Monday, 26 December 2011

Sherlock Holmes

Sherlock Holmes: a Game of Shadows

A series of bombings is shaking Europe and Sherlock Holmes believes the mastermind behind them is Professor Moriarty, intent on creating instability and starting a war - purely for his own profit. Despite his intentions to leave crime-fighting and settle down to quiet married life, Watson finds himself dragged rather forcibly into the quest to expose Moriarty.

I haven't seen the first Guy Ritchie-directed version of Sherlock Holmes, so I wasn't sure what to expect - and now I'm still not sure what to make of it. Certainly it's an adaptation like no other, but I'm not sure that's a good thing. Holmes, as portrayed by Robert Downey JR is no longer a quiet thinking man but one of action, parading around in a variety of bizarrely comic disguises and beating up all his enemies. Jude Law, meanwhile, who normally has such amazing screen presence was incredibly self-effacing as Dr Watson.

I wasn't at all impressed with the constant use of "bullet time" in action sequences. In The Matrix it seems appropriate and integral to the plot, in The House of Flying Daggers it beautifully captures arrows flying, turning a fight sequence into a ballet - but here it just seemed to be used for the sake of using it. There was definitely too much rapid panning and swirling with the camera - as we had seats quite close to the front, I was left feeling dizzy from it all.

I think BBC's Sherlock wins. If it's not going to be a close adaptation of Conan Doyle it may as well have a contemporary setting and re-worked plots.

Acid test - would I buy the DVD? - No

- watch it on TV? Maybe, if nothing better was on. It was entertaining but just not Sherlock Holmes.

Sunday, 11 December 2011

Tudor Christmas at Haddon Hall

We paid another visit to Haddon Hall this weekend - this time for a Tudor themed Christmas. The house was decorated with evergreens and clove-studded oranges and the Tudor Group were there with dancing, singing and food.

Banners in the Great Hall

The Chapel

Food preparation in the Tudor Kitchens
Real mince for the mince pies!

Tudor feast on display in the Dining Room

A proper roast!


a jam tart looking like a stained-glass window....

...and a wonderful centre-piece, modelled from marchpane (a coarse marzipan) and decorated with edible gold leaf.

Cosying up by the fire in the Long Gallery

Entertainment from the Tudor Group in appropriate costume - dancing and singing from the period including a rousing ballad about fighting - and beating- the Spaniards!

Just as we left, the sun came out and lit the castle walls briefly in the midst of an otherwise dull day.

Saturday, 19 November 2011

Norfolk in Autumn in pictures

It's taken a long while for me to discover the delights of Norfolk but now find its huge skies mesmerising.

Old favourites of wide open beaches and mud flats

from Brancaster Beach

to Wells next the Sea

and new places further east -


Felbrigg Hall

Blickling Hall

(though we didn't sight the ghost of Anne Boleyn)

Saturday, 5 November 2011

Machine Gun Preacher

Machine Gun Preacher is the true-ish story of Sam Childers who, after a life of drugs and violence, having found Jesus, travels to Africa and is appalled at the situation in war-torn Sudan. To help the children caught up in the conflict, particularly the boy soldiers, he sets up an orphanage with the hope of providing somewhere safe and secure for them.

The film starts with Childers' release from prison, his slipping back into his old drug taking and selling ways, despite his wife's efforts to dissuade him. Unfortunately Gerard Butler didn't really seem to pull off the character of drug dependent criminal. Mainly I think because he looked too good - too healthy, too tanned, basically too all round nice guy.

The story moves on to Uganda and Sudan with many harrowing scenes of violence but, even so, somehow they failed to touch me. A film that certainly highlights the plight of children in such war-torn zones. The stories of boys kidnapped by soldiers, coerced into fighting for them, sometimes forced into killing their own families, is heart-rending but the overall feel was of a publicity stunt, maybe an awareness raiser, rather than a movie.
Sadly, as entertainment, not even Gerard Butler could save it!

Would I recommend it? Only as a informative documentary-type film.

Wednesday, 26 October 2011

Book versus film - Eragon

I love Sword and Sorcery films - and books for that matter - and could watch Red Sonia or Legend forever. I'd read Eragon a while ago and enjoyed it, but hadn't been able to persuade anyone to go and see the film with me, so last weekend I settled down to watch it on TV in the hope of a good evening's entertainment.

Unfortunately, it was neither good nor entertaining.

I think in attempting to condense a longish book into a shortish film, too much of the plot had been sacrificed and the viewer left with a formulaic farm-boy turned hero epic with a lot of Star Wars overtones - Eragon/Ed Speleer's at times looked very like Mark Hamil and an older British actor (Jeremy Irons) was on hand, of course, to help him with his new found powers.
Somehow, Saphira the dragon was not as I'd expected her to be. I don't really visualise people, or mythical creatures, when reading a book but this dragon looked more like a flying Loch Ness Monster than anything.
The 'bad guys' seemed rather dumbed down and reduced in terror and general creepiness - mere mindless thugs, rather like orcs but surprisingly armed with weapons that looked like the Klingon bat'leth.

Overall, with its simplified plot, I think it could have made an acceptable film for a younger audience if there hadn't been so much, quite graphic, violence. Definitely a hands down win for the book.

Monday, 10 October 2011

Chatsworth Sculpture Revisited.

Having had to abandon our visit to Sotheby's Sculpture Exhibition a couple of weeks ago, due to a sudden downpouring of rain, we decided to re-visit this weekend.

Guess what?

It rained!

Glad we went though as this lion, which we missed first visit, is my favourite of them all.
Lion 2 by Ji Yong- Ho

He's made, in part, of used tyres, which give him the punk hairstyle, and wrap round his legs like muscles.

Isn't he wonderful?

Friday, 30 September 2011

Autumn dog-walk in the wood

It was an absolutely scorching day yesterday,  but the Wood was lovely, dark and above all - cool!

Saturday, 24 September 2011

Sculpture at Chatsworth

Sotheby's Sculpture Exhibition is back at Chatsworth
and, despite threatening rain, we went for a look last weekend.

Damien Hurst is represented again - with two sculptures, Myth and Legend. Very beautiful from one side with wonderful detailing on Legend's wings - but see them from the other side and muscles and tendons are revealed. While not as disturbing as some of Hurst's work, they're still not my kind of art.

This is better

Visitor 2
by David Breuer-Weil

a pair
of ENORMOUS feet sticking out of the ground

maybe something that escaped from
The Little Shop of Horrors?
Flowers that Bloom Tomorrow
by Yayoi Kusama

or something a little more traditional -
by Eric Goulder

but these were my favourites

Taichi Arch

Taichi Single Figure
by Ju Ming

We didn't get to see everything as the rain DID arrive
but with luck we'll have chance to go back before the exhibition closes next month.

Sunday, 18 September 2011

Bute - and its castles

I haven't been to Bute for many many years. I think I last went as a teen with my parents and their touring caravan, so perhaps I didn't include enough 'many's in that statement. We normally holiday further North in the wilder, more rugged areas of Scotland but I'd had a visit to Mount Stuart on my 'things to do' list for a while and when the Teen brought up the idea of a road trip, it seemed like the ideal opportunity to spend a night or two on Bute, and add some ferry trips into our journey.

As it turned out there were so many other places we wanted to visit on our round-Scotland trip that we settled for a single night actually on Bute.
Having spent the night at St Catherines on Loch Fyne we headed off for the Colintraive ferry - a really short crossing that finished almost before we realised it had started - but ferries always seem to add an extra bit of adventure to any trip!

Our first stop was Mount Stuart at almost the opposite end of the island. I've visited some of the other properties renovated and redesigned by the same Marquis of Bute but even so I wasn't quite prepared for the lavish over-the-top gothic interior.

 Every surface was intricately decorated in the gaudiest colours imaginable - yet somehow it all pulled together to make a fabulous fairy-tale interior. Perhaps understandably no photography was allowed inside - so either you'll need to visit the official page or, better still, Mount Stuart itself.

Afterwards we headed into Rothesay to visit the more restrained castle there.

 Really this is just a consolidated ruin but the whole exterior wall is there - complete with moat - and some of the towers can be climbed and rooms entered.

A better castle for full-of-energy children who can play fighting knight or imprisoned princesses as much as they like.

Next morning was time to go but with another ferry trip to look forward to - a longer trip this time and on a larger boat.

 There was one last treat in store for us though - a totally unexpected sighting of dolphins playing around the ferry as we made our journey back to the mainland.