Category Archives: Film

The Railway Man

How can a family of railway lovers not go and see The Railway Man? Even after being warned off by people that the torture scenes are so horrific as to make it unbearable.

The Railway Man

We were charmed by Colin Firth’s wooing of Nicole Kidman (I had feared she’d be too glamourous for the part, but she was fine) at the beginning of the film, in spite of the stations and railway lines and the rolling stock being ‘a bit wrong.’ It was all done in good faith. (But the bit with the guard saying Colin was on the wrong train was too much 21st century. They didn’t go in for that kind of thing back then.)

Somewhere in the middle, when it was – mentally – dark, and slow and very depressing, with little hope for improvement, I wondered what we were doing. The scenes showing Jeremy Irvine as the young Lomax during the war, as a Japanese prisoner, told me why we were there. It was good. Not fast paced action, nor enjoyable. But good. Stuff you need to see.

The torture was bad. But it was expected and it was once done for real, and it was nowhere near as awful as you get in some of those fun action films people don’t mind watching.

The Railway Man

Despite knowing the outcome, having read about Eric Lomax, it almost came as a surprise. Low key and quietly unassuming, this was an excellent film. And for all its awfulness, we found ourselves surprisingly cheery as we compared notes afterwards. That’s probably why you should see The Railway Man.

#prosit 2014

I’m with the Wiener Philharmoniker. Have a prosit 2014! Although I’ve never felt quite so sleepy while ‘attending’ the New Year’s concert in Vienna before. My eyelids kept closing. Perhaps they got out of bed sooner than they should have. The dancers’ kilts & nappies were certainly different…

The night before was fine, too. Once Daughter had been dispatched to the Lovely Library Helper’s house, the rest of us tucked into this year’s – no, I mean last year’s – home made Indian meal (apart from the chilli parathas which thankfully we’d been able to buy again), and ‘watched’ Mamma Mia! in the background. Very relaxing. We had sufficiently little food that there were few leftovers. Which is probably just as well.

Between the fictional Greek island and the London fireworks we did a quiz. It was Daughter’s new quiz book which kept us giggling and arguing for another hour, or so. I even found a question about one of my facebook friends. And I even knew the answer.

Everyone else will presumably despise us for this, but between the background television and the quiz book, we have had pleasant meals (only one sitting round the table) and not too many disagreeable silences. I could see myself doing it like that again.

Two cinemas and a pavement

My back was killing me.

I will blame – almost – all that happened on the unreliable trains we have in Britain. The ones that make you travel too early in order not to be too late. The trains, but also what I might label ‘data protection act’ behaviour, which is when unthinking caution and unhelpfulness win over human kindness and common sense.

It’s not every day you go to a world film premiere. It’s not every day I turn into a crabbit old witch for real, either. But as I said; my back was killing me.

So once I’d picked up my comp ticket I wanted to sit down for the spare hour before the world premiere. The venue has a bar. But this was a Friday night and it was busy. Very busy. I always say it’s a nice place to go, because when it’s busy it’s generally busy with more my kind of people than other people’s kind of people.

I spied three empty chairs and thought I could move one over to the side where I’d not be in anyone’s way and I could do some work (i.e. read a book) so as not to waste 60 minutes because of stupid trains. But I overlooked how unattractive I am. All three chairs would be ‘required soon.’ (I’ll say this again; I wasn’t actually intending to ‘join’ you.)

On recalling that the cinema screen I would eventually go to, has a few chairs in its foyer, I crossed the road and asked the nice young man on the door if he’d let me rest on one of them. No, they were ‘about to close to make things ready for their special event. Sorry.’

This kind of asking isn’t something I do lightly. While my advanced age now makes it easier to glare at (more able) people on public transport, here I only forced myself to ask because I was desperate.

I didn’t cry. Not really. But it was close.

Wondering what to do next, my gaze fell on the chairs on the pavement outside the café across the road. It was dark. It was wet. And cold. So surely no one would object to me sitting there without buying something from inside?

So I crossed the road and sat down. Nice chairs. It was a bit dark and damp and chilly, however. The first ten minutes were not too bad. After that I felt not only cold, but dismal. At the 20 minute mark I came to the conclusion I should restore my self respect and simply get a train home and be comfortable again. I discussed this with me and told me that once the film began I’d forget all about this and that persevering was a good thing.

After 40 minutes I wasn’t shaking too badly, but went back into the bar area and used the Ladies room and then crossed the road again to the film venue. ‘Ah,’ said the back, when I sat down. ‘This is comfy.’ ‘Yes,’ said the other bits of me, ‘we feel warm and toasty again. Nice.’

My mind got a little impatient when the film didn’t start on time. Eventually someone introduced the film’s director and asked if he had something short to say before the screening commenced. ‘No,’ he replied. He then used several minutes not saying anything in a longwinded sort of way, finally giving us a quote about the making of the film. Someone had commented to him that ‘if you’d known what you were doing, you wouldn’t have done it.’

By then I wished he hadn’t. The smirk on his face as he walked back to his seat was that of the man who made the emperor’s new clothes, and hadn’t – yet – been found out by the teacher.

It’s all very well selling the idea of a film as being unusual and quirky. But you have to deliver on that promise. It’s not enough to say it is.

Fifteen minutes into the film I was bored stiff. The audience laughed at a close up of one of the film crew sleeping on a bus (in the film). That wasn’t funny, but I’m pleased they were amused. My brain said ‘we’re leaving.’ ‘No,’ protested the back who was feeling good, and the other bits which were nice and warm joined in.

We left. The restoring of my self respect was long overdue. We missed – avoided getting on – the direct train home. It was full to bursting and would have entailed more standing. Warm possibly, but sardine style. Instead we went and sat on the London train in the warm, reading and resting. Thus needing a lift the last couple of miles home, we went in search of the Resident IT Consultant at our local Cineworld where he was enjoying the advertising.

I reckoned I might manage to stand for ten minutes in the warm cinema foyer, if I really tried. But the staff waved me in past the ticket barrier, and I was able to wait in comfort. Sitting down. Without a ticket.

Thank you.


We needed something to watch with our pizza. The thing about the diminished numbers of the Witch family means we eat in front of the television rather more than we used to.

I’d carried the Big Bang Theory upstairs, so didn’t feel like trekking after it, which left me wondering whether I could put up with an episode of Star Trek, which I did have on the right floor. But I have to admit to having felt less enthusiasm over Star Trek than expected. Our progress can hardly be called that. We’re on about the third or maybe fourth episode. It’s going to be a long journey.

So I trekked up and grabbed Big Bang Theory after all. Which was a good solution in one way. We felt more like it. But we had inadvertently arrived at the episode where the boys are in the middle of nowhere, dressed up as, well, as trekkies…

Big Bang Theory

You can’t win, really.

Whereas we did like the most recent film once we got ourselves over to a cinema (which is now quite a long time ago) before the film was replaced by something a bit newer. I like Benedict Cumberbatch, whatever side he was on. Most of them, it seemed like.

Star Trek Into Darkness

And there was the Spock romance, in both Star Trek Into Darkness, as well as the episode of old Star Trek we watched when we got home. Round and round in circles we go. Hoped we’d at least manage to lose Captain Kirk, but oh no…

Let’s go down to the garden centre

How come garden centres have become such mainstays of eating out? We have one near us, and if I think the words ‘home made scone’ I think of this garden centre. Why can’t there be a traditional café supplying me with a reliable scone? Good scones come with tourism, and garden centres are almost that. It’s where we dream ourselves away to sunny gardens with lovely outdoor furniture, or think that some more Christmas decorations will guarantee happiness come December.

We were driving between Stirling and St Andrews the other day, and felt the journey would benefit from a break, and that we could benefit from elevenses of some kind. But where? The Grandmother mentioned a garden centre near Kinross that she’d seen from the bus. I looked online, and found that she was right, and that it had some favourable reviews. So at Dobbies in Kinross we ran from car to Le Jardin Café in the pouring rain.

It was worth it. When I saw cream meringues on the menu I just had to have one. It was enormous, and it was good. The meringue was soft enough that I could cut into it without the rest of it flying across the room. The cream was lightly whipped and neither too much nor too little. The Resident IT Consultant enjoyed his warmed fruit slice, and the Grandmother said her hot chocolate was better than many.

Suitably revived, we drove on to St Andrews and a delayed 21st birthday. The party was at the local cinema, where 20+ students carefully avoided eating more than a handful of Kettle crisps or M&S cupcakes before whatever the film was they were watching.

Maybe they had been as well fed as we had, and I’m not still thinking of that meringue. Us oldies had gathered at The Rule for an early dinner. I know I’ve blogged about this watering hole before, but it’s worth repeating. It’s good value, and a home from home (well, almost). With their various offers we fed eight people for £100.

It seems to appeal more to locals than to tourists, which is presumably why you can avoid the tedious queueing you get in many other bars and restaurants. As far as I’m concerned I see no reason to consider eating anywhere else.

How I Live Now

How I Have Longed to be able to write that on here! Finally! My favourite book by my favourite author hits the big screen. And what a film! As I can’t be someone who has both read the book and not, I have no means of knowing if the bare and slightly changed bones of How I Live Now will be likely to confuse anyone coming fresh to the film.

I don’t think it should be a problem. People will simply see a really good film. A frightening film, and considerably darker than the book, Meg Rosoff was right to warn people not to take their under 14s to see it.

How I Live Now - film

Having already come to the conclusion that Saoirse Ronan looks just like Daisy should (which in itself is amazing), I was further gratified to see that the house looks exactly as I had imagined it, and the country lanes were the very lanes I’d walked along in the book. This hardly ever happens in films. Gradually you might get used to actors and settings, but for them to be right from the start is almost unheard of.

The cynical and jaded American teenager Daisy comes to England to visit her unknown cousins, but before you know how it happened, their countryside idyll has been ruined by war breaking out. Daisy and her young cousin Piper are separated from the two boys, Isaac and Edmond, and taken somewhere to help with the war effort. Daisy’s only thought is to escape and get back to the house where she fell in love with Edmond.

She and Piper make the agonisingly long walk back (but a lot easier looking in the film) to what appears to be hell. Without the novel’s New York style smart background commentary from Daisy, this is a lot bleaker.

Beautifully shot and surprisingly well adapted, How I Live Now is a great film, which hopefully will bring many new fans to Meg Rosoff’s books. Daisy with all her imperfections is a marvellous role model.

More Thor

For one crazy moment I thought I was sitting down to blog about something for the second time. I looked at the CultureWitch page and saw the name Thor, and was surprised because I couldn’t recall having blogged about the film Thor already. I hadn’t. There was a Thor in The Man From U.N.C.L.E.

Shortly afterwards when Daughter insisted on watching a film, we were somehow coerced into choosing Thor. It was all right. In fact, as entertainment it was perfectly fine. I suffered an elderly moment when I had to ask what Thor’s brother’s name was. I knew I knew. I just couldn’t find it in that dark cave where I keep my information. Loki.

Naturally. I didn’t like him in The Avengers, and he was no better before (seeing as I appear to watch the films backwards). I’m not much of a fan of blondes, but I preferred Chris Hemsworth to Tom Hiddleston. And I never quite know where I am with Stellan Skarsgård.

Chris Hemsworth - Thor

It makes a change to have an action film featuring Norse gods, as opposed to modern agents or aliens and that sort of thing. I just don’t have a lot of enthusiasm for Norse gods. But I reckon I can manage to watch the other films (whatever they are, because I am not keeping track). Captain America was fine. Yes, it clearly has something to do with who plays the hero.

And there is always humour in the outsider’s baffled reaction to what we believe is normal.