Monday, 16 August 2010

The Sorcerer's Apprentice

I've just got back from seeing this film, and whilst it's the best version I've seen (well you can't get much worse than that awful mouse), it's good but not brilliant.

==Synopsis ==

Morgana has destroyed Merlin, and now threatens the world. Balthazar and Veronica are the only two of Merlin's apprentices left to fight the battle, since Horvath has turned tail and moved over to the dark side. Veronica draws Morgana's life force into her body, and Balthazar manages to trap them both in to a Grimhold. Morgana will always be a threat until the Prime Merlinian can be found.

Fast forward more than a thousand years, and a 10 year Dave stumbles into an antique shop. Coincidentally the shop is owned by Balthazar, who recognises Dave's potential. Sure enough Merlin's ring comes to life as it's placed on Dave's hand. Balthazar has finally found his apprentice, but Dave accidentally unleases Horvath back into the world, meaning it's another 10 years until his training begins.

==Cast ==

Nicolas Cage as Balthazar Blake
Jay Baruchel as David Stutler
Jake Cherry as Young David Stutler
Alfred Molina as Maxim Horvath
Alice Krige as Morgana le Fay:
James A. Stephens as Merlin
Monica Bellucci as Veronica
Teresa Palmer as Becky Barnes

== My Thoughts ==

I enjoyed the film and there were a lot of great effects, they even managed to get in the Mickey Mouse dancing mops and the tune that went with it. It's definitely a kids film though, there are far too many plot holes for the average adult. As seems to be standard with current films, they've gone for effects over story.

Nicolas Cage makes the film, although I might be slightly biased because I think he's a good actor anyway. I've never seen Jay Baruchel in anything else, but he does a reasonably good job in this film, and Teresa Palmer is very good. Alfred Morina is not so hot, he reminded me of David Suchet as Poirot throughout the film, although his clothing doesn't help in that respect, but as a bad guy he's pretty wimpy and not very threatening.

As I said before the effects were good, particularly the eagle, and my kids enjoyed the wolves and puppies, although you'll have to watch to understand what I'm talking about there, because I don't want to give too much away.

For adults I'd give it a 6 of of 10, for kids probably an 8.

Saturday, 22 May 2010

Prince of Persia - The Sands of Time


Jake Gyllenhaal as Dastan
Gemma Arterton as Tamina
Ben Kingsley as Nizam
Alfred Molina as Sheik Amar
Steve Toussaint as Seso
Toby Kebbell as Garsiv
Richard Coyle as Tus
Ronald Pickup as King Sharaman
Reece Ritchie as Bis
Gísli Örn Garðarsson as Hassansin Leader


Dastan is a poor street urchin, one day he saves his friend from a beating by the town guards. Unknown to Dastan or the guards, the king is watching, and he's touched seeing Dastan risk his life for his friend. Because of this the king adopts Dastan into his family.

Several years later Dastan and his brothers are camped outside a holy city, they are debating whether to attack, or leave the city as per their father's order. Suddenly they are confronted with a shipment of weapons which has left the city, and is heading to their enemies. This seals the fate of the city and the Persian's attack.

During the fight, Dastan comes into possession of a dagger, which seems to be of particular interest to the princess of the conquered city.

The king comes to celebrate the win, but Dastan has forgotten to buy a gift for the king. His brother gives him a cloak, but after the king wears the cloak poison seeps from it and the king is dead. Dastan is blamed for his murder, but with the help of the princess he escapes. How can he prove his innocence, and how will the dgger help him?

My Thoughts

I was pleasantly surprised by this film, it's a very westernised eastern story, but this doesn't detract from the film too much.

I've heard of the Prince of Persia from the video games, although I've never played them, so I wasn't sure what to expect, except that the trailers looked very similar to Assassins Creed II, a game I've played a lot. So presuming the Prince of Persia games are anything similar, then it's made a good transition from the games console to the big screen. I read since that the film doesn't follow the plot of the game, which seems to be the norm these days, as Avatar was just the same.

The casting was good, although Jake Gyllenhaal was a little too 'designer stubble' rather than natural stubble in his looks, but he plays the part very well. The choreography for the fight scenes is done very well, especially the assassin whips, which are done so fast you can barely keep up with them. The only actor I've actually heard of is Ben Kingsley, but not having big names didn't affect the film.

The cgi graphics were good, if I didn't know that film companies are too stingy to hire hundreds of actors, I would certainly have believed that the hordes of people were real. And the last few scenes where the story comes to a climax is pure cgi, but it's still good.

A well recommended film, I took my 12 year old son, who absolutely loved it, I can see us having to buy the DVD when it comes out as well.

Friday, 21 May 2010

Grizedale Forest


Grizedale is located between Esthwaite Water and Coniston. Parking always used to be a problem here, but they've created a larger car park a couple of years ago, so chances are you shouldn't have a problem now.
To reach the forest from the North you need to take the A591 to Ambleside, leave Ambleside A593 to Langdale/Coniston. First left B5286 to Hawkshead. Bypass Hawkshead follow B5286 south then first right at tourist sign "Theatre in the Forest", follow to Grizedale approx 2 miles.

Or from the South M6 junction 36 take A591 first exit A590, Barrow follow A590 past Newby Bridge Havethwaite Crossroads, right turn, tourist sign "Grizedale Forest Park", follow signs for Satterthwaite/Grizedale north.

During the high season (Easter to Oct/Nov) you can reach Grizedale via the Cross Lakes Experience, where you can arrive from either Coniston Water or Bowness Pier. There’s also a bus service that runs from Hawkshead to Grizedale to Newby Bridge.

The Forest

At the old car park (which is still useable) you'll find the visitors centre, the shop, the cafe and a massive playground for the children which is all wood and looks like a ship. There's also a place to hire cycles and the Go Ape tree top experience, where those over the age of 10 can swing through the trees and clamber around 19 metres in the air!! I have to say I've never tried it, the trees would probably bend under the weight, but I've watched people doing it and they always look like they are thoroughly enjoying it, and I admit I'd love to have a go on the zip wire. It's open for children over 10 and adults, currently the prices are £20 for children up to 17 and £25 for adults.

For the less adventurous among you there are several different walks around the forest, all of differing difficulties and distances. Some of the walks are free of stiles, so they are suitable for wheelchair users, although none are actual pavemented walks, so they might still be hard going depending on the style of wheelchair, because I know some are far more difficult to push or handle than others. The other walks range from a 1 mile blue walk which is classed as easy to a 9 and a half mile orange walk, which is classed as strenuous. The walks are all marked out with arrows of certain colours along the route, so you don't accidently go along a more difficult path. All in all there are 8 marked walks. The forest is also home to the country’s largest off road cycling facility, it has 5 marked cycle routes of differing difficulties.

As you're walking round you'll find statues hidden among the trees, I say hidden, some of them are quite obvious and out in the open, but the kids love to be the first one to spot the next statue. The statues are mostly made of natural materials, although some of the newer ones are metal rather than wood. Some of the figures are interactive, for instance you can play the forest xylophone.

At the beginning of the forest close to the Go Ape area there is a small stream running through the forest. Providing they have wellington boots on this stream is just right for the children to jump in and splash about, without any worries about it being too deep.

Visitors Centre

The visitors centre is open all year round, except for Christmas week. It opens at 10am each day and closes between 4pm and 5.30pm depending on the time of year (later opening during the summer). The visitors centre has details of the walks and cycle trails, they have leaflets which show all the walks, but as previously mentioned all the walks are well signposted with colour co-ordinated arrows. They also sell souvenirs, and just across from the main centre there’s a small cafe which has hot and cold snacks as well and hot and cold drinks, although they are a little expensive, so I’d advise packing a few of your own drinks. There are indoor and outdoor seats, the outdoor seats are also available for anyone who wants to take a picnic.

On the opposite side of a small stream you’ll find a cycle hire shop, so you don’t have to take your own cycles, the latest you can hire a cycle is 3pm, and it has to be returned by 5pm.

Also close to the visitor’s centre is a large children’s park. The playground has a large wooden structure in the centre which is shaped like a pirate ship, and has slides and climbing frames. This is usually being used by children aged 10 and under, with a few children around 11-13, after that age it seems like it isn’t ‘cool’ enough to be used.

Just outside the Visitors Centre you’ll find the Theatre in the Forest. There are different plays and performances going on through the year. For instance the Brewery Art will soon be performing their hilarious adaptation of Shakespeare’s Richard III.

The forest is busy nearly all year round, but during the summer you’ll find the area very busy. This means you are unlikely to find any quiet time around the visitors centre, and the shorter walks will be quite crowded. No matter which walk you decide to take I would recommend you plan for a full day at Grizedale, the scenery is beautiful and despite what I mentioned earlier about crowds, you’ll still be able to find some time and space to enjoy the tranquillity of the forest.
Final Opinion

I love going to Grizedale because there's something for everyone. My children love it because they enjoy the playground, they love to hunt for new sculptures, and they really love jumping in the stream!

I find the cafe and shop expensive so we generally take our own food and have a picnic, and will just buy an ice cream or something small during the afternoon if we need to.

The routes are well signposted (and by signpost I don't mean great big ugly things that spoil the forest, they are small and don't detract from the natural beauty), however, if you don't pay attention, or head off without looking to see which colour is which, you might find yourself on a much longer walk than you thought. As I did once when I ended up on a cycle trail not a walk, and 4 hours later was starting to worry that I'd never get back. Although in a way it was a wonderful mistake because it took us up quite high and the view was outstanding.

A lovely day out, that's well recommended.

The Golden Compass

I watched this for the first time last night, and only because someone had bought it for my children. I'd spent a long time avoiding buying it because I do not like Nicole Kidman one bit.

~What is the Film About~

The film is based on a book called the Northern Lights by Philip Pullman. It revolves around a girl called Lyra in a world not dissimilar to our own, except everyone's souls live in a daemon which manifests itself as an animal. The daemons of children can change shape, adult daemons appear to be fixed in one form.

Lyra lives in what appears to be a boarding school where her uncle (Lord Asriel) works. After she thwarts an assassination attempt on her uncle, he travels to the north to find evidence of 'dust'.

Then along comes Mrs Coulter who wants to take Lyra under her wing and take her north as well, the school headmaster is reluctant, but eventually agrees that Lyra can go. Before she leaves he gives her an alethiometer (Golden Compass), which only certain people can read.

The rest of the story follows Lyra's fight between good and bad, the introduction of Iorek Byrnison, fighting bear, Serafina the witch and Lee Scoresby an aeronaut. Both of who aid Lyra on her quest.

I could go into a lot more detail, but it would spoil it for anyone yet to watch.

~The Main Cast~

Nicole Kidman - Mrs. Coulter
Daniel Craig - Lord Asriel
Dakota Blue Richards - Lyra
Ian McKellen - Iorek Byrnison (voice)
Eva Green - Serafina Pekkala
Sam Elliott - Lee Scoresby
Christopher Lee - First High Councillor

~My Thoughts~

I quite enjoyed the film, despite still thinking the acting skills of Nicole Kidman let it down, I find her very one dimensional. However, the acting from Dakota was enough to carry the film alone. She did a wonderful job in the main role and the other cast members also did a good job. Ian McKellen was the perfect voice over for the bear.

The story flowed fairly well, although I never really understood the point of dust and what the significance was. Which made it awkward when my children also asked about dust and what did it mean.

The animation was good, and fairly realistic looking, well as realistic as talking bears can be lol.

So altogether I thought it was acceptable as a family film, certainly not worth all the hoo-ha there was when it first came out. Just a pleasant watch with no sex (or innuendos) or swearing, and a fight between good and evil.

Wednesday, 19 May 2010

Furry Vengeance


Brendan Fraser as Dan Sanders
Ricky Garcia as Frank
Eugene Cordero as Cheese
Patrice O'Neal as Gus
Jim Norton as Hank
Brooke Shields as Tammy Sanders
Matt Prokop as Tyler Sanders
Billy Bush as Drill Sergeant
Ken Jeong as Neal Lyman


Dan Sanders is a loyal employee of Lyman Industries, so loyal in fact he uproots his entire family from Chicago, and moves them to the Oregon wilderness, in order to supervise the construction of a new 'eco friendly, green' site. Unfortunately unbeknownst to Dan, Neal Lyman is not as eco friendly as he makes out, and is planning to flatten the forest in order to double the size of the housing development, adding shopping malls with woodland themes!

Only the current inhabitants of the forest have other ideas, and they embark on an elaborate plan to make Dan see what a mistake he's making. Unfortunately for Dan, this plan is bound to make him a laughing stock at work.

My Thoughts

I've rated this a 3, but it almost got 2 star rating. For an adult it is very poor indeed, but my daughter and all the other kids in the cinema were laughing hysterically, so it must have hit their wavelengths.

The one good thing about this film was that it avoided the 'talking animals' pitfall that so many of these films fall into. It did however have amazing animals, with the ability to communicate that would make special intelligence jealous! This is where it fell down from an adult point of view, it was way too far fetched, but the kids enjoyed the 'nah-nah' type noises the animals would make once their plan had come together.

The film used real animals and stuffed ones too, I think they knew that the stuffed animals were never going to look realistic, so they went for the exact opposite and made them so totally unrealistic you couldn't help but laugh at them.

There were a few points in the film that most adults would find themselves chuckling away to. But unlike Shrek for example, there are no adult themes in the film, so it's not a case of there being laughs for kids and double entendre jokes for adults, all the laughs hit the lowest common denominator.

I don't think Brendan Fraiser did himself any favours with this film, he is a far better actor than the storyline of this film allows.

The storyline is a rehash of so many other nature v developer films or tv shows, and the outcome is pretty obvious from the beginning.

Still it was worth the entrance money to hear my daughter laughing away, so it wasn't all bad.

Friday, 7 May 2010

Beningbrough Hall

Beningbrough Hall is located just outside York near the small village of Beningbrough. It is 8 miles north-west of York, and 2 miles west of Shipton along the A19.

Admission and Prices

As with most National trust properties opening times aren't simple as they could be.


Most of the grounds, a shop and restaurant are open 11 until 330 Monday to Wednesday, and at the weekends. During the high season March until early November they are open until 530, and during July and August they are also open on Friday.


House opens later in the year, (March rather than February) and until mid-March is only open at the weekends. From March to November it is open Monday to Wednesday and weekends from 11 until five. And again as with the grounds during July and August it is also open on Friday.

The galleries are open all year round, but they are only open in from 11 until 330, and their only open at the weekend.


Gift Aid Admission (Standard Admission prices in brackets) Summer: £8.40 (£7.60), child £4.20 (£3.80), family £20 (£18). Groups (£7.30). Winter: £5.50 (£5), child £2.60 (£2.35), family £14 (£12.50). Groups (£4.40).

Again as with all National trust properties the admin prices include a gift aid donation, but you can pay the standard admission if you do not wish to pay the gift aid.

What to See


House is a 1716 Georgian mansion, which can be visited all the several floors.
The upper floors house the galleries with some interesting interactive galleries. In one gallery you can take a picture of yourself and superimpose it onto an 18th-century portrait and then e-mail copy to yourself. In another area you can dress up in Georgian clothes (although they are not full outfits, they are specially made outfits which will hook over your shoulders).
There are also rooms which have puzzles for children to do.
Some of the ground floor rooms and some of the rooms on the first floor don't have any electric light, so if you are visiting out of high season then the best time to view these rooms would be around midday, as the natural light may be too dull early in the morning or later in the afternoon.
A lift is available to all floors from East Courtyard, for anyone using a wheelchair. There are also five wheelchairs available from the reception building.

There are lots of lovely gardens to see, one of which is a fully functioning garden which supplies lots of the produce used in the restaurant.
Also in the grounds you'll find a wilderness area, which is a large play area for children which incorporates lots of wooden climbing frames and other activities based around a large wooden fort.

For cyclists there are two miles of National trust permitted cycle routes, which are available to use.
Some of the paths in the grounds and gravel are paths, so wheelchair users may struggle at these points. But mostly the grounds are accessible to all users.


There is a restaurant called the walled garden restaurant which sells a variety of hot lunches, snacks and cakes. It also has a selection of hot and cold drinks including alcoholic beverages. Gluten-free and vegetarian options are also available, as is the children's menu.
You don't want a sit-down meal you can also use the kiosk window to buy snacks.


On-site you will also find a National trust shop, selling the usual variety of National trust souvenirs, there's also a small plant centre and a second-hand bookshop.

My Thoughts

We really enjoyed our trip to Beningbrough Hall, the interactive galleries really made all the difference for my children; it turned what could be a dull trip around a musty old house (in their opinion) into a fun day out. Being able to e-mail the fruits of your labour to yourself is also a great idea, and it means you can have a laugh at yourself when you get back home as well.

The gardens were really beautiful, and of course the children enjoyed a wilderness area which is suitable for children up to around 11 or 12.

The food in the restaurant was very nice but it was rather expensive, and had we thought about it in advance I would probably have taken a picnic to eat, and then just bought a couple of tea and perhaps a cake for a mid-afternoon snack.