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I've already got the Sugar Crush body scrub which I love, especially the smell, so I thought I would give the matching body wash a try.
***Price & Packaging***
The 500ml bottle of this shower gel costs £6.50 in Boots which is fairly reasonable (by Soap & Glory standards) for such a big bottle. It is in a large pale pink bottle with white, black and line green writing on the front. It looks bold and fun and looks great in the bathroom. It has a squirty top so is easy to use and you can get just the right amount out. The only trouble will be that it might be hard to use up as it gets empty as the squirter doesnt always get the last bits.
The fragrance was the main reason I bought this shower gel and it didn't disappoint. It is a really fresh but sweet smell which is made up of limes, sparkling lemon, vanilla musk and coconut oil. It is fruity but also has the sweet musk smell coming through and reminds me of Refresher sweets! The smell is strong which is a good thing as I love it and I can still smell it on my skin after drying off. Somehow it doesn't smell quite the same as the sugar crush body scrub though and isn't quite as sweet but its still nice all the same. Because it is quite heavily fragranced it may not be suitable for those with sensitive skin and definitely shouldn't be used on broken skin.
The gel is quite thick and clear in colour. It foams up really easily although I've found I need to use a bit more than with other S&G products so it may not last quite as long. I still don't use much compared to other shower gel brands though. The foam is nice and thick and leaves me feeling really clean and refreshed. It is slightly moisturising but I still need to use body lotion afterward but it didnt dry out my skin either.
I would recommend this shower gel as it smells gorgeous, foams up well and is really refreshing. However it is probably too strong for sensitive skin.
When I first saw the trailer for Gravity I thought I didn't fancy it because I'm not a great fan of Sandra Bullock...it's not that she isn't a good actress, there is just something about her that I find...annoying! But hype started to build up and people were recommending the film to me, even the critics on Rotten Tomatoes loved it, so I decided to go and see what all the fuss is about. The film was released in the UK on Friday 08 November 2013 and is directed and written by Alfonso Cuaron.
The film is about two astronauts Dr Ryan Stone (Sandra Bullock) and Matt Kowalski (George Clooney) who survive a catastrophic incident in space in which their shuttle is struck by debris resultant of a missile strike directed at another satellite. All others on board the shuttle are killed leaving just Dr Stone and Matt. Dr Stone is on her first space mission, whereas Matt is an experienced astronaut on his final mission. The film follows their struggle to survive without communication with ground crew and ultimately their fight to get back to Earth safely.
The film is very hard hitting. It gives us a short intro showing the astronauts enjoying their mission and introducing us to the characters but very quickly things start to happen and the audience is thrown into the drama and horror of the situation. It really is horrific and you feel like you are right there. We are made very aware that Dr Stone is nervous on her first space mission and the film really allows you to feel her terror when things start to go wrong. The film focusses on Dr Stone as a character throughout the entire film so you really sympathise with her and feel everything she goes through. The way it is filmed and the fact it is in 3D allows you to imagine you are there and feel the panic she feels. This made for really intense and enjoyable viewing.
Almost the entire film is set in space and only involves the two protagonists. You would think that might be boring and get tiresome but it didn't, there was always enough going on that it stayed entertaining and gripping. In fact almost everything goes wrong from start to finish and you are rarely given a moment of calm, which in this case worked well and made the screenplay seem realistic.
Based on the advert I expected the film to get more involved with the personal life of Dr Stone. I did learn a few things about her life back at home but it was quite vague and the film certainly didn't rely on this emotional aspect as I expected it too. I actually think it would have benefited slightly from more reference to her life back at home to give a broader context to her character and allow more emotions to come through. However it was better than the film relying on this side.
As I mentioned earlier I'm not a great fan of Sandra Bullock, however I thought she was amazing in this film. The role was challenging and the entire film revolved around her character so it was vital she pulled it off. I thought she was very natural and believable throughout and did so well not to fall into being over-dramatic which would have been easy in such an intense film. She really let her characters personality shine through and kept the character consistent throughout the film.
George Clooney created an interesting character in Matt Kowalski, his character brought humour to an otherwise dire situation and lightened the film a great deal. He pulled off the humour element without becoming slapstick and managed to balance this humour with the highly intelligent and determined side of his character. He came across really well and exactly as he should have done.
I really enjoyed this film and found it very different to any film I have seen before. For that reason it was very interesting and memorable. The basic concept is very good and the fabulous film production and strong acting do it absolute justice. I would recommend it for anyone, even those who don't call themselves sci-fi fans.
To be honest I've never been a massive fan of X-Men and mainly saw this because my boyfriend wanted to! I've already watched X-Men origins Wolverine a few times and you do ideally need to have seen that before watching this on to understand his background.
The Wolverine is directed by James Mangold and it was released to UK cinemas on 25th July. The film is produced by Marvel.
The film starts with Logan (Hugh Jackman) living alone in the Canadian woodland. He is clearly depressed and is suffering from nightmares and hallucinations about the deceased Jean Grey. Out of nowhere appears Yukio who is also a mutant and has been sent by her dying Grandfather Yashida, who is the owner of massive Japanese technology company Yashida. It transpires that Logan rescued Yashida from a nuclear bomb in WW2 and has always felt as though he owes him.
Logan goes to Japan and meets the terminally ill Yashida who offers him a release from his immortality (which Logan is now viewing as a curse) and says he has found a way that he can remove Logan's healing gift from him and transfer it to his own busy, thus allowing Logan to die as a normal man. Logan refuses immediately and decides to leave Japan. However before he leaves Yashida dies a natural death and Logan stays for the funeral. During the funeral Japanese gangsters raid and try to take Yashidas' eldest granddaughter Mariko. Logan helps fight off the men and manages to rescue the girl and escape to safety.
It transpires that Mariko is the sole inheritor of her grandfather's business and her father now wants her dead. Without realising Logan has already attached himself to the girl and wants to keep her safe no matter what...
My first thought on the film is that it is a true geeky comic book style adaptation. All the typical elements that one expects from these type of films are there but amplified! I would say for me it borders on slightly too 'comic book' and perhaps a little too far-fetched. I didn't feel the other X-Men films I'd seen were quite as bad somehow.
I also found it hard to keep up with the plot. It starts off quite slowly but then throws you in at the deep end and I struggled at times to keep up and appreciate what was going on. Usually I can keep up with film plots and don't have a problem, but I felt this one wasn't handled that well and gaps were apparent at times. It just felt a bit sketchy at times and it meant I found myself losing interest.
There were plenty of battle scenes which were fast paced and fun, however one of the most intense battle scenes, which takes place on a high speed train, was just a bit ridiculous and one of those where you're thinking "well he would have been dead by now" "and so would he". I do like a good far-fetched fight scene every now and then but this went too far and was just a bit silly. The ending was also a bit ridiculous in my opinion and just not as strong as the other films. Oh and I also discovered that there was a bonus scene after the credits ended which we missed as we left the cinema when the credits began (like you do)...oops!
I thought Hugh Jackman was excellent in the movie and somehow gave a grounded realistic performance amongst all the craziness that surrounds him in this film. The rest of the cast were ok, no-one stood out though and most were over-acted but then I suppose that was what their roles required.
On the plus side I loved the setting and was really impressed with the production and effects in the film. These were spot on and probably the best thing about the film. It was a visually exciting and striking film and it was clear that no expenses were spared in this area.
As someone who isn't a huge X-Men fan I wasn't overly thrilled by this film. It was watchable and certain things were enjoyable such as the effects and Hugh Jackmans' acting skill, but other than this it was entertaining but nothing memorable or special. My boyfriend who is a big fan and was excited to see this film also seemed slightly deflated when it ended. It's worth seeing if you have been following the X-Men movies but you may be disappointed. For those who haven't seen any X-Men films I wouldn't bother with this.
Now you see me was released in UK cinemas on 3rd July 2013. It is directed by Louis Leterrier and stars Jesse Eisenberg, Mark Ruffalo, Woody Harrelson, Morgan Freeman, Dave Franco and Isla Fisher.
The film is about four talented but hard-up magicians (Jesse Eisenberg, Isla Fisher, Dave Franco & Woody Harrelson) who are united via an unknown person who arranges for them all to meet in one room. The film then skips forward one year where the four have a successful show in Las Vegas called The Four Horsemen. They are sponsored by billionaire Arthur (Michael Caine) who owns a huge insurance empire.
During one of their hugely popular shows the four perform an extreme trick which they have never done before. They allow the audience to choose at random a member of the audience and enable him to rob a bank in Paris using teleportation. The stunt is a success and the crowd is showered with the millions of Euros stolen. And when the bank in Paris opens the money is in fact missing.
Of course following this stunt the FBI get involved and arrest the four magicians. FBI agent Dylan (Mark Ruffalo) is assigned to the case with the help of agent Alma (Melanie Laurent). However they can't find any grounds on which to detain the horsemen since the only explanation they can find is magic. In the meantime the agents get in contact with Thaddeus (Morgan Freeman) who works out the logical explanations behind magicians tricks and makes TV shows and books explaining them.
It turns out that wasn't the only big stunt the horsemen have planned though, as they continue the stunts become more and more extreme and we realise the mysterious man who united them had been planning these tricks for a long time in order to seek justice. The questions remaining are will they pull it off and who is the mystery man who brought them all together?
I saw this film because it was different and it definitely was! The magic theme was really interesting and made for a really fun plot. However it was never taken too far and into the realms of fantasy which kept the film grounded and the plot believable. The effects used were good and all the magic scenes looked realistic.
When the film began I didn't realise how complex it would become. I assumed it would be all about the first stunt and the FBI trying to catch them out to enable an arrest. However it was so much more than that, the plot became very deep and was surprisingly involved and a far cry from the frequently used predictable plot structures. In many ways the film played tricks on the viewer (in the same way the magicians played tricks on their subjects) in that it gave you a false sense of security in that you knew exactly what was going on from the start and thought you had understood the reasons behind everything, only to discover that you really didn't have a clue! This was fun and meant there were a few surprise twists which I didn't see coming!
The main issue tackled by the film is that of justice and I suppose Karma, in that those who had done wrong ultimately got what they deserved. It was therefore a feel good film, yet you didn't really know it was until the end. The ending of the film was conclusive in the most part, except one thing which is left as a bit of a mystery. It wasn't something you needed to know though so didn't leave you with that annoying feeling when it ends. Besides, I expected a film like this to leave at least one question.
The cast were well selected and well suited to their roles. I thought Isla Fisher was particularly good and brought a lot to the film. I've never minded her as an actress but never rated her as such, but I was really impressed by her performance in this film. I was surprised to see Dave Franco as a main character in the film as I had only ever seen him as a supporting actor. He was good in this film yet I feel he always comes across as the same person in his films (which I suspect is his own personality coming out) therefore I just don't rate his abilities that much.
Mark Ruffalo's role as FBI Agent Dylan Rhodes was interesting and he was much different to the characters I'm used to seeing him play. He was actually quite an angry, aggressive person but he pulled it off perfectly. Other notable performance, as always, came from Michael Caine and Morgan Freeman. Both gave their usual naturally excellent abilities and complemented the film.
There is much more to this film than first meets the eye and it offers something different, therefore it is well worth watching. The cast complement it well and the concept is carried off perfectly. I would recommend it to anyone.
I stayed at Vdara Hotel in Las Vegas for 7 nights from 06 June 2013. As always I spent quite a while looking at different hotels and realised that Vegas offers a whole host of hotels, all differing greatly. Despite wanting to visit Vegas to look round the interesting hotels, I didn't actually feel the need to stay in an 'interesting' hotel and instead wanted something modern and slightly more peaceful but without being far from the main strip. Vdara became the perfect choice.
The hotel is a large skyscraper style building with a glass front. It has around 60 floors and 1500 rooms. Its main concept is a modern escape from the madness of Vegas but without being far from the action. It is officially owned by MGM (as are many hotels in Vegas) but this isn't really apparent when you are staying there.
***Booking & Prices***
Usually I book hotels and flights myself direct with the provider, however this time I opted to use a local travel agent who were able to get a slightly cheaper price. In the end it cost us £1,200 for the hotel part (£171 per night) however this price is for a Panoramic Suite which is one of the more expensive options. Prices for more basic rooms began at around £85 per night. Having searched other hotels I found that this price is actually quite reasonable by Vegas standards. We made a request for a high floor room (above 20th floor) with strip view and were told the hotel would try to honour this request.
The Vdara is located just off the main strip. It is between the Aria and Bellagio and just behind the Cosmopolitan. However if you are in a high floor room you get a clear view of the main strip and it generally feels like you are on the strip. Therefore it is very central and we found it possible to walk to many of the interesting hotels (Bellagio, Luxor, Balleys, Flamingo, Venetian, MGM, New York, Paris). Therefore as long as you are able bodied you will be able to get to most of the main hotels without using a taxi. The only occasions where we did require a taxi was getting to/from the airport and going to Downtown Vegas.
We flew into McCarran Airport and got a taxi to our hotel which cost about $30 (£20) and the journey took about 15 minutes. This was an easy way of getting to the Vegas strip and meant we could be dropped off at the hotel lobby. We were aware that the hotel had a secure car park however I don't know anything more about this since we didn't have a car with us.
We checked in at the hotel lobby desks where there were several staff members waiting to help. When we arrived (around 15:00) there was no queue which was a pleasant sight in Vegas where most hotel lobbies have horrendous queues! The check-in process was easy yet took slightly longer since the guy serving us spent quite a while on the phone. We got a bit worried and thought maybe there was no room available but it transpired he was just ensuring we got a room above 20th floor as requested. We were pleased when he gave us our keys and asked us to head to our room on the 30th floor : )
The suite we got was absolutely amazing. The majority of the room walls including those of the bathroom were floor to ceiling glass windows meaning we got an amazing view over the Vegas strip and also across the other side which is much less built up so we could see as far as the mountains in the distance. The suite was really big and included a kitchen area with dining facilities, a lounge area, bedroom and bathroom. It was more like an apartment and one could easily stay there for long periods of time as all the facilities were there. The suite felt very much like one big open space as the rooms were connected by either sliding doors or big open doorways. The views from the room were amazing and the overall feel was very modern and good quality.
The bedroom had a king size bed which was really comfortable. We got 2 pillows each a thin duvet on the bed. There was small bedside table on each side of the bed with a couple of drawers for storage. There was a large flat screen TV mounted on the wall in front of the bed so you could watch TV in bed. There was also a desk and chair in the bedroom. I always had a good sleep in the bedroom, helped by the fact that the big windows could be covered by an electronic black-out blind with another blind on top of this. We were never disturbed by any noise, partly through being in a high floor room but I also think the room was well soundproofed.
The lounge area included a sofa, two comfy chairs, a large glass coffee table and a large wall mounted TV. It was nice having this area and we often relaxed there before heading out in the evening. We only used the TV once on the first night and it connected to most major US TV Stations.
The kitchen was a decent size and included all facilities needed for cooking your own food. There was a full size fridge and freezer, mini dishwasher, oven, oven top hob, microwave and coffee machine. There were also several cupboards for storage, but oddly nothing in them. The only kitchenware we were given was coffee cups, glass tumblers, wine glasses and champagne glasses. We found out you have to request kitchenware which is then sent up to your room. We only planned on having breakfast in the room so on our first morning we requested two bowls and spoons, these arrived promptly and we kept them for the remainder of our stay. I've read reviews which mentioned that these things were taken away and had to be requested again on a daily basis, however we didn't experience this issue.
Within the kitchen area was a glass dining table with two dining chairs. We only used these at breakfast time and on the first night when we ordered room service, but it was really nice to have somewhere to sit comfortably and eat when required. The kitchen also had a washing machine and dryer hidden in a cupboard, we didn't need to use these during our one week stay however it would be really useful if you were staying for longer.
The bathroom was really big and had two separate sinks with surface space around them for toiletries. There was also a nice big mirror in front of the sinks and plug sockets, so I used this area to get ready in the evening and do my hair. There was a hairdryer provided in the bathroom which was better than the one I brought so I used this during my stay. The toilet was in a separate mini cubicle but there was no door dividing this from the rest of the bathroom. There was a full size bath which was positioned right in front of the window with a lovely view out to the mountains. I wouldn't usually have a bath whilst on holiday but this time I did and it was so relaxing soaking while looking out over Vegas. There was also a walk in shower which was a really good size with a seat inside. The shower was powerful and always hot, and there was always enough hot water available for a bath. As I mentioned earlier the suite is very open, however you could fully close off the bathroom area and have complete privacy.
There were plenty of plug sockets in all areas of the suite so we could easily have multiple things plugged in at once. In terms of storage the areas were quite scattered. Oddly the wardrobe was located in the entrance to the bathroom which could mean your clothes getting a bit damp. It didn't end up being too much of a problem though. There was a fair amount of hanging space and a few hangers. I'd rather there had been more hangers though as it only worked out at about 4 each. The wardrobe was big enough to store our suitcases in and also housed the safe for the room. The safe was electronic and easy to use, yet was quite small. We only just managed to fit 2 ipads, 2 watches and a camera in there. There was also a storage area near the entrance to the suite which had several drawers so plenty of space for the rest of our clothes and possessions.
The room had an air conditioning system which worked excellently and kept the room cool constantly which was a relief as the temperature was over 40 Degrees Celsius most days. The air conditioning was easy to control from one keypad. We accessed the room using a key card which didn't have any numbers printed on it, which I prefer in case you lose it.
I was really impressed with the cleanliness of the hotel. We regularly saw cleaners busy at work even in the later hours. A maid visited our room each day and gave it a full clean, replaced any towels we had left on the floor and made the bed. The bed sheets were changed three times during our stay which I was happy with. The main hotel areas were also spotlessly clean so I have no complaints about that.
There is a swimming pool located on second floor level in front of the hotel. Placing the pool on the second floor is a great idea as it means it is elevated from the road and therefore more private and quieter. The pool area itself is large, although initially we didn't think it would be large enough to accommodate everyone wanting to use it considering the number of rooms in the hotel. However we were always able to find a sunbed by the pool so we needn't have had doubts. I think the heat may have put people off lying out there and we never spent longer than an hour out there ourselves. The sunbeds were comfortable and there was always a table or umbrella nearby. There was relaxed dance music played by the pool which gave it a nice atmosphere and also drowned out the noise of others talking etc, enabling you to relax. It was slightly too loud on one of our visits though!
There is a bar by the pool area which sells a variety of drinks including wine, champagne and cocktails, as well as basic bar food. You can either go up to the bar to order, or there were waitresses on hand to take orders and bring drinks over. We only had drinks from this bar once and were slightly disappointed...we ordered cocktails but they were served in ordinary plastic cups. The cocktail tasted good but was spoilt slightly by the naff looking cup. I appreciate that the hotel had a no-glass policy by the pool, but I noticed they had plastic champagne flutes (which looked as good as the real thing) so you'd think they could find some more attractive looking plastic cups for cocktails, bearing in mind they served a range of cocktails averaging at Euro14 each.
The hotel bar is located on the ground floor in the lobby area. It is open to the public so not exclusive to guests, however because the Vdara isn't a feature hotel it didn't really attract many outsiders, therefore the bar was never crowded. We visited the bar on two occasions, the first was when returning from our evening meal and we stopped for a couple of cocktails. The bar is really modern and has a relaxing atmosphere with dimmed lighting. There are plenty of seats to choose from and the waitresses take your order and serve to your table. The cocktails cost $14 (£9) which was a very reasonable price for Vegas (we paid up to $20 for a cocktail). There are several cocktails to choose from on the menu and I opted for Red Rose Garden (Absolut Raspberry Vodka, House Sweet+Sour, Fresh Raspberries & Rosemary Needles). It was a lovely cocktail and it was clear it had been well prepared from scratch using decent ingredients. We were also given some free snacks including nuts and crisps which was a nice touch.
The next time we visited the hotel bar was a night where we had booked a show and we wanted to stay local for our evening meal then head straight there. So we decided to try some of the bar food on offer. The bar food is more than just snacks and is actually the same menu on offer as room service. There are several starters, pizzas, salads and main meals to choose from. We both opted for the chicken and pesto caesar salad which was beautiful. It cost $16 (£10.50) for the salad and was excellent value for money. On both of our visits the service was excellent, yet the drinks and food did take a while to arrive so not great if you are in a rush.
The hotel doesn't have a restaurant so the only food options in-house are from the room service menu. On our first night we were exhausted from the flight and decided to sample the room service menu for our evening meal. We both ordered pizzas which cost $12 (£8) each. It was easy ordering the food as there is a room service direct dial on the phone in the room and the food arrived after about 20 minutes. I was really impressed with the food, the pizzas were really big and packed with toppings. They also came with mini trays with parmesan cheese and dried chillis to sprinkle on, as well as mini bottles of ketchup and tabasco sauce which were really cute. The guy who brought the food was really polite and insisted on laying everything out neatly on the dining table for us. That was our only experience of the room service but I was really impressed!
In the hotel lobby there was a deli which sold fresh fruit, desserts, drinks and basic foods like sandwiches. It was open all day until about 9pm and had tables inside if you wanted to dine-in. We picked up some fruit and desserts on a few occasions and took them up to our room. The deli also had basic food supplies for your room such as cereals and milk, yet these were really overpriced so we didn't bother.
You will be spoilt for choice with food options on the Vegas strip. There is basically every kind of food available. The only issue we ran into was that there weren't many middle price-range restaurants. There were plenty of expensive ones (fine dining) and plenty of casual ones (Hard Rock Café etc) but not many in-between. This may have been due to staying in the city centre area where the local hotels (Aria, Bellagio) house the more expensive restaurants. In the end we found Ceasers was a nearby option for restaurants that were smart but not too smart. In terms of my favourite restaurants I would recommend 'Lemongrass' - a Thai restaurant in Aria. It was expensive but very nice. We also enjoyed a slightly cheaper Italian meal at Trevi located in Ceasers Palace Forum Shops.
I would also like to recommend a couple of nearby bars - firstly the Mandarin Bar located in the Mandarin Oriental. We had a beautiful cocktail here while watching the sunset over the city (the bar is on an upper floor). We also had a great evening in Hyde bar located in the Bellagio. It is right in front of the water where the fountain shows take place every 15 minutes, and served brilliant cocktails. We also had a few of the bar snacks which were excellent. Both of these bars were expensive but fine if you just want a couple of drinks. I would recommend making a table reservation for both.
***Service & Staff***
The staff at the front desk did an excellent professional job each time we dealt with them. There were always several staff manning the lobby so there was never a long wait to see someone, even during busy periods. On the night we ate in the hotel bar area I accidentally left a bracelet in the ladies toilets. When I returned it had gone so I reported it to the reception staff before heading off to a show at another hotel. When we returned to the room I had received a voicemail message on the room phone to say that it had been found and details of how I can retrieve it. The next day I called and then waited in reception, where a staff member from the Aria (Aria keep all lost property for the Vdara in their safe) met me and returned it to me. I was so impressed with the professionalism of this process. I was also informed that a cleaner had found the bracelet and handed it in, so it was nice to know that the staff had been honest about it.
We occasionally met the cleaners in our room on our return, and they were also very friendly, courteous and professional. Overall I was left with an excellent impression of the staff at Vdara.
There is a small gym in the hotel which includes basic machines and loose weights. We didn't actually use the gym but can imagine it would be useful if you were staying on business and wanting to keep a routine going. On the day of checkout we were able to leave our cases with the bell desk. They also helped you get a taxi (there were always taxis queuing outside the hotel) and would help you get your cases in the boot etc. This was a nice touch.
***Things to do in Vegas***
I know I'm going slightly off-topic here but I just wanted to add a quick paragraph on things to do. We did a helicopter trip to the Grand Canyon with Maverick Helicopters, this was amazing and I would highly recommend. We also did a coach trip to Hoover Dam which was interesting but I wouldn't say it is something you have to do, particularly if you do a Grand Canyon helicopter trip as you get an aerial view of the dam anyway. I would also recommend a visit to downtown Vegas (Freemont Street) for an evening. We had received mixed reviews about this but ended up having quite a good night there. They have a lights show on the roof of the main street every hour and there are several hotels to look at and a few restaurants and bars. It does have the feeling of being not quite as upmarket as the main Vegas but it was nice for a change and much cheaper. We got a taxi there and back, we were told it wouldn't be safe walking there (and a long way). There is also a tram which can take you there and back for slightly cheaper. Other than this we managed to fill our week with exploring the Vegas strip.
I highly recommend this hotel for a trip to Vegas. I think it is particularly suited to those wanting to experience Vegas and be near the action, but in a more peaceful location. The hotel is luxurious and modern, with a tranquil atmosphere. I would also recommend it to those travelling on business.
2600 W Harmon Ave,
Tel: +1 702 509 2111
I went to the cinema with my friend last week with the intention of watching After Earth but the queue was so big we missed it and ended up watching The Purge instead. I had seen a trailer for it and thought it looked like an interesting concept but it looked to be bordering on a horror which had put me off a bit as horror films are usually a bit predictable. The film is directed and written by James DeMonaco and was released in UK cinemas on 31 May 2013.
The Film is set in 2022 where USA has been reformed with a new system placed to minimise crime and unemployment rates. The system involves an annual 'Purge' which is a 12 hour time period in which any criminal activity is legal and emergency services are suspended. The idea is that it gives the citizens a release for any anger or negativity and as a result crime throughout the remainder of the year is significantly lower.
Throughout the film we follow the Sandin family which consists of father James (Ethan Hawke), mother Mary (Lena Headey), teenage daughter Zoey (Adelaide Kaye) and 12 year old son Charlie (Max Burkholder). The family are wealthy which is a result of James setting up a business selling home security systems designed to withstand the Purge. Therefore he has made his money from the existence of the Purge.
The family are preparing for a normal safe Purge evening and lock down the house so they are safe. However during the early stages of the Purge Charlie spots a man outside on the CCTV screens who is desperately shouting for help and decides to offer him refuge therefore he deactivates the security system to let him in. However he doesn't realise that the man is being pursued by a group of masked characters brandishing weapons who give the family a choice. Either give up the man they let in who was someone they were going to kill, or suffer the consequences...which is that they would force entry and kill the entire family.
I really liked the concept of the film and found it very intriguing. Yes it does have flaws and I don't personally believe that a Purge would cut crime so much in real life...however it was something different and I liked that. The concept was presented well and made very clear from the beginning so there was no confusion, which I think in this case was a good thing and meant you could understand and enjoy the film.
The plot started well and was interesting and different, however the second half of the film fell into a predictable pattern which I've come to expect from horror films. It ended up relying more on fight scenes and shock factor than actual plot, and at times bordered on a bit obsurd. That's not to say I didn't enjoy watching it, it was entertaining and was one of those jumpy films that has you on the edge of your seat, but there wasn't much more to it than that.
I suppose some of the moral issues presented did give the film a bit more depth. The dilemma the family face of whether to give up the stranger and send him to his death, or risk their own lives was a difficult and interesting one. The film also touches on the fact that the Purge could actually be viewed as the governments way of writing off poorer more vulnerable people and those reliant on the state, therefore saving themselves money. I hoped this sub-concept might develop a bit further than it did.
Although I've been referring to the film as a Horror film, it was actually more of a thriller in the end and I wouldn't put it in the same genre as films like Saw and Hostel. I'm easily scared by horror films yet found this film easy to watch and it wasn't disturbing and didn't feature any gory scenes. Therefore I'd say it was suited to anyone (over 15!).
The acting was fine but nothing to really write home about. I found Lena Headey slightly wooden, however Ethan Hawke gave a natural, easy performance which was better to watch. The 'Purgers' who threaten the family were an odd bunch who mainly wore masks and came across as mentally unstable, therefore it is hard to comment on the acting skill. Rhys Wakefield plays the leader of the Purgers and is the only one to remove his mask, and I thought he was actually quite interesting and managed to create a bizarre character who suited the film well and gave it a more sinister edge.
This film looks interesting and does present a unique concept, but the reality is that it isn't really anything special and it falls into a lot of genre stereotypes. It's worth watching once just for the initial concept but I won't be watching it again.
I saw the first two Hangover films and loved them so I was really excited when the third film was released earlier this month. It is the final film in the series and I hoped that it would go out on a high. Todd Philips wrote and directed the film which was released in UK cinemas on 23rd May 2013. I had seen a few adverts here and there and I must admit I was a little bit concerned that it didn't look as funny as the previous films.
The storyline revolves around Leslie Chow (Mr Chow from the earlier films) who has escaped from prison and is now on the run. The rest of the 'wolfpack' Alan, Phil, Doug and Stu are on their way to a rehab centre in Arizona where Alan will stay after they fear his mental health has deteriorated to a dangerous level. On the way there they are rammed by a truck containing masked men and Doug is taken hostage by the gang who demand that they hunt down Chow who has stolen $42 Million worth of gold. The gang hunted down the men after realising that Chow had been in contact with Alan while in prison. The rest of the film is about the gang hunting down Chow and trying to find the gold so they can get Doug back safely.
The first disappointment was the fact that the film didn't follow the usual format of the gang waking up and not having a clue what is going on. Perhaps the producers thought it might be becoming predictable and repetitive, however I was expecting this and was disappointed that it didn't happen. Therefore the film wasn't really worthy of the title 'Hangover' on this occasion. The second disappointment was the fact that it simply wasn't funny. And that is from someone who went in there in a good mood 'wanting' it to be funny and actually trying to find it funny, but it just wasn't! No matter how hard I tried it just wasn't funny. There were a few moments towards the end which were laugh out loud worthy, but it was almost a bit too late by then. Perhaps if the first two films weren't so hilarious I wouldn't have minded it so much, but I was expecting the same level of comedy and to be laughing out loud throughout but didn't get that.
I was also disappointed with the way the characters had developed. They were all a bit too grown up and in control. I suppose it was trying to mark a change and bring closure to the films, however it just came across as boring and I would have preferred the characters to be like they used to be. The plot itself wasn't that bad in general and gave the usual dangerous predicament that I've come to expect from the films, but there just wasn't quite enough crazy involved to make it as fun as the others. Instead it came across like any other action comedy film. I thought the first two films offered something a bit different, whereas this one failed to do so and wasn't very memorable.
I didn't really have a major opinion on the acting as I don't think any of the cast are anything special, and weren't really in the other two films either. However they are all funny which is what they need to be, it's just a shame that there comedy potential didn't come out fully due to the poor nature of the script and plot.
Overall I was disappointed with the film and whilst there were a few funny moments and I wasn't exactly bored during it, it just didn't live up to what I expected based on the other two films. If it was just a film on its own without being compared to the other two I might have liked it more, but as much as I wanted to enjoy it I just didn't.
The Great Gatsby is a book adaptation of F.Scott Fitzgeralds 1925 novel of the same name. It is written and was directed by Baz Luhrmann and was released in UK cinemas on 16th May 2013. I had been excited about its release for a while after reading about it for several months beforehand. When the trailers got released it looked just as I expected and I couldn't wait to see it.
The film is narrated by Nick Carraway (Tobey Maguire) who us looking back on his past. Nick is in a rehab style centre being treated for his depression and alcoholism, and it is suggested to him that he write a book to aid him in understanding his mind again. The doctor suggests he write about a memory and so begins the tale of Gatsby. We then go back to 1922 where Nick has just moved to New York and has started a job on Wall Street selling bonds. He finds and rents a house on Long Island which is amongst various mansions, including the home of Jay Gatsby who is his neighbour. He soon learns that Gatsby is very rich and regularly throws huge extravagant parties.
Eventually Nick receives an invite to one of Gatsby's parties and after attending realises that no-one at the party actually knows who Gatsby is! This simply adds to the mystery so when he gets the opportunity to meet Gatsby Nick is very enthralled and is surprised to come across a fairly young man (Leonardo DiCaprio). Gatsby takes an immediate liking to Nick and the pair become close friends.
We are introduced to Nicks cousin Daisy Buchanan (Carey Mulligan) who is married to a very rich polo player Tom Buchanan (Joel Edgerton) and has a daughter with him. Nick soon learns that Gatsby knows Daisy and is madly in love with her, and he is asked by Gatsby to help set the pair up. This is where the drama unfolds...
I have only written an introduction to the plot as I wouldn't like to ruin what was a very interesting storyline. Therefore there is much more to the story than the above and the majority of dramatic moments occur after this point. Essentially the film is a love story yet it would be incorrect to describe it as that since the love story itself barely gets going. It is actually much more of an intense drama, with a love story as the cause. I found the plot very engaging and felt it was carried out in a suitable way.
One of the main concepts for the first part of the film is the mystery of this man named Gatsby. There are points where one wonders if he even exists. The plot holds back on many details at the start of the film which adds to the mysterious build up. The clever part is that you don't even know which details are being held back or what things you should want to know, as it is all quite mysterious. This made for fun watching and I was immediately enthralled by the film, in the same way that the protagonist is by Gatsby.
The film is about 2.5 hours long but it went really quickly and never felt like the plot was being dragged out and there was no repetition. I suppose there were phases in the film where nothing particular happened and this was due to the film setting the scene which is always took time to do. Yet this wasn't really a bad thing as such, it was so visually stunning that I was glad that it took time to let the viewer appreciate the setting and production without something important happening at the same time.
The film has several main characters (I haven't mentioned them all in my plot summary as it would spoil the film), some of which are very different from one another, yet they all link in the end. This gave a good variation as I think a film of this length would have become claustrophobic if it had only been about 2 or 3 people. The main themes explored during the film are those of true love and its effects on a person and deception and the mess it can leave behind. These themes were the primary focus throughout the film, but it never felt like a lecture or anything too serious. Despite sounding quite serious it was actually quite comical in parts, particularly towards the beginning when not a lot of the depth had been revealed. It was never an all-out comedy but provided a few giggles which fitted in well during the first half.
I was very impressed with the casting and acting in the film. I thought all the actors were well cast in their roles and gave excellent performances. I'm already a big fan of Leonardo DiCaprio and feel he can do no wrong - this was no exception. He played the unusual role of Gatsby even better than I expected and pulled off the troubled and complex character very well. I wouldn't have said it was an easy role to play, as Gatsby is a confident rich man on the outside, yet on the inside he is slightly disturbed and unpredictable. Some of the scenes required excellent acting and control and he executed them perfectly giving a flawless and convincing performance.
I was unsure about Tobey Maguire...I just thought of him as the guy in Spiderman and hadn't really noticed him in anything since so I didn't expect him to stand out alongside DiCaprio. But I was very wrong, he gave an excellent performance and perfectly captured the naivety of his character without being over the top about it and allowing it to slip into a comical routine. I really enjoyed his acting throughout the film and it left a lasting impression, giving me a better opinion of him. I also wasn't sure about Carey Mulligan. I remember her from Drive with Ryan Gosling where she gave an unusual performance which I couldn't quite decide was pulled off due to her skill or the fact that the character resembled her actual self. Whereas this character was much different and had more sides. I thought Mulligan gave a strong performance as Daisy and managed to naturally capture the various angles of the character, again without over acting.
Other performances worth noting were that of Joel Edgerton as Tom, I barely recognised him as the same man who starred in The Fighter and never would have thought he might suit a film like this or pull off the character. Yet he did perfectly well and managed to excellently portray the self-assured pompous nature of the character yet allow for the hints at his insecurity to creep in. Isla Fisher also gave a good performance as Myrtle Wilson, a lesser featured character but important to the plot.
By far the most enjoyable and memorable element of this film was the effects. It promised to be a visually stunning film and it was from start to finish. I could have enjoyed it for the effects and production alone. Every moment of the film is adorned with beautiful scenery which really enhances the whole thing and made for very good viewing. The views over the city and the scenes at Gatsby's parties were a marvel and it was all just so pretty and colourful.
The music was also very complimentary, it was produced by Jay Z and featured some of his own songs. It gave the film an interesting modern edge my clashing the modern music with the old fashioned content. This had a great effect and reminded me slightly of Romeo & Juliet where modern meets tradition in film. It made the film stand out from others.
I thoroughly enjoyed every element of this film. The storyline was interesting and engaging, the acting and casting perfect and the production and effects were just amazing. All in all it was a fantastic film well worth watching. I appreciate that it may not be for everyone but personally I really really enjoyed it and can't wait to see it again.
Water for Elephants is a book adaptation of Sara Gruens Novel of the same name. It was released in 2011 and is directed by Francis Lawrence. I saw it at the cinema back in 2011 and have recently bought it on DVD and watched it again.
The film is set in the 1930s during the Great Depression in America. We are introduced to 23 year old Jacob (Robert Pattinson) who abandons his final exams in training to become a Veterinarian after his parents are both killed in a car accident. After running away he comes across a travelling circus train and decides to get on board. It turns out the train is for the Benzini Brothers Circus and after Jacob is reported to the circus owner August Rosenbluth (Christoph Waltz) who initially threatens to throw him off, but upon learning that he is trained in veterinary medicine he decides to keep him and hire him as their in-house vet for the circus animals.
Jacob soon meets Marlena (Reece Witherspoon) the wife of August whom he is immediately drawn to. Marlena also has an interest and passion for animals and works alongside them in several circus acts. When August acquires an elephant, Rosie, to add to the circus Marlena and Jacob are assigned to work together to train her and we see the pair become closer. Before he knows it Jacob has become a close friend to August and spends a lot of time with him. He soon learns that August and Marlenas marriage is a troubled one in which August takes out his aggression on her. And at the same time it is clear that Marlena and Jacob have feelings for each other...
I must admit that on paper the basic plot doesn't exactly sound thrilling, yet the film does have a lot to offer. Firstly I liked the setting and it was enjoyable watching a film set back in the 1930s for a change. It allowed a degree of escapism in form of the era setting yet kept this down to earth with its uncensored portrayal of the troubles that went with that era. The entire film was convincing to the era and came across really well.
The plot was interesting and the dilemma created was good enough to make the viewer care. The plot moved slowly giving you chance to take everything in and enjoy the scenery, and it followed quite a normal pattern of relative calm throughout with a climax at the end, followed shortly by a conclusion. I thought the plot style and movement suited the content and made for good watching. This film wouldn't have suited being fast paced or one with twists.
The main areas covered by the film are morals - or lack of in the case of August and relationships between people. The film takes these issues to the extremes presenting two different extremes of relationship type - Marlena who is naturally caring and loving, in contrast to August who is selfish and evil. And then the contrast of morals between the two, Marlena who cares about the animals, and August who is cruel to them and only cares about the money. Therefore the film provides several moral dilemmas throughout which made for entertaining, if not quite upsetting viewing.
The film is generally sad throughout yet never came across as depressing, otherwise I most likely wouldn't have watched it again. It brings in a level of lightheartedness through other characters and comical scenes. These scenes allowed for some relief from the more sombre parts and gave the film a nice balance. As an animal lover I did find one particular scene quite disturbing, and after remembering it from the first time round I decided to leave the room when watching it again at home, just for that part. It is difficult to define what type of film this is. I suppose essentially it is a romantic drama, however I felt there was a bit more to it than that and it was better than other films that would fall into that genre category.
I wasn't expecting much from this film in terms of acting. I had only ever seen Robert Pattinson in the Twilight films which, whilst I like them, aren't exactly known for excellent acting skill! And I tend to associate Reece Witherspoon with rom-coms and nothing else. However the pair actually gave a surprisingly good performance which I enjoyed. They both fit well within the era the film was based in and gave convincing performances throughout.
I thought Christoph Waltz had the most challenging and complex role to play though and he pulled it off perfectly and definitely came across as the better actor in the film. His character August was an unusual troubled man, who needed to come across not just as straightforward evil (which would have been easy) but evil in an unpredictable way with a troubled edge. He managed this really well and created a complex edgy character.
I thought this film offered something different from the norm and was executed really well. The storyline was interesting and the production of the 1930s setting and people was convincing and enjoyable to watch. The acting was strong and the cast all suit their roles well. Therefore I would recommend the film and say it is well worth a watch.
I saw a trailer for this film and concluded that it was a chick flick with a twist...I couldn't have been more wrong as I found out when I went watching it last week with a friend. It was released in the UK on 05 April 2013 and is directed by and written by Harmony Korine.
The film is about four college girls (Faith - Selena Gomez, Brit - Ashley Benson, Candy - Vanessa Hudgens & Cotty - Rachel Korine) who are determined to go to Florida on 'spring break' vacation. They are so determined that when they realise they don't have enough money they rob a takeaway to get the extra money. They make it to Florida and are having the time of their lives, until a party they are attending gets busted by police and they are arrested.
They are given the option of an extended sentence or paying their way out which of course they can't afford. Yet Alien (James Franco) a local rapper and gangster who saw the girls at the party and witnessed their arrest, bails them out.
The girls immediately start spending time with Alien yet Faith, who is the most timid of the girls and has a religious background, quickly becomes afraid of Alien and his friends and decides to go home. However the other three girls move in with Alien and become part of his gang, performing robberies and violent break-ins. They soon learn of his rival Big Arch (Gucci Mane) and conflict begins between the two gangs. Things escalate from here and the girls get involved too deep...
Well this is a difficult one...the first thing I remember when I think of the movie was how shocking it was. Its pushes the boundaries to the very extreme in terms of sexual, violent and drug related content. I'm not that much of a prude yet some of the scenes made me cringe and I'm amazed the actors involved (James Franco) were willing to be part of them! I'm not sure if this observation is a criticism or not, as it really was fun (and funny) to watch and the shock factor made watching it quite enjoyable as you just didn't know what was going to happen next, and how far it would push the boundaries.
Yet at the same time I felt slightly disturbed by the content and the fact that it is presented in an approving nature almost making the viewer think that it is ok to break the law and that you will probably get away with it. They seem to get away with everything scot-free (bar the arrest at the house party) including quite serious crimes where evidence is blatantly left behind. There are no consequences in the film or repercussions. I'm not saying that the film should be a lesson where the viewer learns that you can't get away with crime, it's been given an 18 rating so viewers should know better than to copy it, yet if anything it just felt unrealistic that they never got caught.
I also felt like it glamourized violence...I know to some extent all films do this, as we so often see the 'good guy' using violence to save the day. Yet this film glamourized it in a more unsettling way, by giving us these 4 young girls who are having the time of their life being part of a gang and don't seem to have a care in the world...and getting away with it at the same time. This just didn't sit well with me and came across as unrealistic and irresponsible. Yet again I can't deny that it was entertaining to watch.
The plot itself was also quite none existent. As I've detailed above really not a lot happens other than 4 college girls go to Florida and get involved with the wrong gang. The majority of the film is taken up by them being on spring break and just having a good time, going partying and having a laugh. I don't think the film particularly cares about the plot and instead plays on the shock factor and the simple fact that these girls are going off the rails. I would have preferred it if there had been more to the plot and if the film had created a few more happenings. Once I'd got over the initial shock of the spring break culture and the direction the girls were going in I soon became bored of the whole film and felt like I was watching a reality TV show.
Another thing missing in this film was that it didn't encourage the viewer to relate to the characters as such or feel for them. It rarely gives an insight into the actual thoughts of the characters and we rarely witness any emotion or honesty from them. Therefore I never particularly felt sorry for anyone or even understood fully why they were doing what they were doing. So for that reason I didn't really care for the outcome and wasn't bothered what became of anyone. This was a shame as I usually prefer to relate to the characters to some extent and root for them, yet I wondered if the film kept the viewer detached deliberately to keep with the disorientation theme.
The most notable element of the film was the production and effects. There is major editing going on in this film and it works brilliantly to give you that claustrophobic feeling and mimic the effects of drugs. I actually found it quite unnerving at times watching the film and it was a result of the editing. It gives you flashing and blurred imagery and odd camera angles that make you feel like you're drunk. It also jumps from one scene to another then back to disorientate the viewer. I was really impressed with this and thought it added to the film and made up slightly for the lack of plot. The soundtrack was also very good, whilst at the parties the music is rap and R&B, but during the more serious scenes there are some really nice orchestral dance mixes which gave a serious sombre tone but without going too far away from the genre. These really complimented certain scenes and brought them to life.
I wasn't expecting much from the acting. I've never heard of Ashley Benson or Rachel Korine (wife of the director) and thought of Selena Gomez and Vanessa Hudgens as Disney actresses who wouldn't have much to offer in a more grown up film. But actually all four actresses were quite good and held their own within the film. Some of the scenes were so bizarre and it must have been quite difficult to hold the character but they do this well.
James Franco was brilliant in this film. I've seen him a few films and thought he was good but nothing memorable, whereas in this he creates a really unique character and pulls it off really well. His character is bad but with a softer, more needy side which comes out. Alien is also very creepy especially when he first comes across the girls and he does well at portraying this and the perverted way he plays the character made me cringe at times as he came across so grim and dodgy. He also looked unrecognisable and didn't even sound like his usual self, so all round he did a great job.
The film focuses entirely on these characters, and any other actors within the film are merely in the background and barely have any lines, therefore I can't really give any opinion on the rest of the cast.
I'm still unsure on my final verdict of this film. What I will say is that it lacks in plot-based substance yet attempts (mainly successfully) to make up for it with masses of controversial scenes and concepts. This worked to some extent but at times, particularly during the middle of the film, this wasn't enough and a decent plot or additional happenings were needed. The film is disturbing in many ways and offensive, yet it seems to do this deliberately and it seems this was the intention, therefore it feels wrong to criticise it based on this.
The acting is very strong and the production and editing is superb and makes the film enjoyable to watch. I doubt I would watch this again as the initial shock factor would then be gone and I doubt there would be much left to enjoy about it. I wouldn't recommend watching this if in general, particularly if you're in a serious mood, yet if you feel like something a bit controversial and different it may be worth a try.
I went to Aintree Racecourse for the first time on 5th April 2013 which was Ladies Day (day before Grand National) with a friend. I've been to a few race meetings at other racecourses before but never anything on this scale. To be clear, I'm not a gambler and rarely place a bet, so don't have any knowledge on racing or horses. To me this was more a day out to have a dabble at betting but more to socialise, dress up and attend a big event.
I booked the tickets through the official Aintree Racecourse website (www.aintree.co.uk) which is an informative and easy to use website. We booked Tattersall's tickets which cost £35 per person, however were more like £40 each once the booking fee and postage cost had been added. Despite booking the tickets a few weeks prior to the event I was surprised to find that there was no option for printing the tickets at home, and the only options available were postage (£7 recorded delivery) or picking them up from box office on the day. I went for the postage option to be safe, yet on the day I noticed that the box office was relatively quiet with only a few people waiting to collect, so I wish I had opted for this and saved the postage fee. The tickets arrived quickly and came with an information pack which told me everything I needed to know.
We got a lift to the racecourse which I was glad about because I had read that parking is quite limited on the actual racecourse. When approaching the racecourse we noticed loads of random guys in hi-viz with signs saying "cheap parking for races" etc but they all looked a bit dodgy and I was quite glad we didn't need to worry about that. On race day the main road that the racecourse is on is attended by police and traffic is quite bad. It took us about 20 minutes to drive a couple of miles to get close enough to walk. The road is open though, but I heard it would close while the races are actually happening (I'm not sure why!)
After the races we decided to go into Liverpool city centre so opted to get the train there. Aintree Train Station is directly opposite the racecourse, you literally cross the road to it. Of course because we left just after the final race, the train station was packed and there was a massive queue to get near it. The queue moved quickly though as trains turned up every 10 minutes, and there were loads of staff on site to keep things moving properly and ensure the trains/platforms weren't over loaded.
We had originally wanted tickets for the County Stand, yet unfortunately tickets were sold out and we ended up opting for tickets for Tattersall's which was the cheapest admission. It cost £35 per person with a fee for postage of tickets. The racecourse itself is huge, bigger than any I had seen before. The biggest area is the Tattersall's which is open to anyone who goes into the racecourse, yet doesn't include access inside the racecourse. The Tattersall's is mainly an open area and there are no actual race stands. Instead there is what is known as the Aintree Mound which is a hill and slope where you can stand and get a good view of the closing stage of each race. Within the Tattersall's enclosure there is access to the Parade Ring and Winners Enclosure, as well as the Red Rum Lawn where there are various bars and cafes. There is also access to the Aintree Pavilion which is a huge indoor arena housing cafes, bars, live music on a stage and live coverage of each race on a big screen.
The day we were at Aintree the weather wasn't the best. It was dry yet there was a strong wind and temperatures were at around 8 degrees. Therefore we were extremely grateful of the Aintree Pavilion where we could keep warm yet still be part of the atmosphere and watch the races on the big screen. In fact it seemed there was more atmosphere in the Pavilion than outside! We even saw people with badges for the Queen Mother Stand which costs £100 entry in there, obviously they had just found it too cold out there. Inside the Aintree Pavilion there were a few bars and cafes around the outside walls, but the majority is a huge space in the middle where people gather and socialise. We were fairly near the front of the Pavilion where there was a great view of the main stage which featured live entertainment from various singers/bands as well as the big screen which came on during each race.
We did venture outside and walked over to the Aintree Mound which gave great viewing of the final part of the racecourse and walked through the general areas where there were benches, bars and tote betting cabins. The toilets were located just outside of the Pavilion and were a series of upscale portaloos but felt more like mini caravans. There were about 15 in total and each had 5 toilet cubicles and a few sink and vanity areas. They felt like real toilets and were much better than the usual portaloos. They were clean and just like using a toilet in a normal building.
Whilst we enjoyed being in the Tattersall's enclosure and it included everything we needed, I did wish we had access to one of the private stands (detailed below). It would have been nice to get a bit more involved in the racing itself and spent more time outside. I felt we missed out on a certain element of the day and always felt like we were in the area behind all of the action and it didn't feel like we were actually at live races, but more like we were in another big party nearby. Tattersall's are very lacking in seats and table areas. Within the Pavilion where there must have been thousands of people, there were probably about twenty small tables to put drinks down. This proved quite awkward at times, but luckily we managed to squeeze onto a table with some other racegoers meaning we could put our drinks down. I also felt the Tattersall's weren't as luxury as the rest of the racecourse may have been. I must admit the weather probably was too poor to spend time outside, but if it had been a nicer day I would have definitely preferred to have been in one of the stands and getting a bit more involved. Yet it can't be denied that the Tattersall's are full of atmosphere and very busy which made for a fun day.
If you want to have seating without paying too much more you can pay for West Tip Seats which are within the Tattersall's enclosure but offer a private area with sheltered seating and a private bar. These tickets cost around £67. Other stands available when booking are the Princess Royal Stand which offers a choice of either seating on the main grandstand or standing on the roof terrace. The majority of this section is sheltered and it also has a private bar inside. Tickets for this area are between £90-£120.
The County Stand is a high up area which overlooks the finishing line. There is a big screen within this area. Tickets cost around £90.
The Queen Mother Stand is similar to Princess Royal in the sense that you can either sit in the main grandstand or stand on the roof terrace. All seating in this area is sheltered and there is a big screen available for closure viewing. Tickets cost between £90-£110.
The Earl of Derby 7 Lord Sefton Stands are two separate stands which include two levels of seating, the upper level is the highest stand on the racecourse and then there are terraces on a lower level. Tickets range from £85-£110.
If you want to push the boat out there is the Platinum County Lounge which is a luxury lounge area including reserved seating in the county stand, a private champagne bar, free race card and a race day hostess. This ticket costs £120.
Early on in the day we decided to buy a race card from one of the betting stands. This cost about £6 but proved invaluable throughout the day and was actually borrowed by many around us who hadn't got one. It gives a full summary of the horses included in each race, plus background information on each horse, as well as odds. As I've already mentioned neither I, nor the friend I went with, have any knowledge on betting or the horses, yet the race card helped us to gain a better understanding and at the very least we knew which horses were actually in each race and could choose one before queuing up to bet.
Placing bets was easy, no matter where you are on the racecourse there are numerous betting stations around you and the people in them are understanding of any lack of experience as I think a lot of people at big events like Ladies Day don't really know what they are doing!! Placing a bet is quick and easy, you just say the horses name and the amount you want to bet and they give you a slip. If the horse wins you return to the betting station and claim your money using the slip. Due to having little knowledge on the subject we never placed more than a £5 bet on any horse, so it wasn't major money. But it was fun and we still got a buzz when our horses won (or were leading). I can't stress enough that even if you aren't a betting person who wants to put loads of money on, or someone who knows a lot about the race, it can still be fun betting and watching the races!!
**Food and Drinks**
When we first entered the racecourse (about 12) we decided to try and find somewhere to eat. There were several takeaway style food places with various food options, for example pizza, pies, Spanish food (paella) etc. We ended up opting for a burger from the 'gourmet burger' stand. It cost £8 for a burger and it was the most awful burger I have ever had. I understand the mobile food cabins aren't going to produce the best quality food, but this was ridiculous. It came on a small piece of dry bread, the burger was tiny and some soggy lettuce on it. I've had burgers from stands at various events and they are usually really nice but this was poor. And to pay £8 for it was an insult. That was the only food we had whilst at the racecourse.
The first drink we had was from one of the cocktail bars. It drew our attention because the barmen were performing all sorts of tricks whilst mixing the drinks and looked like they knew a thing or two about mixing drinks. We both went for a Mojito and watched while the barman made the drink. There was a fair amount of effort and show involved and typically it was served in a plastic cup which is understandable at an event like this, but it was such a small cup. The drink only lasted a few minutes as there was barely any liquid in it amongst the ice. He used real Bacardi which was good but the drink was tasteless as he didn't bother with any sugar. It cost £8 each for the cocktail which was a complete rip off for what we got. So at that point we decided to move onto wine as at least you know what you're getting there.
We got our first wine from the main bar in the middle of the Pavilion. They were serving mini bottles of white, rose and red. We both went for Rose which cost £5 for the bottle which was about a glass full. The wine was nice and it was good to have a decent drink, however it was served in ordinary plastic cups which felt a bit strange. This bar also offered beers and spirits. After that we decided to move on to the champagne bar which served only full size bottles of wine, sparkling wine and champagne. The wine was about £20 a bottle, sparkling wine was £35 and champagne was £80 (I think...) We decided to go for the sparkling wine which was lovely and lasted us for the rest of the day. Even better the champagne bar provided mini plastic wine glasses which made the drink more enjoyable and just felt better!
So in summary everything is expensive, but there is plenty of choice. I wouldn't recommend the cocktail bars which aren't worth the bother, stick to bottles or measured mixers then you know what you're getting. And be careful where you get food from, take a moment to have a look at the food on offer rather than rushing like we did!
I thought I'd include this in the review as its one of the things which can concern a lot of people. There is no official dress code at Aintree so really you can wear what you want. (With exception to Grand National race day when sports clothes and fancy dress are not permitted). Every man I saw was wearing a suit, or shirt and trousers, and 90% also wore a tie. Every woman was dressed up, I'd say 80% were in dresses but there were also many women in trouser suits or trousers with a smart top. Therefore it is optional what you wear, yet the preference is to dress up and look smart, with most women wearing dresses. The majority of women also wore a hat or fascinator. Anyone who reads the newspaper reports on Ladies Day will see that there are quite a few who take the dressing up a bit too far and favour bright clashing colours, and this really is the case when you are there. But it is all good fun and its fun people watching at some 'interesting' outfits and flamboyant hats!
We actually got dropped off at the Racecourse at 10:30am (it opens at 10:00) but decided we didn't want to go straight in at that time. So we went into the Rocking Horse pub which is located directly outside the racecourse. This is a typical blokes pub and there's nothing fancy about it, which we expected to be honest. I'd say 90% of the people in there were blokes, as it was quite early on for women. I got the feeling people were getting a head start with drinks in there before facing the ridiculous drinks prices in the racecourse! We only had a soft drink in there but it was clear that drinks were reasonable priced in there. The pub got busier and busier the closer it got to lunchtime so we decided to get out around 12:00.
We had a good day at Aintree Racecourse and I would definitely return. The racecourse is very big and provides many options depending what day you are looking for and how much you want to spend. There are plenty of different areas available even in the Tattersall's, so there is always somewhere new to stand and it won't get boring. I would recommend splashing out on a stand ticket so you can get a bit closer to the action, particularly if the weather is going to be good. Aintree isn't just for hard-core betters, especially on a day like Ladies Day, there is so much more on offer. Ticket prices are reasonable but expect to spend quite a bit on food and drinks once you're in there.
I went to the cinema a few weeks ago with a friend and we both felt we hadn't seen a good chick flick for a while and decided to try Safe Haven. It is directed by Lasse Hallstrom and was released on 01 March 2013. The title might be familiar as it is based on a book of the same name by Nicolas Sparks (author of The Notebook).
I had seen a trailer for the film and thought it looked like a typical chick flick yet it also hinted that there may be a deeper, darker side to it which was intriguing.
The film is set in the sleepy coastal town of Southport (no not the UK one...actually North Carolina). Alex Wheatley (Josh Duhamel), a widowed young man with two children lives in the town, and comes across newcomer Erin Tierney (Julianne Hough) who has fled her home town in disguise and appears to be being pursued by the police. She gives herself a new name "Katie" and starts to make herself a new home in the town. She buys an isolated run down house in the woods and meets a new friend Jo (Cobie Smulders) who also lives in the woods. She also gets a job in a local bar. Alex immediately shows an interest in Katie and starts to try to befriend her, yet she knocks back his advances to begin with. Yet she eventually gives in and becomes romantically involved with Alex and gets to know his two children Josh and Lexie.
Meanwhile the film keeps jumping back to her original town where a police detective Kevin Tierney (David Lyons) is hunting her down for murder. This eventually catches up with her when a wanted poster showing her picture is put up in the sheriff's office in her new town. Before long the detective arrives in her home town and the drama really begins...
The plot summary I've given above only really covers the first half of the film and the majority of the exciting plot happens in the second part, yet I didn't want to spoil it for anyone. The film is certainly a chick flick in the most part and gives plenty of build-up followed by plenty of romance, which made for a good watch. There were plenty of romantic scenes and a few tear jerkers...yes it's girly but that's what we expected and what we wanted. Yet the second part of the film also gives quite intense drama which surprised me and gave me something more to enjoy about the film. The dramatic scenes were still in keeping with the genre of the film and were never too violent or disturbing, yet prevented the film from becoming boring and repetitive towards the end and also gave a stronger plot.
I was also surprised that the film actually kept the viewer in the dark regarding the background of the protagonists and some truths aren't revealed until the end where there is more than one shocking twist. Usually I find that romantic films lay everything out on a plate so this was a bit different and made it stand out from the rest. It also made watching that bit more challenging, yet not too demanding. The plot changes pace several times throughout the film to reflect what it going on. The start of the film is fast paced showing 'Katie' on the run from her home town and is a very intense scene. Yet as soon as she arrives in her 'safe haven' the pace slows dramatically to reflect the calm she feels. Then again towards the end when things catch up with her, it speeds up again. This complimented the film really well.
It was vital that the viewer could relate to the main characters in this film in order for it to be enjoyable and they ensured that they were easy to relate to and that you were on their side. The film really focusses on the two protagonists giving you an insight into their personality and allowing you to understand them. The result of this was that you instantly felt drawn to them and liked them, which helped the film along by giving you someone to root for and ensured that you cared about the outcome and their fate.
The film was about the right length (roughly 1.5 hours) which I think is a good length for this kind of film and it didn't get boring or tiring. The soundtrack consists of mainly romantic background songs which is to be expected, and these complimented the film brilliantly.
I enjoyed the performances of Julianne Hough and Josh Duhamel. I've heard of them both but not really seen either of them play a major part in any films. I can see that they aren't the best actors and their performances weren't Oscar worthy, but for this type of film they were fine. The characters were relatively easy to act out and were straight forward personalities that don't change at all. I wouldn't say watching this film has made me rate them anymore as actors, but I thought their performances were convincing and that there was good chemistry between the pair.
Cobie Smulders who plays Katies new friend Jo didn't really feature in the film a great deal and I found her performance reminded me more of the level that you might see on TV, for example on a soap. The same can be said for David Lyons who plays detective Kevin Tierney who I felt overacted a bit and bordered on cheesy. It became clear that the film is fairly low budget in terms of cast, yet I don't think it really needed an A-List cast as the film only really focusses on the two protagonists anyway, plus I don't think a film like this really demands amazing acting or famous faces.
I would recommend this film if you are looking for a chick flick with a bit of a twist, but predominantly a romantic film. It delivers all the elements you would want and expect from a romantic film, but also offers a bit of extra drama but without straying too far from the original genre. The acting is debatable, nothing ground breaking, yet good enough and easy to watch. I wouldn't necessarily watch this again but I did enjoy it.
In-Time was released in November 2011 and I saw it at the cinema then recently bought it on DVD and watched it again. So I thought it was about time I reviewed it. It is written and directed by Andrew Niccol.
The film is set in the future in the year 2169 in a world where currency has been altered and now takes the form of time. Human beings have been genetically altered to stop aging at age 25 and a digital clock on their arm (which they are now born with) starts ticking showing a year's worth of time. They then have to earn time by working and use the time to live (use it to buy food and do anything we would use money for). If the clock reaches zero the person instantly dies. Time can also be transferred between people simply by making physical contact arm to arm. Death can only come with either timing out (this can include 'murder' where a person's clock is cleared unwillingly) or by being killed as a result of an accident (e.g.: being shot or overdosing on drugs).
America now has clear divisions which revolve around how wealthy one is. The majority live in Dayton which is the poorest time-zone also known as the ghetto. There are regular deaths in Dayton where seeing a dead body lying the street isn't unusual. Most people in Dayton have less than a day accumulated on their clock, including Will Salas (Justin Timberlake) and his mother Rachel (Olivia Wilde). One can move between different time-zones however to make it to the wealthier areas (the wealthiest being New Greenwich) you have to pay in time to get past the borders and it becomes more expensive the further you go.. It reaches the point where entry to New Greenwich is one year! Therefore movement between time-zones is very rare and unusual.
Will Salas ends witnesses 105 year old Henry Hamilton (Matt Bomer) get involved in a potential bar fight. Matt is from New Greenwich and has 100 years on his clock, therefore is asking for trouble being in the ghetto. Will saves him and takes him to a safe place for the night where they fall asleep. When will wakes up he has 100 years on his clock and realises these have been given to him by Matt who he then watches commit suicide on a bridge. It isn't long before the timekeepers (police) find out about this and they wrongly assume that Will has stolen the time from Matt and thus killed him.
The film then gets going and Will heads to Greenwich to seek revenge on the rich. This is where he meets the daughter of the richest man in Greenwich Sylvia (Amanda Seyfried) who goes on the run with him with the aim to overthrow the system.
Having written out a summary of the plot I've realised that in writing it sounds a bit far-fetched and stupid, but actually it is quite the opposite. When watching the film I thought it was a very clever and interesting concept of a world with a new currency that encourages more corruption and death than our current one. It is clear that the initial concept is very well thought out and everything matches it within the film, thus making it a consistent watch. It is a very dystopic film and goes all out on this and stays serious throughout, yet it wasn't depressing to watch as such.
I liked that the film was bordering on fantasy in the sense that the way this world works is so different from ours, yet it is possible to imagine and in many ways still relates to society and economics today, only more extreme. Therefore it was kind of in the middle between fantasy and reality, so offered a certain level of escapism without being an all-out fantasy.
The plot starts off slowly, giving time to introduce this alternate future world and allowing the viewer to gain a full understanding of it. Yet as soon as the main plot gets going things speed up which reflects the panic felt by the protagonists when their time is running out. Initially I thought the plot might be quite straight forward, but as the film progresses it becomes more complex and gave me something to get in to. It made easy watching and there weren't any major twists as such, but there was enough story for it to be engaging. I often find, even during some of my favourite films, that there is a point where I get a bit tired and either lose interest in the plot, or wish it would finish soon. However in this film it didn't happen. It isn't too long of a film and there is always something going on to keep you interested and keep your attention.
I liked the main characters created by the film and they were easy to relate to and the sort of characters that you want to survive, therefore I found myself rooting for them and genuinely caring for the outcome and their fate. This added a lot to the film and made the watching experience more fun. I also loved the editing used in the film to create this dystopic future world. Everything constantly looked grey and even the scenes in the rich areas were made to look very dark and dystopic. It was really believable and looked amazing, and really complimented the whole film. The soundtrack was also very dark and grinding with matched everything else really well.
The acting in the film was very good. I'm not a great fan of Justin Timberlake and I just can't take to him as an actor, yet I can't deny that he was very good in this film and was easy to watch and natural. I would say it is one of the better roles he has played and whilst the character wasn't challenging as such (due to being quite an straightforward, ordinary person) he still did well throughout. I'm also not a huge fan of Amanda Seyfried yet again I couldn't really fault her performance in this film. It was nothing ground-breaking or particularly memorable, but was natural and she didn't overact which is something she might usually do.
Other cast worth mentioning are Cillian Murphy who plays corrupt timekeeper 'Jaegar'. He makes a really great bad guy and I genuinely disliked him through the film, therefore he pulled it off. Olivia Wilde gave a short but strong performance as Wills Mum Rachel Salas. The film also stars Alex Pettyfer who plays rich Fortis who has formulated a gang and goes around the ghetto stealing time from others. He also plays the bad guy well and creates a cocky irritating character, perfect for the role. Overall the film is well cast and whilst I wouldn't say any of the performances stood out as outstanding and no role was notably challenging, yet they were all strong and good to watch. The concept of the film alone would make it worth watching, but the acting made it even better.
I'm giving this film 5 stars because it was very enjoyable to watch due to the interesting plot and concept which was carried well from start to finish, perfect editing to match the concept and strong acting throughout. It is one of those films I feel I could watch again and again, therefore it is highly recommended.
I saw this at the cinema a few weeks ago after seeing the trailer and thinking it looked interesting and a bit different. It was released on 15 March 2013 to UK cinemas. It is directed by Steven Soderbergh and written by Scott Z Burns.
The plot is about Emily Taylor (Rooney Mara) who is suffering severe depression and is prescribed a new drug called Ablixa by her psychiatrist Jonathan Banks (Jude Law) after she attempts suicide. It becomes apparent that the drug has some unusual side effects involving Emily sleep walking on a regular basis and actually managing to do things in her sleep such as making food. In a frightening turn of events Emily stabs to death her husband Martin (Channing Tatum) whilst sleep walking and there begins the trial on whether it is murder and if she was sleep walking who is accountable for the death?
Emily's psychiatrist Jonathan soon starts finding flaws in her story and beings to suspect that she wanted to murder her husband and had used the drug as a cover up, particularly because her last psychiatrist Dr Siebert (Catherine Zeta-Jones) happens to be one of the doctors who reported on the drug and recommended it.
This film excelled my expectations and was very gripping and interesting. I found the plot very unusual and different from any other film I have seen. I liked the idea of the plot and the battle between right and wrong and I thought it was executed very well. The film begins as a thriller/drama but ends up being more of a legal drama. I'm not usually a great fan of legal drama / courtroom dramas but this one kept me interested and didn't revolve too much around the courtroom itself but more around the characters concerned and their personal lives.
The plot actually moved very slowly but somehow this made it even more gripping and disorientating. It meant when the dramatic moments came they came as more of a shock and were more surprising. The plot was easy to follow and tended to make things easy for the viewer so no questions were left unanswered and not a great deal of thought was required. The plot did have a major twist though which gave it a level of complexity to set it apart from very basic films.
The film is entirely dark and there are no comical moments involved. This worked well and comedy moments would only have taken away from the seriousness and dark nature of the film. It focusses very much on the main characters allowing you to get an understanding for the complexity of the situation. Of course there are other people in the film, but they are more a backdrop to compliment the main cast and rarely make a major appearance. I liked this idea and it actually added to the claustrophobic feeling the film created.
It was very enjoyable to watch because of the way it was filmed and the editing which gave it a very grey dystopic feel and made the whole film feel very intense. This rubbed off onto me as the viewer and made me feel quite edgy when watching it which added to the experience. The music which accompanied the film was also very edgy and dark, thus complimenting the films' overall intentions.
Rooney Mara did an excellent job at portraying Emily Taylor. It was what began as a fairly straight forward character but became much more complex as the film develops. I couldn't have imagined another actress playing this character so well, everything from her general look, body language and voice suited the role so perfectly. I have only seen Rooney in one other film which was Girl with the Dragon Tattoo where she also played a dark and disturbed role, and here she does it again just as well.
Jude Law is a difficult one...I have never really warmed to him as an actor and find it difficult to take him seriously. Therefore seeing him playing a serious role in such as serious film was awkward and I just don't think he pulls it off somehow. I wouldn't say his acting was terrible but I just couldn't appreciate his casting too much and struggled to watch him at times.
Catherine Zeta-Jones doesn't feature in the film very much but when she did feature she did a great job and really suited her role. She played the character in a very natural way and didn't overact, despite it being a possibility for her character. Channing Tatum also doesn't feature a great deal in the film but acted well and it was good seeing him cast in a serious role and pulling it off. I feel like I can take him a bit more seriously now and he's moving away from his Magic Mike character (which for the record I loved!)
I really enjoyed this film and thought it created a dystopic atmosphere and interesting plot which worked very well. The acting and casting was generally very good and added to the experience. I would recommend the film yet I think it's a one watch kind of film and wouldn't feel compelled to watch it again.
To be honest we saw this film because there wasn't really much else on and we fancied a trip to the cinema. I had seen the advert a couple of times and knew it was a gothic thriller but the advert didn't really go into the actual plot so I was curious to know what it was about. I already had a feeling it wouldn't be the best film ever as I hadn't really heard a lot about it. It was released on Friday 01 March and is directed by Park Chan-Wook.
The film is about India Stoker (Mia Wasikowska) who has just turned 18. On her birthday she discovers her father and best friend has died in a horrific freak car accident. Her Uncle Charlie (Matthew Goode) whom she has never met appears at the funeral and moves in with India and her unstable mother Evelyn (Nicole Kidman) to help out around the house. It soon becomes apparent that India is different from other girls her age and is excluded by the other children at school and often bullied. Her fathers death has clearly scarred her and the appearance of Uncle Charlie who her mother has taken a special liking to doesn't help things.
As the film gets going we realise that Uncle Charlie isnt really there to seduce Evelyn (despite her advances) and is actually much more interested in India. It seems his appearance in her life unveils many of her own inner disturbing feelings, and we learn that there is more to Uncle Charlie than meets the eye..
This film is certainly 'different' to any other film I've seen and doesn't shy away from controversial topics. The plot itself isnt particularly engaging. I won't give away what happens during the film but quite a few major things so happen which on paper would make for a gripping screenplay, yet somehow it felt quite boring to watch and the plot didn't really engage or interest me. It moves very slowly and is extremely laid back in its approach.
Instead what was engaging about the film was the shock factor of the whole thing. The film deals with India growing up and realising she enjoys the concept of death and murder, and actually finds sexual pleasure in this. It also deals with the topic of incest in form of the relationship between India and her Uncle Charlie. I wasn't expecting such controversial issues to come out of the film and I did find it very shocking, and whilst I don't agree or endorse the issues presented, they did make for interesting watching, bordering on awkwardness.
The main theme of the film is the concept of children growing up into adults. The films' tagline "Innocence Ends" sums this up. However it takes you away from the norm and instead explores the possibility of a child growing up into a monster and the foundations on which this could occur. This particular element of the film is possible to relate to and makes it easier to imagine how evil might be bred and develop. Despite not finding an awful lot of interest in this topic, I do think the film presented this particular idea very well.
By the end of the film I felt quite uninspired. Yes the film was shocking which made it interesting in some respects, but that's all it was. I certainly wouldn't bother watching it again because the shock factor would be gone leaving nothing. There just wasn't enough action in it for me, and despite it delving into the deep realms of emotion it just didn't prove to be entertaining enough.
One of the main things which helped the film along was the casting. Matthew Goode who plays Uncle Charlie has a very eerie look about him throughout the film. He is very handsome but you can see there is something more there and he portrays this well, making his character very intriguing. Mia Wasikowska also absolutely suits her character and pulls off the silently troubled teenager look to perfection. The danger of her role would be coming across as more of an ordinary moody teenager, however Mia gives it more than this and creates an aura of mystery and confusion around herself which hints towards someone who is genuinely disturbed. Nicole Kidman plays India's mother Evelyn very well, her character is more complex than may meet the eye. Her character is also emotionally disturbed but in a much more naïve way than India and she plays this well.
If you favour dark and disturbing films this is worth a try if there is nothing better to watch, but unless this sounds like your ideal kind of film I doubt you will find it very enjoyable. Perhaps I missed the point, but in my opinion it was lacking in any real substance and substituted this with controversial scenes and emotional play. Therefore I personally would not recommend this film.