Film: TENET

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Here we are then, my first visit to the cinema since before lockdown. And what better movie to blow the cobwebs away than Christopher Nolan’s latest epic – TENET? Nolan is famous for his dislike of green-screen and CGI, so we were looking forward not only to the story, but the ‘set pieces’ too. Apparently, it’s more like Nolan’s Inception than his recent Dunkirk.

Jo, Janet and I set off for Cineworld at Rushden Lakes for the socially-distanced 7pm performance – the IMAX version of course! ๐Ÿ‘ (What? You’ve never seen a film on an IMAX screen? – more details HERE).

Official Trailer from 8 months ago

All the hype about this movie suggested a brain-scrambling plot involving time-travel, and that’s all we knew. The cinema-screen was about a third full and everyone seemed to be observing the wearing of masks (until the lights went down because obviously, COVID can’t travel when it can’t see! ๐Ÿ™„). After sitting through what seemed like a million cycles of Cineworld’s ‘unlimited’ advert, the main event finally began – that massive IMAX screen looked fantastic but the centre (voice) channel was a bit muffled.

Latest Trailer from a few days ago

How Was It?

In true Director style, Christopher Nolan’s cinematography was epic featuring scenes that made the most of the big-screen. If our hero (‘The Protaganist’) doesn’t win an Oscar for his performance then he’ll surely win the ‘Most Perfectly Manicured Beard’ award! ๐Ÿ˜.

Nolan has a habit of always casting Michael Caine in his movies, but in this outing, his part was small – albeit significant. Kenneth Branagh was the baddest (and nastiest) bad-guy I’ve seen in a while.

Why crash a jumbo-jet using the latest post-production SFX when you can use the real thing – and with car-chases a staple of many films of this genre, to stand out from the crowd, Nolan does the same – but films much of it backwards??! ๐Ÿ˜ฎ Standout moments for me were the ambushing of the security vehicle involving a perfectly choreographed 10-minutes of multi-vehicle manoeuvering – remember, no CGI here, just good ol’ fashioned planning and precision, perfectly executed.

TENET was one of those movies that demanded that you pay attention. A quick visit to the loo could spell a disaster in that every minute was relevent to the story.

With the actress and the bishop on standby, apart from Michael Caine’s ‘small part’, it was a really long one (ooo err!), coming in at a whopping 2 hours and 30 minutes!

Overall then? Well, I guess this film might be looked back on in years-to-come as either a masterpiece or a complete dud. For us three, and me in particular, it felt like the latter – a totally incomprehensive mess, clever in concept, but completely confusing with a plot that demanded a very large brain and 199% attention! The poor sound quality of the narrative channel didn’t help things either.

Rating: 1 out of 5.

or

Rating: 4 out of 5.

If you’re looking for a Saturday-night-style blockbuster, this IS it, but if you want a coherent plot with a beginning, middle and end – this ISN’T!

In short, BIG and BAFFLING and totally BANANAS! ๐Ÿค”๐Ÿค”๐Ÿค”

Weekend with Ralph and Karen

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Friday


11.35am: Ralph and Karen arrived after a trouble-free journey from theirs. With hardly a moment to catch their breath, we whisked them off to The Old Forge for a pre-arranged lunch at 12.20. ๐Ÿ˜. We hadn’t been here for a while (July 2012 according to my Blog, but I definitely think we’d been more recently), but even with the restrictions of social-distancing, it was a great experience, however you choose to measure it – as good as we remember it! A great experience, and good to support a local business! ๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿ‘

2.15pm: We spent the rest of the afternoon in the garden soaking up the Sun. Boy! was it hot!! Apparently, the hottest day of the year so far and the third hottest on record according to the news. Here in Kettering, it was into the mid-30s… and extremely humid! ๐Ÿฅต๐Ÿฅต๐Ÿฅต๐Ÿฅต

Rating: 4 out of 5.

7.45pm: We eventually retreated to the coolness of the lounge and (literally) chilled-out for a few hours. Ann prepared a simple supper of cold meats (followed by a not-so-simple Baked Alaska) and we watched Triple Frontier on Netflix. Starring Ben Affleck, Oscar Isaac, Charlie Hunnam, Garrett Hedlund, and Pedro Pascal as a group of former U.S. Army Delta Force soldiers who reunite to plan a heist of a South American crime lord, for me, it got better and better, with some great actio sequences and high production values.

10.15pm: With the movie over, we caught up with the news headlines – NOT good news as we learned that planned relaxation of some of the lockdown rules were now postponed due to an increase in confirmed cases.

10.40pm: Nighty-night! ๐Ÿ˜ด๐Ÿ˜ด๐Ÿ˜ด๐Ÿ˜ด

Saturday

9.25am: A simple breakfast of fruit, yoghurt followed by toast!

10.35am: I took Ralph and Karen out for an extended walk taking in the top meadow, St Botolph’s Church, the bottom meadow…

ยฉ Ralph

…and then Wicksteed Park…

Lamb Prepped!

…leaving Ann and Karen to weave some magic in the kitchen ready for tonight’s meal!

Boys’ Stuff!

1.30pm: Ralph and I caught up with the British GP Practice and Qualifying laps from Silverstone that we recorded earlier.

2.25pm: A snack for lunch – Toasted Cheese! ๐Ÿ˜ followed by not-very-much for us boys, but the girls were busy in the Galley!

5.30pm: Nick and Celina joined us. We haven’t seen them for well over a year and we all had lots of news to share. Ann and Karen had done a great job in the kitchen turning out a menu that was ambitious as it was delicious (unsurprisingly!) ๐Ÿ˜๐Ÿ˜

Lovely Lamb!

7.15pm: All the food was ready… WE were ready… and so we tucked-in. The only BIG decision was whether to eat inside or out – and so we took a vote and the (almost) unanimous decision was ‘OUT’, but carefully socially-distanced, of course. It was a bit blowy to start with, but it soon settled down. Not surprisingly, the Lamb took centre stage! ๐Ÿ˜

…closely followed by those very Summery desserts! We all did the menu justice and there wasn’t much leftover by the end, save a slightly thinner look lamb! – I feel some meaty leftovers coming on for next week!

11.20pm: Well, the evening flew by! We sank a few litres of the grape and caught up with everyone’s news. Before we knew it, it was past 11 and getting colder, so we headed for the Lounge.

After (ahem!) testing and tasting some more grapes, we found ourselves watching highlights of the cricket! As the wickets tumbled, we were all too well-mannered (or tired, or drunk, or something) to call it a night ๐Ÿ˜‚

00.07am: …and then Saturday became SUNDAY! Collectively and individually, we were all shattered – socialising is such an exhausting activity but eventually, just like the Irish cricket team, we eventually admitted defeat.

We waved goodbye to Nick & Celina and staggered to bed. ๐Ÿ˜ด๐Ÿ˜ด๐Ÿ˜ด๐Ÿ˜ด๐Ÿ˜ด. Even for me, I felt a lie-in was going to be necessary… ๐Ÿ˜ฎ

Sunday


7.45am: Well, that was the lie-in sorted. Ann continued though, whilst I got on with some faffing (and writing this!)

9.35am: For breakfast, we ate outside – again, blowy but warm!

10.55am: We said goodbye to our best friends, and they headed for home by way of a Sunday lunch somewhere!

A great weekend catching-up with great friends! ๐Ÿ˜๐Ÿ˜๐Ÿ˜๐Ÿ˜

Mival-lous

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A boys’ get-together today! ๐Ÿ‘

I drove over to Stamford to meet up with ex-business colleague and film producer: Eric Mival. We’ve kept in touch ever since Eric shot a corporate video for Sainsbury’s (that I was responsible for) back in the late 80s.

Our venue of choice was, of course, the iconic George Hotel in the town – and more specifically, The York Bar.

The George Hotel from The York Bar

We haven’t seen each other since August, 2017, and it was good to catch-up with each other’s news!

The focus of our conversation was around Eric’s semi-autobiographical book: Cutting Edge: My Life in Film and Television (get it from Amazon HERE). For me, the enjoyable read had ticked a lot of boxes – my love of the process of film-making AND the fact that Eric had worked on a lot of programmes of my youth including Doctor Who, The Strange Report and of course, the iconic, The Prisoner (amongst many more!). I knew we’d have a lot to chat about, but with the food and service its normal high standard, the time just flew by!

A slightly torturous journey home though, where a major accident on the road to Stamford just after Collyweston caused miles (and miles) of traffic congestion. Luckily, I skirted around the back roads and was home just after 2.30pm (just 10 minutes later than my original ETA).

See you next year Eric! ๐Ÿ˜€๐Ÿ‘

Film: 1917

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Rating: 5 out of 5.


We drove over to Cineworld at Rushden Lakes to see the recently released flick ‘1917‘ (after having to cancel last Sunday).

Sam Mendes directs and shares writing duties for this World War 1 adventure. It’s based on stories recounted by Sam Mendes’s grandfather โ€” Alfred Mendes โ€” and stars a host of famous faces โ€” Andrew Scott, Daniel Mays, Colin Firth, Mark Strong, Benedict Cumberbatch and Richard Madden.

The story however, pivots around two not-quite-so-well-known faces from the world of movies โ€” Dean-Charles Chapman and George MacKay playing the two central characters. I’ve not ever seen them in anything else, and they’re on-screen most of the time, playing their parts very convincingly.

1917 tells the story of two soldiers with an important message to deliver โ€” a message that could save the lives of 1600 British soldiers in Northern France. And that’s all I’m going to say about this just-under-two-hour slice of excellent entertainment!

What makes the film unique is the way it was shot. The term ‘immersive’ is a bit over-used these days, but under the assured direction of Sam Mendes, the camera work and soundscape make you feel like you are there, experiencing every twist and turn (literally!), of our two heroes!

Boy! was it tense in places!!!! ๐Ÿฅด ๐Ÿฅด ๐Ÿฅด ๐Ÿฅด

To keep the audience engaged, the movie looks like it was all shot in one take giving a very ‘here and now’ live feel to it. Quite how they managed to film it at all, given the camera-unfriendly environment, and in some scenes, the sheer number of cast, is beyond me. If they release a ‘making of’, I’ll be first in the queue!

Go see! The best film I’ve seen in ages
(and I’m a Marvel fan!)
๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿ‘

Film: Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker

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Jo, Janet, Carol, Ann I gave the local Odeon our patronage tonight to see Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker. It was released yesterday in the UK and US to pretty good reviews, having premiered in Los Angeles on December 16.

It promises a movie that wraps things up nicely across the nine-movie arc (see below) BUT crucially, we’re told, it works as a standalone movie for the non Star Wars geeks amongst us! Co-written and directed by J. J. Abrams (who has a great reputation for writing action movies as well as sci-fi), it’s a long affair, at 2 hours, 20 minutes, and there’s a lot riding on this final instalment!

The Skywalker Saga

Episode I โ€“ The Phantom Menace (1999)
Episode II โ€“ Attack of the Clones (2002)
Episode III โ€“ Revenge of the Sith (2005)
Episode IV โ€“ A New Hope (1977)
Episode V โ€“ The Empire Strikes Back (1980)
Episode VI โ€“ Return of the Jedi (1983)
Episode VII โ€“ The Force Awakens (2015)
Episode VIII โ€“ The Last Jedi (2017)
Episode IX โ€“ The Rise of Skywalker
(2019)

It’s hard to believe it’s been 42 years since the first movie (Episode IV) โ€” how many have you seen?

So far this year, we had mostly abandoned the local Odeon here in favour of the much plusher and newer Cineworld at Rushden Lakes, so why didn’t we go there???
Simples: the short(ish) car-journey there this time of year was likely to be congested (and that goes for the traffic actually in Rushden Lakes car-park itself adjacent to the cinema) and we just weren’t sure whether we’d make it in time!

It’s been touted as the ‘final movie in the Star Wars saga’, but actually, to be pedantic (moi?!), it’s (just) the final movie in the Skywalker series! I wonder how many went thinking it was the final Star Wars movie ever? ๐Ÿค”I can’t them giving up on a cash-cow like this!!

Janet acted as chauffeur and picked us up at 6.45. We were soon parked, and the fullness of the car-park indicated that it was going to be busy!

We were right! In fact, Screen 4 was the fullest I’ve seen it in a long while! Fortunately, we were spared the presence of any super-fans dressing-up and acting out their chosen character for the occasion (that was probably last night!) ๐Ÿ˜. Jo had booked us our favourite seats (back row) and we were soon into the abundance of adverts (even more than normal!). Thankfully, just 25 minutes later, the main event began…

And what of the movie? Well, it was certainly fast-paced – no time for even a loo break!! ๐Ÿ˜ฌ I think it just about held up as a standalone, but newbies will struggle to work out at times, who’s wearing the black and the white hats! Great music, great acting and some superb CGI (but take the sea-sick pills!).

JJA did a good job of pulling-together the unresolved issues from the previous outings and for super-fans, there’s more than one Star Wars ‘familiar face’ making a welcome return to the screen. This includes possibly the shortest ever cameo by a certain fighter pilot from Episode IV!

I’m dropping it one-star for not knowing how to use an ellipsis, (boo!) but adding back half-a-star for consistency (yay!) as they got it wrong in the previous movie ‘The Last Jedi‘ too! (and probably the other seven!) ๐Ÿค

As I mentioned previously, ‘pedantic, moi?! ๐Ÿ˜

Go see! It’s a roller-coaster of a movie from start to finish!๐Ÿ˜

Bulbs for Banstead

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An early start for us today as we spent Saturday and Sunday with Richard and Nicki at their place in Banstead.

Saturday

We left home just after 7.30 and drove over to Huntingdon station. Why not take the car? Well, it’s not the getting there, it’s the getting home part. Last time we tried it on a Sunday by car, it took twice as long to get back as it did to get there – Ahh! I’d quite forgotten how congested it can get ‘darn sarf‘ – and how busy the M25 was, even on a Sunday! ๐Ÿ˜ซ

As things turned out, it was a text-book journey there with all our connections on-time or slightly early! Rich & Nicky picked us up from Sutton station just after 10.30 and we were soon catching-up over coffee & cake at theirs!

Plenty of bulbs for Banstead!

But apart from the social aspect, we had a cunning plan in mind โ€” and that was to tidy up/prune their garden and plant as many bulbs as the space allowed.

We were reasonably optimistic about the weather having checked it daily for the past three days. Being November, it wasn’t going to be the warmest of days, but at least the forecast promised dry weather. I’m not the world’s most enthusiastic gardener, but with the appropriate clothing, I’d be OK… wouldn’t I? wouldn’t I??

…errr NO! ๐Ÿ˜ฎ

Soil – pre-turned

Everything started well: It was dry, 8 degrees and whilst Nicki and Ann turned the soil in the back garden, I concentrated on the pruning out the front.

In need of a haircut!

…and it certainly needed a haircut!

Post haircut!

After about an hour, with its new trimmed look, it was ‘job done!

…just as the rain started to come down in buckets (this wasn’t forecast!) together with a drop in temperature as the sun beat its retreat! Any one of those factors would have been enough to ‘down tools’, but not us four! ๐Ÿ’ช๐Ÿ’ช๐Ÿ’ช๐Ÿ’ช

We soldiered-on, getting progressively wetter (and in my case, progressively grumpier) as the rain became more persistent. We pushed on, and eventually, the final bulbs were in by 3.45 but with no improvement in the weather, we called it a day and cleared-up…

Bulbs in!

…but not before admiring all our work!

With the ‘toiling of the soil’ over, it was time to turn out attention to… the evneing meal! Richard had planned ahead and prepared his signature dish: “Garlic Roast Lamb”, whilst the rest of us got cleaned up!

Cosy!

Whilst the food cooked. all that was then left to do was to chill-out warm-up in front of the log-burner!! ๐Ÿ˜ƒ

The meal didn’t disappoint and after us all digging-in for seconds, we all agreed it had been a great reward for all our efforts today!

Next stop was a movie – and after a thorough review of Netflix and Amazon Prime we settled on Daddy’s Home from 2015 courtesy of the latter.

Starring Mark Wahlberg and Will Ferrell, it was the kind of movie that (for us) was laugh-out-loud funny – we loved it! ๐Ÿ˜‚๐Ÿ˜‚๐Ÿ˜‚๐Ÿ˜‚

Our day ended perfectly and as a bonus we appear to be slightly ahead with our gardening plans. Tomorrow, it’s pruning and numerous visits to the local dump

Sunday

Sunday’s weather promised a dry day and when we peeked through the curtains around 8am, it looked like the promise had been kept (although it was a little foggy!) – but at least it was DRY! In fact, as the morning ticked-away, the temperature eventually ‘soared’ to 10ยฐC by lunchtime! Happy days!!! ๐Ÿ˜

Today was about continuing the mega-prune and generally tidying up the garden as much as we could.

I say ‘mega’ as it required two separate trips to nearby Epson’s Green disposal site (about a 20 minute drive away) to get rid of our enthusiastic clippings! After all our previous visits earlier in the year, I think they’re getting to know us there by sight now – we’re be on first-name terms soon! ๐Ÿ˜‰

After almost three hours, we downed tools around 11.45, satisfied with what we’d achieved. Whilst Richard and I headed back from our last disposal trip (for this visit anyway!), Nicki and Ann prepared a quick lunch that would allow us to get a slightly earlier train home.

It was all delicious, and we reflected on how much progress our hosts have made since they moved in! ๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿ‘

Perfect timing! We finished lunch by around 1pm and having said our goodbyes to Richard, Nicki dropped us back to Sutton Station. Next stop Victoria, and then King’s Cross!

The 16.13 was on time (although we had a about a 45 minute wait) and we were soon on our way back to Huntingdon. A trouble-free journey along the A14 meant we were home just before 5pm. OK four hours is a long time on public transport and if the roads had been perfect, we could have driven it in two-and-a-half hours – but when was the last time the road conditions were perfect!

Ahh, that’s nice! โคโค

…and the above made it all worthwhile!

Avengers: Assemble Lasagne!

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Jo and Janet joined us for a night of munchies and a movie… Oh, and some G & Ts! Whilst I prepared the DVD player, the lemons and the limes, Ann got busy in the kitchen.

Our movie of choice tonight – Avengers:Endgame. There isn’t much that hasn’t already been written about the final film (for now) in this franchise – especially on a certain blog – so instead, I’ll concentrate on the food and drink! ๐Ÿ˜

On the menu tonight was homemade Lasagne and that was followed by homemade Fruit Strudel. I think we all enjoyed it so much, none of us took any photos! ๐Ÿ˜Š

The movie turned out to be as excellent as we remember it (and with its fairly complex narrative, probably benefited from a second opportunity to watch it again!) ๐Ÿค”

At just over 3 hours long, the movie was a test of stamina, if nothing else! And as a result, we didn’t say our goodbyes until just after 11pm – very late for us two! ๐Ÿ˜Š

A great night – and good to see Janet and Jo again!