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In the past the thought of cold pulverised fruit especially pulped up banana was enough to make me feel sick. In fact just writing it down and thinking about it is making me nauseous. Yet despite my horror of squidged up slimy stuff, I would insist that my children consume some with their brekkie as part of the ever constant battle to get 5 a day into them.....and they do....happily. I have been totally sold by the innocent advertising and their promises to: 1) make it healthy - with 2 or your 5-a-day in every 250ml serving - plus a source of fibre and Vitamin C too. 2) find the best fruit - even if they have to try 500 varieties before finding the perfect one 3) be sustainable - using recycled and recyclable packaging, refusing to use air freight and sourcing ethically by using Rainbow Alliance Certified farms. 4) share the profits - giving 10% of all profits to people who need it more than innocent do (visit www.innocentfoundation.org for more info) and innocent say that if they do all of the above then the consumer should be holding a drink to be proud of or you can tell their Mums! That's definitely good enough for my kids and they'll guzzle away at the Strawberry and Banana or Orange, Mango and Pineapple and ask for more. Happy Days. So when I was trollying down the smoothie aisle in Tesco's and I happened to spy innocent smoothies on offer at 2 for £4 or £2.79 each for a 750ml carton and I spied the kiwis, apples & limes (BANANA FREE) I felt obliged to swallow my childish fears (literally) and give the slimy stuff a go. The following morning with some trepidation I shook the carton as advised and glooped myself out a glass. ~the look~ Cold leek and potato soup instantly came to mind, certainly the same consistency, and greenness like pond slime. On looks alone I have never been sold by smoothies and the greeness didn't change my mind here. ~sniff~ I had a preparatory sniff to prepare my tastebuds and was hit by a clear smell of apple with a definite tang of lime. ~braced for taste~ So I did it I had a gulp....first I could taste a thick sweet hit of kiwi followed by a sugary apple follow up (which also includes pineapple) followed by a tangy zingy lime hit. To say I was gobsmacked is an understatment - this is delicious! My sleep dried out mouth was thorougly impressed. I was only dissapointed by the fact that I couldn't get my tounge into the glass to clean up the large amount of residue. ~the feeling~ as I supped the regulation 250ml or more I could feel something that I don't get with my normal orange or apple juice beverage - I felt satisfied. I could feel myself filling up and it was good. Calorie wise I'd had 125 of em. Although this also provides 25.8g of sugar (lots) it's fruit sugar so I guess that's better than a danish pastry. ~the carton~ So feeling pretty good about myself I looked over the carton to study the ingredients and I was surprised to say the least: Clearly stated with images included 750ml = 2.5 pressed apples 1/4 pressed pineapple 1 crushed kiwi 16 pressed white grapes 1/4 squeezed lime AND a dash of nettle and spinach extract! I can honestly say that I didn't taste the extract and this was a relief being a step too far down the healthy eating route for me. Though I was pleased to have 'innocently' consumed such goodness. ~surprised~ One side of the carton was devoted to announcing that after 8 years the innocent company have made a breakthrough by creating two sizes of carton..the standard 750ml and a larger 1.5 litre version for those who want more or less to drink. I must say that taking 8 years to get there seems a little long in my mind for such a 'withit' company. 8 years? Really? ~looking after your smoothie~ This is a drink that needs to be cold and must be kept in the fridge. Once it is opened it needs to be consumed within 4 days and as it has been gently pasturised should be treated like milk. Innocent also advise that you shake before opening and not after hahaha! ~so~ All in all, I really really like this drink and it has become a mainstay for my breakfast. My kids hate it - it's too green looking for them - but I don't care they can keep their bananary pink gunk - more for me.
Whenever I'm looking for a few hours of escapist romance I'll turn to Katie Fforde and her offerings of safe and enjoyable storytelling with the lightest touch. I've read and enjoyed several of her novels including Artistic Licence, Thyme Out, Stately Pursuits and Wild Designs and so with a firm understanding of the type of tale I could expect I settled down to 376 pages of Highland Fling. I've discovered having read a few of Ffords novels that she has a fairly formulaic approach. Essentially a girl next-doorish headstrong girl/woman finds herself (usually by career move) heading to another part of the country (UK) to work for or with a family or group of people, often having to cook for them. These would include an unpleasant but utlimately manipulatable matriarch; a wise old woman or slightly older companion who won't take no for an answer drives our heroine out of her comfort zone with friendly support; a few soppy blokes who aren't a good enough fit but are essentially good guys; and a gruff and ruggedly handsome hero whose meeting with our heroine always begins badly and continues to duck and dive throughout the story in a will-they won't-they (of course they will) sweep of senarios and misunderstandings. Highland Fling presents us with no such deviation from this tried and tested structure. ~the basics (a breakdown of the backcover)~ When 'Virtual Assistant' Jenny Porter's boyfriend accuses her of being impulsive, soft-hearted and unbusinesslike, dashing off to Scotland to sort out the failing mill for one of her clients may not be the best way of proving him wrong. and promising to help run a mobile burger bar before she's even found her feet doesn't help matters. When she finds herself determined to save the mill - whatever her client's wishes - it seems that Henry's accusations may have contained more than a grain of truth. So when Jenny's awkward encounters with the abrasive but disconcertingly attractive Ross Grant develop into something more complicated - just as Henry arrives in Scotland to reclaim her - it's time for Jenny to make some decisions. Should she follow Henry back to London? Or is her Highland Adventure more than just a fling? ~thoughts~ It didn't take me long to whistle my way through this book and I think it's clear from the outset what's going to happen, the joy comes in getting there. Fforde has a really light touch and writes with good pace and honesty. She creates warm and witty scenes and characters that I find easy to identify with. I know what I am going to get when I sit down with a Fforde novel and I can just switch off for a few hours and escape into a Cinderella like fantasy. It's never going to win any literary prizes but if your looking for a holiday reas then you can't go far wrong with a Katie Fford romance. I usually pick one up in the 2 for £8 supermarket deals along with something more meaty.
Every now and then I like to get RSI by playing on my daughters DS and I saw this game in Blockbusters pre-owned for £8.99. It passed my checklist when looking for a computer game namely: 1) Actually looked like something I could complete - being that it's for 3year old + 2) Did look pretty interesting from the bumpf on the back with mysteries and puzzles to solve 3) The cover led me to think that the graphics would be enjoyable 4) Had a purpose and would give me more of a challenge than hours of Bejewelled Blitz or Tetris With all my boxes ticked I merrily paid and took my game home to settle down to some fun. ~the bumpf~ Hidden mysteries: Titanic takes place aboard the R.M.S Titanic on her fateful voyage across the Atlantic. Explore the most famous ship in the world and feel the ship's deck creak beneath you as you go in search for hidden objects, decode secret puzzles and solve the greatest sea mystery ever. ~sounds good so what's it like?~ We play as a first class passenger whose job is to piece together a range of problems and puzzles relating to her husband, her mother and other passengers aboard. The upclose graphics are ok - but not as fantastic as I'd been led to believe from the box cover, however I've definitely seen worse - so I carried on. I have to admit the first task I was set - to find my missing boarding pass - was seemingly simple - however the actually play was really clunky and unclear. There is a need to flit from room-to-room and passenger to passenger to try and glean clues and ideas - but this isn't an easy or natural process. There is a map to help but I had to refer to the instruction booklet for ideas. Unfortunately this was about as useful as reading a swahili newspaper and in the end I abandoned the book in frustration and donned the stylus with a mind not to be beaten. After sheer trial and error I managed to navagate my way around this game by going back over myself again and again from room to room and thoroughly poking everything. I concluded that there is a very sketchy plan of action to be adopted but it's by no means user friendly. Most of the tasks involved milling about to collect objects which would then solve a problem yet rather than being included in the problem you simply had to present the objects and voila the problem pieced itself together which was boring and confusing. I persevered as once I'd discovered the formula it didn't alter. In fact I soon found myself whizzing through the levels all 20 of them - or in fact far too few of them. In no time at all I'd completed the game which stopped as illogically as it had started. ~factual?~ I don't think so no. I'm pretty confident that I learnt nothing useful about the Titanic and certainly didn't feel that I'd solved "the greatest sea mystery of all time". In fact if anything I was wholly dissapointed. This game took some getting into and as soon as it was actually getting interesting it was finished. ~so~ Well let's just say I'm damn glad I didn't pay the £27+ that new DS games seem to retail for. I don't think when the pitch suggest that I would discover hundreds of different objects it meant any more than 101 either, there really wasn't enough to do. I also can't imagine that a 3 year old would piece this together any more easily than I did and my competent 7 year old didn't think much of it either. ~final thoughts~ The only hidden mystery here is how to play the game in the first place - but having done that I would argue "why bother" - there are much better mystery games on the market than this.
I must admit that I wasn't particularly desperate to see this film despite the fact that Meryl Streep, Stanley Tucci and Amy Adams are all starring and I like them all. I think it must be the title - it just doesn't reel me in and I am a book by it's cover kind of judge (which doesn't serve me that well if I'm honest). So having picked this up for £3 in a bargain bucket at Blockbusters I settled down to watch all the other films I'd bought until finally I was left with this one. ~the premise~ Meryl Streep stars as culinary legend Julia Child, whose cookbook, Mastering the Art of French Cooking, inspired fledgling writer Julie Powell (Amy Adams) to whip up 524 recipies in 365 days. Based on the best selling books, Julie & Julia introduces a new generation to the magic of French cooking and proves that with the right combination of passion and fearlessness, anything is possible. Nora Ephron directs this delicious comedy about joy, obsession and butter. Bon Appetit! ~so what happens~ This film is really two parrallel stories told in sync. The first story is that of Julia Child and her husband (Stanley Tucci). Having arrived in Paris following her husbands job appointment Julia sets about trying to find something to do to occupy herself. Attempts at hatmaking and bridge all fall by the wayside and finally Julia follows her heart and signs up for cookery school. She begins in this masculine dominated world as a firm outsider but quickly and through sheer strength of charachter rivals and exceeds her fellow classmates. We watch the couple, who are devoted to each other, marvelling over the French cuisine and supporting each other. Tucci and Streep. previously paired in the Devil Wears Prada, work beautifully together and have such natural on-screen chemistry. As Julia's culinary expertise improves she meets some like minded cooks who share her desire to bring French cooking to the American housewife. Forming 'les trois gourmandes' the three ladies run a small culinary experience of their own whilst compiling the beginnings of a now infamous cookbook. Meanwhile we are introduced to Julie Powell (Amy Adams) who lives with her husband and cat in a small flat above a pizza shop with a tiny kitchen. Powell is an unfulfilled writer whose companions and husband all have a vocational direction that she is lacking. Her hobby is cooking and finally she comes to the conclusion that she is going to write a blog over the course of a year and cook her way through the entire recipe collection of Julia Child's book. We follow her culinary trial, tribulations, tantrums and successes as she blogs her way along. ~Julie V Julia~ I have to admit that I really didn't warm to Amy Adams' Julie Powell character. She came across as stroppy, self-centred and a little pathetic. The rapport between her and her husband wasn't particularly dynamic and whilst I quite like the idea of working my way through a cookbook (and clearly it was successful for her as this is a true story, I just didn't warm to her obsession as a character. On the other hand Meryl Streep's Julia Child was mesmerising, like a cross between Jaime Olivers bung it all in style and the Muppets' Swedish Chef all with a daaaaarrrrlinnng voice and OTT character. I like her so much so that I've bought her butter laden book and whilst I'm genuinely scared by a few of the recipies - others are indeed to die for. Streep played Child with such charm and gusto, for me she really did do this role justice with the perfect amount of bravado and sensitivity. Stanley Tucci is a perennial favourite of mine and I really enjoyed his role as the supportive husband of this largess lady in all senses of the word. This is a sensitive and warming portrayl. ~Bon Appetit~ And so we practically eat our way through this unique tale, salivating at the thought of a delicious boeuf bourginonne. Will Julia get a decent price for publishing her book and will Julie manage to finish her blog and recipie count in time? I have to admit I was charmed by this tale and enjoyed it far more than was expected, mainly for Streeps' performance but also as it is a true story. I would definitely recommend giving this a viewing it's lovely and lighthearted, not especially girly and is well acted by all.
You've gotta hand it to Disney when it comes to bringing fairytales to life and the Princess Diaries, originally a teen-fiction book by Meg Cabot, makes no exception. ~the bumpf~ Mia Thermopolis is a bright but terribly shy and gawky teenager whose goal in life is to survive each school day with a minimum of attention and embarrassment. Unfortunately her wish to be invisible is thwarted when her strict grandmother arrives and delivers the shocking news that she's a real-life princess - heir to the throne of Genovia. Furious, the reluctant young royal agrees to take "princess lessons" and make the biggest decision of her life in three weeks. And so begins a comical transformation towards the poise and princess-ness when she finds herself in the middle of a media storm, jealous school mates and a plot to take over her country. ~the characters & their roles~ Mia Thermopolis or potentially Princess Amelia Minuette Thermopolis Renaldi is expertly played by Anne Hathaway. This was my first introduction to Hathaway as an actress and I have watched her subsequent performances with delight. Hathaway can do graceful and elegant with effortless ease, but also works the down to earth, geeky, girl-next-door role to a T. I loved watching her transformation in this tale and indeed her trials and tribulations at school. As Mia, she was always strong yet a little ditsy and this really help the viewer to be enamoured by her. Her on-screen relationship with her Artist mother (Caroline Goodall) and her Royal Grandmother (Julie Andrews) are enchanting. In this Cinderella story I don't think they could have cast a better lead. Having been sheltered for fifteen years by her parents Mia discovers, after the sudden and unexpected death of her father the Crown Prince of Genovia, that she is next in line to the throne. Naturally shocked by this news she struggles to come to terms with her mother lying to her for fifteen years and her Grandmother ignoring her. Her mother says of it "I was young, I wanted to paint and didn't want to be tied down to Royal duties - I just wanted you to have a normal upbringing." Julie Andrews gives a sterling perfomance as The Queen, it would seem that this is a role she was born to play. Graceful and immaculate with her perfect accent and manners she comes across as firm yet soft too. Her relationship with the Royal Protector (Body Guard?) played by Hector Elizondo is one of the delights in this tale as we watch them classily slow dance and he tells her "for too long have you worn black", refering to the passing of her husband. Although she is grieving for the loss of her husband and now her son, practicalities dictate that she must attend to matters of the state at all times - sometimes hardening her to everyday sensitivities. Mandy Moore plays Lana the school "queen bitch" whose nasty comments and actions highlight the every day American Highschool plight for geekier kids. Moore is head of the cheerleading squad and as they sing " Lana, Anna and Montana" we hope that they'll get their comeuppance some day. ~about the story~ Meg Cabot wrote the Princess Diaries as the first of a series of books following Mia's life which have been successful enough to be converted into two films. There is a sequel to the first film and although I didn't think it was as good - it still carries the lighthearted Disney touch. None of this tale wallows in the depth of any issues here and it is comfortably rated U and has transfered well to screen. I would, as always advocate that books are better for everything. ~funny~ This is an enchanting story and everyone will know the outcome from the outset but it doesn't detract from enjoying the journey. Hathaway is funny. From putting on tights in a car, breaking statues to setting things on fire at state dinners she is truly enjoyable to watch. I particularly enjoyed the physical transformation with much eyebrow plucking and the attempts at baseball. I notice many of the cast from Pretty Woman (the Julia Roberts classic) make an appearance here, notably Hector Elizondo with the guy who was the lift attendant in the original film. They add gravitas to this Cinderella tale. ~viewing details~ A Garry Marshall film produced by Debra Martin Chase, Mario Ischovich AND Whitney Houston this runs for 111 minutes and both me, my 7 year old girl AND my 12 year old son enjoyed this (tho don't tell my sons mates!) ~final thoughts~ This film is what it is. A true Disney tale with all the sparkle and glitter that we can trust from this name. It's not an Oscar worthy script but with a good cast and a lighthearted feel it makes for relaxing viewing. Having been released for sometime now on DVD this film can be purchased for as little as £1.99 on Amazon I've found. If you haven't seen it before and are stuck for something to entertain those kids (particularly girlies) in the summer hols, then I don't think you could go far wrong with this.
I'm not a heaphone expert or even a connisseur. In fact other than the ghastly in-ear atrocities that came with my iphone my only prior experience was the ancient spongy things that accompanied a sony walkman - and damn did I think I was cool. Anyhow....my circumstances at home led me to need a pair in order to get any sort of focus on anything I wanted to listen to. Distractions include snoring, children, things I don't want children to hear, privacy etc. My requirements were pretty simple: No nasty in-ear painy falling outty things that channel noise in a way that makes my eardrums cry - that's when they're not popping out. They had to cover my complete ear, be comfortable and not too heavy or bulky I wasn't bothered about them looking cool but neither did I want them to have the appearence of being straight from the pound shop Having said that I wasn't about to pay through the nose either. and finally...apart from actually giving good sound quality I wanted to be able to doss about in bed, telly at the foot of the bed, be able to lie back, or on my side or whichever way and how whilst still listening to my programmes. ~step in the Sennheiser HD 201~ I had a scout about on the internet but if I'm honest I wasn't that commited and it wasn't until I was dragged into Maplins by my electronically minded son that I spied this pair. As I tried to duck and dive to avoid the salespeople who, observing my sons enthusiasm, were hell bent upon selling me £2k's worth of DJ equipment...I snuck over to the headphones and to my delight I saw these. There were plenty of others to choose from on the rack boasting this that and the other on quality and coolness, to me the Skull Candy versions are funky but slightly naff. Anyhow, what really grabbed me was the 3metre long cable that come with these HD201's. It's a good job really coz on packaging alone these were definitely more pound shop. Finally I was caught by a salesman and a good tall one at that who at 6ft something assured me that he had a pair and lay in bed watching the telly himself (unprompted from me - sneaky delight). At 5ft 6 I was thinking this is a winner. However Sennheiser? Who were they, I'd never heard of them and being a Sony girl was doubtful - but I was assured that this was all good and I wouldn't be dissapointed. So with headphones in hand and son's ear in the other (dragging him away from the disco lights which would definitely freak the cats out) I marched up to the till, slapped 'em down on the counter (the headphones and not my son) and whipped out my plastic. I paid £19.99 for these babies but have since discovered them more cheaply everywhere. So the anticipation came, sat in bed...I almost cut my wrist open when arguing with the sealed plastic packaging (why are things so hard to open these days?) and set about unravelling the cable. Spot on. There was a nice shiny gold plated plug that fitted straight into my TV headphone socket. I don't know the spec but it wouldn't fit an iphone - too big. I lifted the 165g Black and Silver headphones into place, enjoyed the spongy sensation that comes with complete ear coverege (tho deinitely NOT comfortable with earrings on) and settled down to watch something, anything in peace. The sound quality is excellent, it tunes my arguing children out a treat and that's what I wanted. I'm confident that these would not be the kind of thing necessary for strutting my funky stuff round town or on the bus as I imagine the length of cable could be extremely hazardous. However, that's not why I bought them and for me they are completely fit for purpose. I have had them for 6 months now with no problems and although they aren't particularly comfortable to lie on your side on, jobs-a-good-un as far as I'm concerned. Happy Days
Upon a friends recommendation I hired season 1 from Blockbuster at £5 for 5 nights - but I only needed 1 night I was so captivated! At 13 episodes per disc I now understand that there is a 5th and possibly 6th season to view and I intend to watch each and every Emmy, Bafta and Golden Globe award winning one. ~What's it all about?~ Mad Men is a darkly humourous look at a prestigious ad agency on New York's Madison Avenue. Firmly set in the 1960's we watch our charcters continue to blur the lines between the truth and lies, perception and reality. Our lead charcter Donald Draper (Jon Hamm) is the Creative Director of Sterling Cooper and we observe him handling accounts with panache. He is dashing, intense and captivating. Intensely protective of his private life he is a man of few words but all of them the right ones. Along side his bosses Frank Sterling and Bernie Cooper he stands out in the office as important and authorative figure and one that catches all the ladies eyes. His wife Betty Draper (January Jones) is the perfect housewife with two children, a girl (Sally) and a boy (Bobby). She was a model before marrying Draper and now her role is the stereotypical housewife with a duty to have dinner on the table, look perfect and not ask any questions. Jones plays this role beautifully and it is astonishing in our modern times to observe the sixties etiquette. My favourite scene is when her children run in to the kitchen playing and one of them is inside a plastic dry cleaning bag with her face smothered in the film. Instead of worrying about suffocation they are told off in case any of the dry cleaning has been dumped on the floor! The home setting is amazingly kitch with no detail spared from the spoon rack to the croched blankets. It's brilliant. Back to the office we have Pete Campbell (Vincent Kartheiser) desperate to climb up the company ladder I can't decide if I like or hate him. He can be really charming and sensitive at times and others he just opens his mouth, deliberately or not and firmly puts his foot in it. The bosses are all to aware of his shortcomings but he is blindingly aware of this. We also meet Peggy Olsen (Elisabeth Moss) starting as a new secretary she is naive and girlish. Her new role as Donald Drapers assistant sees her hanging up his coat and hat, fixing his drink requests for ice and bumbling around to try and find her feet. She isn't fashion conscious and is so earnest and hardworking which just serves to highlight the behaviour of the rest of the office staff. Leading to the femme fatale Joan Holloway (Christina Hendricks). She sashays around the office of which she's manager, wigglling her hour class frame and flame red hair. Her outfits are to die for, as is her figure and she oozes confidence, charm and sex appeal. Her advice to the new Peggy is shorten your skirt and woman up. She manages to day to day office requirements with ease and oversees the secretaries with the right amount of gossip and advice. ~what happens~ Basically everyone smokes and it is quite amazing to see as it is now so taboo. The first big account that we see the agency working on is for Lucky Strike who are now no longer allowed to advertise that cigarettes are good for you and in a very smoky conference, with much coughing, the agency must work to try and counter act this negative publicity. Each episode, which lasts about 45-50mins (without the ad breaks) follows our characters as they go about their daily grind in 60's America. The episodes touch on politics, ettiquet, womens and black peoples rights and how society functions. The settings are absolutely excellent with amazing props and products. It's so good to see the office with its' old typewriters and procedures, the old cars and the fabulous costumes. It really does transport you into another time. ~conclusions~ I honestly didn't know what to expect and from the title Mad Men I'd ovelooked this boxset before as it really doesn't justify the delights within. I was hooked from the first episode and am now well into series 3 without dissapointment. It's such an enjoyable series with snippets of information unfurling at just the right pace. There's very little music within each episode but they all end with a song and leave me wanting more. Stunning
~the bumpf~ Five seeingly ordinary people become trapped in a skyscraper elevator. Each has a dirty secret, a tainted past. All seems well until the lights go out and the screaming begins. With no way to escape, the horrific truth dawns that one of them is the Devil....and only then they realise that very bad things happen for very good reasons. ~discuss~ So here we are with an M. Night Shyamalan story. In the past I've found his tales to be hit and miss, notably the sixth sense was excellent but Signs and 30 days of night for me have been so-so. So how did I find Devil? The story starts with a suicide jumper which then leads us to meet the two cops (one of them Chris Messina, didn't recognise the other) who will attempt to rescue our lift trapees. We watch five not particularly engaging charachters enter the lift of doom, a security guard, a sketchy old woman, a mechanic, a really annoying salesman and the token flaky girl. None of these characters I recognise from any thing else. One by one their dirty secrets are revealed. Meanwhile the cops look on from jaunty camera angles provided by the lifts security camera and try to free the lift. Chris Messina is probably the best of the bunch here playing a recently bereaved cop whose wife and child were in a hit and run. He asserts authority and tries his best to piece the story together for us. The bulk of this story's plot would appear to be that when things start to go noticeably wrong that is when the Devil is near. Ergo when toast lies buttered side down on the carpet this is not the result of probability but a clear indicator of the Devil's influence and presence. ~settings etc~ Well most of this is shot in an elevator providing a cramp and tense closed set. There are a few skyline and roaming round the building watching security camera shots but for the most part we are packed in with the lift characters. There's a good bit of fleeting gore but this is a 15 film so it's not unbearably gross. There are several blackout scenes (nice and cheap to film) where it's unclear that something nasty's going on but you don't see what. There were also a few good jumpy moments but all in all I found this predicable and not that entertaining. ~to conclude~ Having just watched Rite with Anthony Hopkins I must say that I took this film with a large pinch of salt. I guess it wasn't a massive hit as it was £3 in Tescos having only been released in 2010. Perhaps I should have picked it up for 50p at a carboot sale which is, quite frankly, all I'll be selling it for at my local Sunday haunt! A loss of £2.50 and 71 mins of my life. Okay it wasn't that bad I mean, I didn't like any of the characters, the plot was a bit thin and it was all a bit pants but hey. I guess if you are looking for evidence of the Devil then watch Rite or the Excorcist instead they're a great deal more convincing.
Recommended by a friend as hilarious I was looking forward to a good laugh - instead I cringed through most of this.. ~plot~ Two 40 something married guys after some repeatedly immature misdemeanours are given a Hall Pass by their long suffering wives. A Hall Pass is a week off from marriage to do exactly what they wish, be unfaithful if they desire (and they do deisre), and generally get the boyish fantasies out of their systems. With this freedom the aim is to recoup the frolics of their college days and break free, with permission, from the bonds of marriage to have seven days pf fun, frivolity and sex. ~characters~ Owen Wilson plays Rik who's married to Maggie (Jenna Fischer) and has three kids. Jason Sudekis plays Fred who's married to Grace (Christina Applegate). There are also a gang of the guys friends chiefly including Stephen Marchant as Gary whose role is to egg the guys on and live the Hall Pass experience through Rik and Fred. ~happenings~ There is plenty going on in this film, lots of punch ups, lovely and not so lovely girls, and a few really gross scenes notably the girl with stomach cramps and the hot tub fainting conclusion. The guys really try to have fun, meanwhile the long suffering wives actually manage to. ~thoughts~ I have read this review back and I sound like a shocked headmistress or something which I'm not. I love a good crude laugh as much as the next person and yet I really didn't get one here. I was actually really dissapointed with Owen Wilson who is normally so reliable and consistent within his characters. Here he seem really old, craggy and quite frankly a little creepy. His hair wasn't flowing as usual but had been cut shorter and the combed back layers aged him. He didn't look comfortable in this role and he was overshadowed by Jason Sudekis who definitely out-grossed Wilson. Sudekis was irratating and not only needed a hall pass but more likely a divorce. Jenna Fischer and Christina Applegate were well appointed in the wives role and I enjoyed their story line more than the guys one. I know I'm a girl and this is pitched as a guys film (which the other dooyoo reviews seem to corroborate) but I just didn't like it. ~final~ Not what I expected at all - nowhere near as good as it could have been.
Having read both the Pillars of the Earth and A World without End by Ken Follett I knew I was in for a hefty detail packed epic and Fall of Giants did not dissapoint. ~the bumpf~ Five families are bought together through the world shaking dramas of the First World War, the Russian Revolution and the struggle for votes for women. It is 1911, and the coronation day of King George V. Thirteen-year-old Billy Williams begins his first day at work in a coal mine. The Williams family is connected by romance and enmity to the Fitzherberts, aristocratic coal-mine owners. Lady Maud Fitzherbert falls in love with Walter Von Urich, a spy at the German Embassy in London. Their destiny is entangled with that of Gus Dewar, ambitious young aide to the U.S. President Woodrow Wilson. Two orphaned Russian brothers soon become involved, but Grigori and Lev Peshkov's plan to emigrate to America falls foul of war, conscription and revolution. ~experience~ Make no mistake this is a massive body of work and after I had worked my way through the 850 pages I was exhausted. This book really travels, be it the horrific conditions or pre-revolutionary Russia, St. Petersberg, to the front lines on both the English and German sides across Europe, or the lush extravagance of London Society placed along side working class life in London and the coal mines of Wales or the relative calm and stability of America. This book spans the period of time from 1911 to the end of the first world war and the beginning of the 1920's. So much happened in the world during this time and Follett has tried to cram as much of it as he could into his story. The characters here are circumstantial. Some are obviously true situations, others have been created to suit and highlight the factual story at hand. I wouldn't say that the characters are empty, as I certainly followed all of their trials and tribulations with keen interest, more that they aren't as deeply explored as possible. ~a lesson~ I'm no history scholar but I did study at A'Level and History was part of my degree, however, I learnt more in a few days of avid reading than I had done in all of my prior studies. I did study the Russian revolution many years ago and was bored bored bored, yet in this book I found the Russian plight possibly the most interesting aspect. I think when history was taught to me I was so caught up with facts and dates that I didn't live the experience, I couldn't relate to the first world war or Russia and I knew a little of the suffragetes but it didn't have any persepective. For me Follett successfully manages to place situations and circumstances in order in my mind. His book is an intensive lesson in politics, history, suffering and law. It wasn't a romp of a read, it was harrowing and worrying. ~final thoughts~ Read this....do read it. Give yourself plenty of time to read, but to think and reflect too. I am still reeling from the effects that so few people can have on so many. I know that's a common statement but when it comes to war it's devastating. I can foresee that this tale will eventually be televised (like Pillars of the Earth has been) and done well it will make amazing viewing. There are two more books to follow making this into a trilogy and comprehensive it is too. I eagerly await the next tome.
I have a masochistic streak that enjoys scaring myself silly and - in the past- that has involved Anthony Hopkins (Sir) in any number of roles (Silence of the Lambs, Hannibal etc) and Rite didn't dissapoint. ~plot~ Michael Kovak (Colin O'Donaghue) is a young man whose family history offers him the choice of becoming a priest or a mortician. As a young boy he helps his father embalm his mother (nice) and...from this he chooses to enter the priesthood with a mind to attend the classes and then bail at the last minute citing Atheism. As he's about to bail an incident forces him to reconsider his options and he is sent to Rome to find out about people who are "possessed" and the excorcism process. With huge doubts he attends and is led into the company of a Father (Tony Hopkins) who attempts to demonstrate that excorcism is neccessary. ~good stuff~ The make up and CGI are excellent and Hopkins excells in playing the tormented Father. The Italian backdrop is gorgeous, mystical and crumbling. With cats everywhere and creepy rooms, Kovak is the sceptic that most of us are and the bond that he forms with Hopkins is really well done. ~bad bits~ I'm a sceptic, not necessarily an Atheist, but this film failed to convert me despite the fact that it is based on a true story and that both characters to this day are practicising excorcism. The conclusions here are that the Devil does exist ergo there is a God too. This is also quite a long film at just under 2 hours and in places it does drag a bit. It doesn't flow particularly well and that just adds to my scepticism. ~the ugly~ I cannot fault Tony Hopkins here and usually when I write "the ugly" I mean the rubbish bits of the film but here I actually mean ugly. For me Hopkins takes his characterisation way beyond other actors, his face is so creepy and becomes etched on my mind after I watch him. I'm glad I'm not his wife because if I had to wake up beside him and found him watching me I'd wet my pants and cry. ~concl~ I rented this fim to scare myself and it worked. I thought I'd watch it after dinner and then immediately follow it with something light hearted and pathetic (ie: anything with Jennifer Aniston) so I wouldn't fall asleep scared. Alas when the witching hour came there was Tony Hopkins emblazoned upon my eyelids, hiding in my wardrobe and rustling up my neuroses in every dark corner. I slept with the lights on like a wuss. All in all this is a pretty good creepy film based on the true experiences of some unlucky people. It's definitely food for thought and the excellent acting make this worth a look. I wouldn't buy this, or probably even watch it again..but I did enjoy it.
I rented this from blockbuster in their 4 movies for 4 nights for £10 really just so I could watch the other films I'd chosen with the maximum time. I looked at this and firmly expected a same old same old American High School drossy movie and I have to admit that I was completely and pleasantly surprised. ~plot~ (taken from the back cover) An average high school girl sees her notoriety catapult overnight when she decides to use the school rumour mill to advance her social standing. Now her classmates turn against her, the school board and her teacher and the guidance counsellor are concerned. With the support of her parents and long term crush she takes on the grapevine and tries to turn it all around. ~the good~ I hadn't come across the actress of the main character Olive (Emma Stone) and was totally captivated by her. She funny, witty, sharp and really entertaining supported by an excellent script. She hold the main lead with ease and the relationship she has with her parents (Stanley Tucci, Patricia Clarkson) is quirky and excellent. In fact if my own Dad wasn't so splendid I'd quite like Stanley Tucci to take on the role. I've so enjoyed watching him in the Devil Wears Prada and Julie and Julia (amongst others) and in this film he charms me further. This film is intelligent and beautifully directed and produced by Will Gluck and really captures my stereotypical idea of American High School. Thomas Hayden Church plays the funky teacher we all wish we'd had and long term crush/boyfriend material Todd (Penn Badgley) is a worthy match for our heroine. ~the bad~ Cam Gigandet (Twilight) and Amanda Byrnes are painfully good to watch as the devoutly religious group at school. Also Olives' best friend Rhianna (Aly Michalka) seems an unlikely candidate for the job. ~the ugly~ I deem this to be an excellent film but I really didn't like Lisa Kudrows' Guidance Counsellor character. She just didn't fit the bill for me here, especially as she's so well known, I just didn't feel she suited this role at all. I didn't believe in her and the characterisation was a let down to all the counsellors out there. ~all in~ If you are looking for 1.5 hours of light, intelligent and frankly mesmerising entertainment the rent this. It's not as girly as you may think and I would definitely watch it again.
I was really looking foward to watching Knowing having seen the previews. It's excatly the kind of film me and my husband love to watch so I grabbed it from Blockbusters in my usual 4 films for 4 nights for £10 deal which works out really well for me. I sat down to be blown away or "hugely exciting gripped me from Start to end" as Alan Frank from the Daily Star says or "Awesome" from Radio 1's James King ~So what happens then~ Fifty years before we join our characters we watch a highschool class making pictures of the future for a time capsule to be buried in the school and opened up five decades later. One of the pupils just writes lists of numbers. It all gets buried and forgotten about and then reopend 50 years later where we join the story. Widower (Nicholas Cage) and his son Caleb become the recipients of the sheet of numbers when Calebs school open up the time capsule. When Cage works out the code he searches for the now lady who wrote it and finds her daughter played by (Rose Byrne) and her daughter Abby who'se Calebs age. Whilst Cage and Byrne work on the code, the children Abby and Caleb are themselves drawn into their own sinister experience of the code. Ultimately we are presented with a theory on what happens in the global future. It's an interesting concept and it makes for some good viewing. ~The Good~ The special effects and settings are awesome. There are a few jumpy scary moments especially as we are not privvy to the ultimate reasoning of the numbers until the end. My husband guessed the plot fairly early on (he usually does) I wasn't sure until the end. Never the less it was a good theory and I really like the idea of being able to predict in this way scary as it is. The child actors playing Caleb and Abby are great, children always freak me out in film and these two were good. ~The Bad~ It starts of slowly and doesn't really gather pace until the middle of the film. Also I would find it hard to believe that an MIT professor would try and tackle something like this alone - it's a bit crap. Rose Byrne is okay ish but has been so much better in other things especially Troy amd Damages. She's pretty but doesn't quite fit the character for me a bit wishy washy ~The Ugly~ It has to be Nicholas "made of wood" Cage. For me he's worse than Keanu Reeves and Hayden Christensen for poor delivery of a line. At least the other two are something to look at. I just plain don't feel for Nicholas Cage. his character here takes all of this knowledge upon himself and despite having some very strong evidence he presents to others in such an odd way as to confuse them rather than make them understand. Which is unnessecary as it's pretty obvious case when looked at logically. He comes across as an odd father, sometimes he's super dad other times he's ditching his son to go off on flights of fancy which make things much worse than they need to be. At the end of all things I don't think his character rang true to himself and Cage's acting didn't do this part any favours. ~All in all~ This film has a great concept and I did enjoy it. When the action got going it really did get going and didn't stop. I like the answer to the riddle and I did buy into the action. The characters, apart from Cage were ok, good even and in parts I was scared. Something was lacking throughout and I would have liked a better beginning it was odd. There is nothing really groundbreaking here, much of this has been seen and done before in other ways. Still it's not a bad way to pass 115 minutes - certified 15.# There are extras on the DVD including the Making of a futuristic thriller, visions of the apocalypse and an audio commentary but I didn't watch them so I can't comment
Australia is one of those films I have ummed and aaahed about watching for sometime now. On several occasions I have looked at it sitting on the shelf at block busters and passed over it. However this time around, there were no other options that grabbed me and I added it to my 4 films for 4 nights for £10 option. Even then I left it until last to watch and stuck it on yesterday as a Sunday afternoon time passer. I wasn't expecting much. I was wrong. This film is beautiful and I liked it so much I watched it twice in a row - even my husband enjoyed it. ~ So what's it all about ~ It is really a film of two halves and in the first we witness Lady Sarah Ashley (Nicole Kidman) leaving the comforts of her Englich Aristocracy Life to travel into the Australian Outback intent on fetching her husband back as he seems to have abandoned her for a life on a cattle ranch. Upon arrival she discovers her husband is dead and realises that financial circumstances mean she must stay and operate the ranch, drove the cattle to market and compete in a very closed market for the worth of her meat and lands. The first half of the film follows her doing this. We watch her upper-class ways being altered by the Australian landscape and the company she must now keep. The people she meets along the way range from Aboriginal tribesman to the Cattle Drover (Hugh Jackman) she enlists to help her in the outback. Set at the beginning of the 1940's we witness racism and tension in a country that is heading into the second world war. There are issues with the local white men sleeping with aboriginal ladies and creating "creamies" or mixed race children. These children are considered and abomination and are rounded up and sent to live as inferiors on an island run by Christian Missionaries. Lady Sarah Ashley finds a "creamy" spiritual Aboriginal boy on her lands and becomes his protector and he hers. His heritage is tied up within the story she must rescue him from. The second half of the film follows the story of how Australia enters the second world war and the future of the ranch as Japan moves in and bombs the missionary island and the harbour in Darwin. Will Lady Ashley be able to save the orphaned children, will she and the Drover find happiness what will become of the ranch? ~Setting~ Directed by Baz Luhrmann (Moulin Rouge, Romeo and Juliet) this film was never going to be straighforward it was always going to be an epic and I think that he more than anyone is the reason why I resisted this film for so long. I am not a fan of the Moulin rouge style of film and I had a preconcieved idea that he might have stamped all over this. I was wrong. This film needed to be Big and Epic after all Australia is both. The sheer scale of the country comes across here as - on their way driving to "Faraway Downs" the Ashley's property, Lady Ashley asks how much further and the drover says well we've been on the property for two days already! We see sunrises and sunsets, sweeping landscapes and wildlife. We celebrate the rain and it's significance and all of this is intertwined with watching an Aboriginal Magic Man casting protective spells for his grandson. ~Characters~ Nicole Kidman is really watchable. I always shy away from her and yet I always enjoy her performances. For the first part of this film when she is being really posh she reminds me of Deborah Meadon one of the Dragon's from Dragon Den. As her more natural character shines through fiesty, strong and funny we get to enjoy her even more. I particularly like the fact that she is considered to be shameful amongst the women of "polite" society because she is going against the grain. Hugh Jackman as the Drover is wonderful. Apart from having the torso of a god, he is actually really natural in this part. I think it suited him, much more so than Wolverine. It just fit's his accent, his physicality and his comfortable way in the Aussie outback - he looked like he was enjoying himself. All of the other characters are incidental or complimentary to these two with the exception of the aboriginal boy Nulla. He's fantastic and a total joy to watch. He has an ancestral calling, strengthened by his Grandfather the Magic Man. The boy helps to glue everyone together and at the same time helps us see more of "Australia" than any other character. ~Details~ This is a long old film, yes, an epic. It runs for 158 minutes and is Certified 12. The dvd I hired had no extras with it so I can't comment, but actually don't really feel that I needed any. ~Summary~ I was surprised at how much I enjoyed this. It was funny, tragic, gripping in places and eminitely watchable. Hugh Jackman is definitely hearthrob material but Nicole Kidman is beautiful to watch too. I'm not sure if you should watch this looking for a definitive history of Australia. Maybe if you were interested particularly in the Northern Territories Beef cattle issues at the beginning of WWII then it may be of some use. Although I would question factual accuracy. It's not an Aboriginal story either. Some of the troubles and issues this culture face are raised however many thing are left untouched. I could probably watch this again and again and spot something new each time as it is so beautifully shot. The script is nicley written too with some lovely funny moments from many of the characters and some very tender moments too. Other things however are completely glossed over such as the passing of Lady Ashley's husband and the loss of the Drovers friend on Missionary Island. Still I can forgive the film this - it could go on and on with detail and I suppose they had to edit it somewhere. Despite all my worries this was a really pleasing treat.
What a FIND this product is. It is YUM with a capital Y. Currently on offer at 2 for £2 in both Tesco's and Sainsburys, or £1.35 on it's own which is how it's being sold in Asda and Somerfield. It is quite simply lush. Yes, I have visited all the above supermarkets - and within the space of a week as well looking for this product. It keeps selling out, obviously because it is so absolutely scrummy. Right enough of the gushing I'll give you some details. Seriously Strong From the McClelland brand has been with us since 1850 producing fine cheddar cheeses. Very recently they launced this new product Seriously Strong spreadable which is a cream cheese with a bit of bite - and they're not wrong. It comes in a round tub with a pop off lid and is branded as in the above picture. Unpopping the lid and removing the foil you are met with a pale slightly shiny cream cheese, much as if you'd opened a dairylea or other cream cheese. The smell isn't that distinct either, it doesn't make your eyes water with it's strength or odour, in fact it reminds me a little of cheddars the biscuits for cheese, it's that sort of whiff. Pleasant. In goes the knife to thick, yielding cream and I spread it on nice and deep. I like this on a dark rye, ryvita but I have used it like butter in a ham sandwich and have eaten it on cracker breads and you can also heat it up in the microwave (instructions on the foil lid - will follow) to make a cheese sauce which I haven't tried yet but I reckon it would be yummy. To taste, YUM, big alomst blue cheese like hit that's not blue but really gives your tastebuds a good wrenching. It is deep and intense and utterly moreish. It's creamy and not cloying and in sandwiches it really does give an extra little kick. I'm not a fan of blue cheese at all but I like my cheddars to sit up and fight and as far as cream cheese go I'd all but given up on finding something like this - I am now complete! ~The lowdown~ This comes in 125g pot and per 100g this has 301 calories of which 15.5g is protein; 1.5g are carbohydrate of which there is a trace of sugars; 25.6g of fat of which 17.9g are saturates 1g of salt 460mg calcium So that's high on saturated fat like every other cream cheese and that's the stuff to watch - but I've read that it's better to eat cream cheese than hard cheese because of the fat levels and I'm happy to do that. I am far from being and expert about this but I do know about eating all things in moderation and I do struggle with this product because it is so addictively moreish (and it doesn't contain MSG!) I could happily do 1/2 a tub at a time. This product is to be kept refrigerated (obviously) and consumed within 7 days - no problem for me - I've manage three days at best so far (so very not healthy - but that was sharing it with my kids in their sandwiches - honest). Ingredients are: 53% seriously strong cheddar, water, butter, skimmed milk powder, emulsifying salts (E339 E452 ),potassium sorbate. I've just checked the foil on my new pack because it says check foil for microwave instructions and recipes but it is completely blank on both sides - I even had to lick the lid clean just to check ;-). I think this may be an oversight on the McClellands part as there is no further microwave instruction that I could see any where on the pack. I imagine I would probabaly decant it into a microwaveable bowl and give it 30 seconds plus or so to see what happens but in no way do I recommend this - it's just what I'd do. I imagine it would make a lovely sauce for a pasta or a cauliflower cheese. ~all in all~ I think you've probably guessed from my enthusiasm that I like this - a LOT. I can't really imagine any other cheese spread living up to this and although I reviewed my beloved laughing cow not so long ago I think I prefer this now for the tangy cheese kick you get right in the taste buds. In fact I have always thought that seriously strong cheddar cheese (the hard stuff) was quite lame by my standards. I alwys head for the evil eye wayering vintage stuff. But this cheese spread is really really good and I am seriously impressed - buy it - no don't because it sells out and then I have to traipse all the supermarkets - it's worth it.