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Le Week-end – Review

Qu’est-ce que vous regardez le week-end? I stumbled upon this 2013 gem from Film4 during a leisurely Sunday stroll through Netflix, and was pleasantly surprised.

Married couple Nick (Jim Broadbent) and Meg (Lindsey Duncan) are on their way to Paris for a weekend of nostalgia to celebrate their anniversary. They’re used to each other and their roles – “You’ve got the Euros” - and hopeful that the trip will present an opportunity to rekindle the fire.

Their illusions are swiftly shattered, though, as their hotel from a previous visit disappoints and a call from their grown-up son brings them back to parent mode. It’s clear that Meg has different ideas about their impending retirement – whilst Nick wants to talk about redecorating the bathroom, she’s dreaming of life in Paris – “Why would anyone want to live anywhere else?”

As Meg and Nick explore the city, spending too much money and attempting to rejuvenate their marriage, new possibilities are opened up and many an old wound picked. When they bump into Nick’s university friend Morgan (Jeff Goldblum on top form), tension and unfinished business builds to a subtly acted climax.

Both Duncan and Broadbent play repressed English dissatisfaction with panache as their relationship dynamic shifts and they finally voice deeply buried feelings. Despite the romantic setting there’s not a hint of cliché and, under the direction of Roger Michell, it’s a sharp but warm lesson in growing old together. As Nick deftly points out, love can be hating someone one minute and adoring them the next – but no matter what, you always want to be by their side.


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Top 10 films of 2014 so far

Happy Friday moviegoers!

The Guardian has published their top 10 movies of the year so far – do you agree with their choices? How many have you seen?


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Waiting for Waiting for Godot/Kamchatka – Review


This double bill of original comedy places the audience firmly in the moment, offering a dose of pure escapism.

Potted Plant theatre company, a relatively new pairing of old friends in the South West, have brought to the Bath Fringe Festival a quirky and absurdist mix of previously performed material and a new piece on its first outing. Both plays have a spontaneity and pace that almost seems improvised, throwing you into the middle of a situation with no long preamble.

Waiting for Waiting for Godot finds two young actors waiting to rehearse a production of Waiting for Godot. The director hasn’t turned up and the two young men become increasingly frustrated with their wait, resorting in a peek at the directors’ notes. They don’t like what they find and what ensues is a comedy of one-upmanship, with each trying to convince the other that they are the better actor.

There are peaks of energy that would command a much bigger space – however the fact that the performance takes place on a pub’s basement stage is all the more fitting. Several acting clichés are played out fantastically – procrastination, vocal warm ups (“TENNIS! TENNIS?”) and bragging about being on Casualty all provoking knowing smiles in the audience. It’s good fun with a dark, philosophical edge and certainly warmed up a small audience for the second half of the evening.

Waiting for Waiting for Godot

Follow Jamie and Ben on Twitter: @PottedPlantshow

Kamchatka, a piece on its first public outing, finds two very different characters in what appears to be a post-apocalyptic America. This is for you to decide though, as the entire drama plays out in a living room (or cell?) around a complex board game. Tolstoy, a redneck in a string vest, is contemplating the lack of meat on his ribs, appearing to have once belonged to a dead man out in the hall. Glen, a nervous old man with a large beard and cowboy boots, is trying to explain how the board game works once again. The men are quite obviously trapped, both looking like they’ve not left the room in some time.

As the two attempt to understand each other, and the game before them, dark comedy and satire is peppered with political and social comment. Who are these people, and how did they get here?

It’s an absurd delight with real potential – the venue is limited but the duo make the most of it and as the drama reaches a peak, there’s a palpable tension in the room. The American accents need work and the sound of thudding feet in the pub overhead were a little distracting. But with more support, this company will go far.

Waiting for Waiting for Godot / Kamchatka is at The Assembly Inn, Bath on Friday 30th May. Get your tickets here.


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A Long Way Down – Review

This bittersweet story of four suicidal outcasts in London has been adapted from Nick Hornby’s novel for the screen.

It’s New Year’s Eve and, at the top of the most popular suicide spot in London, disgraced TV star Martin (Pierce Brosnan) is contemplating making the jump before being interrupted by three other would-be victims. They’re promptly put off the act upon learning that they’re not a lone and, perhaps out of desperation, agree to spend the next six weeks helping each other live.

The four misfits – media disgrace Martin, lonely single Mum Maureen (Toni Colette), failed musician JJ (Aaron Paul) and confused daddy’s girl Jess (Imogen Poots) – form a somewhat dysfunctional family, trying to turn the press attention into a life affirming story and, failing, escaping to Tenerife on holiday. Ultimately their mistakes, insecurity and past creep up on them, and the four unlikely friends’ loyalty is tested.

With a superbly mis-matched cast and great locations, A Long Way Down hits most of the right notes. One of the key challenges of book adaptations is pacing: as a result plot developments come thick and fast. Voiceover monologues are sometimes too sentimental for characters we’re not yet under the skin of, but it’s a sweet story that will leave you smiling.

Verdict: try the book if you want to be moved!


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Subject to Terms

How your caveats look to a consumer – and how to reduce them

This morning, I received an email from my mobile phone provider, promoting a new service that allows your data allowance to be shared across several devices.

The key message was simplicity: one plan, one bill. The email wasn’t very long, and had several calls to action – a button to find out more and a button to log in to your account. Overall, a great example of customer communications.

But then came the caveats.

Twice as long as the email itself, the terms and conditions laid out all terminology, criteria and limitations of the plan. In doing this, the key message of the promotion – simplicity - was contradicted. Of course, many services are subject to lengthy terms and conditions, but are made available when we’re further along in the customer journey, for example if we have clicked through to a dedicated webpage, or enquired through customer services.

But if you really must detail your terms outright, here’s a few ideas to minimise them:

> ‘Subject to terms and conditions of service: click here to find out more’ Or something to that effect.
> Use your measurement tools to find out who opened and/or clicked through the email. If they did, send a follow up email with more information about the product, and either detail or link to the Ts&Cs.

How do you handle your caveats?

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Great Expectations- Theatre Review


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Monuments Men – Review

An all star ensemble lead us through their art-heist adventures during the last year of WW2- but it might leave you cold

Directed and co-written by George Clooney, this true-life wartime drama tells the story of the ‘Monuments Men’, a real team of artists, curators and educatorsassembled by the US army in 1944 to attempt to protect and return Europe’s cultural collateral as it is stolen by the Nazis for Hitler’s dream gallery. Frank Stokes (Clooney) recruits a team from the States, Britain and Europe and we are given the briefest glimpse of their training before they’re split up and sent on individual reconnaissance missions.

Perhaps it was the sheer pressure of fitting the story into 1h50 that resulted in a lack of real set up, as we aren’t given much time to get to know the characters and their dynamic as a team before they’re separated. As a result, there’s little scope for emotion as the British member Donald (Hugh Bonneville as ‘Lord Grantham Goes to War at Last’) dies during the first act, followed by the Frenchman (Jean Dujardin) in the second. In fact, they seem rather convenient, leaving the Americans to save the day.

The key to finding the art, but not saving the day, is Parisian Claire Simone (Cate Blanchett), who, whilst working for the Nazis undercover for the Resistance, recorded the name and location of every piece that passed through the office in Paris. Damon is tasked with convincing her to trust and help them, resulting in a near-romance that only serves to undermine Blanchett’s smart character.

Whilst not as confused as other critics have branded the film, it’s difficult to gauge the tone – is this Oceans WW2 or Saving Private Ryan? Marketed as a crime caper, you’d be forgiven for expecting a slick, funny heist film- with caricatured Nazis and Brad Pitt munching on a baguette. There are a number of scenes that raise a smile – Bill Murray and Bob Balaban share a cigarette with a stranded Nazi, and a running gag about Damon’s terrible French- but there was so much scope for wit. Equally, there are some moments of pathos- the men find a barrel of gold “from teeth”, and the death of the two men remind the team what they’re fighting for. Combined with the almost-humour, Monuments Men struggles to settle on a tone.

There are some great ensemble performances here, as the men use each other’s expertise to find and return several million pieces of art. The set pieces, particularly the French camp and German mines are superb and there are a few very effective moments of suspense. Whilst the real Monuments Men were a much bigger outfit, this close up study of the biggest art collection in history shows how much art means to our culture and history, and what people were willing to sacrifice for it.



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