The show was magical and this theatre is, by far, the best and most accessible I’ve visited.
It’s been a while since I roamed around Birmingham at 11pm – Such a rebel!
Things I’ve been enjoying
It’s a Sin – Set in London during the 80s AIDs epidemic, this 5-part miniseries has a great cast, a brilliant soundtrack (in my opinion), and the final episode is heartbreaking.
This is Going to Hurt – Having read the book by dry-witted former doctor Adam Kay, I was keen to check out this TV adaptation, and I wasn’t disappointed. It is funny, brutal, tragic and eye-opening. I highly recommend this one!
Lord of the Rings – Now 20 years old, I decided to indulge in a solo movie marathon and revisit this epic trilogy.
Samwise has always been my favourite character. And why? His loyalty is unwavering and unconditional. We all need a Samwise in our lives!
Plus, the actor, Sean Astin, starred in The Goonies (1985), and remember, “Goonies never say die”!
~ BIG 80s fan here!!
Duolingo – At the grand old age of 33, I’m attempting to learn French, (super cool), after dropping the subject in year 9, in favour of German. And this time, I’m sticking with it.
Spring is now well on the way, and with that comes warmer, sunnier, happier days ahead.
Though I’m no longer able to drive, which is incredibly limiting and frustrating, I will endeavour to get out and about as much as physically possible.
June – I’m off to Cornwall to spend some time with a good friend, and, of course, to see the sea – a rarity for this landlocked Midlander.
August – I’m excited to return to the Birmingham Hippodrome to see Les Misérables (for the second time).
I love the theatre, having seen many shows over the years. It’s one of my favourite things to do.
Here, I attempt to take her down with my comeback (well, it is a wench war!) Though, I freely admit, I think she’s got this first round in the bag.
Let us know what you think…!
Top 5 Disney Villains
1. Chernabog, Fantasia (1940)
This is without doubt the darkest and most menacing sequence in Disney history. I was only three or four when I first saw Fantasia. I swear, even at that age I thought it was one hell of a trippy film!
The demonic Chernabog (funky name, right?), based on Slavic folklore, is God of the Night. He is the representation of pure evil, with fearsome wings that form the peak of Bald Mountain, which leers ominously over the village below.
As night descends, the delighful Mr Chernabog unleashes hellish realms and summons sinful spirits to watch them dance maniacally. He then throws them into the mountain’s fiery pit before a new day dawns. Well, that’s not nice at all is it!
I’m flipping glad I don’t live in that village!
How is this a kids film, seriously?!
2. Claude Frollo, The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1996)
I was eight when this was released. To this day, it’s one of my Mum’s favourite Disney films. But call me crazy, I think it’s all a bit much for kids of that age, with hard-hitting, mature themes including religion, sin, lust and genocide!
(Sorry folks, there are no happy-clappy, ‘bibbidi bobbidi boo’ moments in The Hunchback of Notre Dame!)
I’ll be honest, it still freaks me out. Not least because of the lack of magical element so typical of animated Disney features. Okay, so there are talking gargoyles, but hey, they needed something to lighten the mood a little!
Frollo, Paris’ Minister of Justice (oh, the irony), is the first Disney villain to attempt infanticide, having almost drowned a newborn, only to be stopped by the archdeacon who accuses the corrupt official of murdering the baby’s innocent gypsy mother. To atone for his sin, Frollo begrudgingly agrees to raise the child as his own. He cruelly names the baby Quasimodo, meaning ‘half-formed’. (Dave would have been a better choice, surely?!)
The manipulative Frollo hides Quasi away in the bell tower, excluding him from society, telling him he will never be accepted by the world due to his unusual physical appearance. What an ass!
Unlike other Disney Villians – often magical and mythical – Frollo the super-creep is so threatening and unnerving because he is such a realistic representation. He is, after all, just a man. A pervy old man (oi, Esmeralda, be mine or you can burn!) fuelled by power, skewed religious motives and a licentious desire for busty babe Esmeralda.
3. Evil Queen, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937)
She’s the original diva bitch, driven by vanity, and all credit to her, she’s got one hell of a pout going on!
I can’t help but be on the side of the Evil Queen who so easily outwits squeaky-voiced, simple Snowy (never trust a girl who shares a house with seven old men. Methinks she’s not quite as pure as snow!).
Yes, she’s gone to all the effort of transforming into a horrifyingly wretched old wench. But y’know, needs must!
If THAT poked it’s head through your front window and tried to tempt you with a juicy red apple, would you willingly take a bite? Or would you tell the interfering, hook-nosed, eye-bulging wrinkly to buggar off?!
I rest my case. Snowy, it’s your own bloody fault, love!
4. Professor Ratigan, Basil the Great Mouse Detective (1986)
Arch-nemesis to the famous mouse detective Basil of Baker Street, crimimal mastermind Ratigan is a comically ruthless brute. For one thing, he is voiced by horror legend Vincent Price (Michael Jackson’s Thriller, anyone?!).
A status-obsessed professional crime lord, his ultimate ambition is to overthrow the mousey monarch and proclaim himself “supreme ruler of all MOUSEDOM”. Aim high, I say!
Unflinchingly wicked, conniving and with no morals, it is revealed in his singy-songy dance number that he previously drowned widows and orphans. What a pleasant chappy!
Ratigan declares himself to be a “superior mind”, yet is angered when called a rat by intoxicated minion Bartholemew, despite the fact he is indeed a rat. The clue’s in the name, dude!
His extravagantly ostentatious appearance conceals an intimidatingly feral visciousness. Though generally maliciously cheerful, calm and composed, his manacingly savage violence is unleashed in a shocking final showdown with heroic Basil.
5. Mad Madam Mim, The Sword in the Stone (1963)
“I find delight in the gruesome and grim ‘Cause I’m the magnificent, marvelous Mad Madam Mim” ~ A bit morbid there, love!
The eccentric, shape-shifting Mim is a proper tricksy wench witch, and rival to the legendary wizard Merlin. We’re introduced to the purple-haired hag when young Arthur, in the form of a bird, mistakenly flies into her not-so-classy abode. Having declared his alliance to the all-powerful Merlin, Mad Madam Mim attempts to “destroy” the boy. Seems fairly reasonable to me!
For all her arrogance and mischievousness, I can’t help but root for the haggered old biddy. I mean, for one thing, she has purple hair! (I remember, as a young kid, being fascinated with an elderly neighbour who had a purple rinse. Super cool!)
The villainous Mim is LOUD, bat-shit crazy and pessimistic yet playful. A ditzy and deceitful game-player, she repeatedly cackles, “I win, I win” – as do I when defeating Mr twodoughnuts at ‘Blog Wars‘.
A while back, I was invited to write a guest post, by a strange young chappy named Mitch (twodoughnuts). The fool even gave me full access to his blog, including his password!
I was told I could write anything, as long as I didn’t “take the piss”.
Would I?! (Well, yes I seriously considered it for a moment).
Therein started what has been dubbed, by Mitch, ‘Blog Wars’.
I’m a bit of a music freak, and so I chose to share my ‘Top 5 Tunes’. Admittedly, some were thrown in there just to annoy Mr Twodoughnuts.
Let Battle Commence!
Mitch then tried (and failed) to win round #1 with his ‘Top 5 Tunes’ – poor attempt, man!
Now, the war continues as we present our ‘Top 5 Actors’. You can check out Mitch’s picks here.
Though it grieves me to say it, he’s set a pretty high standard on this one. It appears the boy has some taste after all.
1. Tom Hanks
‘Forrest Gump‘! Need I say more? I’ve seen it countless times but it still gets me. With universal appeal and timeless endurance, it’ll make you laugh, cry and wish you had a mate like good ol’ Forrest. Unless you’re Ross (A Life on Wheels) – Another strange boy who is not a fan of this frequently quoted classic. Sort it out, Ross!
“Mama always said, life is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re gonna get.” ~ Aint that the truth!
Double Oscar winner Hanks has a lifetime of much-loved films under his belt including, ‘The Green Mile‘ (if you haven’t seen it, check it out), ‘Philadelphia‘, ‘Cast Away‘, ‘Saving Private Ryan‘ (surely the best war film ever made?!), ‘Apollo 13‘, ‘A League of Their Own‘, ‘Toy Story‘, and ‘Big‘ (remember that famous piano scene?)
How can you not love the guy?!
2. Robin Williams
The LEGEND! A comedy genius, Robin Williams proved his worth as a serious actor as well as the go-to funny guy, with an insanely quick wit and animated energy to boot. This versatile entertainer lit up my childhood in cherished films such as ‘Aladdin‘, ‘Jumanji‘, ‘Hook‘ and ‘Mrs Doubtfire‘ – a role no one else could or should ever play. Pray they never try to remake it!
A true scene stealer, Williams had the rare ability to improvise like no other and appeal to any audience of any age.
His dramatic performances in ‘Dead Poets Society’, ‘Patch Adams’, ‘Good Morning, Vietnam’ and ‘Good Will Hunting’ (for which he deservedly won an Oscar – bloody great film!), mark him as an undeniable talent.
3. Matthew McConaughey
Okay, so the dude made some questionable choices throughout the early 2000s, and was somewhat typecast in crappy romantic comedies. But he’s certainly made up for it since, preferring more complex and intense roles such as protagonist ‘Killer Joe’ and troubled homicide detective Rust Cohle in the debut series of ‘True Detective’. If you’re into dark and disturbing, give these two a watch.
He then went on to play a supporting role in Scorsese’s ‘The Wolf of Wall Street’, in which he arguably stole the show from the lovely Leo with that whacky chest thumping scene.
In 2013, the charismatic Texan babe dropped 47lb (21kg) to star as defiant Aids patient Ron Woodroof in the biopic ‘Dallas Buyers Club’. For his brilliantly impressive portrayal, McConaughey won every award going as well as audience and critical acclaim.
4. Joaquin Phoenix
Have you seen ‘Walk the Line’? If not, why not? Even if you know nothing about Country music legend Johnny Cash (shame, shame!) it’s essential viewing if only for Joaquin’s dedicated, hard-knock cool performance.
Some might say method actor Phoenix is an acquired taste, having made some unconventional career choices. But you could never accuse the guy of being boring. He delves deep to create memorable, multi-layered, engaging and often quirky characters.
As Roman emperor Commodus in the epic ‘Gladiator’, Joaquin isn’t just the bad guy to Aussie Crowe’s hero. He’s vulnerable, damaged, desperate and played with sinister subtlety. Few actors his age could have pulled this off so convincingly.
Dark, brooding, intense and yes, a bit weird. I approve!!
5. Morgan Freeman
So, Barack Obama was the first black President of the USA, right? NOPE! It was Morgan Freeman who helped save the planet from being struck by a comet in ‘Deep Impact‘. Now that’s impressive!
He’s the super cool, laid-back veteran icon with a mellifluous and universally recognisable voice. The kind of dude you wouldn’t mess with, even in his latter years, and especially if you’ve seen his award-winning turn in ‘Million Dollar Baby‘, in which he whoops some ass.
For me though, Freeman will always be synonymous with ‘The Shawshank Redemption‘. Tim Robbins took the lead, but that film belongs to Morgan. It’s an effortless and understated performance. If you haven’t seen this film, where have you been? Do you live in a cave?!
So, that’s my Top 5 ~ Who would be on your list?
Most importantly, who do you think wins this round – Me or Mitch??
I’ve always been a bit of a movie buff. Though I enjoy a good book every now and then, I’m not a big reader.
Every year, I try to encourage myself to read more. But sometimes, after a long day, it’s so much easier to watch the film adaptation.
When I caught the trailer for the recently released film, The Girl on the Train, I decided to read the best-seller before allowing myself to see the much anticipated film.
Warning: This review contains spoilers!
Hawkins’ psychological thriller is narrated by three women: the eponymous Girl, 32 year-old Rachel Watson; Megan and Anna.
Rachel is a reckless alcoholic who divorced Tom following his affair with the beautiful Anna, whom he later married and fathered a daughter with. The Watsons now live in the house he once shared with Rachel, while she is forced to rent a room in the home of her friend Cathy.
Every day, Rachel takes the train from Ashbury to London, claiming she’s commuting for work when, unbeknownst to Cathy, she lost her job due to her excessive drinking.
Her days, like her commute, represent the typical monotony of life as an alcoholic. A dependence on gin and tonic in particular leads to blackouts, aggression, injury and memory loss.
Rachel’s daily journey passes Blenheim road in Witney where she lived with Tom, offering her a passengers’ insight into his new life. Seemingly obsessed with her former husband, she continually harasses him and Anna to the extreme; calling and even visiting their residence unannounced.
A few houses down from the Watsons, live Megan and Scott Hipwell, an attractive young couple on whom Rachel becomes fixated. She watches them from the train and invents for herself an idealised version of their life, investing in them, in their love for each other and in their perfect marriage.
So, when Rachel sees Megan kissing a man other than her husband, her illusion is shattered. Angry and disappointed, she spends the night binging, then wakes in a bloody and bruised state with no memory of the night before.
It soon transpires that Megan Hipwell is missing, and having seen Rachel drunkenly stumbling around the area on the night in question, Anna reports her to the police. Rachel denies any knowledge of Megan yet feels instinctively that she is somehow involved, and so she conducts a self-led investigation.
She later decides to report having witnessed Megan with the unidentified man, suggesting they were having an affair and that he must therefore be involved in her disappearance. She meddles further, contacting and lying to Scott about having known Megan, and learning that the man in question is Kamal Abdic, Megan’s therapist.
Disturbed by her blackout and intent on piecing together the series of events surrounding what evolves to be a murder; Rachel finds a much needed purpose.
It emerges that Megan was pregnant at the time of her death, though neither Scott nor Kamal are the father.
Anna, despondent at the persistence of Rachel’s presence and harassment, begins to question Tom’s reluctance to report his ex-wife to the police. She uncovers a spare mobile phone belonging to Megan and realises that her husband, like Kamal, had also been having an affair with her.
Increasingly able to certify her own memories, Rachel not only unveils facts about the night of Megan’s disappearance, but also about her former life with Tom. A skilled manipulator, he had blindsided Rachel for years, causing her to believe his accusations and blame herself.
When unable to conceive, he betrayed her by sleeping with Anna, and then proceeded to cheat on Anna with Megan who became pregnant with his child.
Rachel seeks to warn Anna at the family home, but Tom returns and a violent confrontation ensues, the result of which sees both Rachel and Anna participate in Tom’s death.
We learn that what Rachel had seen that night in her drunken stupor was Megan getting into Tom’s car. Thinking initially that it was Anna and not Megan, due to their uncanny resemblance, Rachel called after her and incurred her injuries when Tom approached and attacked her. Following this, the car drove away to obscure woodland where Megan informed Tom of her pregnancy. Unable to pressure her into pursuing an abortion, Tom murdered and hurriedly buried her in a shallow grave.
A first-person narrative told from the point of view of three interwoven women, I personally found the novel a fairly easy read.
Each chapter is voiced by Rachel, Anna or Megan, and as such, the perspective changes considerably, along with the dates; posing the only minor challenge for the reader.
At times, the pace was a little slow and drawn out, mainly throughout Rachel’s chapters, though this serves to represent the drudgery of her purposeless existence. She’s a divorced, unemployed, alcoholic and like her pointless daily commute into London, her life is headed nowhere.
However, the pace and tension picked up substantially in the final third of the book. A dark and dramatic conclusion rooted in the realms of reality will maintain your attention and keep you enthralled to the last.
A heavily character driven plot, every individual we meet is flawed and hard to really care about. I sympathized with Rachel’s downfall; her life having disintegrated following a failed IVF attempt and her husband’s affair.
After Tom marries the much more beautiful Anna, with whom he has a daughter, Rachel completely lets herself go. Reason enough to reach for the bottle, or in this case a can of gin and tonic!
But as her obsession with Megan’s case unfolds, her increasingly extreme actions stem from pure desperation and loneliness.
Her erratic behaviour and confused recollections cause both she and the reader to suspect that she could be the killer. Nonetheless, I have to admit that by just over half way through, I correctly judged that Tom was the guilty party. It seemed to me that any of the other characters would have been too obvious.
Inevitable comparisons have been made with its recent predecessor, American author Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl.
Though understandable, The Girl on the Train, or more accurately, the woman on the train, is a much less sensationalised psychological thriller.
Furthermore, it is a thoroughly British psychological thriller touching on themes such as voyeurism, addiction, the psyche and even Feminism.
Directed by American, Tate Taylor, the film, starring British actress Emily Blunt, is set in New York as opposed to London.
Blunt, as Rachel, travels the Hudson line to Manhattan, and leafy Westchester takes the place of the Victorian town of Witney.
We see our anti-heroine drinking in Grand Centrals iconic Oyster Bar rather than raiding an off license for pre-mixed cans of gin and tonic, as in the novel. Even Central Park is featured, specifically the Untermeyer Fountain and its sculpture of three dancing maidens; a physical representation of the three female voices.
Consequently, the stop-start nature of London’s rail works and the sense of hustle and bustle is lost in the film’s glossy New York scenery.
Whereas I had envisaged a grittier, greyer world more reminiscent of ITV’s Broadchurch; Tate Taylor’s reimagining presents a moodier, more sexualised James Patterson vibe.
The characters in the film are underdeveloped and their traits and actions are never fully explored. There’s far too much ‘Hollywood’ posing and, as a result, they lack dimension, humanity and are less sympathetic than Hawkins’ inventions.
I think, had I not read the book first, I would have struggled to follow the events as depicted on the screen, since so much detail has been casually brushed over.
For example, Megan’s dead brother Ben, whom she loved dearly and made future plans with, is briefly mentioned only once.
As much as I love Emily Blunt, she is a far cry from Hawkins’ creation. She certainly doesn’t have the physicality to portray an overweight, bloated, lacklustre binge drinker. As Hawkins herself says, she is far too beautiful.
Blunt retains her English accent, presumably to hark back to the story’s original setting. Then again, perhaps it was just easier than adopting the Manhattan drawl?
That aside, Blunt gives her all and offers a convincing portrayal of a woman on the edge. Hers is by far the standout performance. For the most part, all characters are well cast, though some such as Edgar Ramirez who plays Kamal Abdic are somewhat underused.
Overall, I’d recommend saving your money on a cinema ticket. While it’s worth a watch, I feel this was a missed opportunity.
Had the filmmakers followed Hawkins lead more closely in terms of tone, setting and character focus, it could have received the same applause as David Fincher’s Gone Girl.
By all means indulge in the novel, you won’t be disappointed! If, like Rachel, you are a daily commuter, maybe even consider reading it on the train for added effect.