Tuesday, 16 December 2014

A year in the garden...

A round-up of the year in photos from the garden ~ 




















Wishing you all a Merry Christmas and a peaceful New Year.




Monday, 17 November 2014

Rochester & Strood By-Election

Living near the borders of  the Rochester & Strood constituency, so near that we've had a few errant phone canvassers ringing us up, it has been interesting to watch the by-election unfold. It is clear that the old two party politics of a centralised government system is no longer appropriate for local issues. 
Difficult and expensive road infrastructure making it hard to reach a hospital in special measures, delays in regeneration of the waterfront, the threat of airport expansion and loss of green spaces, concerns over primary education and special needs provision, a constituency split by a river and hemmed in by motorways and part of the much larger urban conurbation of the Medway Towns... 

This by-election has seen the emergence of many candidates, UKIP may have thought they'd be smiling all the way to another seat but it is more likely that the major parties will lose votes to a host of smaller parties. It is not so much a litmus test for next year's election but an example of how the political goodwill of a community has been worn thin by the relentless pressure on living standards and a lack of understanding of local issues. 

List of candidates ~ http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-29616021


http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rochester_and_Strood_by-election,_2014

Sunday, 16 November 2014

Movie Review ~ Interstellar

Interstellar 12A

Director: Christopher Nolan

A long and detailed look at one man's mission to save a future Earth and his family from slow starvation by travelling through a worm hole to a new galaxy where life-supporting planets have been identified by an earlier mission, well, that's Plan A anyway... This beautifully languid piece of science fiction feels like some of the 70's classics of the genre, I'd place the mood somewhere between Solaris and 2001: A Space Oddity which probably isn't too bad a place to be. The real drawback is the soundtrack, presumably meant to be lofty, soaring and infinite but, in a cavernous cinema with only thirty people in it, became deafeningly intrusive and dialogue obscuring. (It's a shame cinemas can't adjust the sound for the right amount of noise absorbing bodies.)
For me, I'd have liked the movie to explore the 'gravity equation' and Plan B a bit more and seen a glimpse of the future humans that created the inter-dimensional trap inside a black hole and placed a wormhole near Saturn (why not Earth?) but I'm guessing I'm in the minority when I say the movie could have been longer... The film is saved from space fatigue by Matthew McConaughey in fine form, supported by Anne Hathaway, Michael Caine and Jessica Chastain.

Four out of five massive plasma spheres, so big they are held together by their own gravity.

*****



Wednesday, 29 October 2014

DVD Reviews Autumn Round-Up

Rust & Bone (15)
Director: Jacques Audiard

Gritty tale of survival in a tough economic climate set in a beach-side town in France. (Subtitled) Stephanie (Marion Cotillard) is a killer whale trainer who suffers a life-changing accident throwing her into a relationship with aspiring boxer, Ali (Matthias Schoenaerts) who is caught up in illegal boxing and security work trying to provide for his young son. Realistic and uncompromising but ultimately uplifting a rewarding five out of five stars.

*****

Her (15)
Director: Spike Jonz

Sci-fi love story about a lonely ghost writer who falls for the operating system on his computer. Starring Joaquin Phoenix, Scarlett Johansson and Amy Adams. Stylish but to the detriment of the plot, three out of five stars.

*****

Robot & Frank (12)
Director: Jake Schreier

Another sci-fi interpretation of human interactivity with technology, this time an elderly cat-burglar is given a robot to look after him as his son is too busy to deal with his dementia. Frank Langella plays the incorrigible thief who embarks on one last job with the help of the robot. An engaging four out of five stars.

*****

American Hustle (15)
Director: David O. Russell

A big, brash, no-holds barred movie based on a 1970s true story of a con-man and his partner forced to work for the FBI in a sting to catch Mafia and crooked politicians. Christian Bale, Bradley Cooper, Amy Adams, Jeremy Renner and Jennifer Lawrence shine in last year's guilty pleasure. A hair-raising, wing-collared five out of five stars.

*****

The Wolf Of Wall Street (18)
Director: Martin Scorsese

Another true-life story set in the mad money world of Wall Street in the 1980s. Corruption and greed get the better of aspiring stock broker Jordan Belfort (Leonardo DiCaprio) as his hedonistic lifestyle spirals out of control. An eye-opening roller-coaster of excess. Four out of five stars.

*****

Dallas Buyers Club (15)
Director: Jean-Marc Vallee

Matthew McConaughey gives an extraordinary performance as Ron Woodroof, an AIDS patient who takes on the FDA to smuggle unapproved drugs into the USA. He sets up the 'Dallas Buyers Club' as a way to get experimental drugs to fellow sufferers during the 1980's when AIDS was still misunderstood and few treatments were available. Jennifer Garner is the nurse, Eve, caught up in the unjust legalities of the medical trial system and Jared Leto is the fragile Rayon, an aids patient Ron befriends. An intensely moving true-life story, five out of five stars.

*****


August: Osage County (15)
Director: John Wells

Adapted from a play, any hint of bleak comedy has been boiled out in a stiflingly oppressive story of the dysfunctional Weston family gathering for the funeral of Beverley Weston, writer and alcoholic husband to the despotic matriarch Violet, who terrorises her family using her cancer as a weapon. An all-star cast includes Julia Roberts, Juliette Lewis, Julianne Nicholson and Margot Martindale as the quartet of subordinate women trying to deal with Violet, monstrous in her grief played brilliantly by Meryl Streep. A mention for Chris Cooper whose understated hen-pecked male presence is a much needed foil. An achingly dry three out of five stars.


*****

Monday, 27 October 2014

Last Dog Standing ~ Episode Five

Countdowns...

As night approaches, the last dog pauses and sniffs the cooling air. There is a carcass lying near to the edge of the road he is travelling on. The New Forest pony is little more than a pile of bleached bones and stretched hide, picked clean long ago by crows but something to chew is better than nothing to chew and the dog pulls a section of the carcass free. He trots off to a nearby thatch of scrubby gorse to gnaw the night away. At sunrise he'd continue on the trail, it's a strong trail, with little else travelling on the road to confuse it. As night falls, behind him the forest stretches away, back towards the big towns where no lights burn, only the slow smoke pyres of desperation.

'THREE...FOUR....'

'Another countdown, what is it with the countdowns today!' Something inside Daisy seems to wake up, as though the day has been a dream, a sleep walk through a nightmare landscape but this, this now is too much. Enough is enough. A point has been reached and she can take no more, indignant rage takes over. 'STOP IT with the counting!'
'Open the door and I'll stop... FIVE...'
Daisy is about to scream a reply when the most extraordinary sight appears on the monitor. Into the glare of the headlights leaps a stag. In the space between the bloke and the ICL it canters past, nostrils flaring, spittle foaming from its mouth, whites of its eyes rolling, a wild creature flashing past. For a second Daisy and the bloke are shocked into silence and stillness. Then the blood-curdling howls of a pack of dogs reaches them and before either can move a slavering, clamouring posse of what once were pets streams across the front of ICL, yelping and baying, oblivious to them, absorbed only in the chase and their quarry.
'Dog pack!' The bloke whispers under his breath, he had dropped his guard, stopping on the road is never a good idea. The yelps almost die away and then one or two grow stronger, returning. On the monitor, Daisy can see the dark shapes of three dogs, slinking round, just on the edge of the headlights reach, stalking the bloke.
'You have to let me in.' The bloke whispers, edging towards the door.
'Piss off! You were about to shoot me! You're the one with the gun, shoot them instead.' Daisy whispers back.
'I can't shoot them! I don't have any bullets. I just use it as a deterrent...'
'As a deterrent?'
'Well, sometimes it works... you have to let me it, they'll eat me alive... please...'
Daisy is about to tell him to get lost when the image of the last dog standing, arm bone in it's mouth suddenly leaps into her head and she knows she has no stomach for murder. Outside the dogs are beginning to edge into the light, more confident of a kill. She makes up her mind and slides out of the cockpit and back through to the door, picking up the fire extinguisher on the way.
'Can you still hear me?' she whispers.
'Yes!'
'OK, move to the door, I'm going to open it, leap in.'
She hits the release button and the door slides open, the bloke leaps in just as the dogs launch their attack in a frenzy of barking. Daisy fires a burst of the extinguisher into the air and the dogs back off in surprise, long enough for the door to slide shut again. Daisy leans against the door and sighs then turns round, gripping the cannister tightly to find the bloke sprawling in heap on top of the soggy mess of her pink onesie still lying where she left it on the floor. The semi automatic is at her feet. She picks it up and walks over to him, fire extinguisher in one hand, gun in the other.
'Now, you and I are going to sit down like civilised humans and you are going to tell me exactly how the hell the world has gone, quite literally, to the the dogs because I am absolutely at the end of my patience...' There is something in her tone of voice that makes the bloke just nod dumbly in reply as she motions to a nearby chair with the gun.

Outside, on the motorway to London, the dogs circle the ICL but soon lose interest once they establish there is no way in. As one, they turn and follow the rest of the pack, the image of the stag still fresh in their minds.