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Yellow Submarine Goodbye, Pert Breasts: The Diary of a Newborn Dad I Shall Wear Midnight: A Discworld Novel Action: Pulse Pounding Tales Volume 1 Tales of Unease (Wordsworth Mystery & the Supernatural) Bunker 10

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New Year, New Start

I think I’ve mentioned before, but this blog’s turned into more of a film review thing than an actual “blog”. Very little in the way of random or personal posts like it used to be back in the day. Work, family and all that get in the way as you get older!

Family is what this post is about.

See, 2013 lived up to the unlucky last two digits. It wasn’t great – though it had its upsides – but what downsides it did have majorly outweighed them. Worst is that they were, in the main, down to me.

You see, I’m married to the most amazing woman you could hope to meet. We have three of the most staggering, beautiful, wonderful kids anyone could ever wish for. We share a house with my mother-in-law who does so much for us and asks nothing in return. My folks, as well, jump through hoops for us when needed. The phrase “beyond the call of duty” could have been coined with them in mind.

This year I’ve let them all down. Things are not going swimmingly in our household at present and I have a lot of work to do to make things right. Putting up this blog post is one step in that direction. Essentially, I like to paint a rosy picture of how things are going – and in fairness I’m incredibly lucky to have the life that I do. As such I like to emphasise the positive notes. But underneath, I’ve let a lot slide this year. Done some things I’m not proud of, hurt people I love and risked everything I have for… well, nothing of any import. Don’t worry, it’s nothing illegal but beyond that it wasn’t anything I want to discuss in detail.

Essentially I’ve been a crap husband, a poor father and a really shitty son. While I have tried on some occasions and done the right thing, I’ve been bloody awful on far more and my lows are significantly lower than the highs have peaked. I am very lucky to still have Gillian with me. Hell, I don’t know why I do. I guess it just highlights exactly how lucky I am to have her.

This isn’t a post to gather sympathy or “it’s OK, we’ve all been there” comments. This is a post to let people know that I am on shaky ground, that I’m not as nice a person as I often make myself out to be and that I need to change. I need people to be aware of this and hopefully that will help me in some way towards righting the wrongs and moving our family on so we can leave 2013 well in the past where it belongs.

I don’t “do” new year’s resolutions, but this seemed as good a time to post this as any other. My job this year is to improve me for the benefit of those around me. To give back to them what they’ve given me and to prove to them that I deserve them. Trust me when I say that I’m aware it will be an uphill struggle and I have my work cut out to “fix” things.

Gillian is a woman who deserves to wake up every morning knowing how much she’s loved. She should be happy every minute of every waking day. Over the last year she’s been in tears more often than I can count, and is very much not in a “happy place”. Our first wedding anniversary passed without the slightest blip on the radar as it wasn’t something she felt that she wanted to celebrate.

This is all due to me and I have a limited time to sort it (and myself) out otherwise I will lose her. That’s it in a nutshell.

As I said, it’s been a while since I posted anything really personal on here, so I’m hoping I’ve not bored people to death.

Disney’s Frozen

120px-Film-stripTime for a kids’ afternoon out to give the wife and mum-in-law some peace and quiet…

Disney’s Frozen

“Some people are worth melting for.”

Plot-in-a-nutshell: Not so wicked ice queen must be convinced to return summer

See it if you like: the more traditional Disney animations

First thing – if you don’t like cartoons with too many songs, then consider looking elsewhere right now. Having said that, at least none of them run on for too long. I went with our eldest daughter (11) and our son (5). She thought it was too “singy”, but otherwise OK. He enjoyed it but found one scene a little scary.

The story is a decent enough one, and a take on “The Snow Queen”. Two sisters (Anna and Elsa, Idina Menzel and Kristen Bell respectively) brought up by nice parents (king and queen), but discover that one of them can control ice. Well, “control” is a bit of an exaggeration. It’s more like the ice can control her.

After an accident with her younger sister, the two are separated and the eldest hidden from the world… until the day of her coronation when all frost breaks loose.

Foremost, the animation is superb (as expected). The story isn’t too schmaltzy except where the songs are concerned, and it’s not got quite the ending you’d suspect – I liked that.

On the other hand, the animated two-some of Sven the Reindeer and Olaf the Snowman (Josh Gad) who starred in the “trailer” used to advertise the film don’t appear until a fair bit in. By the time Olaf turned up, Little Mister had asked me 3-4 times where he was and was convinced we were watching the wrong movie!

The laughs follow the obvious characters and the story is just different enough from the traditional fairy-tale stereotypes to keep the interest going. Visually it’s superb (no surprises), but those darn songs made me cringe.

Overall a good film and the kids did enjoy it, though they weren’t harping on about it in the car or later on in the day as they have done with other films. So good to keep when quiet for a while, but no lasting appeal.

Do note that there’s a post-credit sequence, but we missed it as Little Mister likes to run out of the cinema the moment the credits come up. Grr.

Tis the season for giving…

Blue Dragon Children's Foundation

Blue Dragon Children’s Foundation

So here’s a perfect reason for digging into your pocket and chucking some money at something worthwhile. This is the xmas letter from the wonderful staff at the Blue Dragon Children’s Foundation in Vietnam:

Dear Friend of Blue Dragon,

Those of you following my blog will know that this year has been both challenging and exciting for the children at Blue Dragon in Vietnam. In response to cries for help, we’ve rescued more children than ever before from factories and brothels. The rescues are difficult and dangerous – but every mission to bring freedom this year has been successful.

Since January we have conducted 19 rescue trips, both within Vietnam and also to China in search of trafficked young people. Altogether, we have rescued 82 victims of trafficking, including 12 girls from Chinese brothels. With support from Blue Dragon, these girls are all back with their families, or in education. Two have even married, and one has opened her own small business! These are all great successes we’re very proud of.

In Hanoi, we are currently working with 35 children who we have met living and working on the streets. This is an unprecedented number of kids in need of special protection and assistance. These children require not only accommodation and material support, but also counseling and psychological services to help them deal with trauma. Building trust and restoring psychological damage takes time, but it is an essential part of our work with Hanoi’s street kids.

Nearly 1,000 children throughout rural Vietnam are in school with financial assistance from Blue Dragon. Many of these children are supported by sponsors whose monthly donations ensure that families can pay school fees, and students have all the gear they need to attend school. Without this help, the vast majority of these kids would already be out of school, leaving them vulnerable to human trafficking.

Blue Dragon’s lawyers continue to achieve incredible success in supporting children through the legal system, prosecuting traffickers and providing legal identities. This year alone our team of three Child Rights Advocates have given legal advice in 715 cases and defended 19 children in conflict with the law.  The Red Stocking Christmas Campaign has now raised enough money for 55 children to obtain a legal identity, and our team has plans to legally register over 1,000 children and their families in remote Dien Bien province in coming weeks.

THANK YOU for being a part of the Blue Dragon story with me this year. I appreciate your generous support in providing us with the funds to rescue children and assist Vietnamese children to a new start in life. All of us here at Blue Dragon – staff and kids – wish you a safe and happy Christmas.

Warm wishes for the holiday season.

The Blue Dragon kids also wish you a Happy Christmas. Click here to see some smiles.

Michael Brosowski
CEO and Founder
Blue Dragon Children’s Foundation

Join the Red Stocking Campaign 
www.bluedragon.org
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The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug

120px-Film-stripThis was my birthday treat, though the best seats had gone by the time we booked my actual birthday so we went the day after. Big KFC for dinner and an effects-heavy movie on an IMAX screen for dessert. Lovely.

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug

“I am King Under the Mountain!”

Plot in a nutshell: Small people approach mountain, old beardy guy stirs up evil things

See it if you like: Well, dur. The other LotR films

Credit must first be given to the poor announcer at the Glasgow IMAX. For reasons that I can’t grasp, they still insist on making one of the members of staff stand at the front with a microphone immediately before each screening whose job is to tell you how big the screen is. I can see the damn screen. It’s huge.

Thing is, despite the screen being brilliant the microphone wasn’t working which the poor sod didn’t notice until enough people yelled at him. Some switch fiddling followed by “Is it working now?”

“No!”

“OK, I’ll have to shout… ENJOY THE FILM!!!”

He got a cheer for that.

Anyway, the film.

It’s the best of the LotR films so far. Honestly. Yes, I know they’ve added stuff in that’s not in the books, such as the intriguing Tauriel (Evangeline Lilly), and they’ve stretched a small book out to three films. But that doesn’t mean they’re going to lack entertainment value.

As with the first film in this second trilogy, the effects don’t quite match up in quality to those of the Lord of the Rings films. Creatures, in particular, when in the distance appear to move unrealistically. However, this is only a minor niggle as the effects-work is done incredibly well.

The highlights by a mile are the last thirty minutes featuring the titular Smaug (Benedict Cumberbatch who also plays the CGI Necromancer) and the barrel/river sequence which plays out like a computer game according to some of my work colleagues. They’re not wrong, though.

Martin Freeman has taken the role of Bilbo as his own in this film and the character really stands out in a way he didn’t in the first installment. In addition, the other characters – Thorin especially – are really developing.

Add to this the links being forged to events in the previous trilogy (the events of which, of course, occur chronologically after The Hobbit) are both pleasing and well done. They tie things together in a way that Tolkien simply couldn’t do at the time.

It’s far faster-paced than the first installment, and the dialogue is also more entertaining. Peter Jackson makes his obligatory cameo (I won’t tell you where) as well.

The IMAX was worth it for the “surround vision” experience, although not a lot of use was made of the 3D. However, it seems impossible to see anything at IMAX that’s not 3D these days. Thankfully it’s the only 3D that actually works and doesn’t screw with my eyes. Do note, though, that if the only seats available are right at the front or way off to the side that you’re best off skipping the showing. You want to be slap bang in the middle.

I’m very much looking forward to the third and final part which I think is due out in the summer. And I reckon we’ll cough out for the IMAX again.

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire / Thor: The Dark World

120px-Film-stripA night for sequels, it seems. Annoyingly, we had to journey between cinemas as the latter was only on in evil 3D at our nearest picture house.

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire

“Remember who the real enemy is.”

Plot-in-a-nutshell: Winners of the last Hunger Games get pulled into the new ones

See it if you like: the first film and the books

Not one I was keen on seeing as I thought the books were a little dull, and the first film – which I’ve seen bits of here and there – looked equally weak. My preconceptions were borne out by a movie that stayed close to the source material. In some cases this would be a good thing, but it’s not when you’re not a fan of the original.

It moved along nicely enough, but I found the whole thing a little mawkish and several of the characters annoyed me more than anything else. A new director couldn’t save it and the ludicrously over-the-top makeup and clothing worn by the Capital citizens really just looks stupid. By all means show off the difference between the have and have-nots, but there’s a line and this goes way past it.

Obviously there will be a sequel, but at least that’ll be the end of it. If you want to find out more about the film them watch the trailer. It covers virtually every major piece of plot and line of dialogue up until the contestants enter the arena just over halfway through.

Thor: The Dark World

“There is nothing more reassuring than knowing that the world is crazier than you are.”

Plot-in-a-nutshell: Some bad guys are after some bad stuff that the Asgardians are looking after so they can rule the universe

See if it you like: Big, silly superhero films

Another film I wasn’t that fussed about as a) I’m not a big Thor fan and b) I didn’t think the first film was very good. Short version – this is better than the last one.

Thing is, it’s not that much better. It’s less overblown, faster-paced and more quotable. There are more moments of humour and the effects are, undoubtedly, superb. But it just didn’t grab me the way the Iron Man series did. In fairness, I was exhausted by the time we sat down to see this showing which won’t have helped, but I just felt it ran too long.

There’s not a bad story there and it really sets itself up for a sequel (avoiding spoilers prevents me from saying why), but that’s no surprise. As ever, there are a couple of extra bits in the credits – both mid-way and right at the very end.

Chris Hemsworth has his top off a couple of times and I think that was enough to make my Mrs happy.

Beyond that, Thor 2 doesn’t really do anything to set itself out amongst the current glut of superhero films. it’s not bad, but it’s just not super.