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This is a very difficult one for me as my views on it have changed over time and continue to do so.
I have thankfully never had an abortion myself; it crossed my mind for about 3 seconds when I found out I was pregnant with my daughter at the age of 20 as she wasn't planned, but that's as far as it went. I do have a very close friend who has had two abortions; one at the age of 14 (she went on to have another baby just after her 16th birthday), and one at the age of 26 (she had another baby at the age of 28). I didn't actually find this out until a few weeks back; although we have been friends for about seven years she said she felt so ashamed about the abortions that she didn't tell anyone except her partner and her mother. I must admit that when she told me about the second abortion I struggled to get my head around how she could have an abortion one year (at the age of 26) then have a planned pregnancy just over a year later. I didn't want to upset her by quizzing her about it but it is difficult for me to comprehend.
When I was at secondary school we were shown a video about abortion as part of our Religious Education (this was a state school, not a religious one). What I saw on that video has haunted me for years; I can't believe we were actually shown it at the age of 13 or so. We were told at the time that it was an ethical argument for us to discuss, but looking back I think it was to scare us into not getting pregnant (it certainly did that for me!) Friends of mine who went to Catholic schools have told me that they saw similar videos and were given little badges with a picture of a baby's feet on them to wear. I do find this quite a disturbing concept.
In the past I was vehemently anti-abortion, but as time has gone on I feel that my views have got a lot more compassionate. I do think that the 24 week limit is FAR too high; how hospitals can be saving a baby born prematurely on one ward and leaving an unwanted baby to die on another just makes no sense to me whatsoever (on a side note: a family friend was a nurse in the north-east during the 1970s, and she was routinely told to leave babies who were born severely disabled to die and tell their parents that they were born dead; shocking but true, and one of the secret shames of our country). I think a 12-week limit at the latest would be appropriate.
I do also find it strange that abortion is legal but euthanasia is not? Either way a life is being ended (although some people would argue that a life isn't really a life until a child is born). In the case of euthanasia this is a decision that an adult has made about ending their own life, whereas the unborn baby is given no choice in this.
I don't know how I would react if my daughter came home at 13 and told me she was pregnant; by that stage my son will be seven and hopefully I'll have my career sorted. I doubt I'd be happy to give my life up to look after a grandchild, especially as I'll only be 34 myself. I can't imagine encouraging her to have an abortion though; so many women struggle to conceive by starting down the maternal path too late in life, and I believe that all babies are a gift. I'm not sure that her father would hold the same view though!
1) What did you do in 2009 that you have not done before?
I was on my own for the first time in years; my husband and I unfortunately split up last spring. It has been difficult, being a single parent with two children, but he is a great dad and has them as often as he can, which gives me a well-earned break! We are slowly working things out.
2) Did anyone close to you give birth?
A lot of my acquaintances gave birth in 2009 but no close friends; however my niece is due her first baby this May and I'm really excited!
3) Did anyone close to you die?
No-one close to me died in 2009 thankfully.
4) What countries did you visit?
Quite sadly the only other country I visited in 2009 was Scotland to see my best friend who moved there a couple of years ago.
5) What would you like to have in 2010 that you lacked in 2009?
I would really love to get my marriage back on track.
6) What dates will you remember from 2009?
There are no specific dates I can remember, although August was a very difficult month.
7) Did you suffer from illness or injury?
Thankfully I haven't suffered from any illness or injuries.
8) What was the best thing you bought?
Either my Ipod speakers or my GHD hair straighteners.
9) What behaviour merited celebration?
I am very proud of myself for coping so well with the breakdown of my marriage.
10) Whose behaviour made you appalled?
At certain times my husband and I both behaved appallingly towards each other.
11) Where did most of your money go?
On the kids, as always!
12) What did you get really excited about?
I can't think of anything specific!
13) What songs will you remember from 2009?
Lots by Armin Van Buuren and Tiesto, my two favourite artists.
14) Compared to this time last year are you happier fitter or more productive?
I am definitely happier, and working on getting a lot fitter! I've changed my diet and am trying to fit a lot more exercise into my life.
15) What do you wish you had done more of?
Spent more time focusing on my marriage instead of focusing all of my attention on the kids. I think this is something that many mothers do and it doesn't bode well for a marriage.
16) What do you wish you had done less of?
Bringing home randoms to make myself feel better!
17) What was your favourite TV Programme?
The Apprentice, The Inbetweeners.
18) Do you hate anyone now that you didn't hate last year?
Yes, I do really hate someone who did their best to drive a wedge between me and my husband.
19) What's been your best book of 2009?
I really enjoyed the first Twilight book and I'm about to start reading the second.
20) What was your greatest musical discovery?
I didn't really make any great musical discoveries, though there was some decent music about.
21) What did you want to get in 2009?
I wanted to learn to drive but I've had to put that on hold for now.
22) What did you want and didn't get?
23) What is your favourite film of the year?
I really enjoyed the first Twilight film, and The Changeling stuck with me for a long time after watching it.
24) What did you do on your birthday and how old were you?
I was 29 (the big 3-0 this year; dreading it!). I went for a meal and out for drinks.
25) What political issue stirred you the most?
I was very annoyed by the politicians' expenses row; it is ridiculous that they could get away with spending so much public money on frivolous items when our troops don't have the right equipment.
26) Who was the best person you met?
I made a lovely new friend who I love to bits.
27) Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2009?
Don't believe everything that you're told!
This is a difficult one!
I have two children: my daughter is 8 (going on 13!) and my little boy is 2 (and at that delightful age of throwing a tantrum over the slightest thing!)
I have never disciplined my children through physical punishment, and neither has their dad. It's not because I don't agree with this form of punishment; I was raised by my Nana who was of the generation that believed in giving a good slap around the back of the legs to a misbehaving child. And I could misbehave with the best of them! The back of my legs were regularly slapped for what I would myself consider to be quite minor misdemeanours (at the time). I don't feel that this has had a negative effect on me; I am quite a well-rounded responsible member of society. It's just that, up to now, I have used different strategies when disciplining them.
My daughter was a really well-behaved toddler; very few tantrums; great sleeper. She very rarely needed to be punished, and any time that she was it was always "the naughty step". Now that she is older I use withdrawal of privileges. She has her DS taken off her, she's not allowed to play on the front with her friends, she's not allowed to watch CBBC, and she has to go to bed an hour earlier. The problem being that she has hit puberty quite early and her mood swings are unbelievable! I understand that she's going through a difficult time but I refuse to accept the way that she speaks to me sometimes. What makes it all the more annoying is that she would never dare to speak to her dad that way; although he has never smacked her she did once witness him smacking his nephew (who is an ungrateful little soul at the best of times) and I think this image has stuck with her! It has now got to the point where I have threatened to smack her for the disrespectful and frankly rude way she speaks to me sometimes. I have seen other mothers let their children get away with it and I have seen how these children turn out as teenagers, and I'm determined to put a stop to it. I really don't want to have to resort to smacking her but she needs to know that it could happen.
My son is a little gem (he's currently trying to crawl over the keyboard as I type this, so apologies for any grammatical errors!) but as a typical little boy he can be very hard work! I have tapped his hand (gently) when he's out himself in danger; for example when he went through a phase of persistently trying to light the oven! I haven't moved on to the naughty step with him just yet; this is something I intend to do over the next few months. At present I get down to his level and tell him calmly but very firmly that whatever he has said (usually shouting "shut up" at the top of his voice, something he has picked up from his cousins) or done (drawing on the walls, spreading yogurt all over the TV screen) is very naughty.
I really personally believe that it's down to parents to decide how to discipline their children. It really annoys me that the state feels the need to interfere in such matters. I used to give the NSPCC £3 a month out of my bank account, but after reading through some of the stuff they sent me I cancelled this and gave the money to Barnardo's instead. They place far too much emphasis (and no doubt spend far too much of their supporters' money) on trying to stop parents from smacking their children when in my opinion they should be concentrating on children who are physically, sexually and emotionally abused.
Many people have this argument that things were better in "the old days" when it was a societal norm for children to be physically disciplined. They blame many of today's ills in society, such as gang culture and anti-social behaviour, on the fact that parents do not physically discipline their children any more. My argument with this is that in my opinion it is the children who ARE physically disciplined to an unacceptable point who create the problems. Poor parenting is the cause of many of the problems we have with youth in this country, but this has little to do with a lack of physical punishment, and more to do with it being overzealous and inappropriate.
I don't like the idea of bring corporal punishment back into schools, but teachers definitely need to be given more power to discipline children without fear of being reprimanded or even prosecuted.
I received Benefit Justine Case as a free gift with my ghd hair straighteners (purchased with the help of my Dooyoo miles!) a couple of months back. It is available from Benefit Cosmetics for £22.50. The case is actually a nifty little purple cardboard box containing four mini beauty products from Benefit's extensive range. These are:
1) California Kissin' Smile Brightening Lip Shine (2.5g) - this is quite an unusual product at first glance; I wouldn't really expect a lip gloss to be bright blue! The product has a handy little applicator in the lid. When used on it's own I find that it gives lips a lovely natural-looking sheen, despite it looking quite blue when you first apply it. I don't know if it brightens my smile exactly but it certainly makes my lips look moist and kissable! The product also claims to freshen your breath but I can't say I've noticed any difference there, though it does have a nice minty flavour to it. 4/5
2) Eyecon Brightenening Eye Cream (2.5g) - this product also had an applicator in the lid. I can't say I'm overly impressed with this product; it claims to brighten your eyes and conceal dark circles but I personally haven't noticed any difference. I won't be rushing out to buy a full-sized version; but if you wanted to the price is £21.50 for a 14g jar on the Benefit website. 2/5
3) Benetint Rose-Tinted Lip and Cheek Stain (2.5ml) - this is my favourite product in the case (as you can tell by how much I've written about it); in fact it has to be one of my all-time favourite beauty products! The product is rose-tinted but also has a very strong rose fragrance to it, which I find really pleasant. The product is easy to apply using the lip-brush type applicator in the lid. I find that 2-3 drops of product on each cheek gently rubbed in is enough to give them a lovely rosy glow (almost post-coital in fact!) and this lasts me through an average night out on the town without needing re-application. When using on the lips I find that it is easiest to carefully line my lips first then fill them in with the colour. I find that the Benetint used alone on my lips does not give a great effect, as it is has a very matte finish. However I put the California Kissin Lip Shine over the top which makes my lips look gorgeous if I do say so myself! I have never worn Benetint alone on my lips so I can't comment on it's staying power when used on it's own; when used with the Lip Shine over the top the colour does tend to fade quite quickly and will need freshening up quite regularly. On the Benefit website you can pick up a full-sized (12.5ml) bottle for £22.50, which is very expensive, therefore I am currently on the hunt for a cheaper alternative which offers similar fantastic results! Benetint is also available in a lip balm (£13.50 for 6.5g) and Pocket Pal, which has Benetint (3.2ml) at one end of the stick and a clear lip gloss (2.8g) at the other (Benetint obviously agree with me that it works best on the lips when used with gloss). Pocket Pal costs £14.50 and is currently at the top of my make-up wish list! 5/5
Some Kind-A Gorgeous The Foundation Faker (2.2g) - I think this is a fantastic product! I am quite pale-skinned and often find that foundations, even ones which claim to be for fair skin, look quite orange on me. This product however seems to blend perfectly into my skin and give it a lovely sheer finish. Benefit do say that it would suit most skin tones, though if you have very dark olive or black skin this product wouldn't really work for you. I wouldn't recommend this product if you're looking for a lot of coverage; for example if you are wanting to cover up spots or fine lines, but it is perfect for younger clear skin (or those blessed with younger-looking clear skin!) Benefit sell a full-sized version of this product on their website for £20.50 and I would say it is worth every penny. 5/5
Justine Case would make a great little gift for any cosmetic-loving lady. I personally wouldn't shell out on the case again as I now know which products I feel are worth buying full-sized.
Benefit's website address in the UK is:
They have some fantastic products; quite expensive in comparison to brands such as Rimmel and Avon but if the products I have used in the Justine Case are anything to go by then I will be shopping there myself in future. Amazon also sell some Benefit products so maybe I'll put my vouchers towards them! Benefit's delivery charge at present is £4.50 for orders less than £75.00, and free for orders over £75.00, to addresses within the UK. It would be pretty easy to spend £75.00 however as all the stuff looks great and is priced at the high end of the cosmetics market.
I had heard a lot about The Inbetweeners before I ever watched it, and I had a vague idea of what it was about. However i thought it was aimed squarely at young teenagers and being an old granny of 28 I didn't think it was for me! However I caught an episode of series 2 a couple of weeks back on E4 and I loved it so much that I watched all of series 1 on TV Choice on Demand and caught up with series 2 on 4OD! And it's safe to say that I wouldn't let any child of mine watch it until they were at least 16!
As you can probably tell from the title of my review, The Inbetweeners is incredibly crude and very rude, and not for the easily offended! It is also one of the funniest shows I've seen in a long while.
The show is based around four boys in the sixth form at their local comprehensive school, and their misadventures as they struggle to lose their virginities and get into the popular kids' parties. They are "the inbetweeners" in that they're not the geekiest kids in school but not all that popular either.
Will (played by Simon Bird) is a newcomer to Rudge Park Comprehensive. He struggles to make friends from the outset as he is an obvious outsider; he actually takes a briefcase to school, never a good look! He hangs around Simon (played by Joe Thomas) who begrudgingly lets him join with his little group of friends. I find the character of Will quite annoying; he is very posh and "private school", although I do admire the way that he deals with so much criticism without batting an eyelid. Will's mam is universally fancied by all of Will's friends!
Simon is the most "normal" out of the four boys. He has had a massive crush on family friend and fellow sixth-former Carly for years, and throughout both series we follow his unrequited love for her and his attempts to woo her (which never turn out to plan). I really like the character of Simon; he is quite sensitive for a young boy and very sarcastic.
Neil (played by Blake Harrison) is just adorable in my opinion! He's certainly not the sharpest tool in the box, but this is what makes him so appealing. He has a great big stupid grin on his face for most of the time, and is the focus of many jibes from the other boys who wind him up that his dad is gay (which Neil fervently denies, although it is totally obvious that he is!) Neil is madly in lust with Will's mother, which Will, as you can imagine, is none too happy about!
Jay (played by James Buckley) is a really funny character. He is by far the crudest character in the show; a compulsive liar who boasts often of sexual exploits which have never occurred. I would really love to put some great quotes from Jay in this review, but there's a very good chance I'd get kicked off Dooyoo if I did! I do feel a bit sorry for Jay at times as his dad constantly puts him down, especially with regard to his manhood!
My favourite episode of series 1 is "Caravan Club", where the boys all go to stay in Jay's parents' caravan, with predictably hilarious results, after Jay tells them that it's like one big massive orgy!
I have two favourite episodes from series 2; "The Field Trip" sees the boys going on a field trip to the seaside (I was crying with laughter by the end of this!); and "Work Experience" which ends with the boys visiting an underage disco, where Simon is quite successful with one of the young girls there (this episode is particularly crude but I found it hilarious!)
Series 2 left it open for another series of The Inbetweeners, and I for one can't wait for series 3. If you are at all offended by bad language or scenes of a sexual nature then please please avoid this show like the plague. If however, like me, you have a juvenile sense of humour and aren't really offended by anything then I promise you will LOVE it!
I had a major hair disaster at the end of January; for some reason I got it into my head that I should dye my brunette (and already colour-treated) hair platinum blond. Maybe I'm having an early mid-life crisis or something!
Well without boring you with all the horrible details, let's just say that it went awfully wrong, prompting a midnight dash to Tesco to buy some dark hair colourant to attempt to cover up the complete mess that was now my hair. Unfortunately this only made matters worse, and I took on the appearance of a traumatised badger, with a big blond stripe down the middle and back of my tortured tresses.
Then my best friend, feeling very sorry for me I think, decided to surprise me with a trip to Deep Hairdressing in Norton (bless her, eternally grateful here!) The salon is on Norton High Street, and I'd walked past it many times in the past, but thought it looked a bit too expensive for me so had never ventured inside before. Well I had been missing out for a long time!
The salon is modern and stylish, with some great products on sale, including Tigi hair products, with a young team of enthusiastic and friendly staff, including Chelsea, who took over the disaster that my hair had become. My hair was basically stripped down and started all over again! As I was getting my hair washed I was offered a head massage, which for some reason I declined (?), and a complimentary tea or coffee (lots of fancy stuff on the menu but I just opted for a regular coffee!). The salon was quite busy, but the staff seemed unflustered and dealt very professionally with all the customers. It took about three hours to get my hair back to normal, well actually it looked much better than it had in the first place, with a gorgeous new colour and a few layers chopped into it.
The salon have some great offers; for example my friend visited a couple of weeks back to get her highlights done, and through their "recommend a friend" offer i can now go and cut a cut and finish for half price! I also recived a £5 off discount voucher for by birthday.
Speaking of prices, these vary depending on who is doing your hair. For example, a cut and finish with a graduate stylist level 1 (whatever that means!) would set a lady back £23, going up to £42 to have it done by a salon executive. A man's cut and finish averages at about £17.50 (my husband would never pay that much, but I'm sure more style-conscious men would!). It would cost me £16 to have my 7 year old daughter's hair done (only graduate stylists at level 1 do children's hair) and £9.50 to get my 16 month old boy's hair done, which I think is pretty steep for children's hair personally!
The salon also do American Dream Clip In Hair Extensions (price on consultation) and Racoon Hair Extensions (price on consultation), as well as "up-dos" and wedding hair styles (their "For the Girls" package sounds great, as it covers the bride's hair, the mother of the bride's hair and two bridesmaids or friends, including trial runs and champagne and strawberries on the big day, for £250).
I would really recommend visiting this salon; the staff are great and the service is excellent. The Good Salon Guide have awarded this salon 5 stars so they obviously agree with me!
Deep Hairdressing also have salons in Ingleby Barwick and Marton, neither of which I've visited but well worth a look I'm sure if you live over that way!
Contact details (Norton Salon): (01642) 555588
The website address is:
which contains a full price list as well as a staff rota so you know when your favourite stylist is free!
UPDATE: I visited the salon a few weeks back and got my hair cut for half price, all due to the fact that one of the staff had read this glowing review! Nice one!
I was really surprised when I was looking to write a review on this fantastic film that it wasn't listed on here and I had to suggest it! What is the world coming to...
Steel Magnolias is a 1989 film starring Julia Roberts, Sally Field, Shirley MacLaine, Daryl Hannah, Dolly Parton and Olympia Dukakis in the lead roles. I first saw this film a couple of years after it came out when my nana borrowed it from her next-door neighbour and we watched it together; I must have been 11 or 12 at the time and I really enjoyed it then. I then recorded it off the telly a few years back and watched it with my husband (who has never let me forget this; he claims that it's 2 hours of his life he'll never get back!) So imagine my delight when mooching around one of my local charity shops when I saw it on sale, on video, for 33p! (well the offer was 3 videos for 99p, so I bought a couple more as well). I wasn't going to try to get my husband to watch it again with me, so I watched it with my then (nearly) 8 year old daughter.
The film is set in northwest Louisiana in the late 1980s, and follows the lives of six female friends (played by the actresses mentioned above). Steel Magnolias begins with the wedding of Shelby (Julia Roberts) to Jackson (played by Dylan McDermott). The film then follows what happens to Shelby, her mother and friends over the course of the next three years.
Shelby Eatenton Latcherie - We find out early on that Shelby has had a lot of serious health problems and is diabetic, and therefore advised not to have any children of her own. However Shelby goes against this advice and gets pregnant anyway, much to the concern of her over-protective mother M'Lynn (a fantastic performance by Sally Field). I think that Julia Robers plays a very good part in this film, and she was nominated for a Best Supporting Actress Oscar for this role so I'm obviously not the only one!
M'Lynn Eatenton - the mother of Shelby, married to Drum (played by Tom Skerritt). M'Lynn is understandably very over-protective of Shelby; the film gives the strong impression that she has nearly lost her a few times. The pair have a great relationship; you can tell they're very close and love each other dearly although you can't agree on anything! I personally felt that Sally Field outshone everyone else in the film with her outstanding performance; she is very believable in the role and as a mother myself I could completely empathise with her character.
Truvy Jones- played by Dolly Parton. Truvy is the owner of the local beauty salon, and a very glamorous lady (as is Ms Parton herself of course!). She is married to Spud (played by Sam Shepard), a rather emotionally distant and cold man, and she really wants to feel more love from him.
Oiuser (pronounced Weezer) Boudreaux - Shirley MacLaine is also fantastic in her role as Ouiser, the town's rich eccentric old woman, who always seem to be angry and complaining about something. I found the character of Ouiser quite frightening when I first saw the film, but now I think she's really funny. There is a lot of depth to the character which makes you understand why she is the way she is! She gets all the best lines in the film and swears like a navvy!
Annelle Dupoy Desoto - played by Daryl Hannah. Annelle is a very complex character; she starts the film as the new girl in town (who is supposedly 19, although she looks a lot older!) and is very sweet and innocent. She then becomes quite fun-loving and promiscuous, before becoming a religious fanatic. You don't get much back story with Annelle, so it's hard to understand why she changes from one personality to another and then again in such a short space of time. I feel her character could have been explored further. Darly Hannah is very good in this role, though she'll always be Madison the mermaid to me!
Clairee Belcher - played by Olympia Dukakis. Clairee is the widow of the town's former mayor and is very wealthy. She has a fantastic relationship with Ouiser; they're always bickering with each other but you know deep down they love each other dearly. I could listen to Clairee talk forever; she has such a fantastic accent!
This is definitely a chick flick; I think most men would really hate it; there is a lot of depth to it and although there are comedic moments this is definitely more "female" humour. There are some rather tough scenes in the film; I don't want to go into it too much for fear of giving the plot away but you'll probably need a box of Kleenex to hand (to be honest you'll probably figure out what's going to happen about ten minutes into the film but that doesn't make it any the less upsetting!) The relationship between the friends is fantastic; i think every woman would love to have such a fantastic group of female friends to confide in and have a laugh with.
The male characters in the film don't really get a look in to be honest! In fact the film is based on a play of the same name, and there were no male actors in it at all; the male characters were just referred to by the female characters. I have since found that the man who wrote the play, Robert Harling, based it around his own experience of having a diabetic sister.
The film's director, Herbert Ross, also directed another favourite chick flick of mine, Boys on the Side, starring Whoopi Goldberg and Drew Barrymore, as well as Footloose.
Runtime: 117 minutes
Having never visited a branch of TGI Friday's before I ended up at the Teesside Park branch twice over the Easter Bank Holiday 2009 weekend!
The first time i visited was on Friday night; my friend and I had decided to pop out for a bite to eat and after a horrible experience at Pizza Express at Teesside Park she suggested we head over the way to TGI Friday's for a drink and a bite to eat (she sent her meal back at Pizza Express as it was basically rotten so she was pretty hungry by this time!)
When we arrived the place was pretty quiet, although it was about 9.45pm so I guess most people had had their teas by then. We were met at the door by a waiter who offered to show us to a table, but we said we'd only popped in for something to drink and a quick bite so he directed us to the bar. There were a few people sat around the bar but we got a bar stool each and began to browse the extensive cocktail menu. I really don't think I've seen such a large variety of cocktails on offer anywhere else I've been (except for in Greece) and i've frequented many drinking establishments in my 29 years on this planet! My mouth was immediately watering as my liver begged for mercy at the onslaught of alcohol it was about to face! (unfortunately as we got there so late I only got to try one of the cocktails on the menu, though I fully intend to return another evening and try a couple more!)
Here's a couple of examples of the cocktails on offer:
1) Barnamint Baileys - This is what I chose, as the picture on the menu looked so good, and I'm a massive fan of Bailey's anyway. Many of the cocktails on the menu, this particular one included, are available in a Regular size (prices averaging at about 5 pounds) and also an Ultimate size (prices averaging at around 7 pounds). Being the greedy bloater that I am of I course plumped for the Ultimate! This cocktail consists of a mix of Baileys, mint liquer, vanilla ice cream and Oreo cookies, so really it is more of a dessert than a cocktail I suppose. The drink came and it did look very similar to that depicted on the menu, if not quite as green! It tasted absolutely delicious; although it was mixed in front of me I'm not exactly sure how much alcohol was in it; I do know that I did feel a little bit tipsy after drinking it though! To be honest if we'd arrived there earlier I'd probably have ended the night in the local hospital having my stomach pumped as I would have had to try most of the cocktails on the menu!
2) Long Island Iced Tea - another one of my all-time faves; a delicious mix of Coca Cola and about six shots of vodka, gin, rum and orange liquer; you'll rot your liver but you'll have a great time while doing so!
3) Cosmopolitan - I've never drank one of these before but I know they're very popular; a bit too citrussy for this girl I'm afraid, with it's heavy emphasis on lemon and lime flavours.
As my friend was driving she couldn't have a drink, so she plumped for a Strawberry Oreo milkshake, which she said was really tasty (although I'm sure she would have enjoyed it a lot more with additional booze!) She also ordered some food at the bar; a portion of chips which were served with a side salad and Jack Daniels dipping sauce (£2.49), and Jack Daniels' Sesame Chicken Strips (£5.99). I'm one of those weird vegetarian folk myself so I didn't try the chicken; my friend said it was really tasty though, and the portion size was adequate for her rather small appetite (as you may have gathered by now I have the appetite of a shire horse so it really wouldn't have been enough for me!) I did try the chips she ordered though; I thought they were ok, although they had a bit too much salt on them for my liking, and again the portion size wasn't very big for the price she paid. The Jack Daniels sauce was quite tasty; it reminded me a bit of soy sauce as it was quite salty, and I couldn't really taste much Jack Daniels in it either!
My verdict on Friday night:
I was really pleased with the service at TGI Friday's; although there weren't many members of staff in evidence the two we spoke to were very friendly and professional, especially considering they probably didn't want to be there on a Bank Holiday Friday! The cocktail I had was delicious; although £6.79 does sound quite steep it was served in a huge glass and had a very unusual and distinctive taste which I loved. The food was ok; it was hardly Gordon Ramsey but then this is essentially a burger joint, not Claridges! I found the atmosphere in the place very friendly and relaxed, and am looking forward to visiting again on my next child-free evening (though intend to get there much earlier so I can fully sample the cocktail menu!)
It was a gorgeous day on Sunday and me and my husband took our two children to nearby Preston Park for the afternoon. We were all feeling pretty peckish so I suggested we call in to TGI Friday's on the way home for our tea. I had had a good look through the main meals menu on Friday night and knew that it was just my husband's kind of food: simple, tasty, not at all "poncey" (him being a Northerner born and bred, he doesn't go in for any nouveau cuisine or anything; basically he's a "chips with everything" kind of man!) I also knew that, this being a family place, they would have something for my 7 year old daughter to eat (my 16 month old son just has a little bit of everything we're having as he's in the "throw my dinner on the floor for a laugh" phase so we don't waste our time and money on ordering him a specific meal!)
We arrived and once again were greeted at the door by a very polite and friendly waiter, who gave us our menus, along with activity packs for the kids, and showed us to our table. Again the place was pretty quiet; I suppose many people go in for the big Easter Sunday dinner, but we're not exactly conventional! My daughter had a quick scan of the children's menu and decided she wanted to order the Jumbo Hot Dog, which is served with crispy fries and baked beans (£2.99). As I mentioned I'm a veggie and there wasn't many options for me, but the San Fran Sandwich (a veggie burger in a toasted bun with salad, served with crispy fries, £7.69) sounded pretty tasty so i ordered that. My husband ordered a Regular Bacon and Cheeseburger (£9.49, again served with crispy fries - I bet you can feel your arteries clogging up just reading this!). We also ordered two side orders of Cajun Onion Rings (£2.99 per portion), and 3 glasses of Coca Cola (I think they were about 2 pounds for a large glass but you can get it refilled as many times as you want).
My verdict on Sunday afternoon:
Firstly, I thought that the service was really good once again; the waiters were very friendly and professional, and i left them a decent sized tip because of this. The food was pretty average i would say; the portions were enormous; even my husband was defeated by his burger (which is also available in an Ultimate size for £12.49!) and although i managed to finish my meal I was really full for the rest of the day! I think that the prices for the main meals are pretty steep; my husband said that although his burger was tasty it wasn't "10 notes tasty"! I think that £7.69 is also quite expensive for a veggie burger, and my daughter said that her (massive) hot dog tasted awful (although she is the world's pickiest eater, and my husband said it tasted ok to him!) Having said that, we saved ourselves some money on the desserts as we were all too full to eat one (a rarity in our family!) This was a bit of a shame as the desserts looked gorgeous!
My major criticism of this venue as a family restaurant is that the highchair my baby son was provided with was like something from a Charles Dickens novel! It didn't have a tray attached to it so the poor little soul had to eat his food off a napkin on the edge of the table (we were given a plate for him but decided against it in light of his recent food throwing behaviour!)
My overall verdict:
I don't think we'll be in a hurry to return here for a family meal, certainly not until my little boy is old enough to sit at a table anyway! Though I'm looking forward to getting my smackers around those gorgeous cocktails soon!
The website address for TGI Friday's is:
and it contains menus for every branch in the UK, as well as details of any special offers they're running.
I was browsing through one of my local charity shops a few months back when I noticed that they had an offer of 3 videos for 99p. I really don't mind watching videos; I know that the quality is nowhere near as good as that of DVD and Blu-Ray but for 33p a pop I don't think you can complain!
24 Hour Party People was one of the 3 videos I bought. I remember when the film came out in 2002 that I had wanted to watch it, but for whatever reason didn't get around to it.
The film is set around the life of the late Tony Wilson, his company Factory Records and the Manchester music scene of the late 1970s, 1980s and early 1990s.
Steve Coogan stars as Tony Wilson, and the cast also includes the delicious John Simm as Bernard Sumner (guitarist for Joy Division and lead singer of New Order), Ralf Little as Peter Hook (bass guitarist for Joy Division and New Order), Danny Cunningham as Shaun Ryder (lead singer for the Happy Mondays), and Sean Harris as Ian Curtis (the late lead singer of Joy Division).
The film begins in the late 1970s. Manchester is a very miserable place to be, and the UK music scene is bland and boring. That is until The Sex Pistols hit the scene and punk rock takes off in a massive way. The film uses real-life footage interspersed with acted scenes to show The Sex Pistols' first gig in Manchester in 1976, which Tony Wilson attended. I found this scene a little weird to watch; I quite like The Sex Pistols, but the dancing that the actors in the "audience" were doing was just really odd! Did people really dance like that in the 1970s? Anyway, odd dancing aside, this concert (which was attended by only 42 people!) inspired Wilson, who was working as a TV reporter for Granada television at the time, and also had his own show for the channel, "So It Goes", to start promoting concerts.
He starts to run a club night in a local nightclub, along with his first wife Lindsay (played by Shirley Henderson), Rob Gretton (the manager of Joy Division and New Order, played by Paddy Considine), and the co-founder of Factory Records Alan Erasmus (played by Lennie James). Peter Kay plays the club's owner, Don Tonay, but plays against type completely by playing a rather unlikeable character! The band Joy Division are one of the acts at this club, and Tony Wilson goes on to sign them to his label Factory Records (of a fashion; you'll have to see the film to see exactly how!) I have seen archive footage of Joy Division performing before, and I think that Sean Harris portrays Ian Curtis to a tee, even down to his very strange dance moves!
Wilson then went on to open the now infamous Hacienda nightclub in Manchester, which was closed down in 1997 due to massive debts. The nightclub used in the film is not the actual Hacienda; this has since been demolished (a disgrace in my opinion; it's a piece of rave culture history and possible the most famous nightclub the UK has ever had!) I'm absolutely gutted that i never got to go there!
Ian Curtis suffered from depression, and hanged himself at the tender age of 24. I think that the film could have done more with the character of Curtis, considering that his death was such a catalyst for everything that followed. It doesn't really make it clear that he suffered from clinical depression either and that that's what caused him to commit suicide. If you want a film about Ian Curtis then I would recommend "Control" starring Samantha Morton and Sam Riley (whose portrayal of Curtis is very accurate). I would also have liked to see much more of John Simm in this film, but mainly for the reason that I think he looks really gorgeous in it!
Danny Cunningham is very convincing as Shaun Ryder; I didn't think much of Ryder as a person before seeing this film and I think even less of him now I've seen it (although I love the music of The Happy Mondays). Chris Coghill is very convincing as Bez (the dancer and percussionist for The Happy Mondays); although much better looking, he gets his pilled-up dance moves just right! Andy Serkis is excellent as always in his role of Martin Hannett, the producer for Joy Division and The Happy Mondays, a very strange man by all accounts!
I'm really not sure what to make of Steve Coogan's portrayal of Tony Wilson. I didn't really know anything about Wilson's personal life before watching this film, having only ever seen him (prior to his death in 2007) doing "vox pops" on shows such as "100 Greatest". I don't think that this film shows him in a very good light though! He comes over as arrogant, ambitious and selfish, and not very likeable; whether this is a true reflection of the real Tony Wilson or just of Coogan's acting style I'm not sure; to be honest I always think of Alan Partridge when I see Steve Coogan, and he seemed to me to bring far too much of his most famous creation to this role.
I was only 9 years old when the second "Summer of Love" took place in the UK in 1989, so I was more interested in riding my bike than popping pills and going to the Hacienda! Though I'm sure if I'd have been old enough at the time that's exactly what I would have been doing! As I wasn't around in Manchester at the time, I don't know if this film truly reflects the place and what was happening, but if it does it looks like a really fun place to be!
The soundtrack of this film is really good; it includes tracks by Joy Division (including their most famous track, Love Will Tear Us Apart), New Order (their massive hit Blue Monday), 808 State (the fantastic Pacific State), The Clash and The Sex Pistols. One of my favourite songs from the film is the Club Mix of Hallelujah by The Happy Mondays, and this is also included on the soundtrack. I think the film and soundtrack would have been even better with some tracks from The Stone Roses, as they were also a massive part of the "Madchester" music scene.
There are many famous cameos in the film, including Tony Wilson himself (blink and you'll miss it though!) and Rowetta, the singer who impressed Simon Cowell so much on the X Factor in 2004, as a backing singer for The Happy Mondays (Rowetta was actually their backing singer for some time).
I really enjoyed the film overall; I'm very into music anyway and it was really interesting to find out about a time that I was too young to experience for myself. I don't think this film would appeal to anyone who doesn't have any knowledge or interest in this period of recent music history; and if you are offended by strong language and bare breasts then it's probably best avoided as it contains both in abundance! I really enjoyed the way the film was directed; it's very different to the usual biopic, as Wilson's character makes asides to the camera throughout to comment on what's happening. It's also really interesting to see the contrast between Wilson's life as a TV reporter for Granada, reporting on some really random and dull stuff (typical regional TV fare!) and the other side of him as a cool music impressario and nightclub owner.
The film is billed as a comedy; it does have some very comedic moments, although I would class it as more of a drama than a comedy, especially when you consider the depiction of Curtis' suicide and the reaction of those left behind. I don't feel that i learnt too much about Tony Wilson from this film, though as his character says in the film: "I'm a minor character in my own story."
Director: Michael Winterbottom (Jude, Welcome to Sarajevo)
Run time: 117 minutes
I am pretty boring normally when it comes to chewing gum; I tend to stick to peppermint Extra, or Airwaves if I'm feeling a bit adventurous! However when I saw these a few months back in my local Home Bargains store for the bargain price of 10p a pack I decided to give them a try. And i'm pleased that I did!
I found the flavour of these very pleasant; the lemon flavour is not too strong and not bitter or tangy at all; they are actually quite sweet. What really impressed me about this gum though is that the flavour lasts so much longer than some other brands, e.g. Wrigley's Extra.
This particular flavour doesn't seem to be as widely available as some of the other flavours in the extensive Trident range; they don't sell it at my local Tesco Extra which sells everything but the kitchen sink! However I spotted it on sale in my local Co-op for 53p which I personally think is quite expensive for 9 pieces of chewing gum. I fully intend to stock up on it if it's still available the next time I visit Home Bargains!
There are two other flavours in the Trident Fresh range: peppermint and spearmint. Trident also have a New "Sweet Kicks" flavour, Chocolate Mint, which sounds quite bizarre but I think is well worth a try!
The full Trident range of chewing gums is available on their website:
which also has some fun games and occasional competitions.
UPDATE: Although I found this gum to be very tasty and enjoyable I (naively) didn't realise that it contains bovine gelatine, which as a vegetarian I'm really not supposed to eat...
Ooh, I do like writing on controversial subjects! And capital punishment has to be one of the most argued-about topics there is!
I am usually quite an open-minded person, and my views on many things have changed over the years, but my views on capital punishment remain the same now as they've been since I was in my teens: if there is absolute, irrefutable evidence that someone has committed a really heinous crime (by which I mean such crimes as serious as the murder of an innocent child) they should be given the death sentence. I really don't see why these people should be kept at the taxpayer's expense; what use are they to society? I don't believe that paedophiles can be rehabilitated; it's like trying to make someone homosexual turn heterosexual or vice versa. I also think that people who have been found responsible for the systematic and prolonged sexual and/or physical abuse of children should face the death penalty, as well as serial rapists and serial killers, and those who have attacked other vulnerable groups in our society, such as the elderly and disabled.
I really have no time for bleeding hearts liberals who think that these "people" deserve another chance at life. If they have been responsible for taking another life away, then they deserve to have their life taken away.
Of course the evidence has to be absolutely concrete; there have been tragic cases in the past before the death sentence was abolished when people were wrongly hanged for murders which they did not commit. There have also been cases where people did commit the crime and were hanged for it when I don't think they deserved it, for example Ruth Ellis, the last woman to be hanged in Britain, who shot her ex-lover dead. What wasn't taken into account was her mental state at the time of the murder or the fact that she had been abused by this man for some time, as well as the fact that she'd just been through an abortion, a traumatic experience for any woman.
There was also the case of Derek Bentley, who was hanged in 1953 for murder, even though he'd not been the one who pulled the trigger, and had the mental age of an 11 year old child (although to be fair an 11 year old is classed as culpable in the case of murder, as demonstrated by the boys who killed little James Bulger).
It would be terrible for any miscarriages of justice like I mentioned above to happen again, and this is my only sticking point with my own argument! With the recent case of Barry George, the man wrongly convicted for the murder of TV presenter Jill Dando, we have seen that DNA evidence is not always 100% reliable. And witness statements do not always reflect the true facts of a situation.
I do not agree in the death penalty for children however. As I just mentioned, in 1993 a toddler called James Bulger was murdered by two 10 year old boys, Jon Venables and Robert Thompson. There was huge public outrage at the case, and many people thought that the boys deserved the death penalty. I do not agree with this, as I think that the boys could be rehabilitated, as they were so young at the time of the crime. When you look into both boys' backgrounds it is really not surprising that they did what they did, although it was obviously still a shocking and terrible crime (I still often think of little James when I look at my own little boy who is not much younger than he was at the time of his death).
In summary, I believe that the death penalty should be reintroduced in this country but will have to be administered only in the most serious cases where there is absolute irrefutable evidence of guilt.
UPDATE: With all the recent media attention on Jon Venables I may have to retract my above statement about him being young enough to be successfully rehabilitated (if the public ever get to find out what he did of course...)
I have been on Dooyoo for a good while now, and I write reviews whenever I get the chance, which isn't that often with two small children, a home to run and trying to make a success out of Avon! I really enjoy writing reviews as well as reading and rating other people's, but I can't deny that the cash incentive of Dooyoo miles is a major bonus for me!
I started out by aiming for the £50 mark so I could cash in a cheque, which I was going to put towards paying off some credit card debt. So I'd got to just over the £40 mark when my husband and I separated. Being as it was him who had built up the debt in the first place (through some very bad investments!) it is now his responsibility to pay it all off!
I have been having a lot of really bad hair days recently; I lost ridiculous amounts of hair after I had my little boy 16 months ago and it is now growing back in crazy little tufts all over my head! I have had my current straighteners for a couple of years now; they are Andrew Collinge ones, which are okay, but are not very gentle on my damaged hair, even when using with a heat protection styling product beforehand. I then discovered that you can buy ghd straighteners on Amazon, so as of now I am saving up my Miles to buy a set of these. They cost over £110 but I'm going to treat myself to them; I reckon if I keep knocking some decent reviews out I should have them by the end of the summer (as I tend to review mainly on Speaker's Corner this may take a little longer though!). I would never dream of spending that kind of cash on myself, as I'd always end up buying something for the kids instead, but Dooyoo is my own little hobby and it's lovely having something I really want to save up for.
Once I get my ghd's I'm going to start saving up for some Christmas presents for friends and family; they'll all be coming from Amazon though!
I think it's great that Dooyoo give you the option of Amazon vouchers or cash; I'm sure that many people claim the cheque only for the money to go on something boring and necessary like bills. This way I feel that I'm treating myself!
UPDATE: I got my GHD's and they're fantastic!
It's really hard to believe that it's been 15 years since Friends first hit our TV screens!
For those of you who've never heard of Friends (where have you been?) it's set in New York and focuses on the lives of six friends: Monica, Rachel, Ross, Chandler, Phoebe and Joey. There were ten series of the show and it ended in 2004, much to the disappointment of it's many fans around the world, myself included!
Monica (played by Courtney Cox) is beautiful, neurotic and a complete control freak, especially when it comes to cleaning her apartment! I love Monica; she is like an exaggerated version of myself (with a much smaller waist!)
Rachel (played by Jennifer Aniston) starts out the show as being the spoilt little rich girl, but her character goes through a big transformation over the ten series, and she is very likeable. For the first few series she is Monica's roommate and they have been best friends since they were children (though they hadn't seen each other for a few years previous to when we first meet them). When the show first started I thought that Jennifer Aniston looked really beautiful; she had a great figure and of course who can forget the "Rachel" haircut that all us girls rushed out to copy? But there are points when she (along with Courntney Cox) looks so skinny that it's actually quite difficult for me to watch; what's the crack with this size zero nonsense anyway?
Phoebe (played by Lisa Kudrow) is kooky to say the least! Phoebe is a vegetarian guitar playing animal lover who seems to live in her own little world most of the time! I think that Lisa Kudrow plays a fantastic part; as with all of the actors involved in this show her comic timing is perfect, and she manages to make a rather unbelievable character very appealing.
Ross (played by David Schwimmer) is Monica's older brother. His character goes through quite a transformation over the course of the show; he starts off as a very sweet man but life takes it's toll on him and he does act very strangely at certain points in the last few series (trying to "get it on" with his own cousin being one of his lowest points!)
Joey (played by Matt Le Blanc) lives over the hall from Monica. He is attractive but not very bright, though this doesn't prevent him from having a different woman every night of the week! I find Joey's character very sweet, even though he can be a bit of a chauvinist at times!
Chandler (played by Matthew Perry) starts out as Joey's roommate. Chandler is my favourite character by far; he is insecure and hides behind a razor-sharp sarcastic wit. He gets all the best lines in the show and Matthew Perry has perfect comic timing.
The show has featured many famous faces over the ten series, including Tom Selleck, Isabella Rosselinni, and even Brad Pitt, who was married to Jennifer Aniston at the time (until that evil Jolie woman stole him away with her voodoo spells!). In fact, there seemed to be a celebrity cameo in every episode of series two, which consequently feels a little false and forced and is personally my least favourite series.
My husband bought me the DVD boxset with every episode in for Christmas; well it''s now the beginning of April and I'm only up to the beginning of series 4 (I do have two small children so don't get much time for TV these days!) He paid about 50 quid for it on Amazon on special offer and it was money well spent in my opinion! It would be absolute bliss for me to sit and watch these back to back, though I may have to wait a few years to do so!
I think what makes the show so appealing is that everyone can relate in some way to one of the characters, and that everyone would love to have a close group of friends like that portrayed in the show. The show follows the gang from their mid twenties through to their mid thirsties, and as I'm 28 now I feel I can really relate to some of their experiences (Rachel's slight crisis at turning 30 for example!) But I have watched the show since I was 15 and I have always loved it. I don't think that it has aged badly at all; even the earlier shows are still really funny now. The only slight criticism I have of the show is that some of the jokes are very "American"; as with shows like The Simpsons and Family Guy you don't always know what or who the characters are talking about! But then I guess many Americans wouldn't get everything in Only Fools and Horses or One Foot In The Grave!
Friday nights are just not the same for me since Friends finished; there just hasn't been anything to take it's place in my opinion. The repeats are always on on T4 and E4, buut it's just not the same. After the failure of the spin-off "Joey" (which I thought was okay) I don't know if they will ever make another series. I think it would be great if they made a feature-length episode and released it at the cinema as they did with another favourite of mine, Sex And The City, though they would have to keep the same format as the show, with sets and a live studio audience, as I couldn't see it working any other way.
UPDATE: Over a year later and I still haven't got through all of the episodes! Testamant to how much time small children take to look after!
I would like to start this review by stating that I am not a mean person or a bad parent, just a woman who really can't function without a good eight hours of sleep at least!
I have two children: my daughter Charlotte is nearly eight and my son Finlay is 16 months. When I first had Charlotte I really wasn't prepared for the sleep deprivation that life with a newborn baby would entail: my god that was a shock to the system! I breastfed her for the first week of her life and that was quite enough for me (that's another discussion entirely I think!) and then bottled fed. I didn't really have her in any sort of routine at first; I just used to take her up to bed when I went, whether that was 8pm or 12pm! I carried on giving Charlotte night feeds until she was six months old, then started to give her water after that. She must have realised quite quickly that this wasn't worth getting up for as she stopped waking up for night feeds after about a week of no milk.
(Just as an aside: my stepmam had her babies in the 1960s, and she said that mothers were told from the start that babies didn't need a night feed, and just to ignore them if they cried in the night. Very harsh in my opinion but she reckoned it worked for her generation!)
So there I am, lulled into this false sense of security (kids love to do that to you), with Charlotte sleeping through all night. Then she hit the age of two and it was time to put her in her own bed. Let's just say she didn't take this transition very well! It's six years ago now but I can almost still hear her stood at the stairgate on the door of her bedroom screaming at the top of her lungs "Mammy! Mammy!" This was quite difficult as you can imagine, evening after evening for hours on end. I tried comforting her, cajoling her, I think there may have even been some bribery with Milky Bars at one point, until I realised that the only way we were going to get this sorted was for me to simply ignore her (is that Social Services I can hear at my door? lol)
So I'd take her upstairs, get her in the bath, read her a story and sing her lullaby, then put her in bed, tuck her in, and come downstairs and plug my headphones into the stereo and turn it up loud enough so that I couldn't hear her screaming for me (listening in every few minutes or so to check that she was okay of course, which she always was, if mightily narked off!) And what do you know, within two weeks she had given up the screaming and settled into a good sleep routine again.
I'd like to stress that if you're thinking of trying the same approach, it is essential to give your toddler heaps of praise the next morning when they do settle. I was still saying "Clever girl, big bed all night" to my daughter until she rightly pointed out that she was six and that was really no great achievement lol.
When I had my son it was so much easier in a way; I had to get him into a routine as soon as possible to enable me to spend a bit of time with Charlotte before she went to bed. Also I knew that they'd be sharing a room once he hit six months or so and didn't want her sleep to be disrupted. I had Finlay in the early hours of the Wednesday morning and I was back home by lunchtime, and he was in bed for seven o'clock on the dot! Of course I was up and down the stairs like a yo-yo checking that he was still breathing as you do! And breastfeeding him every couple of hours as well.
Consequently, Fin is in a fantastic sleep routine; he goes to bed about 7.30 pm now after a bath and a story, and settled immediately most nights. He does occasionally wake up in the night and cry (usually because he's dropped his dummy or kicked his covers off), and I leave him for five minutes or so to see if he settles back down on his own (which he often does).
I also have an unwritten rule in my house that mam does not get up before 7.30am (and 8am on a weekend and school holidays!) I see some of the girls at my mother and toddler group whose tots have had them up since 5am and I can't understand why they don't put their foot down! The challenge is that you keep putting the child back to bed and see which one of you gets sick of it first! I have an iron will and refuse to give in on most things so this worked for me with Charlotte when she wanted to get up at some ungodly hour, and I fully intend to show Finlay who's boss if he tries it! (if the kids are ill then obviously you have to make allowances though).
So there you have it! My tough love approach may not work for everyone but it's worked for me, and I have two happy confident little sprogs so I must be doing something right!
UPDATE: My God, i have now become one of those daft mothers who gets up at a ridiculous hour! My definition of a lie-in has now changed to any time after 7 am!
I had been very keen on seeing this film ever since I saw the trailer for it at the cinema a while back. My husband got it on DVD rental from LoveFilm and we sat down to watch it, full of expectation!
The film starts with a group of American men fighting in the Vietnam War, with obvious nods to Platoon. There are some great action scenes here, though anyone not realising the film was a comedy straight away soon would with the sheer amount of fake blood all over the place and the deliberately hammy acting! It soon transpires that the actors are playing actors (I hope I haven't confused you!) starring in a film based on the book "Tropic Thunder" by John "Four Leaf" Tayback (played by Nick Nolte). The director of the film, Damien Cockburn, (played by Steve Coogan) is under a lot of pressure from his boss Len Grossman (played by Tom Cruise) to make the film a success, but the actors are out of control and the film is in freefall. Four Leaf suggests that they drop the actors off in the middle of the jungle and give them a script, then film them "guerilla style" while letting off unexpected explosions and filming them on hidden cameras. The film follows their journey as they encounter drug dealers and kidnap. Will they make it out alive?
The film is directed by Ben Stiller, who also plays one of the main characters in the film, Tugg Speedman, an action star whose star is not as high as it once was after a couple of flop movies. I thought that Ben Stiller played the part really well, although I feel that he tends to choose parts that don't really stretch him as an actor at all; he's like Will Smith was earlier on his career when he basically played himself in every film he was in.
Robert Downey Junior plays Kirk Lazarus, an Oscar-winning Australian actor, who takes all of his roles very seriously, and even undergoes a skin pigmentation procesure to make his skin black for the film (I did say this was a comedy!). I thought that Robert Downey Jr was fantastic in this film; I never think of him as a comedy actor but he really excels in this role. The only thing I found annoying about his performance, which was probably deliberate, is thst I couldn't understand half of the stuff he was saying!
Jack Black plays Jeff Portnoy, a comedy actor with a serious drug addiction. Without meaning to suggest that Jack Black is a drug addict, I don't think that this role was much of a stretch for him either; although he is really funny in this film and gets some great lines, he is a bit of a one-trick pony is my opinion.
Jay Baruchel plays Kevin Sandusky, a rookie young actor who I initially thought came over as a bit of a wimp, but who I thought eventually emerged as the hero ofn the film. I had never seen Jay Baruchel in anything before, but I thought that he played the part really well and I warmed to his character.
Brandon T. Jackson plays the character of Alpa Chino, a rapper with a big secret to hide (you'll have to watch the film to find out what!) Again I had never seen this actor in any other production, but I enjoyed his performance.
The film also stars Matthew McConaughey as Rick Peck, Tugg Speedman's agent, and Danny R. McBride as Cody Underwood, the film's pyrotechnics expert. I enjoyed both of these actor's performances; Matthew McConaughey is always watchable and very easy on the eye!
If there is one actor who really makes my skin crawl these days it's tom Cruise. I can't deny that the man is a good actor; it's just all the revelations in the press about his personal life have made me see him in a very negative light! But I have to admit he is excellent in this film; he really plays against type and is very funny.
I think that my husband enjoyed this film much more than I did; there were times when he was laughing his back off and I didn't even raise a smile! I think these may be more of a movie for the guys, although there are some really funny moments in it and some great action scenes. Some people may find certain scenes offensive, and there is a lot of strong language in the film, so it's not one for the kids! I enjoyed the film but I'm in no hurry to watch it again.
Runtime: 107 minutes.