Saturday, 29 March 2014

March Watch List

Not as many films in this month's list, I can explain. Netflix has come back in to my life, along with it, so many films I don't own but wanted to see again. I have also been trying to catch up with all the TV shows I watch. I still need to watch the rest of True Detective and there was great series coming to an end, plus I became obsessed with American Horror Story, still am. After this month, I'll be right back on films.

It's a sensation. Wes Anderson's films have never been in the cinema this long with this much praise. Also I don't think I've known one of his films to have been seen by this many people, it's very exciting.
My review and Secret Cinema visit. 5/5

Well we all know that this was a huge hit and I think its because of two reasons. One, everyone enjoys a happy film that feels positive and second, lego is a toy, we were all children once. Lego is awesome, just like the song says, everything is awesome. It feels like a run of the mill film, nobody Emmet, goes about his daily life when suddenly he may be 'the one' all the master builders have been searching for. Loved it from start to finish and the twist at the end was unexpected and well done. If children watched this, I hope they got the message, be creative. 4/5

3. 300: Rise of an Empire

Loved 300 when it first came onto the screens, there was none of this 3D crap to ruin the action. I was sceptical about this sequel/prequel/another story another day follow up and even more sceptical when I saw the cast AND the focus of the story. The film is based on Frank Miller's follow up graphic novel, Xerxes, which I though the film would focus on more but the film belongs to two people; Artemisia, commander of the Persian Navy, played by Eva Green and Themistocles, general for the Athenian army, played by little known (over here anyway) actor, Sullivan Stapleton. These two make the film but the latter of the two lacked screen presence. He wasn't helped by the faceless actors who played his soldiers. Eva Green was excellent, I never say this, but she was actually very good, I have a lot more respect for her now. The action sequences were brilliant (in 2D) and the story wove quite well between the story of 300 and the battles that continued on screen. It didn't make sense to call the film '300' colon 'Rise of an Empire'. The Spartan 300 didn't really feature enough to take the title. Overall, not the best film, but far better than I expected. 3/5

The biggest Kickstarter projects ever made, it made $2 million in 10 hours, most of the donations came from fans. The now, cult hit TV show ran for three seasons and didn't really have a proper ending, the fans wanted more and I'm so glad they did. I started watching the TV show in the morning over the summer between first and second year of Uni, when they were on E4. I literally had no money to my name and spent the mornings watching Veronica Mars and making up my own exercise routines. To be fair, I got hooked. I missed a couple episodes in season 3 because the storyline wasn't as interesting but I liked the characters and I'm a sucker for a detective story. The film is basically a whole season rolled neatly into one film. Nearly all the whole gang is back, some make small appearances, some have bigger roles than they did in the TV show. It doesn't matter, you're thrown back into Neptune and the water is warm. 4/5

I had heard so much festival buzz about this film, it had a short release here, barely any talk outside the festival film sphere, in the end I rented it from itunes. At it's core, it is a very sad and difficult film to watch. Brie Larson has been getting praise for her role, which I found quite predictable but she was very good as a social worker at a short term foster home who herself has a damaging past which she hasn't ever got over. I'm happy to say there is light at the end of the dim tunnel, its well acted and it feels like there is hope somewhere for everyone. 3/5

6. Labour Day

Based on a book, it had that feel to it. Kate Winslet has always been one of my favourite actresses and this film is an excellent reason why. Apart from the fact that she recently appeared in Movie 43 and will appear in Divergent, most of Kate's films have all been dramatic and not so commercial. This film falls under that category. Winslet played a broken hearted single mother, the story is told from the point of view of her teenage son who takes care of her. During their monthly trip to the supermarket, an injured man asks for help. He is an escaped prisoner. Throughout the film, they become a family and though the films takes place over 4 days, it doesn't feel like that. In that short space of time, you can feel all three of the main characters mature. It should feel like the film is sorrowful but its actually is uplifting, especially near to the end. 3/5

7. Captain America: The Winter Solider

What I liked about Captain America was that it didn't feel like a superhero film, it was a war film with a special twist. Now that Cap is out of the ice and has fought aliens, in this film, he's back to fighting men, men with evil plots. There is a hell of a lot more action in this stepping stone to Avengers sequel, many things get blown up and secrets are uncovered. The film is less war more spy related, especially as Black Widow takes on more than a supporting role. Iron Man deals with terrorists, Thor deals with other off worlds threats, Hulk, well Hulk does nothing at the moment, and Cap, well he's the SHEILD connection. Along with the action, new superheroes are introduced to the screen, Falcon and to be honest it great to have on board, even though his involvement felt a tad too convenient. To me, this didn't feel like a huge set up for Age of Ultron, it felt like a stand alone issue involving an old friend, who you know will be back to haunt you and I'm guessing later stand by your side. The main villain was a bit of a disappointment and this is only because you see it coming a mile off, even in the trailer and I am not talking about the identity of the Winter Soldier. The after credits segment was exciting, a glimpse of things to come is always intriguing, although my friend was convinced they would change the storyline for two key characters in Marvel. 4/5

Can't wait for the next instalment from Marvel and I'm kind of glad that its far away from Earth and all about aliens. Bring on Guardians of the Galaxy!

Sunday, 23 March 2014

The Root Of It

A day off means time to sleep, do the washing, food shopping and baking.

It was my turn to bake something for bake club at work this week and I wanted to make something along the lines of my last offering. I had already made pumpkin and I will make it again but I thought a new challenge would be better this time.

I went for sweet potato and I very glad I did. I think having root veg in a cake/sweet recipe is the way forward. I already have a desert plan for Easter.

It was annoying the recipe was American, we Brits do like measurements, that way you know exactly what to do. Luckily my sister had the measuring 'cups' so there was no issue there, not like the last time I made a US recipe.

The recipe called for 3 round cake tins, thinking this was too many, I used 2 seeing as I couldn't understand why as it was not a layered cake recipe. I ended up making 2 small cakes, which was great, but next time I'll use 3 and try and make it layered, something new.

I had my usual issues panicking about when to take out the cakes out of the oven, hovering next to the oven, looking in. I also found out about the hand whisk and I was allowed to use it (belongs to my mum). I stir everything by hand and I'm so used it that whenever a new machine is involved I'm relieved.

Here's the recipe if you fancy trying it out for yourself. My adventures in baking will continue, but I think I want to try and fins another gluten and wheat free recipe, try a new challenge.
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 1½ cups oil
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons cinnamon
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 2 cups sweet potatoes, grated
  • ½ cup (1 stick) butter - roughly 120g
  • 1 cup (8 ounces) cream cheese, softened
  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. In a large bowl, mix together sugar, eggs and oil. Add remaining ingredients one at a time, adding potatoes last.
  3. Coat 3 (or 2) round 9-inch baking pans or 1 sheet cake pan with a nonstick spray. Spread batter into pans.
  4. Bake in round pans for 25 minutes or in a sheet cake pan for 35 minutes. Insert a toothpick in the center to determine doneness. Cool in pans before turning out for frosting.
  5. To make the icing, cream together butter and cream cheese. Add remaining ingredients and mix well.
  6. Spread on cooled cake, over the top and sides of a sheet cake.

Tuesday, 18 March 2014

A Damn Fine Looking Film To Kill For

Sin City is my favourite film. Usually I would never be happy about a sequel to it but I am extremely happy about the fact that Robert Rodriguez is finally making, not a sequel but another film set in Basin City, the sin city of the first film. Lost? Don't be, just be so damn excited that A Dame To Kill For has been made and is set for a August release.
Like the first film, this film will also be split up into segments, and from the looks of the trailer, going from past to future. Unlike the first film, this one has four, two being original stories.

I have faith in the script, Frank Miller AND Robert Rodriguez and William Monahan all wrote it. If anyone is still having nightmares over The Spirit, fear not Frank Miller is on writing duties only, as that is where his skills lie.
Going from information and talk on the web and the wikipedia page, it looks like this is whats happening and who's playing in each story. We have fan favourite back, Marv (Mickey Rouke) and avenging stripper, Nancy (Jessica Alba), as well as some new faces, gambling addict Johnny (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) and Ava, dangerous old flame of Dwight's.

A Dame To Kill For centres around Dwight and Ava (Eva Green), the typical femme fatal, she is the dame to kill for. Dwight, as all Sin City fans remember was played by Clive Owen but in this film, which for this particular segment, is played by Josh Brolin. In the trailer he's in bandages and there is massive reason for it. If you can't wait until the film, then I strongly suggest you read the book, its pretty damn good.

Marv return in 'Just Another Saturday Night' which takes place before the whole Goldie incident. It is set the night Nancy and Hartigan meet up in 'That Yellow Bastard'. Marv wakes up on the highway surrounded by dead men and can't remember how he got there.

Then we have an original story with original characters, 'The Long Bad Night'. Johnny, a gambler, tries to destroy the biggest villain in Sin City but ends up beating the wrong guy at his own game. The other original story features the return of Nancy, set right after Hartigan kills himself to save her.

It all sounds great to me. I even read the book in preparation as soon as the film was officially announced. The film, by the sounds of things, the photos and the trailer, is going to be just as mesmerising and deliciously violent as the first.

Not sure about exact release dates, apart from August this year. Look for it Sin City fans!

Monday, 17 March 2014

On The Edge Of My Seat

I actually wrote a much better post but useless blogger didn't save it, after I saved it, so forgive me as this post is not as good as the first post.

Sorry I've been away, I've been watching TV and not in a slobbish way.

I know some people don't watch a lot of TV, maybe the odd the show or that one series that they like but no much. This post is for those people or maybe just to convince TV lovers that there are some shows you may be missing. I've only selected a few series and where you can watch them because I think these shows stand out.

I was annoyed I missed the first series when it first started on BBC2 so when it started up again, I was hooked from the first 10 minutes. I didn't know the characters but I was involved with the story, it didn't matter, I got to know them better as episodes when on. The characters in this TV drama, about a police division who work on police corruption and solve crimes too, are not like other police dramas. The characters are well written and compelling without the usual over dramatised issues or the the annoying little added quirks to make them stand out, this drama series doesn't need that. The added Keeley Hawes as DC Denten, caught in the middle of an ambush where a protected witness and four policemen are killed. I really like Hawes, she's playing out of character in this series and it suites her so well. This series had me literally on the edge of my seat. There is only one more episode to go, all the tension and intrigue ends then.

You can catch up with the series on BBC iPlayer.

I think I was mourning the loss of my beloved 30 Rock when Andy Samberg and Brooklyn Nine-Nine came along. To be honest I thought it was going to be a run of the mile comedy but hell no. My friend said it was like a replacement for 30 Rock and he is right. All the characters are funny. Only one or two of them look funny but the rest of the humour lies with the delivery and personalities, just like 30 Rock. At least, this is how I've interpreted it. Set in a police precinct in Brooklyn, the show is about the detective team and all the crimes they deal with, as well as other major things in life, such as tasting all the pies in Brooklyn determining the best and trying to steal a prized medal from the Captain as part of a bet. I love this show and it is definitely one of the best comedies on TV right now.  It is, and rightly so, a Golden Globe winning show. The writing is pitch perfect. Unlike the dramas I mentioned, this had me on the edge of my seat, well off my seat as it made me laugh so much.

Although in US its on a major network, in the UK its an import on good old E4 but don't be deterred by this channel its not just a sitcom, its a comedy series, higher status.

I don't know anyone who watches this show or if they we've never discussed it. Its so damn good. This is another show that had me on the edge of my seat every episode. No cliffhangers really but that ominous feeling of dread or hope. A US TV series, set in the 80s, about KGB agents/spies who live in America pretending to be American, even the children don't know. The show, in turn, makes both sides, Russian and American, the villains and the good guys, sometimes at the same time. As well as having to do their jobs at agents, The Jennings, have to deal with their forced marriage that has slowly over the years become more than a partnership and having to hide their secrets from their children. The second series has picked up a few months after the amazing cliffhanger at the end of season 1, it didn't have a slow settle in either, it hit the ground running with a horrific and shocking end to the first episode. Truly brilliant.

Season 1 is out in DVD and Season 2 has just started on ITV in UK. In the US its on the cable network FX.

A little known explosive TV series that I read about on a random website about TV shows to look out for. This was a very long time ago. I thought it was HBO series, it looks like it is with its excessive sex and violence but in fact its on Cinemax. I tried and failed to watch it online so I got it for my birthday. Best present! A criminal, Lucas is released from prison after serving 15 years after he stole diamonds from his crime boss. In fact he was covering for the daughter of his boss, who he was in love with. He goes looking for her and finds her in, yes you've guessed it, small town Banshee. This small town also happens to be next a large Dutch Amish community. On his first night on town he gets in trouble with a couple local idiots, this results in the death of the new Sheriff in town. Luckily, he doesn't know a soul there, so Lucas takes on his identity and lets just say it all kicks off from there. Again, its brilliantly made. Not exactly a large cast but enough to push the main story lines on as well as the minor ones in each episode. Also, the cast is largely made up of 'oh thats guy/girl from that thing'. But to honest, it doesn't matter, they'll all watchable. Had me on the edge of my seat. I am literally dying for the second season to come on on DVD.

On Cinemax in US, in the UK, season 1 is on DVD.

Saturday, 8 March 2014

Checking In

I'm always the first one to  scream about the new Wes Anderson film and here I am, screaming about how excited I am/was for the film, The Grand Budapest Hotel, and I'm not the only one.

After an amazing time at 's event last month, I saw that  were gearing up for their next event and of course it was none other than Wes Anderson's new masterpiece. I saw the link at work and silently screamed at my desk. I simply had to go. Luck was my side as my dear friend had got me a free ticket!! I was ecstatic!

Being Secret Cinema, I had no idea of the location, I was just told to meet my friend at Farringdon station at 6pm last week. She had tickets to attend the preview before the actual run, at the time the film was not even released. We followed the instructions and map and then queued for an hour and a half to get in. That part wasn't great and not very well organised but I'm sure the kinks have been smoothed out. We were all given a little purple bag with a number on it by some very smily Hotel staff dressed in fantastic purple, just like in the film. We were instructed to put our phone in the bag, this was to avoid any photos being taken. The photo I have here is from a newspaper article, the only showing how brilliant the event was.

There was an amazing projection of the hotel onto the front of the building, giving the effect to look like the film poster. When we finally got through the doors, the film came to life. We exchanged our phones for a door key, a clever way to start I thought, then we were given a telegram from the hotel. All the staff/actors were fantastic. I played along, of course, even putting on a slightly posher accent. 'Guests' wandered around the hotel, interacting with people and at times, even had scenes. A very amusing one happened just after my friend and I got hot dogs, I was having trouble with eating mine and looked ridiculous while a drunk 'guest' was causing trouble the staff. There were 3 levels to explore and I a bar at every floor. I took advantage of the bar as soon as we walked in and went for a event themed cocktail, it was delicious. 

It felt, to me, as if we were part of the film or at least watching it unfold up close. After a dance from the actors who started grabbing people and dancing around the building with people, my friend included, we were all ushered in to a sort of warehouse where a cinema had been set up. Time for the film.

The film, as I expected, was perfect. The layered plot surrounding a suspicious death and the theft of an expensive painting was utterly brilliant, Wes Anderson has out done himself and if he caught people's attention with Moonrise Kingdom, this amazing film will surely bring him further recognition. It deserves all the praise its been getting and more. It was out loud funny, the characters were so well executed, the setting so unusual and you literally cannot tear your eyes away from the design.

Gustave H, is a marvellous invention, the legendary concierge of the hotel and the central character of the story. He starts off being a pompous ececntric but becomes a hero and true friend, especially to Zero, the other hero, slightly sidelined, of the story and is the one who tells his tale to 'The Author' who then in turn tells us the story. The various characters, no matter how small a role they played, all had a purpose in the story. The fact that war is looming over everyone but life still continues in the hotel, as well as the scandals, murders and mayhem, just makes this film perfect.

The Grand Budapest Hotel is out now, make sure you go and see it. 

Tuesday, 4 March 2014

February Film List

Fun fact! I actually saw a lot more films but chose to narrow it down to these 10. I am definitely keeping my late resolution, watching more films, way more films.

Lake Bell is one of my new heroes. She wrote, directed and starred in this indie masterpiece about a vocal coach who aspires to be a female trailer voiceover artist. Its a film that all women, who wish to creative, should see. It amusing and brilliant at the same time. At the end, you just want to punch the sky with delight. I liked that the story was about an industry, dominated by men was shown up for being so sexist. To be honest you could adapt this tale to many creative professions. Its not feminist to think that woman have a fair chance too and this film is in no way feminist, its just brilliant. 5/5

2. The Wolf of Wall Street

I heard an old couple, in their 70's discussing this film just after they had seen it and of all things they talked about on their bus ride home was Joanna Lumley and what she was doing in the film. I was warned of the excess of drug taking and the graphic sexual scenes, I was more taken back by the drugs, how did those guys stay alive? And none of the characters/real life people were nice, apart from Jordon Belfort's first wife and his father, otherwise, it was such an amazing film that was filled with excess beyond belief, yet there was barely any sympathetic characters. But, like the characters, I wanted more. I couldn't stop watching disaster unfold for these people, its was insane. Scorsese truly has outdone himself and Leo, alas poor Leo, still hanging on to that dream of winning an Oscar. He'll get one, but unfortunately, not for the right film. He should have won it this time. I fear that Leo will find it hard to follow this story of Jordan Belfort.

Don't know why but I find documentaries about ballerinas fascinating. This film was no different. The  is an annual gruelling competition where ballet dancers, aged 9-19 compete to get into the finals, held in New York city, where younger dancers try for awards and older dancers try to get a place in the most prestigious ballet companies around the world. The film concentrates on 6 dancers from around the world and follows their progress into the competition. Its amazing to see how hard these children and teens work, they are literally consumed by ballet and its really inspiring to see how mature they act about the fact they know they will have a short career and the pain they go through but they wouldn't do anything else. The dancers all have very different backgrounds which kept the film moving swiftly along, I loved it. 4/5

4.The To Do List

A comedy set in the 90's is now a period comedy. I grew up in the 90s and everything in this film, the clothes, the shows, the food, the way people are, I recall all of this. Its very weird, yet strangely comforting. Movies set in the 90s but made now, are great. Brandy (Plaza) about to go to college, shes very uptight and has only ever excelled academically. Now she decides she must master all sexual activities before college, so she makes a list. I admit, I laughed out loud several times during this film, the cast is just great, I love Johnny Simmons and Alia Shawkat most of all and now love Sarah Steele too. But, Aubrey Plaza, she was born to play April in Parks & Recreation but alas she can't really do much else. Although saying that, Safety Not Guaranteed, she mixed it up in that heart warming tale. Back to this very obvious sex comedy or comedy about sex, either or. Funny but predictable and its the side characters around the Plaza that make this good. Favourite moments were definitely in the cinema, the reactions are just hilarious. 3/5


I was told to see this film so many times by so many people, finally saw it after the hype. Two little girls are abducted on the street where they both live. A young man seen in a camper van close to the time the girls went missing is arrested but due to lack of evidence is released, this sparks of a whole lot of anguish, affected Hugh Jackman's character the most. This was good, definitely a thriller and I thought that all the characters, the four parents each reacted to the event in different ways, giving the story room to breathe. Jake Gyllenhaal is also believable as the detective in charge of the case, he felt like a new kind of detective, a rebel who does the right and legal thing. But, I felt two hours in, its a very long film, too long, that I had seen this film before. The ending, not the outcome, felt borrowed SPOILER ALERT as if it had been taken straight from The Vanishing, that annoyed me. 3/5

6.The Talented Mr Ripley

I remember when this film first came out, 1999. Matt Damon and Jude Law were not big names back then, not really anyway. It was brilliant film but I felt myself clutching my chest finding it hard to breathe as the events unfolded. Half way through, I just felt plain uneasy and the ending was tragic. I glad I finally got to see this because I think it really was as great people said it was back then. Chilling, sentimental and tragic, a film about the blandest person who creates such a great story about him. 4/5

7.Robot and Frank

Someone said this looked boring, I asked them is it because it had old people in it, they tried to change the subject and said no, it's because it romance. This film is not about romance. This film is a friendship, bonding, coming to terms with illness film. The friendship between Frank and Robot is so well crafted it almost moved me to tears, it was that well made. It felt like the calmest crime film ever made. I also thought the way the characters are weaved in the story and into Frank's life was done so well, the ending is even more heartbreaking, I can't explain any further without ruining it. I think this is the alternative alzheimer's drama and better than an out right one. 4/5


A love story by Spike Jonze, an  winning story, is a beautiful thing. Known for adaptions or making Charlie Kaufman films, this is a beautifully crafted story, so simple and yet so deep and although you never see the other person in this love story, it does matter, you really feel the emotion. The power of voice. Spike Jonze was the director who made me cry in the cinema after years, not joking, years. But that was Where the Wild Things Are. Her made me smile and feel hope, plus I would stare intently at any screen where Joaquin Phoenix was. He is perfect as Theodore, the lonely writer of hand crafted letters he is the author of but writes on other people's behalf. A simple story, man falls in love with his computer operating system would sound like a comedy but after seeing this film, I can't think of anything more serious and in parts, romantic. And by the way I usually steer clear of romantic films. 5/5

9. Irma LaDouce

Saw this film in the sale, Jack Lemmon directed by Billy Wilder, you can't go wrong. Jack Lemmon was a brilliant actor, I wish we could get him back. The story is funny, set in Paris, Lemmon plays a by the book policeman so when he accidentally raids a hotel full of hookers, one of which is with his boss, he loses his job and meet Irma (Shirley MacLaine). They fall in love but Nestor (Lemmon) is jealous so hatches a plan, play a rich old English gent, borrowing money from the bartender who has too many stories to tell, and become her only customer. But then Nestor ends up working all morning at the market to make the money. Lemmon does an excellent English gent impression, its uncanny. Typical Wilder comedy, makes a little more original setting it in Paris, like the original play. Its funny and can't say it enough, its to Lemmon. 4/5

10. The Monuments Men

I enjoyed this true life story about a group of men who, during WW2 were tasked with protecting art, in some parts it was moving. I don't think this film sat well with most who were expecting an war time Oceans' Eleven. Its about war and the people who lost their lives and its about art, protecting art. I enjoyed it for the right reasons. A superb cast, standout moment was a scene with Bill Murray and Bob Balaban in German farm house talking to a Nazi officer, brilliantly acted. It was a different kind of war film, I had never even known about this group protecting the art, you ever seem to hear about the art that the Nazi's stole or destroyed. It was not meant to be fun and games as people expected. It was a well told story about real people. 3/5