Category Archives: Film

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.

Good Will Hunting

I tried so hard. When I noticed this film ‘about maths’ was on television, I recorded it for the entertainment of the Resident IT Consultant, and then it turns out he’d already seen it! But he was sufficiently enthusiastic, and felt I should see it too, so we watched. You can tell all the regular shows have come to an end…

The maths came mostly at the beginning. After that it turned into more of a psychological portrait of a young maths genius – working as a janitor at MIT – with issues. I liked the role well enough; but I just am not keen on Matt Damon. I thought his pal Ben Affleck was a lot more interesting, really.

Good Will Hunting

The film also offered psychoanalysis of both the psychologist who talked to Will Hunting, as well as his old pal, the maths professor who discovered Will. Hard to tell who had the most issues in their life.

Very nice time capsule thing, set in the mid 1990s. I was wanting them to exchange email addresses, when all Robin Williams had to offer was an answering machine. He was still mostly Robin Williams, I thought.

Stellan Skarsgård as the professor was interesting, if a little selfish/immature. Lack of maturity seemed quite a general thing. Not sure what Minnie Driver saw in Will, but she fell in love the way girls are meant to.

Not having seen this film back in 1997, I don’t know what it would have felt like at the time. Now, as I said, it was the period charm that I enjoyed.

Maybe my problem is Matt Damon is a blonde?

I’m So Excited

There is definitely more sex in Spanish films. And they certainly talk more openly about it, even allowing for scriptwriters who come up with odd characters. It’s fun and it’s refreshing.

I’m So Excited is Pedro Almodóvar’s new film about a plane load of passengers trapped up in the air, who go slightly crazy while they wait to see what will happen. (I’m grateful I have no immediate plans to fly anywhere.)

There is an amusing cameo appearance from Antonio Banderas and Penélope Cruz, and I suspect it could all have been their fault that what happens happens.

I'm So Excited

Even with my limited experience of Spanish films, this plane is full of people I know from somewhere else. Looking in the cockpit was like watching Airplane again. I wouldn’t trust the pilots in the slightest. They drink. They have sex. They have increasingy weird conversations with passengers who just pop in, with the cabin crew, and with their families at home.

The cabin crew are crazy. They drink. They have sex. They bicker. And that’s the ones who are awake.

I'm So Excited

The relatively few passengers in business class are also somewhat crazy. One professional escort, one virgin, a newly married couple, an assassin, a dishonest – but lovely – banker and a lying actor. They drink. They have sex. They phone home.

It’s absolutely crazy. But they are so friendly, in that Spanish way, that you kind of love them. You don’t want to be on a plane with them, though. Not a plane in difficulties, anyway.

It’s sex, drugs and rock’n’roll all the way.

(At Cornerhouse)

A Hijacking

A Hijacking is a hard-hitting Danish film on a subject most of us know little about, and tend to forget if we can. Any hijacking is bad, and Somali pirates seem to be working at the worst end of it.

Kapringen - A Hijacking

When shipping CEO Peter decides to do his own negotiating after one of his cargo ships is hijacked, he does so against the advice of English advisor Connor, who nevertheless is beside Peter every step of the way. And it’s a long way.

As a counterbalance to the well-dressed powerful men in Copenhagen, we have Mikkel, the ship’s cook. He is no hero, but he is brave in the face of this sudden violence and cruelty. He begs his boss to pay the ransom, and he begs the pirates’ ‘negotiator’ for food and kindness and fresh air.

It’s heartbreaking to see the dirty struggle on board, and to see how they are trying to do a good job in Denmark. When Peter wanders off script one day, it ends with a shot at the other end. You can almost see the thoughts in this powerful man’s head as he realises his actions may have cost someone their life.

Kapringen - A Hijacking

And still, we have already seen him being the hard negotiator in a ‘normal’ business deal, so why feel sorry for him?

You can tell it has to end reasonably well for most of the characters, but the situation is so tense, you must also be aware that for some it can’t end well. Who, and how?

The Danes seem naïve a lot of the time. It’s easy to be like that, when you’re nice and safe. But the Somalis are also naïve in some way, believing that there is any amount of money to be had in return for freeing people who shouldn’t have been held hostage in the first place.

In a way, not a lot happens. But you sit transfixed by what’s going on. I don’t want to give too much away, but let’s say that I would have expected the men’s beards to have grown much longer while this situation lasted.

Now that we are on such intimate terms with so many Danish actors, it was good to see Borgen’s Kasper as Mikkel, and Sarah Lund’s first detective partner Meyer as Peter.

(At Cornerhouse until 16th May)

Below is an interview on Danish television with Gary Skjoldmose Porter, who not only plays the British expert in the film, but is a British expert outside the film as well.


Messing with our minds. That’s what he did. Coming out from seeing Danny Boyle’s Trance we couldn’t totally agree on what had happened. Did they? Was he? Could it really?

But then, maybe it doesn’t matter. We saw several versions of what might have happened, and one was true. Perhaps. But not necessarily.

Someone steals a Goya. The question is who and how, but above all, where is it now? The art auctioneer, Simon, has amnesia and doesn’t know any longer. His crooked accomplices take him to see a hypnotherapist to find the painting.


I don’t actually believe hypnotherapy works quite the way it does in the film, but it’s an interesting mind experiment. Rosario Dawson is too young and too beautiful to be practising in Harley Street, but then the film wouldn’t work if she wasn’t attractive.

It’s hard to stop thinking of James McAvoy as anyone but the funny creature in Narnia, and I can’t say I like him here. Vincent Cassel makes a rather charming crook, however.

As Daughter said before she let us oldies go and see Trance, all you need is a sofa to hide behind when it gets too yucky. I found that closing my eyes worked well too.

At least Trance is not a cliché, the same as all other films.

I’m so excited!

It’s not always a film title matches how I feel, but Pedro Almodóvar’s new film  I’m So Excited! certainly does.

Cornerhouse will screen the UK launch of the film, featuring a live satellite Q&A with Almodóvar afterwards, on 23rd April at 18.30.

‘After the more serious territory of his recent output the film is being hailed as a return to his comic roots, and features cameos from familiar faces Antonio Banderas and Penélope Cruz.  A group of travellers face a life-threatening situation on board a plane to Mexico City and, trapped in a confined space, they let off steam, attempt to seduce and be seduced, lie to themselves and each other, and battle with fear, loneliness and the prospect of death.’

Sounds pretty good.

Song for Marion

Song for Marion

My companion cried buckets, and I have to admit to having been not totally unaffected. But at least I didn’t disgrace myself by being lukewarm about Song for Marion. It’s another film full of old people, and it’s high time film makers realise that old people have a place in films. In fact, Song for Marion only had a few token young people in it. About time.

Song for Marion

To be perfectly honest, I thought that Vanessa Redgrave as the dying Marion wasn’t all that marvellous. But Terence Stamp as her loving, but unsmiling, husband Arthur was pretty good, and the group of elderly singers Marion meets every week at the community centre were great fun.

OK, they were only singing about sex, but otherwise it was my second film in a week featuring OAPs and community classes and sex. It must be the thing to do. Gemma Arterton as the music teacher got her oldies to go metal and sexy and generally quite young and with it. Never mind that some had to be carted off in an ambulance for over-stretching themselves with the dancing and prancing.

Song for Marion

They had fun!

So did we when we weren’t weeping and snivelling into our hankies. Which only leaves me wondering why the film lasted barely any time at all in the cinemas?

Christopher Eccleston did well as the grieving son, not getting on with his cantankerous father. Very easy to identify with what he was feeling. Perhaps the northern characters were a little bit too northern. We don’t all live in the south.

The judges in the choir competition were clearly modelled on certain judges on television. Perhaps too stereotyped, and something that might not age well with the film. Would people know why they were so rude, and suddenly so weepy, ten years from now? That’s if a film like this survives into the future.

Song for Marion

Q&A with Alfonso, Alberto and Àlvaro

Hardly surprising that Carmen who chaired the post-screening Q&A session at Cornerhouse last night got the three men mixed up. So many Als to keep track of!

This is the kind of thing Cornerhouse does best; great entertainment, followed by talking to the people involved, usually actors or directors to do with the film. Last night’s talk about El mundo es nuestro was no exception. We’d seen Alfonso Sánchez and Alberto López in the bar earlier, and it was fascinating to see them go from being two perfectly normal and charming men, to the crazy small time crooks they play in the film. Producer Álvaro Alonso joined them for the onstage chat in cinema 1.

Alfonso Sánchez, Alberto López and Álvaro Alonso

El mundo es nuestro is a small budget film with big results, that Alfonso started to write back in 2009, before Spain had a financial crisis. Which just goes to prove how far-sighted he was. (I doubt we can blame Alfonso.) He was pleased that the Manchester audience seemed to ‘get’ his film.

Alfonso Sánchez and interpreter

The three Als explained how they got the funding (you can’t make a film with €30,000). People wanted to support them because they were famous, but they reckon that kind of thing only works once. Their feeling is we need more humorous films about the bad economy.

Alberto López and Álvaro Alonso

Spanish television didn’t want to screen El mundo es nuestro, and didn’t advertise it at all. It’s forbidden to forbid this kind of thing, so they didn’t. You’d think that the current crisis would encourage more films on the subject, but the Als said they are the only ones.

There have been no nominations for awards for the actors. ‘Strange country, Spain.’ To them it’s important that the film gets distributed internationally, and at home they have offered cheap cinema tickets for various groups, at a variety of venues, including – I think – prisons. The prisoners related well to crooks Cabesa and Culebra; they were just like them.

Alfonso Sánchez and Alberto López

Their reasons for making the characters stereotypes was to have a small community inside the bank in the film; one that audiences could recognise and identify with. Alfonso said he listened to the actors and let them decide how they wanted to portray their characters. And to save money – I think – he used his own father for the role of the man his own character hits in the film. A bit Freudian, he reckons.

Alfonso didn’t mention this, so Alberto did it for him. He has been given an award for his writing. Well deserved, especially for someone who feels he is no writer, because waking up every morning, getting the coffee, staring out of the window, etc, is so hard.

Alfonso Sánchez and interpreter

They love British actors, and the fact that they are respected. In Spain all actors are supposedly ‘reds’ and receive no respect. They aspire to be an Olivier, or a Pacino.

Well, those of us who stayed after the screening loved you. We loved that you tried to speak English to us, and we loved the t-shirts. Please come again, and meanwhile we will tell all our friends (not that we have many) to illegally* download El mundo es nuestro. Or even pay for it, so you can afford to make more films.

Alfonso Sánchez, Alberto López and Álvaro Alonso

(*I only say this because they jokingly said we could. We are very law-abiding here. We have no friends, anyway. And hopefully our money is safe in that Spanish bank we have an account with…)