Thursday, 18 February 2016

Before You Go...

This is a 2002 film starring Julie Walters, Joanne Whalley and Victoria Hamilton as three sisters who come together for their mothers funeral.

from IMDB

Julie Walters is Teresa, the eldest, who seems to be the most 'together', but it turns out she's having her own issues with henpecked husband Frank (Tom Wilkinson).
Middle sister Mary (Joanne Whalley) is a doctor who is having an affair with a married colleague (Mike, played by John Hannah), who has been promising to leave his wife for the past five years. A secret from her past comes back to haunt her, as does the ghost of her recently departed mother.
Catherine (Victoria Hamilton) is the youngest sister, a stereotypical joint-smoking, vodka-swigging, emotionally unstable mess.

I really like Julie Walters, and I know she's a bit of a national treasure, but sometimes it feels like she's playing the same character over and over again - a bit grumpy, a bit scatty, a bit quirky... However, there was a scene in a pub where she's very drunk and spouting a few home truths which was very funny.

The storyline of Mary's affair with Mike was just boring, it was obvious that it was going nowhere, and for an intelligent woman you wondered why she'd stayed with him for so long. Her other story was far more interesting, and very moving (although I was frustrated by what I felt were some factual inaccuracies).

Catherine was just plain annoying and unlikeable.

As you'd expect from a film about death, and a funeral, there were some sad moments (it may have brought a tear to my eye once or twice), but there was also some humour too. I watched it on my own one evening, when I was trying to wind down in the hope of getting a good night's sleep, and it was just the right kind of film for that, nothing too taxing, just a warm, gentle, mostly feel-good movie.

Monday, 15 February 2016

Review: A Lifetime Burning

A Lifetime Burning A Lifetime Burning by Linda Gillard
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

A Lifetime Burning is described as "a complex family drama" which is putting it mildly!

I'm a big fan of Linda Gillard, and I have every intention of reading all her novels (this was my 3rd), but I have to be honest - if this book had been written by anyone else, I'm not sure I would've persevered with it. Or maybe I would, I don't know. That's the thing, I don't really know how I feel about it.

I never really warmed to any of the characters, apart from maybe Hugh. That's not to say that they weren't interesting or well-written, because they were, but personally I didn't take to them.

I suppose I had the fairly predictable reaction to 'that' particular theme that runs through the book; I found it a bit uncomfortable, a bit hard to digest. I never really thought of it as wrong though, or perverse, which I put down to the fact that it was written about in an unapologetic, matter-of-fact way. Love is love...

The other thing I struggled with was the constant shifting back and forth over the years. I can usually get the hang of it eventually, but I seemed to be permanently confused throughout this book. Again though, that is 'my problem', rather than a problem with the novel.

So, I definitely didn't hate it, but I didn't love it either. I'm hoping that this is going to be my least favourite Linda Gillard book, so that I can look forwards to really enjoying the rest of them!

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Thursday, 11 February 2016

TV Dramas

These were kind of an 'add-on' to my list of DVDs to watch in 2016.

I'd recorded 'And Then There Were None' and 'Harry Price Ghost Hunter' over the Christmas period, and I managed to watch them both a couple of weeks ago.

Harry Price Ghost Hunter was based on the real life skeptic of the same name, who investigated the supernatural and paranormal in the 1920's and 30's. In this TV adaptation, we first see Harry Price conning a family by pretending to exorcise a spirit from their house, and seemingly these aren't his first victims. A tragedy linked to one of his previous clients forces Harry to acknowledge that what he was doing was wrong, and instead he retreats into more serious psychical research. Later, he reluctantly agrees to try and help the wife of an up and coming politician, who has been behaving in a peculiar way since moving to a new house with her husband.

I enjoyed this, but I seem to think I got a bit confused with the storyline at times, and the twist at the end was unexpected (to me, because I can never see these things coming) but not necessarily an OMG moment.

A couple of days ago I was looking through my wishlist on Read It Swap It, and I had a book listed on there called The Ghost Hunters by Neil Spring. It turns out that this book is a fictionalised account of a real-life investigation carried out by Harry Price at Borley Rectory, so-called "the most haunted house in England". I'd added it to my wishlist months ago, and hadn't made the connection until the other day.

* * *

And Then There Were None is a mystery novel by Agatha Christie, considered by many to be a masterpiece. I haven't read the book, but the trailers for this tv adaptation intrigued me, so I recorded it and then watched all three episodes in one evening! I had no idea what the story was about other than the very basic premise that they were all going to die, one by one, so there really was a sense of mystery about who was going to be next, and how they were going to meet their end. And speaking of endings, I didn't see that one coming! In fact, despite the obvious clue in the title, I was sure at least one of them was going to survive, which I realise now was a bit naive of me!

This was a really enjoyable adaptation, although it hasn't tempted me to read the book (I've just read the synopsis on Wikipedia, and it seems that they changed quite a lot of details).

Monday, 8 February 2016

2016 To Do List... Declutter

One of the items on my to do list this year was to Declutter. To be fair, this is an ongoing, never-ending project, but I thought I might try and keep track of my progress throughout 2016, in the hope that it might keep me motivated.

I've made a decent start already, selling a few items on Ebay, and Freecycling some other things. I'm going to try to remember to keep a list of both so that I can see what I've sold/given away, and how much money I've made in the case of Ebay.

As always there were a lot of 'Resolution' articles around at the beginning of January, and I read a comment on Twitter where someone said that she was going to try and declutter 2016 things, in 2016. I thought this was a great idea! So each time I get rid of something (not including general rubbish, of course) I'm putting it on a list (another list!). I'm not sure if I'll make it to 2016 items, but I don't suppose it matters really, as long as I keep decluttering.

I'm up to No.25 so far... ;-)

Thursday, 4 February 2016

America's Sweethearts

This was the second film on my list of DVDs to watch this year. I actually watched it a few weeks back, so I might not be able to remember it very well.


It stars Catherine Zeta Jones, Julia Roberts, Billy Crystal and John Cusack, and was released in 2001.

CZJ ("Gwen") and John Cusack ("Eddie") were one of Hollywood's power couples, both on and off screen, but after she had an affair with a co-star there followed a very acrimonious split which left Eddie in therapy.

Their last film together is currently in the hands of the director, who is refusing to hand it over until they and the press are assembled at a screening. Billy Crystal is the movie publicist whose job it is to bring them back together, and make it look as though they still care for each other, helped by Gwen's sister/personal assistant, Julia Roberts ("Kiki").

I wasn't sure if I was going to like this film, but to be fair it wasn't bad, if a little cheesy and predictable. There were some funny moments and quips, mostly courtesy of Billy Crystal of course, although Gwen's new Spanish boyfriend Hector (played by Hank Azaria) was pretty funny too. It was hard to imagine that Julia Roberts (surely the bigger star of the two?) would play second fiddle to CZJ for long, and sure enough, her role in the film kind of took over from about halfway through.

Overall, I did enjoy this film - it was fun and light-hearted, but not something I'd be in any hurry to watch again.

Monday, 1 February 2016

Review: The Lifeboat

The Lifeboat The Lifeboat by Charlotte Rogan
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I wanted to read this book as I was quite intrigued as to how someone could write a novel about people sitting in a lifeboat for three weeks. Obviously, there was a lot more to it than that, and it was a really enjoyable read.

Set in 1914, a magnificent ocean liner suffers a mysterious explosion and sinks, but not before several of it's lifeboats have been launched. In one such boat is Grace, whose place was secured at the last minute by her husband Henry, whom she had to leave behind in the hope that he would make his way onto another one.

Also on the boat is a crew member from the liner, who immediately takes charge, his first instruction being to put some distance between themselves and the sinking ship, and more importantly the victims floundering in the ocean. When he refuses to even stop to help a young child, stating that the lifeboat is already over-capacity, we get our first glimpse of the lengths that people will go to for their own survival.

The story is narrated by Grace, in the form of her writing a journal of the events, so we know that she survived. However, it's revealed right at the start that she is on her way to court to stand trial for her life along with two other women, so it is then a matter of waiting for her journal to reveal just what exactly happened during those three weeks on the lifeboat.

This was a really enjoyable page-turner of a book, one of those that really makes you think "what would I do, in that situation?"

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