Sunday, 26 June 2016

Happy Gilmore is happier than me

What did I get? Happy Gilmore on DVD

How did I get it? Annoyingly, I can't remember. It was a competition win.

My longest break without posting. One major reason - the European Championships and endless football matches. England are still in it, as are Wales, Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland - an incredible feat.

There have just been 2 rest days without football but I still didn't post as I'm a bit sad and very scared over Brexit. But this blog isn't a politics blog (although the ability to vote freely is a freebie and a victory that we all should use at every opportunity), so that's the last of saying why Happy Gilmore is happier than me.

If you've seen Happy Gilmore then you'll know he's anything but. Adam Sandler plays the titular chap who isn't one of life's winners. Happy has anger issues that stem from the walk out of his mother and the death of his father when he was a kid. Only grandma (with whom he lives) seems to get Happy's unconditional love. All this is played out in the opening few minutes as a scene setter.

Happy shares his father's love of hockey (ice hockey to us Brits; field hockey is what we know as simply 'hockey') but he really isn't very good. Every year he fails the trials but he still classes himself as a hockey player. Barely able to skate, lacking basic hockey skills and hampered by his temper, Happy does possess an incredibly hard shot. Using this in an unconventional way, Happy takes on the world of golf ... and this is definitely a golf film.

The film is rated 12 and I watched with my eleven and a half year old son. It's not bad, but there is a fair bit of cussing in it that would have made it a 15 back in my day. The gorgeous Julie Bowen appears in stocking and sussies a couple of times too, but nothing worse than that really.

As a comedy ... it's OK. It harkens back to an eighties Police Academy affair a few times but there are some amusing slapstick scenes and some surreal moments which tickle my fancy, plus a cameo appearance from Lee Trevino. It's a heavily sponsored film too - I bet a large portion of it's gross takings are from Subway.

I'd give it 6, my son says 8.

Friday, 10 June 2016

Mimes of Wine - "la Maison Verte"

What did I get? "la Maison Verte" album by Mimes of Wine
Where from? Given freely for review by Subba-Cultcha

When I go on the Subba Cultcha site to apply to review an album I do listen to the Soundcloud or YouTube clips to see if it's something I'll like. It does obscure the reviews as you're already halfway to liking something before you've listened properly, so most of the reviews are positive. It wouldn't be fair for me to review some EDM or R&B album when I really am not into either genre.

Mimes of Wine fall into my favourite type of music though. There'll always be room for heavy stuff in my life (see Wednesday's post) but mysterious, melodic swirly music with a fair bit of guitars suits me just fine.

My full review is on the Subba Cultcha site. Links to Mimes of Wine songs are above.

Monday, 6 June 2016

Dead Label - a game of Throne of Bones

What did I get? Throne of Bones (LP) by Dead label

How did I get it? Freely sent for review by Subba Cultcha

I love rock music and as I get older I'm enjoying it louder. My thirteen year old daughter says I'm too old and it's not fair to hog it from teenagers like her. Fair point.

One aspect of thrash I'm not too fussed with is the death growl. I get why it's done - it's part of the atmosphere of the song and depicts death, hell and despair - but it means that I can't hear the probably hard worked on lyrics. There, that's me being old.

The wonderful Subba Cultcha site allows you to apply for albums, gigs and festivals in return for an honest review. My full review of the album is here.

Saturday, 4 June 2016

Nostell Priory - a grand day out

What did I get? A day out at Nostell Priory

How did I get it? Part of a competition prize package from Caboodle

What I actually won was free entry to a National Trust property, but having visited the other main properties near me (Dunham Massey, Tatton and Lyme Park) I wanted to find somewhere different for this special day out. Heading in the other direction this is the nearest (1 hour away) and a new one to us all.

Parking near the entrance from road one walks down the drive to the property, making it an exciting moment when the house appears in view.

Nostell Priory, like several other  stately homes, was a monastic house until Henry VIII's reformation when he disbanded the traditional (catholic) churches and founded his own church - the Church of England. Properties were given over to Henry's favourites and often rebuilt or expanded to the house we see today. In this case James Paine and Robert Adam were architects at different phases, and the building is famed for it's collection of bespoke Chippendale furniture. Whilst not the original owners, Nostell has been the home of the Winn family for over 300 years.

Free tickets happily exchanged, I'll take a moment to tell you why this day started very well - no hard membership sell. Oh, what bliss! The National trust do an excellent job and without them we'd lose a lot of our heritage, I know that, but I do get so frustrated by having to explain so often that family membership would not be worthwhile for us (we've tried it) and we prefer to pay as we go gets tiresome. Not on this visit though, everyone was just happy for us top enjoy our day out and learn about this beautiful property.

We enjoyed the gardens first. The kitchen gardens and rose garden
are not as large and spectacular as other houses, but they are neatly maintained and have an array of interesting fruit and vegetables (including banana plants. Outside. In Yorkshire!) Being in the middle of a Wodehouse novel (Leave it to Psmith since you ask) I wanted to bother the gardener to see if his name was McAllister and quiz him on his flowers.

From these gardens we wandered through the adventure playground and along the lake, stopping at the perfect spot for my all-time favourite activity, a picnic.

Sandwiches and chicken legs consumed, we headed to the other side of the lake and the quieter, tranquil menagerie garden (where one expects they used to keep menagers).
This was my favourite spot with wonderful smelling shrubbery and interesting buildings.

Gardens fully explored we ventured into the house. A friendly welcome and offer of an activity sheet for the kids was just inside the door and off we go to explore. The entrance hall is dark and huge, quite imposing and not at all like other large houses. This is likely because the grand entrance was planned on the first floor at the top of the grand external steps. The first floor is, as usual, set out with magnificent rooms. I particularly enjoyed the bathrooms
- they are still set out with soap and toiletries from a bygone era. I could feel like a guest at Blandings stood here.

In the rooms there are priceless artworks by Brueghel the Elder, Hogarth and Gainsborough. The wallpaper is fine Chinese and the Chippendale furniture is dotted around everywhere. The interiors really are stunning, fine plasterwork and carvings abound. A clock made by the renowned John Harrison (who invented a method for calculating longitude at sea) sits state like in the billiards room.

The volunteers around the house are, as ever, knowledgeable and eager to tell you all they know.

Downstairs we see how the servants looked after the house. An array of bells is still present, waiting for the people of the house to summon them and cater for every whim. The butler's pantry has all the paraphernalia of buttling - Beach would be at home here. Kids can dress up in the scullery and play with cooking implements or make a rag rug.

House tour over we repaired back to the vast stable block
, topped up on the inevitable souvenirs, enjoyed a cup of lovely coffee and made our way back to the car past the huge parkland, all there for exploring (if you pay just the car park fee you can still use the cafe, shop and parkland, only the gardens and house cost extra). The tired kids, wife and mother-in-law all agreed, this was a fine day out.

Wednesday, 1 June 2016

Jungle Book at the Manchester Odeon

What did I get? A ticket for the Odeon cinema at the Printworks, Manchester.

What did I see? Jungle Book

How did I get it? A raffle win on the MacMillan coffee morning.

Way back in 2015 I was lucky enough to win 2 tickets for any Odeon cinema. Not a freebie in itself as I paid for the tickets, but I'm working on the basis that one of the tickets was cheap and one was free. It's a chance to highlight the World's Biggest Coffee Morning and a fair chance to review a good day out.

The Printworks is an exciting development in the centre of Manchester housing a 20 screen cinema, various bars and restaurants. It winds through an indoor street that retains many of the features of the original newspaper printing industry. It opened in 2000 having been left derelict after the evil Robert Maxwell bought it for £1 in 1986 and then closed it down.

Walking into the Printworks is exciting for the kids. It's quite dark but sufficiently lit to make it look like it's permanently night time on a busy street. It's been a while since I spent time down here at night and even then I felt a bit old. I'm told it can get a bit rowdy at weekends, but it's fine during the day.

Hard to believe that this is my first visit to the cinema here. Hard to believe there are 20 screens hidden away, including the North West of England's first IMAX. Queues were small, the friendliest service I've ever had in a cinema from Leah, and prices reasonable (well, the adults were free!, kids and senior were £4). Up the escalators to a large area selling the usual sweets, drinks and popcorn but also plenty of video games, air hockey and penny flips too. There's a Costa up here, but that wasn't open at the time. Having just spent an hour having a buffet lunch as part of our day out treat, these weren't close to being sampled!

Comfortable seats with plenty of leg room, good sound and a clear picture. Odeon Printworks cinema gets the thumbs up!

So what of the film? Oh, my word. My sister had told me it was good and not just a kids' film, but I never expected anything like this. The production is incredible - CGI now seems to have reached perfection. The only actor in the film is Neel Sethi who is incredible. To think he would have filmed opposite puppets against a blue screen shows just how good a performance this is. Amongst the many good voice performances my favourites were Christopher Walken as King Louie and Ben Kingsley as Bagheera. Idris Elba (my choice for the new James Bond) makes a good baddie, the odd 'proper Landun' word creeping out.

The real star is the storyline. More faithful to the original book than the 1967 version, but making sure it's not so faithful as to be a bit boring (come on, you've read them right? The films are much easier...). There is also the surprisingly brave move to omit any semblance of romance (Shanti is nowhere to be seen), and keeps sentiment about family to a minimum. Mowgli has been raised by animals since he was a toddler, he has no memory of mankind so why would he have those feelings.

Some better reviewers than I would consider the deeper meanings of the film (be true to yourself; consider your own strengths and not what others expect of you; wolves stick together...) but I'm shallower than that when it comes to a kids film. I enjoy the scenery, laugh at the jokes and cry at the end).

I'll finish with the songs. It's not a musical, but music from the 1967 film makes it in there. As well as excellent versions of 'The bare necessities' and 'I wanna be like you' I also noted background music calling on 'Trust in me', there may have been others.

Oscar nominations are likely to be made, this film is a cracker for all ages.

617 Squadron - the Dambusters at war by Tom Bennett (book review)

  This review is from my Goodreads page 617 Squadron: The Dambusters at War by Tom Bennett My rating: 3 of 5 stars This was given freely ...