Category Archives: Movies and TV

Water For Elephants by Sara Gruen

I saw the movie of this book when it was in the cinema which was a good few years ago now so when I was reading the book I was picturing the actors in the film. I couldn’t remember who played the lesser characters, I could only picture the main ones which I guess is fitting.

It’s such a unique story, you don’t get many books written about the American travelling rail road circuses of the 1920/ 30’s and yet as you read it you wonder what other untold stories there are.

A circus is a wonderful sight with animals and humans performing together but sadly something that is not so acceptable in the modern world. At their height when there wasn’t such a wealth of entertainment available at the touch of a button they were something to see.

Imagine not having a TV or the internet but knowing that once a year the circus will pull into your home town and entertain you with animals you’d never get the chance to see in your life turning up on your doorstep. I can imagine how exciting that must be.

The book uses elements of stories from a range of circuses of the time and elaborates to fit the narrative. Including the effects of the liquor ban and the unscrupulous moonshine makers who ended up killing hundreds of thousands of people with poisonous liquor.

But it’s the way the book brings to life the Elephant, Rosie that keeps you hooked. It reaches into the heart of that huge animal and displays an almost human like manner. It refers to her smiling at Jacob and an understanding between the two of them once he realises she speaks Polish. It’s hard to imagine an animal only being able to understand one language but a lot of humans only understand one language, the one you were born into. So I guess an elephant raised as a cub in Poland, connecting sounds to actions is not that far-fetched an idea. In no way could she be seen as a dumb animal given how naughty she is when she’s misunderstood.

It’s such a heart warming story with elements of sadness and how very real and ugly life can be for some people. I’m not sure if reading the book without seeing the movie paints as vivid a picture but I certainly enjoyed it having already seen the film. I couldn’t remember everything that was going to happen as it was such a long time ago since I saw the film which was nice.

I would recommend both the film and the book.


Tuesday Cinema Club: Dunkirk

I’m a fan of war movies, I watch quite a lot about all sorts of battles and one thing I love about them is that they teach you things and give you a better understanding of how the world works. That is where I feel this movie was a let down.

I thought it was good but not great. I’m not quite sure what all the 5* reviewers saw that I didn’t but clearly we have a gulf in opinion. If you don’t know the history behind what happened at Dunkirk you learn very little from this movie. There is no customary written intro and exit heralding the figures of such an achievement of human spirit and determination and I think that was greatly missing.

I would have loved at the end to know how many men were on the beach, how many returned, how many ships, boats and vessels retrieved them, how many planes covered them and a summary of what happened next. I think if you are highlighting a movie about what happened over the course of I think a week so important in history, that you could have taken the time to add a couple of written slides at the end giving you the figures.

I honestly don’t think any other country could have pulled off what we did that week. A call goes out that Englishmen are stranded on a beach in France and as many ships, boats, ferries and the like that can manage it head across the sea into a war zone – unarmed and unprepared with a moments notice, risking their own lives and livelihoods to bring them back. That is what needed to be made more of in this movie.

For those people sailing across most of them used their boats for work, if they got sunk or were killed that risked the lives of their families and the people who relied on their business. That is a hell of a thing. I know a lot of the ships were commandeered by the British Navy but I believe a lot of people joined in regardless to help out.

The movie made reference to the fact that we brought French soldiers back but I haven’t heard this before. Not that it showed you any French soldiers returning, the leader makes reference to them having to wait.

The one thing the movie lacks is the rawness of the situation given it shows no real injured soldiers, there are no dead bodies, even in the sea there is minimal floating debris and bodies following the sinkings. It shows the beach being bombed and the explosions and yet everyone gets up and back into line. When all the ships have gone the beach is empty, which is unrealistic.

There was reportedly around 400,000 men on that beach, there would have been weapons, vehicles, dead bodies, rubbish, shrapnel and all sorts lining the beach. Anyone who has lived with a man knows how much mess they can make so you can’t tell me 400,000 of them left the beach completely clear.

The flashback sequences weren’t very obvious either. It took me a minute to realise we were seeing the same part again from a different perspective and it was annoying a couple of times.

I don’t think it’s accurate that only 3 Spitfires were sent out to protect the boats. I know they wouldn’t have used everyone but 3 seems a bit light. Also due to the flashbacks it seems a Spitfire can drift for an extraordinarily long time with engine failure and damage.

Seeing the WW2 planes now gives me goosebumps, I can’t imagine how those men in the ships and fighting on the beaches and fields felt as those wings flew over to protect them. They really were a feat of engineering and without them we would have lost the war.

As a film it told a sanitized story of war from the perspective of the sea, beach and air. I don’t doubt it was based on things that happened and there were elements of risk shown but I think it could’ve been more realistic. I also wish they’d added an educational element at the end for all the young people watching who don’t know much about WW2.

For me it was good but I like a little bit more grit in my war films.

Tuesday Cinema Club: Despicable Me 3

From the start my enjoyment of the movie was spoiled by the kid behinds constant need to kick my seat and put his feet on the spare seat. When I was a kid my parents wouldn’t have let me do this and it annoys me that no one says anything to kids nowadays when they behave badly. Despite me voicing my annoyance and him sitting next to an adult they didn’t even try to stop him kicking the seat.

There is no need to put your feet on the seats or keep kicking someones seat, especially when you have enough leg room as it is, it’s just rude and inconsiderate of the people around you. The world could use a little more consideration and a little less self-importance. If you don’t learn consideration as a kid you certainly won’t learn it as an adult!

However, despite the rudeness of others I did enjoy the movie. It had the usual amount of silliness but there was enough to keep adults entertained too.

Gru meets his long-lost twin brother and the two of them undertake a heist together following in their Dad’s footsteps. It was everything you would expect a Despicable Me film to be. Including a hunt for unicorns, I mean who hasn’t wanted to meet a unicorn?!


Tuesday Cinema Club: Live By Night

It feels like it’s been a really long time since I last went to the cinema. 2016 was a mixture of not many films of interest and being too busy or tired to fit in a visit. Let’s hope 2017 will be better!

We had a choice this week to pick an Affleck with both Ben and Casey starring in films at present. We chose Ben this week and I think we lined Casey up for next week.

Live by Night was an ok movie. My friend described it as instantly forgettable and I can see why he said it. I should add that our enjoyment of the film may have been impeded by the fact, the theatre was so cold I had gloves on and my thermal winter coat hood pulled right up but still couldn’t feel my legs. It’s the first time I wished I’d stayed at home in the warm rather than going to the cinema!

The film had all the classic gangster movie themes. At two and a half hours it was quite long compared to some movies, but it didn’t feel overly long, although it could have ended sooner. The actual end of the movie we found a little confusing in terms of the timeline. It almost felt like trying to cram in details without it being totally necessary.

The acting was good and it’s always nice to see English actors appearing in big Hollywood movies. Although I must say Sienna Miller’s Irish accent was a bit much and not in a good way.

I do wonder if I would’ve enjoyed it more if I had been warmer at the time but all in all it was entertaining. Would I be in a hurry to watch it again? Probably not. It’s probably not going to be on anyone’s all time favourite movie lists, it wasn’t a bad movie, just a little bit predictable and forgettable.

Tuesday Cinema Club: The Girl On The Train

I was surprised that this isn’t written by the same person who wrote Gone Girl. From the very first time I saw the trailer at the cinema quite a while ago now I assumed it was the same person. Just from the trailer you got the sense that it was going to be a similar theme.

I’m sure when I get round to reading the book version as with Gone Girl I will wish I’d read the book first!

The cinema was pretty much packed out for the showing which is unusual but a sign of how popular the book/ movie collaborations can be, in my eyes at least.

I don’t want to talk about the story too much as I feel it will give away some of the secrets. I certainly didn’t see any of it coming, but I did have an inclination that perhaps all was not as it seemed.

I thought the actors played their parts really well. Emily Blunt especially, given there are large parts of the movie where she drives the story through alone.

There wasn’t a slow part in the film, nothing that looking back I think why did they bother with that bit. Everything is moving you forward to the end of the film. That’s not to say you don’t come out of it with things to discuss! Definitely a film to watch with a friend.

I would imagine most people who enjoyed Gone Girl will be reading or at least watching The Girl on The Train also. If you like your entertainment coming from darker themed stories then I think you’ll enjoy this one. Although I wonder if reading the book and then seeing the movie will create a bigger impact.

Tony Hadley At The Royal Albert Hall

On Monday night I went to see Tony Hadley at the Royal Albert Hall. I had such a good time, despite the fact that my back had been playing up all day and I could only waddle around!

The night was billed as him playing his favourite songs and Spandau Ballet hits and it was just that. The first half was a mixed bag of songs and the second half was as he said ‘sing along with Tony’.

I’ve always thought he had a great voice and that’s why I wanted to see him live and he holds his own without the rest of Spandau.

I’ve seen Spandau Ballet a couple of times now and I’ve missed them playing Round and Round but that was rectified this time around. It’s just a shame my Mum couldn’t make it as she was supposed to as it’s one of her favourite songs too.

The Royal Albert Hall is such a lovely venue, if you can go and see something there one day. I saw a leaflet about them doing tours so I want to go back as I think that will be very interesting. I might finally find out about the shapes hanging from the ceiling that fascinate me so much! I assume they are to do with acoustics.

It was a longer show than I was expecting, finishing around 11pm when most concerts finish around 10.30pm and ending on Gold and Frank Sinatra’s My Way really rounded the night off with a bang.

I’m sure I’ll be seeing Tony and Spandau Ballet again one day, the lure of someone with such a good voice is just too strong in the modern world of auto-tune and computer generated voices.

Heat Wave by Richard Castle

Heat Wave

I’m a fan of the TV show Castle so when I saw a box set of 3 of the Nikki Heat books from the show I had to see what it was all about. I’m sure I read somewhere that the books were written by Nathan Fillian who plays Richard Castle in the show but it seems there is a lot of speculation over the author. I like to think he wrote the books anyway.

I think it was an interesting move by the shows makers to bring out the books that are referred to throughout the shows. It’s obviously a money spinner but it also adds another element to it.

I enjoyed the book. As I was reading it I was seeing the actors in the show playing the characters they are based on and that is kind of the point. It was a quick read but sometimes you want something quite short to fill time.

I think you would still be able to enjoy the book if you have never seen the show as it isn’t really about that. What you need to know is all covered. If you are used to reading die-hard crime fiction then this is probably not going to appeal to you but if you prefer your crime a little more light-hearted then go for it!

I have another 2 books in the series to read so I’ll look forward to seeing if they’re just as good as this one!

I think they have finished making Castle now which means another one of my favourite shows has bitten the dust but at least the reruns are on most of the time!

Tuesday Cinema Club: The Secret Life of Pets

We have a cat and I have often wondered what he gets up to when we are out of the house. Come to think of it I wonder what HE gets up to when he goes out of the house. I’ve considered putting a camera on him but if the collar situation is anything to go by he wouldn’t be very happy about it!

I really enjoyed this movie. It was funny for adults as much as I think it would be for kids.

I loved that each of the animals had their own quirks and personalities but all of them in their own way liked to get up to no good. I’ve always imagined animals would be naughty when you turn your back on them. I think that’s how half the unexplained things happen in the house!

The troubling thing for me was the number of snakes living in the sewage network. As someone who hasn’t been able to use a toilet in comfort since I read a story about a 6ft snake being found in a toilet, that was not an image I needed in my overactive imagination!  Neither was the sliding touches up my arms and laughing by my fellow viewers who know how  much I hate snakes! Yes I know it’s a ridiculous fear but that is why it is called ‘irrational’!

I loved the dog massaging himself on the mixer and the fat cat eating the roast dinner, although who leaves a roast dinner in the fridge like that?!

The old woman at the end with 30 cats immediately made me think of what my sister will be like in 40 years time! She didn’t see the comparison 🙂

If you’re looking for a movie to see with the kids but that you will also enjoy then I think this ticks the boxes.

Tuesday Cinema Club: The Nice Guys

What can I say about The Nice Guys other than it stars Russell Crowe and Ryan Gosling? Or #RUSCRO and #RYGO as we started calling them for no apparent reason than everything needs a hashtag in 2016!

I enjoyed the movie. The title is misleading as the lead actors play men who most people would not consider to be nice guys!

They are both a little down on their luck. Ryan has a young daughter who helps them with their underworld investigations into the porn industry and ends up doing better than both the men!

I liked the energy of Russell and Ryan together I thought it worked well. There was just enough of the moody vibes mixed with some bungling heroics and general destruction that comes in most American movies.

If you’re looking for something you will enjoy but don’t have to think about then this is the movie for you! Oh and if nothing else you get to look at the lovely Ryan Gosling for a couple of hours!

Tuesday Cinema Club: Me Before You

Let me start by saying I am a late comer to Me Before You. I think I was under a rock when the book was released or something. I have added it to my ‘to read’ pile now.

I went to see this movie with friends, one of whom hates romantic movies but said she would make an exception for us. She enjoyed it.

I was most excited to see Brax from Home and Away in the movie. I was expecting his name to roll in the credits as Darryl Braxton but apparently he is actually called Stephen Peacocke! Who knew. I’m sure no one other than Home and Away watchers will care a dot anyway!

It was nice to see Daenerys with a smile on her face for a change. I saw Emilia Clarke on Graham Norton talking about the movie and she seemed to be a bit like her character in this film. Away from Game of Thrones she is a very smiley person and you cant help but get caught up with that.

I was expecting this to be a romantic movie and there is certainly an element of that, but it is much more. The theatre was pretty full and there were quite a few men who were laughing and crying at all the right bits!

In fact the beginning and middle parts have laugh out loud funny bits and the ending is more somber without being full on depressing. By the end most of the theatre was sniffing back the tears, including some of the men!

I’m normally the one blubbing at the barest hint of sadness in a TV show or movie. I’ve cried over characters leaving Eastenders like it actually made a difference to the world! I’m not ashamed to admit that I like a good cry and will even watch a soppy movie in order to fulfil that release but I didn’t cry at the end of this movie.

It’s not that the ending wasn’t completely moving. It’s just at the current phase in my life I have a new understanding of these sorts of things and can see how choosing your end would be a comforting thing. Albeit none the less devastating for those people who value your existence.

I wish I could write something remotely as moving at Jojo Moyes. I have the emotions and plenty of sad stories, I just can’t translate them onto paper in any sort of way that matters.

I was disappointed that part of the film was made in the local hospital where my Mum works and no one was talking about it on the grapevine! It’s nice when you spot local areas in movies, although I have to say I didn’t recognise them until after I saw the credits roll.

I would recommend this movie, someone who hates romantic movies really enjoyed it and that rarely happens with films! That just backs up how good the writing and acting was and how believable the characters are.

Oh and apparently the movie follows the book in a good way so I’m told by my friend who has read it. It can be frustrating when the movie doesn’t follow the book.

To prove the point I got very confused when the trailer for the new Bridget Jones movie came up before the film and Mark Darcey was in it. I’ve read the latest book and he isn’t in it, and that is really the point of it. It seems they have made a movie that sits in between the second and third books and that is a bit disappointing and not really the point of Bridget Jones at all.


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