Walt Disney World: Hollywood Studios Top 5

We started our honeymoon here, at WOM’s favourite of the four Disney parks. Boasting some traditional Disney stuff alongside Star Wars and Pixar things, this park seems geared at the middle range of pre-teens to adults. There’s plenty to do here and it was good first taste of what the parks are like.

Here’s my personal top 5 things to do:

5. Toy Story Midway Madness 

You hop aboard a ghost train style carriage with a buddy, armed with a string pulled cannon each. As it whips you around you fire at 3D screens, each themed around a different Toy Story character or setting. It’s hugely entertaining and it keeps score to add a competitive aspect. WOM bested me here, leaving me vowing revenge.

4. Muppetvision 3D.

I absolutely love the Muppets and this 3D extravaganza is loaded with their trademark silliness in charms. Light on plot it basically serves as a framework for daft gags and 3D trickery. It’s great fun and the fact that several characters appear in the theatre is a nice touch. 

3. Star Tours

This is what used to be called a 4D ride, which mixes a 3D screen with actually throwing the audience about.

You get on board with C-3PO and R2-D2 and take flight. You’re pitched about as the ship takes you through various settings. As a huge Star Wars fan I loved it especially making the jump to hyperspace. 

A cool touch is that there are several storylines for the ride meaning that the two times we rode it were different adventures, encouraging you to ride again. 

2. Indiana Jones’ Epic Stunt Spectacular

A live show filled with actions and explosions, its appealing cheesiness is carried off by the great cast, who play the crowd well and inject humour. Also the big stunts are genuinely impressive.

1. Fantasmic

WOM saw this on her previous visit to WDW in 2007 and still raves about it, so expectations were high. But boy did it deliver.

A journey into Mickey’s imagination this makes great use of fireworks, fountains, lights and projections cast onto the mist. The show is about the power of imagination and sees various Disney villains try to use it against him. This sequence might be too scary for some younger kids but good prevails.

The finale which features many Disney characters is a massive crowdpleaser and the whole show is guaranteed to charm and impress all ages.

Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.

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Book Review: Kung Fu Trip by Benjamin Zephaniah

There are very few living poets I could name and even less I could recognise. In fact other than Zephaniah, I can’t think of any.

Having been impressed by an interview he did with Russell Howard I decided to check out some of his stuff and found this quick read. It follows him on a trip to China to train with Kung Fu masters.

Zephaniah writes with warmth and humour, a keen observer of the people he meets and captures the sense of place wonderfully. He writes with enthusiasm about his love of martial arts and what he gets from it.

The journey includes odd characters and bizarre events like the writer being mistaken for the long dead Bob Marley.

It’s a short book, but an entertaining one and a good one to read on the go. 

Verdict: Zephaniah is a charming, fun and likeable writer and this short trip is an interesting one to join him on. 6/10.

Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.


Reader, I married her

As I sat in the hot tub on Sunday evening, the warm bubbles rippling around me I looked back over the previous weekend and felt a wave of relaxation wash over me. I would never need to make a seating plan or chase up RSVPs again. It was a state approaching inner peace, a world away from where I had been on Saturday morning.

Nerves hadn’t been a factor until then, as utter disillusionment with wedding planner meant I had reached a stage where I just wanted it done and over. I have no idea why Liz Taylor enjoyed doing this so much as one wedding is definitely enough.

However, having every single person asking you if you feel nervous will start fraying your nerves. Should I be nervous?

On top of a terrible night sleep (shout out to Travelodge for keeping their rooms about the same temperature as the surface of Mercury), the constant pestering ensured that the butterflies in my stomach meant I only had one helping from the all you can eat cooked breakfast. As a man who likes to get his money’s worth I usually abuse these things until I can barely move and need to be rolled out.

It being an afternoon wedding I had a few hours to kill, I managed to ease my stress levels by reading some George R. R. Martin in bed. 

This good work was undone by the fact I mixed up the time I had to leave, 13:00, with my checkout time at 12:00. This led to a rushed shower and me having to dress in my best man’s room.

I also had to sit down and write my speech, as I wasn’t sure what the groom says. It turns out to be mainly thanking people, but my groomsman Mike’s partner Samantha walked me through it.

Thankfully, we fitted it all in and got to the church at about 13:20, enough time for me to meet and greet, go for a nervous pee and get asked about my nerves another hundred times. 

As two o’clock neared the nerves were cranking up a little, but luckily Best Man Dan came through with a short, low key pep talk which calmed me.

I hate to sound sexist but I wasn’t upset or surprised as the start time passed, having been resigned to the fact that eight ladies (the artist formerly known as MWF, 6 bridesmaids and my mother-in-law) would struggle to get there on time despite having started their prep at 7ish.

I told Best Man Dan and my groomsen I was expecting them to be at least ten minutes late and I wasn’t far off.

I’d been surprised that the vicar had told me that I needed to keep eyes front as MWexF entered. I think in movies and cheesy reaction photos the groom looks and breaks down, which is what my soon to be wife wanted, having threatened to walk right back out if I didn’t cry. During the vows I would wobble, but managed to keep it together. 

I felt odd not knowing what was going on but managed to catch a few bridesmaids in the corner of my eye. And then there she was.

My bride looked beautiful, and I was glad I’d followed my Nan’s superstitious footsteps in not seeing her in the dress until the day. We exchanged nervous smiles and got going.

I was slightly distracted by a Ladybird who had hitched a ride on the bridal bouquet and then flew onto me. But after that I followed BMD’s advice and shut out everything but for the vicar and the lady at my side.

The service went smoothly, and quickly. It seemed like we were sitting to sign the register in moments. And then walking out triumphantly to The Darkness’ “I Believe in a Thing Called Love”.

We were married, and I was filled with relief, happiness and love. Photos were taken, confetti thrown and congratulations received.

And then to the reception. There were no dramas, no scandals, no fist fights. Sorry, reader but it was a lovely evening. Among the highlights:

  • Great speeches from the Maid of Honour and BMD. Funny, sweet and just the right level of mocking.
  • Not messing up my own speech.
  • A bouquet toss. Having agreed that it was outdated and undignified, we went and had one anyway. And I’m glad we did, as it was brilliant fun, especially as you got to see who was taking it a bit too seriously and the faces of some nervous boyfriends.
  • BMD launched a charm offensive which won him many fans and led me to let a couple of girls down gently and say that yes, I am sure he’s gay.
  • Far too much drunken dancing.
  • Seeing my Dad dance for the first time ever.
  • Man hugs and back slaps galore.
  • Being blamed for making people cry with my speech. 
  • Being called a prick by a bridesmaid who had believed us when we’d told them our first dance was going to be Rick Astley and was then caught off guard by the real one.

As for my misgivings about the suits? Well, I’m still not a fan and would rather have been more casual, but I did get a few compliments.

Luckily, before my head could swell to much a friend informed me that their dad reckons I look like Samwell Tarly from Game of Thrones. No disrespect, to John Bradley but I’m sure he knows he isn’t the show’s heartthrob.

When we got back to our lodge in the wee small hours we crashed out, happy but exhausted.

Sunday was hectic, running errands, tidying up and trying to see as many of the guests as we could before they hit the road for home. Our first real down time came sitting in the hot tub, relaxing in the warmth.

“How are you feeling?” 

“Pretty damn good, Mrs Page, pretty damn good.”

Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.


Why the anorexia hoody shouldn’t be banned

There’s been a bit of controversy this week because Amazon have been selling this hoody;

Understandably the crass, unfunny top which mocks two eating disorders has come under fire for its insensitivity and many are calling on the online giant to remove it from their site.

I can understand why many feel this way but I don’t think it should be banned. And here’s why.

It’s late September and a new university year begins. And that is who this hoody is geared to, a certain type of student.

Invariably male, they find themselves free of parental objections and flushed with student loan and overdraft. They’re online buying a Scarface poster when they see this hoody. It’s an obviously dark joke, so wearing it will show how edgy and grown up they are. They don’t shy away from jokes about eating disorders, no sir, and they’ll buy this to show the world how brave they are.

And that’s why they need to be able to buy it. Because they need to show the world, and the world needs to be shown.

Other students can see their unfunny attitudes early, before they waste more time on them. It’ll warn people to stay away, and move on to talk to someone who’s t-shirt doesn’t wear something so nastily stupid.

And if someone else sees them and thinks “funny, cool shirt” then two morons can come together and spend the next three years laughing at mean memes and playing Pro Evo leaving everyone else to enjoy their university experience.

Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.


Film Review: Kingsman: The Golden Circle

2015’s Kingsman: The Secret Service was a gem of a movie which married the fun excess of old spy movies with OTT violence and foul language. Can they pull off the same trick twice?

Well, the answer is almost. 

This second adventure finds Eggsy AKA Galahad (Taron Egerton) still in action as an agent of Kingsman, a private spy agency. But when he’s attacked by a familiar face, it appears the agency is in the sights of a resourceful and ruthless foe. A foe who quickly takes out the agency, leaving Eggsy the only survivor other than tech expert Merlin (Mark Strong).

Following their “doomsday protocol” the two discover a bottle of bourbon branded Statesman and travel to Kentucky to investigate. There they find their American equivalent, posing as an alcoholic manufacturer. After a brief run in with Agent Tequila (Channing Tatum), they realise they are on the same side and unite. 

Their common enemy is Poppy (Julianne Moore), head of a global drug cartel and robotics genius. She has poisoned all of her drugs with a lethal disease, and promises the cure if all drugs are legalized, allowing her to enjoy her success and come out of hiding.

Unfortunately the US President (Bruce Greenwood) has no qualms about letting all the drug users die as it will mean he is remembered as the President who won the war on drugs and Poppy will be blamed.

Affected by the virus are Eggsy’s girlfriend Princess Tilde (Hanna Alström), Tequila and the President’s chief of staff, who objects to his plan but is sent away.

Eggsy investigates with Statesman agent Whiskey (Pedro Pascal) and his mentor Harry (Colin Firth) who survived being shot in the first film but temporarily lost his memory and is not yet back to his best.

Can Eggsy stop Poppy’s scheme? How much can he trust Statesman or Harry? Will he find the antidote in time?

First things first, here’s what works- the action sequences retain the gloriously gory and overblown touches of the original, and while it lacks anything as madly brilliant as the original’s “Freebird” sequence there are some great scraps here. There’s also a nice little gag that plays on one of the first film’s major scenes.

The returning cast are all on form, with Egerton being allowed to let Eggsy’s chavvy enthusiasm to pop up at times. Firth is excellent again especially as he has to play both the badass Harry and the softer, damaged version who can’t remember who he is.

Mark Strong is good in everything he does and here he gets more to do as Merlin.

I also liked that they kept the Princess from the first movie as the love interest, and this relationship, while fleeting in terms of screen time  is handled well enough. Also good that they brought back Edward Holcroft’s obnoxious toff Charlie as Poppy’s cybernetically enhanced goon as it added to his vendetta against Eggsy. 

The newcomers are decent, although Tatum plays less of a role than trailers suggest. Pascal’s swaggering cowboy Whiskey is pretty badass and as their boss Champagne, Jeff Bridges is his usual charming self. The surprise was Halle Berry who is better here than I’ve seen her in a while. 

Whiskey in action

Julianne Moore is clearly enjoying her campy, flamboyant villain turn but it’s less fun for the audience and it can’t match Samuel L. Jackson in the first flick. She’s not bad, and quite fun, but her reasons are flimsy.

But Poppy’s plan is pretty smart and the twist of having a callous President was smart.

There are a few flaws, some characters from the first film are written out rather cheaply and there is a sense of it sticking to formula. But the formula does work and it delivers plenty of laughs and fun along the way. 

There’s also quite a nice extended cameo from Elton John playing himself, Poppy’s hostage and keying up “Saturday Night’s Alright for Fighting” to soundtrack a shoot out.

Harry and Eggsy together again

In fact the music throughout is playful and clever.

I really enjoyed it but MWF and I both felt this is probably where we should leave Eggsy as a third outing might stretch it too far.

Verdict: It can’t match the first movie but this is still a fun, frantic romp. OTT in the best way and with its tongue firmly in cheek this kept me entertained throughout. 7.5/10.

Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.


Book Review: I Can Make You Hate by Charlie Brooker

I’ve long been a fan of Charlie Brooker, who previously wrote a beautifully scathing television column for The Guardian. And have read a few of his collections before, and this captures the end of his Screen Burn column.

The pieces cover 2009-12 and so it’s a little out of date, although it is quite nice to look back at various controversies, news stories and events with hindsight. Brooker attacks a variety of topics with his usual jet black humour and surreal, grotesque hyperbole. It had me laughing out loud and smiling repeatedly, and I found that Brooker is on the money quite frequently. 

There are times when he goes for lazy gags, but it’s evident he knows this himself. And they are off set when he takes unique views on topics and shows real insight.

What is most interesting is Brooker’s frank assessment of his own role, his own writing style and his changing character. Brooker addresses the fact he is mellowing, that he can’t muster the same anger for trivial reality TV. There’s even a sense of guilt over previous punching down. Some might regard this as going soft or even some form of “selling out” but it makes sense. It shows a maturing writer, and his open acknowledgment of this makes sense. The shift isn’t glaring as Brooker can still fire himself up and throw barbs, but the targets have changed.

It’s a very entertaining read and one you can dip in and out of.

Verdict: Sarky, dark and biting, Brooker is an entertaining and fiery writer. But these are not just rants they are tempered with insight, awareness and humour. 8/10.

Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.


“Fear of the Fat Man”

Something I wrote a while ago but posted on Medium because I thought that would be more of a thing. As is, I barely check it and have only written like 4 articles on there. Anyway, here you go:

“Fear of the Fat Man” @nutupdate https://medium.com/@nutupdate/fear-of-the-fat-man-2b4ea247e1ed

Any thoughts? You know what to. BETEO.


Unfinished Business: A sort of review of The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel by Deborah Moggach

The movie adaptation of this book became a massive success due to the “grey pound”, a cast of familiar faces and exotic locations won over viewers.

So, what of the book?

Well, I got it because MWF spotted a bunch of surprise books and picked it for me. 

I took it on a night shift and got cracking. The book differs from the film it seems, and I suspect is bleaker. We’re introduced to a selection of lonely, lost old timers who decide to go across to India for their retirement.

The problem is that it makes for dreary reading. One of the coffin dodging protagonists is a disgusting old man, and he is joined by a racist and a tragic old lady.

I slogged a hundred pages in but frankly at this point decided to cut my losses as I didn’t really care what happened. Possibly because if they did find a “happily ever after” it would probably only be a few more years.

Moggach adds black humour to proceedings which did yield a few smiles, but largely it was just far too bleak. And while she tried to make me sympathise with characters by explaining their background it broke the “show don’t tell” and often times the reasons didn’t excuse their actions. 

Dismal.

Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.


In defence of Prince Charles

Right, to lay out my position on the Royals. I’m pretty much neutral. I won’t be bending the knee anytime soon, but I’m not calling for us to wheel out the guillotine. I think they seem nice enough people, if odd, and do some good work for the country, through charity and tourism, but I just think the millions we spend on them could be put to better use somewher else.

One thing I don’t get is the rabid enthusiasm and obsession some people have with them. They’re just another group of celebrities, so why all the fuss?

And speaking of fuss…

This month marks 20 years since the death of Diana, Princess of Wales. As such the press has been going nuts about it, catering to a seemingly bottomless reserve of national obsession and voyeurism.

There are TV shows, magazines, newspaper features and the re-emergence of various parasitic people who have exploited their connection with Diana for fame or wealth.

While some seems to have been handled with delicacy, particularly an interview with her sons on ITV. However, depressingly an old, familiar story is being told, that of Diana as a near saint and the villain of the piece being played by her ex, Prince Charles.

I’m not going to say that Chuck was guilt free in their trainwreck marriage, but it seems like there was fault on both sides and other factors at work. Charles’ relationship with Camilla has been tainted for some by the fact that it was going on behind Di’a back. But more on that later.

As all this stuff gets raked up over and over the more tactful at least think how it effects William and Harry, but as his failed marriage is disected once again nobody gives a damn about Charles’ feelings. Or if they do it’s in stupid ways:

In answer, no. No, he won’t. Because I’m assuming he’s not a massive bellend and appreciates that his sons will miss their mum, and that their love for her doesn’t mean they don’t love him.

One of the most controversial things in this prolonged and ugly time of “tribute” was the Channel 4 documentary. This featured tapes of Diana talking candidly about her marriage and divorce, possibly because she felt it was private.

So complete is Diana’s ascension to secular saint status that everything she said was received as gospel. 

Look, we’ve all had mates who have gone through break ups. They come over and they get it all off their chest. You offer sympathy, you take their side but you take it with a pinch of a salt. You’re getting one, highly biased, version of events. It’s heavily edited highlights.

Of course, your buddy’s ex can fight their corner and this is the part that sucks for Charles. He can’t.

First of all, he’s been raised to be King. A King doesn’t go running his mouth to the press, he has to keep his personal feelings hidden, maintain a regal persona.

Secondly, even if he could he’d be bad mouthing the dead and the public would go nuts over it.

And most importantly, Charles probably doesn’t want to go and drag Diana’s name through the mud. Because he knows that it would hurt his boys.

Which means he has to keep quiet as he is turned into the villain. The hatred of Charles has ebbed and flowed over the years, but with the 20th anniversary madness it’s all been stirred up again.

Recent polls have shown that people want William to be King next, showing a startling lack of knowledge of how monarchies work. You don’t pick. It’s whoever is next in line and that is Charles.

If you want a daft, old fashioned system you have to follow the rules or else it may as well just be an open public vote for the next monarch. And if the field is open we could have someone more fun than William.

Charles and Diana probably should never have married. But they did, and it went wrong. As with many things it’s not a black and white situation.

The thing is that I find silly is that people regard Charles’ divorce as grounds for him being unsuitable for the big chair. This is stupid because (a) other monarchs have got divorced and (b) it’s 2017. Attitudes towards divorce have changed, thankfully and there are no other jobs where having divorced would cost you the gig.

I’ve always felt in a perfect world Charlie would have just married Camilla right away and Diana could have had a longer, more peaceful life away from the press.

I find it hard to understand why anyone begrudges Charles for having gone on to find happiness with Camilla and remarry. They seem to have real affection and connection, and it seems unfair that she should get blasted along with him for that. 

Charles and Camilla loving life. Of course they are, they’re with Brian Blessed!

Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.


Book Review: Riff-Raff, Rebels and Rock Gods by Garry Bushell

I knew of Garry Bushell before as a slightly laddish TV critic, but with this book covering his time as a rock journalist during the late 70s and early 80s I decided to check it out as it featured some bands I like. I also like tales of old time rock and roll stars who weren’t as neutered and bland as the current crop.

After the punk boom died down the musical landscape seems to have been a varied place with punk continuing but morphing into subgenres like Oi! as well as a resurgence of ska indluenced bands with the 2 Tone acts. There was also the birth of the New Wave of British Heavy Metal (NWoBHM, for acronym fans). 

As a journalist for Sounds magazine, Bushell would go out and join bands on the road and interview them. It seems to have been a time for debauchery, excess and, in many cases, violence. His introduction sees him call it the best years of his life and yet the first two pieces, which see him touring India with Hanoi Rocks and in Berlin with The Exploited, are filled with griping and complaining.

He’s far happier while joining ZZ Top in Vegas and there are some fun tales later on, but enjoyment of the book hinges on how much you warm to Bushell, who is a frustrating guide on these trips. While showing great enthusiasm and a knack for inventive similes, Bushell can be extremely blokey in places and the attitudes towards homosexuality will appear backwards to many modern readers.

The rock stars here are a mixed bunch appearing as a mix daft posers, barely more than thugs, drunk disasters and the occasional nice guy (hello, Ozzy Osbourne). The bands are a mix too with big, familiar names like Ozzy, ZZ Top, The Specials and Iron Maiden rubbing shoulders with bands who faded out (Hanoi Rocks, Angelic Upstarts and Judge Dread). It’s interesting to hear about acts you know, but there’s something more fascinating about the bands who didn’t make it. And one of the most entertaining sections sees Bushell joining the Angelic Upstarts for a gig in a prison. The anti-authority aggression they bring is well received by the cons although the chaplain, tricked by their name is shocked.
It’s an interesting read, but at times irritating. It does however capture a lost era, not only of music and music journalism, but of the political and social landscape.

Verdict: Entertaining enough but Bushell isn’t always a likeable writer. The stories are entertaining and there is a lot of humour on show, but much is rather juvenile. An interesting glance back at rock’s past in an unsettled era. 6/10.

Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.