Tuesday, 29 December 2015

Carol: Our Review Of The Movie!

This Christmas season we had a wish list of films that we wanted to watch in addition to our usual Christmas classics.

These included:
  • Christmas With The Coopers
  • Carol

Christmas With The Coopers was as expected, a simple story, a slight unexpected twist and a happy ending. Well happy in general - Laura and I finished the film in tears as there was a line referring to how dogs feel about their humans....we got a little emosh! It got quite bad reviews by the critics, but in our opinion, a Christmas movie doesn't need to be great - just 'feel-good' with a great cast and story - which this movie delivered!

Next, we saw Carol. Whenever a movie with a lesbian couple comes out (haha, no pun intended) it's hard to ignore the excitement on our Twitter feed. Usually, the movies are small, independent ones that we have to wait ages to see or spend hours looking for on USA streaming sites so when we heard Carol was heading to the cinema near us we were excited!

We planned to see it with friends but the weekend ended up being too busy.

We planned to see it at our local cinema but the times were always too late.

We planned to make sure and see it before Christmas.....and we failed!

So on Boxing Day we finally found a cinema playing the film, at a reasonable time and were able to watch the film.

Honestly, we were a bit disappointed. Perhaps the wait, the Twitter comments or other factors had built the film up too much? We aren't sure.

First, the good: the film was beautifully shot, and the styling, setting and locations were stunning. The acting was first rate - Cate Blanchett especially was enchanting and engaging. It was a lovely and artistic film.

Warning, SPOILERS ahead!!!

Our criticisms are all regarding the story. For the first 30 mins we were waiting for something to happen. Then, the story picked up and rushed through the main 'action' before settling back to it's slow pace to finish. We knew Cate Blanchett's character was going to get together with Rooney Mara's Therese we just didn't know how. However having seen the entire film, I'm sill not sure why they got together. Common interests? Shared passion? We weren't shown much of that, it looked mostly like Carol pursued Therese because of one long, lingering look.

And when their interactions turned to romance, was it because of all their deep and meaningful conversions? Did we miss these? Was there an intense friendship based on shared experiences or likes and dislikes, passions? All the things that make for a great start to a relationship, lesbian or otherwise, seemed to be missing - in our opinion.

Then, just as the film was exploring their relationship, Carol upped and left in the middle of the night, and Therese's reaction was minimal! There was another woman in her hotel room in the morning and she just said 'Oh, has she left then' and that was it! If L had left me in a random motel with her best friend my reaction would have been WAY less accepting! And as for forgiveness - that wouldn't happen after a month of been ignored. The film seemed to completely miss the nuances of a girl-girl relationship. While passion may create a relationship, communication sustains it. Their communication was non-existent.

In fact, if you swapped Therese's character to a man, it wouldn't have changed the story at all - it would almost be more believable.

There were so many bits of the story that were never really explained or followed up on - how did the Private Investigator find her? And then there were story lines that were never really finished. If the film had spent less time scene setting and more time building the relationship, it would have been more enjoyable. Or if the film had continued and we'd seen how they built a life together in America in the 1950's at least it would have left me feeling like I had learnt something, or gained appreciation for the challenges gay people had at the time.

Maybe if we had read the book first we'd have 'gotten it' more? Maybe the book allowed you to increase the speed of the story or spent more time building the relationship - I hope it does!

We rarely do reviews but when searching for Carol reviews we couldn't really find many that was more than a few lines long so we thought we'd add our tuppence.

Have you seen the movie? What did you think?

Monday, 28 December 2015

Christmas Eve 2015: Spa Day!

Christmas is a magical time of year, that cannot be denied. It's a time for kind gestures and thoughtfulness and we love it.

This Christmas Eve I was lucky enough to be on the receiving end of Laura's thoughtfulness when I was woken up to a surprise gift. Inside of a Christmas card were details of my first present - a Spa Day and we were to leave immediately.

The Spa was just outside Stratford-upon-Avon at Hallmark Hotel Welcombe . The location was beautiful, set in rolling countryside with stunning views in each direction. Driving up the long driveway it was as if we were entering a new world. One of relaxation, peacefulness and of no distractions - it was almost as if the craziness of Christmas wasn't happening.

We left home just after 9.30am and dropped Bisbee off at the dog sitter's Laura had thought to organise so we could relax for as long as we wanted. From there it was straight up the motorway for a 10.30am arrival at the Spa.

On check in we received Spa bags complete with towels, dressing gowns and slippers and were shown around the facilities. This included a Sauna, Steam Room, Caldarium, Laconium and Tepidarium - and an ice shower to have between rooms to help with blood flow and keep you refreshed - it worked a treat!

There were also foot spas, Jacuzzi's, a full sized swimming pool, a Fesco Vitality pool (that was outside), a tropical rain shower, heated stone loungers and a full gym (which we didn't use).

As if that wasn't enough, the package Laura had gotten also included a champagne Cream Tea and a treatment!

I had a pedicure and L had the manicure - both were half an hour treatments done by lovely girls who were very focused on making sure we remained relaxed. I think I even nodded off :)

The day was perfect, the location amazing and best of all, it was so quiet in the Spa that it felt like real quality time together. It's not often that we get time to relax, indulge and focus on us but this was a great opportunity to do just that. It was even better that it was after a busy few weeks being here, there and everywhere with Christmas preparations and social engagements. It also meant we walked out feeling like we were floating on clouds - exactly what we needed to allow us to get our last few food bits from Tesco's without getting involved in the chaos.

Our Spa glow also lasted through Christmas day and we have decided that if we can we will make sure and book something similar every year. New tradition!

Thursday, 17 December 2015

Death Valley was Dead Good - USA Road Trip Part 4

24 hours is never enough time to spend in Vegas but we comforted ourselves with the fact that it was au revoir rather than goodbye. The trip was brief but the memories were made and we had far more of the USA to get on the road to see.

After my fav (indulgent) Las Vegas meal - Panda Express Orange Chicken and Maccy D's fries - we packed up and hit the road. The next part of our road trip took us through Death Valley. The things we'd read, pictures we'd seen and guidebooks we'd checked out had said that Death Valley could be the hottest place on Earth. The sources talked about temperatures rising 10 degrees from the time you drove into the area to the time you reached Dante's peak. And yet when we arrived it rained. Well it rained on and off. There was no overwhelming heat. It did get warmer the further in we drove but the highlights were the views and the rainbows rather than the experience of the heat.

We saw scorpions cross the road and drove round the tightest corners on our way across the area. We ascended to Dante's peak to be greeted with a breath taking view - or maybe my breath was taken from the scary as hell road we had to take to get up there. But the longer we stood and admired the view the more amazing it was and I can honestly say it ranked up there with the spectacular sights of New Zealand and Australia. The time we spent standing on the edge will stay with me forever.

From Dante's Peak it was a whistle stop tour to see the other sights before sunset - the moon like dunes and rocky mountains made for a drive that was out of this world. When we weren't twisting and turning it was clear straight road all to ourselves, perfect driving conditions.

The only challenge we had was getting food. Turns out Death Valley is exactly prime location for fast food restaurants of shops. The road trip from Vegas to our destination of Mammoth Lakes was just over 5 hours but as night dawned we found ourselves in need of substance and thought an 11pm arrival time might mean we'd miss room service. We thought we were in luck when we saw signs for Tea Kettle Junction, except it was just a junction, the same with Death Valley Junction - sad times. Panamint Springs sounded hopeful but had nothing, then Swansea and Aberdeen - places that are big cities in the UK but were tiny drive through places with nothing of note here. Then Lone Pine appeared. A big town by Death Valley standards and it had a Carl's Jr. Dinner sorted. As we ate the place went from empty to full and we really felt like we'd be lost on the road for days. The people that appeared were talking of their woes and travel issues and we couldn't help but worry when we heard one group talking about the fires in Yosemite - not far from our next stop!

Fueled with food we finished the drive in endless darkness on, at times, terrifying roads. We drove up steep curvy roads and down windy narrow turns. It was like an arcade game only the terrifying realisation that the car wanted to do 80mph even with all my weight on the brake pedal kept me firmly in reality.

On arrival at Mammoth Lakes we found our hotel and I parked while Laura checked in. Before I could head in to meet her she came out to the car park with words that still make me smile. 'STOP, we have to clear out the car.....all of it, the hotel say bears come looking for food and will rip into cars for any scraps!' I smiled for 2 reasons 1) after 6 hours on the road (and as not the tidiest of people) cleaning out the car was no easy feat and 2) our proximity to actual bears was kinda exhilarating.

Some 20 minutes later with bags of rubbish we reached our room and passed out. Turns out driving a racing car is tiring! Plus we wanted to fresh faced and bushy tailed for our day in Yosemite the next day.

Tuesday, 8 December 2015

One Night in Vegas - USA Road Trip Part 3

When you go to Vegas, people presume you are going for a number of reasons:
1) Gambling
2) Drinking
3) The clubs
4) The hotels

No-one expected the reason we were driving to Las Vegas from LA was to see Britney Spears. But it's true! We drove to Vegas via Baker to spend just one night in Vegas and for one reason only - to see Britney.

It has been said before and I am sure it will be said again that I am a slight fan girl when it comes to Britney. This was the 7th time I had seen her live, and thankfully it lived up to every expectation.

However to get there we had a five hour drive from Anaheim (after checking lost property at Disneyland) to Las Vegas. The road was mostly long and straight, and great to drive. We listened to Ms Spears the entire way and it was awesome. And HOT!

Love these roads and in 99 degrees F with the top down this is what road trips are meant to be
Someone kindly drew our journey on the side of a building in Baker
We arrived at 4pm and drove up to the Mirage, handed our keys to the valet and checked in. Next stop was out strip view room for a quick change of outfit and then straight to the pool. Five minutes later, with a margarita in hand we were loving Vegas and getting slightly merry.

Reliving the bachelorette party!
Dinner was at Guy Fieri's Diner. The food was delicious and portion sizes gigantic but it was perfect for sharing and to fill us up for the night ahead. Next stop was BRITNEY!!!!

The Mac n Cheese burger to the left, and truffle fries to the right - both are highly recommended!!!
Britney's Piece of Me show is at Planet Hollywood, which thankfully is central on the Strip so we were able to make it to the venue with plenty of time to get drinks and take pictures. When we were shown to our seats I almost cried. We were only seven rows back! We were close enough that we could see her without a camera zoom and it made the performance even better. What's more, we were surrounded by Britney fans who joined me in singing every word to every song. We danced, we sang and we enjoyed a delicious margarita that I hold solely responsible for the final picture below! The show was everything we hoped for and more. The set was incredible, the set list was perfect and the atmosphere was brilliant. The great seat helped and getting covered in the confetti added a certain something but halfway through L turning to me and saying we should see if we can come again in 2017 was my highlight. I am so lucky to have a wife that is willing to indulge me!

It's Britney B!tch
Blame it on the a-a-a-a-a-alcohol!!!

Disneyland!!!!! USA Road Trip Part 2

The place dreams come true sounds about right.

As fully grown adults, there are few things in life that allow you to revert to childhood and pure unadulterated enjoyment - but Disneyland is one of them.

We loved Disneyland.
We spent 15 hours in Disneyland.
We can't wait to go again!

It's hard to explain why our day in Disneyland was so amazing - there were the parades that filled the streets, the wonderful rides and the amazing hosts - but for me it was more than that. I have a feeling that it was because it was a dream come true. It was getting to do something that I had dreamed about, wished for and ultimately wanted to do for what felt like forever.

We were in tears driving up, we were uncontrollably excited queuing in the car park and while on the escalators heading to the train to get us to the park this picture says it all.

I'm so glad that I married someone who indulges in every moment, who made us buy glittery Disney ears, who made sure we were kitted out in Disney gear and who queued with enthusiasm. My Laura doesn't stand in line with a sour look - this lady takes selfies, chats to people and gets excited about the rides to come. She is without a doubt the best person to go to a theme park with.

Our to-do list was formed of ride recommendations and guide book advice, we rode 19 rides, we saw Mickey's Soundsational Parade, Paint the Night and Disneyland Forever firework show, we went to the Tiki Tiki show and ate Mickey shaped beignets - it was all incredible.

It was 36 degrees Celsius most of the time and shade was hard to come by, but in all honesty we were enjoying ourselves too much to notice the sunburn. No queue was longer than 40 minutes - turns out a Tuesday while schools are in is the perfect time to go.

Laura also got us badges, mine was a first time one and hers a happy birthday - if you go - get them at the information desk by the entrance - they are free and really added to the experience! All the hosts wished Laura a happy birthday and I was asked numerous times how I was enjoying my first time - it added something special. It also gave Jeff a reason to talk to us. Jeff was a personal highlight for me, He approached us while we queued for the Matterhorn and proceeded to tell us Disney joke after Disney joke for 10 minutes. It was Dad joke extraordinaire and we loved it.

I spent the whole day in awe of how amazing everything was; the details and the thought that went into everything certainly made it an incredible place to wander round. And the fact that they kept extending the closing time meant we definitely had enough time to see EVERYTHING. Personal favourites had to be:
Finding Nemo ride - even though L screamed louder than the kids when it crashed (she's easily startled)
The Matterhorn - old school but awesome
Buzz Lightyear Astro Blasters - you are in a computer game shooting at targets - AMAZING fun
Big Thunder Mountain - my kinda rollercoaster
Indiana Jones Adventure - although I had to hold tight to L
Peter pan's Flight - made London look sooooo romantic
Splash Mountain - the soaking was appreciated in the heat

We also loved that there were hosts available to take your pictures - as they banned selfie sticks in the park, it was needed :)

The only slight blight on what was one of the best days ever was the fact that our camera went missing - it was left on the side in the toilets at the very end of the day and when we ran back to get it it had gone :( We were hopeful it would turn up in lost property but sadly no such luck so our whole days photos (and all the ones from LA) have been lost. Thankfully we have a few taken on my phone, and the memories we have are enough to last a life time. Oh and we managed to get this one from our photo pass: