Film Review – Woody Allen: A Documentary

Earlier this year, Woody Allen won his fourth Oscar, the award for Best Original Screenplay for his hugely enjoyable film Midnight in Paris. The presenter of the award Angelina Jolie had to accept the award on his behalf, due to Woody Allen once again not attending the ceremony. He has said that he doesn’t feel any pride in winning Oscars, because he doesn’t believe the popularity of his film makes it one of the best from that year.

This is just one of many interesting facets of Woody Allen’s personality, and they are all laid bare in Robert Weide’s Woody Allen: A Documentary, although perhaps not with the depth you would want or expect. Weide’s film comes across more as a tribute rather than a documentary, filled with clips and talking heads. The interviews though are quite often a treat. From fans such as Martin Scorsese, who speaks with delight and almost child-like excitement when talking about Allen’s films, to Diane Keaton, who explains how she tried to get Woody to fall in love with her.

There are of course understandable absences from the film. Mia Farrow doesn’t make a personal appearance, but you are left wondering if Robert Weide even thought of asking to speak to her. It is all handled rather delicately as the director keeps a respectful distance. This could explain how he’s able to get exclusive access to the set of You’ll Meet A Tall Dark Stranger, where we see him running through a scene with Naomi Watts and Josh Brolin. Watts clearly loves every minute of working with Allen, while Brolin seems like a nervous wreck because his director isn’t giving him enough feedback. This is an interesting insight, but it still feels like it could go a little deeper into Allen’s filmmaking process.

If you know anything about Woody Allen’s personal life, you’ll know that it’s worthy of a documentary all of its own. However, Weide deals with these incidents as briskly as he does almost everything else in the film. Weide does however show a clip of Farrow and Allen together in Husbands and Wives, not long after Farrow had refused to go back on the set when she learned that Allen had been having an affair with her daughter. Watching it you can see how visibly uncomfortable they both look, which luckily for them actually adds to the scene. It’s about as deep and as probing as the film gets.

Despite its lack of depth and insight, if you’re a fan of Woody Allen this will be an enjoyable treat. It’s filled with some hilarious clips, the best of which are from talk shows and when Allen had a boxing match with a kangaroo, and some intimately touching moments from Allen himself. He shows Weide the typewriter that he’s written all of his films on, and says that the guy who sold it to him said it would last longer than he would. He shows us how he organises his handwritten notes, and how sometimes he just staples these notes to the script if he’s grown particularly attached to them. Having said that, this was originally a 3-hour special made for PBS before it was edited down to less than two hours for a cinema release, you have to wonder if we’ve lost out on over an hour’s worth of genuine depth.

Image reproduced from
Video reproduced from YouTube / transmissionfilms08

Tate Modern Exhibitions: Damien Hirst and Kusama

Damien Hirst

I must admit that I was in two minds about seeing the Hirst exhibition, and after a long drive and walk through the tourist throng I was hoping for something new and surprising. But as I passed through the show I just couldn’t get a ker-ching sound from my mind which seemed to accompany the check list of shark, polka dots, other shark, pill cabinet, spinning paint disc, half a cow etc. And like a walk round stalls at a local funfair, although I didn’t come away with a furry gonk I had the feeling that I’d eaten just a little too much candy floss. The exhibition hadn’t gone any deeper to tell me something new about Hirst and didn’t go much further than the works that I’d already seen in other galleries.

A line of early wall mounted painted pots and pans (8 pans – 1987) did help to make a connection to the later spot paintings. But I found the early pots far more interesting than the later clinical formations of controlled colour. Hirst’s butterfly wing stained glass windows were impressive, creating rich kaleidoscopic patterns but then butterflies are beautiful and fascinating, stained glass too and yes, put together they make… a clever pattern using butterfly wings.

By the time I reached the turbine hall queue outside Hirst’s diamond encrusted skull For the Love of God I decided to move onto the other exhibition showing at that time.

As I sat in the upper café I found myself surrounded by giant, ketchup coloured polka dot balls, not Damien Hirst this time but just a part of 83 year old Yayoi Kusama’s retrospective for a career spanning 60 years. Focusing on the emergent moments of her defining works, the show charted her first paintings from post-war Japan, through to later sculptural pieces and her ongoing struggle with mental health. A difficult and traumatic upbringing in a patriarchal wartime Japan, and a promiscuous father led to a loathing of phallic symbols and the desire for a self-obliteration, later represented by covering herself and everything around her with her famous polka dots. Art appears to have been the therapy that has identified and delivered Kusama from her inner demons.

Early paintings were suggestive of strange, natural phenomena and baron landscapes, all painted with great attention to surface detail, a recurring theme in the artist’s vocabulary. A move to the US in the mid 60s heralded a move into larger, sculptural works and immersive installations. The stunning Infinity Net Paintings show an almost obsessive mark making of repeat semi-circular shapes on tonal backgrounds. The effect is an hypnotic mass of subtle points, reminiscent of a swarm of distant animals or billowing fields of wheat.

The Accumulation sculptural series of everyday objects and furniture covered in phalic shapes, growing like mushrooms over the surface, continue the artist’s fascination with obliteration. A single rowing boat covered in the phallic shapes like rampant sea anenomes sat in the centre of a room while the walls, floor and ceiling were covered in repeat black and white photocopies of the boat, apparently anticipating Andy Warhol’s Cow wallpaper by three years.

I’m Here, But Nothing, an installation of a furnished living room with every inch covered in luminous dots bathed in UV light, gave an unsettling sensation of the breaking up of everyday familiar objects. Moving on into the Infinity Mirrored Room Filled with the Brilliance of Life seemed to complete Kusama’s wish for obliteration as out of the darkened space, polka dots appear as luminous balls of light or stars that multiply exponentially into Infinite space, creating a magical effect as the viewer completely suspends the sense of themselves and considers the infinite.

Next to Kusama, Hirst’s work appeared gimmicky and straight off the production line. Rather than from an inner compulsion revealing hidden depths, Hirst’s creations are great stand-alone statements to grace the foyer of any large corporation, but won’t be attracting me back to a gallery any time soon.

The Kusama exhibition has moved to the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York.

Film Review: Prometheus

In 1979, a cheaply made B-movie made its cinematic debut. It would later become one of the most popular movies in cinema history. It contained brooding silences, chilling imagery, and John Hurt struggling to keep his food down as his chest exploded. The film was of course Alien, and its success, for good or ill, spawned an entire movie franchise. Now Ridley Scott returns to the franchise that launched his directing career into the stratosphere, looking to ask (but not really answer) some really tough questions.

Prometheus is a prequel to Alien, and at the same time it isn’t. Ridley Scott has said that while this film does take place inside the Alien franchise, we are still at least two more movies away from when the Nostromo decides to answer an unknown warning beacon. So think of this as the Star Wars Episode One: The Phantom Menace of the franchise.

Elizabeth Shaw (Noomi Rapace) and her boyfriend Charlie Holloway (Logan Marshall-Green) are both on an expedition in the Isle of Skye in Scotland. They come across a cave painting, which bares the same pictogram they found from other civilisations. They depict an alien being, inviting them to what is supposedly their home planet. Both Elizabeth and Charlie believe that these depictions are showing where mankind came from. So they set off on the billion dollar science vessel Prometheus, hoping to meet their maker.

Prometheus essentially just confirms for us something we’ve already known for quite a long time – that Ridley Scott is an incredibly intelligent person who knows how to tell compelling stories. Prometheus doesn’t have many answers, true, but Scott’s brave attempt to even ask the questions ‘where do we come from?’ and ‘why are we here?’ is commendable, and they are handled with admirable intelligence and complexity.

The only problem is in the mist of all the complexity, the characters are made to suffer. Charlize Theron’s Vickers and Idris Elba’s Janek are the main victims of this; however a stellar performance from Elba makes his character come across considerably more rounded. What made Alien so good was that we were given time to care about the characters, to be scared with them whenever the threat of the alien intruder approached. We don’t really get much time to get attached to the characters in Prometheus, as it moves along at a considerably faster pace. Michael Fassbender however puts in a superb performance as the android David. It’s yet another thoughtful performance that we’ve come to expect from Fassbender, even when it came to the viral marketing video he did where he chillingly cries on cue.

The visuals and special effects are breathtakingly good, most notably when Fassbender’s David initiates a holographic video while inside a desolate canyon. While the visuals may be good, and the ideas the film tackles are complex and interesting, it will still leave people wanting more answers. Considering there should be two more films on the way from Ridley Scott, we shouldn’t really have expected to learn everything in one movie. What we do know however, is that as long as Ridley Scott is involved, we will be captivated right up until the end.

Image reproduced from
Video reproduced from YouTube / PrometheusMovieUK

Wimbledon – History and a Bluffers Guide

City Connect loves attending Wimbledon but for those of you whom have yet to attend the best bluffers guide to behind the scenes at Wimbledon is found on its very own webpage.


Wimbledon 2012 will be the 126th time that The All England Lawn Tennis Club will have hosted The Championships since the first tournament in 1877.

Famed for its green grass, white clothing and the Club colours of purple and green, Wimbledon is proud of its traditions. Its sporting heritage combines the best of the old with innovative solutions designed to meet the demands of the modern game.

Wimbledon’s rich history is recorded on paper, captured in photos and on film, and presented through objects, memorabilia and interactive displays in the Museum.

The Beginning

The All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club, which is responsible for staging the world’s leading tennis tournament, is a private Club founded in 1868, originally as ‘The All England Croquet Club’. Its first ground was situated off Worple Road, Wimbledon.

In 1875 lawn tennis, a game introduced by major Walter Clopton Wingfield a year or so earlier and originally called Sphairistike, was added to the activities of the Club. In the spring of 1877 the Club was re-titled ‘The All England Croquet and Lawn Tennis Club’ and signalled its change of name by instituting the first Lawn Tennis Championship. A new code of laws, hitherto administered by the Marylebone Cricket Club, was drawn up for the meeting. These have stood the test of time and today’s rules are similar except for details such as the height of the net and posts and the distance of the service line from the net.

The only event held in 1877 was the Gentlemen’s Singles which was won by Spencer Gore, an old Harrovian rackets player, from a field of 22. About 200 spectators paid one shilling each to watch the final.

The lawns at the Worple Road ground were arranged in such a way that the principal court was situated in the middle with the others arranged around it; hence the title ‘Centre Court’, which was retained when the Club moved in 1922 to the present site in Church Road, although it was not a true description of its location at the time. However, in 1980 four new courts were brought into commission on the north side of the Grounds, which meant the Centre Court was once more at the centre of the tournament. The opening of the new No.1 Court in 1997 emphasised the description.

By 1882 activity at the Club was almost exclusively confined to lawn tennis and that year the word ‘croquet’ was dropped from the title. However, for sentimental reasons, it was restored in 1899 and the Club has been known as ‘The All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club’ ever since.

Enter the Ladies

In 1884 the Ladies’ Singles was inaugurated and, from an entry of 13 players, Maud Watson became the first champion. That same year, the Gentlemen’s Doubles was started, with the trophy donated by the Oxford University Lawn Tennis Club after the end of their doubles championship, played from 1879 to 1883.

As the popularity of Wimbledon increased, the facilities for spectators were improved with permanent stands gradually replacing temporary accommodation. By the mid-1880s crowds were flocking to see the prowess of British twins Ernest and William Renshaw who, separately and as doubles partners, won 13 titles between 1881 and 1889. The boom in popularity of the game in this period became known as the ‘Renshaw Rush’.

For a period in the nineties public affection for Wimbledon waned, but in 1897 the legendary Doherty brothers, Laurie and Reggie, began their 10-year rule of the courts and soon capacity crowds reappeared.

Overseas Champions

By the turn of the century Wimbledon had assumed an international character and in 1905 May Sutton of the United States became the first Champion from overseas when she won the Ladies’ Singles. She repeated her success in 1907, the year when Norman Brookes of Australia became the first Gentlemen’s Singles champion from overseas. Since that year, only two players from Great Britain, Arthur Gore and Fred Perry, have managed to win the Men’s Singles while there have been five British Ladies’ Champions since Wimbledon moved to Church Road — Kitty McKane Godfree, Dorothy Round, Angela Mortimer, Ann Jones and Virginia Wade.

A New Home

Prior to the First World War the facilities at Worple Road were expanded to meet the ever-growing demand of the public and a move to larger premises was planned. This was not achieved until 1922 when the present ground in Church Road was opened by King George V. The foresight of building the present stadium, designed to hold 14,000 people, did more to popularise the game worldwide than anything that has happened to date.

The new ground, which many thought would turn out to be a ‘white elephant’, was financed partly from the accumulated reserves of the Club and partly by the issue of Debentures. Misgivings about the future popularity of The Championships were dispelled when applications for tickets in the first year were such that they had to be issued by a ballot — a system that has been adopted for every Championship since.

The move to Church Road coincided with a break in tradition, whereby the Challenge Round was abolished in favour of the holder playing through each round.

Wimbledon Thrives

Each year during the twenties, France produced at least one singles champion. Towards the end of Suzanne Lenglen’s reign the famous ‘Four Musketeers’ — Jean Borota, Jacques Brugnon, Henri Cochet and Rene Lacoste — appeared on the scene and during the next ten years won six Singles titles and five Doubles titles between them. Britain’s Kitty McKane (Godfree) won the Ladies’ Singles in 1924 and 1926 and a year later Helen Wills of the United States started her conquest.

Wimbledon continued to thrive in the thirties. Bill Tilden returned at the age of 38 to gain his third crown and in 1931 Cilly Assem registered Germany’s first win in the Ladies’ Singles. The following year over 200,000 spectators were present for the first time.

The years from 1934 to 1937 were a golden era for British tennis, when a total of 11 titles were captured, including three singles in succession by Fred Perry and two by Dorothy Round. During the same period Great Britain successfully defended the Davis Cup three times in Challenge Rounds staged on the Centre Court. The years just before the Second World War belonged to the United States. Donald Budge won all three events in 1937 and 1938, Helen Wills Moody captured the Ladies’ Singles for the eight time and Alice Marble brought a new dimension to ladies’ tennis with her serve and volley game.

Wartime Wimbledon

During the Second World War the Club managed to remain open despite a severe curtailment of staff. The premises were used for a variety of civil defence and military functions such as fire and ambulance services, Home Guard and a decontamination unit. Troops stationed within the vicinity were allowed to use the main concourse for drilling. Another familiar sight around the ground was a small farmyard consisting of pigs, hens, geese, rabbits, etc. In October 1940 a ‘stick’ of five 500lb bombs struck Centre Court, resulting in the loss of 1,200 seats.

With the war in Europe over, signs of normality began to return to Wimbledon during June and July 1945, when a series of matches between Allied servicemen took place on the old No. 1 Court, which had escaped enemy action. During August the final stages of the United States European Championships were played and Charles Hare, an Englishman serving in the US Army, became champion.

Play Resumed

Early in 1946 the decision was taken to resume The Championships that summer. The monumental task of organising the meeting in so short a time was entrusted to Lt. Col. Duncan Macaulay, the newly appointed Secretary. With unlimited enthusiasm he overcame a multitude of problems created by the rationing of almost every commodity, available only by licence, permit or coupon. Much of the war damage was cleared and repairs carried out in an attempt to get the ground back to normal — a situation not achieved until 1949 when building restrictions were eased.

The Post-War Period

The American dominance of Wimbledon continued well into the fifties. Outstanding among an array of champions were Jack Kramer, Ted Schroeder, Tony Trabert, Louise Brough, Maureen Connolly and the late Althea Gibson, the first black winner.

From 1956 until the early 1970s, the Gentlemen’s Singles was virtually the property of Australia as Lew Hoad, Neale Fraser, Rod Laver, Roy Emerson and John Newcombe became household names. The sequence of American wins in the Ladies’ Singles was not broken until 1959 when Maria Bueno of Brazil triumphed. In the 1960s, Margaret Smith became the first Australian to win the event, while Angela Mortimer and Ann Jones revived the British interest.

Open Tennis

The expansion of air travel in the 1950s meant more and more overseas players were competing at Wimbledon and other tournaments throughout the world, but with this new era came an epidemic of what had become known as ‘shamateurism — the receiving of financial assistance in excess of amounts permitted by the International Tennis Federation (ITF), the authority in charge of the rules of lawn tennis and the governing body of the game worldwide.

The need for reform was evident. The initiative for reform came from the then Chairman Herman David who in late 1959 put forward a proposal to the Lawn Tennis Association that The Championships be made open to all players. The following July the ITF rejected this move and several years followed in which argument persisted at all levels of the game. In 1964 the Club tried to persuade the LTA unilaterally to declare The Championships ‘open’ but support was not forthcoming.

In August 1967 an invitation tournament (sponsored by the BBC to mark the introduction of colour television) was held on the Centre Court with eight players taking part — all professionals. Most of these players had won honours at Wimbledon in their amateur days but had forfeited the right to play there on turning professional. The segregation of the two categories was soon to come to an end.

In December that year the Annual Meeting of the LTA voted overwhelmingly to admit players of all categories to Wimbledon and other tournaments in Britain. Faced with a fait accompli the ITF yielded and allowed each nation to determine its own legislation regarding amateur and professional players. In 1968, Rod Laver and Billie Jean King became the first Wimbledon Open Champions. The total prize money that year was £26,150.

The Boycott

1973 was a sad year for Wimbledon as 81 members of the Association of Tennis Professionals boycotted the meeting following the suspension earlier in the year of Nikki Pilic by the Yugoslavian Lawn Tennis Association. Despite the absence of so many players, attendance reached over 300,000. Jan Kodes of Czechoslovakia and Billie Jean King won the singles titles.

Records Broken

In recent years long-standing records have been broken. In 1980 Bjorn Borg of Sweden became the first player to win the Gentlemen’s Singles five times in the post-challenge round era; a feat replicated by Roger Federer between 2003 and 2007. In 1985 Boris Becker, aged 17, became the youngest player, the first unseeded player and the first German to win the Gentlemen’s Singles. In 1987 Martina Navratilova of the United States became the first player to win the Ladies’ Singles six times in succession and in 1990 she attained the all-time record of nine victories in the event. Pete Sampras of the United States registered his seventh win in 2000 and in 2001, Goran Ivanisevic became the first wildcard to win the Gentlemen’s Singles. In 2009, Roger Federer surpassed Sampras’s record of 15 Grand Slam singles titles at Wimbledon, defeating Andy Roddick to win his sixth Wimbledon title, and 16th Grand Slam singles title. In 2010, John Isner and Nicolas Mahut contested the longest tennis match in history, eventually ending 70-68 in the fifth set after 138 games, and 11 hours and five minutes over three days.

Anniversary Celebrations

In 1977, The Championships celebrated their centenary. On the opening day 41 of 52 surviving singles champions paraded on the Centre Court and each received a silver commemorative medal from HRH The Duke of Kent, the President of the Club, to mark the occasion. On the second Friday, The Championships were honoured by the presence of HM The Queen, who presented the Ladies’ Singles trophy to Virginia Wade on Centre Court, together with a special trophy to mark Her Majesty’s Silver Jubilee. As part of the celebrations the Wimbledon Lawn Tennis Museum and the Kenneth Ritchie Library were opened.

The centenary of the Ladies’ Singles Championship was celebrated in 1984. The highlight of The Championships was the parade on the Centre Court of 17 of 20 surviving champions, who each received a unique piece of Waterford Crystal from HRH The Duke of Kent.

The 100th Championships in 1986 were celebrated in a variety of ways, including a special dinner party for those who had made significant contributions over the years, and the formation of the Last 8 Club. 1993 marked the 100th Ladies’ Championships and the occasion was suitably commemorated.

The occasion of the Millennium was celebrated on the first Saturday when 64 Singles Champions, Doubles Champions four or more times, and Singles Finalists at least twice, paraded on Centre Court.

2011 sees the celebration of the 125th Championships.

The Ever Changing Scene

Over the years the Club has constantly been aware of the need to provide facilities and ground improvements compatible with the pace and demand of modern day sport. Seldom has a year gone by without alteration to the Grounds or some organisational change taking place. In recent years the momentum has increased and major works programmes have provided improved facilities for the players, spectators, officials and media.

In 1979 the roof of the Centre Court was raised one metre to provide room for another 1,088 seats. The same year a new Debenture Holders’ Lounge was constructed on the north side of the Centre Court. In 1980 the Members’ Enclosure was made into a permanent building. The following year the old No.1 Court complex was rebuilt and enlargements to the North and South Stands increased the capacity of the court by 1,250.

Aoragni (Cloud in the sky) Park was brought into the perimeter of the Club’s grounds in 1982 to give more room during The Championships.

The East Side Building of the Centre Court was opened in 1985. This vast operation provided over 800 extra seats and additional media commentary boxes, new accommodation for the administration staff, a redesigned Museum and an improved Tea Lawn. In 1986 a new two-storey pavilion in Aorangi was constructed.

In 1991 the Centre Court North Building was extended northwards to provide greater accommodation for the Debenture Holders’ Lounge, Museum offices, stores and Library and Club facilities.

A mammoth operation in 1992 replaced the Centre Court roof by a new structure, supported by four pillars, instead of 26 giving 3,601 seats a perfect view, instead of a restricted one.

Wimbledon in the 21st Century

Wimbledon is acknowledged to be the premier tennis tournament in the world and the priority of The All England Lawn Tennis Club, which hosts The Championships, is to maintain its leadership into the twenty-first century. To that end a Long Term Plan was unveiled in 1993, which will improve the quality of the event for spectators, players, officials and neighbours.

Stage one of the Plan was completed for the 1997 Championships and involved building in Aorangi Park the new No. 1 Court, a Broadcast Centre, two extra grass courts and a tunnel under the hill linking Church Road and Somerset Road.

Stage two involved the removal of the old No.1 Court complex to make way for the new Millennium Building, providing extensive facilities for the players, press, officials and Members, and the extension of the West Stand of the Centre Court with 728 extra seats.

Stage three concludes this year. The construction of a new Championships entrance building, housing Club staff, museum, bank and ticket office at Gate 3 left the Centre Court east side empty and allowed development to provide better facitilies for the public. The seating capacity was increased from 13,800 to 15,000 and a ground-breaking retractable roof was erected over Centre Court. Court 2 was opened in 2009, and 2011 sees the completion of Court 3 and Court 4.

Film Review: Red Tails

It was 1977 when George Lucas brought us one of the biggest movie franchises in cinema history. Now, he’s planning on leaving professional filmmaking behind and walking off into the sunset, to work on smaller and more personal movies. The writer, director, and producer leaves behind him a catalogue of films, which we all know include the Star Wars and Indiana Jones franchises respectively. There is no doubt this is the end of an era. In which case, Red Tails is Lucas’ final film. It tells the true story of an all-African-American fighter pilot squadron in World War II, who are fighting against the racial discrimination of the Nazi threat, while dealing with the racial discrimination of fellow American soldiers. However, under the leadership of Colonel Bullard (Terence Howard), the squadron are given a chance to prove their worth in battle. This is a project that Lucas has been trying to get made since 1988. Concerned that a film with an all-African-American cast would seem unmarketable, he has now put forward most of the money for the film himself. It’s unfortunate then that throughout you can’t help feel that this could have been better. Lucas reportedly did lots of research into what the real life squadron persevered against, and yet you still feel like most of the story is being censored from us. This is a story worthy of an epic yet understated three hour adventure, rather than a two hour CGI filled romp from LucasFilm. The special effects are, unsurprisingly, the real winner here. The beautifully stylised action scenes with have many people thinking back to the space-set epic that Lucas brought us in 1977. This is after all a Lucas film, so the dialogue is as cloth eared as usual. Some will see it a corny quirk that is easy to put up with, while others will find it so infuriating they’ll be wondering how any let this get to screen without someone objecting. One rather key scene is obliterated by a character shouting “Die, foolish American!” This was such a bad line that people in the screening were physically wincing, as though the words had flown out of the screen and punch them in the eye. Despite the flaws however, Red Tails is an enjoyable B movie, that’s as fun as it is silly. The director Anthony Hemingway makes his big screen directorial debut here. When George Lucas called him to let him know he was hired, he reportedly broke down and cried, completely overwhelmed by the fact that his hero George Lucas had picked him. You could have done better than this George, but boy will we miss you. Image reproduced from Video reproduced from YouTube / RedTailsMovie

Wirra Wirra The 12th Man Chardonnay, Adelaide Hills

This Wirra Wirra The 12th Man Chardonnay hails from the Adelaide Hills in Australia and is aged in French oak.

Australia was the first country to give us big, ripe, buttery Chardonnay – a style that spread across the (New) World only to be usurped in a backlash against oak first by pungent kiwi Sauvignon and more latterly by the ubiquitous Pinot Grigio. It also led to a backlash in the style of Australian whites themselves.

This wine reminds me of what was great about Aussie chardie before it seemed to lose its way becoming either too sweet or too monolithic- or even nowadays, distinctly cool-climate.

Golden in the glass, it has a toasty-yeasty-oaky, slightly pungent nose with vanilla spice.

On the palate, there is ripe tropical pineapple fruit and layers of sweet, toasty, buttery, oatmealy oak cut through with crisp acidity and good leesy depth with added complexity from the wild yeasts used.

Whether you like this wine probably depends on whether you like lots of sweet toasty, buttery oak; personally, I do – especially given that it is somewhat out of fashion at present.

Something of a blockbuster personality, it needs big food to match and would pair well with an autumnal dish of roast chicken or pork with roasted parsnips, butternut squash and mashed swede.

£16.99 from Ocado; provided for review.


Wirra Wirra –

Ocado –

This wine at Ocado –

Copyright Tom Lewis 2012

Film Review: Moonrise Kingdom

There are few things quite as intriguing, and yet familiar in cinema than a Wes Anderson film. He manages to invent a world of his own, with his own rules, and yet the central story always carries resonance with its audience. Moonrise Kingdom is yet another brilliant Anderson-esque tale, carrying with it plenty of nostalgia and some uncomfortable truths.

It’s 1965, and we’re on a peaceful Khaki scout camp. Scout Master Ward (Edward Norton) wakes up one morning and finds that one of the scouts, Sam (Jared Gilman), has run away during the night, leaving a note behind telling them not to even try looking for him. Ward heads straight to the local Sherriff, Captain Sharp (Bruce Willis), who immediately organises a search for the missing scout. However, things take an unexpected turn when local residents Mr. and Mrs. Bishop (Bill Murray and Francis McDormand) find that their daughter Suzy (Kara Hayward) has also ran away during the night. The young Suzy and Sam are in love, and want to run away to a remote part of the island to live out the rest of their lives together, far away from any of the adults that control their lives.

Considering the all-star cast this film displays (including cameos from Harvey Keitel and Tilda Swinton), you’d expect the two child actors at the heart of the film to get lost in the story. If anything, it could be other way around. The glittering line-up doesn’t have that much screen time, while Sam and Suzy are given the audience’s full attention. This is for the best of course, considering this is supposed to be their love story. It’s also a coming of age story, filled with all the delights of childhood innocence and confidence. Only two children would believe that they could actually run away together and live the rest of their lives in a secret cove by the beach.

Suzy (Kara Hayward) and Sam (Jared Gilman)

Anderson paints for us a truthful, and occasionally brutally honest picture of what the kids are running away from. Bill Murray and Francis McDormand play Suzy’s parents. They’re stuck in a stricken marriage that seems to have been doomed for quite some time, and the fact that they see something of themselves in the young couple unsettles them. Suzy hates her mother when she finds a pamphlet in the house about dealing with a troubled child. Here lies the film’s really unsettling truth – some parents really will do anything to make sure their kids don’t turn out like them. Then we have Bruce Willis’ Sherriff. A sad and lost soul, struggling to get over the regrets he has in life. He actually sees something of himself in the young Khaki scout Sam, trying hard to run away from his oppressive surroundings and claim his true love. This is what the kids are really running away from – turning into an adult.

It is the surrounding stories and character relationships that make the central love story work so well. The young actors Jared Gilman and Kara Hayward are quite simply superb in the central roles. Despite all of this, there is actually another key element that makes this such a delightful winner. Sam is considered to be socially challenged, and is hated by his fellow scouts. He has no friends. Suzy is considered a troubled child, and has difficulty finding someone who really understands her. She has no friends. Wes Anderson then throws them both together; just to prove that no matter how big an outsider you may feel you are, if you look hard enough you will never be alone.

Image reproduced from and
Video reproduced from YouTube / movieclipsTRAILERS

Film Review: Men in Black 3

You have to feel sorry for the Men in Black. They really didn’t stand a chance. It was fifteen years ago now when they first appeared on our screens to protect us from the scum of the universe. Now, with all the people in capes running around who seem to be doing a fairly good job, everyone has forgotten about the secret organisation whose members dress like the Blues Brothers.

They’re not entirely blameless in all this however. They have after all absent from the big screen for ten years, ever since Men in Black 2 was released and disappointed pretty much everyone. They were forgotten as a franchise, but remembered as a late 90s cult hit that seemed so fresh and new. But now the Men in Black are back with Men in Black 3, a film Will Smith has been publicising as the best in the series. He really couldn’t be more mistaken if he tried.

Boris The Animal (Jemaine Clement), a particularly rubbish villain, escapes from his prison on the moon and swears vengeance against the man who put him there, Agent K (Tommy Lee Jones). So Boris travels back in time and completed erases the aged Agent K from history. This forces Agent J (Will Smith) to follow Boris back in time, and team up with a younger K (Josh Brolin) to try and prevent his impending disappearance.

You have to bear in mind that this is a film that has been stuck in development hell for nearly eight years. There was at one point talk of Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones teaming up to write the script for MIB3 themselves, which would have been more appealing than the corporate-made tosh we’re given here. Apparently it was Smith who came up with the time travelling idea, which would be appealing if someone had actually took the time to write it before filming started. Around midway through filming, the production had to take a break while the director Barry Sonnenfield, Will Smith, and some writers took some time to write the rest of the unfinished script, because what they’d filmed so far was all set to spin out of control. Even this is no excuse for the ridiculous plot hole when Jones’ K disappears. How is J the only person who remembers him? No explanation is given for this, unless we should assume that Will Smith is so cool that the laws of time literally have no effect on him. It is such a stupid plot hole, you have to wonder how come some prop guys or child extras didn’t go to the director to voice their concerns.

In a strange way you are thankful that Smith came up with the time travelling idea, because if he hadn’t it would have meant more screen time between him and Tommy Lee Jones, which in this case would be a bad thing. Poor Tommy Lee looks very tired, and doesn’t even seem to be trying during the fifteen minutes or so he spends on screen. Maybe he’s upset he doesn’t have more screen time? Or maybe he’s read the script and can’t wait to get as far away from the set as possible? What’s more likely is that he’s now 66, and so is perhaps a little too old for all this. If this had been written when Smith and Jones wanted to do it themselves, he would have been 58. Given that the chemistry between Smith and Jones was a key part of what made the first film so enjoyable, seeing it all go to hell here is a very unpleasant and depressing sight.

Thank goodness then for Josh Brolin, that only actor in the film who seems to be on form. Brolin manages to master the very difficult art of impersonating while making the character your own. Michael Sheen is an expert on such matters. Here Brolin nails Jones’ accent perfectly, while the same time giving him a little more youth and vigor.

It’s probably for the best then that MIB3 disappears among the vast collection of blockbusters on our screens this year. The best thing to do right now is stick on that special edition DVD of Men in Black, and remember how utterly superb it was. Because, if you haven’t learned any lessons from the disaster that was MIB2, then going to see Men in Black 3 could well be the most disappointing experience you have in the cinema this year.

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Buying the Right Duvet for Summer

June has been colder than usual this year but as the weather hopefully warms up, it will be time to say goodbye to the heavier autumn/winter duvets we’ve been snuggling under and say hello to the light summer duvets that will keep us cool over the next few months. A question I am often asked is why bother with a summer weight duvet at all? Surely a duvet that can see you through the whole year is more cost effective?

While it is true that only owning one duvet will be lighter on your wallet in the short term, in the long term an autumn/winter weight duvet will be heavier on you and make you uncomfortable during the warmer months. If you share your bed with a partner, then a summer weight duvet is even more important. Couples generate a lot of body heat and a heavier duvet will store more of this heat than a summer duvet and you’ll wake up feeling like you’ve both spent the night sleeping in a sauna!

There are many different department stores and bedlinen specialists out there selling a wide range of duvets to suit all budgets. In my personal experience, I can highly recommend John Lewis as a supplier of quality bedding that is value for money. To review the different summer duvets on offer, I recently took a trip to the Grand Arcade in Cambridge to visit the city’s premier department store – John Lewis Cambridge. Here are my recommendations to help you choose the right duvet this summer.

Tog Rating

Tog rating is a measure of how well the duvet traps warm air. It is a measurement that was originally developed during the Korean War by the American Air Force for their flying suits. The higher the Tog number, the warmer the duvet. A good summer weight duvet is between 2.5 Tog and 4.5 Tog. If your home is well-insulated then you should go for a lighter Tog rating.

Synthetic Fillings

The polyester hollowfibre duvets are suitable for those who are allergic to feather and down or who will need to wash their duvet frequently. All John Lewis polyester duvets can be washed in a large capacity washing machine at 60ºC. This is the temperature which is hot enough to kill house dust mites that live in bedding and cause allergies. A good quality synthetic duvet can last up to 10 years.

Polyester duvets are heavier in weight compared to natural filled duvets and are not as breathable so if you do not have allergies it is better to go for a natural filling for better comfort. Saying this John Lewis has now launched a new range of premium synthetic duvets called Breathe which are made from Modal – a breathable material that actually draws moisture away from the body and helps regulate body temperature. John Lewis also sells a reassuringly low priced duvet with a filling made from recycled drinks bottles.

John Lewis Microfibre Light Duvet, 2.5 Tog – £30 to £75
John Lewis Microfibre Light Duvet, 4.5 Tog – £35 to £80
John Lewis Breathe Duvet, 4.5 Tog – £55 to £105

Natural Fillings

Duvets with natural fillings are softer and lighter than synthetic fillings. They will also last longer than a synthetic duvet as they are very hardwearing. The natural fillings and covers also make these duvets breathable and therefore give a better night’s sleep. Natural filled duvets need to be completely dried after washing so I recommend you get them professionally laundered by your local dry cleaner as thorough drying may difficult to achieve using a domestic tumble dryer.

The best quality goose down duvets last as long as 30 years. Lifespan is decreased each time the duvet is laundered so only do this as and when required. Avoid lying or sitting on top of your duvet as this crushes the filling and reduces the fluffiness and warmth of your duvet.

Duck feather and down duvets are great value as they are less expensive than goose down duvets. However, they are heavier than goose down and not as soft. Even so, they are still light and cool and a good choice if your budget can’t stretch to the higher quality goose down.

John Lewis Duck Feather and Down Duvets, 4.5 Tog – £30 to £45
John Lewis Duck Down Duvets, 2.5 Tog – £40 to £75

Goose down duvets are lighter and fluffier than duck down, but still offer the same level of warmth. John Lewis manufacture all their goose down duvets in Herbert Parkinson – their own factory in Lancashire. This means that they can ensure the highest levels of quality control. The Hungarian goose down duvets from John Lewis provide luxurious lightweight feel and are so comfortable that they feel like you’re wrapped up in a fluffy cloud.

John Lewis Goose Down Duvets, 4.5 Tog – £55 – £95
John Lewis Hungarian Goose Down Duvets, 2.5 Tog – £70 to £140
John Lewis Hungarian Goose Down Duvets, 4.5 Tog – £90 to £180

For ultimate luxury, John Lewis exclusively sells a premium goose down duvet made from the down of the Winter Snow Goose that lives in the Altai mountains in Russia. This remote glacial region helps produce large down clusters from the bird’s thickest winter coat which are used by John Lewis to create a fluffy duvet that is almost as light as air and is the best quality money can buy.

John Lewis Winter Snow Goose Down Duvet, 2.5 Tog – £180 to £380
John Lewis Winter Snow Goose Down Duvet, 4.5 Tog – £220 to £440

You can buy any of the above quality summer duvets by going to the John Lewis website or visiting your local John Lewis store.

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Nuts About Coconut Water

In this short series, we’ll be looking at new “Super Food” and trendy tropical export – the coconut. Although people in the Tropics have been happily enjoying them for centuries, the coconut is now making a big name for itself here in the UK.

We kick off the series this week focusing on Coconut Water, just in time to share the news that Rihanna has been named Brand Ambassador for Vita Coco, the biggest selling coconut water drink in the UK. Pop Icon Rihanna will star in Vita Coco’s first UK above the line advertising campaign “Viva Vita” and Rihanna will soon be on billboards across London dressed in a very fruity outfit to promote the brand.

" Rihanna","Coconut Water","Viva Vita","Vita Coco"

Rihanna in the Vita Coco advert

Long gone are the days when UK consumers could only buy dessicated coconut in their local supermarket. Now we have a wide choice of products from coconut milk, coconut cream and coconut water to coconut oil and even coconut milk based frozen desserts now becoming more widely available.

The word coconut is derived from 16th century Portuguese and Spanish word cocos, meaning “grinning face”, from the three small holes on the coconut shell that resemble human facial features. Found across much of the tropic and subtropic area, the coconut is known for its great versatility and is part of the daily diet of many people. As well as the edible coconut flesh, the oil and milk derived from coconuts are commonly used in cooking and frying; coconut oil is also widely used in soaps and cosmetics. The clear liquid Coconut Water within is a refreshing drink. The husks and leaves can be used as material to make a variety of products for furnishing and decorating. The coconut also has cultural and religious significance in many societies that use it.

Coconut Water

Coconut Water is not new to me. As a child I enjoyed drinking fresh Coconut Water from the young coconuts that my father would skillfully pierce open without spilling a drop. My travels around Southeast Asia as a young man also gave me the opportunity to enjoy fresh Coconut Water. Coconut Water is a very popular drink in Southeast Asia, the Pacific Islands, Africa, and the Caribbean. In the heat of the Tropics, it is not unusual to see people enjoying the refreshing Coconut Water straight from the green coconuts with the simple aid of just a straw… it’s the tropical equivalent of the tetrapak drinks cartons we are used to in the West!

"coconut water","Bali coconuts"

Enjoying the freshest Coconut Water in Bali

The ethnic communities found in major cities across the UK have always used fresh coconuts bought in Asian and Afro-Caribbean supermarkets as their source of Coconut Water. It is only recently that the major supermarkets and health food shops have now started to sell Coconut Water in the sterile cartons and bottles that Western consumers are familiar with… I can’t imagine many supermarket shoppers being comfortable attacking an unwieldy green coconut with the large knife that my father was so used to handling!

Benefits of Coconut Water

Coconut Water is naturally isotonic and contains 5 naturally occuring electrolytes including high levels of potassium.

It rehydrates three times faster than water and is low calorie.

Coconut Water is a naturally fat free drink containing antioxidants and other minerals.

It is a fantastic natural hangover cure.

There have been cases where Coconut Water has been used as an intravenous hydration fluid in some developing countries where medical saline was unavailable.

Popular Brands of Coconut Water

Vita Coco – the UK’s biggest selling brand of Coconut Water. Available from Tesco, Sainsbury’s and Waitrose.

ZICO – promoted as a sports drink and for those with active lifestyles. Available from Tesco and Waitrose.

Image of Rihanna Vita Coco Advert reproduced from All other images are courtesy of the author.

Film Review: Snow White and the Huntsman

You may get the feeling while watching Snow White and the Huntsman that you’ve seen it before. You’re probably right about that. We’ve had so many of these fairy tale stories over the last few years that you would think film producers would have taken the hint by now, every time they read “Once upon a time…”. But then again, why should Hollywood stop when they’re making so much money? So let’s not kid ourselves, this is going to rake it in.

But where is all this money going to come from? Well, there’s the Twilight audience for a start. They will all flock to see a fairy tale starring Kristen Stewart, the only actor in the Twilight series who seems to take her job seriously. So that’s the teenage girl audience locked, but how do we get the boyfriends to agree to go with them? It’s a tricky one. I wonder how long Hollywood executives we’re sat around for before someone suggested Chris Hemsworth with a crossbow and eight funny dwarves. That’s right, I said eight dwarves. I bet the suits in Hollywood were patting themselves on the back with that one, self-congratulating their own ingenuity. They shouldn’t, because this is about as inventive as the film gets.

Kristen Stewart plays Snow White, the king’s daughter. When her father is killed by the evil queen Ravenna (Charlize Theron), she is imprisoned for seven years. Snow is able to escape however, and Ravenna has to bring in a Huntsman (Chris Hemsworth) to track her down. There’s no point in explaining the rest of the plot, you know how it goes. Dwarves, apple, battle, end. Something like that.

Charlize Theron as Queen Ravenna

Charlize Theron’s evil queen is the real winner here. Her English accent comes across with a certain degree of creepiness, and she expertly handles herself with a cold, reptilian style. Chris Hemsworth’s Huntsman is Scottish, apparently, but you wouldn’t be able to tell from his accent. It may spark a few memories of Russell Crowe’s accent in Robin Hood. Also he seems to be Scottish for absolutely no reason whatsoever. Maybe it was just a bad attempt to make Hemsworth look like a better actor. He’s not bad, but he’d be better if he dropped the accent. Sadly, you can’t be so lenient with Kristen Stewart. It’s a rather unimpressive performance from her, perhaps still stuck in Twilight mode. The sooner that series ends the better for Stewart and her career.

The film’s main problem right from the off is the storytelling. Snow White has to be good, the evil queen has to be, well, evil. There is absolutely no room for ambiguity, so there’s very little in terms of freshness there. There are also too many characters thrown at us, which would be forgivable if this was a sequel. Most of them serve absolutely no purpose at all, which is rather annoying. Having said that, the dwarves are rather funny. Ian McShane, Nick Frost, and Ray Winstone are among the CGI dwarves, and all serve the purpose of providing a lighter side.

In terms of visual style though, this is rather engaging. Director Rupert Sanders makes his directorial debut here, and given his background in advertising, he could be the next Ridley Scott. He isn’t able to rescue the plot here, but his visually style is entertaining. You get the feeling that if the right script is put in front of him he’ll soar with it. Chances are though Sanders’ next film will be Snow White and the Huntsman 2. We all know it’s coming.

In Jurassic Park, Jeff Goldblum delivers the now famous line “your scientists were so preoccupied with whether or not they could that they didn’t stop to think if they should.” Here, Hollywood has obviously been so preoccupied with who this film was for, they didn’t stop to think what it was for. It’s visually ambitious, and it will do well with its target audience, but you’ll still wish they’d put a little more effort into it.

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Geo F Trumper: Shaving, Artisan Style

Since 1875, George F. Trumper serviced the shaving needs of British aristocracy, and now has found itself known as one of the most luxurious men’s barbery goods and perfumes. Trumper’s products have hit the mark when it comes to a soft, lathery finish for facial shaving—or any other part of the body that the user deems necessary—and a fine fragrance to boot. The products are quintessentially British, evidently through their charming vintage feel old school packaging and fragrances, which come in the likes of almond, coral, coconut, lime, rose, violet and sandalwood. 135 years of concocting and perfecting have done them wonders.

The idea behind shaving cream is that it is meant to keep the face moist and protected while the razor glides over the skin, soften the hair follicles and make for a smooth and all too easy, irritation-free shave. Trumper’s cream achieves this goal with typical British pomp and ceremony as the cream froths up into a rich and slippery lather with the smallest amount, giving way to a smooth and easy razor glide.

The Trumper Coconut Oil Shaving Cream is a testament to wet shaving for men (and women too) and retails for £8.70 for 75g and £15.50 for 200g.

After the shave, of course, comes a bit of post-shave facial love, which as beauticians say, is a necessary part of the shaving process. With daily razor use and regular facial friction, the skin of the cheeks and neck can suffer. That is why we suggest Geo. F. Trumper’s Skin Food.

Many men use up to a four-razor shaver every morning, which is dragged along their cheeks, neck, jaw—everywhere sensitive—that in addition to removing the tops of facial hair follicles, also removes the top layer of dead skin, revealing sensitive skin that hasn’t yet seen the light of day.

For most, this leaves a smarting sensation after shaving, which is easily addressed by a post-shave balm like the Skin Food, which looks after the traumatised skin and restores it back to comfort. It can also be used before shaving to soften the hair and the skin, but given you use it after the fact, too, it’s far too wasteful. Geo. F. Trumper’s Skin Food retails for £14.50 for 100ml, £20.50 for 200ml and £36.00 for 500ml.

For the aforementioned products and to see the whole Geo F Trumper range, check out their website at:

About the Guest Author

A fan of Mark Twain quotes, the attitude of Coco Chanel and an infallible believer in Murphy’s Law, James Banham is a mix of dry humour, passion and a whole lot of mostly bad luck; but he never lets that stop him. He’s a firm believer in trying everything once. Give him a social setting, something in a martini glass, good conversation, great food and a greater outfit, he’s in his element. An aspiring fluent German sprecher and a fashionisto in his own way, he’s an open mind, a loose wallet and a friendly personality.  You can view James’ other musings at Ravishg Retail

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Film Review: The Raid

Remember the first time you went to see Die Hard? While watching it, you knew you were watching something that just felt fresh and new. And yet, Die Hard is just your regular action movie. The regular hits of adrenalin just keep you glued to the screen, and before you know it you realise you are watching one of the best action movies ever made. If you’re planning on seeing The Raid, then you should prepare yourself for feeling that way again.

The Raid is not anything special in terms of its plot or even indeed its action set pieces. What makes it such an exhilarating experience is the way it’s executed. The raid in question takes place in a high-rise building occupied by a mob boss (Ray Sahetapy) and his group of very well armed henchman. Before you know it the SWAT team is bursting in, among the ranks of which is rookie cop Rama (Iko Uwais). The SWAT team now must climb every floor to clear the place out, amidst a melee of bullets, machetes, martial arts, and fridges.

While it is quite easy to turn your nose up at the prospect of a film filled to the brim with violence because of the assumption there will be no plot to speak of, you should think again. There is, believe it or not, a coherent plot and even a few twists along the way, just to test how much this a human heart can take. Think of it as a slightly more intelligent Taken. Or perhaps that should be slightly less dumb. Either way it would probably be best to leave your brain at the door.

The action is, for want of a better word, barmy. There is nothing Hollywood about this; no shaky cameras or trying to make you feel like you are right in the middle of a brawl. That used to be rather entertaining, but now it’s starting to wear thin. Director Gareth Evans though injects his own style into the film, and that is wear its horrific beauty really lies. Some fight scenes are filmed astonishingly in one take, and shot from bewildering angles that Evans probably would have been told to avoid at film school. The editing is skilfully timed to maximise just how amazing the fighting skills of the cast really are. If you’re not wincing and gasping with every punch, kick, machete attack, or fridge attack then something is wrong.

So Hollywood should really take note. If you want to do action movies, this is the way to do it. With brutal and original flare, while making sure the plot and adrenalin are given out in equal, constant doses. It will be very surprising if this is not the best action movie of the year.

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Wine of the Month – June


And jubilations

I want the world to know I’m happy as can be

“Congratulations” Cliff Richard (1968)

June is a month of multiple celebrations – the Diamond Jubilee, an extra day off work. Plus Wine of the Month is one year old.

And who knows, after the wettest drought on record, the current heatwave might even last over the extended Bank Holiday weekend, so those street parties won’t be a wash-out.

So, feeling all jubilatory, our Cambridge-based wine merchants have decided to push the boat out a bit with a patriotic, celebratory theme.

Carter’s Sparkling Brut Vintage 2009 – £19.95, Joseph Barnes Wines

You can’t get more patriotic and celebratory than English fizz – and this is a superb example by any standards.

Made from a blend of Orion & Chardonnay grapes using the traditional Champenoise method, this is from a 3ha vineyard in Boxted near Colchester, known as Carter’s Farm.

Sipped in the garden on a summer’s eve, this is the colour of an early sunset in the glass.

On pouring, it foams enthusiastically with a fine mousse – initially light and fresh, after an hour or so, it opens up to shows ripe orchard fruits on the palate, a savoury leesiness, food-friendly acidity and a persistent, yeasty finish.

With complexity, finesse, good length and balance, this is a really good bottle of vintage fizz.

Joseph Perrier Brut NV Cuvée Royale NV – £28.95 Cambridge Wine Merchants

Made from a roughly equal blend of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier, this Joseph Perrier Cuvee Royale is aged for three years in the winery’s Roman-era cellars.

It foams enthusiastically on pouring and is bright with a pale golden tint in the glass.

The nose is distinctly fruity, whilst the palate shows ripe orchard fruits and leesiness; there is crisp-apple acidity, aromas of brioche and a fine mousse.

Long on the palate, it has a persistent, savoury finish and has all the balanced, elegant and complex finesse you would expect of a wine that counts at least two British monarchs amongst its supporters.

Andrea Faccio Moscato d’Asti – £6.99 (half bottle) Bacchanalia

Moscato d’Asti is a low alcohol, semi-sweet frizzante with flavours of ripe peach, apricot, galia melon and a touch of sherbert.

If you are having an afternoon tea and need something celebratory to cover all bases (sweetness and fizz) without breaking the bank, this could be your perfect solution.

It comes in a half-bottle, but packs in plenty of ripe-fruit flavour, and is refreshing enough to drink at a garden party.

Denbies Vineyard Select Chalk Ridge Rosé 2011 – £10.99, Noel Young Wines

This English rosé is made with Rondo, Dornfelder and Pinot Noir. Unfortunately at the time of going to press, there were no stocks available for review, but it is due into Noel’s shop in time for the bank holiday weekend.

Noel describes it as vivid pink in colour, full of tangy cherry, strawberries and cream. Vibrant and just off-dry making it a great BBQ street party wine.

Recommended Wine

With such a range of styles and prices, there is no overall winner this month – just for great wines for street parties and celebrations. Jubilee-tastic.


Bacchanalia –

Cambridge Wine Merchants –

Joseph Barnes Wines –

Noel Young Wines –

Image credits – Jubilee Bunting

Cake –

Copyright Tom Lewis 2012

Film Review: Dark Shadows

In recent times, many directors and indeed audience members have complained about how trailers are made these days. Many voice concern that some reveal too much of the story. I would suggest you don’t watch the trailer for the film Stranger Than Fiction, as the only thing that is left unrevealed is the final ten minutes or so. The Dark Knight Rises is an example of the perfect trailer; entertaining and reveals absolutely nothing about the plot.

In the case of Tim Burton’s new film Dark Shadows, it’s a very different story. The trailer makes it seem like some fantasy comedy romp, whereas the reality is much different. The funny moments in the film are all packed into the trailer, where they actually seem funnier than in the film. You have to wonder if Tim Burton agrees with his film being marketed in this way, considering how much effort he puts into making it as genre defying as possible.

An adaptation of a gothic soap opera that ran on American TV during the late 60s, Dark Shadows tells the story of Barnabas Collins (Johnny Depp), a man living in the 1700s about to settle down with his wife Josette (Bella Heathcote). However, the jealous witch Angelique (Eva Green) who had her advances spurned by Barnabas, condemns him to spend entreaty as a vampire. He’s buried in a coffin for centuries, until workers inadvertently come across him in the year 1972. Barnabas returns to his run-down mansion to find it occupied by an all-star cast family, including Michelle Pfeiffer and Helena Bonham Carter. The family fish business is now under threat from the evil Angelique, who’s still alive, well, and blonde, and she will only leave the family alone if she can have Barnabas for herself.

This all sounds like an Edward Scissorhands fish out of water kind of story, and at many points it is. The main source of the occasional comedy is Barnabas attempting to make sense of the more modern world around him, including his first experience of a performing Karen Carpenter on a TV screen (“reveal yourself, tiny songstress!”). Yet at the same time in injects the occasional moments of horror. Barnabas after all is a vampire and needs to feed, as some hippies find out the hard way. It cuts between moments of comedy, to moments of horror, to moments of something else without even a breath, and instead of it coming across as something fresh and alive, it actually is more of a beautiful mess.

It’s very hard to know what to make of it. Either Burton is making a gallant attempt to bring outsider cinema into the mainstream, or he simply has no idea what he wants the film to be. The strong performances of the main cast members make it a little easier to swallow, most notably Johnny Depp in the lead role, approaching the horror scenes with gusto and making even the slightly unfunny lines seem hilarious (“you may place your beautiful lips upon my posterior and kiss it repeatedly”). Having said that, there are moments you feel are a little too raunchy for a 12A certificate. One rather acrobatic, room demolishing, lizard-tongued sex scene will probably leave younger audience members a little confused. And Depp saying “they haven’t aged a day” while referring to Eva Green’s breasts may be an inappropriate joke too far.

Considering the track record of success Tim Burton has under his belt, it’s hard to believe that he would approach a project like this completely undecided on what he wants it to be. It is therefore more likely he’s attempting to blend the personal with the mainstream, and the offbeat with the downright inappropriate. In that case, he should get plaudits for making one of the strangest mainstream films in years, but for some this may be just a little too demanding.

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