Monthly Archives: March 2012

It’s starting today

Wonderful Town, that is. You know, the musical at the Lowry, starring Connie Fisher, who seems very nice, despite saying that Maureen Lipman has large feet. Here is a short video clip where Connie will persuade you that you need to come and see Wonderful Town. It doesn’t have to be at the Lowry, but if it is, you get the full Hallé orchestra (first two weeks) as well.

Connie Fisher and Wonderful Town

Book now, or it could be too late!

The Hunger Games

Our calculations were correct, and by hitting Cineworld before the end of school on Friday we avoided most of the noisy clientele you’d expect for The Hunger Games. It really is quite a film!

Not having read the books, I was looking forward to seeing the film, both as a shortcut to the story without the need to read, and also because it has actually been said to be a good film. That’s not the norm for YA novels, these days.

The Hunger Games - Jennifer Lawrence and Liam Hemsworth

It’s refreshing to find an actress like Jennifer Lawrence whom I don’t dislike on first sight. She couldn’t have been more perfect for the part of Katniss, and many others were also really good choices. I’m still working on what I think of Josh Hutcherson and Liam Hemsworth as the boys who will get to fight to the bitter end over the lovely Katniss, but Woody Harrelson’s boozy mentor was great, and I even stopped hating Effie Trinket after a while.

Gushing show hosts are always off-putting and none more so than the sleazebag they had in for the Hunger Games, at opposite ends from Donald Sutherland’s president. But whatever anyone was there for, they seemed to be just right.

The Hunger Games - Josh Hutcherson

The premise of a competition between teenagers who have been forced to take part, where the winner is the one surviving until the end, is a disgusting one. But just as the competitors have to harden themselves, so the audience grows more callous, and you don’t seem to mind so much. The bad ones ‘deserve’ to die and the good ones who die do so for ‘the greater good,’ which is for Katniss to survive.

We know she has to. Not only because she is the main character, but because there are more books, and presumably more films to come.

It’s a glittering future dystopia, where the well-off fools rule the real people. The question is how long until we get there ourselves. Perhaps we’ll be all right. We’ve got our Mockingjay pin.

The Best Exotic Marigold film ever

Better late than never. We were afraid we’d be too late (although not in the meaning of being dead) for The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, but I suppose it’s a sign of its popularity that it’s still hanging on in cinemas, and even ones near us.

The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel

I often find films amusing, but according to Daughter I’ve not laughed this much for a very long time. So thank you to Dev Patel for his inept hotel manager, and to Maggie Smith and Co for being such marvellous old people, and airing their prejudices and overcoming a few. (The thing is I am beginning to feel very close to needing an Exotic Marigold myself.)

In the early days someone described this film in not terribly flattering words, but conceded it would probably be popular with old people. I’m thinking it must have been along the lines of those (men) who reckoned Mamma Mia! the movie was a bit of a loser. Marigold (as I’ve been calling it for some time) is a tremendously wonderful film!

The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel

Almost found myself wanting a hip replacement if I could have Maggie Smith’s lovely doctor. Not sure you’d be in a wheelchair for that amount of time afterwards, however. Being able to tell a call centre where they are going wrong strikes me as irresistible.

Wrinkly oldies are attractive. Almost dropping dead, or actually dying isn’t so nice, but better this way than through needless violence. Going abroad for your old age is not necessarily a good idea, but then staying put in the UK didn’t appear to be much better.

The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel

As others have said before me, this is a film that is near perfect.

It’s Pauley’s birthday

I know. The birthdays have been coming hard and fast this last week or two. But I can’t ignore Pauley Perrette’s 43rd, can I? Here she is a with a handsome and youthful looking David McCallum, who is a longstanding witch favourite.

David McCallum and Pauley Perrette

Why she’d want to look at anyone else I don’t know, but I gather Pauley has got herself a British ex-navy boyfriend. I’m still trying to get my head round that piece of information.

Happy Birthday to our favourite forensic scientist!

Hot and cross

Those hot cross buns are creeping closer and closer. My first problem with them has been to learn they are not for lent. My second problem is not to serve them on Easter Sunday. Well, I suppose there isn’t a problem in doing that, so much as in disappointing the Resident IT Consultant on Good Friday, when he really expected them.

But I’m slowly getting there.

Another thing I’ve learned over the years (almost 30, since you didn’t ask) is not to bake them myself. I’m good at baking. I’m just no good at baking something where I have no basic understanding of what I am aiming for. Yes, I have eaten them. But I have no idea what a very good, homemade, traditional hot cross bun might be like. So I gave up on that.

Bought, and served on Good Friday is my goal. So picture my confusion in August last year when I returned from holiday to find a half eaten (and inadequately wrapped) packet of them in the freezer. OK, it was better they were in the freezer than moulding away in the bread bin.

But where had they come from? I left the kitchen in a hot cross bun-free state in July, and the Resident IT Consultant and Son only had a few days in which to cause mayhem, before they joined me on holiday. Seems that was enough. I re-wrapped the buns, deciding to check on their edible-ness when the right time of year came round.

That was a couple of weeks ago when Son visited, and I felt we were decently close to Easter. The buns were OK, actually. They had been reduced from £1.10 to 60p, so I could see Son’s hand in all of this. He’s keen on bargains, and it’s hardly surprising that Tesco’s customers didn’t buy them in mid-July, thus leaving them ripe for reduction.

Anyway, we enjoyed our cheap treat for tea, and then it was time to send someone out to buy more, what with Good Friday getting closer. I’m just glad I solved the puzzle of my unseasonal freezer guests. Now I wish could teach people how to wrap food. (It’s not so much the teaching; it’s the learning how. And remembering.)

Roger Whittaker is 76

Happy 76th Birthday Roger!

Roger Whittaker

The photo is from Cologne last year when Roger and the band are finishing off the concert with Ein Bisschen Aroma. And that has me starting again, nanananananananananana…

Dirk Gently

While three episodes rarely constitute a series to me, it was nevertheless good to have Dirk Gently back on television after the pilot over a year ago.

I remember thinking when the books first appeared that they couldn’t be as good as Hitchhiker. And they weren’t, quite, but when you’re desperate for more Douglas Adams, as I was, you take what you get. And then I wasn’t sure how they would translate to the screen, but I’d say it works.

I have a soft spot for Darren Boyd, who is very sweet and sometimes surprisingly astute as Dirk Gently’s sidekick. Less keen on Stephen Mangan, but then I suppose someone being a holistic detective needs to be weird.

Dirk Gently and MacDuff

As other reviewers have said, the plots barely make sense. But who wants things that make sense? Some amusing dialogue and some madcap adventure will do. Sneaking out over the rooftops, or having a hole in your floor to trap unwary baddies with, is always satisfying.

It was a pity they killed off Bill Paterson so early on in the second episode, but these things happen. The first episode left the Resident IT Consultant saying that not everything had been solved by the end, but I worked out that it had. It was just that the mysteries were unremarkable, and so were the solutions. As for the third episode, I felt right at home in that cell. I think it’s been in most shows I’ve watched recently.

It’s the chairs I will remember best; Dirk in his chair in an otherwise empty office, and poor MacDuff in his half mutilated chair, which he had to buy himself.

And now I suppose we have to wait some more, for more…

Happy 95th Birthday, Vera Lynn!

Vera Lynn

What can I say? It’s fantastic that we still have Vera Lynn, even though she gave up singing at 80. Personally I wish that she would have continued, if only to show the world that older people can. But we have the recordings to enjoy.

Happy Birthday! And may there be many more.

Mother’s Day repeat

Either the Resident IT Consultant is even more forgetful than I thought, or I was especially lucky with last night’s dinner entertainment. With only minutes to go before the pasta was done I hurriedly picked a not much watched episode from NCIS season 7. It being the eve of Mother’s Day in the UK, I picked Mother’s Day, despite my earlier comments about it being the worst I’d seen. At least that meant I’d not watched it over and over again.

Gibbs and mother-in-law

Not at all, in fact, if last night’s experience was anything to go by. Maybe we watched it without the Resident IT Consultant, and couldn’t be bothered to offer it up a second time. So serendipity provided me with something 100% fresh for my pasta-eating companion. Nice.

And now that I’ve got both hindsight as well as the determination to see if certain writers write better episodes than others, I have to say that not only was Mother’s Day quite good, but it was written by none other than Gary Glasberg and Reed Steiner. My remaining complaint is simply that this couldn’t (shouldn’t) have happened in real life. Other than that, very well written.

I’ll have to look up other, half forgotten or ignored episodes. There might be treasure out there. Even for a very big fan.

(Photo © CBS)


It struck me that it’s not in every country you can pick up an abandoned baby on a rubbish dump, and simply keep it as your own. But that’s what the young Venezuelan mother and her little son did in the film Hermano. That means brother, and that is what the abandoned baby became to the young boy.

This was the second Venezuelan film for me in this year’s ¡Viva! film festival at Cornerhouse. There are many similarities between Hermano and La Hora Cero; the poor quarters where life is cheap and gun crimes and other violence are of the everyday kind. Where the young start out much as other young people do, only to find that too much is against them and they stand very little chance of getting out successfully, or of living to an old age.


Hermano is also an incredibly good film, but with an ending which took me by surprise and I am certain it was meant to, because of the way it was done. If not, we’d have been more aware of how the penultimate scene played out, and the element of surprise would have failed.

So, it was sad, and although much of the film was sad, there was hope for most of it, too. The foundling, who turned out not to be a cat after all, went by the nickname Gato, and he and his brother Julio (who really wanted a cat) are top football players in their barrio division, about to play in the final. They are discovered by a talent scout and have hopes of signing with Caracas.

Julio deals in drugs, while Gato is an innocent, who doesn’t even quite understand how the girl he’s in love with ended up pregnant (by someone else). Their mother works hard looking after them and she helps them live and breathe football.


And then disaster strikes, and the question is how this will affect them. Because it is fiction and a film, you expect that something will work out, despite all the signs to the contrary. It does, but not as you imagine it.

Wonderful for the football, and a wonderful film. Sad, but scary, when you consider the very real reality of life in Venezuela when you are poor.