A Year in Film: September 2020

September was another full-on month for movies, with a total of 22 films watched. We tried to have a mix of films we had seen before and ones we had not. Have you seen any of the below? If so, what were your thoughts? 

Peninsular ✩✩✩

A sequel to Train to Busan. A soldier and his team battle hordes of post-apocalyptic zombies in the wastelands of the Korean Peninsula.

Train to Busan is my favourite zombie movie. Though this sequel isn’t as good as the first film in the franchise, there’s enough zombie action to keep the viewer entertained. 

The Philadelphia Experiment ✩✩

In 1943, a top-secret experiment aboard a Navy destroyer backfires and two sailors are propelled to 1984.

The fashion and special effects are very 1980’s in this not so exciting sci-fi adventure. 

Mulan ✩✩✩✩

To save her ailing father from serving in the Imperial Army, a fearless young woman disguises herself as a man to battle northern invaders in China.

I’ve not seen the original Disney version of Mulan so can’t comment on the differences, but I really enjoyed this epic, live action production. 

Silver Streak ✩

While on a cross-country train ride, overworked book editor George Caldwell (Gene Wilder) begins an unexpected romance with an enigmatic woman. His vacation is interrupted, however, when he witnesses a murder for which he is then accused. 

I found this film tedious to say the least. David said it was good back in the day but it had not aged well. 

Gangs of New York ✩✩✩

Amsterdam sets out to avenge the death of his father who was killed in a gang fight at the hands of a crime lord, Bill ‘The Butcher’. Whilst doing so, he gets caught up in the Civil War.

This film would have gained more stars but for the fact that I thought it could have been much shorter. There were no holds barred when it came to the brutality of some scenes.  

Die Hard: with a Vengeance ✩✩✩

John McClane must enlist the help of Zeus Carver, a local shop owner, to stop Simon, a former colonel from East Germany, from detonating bombs across New York.

A typical Bruce Willis action movie, full of explosions and unbelievable action sequences. An enjoyable watch.  

Glory ✩✩✩✩

Robert Gould Shaw leads the U.S. Civil War’s first all-black volunteer company, fighting prejudices from both his own Union Army, and the Confederates.

My favourite Matthew Broderick film! The story of the first all-black regiment in the American Civil War has themes that are as relevant today as they were back in 1863. James Horner’s score is simply beautiful. 

Romy and Michele’s High School Reunion ✩✩

Romy and Michele are best friends who weren’t very popular in school. This fact suddenly occurs to them when they are invited for their high school reunion which they attend with fake identities.

Not the best comedy but its message of just being yourself is something everyone should embrace. 

La La Land ✩✩

Sebastian (Ryan Gosling) and Mia (Emma Stone) are drawn together by their common desire to do what they love. But as success mounts they are faced with decisions that begin to fray the fragile fabric of their love affair, and the dreams they worked so hard to maintain in each other threaten to rip them apart.

La La Land burst onto the scene in 2016 boasting awards and accolades galore, however on watching it for the first time I have to say I didn’t like it. If you like musicals then it’s a film for you. 

Conspiracy Theory ✩✩✩

Jerry Fletcher, a New York taxi driver who publishes conspiracy theories in a newsletter, suddenly falls in danger when one of his claims turn out to be true.

Mel Gibson and Julia Roberts star in this fast paced thriller, it was entertaining enough.

Frozen 2 – ✩✩

No matter how happy Elsa the Snow Queen is to be surrounded by the people of Arendelle, Elsa finds herself strangely unsettled. After hearing a mysterious voice call out to her, Elsa travels to the enchanted forests and dark seas beyond her kingdom — an adventure that soon turns into a journey of self-discovery.

After the astronomical success of Frozen in 2013, there was undoubtedly going to be a sequel. In truth the second film is much weaker and I’d say not as entertaining. 

The Terminal ✩✩✩✩

Viktor Navorski gets stranded at an airport when a war rages in his country. He is forced by the officials to stay at the airport until his original identity is confirmed.

When I first saw The Terminal in 2004 I didn’t warm to it very much, however on second viewing I appreciated the subtle nuances of Tom Hanks’ performance.  

The Haunting ✩✩

Dr Marrow enlists Theo, Luke and Nell for a study of sleep disorders at the Hill House. As soon as the terrifying truth about the mansion is revealed, everyone is found fighting for their lives.

A disappointing scary movie, it started off well but went down hill half way through. 

Catch Me If You Can ✩✩✩✩✩

Notorious con artist Frank Abagnale has duped people worth millions of dollars with his masterful art of deception. With his scams getting bolder, he is soon pursued by FBI agent Carl Hanratty.

Is this one of Spielberg’s finest films? I think so, and Tom Hanks and Leonardo diCaprio both churn out believable performances. 

The Longest Yard ✩✩✩

Paul, a famous football player, lands up in jail and meets the warden, Rudolph, a football fan, who asks him to put a team together consisting of prison inmates to challenge the prison guards.

I’m not a fan of Adam Sandler films but this film is funny enough, a modern retelling of the 1974 original. 

The Count of Monte Cristo ✩✩✩✩

Dantes, a sailor is falsely accused of treason by his best friend Fernand, who wants Dantes’ girlfriend Mercedes for himself. Dantes is imprisoned on the island prison of Chateau d’If for 13 years.

Swash buckling adventure of love and revenge from France in the 1800’s. A great movie!

Paranoia ✩✩

An entry-level employee at a powerful corporation finds himself occupying a corner office, but at a dangerous price: he must spy on his boss’s old mentor to secure for him a multi-billion dollar advantage.

There wasn’t much paranoia happening in this rather sedate thriller. I’d give it a miss if I was you!

The Interview with a Vampire ✩✩✩✩

After the death of his wife and daughter, Spanish lord Louis is turned into a vampire by Lestat de Lioncourt. To keep Louis by his side, Lestat converts a plague-ridden girl.

I enjoyed this film much more than David did. An epic sweep through the centuries with vampires, what’s not to like?

Limitless ✩✩✩✩

With the help of a mysterious pill that enables the user to access 100% of his brain abilities, a struggling writer becomes a financial wizard, but it also puts him in a new world with lots of dangers.

David and I both liked this thriller, full of action with sci-fi elements. Would you take a pill that made you super-human?

Titanic ✩✩✩✩✩

Seventeen-year-old Rose hails from an aristocratic family and is set to be married. When she boards the Titanic, she meets Jack Dawson, an artist, and falls in love with him.

I’ve warmed to this film over the years. I love the message that one person can save another person’s life. Awesome cinematography, with a fantastic soundtrack to boot. 

Frailty ✩✩✩

A mysterious man arrives at the offices of an FBI agent and recounts his childhood: how his religious fanatic father received visions telling him to destroy people who were in fact “demons.”

This was a rather uncomfortable film to watch. Bill Paxton is menacing as the dad who has visions from angels and sets on a path to kill demons. A good thriller. 

Enola Holmes ✩✩

When Enola Holmes-Sherlock’s teen sister-discovers her mother missing, she sets off to find her, becoming a super-sleuth in her own right as she outwits her famous brother and unravels a dangerous conspiracy around a mysterious young Lord.

I really, really wanted to enjoy this but sadly it was a little disappointing. Millie Bobby Brown was good as Enola but the rest of the cast fell flat for me. Watchable none the less. 

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

Thanks for reading!

Christine x

A Year in Film: August 2020

I have a confession to make, the first movie on this list of films watched in August, was actually watched on the last day of July! Oops! However the number of films seem to be increasing as the year progresses. Some 20 films were watched in August, a new record! If you have seen any of the below films, let me know what you thought of them.

The Old Guard ✩✩✩

A group of mercenaries, all centuries-old immortals with the ability to heal themselves, discover someone is onto their secret, and they must fight to protect their freedom.

I surprisingly enjoyed this graphic novel adaptation of immortal warriors fighting for good. I thought Charlize Theron was fantastic in her portrayal as Andy/Andromache. I look forward to the sequel.

Happy Death day 2U ✩✩✩

Tree Gelbman wakes up in horror to learn that she’s stuck in a parallel universe. Her boyfriend Carter is now with someone else, and her friends and fellow students seem to be completely different versions of themselves. When Tree discovers that Carter’s roommate has been altering time, she finds herself once again the target of a masked killer. When the psychopath starts to go after her inner circle, Tree soon realizes that she must die over and over again to save everyone.

I preferred this sequel to the original. I liked the fact that the groundhog day-esque film had a reason for why the loop was happening. Good fun!

Please Stand By ✩✩

Wendy sees things differently: she’s fiercely independent, with a brilliant mind and a mischievous sense of hilarity. Wendy also has autism. To her, people are an indecipherable code and the world is a confusing place. Inspired by her no-nonsense caregiver, Wendy comes of age and escapes from her care home on the road trip of a lifetime to deliver her 500-page script to a screenwriting competition.

One of those pull at the heartstrings kind of films. Dakota Fanning plays an autistic woman who travels by public transport to hand deliver her script for a competition. Quite enjoyable.

Naked ✩✩

Rob Anderson is all set to marry the girl of his dreams, but can’t quite get to the altar. He finds himself caught in a time loop, waking up naked in a hotel elevator over and over again.

Continuing with the groundhog day theme, an easy to watch comedy with some laugh out loud moments.

Masterminds ✩✩✩

When David Ghanatt is convinced by his work crush, Kelly Campbell and her accomplices to join in a far-fetched plan to rob a bank vault, David soon throws everything on the line for love, money, and a life of excitement.

Another comedy supposedly based on true events. The moral to the story is beware of who you become friends with!

7500 ✩✩✩

Tobias Ellis starts his shift as a co-pilot and everything seems normal, but things quickly take a turn when terrorists storm the cockpit of his Airbus A319, and hijack the plane.

I enjoyed this film more than David did. I felt empathy for the pilot and enjoyed the tension throughout.

The Majestic ✩✩✩

Peter Appleton, a scriptwriter suspected of being a communist, meets with an accident that makes him lose his memory and live with a different identity.

A case of mistaken identity ultimately helps a town heal from its losses after the Second World War, with Jim Carrey in a a more mature role.

Life of Crime ✩✩

A corrupt real estate developer refuses to pay ransom to two amateur criminals for the release of his kidnapped wife. Confounded, they try to find different ways to deal with the unusual situation.

It pays to learn about your target before kidnapping them in this crime/comedy drama. It was a miss from me however.

Thanks for Sharing ✩

A recovering sex addict (Mark Ruffalo) tries not to fall off the wagon as he woos a new girlfriend (Gwyneth Paltrow) who feels the need to express her rampant sexuality.

Thought this was an awful film, I really couldn’t warm to any of the characters. I was glad when the end credits rolled.

Knowing ✩✩✩✩✩

A teacher chances upon an encrypted code in a time capsule that makes him believe he can alter the chain of events that are about to unfold.

I love this film! There is just enough mystery, threat and menace to keep you on the edge of your seat with a powerful ending. It could happen!

The Mist ✩✩✩✩

David and his son are trapped in a supermarket along with some other townsfolk, when suddenly a mist engulfs the entire city, bringing along bloodthirsty creatures that devour anyone in their path.

Felt like watching end of the world films hence Knowing and War of the Worlds! The Mist has a heartbreaking ending and the monsters are really good graphically for the age of the film. A good watch.

War of the Worlds ✩✩✩✩

Ray Ferrier, a dockworker, is ready to spend a weekend together with his children. However, an alien tripod descends on Earth threatening to wipe out humanity.

When I first watched this 2005 Tom Cruise film I didn’t really like it, but on second watching I’ve developed an appreciation of it. I still love the tripods though.

The Day the Earth Stood Still ✩✩✩✩

An alien lands and tells the people of Earth that they must live peacefully or be destroyed as a danger to other planets.

This is the original 1951 version and was an enjoyable watch. It was a film of it’s time, during the Cold War, and had a peace not war message. A surprisingly good film.

Interstate 60 ✩✩✩

Neal Oliver, a young artist travelling on the mysterious highway 60, meets a half-leprechaun who grants him one wish, but has a wickedly funny way of fulfilling them literally.

A film David enjoyed more so than I did. Be careful what you wish for is the morale to this story and with a star studded cast I wanted to enjoy it more than I did.

The Invasion ✩✩

A psychiatrist finds out about an epidemic that changes human behaviour. She also discovers that her son might be the key to preventing this deadly epidemic.

We were looking at body snatcher films and saw this modern version from 2007 with Nicole Kidman and Daniel Craig. It wasn’t a bad thriller.

Trainwreck ✩✩

A young magazine writer is made to believe that relationships and marriages hold no value. However, a chance meeting with a sports doctor forces her to rethink her principles.

I quite enjoyed these two comedy films by Amy Schumer. Trainwreck was a heartwarming romance whereas I Feel Pretty was a film empowering women of all shapes and sizes.

I Feel Pretty ✩✩✩

An ordinary woman who struggles with feelings of insecurity and inadequacy on a daily basis wakes from a fall believing she is suddenly the most beautiful and capable woman on the planet. With this newfound confidence, she is empowered to live her life fearlessly and flawlessly, but what will happen when she realizes her appearance never changed?

Deuce Bigalow ✩✩

Deuce Bigalow, an aquarium cleaner, is forced to become a male prostitute in order to repay the man whose house he wrecks while he is babysitting his pet fish.

I think I laughed more at the trailer than the actual film! Silly fun with Rob Schneider.

The War With Grandpa ✩✩✩

Peter and his grandpa used to be very close, but when Grandpa Jack moves in with the family, Peter is forced to give up his most prized possession: his bedroom. Peter will stop at nothing to get his room back, scheming with friends to devise a series of pranks to drive him out. However, grandpa doesn’t give up easily, and it turns into an all-out war between the two.

Another comedy from Robert De Niro and one I enjoyed. The rivalry between grandpa and grandson had hilarious consequences. A good watch for all the family.

Frozen ✩✩

Three snowboarders are stranded on a chairlift while riding up Mount Holliston. When the night lights suddenly go off, they either need to find their way down or freeze to death.

Not the Disney Frozen but a 2010 release where three skiers get stranded on a chairlift and a life or death fight ensues. Watchable.

Filmplakat_Tesla_A1_2mm.indd

Tesla

Tesla ✩✩

Visionary inventor Nikola Tesla fights an uphill battle to bring his revolutionary electrical system to fruition, then faces thornier challenges with his new system for worldwide wireless energy.

A hero of mine really deserves a better film than this, however Ethan Hawke didn’t do too bad a job portraying the Croatian visionary. David was disappointed at the lack of pigeons!

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

Thanks for reading!

Christine x

Mud, Sweat and Tears

We’ve just come back from a short weekend break to the Lake District for David’s birthday. It was a mixed bag of experiences over the course of three days, here’s what we got up to.

blencathra

Blencathra

Day One:
Realisation dawned on me that the Lakes at present are swollen with people who would normally vacate abroad but due to Covid restrictions are staying closer to home. I’d planned on a few wild swims during our stay-cation and chose areas of Lakeland which were a bit less popular. Our destination for the day was Tewet Tarn which boasted wondrous views of Blencathra and Skiddaw.

All through the wet journey north I had worried about parking as Tewet Tarn is situated between Castlerigg and St John’s in the Vale, with limited off road parking. Our wonderful hosts Phil and Helen from Hermiston Guest House in Braithwaite, sent us a detailed map of accessible parking which we found with relative ease.

The walk to Tewet Tarn took 10 minutes from roadside parking. On arrival we discovered there was little in the way of good access points into the water. We tried to walk around the tarn but the land soon became marshy. We back tracked and made camp on a small section of shore. The swim in Tewet Tarn set the tone for the rest of the weekend. The tarn was shallow and murky. It wasn’t a pleasant swim but at least I can add the tarn to my swim map.

We were not at Tewet Tarn long, about an hour I’d say. With still two hours before check-in we looked for somewhere else to spend the time. At first we were going to head into a busy Keswick and look for new walking boots as mine are split, but in a change of heart, we headed towards a Wildlife Trusts’ nature reserve Eycott Hill near Berrier. We spent a leisurely hour walking the path past wildflower meadows and mossy wetlands towards Eycott Hill viewpoint. Bird life was quiet but we did see some butterflies.

A note on our guest house and Covid-19 safety guidelines: our hosts were very informative as to what changes had been made. On arrival guests could wear face masks and were informed of the hygiene procedures. On entrance guests were asked to use gel to clean their hands. There was also gel to be used before entering the breakfast room of a morning where staggered breakfast times had been implemented. There was also a one way system for guests leaving during breakfast times to adhere to social distancing rules. We felt safe during our stay and guests respected each other.

walk

Rosthwaite Round Walk

Day Two:
The day started with promise, we drove the 20 minutes to Rosthwaite and paid £7.50 for all day parking in the National Trust car park there. Our destination was Dock Tarn via Watendlath. I had hoped to have found a walk similar to Alcock Tarn in Grasmere, however the walk from Rosthwaite to Watendlath took us one and a half hours with another hours walk to Dock Tarn. Sunshine and showers dogged us all through our walk. The path towards Dock Tarn was treacherous under foot, with slippery, mud chocked stones. During the hours walk I slipped about four times, once landing painfully on my hip. I sat and cried, through shock more than anything. It wasn’t a great day!

dock tarn

Dock Tarn

By the time we got to the tarn we were soaked in mud, sweat and tears!

Much like Tewet Tarn there wasn’t good access to the water. There was only one small beach not big enough to put my picnic blanket down, so I got changed standing up, which was a balancing act! Dock Tarn looked picturesque covered in water lilies but there wasn’t much water that wasn’t covered in lilies or reeds. Sadly, once again the swim was disappointing. The tarn was shallow and swimming through lilies and reeds made me feel queasy. Their stems wrapped around Wilson (underwater camera), that I have attached to my torso, which stopped me swimming. It was pretty scary actually. Luckily I was just floating over the silty bed so I could stand and get out of the water pretty easily. It wasn’t a pleasant swim so I cut it short after 10 minutes. The whole swim/walk seemed a wasted day and I hardly took any photos of my swim.

dock tarn 2

Dock Tarn Swim

We grabbed a quick bite to eat and then decided to complete the whole walk and continued en route down through an ancient oak forest called Lingy End, gingerly slipping over a steep pitched path which took another two hours to traverse. When we did eventually get back to the car the showers stopped and the sun came out. Dock Tarn isn’t a swim I would suggest to other wild swimmers.

map

Blea Water Walk

Day Three:
I wasn’t sure we would get parking at Mardale Head car park, Haweswater as we left the guest house after 9am. The journey from Braithwaite is about an hour, along narrow, hair-raising roads. We got to the car park at 10am and luckily there were a few parking spaces left. We hiked our heavy rucksacks up a path for a further hour towards our destination for the day, Blea Water.

blea Water

Blea Water

Blea Water is the Lake District’s deepest tarn at 63 metres. It is a glacial corrie, and was also known as Bley Water from Old Norse meaning dark blue. The path to Blea Water at first wasn’t too bad but as the path disappeared into marshy sphagnum our already wet boots were soaked in mud again. The walk wasn’t as bad as the previous days struggle to Dock Tarn and we got to the steep sides of Blea Water with no drama. There is little in the way of shore-line at Blea Water but by the dammed east end, we found a little shingle beach where we could set up camp and I could access the water from.

blea water swim

Blea Water Swim

Blea Water was the best swim of the weekend! I actually got in a decent 20+ minute swim, in water that wasn’t too cold. I enjoyed floating on my back while looking up at the ridge line. Even David managed to give Buzz, our new drone a little stretch of his blades. Though our camp wasn’t far from the path we were not bothered by walkers. Overall it was a positive swim and I am glad we took the walk there.

So there you have our exploits over the past weekend. Video of swims to follow.

Have you been to any of the tarns mentioned above? What is your favourite body of water?

Thanks for reading,

Christine xx

A Year in Books 2020 – April to June

the-year-in-books

A Year in Books

Since the end of June I’ve been in a bit of a slump regarding this post. I’ve just had no inclination to write it. Do any of my fellow bloggers ever feel that way? Anyway, better late than never! My reading in April started well due to lockdown but slowed as the summer months progressed. I’m bogged down at present with Catherine Taylor’s Beyond the Moon, I just don’t care for the characters or narrative. Have you ever read a book that you struggled with?

Small Great Things – Jodi Picoult  ✩✩✩

When a newborn baby dies after a routine hospital procedure, there is no doubt about who will be held responsible: the nurse who had been banned from looking after him by his father.

What the nurse, her lawyer and the father of the child cannot know is how this death will irrevocably change all of their lives, in ways both expected and not.

Small Great Things is about prejudice and power; it is about that which divides and unites us.

Quite a hard book to get into at the beginning but once the story warmed up I grew to enjoy it. There were some parts regarding racism that were not easy to read but the court case was entertaining enough.

Silver Bay – Jojo Moyes  ✩✩✩

Liza McCullen will never escape her past. But the unspoilt beaches and tight-knit community of Silver Bay offer the freedom and safety she craves – if not for herself, then for her young daughter, Hannah.

Until Mike Dormer arrives as a guest in her aunt’s hotel, and the peace of Silver Bay is shattered. The mild-mannered Englishman with his too-smart clothes and disturbing eyes could destroy everything Liza has worked so hard to protect: not only the family business and the bay that harbours her beloved whales, but also her conviction that she will never love – never deserve to love – again.

This Jojo Moyes novel is definitely a book to read on a hot summers day. The characters were likable and I enjoyed the descriptions of dolphin and whale watching. With a heart warming ending, it made for a pleasant read.

The Five – Hallie Rubenhold  ✩✩✩

Polly, Annie, Elizabeth, Catherine and Mary-Jane are famous for the same thing, though they never met. They came from Fleet Street, Knightsbridge, Wolverhampton, Sweden and Wales. They wrote ballads, ran coffee houses, lived on country estates, they breathed ink-dust from printing presses and escaped people-traffickers.

What they had in common was the year of their murders: 1888.

Their murderer was never identified, but the name created for him by the press has become far more famous than any of these five women.

Now, historian Hallie Rubenhold finally sets the record straight, and gives these women back their stories.

Ever since I was young I’ve always loved anything to do with the mystery that was Jack the Ripper. This book is trying to give voice to his victims. Some of the information gathered is vague but what a revelation regarding Annie Chapman, who was a well do woman who sadly became down and out and faced her end at the sharp edge of a knife. A very thought provoking book.

Swimming Wild in the Lake District – Suzanna Cruikshank  ✩✩✩✩

An informative and inspiring book for both new and experienced wild swimmers, exploring the larger lakes in the beautiful Lake District National Park. It contains sections on getting started in wild swimming, how to look after your own safety and impartial advice on all the essential kit you’ll need.

Illustrated with stunning photography, and featuring overview maps, the book has all the practical information you need to plan your wild swimming adventure.

Whether you’re an experienced wild swimmer or just dipping your toes in the water for the first time you’ll find plenty to inspire your next adventure.

This book came out at exactly the right time. During lockdown I’d been itching for a wild swim fix and this book helped relieve that itch somewhat. With detailed chapters on access to all of the big lakes in the Lake District, there were only two in the book that I hadn’t visited. The information from this book helped me plan my first swim of 2020 in Coniston Water.

Reader, I Married Me! – Sophie Tanner  ✩✩

After breaking up with the love of her life, Chloe’s friends tell her she needs to get back out there, and find another man before it’s too late. But after a particularly disastrous date and one too many gins, Chloe has a revelation – she doesn’t need a man to make her happy. It’s up to her to do it herself.

Never one to do things by halves, Chloe decides to make the ultimate commitment to self-love – she’ll marry herself! But planning a solo wedding isn’t easy, and soon Chloe finds herself on a bumpy journey of self-discovery. Will she finally get her happy ever after?

Oh dear, this isn’t my kind of book and I don’t know why I even downloaded it! Looking for something to read during lockdown, I saw an advertisement for the book and well, I’m glad I managed to get through it. There were just too many stereotypes for my liking.

Max, the miracle Dog – Kerry Irving ✩✩✩✩

In 2006, a traumatic car accident changed Kerry Irving’s life forever.
 
Suffering from severe neck and back injuries, Kerry was unemployed and housebound, struggling with depression and even thoughts of suicide. He went from cycling over 600 miles a month to becoming a prisoner in his own home.
 
With hope all but lost, Kerry’s wife encouraged him to go on a short walk to the local shop. In the face of unbearable pain and overwhelming panic, he persevered and along the way, met an adorable yard dog named Max. As the Spaniel peered up through the railings, Kerry found comfort and encouragement in his soulful brown eyes. This chance encounter marked a turning point in both their lives.
 
In Max, Kerry found comfort and motivation and in Kerry, Max found someone to care for him. This is their remarkable, inspiring story.

A lovely heart warming read about a dog rescuing a man. Max and Kerry, with Paddy and Harry in tow have a strong following on their Facebook page, Max out in the Lake District.

The Botanist’s Daughter – Kayte Nunn ✩✩✩✩

Present day: Anna is focused on renovating her late grandmother’s house. But when she discovers a box hidden in a wall cavity, containing water colours of exotic plants, an old diary and a handful of seeds, she finds herself thrust into a centuries-old mystery. One that will send her halfway across the world in search of the truth.

1886: Elizabeth Trebithick is determined to fulfill her father’s dying wish and continue his life’s work as an adventurer and plant-hunter. So when she embarks on a perilous journey to discover a rare and miraculous flower, she will discover that the ultimate betrayal can be found even across the seas…

Two women, separated by centuries. Can one mysterious flower bring them together?

I really enjoyed this book and will look out for more novels by Kayte Nunn. Both female protagonists were likable and the adventure to Chile was exciting. Nunn managed to weave an entertaining narrative with a sad and shocking end.

Holding – Graham Norton ✩✩

The remote Irish village of Duneen has known little drama; and yet its inhabitants are troubled. Sergeant PJ Collins hasn’t always been this overweight; mother of two Brid Riordan hasn’t always been an alcoholic; and elegant Evelyn Ross hasn’t always felt that her life was a total waste. So when human remains are discovered on an old farm, suspected to be that of Tommy Burke – a former love of both Brid and Evelyn – the village’s dark past begins to unravel.

I’m sorry but I didn’t like this sedate bumbling novel by Graham Norton. I found the narrative rather boring and didn’t care what happened to the characters.

Have you read any good books lately, any recommendations?

Thanks for dropping by,

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

A Year in Film: January 2020

Recently, while trying to think of something to write about, I recalled a good film I had just watched. This got me thinking of starting a new series, a year in film. Each month I will write about the good and not so good movies I have watched.

Black and Blue ✩✩✩

A rookie policewoman in New Orleans inadvertently captures the death of a young drug dealer on her body cam. After realizing the murder was committed by corrupt cops, she teams up with the only person from the community who’s willing to help her. Now, she finds herself on the run from both the vengeful criminals and the lawmen who desperately want to destroy the incriminating footage.

Not a bad film to watch, full of action and tension. I enjoyed the plot and wondered how the main character was going to get out of a tight fix.

Maleficent: Mistress of Evil ✩✩✩

Maleficent travels to a grand castle to celebrate young Aurora’s upcoming wedding to Prince Phillip. While there, she meets Aurora’s future mother-in-law — a conniving queen who hatches a devious plot to destroy the land’s fairies. Hoping to stop her, Maleficent joins forces with a seasoned warrior and a group of outcasts to battle the queen and her powerful army.

I was quite disappointed with this film. I loved the first Maleficent but the second film left me feeling empty and dissatisfied. The plot was weak and I really didn’t care for any of the characters.

Ford v Ferrari ✩✩✩✩✩

American automotive designer Carroll Shelby and fearless British race car driver Ken Miles battle corporate interference, the laws of physics and their own personal demons to build a revolutionary vehicle for the Ford Motor Co. Together, they plan to compete against the race cars of Enzo Ferrari at the 24 Hours of Le Mans in France in 1966.

I thought I would be bored watching this film but I was pleasantly surprised. I loved Christian Bale’s adaption of Ken Miles. He got the Brummie accent down to a T. I like films that get me engrossed. I enjoyed this film from start to finish!

Uncut Gems -✩

A charismatic jeweller makes a high-stakes bet that could lead to the windfall of a lifetime. In a precarious high-wire act, he must balance business, family and adversaries on all sides in pursuit of the ultimate win.

One of the worst films I have seen! There was hardly any plot and the cast seemed to just shout over each other! With an awful soundtrack, it didn’t make for an enjoyable watch. Adam Sandler’s foray into a straight role should be forgotten. Best keep to awful comedy films in future!

Doctor Sleep ✩✩✩✩

Struggling with alcoholism, Dan Torrance remains traumatized by the sinister events that occurred at the Overlook Hotel when he was a child. His hope for a peaceful existence soon becomes shattered when he meets Abra, a teen who shares his extrasensory gift of the “shine.” Together, they form an unlikely alliance to battle the True Knot, a cult whose members try to feed off the shine of innocents to become immortal.

This film was slow to start but once it did I thoroughly enjoyed it. In parts it reminded me of The Sixth Sense. I don’t remember much about The Shining but I think you could watch his without seeing the first Stephen King film.

Terminator – Dark Fate ✩✩✩

In Mexico City, a newly modified liquid Terminator — the Rev-9 model — arrives from the future to kill a young factory worker named Dani Ramos. Also sent back in time is Grace, a hybrid cyborg human who must protect Ramos from the seemingly indestructible robotic assassin. But the two women soon find some much-needed help from a pair of unexpected allies — seasoned warrior Sarah Connor and the T-800 Terminator.

Not the greatest Terminator film made, however it was a good shoot ’em up and nice to see Arnold Schwarzenegger reprise his T-800 role. However Linda Hamilton’s role as Sarah Connor was much harder to like.

1917 ✩✩✩✩

During World War I, two British soldiers — Lance Cpl. Schofield and Lance Cpl. Blake — receive seemingly impossible orders. In a race against time, they must cross over into enemy territory to deliver a message that could potentially save 1,600 of their fellow comrades — including Blake’s own brother.

Though not a true account of an incident in World War One, I enjoyed this film set in the Great War.  Though the narrative just followed two guys travelling across France and into the trench system, the cinematography really drew you into the action and conflict on screen and the characters were likable. There were some hair raising scenes. Definitely a film to make you think!

Dark Waters ✩✩✩

A tenacious attorney uncovers a dark secret that connects a growing number of unexplained deaths to one of the world’s largest corporations. While trying to expose the truth, he soon finds himself risking his future, his family and his own life.

This legal thriller based on a true account of the case against DuPont, a chemical company who produced a non stick coating on every day products knowing that it caused cancer and neonatal deformities. This product known as PFOA was branded as Teflon and was only banned in 2019. Definitely a film to make you think of how safe products actually are.

richard jewellRichard Jewell ✩✩✩✩

During the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta, security guard Richard Jewell discovers a suspicious backpack under a bench in Centennial Park. With little time to spare, he helps to evacuate the area until the incendiary device inside the bag explodes. Hailed as a hero who saved lives, Jewell’s own life starts to unravel when the FBI names him the prime suspect in the bombing.

I never knew about the 1996 Atlanta bombing. This film was such a roller coaster to watch. First Richard Jewell was a hero and then a prime suspect. Clint Eastward’s direction really drew you into the narrative of the film. The cast were superb. I really enjoyed this film.

Have you seen any films recently that you enjoyed?

Any recommendations?

Thanks for reading,

Christine x

Sunday Sevens #27

It’s that time again! Time to join in with another Sunday Sevens, devised by Natalie.

Overall its not been a bad week!

A gift: At the beginning of the week David said there was a cosmetics sale on at his work’s shop. He then surprised me by handing me a large box with some gorgeous brushes, eye shadows and lipsticks. It shows he does think of me sometimes 🙂

Culture: The hump day saw David and I attend the Liverpool Playhouse for a production of Gabriel starring Liverpool born Paul McGann and Belinda Lang. Set in occupied Guernsey during WW2, the action takes place in a farmhouse where a family of women live. Their survival during the occupation is due to the mother’s fraternization with the Germans. While there are moments of humour, there is also some toe curling observations. The womens’ lives are thrown into jeopardy with the arrival of ‘Gabriel’ who is found washed ashore. He has no recollection of who he is but he can speak fluent German! Is he a messenger sent from God to smite the Germans, or an SS officer come to oversee the concentration camp at Alderney? His identity is left ambiguous, but the ending leaves you shocked and saddened.

No visit to the Liverpool Playhouse could be complete without Cheshire Farm Ice-cream at the interval. Mmmm gorgeous!!

Literature: The book I have started reading this week is the seminal piece by Harper Lee, To Kill a Mockingbird. I’ve been reading it while on the bus going to work, stuck in traffic due to building works. While on the daily commute I have been clocking up the miles for #Walk1000 miles: My tally for the week has been 27 miles, which has taken me over the 300 miles mark! Also as I walked between bus stops I kept looking for signs of spring. One day I witnessed a buzzard soaring over the city being hounded by a brave pigeon who must have been protecting its young. Then as I passed a grassy verge I saw a flash of blue. A huddle of forget-me-nots crowded all around!

dressShopping: On Saturday I dragged poor David around Speke Retail Park looking for clothes for work. As I have been toning up with doing 30-40 minutes of treadmill, five times a week, I have dropped a dress size and as a result all my size 8’s are too big for me! Sick of wearing only a handful of clothes I went in search of spring dresses and trousers.

I managed to get two short dresses which will look ok over leggings or tights and a pair of linen trousers which will be a welcome change from Lycra!

Yarden: With the wonderful sunny and warm weather we had over the weekend, David, Artie and I managed to grab a few hours in the yarden. Its amazing just how much the plants have all flourished. I snapped a fine specimen of a snake’s head fritillary and also one plant I can’t ID. Can you?

Visitors: On arrival from work everyday this week, David and I have seen cheeky pigeons sitting on the window ledge, looking into the kitchen. They have been waiting for us to throw seed out for them! Do you have any feathered friends?

pigeon

Finally: David and I had a lovely Sunday walk with Riley. We visited my favourite Liverpool park, Festival Gardens. The air was filled with the trill of great tits, bees hummed about in the undergrowth and orange tips and speckled woods fluttered along the woodland pathways. What a perfect way to start a day.

festival gardens

That was my week, how was yours?

Thanks for stopping by,

Christine x

Gaslight by Patrick Hamilton

I discovered in the course of doing some light research into this play, that its title gave rise to the description of a psychological phenomena, gaslighting. Gaslighting is outlined as the systematic manipulation of one person by another. This form of mental assault distorts the victims perception of reality. It is a form of abuse that over time can lead to mental health issues and even suicide.

This short review is based on a viewing of the penultimate performance, the matinee on Saturday 7th November 2015.

Royal and Derngate Theatre entrance

Royal and Derngate Theatre entrance

The Royal and Derngate theatre is a strange mixture, the old juxtaposed with the new. The complex not only features two theatres but also a cinema and spaces for more family orientated workshops.

The Royal is a 130 year old Victorian theatre that can accommodate up to 400+ guests. When you walk into the auditorium you notice the close intimacy of this theatre. The stalls open out in a fan before the stage while the upper galleries circle overhead. The first thing that catches your eye is the elaborately painted safety curtain, Sipario Dipinto as it’s also called. Painted by local artist Henry Bird, it depicts cherubim alongside people connected with the theatre, most notably Errol Flynn. Currently the Royal are running a restoration appeal to raise £30,000 to complete the preservation of this beautiful part of the theatre.

Safety Curtain at the Royal Derngate Theatre

Safety Curtain at the Royal Derngate Theatre

This Made in Northampton production of the 1938 play Gaslight by British writer Patrick Hamilton, was directed by Lucy Bailey with a homely set designed by William Dudley. The performance occurs entirely in a Victorian living room, which in this production made use of a transparent backdrop that was used to good effect. The only thing that didn’t seem to work as good as intended was the use of projections. They did little to enhance the plot and seemed to be a little O.T.T. in their execution. The lighting by Chris Davey however added to the atmosphere of the play. There was a warm glow from the fire and the gaslights as part of the set became almost another character. The light was used effectively to show the shifting of Bella’s psychological state. This medium, used in conjunction with Nell Catchpole’s minimalist soundtrack only added to the tension on stage.

gaslight cast

There was no fault to be found in the casting. Most notable were familiar names, Jonathan Firth and Tara Fitzgerald, both who have had successful television careers as well as on stage. Fitzgerald played the persecuted wife who questioned her own sanity. She looked tortured and tiptoed around the aggressive husband (Firth) who flew into uncontrollable rages. He played the part like Janus, one face was jovial and all toothy smiles and the second showed a more sinister, domineering side. Firth’s body language on stage was that of arms continuously folded as he struggled to contain his anger. Somehow it made the viewer question who the ‘real’ mad character was?

Photo by Donald Cooper

Photo by Donald Cooper

A welcome relief from the angst portrayed by the Victorian couple, Firth and Fitzgerald was Paul Hunter’s Rough. He portrayed a retried detective who had a penchant for the odd dram of whisky or three. His comedy was much needed in a play with such a dark plot. Without his presence the audience would have been lost in Fitzgerald’s madness.

Though the play was billed as a thriller it had all the hallmarks of a detective drama too. It was a thoroughly entertaining way to spend a Saturday afternoon.

© Christine Lucas 2015