Film Review: One For The Money

So Katherine Heigl has done it again! She has managed to star in yet another bad movie, when will she learn? Her latest attempt at entertaining an audience, One For The Money, based on the Janet Evanoich novel of the same name is a disgrace to cinema. The novel is the first in a series of books about bounty hunter Stephanie Plum, but after Heigl’s performance, it doesn’t look like this film is going to become a successful franchise like the novels.

Katherine Heigl in One For The Money

The narrative revolves around Plum’s (Heigl) first mission as a bounty hunter. She is assigned the ‘difficult’ task of capturing  fugitive dirty cop, Joe Morelli (Jason O’Mara) who is wanted for murder. It is revealed early on in the film that Morelli and Plum have a romantic history, he took her virginity from her years before. The entire film is essentially a like an elongated episode of Tom and Jerry, only not as entertaining, and rather than connecting with the main characters, you don’t care what happens to them.

In terms of genre, I am still trying to categorize this film. It fails as a comedy, an action flick, a thriller and a chick flick. In fact there is absolutely no on screen chemistry between Heigl and love interest O’Mara. There seems to more chemistry between Heigl and Daniel Sunjata who plays her mentor, Ricardo Carlos Manoso, which is just confusing and annoying.

Katherine Heigl and co-star Daniel Sunjata

Criticism aside, there are elements of the film that did work, scenes with actress Sherri Shepard who plays an extroverted hooker were humorous, I wish she had more screen time! Perhaps, that was the key to saving this film. Furthermore, casting Debbie Reynolds as Grandma Mazur was one of the only things this film got right, and I am sure that fans of the book will agree, no matter what character she plays, Reynolds has this amazing ability to communicate with the audience through the camera. She was brilliant as always in this one.

Debbie Reynolds at the New York film premiere of the movie

So on second thought, perhaps I was a little cruel earlier, this film isn’t just awful because of Katherine Heigl, this film is terrible because of the script, the direction, some of the acting, and Katherine Heigl. If these are the only movie roles that she can get, it’s no wonder that she is begging to get back on Grey’s Anatomy.

The film was released in UK cinemas on Friday 24 February and will be currently still showing in cinemas near you, so if you think I’m being a little bit cruel, go and check it out for yourself and let me know what you think of it in the comment section below.

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Book Review: Detective Leonard Makes an Entrance

The story opens very directly and in-your-face as our first-person narrator Simone Seabolt introduces herself to the reader by telling us; “In the scheme of this story at least, I’m not very important.” From then on, Detective Leonard makes his entrance into the text before he is physically made present.

This short piece of detective-crime fiction follows Simone Seabolt as she enlists the help of her godfather, Private Detective and ex-policeman, Detective Leonard in order to solve the murder of a young woman who has been murdered with a cricket bat, and prove that her fianc̩ Рwho was caught fleeing the scene Рis innocent of the crime.

Much of the first chapter is a back-history of Detective Leonard through the eyes and memories of Simone. Author Eric Wood sets this up so well that when the reader finally meets the infamous Detective Leonard – who is deep in combat with an assailant – they already feel very much acquainted with him.

Eric Wood

Before meeting Detective Leonard, the reader already has a strong and concrete sense of his character. He is an eccentric, adventurous detective who has a somewhat unhealthy addiction to Twitter, but there is a hint and a sense that his character is far more complex and deeper and what lies on the surface.

The key relationship in the story – and the reason the storyline flows so naturally – is between Simone and Leonard. In fact the murder and crime solving almost becomes a sub-plot as the tale goes on, and the story becomes a character driven narrative led by Leonard, followed by Simone. But this by no means is a bad thing at all, in fact this makes a refreshing change and draws in the reader’s interest.

Set in the heart of Manchester where the author was born and raised, Detective Leonard Makes an Entrance is not only a worthwhile and enticing read, it is a brilliant introduction to the what I predict will be a bright and successful career for its author, Eric Wood.

Detective Leonard Makes an Entrance is available to buy on Amazon Kindle. Please click here to order your copy today.

Review of “The Magdalene Sisters”

This week, Bianca Lorena reviews “The Magdalane Sisters”

Directed By Peter Mullan, Released in 2002, 119 minutes Running Time

Cast- Eileen Walsh as Crispina, Dorothy Duffy as Rose/Patricia, Nora Jane-Noone as Bernadette, Anne-Marie Duff as Margaret, and Geraldine McEwan as Sister Bridget.

The Magdalene Sisters is a powerful and emotional yet poignant story that follows the lives of four young Irish women growing up in a Magdalene asylum in 1960’s Ireland.  The four girls endure years of torture and abuse at the hands of the corrupt sisters who run the convent. The story is based on true events that really happened in the asylums in Ireland.

Crispina, Patricia (real name Rose), Bernadette, and Margaret are sent to live in the Magdalene asylum after being cast out by their families and society. Crispina after having a child young, Patricia for getting pregnant young, Bernadette for being a wayward orphan, and Margaret for becoming pregnant after being raped by her cousin.

The four girls all live and work in the prison like ‘laundries’ together, become friends and form a bond through the hard and long hours they work. While discovering the only way out of the convent is to escape.

We see that the girls placed in these convents endure physical and mental pain by the sisters running the asylum. Bernadette’s head is shaved and she is graphically beaten senseless by the sisters when caught escaping. The mental pain that the girls are put through is also shown when the girls are lined up naked after a communal shower, and are humiliated about their bodies while the sisters relish this moment. Crispina is also seen to be giving disturbing sexual favours to the corrupt priest, who is taking advantage of her vulnerability as a girl of the convent.

Although emotionally powerful The Magdalene Sisters is, as an audience we still see a cleverly witty side from the girls. Bernadette (Nora Jane-Noone) is right on form as the crazed outcast, who though she hates the asylum still tries to make the most of being there.

She escapes to meet boys and also steels. Nora Jane-Noone plays her with true determination, and her portrayal of her hostile ‘fallen’ character is witty with her Irish charm shining through. Even though she is the most rebellious girl, you can’t help but grow to love her.

Geraldine McEwan portrays the merciless Sister Bridget with raw drive and gives no compassion as her character throughout the film. Although an Old Catholic woman, and a woman of god, she still beats the girls unfairly. Her main aim of her role in the convent is to keep the girls there as long as possible and corrupt them during their stay there.

Eventually Margaret is allowed to leave by her brother, while Crispina is wrongly moved into a mental institution to spend the rest of her days. Triumphantly Bernadette and Patricia escape the asylum after they can no longer take it when Bernadette sees an older woman in her sixties die there. The woman has been there most of her life and this prompts the girls for change. They steal a key from Sister Bridget’s office and escape for good, but not before a last confrontation with her.

Bernadette and Patricia are then seen running far away from the asylum and finding a job and lodgings in the local town, by someone who offers them help. Weeks pass and we see Patricia boarding a coach for a ferry to Liverpool to go and find her son who was taken away from her. While Bernadette informs us that she will stay in the town as a trainee hairdresser and the sisters will not be able to touch her because she has a ‘respectable job.’  This final piece is powerful as we see the two girls really did escape, and make a better life for themselves outside the convent. They tell each other they will keep in touch.

However the best is yet to come when after Bernadette walks away down the street it starts to pour down with rain, and she runs into two of the sisters from the convent under a dreary walkway. She recognises them, and they her, and flashes back to images from the beginning of the film where the nuns are abusing her. Music to accompany this scene in its performance comes in, and it adds an eerie but essential hand at creating the final picture. Flashing images and cross cutting shoots back to what happened at the convent and Bernadette itches her head in irritation to what is happening. She itches her hair so much in frustration that her trendy hairstyle falls loose and she is soaking wet with rain and make up down her face. The final piece of the puzzle ends with Bernadette giving the nuns one last powerful glance back at them as she is walking away. This shows us she has moved on from the convent but what happened there will always stay in her mind. The powerful image is the last image inflicted in our minds that stays with us about the film.

The final epilogue shows us the outcome of what happened to the girls from The Magdalene convent. We find out that Crispina died of anorexia at twenty four in the mental institute she was sent to. Margaret went on to become a primary school teacher in Scotland, Bernadette opened a hair salon and married three times, and Patricia married and had two more children and eventually found her son who was taken away from her after thirty three years.

The true events that happened were the base of the inspiration for The Magdalene Sisters, although not all of these women’s stories were factual. The director Peter Mullan recalls that the real women’s stories were his inspiration to put together this film, and he built the rest on that. Although much worse things were have said to have happened in these asylums. Peter Mullan’s wanted to make this film to help the women that suffered this terrible injustice and abuse to get closure from what had happened.

The last Magdalene asylum closed in 1996. But not before 30,000 were detained there over the years.

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Film Review – Shame

Shame is available to rent on 7 May 2012 on DVD & Blu-Ray exclusively from Blockbuster and will be available to buy or rent elsewhere on 14 May 2012. To celebrate the release of the DVD, we take another look at Craig Busek’s review of this fearless, frank and compelling movie which was on the big screen earlier this year…

Described by critics as “one of the most provocative films of the year”, Steve McQueen’s Shame gained a lot of anticipated hype in its build up. The film follows the story of sex-addict Brandon (Michael Fassbender) whose life gets turned on its head at the arrival of his younger sister, Sissy (Carey Mulligan). Set in New York’s Manhattan district, the film spans all over, taking the audience from high-end nightclubs and luxurious apartments, to seedy bars and gloomy whorehouses. However, throughout almost every scene there is an element of beauty captured by McQueen, juxtaposing the unwholesome subject matter at hand.

Albeit Shame has been branded as a story about sex-addiction, this is not a fair representation of the film. McQueen seems to have done extensive research in to a sex-addict’s life, in order to create a seemingly honest representation of their actions and behaviours, developing the film in to a character-study. Indeed the more gratuitous sex scenes portray the psychological elements, as opposed to the erotic – Brandon’s inability to sleep with a woman he is attracted to emotionally – and this in itself creates an empathy for the character that would not be there otherwise.

Michael Fassbender

Furthermore, the character development between Brandon and Sissy is very thorough. Perhaps not all of the details are exposed, but what is missing in dialogue is made up for in explosive, somewhat uncomfortable scenes. As Brandon loses control, after Sissy has walked in on his masturbation, there is a noticeable sexual tension between the two characters, as they fight and struggle together.

Where the film succeeds the most, is creating a profusion of emotions for the audience to react against. There are large elements of humour, such as when Brandon throws away ALL of his pornographic items. We are hit with a barrage of imagery that would shock even the most enlightened viewer. Collocating this, there are elements of deep distress and exasperated suffering. Intense close-up depictions of self-harm, mixed with explosive outbursts of anger, reveal inner sufferings of characters in a tormented world.

Carey Mulligan

Where the film seemed to lose its way was with the extravagant use of long-winded, one-take shots. The intention seemed to be to create an extraordinary feeling of beauty and intimacy between the characters and the audience, creating a lifelike presence that goes so often unseen. However, as soon as that moment of appreciation has arrived, immediately it has gone. From then on there remains an awkward ambience that seems to drag down on the overall story that, by all accounts, disengages from the pre-created closeness.

Overall, Shame is a thoroughly engaging film and enjoyable throughout. McQueen has done well in creating a tangible depiction of sex-addiction whilst also, through the use of detailed characters in challenging situations, creating a level of empathy and understanding for the audience to relate to. Shame may not be the best film to be released this year, however it should forever remain one of the more talked about films of 2012… and not just for the shots of Fassbender’s penis.

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The Artist – Silence is Golden

Silent cinema has made a big noise at this year’s awards ceremonies with The Artist winning a whole clutch of awards and receiving numerous nominations.

Already gaining 7 awards at the 2012 BAFTAs, including the coveted Best Film prize, and proving that silence is definitely golden as the movie’s leading actor Jean Dujardin won Best Actor in a Musical or Comedy at the Golden Globes 2012. The Artist also won Golden Globes awards for Best Picture and Best Score.

It is therefore no surprise that the film was expected to win yet more awards at the 84th Annual Academy Awards – also known as the Oscars 2012. With 10 nominations, by the end of the night The Artist had won Oscars for Best Picture, Best Actor in a Leading Role, Best Director, Best Original Score Music and Best Costume Design

The Artist is a French movie by Michel Hazanavicius that premiered at the Cannes Film Festival before showing in the theatres in Paris. It has been greeted very warmly by the French public and has also been a great international success. The trailer looked highly intriguing and thus I decided to go and watch the movie to see for myself how this film fits into modern cinema, as I was unsure whether the revival of silent films would be a success or a complete failure.

The Artist stars Jean Dujardin & Bérénice Bejo

The Artist is a silent black and white movie set in Hollywood between 1927 and 1931 and is about a declining male film star and a rising actress. The film stars George Valentin played by Jean Dujardin and his leading lady is Peppy Miller, acted by Bérénice Bejo. As silent cinema grows out of fashion, Peppy Miller seizes the chance to become a star, whereas the old star, George Valentin, fails to adapt to the new style.

After Valentin’s fall, Peppy Miller becomes the new star of Hollywood but never forgets that it was George who helped her to become big. Ultimately, she looks after him and the romance has some unexpected but funny turns. Both of them are in fact desperately in love with each other.

Jean Dujardin as George Valentin

The film itself is a silent movie in black and white with music and effects playing in the background. The acting is absolutely phenomenal and the film is a real pleasure to watch. The story is quite simple but highly romantic and the viewer really gets absorbed in the plot and really wants it to end well. There are several nuances and jokes in the film and that keeps the audience engaged. It is sublimely funny and uses the silent film genre to create something new and unexpected.

The acting is very good throughout the film and the viewer really gets engaged with both protagonists. George Valentin, as his name suggests, is an incredible charming person and the wonderful Peppy Miller is sweet and seductive at the same time.

Dujardin and Bejo

The film, released in British cinemas in December 2011, will surely charm international audiences as it has the French public. I have to say that it is a stunning movie and an innovative revival of the silent movie.

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Film Review: Contagion

Recently, a film entered the main stream cinemas, which attracted large crowds of people as it covers a topic that really hits the spirit of the time. Contagion is a film about a world-wide outbreak of a disease. Being a research scientist myself, I am always very sceptical about such movies as they are often very far from the truth.

I was uncertain if the film would be a reincarnation of other films of the catastrophe genre such as Outbreak, or if it would really captivate me with some scientific accuracy.

With a star cast including Matt Daemon, Kate Winslet and Jude Law, the film is bound to attract many people to the cinema and I was scared that it would not live up to its expectations as Hollywood often sacrifices reality and superimposes its own take on things to enhance entertainment value.

But the film was bound to be somewhat special as they had scientific advisors to create a scenario as accurate and truthful as possible and present it to the public. Epidemiologists as well as cell biologists advices the producers of the film and I was thrilled to see if Hollywood could get it right this time.

The film started off well and very factual. An outbreak of a mysterious disease in Hong Kong and other places in the world quickly made it into the media. The disease had a mortality rate of over 30% and seemed to spread quickly with cohorts all over the world. The science was actually explained really well  in the film and I got ecstatic when they showed the labs in the film, which actually contained equipment that I am using in my research. That aspect was highly realistic and accurate.

Furthermore, the film explained really accurately how the disease can be transmitted and the way the disease spread and how people died in the move was also very realistic and truthful. Moreover, many of the protagonists died in the film, making it less of a happy Hollywood film.

The story had several parallel plots. There was a story of a father loosing his wife in the United States, there was the story of an officer of the World Health Organisation trying to pinpoint the outbreak of the disease, the story of government officials in the USA combating the scientist trying to find a cure and an apparently ruthless free-lance journalist representing the public media. These different aspects gave the film a good flavour of what could happen if such an outbreak occurred.

Scientists finally found a vaccination for the virus that already killed millions of people all over the world and again, the way this is explained in the film is highly realistic.

The film is a mixture of a narrative and a news report, which in my opinion gives it a very captivating flavour. It is less sensational than other movies and more factual, which I absolutely loved. People who like sensational films might get disappointed, as the truth is a little colder and has less feelings attached than the fantasy worlds some other films portrait.

The topic in this film is scary. We need not forget that large parts of the human population were killed by the plague during the medieval ages and that the last huge pandemic, the Spanish flu, was as recent as 1918. The Spanish Influenza killed an estimate of 50 million people and over 500 million people (a quarter of the world population at the time) was infected.

The plague in contrast was caused by a bacterium (Yersinia pestis), luckily it can now be treated by common antibiotics.

Against a virus we have few weapons and if we do not have vaccinations, they can very easily be deadly. Antibiotics can only be used against bacterial infections.

The debates about misusing and overusing antibiotics these days are serious and our weapons against billions of years of evolution are limited.

Maybe the film will raise some awareness in people…

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Jane Eyre Deserves Respect

City Connect has caught up with resident film critic Louis Maurati to give you a sneak preview of Jane Eyre which is released in the UK on Friday 9 September 2011. We have included the official trailer to whet your appetite and look forward to your comments once you have seen the film.

In the meantime, Louis’ comments are as follows:-

The 19th big screen adaptation of Jane Eyre is anything but first rate. The film is an amazing achievement for Director Cary Fukunaga’s, especially considering this is only her second feature film following Sin Nombre, a 2009 drama about illegal Mexican immigrants seeking entry to the U.S.

The two main protagonists have been given small but significant personality makeovers from the critically acclaimed novel: Jane is less pious and Rochester is less verbose. Mia Wasikowska, the Australian actress who recently portrayed Alice in Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland, takes on her most challenging role as Jane. Mia’s performance as the young heroine both shakes and stirs. The chemistry between Wasikowska and Michael Fassbender, who portrays Jane’s mysterious swain Edward Rochester, is superb. Fassbender’s portrayal of Rochester, a figure who is both menacing and vulnerable, is spot on. Despite the many years between the two costars, the emotional connection shines through the screen.

The film is a darker adaptation than many of the films that come before, being more true to the classic novel. With the help of some gorgeous cinematography by Adriano Goldman, who fills each frame in a canvas of blue, black, grey and brown, the audience is literally visually engulfed by Jane’s inner torture and isolation. The film begins with a young orphan Jane (Amelia Clarkson), first living with her cruel aunt Mrs. Reed (Sally Hawkins) and quickly being sent off to a scornful girls boarding school. Jane’s relocation to Thornfield Hall, where she secures employment as a governess under Mrs. Fairfax’s steady gaze, brings her into the warmer company of Rochester, the estate’s capricious owner. By the time Jane arrives at the Thornfield estate to work as a governess under Mr. Rochester, love of any kind has eluded Jane for so long that she has learned to live without it. Soon enough, however, her growing curiosity about Mr. Rochester and the special bond that manifests between them arise something within her, human connection and affection, that frightens her very being. Jane’s words “I must respect myself” reverberate over and over and it is this very sound belief that sticks with her on her journey and with the audience.

This film is a must see for anyone who appreciates the novel or who loves a melodramatic English love story. Unfortunately, being released so early in the year, it will likely be forgotten at award season. On the up side, it may live on as one the best renditions of Jane Eyre ever made.

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Incendies Fires Up an Uncomfortable Storm

Our City Connect film critic, Louis Maurati, has previewed Incendies which comes out in the UK on 24 June 2011. He gives us a taster of the film without giving too much away and also addresses its accolades which, after hearing him talk about the film, it truly deserves.

Incendies, a French Canadian film, struck a strong chord with the American Oscar Awards Academy when it was officially nominated for Best Foreign Language Film. The film didn’t end taking home the prize, but it did rack up eight awards at Canada’s Genie Film awards, including Best Picture and has garnered international acclaim.

Denis Villeneuve, the film’s director, is known for taking risks with his filmmaking. His last film, Polytechnique, told the very controversial story of the true events of the Montreal Massacre in 1989. This time around, with Incendies, Villeneuve adapts a story from stage to film. The stage play was Wajdi Mouawad’s epic 2003 play.

The film is centred around Montreal Arab-Canadian twins who have learned through their mother’s will that their father is still alive and that they have a brother that they never knew existed. The mother leaves them with clues as to how to locate both, but they must travel to their mother’s homeland, only to learn about their mother’s darkest secrets. The performances are magnificent and the story’s timing between past and present is spot on. The cinematography is also quite beautiful.

Like many films that garnered critical acclaim in 2010, this film is far from uplifting and fluffy. Instead, it is emotionally charged and uncomfortable to watch at times, but you will not soon forget it.

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Water For Elephants Runs Dry

City Connect: “Our resident film critic, Louis Maurati, reviews Water for Elephants for City Connect with current beau of the moment Robert Pattinson and his leading lady Reese Witherspoon – will their on-screen chemistry beat Bella & Edward’s? Although this film was released in late April, it is still catching audiences eyes and continuing to be shown in cinemas across the UK including Empire Leicester Square, The Apollo Piccadilly, select Odeon cinemas and some Arts Picturehouses. This film is not due for release on DVD until late September, so we therefore urge you to catch it now on the big screen while you still can. To whet your appetite, please read our resident film critic’s review below and/or watch the trailer.”

Director Francis Lawrence has some achievements and also some flaws in this film. The age of the Great Depression is accurately and quickly presented to the audience, although some of the characters may look a bit too lavish to be living on a circus train. The best performances come not from the stars, but the supporting players in the film. Robert Pattinson plays the film’s lead role, Jacob, quite accurately, but there is a lack of credibility at time with his character. Reese Witherspoon’s portrayal as Marlena, Jacob’s love interest, may be the biggest disappointment of the film. Her performance is flat, unbelievable, and there is all but no chemistry between the two actors on screen. Credit, however, must be given to Christoph Waltz, portraying Marlena’s husband August. August is the owner, ringleader, and most feared man in the circus troupe. Waltz puts together the perfect combination of psychotic jealousy, snake charm, and desperation to pull off the role quite remarkably.

The film, Water for Elephants, is based on the highly acclaimed novel by Sara Gruen. The screenplay, written by Richard LaGravenese, sees changes in some of the key characters and plotline – the story is portrayed as an extended flashback inside a present day frame. The flashback takes the audience back to 1931, where Jacob, played by Robert Pattinson, is a veterinary student at Cornell University when his parents tragically die in a car accident and leave him suddenly homeless, orphaned and broke. On a whim, he decides to leave his whole life behind him, including the last semester of his schooling, and hitches a ride on a train out of town. Little does he know that the ride that he has hitched is far from ordinary – he has accidently run away with the circus, the Benzini Brothers Circus. The story quickly takes off and soon Jacob finds himself working as the Circus’ Vetrinarian. He develops a close and unusual relationship to the circus’ owner and wife, August and Marlena and soons finds himself lusting Marlena.

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Hotel Du Vin & Bistro – Cambridge

City Connect’s wine critic Tom Lewis – the Cambridge Wine Blogger – shares his experience of a lunchtime visit to Hotel Du Vin & Bistro in Cambridge.

Central Cambridge is a beautiful place and a regular feature on the tourist circuit, but rather as a result of this, the quality of restaurants in the centre of town is not generally that great.

However, in recent years, the city has smartened its act up a little and with ever more London commuters living in and around the city, demand for decent restaurants has increased.

A few years ago, hoardings went up in front of a row of late-Victorian townhouses on Trumpington Street just opposite the Fitzwilliam Museum. What emerged shortly afterwards was Cambridge’s newest sophisticated bistro and luxury hotel, the Hotel Du Vin.

Hotel Du Vin is an upmarket chain of over a dozen hotels owned by the Massey Partnership which oddly claims to be a PR firm, albeit specialising in luxury travel and luxury goods. The Hotel Du Vin website talks of “quintessential British style. Elegant and unpretentious. Combine this with great spirit, wit, an unquestionable devotion to wine, and you have captured the essence of Hotel du Vin”.

I had popped in there a few months ago for a quick, informal business meeting with a contact after work and was very impressed by the quirky and sensitive use of space and the cosy, yet modern and unpretentious feel.

For this visit to the bistro, I was attracted by the homegrown and local menu on offer and wondered what seasonal east Anglian produce might be on offer in late autumn.

One of my principles of eating out is to try something different from what we might normally have at home and more or less as a result of this, our choices for all three courses were made for us. Eschewing the sausages (a staple of CWB dinners), we went for pork pie followed by pollock.

The pork pie was dense and meaty, with a satisfying pastry crust; it was served with garnished leaves and a delicious plum chutney with just the right amount of spice and a great balance between sweet and sharp.

The pollock came with chorizo and a gently spiced tomato sauce with again, a noticeable-but-restrained flavour of cumin, and sat on a small bed of wilted dark green leaves.

As it was lunchtime and we had two small and demanding children to get back home to, we limited ourselves to a couple of glasses of Manzanilla sherry; salty, dry and pungently yeasty, it was also superbly well-balanced with great length and depth of flavour.

When the dessert menu came round, we had already decided and ordered the sticky toffee pudding and chantilly cream without hesitation. Like the rest of the meal, it was simple yet full of delicious flavour and excellently made – the pudding light, just the right amount of rich toffee sauce not to be too cloying and the sweet chantilly cream balancing it all out perfectly.

And thinking back, that balance was the theme of the meal – nothing too flashy or obviously crowd-pleasing, but really well-cooked and well-balanced food kept simple yet sophisticated.

In a city like Cambridge with so much passing trade, it takes a certain degree of confidence, if not bravery, to serve food which impresses not with immediate flashiness but with quiet, understated confidence. As a Cambridge resident – and not a tourist - it’s a decision I appreciate.

A lunchtime meal for two from the Homegrown and Local menu with drinks, service and charitable donation cost £60. Click here to see a sample menu.

Hotel du Vin & Bistro Cambridge
15-19 Trumpington Street
Tel: 01223 227 330

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Film Review: Love and Other Drugs

London Life Coach & Relationship Expert Sloan Sheridan-Williams reviews “Love And Other Drugs”. Follow Sloan Life Coach on Twitter @SloanSW_London and check out Sloan’s Life Coaching website

Love and Other Drugs came out on DVD today and, although had mixed reviews in the cinema, is what I would call a beautiful adult romance. Adorning our DVD shelves at the moment, love stories tend to be targeted at the teenage demographic so it was a pleasant surprise to find a story written in such an honest raw way depicting a complicated relationship where love is not always enough.

Released in late 2010, Love and Other Drugs has an amazing cast led by Jake Gyllenhaal who plays Jamie Randall, a womanising yet lovable rogue who works as a drug rep spreading his business and his person amongst hospitals over the country. His leading lady Anne Hathaway plays Maggie Murdock - a charming whimsical free spirit who sees right through Jamie. At the young age of 26, for reasons that will become evident throughout the film, she has dissociated herself from meaningful relationships and it is this very action that draws Jamie in to get beyond Maggie’s boundaries. This proves harder for Jamie than his normal conquests and leads to an interesting and moving drama.

Both Gyllenhaal and Hathaway perform well in Love and Other Drugs, repeating the successful performances of their past movie roles by providing strong acting and believeable characters which nicely complement the intriguing yet moving story. This was reflected in Golden Globe Award nominations in January 2011 for Jake Gyllenhaal and Anne Hathaway as Best Actor and Best Actress respectively. In terms of the supporting cast, Gyllenhall and Hathaway are accompanied by Hank Azaria, who plays Maggie’s doctor; Oliver Platt, who plays Jamie’s business partner; and the likes of Josh Gad, Gabriel Macht and Judy Greer.

The screenplay was based on the non-fiction book “Hard Sell: The Evolution of a Viagra Salesman” by Jamie Reidy. There is an attempt at a statement about the ethics of the pharmaceutical industry and it’s influence on doctors and patients alike and given that the movie is set between the years 1996 and 1999 (when Pfizer released Viagra) I can see why they attempted this approach. In my opinion, the greater aspect of the movie is the human interaction between Jamie and Maggie and the tonal shifts between happiness, tension, closeness, comedy, insight and confusion are all displayed expertly and never seem awkward.

The director and co-writer of this movie - Edward Zwick - is better known for his television work. He was involved behind both thirtySomething and Once and Again – both of which I personally enjoyed. His move to the big screen has paid off as he has brought the more adult relationship drama mixed with comedy to a wider audience.

All in all I would give this film four stars and for me Gyllenhaal and Hathaway had a good balance of flirtation, chemistry and passion to believe that they were a well-suited couple. It is the second time this pair has been brought together since Brokeback Mountain in 2005 and hopefully their performances, which show the breadth and depth of their abilities, will enable them to seek even great heights and adorn our screens again in even more moving dramas and/or romantic comedies.

Love and Other Drugs is out on DVD on Monday 23 May. For those of you who didn’t think it was worth seeing at the cinema I do urge you to rent it as it brings forth a lot of questions about how some things are worth fighting for and circumstances should not deter the passionate – be it about love or life in general.

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John Cage at De La Warr Pavilion Until 5 June

Anybody who is familiar with the silent work 4’33” (4 minutes 33 seconds) will have some idea of the avant-garde style of John Cage.

I had heard of it but never listened, it’s just silence after all. But after visiting the De La Warr Pavilion, I found a performance on YouTube and discovered that there’s far more to John Cage than meets the eye.

Just like this exhibition at the De La Warr, look beneath the surface and you will begin to discover hidden depths of the man. As you walk into the main exhibition space you will find lesser known framed works in various media, pencil, etching, lithograph, aquatint etc; simple shapes and patterned abstracts.

It’s not until you sit and listen to the video documentaries that you begin to realise that the works, created through random but complex processes, point to a new translation of the world around us.

These are not works for those looking for energetic visual effects and quick sensationalism but if you have the time you will find art that deserves a deeper sense of thought and reflection.

A haunting, self-playing grand piano and works by a selection of artists inspired by Cage, appear throughout the building. Other events including live performances will be held throughout the season.

Image reproduced from International Review of Music
Video reproduced from YouTube / morbidcafe

Source Code’s 8 Minutes Won’t Last Too Long

In 2009, British filmmaker Duncan Jones burst onto the scene with his highly acclaimed sci-fi drama Moon. His current film, Source Code, is another sci-fi thriller. Jake Gyllenhaal stars as Captain Stevens, an Afghan helicopter pilot who inexplicably wakes up on a combat mission in the body of another man on a commuter train heading to Chicago.

Soon enough, he discovers that he is part of a government experiment known as Source Code, that allows someone to cross over to a dead person’s body to relive the last 8 minutes of their life – the exact amount of short term memory still intact when a person first dies. The commuter train explodes at the end of the 8 minutes and the mission involves finding out who planted the bomb and who is responsible. Consequently, Captain Stevens is sent back into the 8-minute memory sequence until all the mysteries are unravelled. Each jump to the train allows Stevens to take a slightly different approach to the mission – creating moments of subtle humour, tense drama, and surprisingly believable sympathy.

The film’s lead, Jake Gyllenhaal, gives an adequate performance as Captain Stevens and shares a fresh, comedic chemistry with his female commuter train counterpart, Michelle Monaghan. Gyllenhaal portrays his character’s confusion, mission, and personal story effectively. That said, for a character that’s written as a master of details (and memory) – the script fails Stevens by routinely showing the Captain’s difficulty at understanding the most basic elements of the Source Code premise.

Despite an over-complicated premise, Source Code succeeds at being an above average sci-fi thriller. The audience will definitely enjoy the film with it’s fast moving story beats, but the film falls short of being as smart as it aims to be and the ending may leave the audience a bit disappointed with the director’s approach. Overall, the film is thoroughly entertaining and just the right length, but the film is a better candidate for a rainy night of DVD watching than a trip to the cinema.

Image courtesy of
Video reproduced from YouTube / MovieManiacsDE

Insidious Creeps from Somewhere Unfamiliar

Director James Wan makes a nice contribution to the haunted house genre (or what appears to be the haunted house genre – you’ll have to see the film to fully understand). In recent years, he has become a polarizing figure amongst horror geeks. He co-wrote and directed the first Saw film, a low budget, immensely successful independent horror flick, and has made two mediocre follow-ups in Death Sentence and Dead Silent.  With Insidious, though, Wan seems to have gotten his groove back.

The film debuted at the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) in 2010 in the festival’s Midnight Madness series. Being one of the lowest budget films that Wan has worked on hasn’t stopped this film from getting some great critic reviews or from being picked up by Sony Pictures.

Insidious is a film that will crawl right under your skin. It has the perfect recipe for what horror movie junkies are looking for today – unpredictable frightening moments, a unique plot, and a new insight to the concept of a parallel ghost realm. The fact that Insidious is able to accomplish all this without spilling a single drop of blood is even more impressive.

Patrick Wilson and Rose Byrne play the married couple in the film and both give good performances, along with Barbara Hershey who is now becoming a household name in the scary movie genre after this film and the widely successful Black Swan of 2010. If this film could speak a single phrase, it would blurt out something like “Hold the blood and guts, let’s get straight to the haunting”.

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