Friday, December 28, 2007

ScotRail Strike Again!

We wanted to go into town last night to see my son's band Room 13 play a gig but when I checked the times of the trains online, I was shocked to discover that we'd been stuffed yet again by ScotRail. There was no service at all on our line on either the 27th or 28th due to track improvements and maintenance taking place between Glasgow Central and Paisley Gilmour Street.

It's the Christmas and New Year break and just when you'd prefer to use public transport rather than drive but ScotRail, as ever, have little consideration for us lowly passengers. Fair enough, there's no train service on Christmas day and Boxing Day but when that drags onto the 28th, it's too much.

What's worse is that they don't even consider this a disruption of service. At least not if you've subscribed to their JourneyCheck service, which is supposed to alert you by e-mail if there are any problems with your selected routes and times. It's useful for checking if there are going to be problems getting into work but all I got today was "There are no disruptions reported at this time affecting services between your selected stations."

Bah! Humbug!

Monday, December 24, 2007


EnchantedFaced with an evening in listening to our upstairs neighbour fitting a carpet, we decided to head into town for dinner and a movie. We had a nice meal in Viva Ristorante in Bothwell Street and then headed up to the Cineworld to see Enchanted an animated/live action movie from Disney.
The tale is set in the fairytale land of Andalasia where the evil Queen Narissa (Susan Sarandon), scheming to keep her throne for as long as she can, has kept her step-son Prince Edward (James Marsden) well away from any marriagable fair maidens.

However, when fate (and her singing) causes the prince to encounter the fair Giselle (Amy Adams) while out hunting ogres in the forest, the pair of them fall in love and plan to marry the next day. Not to be so easily thwarted, Narissa, disguised as an old hag, persuades Giselle to try the old wishing well in the castle gardens but, when the girl has her eyes closed, she pushes her in, banishing her to a world where there are no happy ever afters - New York City.

In New York, Giselle meets divorce attorney Robert (Patrick Dempsey) and his 6 year old daughter and tries to come to terms with life in the real world while absolutely sure that her true love Edward will come to her rescue. Of course Narissa has plans to make sure that she never returns.

I suppose it was only a matter of time before Disney once again milked the success of movies like Sleeping Beauty, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs and Cinderella but it works quite well here. Giselle is an amalgam of all three Disney heroines and the tale mixes in many different characters and story elements from all three movies - a damsel in distress, a handsome prince (or two), an evil witch queen and her nasty henchman, lots of friendly forest animals, a fair smattering of magic and a dragon.

The visuals are excellent. From the two dimensional, cel-animation land of Andalasia, where everything looks like those classic Disney animations of old, to the three-dimensional animations when some of the characters and effects reach through into the real world. As for the cast, Susan Sarandon is nastily good as the evil queen Narissa and Timothy Spall does a good job as her besotted servant Nathaniel. James Marsden plays the perfect fairytale prince with lots of gusto and Amy Adams is spot on as Giselle, a maiden who believes happy ever after is for real. Patrick Dempsey does the down to earth lawyer role very well even if he doesn't get any laughs.

It's all very cleverly done and, with a goodly amount of visual gags that will appeal to kids and adults, it's an ideal movie for the Christmas break and well worth catching in the cinema with the kids for the big screen experience.

Genre: Adventure, Animation, Comedy, Family, Fantasy, Musical, Romance
My Rating: 7/10

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Why Doesn't IKEA Deliver?

We've just had the kitchen done - new units, tiling, etc. so thought we'd get some stuff from IKEA to help finish it off. I had a bit of a browse on their site and spotted a circular dish drainer that would go well on our new semi-circular sink drainer. The IKEA web site's not bad, it gives the dimensions, images, etc. and you can even check if an item is in stock at your local store.

So, off we headed to IKEA the other night to find those items that the site had said were in stock. Note: Never, ever go at the weekend, especially a wet one, as the place is crammed full of hopeful and probably disappointed shoppers. Anyway, we wandered around the maze of twisty paths, ignoring the impulse buys, and hunted high and low to no avail and, not having had the foresight to remember the ridiculous names they give stuff, we couldn't really ask anyone where we could find them. We even got hold a catalogue but that only lists their main lines.

However, here's the killer. Before you can shop online with IKEA, you have to check if they deliver to your postcode area. Not unreasonable you might think but they seem to have different rules for delivieries for goods bought instore and for those bought online.

I know my local IKEA do deliveries as I've had some wardrobes and storage units delivered in the past so imagine my shock to find that I can't get a delivery from them if I order the goods online. What kind of system is that? The store is only a few miles away in Braehead so it's not like we're on the Outer Hebrides.

Now we're going to have to go back to the store and get hold of one of their very hard to find assistants and get them to tell us where the stuff we want is. Wish us luck!

It's no wonder there are a stack of blogs and sites out there listing people's gripes about IKEA. Here's a few worth reading…

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Bee Movie

Bee MovieHaving had the kitchen tiled on Saturday morning, the fumes of the adhesive were still permeating the house on Sunday so we headed into town to grab some lunch, do a bit of shopping, catch a movie and grab a bite to eat in order to avoid the smell.

We had thought to go and see The Golden Compass but when we got there Bee Movie was showing sooner so that was that.
When young bee, Barry B. Benson (Jerry Seinfeld), graduates from college he's dismayed to discover that he's expected to choose a career in honey production and do that same job for the rest of his life. So, determined to break the mould he's been cast in, Barry ventures outside the hive along with a squadron of nectar gathering bees.

However, when an accident with a tennis ball separates Barry from the rest of the bees and he's in pretty dire peril, he ends up being saved by Vanessa (Renée Zellweger), a human. Barry decides that he has to break a strict bee law banning bees from talking to humans and thanks Vanessa for saving his life. She's a bit shocked to discover that bees can talk but the two soon become fast friends.

But, on a visit to a supermarket with Vanessa, Barry is horrified to discover that humans eat honey, honey they have to have stolen from hard-working bees. Determined to right this great wrong, he files a class action lawsuit against humans but the ramifications of his actions lead to serious problems for bees, humanity and the earth itself.

Bee Movie
Okay so the concepts of talking bees growing up in little family units or of male bees doing any work at all is taking some liberties with nature but this movie really isn't about bees at all. It's a bit of a mix of a coming-of-age movie, a romance, a courtroom drama and an ecological disaster movie. The bees are just there to attract the kids as a animated movie with a teenager fighting against the establishment just wouldn't work as well.

That's not to say it isn't funny. it is and very much so in places but I think the writers have tried to squeeze too much of a plot into what should have been a simple animated comedy and it misses the mark a little with the younger audience. I never got into Seinfeld when he was on TV so have very little experience of his humour but it works here, especially for adults as the one-liners kept coming at a pretty fast pace.

The animation was pretty good, especially in the flying through the hive scenes, but it wasn't anything spectacular like the kind of stuff Pixar puts out. I got the impression that all those flying scenes and dodging stuff were crafted more with a video game franchise in mind than for the benefit of the storyline.

It also attracted a lot of well-known names to do the voices. Aside from Seinfeld and Zellweger, there are roles for Matthew Broderick as Barry's friend Adam, Kathy Bates and Barry Levinson as his parents, John Goodman as humanity's lawyer, Oprah Winfrey as the judge, Chris Rock as a mosquito, Larry King as bee version of himself, Ray Liotta and Sting as themselves as well as Larry Miller, Megan Mullally and Rip Torn.

All of the above concerns regarding the plot and animation aside, it's all about the humour and there's plenty of it. I'm not sure a younger audience would appreciate it but we enjoyed it and laughed quite a lot so it has to have something going for it.

Genre: Animation, Comedy, Family, Fantasy
My Rating: 7/10