Film Friday #198

Lucy (2014)

Scarlett Johannson plays Lucy, a very silly young woman who becomes an unwilling drug mule for a Taiwanese cartel after she trusts the wrong man. When the pouch of drugs that has been inserted into her body leaks, Lucy, finds she has been given the key to unlocking all of her cerebral capacity. Unfortunately her body isn’t exactly equipped to deal with her new powers and she’s caught in a race against time to connect with the leading brain capacity researcher, Professor Norman (Morgan Freeman) before the cartel catches up with her. Where do I start with this one? Absolutely none of it made any sense to me. First of all Lucy is a really unlikable character after her brain capacity increases. Basically she just goes around shooting anyone who as much as looks at her funny. Apparently this is because the increased capacity cuts her off from her human emotions… but then her entire purpose seems to be to share all her knowledge with humanity. Why? If she can’t be arsed with any of us anyway, why would she need give a monkey’s about whether we knew the secrets of the universe. And what does she need Professor Norman for? She knows fucking everything. And then there’s all this weird wildlife footage interspersed with what’s happening, attempting to make it all serious when it’a really just about a fit bird running around with a gun, which should be fun. Except that it’s not. Even though Lucy is only 89 minutes long, it’s really, really boring and I wish I had never watched it. 1/5

 

Do not FUCK with me

Do not FUCK with me

Sorority Boys (2002)

Dave (Barry Watson), Adam (Michael Rosenbaum) and Doofer (Harland Williams) are both legendary party animals and the heads of their fraternity KOK’s social committee. Unfortunately they are kicked out when the funds for their annual cocktail cruise go missing and they’re accused of theft. On the upside, Adam has been videoing his sexual exploits and there’s a good chance that whoever really did it is in the background of one of his dirty tapes. On the downside the only people getting into the frat house that night are hot girls. So the three dress up in drag and crash the party. These three are not very attractive women though and they are quickly turfed out with the only people willing to take them in being the collection of misfit women from the DOG, sorority… exactly the kind of women they’ve always derided. Now they must stick it out and pretend to be girls until they can make their way onto the cocktail cruise and prove their innocence… if Dave doesn’t ruin everything by falling for house president and strident feminist, Leah (Melissa Sagemiller). I have to admit that this one is a bit of a guilty pleasure for me. It’s dumb, sexist and packed with cliches but somehow watching these three idiots land up in the shoes of the women who they’ve treated like shit is very satisfying. Williams is also absolutely hilarious as the least likely idiot stoner to get in touch with his feminine side and teach some unusual girls how to kick ass. Go in with low expectations and you might just get a giggle out of it. 3/5

London fashion week, eat your heart out

London fashion week, eat your heart out

Good Will Hunting (1997)

Will Hunting (Matt Damon) is a wise-cracking M.I.T. janitor at who grew up in foster homes on the wrong side of Boston. He’s also a mathematical genius, which comes to the attention of Professor Gerald Lambeau (Stellan Skarsgard) when he catches Will completing an incredibly challenging equation. He is desperate to explore Will’s gift further but Will is far more interested in drinking with his buddies (Ben Affleck, Casey Affleck and Cole Hauser) and getting into fights. And it’s one of these fights that lands Will in jail. Prof Lambeau manages to bail him out but only on condition that he works with him and sees a psychiatrist. Of course Will has no interest in anyone getting behind his defensive wall and sets about taking the mickey out of one counsellor after another, until Prof Lambeau suggests that he see his old friend, Sean Maguire (Robin Williams), who grew up in the same area. As Sean slowly starts to wear away at Will’s barriers, Will also helps him deal with his grief at the loss of his wife but Will manage to let Sean all the way in? Written by real life best buddies, Damon and Affleck this is the film that catapulted the two of them into the limelight and it’s easy to see why. Will’s story is compelling and comes across as really genuine. Damon gives an impassioned performance as a young man stuck between his potential and his fear of ever being vulnerable and Williams is simply wonderful, which makes the chemistry between the two of them that much more special. It’s of course vital to mention the outstanding supporting cast in the form of Will’s friends as well as the girl (Minne Driver), who might just make him care enough to let his guard down. A deserved classic. 5/5

Will's snowflake mural was not turning out quite as he'd hoped

Will’s snowflake mural was not turning out quite as he’d hoped

First Position (2011)

This real life Centre Stage follow a group of young ballet dancers as they train for the Youth America Grand Prix, where prestigious ballet companies and schools from around the world choose their latest students and recruits. The documentary addresses not only dedication, hard work and sacrifices required of the dancers (and their families), aged from as young as nine, but also the prejudices some of them have to overcome. This is most obvious from the experiences of Michaela Deprince, a black dancer who is constantly told that black women do not have the correct body shape or elegance for ballet (pish)! The dancing is excellent and everyone involved is interesting to watch but somehow I would have liked a bit more drama. It was all a bit too happy for me even when poor little Aran Bell was being whacked by his teacher. Worth a watch for dance fans. 3.5/5

XXX

Move bitch, get out the way…

Adventures in Riga

Last week Mr O and I continued our great love affair with Eastern Europe by taking a trip to Riga. Riga is the capital of Latvia, which is the middle Baltic state (in terms of both size and location). It’s a particularly interesting place to visit because in its 800 year history as recognised “territory”, Latvia has only been independent for a total of 55 years. Outside of that the Germans, Swedish, Polish and Russians have all had a go at ruling it, mostly because it has such excellent connections to the Baltic Sea, particularly via Riga. All of this makes for a city packed with vibrant and mixed cultural influences and fascinating architecture.

Mr O and I stayed in the Maritim Park Hotel, which was about 15 – 20 minutes walk from the old town on the opposite side of the Daugava River. The hotel has a tram and bus stop within seconds from the front door but we’re Londoners so we chose to walk instead. We generally found the staff of the hotel very friendly and welcoming and our room was comfortable and large. Definitely a bargain at only €55 per night. The hotel will happily arrange an airport transfer for you at only €10 each way – there are probably cheaper ways to do this but for me that price is definitely worth not having to figure them out, especially if there is more than one of you. We were also allowed to check-in three hours early at no extra cost. Good work, Maritim Park!

We arrived about midday on Sunday so after a little break to freshen up and dump our bags we decided to head into the old town to find some food and get the lay of the land. One of the definite upsides of walking into the old town was getting to see the very distinctive Riga skyline from a distance. Check out all those cool spires!

1

It also gives you the opportunity to pose with the Riga city sign.

8

We stopped off a Egle right in the town centre where we ate a kind of a tapas platter of cold meats, pickles and salads washed down with local beer. Being a Baltic country, Latvia takes beer seriously and there is no shortage of indigenous brews to sample. Not long after we sat down to eat a pianist and singer started performing. We soon realised that Riga loves live music.and you can expect some kind of musical accompaniment in most open air venues. This is great for giving the city a real buzz and everyone we heard play was really good.

After lunch we decided to take the city sightseeing tour which leaves from the old town centre. You can’t miss it because it’s right by the House of the Blackheads (Melngalvju Nams), a massively ornate building that was originally the home of a guild of merchants who never married and spent all their money on booze, parties and shiny stuff. Interestingly their patron saint is Maurice who was a gentleman of colour and represented how exotic their travels were.

2

I am normally a big fan of a sightseeing bus but I have to say that the Riga one was a bit of a letdown. The commentary was not particularly well synced up with the sites, the English commentary was poor and mostly it moved either too fast or too slow. It helped us get some direction as to where to go but as a whole I would say it’s poor value for money and there are better ways to see the city, which I will come to.

After our lacklustre tour we were thirsty again so we did some more wandering of the town centre and discovered the Rockabilly House, which became our kind of base of operations. Whenever Mr O and I travel to we like to find a bar or pub where we can just hand out when we feel like a little relax. We loved that there was a 50’s themed bar right in the middle of Riga. It was somehow perfectly out of place and in its perfect place in one go. I think we were mostly served by the owner who was simultaneously grumpy and charming, which I liked. The only thing I didn’t love was that, like many of the open air bars/restaurants in the town centre,  Rockabilly House does not have its own indoor toilet facilities and you have to use the public portaloos if you need a wee. Some are better than others and the Rockabilly House ones were particularly grim. We did pop in for a beer and a game of cards at some point on every day though.

Our final stop for the day was dinner. which accidentally ended up being back at Egle. We had no idea how big it was and didn’t realise it was part of the same sprawling bohemian open air restaurant until we had menus in front of us. In the end we were too tempted by their mussels to move on and shared an absolutely delicious plate of the saffron flavoured seafood. I have an amazing picture of Mr O tucking into them but he would prefer me not to share it because it looks like he is having some kind of otherworldly experience.

The next morning we decided to check out some of Riga’s seemingly endless temporary art installations. Mr O really liked this egg, which depicted all the seasons of Latvia.

9

I really liked this snail, which was one of a few we saw around the city. We all know I love an art photography project so I got excited about the idea of spotting them all but overnight they seemed to vanish into thin air. It was hard to find information about then but apparently it had something to do with protesting how slow the restoration of one of the art museums is going.

5

After that we headed to the Esplanade region of Rigs, which is situated around what was the city wall, moat and defensive fort. Originally this was where battles took place but after military defences changed and moats fell out of use the area was transformed into beautiful parks and canals for the residents to enjoy and they are absolutely breathtaking.

6 7

We weren’t just there to check out the ornamental fountains, love bridge and stunning flower beds though. I had managed to find a free guided walking tour online and it left from the statue of Rainas, who is considered the father of Latvian culture, right in the middle of the Esplanade. With Latvia being colonised so many times and its citizens being treated by its overlords as peasants and farmers its culture has often been subsumed by those in charge but as a writer and poet, Rainas made Latvian people believe that their voices, opinions and culture are important hand he is highly revered.

10

The tour we did was arranged through Travel Jam and is completely free, although tips are welcomed and after this fabulous two and a half hour guided walk if you don’t feel like you owe your guide something, you are a dick. Our guide was an artist and art history student called Dauga and she was fabulous. Not only was her knowledge of the city excellent and her English perfect, her enthusiasm and passion for the city was infectious and almost everything about the history of the city that I have mentioned in this post I learned from her. If you have a choice between doing the bus tour and the walking tour it’s absolutely no contest.

One of Dauga’s favourite places that she showed us was her her school, the academy of art, which is built in a neogothic style. What I liked about it was the absolutely awesome disco ball sculpture that stands outside it which was created by a former student and is inspired by the Venus of Hohle Fels, which is the oldest sculpture ever found.

15

One of the best things about Riga is it’s rows of art nouveau buildings just outside the old town.

11

Art nouveau is a philosophy of art, style and architecture, which is all about the combination of beauty and function with a strong focus on nature. There are a number of rules within the movement with it being essential that things are not just beautiful but also functional. With this in mind it is interesting that Riga’s most well known art nouveau “architect” is someone who broke most of the rules. In fact he wasn’t an architect at all. Mikhail Eisenstein, was a Russian civil engineer who loved all of the pretty flourishes of art nouveau but wasn’t particularly bothered about the “story”. He had no trouble finding people to put his facades on the front of their buildings despite the fact that the leaders of the movement were horrified by his actions. I doubt most amateur observers would be able to tell the difference, especially from the outside though. I really liked this particular building. Apparently the two lions are said to represent Eisenstein and his son Sergei, who did not see eye to eye. Interestingly Sergei was a pioneer in the theory and practice of film montage.

12

After exploring the art nouveau area we headed into the rabbit warren of the medieval old town, which tells the tale of Latvia’s colourful past through its array of different architectural styles particularly around the cathedral in Dome Square and the spire of St Peter’s. I really liked the three brothers though, which are the oldest medieval homes found in the city. This is one of them.

13

I think my favourite place was our final stop though at the monument to freedom. This magnificent statue was built when Latvia first got its independence after the First World War. The lady at the top represents freedom and in her hand she is holding the three regions of Latvia brought together as one nation. When Latvia became one of the Soviet States, the USSR wanted to tear the statue down but through some clever deception and administrative jiggery pokery it survived the occupation and still stands tall overlooking the city now celebrating Latvia’s current and hopefully permanent status as an independent country since 1991. If you hang around the statue long enough you might just be lucky enough to see the guards that protect it marching or changing over.

4 16

In the afternoon we decided to visit the war museum, which lives inside what was once the main tower of the fort that protected the city. You can see the tower ahead in this picture with lots of foliage growing on it.

3

In some ways it’s a really cool museum with interesting exhibits and it’s free. However all the information is only in Latvian, which is obviously the museum’s prerogative being the Latvian war museum. There are some printed guides in English but it makes it challenging to enjoy the museum to its fullest. The kids that were in there on a school trip were clearly having a whale of a time though and Paul quite enjoyed getting to play with this gun.

14

That night we had dinner at the Key to Riga, which serves traditional Latvian food accompanied by Latvian folk music. We both had ribs, which were delicious but there were a lot more exotic things you could try out including bull’s testicles. We sat outside because the weather was lovely but the inside would be absolutely beautiful in cooler weather since it was jammed with candles casting a magical romantic glow.

After two days of unseasonably warm weather we woke up on our final day to rain and mist, which was unfortunate as we had set this aside as our day to go up St Peter’s spire for a view over the city. Their seemed little point since the visibility was so bad but you have to admit it’s a pretty impressive spire… even though it has been rebuilt numerous times since it keeps getting hit by lightning. (This picture was obviously taken the day before the rain arrived).

10689800_10152673118745638_2090524472534679337_n

We used the weather as an excuse to go an wander the markets inside the disused zepellin hangars along the docks. If you want to buy any kind of food, souvenirs or general tat this is the place for you. We were only after one thing though. Mr O loves a bit of Soviet memorabilia and he’d heard there might be some medals up for grabs. You really have to scour the market and be persistent but eventually if keep going there are some stands selling what basically looks like stuff from house clearances where we found these, which made Mr O really happy.

17

We celebrated our findings by having a cup of coffee at what must now be my favourite coffee/tea shop in the world, Apsara. Situated in the Esplanade in what looks like a kind of hexagonal pagoda it serves a wide variety of teas, coffees and cakes. This is not what makes is special though, it’s the fact that you can climb up to a kind of mezzanine level where no shoes are allowed and you can lie around on cushions looking out over the park. Not only do they serve your coffee with love but you can utterly relax.

18 19

In the afternoon we went to one Riga’s most well-known sites, The Occupation Museum, which chronicles Latvia’s 800 year history of being occupied by someone else. The majority if the museum is dedicated to the Russian, Nazi and Soviet occupations of the twentieth century. I don’t want to describe the museum in too much detail because I wouldn’t want to do it an injustice but it’s a heartrending place that is likely to remind you that Earth would probably be a better place if human beings were wiped off it with all the disgusting things we have done to each other. That said, it’s definitely something you should explore to remind yourself of how lucky you are to be free. Entrance to the museum is free but donations are most appreciated and will be taken in any currency.

We had our final dinner in a restaurant called Pete’s Brewhouse, which I can unfortunately find no information about online. It doesn’t sound very Latvian but the food was traditional and amazing. We stumbled upon it and it was the best food we ate in Riga… and everything we ate in Riga was good. If you do manage to find it I would highly recommend the slow-cooked beef cheeks.

Without question Riga further ignited my desire to explore Eastern Europe and I would recommend it for a city break. It’s a small, compact city which is easily walkable and benefits from friendly, welcoming people, delicious food and beer and very reasonable prices. Now all we need is Tallin to complete our Baltic collection!

My top 10 doomed TV couples

So a couple of weeks ago I did my top 10 doomed movie couples… because you know, I love an unhappy ending. It turns out that there are some pretty awesome doomed TV couples too though. These are my favourites.

tumblr_mvmcleHvxT1qich4go6_500

Joey and Pacey
Played by: Joshua Jackson and Katie Holmes
The show: Dawson’s Creek
The obstacle: Joey and Pacey’s joint best friend, Dawson, is in love with Joey and she has old residual feelings for him. They also ultimately have incompatible goals.
“Joey: You were wanting to kiss me all night?
Pacey: Yes.
Joey: Even when you were yelling at me.
Pacey: Especially when I was yelling at you.
Joey: So… is this… some sort of… recent new development in your life?
Pacey: Wanting to kiss you? No. It’s sort of always there… like… white noise, or… the secret service or the threat of nuclear war, for that matter. Just somethin’ you get used to.”

tumblr_mj39a41AUQ1rzxujso1_500

Max and Logan
Played by: Jessica Alba and Michael Wetherly
The show: Dark Angel
The obstacle: Logan is literally unable to touch Max without dying
“Max Guevara: Logan, you’ve got nothing to be sorry for or ashamed of. It’s never been about you not being able to walk. Not for me.
Logan Cale: Will you look at us!
Max Guevara: Pathetic.
Logan Cale: Hopeless.
Max Guevara: Lucky we hooked up.
Logan Cale: Happy Anniversary.”

tumblr_loy5ktvxg71qh7p6r

Captain Jack and Ianto
Played by: John Barrowman and Gareth David-Lloyd
The Show: Torchwood
The obstacle: Captain Jack is an immortal pansexual time traveler, who isn’t much inclined for commitment but even when he does Ianto isn’t long for this world.
“Captain Jack Harkness: How are you, Ianto?
Ianto Jones: All the better for having you back, sir.
Captain Jack Harkness: Could we maybe drop the “sir” now? I mean, while I was away, I was thinking. Maybe we could, you know, when this is all done: dinner, a movie…
Ianto Jones: Are you asking me out on a date?
Captain Jack Harkness: Interested?
Ianto Jones: [scoffs] Well, as long as it’s not in an office. Some fetishes should be kept to yourself…”

tumblr_ln1zzdRwpG1qihsweo1_500“Buffy and Angel
Played by: Sarah Michelle Gellar and David Boreanaz
The show: Buffy the Vampire Slayer
The obstacle: Buffy is a vampire slayer and Angel is a vampire, with a soul…  one who will lose said soul if he does the dirty with her.
“Angel: It told me to kill you. You were in the dream. You know. It told me to lose my soul in you and become a monster again.
Buffy: I know what it told you. What does it matter?
Angel: Because I wanted to! Because I want you so badly. I wanna take comfort in you, and I know it’ll cost me my soul, and a part of me doesn’t care.”

tumblr_lgbbew6oWp1qbj0fio1_500Buffy and Spike
Played by: Sarah Michelle Gellar and James Marsters
The show: Buffy the Vampire Slayer
The obstacle: Poor old Buffy… just after she has finally more or less gotten over one vampire she finds herself falling for another.
“Spike: Something’s happening to me. I can’t stop thinking about you. And if that means turning my back on the whole evil thing…
Buffy: You don’t know what you mean. You don’t know what feelings are.
Spike: I damn well do. I lie awake every night.
Buffy: You sleep during the day.
Spike: Yeah, but- You are missin’ the point. This is real here. I love…
Buffy: Don’t! Don’t say it. I’m going. “

tumblr_inline_nbtaxbN9hk1se3642

Mulder and Scully
Played by: David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson
The show: The X-Files
The obstacle: They work together. No one wants to acknowledge their feelings. Also Mulder is so fucked up.
“Dana Scully: This stubbornness of yours, it’s why I fell in love with you.
Fox Mulder: It’s like you said. That’s why we can’t be together… “

rose-doctor-kissThe Doctor and Rose Tyler
Played by: David Tennant/Christopher Ecclestone and Billie Piper
The show: Doctor Who
The  obstacle: The Doctor is a time traveler over a thousand years old carrying the weight of the world on his shoulders, where Rose is a slightly chavvy human. They get stuck in alternate dimensions unable to be together without ripping apart the fabric of reality.
“The Doctor: Rose, you’ve done it, now stop.
[Rose stares straight ahead]
The Doctor: Just let go.
Rose Tyler: How can I let go of this? I bring life.
[we see Jack start breathing again and open his eyes]
The Doctor: But this is wrong! You can’t control life and death!
Rose Tyler: But I can. The sun and the moon, the day and night… but why do they hurt?
[she is crying]
The Doctor: The power’s gonna kill you and it’s my fault!
Rose Tyler: I can see everything… all that is… all that was… all that ever could be.
The Doctor: [stands up] But that’s what *I* see. All the time. And doesn’t it drive you mad?
Rose Tyler: [Rose nods, barely able to speak] My head…
The Doctor: Come here.
Rose Tyler: …is killing me.
The Doctor: I think you need a Doctor.”

eric-and-sookie-first-kiss-sookie-and-eric-14953921-500-262Eric Northman and Sookie Stackhouse
Played by: Anna Paquin and Alexander Skarsgard
The show: True Blood
The obstacle: Eric is ultimately pretty evil and Sookie’s too scared that he’s going to drain her of all her tasty fairy blood.
“Eric Northman: [pulling her back] I use to think you had no sense of humor.
Sookie Stackhouse: I use to think you were made of cold, hard stone and empty inside.
Eric Northman: And now?
Sookie Stackhouse: [tender] You’re a big faker. You’re deep. You feel. There’s love in you.
Eric Northman: Only for Sookie.
[kissing her]
Lorena: [to Sookie] You don’t want Bill. He means nothing to you.
Sookie Stackhouse: [moving away] No.
Eric Northman: [pulling her to him] … This is the beginning.
[kissing her passionately]“

charles-bingleyMitchell and Annie
Played by: Aidan Turner and Leonora Crichlow
The show: Being Human
The obstacle: Mitchell is a vampire and Annie is a ghost. Mitchell has also been up to all kinds of terrible badness.
“Annie: Why did I hear those voices? The dead people? I never used to be able to do that.
Mitchell: You turned down death. No one’s ever done that. It’s like it opened something in you.
Annie: Like I’ve got a whole new skill set.
Mitchell: We should make an action figure of you.”

3096276841_1_9_82MN3M3E

House and Cuddy
Played by: Hugh Laurie and Lisa Edelstein
The show: House M.D.
The obstacle: Mostly it’s because House borders on being a sociopath and constantly makes Cuddy’s life a living hell
“Dr. Lisa Cuddy: You don’t take vicodin because you’re scared. You take it so you won’t feel pain… Pain happens when you care. Y-you can’t love someone without opening up to their problems – their fears. You’re not willing to do that.
Dr. Gregory House: I-I-I came to be with you.
Dr. Lisa Cuddy: You weren’t with me. Not really.
Dr. Gregory House: I wanted to be.
Dr. Lisa Cuddy: That’s not enough.
Dr. Gregory House: I can do better.
Dr. Lisa Cuddy: I don’t think you can. You’ll choose yourself over everybody else because that’s who you are… I’m sorry.
Dr. Gregory House: No. No. No. No. Don’t.
Dr. Lisa Cuddy: I thought I could do this.
Dr. Gregory House: Don’t. Please, don’t.
Dr. Lisa Cuddy: …Goodbye, House.”

A trip to Centre Parcs

You might have noticed that this blog has been a little bit all over the shop recently. Some of the regular features have gone on pause, I’m behind on everything and the posts have been sporadic at best, not to mention how little time I’ve been spending on all of your blogs. The fact of the matter is that I’ve barely been in London over the last two weeks, which has kind of thrown my schedule off track. The good/bad news is that I have now run out of vacation days before Christmas so I’ll be around a lot more and I’m committed to catch everything all up over the next week including my long overdue Shitfest acceptance post, but first I wanted to tell you about a trip I took with my family.

Having not grown up in the UK, I never went to Centre Parcs as a child but apparently this “holiday camp” is an absolute family holiday staple so when Mrs O senior suggested that we spend a long weekend, I was right up for it.

There are five Centre Parcs locations throughout the UK. We visited Centre Parcs, Elveden Forest. The park has two “sessions” per week. You can either arrive on Friday and leave on Monday or arrive on Monday and leave on Friday. Mondays and Fridays are cross over days, which are the only days cars are allowed out of the car park. Basically you drive down to your chalet, drop off your things, park in the car park and don’t see your car again until the day your leave. After that the best way to get around is by bike. The park is definitely walkable but it’s quite big and if you want to get around quickly cycling is much easier and with no cars it’s pretty safe. You can either bring your own bike or hire one for the whole weekend for only £20. If, like me, you’re a bit useless can’t ride a bike it’s not the end of the world since they have a range of speciality bikes including adult tricycles and a variety of kid friendly ones.

Check me out

Check me out

We hired a two bedroom chalet, which was bright, airy and had all the mod cons you’d hope for. It’s clearly set up for mum and dad and two kids since Paul and my room had two single beds in it but it was quite fun sneaking in and out of each other’s beds. We also had a lovely view of the lake and the collection of bonkers bird life that occupy it. The ducks, geese and swans in Elveden Forest have clearly figured out that there are friendly humans with lots of tasty food hanging out in the chalets and they’re not averse to coming and pecking on the glass doors.

The activities you can do around the park are staggering from water sports (get your mind out of the gutter, IPC readers), to cake decorating, dance classes, tree climbing, paintball and everything in between you can book either in advance or while you are there. Some activities are definitely more popular than others so it’s probably worth having a look online for what you want to do and book anything you’re especially keen on. The cost of the activities varies but everything is relatively reasonable.

We spent most of our first day settling in before attacking the water park with vigour. I am a really water baby and I cannot get enough of water slides, wave pools, jacuzzis or anything of that ilk. The Elveden Forest water park is inside a dome, which means its perfectly temperature controlled and usable no matter what the weather. It has an impressive range of fun pools and rides for all ages but nothing tops the Cyclone. To be honest when Mr O and I lined up for the Cyclone we had no idea what it was, we just figured with that long a queue it must be good. It ended up being totally crazy. Basically between one and four of you get into a clover-shaped rubber ring and then disappear down a tunnel which sees you take a 45 degree drop before entering a massive chamber where you are flung from side to side, almost tipping out. It is awesome. We probably went on it about forty times over the weekend. The best thing about the water park is that it’s totally free.

In the evening we had dinner at Bella Italia. The park has a number of restaurants mostly concentrated around a central plaza but chalets are also fully equipped for self-catering and braais (BBQs). We followed it up with tenpin bowling, which I was utterly horrible at, however I improved the more I drank.

Bad, bad bowler

Bad, bad bowler

On day two we were up early to play badminton, which I was even more horrible at than bowling. Seriously, I think I managed to hit the shuttlecock about twice. Both Mr O’s were pretty good though and it was a fun way to spend 45 minutes.

The opposition

The opposition

After that both Mr O’s and I had planned to do an “aerial adventure”, which involves climbing through the treetops of Elveden Forest, battling a number of obstacles before finally ziplining across the lake. I am pretty scared of heights so I saw it as a way to try and conquer my fears, especially since a bunch of ten year olds seemed to be tripping along with zero apprehension. Unfortunately I never got to find out since they wouldn’t let me participate unless I took out my nose ring and since it’s a spring-loaded ring held shut with a ball that requires a piercer with a pair of pliers to extract, it wasn’t happening. We got a refund but I was really disappointed and unable to see any real health and safety risk that it would have caused. The Mr O’s had a fantastic time though.

Tree warriors!

Tree warriors!

In the afternoon Mrs O senior and I did a Bollywood dancing class where we learned a routine over the space of an hour. It was fun, challenging and got us good and sweaty. You can also do Zumba classes.

On our last day we started with some more badminton, followed by archery, which I absolutely loved despite managing to keep catching the bowstring on my forearm. Apparently if you end up with a mark from this it’s called a warrior bruise. I feel like with some practise I could actually become alright at archery. Another step towards my plan to basically be in Game of Thrones.

The afternoon was a real challenge for me though. Mrs O senior had signed up for a Segway challenge, which she didn’t feel up to and so she suggested that I join the Mr O’s and do it in her place. For those who do not know what a Segway is, it’s one of those electric vehicles which has two big wheels and a platform you stand on where you steer with a long stick. Like this. I found mine an absolute nightmare to operate. It has no off switch so the only way you can make it stop is by standing absolutely upright and dead still, otherwise you will find yourself teetering forward or back and if you don’t hold the steering stick dead straight you will find yourself turning in a circle. Everyone else seemed to find this an absolute doddle but I was all over a shop and throughout the tour we did of the park both on and off-road I was petrified. The Mr O’s had a great time but if I never see another Segway again in my life I will not feel sad.

I then convinced everyone to go down to the lake for some boating. We hired a katakanu, which is halfway between a catamaran and a canoe. I had a great time but the whole experience was a bit fraught since we were all a bit rubbish at paddling and we had possibly arranged the level of strength within the boat badly. Next time more practicing.

Boat times!

Boat times!

We finished up the day with a braai and quiz over at Paul’s brother’s chalet. He was spending the weekend with his friends at the same time. It was so much fun.

Fire kings!

Fire kings!

When we had to leave the next morning I was really quite sad. It was just about the right level of nature for me, it was fun tearing around the park on my trike and the activities and water park were brilliant. Although we were a group of adults, I can imagine it must be wonderful to bring children for a holiday and all the little people we saw seemed to be having the best time ever. If you’re looking for a UK staycation, I would highly recommend a Centre Parcs trip!

Film Friday #197

Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014)

Steve “Captain America” Rodgers (Chris Evans) attempts to make a life for himself in the modern world but struggles to connect with those around him. Working for S.H.I.E.L.D. with Natasha “Black Widow” Romanoff (Scarlett Johansson), he becomes involved in a mission that seems a bit fishy. Later that night S.H.I.E.L.D. director Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) is assassinated by The Winter Soldier (Sebastian Stan) but not before he warns Steve that the agency has been infiltrated and that no one he can be trusted. Now he must team up with Natasha and his new friend, former soldier Sam Wilson (Anthony Mackie) to figure out who is behind Nick’s death and stop a terrible future. But who is the mysterious Winter Soldier and why has he been implicated in over 100 years worth of assassinations? That’s all I am willing to tell you since it’s probably better to go in with as little knowledge as I did.  I’m not ashamed to say that I thought the first Captain America movie was painfully boring and that I might have had a little bit of a doze during it. So I wasn’t expecting much from Winter Solider. Imagine my surprise when it turned out to be exciting, action packed and full of political intrigue and twisty bits. Not only did I actually start to like Captain America but I enjoyed his interactions with both Natasha and Sam as well as Natasha’s growth as a character. I loved that bad guys were not completely bad, the good guys were not completely good and that there was no forced romance between the leads, despite their great chemistry. Dare I say I might have even liked Winter Solider a little more than GOTG? 3.5/5

Shall we just pack it all in and go and get some pasties?

Shall we just pack it all in and go and get some pasties?

The Double (2013)

In a weird, grey, dystopian setting dominated by bureaucracy, Simon James (Jesse Eisenberg) works in a government department, where he is all but invisible and longs for his neighbour and coworker, Hannah (Mia Wasikowska). One day a new worker starts in Simon’s department. He looks exactly like Simon and his name is James Simon. Simon is everything James is not – confident, outgoing, brilliant with women and very, very devious… and somehow no one seems to notice their physical similarities. Initially James responds to Simon’s attempts to befriend him but as Simon starts to take credit for James’ work and make inroads with Hannah he realises he is trying to take over his life. There were things I loved about Richard Ayoade’s adaptation of what is apparently a Dostoevsky novel. The grey-brown setting really brought across the soulless solitude of James’ life and the visual elements of his workplace were straight from the mind of Terry Gilliam. Eisenberg was the perfect casting as both creepy lead characters and I loved watching him play off himself. On the other hand I think Ayoade become so involved in making The Double  look right that he forgot  to make the story really compelling and it struggled to keep my attention. As much as I love a weird movie, this was a bit too weird and when it came to an end I wasn’t sure exactly what the point was. The Double may look a bit like Brazil but at best it’s a ropey photocopy. 2.5/5

Simon couldn't thelp but feel like he'd seen James somewhere before

Simon couldn’t thelp but feel like he’d seen James somewhere before

Carrie (2013)

I reviewed the original Brian De Palma version of Carrie last week and since the plotline is identical I’m not going to go through it all again. This time Chloe Grace Moretz plays Carrie, Julianne Moore plays her mother, Ansel Engelort plays Tommy, Gabrielle Wilde is Sue and Portia Doubleday plays Chris. And it’s a fucking car crash. I love Moretz but she is completely miscast. Carrie is supposed to be a fragile, timid, wide-eyed little rabbit in the headlights but Moretz is just way too strong to potray this. No matter how much she stoops and mumbles you can’t look at her without expecting Hit-Girl to break out at any minute and just kick everyone in the tits. It’s also hard to imagine the whole period scene happening in 2013. I know they attempt to explain it away by claiming Carrie was home schooled but she didn’t live in a cave. Added to this Carrie is supposed to be slowly finding her burgeoning powers not going full Jean Grey halfway through the film. I also never felt that there was a chance that Tommy actually fancied Carrie, which was one of the joys of the original. Even Moore, who is normally great, seems to be phoning it in. This could have been an interesting remake if they’d tried to do an actual reinterpretation but a badly cast rehash just seems pointless. Rather just watch the original. 1/5

Does anyone have a wet wipe? I think I've spilled my wine.

Does anyone have a wet wipe? I think I’ve spilled my wine.

Charlie Bartlett (2007)

After being expelled by the latest in a series of private schools, Charlie Bartlett (Anton Yelchin) finds himself attending public school. He immediately makes a bad impression, getting beaten up by Murphy (Tyler Hilton), wearing the wrong clothes and being a bit of a briefcase wanker. His disconnected but sweet mom (Hope Davis) sends him to a psychiatrist who diagnoses ADHD and prescribes ritalin. The drugs send Charlie absolutely loopy and he spots an opportunity. Soon he and Murphy are selling ritalin to everyone and Charlie a bit of a hero but when he is approached by Kip Crombwell (Mark Rendall), who is having panic attacks he feels compelled to help and in a few short steps Charlie has set up an amateur psychiatrist’s office in the boys’ toilets. His activities have not gone unnoticed by disaffected principal, Nathan Gardner (Robert Downey Jr) whose daughter (Kat Dennings), Charlie has fallen for and Nathan is torn between getting caught up in Charlie’s cult of personality and wanting to stop his disruptive behaviour. Soon Charlie has all but taken over the school but underneath his happy-go-lucky exterior is a lost boy who just wants someone to take care of him. I have to admit that I fell for Yelchin as Charlie Bartlett a little bit and I can imagine that if I were a kid at his school I would have been totally sucked in by all his crazy schemes and there is no question that Charlie’s heart is in the right place even if he doesn’t really have the maturity to understand the implications of his actions. I loved Dennings as the sassy but damaged Susan and Downey Jr is always affecting. If I have to cast a critical eye, I suppose Charlie is probably a pretty improbable character and some of his actions are unlikely but I could get past that and I hope you can too. 3.5/5

Well this is a bit shit...

Well this is a bit shit…

My top 10 blue eyed actors

As you all know there is nothing I like better than borrowing a good idea. This time I have decided to appropriate Cindy Bruchman’s lovely Mr Bright Eyes post where she listed her top ten blue eyed actors with the qualifying point being that the actors blue eyes play a part in their star power. Blue eyes themselves are fascinating from an evolutionary perspective. There is no benefit to blue eyes what so ever and all blue eyes can be linked to a single mutation as originally humans all had brown eyes. The only reason geneticists have come up with to explain why they have survived and are so widespread is because they were likely to have been valued for their beauty, something which still happens today. (Of course I am not just saying this because my eyes are blue).

Benedict Cumberbatch

Benedict Cumberbatch
Best role: Sherlock Holmes in Sherlock
“Mystique is rare now, isn’t it? There aren’t that many enigmas in this modern world.”

Charlie Hunnam

Charlie Hunnam
Best role: Jax Teller in Sons of Anarchy
I was playing pretty boys and these angelic roles like Nicholas Nickleby and all that stuff. And I was like, ‘What am I doing? This isn’t who I am, as a man or an artist.’ I had to overcome people’s belief that I was too pretty to be a badass.”

Christ Hemsworth

Chris Hemsworth
Best role: James Hunt in Rush (2013)
“I feel like I’m ready for any dangerous situation that might come my way, provided I have a hammer on me.”

Cillian Murphy

Cillian Murphy
Best role: Jim in 20 Days Later (2002)
“The best roles you have to fight for. You have to really want to do it and you have to go after it.”

fassbender

Michael Fassbender
Best role: Edwin Epps in 12 Years a Slave (2013)
“It’s more interesting isn’t it, if I’ve got a hedonistic dark side?”

Nicholas Hoult

Nicholas Hoult
Best role: R in Warm Bodies (2013)
“I don’t mind my eyebrows. They add… something to me. I wouldn’t say they were my best feature, though. People tell me they like my eyes. They distract from the eyebrows.”

Paul newman

Paul Newman
Best role: Luke in Cool Hand Luke (1967)
“Show me a good loser and I will show you a loser.”

Tom Hiddleston

Tom Hiddleston
Best role: Adam in Only Lovers Left Alive (2013)
“I was informed yesterday that there’s a Twitter account for my laugh. Very hard to get used to things like that. Pretty amazing.”

Travis Fimmel

Travis Fimmel
Best role: Ragnar Lothbrok in Vikings
“I’m a farm boy. I would rather live in that time when you had to provide for your family. I don’t know. I’m a country kid, so I don’t like modern technology.”

tumblr_m6jq6kavXC1ru6dkno1_500

Garrett Hedlund
Best role: Neal Moriarty in On the Road (2012)
“It’s funny – I read that women look to chiseled-faced guys for one-night stands, and to round-faced guys for marriage. When I’m rounder in the face, I like to say, ‘This is my long-term look.’ Or ‘This is my wife-and-kids look right here.'”