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Released 10 July 2008
Comedy/ Musical/ Romance
Starring: Amanda Seyfried (Mean Girls)/ Stellan Starsgaard (Ronin, Pirates of the Caribbean)/ Pierce Brosnan (Die Another Day, Goldeneye)/ Colin Firth (Bridget Jones Diary, Love Actually)/ Meryl Streep (The Devil Wears Prada, The Hours)/ Julie Walters (Calendar Girls/ Billy Elliot).
I saw the trailor for this when I went to see 'The Dark Knight' a few weeks ago and my fiance said how she would love to see it. Normally musicals just don't do it for me, However this one looked genuinely funny on the trailor and starred some of my favourite actors in Meryl Streep and Julie Walters. Trailors can be misleading though can't they but I willing to give it a go seen as my fiance was so keen. So we booked a babysitter and off we popped to Centatainment in Sheffield with pre-booked tickets to avoid the long queue Saturday just gone.
The film is based on the musical of the same name, directed by Phyllida Lloyd who also directed the stage show. And Mamma Mia has travelled to a gorgeous Greek island. Greece, the country where the weather is always perfect and the sea is a glorious turquoise. Wonderful setting for a musical with so many upbeat Abba songs I'm sure you'll agree.
Sophie (Amanda Seyfried) and Sky are due to be married the next day. Sky lives with and helps her single mother Donna (Meryl Streep) run a beautiful but run down hotel. Sky doesn't know who her father is but by reading her mothers secret diary she has ruled it down to three possible candidates, Harry (Colin Firth), Bill (Stellan Skarsgaard) and Sam (Pierce Brosnan). Unbeknown to her mother she has secretly invited all three men to the wedding to find out who actually is her father after all. But when they all turn up on the same boat together, Sophie begins to wonder what she has got herself into and of course the repercussions will leave nobody untouched.
I can't deny I was thoroughly entertained by this film. I guess liking ABBA had something to do with it. But other than that the film had a likable and engrossing story at it's heart and was lit up by some magical performances. It too had some flaws but in this particular case that only seemed to add to the films allure.
Meryl Streep as always turned in a great performance as Donna. Her singing was surprisingly good especially her big solo in 'The Winner Takes It All'. And she genuinely seems to be having fun during all her vocal performances. Her chemistry in particular with her on screen daughter and Pierce Brosnan was heartwarming. She is one of those actresses who just seems to be able to show human nature on screen, and effortlessly at that. For me shes up there with the best actresses around and this display of versatility just back thats up.
Pierce Brosnan on the other hand can't hold a note to save his life, he was truly awful BUT it didn't stop him putting 100% into it and that for me is his saving grace. He too looked like he was having a ball.
Amanda Seyfried was a bit cheesy and if I'm being honest annoying at times but shes a young actress and she definately held her own and she can sing, her relationship with Meryl Streep was a highlight of the film. The film centred around her at first but later on the action centred on Meryl Streep and the possible fathers.
Julie Walters stole every scene she was in. She is one of my favourite actresses and instilled humour in everything she did which this film demands. Again the chemistry between her, Donna her close friend and Rosie another friend was great. The scenes involving these three were laugh out loud.
Stellan Skarsgaard and Colin Firth ably assisted as the other potential fathers and didn't let the side down.
My overall impression of this film is how much fun was had by the cast. Even after the credits had rolled we were treated to extra footage of the three fathers dancing in 6 inch leather thigh boots. It shone through like a beacon. The other thing was the scenery. This Greek island was perfect for the 20 ABBA renditions we are treated to, the picturesque back drops for all the songs were stunning and a joy to behold. Combined with the storyline the films a winner. It also reminded me just how many great songs ABBA produced in such a short space of time. Mind due if you don't like ABBA it's best to think of something else to do. And some may be able to throw tags of predictability at it but don't let it put you off. Basically this film is as feel good as they come.
A fantastic and painless hour and forty minutes to be had if your thinking of going.
Songlist: I Have a Dream/ Honey Honey/ Money Money Money/ Mamma Mia/ Chiquita/ Dancing Queen/ Our Last Summer/ Lay All Your Love on Me/ Super Trouper/ Gimme Gimme Gimme/ SOS/ Does Your Mother Know/ Slipping Through My Fingers/ The Winner Takes It All/ I Do I Do I Do I Do/ When All Is Said and Done/ Take a Chance On Me/ Waterloo/ Thankyou For The Music.
It was May 2006. My Girlfriend and I started to try for a baby. We originally planned to start in June but brought the day forward because we both couldn't wait any longer. We had talked about a baby for a while and now that we were actually trying it seemed so exciting. My Girlfriend joined a website whick kept track of her cycle, she stopped drinking and smoking and we went about our business so to speak in the desired time frames.
Early June and she had her period which was a bit of a disappointment but it didn't deter us. We didn't think it would happen straight away because the pill can take months to wear off if you've been on it a long time which she had been. Into July and we kept up to our work unabashed. Mid July and still no sign and she was overdue, we didn't want to get our hopes up so she didn't take a pregnancy test. On the 19th July she went to London with my Mother and two sisters for my Mothers 50th birthday to see a show at the Theatre. By now she was well overdue and I have to admit I was getting pretty excited that she was pregnant. They arrived back home from the Theatre and were full of tales about their antics.
The very next day, a Friday night in fact, we were watching Big Brother and having a pizza when she went to the toilet and when she came back she said she had bled and that she had abdominal pains. I didn't know what It could be so I got the medical dictionary out which didn't really help as her symptoms could have been linked to any number of things.
Over the weekend no more blood but she said she had stomach cramps so Monday morning she rang in sick for work, rang the doctors and got an appointment. I arrived back home from work whilst she was at her appointment. When I heard the door go, I went to meet her to find out her news, if any. I was hoping she was going to say she was pregnant but she didn't. She said to me the Doctor had told her "that it could have been a miscarriage but we need to do a urine test to find out if you have an infection". I said that we should wait for the results to see before jumping to conclusions.
In reality the Doctor had told her, which I have since found out "It is evident that recently you have had a miscarriage, we need to do a test for an infection".
So she didn't tell me. Later that week, she went back to the Doctors and got a prescription for the infection. She told me she had a urine infection and had been signed off work for two weeks. When she told me that I felt relief that it wasn't a miscarriage. In my naivety I assumed to myself that the blood was her period.
I've thought long and hard trying to recall things that happened in the next two weeks but I can only remember snippets. I remember coming home from work and finding her on the settee under the duvet. I remember speaking to my mother on the phone and telling her how ill my girlfriend was and that she was off work for two weeks. I remember buying two CD's that week 'Muse - Black Holes and Revelations' and 'Razorlight - Razorlight' and I remember her playing a Muse track 'Starlight' over and over again. I checked out the lyrics recently "our hopes and expectations, black holes and revelations, hold you in my arms, I just wanted to hold you in my arms". I remember playing with our kitten Kev and him dashing about the room chasing a fish on a stick. I remember telling her how I hoped she would get better soon so we continue our baby making efforts. I remember going for an Indian meal one night, her being quiet and not eating much and me talking about babies. I remember her going on the internet a lot and being round her friends a lot in the evening. And I remember trying to kiss and cuddle her in bed and getting the frosty shoulder.
But basically she was grieving alone. She hadn't told me, nor her family, nor her best friend Jodie who she normally told everything. And by doing so she was shielding me from the grief and having to deal with it on her own. I was completely oblivious. Leading my life like I normally did. Thinking that my girlfriend was recovering from a urine infection. Her friend Jodie has since told me that every day she would go round her house and burst into tears and she didn't know why.
I'm writing this now and it gives me incredible feelings of guilt. It seems so obvious now that she had suffered a miscarriage, all the signs were there. But at that time in 2006 I was naive about babies and embryos and miscarriages and symptoms. I had no previous children and no previous experience of trying for a baby so I relied on my girlfriend heavily. But it doesn't stop the feelings of guilt. When she needed me most, I was nowhere to be seen and I will never forgive myself for that.
If she had told me I don't know what I would have done to be honest. There was nothing I could have done or said to make her feel better. To reverse the situation. But I could have been there for her. I could have held her. I could have listened to her. I could have cried with her. I could have tried to understand with her and I could have shared the grief with her. If isn't a good word.
She was devastated. Not only had she lost a baby and it was a baby - It doesn't matter if the embryo is a few weeks ago or months old, it's still a life. She had also lost her hopes and dreams. Her plans for the future were wiped out. And she had to deal with all this alone. If an expert was advising the father on how NOT to act he could have pointed at me. In my ignorant bliss, enjoying the baking hot July sun, singing Razorlights America at the top of my voice I don't think I could have been any less tactless if I'd tried.
I wasn't to remain unaware forever though. Two weeks after the miscarriage one Sunday morning she told me she was unhappy and was going away for a few days to stay with her Nan in Bath and to visit her friend in London. I was dumbfounded. Two weeks earlier we were blissfully happy and actively trying for a baby, four weeks earlier we had a brilliant holiday in Blackpool. I thought we were happier than we ever had been. I didn't know what had happened. Still miscarriage never crossed my mind not once. I asked her several times, something has happened, what has happened ? She still didn't tell me the truth.
Monday she went to Bath. When I returned home I found a note detailing the things that she was unhappy with, mainly it seemed she was unhappy with the area we lived in and my lack of commitment. It seemed to me she had scrutinised our relationship and drawn a line through it. But I knew something had happened. I knew a loving relationship couldn't just fall apart in two weeks. I racked my mind trying to think what it could be. I spoke to Jodie for ages on the phone trying to get an inkling because she told her everything but she didn't give me any answers. She just said she wasn't the same girl she knew and loved and had changed over the last two weeks and that she was crying all the time. I rang my Sister who is the best listener I know and I distinctly remember her asking me "Could she be pregnant ?" to which I replied no because she's just had her period and has had a urine infection.
She came back home on the Friday and for a day or two things were good. I had that week off work and I assured her I was committed to her 100%. We went upto Yorkshire to spend a day at the races with my Sister for her birthday and we spent a weekend away in Manchester. But as time went on, the more plain it seemed to me, things weren't right. It wasn't about commitment. Now it was me scrutinising the relationship. I loved her more than anything but I wasn't feeling loved back and I wasn't going to accept anything less. Nothing I seemed to do would please her. She would have a a go at me over the smallest things. And she offered very little in the way of love. I didn't think I could ever make her happy again. Our relationship was very stressed and we argued and that's something we'd never done. We were crumbling and there was nothing I could do to stop it. I now know that she had already decided to split for a second time before we actually did. She was looking for flats and jobs and had bought her train tickets. And then one afternoon I was in the garden and she asked me if I thought me buying an engagement ring for her was the right thing to do. I asked her if she still loved me and she said I don't know and I said we should part.
I didn't want to. I was still deeply in love with her, it was the last thing I wanted to happen but I wanted her to love me too. When she left the next afternoon it devastated me. But when we parted she said she had a feeling she would be back soon and I found solace in that but it didn't take away the hurt.
Over the next 24 hours she texted me a lot. I was missing her so much and I got the impression she was missing me too. And then I got a text message "Jason, I've made a huge mistake, please can you come and get me, I want to be your wife and mother to your baby and I love you so much". Talk about ups and downs. I was elated but I needed to know her heart was in it.
The next day I collected her and I could tell straight away her heart was in it. By the way she looked at me and spoke to me, she was the same girl I knew and loved and it was the best feeling. Later that night we went for an Indian and were talking openly about everything when suddenly she said casually "after the miscarriage..." she stopped mid sentence once she saw the look on my face. That word hit me stone dead. Suddenly a million and one thoughts were going through my head. My initial feelings were for her. I tried to be sympathetic and as loving as I could. I would have done anything to take away her pain but I couldn't.
Over the next few weeks I couldn't stop thinking about what had happened, the miscarriage, the break ups. I was always looking for answers, trying to remember what happened at certain times. Looking for explanations. But I was acutely aware that I was hurting my girlfriend my dragging up the feelings she was just getting over. My family found out about the miscarriage and naturally they asked after my girlfriend, asked how she was, felt for her because she hadn't told anybody.
So I was alone in my thoughts. I thought more and more about how I felt myself and how it was affecting me, the knowledge I had been a father to a baby and that it had died. I didn't know why it had happened and how. I felt confused and angry and hopelessly disappointed at what might of been. I kept asking myself why, questioning myself, feeling a failure and all the time very tearful. Because I desperately wanted to be a dad and I had been for a while. I cared about nothing except my partner and the feelings of guilt were incredibly strong because I knew however hard it was for me it was worse for her because she was the one that actually carried the baby and was the one that miscarried. She had the bond that I didn't. Thats not to say fathers don't grieve because they do.
As time went on I thought about it less. Thesedays I might go for days without thinking about it at all but then other times like now whilst I'm writing this I do and the pain returns and it hurts like hell. It never totally goes away, I don't think it ever will. I
Two years after the miscarriage almost to the day we have a baby boy - Caleb. He is just over a year old. He makes me feel blessed and so very lucky to be a father. And I love him so much I couldn't contemplate life without him now. He was the one really who helped me more than anything to turn the corner after finding out about the miscarriage. But I still wonder sometimes about what if, if his older brother/ sister had lived. I told you if is a bad word.
My advice more than anything is to not deal with it in silence. I know the pain and grief can almost push you away from each other, make you feel distant, you may be scared about what it's doing to your relationship but you must talk and you must share the grief for your sakes. Everyone deals with things differently but if you share the grief, you share the burden. Tragic things happen, People will struggle to talk about it, people will be embarressed and say things you find tactless like "it's just natures way" "times a healer" "at least it was early" etc. They are just trying to lighten your load. Don't take things personally.
I give this advice yet I followed none of it myself but having gone through it subsequently I feel my advice is sound. We didn't go to counselling but that could well help a lot of people because there may be others there who are in the same situation and you may find you can talk openly to someone and that is a good thing.
Magna Science Adventure Centre
150 foot high and a third of a mile long, the £46m Lottery funded Millennium Commission project, Magna is the UK's first Science Adventure Centre.
I visited recently but is it any good ?
Magna is open daily from 10am to 5pm.
General information (Tel) : 01709 720002
General information (Fax) : 01709 820092
E-mail : firstname.lastname@example.org
Website : www.visitmagna.co.uk
Adults £9.95 / £9.00 (Peak/ off peak)
Children/ Concessions £7.95 / £7.00
Family of 3 £25.00
Magna consists of six different parts. Four of them are pavilions based on the four themes 'Earth' 'Fire' 'Water' and 'Air'. The other two are multimedia shows based on Magna's roots - 'Steel'. Each of the six parts are connected together using modern archictecture - suspended walkways, scissor lifts, stairs and tunnels.
Each of the four pavilions is packed with challenges, displays and games. For instance in 'Earth' you can use a mini JCB to move balls. In 'Water' you can see how water power can be utilised. In 'Air' you can see how a Dyson hoover works and in 'Fire' you can see how you can shape steel.
One of the multimedia shows lies at the heart of the magna building and is called 'The Big Melt'. It is noisy and loud, mainly because it explains how steel is made. The huge furnace tells the story in itself.
The other multimedia show is a light and sound show 'Face of Steel' telling the story behind Templeborough steelworks and the men behind it. The images are broadcast on hundreds of screens near the entrance.
The attraction and all its facilities are accessible to visitors who use wheelchairs. Visitors with special needs may wish to phone in advance to discuss their requirements.
The Fuel Restaurant is open from 12pm to 3pm on weekends and during school holiday periods. It serves a wide range of hot and cold dishes. The Magna Cafe is open daily from 10am to 5pm serving a range of hot and cold drinks, snacks and light meals.
The Magna Store sells a unique range of souvenirs, gifts, toys, books and steelware. The store is open to anyone visiting the Magna site.
Outdoors at Magna
Sci-Tek and Aqua-Tek make up a very large playground area. You can purchase a ticket or annual pass for just the outdoor facilities. Adults are free with an accompanying child! Entry to Sci-Tek and Aqua-Tek are automatically included if you buy a ticket for entry into the Magna science centre. There are also toilets and a refreshment kiosk situated in the playground. The playground is accessible to everyone. Aqua-Tek is open Easter to October.
Lets not beat about the bush, the place is a huge disappointment. First of all the place is freezing cold - is this even allowed ? We visited on a cold winters day BUT it was warmer outside than in !! Fundamental flaw. I posted 'purchase some heaters' in the suggestion box. Whether is has an effect I don't know. Secondly not everything was working. The multimedia light and sound show was under repair. The five foot flame exhibition in the 'Fire' pavilion was broken. Two out of three mini JCB's in the 'Earth' pavilion were broken. Quite a lot of the exhibitions in 'Air' were not working or faulty. Do you detect a pattern ? Yes quite a lot is broken.
Lets move onto safety. The place is dimly lit therefore is a safety hazard. I'm surprised health and safety havn't shut the place down. We had to walk up some stairs in darkness and my nan tripped, grazing her knee.
The multimedia show 'The Big Melt' is very noisy and is unsuitable for young children. It terrified my young lad and someone elses. The molten steel pyrotechnics jetting into the air are impressive I grant them but probably not the wisest idea.
Onto admission prices - it's frankly a rip-off for what's included.
All in all, I found the place terrible value for money, lacking in interests and at best two hours entertainment.
Magna cost £46 million pounds - its going to cost more to bring upto what I would consider a Science Centre worth visiting.
I cannot stress how bad an attraction this is.
Dan In Real Life
95 minutes long
Rated PG (romantic comedy)
Directed by Peter Hedges (Pieces of April)
Released by Touchstone Pictures
Music by Sondra Lerche.
Starring, Steve Carell, Juliette Binoche, Dane Cook, Dianne Wiest, John Mahoney, Emily Blunt.
Dan Burns (Steve Carell) is a widowed father of three young girls aged 9, 14 and 17. He struggles with life as we see in the very first scene. His reluctant rise from his lonely bed before he starts another depressing day is clear for all to see. Even though he still misses his wife, thats not to say hes a bad father. He loves his girls, maybe a little too much. His overprotective nature may be natural for a man in his position but it prevents his eldest from driving even though shes passed her driving test and it prevents his middle daughter from making out with her boyfriend.
Dan and his daughters set off for the annual family gathering at his parents place in Rhode Island. There they meet the rest of their eccentric but rather lovely family. Whats clear with this family is that they all enjoy each others company, well maybe except Dan who is still upsetting his daughters. The next morning he's sent out to get the morning papers to give them some space. He drives into town and has a look in the book shop. There he meets a beautiful stranger, Marie. They strike an immediate connection, enjoy each others company and get on incredibly well. A phone call puts an end to that, Marie's new boyfriend calls and she has to go but not before Dan manages to get her phone number. Although she drives away from him, Dan feels something that he hasn't felt since his wife passed away. He feels excitement, attraction. He feels he has a life and a future. He drives back to his family on cloud nine. He tells his brothers of this chance encounter with a beautiful lady. But then a big twist. Mitch his younger brother also has some news, his new girlfriend has arrived for the family reunion. It's Marie from the bookshop and Dan has to pretend, despite his feelings that they are strangers. From elation to heartache, his new found happiness was short lived.
Dan and Marie have to spend the rest of the reunion with supressed feelings for one another. Dan loves his brother and Marie genuinely seems to like him too. With such a large family in such a confined space, not surprisingly, Dan struggles to come to terms with his lack of privacy as the circumstances he finds himself in, become all too clear. He pines for Marie, he curses his luck,he can't seem to get away from her, all his family sing her praises, even his own daughter coo over her. He handles it badly. Dan, usually the lynchpin of the family, the expert on relationships, the calm, sensible one begings to fall apart. How can any good come of this situation ?
I loved this film. It's one of the most affecting, touching films I've seen in a long time. Peter Hedges director of 'Pieces of April' and who wrote 'What's Eating Gilbert Grape?' as well as adapting the screenplay for 'About a Boy' is obviously in his element here. The plot doesn't really promise much when you outline it, but by creating honest, believable characters and using creative scenes, the finished product is a sweet film that will delight many. The family scenes were especially creative. Once the main twist occured, the film could have fallen into many traps. But the result was a refeshing detour from the predictable. Only the audience knows of Dan's heartache and his feelings acted out with aplomb, will tug at the viewers heart-strings.
Steve Carell known for his comedy roles (40 year old virgin/ Evan Almighty) but who has already showed his adeptness for serious roles (Little Miss Sunshine) is excellent as Dan Burns. His vulnerability is there for all to see and it was challenging to play the man put in an awkward predicament but he played the role effortlessly. His penchant for comedy still shone through, mostly in his irony. He's hardly who you'd automatically think of for the lead role in a romantic comedy so using him was a master stroke. Juliette Binoche (Chocolat/ The English Patient) was a good choice too as Marie. Again she doesn't immediately spring to mind when you think of a lead but she was inspired in her role. Dane Cook (Employee of the Month) was good as the nice but fickle younger brother vying for Marie's attentions. Dianne Wiest and John Mahoney (Frasier) offered able support. Not forgetting Emily Blunt (The Devil Wears Prada), a future star, playing an ugly duckling turned beauty. Dan's daughters were all typecast cutesy and precocious but that's a minor gripe as is the slightly rushed ending.
I loved this film. In the current climate of mediocrity I urge you to see this.
Coldplay, longtime favourite of mine and absent since 'X&Y' in 2005, returned last month with the release of their fourth studio album 'Viva La Vida or Death and All His Friends'.
Three albums have gone before, 'Parachutes' in 2000 'A Rush of Blood to The Head' in 2003 and 'X&Y' in 2005, all three recieving critical acclaim and awards. So theres a lot to live up to.
Production was started as early as December 2006 although a break ensued in early 2007 due to touring commitments in Latin America. The legendary Brian Eno and Markus Dravs were the men Chris Martin turned to for this album. And since it has been stated publically that the group were going to travel in new directions and use less of Martin's falsetto this decision was going to very important in getting it right, making sure it balanced with previous material, it was even rumoured the band would be collaborating with Timbaland - a million miles away from Coldplay we all know and love.
So I wasn't 100% sure what to expect in the build up this album's release on the 12 June as I'm sure millions of others weren't.
29 April gave me an inkling - the release of the first single 'Violet Hill'.
The Blade Runner-esque backing music intro conjurs images of big things or maybe grandiose pretensions but in truth once the music and vocals kick in, it has Coldplay written all over it. Maybe the lyrics have more meaning, more politics, more religion but the end result is the same. A clean cut Coldplay single. I thought about it not knowing whether to be disappointed or not. I concluded not because in truth I never wanted Coldplay to change in the first place.
But how would the album fare, would it be more of the same throughout.
I downloaded the album from I-Tunes on the day it was released, 12 June.
'Life in Technicolour' is a strange start with it being an instrumental. The percussion dominated sound sounds to my ears like it would be very safe ground for a single release.
'Cemeteries of London' can only be described as a standard nice song. The lyrics include 'God is in the houses and God is in my head... and all the cemeteries in London...
I see God come in my garden, but I don't know what he said,
For my heart, it wasn't open...
Not open' which do provide evidence of new direction lyrically but again the sound is distinctive good old Coldplay.
'Lost' is very formulaic. Simple yet effective. The lyrics are clever yet 3 songs into this album I was still waiting for that extra something. Nothing had bedazzled me.
'42' is ammunition for Coldplay haters allover. Deep lyrics, piano dominated, slow, eerie, slightly reminiscent of 'Amsterdam' from 'A Rush of Blood To The Head'.
'Lovers in Japan - Reign of Love' is two songs in one and I'm not sure it really works yet it is what was promised - experimentation and new directions. Lovers in Japan is an upbeat 4 minutes followed by a slow paced piano number 'Reign of Love'. Stitched together like this just fills me with thoughts of indulgency really and I'm one of the bands biggest fans.
'Yes' is much like the previous track - two tracks in one although this one doesn't possess two names. The first seven minutes with it's latin american style strings give way to a Snow Patrol-esque guitar rock number. Completely contrasting in styles and again I'm not sure what really has been achieved.
'Viva La Vida' is the best song on the album hands down. Having said that it doesn't have much competition to that title. However I have no doubt that this single which was Coldplay's very first UK number 1 is a modern classic. The strings intro and backing strings are fantastic. Its a swooning track that reaches the heights rhythmically and the vocals are effortless. You can really detect Eno's in put on this track. Classic Coldplay song.
'Strawberry Song' is a rather nice song to back up the previous one. Incredibly melodic with an infectious beat make this song difficult not to sing along to. Like it.
'Death and All His Friends' with its two minute slow paced intro could trick you into thinking this is an album filler. It's not - the intro that draws you in moves onto something bigger, a touching, beautiful and well structured song.
'The Escapist' another instrumental is 'Life in Technicolour' they are one. Did you see what they did. They are the bread of the sandwich. And I can visualise this sound being the backing noise to the upcoming Coldplay tour !!
So in my opinion this album is bottom heavy. An ordinary start with all the best tracks 7, 8, 9 and 10 at the bottom.
Coldplay seem to me to be searching very hard to produce the defining moment of their career. The album that goes down as an alltime classic. That becomes more and more evident with each passing album. But in my humble opinion they havn't produced it here.
Personally I feel they came closest with their first album 'Parachutes' with the likes of 'Yellow' 'Shiver' 'Dont Panic' and 'Trouble' even if the lyrics were a bit immature in those early days. And with each passing album I feel they try harder yet ultimately achieve less. That's not to say I've gone off them. In these days of mediocrity it's heartening to see a band trying to reach a pinnacle, trying to become the best they can. But maybe their striving is the very reason they fail to have reached that pinnacle they so desire.
I have no doubt whatsoever this album will achieve commercial success on the levels the previous three did (EMI will find solace in that as apparently their very future depended on this album) however I do wonder if they can change to the extent that you wouldn't be able to identify a Coldplay tune within seconds. One of the problems is commercial success and familiarity in their case go hand in hand. Chris Martin could find that fact crippling.
A new album beckons in late 2009 and more promises will probably be made yet I feel Coldplay are doomed to be a band that revel in sameness. Not a bad thing in itself, its made them a worldwide phenomenom which can sell out stadiums across the world but it may continue to disappoint them all the same.
So, a very good album in my opinion containing the brilliant 'Viva La Vida' which must go down as one of the top 2 or 3 Coldplay songs to date. Theres also 'Violet Hill' and 'Death and All His Friends' to admire. Trouble is, it's also my least favourite Coldplay album to date.
I've been off for the past two weeks so have been watching a lot of daytime TV that I don't normally get to see. 'Diagnosis Muder' 'Quincy' 'Murder She Wrote' 'Goodnight Sweetheart' and 'Wright Stuff' have all been regulars on my box, however, the show I've become addicted to is Deal Or No Deal.
Deal Or No Deal is a television game show aired six days a week on Channel 4 and presented by Noel Edmonds. The format is owned by a Dutch based production company called Endemol which is also responsible for Big Brother. The show first aired in Holland and then moved onto Australia where it first appeared under it's current name 'Deal Or No Deal'. The show proved very popular and was introduced to the British public in October of last year. The show is filmed in a converted warehouse in Bristol and presented by Noel Edmonds. The show recently celebrated it's 300th show and has given out more than 4.8 million pounds in that time. The show is a massive hit and has been a huge boost to Noel Edmonds TV career which looked to be over. He has recently signed a new contract which runs to the Autumn of 2007, it's rumoured to be 3 million making him once again one of the highest paid presenters on British TV. The show has been so popular it was even nominated for a Bafta earlier this year.
The format is incredibly simple yet effective. We start with 22 contestants with 22 boxes in front of them, the boxes are chosen at random for them. One contestant is chosen at random and he/ she is then the player for that show. The 22 boxes contain 22 monetary amounts all of which are completely unknown to ALL of the contestants, the presenter and the banker. The amounts range from 1p to £250,000. The chosen contestant then opens boxes and reveals amounts randomly until at a predetermined interval, the banker will present an offer to the contestant via telephone for the contestants box, depending on what amounts have been taken out. Of course if the big amounts (250k, 100k, 75k) are still there, the offer will be higher than if they have been taken out. The contestant has to say 'Deal' or 'No Deal' to the amount offered by the banker. And so the game goes on until the player says 'Deal' to one of the offers presented to he/ she at one of the predetermined intervals. Once a deal is taken, the show carries on to see what would have happened and to see if the contestant took the right deal.
Literally hundreds of strategies have been tried on the show with various levels of success. I have seen people pick boxes at random, used apparent psychic abilities, CD track numbers, page numbers, birthday dates, football squad numbers and many many more. Truth is, there is no right or wrong way, it is all pure chance. If you go on the channel 4 show forum, you will see hundreds of ideas regarding how to play it best. A lot of players take advice from family members or other contestants at one of the predetermined intervals before making their decision to deal or no deal. The banker sees everything, he hears all of the conversations, all of the facial expressions, anxieties etc etc. On past experiences it has been proven to not reveal too much (like how much you would like) or the banker can play devils advocate. The current contestants are much more wise and don't fall into the traps though (there is now a book which they can write their desired amount in, without the banker knowing).
I find the show incredibly addictive. It sounds a little dull but the format leads to excitement and suspense. The idea of pitting a contestant against and in-show adversary (the banker) is a unique idea which works. The contestants also partly make the show because during their stay on the show they stay at the same hotel and get friendly with each other. This really comes across on the show when a player is going through the mill. Many a time, a player has gone home with 1p (known as the 1p club) and the look of anguish on the fellow contestants appears genuine and heartfelt. Noel Edmonds is also excellent as the host, it's nice to see him on the TV again as he really is one of the best presenters out there. I mean how atrocious was Des Lynam on 'Countdown' and Dale Winton in the Lottery show ?
(Wallpaper/ ringtones, newsletter, online game with cash prizes).
(A flash game version of Deal Or No Deal)
(The official Channel 4 site including forums and online games)
On top of this you can now get 'Deal Or No Deal' books, mobile games, DVD's and much much more from the high street which offers ideas in abundance for Christmas presents if you know a fan of the show in your family!
The Prestige is an extroardinary film that I had the pleasure to see this week. I saw it on the trailor for 'World Trade Centre' and thought it looked quite interesting so I bookmarked it in my mind until it was released. Of course, not many films live up to the trailors but this one did, in fact it surpassed them.
Directed by Christopher Nolan who brought us the likes of 'Batman Begins','Insomnia' and 'Memento' and adapted by Christopher along with his brother Johnathon on a novel by the same name written by Christopher Priest. Nolan assembled an impressive cast for his adption;
Hugh Jackman (X-Men/ Van Helsing) - Robert Angier.
Christain Bale (Batman Begins/ The Machinist/ Empire Of The Sun) - Albert Borden.
Michael Caine (Cider House Rules/ Batman Begins/ Get Carter) - Cutter.
Scarlett Johansson (Lost In Translation/ Girl With A Pearl Earring) - Olivia.
Piper Perabo (Coyote Ugly/ Cheaper By The Dozen) - Julia Angier.
David Bowie - Tesla.
Andy Serkis (Lord Of The Rings/ King Kong) - Alley.
Rebecca Hall - Sarah Borden.
But a great cast doesn't always mean a great film. So was it ?
Firstly, what is 'The Prestige';
Cutter: "Every great magic trick consist of three acts. The first act is called 'The Pledge'; the magician shows you something ordinary, but of course....it probably isn't. The second act is called 'The Turn'; the magician makes his ordinary something do something extroardinary. Now if you're looking for the secret....you won't find it, that's why there's a third act called 'The Prestige'; this is the part with the twists and turns, where lives hang in the balance, and you see something shocking you've never seen before".
The Prestige is a story centred on the lives of two magicians; Robert Angier and Albert Borden, and how their initial friendship developed into a rivalry and eventually into a deadly battle of wits.
The set is Victorian London in the late nineteenth century. Robert and Albert are working together on a magic show. They are both promising magicians themselves and their healthy rivalry is already evident but for now they are simply stage hands. One fateful night, Robert's wife Julia is killed in a magic trick that went wrong. She couldn't untie the knot that Albert tied her wrists with and she drowned in a glass box she was supposed to amazingly escape from. Robert was heartbroken and he blamed Borden for her death, perchance he did.
Borden starts off on his own with the help of his friend Fallon. He is a performer that breathes his work, his working class background gives him a desire to succeed at all cost, he has a brilliant legerdemein and is a natural magician. He performs 'The Bullet Catch' in the highlight of his first show but the revenge seeking Angier sabotages his show and secretly places a real bullet in the gun before shooting two of Borden's fingers off.
Angier is sought out by Cutter, a great magic trick engineer who was present at his wifes death. Angier adopts the name 'The Great Danton' given to him by Julia prior to her untimely death and the two of them set about launching Angier as a performer. Angier is sophisticated and has charisma in abundance, he is the showman Borden isn't but he lacks the natural ability and fundamentals of his nemesis and it riles him. However they don't reckon with Borden and he sabotages a disappearing bird trick resulting in the bird being killed and a member of the audience being injured.
Borden gains the upper hand when he comes up with something amazing in his show; 'The Transported Man' where Borden seemingly walks through a door and appears through another at the other side of the stage in the blink of an eye - real magic and Angier didn't reckon upon that. He hires a double and names his act 'The New Transported Man' but as he sits under the stage whilst his double receives the applause he realises a real magician should outdo his rival.
He manages to steal Borden's diary and sets out for Colorado Springs, America, to seek out a brilliant scientist Nikolas Tesla who had helped Borden. He needs to find the secret of the 'Transported Man' and come up with something better, something amazing to finally beat his rival for good.
Of course theres a lot more twists and turns to come but who does come out on top ?
This films narrative is non-lineared and multi layered over a short time line. The script is very complex and detailed in the Nolan style but because it well crafted, it doesn't spoil the finished article. The story is essentially told in flash-back/ flash-forward which reveals the full bloom of rivalry created once Julia Angier dies and the seeds of hate are sewn. From the dirty streets of working class London, from the West-End theatre houses, from the wintry wilds of Colorado Springs and from the inner workings of Tesla's laboratory the time lines of both men interweave and juxtapose at every opportunity displaying the growing hatred and rivalry as it spirals out of control. Once the two men started off on their own career paths, there is intense character study going on. The feud leads the two astray onto a road littered with deceit, jealousy and obsession and how this in turn creates self destruction. The family and friends of the two are deeply affected and this is encapsulated beautifully as each in turn is hurt on the all-comsuming path the two protagonists have chosen. The magic stakes are raised slowly but surely throughout the film as both men continue their magic battle and the climax of the film is anticipated because you just never know what is coming next. Nolan does give out some clues throughout the film, which you don't realise the significance of until later, about many of the later twist but they are well hidden. I have seen a couple of reviews of this film which stated the twists were obvious. I strongly disagree and urge viewers to find out for themselves.
Hugh Jackman has to be top-dog in the acting accolades. His effortless turn as a sophisticated English gent must have been harder to pull off than it seemed. Christain Bale was as always great, he is beginning to emerge as one of the top actors in the business, his role as a battle hardened cockney was sublime. Christopher Nolan seems to agree, that's twice he's used him now. Michael Caine is a legendary actor and his support as Cutter was also very well delivered. His intitial steadfast loyalty to Angier and later doubts are very well acted. He's another Nolan favourite. Scarlett Johansson although underused and undoubtedly capable of holding her own in a starring role was still excellent as Olivia. She plays the assistant to Angier who eventually catches his eye but usurps to the other side when his love for her is proven to be ungenuine. She looks fantastic and is equally adept in the given role. I wonder when she will begin to headline though. Rebecca Hall is an unknown actress who plays Borden's faithful but fragile wife Sarah, she was excellent in her scenes. Andy Serkis in a rare human role did a good side turn as Tesla's assistant whilst surprisingly I thought David Bowie proved to be effective as the ingenious, real-life scientist Nicolas Tesla. His accent was quirky and probably dodgy but he held his own. Piper Perabo only had a few scenes which including pretending to drown, I would like to see more of her as she too looks the part.
This film cannot be pigeonholed, theres a bit of mystery, bit of drama, a bit of suspense and even a bit of fantasy/ sci-fi all rolled in there. There is so many twists and turns that I was still going over the film in my mind a couple of days later and that's what a good film should do. Visually it's stunning. Costumes create an authentic feel in Victorian London and the effects are believable and not over the top. The film begins and ends with a scene where several magician's top hats lie on a grassy knoll amidst a misty atmosphere, seemingly abandoned - the thought provacation begins immediately. The film includes a sub-plot of a battle going on between Thomas Edison and Nicolas Tesla over the newly discovered abilities of electricity. This was a real-life feud and is a pointer to the main theme going on in the film. I think it's a film that should be viewed via the big screen to appreciate the films scope and vision. So many films in 2006 have disappointed me but late in the year, this film has saved the day, I would rate it my favourite film of the year.
Film Rating: 12A
Duration: 128 minutes
Release date: Nov 2006
Some of my favourite quotes....."No more lies, no more secrets"; Sarah Borden -"Secrets are my life"; Alfred Borden.
"See he's fine"; Alfred Borden - "But where's his brother"; Boy. "No one cares about the man in the box, the man under the stage....The man who disappears"; Robert Angier. "Do you love me?"; Sarah Borden - "Not today"; Alfred Borden.
ProblemPages.net is a site I was directed to by my partner. It was a fledgling site which needed help getting off the ground. I looked at the site and was taken in by the premise. A site where you can get advice for your problems sounded like a very good idea. I joined up and set about the task of helping people with their problems. I've always been good at sorting out other peoples problems, it's my own I find trouble with. I was sure I could help this site take off. Did I ?
The homepage is white in colour with one red banner exclaiming 'Welcome to the Problem Pages'. Five further blue banners represent the different forums of the site. They are Problem Pages/ Relationships/ Family/ Myself and What's going on. By clicking on each blue banner will divert you into that forum with further sub headings to choose from. The site is incredibly simple to look at and equally as simple to navigate. Other information on the homepage is the last post and date on each topic and the member who posted it. At the very top of the homepage lies a beige banner where you can register to become a member, play on the sites arcade, a heading which lists all of the current members, todays posts and a search heading which doesn't appear to work. So simple to look at, easy to use, but how effective is the site?
BECOMING A MEMBER
To become a member you simply click on register. You will be faced with a list of the forum rules which you have to read and tick a box before carrying on. These rules state that membership is free, that you are not allowed to post anything obscene or vulgar and that the owners reserve the right to remove posts. Also the forum rules state that the owners refute responsibility for anything objectionable found on the site. Once you have read the rules and ticked the box you click on register and start entering your details to complete the registration process. Pick a username, choose a password and enter your email address then complete an image verification task and you are then a fully fledged member of ProblemPages.net. Easy peasy lemon squeezy, you can now post your problems and answer others just like 'Dear Deardrie'. There are no restrictions on membership whatsoever. Any Tom, Dick and Harry can join or post. Sounds easy doesn't it.
FORUM SUB GROUPS
Problem Pages: General Discussion/ Movies and T.V Chat/ Mobile Phones/ Computer Problems & Websites/ Music & Dvds/ Sport, Gambling & Lottery.
Relationships: Boyfriends & Girlfriends/ Friends/ The Workplace/ School.
Family: Parents/ Children/ Brothers and Sisters/ Other Family.
Myself: Mental Wellbeing/ Physical/ Fitness and Exercise Help/ Addictions.
What's Going On: This section basically gives information and statistics on members and threads.
POSTING A PROBLEM
You can post a problem as a member or you can remain anonymous and your problem will appear onsite as 'unregistered'. There are no restrictions or guidance on how to complete your problem therefore you can write whatever you like which will be edited at the owners disgression. Simply go the correct forum and correct sub forum, click on 'new thread', write out your problem, give it a title and click on submit new thread. From personal experience I have found the majority of problems to be posted by unregistered users. Some of these will no doubt be by people unwilling to reveal themselves but some are posted by members of the site encouraged to do so by the owners. This is done to increase posting traffic on the site and make it appear much more widely used than it is. And I'm sure you will agree this rather defeats the object of the purpose of the site. Simply by focusing on personal gain and short-term success will not help this site achieve it's goal.
MY THOUGHTS AND EFFECTIVENESS OF THE SITE
The site has a lack of posting members, probably only 5 or 6 are active regularly. Therefore some problems go unanswered. The site can go days without any posts being made and then a lot can be posted in one day. This is more to do with members posting problems unregistered therefore most of them are probably fake problems. Some areas of the site, due to a lack of problems more than anything else has become more like a forum for the few active members. During my time as a member I quite enjoyed answering the problems that appeared from time to time. However the longer I went on, the more I realised how unqualified I was at answering the problems. There were some obviously desperate people posting on the site such as individuals the victims of abuse, bullying and even rape. What can you write to possibly answer their problems? I sometimes had to simply write 'You should seek out a professional' because I didn't feel able to answer their problems. All of the other members are equally unqualified, therefore anyone with a serious problem cannot really find the answer at problempages.net. Also I found some of the responses given by my fellow members to be unwise and questionable and sometimes unncessary. Sometimes a problem would be answered with 5 or 6 possible solutions, the poster would probably go away more confused than when they entered the site.
Given this situation, it would be quite right to question the legitimacy of the site at all. However well meaning the site is, however well presented, however good the premise sounded, the site is largely ineffective and doomed to failure. On top of that, it is bordering on dangerous. There are a lot of vulnerable people out there, especially young people and it could literally push someone into the wrong course of action or even over the edge. Added to that, as the site no doubt attracts people opening their inner thoughts they could be putty in the hands of certain individuals using the site for their own interest. There are a lot of weirdos out there, this site could be useful to them. The internet can be a dangerous place. I cannot think of anything the owners can do to rectify the sites shortcomings and this effectively renders the site useless.
Site Rating 0/10
Cricinfo is the largest Cricket related website out there and not only is it the largest but it is by far the best too. With over 20 million users the site is one of largest websites in the world. It was launched in 1993 and was based in London. Today the base has moved to Bangalore, India, no doubt to cut down costs. There are offices in London, Chennai, Mumbai and Colombo.
First impressions are good. The homepage is clear and precise. Sports websites are often packed full of banners, adverts and pop-ups but not this one. It has advertising but only a small amount of it and it no way impedes the quality or usefulness of the site. The main colour is blue which goes hand in hand with the blue Cricinfo logo which many could accuse of being bland. Personally this doesn't bother me. Quality and relialability are far more important factors to me and no doubt others. The speed of the Cricinfo site is very fast, pages load quickly and it has a very reliable server. I have never known the site to go down in all the time I have been using it which must be some five years now. The other cricketing nations India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Australia, New Zealand and West Indies have their own servers.
The homepage is dominated by news and articles related to cricket which are written by Cricinfo's dedicated contributers. For instance at the moment there is a lot of material regarding the impending ashes series and the current test series being played in India between India and the West Indies. There is a huge amount of content on the site but it is extremely well organised and presented thus making navigation simple.
The left hand side of the homepage lies the menus which link to the different areas of the site. There are literally hundreds of sub links and are too numerous to mention. The main ones are the fixtures, news and photos index where you can catch up on recent games or plan a visit to an impending one. There are columns and blogs written and updated by established Cricinfo writers. There are various styles and you soon learn which ones are of interest to you. Probably the most useful and most used area of the site is the stats guru which is an absolutely huge database of statistics updated on a daily basis. This database is so good it is used by most of the best coaches employed in the world of Cricket today. The information for any player ever to be involved in the game of cricket and team can be obtained quickly and accurately.
Cricinfo also produces a Cricket magazine and it can be found online here too with archives of old issues. Wisden (owned by Paul Getty) which has a personal interest in Cricinfo has it's material on the site including it's famous almanack whcih is a hive of information. On top of this there is a game section where you can play Cricket top trumps or play Cricket fantasy league much in the same style as a lot of people play football fantasy league.
The audio section is just that, live cricket being played through your home PC. I tried it earlier this summer and found it a bit hit and miss as quite often I was kicked out and had to keep loading the audio again which became annoying after a while. This particular feature needs improving.
There is a Cricinfo shop where you can buy a wide array of items ranging from caps, shirts, bats, autographs etc etc. I found the stuff a bit pricey to be honest so havn't bought anything yet.
Then theres a travel section where you be diverted to external websites to buy tickets for overseas games or hotel rooms etc etc. Again I havn't used this feature but it could be very useful if say your planning a trip to the Cricket World Cup next year.
The right hand side of the homepage is dedicated to the betting side of things. Bet 365 is the site Cricinfo uses and you can bet on outcomes of games, next man out, highest run scorer, next wicket taker etc etc. If your a gambler like me then this can be very inviting.
So in summing up if your interested in Cricket then check this site out. It is the only site to consider of it's type and my write up doesn't really do it justice. Anything to do with Cricket is there and in abundance.
and finally my team to face Australia in the first test in the Ashes later this week ;
Strauss/ Cook/ Pieterson/ Joyce/ Newman/ Flintoff/ Prior/ Lewis/ Mahmood/ Harmison/ Panesar/ Hoggard
I think Australia will regain the Ashes unfortunately. We will miss Jones and Trescothick a lot and Vaughan's captaincy too as we certainly had an edge in that capacity last summer.
Site rating 10/10
KUBB - MOTHER
Kubb are a new band that formed in mid 2004. They consist of Harry Collier (lead vocals and bass), Dominic Greensmith (drums), John Tilley (Keyboards) and Adj (guitarist). Harry Collier is the enigmatic heartbeat of the band. He was a lowly waiter in a North London restaurant when he was asked to sing happy birthday to Rollo (Dido's brother) at a celebration meal that was taking place in the aforementioned eaterie. Rollo was so impressed that he invited him to his Highbury recording studio. One thing led to another and a band was quickly formed around this new talent. Dominic Greensmith was the ex drummer for 'Reef' who just happened to be on the lookout for a new band. John Tilley was recruited from an 'N.M.E' advertisement. They have headlined several tours in the U.K and have appeared on Jools Holland, Friday Night with Johnathon Ross, Popworld, TOTP, CDUK and The Friday Night Project. This summer they appeared at the Isle of Wight and V festivals. The band take their influences from
the likes of Radiohead and Jeff Buckley.
Mother, the bands debut album was released on November 14, 2005 on the Mercury label. Due to the success of the single 'Grow' the album didn't reach it's peak of 26 until February 2006 four months after it's release. Harry Collier decided to call the album Mother because he feels most peoples emotional make up stems from their relationship with their mother.
2. I DON'T MIND
3. SOMEBODY ELSE
4. WICKED SOUL
6. IF I CAN'T HAVE YOU
10. WITHOUT YOU
12. BURN AGAIN
The album opener 'Remain' was the second single released from the album, it reached a chart high of 45. The catchy intro immediately engages you. The words are quirky and clever and this is a good infectious song to begin with. (3:36)
"And as it all begins to fade, I still remain"
'I Don't Mind' is more bland and straightforward. The song doesn't stand out and is a bit wishy washy. (3:49)
Next up is 'Somebody Else' which was the first song released from the album. It failed to enter the charts but don't let that deter you. It's a song about the bitterness a break up can have upon you once the realisation hits you it really is over. A very short tune though at under 3 minutes. (2:54)
"Every time you leave me alone, Girl you know you put me out in the cold, But this time I'm not gonna break down and cry, Id rather die"
The next song 'Wicked Soul' is the highlight of the album. It reached 25 in the charts of November last year. It's a piano driven number that just oozes class, it's about casting off your inhibitions, forgetting the outside world and getting it on with your girlfriend. (3:46)
"Tonight's the night I shed my wicked soul, I take it out on you and watch you lose control"
'Grow' has high designs with it's gospel choir but it also is another great hit from the band. It reached 18 in February of this year, the bands biggest hit to date. It's a soulful song about relationship recovery which is something close to my heart at the moment. The chorus is fantastic and some of the lines really hit the spot. (5:13)
"Who said broken pieces don't mend, I say to think again, You may take advice from all your friends, But I say I'm living in your head"
'If I Can't Have You' is a bit of a let down compared to the quality of the previous two mentioned songs but it's quite catchy and deserves it's place on the album as album filler. (3:26)
'Alcatraz' is the tale of listening through the cieling to a neighbours trials and tribulations. It's melodic but downbeat, not my favourite by a long way. (3:18)
"Bail out I said bail out, And don't look down, Bail out I said bail out, It's only the ground"
'Chemical' hasn't been released but it should have been. It points to the difficulties of holding down a relationship when drugs and dependencies have taken their control. (6:06)
"All our tears start to flow when we crash to earth, And all our money spent on drugs, Getting cooked and burnt, Your love's all good, It's chemical"
'Sun' is another song I've grown to love. It's an honest account of Harry's feelings after his 4 year relationship ended. A bit melancholy but a poignant ballad that ebbs and flows. Some of the lyrics are fantastic. (3:10)
"I'd like to say hello, But I'm hiding from the phone, I can't take it all in, I'm still reeling from the blows, I hope the sun will shine again for me, And I will make it in the end"
'Without You' like a couple of other songs on the album is about the difficulties living alone after being with someone you love but it does show the outstanding songwriting abilities of Harry Collier. (3:56)
"We used to love each other, But now I'm having to discover, That all is not what it seems, And I'm bleeding, It's so hard to let you go"
'Bitch' tells another side to the relationship break up Harry suffered. Just as melancholy but this time bitter.
"Don't call, Don't come around she said to me, For I've seen both sides of your soul now and it's all I need to see"
'Burn Again' maybe last up but it offers some of the best examples of Harry's superb soulful voice. A song about provoking a bad temper even when you know of the consequences.
Kubb offer something different. The lead singer has a truly great, soulful voice and he also has tremendous songwriting abilities both of which are in abundance on this record. He isn't afraid to reveal his inner self in his work, his candidness is in evidence throughout. This seems not to be in fashion nowadays but I personally like it as you can picture the thoughts and emotions the lyrics point to. I'm not sure whether Kubb have a future as the market they would appeal to may be too limited but Harry Collier sure has.
In sound Harry Collier sounds remarkably like Jeff Buckley so if you like his work you will undoubtedly like this album. There are a couple of weak links but overall the album stands up and is counted. It is a very fine debut album.
The album will get a lot of criticism because it just isn't cool for a four piece male guitar band to be so openly frank about emotions etc BUT give this album a chance, you won't be disappointed.
Album rating .....8/10.
Morning Runner are an up and coming Indie band, hailing from Reading, Berkshire. The four members of the band are the singer Matthew Greener who formed the band. Then there's Chris Wheatcroft the pianist also know as 'Fields'. Ali Clewer is the drummer and Tom Derrett plays bass.
The band took it's name from the amount of early morning joggers Matthew Greener spots in his home town, evidently he finds it ironic how people feel inclined to improve themselves when everyone is destined for the grave. The band name their influences as Radiohead, The Strokes, R.E.M and Grandaddy.
The band were signed to the Faith And Hope label in 2003 and released a 7" version of their song 'Great Escape' in 2004. Accompanying this single was a tour of a number of small venues countrywide which culminated in them being one of the most sought after young bands arround after it had finished. Parlophone won the bidding war and signed them up late 2004. In early 2005 they supported the likes of Ian Brown, The Magic Numbers and Coldplay and later in the year they released two E.P's 'Drawing Shapes' and 'Gone Up In Flames'. By this time they were getting quite a bit of airplay and rave reviews from the music press.
In February of this year they started their first headline tour which was designed to attract publicity towards their album which was being released after it had finished. 'Burning Benches' was released during this tour and achieved top 20 status, their biggest hit to date. This summer they played the Isle of Wight festival, the V Festival and T In The Park amongst others and were recieved well.
The album 'Wilderness Is Paradise Now' was released on March 6th.
1. It's Not Like Everyone's My Friend
2. Have A Good Time
3. Gone Up In Flames
4. Burning Benches
5. Hold Your Breath
7. The Great Escape
8. Be All You Want Me To Be
9. Punching Walls
11. Best For You
THE ALBUM DETAILS
On first listen, I liked the album without being immediately struck by it. However after a few more listens the album is one of those that gradually grows on you.
'It's Not Like Everyone's My Friend' opens the album and has a hefty guitar laden intro before softening into tender vocals. The lyrics point to inferioity and unrequited love. The chorus is edgy and brings the song to life. This song has a sorrowful feel to it but I like it a lot.
'Have A Good Time' is much more upbeat. Matthew Greener's voice shines out on the track, he has an unusual and distinct vocal range. The lyrics point to exactly what the track says 'Having A Good Time' but with an accompanying message 'But I Won't Sell My Soul Tonight'. I love the catchy chorus, a song you can sing along to happily.
'Gone Up In Flames' was one of the bands E.P releases in 2005 and so keeps up the high quality. Although the lyrics are not as poignant on this track, the guitar driven verses really hit the spot.
'Burning Benches' has a soft piano intro, very reminiscent of some of 'Keane's material and appears to be a ballad. But the track seems to change direction about halfway into it's four minute span. The vocals, lyrics and instruments all work in harmony. This is an excellent track, my favourite on the album. It reached number 19 in February of this year. Lyrically this song is beautiful ;
'It's a symphony distorting,
When we're not talking,
But it's not heaven without you'.
'Hold Your Breath' is very sombre and melancholy but still the end product is a success. The lyrics are moving and they are heightened by some more excellently delivered vocals. The song is about death but don't let that put you off ;
' Hold your breath,
Darling, just hold your breath,
You're at peace now'.
'Oceans' was released in August of this year, the third track release of the album, it only reached 119 as the band struggled to match the success of 'Burning Benches'. This is a ballad and I guess it isn't to everyones taste. I like the song but not as much as a lot of the others. It was probably a mistake to release it as a single.
'The Great Escape' was the second single released from the album and reached 56, not bad for a relatively unknown band. Again I found it strange that this was released however as as good as it is, there are better tracks that havn't been released that could have showcased the band better.
'Be All You Want Me To Be' is much edgier and effective than the previous two. Lyrics point to breaking free from the shackles that some people try to place upon you. The B-Side to this 2005 E.P release 'Them Folk' is also a very fine single. I like this single a lot ;
'Be all that you want me to be,
I won't take this lying down,
All the time'.
'Punching Walls' has a superb guitar/drum intro, however the lyrics seem to contradict the upbeat feel the song emits. They ask where are you now ? Still punching walls ?
The vocals on this track are the best example of Matthew Greener's fantastic voice.
'Work' is the edgiest single on the album and although it's good, it's one of the weaker tracks on the album, definately album filler.
'Best For You' is a really beautiful ballad with sad undertones. It is as powerful as any song on the album;
'Some things pull naturally,
A horse and carriage,
But it seems that we can't,
Manage to pull you up,
These things have their own place and day,
Let's see how it works out anyway'.
10 tracks (4 Excellent, 3 very good, 3 good album fillers)
No weak links at all.
The response to the album has been generally warm despite a couple of derisory critiques.
N.M.E stated 'Morning Runner could knock ten bells out of Keane' an apparent market rival.
Q suggested a Coldplay comparison 'would be doing Morning Runner a disservice'
The Times went further 'Morning Runner are in it for the long haul'.
Whether Morning Runner are in it for the long haul or indeed whether they live up to the billing is yet to be seen. This album is a compilation of all their best material to date in their fledgling 2 year career so it undoubtedy sheds a good light on them. I have found the album to get better with every listen. Six months after it's release it is often found to playing on my MP3 player and computer. My favourite track is 'Burning Benches' which had deserved success. All the other tracks are good too, there are no weak links to be bypassed. The big question for Morning Runner is, can they return with equally good material or will they get second album-itis ? A problem Razorlight and Keane have had this year. If you like Indie music then you will love this and I would recommend it. Personally I think it's the best album of it's type to date this year. I rate them highly and predict they will make a big breakthrough with their next album.
Lastly if you do like Morning Runner then get to see them live soon as their tour next year will almost certainly be the last time they play small venues and venture onto the arena circuit. Also if you can get hold of the 'Great Escape' 7" or the 'Have A Good Time' Faith and Hope label releases then do so quick because they will be changing hands for big money in a couple of years time if Morning Runner do as well as expected.
YEAR OF RELEASE : 2005
RATED : 15 (GRAPHIC SEX AND VIOLENCE)
DURATION : 105 MINUTES
DIRECTOR : JAMES MARSH
CAST : GAEL GARCIA BERNAL/ WILLIAM HURT/ PELL JAMES/ PAUL DANO/ LAURA HARRING.
# OUTLINE #
Elvis (Gael Garcia Bernal) receives his discharge from the USS Athena in the U.S Navy. His only belongings are his backpack and his M-1 Garland rifle. His first action is to call upon a willing prostitute to service his carnal desires. His next port of call is to buy a 1969 Mercury Cougar. And then he's off to Corpus Christi, Texas, a small bible-belt town where the popular David Sandow preaches to his trusting congregation at the local evangelical church. David Sandow is the father Elvis has never met and never had. And now his mother, Yolanda, is deceased, his father is the only family he has left. Yolanda was a Mexican prostitute Sandow abused before he found god to show him his true calling in life. Elvis tracks Sandow down and approaches him after his weekly sunday sermon. Unfortunately for Elvis, David Sandow doesn't practise what he preaches. He informs Elvis that although the boy maybe one of gods family, he himself has a new family and Elvis isn't part of it. This cruel, heartless rejection is a crushing blow to Elvis and his hopes. Of course, Elvis doesn't heed the hand off, it only inspires him to a deadly, slow burning plan of revenge. First up is the seduction and deflowering of Malerie, Elvis's naive and sweet natured sixteen year old half sister. This is just the beginning of the havoc, Elvis has in mind and before the end every one of the Sandow family will be touched in one way or another.
# DIRECTION #
James Marsh was a relatively unknown British director when this film emerged but his direction of this story penned by Milo Addica (Monsters Ball/ Birth) has put him firmly on the directing map. The story with its controversial content (including taboo subjects such as incest and religious hypocrisy) could have been disastrous, especially given the religious fervour of a lot of American critics, it could also have been done half heartedly but the finished article is a real gem and testament to how well the story panned out.
There seems an avoidance on histrionics and dramatics and a real focus on building strong characters with good acting. At times it was uneasy watching some of the hard hitting scenes (sometimes graphic, sometimes extremely violent) but it didn't become distasteful, only intense, very intense. The film drifts along at a sedate pace, slowly releasing plot lines then theres a huge twist or a dramatic scene which creates an atmospheric and unpredictable blend. The film is realistic because it doesn't try too hard. There's plenty of innovative ideas using a splendid soundtrack and even a hint at high designs at times. The film also questions religious beliefs and how in todays world we choose which messages in the bible we adhere to and others we ignore, depending on our personal situation. In this film good people do suffer and bad people go unpunished invoking a feeling of injustice, just as real life does.
To be slightly critical Marsh does fall into the trap (like many before) of seeming to think all Americans are eccentric such as the man feeding his dog on a takeaway pizza diet or the clown looking lost on his way home across a bridge. And the film does appear a bit arty at times with some beautifully shot backgrounds but then again the film did have a low budget. The film was let down a bit too in its anti climatical ending which I opine could have been thought out far better. However, despite the flaws, and all films have flaws, I found the film more than adequate for an evenings entertainment.
# ACTING #
Gael Garcia Bernal (Motorcycle Diaries) is an up and coming young actor and he played Elvis in his first English speaking role. Elvis is basically a sociapathic, pyschopathic cuckoo and Garcia was brilliant at portraying that. His creation was hip, handsome and cool yet unemotional and violent. His motives are in question right up to the final scene so job well done. I think we will be seeing more of Bernal in the near future mainly becuase he has proven he is a powerful lead actor.
William Hurt, a veteran actor of 47 films, has been having plenty of success lately. He was fantastic in both 'A History Of Violence' and 'The Village' and true to form he's fantastic in this film too as David Sandow. His greatest asset is his presence and he is utterly believable as the preacher who fails to live up to his own creed and who has to face the consequences of his cruel hearted actions. His religious beliefs are put to the sternest test possible and his inner turmoil is compelling to watch.
Pell James is a relatively unknown young actress of 29 years and she had the thankless task of portraying the repressed sixteen year old Malerie. She has some very demanding scenes including the loss of her virginity and being given cunnilingus by her half brother! Later she also has to face the consequences her actions have on her beliefs and the people around her. Considering she is 29, she passes quite easily as a sixteen year old. I thought she too was excellent, her confusion and suffering are heart wrenching and realistic.
Paul Dano played Paul Sandow, David Sandows 18 year old son. He is fantastic in the role and isn't put in the limelight at all by some of the bigger names around him, in fact he outshone them in some scenes. Paul Sandow is an idealistic, self righteous and deeply pious boy. He rebels against evolution on the school curriculum, stands up to contempt from school bullies and fronts a christian rock band. He was powerful in several scenes and his stoney faced yet determined nature made his role extremely realistic.
Laura Hanning also had her best role since 'Mulholland Drive' with Twyla Sandow the put upon wife and mother. She seems wiser than those around her and questions when others don't, so it was injustice to see her suffer everyone elses crimes and misdemeanours unpunished. She took things harder than anyone when her world started to cave in and her mental collapse near the end was one of the best scenes in the film. However I did find her character a little unused, she was the one I would have liked to get further under the skin.
# RECEPTION AND CRITICISM #
The American Critics had a mixed response ....
"Dense with religious allegory, 'The King' is bizarre and sly"
"A very distasteful picture which left me feeling uneasy"
"Watching 'The King' is a mesmering experience"
"In various ways, this is a strangely impressive movie"
The British critics received it better.....
"This is a menacing, muted slow burner"
"A fascinating pschological drama"
"The impressive plot twists deeper and deeper into tragedy"
The reason for the differences definately lies in the fact British christians are less offended at religious themes.
# SOUNDTRACK #
Dolly Parton 'There Will Be Peace In The Valley'
Ike Reilly 'Put A Little Love In It'
Ike Reilly 'It's Allright To Die'
Clexico 'Crystal Frontier'
Paul Dano 'Helplessly Hoping'
Paul Dano 'Sad And Beautiful World'
B.J.Thomas 'Hey Won't You Play'
David Baerwald 'My Arms Belong To Jesus'
Roger Whittaker 'Mexican Whistler'
Freddy Fender 'Before The Next Teardrop Falls'
Bob Dylan 'Cold Irons Bound'
# FINAL THOUGHTS #
This is a low budget indie film with a sense of foreboding throughout. It is a strong story with strong characters and strong performances. It's certainly not for everybody with its controversial subject matters and bear that in mind if you're easily offended. I had a multitude of feelings throughout the film including injustice, contempt, understanding, sympathy, shock and dread, a nice healthy mix! I found it idea-laden, innovative, fascinating and fulfilling. If you want a thought provoking flick you cannot go wrong, heartily recommended.
MY SUPER EX GIRLFRIEND
Released 4th August 2006.
Direction : Ivan Reitman
Genre : Comedy/ Romance/ Sci-Fi
Classification : 12A
Cast : Uma Thurman/ Luke Wilson/ Anna Faris/ Rainn Wilson/ Eddie Izzard.
I've seen some great comedies over the last couple of years such as 'The Wedding Crashers', 'Dodgeball' and more latterly 'The Break Up' and after seeing the trailor for this flick recently, I thought another one would be in store this saturday just gone. The premise of a Superhero being jilted by her boyfriend and going all out for revenge sounded like an unusual idea that could be explored in many different ways. The result wasn't quite what I had in mind.
The film opens with G-Girl whizzing across the manhattan skyline carrying out her responsibilities as the cities saviour. She lifts the getaway car of some unsuspecting jewel thieves clean off the ground and dumps it horizontally outside the main police station and as their bullets bounce off her leather attire and fall to the ground she grabs the offending gun and makes it into a knot as if it were a balloon.The crowds cheer as G-Girl whizzes off having completed her latest good deed, she is loved by New Yorkers and is front page the next day as adulation comes her way from all directions.
This is where we meet Matt Saunders, a building designer and his best buddy Vaughan who are reading the afore said newspaper on a tube train. Matt bemoans his luck with women and Vaughan who always seems to be offering his ill-fated advice to him suggests that he asks a lady seated near them for a date. She appears to be a bit dowdy and 'librarianish' in appearance but as Vaughan cleverly observes, the quiet ones are always the tigers in bed, how little does he know how right he is in this case! Because the lady in question is Jenny Johnson the alter-ego of G-Girl who is on her way to the art gallery she runs. Matt seems out of luck at first as Jenny Johnson seems rather aloof but when a thief grabs her bag and makes a run for it, Matt gains brownie points by chasing him all the way out of the station and gets her bag back. Jenny is instantly smitten and he finally bags a date with her.
Little did he know what he would be letting himself in for. G-Girl has a few issues. She is totally inept at dating and only succeeds in confusing the hell out of Matt. He thinks shes neurotic and possessive whereas shes totally smitten with him and gives out the wrong signals. But things start to take a turn for the better when sex starved Jenny gives him a night of mind blowing and bed breaking super-hero sex even if it does mean he has to limp to work in the morning because of his sore tool.
Clueless Matt is totally oblivious to the signals of his besotted, pretty co-worker Hannah but G-Girl isn't and things between then get increasingly sour as G-Girl tries to control and bully Matt into loving her as much as she loves him.
She confides in Matt her big secret after he is abducted by her nemesis Professor Bedlam and left dangling from the statue of liberty. The wow factor involved in shagging a super-hero only briefly re-ignites their relationship as reality and his dawning that he loves Hannah finally have an effect on him.
So he finally does what hes been meaning to do for ages and splits up with crackers G-Girl and boy does she take it badly. Hell have no fury like this woman and her wrath is unleashed in a continuous stream of unrestrained spite.
So there we have it, thats the premise.
Uma Thurman is one of my favourite actresses, not only is she sexy and beautiful but shes incredibly talented too. I think she may live to regret this one. I don't think comedy is her forte even though she was the best thing about the film. Her great body and long legs make her a very believable superhero but the dialogue and ideas just never got the film going in any direction at all. She gave it her all and played the neurotic, emotionally retarted (complete with tics and facial expressions) superhero well but it just wasn't happening.
Luke Wilson played Matt Saunders. He's cruelly jibed the unfunny Wilson brother but you can see why in this film. He was just plain ok. He always seems to play the niceguy and seems to have become typecast and given his adequate display in this flick he may do for a while yet.
Eddie Izzard, the cross-dressing British stand up comic has done well in Hollywood and has been in a few films but he too may regret this film. He never got the opportunity to show off his talents because his character (Professor Bedlam) was unforgivably held back. He lacked vigour and had few funny lines.
Anna Faris is an up and coming comedy actress having starred in 'Just Friends' and the 'Scary Movie' franchise. She lit up the screen in her role as the pretty co-worker Matt Saunders falls for and this film is unlikely to harm her career.
Rainn Wilson who played Vaughan, Matt Saunders best friend and Wanda Sykes the sex-harassment obsessed office worker both stole a few scenes and delivered some of the funniest lines in the film.
When summing up I must express my disappointment really. I laughed a few times, sometimes out loud but I expected a bit more considering the director is responsible for such classics as 'Ghostbusters' and Stripes' and the writer has worked for years writing on 'The Simpsons'. The premise was appealing, the finished article lacked depth, feeling, emotion and creativity. We never found out why G-Girl was a lonely, 'Fatal Attraction' waiting to happen. I know it's a comedy but sometimes meaner and more hard hitting ideas do the trick. This effort barely held it's head above the water because it just wasn't interesting or unusual. I guess the director is just out of touch these days. The score is rubbish too.
I don't like slagging off films and always look for positives so I will say I still enjoyed the film in parts but don't expect too much.
The words bland and candyfloss spring to mind.
Line of the film "Dont worry I'll fix it"
"What the bed or the penis" ?
Razorlight were formed in 2002 and are a four piece Anglo-Swedish indie guitar band.
Johnny Borrell - Vocals/ Guitar
Bjorn Agren - Guitar
Carl Dalemo - Bass
Andy Burrows - Drums
Johnny Borrell as well being the vocalist is the heartbeat of the band. He courts controversy at every opportunity. He is either incredibly self confident or the master of self promotion. Many of his comments in the past have offended and divided the music world. These include "Were better than the Arctic Monkeys" and "If Dylan's making the chips then I'm sipping the champagne" when comparing his and Bob Dylan's first albums.
Whatever you think of Borrell's apparent arrogance and disrepect, it would be folly to disregard Razorlights music on this basis. It is clear for all to see Borrell is a very talented frontman. And although Razorlight polarize opinion (they were even accused of being described as what was wrong with music today) and have been accused of being too simple, easy going and lacking in ambition, 'Up All Night' the bands debut album is widely consided even by the detractors to be one of the pre-eminent albums of 2004. This album was re-issued in 2005 with the inclusion of the hit single 'Somewhere Else' which reached number 2 in the charts and this remains their biggest hit to date. Some of their other well known songs include 'Vice' 'Rip It Up' and 'Golden Touch'.
2005 saw them play 'Live 8' and saw them court even more controversy when they refused to donate any revenue to charity putting it down to their "fledgling status". They also supported 'Queen' 'Oasis' and 'Richard Ashcroft' in some huge sell out gigs.
2006 was always going to be a huge moment in the bands career with the release of the self titled second album. Would they counter the unadventurous tag and the claims they only copy the likes of 'The Strokes' and 'British Sea Power' or would they stick to their trusted and successful method ?
So the highly waited, eponymous second album was released on 17th July. I bought it the on the day of release with much anticipation.
The album contains 10 tracks ;
First up is 'In The Morning' the first single released off the album which reached a high of 3 with the help of downloads. The first thing that hits you with the single is it is a continuation of the first album sound. Not that thats a complaint, just a confirmation that Razorlight were going down the well trodden familiarity path rather than the experimentation one. It's a catchy number, full of familiar guitar riffs and one of the best tracks on offer. Easy to see why it was released first because of the radio friendly aura about it.
My favourite track is track 4 'America' which will be the single to be released next. I liked it the very first time I heard it which it not always the case with me. It has tender vocals and melodic verses interspersed with guitar crunching choruses. The song is about how the news and world in general is obsessed with whats going on in America. Politics hasn't emerged in their lyrics before. It's definately up there with their best material to date and definately the highlight of this album.
I really like track 6 too (I Can't Stop This Feeling I've Got) which hasn't been mentioned much in other reviews I've read. The lyrics are excellent and hit home and the vocals compliment them nicely. This song is beautifully delivered.
Track 7 'Pop Song 2006' was streamed on the bands website earlier this year so obviously they had high hopes for it although I havn't heard if it is possibly a future single release. It is said to be a tribute to 'R.E.M' s 'Pop Song 89'.
'Kirbys House' is a weaker track which is very repetitive and with nonsensical lyrics.
Like the start, the album finishes on a high with the excellent 'Los Angeles Waltz' which is another example why Razorlight have been so successful. They churn out simple, easy to the ear, catchy melodies.
1 excellent track
5 good tracks
'N.M.E' drooled over the album as did most of the national newspapers and 'Q' went as far as to say "the best guitar album since Definately Maybe'. It has certainly been a commercial success going straight in at number 1 and staying near the top ever since. And whatever critics say, album sales dictate record deals and in this respect Razorlight will be here for some time to come.
However I don't think it's as good as 'Up All Night' and for that reason I'm slightly disappointed. It has quality and some cracking tunes but it didn't hit me as being a classic over time. The Razorlight sound from 'Up All Night' runs parallel and you can hardly tell one album from the other. I feel this album is lyrically superior but fails at times to be as edgy. I still think they have time on their side though as there should be at least another 2 albums to come. The commercial success of the album has guaranteed Razorlight's future and proven a few doubters wrong and for that reason the album is career defining. The future release 'America' I predict will be another success and is arguably their best track to date but the album lacks the killer tracks which guarantee notoriety and relies on the steady as a rock, tried and tested Razorlight formula. I guess the band and its management have decided that the band can survive being safe as long as the songs they write match earlier efforts. Whilst this continues Razorlight will continue to be one of the most radio played and popular indie guitar out there on offer. Unfortunately, although I like the album and play it quite often, I can see the day when it will remain in my CD rack for months on end and for that reason you can see why Johnny Borrell gets critisizm for his self promotion and end product. But who knows, the album we all hope they are capable of, will be in the pipeline. This album in my view isn't what we all hoped for although it will be one of the best indie albums of the year.
Album rating 8/10.
1011 AE Amsterdam.
I booked online to stay at this hotel in November of last year. It was to be a happy weekend away with my partner to celebrate her 19th birthday. It wasn't to be.
I booked using a website which is a third party to literally hundreds of hotels in and around Amsterdam about a month before my intended stay. They take bookings then pass the bookings they've taken onto the hotels so that they are aware who is turning up on what days. I recieved a confirmation email straight after I made the booking, qouting a booking reference number which I printed off. I then received another email about a week before just to remind us of the details of the booking and I printed that off also. I booked to fly seperately with Easyjet.
So, we flew out of Gatwick on a foggy Friday late afternoon and arrived in Amsterdam airport as planned. We caught a train shuttle which is located under the airport which headed towards Amsterdam itself. This journey took about 45 minutes. When you get to Amsterdam central station, turn right out of the main doors, not left as we did, which will bring you out into a main square where the tram station is based. Bear left and walk along the main street heading towards the first bridge you will see (of many). To the left of this lies the Amstel Botel which is a floating boat, doubling up as a budget hotel. The hotel is literally two minutes away from the central station, one of the main reasons why we chose it in the first place.
First impressions were good, on a dark evening the boat was lit up with hundreds of neon bulbs and looked a very impressive sight. We took photos outside, then proceeded along the wooden boardwalk parallel to the boat to enter and go to the reception to confirm our booking.
We went to reception where we were served by two very smart, young people. However this is where our problems started. I handed over my booking details to one of the people who tapped the details into her computer. After a minute of tapping away and a few raised eyebrows, she informed us that she couldn't find our booking. Her colleague also tapped away, they conversed in Dutch, then he too confirmed there was no booking. I said "how can this be, as you can see, I have my booking confirmation details including the booking reference number ?" She said that her computer didn't have any such booking which meant that it didn't exist, therefore we woudn't be able to stay in the Amstel Botel and in any case they were completely full with no extra rooms to offer us. The time was roughly 9 o clock at night so as you can imagine, I was tired from travelling therefore wasn't going to go down without a fight. I demanded to speak to someone more senior. They were reluctant at first but complied after some 'friendly persuasion'. This man was Chinese as most of the other staff on the boat turned out to be as we found out later. He spoke to us very abruptly without a care for our situation. When I raised my voice and pointed out how my documents confirmed a booking had taken place and that any mistake that had taken place was firmly his responsibility and not mine, he backed down a little. And as if by magic, a room suddenly became available which we were offered. But at this stage, he offered no apology or even claimed responsibility and in fact thought he was a suffering rough justice.
That night we went for a walk around the city centre and we had a meal which we enjoyed but we were still a little distressed and annoyed at our treatment earlier.
The room itself was disappointing to put it bluntly. We were paying 89 euros a night for our 2 night stay which roughly equates to £63. I've had a better room in a £15 B&B in Blackpool. It was tiny, cabin like in appearance and there was not enough room to swing a cat. There was just enough room for a double bed, which left you just enough space to work yourself around it. The bathroom was 2 feet by 2 feet. The worst thing though was how cold it was. We were six feet above the waterline, the window was single glazed and the heater barely worked (I think the room was out of action for this reason and only offered to us once I kicked up). We were truly freezing that night.
The next morning we went for breakfast which was a miserable experience. Now by this stage I could be excused for being biased against the place but the breakfast was truly terrible which other people in the room said also. The fruit was soft, the orange juice had run out and the bacon and sausages didn't taste right so I left them. All I had which was edible was tea and toast and had a proper breakfast later.
We went to see the manager of the Amstel Botel who was Dutch. We complained about the room and the breakfast and our poor treatment the night before. He apologized and explained what had happened. The third party booking company they use for taking bookings hadn't forwarded to them our booking or it had been misplaced, therefore our room had been double booked. He said this had never happened before and that usually the third party company were reliable. He also said we couldn't stay the saturday night as they were fully booked but would offer us a free weekend in the future as a token of goodwill. I said I'd never stay there again even if he paid me. I was so furious, we were discounted on our single night to 69 euros, roughly £49 and left.
I calmed down a bit and said to my partner that it wasn't completely there fault as the third party company should have forwarded our booking. I decided to find another hotel and write a letter to the booking company when I got back.
Across the road from the Amstel Botel just happened to be an agency selling hotel rooms in Amsterdam. So we went inside to find another hotel for the night. I explained our situation to the man who ran the place. He said that this happened on a weekly basis and that I was just one of many with the same story. The booking company weren't to blame at all, the Botel overbooked rooms it seemed at will with the late arrivals the unlucky ones as we were. We found another hotel which was absolutely fantastic and we enjoyed the rest of our stay thoroughly. The double booking at the Botel turned out to be a blessing in a way.
I would recommend Amsterdam to anyone. There's the infamous Red Light District, the Anne Frank House, canals aplenty, shops and squares and museums and an abundance of cafes, restaurants and pubs.
We loved Amsterdam, it's people and enjoyed the weekend despite the Amstel Botel experience.
I'm mainly writing this review to warn others about the Amstel Botel and the way they do business. The don't care about your custom, they want people through the doors, the more the merrier but most of all they want your cash.
The worst hotel I've ever stayed in, my worst ever travel experience, the worst ever service, the worst ever room, the worst ever breakfast. The worst.