Category Archives: Reviews

What I think about stuff

Films I watched in the plane

Did I say that I travelled business class to Colombia? I am not supposed to publicise this, as our parent company won’t allow anyone to fly business (to save on costs during the recession), but my boss managed to convince his boss and off we went in business class. Yay!

Apart from the food and drinks, and the seats that go almost completely horizontal for you to sleep, one of the things that I enjoyed the most was the entertainment system. I am sure, though, that you get the same system in economy class, because I remember very well our honeymoon flights to LA and to Honolulu, and we got something similar.

What did I watch? A bit of everything…



I will be honest. The main reason why I decided to watch this film was because of Alexander Skarsgard (Eric in True Blood), who is absolutely gorgeous and I could just look at him for two hours straight. But, I was in for a treat/shock with the film. Directed by Lars von Trier, I should have known that it was going to be weird at least.

The story evolves around Kirsten Dunst’s character, who is depressed and can’t even be happy on the day of her wedding. The wedding party scene is quite good. So many repressed feelings, emotions and speeches. You get a very good feeling of Kirsten’s family and you can start realising why she is such a depressed person!

But the wedding (which I thought was the main focal point of the film) is only the beginning. The story then centres around Melancholia, which is a planet that is threatening to crash against Earth. Kirsten’s sister is really fearful of this, whilst her husband (Kiefer Sutherland) assures her that it won’t happen.

It is a slow film, but I don’t mind slow films as long as the plot is engaging enough, and this one is. Overall, I think I give it a 8 out of 10.

Bad Teacher.

Typical silly comedy with Cameron Diaz (who doesn’t play the role of her life, to be honest, but she’s not that bad). It has got funny bits, but overall it is nothing too amusing. Shallow girl who wants to catch a rich man, decides to have breast implants to have more opportunities and starts a series of ventures in order to get the money. There is a really funny character in the film, which is a fellow teacher who is in love with Cameron’s new target, and the scenes where they two fight are the best in the film. 5 out of 10.

The Help.

This one is my favourite from the ones I watched. I thoroughly enjoyed it. I had heard good reviews, and that’s what made me choose it among many other ones.

It is set in a Southern State (Mississippi I think) in the 50s or 60s, and it tells the story of Skeeter, a girl who wants to become a writer, against her friends ideas that she should marry and settle with a man to look after. Skeeter, however, is set in her ways and decides to follow her own path. She “sympathises” with the coloured folk and she actually misses her maid, who raised her and gave her the best advise. After coming back from college, her maid no longer is in her house but her mother won’t tell her what happened.

She manages to get a job in a local newspaper, writing the “domestic help” column, but as she doesn’t know how to respond to the questions, she convinces her best friend to “lend” her her maid to answer the questions. This then turns into a deeper relationship, and Skeeter starts thinking of writing a book on the maid’s stories.

The film is moving, funny and very well told. I hear the book is better, so I may give it a chance (never the other way round, no!). Definitely a 9 out of 10.

Para qué sirve un oso?

The films I chose to watch in the plane where films that I knew Jon would have little interest in watching. And this one, being in Spanish, was a good candidate. (There was only another film in Spanish, the latest Almodóvar film, but the plot summary didn’t quite catch my attention)

The film is about two brothers, one biologist and one zoologist, who have not spoken to each other in years and have a distant relationship. The zoologist is currently living in an Asturian forest, waiting for the bears to come back to the forest, so he can then stop a building development that is about to destroy his forest. The film has a big “eco-feel”, and there’s much talk about recycling and looking after nature, and things like that.

The film is really funny, and I love the characters and how the relationships develop throughout the film. A 7 out of 10.

Eating on the A33

The A33 is the main road from Basingstoke to Reading. We use that road quite often. To go to Reading, to take the M4 or just for pure pleasure to try the many pubs that populate that road and the surroundings.

So far we’ve tried three.

The Longbridge Mill

This is a really nice restaurant. On Sundays they have the typical Sunday roast and from what I remember it is quite a generous size and tasty. And on normal days they divide the restaurant into two different areas, a proper sit down area with a full restaurant menu (a tad pricey, but good quality) and a more informal order-at-the-bar area with more pub-grub food (cheaper and good too)

The actual restaurant is also very nice, nice old building with a real mill, by the river Loddon and a few open fires inside. Really nice and cosy, especially in winter.

The Wellington Arms

This is a really posh restaurant. We had been in Reading one morning and on our way back to Basingstoke we decided to stop at the first pub that we found. And the Wellington Arms was the first one we came across! The first thing that struck us was the clientele… Have you watched Downton Abbey? Remember the scenes when they go hunting? Well, yes, that’s what everyone was wearing… We felt so out of place! But I must say that the place was really nice, decorated very tastefully. And the food was very good too, but it was extremely pricey. It’s the kind of place that I would be very happy to go to if I was a higher class middle age woman who lunches 🙂

The White Hart in Sherfield

This is the latest one that we’ve tried. It was good, although not as good as the other two. It had more of a “local pub” feeling, and the seating down area of the restaurant was completely empty. We were the only ones in there. Sometimes you wonder why that is… The food was okay and reasonable priced, but it still didn’t feel amazing. I suppose it would be more than good enough as your local pub, the place that you visit regularly and sometimes you decide to grab some grub. But it is not somewhere that I will especially visit to eat there again.

PS: This is my 200th post on my blog! Congratulations to myself! 🙂

Oscar Night

I used to watch the Oscars religiously when I was at Uni. A couple of my friends were movie buffs which made the whole thing more interesting (because they thought they knew what they were talking about and sometimes they couldn’t be more wrong)

Staying up on a Sunday night/Monday morning wasn’t an issue for me. Back then I could pretty much do as I wanted and missing a lesson here or there wasn’t a problem at all (ahhhh… how miss those days of detachment from the MAN…)

So, having only seen two or three of the nominated films to the Oscars this year, my predictions are more like guesses than anything else. And here are the main categories:

Best Picture: The King’s Speech

Actor in a Leading Role: Colin Firth

Actor in a Supporting Role: (I want to say Geoffrey Rush, but I’ll bet you it will be) Christian Bale

Actress in a Leading Role: Natalie Portman

Actress in a Supporting Role: Helena Bonham Carter

Animated Feature Film: Toy Story 3

Original Screenplay: Inception

Adapted Screenplay: Toy Story 3

And I really don’t know anything about the technicalities like Sound mixing, editing, visual effects, etc, so I won’t comment on that. I’ve got a feeling that The King’s Speech will be the big winner and 127 Hours the big loser…

We’ll see how my “predictions” compare to the actual winners tomorrow morning!

Spirit of adventure

Up movie

The story of Carl and Ellie as told in the cartoon film “Up” is probably one of the saddest stories I’ve watched in a long long time. It made me cry from the very beginning. Which I somehow found a bit annoying, because being a Pixar film, I was ready for a lighthearted, comedic film. I wasn’t ready for a heart-breaking, only-to-be-understood-by-adults storyline.

The problem was that the beginning, the scene setting was too adult-like (never in a million years would children understand the whole significance of Carl’s and Ellie’s friendship, relationship, and sad sad ending) but then they introduce all kinds of fantastic (as in “fantasy“, not “great“) elements more  adequate for a kiddie’s film (the talking dogs, the balloons lifting the house, etc). It just didn’t add up.

It is, however, a beautiful film that makes you laugh and cry, with its own moral at the end (follow your dreams and don’t postpone your adventures) and all that. But the underlying story of Carl losing his wife is so overpowering, that it leaves a very bitter taste in your mouth for hours and hours after the film has finished. I wonder if the creators realised this when making it and if that was their purpose…

The fiction class

I’m not a writer. There was a time in my life when I wanted to become one, but I guess I gave up because I wasn’t talented enough. End of story.

The book I’m reading at the moment is called “The Fiction Class” by Susan Breen. It’s about this middle aged woman who is not very successful as a writer and teaches a course (“Fiction Course”) to adults. The story mixes bits about the fiction course, the protagonist’s personal life and some stories that her mum has written. At the end of each chapter there are “Writing Assessments”, and here is where my story begins.

The Writing Assessment I went for is the following:

     “Think of a person from history who intrigues you. Napoleon? Cleopatra? Martin Luther King? Write a two-to-three page description of that person eating a meal. What would s/he eat? How would s/he eat? What would s/he be thinking about as s/he ate? Would someone be sharing the meal with him or her? What would they talk about? Remember: BRING YOUR CHARACTER TO LIFE!”

Well, my first obstacle was finding someone to talk about. I wanted someone original, different, with a strong personality. Someone easy to define. Somehow, Dali came to mind, but then I realised that I don’t know that much about his personality. Yes, I know he was a very successful artist, very eccentric, and egocentric.

I didn’t plan what I was going to write. I didn’t make a sketch of my main characters or wrote a list of adjectives that I would be using. I just grabbed pen and paper and started writing. This is what came out… :/

Salvador got early to the restaurant. His booking was for two o’clock but he arrived at one. Of course his usual table was not ready but that didn’t bother him: Right now he just wanted a drink. Walking through the narrow parisian streets had tired him out. Montmartre was still his favourite part of the city. Even after all those years, the bohemian atmosphere could still be felt around. At the end of the day he was an artist and this was the artists’ corner.

He got served at the bar whilst his table was being prepared.
– “Just a red wine glass please. Actually, leave the bottle”

Elena should arrive any moment and he wanted to make her see that he had been waiting for her. He wouldn’t reproach her, but he would definitely make her feel guilty for it. She should know by now how much he appreciates punctuality.

They had been seeing each other for just a few months now. He didn’t take her seriously. Who takes journalists seriously? She seemed more interested in discussing his art than any other aspect of their relationship, so he felt like this could be their last lunch together.

The waiter finally showed Salvador to his table now ready for him, and offered the menu du jour. He had eaten so many times in this local diner that he already knw what he’d have: mushroom omelette and a green salad. No dressing on the salad, sil vou plait.

He looked over the used and worn out piece of paper that the menu had become just to see Elena coming through the door. It was quarter to two. She was early, but not early enough.

Salvador stood up and kissed her on the lips. It was a cold kiss, a premonition of what was going to happen, a summary of their relationship for the last few months.
– “Have you been waiting long?”
– “Half and hour”
– “I’m terribly sorry, I thought we were to meet at two” – She was genuinely sorry.
– “Nevermind, we’re here now” said he bitterly.

The waiter approached the table to take the orders. He was a young boy, only seventeen, helping the family business. He still know nothing about life. He saw the couple, a very strange couple, looking in different directions.
Salvador was in his 60s. Elena had just turned 35. Salvador could still be considered a bohemian, like one of those parisians at the beginning of the 19th century. Elena however looked like she had escaped from a Sophie Kinsella novel. Spotless makeup, chic hairdo, wearing the latest Jimmy Choo’s.

– “I’ll have the mushroom omelette and a green salad. No dressing on the salad, please”.
– “Oui monseur. Madam?”
– “Mademoiselle, actually. Erm… I’ll have the same. Thanks”.

For an instant, whilst the waiter was wiritting the order down, Salvador felt something. Somehting stirred inside him. He had looked at Elena in the eye and he had wanted to say something. Yes, this was the moment to break the news. However, Elena -who could feel something was going on in his head- interrupted his train of though and started talking first.

– “How’s that new painting coming along?”
– “Erm… Not bad… It’s almost finished” he managed to say. He hated losing his concentration.
– “When can I see it?”
– “I don’t think you can, Elena”
– “Why not?” She was intrigued now.
– “I don’t want you to”
– “Excuse me?”
– “I don;t want you to see my painting. I don’t want you to come to my house again. I don’t want you to come near me. Full stop. If that’s not clear enough, I could make a sketch for you”

She was dumbstruck. She had not seen this one coming. She thought she had won him over with her charms and good looks, although she new deep down inside her that the relationship had never properly worked. She had felt starstruck the first time they met at a common friend’s party. She had not believed her luck. She was talking to the famous Salvador! No, she hadn’t believed her luck in the same way that now she couldn’t believe what was happening.

Salvador was about to stand up and leave when the waiter arrived with their food.

Suddenly he was quite hungry. All that walking in the narrow streets had taken its toll. So he sat down again. He looked deeply into his plate. “This very second I feel closer to these mushrooms than to you” he said. He lifted his gaze from the plate and saw that Elena was laughing.

He didn’t want to engage on a conversation. Not THAT conversation, the one starting with “What are you laughing about”, because he had a bad feeling about it.

– “You know why I’m laughing? No?  Don’t yu want to know? Well, basically, after two days with you my editor asked me to keep a diary about you. <<Only the dirty stuff, you know>> he had said. And I did. I’ve been an insider in your life for months and you didn’t even know!” she laughed. “So now the world is going to learn who you really are. This diary is going to get published and you cherished popularity and fame will die with you, you old fag. Now eat your sad salad without dressing. Goodbye”

Salvador watched her throw her omelette at his plate, stand up and go. He stared into his plate once again and started eating.

Mushroom omelette had never been so delicious.


I still don’t know what’s going on in my head to come up with something like this. Was it so difficult to stick to the actual topic? I’ll probably give some of the other assessments a go as well. Maybe I’ll come up with something more cheerful.