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pantomime

Review of two films in UK cinemas now – what do you think?

I love the cinema – really, really love it. But I don’t always get time to see all the films I’d like so recently I had a cinema day – yes I went twice in a day. It’s a quite surreal thing to do, especially at this time of year. It can feel like you’ve had a day in darkness….with the added benefit of popcorn!

The first film was Twilight – Breaking Dawn Part Two. This was a necessity as I’d read the books, watched all the other films (more than once) and had two daughters nagging endlessly.  I have to say on a scale of one to ten – I’d give it a seven. Plus points were that it rounded off the saga really well, in many ways better than the books where everything seems to end so weakly. Also Bella actually took on a bit of colour and energy – as there were many times in the previous films when I wanted to almost punch her for being so insipid. And of course there was plenty of Edward and Jacob, which always helps. Though frankly Carlo and Jaspar weren’t too shabby either, though almost inconsequential.  I was mulling over my favourite character in all the films and decided that Alice probably came out near the top.

After lunch it was Skyfall. Friends had raved about the film to me so I was really, really excited to see it. There was much talk of a big secret. Also it included Daniel Craig and Dame Judi Dench, so who couldn’t be bowled over by them? But I’m afraid this film didn’t match my expectations. It just didn’t have the action sequences that I have come to expect from recent Bond films. and it seemed to have a bit of a copycat theme – I got a strong feel of the Bourne series here, but just not handled as well. Like the recent follow-up of the Bourne trilogy – tried hard but just lacked that raw drama.

The storyline was reasonable, bit too personal for me, and it featured Scotland which helped. But overall I felt a bit let down. So much emphasis on everyone being too old – and a baddie who was personal but less ‘big picture’ and having a very, bad hair day.

Overall a film which lacked the creativity factor of other films, Casino Royale was much, much better in my view. I probably will buy the DVD just to see if I’ve been a bit too harsh but both me and my better half felt the same. Seven out of ten is a generous score I think.

But I’ve still got the film of the year to go – The Hobbit. One of my favourite childhood books, alongside Lord of the Rings. I’m expecting a nine or ten to take me into Christmas and to prepare me for the annual local pantomime. We’ll see…….

Cheetah sitting on anthill in Mara Kenya

Waiting for the next big film to come out – The Hobbit…

 

Review my review of Swindon’s pantomime Cinderella with Keith Chegwin.

Each year in Swindon we go to the pantomime as a family – often on Christmas Eve – and it’s become part of our Christmas experience.

This year it was Cinderella with Keith Chegwin as Buttons. It was extra special for me as I’d had the privilege of interviewing Keith months before for Wiltshire Life magazine and found out more about him than I’d known previously. He’s an astute businessman, family man, entertainer, presenter – a man of many facets.

For people of a certain age Keith means Swap Shop as Noel Edmunds‘ sidekick, an associate of Mr Blobby and other childish fads for today’s grown-up children. But, of course, he’s much more than that. He’s a committed musician with his own studio, who often works under a pseudonym.

Great entertainment to invoke the Christmas spirit.....

I think my favourite comment from him was that pantomime is not hard work and when he hears actors’ complaints about it, he reminds them that others work much harder for far less money. Keith has a perspective of life that’s real, he appreciates good fortune and understands that many don’t have it – at least not in terms of money.

So I came to the pantomime, excited to see it. And it was very, very entertaining. My measure for this is to look at my four-year-old and my ten-year-old to see how much they are joining in. They were mesmerised, shouting, waving those light stick thingies, and jumping up and down when required. When the Fairy Godmother (played by Alex Young) wanted us to do something rather too complex every time she came on stage, only a few got it every time and my daughter was one!

Buttons (Keith Chegwin of course) talked to the children all of the time and they loved him. Parents were peripheral (though he did tell me my pathetic attempt at a star jump was well, pathetic) and the little people lapped it up. I did feel a bit sorry for him, as he’d clearly lost his voice and was struggling to sing. But this is pantomime,  where much can be forgiven. And he kept up a patter of jokes (much like he does on Twitter) so there was a stream of laughter all of the time.

The singing all round was exceptionally good this year – there was no sense of people who couldn’t deliver. Especially Cinderella and Prince Charming – played by Sasi Strallen & Adam King. Perhaps the slightly weaker singer was Jenny-Ann Topham who played the Wicked Step-mother but her acting more than made up for that. She was a fantastic baddie.

For me, the stars of the show were the Ugly Sisters Wendy & Gail – played wonderfully by David Ashley & Neal Wright. One about seven feet tall, one much, much smaller but both big in personality. When they first came on stage, for us adults, they commanded the audience, you just knew that every time they appeared it was going to be a scream. They were fantastic, funny and saucy – all that’s required of the pantomime dame. And their audience victim? The man they pick on throughout the show? My lovely husband Steve – who apparently was off to Old Town for a night out with them! He’d go too, if they were paying!…..

Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Asda or M&S? Which one gets your vote at Christmas?

The fridge is full for Christmas - at last

Today we did a mega-shopping day visiting four supermarkets in a single day to get all the things on my ridiculous Christmas shopping list.

I think that puts me in a good position to assess the supermarkets’ readiness for December 23 – probably the busiest shopping day of the year – in Swindon at least.

First stop, by 9.30am was a town centre Marks & Spencer. Already very, very busy and (is it me?) full of people who think it’s okay to push you out of the way, tut in your ear and be generally grumpy. Nevertheless, the choice was reasonable, there was plenty of stock and we were able to buy the basketful of items we like the M&S way (pudding type things mainly, plus their version of Walnut Whips!).

Then on to Tesco – probably  my most hated supermarket in Swindon – as it seems to attract the most aggressive, anti-social shopper on earth. We just wanted a single item here – a prawn cocktail pot with a chilli flavour that they did about three years ago and which we have searched for ever since with no luck. Still, they did have a toilet so that made up for a lot! But no prawn cocktail, so a quick exit was in order.

Third Sainsbury’s – the venue for the main shop as we’d saved more than £100 in vouchers for the Christmas shop. However, I’ll think twice next year. We arrived here at about 11am, maybe a bit earlier, and the shelves were so empty it was almost unbelievable. I had the last few loose parsnips and carrots. We had to divide our efforts in the fruit & veg sections or we wouldn’t have been able to purchase anything. There were no sprouts (apart from those on a big stalk), no loose red onions, no Maris Pipers (my favourite for roasters). It was staggeringly busy with people in trolley jams all around but I couldn’t work out if it was phenomenal sales or really, really poor planning on the shop’s part. Around every corner as well as a zillion trolley-pushers, there were at least two large carts with frantic staff trying to fill up shelves.  I couldn’t get any dips like potato salad, humus or Waldorf salad – the kind of stuff I love on Boxing Day. And the only fresh herbs available were parsley, probably the only one I didn’t want!

Hence a quick trip to Asda – where there was so much food it was spilling out of the front door. No worries about sprouts here. In fact, I’d be worried about what’s going to be left as it was 5.30pm when we got there and there was stacks and stacks of food. I also picked up my herbs and nutmeg and was able to tick off the final things on my daft list.

I do now feel like I can relax – the food is in, the turkey is fresh and free range (ought to be gold-plated for what it cost) and the gammon looks like it could feed an army – but four kids should make light work of it!

Tomorrow it’s a pantomime of another kind – shorter, more entertaining and a lot cheaper – bring it on Keith Chegwin!

 

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