Happy as a Ring Tone

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After a two year love-hate relationship (more hate than love), I’ve dumped my smarty pants Samsung phone. Good riddance to bad rubbish. Well, it was more knackered than me and needed feeding twice a day just to keep the lights on. Not so smart, after all. In any case, my stumpy little fingers struggled to get to grips with the tiny touch screen – I was forever firing up fancy apps that I neither wanted nor understood. Tales of my idiocy even reached the Capital, as evidenced by the birthday card I received from my sister-in-law last year (above).

Sorry, Samsung, I just don’t love you anymore. Time to move on.

When I popped into town to browse for alternatives, the arsy child with the bugger-off face at the Virgin Media shop was less than helpful so I decided to dump them too. I can do that. I’m the customer. Step forward a well-known supermarket chain with a doddle-to-use website, cheaper tariffs and no hidden extras. Its core business may be going down the pan along with its shareholder’s dividends, but its phone offer is crystal-clear. Now I have a brand new Nokia Lumia and, so far, it’s more love than hate. I’d never understood why the nation’s yoof was so glued to their smart-arse phones that they would walk into lamp posts and trip over the homeless. Until now, that is. I was so impressed that I got Liam one too. Now we sit for hours, side-by-side ignoring each other. I guess that’s what you call progress.

Saving Mr Banks

Saving Mr BanksAnother Monday tea time, another free film preview from Virgin Media. This time it was Saving Mr Banks, a Disney flick that chronicles the fandango between Walt Disney and PL Travers, the author of Mary Poppins. The story goes that the snooty Ms Travers refused to entertain the Disneyfication of her book for nearly twenty years until flat-lining sales and looming penury dragged her kicking and screaming to the studio lot. When she got to La La land, she loathed the entire Disney concept – the jolly sing-a-long tunes, Dick Van Dyke as the prancing sweep with the dodgy mockney accent (she got that one right) and dancing cartoon penguins. In fact, she hated animation of any kind. In the end she caved in to the corporate pressure and the rest, as they say, is history. No doubt the bucket-full of cash helped the medicine go down. If anyone offered me a wad of used fivers for the rights to my book I’d bite their hand off and let them do whatever they liked with it – turn it straight, drop it into Benidorm, make me a lap dancing serial killer, whatever. I have no scruples.

The smart and witty film captures the Technicolor Sixties extremely well and the attention to period detail is superb. Emma Thompson as the haughty author and Tom Hanks as Walt are excellent. Ms Thompson does no-nonsense nanny with imperious style and Mr Hanks shines as the folksy charmer with a ruthless streak. Throughout the film there are flashbacks to the author’s childhood Down Under (she was, in fact Australian, not British) and another performance of note came from Colin Farrell as the author’s dipsomaniac father. I’ve always liked the look of Colin (particularly after seeing his saucy sex tape on the internet) but I never thought he could actually act. Actually, he can. And why is the film called ‘Saving Mr Banks’? Well, it seems that Mary Poppins is really all about saving the father (Mr Banks in the story), not his children and the book was inspired by the real father that the author could not save. Who knew? Certainly not me when I was eight and singing along to Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious.

The film went on general release (here in the UK) yesterday. I feel an Oscar coming on.

Smash

Smash

We have an embarrassment of TV choices courtesy of Virgin Media but it’s funny how the more channels we get, the more selective we become. It’s a reflection, perhaps, that more of the same isn’t much of a choice at all. So, as the nights draw in, we camp in front of the box hitting the boxed sets. Our latest televisual distraction is Smash, an American soap-style drama about the birth of a stage musical from kernel to opening night – Glee for grown-ups. Less sugar, more spice. The series was a joint birthday gift from our old friend, Clive. Frustrated music-hall maestro, Liam is a sucker for this kind of thing; the gay cliché cap fits my husband very well. The fictitious musical – Bombshell – focusses on the tragic life of Marilyn Monroe as she is passed around the troops. It cleverly parallels Norma Jean’s descent into Hell with that of the musical lead. With an Emmy, a Grammy and Globe nominations under its belt, the show tangos along nicely with twists and turns to suit even the most dedicated conspiracy theorist. There are a few nice tunes and more than a few nice routines but don’t expect to actually like any of the characters that much (with the possible exception of the impresario played by Angelica Huston). There’s an awful lot of back-biting, bitching, double-crossing and good old fashioned infidelity – all in a day’s work for the Broadway board-treading business. It’s a jungle in there and Liam loved every minute.

Philomena

Philomena

 

The nice people at Virgin Media offered us two preview tickets to see Philomena, Judi Dench’s latest flick. The advanced screening was at our local Odeon Multiplex which isn’t my venue of choice – too Las Vegas lounge for my liking. I prefer Cinema City, a nice bar-restaurant with a picture house attached. But, it would have been rude to refuse a freebie. Based on true events, the film is about an elderly Irish woman trying to find the son she was forced to give up to the nasty nuns following a quickie with handsome young buck at a village fair. Well, it was the buttoned-up no-thrills Fifties and unmarried mothers were the whores of Babylon. The film co-stars Steve Coogan (who also produced it and co-wrote the screenplay) as the real-like Martin Sixthsmith, former BBC journalist and Blairite spin doctor who wrote the book upon which the film is based. The movie went on general release today so I won’t add a spoiler. Suffice it to say it ain’t The Sound of Music but it isn’t Angela’s Ashes either. The subtle, gentle and often funny script allows the harrowing  story to unfold and take centre stage without the outrage slapping the audience about the face. Dame Judi is, as always, superb and Steve Googan (who is more famous as Norwich’s very own fictitious DJ, Alan Partridge) is surprisingly good.  It’s well worth shelling out a few shillings for.

Mommie Dearest

The day after we moved into our ancient gaff, a nice man called Richard  from Virgin Media (not the Richard, obviously) installed our all singing, all dancing multimedia techno-wizardry – 30 megabyte fibre-optic broadband, telephone line and high definition TV. The whole compendium was half price for six months and came with free installation, free equipment and free weekend calls. We now have more channels of crap than you can shake a stick at. Currently, I’m being forced to watch wall-to-wall Olympics (Liam’s current obsession). We’ve never had HD TV before. I can see every wrinkle, every blemish, every spot and every blackhead on the faces of the famous – except for Gary Lineker (who surely must have had a nick and lift). No wonder an old bundle of ageing TV presenters decided to hang up their auto-cues and throw in the flannel: there are some things even the thickest slap can’t hide. Now we have free weekend calls, they’ll be no more Sunday Skype calls to mother. Just as well. I could never get the bloody thing to work properly from Turkey anyway and the compulsory weekly check-in was always a painful exercise, invariably ending in complete frustration.

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