Film Review: Warm Bodies

Warm BodiesDespite the explosion of the zombie genre in the last decade, the undead themselves have become predictable one trick ponies. They stumble around. They drool. They’re most commonly very stupid. They hunger for human brains. And eventually, they’re killed off with a bloody gunshot to the head. It’s almost impossible to put a new spin on zombies without taking away the very characteristics that made them so memorable in the first place.

Warm Bodies provides a solution to that problem. Not by changing the zombies themselves too much, but by putting them in a different context, in this case a romantic comedy. A zom-rom-com if you like. In this instance, the zombie apocalypse is caused by an addiction to technology, which when you think about it is a hauntingly plausible idea. It sounds like the kind of zombie film David Cronenberg would make. And yet, the apocalypse itself is barely explored. It’s central theme of love being the best form of redemption removes the edginess of the premise, but it’s still admirable that a film like this could adopt such a positive outlook.

After the apocalypse, a zombie known as R (Nicholas Hoult) lives in an abandoned airport with fellow members of the undead. When R and a group of other zombies attack a group of humans, he meets Julie (Teresa Palmer) and is suddenly overcome with a strange affection for her. Throwing caution to the wind, R rescues Julie from the rest of the pack, and the two soon find themselves developing a strong bond.

R really could be the first of his kind; a zombie that feels there could be more to life than eating people. Or at least that’s what he hopes. But then again, there are many things that make R more human than zombie. He tries to remember his name, but is only certain it starts was an R. He fantasises about the past human lives of his zombie friends at the abandoned airport. Nicholas Hoult does a great job bringing it all together, combining understated charm and wit with the occasional scene of snarling and drooling.

Teresa Palmer’s Julie may not be quite as well drawn out as R, but at least we can see why they like each other. The unlikely friendship that forms between the two of them feels genuine, and that’s mostly down to the rather natural chemistry between Hoult and Palmer themselves. John Malkovich also makes an appearance as Julie’s heavily militarised father. Malkovich for the most part gives a restrained performance, no doubt because he knows the material is already strange enough.

Director Jonathan Levine handles the source material by novelist Isaac Marion very well. He gives the film occasional flourishes of style, mainly during the scenes that have an impressively cold grey tint. He doesn’t forget to provide plenty of humour during the dark and bleakly comic portraits of the day-to-day life of a zombie. Levine handles it more like an indie film that has more in common with smart and quirky rom-coms like (500) Days of Summer than it does with romantic teen fluff like Twilight.

Ultimately, Warm Bodies has a central universal theme, despite having all the niche qualities of a cult classic. It’s about the difficulty in communicating what you truly feel. R struggles to tell Julie how he really feels, at points rather comically, because he thinks he’ll seem creepy. The film manages to keep the rather darkly charming laughs coming throughout, despite the final act which drifts into more unoriginal action movie territory.

There are times when it feels like the film has made the point it’s trying to make, but it still feels the need to hammer it home a little too much. All things considered however, that is a minor fault. There are after all very few zombie films around that are so warm that it makes the threat of an apocalypse seem charming. It’s a heartwarming and entertaining delight that has the, erm, guts to go in a different direction.

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Video reproduced from YouTube / warmbodiesmovie

Beautiful Creatures

Beautiful Creatures

Beautiful Creatures is a very appealing film. I was quite surprised by this entry. The trailer looked very ‘Twilight’-ish, even the posters had a Twilight feel. I’m rarely impressed when a movie ‘mimics’ another, so I assumed it was going to be a poor man’s Bella and Edward spin.

But it was very good, Alden Ehrenreich and Alice Englert make a great onscreen couple. With acting heavyweights Emma Thompson and Jeremy Irons on board, this drama lit up the screen.

The basic story is Lena Duchannes (Englert) is actually a magic person, a ‘caster’. She won’t get a sweet sixteenth birthday, for that’s when she’s chosen for either the light or dark side. Ehrenreich plays her love interest Ethan Waite, who has dreams about Lena before he meets her.

Irons plays Lena’ uncle Macon, whilst Thomspon plays a very mean townsfolk member, Mrs. Lincoln, whose intent on getting rid of poor Lena from the local school. The whole town ends up against Lena, who unsuccessfully tries to hide her magic.

Perhaps breaking a load of classroom windows during a lesson isn’t a good idea. D’oh!

Ethan’s best pal Link (Thomann Mann) provides the humour which is a welcome relief as it does get a bit dreary with the lovebirds bemoaning their love and how difficult things are.

But with a great script and good leads this film gets away with quite a lot. I found the CGI patchy in some scenes, the moaning from Ethan and Lena- which could have been cut… but for me it didn’t dampen the viewing. It was rather was like a favourite nephew/niece being naughty. You just forgive them.

A very good effort from all involved, which is why I award 7/10

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Trailer reproduced from You Tube/Hollywood streams

Film Review: Lincoln

Lincoln“Lincoln” is an unexpected triumph. You expect it to be a talky biopic, that as a consequence is dry and dusty. It is talky, but it’s also thrilling. This is down to the precise vision of Steven Spielberg, who gives the story wonderful coherence. He doesn’t need to be loud and flashy; he’s making a movie about a political hero.

It’s taken a long time to get to cinema screens too. Steven Spielberg has owned the rights to Doris Kearn Goodwin’s biography “Team of Rivals” since 2001. Liam Neeson had been on board to play the 16th President of The United States from the start, until he pulled out in 2010 when Spielberg wanted to get filming underway. Playwright Tony Kushner was given screenwriting duties, and provided Spielberg with a 550-page script. Spielberg removed the last 80 pages and went to work. Instead of making an epic biopic, the director decided to dedicate the movie to the fiery final months of Lincoln’s presidency.

To be more specific, “Lincoln” is about the President’s attempts to pass the 13th Amendment – abolishing slavery. Here we have a quietly intellectual man, who knows that the very soul of his nation is at stake. Tony Kushner is more than aware of that, and it shows in his clinically planned screenplay. He knows that slavery came very close to continuing with the South contemplating a return to the Union. For Lincoln, it was now or never.

He’s even willing to give up a peaceful end to the Civil War in order to get his amendment passed in the House of Representatives, a place that feels like a grand theatre. Because Spielberg ditches the idea of biography in favour of a precise approach, the focus is very much on the heated situation, and the crisis hammering at Lincoln’s door. Many movies like this reveal a lot about the director’s mindset. Oliver Stone applied paranoia to “JFK”, and poked fun at an easy target with “W”. With “Lincoln”, we can see that Spielberg clearly admires the President. He likes hiss passion, and his quiet cerebral nature. Spielberg and Lincoln themselves have rather a lot in common.

Take for example their shared subtle intelligence. Steven Spielberg is often accused of being too restrained as a director, but “Lincoln” proves those naysayers wrong. He demands that the audience pay full attention, all the way through it’s two-and-a-half length. Every line of dialogue is thoughtful, and the language leaps from the screen. Every camera angle is precisely executed, and often have more to say than the dialogue. It’s designed with a consuming dark brown and grey tint, with flowing clouds of tobacco thickening the air.

Daniel Day-Lewis’ Abraham Lincoln is surrounded by a very strong supporting cast. There’s Joseph Gordon-Levitt as Robert Todd Lincoln, the President’ son. In the rather minor family based storylines, Lincoln attempts to protect Robert from enlisting, more than aware of all his other American sons who have fallen in the Civil War. Sally Field is Mary Lincoln, the President’s wife who drains him with her concern and heartbreak. James Spader is also a delight as the wonderfully moustached William N. Bilbo, a Republican once imprisoned by Lincoln, now lobbying for the amendment to be passed. But no one is having more fun than Tommy Lee Jones as Thaddeus Stevens, a man who could strike fear into any Congressman on the floor of the House.

It goes without saying though that this is Daniel Day-Lewis’ film. His performance is remarkably authentic, which isn’t really surprising for an actor who clearly immerses himself in research. It’s easy to see how Lewis and Spielberg make such a good partnership. Despite the final five minutes of the film shifting into melodrama, “Lincoln” is heartfelt, delightfully intelligent and gripping right until the very end. It’s the only way you can tell a story about a man who raised the bar high, and then had the audacity to clear it.

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Film Review: The Impossible

The Impossible
The Impossible starring Ewan McGregor and Naomi Watts was a great movie. It is so rare that a movie based on an actual event, touches the heartstrings.

Based on one family’s account of surviving the tsunami that struck south west Asia was so moving. A sterling cast, supported by impressive CGI and a great script made this the event of the month for me.

It’s all too easy to forget the trauma and suffering that people go through when Mother Nature goes on the rampage, particularly when these events are far from our own shores. News events rarely focus on one particular family’s point of view, so this film was a unique way to witness how people have to cope with what life has hit them with.

Ewan McGregor plays Henry Bennett whilst Naomi Watts plays his wife. If movies weren’t so well advertised, I would never have guessed playing around the pool would end up in a battle for survival. When the tsunami hits, it’s like you’re there with this poor family. The charisma between the actors made me instantly care for them, I became worried for them once disaster struck.

Spilt up and far apart, how would they cope? What was going to happen to them? You can only imagine how you would cope if something like this happened. It’s all too easy to assume, yes that’s what I’d do – when in fact you never really know. The tsunami effects were awe inspiring. Water was everywhere and the power it unleashed was devastating.

It was heart wrenching to watch, but I had to keep watching. I had to know what happened to them. This was how I knew I loved the film, it was believable and I was swept inside their world.

The younger members of the cast were brilliant. Lucas (Tom Holland), Thomas (Samuel Joslin) and Simon (Oaklee Pendergast) played the kids. I believe they have good careers ahead of them.

The choice of Ewan McGregor as the lead actor was shrewd. He is never the same in any movie I’ve seen him in. That guy can do anything!

I disagree with some comments that the larger impacts of the tsunami were ignored. One family wouldn’t think about the entire world – and that was this film’s focus. I understood that choice and it doesn’t diminish the film at all.

I think this will be the first film of 2013, to get a well deserved 10/10 from me. Of course my thoughts and prayers go to the real people who actually endured this.

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Trailer reproduced from YouTube/PvrPictures.

How Many Theme Parks Does Florida Have?

How Many Theme Parks Does Florida Have?

There are three words that you will see together quite often. Care to guess what those three words might be? Those three words are Florida and theme parks. You may even see these three words together more often than you will see meat and pie. Have you ever thought why these three words are so commonly seen together? The answer is pretty easy. Florida has some of the best theme parks in the world. It has the perfect environment for them, and there are plenty to choose from. There is a theme park for just about everyone, and they are all located right in the middle Florida. Which theme park should you visit? The real question is this. Which theme park should you not visit?

The Heavy Hitters

There are three main theme parks located in central Florida. These three theme parks are the ones that always get the most attention. Within each of these theme parks, you will find several other theme parks.

For instance, Walt Disney World actually consists of six theme parks. Universal Studios Orlando actually consists of three theme parks, and Sea world Orlando actually consists of two theme parks. These are the three major theme parks that get most of the attention in central Florida, but what most people don’t know, is the fact that there are several other theme parks where you can have just as much fun.

These theme parks are labelled as half day theme parks because it only takes about a half of a day to see everything that they have to offer. These theme parks might be an excellent choice if you are looking for something a little bit different while you are on a holiday in Orlando.

What Are the Names of These Half Day Theme Parks?

The first theme park that comes to mind would have to be Gatorland Zoo. This is one place in Florida where you can see several alligators at once. You will also be able to see plenty of other great animals at this zoo. There is also another theme park called Ripley’s Believe It or Not. This is yet another great alternative some of the larger theme parks that are in Florida. This theme park is loaded with all kinds of odd exhibits that will make you wonder whether or not they were real.

Themed Dining Attractions

Orlando is also home to several great themed dining attractions. These are great place to spend an evening and be treated to a one of a kind show with a meal that fits the theme of the show. If you are planning a holiday trip to Orlando, this type of attraction is a must see.

As you can plainly see from these few choices, Florida has quite a few theme parks to choose from. Trying to visit every single theme park within Florida during one holiday trip would be impossible. This is the number one reason why most people decide to come back for more. Make sure you give yourself plenty of time to enjoy everything that the theme park you have chosen has to offer.


Mike Smith is a freelance writer and blogger who loves everything about the wonderful world of Disney. He recently purchased florida theme park tickets on the Internet and saved a lot of money.


Wine of the Month – February 2013

Wine of the Month took a de-tox break in January, but with those New Year’s Resolutions now merely a distant memory and half a drinks cabinet of various whiskies from Burns Night waiting to be finished off, it’s time to turn our thoughts to February and Valentine’s Day.

Call me old-fashioned but I think wines for Valentine’s Day should be pink, fizzy or sweet – perhaps even all three.

We start this month with a sunny fizz from Oz before going all pink.

Sandford Estate ‘S’ Brut NV – Joseph Barnes (£11.50)

This is Champagne-style sparkler from Australia that comes with a big sunny grin – despite its New World origins, it has some Champagne character.
There’s yeasty brioche and biscuitiness, with ripe orchard fruit and a pleasantly savoury rasp on the finish.
It has a bit of extra New World ripeness, but it is still an Old World-style food wine – you could match it with white cheese such as brie or light seafood.
Innocent Bystander Pinot Noir Rosé  – Cambridge Wine Merchants (£8.95) 
An Aussie Pinot rosé is a wine that sounds like it shouldn’t work – but this one definitely does.
Salmon pink in colour, it has aromas of smokey spice and ripe red fruits. On the palate, it has good rounded acidity and minerality – it feels like quite a cool climate wine – finishing dry and persistent.
Despite the jokey name and New World origins, this wine has a distinctly European food-friendliness to it, so it would work well as an aperitif, with a light salad or delicate white fish.
Jancis Robinson describes it as being chock full of slightly smokey Pinot character with no excess alcohol or sweetness.
Carati Rose Cuvee – Bacchanalia (£10.99) 
With its shocking pink / fuchsia label and blacked-out bottle, this Italian Charmat-method pink fizz is certainly going to make quite a statement on the dinner table – assuming that’s what you want to do.
Despite appearances, it’s not actually the hairdresser’s wine that it appears to be. Sure, it is not an entirely serious wine, but it has some crisp acidity with grapefruit and raspberry, as well as interesting aromas of chopped herbs and bitter almonds.
It will work as an aperitif or with the sort of light foods you might want for a romantic dinner – grilled fish or a seafood risotto.
Perfect if you’re looking for that Big-And-None-Too-Serious Statement.
Domaine du Grand Cros Cotes de Provence Rosé 2011 – Noel Young Wines (£8.95) 
A blend of Cinsault, Carignan, Grenache and Syrah from southern France, this is also salmon pink in the glass, with a touch of spiciness and pear drop aroma on the nose.
On the palate, there is white stone and orchard fruits and some soft red berries. What makes it interesting, though, is the mouthfilling acidity and leesy savouriness that finishes as a persistent minerality.
Enjoy as either a sipper or with light food.
Other related articles


Bacchanalia –

Cambridge Wine Merchants –

Joseph Barnes Wines –

Noel Young Wines –

Image credits – Matt Ellis of Smiling Grape

Film Review: The Sessions

The SessionsThe Sessions is an alarming film, but not for the reasons it’s plot suggests. It’s not because of graphic, steamy sex scenes, or the fact that Helen Hunt bravely bares all to the camera. It’s because it handles the sexual nature of the story with tenderness and maturity. It rights all the wrongs left behind by the countless Hollywood films, that attempted to titillate with cheap sex scenes that have no meaning.

This isn’t an easy thing to accomplish, but it does prove to Hollywood that a grown-up film about sex can be done. And not just sex, but sex involving a severely disabled person. It’s certainly a subject that you don’t envy anyone tackling, but Ben Lewin’s film handles the subject matter with gentility, and rather extraordinary frankness. And it’s one of the few films you’ll see this year, or indeed ever, where a protagonist getting it on is a joyous and crowd pleasing moment.

Based on a real life story, Mark O’Brien (John Hawkes) is suffering from polio, that has left him severely disabled. He’s unable to move his arms or his legs, and yet he’s devoted his life to becoming a writer. When he’s asked to write an article about how disabled people approach sex, he realises that because he’s been so devoted to carving out a writing career, he himself is still a virgin. Realising he may not have much time left, he contacts Cheryl (Helen Hunt), a sex surrogate who, over the course of six sessions, helps him lose his virginity.

One of the bigger injustices with the Oscar nominations has to be the absence of a Best Actor nod for John Hawkes. He has been one of the most underrated actors in Hollywood for some time, ever since he announced his presence in the superb TV series Deadwood. He’s an actor of tremendous versatility, and he certainly demonstrates that here. It’s certainly a physically demanding role (you try not moving a single muscle even when your instincts tell you to), and he’s still able to elevate the story in touching, and often funny ways.

It’s not only John Hawkes though who has to carry the story forward. Helen Hunt is also relied on to take some of the strain. As the sex surrogate Cheryl, she delivers a performance of tremendous tact and delicacy. She’s a very warm presence, and seems surprisingly comfortable during the scenes where she bares all, some of which have a considerable length. Cheryl herself is a very professional person, who lays out the ground rules for Mark before they begin; there will be no more than six sessions, and the intention is by no means to fall in love. Mark understands this.

There is some excellent support along the way too. William H. Macy is a particular delight as the liberal priest Father Brendan, to whom Mark confesses that he has a desire to have sex with a woman. While during the early stages Father Brendan is comically a little out of his depth with the topic of conversation, he eventually tells Mark that God would tell him to go for it. He tells him that even though sex outside of marriage is a sin to the Catholic Church, that God would grant him a free pass on this one. And so Father Brendan caps off some humorous scenes with a moment of joyous compassion.

It’s very rare in this day and age, when special effects often take centre stage, that two actors are called upon to carry the heart of a film, but director Ben Lewin knows that it’s in safe hands. Lewin is himself a survivor of polio, with some disability. No doubt he’s very aware that the script and characters are right where they need to be. Although, when you strip away the emotion and sensitivity, the plot itself is rather formulaic. Many people will also wince a little when lots of mechanical detail is divulged regarding sex for the severely disabled.

The sex scenes themselves though are handled very tastefully, regardless of how graphic they are. We never actually see any intercourse take place, and that’s really a wise move on Lewin’s part. He knows it’s the idea of what is happening that prevails. And in the end, The Sessions really does serve as a gentle reminder of what a unique and joyous experience sexual intimacy is, and illustrates that we wouldn’t really want anyone to go through life without experiencing it at least once. It’s a film that celebrates being kind to one another, without resorting to cheap or corny tactics. Certainly an achievement that deserves more than just one Oscar nomination.

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Film Review: Quartet

QuartetQuartet has become the surprising tool of political debate in the United Kingdom over the past month. Because of recent events that are really too dull to get into, the status of the senior members of our society has been put under the political microscope, and Dustin Hoffman’s directorial debut is being used to illustrate that OAPs can live the closing years of their lives with vitality. This has probably come as a big surprise for the film makers, considering that Quartet is nothing but a gentle slice of fluff.

It’s all really come down to timing. First of all, politics have changed the context surrounding the film’s release. But second of all, Hoffman’s life affirming debut is just the latest in a wave of retiree films. In 2012 the joyous The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel became a surprise hit when retirees started flocking to the cinema to watch Dame Judi Dench and Bill Nighy growing old disgracefully in India. Hollywood figures there can only be two possible explanations for this; either the older generation are rediscovering cinema through films that appeal to them, or they’ve been going to the cinema all along and nobody noticed. It seems like a little bit of both.

The plot is certainly something that will resonate with the older generation. British treasure Maggie Smith plays Jean, a diva who reluctantly arrives at a retirement home especially for senior musicians. They’re planning an annual concert to celebrate Verdi’s birthday. It’s a concert that could save the retirement home from closure, so the rest of the residents try their best to convince the grumpy Jean to take part. To make matters worse, one of the residents, Reginald (Tom Courtenay), was briefly married to Jean before she cheated on him hours after taking their vows.

It’s the relationship between Jean and Reginald that takes centre stage. Maggie Smith and Tom Courtenay bring a lot of heart to their story of reconciliation, but there are points that test the audience’s patience a little. For example the conclusion of the film, which goes exactly the way you would expect it to, or rather the way you hoped it wouldn’t. It probably will go down as one of the corniest moments in cinema this year, and for the people who are not too forgiving for things like that, it may cause the stomach to turn a little.

This occurs mainly because of the honesty on Dustin Hoffman’s part. He knows he’s making a light and fluffy film, so makes no attempt to have it masquerading as something else. The only downside is that because Hoffman keeps things rather traditional, there is a serious lack of memorable moments, apart from a narrative issue that involves someone having what presumably is a stroke, and making a very quick recovery to be in the concert. Billy Connolly certainly brings in some laughs as Wilf, one of the residents. You can tell Connolly is having a good time making this film.

Pretty much the same can be said about the entire cast. Considering this is a film about the pressure of performance, the cast seem to be taking it easy. Perhaps this is down to the directing style of Dustin Hoffman, a man who has had more than his fair share of acting experience. He of course will know how to direct actors, and indeed cast them perfectly. That’s certainly one thing you can’t fault about Quartet – it does have a cast of actors that are perfect for their roles.

That is rather fortunate, because for the most part, the plot stumbles along a little. The characters are very genuine, and Dustin Hoffman deserves a lot of credit for making them so, but the plot has more in common with an early afternoon TV movie than anything cinematic. But it’s incredible light hearted charm will win a lot of people over, especially people of a certain age group. It still could have been smoother and funnier; a problem which could have been fixed with a few exotic marigolds.

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Dementia Scientists Cross the Atlantic in £380,000 US/UK Research Partnership

Two talented dementia scientists will benefit from a total of £380,000 in a US/UK exchange programme aimed at improving the understanding of Alzheimer’s disease. The initiative teams the world’s two leading dementia research charities, Alzheimer’s Research UK and the Alzheimer’s Association (US), for a cross-Atlantic partnership to improve collaboration among scientists. Each organisation will fund one researcher to spend time in a lab in the other country, learning new skills and sharing resources to help move their research forward.

Dr Rita Guerreiro, of UCL (University College London), will collaborate with a number of research groups in the US, Canada, Spain and Turkey to investigate the genetics of early-onset Alzheimer’s disease, which strikes people under the age of 65. Although three genetic mutations that cause Alzheimer’s in younger people have been identified, there are some families affected by early-onset Alzheimer’s who do not appear to carry any of these known mutations. Dr Guerreiro plans to work with a number of these families, collecting DNA samples from volunteers with and without the disease to analyse their genetic make-up in detail.

As part of her three-year project, Dr Guerreiro will work alongside Dr Andrew Singleton at the Laboratory of Neurogenetics, NIA, NIH, looking for genetic variations in these families that may cause early-onset Alzheimer’s.

Dr Guerreiro said:
“I’m delighted to receive this funding, which will enable me to work with a unique set of samples with a wealth of potential information to be unlocked. By identifying additional genes that are involved in early-onset Alzheimer’s disease, we can gain a clearer picture of some of the causes of the disease – the first step towards developing effective treatments. I’m looking forward to this exciting collaboration and hope that our study can help boost the search for new treatments.”

Meanwhile, Lindsay Reese, PhD, of the University of Vermont, will work with Dr Karen Horsburgh at the University of Edinburgh as part of a three-year project to investigate changes in the blood-brain barrier, a shield of tightly connected cells that regulates which proteins can pass in and out of the brain that may be connected with Alzheimer’s disease progression. Previous research has shown that about 80% of people with Alzheimer’s disease have beta amyloid protein accumulation in the brain and the brain’s extensive blood vessel walls, which may be involved in disease progression. Dr Reese and colleagues will examine the role of impaired blood flow and amyloid deposition in blood-brain barrier damage. By studying human brains and several different models of Alzheimer’s disease, Dr Reese hopes to understand how these disease features are linked.

“I’m genuinely grateful for and inspired by this grant, and I look forward to the intellectual exchange and advancement that can occur as a result,” Dr Reese said. “My vision is that more clearly understanding the linkage between Alzheimer’s, amyloid and the blood-brain barrier will lead to new ideas about possible treatment strategies.”

Dr Eric Karran, Director of Research at Alzheimer’s Research UK, said:
“We are delighted to be working with the Alzheimer’s Association to fund this work, and we hope this partnership could help us make real progress towards our common goal of defeating dementia. Collaboration is vital for research to move forward – the more people working on a problem, the faster we can achieve results, but we also need to keep researchers talking if they are to make the most of those results. The more we can encourage people to share resources, skills and ideas, the better our chances of developing effective treatments for Alzheimer’s and other diseases that cause dementia.”

“Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias are a global problem, a growing epidemic, and international research collaboration is an important component in spurring new knowledge and new discoveries,” said Heather Snyder, PhD, Alzheimer’s Association senior associate director of Medical and Scientific Relations. “We’re very pleased to join with Alzheimer’s Research UK to provide an opportunity for these two scientists to advance their studies.”

This material has been published with the kind permission of Alzheimer Research UK.

Film Review: Grabbers

GrabbersIf Martin McDonagh (In Bruges, Seven Psychopaths) ever wrote a horror film, it would be exactly like Grabbers. Almost like an Irish Shaun of the Dead mixed in with an invading monster of the Roger Corman tradition, Jon Wright’s second film is wonderfully silly and is very aware of it. For people who are sick to the back to teeth of terribly written and executed alien invader movies with massive budgets (Michael Bay, we’re looking in your direction) then Grabbers will go down very well as a witty and gory antidote. When the inevitable moments of bad taste do crop up, they’re delivered with such a cheery Irish smile that it’s almost impossible to resist. In many ways it’s filling in the gaps where Lake Placid failed to deliver.

The problem with many comedy-horror films is that they know how to bring the funny, but they don’t have the energy to deliver any decent scares. Here though, Jon Wright manages to keep everything on an even keel through what seems like very simple delegation. He saves the more humorous moments for the characters, while the alien invaders (aptly named grabbers) are able to do what they do best. And that usually involves swiping people away with big long greasy tentacles and drinking their blood. Hence their name. And the grabbers certainly don’t care about cinema conventions as they merrily spring up without any warning, claiming the lives of characters you were convinced were going to make it to the end. Think Samuel L. Jackson in Deep Blue Sea, only a few times over just to keep you on your toes.

So what exactly are the aforementioned grabbers? They’re aliens made up almost entirely of tentacles and teeth. They arrive on the back of a meteor which smashes into a small island off the coast of Ireland. The grabbers then start picking off the laid back inhabitants and drink their blood. Only these grabbers have one Achilles’ heel; they can’t drink blood that contains a high alcohol level. It’s almost impossible to even type this without grinning. In falls to permanently drunk Garda police officer Ciarán O’Shea (Richard Coyle) and the attractive, uptight new recruit from Dublin Lisa Nolan (Ruth Bradley) to try and find a way to stop the feckin’ aliens. You might be able to see where this is going now. What’s their big plan? That’s right; head to the pub for a massive lock-in.

It’s every bit as barmy as It sounds, but that’s what makes it such a joy to watch. There’s nothing entirely original about it; the grabbers themselves have a very basic design. But then that’s not really the point. It’s a victory for style over substance (again, Michael Bay we’re looking right at you). There are of course special effects, but these are used sparingly and only when it’s really necessary. It’s the boozy Irish charm that makes this linger long in the memory as a fun, Friday night monster movie experience that’s almost impossible to resist. Because of the limited budget it only has a limited release, but if you can then it’s definitely worth grabbing.

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Art Review: Nigel Henderson & Eduardo Paolozzi – Hammer Prints Ltd

Colchester 02

On a wet and windy Sunday in Colchester I dropped by the new Firstsite Arts Centre with the intention of drying off and snatching a hot tea, but as I began to explore I found an unexpected gem of a show.

In a quiet Essex backwater in 1954, a design collaboration between artists Nigel Hendersen and Eduardo Paolozzi was about to declare war on interior design. Although brief, their venture produced a selection of gutsy, new wave designs embracing the new ‘brutalist’ movement under the aptly named workshop, Hammer Prints. They moved away from the safe, grey, post war era with works that showed imaginative, bold mark making and stark, inventive use of colour. Using their knowledge of photography and silk screening, images have been collated, copied and distorted creating patterns over a range of applications from wall paper to textiles and china wear. Early notes stated, “it is the objective of Hammer Prints that an attack be made on the craft field using the silk-screen as the media to be exploited.”

Colchester 03

Designs reflected their interest in science and technology and identified with international developments such as abstract Expressionism and Pop art, mass production and the technology of the day. So if like me, you’re a fan of 50s design you’ll be in for a treat.

Nigel Henderson & Eduardo Paolozzi – Hammer Prints Ltd.
Until Sunday 24th February 2013 at:
Lewis Gardens
High Street
Essex CO1 1JH
01206 577 067

The Life of Pi

Life Of Pi
The Life of Pi is an ambitious film. It is a different way of telling a story, however due to choices of content and actors, it doesn’t hit the big notes.

The film lacked in any big names in a starring role. This is always a risk, it either works or it doesn’t. Gerard Depardieu (The Green Card) had a small role. Maybe that’s why he was listed as an ‘and’.

The cast selected were good but they lacked pizzazz as it was quite slow. There were a few comic moments but not enough. They didn’t gel as a family.

The main issue I had is the film was more like a nature program than epic blockbuster. As children will be going to this, I will be flagging some scenes that were shocking.

The style of going back and forth from ‘Pi’ as adult, child and teen was very confusing. The ‘adult Pi’ was being interviewed about his life. This was as exciting as grouting my kitchen tiles. The format was again too slow.

There was a lot of CGI employed, even for a swimming pool scene – no wonder they didn’t have a budget for a half decent script.

It diverges then into ‘child Pi’ exploring different religions. This contrasts against the nature theme. When a film doesn’t keep to a main focus, it becomes muddled. This is what happened. Slow and confusing is not a good starting point. Rather like racing across an icy lake in loose flip flops.

In one scene child Pi’s father went so mad, he made his son watch a tiger eat a goat at his zoo. A bit of an overreaction! And I found the scene completely unnecessary.

All the child was doing was feeding a tiger to say hello to it. The mother didn’t seemed fussed and just let the father carry on. The family discussion about religion at the dinner table was dire and dull.

The teen Pi (Suraj Sharma) then falls for a girl, the switch in story was very jolting. One minute he’s a child seeing a goat being eaten, then he’s a teen fancying a girl. Then he gets told the family is leaving India and going to Canada. This is main part of the film.

His father sold the zoo they had, all the animals had to shipped. They were going to start a new life in Canada. His father argues with Gerard Depardieu who plays the ship’s chef. All over having sausages and gravy with rice. If they were vegetarians, why not simply ask for rice? A fight breaks out and I’m wondering – what??? This is a plot? It served no purpose at all.

Pi becomes shipwrecked when a storm hit’s the boat, the only survivor along with some animals on the sole surviving lifeboat.

The boat sinking was good CGI, the way Pi battled the ocean was very good. He jumped off the lifeboat as the tiger swam aboard. Then the tiger seems to disappear, allowing Pi to get back in. A zebra crashes in the boat, despite high waves and being injured it stays in!

Now here are the main plot flaws, somehow an orangutan, hyena and tiger are all living below the canvas cover of the small lifeboat. The next day they appear and fight and run all over. How is that possible?

The sudden attacks between the animals was quite distressing. One minute all okay, then smack, bite and gulp! The hyena keeps going underneath the cloth. The hyena ignores the orangutan, then again there’s another sudden fight and the hyena kills the orangutan. Then the tiger appears and kills the hyena! It was very graphic. I was shocked.

The lifeboat itself would make Batman jealous! It had food storage, life jackets, some of the floor could lift up and become rafts! Pi could carve pieces to become sticks, it had loads of oars. There were even blueprints and survival manuals! It stayed afloat, even if sea water was coming in! And somehow plugged the hole all by itself! So its unsinkable!

Teen Pi wasn’t that heavy as he clinged to the canvas at the front and side. He wouldn’t have weighed as much as the tiger. And one zebra at the back would not counterbalance three big animals plus Pi near the top. This amazing lifeboat needs making!

But with only Pi and the tiger, the film went down further than the sinking boat. It was not entertaining at all. Somehow Pi makes a mini raft (yes there‘s even more stuff in the trunk, netting and loads of rope!), where he can store all the cans, bottles etc. He needs to be separate from the tiger. He can even sit on the tiny raft and lay back. Wow!

You know by laying the cans, and everything, out on the box something is going to happen! Que a big whale who just randomly comes along and knocks them all off. Yes the lifeboat never capsized and Pi’s makeshift raft is intact too.

Then after three weeks, Pi gets an idea to train the tiger! Gee, what a novel idea. Still it took Harry Potter nine months to figure out the Chamber of Secrets, so three weeks isn’t so bad I suppose. So it turned into ‘How to train your tiger’. Oh man, that was tedious!

That’s where I stopped. This is movie meltdown at its worst. What a mess. Like the Fosters boys would say in the adverts – ‘Good call’.

If this is based on a book, I’ll skip the book. It was a bold vision from director Ang Lee but one that didn’t work. Perhaps if the movie had followed Pi from a child to adult in progression, that might’ve worked. Also a carnivore animal is restricting. I would’ve gone with the monkey and zebra – at least he could do more with them. Even Clint Eastwood had a great monkey in some of his movies. ‘Hit ‘em again Clyde.’

Suraj Sharma does show promise, I don’t think for his first film he should’ve been carrying the main part of the film. He was good – but the task was too big. It’s too much to ask of an upcoming actor. I felt sorry for him.

I will give this 4/10. One for the orangutan and zebra (they weren‘t in it much), one for Suraj, one for the CGI of the ship going down and one for the most amazing lifeboat ever built!

Image reproduced from
Trailer reproduced from YouTube/IGNentertainment

Support for Alzheimer’s Research UK Wins Helen a Christmas Trolley Dash

Dr Helen Robertson, from Birmingham, was the lucky winner of a two-minute trolley dash in Iceland Foods’ Northfield, Birmingham store this week after entering Alzheimer’s Research UK’s annual Grand Prize Draw. Helen was one of 14 people who won a prize when her ticket was selected from 67,000 entries this summer – a record-breaking number of entries that raised over £160,000 for the UK’s leading dementia research charity. Helen, a consultant paediatrician for Birmingham Community Trust, nominated her colleague, student nurse Sarah Batt, to race through the aisles for her yesterday. Helen decided to donate all the goods to Clifton House care home in Sparkbrook, Birmingham.

Alzheimer’s Research UK is Iceland’s Charity of the Year for a second time in 2012 – the company has already raised £1.2million for research in 2011 and has pledged to raise a further £1m during 2012. As part of the trolley dash prize, staff at the Northfield store allowed Sarah two minutes to collect as much produce from the shelves as possible as an early Christmas present for the staff and residents at Clifton House, which specialises in caring for people with dementia.

Helen said:
“I chose to support Alzheimer’s Research UK because I’ve seen first-hand the effects of dementia and I know how devastating it can be for families. My friend’s father died earlier this year with vascular dementia, and it was so distressing to see this lovely, kind man robbed of his personality. I would dearly love to see a way of preventing the condition so that other people don’t have to go through this.

“I entered the Prize Draw as a way of contributing to Alzheimer’s Research UK’s work, and I never dreamed I would win anything, let alone such an unusual prize! When I told Sarah what I’d won she mentioned that she’d always wanted to be on Supermarket Sweep, so I decided to grant her wish and nominate her to do the trolley dash for me.

“The Iceland staff were all so lovely and welcoming, and they helped us scout out the store beforehand so we could decide what items to go for. We all had great fun cheering Sarah on during the challenge and there was such a wonderful atmosphere. The timing of the trolley dash was perfect too, as Sarah was able to pick up lots of festive treats for the residents of Clifton House.”

Jackie Dowling, manager of Clifton House care home, said:
“We were delighted when we heard that Helen wanted to donate her winnings to us – what a lovely gesture, and a fantastic Christmas present for our residents! At Clifton House our staff are specially trained to care for people with dementia, so we’re only too aware of the effects of the condition. It’s great to know that Alzheimer’s Research UK is investing in research to help improve the lives of people with this devastating condition.”


Dr Marie Janson, Director of Development at Alzheimer’s Research UK, said:
“Our Prize Draw is always a great chance to spread give people good news, and it’s wonderful to know that the staff and residents of Clifton House are reaping the benefits of Helen’s good fortune. The generosity Helen has shown is typical of our supporters, without whom we couldn’t fund our vital research.

“We’re especially grateful to all the companies who kindly donated prizes for the draw, and our thanks go in particular to Iceland Foods, who have shown us tremendous support over the last two years. With support from these companies and the public, we’ve raised an incredible £160,000 from the draw – enough to fund 8,000 hours of pioneering research. With over 9,000 people in Birmingham currently living with dementia, and the numbers affected spiralling, research to bring new treatments closer is crucial.”

This material has been published with the kind permission of Alzheimer Research UK.