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Archive for February, 2019

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When I was about 10 years old, my Mom took me to the cinema to see the film Annie, and 30-something years later I repaid the favour by taking her to the theatre to see the stage production.

For anyone who isn’t familiar, set during the Great Depression in America, the film tells the story of plucky young Annie, who lives in an orphanage with several other girls, ruled with a rod of iron by the cruel and drunken Miss Hannigan. When billionaire Oliver Warbucks decides to have Annie to stay with him for Christmas, it leads to a search for Annie’s real parents, but Miss Hannigan and her criminal brother Rooster have plans of their own to get rich…

If you have never seen the film – it doesn’t matter, you MUST see this show! If you have seen this film – you MUST see this show! It stays faithful to the storyline, but more importantly it is so filled with joy and laughter that it is an absolute treat from start to finish. The best known of the cast is Anita Dobson, who was genuinely hilarious as Miss Hannigan – let nobody be in any doubt of her outstanding talent – and were it not for the fact that the rest of the cast were also superb, she would steal every scene.

With such familiar songs as ‘Tomorrow’, ‘It’s a Hard Knock Life’ and ‘YOu’re Never Fully Dressed Without a Smile’ and outstanding dancing, I challenge anyone to leave this show without a huge smile on their face.

Kudos to Richard Meek as Rooster, Alex Bourne as Daddy Warbucks and Carolyn Maitland as Grace Farrell, as well as (in this production – the child stars are rotated show to show) Honey-Rose Quinn as Molly and of course Ava Smith as Annie. And I can’t omit the beautiful Labradoodle Amber playing Annie’s cuddliest friend Sandy.

All in all, a total joy from start to finish!

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A film that is set entirely (save for about 30 seconds at the very beginning) set in one man’s car with him as the sole occupant, having various telephone conversations sounds like it should be dull. But this film is mesmerising. Tom Hardy is Ivan Locke, a successful construction manager who on the eve of the one of the most important contracts of his career, receives a phone call that changes everything. As he drives through the night, we witness his life crumbling through his various conversations.

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Year of release: 2013

Director: Steven Knight

Writer: Steven Knight

Main cast: Tom Hardy, Olivia Colman (voice), Ruth Wilson (voice) Andrew Scott (voice), Ben Daniels (voice)

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Genre: Drama

Highlights: Tom Hardy – as the only visible character, he has a lot of responsibility to pull this off successfully, but he absolutely does it

Lowlights: None, seriously

Overall: If action and noise is your thing, then you probably won’t want to watch this. But if you like slow burning drama, with a simmering tension (Locke’s growing frustration is almost palpable) then definitely give this one a go

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Slow Horses is the first in series of spy novels by author Mick Herron, all of which feature a team of misfits – MI5 Agents, who the service would love to get rid of but can’t for various reasons, so instead they send them to Slough House to finish out their time in the service doing menial and unimportant work. The leader of this group, who are disliked by MI5 and each other in equal measure, is Jackson Lamb, a lumbering, sometimes rude, but still sharp agent. At the start of the story, young agent Rivert Cartwright is sent to Slough House after a routine operation goes drastically wrong and River gets the blame.

However, the Slow Horses (Slough House/Slow Horses – get it?!) find themselves unexpectedly involved in a major news story when a young Muslim boy is kidnapped by a group of thuggish vigilantes, who threaten to behead him and stream it on the internet. Whatever orders they might get from above, there is no way the Slow Horses are going to sit back and let this atrocity happen, but things are way more complicated than they seem.

Okay, confession time. I don’t like spy novels. They just aren’t my thing and I’m not entirely sure what possessed me to buy this book – but nonetheless I thought I should give it a try…and I’m so glad that I did! Jackson, River and their various colleagues are all brought vividly to life, and if they aren’t always immediately likeable, they are certainly enjoyable to read about, and I couldn’t help rooting for them more or less from the off.

The plot itself is nice and twisty but stays on the right side of over-complicated – there were plenty of surprises along the way, but they never seemed too far fetched as to make the story seem ridiculous. The central theme – would the young kidnapping victim be saved? – trotted along well, and kept me gripped; I particularly liked that there were chapters told from Hassan’s point of view. There was also a lot of dry humour here too.

Overall, a great story with great characters, well told. I have bought the next available books in the series and look forward to reading them.

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Best friends Julie, Kayla and Sam make a deal to all lose their virginity on their prom night, but don’t count on their parents finding out about it…and the parents make it their mission to block their girls from finally doing the dirty!

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Year of release: 2018

Director: Kay Cannon

Writers: Brian Kehoe, Jim Kehoe

Main cast: Leslie Mann, John Cena, Ike Barinholtz, Kathryn Newton, Geraldine Viswanathan, Gideon Adlon

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Genre: Comedy

Highlights: So many laughs!! Special mentions to John Cena (unexpectedly hilarious) and Ike Barinholtz

Lowlights: Honestly, none

Overall: Crude, sweet and incredibly funny

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blood-bath

This short book (I listened to the audiobook which came in at around an hour and a half) is part of a series of stories featuring Stephen Leather’s creation Jack Nightingale, paranormal detective. I wasn’t aware of that when I bought this one, but certainly didn’t feel that I missed out on anything but not having read/listened to any of the others in the series. Before I talk about this specific story, it’s worth mentioning that the print version of the story also features six other stories of the same name written by other authors. Having read reviews, it appears that the Stephen Leather one was by the far the best of them all, and so I am not particularly bothered by missing out on the others, but some readers may want to have the whole lot.

In this story, Jack and his assistant Jenny take on new clients Mr and Mrs Stokes, who have bought a hotel. However, due to the high number of suicides in the hotel over the preceding years, nobody wants to stay there and the business is losing money. Jack investigates and discovers that the suicides may in fact be murder by a malevolent supernatural force, so it is up to himself and Jenny to find out the truth.

As far as short stories go, this was…okay. Not really a horror, more of a fantasy novel, which admittedly is not necessarily a favourite genre of mine although the occasional fantasy novel will grab me. It was basically just a straight up chronological account of their investigation. I did like Jack and Jenny – both had a good sense of humour and a nice working relationship, and the story itself was serviceable even if it held no major surprises.

There were a few editing mistakes which annoyed me – one character went from being called Timothy to Thomas and back to Timothy again. Also, at the beginning of a conversation with Mr Stokes, the hotel owner says that he has no guests stopping there at that time and a minute later, during the same conversation, Jack asked him if he still had no guests stopping there. Little things like this do tend to niggle me somewhat.

I’m not sure I would be that bothered about listening to any more Jack Nightingale stories, but I also wouldn’t be against the idea of popping one on to pass the time during a long run or car journey.

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Registered dietician Laura Thomas has written this book to help anyone who has ever had issues surrounding food, body image, dieting etc. and to help them adopt intuitive eating (IE). IE is NOT another diet in disguise as a healthy eating plan, and not another way to restrict what we eat – Thomas makes it clear that that is the polar opposite of what she wants to achieve.

This book resonated strongly with me, as someone who has had a mixed up relationship with food and body image for something like 30 years. It actually made me cry at certain times as I recognised the symptoms of disordered eating which she writes about. Crucially though, for the first time, I felt like there is light at the end of the tunnel and that there IS a way to get out of this cycle, and to have a healthy relationship with food.

Written in an engaging, entertaining and accessible way (Thomas is quite sweary and so am I, so this didn’t bother me, but may be worth pointing out to some readers), there are exercises for the reader to complete and each chapter focuses on different aspects of the issues being discussed.

This is an important book, and one which I highly recommend to anyone who has ever felt bad for eating too much, gone on yet another restrictive diet to lose weight, judged foods as good as bad, and or let a number on the scales dictate how good a day they are going to have.

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Uptight lawyer Jason Kelly (Zac Efron) is tricked into taking his recently widowed, lecherous and foul-mouthed grandfather Dick Kelly (Robert De Niro) on a road trip to Florida for spring break. Chaos ensues…!

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Year of release: 2016

Director: Dan Mazer

Writers: John Phillips

Main cast: Robert De Niro, Zac Efron, Aubrey Plaza, Zoey Deutch, Jason Mantzoukas, Dermot Mulroney, Julianne Hough

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Genre: Comedy

Highlights: De Niro (goes without saying), filthy humour

Lowlights: Honestly, I found the very ending a bit ick. But it didn’t detract from the overall hilarity

Overall: If you don’t like sex or drug jokes, you might not go for it. Otherwise, give it a whirl if you need a good belly laugh

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