a sell out! It’s not a play that sits easy with me. I find the antisemitism hard to watch. The Globe’s production relies heavily on the play being classed as one of William Shakespeare’s comedies, as the comic scenes starkly juxtapose the heavy drama. From the outset the play is performed with gusto by the cast. The musicians and ensemble came onto the stage singing and dancing 10 minutes before the billed start. David and I had just found our seats when the music struck up! The actors encouraged audience participation, to the extent that Launcelot (Stefan Adegbola) even dragged up two willing members of the audience to grace the action on stage. It made me think of how very different Shakespeare’s audience was to that of our own modern audience who silently watch voyeuristically from the darkness.

At times I felt I had travelled back in time as the stage design, lighting and costumes all gave the stage a kind of authenticity. There was much gravitas to Jonathan Pryce’s Shylock. I liked the interchanges in Hebrew between his onstage (and off) daughter Jessica, (Phoebe Pryce.) Rachel Pickup’s Portia was another highlight for me, she graced the stage elegantly yet her diction commanded you take note of her character! She had many a wise word to say.

Overall it was an enjoyable two and a half hours. David even treated me to Cheshire Farm ice-cream during the interval, scrumptious!

Saturday, we arose early. I dragged a reluctant David to Sheffield, to tour the streets in search of their herd of colourful elephants. We visited the Crucible where I recited tales of when I visited in 2013 to see my favourite actor, Jonathan FirthWe took in sights such as the Winter Gardens, Cathedral and railway station. We saw 31 of the 58 elephants in the two hours we walked. Below we pose with our favourites!

Have you been to the theatre recently? Seen any interesting art installations?

I hope you have a joyous week ahead. See you next Sunday.

Christine x

Sunday Sevens was devised by Natalie at Threads and bobbins.

A Journey, The Winter’s Tale and Second Chances…

The Journey:

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Looking at the picture of Jonathan Firth and I, who I accosted outside of the stage door of the Crucible Theatre, Sheffield. I have to admit that the resemblance to myself doesn’t seem real. Indeed the whole day had the essence of ‘fantasy’ to it and I think someone must have taken over my body as I was transported from my life in Liverpool to over the Pennines to Sheffield.

The day started like any other, David went to work while I had taken the day off so I could go to Sheffield, to the matinee and see Jonathan in William Shakespeare’s The Winter’s Tale. It is not my favourite play. Indeed I would like to see Jonathan play Macbeth, but that is my own fantasy.

David kissed me goodbye unbeknown what plans I had for the day. Last year we both went to Edinburgh, well David had to go as I demanded it! To see Jonathan play in Good Grief, but it was a disaster waiting to happen. I was so embarrassed to be watching the man I fantasied over while sitting with the man I shared my life with that I could not approach Jonathan at the Stage Door afterwards.

However, this time I vowed to myself that I would go. It was a second chance that I just had to take. I also had another reason to go too. I had to deliver all the lovely letters and messages of support to Jonathan from his Facebook fan page. I really couldn’t believe that I was the one playing ‘Hermes’, the messenger this time.

I managed to leave the house around 9.15am, all made up! I walked unsteadily on my four inch high heeled shoes; I wore them because I knew Jonathan was tall. Much taller than I! I said goodbye to my mum who said ‘I hope you get to see him!’ and made my way to the bus stop! Then I waited ages!! Well it seemed like ages. While I stood at the bus stop, the cold autumnal wind blew my hair about like medusa’s snakes; I dithered while holding the letters for Jonathan. Then the number 14 bus arrived (followed by many more as is always the case) and I dived on to it. It took me to Lime Street station. I had no time to get lunch so I bounded onto the on time, East Midland’s train to Norwich, which would take me to Sheffield and to Jonathan!

The sun in the North West of England was gleaming. It was a most beautiful autumn day. The wind was gusty but my spirits were lifted by the sun, azure sky and the lovely support from the other Jonathan Firth fans! My nerves struck around Manchester, but I swallowed my stress and just went with the flow!

Scenery flashed passed as the train made its way across country. City scape then the green vista of the Peak District opened up, beautiful countryside, herds of cows and lines upon lines of dry stone walls! The train’s conductor seemed a character!! He was on the PA system after Manchester saying ‘don’t squash your heavy items in the overhead lockers, or they can fall out and hit you on the head!’ He had me chuckling!

Sheffield:

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Before long I had arrived in Sheffield. I disembarked the train and then tried to find my bearings. I managed to get lunch of a Tuscan vege wrap and I ordered a café latte to go. I really needed the toilet, nerves and all but they were closed! So I had to just cross my legs and bear it. I followed my new Samsung Galaxy S3 sat nav, but I found that it was taking me away from the Crucible! Time was of the essence and I didn’t want to get lost and start panicking! So I had to rely on good old fashioned ‘asking’ people. I asked one guy but I didn’t think he was from Sheffield, so I asked a woman, who thought I was going for an interview. Did I look that severe? I found that her name was Margaret and she worked at Sheffield’s Radio Station. She was so kind and helpful that I have to mention her. She not only told me the way to the Crucible, she actually took me there! I am so blessed to have met her, and I thank her. I do hope she gets this message as I am most indebted to her. I was quite adrift when she met me. I was in a city I did not know, had technology that did not work and yet she welcomed me and guided me to my ‘rightful’ place. I thank you!

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I got to the theatre at 12 noon and before I headed to the Stage Door, I queued up at the Box Office for a programme as I thought, ‘if I am waiting at the Stage Door I may get other actors’ autographs too!’ The queue was long and it seemed to take ages for my turn. I was getting a bit impatient thinking, ‘I’m going to miss him at this rate!’ I paid my £3.50 for the programme and headed around the side of the theatre to the dreaded Stage Door!!

I had been in correspondence with the theatre for the past week. Ruth seemed particularly helpful and another person I should mention. She answered my query about how long the play was so I could plan my train journey accordingly. Then she sought out and gave me information on how to approach the Stage Door and enquiring about actors’ availability. Then if that wasn’t enough help, she updated me that production shots of Jonathan had been uploaded onto their website!!

The Stage Door:

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I have never actually been to a Stage Door. I have been past them, but never hung around nor entered them. I felt rather silly. I just do not do things like this! However in I went and met with a rather abrupt older woman who said to my request about Jonathan. ‘He’s not arrived yet. I don’t know his availability. You’ll just have to wait outside and see him when he arrives.’

‘Okay,’ I thought, ‘I was just doing what I was told,’ being a novice and all! So back out into the chilling wind I went. I could have left the letters for Jonathan at the desk but I thought it would be better me giving them to him personally, at least that way I’d know he got them. I waited just over half an hour, but with raging nerves and feeling oh so foolish, standing there being all fan like! It seemed much longer!

My plan of getting other actors’ autographs didn’t play out. A few just walked past me without a second glance. Though to be fair I was not one to shout up and wave my pen and programme under their noses. I saw Daniel Lapaine arrive, then go back out and then come back again with lunch. Barbara Marten walked in quietly. One actor arrived via bike; I think it was Keir Charles. He just looked at me distrustfully and Gareth Williams smiled at me.

Jonathan:

I half worried whether I would recognise Jonathan, or would he sneak past while I wasn’t looking? I had my head buried in my phone texting when I looked up and there he was standing (alone) across the road from me waiting for traffic to pass. I thought, ‘here we go, put your brain into gear Christine.’ I didn’t know how best to attract his attention, so I just stood there waving at him (he probably thought I was insane!) and then I approached him as he crossed the road. I said, ‘I’m Christine, from the Facebook fan site,’ but I don’t think he heard me so I had to repeat myself. I don’t even know if he caught my name? ‘I have some letters for you,’ I said and I gave him the envelope with the little booklet I made. I hope he enjoyed reading all the lovely words of encouragement we offered him?

‘Thank you,’ he said and then I discovered he was still eating his lunch! Ops! I apologised profusely while he took a bite of what looked like a muffin or a flap jack. Sorry Jonathan!

I was quite surprised at myself. I actually spoke to Jonathan without my heart beating fast, clammy palms syndrome or my mouth drying up leaving me with a stammer. I remained cool and collected and asked questions easily. I hope I came across that way to Jonathan? Maybe his account of our meeting would be different? Possibly I was an annoying fan who asked too many awkward questions while he wanted to hurry into the theatre to get ready for the performance? But for me it was ultimately a most pleasant experience. I had envisaged a ‘train wreck’ of a meeting, where I would be so star struck that all I could do would be to look down at the floor and not face him! Thankfully that was not the case and Jonathan did not carry the conversation, it was well balanced, and dare I say it seemed quite relaxed?

Jonathan asked me was I going to see the play. I said I was, the matinee as I had to go back home later that day. He asked me where I was sitting; I couldn’t remember the number and then I felt a bit silly for saying, ‘in the front row.’

He seemed interested in his fan based Facebook page, said we were ‘doing a good job’ and looks at it from time to time!! I informed him membership had doubled in a year and he laughed with me when I said I had been promoted to co-administrator! I mentioned he met Florence (the other admin) last year in Edinburgh and he said he ‘remembered.’

I asked Jonathan how he liked Sheffield and he said he was ‘living in a nice part of the city.’

‘In an apartment?’ I asked.

‘Yes, we (the actors) get a list of digs,’ he replied.

‘That’s good.’ I said, knowing nothing whatsoever about the workings of a theatre company.

It came about that I had travelled from Liverpool to see the play. ‘Liverpool?!’ Jonathan exclaimed. ‘Had I come by car?’

‘No train.’

‘How long did it take?’

‘One and a half hours, so not bad.’

‘Direct?’

‘Yes.’

‘Did I come on my own?’

‘Yes,’ and then I told Jonathan that I had gone to Edinburgh last year to see him but that my fiancé was with me and it was all ‘rather embarrassing.’ Jonathan didn’t say anything to that, he just looked at me! Possibly the conversation could have died there and then!

I knew I was keeping him from going about his work, but I just kept asking questions! So many questions to ask and so little time! I think I must have gone into ‘reporter’ mode. ‘What made you do Shakespeare again?’ I asked and that triggered Jonathan into talking about his career doing Shakespeare, Henry 6th and TV/radio work. I probably should have said I ‘loved’ him in Henry 4th, but I just stood smiling and listening to him. He seemed happy to be working at the Crucible, said the theatre had won accolades.

He asked me if I had seen ‘The Winter’s Tale,’ before.

‘I’ve read it,’ I said. Jonathan then went on to say it’s a long play, but that he gets to have fun in the fourth act. He was proud of what the director Paul Miller said about the cast.

‘The company was the best he’d worked with in 20 years.’ That is some acclaim!

I managed to get Jonathan’s autograph. I felt a little silly asking for it, but Jonathan was gracious. Luckily I already had the programme and he kindly signed the front. I didn’t read what he had written until after we had parted. He signed: ‘All the best. Thanks for coming.’ Which I thought was a nice touch. Thanks Jonathan!

He said the theatre hadn’t given the cast any programmes and that he was interested in what was inside. So I leafed through a few of the pages for him and then he laughed at his cast picture, saying it had been taken for Victoria and Albert. I looked up at him smiling and said.

‘I think you should get a new picture.’ He smiled in agreement. I think that was the best moment for me, it seemed light hearted and fun and Jonathan was very close to me! Maybe a bit too close!!

A little before that I had asked Jonathan if I could have my picture taken with him, which he kindly agreed too, though he seemed a bit worried that he hadn’t shaved! I hadn’t noticed actually! Of course at the time of asking, there was no one about! Then David Mallinson (in a nice hat), who plays Antigonus in the play (and meets an untimely demise at the jaws/claws of a bear!), approached the Stage Door. I just looked at him and Jonathan asked him if he could take our picture, which he kindly did! That was when I glimpsed the director in Jonathan. Not content with a lamp post in the picture he repositioned us to the middle of the pavement. I just followed and stood beside him and smiled as David took the picture. Jonathan said it was a nice picture and it is, at least we are both sporting toothy smiles, but I seem so small standing next to him, even with four inch heels, Jonathan seems rather larger than life!

I think I must have been talking to Jonathan for 10-15 minutes. I felt awful for taking up his time. I thanked him and we both spoke over our farewells as Jonathan rushed into the theatre and I to take stock of the encounter!

The Play:

The Crucible’s performance of The Winter’s Tale is over three hours long! However to me the time just flew!! Like every other Twitter comment and press review that came before, I must reiterate that the acting from all the cast was top notch and the delivery of the language was just perfect. The play rattled along at such a pace that I will probably be thinking about it for some time to come. When you see Shakespeare done well, you really feel it!

The stage design was simple yet effective and I must confess that I did covet some of the lovely dresses the female characters wore, especially Perdita’s gorgeous white dress in the final act, oh I want, I want!!

The Winter’s Tale, is a ‘strange play’, (borrowing Jonathan’s words there). With it’s fantastical ending, it’s like a fairy-tale, rather like my meeting with Jonathan seems to me now. It’s like two plays stitched together. To me it resembles a Gustav Mahler symphony. The tragedy of the first two acts is starkly contrasted by the light hearted humour in the fourth. Jonathan did look like he was having fun on stage as the ensemble danced and joked about during the sheep shearing festival. At one stage Jonathan, in breaches and red nosed disguise skipped past me, I didn’t know where to look!

The Crucible itself looks a small performance area. From my seat I was trying to picture the snooker championship that goes on there and wondered how they accommodate two full sized tables! I was well placed in the ‘front row’ and due to liking end seats, I was right next to one of the entrances the actors used, in fact at one point Jonathan ran past me as he made his way onto the stage!

As I visited the first matinee, the auditorium was half empty, or half full depending on your viewpoint. I presume the evening performances are better attended? I do hope so!

The slow menacing entrance of the ‘bear’ raised a small titter from the audience. I was expecting a brown bear as Bohemia is suggested to be in Europe, hence a European Brown bear, but what the costume department went for was more of a Black bear, or to me it even looked like a Spectacled bear! Either way, it was a cute addition!

It’s very hard to pick a standout performance as all the actors were fabulous! I particularly enjoyed Patrick Walshe McBride’s comic take on the young shepherd as a country bumpkin, especially his pronunciation of ‘see you these clothes?’ But you have to go and see the play to appreciate it. I shared a few uncomfortable glances with Keir Charles’ Autolycus as he stood right before me stuffing his purses down his pants. Again I didn’t know which way to turn! And Jonathan was just Jonathan, his command of the Shakespearean language I have always admired!

The Journey Home:

I felt quite saddened when the play ended. I was having such a good time being entertained by the cast. As the actors came out on stage for their ‘curtain call’, I wiped out my camera to film it. I got the slightest impression that Jonathan wasn’t best chuffed to see a camera being waved about in my hand. Though in my defence I want to capture every moment, especially once in a lifetime moments like this!

As the lights brightened and the audience began to mill out, I checked my phone and saw the time was 5.15pm! If I was quick I may have time to catch the 5.40pm train home! Otherwise it would mean hanging around another hour! Could I do it? Find my way back to the train station this time without getting lost? As I left the Crucible I noticed it had been raining, the floor was wet, but thankfully the rain had stopped. I was reluctant to leave Jonathan but as I left the theatre I said a solemn farewell, almost like a prayer.  I thank him for being perfectly wonderful to me.

Rushing in high heeled shoes is not conducive to looking good, so I waddled like a penguin back the way Margaret had shown me almost five hours previously. And did I reach the station in time? Yes! Did I get the right train? Yes! Though at first I thought I had not as I sat there for half an hour as the train carried me forwards in a bubble of silence. There was no PA system saying the next station would be Stockport until we were in Stockport! Then I relaxed.

I had imagined I would come home all tearful after visiting Sheffield and meeting with Jonathan, but on the contrary I did not. I felt quite blessed to have had the experience. I had met with some kind and helpful people in Sheffield and Jonathan had been lovely! I was proud of myself for doing something so out of my comfort zone! It showed me that I can do anything I put my mind to!

I now smile to myself as I remember reading my diary written when I was just 19 and in my first flush of ‘desire’ for Jonathan. My young, innocent self had scrawled ‘I wish I could meet him.’ I can now safely say I did, ‘but only 18 years later!’