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Category: Movies

Christmas movies to sleigh you – Update

Welcome to my Blog at The Lair Of The Camrose


It’s my bespoke stomping ground in the Intermatrix. You are very welcome, and thanks for stopping by…

This time, we are feeding our Christmas spirit with Christmas movies…


In the first Lockdown, we watched through all the Marvel MCU movies in order (we weren’t nerdy enough to slot the TV episodes in order too). For the festive season, we have decided to work through a – fairly random – pile of Christmas films, and I thought I’d take you with me on that sleigh ride.

So far, and ranked in order (upwards) – I will update as we go along – latest updates in bold below:

#9 – The Christmas Chronicles

A jolly tale with Kurt Russell. Bad but jolly. Having seen the trailer for Christmas Chronicles 2 it could have been worse, we might have seen that. To be fair, there are some excellent moments, including Santa Kurt banged up in a jail cell with musical prisoners and a cool sax. May just edge into the watchable with that…

Better movies to come, methinks…

#8 – National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation

A product of its time – Chevy Chase is a combination of winning and really annoying. It’s the first time that I have seen the movie the whole way through, I’ve tried three or four times before and not made it past 22 minutes. Not hilarious, but a few genuinely funny scenes, and the nagging question as to why everything’s alright for Christmas once the compensation arrangements have been finalised…

A child of its time.

#7 – Gremlins

A very Mogwai Christmas to you!

Accompanied by hot dogs, nothing made in a blender with all due respect to one of the Bad Gremlins. A sharp, nasty and cute Spielberg presentation masterpiece with annoyingly catchy music and a brilliant view of how much fun Snow White can be. Some nice digs at consumerist Christmas, and Gizmo is so much cuter than Baby Yoda. Fab!

It reminded me of a couple of things: craving food after Midnight, shunning water, avoiding the light. Turning into Sources of Evil. But I wrote in my previous post about the kids coming home for the holidays, so no need to repeat myself.

#6 – Die Hard 2: Die Harder

Let it snow on the soundtrack, lots of snow and heavily armed terrorists – a sure-fire Christmas hit. Notwithstanding those credentials, it still feels it has sneaked onto this list, much more of a Summer popcorn-busting movie. A sneaky twist that’s not that surprising and a lot of very well choreographed action scenes. The Family scoffs at anything beyond the original, but there is fun to be had here and hasn’t aged too badly

Yippee-ki-yay…!

#5 – Nativity!

Shameless manipulation and Martin Freeman doing his Everyman schtick. Love it! Had the Offspring cringing nicely, and we knew we’d struck gold when one demanded never to have that sort of movie inflicted on him ever gain. Yesssssssss! Hollywood is shown to have a golden heart, so this movie needs to be put at the far, far away fantasy end of the spectrum…

#4 – Frozen

A true classic. Not totally Christmas-themed, but enough snow and reindeer action to squeeze in. Beautiful animation, a kick-ass soundtrack, including That Song, what more can you ask for in a holiday film. A neat subversion of the usual fairy tale tropes to boot. Not too much saccharine, and any that sets off a Mush Alert, just Let It Go…

#3 – Arthur Christmas

Saw this last night eating hot dogs on hot dog platters, and some ace Christmas bark (melted and re-formed white and milk chocolate with random stuff stuck in it).

Christmas bark, anyone?

First time I’ve seen it and it’s a hoot. Stellar cast, great animation – Aardman, without a naughty penguin or cheese in sight. A cartoon with a warm mix of Mission: Impossible and Santa Claus: the Movie.

#2 – Love Actually

Perfect casting, sharp writing, believable characters. Class act.

#1 – Elf

In my top three fave Christmas movies – along with Die Hard and White Christmas. Buddy Elf is the role that Will Ferrell was born to play. Very funny, not sickly but perfectly judged, and James Caan and Mary Steenburgen add extra class to the proceedings. Well, class.

Gets me every time, as my gleeful Offspring pointed out to me at the end…Big Softies of the World unite.

Take Elf for a spin…

Make sure you don’t sit on a Throne of Lies this Christmas!

Have as happy a festive season as possible…

Cheers,

Alan

Alan Camrose

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Premium Bond

Welcome to my Blog at The Lair Of The Camrose


It’s my bespoke stomping ground in the Intermatrix. You are very welcome, and thanks for stopping by…

This time, an affectionate look at a true movie superstar, who will be sadly missed.


I don’t need to tell you who is pictured above.

This week I have taken my time to figure out my response to the news of Sean Connery’s death.

Another lost building block of life, alongside Bowie and Freddie and many others.

I grew up with Sean Connery as James Bond. It’s along the same lines as who was your Who (somewhere between Tom Baker and Jon Pertwee for me – I can never decide between the frills and the jelly babies), and Blue Peter presenters (Valerie Singleton and John Noakes were the ones for me, although Shep and Bleep & Booster were my immediate choices).

It’s about anchoring memories and Connery in his tux and cruel mouth was the one for me. He nailed the character. Sadly for him, George Lazenby doesn’t really count, although he wasn’t in my view as bad as many say. Roger Moore was the next closest in time, but he always had a little too much pantomime about him for me. (Oh no he doesn’t. OH YES HE DOES.)

So, the above paragraph ages me like a guided missile has been fired at the calendar.

Connery has been a waypoint in my life.

By coincidence, I was halfway through Ian Fleming’s From Russia With Love when I heard the news of his death. Funnily enough, when I’m reading the Flemings, SC is the image that my mind projects into the reading, no hint of camp raised eyebrow. The killer for Roger Moore’s cred for me when I was younger was that my mum loved him to bits and regarded him as the one true Bond, so game over…

The book is slightly batty but is nonetheless a strangely gripping tale of spies and lovers in exotic locations, in keeping with the rest of the books and the movies. You know the drill, evolving over the years not necessarily in real time to fit in a bit more with modern sensitivities du jour.

Connery fitted his profile perfectly.

Look at his later works, including the outrageously fun The Rock and playing Indiana’s dad, his comic timing and magnetic star power are there for all to see, and in more up to date roles. Hell, I even liked him in Outland, (High Noon in space) and – at a stretch – The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, but frankly only when he was on camera. And Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, the one with his spectacular film-stealing cameo.

There are many others worthy of note, including of course The Name of the Rose.

At the edges, I have only managed to get through around 30-40% of Zardoz (weird sci-fi), but over the course of Lockdown 2 I will give it another try and stick with it. And I will gracefully and swiftly pass over Never Say Never Again which, for the purist, should probably have been called Never Again, And I Meant It, but we all have to earn a living, right? The same with The Avengers, which was a disappointment for me: I never saw Connery as the Scarlet Witch.

I want to end this post with a salute to him, for all the movie highlights, thrills and spectacle that he wove. I’m off to pick up From Russia With Love again and get lost in Red Grant’s fight with the one true Bond.

Cheers!

Alan

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The sauce of all happiness

Welcome to my Blog at The Lair Of The Camrose


It’s my bespoke stomping ground in the Intermatrix. You are very welcome, and thanks for stopping by…

This time, a joyful look at when Father’s home cooking collides with Italian artistry. It should stir your soul, if not the ingredients…


I will make a tomato sauce when I get back from my few days away.

Not quite the way the Italians do it, I don’t have racks of great-grandparents lying around glaring at vats of bubbling liquid and drinking Chianti. I’m in Surrey, resisting the temptation to put Waitrose Essential Tomato Sauce into my next order. There needs to be some middle ground here, Dammi una pausa

This will be a step up from my legendary Spaghetti Bolognese, the one that I made for the kids’ tea about three or so years ago, for which they have never forgotten, never forgiven. The one which had no spaghetti in it (so would please the Mayor of Bologna, if nothing else – arguably it made my attempt more authentic). I had left it too long to cook the pasta – sadly neither made by my fair hand or fresh from the supermarket – I improvised and served my epic sauce over a sea of Trump-coloured cheese puffs shaped suspiciously like scorpions. It was like an Indian Jones romp on a plate.

The Offspring spotted the bits of celery in the sauce, planted in a vain attempt to add some goodness to counterbalance the scorpions. Carnage. Mother was told, I was shopped, humiliated forever. Thank God that they put lashings of tomato ketchup over it – I’m surprised they noticed anything untoward, although the scorpion tails did rise up quite high out of the steaming sauce. It reminded me of something…

That was probably the low point in my cooking career – adventure – odyssey. A close run thing with, when I was a student, the tinned macaroni cheese served at room temperature using the tin as a one-container serving solution.

I remain a fan of the ancient culinary art of Splodge, though. I’m unrepentant. My skills have been honed a little by Lockdown, the fine art of the tray bake. That’s the posh name for Splodge.

I have learned to keep sauces simple. My latest was venison chunks slow-cooked in red wine and dark chocolate, covering all essential nutritional areas. Awesome. Served with a bold red wine, then the consistency, artistry, taste becomes less of a big deal…

Home-made tomato sauce will go further and elevate that to a Zen state which I will inflict on the Household, aka my victims.

Random tomatoes, salt and a little sugar, all boiled up in the tomatoes’ own juice. What could go wrong?

I’ll let you know. Splodge culinary magic – if all else fails, we can spray tomato ketchup over it and shut our eyes.

Voila! Oops.

Click here for the link to the Italian sauce video that sparked my interest. I hope you will find it as therapeutic as I did…

Cheers,

Alan

Alan Camrose

The perfect combination
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Putting the band back together

We drove down to the South Coast at the weekend for a concert. The last time was for Mark Knopfler, this time it was for the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment.

Glyndebourne, not the Brighton Centre. A stretch for the coast, I’ll grant you. An afternoon of sitting in the gardens, eating a picnic, drinking mocktails and listening to classical music in a COVID-secure way. Not far off normal life (I’m not referring to the mocktails as the aberrration), but with the new-normal tweaks of a one-way system around the premises, two metres between each pod of audience members and far enough away from the end of the woodwind instruments to settle the nerves. No need for black tie since it was an afternoon concert; awkward for the token wearer but he seemed fine with it.

And to the orchestra. A palpable feeling that the band was back together, that they had been let out to play and would have lashings of ginger beer later and party games. Sheer relief at being able to sit in front of a crowd of people again albeit some the size of a Twitter thumbnail in their line of sight.

Sweet Home, East Sussex

A tight eight-piece band with periodic light aircraft accompaniment. It was like the Buena Vista Social Club with a bassoon. Their black suits, a couple of them in black hats, white shirts for the men, it was like an audition in the grounds for the next Blues Brothers film:

“It’s 49 miles to Glyndebourne, we’ve got a full tank of gas, half a pack of cigarettes and some clarinets. It’s dark and we’re wearing sun glasses. Hit it!”

Elwood (and Jake) Blues,
musicians

For me, the music proved to be a mixed bag, Beethoven’s go at an opera – Fidelio – plus some crowd-pleasing Mozart, and some Jonathan Dove (the mixed bag). Short pieces, like flash fiction: a conversation, a Countess interrupting an argument, dancing in the dark (not Springsteen). Seven pieces inspired by the Glyndebourne gardens, with – I very much liked the image – the inspiration of Mozart rippling through the trees into the music. A faintly jazz-like feel to some of the pieces, a sketchy slightly repetitive feel to the rest. Overall, a brilliant way to spend some time, COVID or not.

Why in particular? The relief in the orchestra was mirrored by the joy in the audience. My feeling is that they could have played Mahna, Mahna by the Muppets and we would all have felt great and applauded loudly; sadly, Animal wasn’t there on his crazy drum kit. We were determined that it would be great, and happily it was. The rustling of the trees in the breeze and the twittering of nearby birds beautifully complemented the music and the feeling of being OUT. Something that was not a compromise, something that we wanted to do, something that looks like we’d wandered into another drive-in by mistake. Not that last bit.

What time does the movie start?

A festival without the mud and with a selection of cheeses. We all need to find those moments of escape, however they come packaged.

Cheers,

Alan

Alan Camrose

The Blues Brothers' 40th anniversary — read all Sun-Times coverage of 'the  best movie ever made in Chicago' - Chicago Sun-Times

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Diet Hard

Welcome to my Blog at The Lair Of The Camrose


It’s my bespoke stomping ground in the Intermatrix . You are very welcome, and thanks for stopping by…

This time, tackling the unthinkable…Yippee-Ki-Ay! Relax, take off your shoes and crinkle your toes, rip open a very small pack of low calorie popcorn.

Warning: Mixing blockbuster references, the need to have seen Die Hard is strong in this one…


Die Hard movie the terrorism of dieting and diets
We have fizzy water, cucumber and everything

Buying a new outdoor pizza oven probably wasn’t part of the ruthless unified direction of travel needed for the Family Diet, but hey ho.

Lockdown has proved to be a challenge on the dietary front, ranging from asking when will our next Waitrose Essentials Lobster be available in those dark early days of uncertainty to: did we really have that extra bottle of wine last night? When I say last night, I’m talking 2:12 pm AND NOT A MINUTE LATER…

Eating and drinking became the new leisure activity to while away an hour between repeats of Line of Duty. It introduced the concept of Zoom Dinners and Skype Snacks, afternoon tea from the early part of Lockdown made from lentils and 2016 gooseberry jam, and pasta for every meal.

Something had to give, and it was going to be either my waistband or my liver or both, hence the New Regime, a group of thieving terrorists locking down the fridge, or at least nicking all the snacks.

Slimfast shakes, bars and snacks, gimmicky but very calorie-controlled and not too horrible. Eight pounds lost in two weeks. Not spectacular but I don’t want to push it too far, especially with a periodic pit stop for a glass of Sunday Bay. The cheeseburger at the drive-in didn’t help. Baby steps, right?

Carrot cake – carrots, part of my five a day.

And then there’s the exercise, in a string vest for authenticity.

We have an exercise bike (low-slung with one of those annoying counter-thingys that tell you how much you’ve done and whether you stopped for a cheeky Latte). and my favourite piece of indoor gym equipment, an individual trampoline. That doesn’t have a counter thing but does require me to be careful not to bounce up and hit my head on the ceiling while running on the spot, so I need to concentrate exactly half the time. Life’s a compromise.

Jasper’s my favourite outdoor exercise provider, my personal trainer. Always available, has low rates (a periodic Bonio) and will retrieve until he falls over. See below…

golden retriever worn out by too much retrieving, cute puppy
Nothing left to retrieve…

Other integrated exercise systems include carrying the Sainsbury’s delivery to the fridge, extreme plant watering and UFD: Ultimate Fighting Draughts.

My plan is to do what I can, because I’ve still got to live in this thing going forward. Being Draconian seems like as bad a place to be as hitting the emergency slimming gloop…

If this proves to be too relaxed, then there’s always Diet Hard 2: Diet Harder.

Cheers,

Alan

Alan Camrose with beard
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We’re gonna need a bigger car

Welcome to my Blog at The Lair Of The Camrose


It’s my bespoke stomping ground in the Intermatrix . You are very welcome, and thanks for stopping by…

This time, just when you thought it was safe to go back in the drive-in….


drive-in movie, view of the big screen for Jaws
Man-eating shark spotted in Marlow

Drive-in movies. Pure American, right?

No! A beautiful Summer’s evening on a showground on the Marlow-Henley Road for an early evening movie on a massive outdoor screen.

We were half an hour early, third in line to get in (can’t trust the M25), it was like arriving four hours early at the airport for a holiday flight, but this time Lockdown-style. Four of us in a reasonably large Volvo SUV, three of us pushing 6′ 3″. What could possibly go wrong?

We were excited to be out out, albeit in in a car-sized bubble, about to be fed and a classic was waiting for us, brooding in the shallows, filing its teeth.

Jaws was on the menu.

I lined up the car within our parking space, a safe distance from the screen: a perfect view for the driver (me) and Mother. For Twins 1 and 2 in the back? Not so much.

Volvo hadn’t really legislated for this cabin configuration. We adjusted the seats, the rear-view mirror and the passenger-side wing mirror; lived with the passenger-side windscreen pillar and non-detachable head-rests, not having packed a chainsaw; slid the back of the driver and front passenger seats down to about 35 degrees each; worked the front seats far enough forward so that the blood supply to my legs started to flatline; regretted – again – not having a convertible.

Perfect.

Food was courtesy of Tom Kerridge / Pub in the Park: cheeseburger and cheesecake. So ethnic, I nearly wore a cowboy hat. Glad I didn’t, it would have blocked more of the screen.

Fortunately, the food was a manageable size…

Yum yum

After that, time for a fun game before the movie started.

Over six foot driver (me), over six foot nineteen-year-olds in the rear passenger seats; less tall Mother in the front passenger seat. Cue an expert session of a combination of Twister and Rubik’s Cube to position all of us to best advantage to watch the movie out of the available windows.

Bonus sessions of movie re-enactment (feeling like we were trapped in a small shark cage) and Ultimate Fighting Yoga in the back were available at no extra charge.

Duly installed, we attacked the food with the enthusiasm of a Great White vieiwng a tasty boatful of humans. And when it came to the line in the movie,

…what we are dealing with here is a perfect engine, an eating machine. It’s really a miracle of evolution. All this machine does is swim and eat…and that’s all.

Jaws (1975)

it gave me a vision of the kids standing in front of our open fridge.

And of Jasper, our eternally hungry golden retriever with his latest helpless prey (above)…

The burgers added a 4-D effect to the chomping sounds coming out of the in-car speaker.

The experience was brilliant.

And I love Jaws.

It’s good that it’s so topical, the tension between keeping stuff open and fending off a dangerous threat.

All thanks to the magic of the movies; and a film that contains one of the best ad-libs in movie history.

Roy Scheider's ad lib when he sees the shark...

Cheers,

Alan

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