Man Up Movie Review

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Out in limited release, Man Up is a romantic comedy starring Lake Bell and Simon Pegg. It centres on a 34 year old cynic who is constantly being told, by both herself and her sister, to put herself out there and so, when she is mistook for a man’s blind date, goes along with it.

In recent years, romantic comedies have become a more and more dismissed area of film; their potential for charm and humour has been forgotten due to the glut of terrible rom coms which rely on stereotypes, cheesy lines and bad humour. Man Up is a refreshing departure from this, it is carried by the charisma of it’s leading character, Nancy, who surpasses the trope of sarcastic and cynical woman into an extremely comical and likeable character who exists in the real world. Her romantic interest, however, doesn’t just play second fiddle, but is just as entertaining to watch.

There was amazing chemistry between the two which really made the film effective, and in particular scenes, such as when they were fighting, this was especially apparent, and demonstrated why the film worked so well. The characters were made to complement each other, and this makes them a couple which are really enjoyable to watch, and which seem like they could work.

It was very very funny, using the personalities of all the characters, sexual gags, physical comedy, and very relatable moments of everyday humour – such as Nancy’s attempts to get spinach out of her teeth – to create a film which was solidly and consistently amusing throughout.

Man Up was a rare romantic comedy, in that it was excessively charming and humorous, whilst still offering the optimism and happy ending that most romantic comedy lovers look for. I highly reccomend.

Alexander McQueen; Savage Beauty at the V&A

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I recently had the pleasure of seeing the V&A’s retrospective of Alexander McQueen’s work, and I must say that it was one of the best and most interesting fashion exhibitions I have seen in my life.

Every piece was incredibly exciting; their delight lay not in their wearability but as their existence as pure art form. Each room had a different theme which conveyed the complexity and depth of McQueen’s imagination and the wide breadth of sources by which he was inspired. This ranged from the Scottish highlands to the Victorian Gothic, and whilst all his work seemed connected they were also varied enough to make the whole exhibition fascinating.

My favourite piWidows of Cullodenece was the a particularly beautiful lace and tartan dress, hitched
up to show the net underneath, which I thought was particularly gorgeous.

Second to this was the white dress which was sprayed with paint because I thought it was so intriguing, and even the previous dress had a great structure.

The way it was exhibited by the V&A was generally very good; each room was decorated so it fitted with the clothes; one room’s walls were made of bones to fit with the theme of primitiveness. The music was slightly eerie, and combined with the beginning film of McQueen’s face fading to a skeleton, the exhibition reminded the viewers of the darkness and isolation that McQueen felt which inspired the clothes. However, other elements of the way that it was displayed were much less satisfying; the pieces were extremely complex and intriguing from all angles, so rotating mannequins would have allowed you to see the entirety of the pieces, but they were only utilised about twice in the exhibition. Furthermore, there was one particularly full room, which whilst interesting, meant that some really intriguing pieces could not be fully appreciated because they were on very high shelves.

An absolute must see!

Miranda Christmas and New Years Day Specials

Christmas TV, TV

/home/wpcom/public_html/wp-content/blogs.dir/813/66736813/files/2015/01/img_1438.jpgAfter a two year break, I eagerly awaited the return of Miranda for two specials in which we would learn her decision about the proposals of Gary or Mike. Miranda is one of those truly hilarious shows which whilst sometimes criticised for being childish or using dumb humour, is purely entertaining.

The last season was a my favourite, and I must say that I found the first Christmas special very disappointing in comparison. It lacked the sparkle and natural humour which was apparent in the rest of the series. The answer to the cliffhanger of a proposal was handled very quickly before the relationship between Miranda and Gary was messed up to prepare for the inevitable reunion in the final. Having them reunited only for them to split up so soon after seemed unnecessary and disappointing. However I did find the point of Miranda’s self esteem an interesting point and one that became a key aspect in the New Years episode.

Filled with the classic humour we have learned to love, this episode was definitely not disappointing. Miranda’s journey of self love and independence was heart warming and just what we all wanted for our favourite bumbling heroine. I almost applauded when she confidently delivered these lines “I’ve realised that women like me can be sexy, it’s just the world might never affirm it so it takes us a bit longer to realise it.” It was a wonderful message on New Years Day and it was truly touching to see Miranda, despite her flaws and previous self esteem issues, realise her own worth.

And then of course came the final run to get Gary with the words “I don’t need Gary. I want him.” It was like a scene from a classic romantic comedy and they were reunited before marrying at the restaurant. The last scene where she thanked the viewers with tears in her eyes was touching and made me rather emotional. Miranda has demonstrated the amusement and humour of everyday experiences and reminded those who don’t quite fit in or are slightly embarrassing that they’re fine as they are. It was a great last episode and I will deeply miss this show, but I’m glad Miranda got the happy ending she deserved.

The Best of 2014

art, Film, music, Theatre

As 2014 comes to an end, I’ve decided to look over what were, in my opinion, the best movies, albums, songs, theatre productions and art exhibitions of 2014.

Best Movie: PaddingtonAlthough I haven’t been able to see many of the films I wanted to this year, I was disappointed with much of what I did see. Paddington, which I saw very recently, was a delight, and was absolutely hilarious. Whilst I did watch critically acclaimed films, such as Gone Girl, none was as memorable as this touching and heart warming movie.

Best Album: The Lonely Hour, Sam Smith

After releasing a few singles, such as “Money On My Mind” and featuring on Disclosure’s “Latch”, Sam Smith released this album, which lead to the singles “Stay With Me” and “I’m Not the Only One” being blasted out of radio stations for most of summer and autumn. With his beautiful voice and the heartfelt lyrics, it’s not hard to see why.

Best Songs: “I’m Not the Only One”, Sam Smith

As well as being my favourite album of the year, I loved Sam Smith’s song “I’m Not the Only One” enough for it to be one of my top two songs of the year.

Blank Space, Taylor Swift

In a departure from her country roots, Taylor Swift’s album was firmly pop, and whilst  I was originally sceptical, “Blank Space” was an undeniable delight. Turning even those most opposed to her music into fans, and working as a biting response to the media’s portrayal of her, it was a catchy masterpiece. Read my full review of her album here: https://nellymair.wordpress.com/2014/10/29/taylor-swift-1989-album-review/

Best Theatre Show: Made in Dagenham

I’ve been lucky enough to go the theatre quite a lot this year, and despite seeing revered musicals such as “Les Miserables”, “Miss Saigon” and “Once”, my favourite was the upbeat “Made in Dagenham.” Funny, yet uplifting, and with catchy and humorous songs, it was a thoroughly entertaining night out. Read my full review here: https://nellymair.wordpress.com/2014/10/29/made-in-dagenham/

Best Art Show: Battersea Affordable Art Fair

I generally prefer group shows to those with single artists, and whilst The Royal Academy Academy Summer Exhibition lacked many stand out works this year (apart from that by Yinka Shonibare) and the Frieze Art Fair was slightly too wacky for me, the Battersea Affordable Art Fair got the balance just right. With a combination of intriguing modern art and more classic work, I found it a fascinating show.

Top Ten Tuesday; Top Ten Books of 2014

Books

Top Ten Tuesday is a meme started by The Broke and The Bookish. Although this was actually a list for a few weeks ago, I thought I’d give myself time to read a few more books before doing this list. I didn’t read quite as many books as I hoped to this year, only reading 23.

10. Life after Life by Kate Atkinson

With a fascinating premise of a woman who relives her life every time she dies, giving her a chance to fix the mistakes which lead to her death, this never quite lived up to my expectations. Some lives were much more fascinating than others, leading me to wish that I could skip certain parts of the novel. The lack of consistency in this novel prevents it from being higher in this list.

9.The Making of A Marchioness by Frances Hodgson Burnett

This Victorian novel subverts the typical romantic and melodramatic genres by having very realistic and non dramatic characters at the helm, which creates a very interesting read, even if the end is anti-climatic and disappointing.

8. The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey

The beautiful and detailed descriptions in this novel are what truly makes it engaging. Although the story of a child seemingly created from snow is fascinating in itself, it is the writing which makes this book so enjoyable.

7.1984 by George Orwell

With a sense of impending doom building throughout the novel, and a realistic and hopeless tone throughout, this is a definitely intriguing, if bleak novel, and would have been higher on this list, if not for the dull middle section.

6. More Than This by Patrick Ness

One of my favourite writers, this has a very intriguing plot – like all of Ness’ novels – and deals with a boy who commits suicide only to wake up later in an abandoned place strangely similar to his childhood home. Using a dystopian concept to explore the importance of friendship, the hopeful tone of this novel was what made it really touching to me.

5. Where’d You Go Bernadette by Maria Semple

Funny, fresh and touching, this managed to combine amusing tales at the beginning with real life and heart breaking issues, keeping the reader engaged through the variety of multi faceted characters.

4. The Rosie Project by Graeme Simson

A beautiful romance novel about the unexpected nature of love, this tale of how one autistic man can change his mundane life in order to gain happiness was touching in a way it did not expect it to be.

3. Dracula by Bram Stoker

The gradual build up of suspense through several seemingly unrelated plot points make this incredibly gripping – until the rather anti climatic ending, which prevented this from being higher in the list.

2. The Bloody Chamber by Angela Carter

These sexually charged, vivid, Gothic stories based upon fairy tales are unique and fascinating, twisting their source material to create much weirder, darker and passionate tales.

1. Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
One of my top three novels of all time, this classic story of a woman’s search for happiness on her own terms was infinitely empowering to me.

Read my full review here;  https://nellymair.wordpress.com/2014/04/21/jane-eyre-reader-i-loved-it/

5 Best TV Shows of 2014

TV

As 2014 draws to a close, I look back on the best shows from this year.

5. How to Get Away With Murder

Although this show often chooses entertainment and melodrama over quality, it kept me interested in a way that many other shows failed to this year. Although there were some american shows from 2013 which seemed promising, the second seasons were disappointing and I lost interest in many of the pilot shows very quickly. Therefore, whilst I do like this show, I did not enjoy it in the same way as I have the others on this list. Interestingly, it is the only American show in this post, which is surprising as my favourite programmes are usually outputs from the US.

4. Grantchester

As a huge fan of Miss Marple and Poirot, it is not surprising that I loved this murder mystery set in a small village in the 1950s, and indeed it did have that particular quaint vibe which makes Agatha Christies so appealing. The detective and main character is (an extremely attractive) vicar with serious issues, played by James Norton. The combination of the weekly murders with a series long romance made Grantchester a very enjoyable programme which I hope will be renewed for the new year.

3. Utopia Season 2

I actually only watched the first season of this in June, before the second season came out in July. The quality of this series lies in the amazing acting  and the beautiful cinematography which often contrasts with the graphic horror that is portrayed. The incredible acting and well rounded characters – even when they make terrible mistakes, they still seem genuine, and even likable -made this more engaging than a typical thriller. One of the most imaginative and gripping television programmes of the moment, it is disappointing – if not entirely surprising –  that this has been cancelled. (You can sign the petition to save the show here; https://www.change.org/p/channel-4-bring-back-utopia)

2. Nothing Much To Do

Honestly, I don’t really know if this counts as a TV show or not seeing as it is actually a web series, but I will include it on this list anyway. Modernised web series adaptations of classic novels – often taking the form of “vlogs” – have become very popular in the last two years due to the success of the Lizzie Bennet Diaries. However, amongst this wealth of material, and even compared to the Lizzie Bennet Diaries, Nothing Much To Do is by far the best scripted, well acted, most believable, and entertaining of them all. A modern adaptation of Much Ado About Nothing set in a New Zealand High School, the show manages to create characters which seem as if they could be real people vlogging. The story develops in a very interesting way, allowing the viewers to follow the story through three different youtube accounts – and many different points of views, as well as the twitter and tumblr accounts of different characters. If you only watch one webseries, watch this one. The full series can be seen here;

(although some of the Verges and Dogberry near the beginning can be skipped as, just like in the original play, I find them slightly tedious.)

1. In The Flesh Season 2

I’ve already discussed “In The Flesh” on my blog before; https://nellymair.wordpress.com/2014/07/05/in-the-flesh-a-series-review/ and this new take on the zombie tale is one that really should not be missed. After a zombie apocalypse, the zombies – here called PDS sufferers – are medicated and reintegrated into society where they are treated with contempt and violence by those who had fought them in the zombie-human war. The second season allowed the world to be further explored and how society has changed and developed since the first season.  The introduction of new characters allowed viewers to see the experiences of more PDS sufferers and, with a lighter tone to the first season, allowed viewers to see the complications of different aspects of life for a PDS sufferer. If you only check out one show from 2014, check out In The Flesh.

Downton Abbey Christmas Special

Christmas TV, TV

(I live in Britain, where the Christmas Special airs earlier than in America, and so if you don’t live in England and wish to remain oblivious to what happens, I would not recommend reading on; it is spoiler galore.)

The past few seasons of Downton Abbey have been a severe departure from the quality of the first couple of series, and so whilst sitting down to the Christmas Special, I expected nothing more than a mediocre episode with fantastic one liners from Maggie Smith. In some ways, that is exactly what I got, but a certain scene elevated it above the dullness which has been Series 5.

The biggest plotline was that of Anna’s imprisonment, a plot line I have never found intriguing. It seems like a simple recycling of the false arrest of Bates in Series 2, and I wonder how Julian Fellowes thought the viewers wouldn’t notice this repetition. There was a dull addition to the plot, that Anna was attacked before – which simply seems like poor writing to me and an unnecessary attempt to add drama. Honestly, the only way that I could imagine becoming engaged in this story was if Anna had actually killed Green, and was shown to have a back bone after all.

There was also lots of boring shenanigans up in Scotland, with a snooty butler, and an avoided scandal involving Lord Syndeby, and a new love interest for Mary – the gorgeous Matthew Goode. All in all, the majority of this was rather dull.

Isobel and Violet both had their romantic hopes dashed in this episode, and I was especially saddened by the end of the engagement between Isobel and Lord Merton, as I found him a sweet character.

If so far it seems I have a wholly negative opinion of this episode, I probably would have, if not for a scene in the last twenty minutes of the episode. In a wonderfully acted and best scripted scene for a long time, Mr Carson finally proposed to Mrs Hughes. As someone who has waited years for this, I was not disappointed, and that scene alone was one of my Christmas highlights.

Overall, the special was bland and overly long, but the heart warming and touching proposal from Carson elevated it past it’s usual mediocrity to something beautiful.