Review: Spectre

It wouldn’t be me if I wasn’t getting excited her about Bond, and the latest release Spectre is no exception – Pete and I went last night for a long awaited date night to Pizza Express and then onto the film which was lovely in itself, but Spectre… Wow.

The reviews have been mostly great and it is (as always) an amazingly entertaining watch, but I will say, it’s not perhaps as good as some of the others. I think Craig is the best bond ever and I hope he will do more, but there was a strong sense throughout that it was his last.

In some ways it felt like quite a departure from the usual format – there were references to Bonds past throughout the film and a few nods to classic bond with the odd cheesy moment, but it was the theme of bringing together all of Craigs recent Bonds (and their villains) that gave it an almost sequel like quality.

That said, Craig still plays a deliciously flawed Bond. There is a true sense of his fear in this one and also a little more weakness over women, more like we saw in Casino Royale and his love affair with Vesper Lynd. There are also truly cringe worthy moments of violence and cruelty where he appears at once unstoppable, but also on the brink of human defeat.

As always the cars are spectacular, the big set piece scenes are awesome, (although I enjoyed the car chase around the Vatican much more than the much discussed opening Day of the Dead opening scene,) and the women of Bond just get better and better. Monica Bellucci’s part really isn’t anything to write home about and perhaps a bit too classic (helpless female womanised by Bond) for my taste but Madelaine Swan’s character is much more interesting and kick-ass. 😉

So readers, have you seen it? Are you going? I’m giving it 5 stars, even though its not quite as epic as Craigs other Bonds, it was still amazing and I’d watch it again any day of the week! Go go go!


The Honourable Woman

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Have you seen it?

The other day my friend asked me if I was watching The Honourable Woman. She sold it as ‘similar to Homeland’ and told me to check it out on iPlayer (episodes 1-7 are available for just over a week now so get there quick!) and so Pete and I sat down to watch it one afternoon while he was on paternity leave.

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Oh. My. Goodness. I was hooked before the first episode was even half through! Similar to Homeland in the sense of having spies, terrorism and secret loyalties at its heart it is also helped along by a stellar female cast taking powerful roles with a wardrobe to match, (hello Maggie,) and lots of clever political dialogue. Its also incredibly timely as it centres around the age old conflict between the Palestinians and Israelis.

I’m probably very late to the party on this one, but if you haven’t heard of it or watched it, it’s totally worth binge watching before it’s gone! Have you seen it? Did you love it?

Oh and no spoilers please! I’m only 2 episodes in 😉


#JanuaryJoy: Go and See a Film

With awards season underway, this is the time of the year that I get most excited about when it comes to going to the cinema. I have always loved films, although I wouldn’t say my taste is particularly high brow, I love being transported to another world or life and what more could you ask for on these long dark cold nights?

There are a ton of films on my must-see list right now, some because the trailers looked good and some which have gained critical acclaim already. It was the latter that lead us to see Gravity as it had been out the longest and was therefore the most urgent before it went off the screens. It is an epic film, if a little wacky at first and although I felt it was a little unrealistic (not something that usually bothers me about films as I enjoy escapism,) I was gripped throughout which surely marks the sign of a good film? I also loved the incredible views of earth from space which were beautiful on the big screen and strangely awe-inspiring. If you’re a film buff you can read an in-depth Gravity review here.

There are films I wanted to see more, American Hustle, Mandela, The Railway Man, 12 Years a Slave (although I’m not sure I can take the violence in this one,) The Hobbit and The Wolf of Wall Street (just spotted last week and which looks amazing,) and I’ll be slowly checking them off my list until the light nights return.

What I want to know from you today readers is which ones are on your must-see list this month and if you have seen any please do let me know what you thought – which one should be top of my list next time we go to the cinema?


Jessica’s Hen: Movie Night

I’m so excited to share Jess’s hen do with you all so I thought I would start straight away with the first part, Friday night. The hen took place in Bath and we rented a large house to accomodate us all. The house was beautiful and came with a cinema room in the basement, which pretty much gave me the idea for theming the first night around the screening of Mr and Mrs that I had planned. We were staying in that night and for ease I planned pizzas and salad for dinner that I could do with the minimum of fuss, but I wanted to make the screening extra special, so set about theming a mini-dessert table. Here are some of the images I pinned as inspiration.

Movie Night printable // Popcorn boxes // Popcorn cupcakes // Retro sign diy // Donut dessert table // Rocky Road marshmallow pops

No hen do is complete without a little bit of something to get the party started, so I did a bit of research on some easy cocktails too. Unfortunately the jelly shots were an epic fail – despite me using extra gelatine they failed to set and didn’t make it to the party. (I think the cups I used were perhaps larger than American cups in the recipe so the ratios weren’t right.)

Glitter cocktails // Hanging streamers // Mojito jelly wedges // Mojito recipe

I also decided as the weather heated up that I would do as much as possible outside, particularly the welcome drinks, so needed to decorate. The brief was cheap easy and effective – the main thing about going somewhere you don’t know and decorating is that you don’t know where you’ll be able to attach things or what to stick things to and I settled on using Paper Streamers in my Pinterest board inspired pink, red and mint. We made hanging curtains as a backdrop across two windows using a simple strip of sellotape and random colours of the streamer cut to size, then tied them along the decking rail too.

For the Bellinis I bought Metallic Gold Edible Sparkling Sugar Crystals (I read somewhere that edible glitter ends up all over your faces!) and we used honey to rim the glasses before dipping them to create the sparkling rim effect. (Be careful not to use too much honey as it can end up running away with the sugar!) We then used a dollop of Funkin Peach white peach puree topped with Prosecco and a raspberry to complete the look.

After drinks (during which mojitos followed the bellinis) we headed inside for a late dinner once everyone had arrived, then into the cinema room. I had put together a ‘Who knows the Bride best’ quiz (like this one) and in the background we screened ‘Cocktail’ quiz – a favourite teen movie of Jess’s. My sister made the popcorn cupcakes and marshmallow pops (using these Lollipop Sticks for Cake Pops) and I bought the Popcorn Boxes from Amazon.

After doing the quiz I put on the DVD and we all laughed and cooed over Dan’s hilarious and sweet answers to the questions. Jess was terrified she would get them all wrong but in fact answered nearly every question exactly as Dan had.

We all fell into bed happy and relaxed which was my main objective – nobody wants to ruin the main event and big night out on Saturday by over-doing it on Friday so I felt our activities struck a balance and were also pretty cost effective, with just dinner and drinks to pay for which came out of the money I requested in advance and via a Tesco delivery.

I hope you enjoyed the little sneak peek and I’ll share more next week 😉 I think the movie night theme would make an excellent birthday party or other celebration too if you have something to plan.


Florence’s Films: The Great Gatsby

I’m going to preface this post by saying two things. Firstly I have never read F. Scott Fitzgerald’s ‘The Great Gatsby’ and secondly I am a huge fan of Baz Luhrmann’s films.

I went into the film expecting a lot from the production, the staging and the costumes but with really no idea of what the story was about. Even the trailers had failed to spell out more to me than that Gatsby was the central mysterious character, as instead I had concentrated on the effects.

I didn’t see it in 3D, but for me there was actually less digitalisation of the scenes that I expected, so don’t let that put you off going. Despite the trademark Luhrmann style, what really struck me was the story, quite the contrast to some reviews I had read that suggested the effects overwhelmed a classic.

I didn’t expect there to be such a love story, that I would feel sorry for Gatsby, despise Daisy, or see such vulnerability in the ‘Great’ Gatsby.

Of course, appropriate interpretation of classic literature or not, you can’t fault the costumes, the incredible party scenes (anybody else wishing they could throw a party like that?) those Tiffany jewels and the roaring twenties blown out of all proportion on the big screen.

I’m sure there are many among you who have read the book and I’d love to know what you thought of the film, good or bad, if you’re going or have been…


Must-Do Monday: I Give it a Year

In a departure from the norm but in total synchrony with what this slot is all about, this is something I don’t want anybody reading to go without seeing. Pete and I love going to the flicks and this weekend when we were at a loose end and not really that keen on leaving the house at all, we decided to try the new Brit rom-com I Give it a Year.

If I were to say I haven’t laughed this hard at a film in my entire memory, I wouldn’t be exaggerating. Fortunately the cinema was pretty empty because Pete and I were actually rolling around in our seats, unable to catch our breath, with tears rolling down our cheeks. The humour ranges from cringe worthy (that Best Man’s speech) to inevitable but all-the-funnier-for-it. If you laughed at Bridesmaids then this is waaay funnier. It’s a great anti-valentine film if you don’t buy into all the hype, but also one your husband or boyfriend won’t demand favours as a reward for watching, (largely thanks to Stephen Merchant’s Gervais-esque turn.) Minnie Driver is priceless and Rose Byrne who I tend to find annoying pulls off a great comedic performance in one of the best scenes of the film.

Go see it, unless this type of film (Love Actually, Four Weddings,*) really isn’t your thing, you will love it. Do leave a comment if you have seen it already or if you do go, come back and let me know what you thought!


*There is actually a lot less ‘love’ and romance than in either of these – much more Four Weddings than Love Actually 🙂

#JanuaryJoy – Read a new Book

Much like music on Florence Finds, I rely on the book posts written by Rachel, Gemma and other readers to bring new literary finds to my attention. Today Gemma is taking over and has several recommendations for you that you might like to start straight away and while away the dark evenings or make a note of for your next holiday read. In a stroke of genius, Gemma is tackling the books by genre and recommending something for each of you according to your favourite reads of 2012.

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Well, the snow is here, so it’s the perfect time to avoid going outside completely and let books transport you to where you need to go. I know today’s #JanuaryJoy prompt is to try a new book, but I’m not interpreting that as ‘off the wall new’.  Instead, I’m hoping you’ll find a new favourite which reminds you of other books you’ve loved.  To help with this, I’ve grouped them along the lines of ‘If you like x, you might like y.’  Before I get started I’m going to warn you all that this new book guide is not show-offy, nor literary, nor highbrow.  It’s SO annoying when people get all judgey about popular fiction and use terms like ‘trashy novel’ or even ‘chick lit’.  Books are books and reading is reading, ok? So read what will bring you joy.

In my experience, everyone likes crime fiction/thrillers.  Everyone.  What differs is the type of crime fiction you like. So if you have devoured any James Patterson in the past (now he’s a one who often gets the dreaded trashy label but, there’s no denying he sells, so we must be buying his work!) or you’ve seen the poster for the latest Alex Cross film, you’ll be pleased to know that instalment 19 about the aforementioned detective came out in time for Christmas.  James Patterson also writes for kids and teens and the Maximum Ride series is likewise a gripping read.  (although it, strictly speaking, fits into the next category down) Speaking of books adapted for the screen, if you watch the TV shows Bones or Rizolli and Isles,  you may already have discovered Tess Gerritsen.  If not, she’s one to check out.  Closer to home here in the UK, there’s the duo I like to call ‘the two Peters’ – namely Peter James and Peter Robinson who have series about DI Roy Grace and DI Alan Banks respectively.  If you’re already a fan of the two Peters, I’d suggest Mark Billingham’s work.  Finally on the crime front, if you’re a fan of Kate Atkinson‘s crime novels, which are a little more ‘literary’ (even though, as I said, I’m not making those kind of judgements in this post) try these two oldies-but-goodies: Brighton Rock by Graham Green, and The Driver’s Seat by Muriel Sparks.

If you liked The Hunger Games, I’d say you’ll love Divergent, by Veronica Roth: another brilliant dystopian coming-of-age novel for teenagers with a strong female protagonist.  However due to social media etc you may already have found Divergent, and are waiting for the 3rd instalment of it,  in which case, may I suggest the Noughts and Crosses trilogy by Malorie Blackman.  A gripping story of teenagers who fall in love, set in a world where the black ‘crosses’ consider themselves superior to the white ‘noughts’ and the two are segregated, you’ll be vair pleased, I’d wager, that all 3 books in the series have been published so that you can, if you so choose, devour them all in one sitting with a packet of chocolate biscuits for company.
If, however, you’re a Hunger Games fan looking for something a little more adult, there’s a host of alternative reality Science Fiction (yes, really, the Hunger Games is Science Fiction) that probably inspired Suzanne Collins.  The world that Katniss, Gale and Peeta inhabit owes a lot to Stephen King’s Running Man and The Long Walk (Stephen King writing as Richard Bachman, but the King of horror himself.  Yes, I am openly encouraging you to buy SK and I hope that Rebecca will let me back another day to tell you all what you’re missing by not being Stephen King aficionados,  like me, but for now, I’ll stick to Running Man and The Long Walk.)

And, ok, if you just can’t bring yourself to be seen with a try Stephen King, consider The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood.  The Folio Society have re-issued this modern classic in a gorgeous gorgeous illustrated hardback just begging to be read and re-read and kept on display.

Game of Thrones.  Now, for starters, if you’ve watched the TV show derived from ASOIAF but haven’t read the books, (ASOIAF, by the way, stands for A Song of Ice and Fire – the name of the series) getting the first is a sure-fire winner.  Just don’t expect to get anything done for the next few the weekends.  If however, you’re like my friend Zarah-from-work’s boyfriend who apparently ‘spent 4 months in the ASOIAF tunnel, barely coming up for air’, and you’re looking for the next multi-book set, try out The Wheel of Time by Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson.
Or, and these two suggestions are possibly more for women though obviously here at Florence Finds we don’t discriminate ;), there’s:

The Outlander series by Diana Galbaldon: Epic in the true sense of the word, this series centres around Clare Randall, an English woman who time travels from the 1950s to the 1700s in Scotland and meets a Highlander called Jamie Fraser.  My great aunt was the one who originally told me about them and I was surprised at how, ahem, racy they are 😉 but the historical detail is incredible and they are utterly gripping.  I read all 7 in December.

Barbara Erskine’s novels: Barbara Erskine writes historical tales with a splash of the supernatural and every one I’ve read I’ve been unable to put down.  More often than not featuring strong female figures from the past, (some real, some imagined, and some sillier than others) these too are big on historical detail and are perfect for reading in the bath. (Though not, obviously, if you are reading on a Kindle or Ereader.  That would be asking for trouble.)

Finally, and still in the ‘historical’ genre though in a totally different vein, The Glass Palace by Amitav Ghosh is a huge book in both size and scope.  Telling the story of 4 generations of family, it starts in Burma in the 1800’s and travels to India, Singapore and back, with its beautifully drawn characters playing out their lives against a backdrop of turmoil and change.

And what am I starting today? Well, I’m cracking open two new books: Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Turner, which apparently is as good if not better than ASOIAF and Hunger Games, and Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn, which is a thriller.  I’ll report back shortly with how they both were.  Now it’s over to you lot… I don’t care whether you know what a Bildungsroman novel is (Nick-from-the-upstairs-flat doesn’t know, and he’s a Shakespearian scholar!) or whether your latest fav read won the Orange prize.  I do want to know which book is going to make me miss my tube stop though…

Oh, and p.s – many of the links in this post are to buying books through The Hive Network, which is a brilliant idea and allows you to buy online and collect from local independent bookstores.  I’ll be using them until Amazon start ponying up the cash for their tax bill.

We’d love to hear your recommendations for 2013 – perhaps your favourite book of last year or a Christmas gift you enjoyed and do tell us if you have tried any of Gemma’s suggestions too!


#JanuaryJoy – Go to the Cinema

Image Credit: Make a DIY vintage Movie sign on Oh Happy Day

I’m super excited today as today’s #JanuaryJoy prompt was one of the first to go onto the calendar way back in early December when I started planning this series. The instant I saw the trailer for Les Miserables, I knew I’d be making a bee-line straight for the cinema to watch it on the big screen.

I know it’s a cliche but there’s something magical about the movies. My favourite types of film to see are those with sweeping theatrical productions, Baz Luhrmann and his surreal style being amongst my favourites. I’m not a ‘Les Mis’ fan and *hangs head in shame* had never seen it on the stage because I thought it might be, well, miserable? Having seen the trailer however, although I know it’s going to be sad, (no spoilers please!) I’m totally sucked in by the drama already.

I love seeing films I can get lost in, transported to another time or place and that pull at my heart strings. I’m pretty sure the Les Miserables film is going to fit the bill.

Are you going readers? Are you excited? I can’t wait. For the first time in my life I have booked the Premiere seats!


Florence’s Films: Skyfall

It’s been a while since I wrote about a film on Florence Finds, but then it has also been a long time since I have been as excited about a film as I was about the new James Bond Film, Skyfall. I grew up watching Bond, found common ground with Pete in our mutual appreciation of the films when we met and I happen to think Daniel Craig is the most authentic Bond yet… that and Adele’s silky tones wrapped round the omnipresent theme tune got me super excited for the release.

As we sat in the cinema and the title sequence rolled after the standard gripping opening scene, I found myself thinking, what is it exactly about Bond that makes it so good? I mean, lets face it, it’s formulaic. *Spoiler Alert* Bond doesn’t die… and yet the films are so good because every time he’s face to face with the bad guy I really can’t see how he’s going to get out this time and Skyfall is no exception.

Let me qualify my first statement by explaining why Craig makes the best Bond yet. He has all the dark brooding attributes that Fleming intended for his deadly assassin in the books and the emotionless air of someone with a damaged past. Since Craig took the role of Bond the films have been more stripped back, darker, as though slowly laying the foundations for the new generation of Bond films and this one was no exception. With a serious air of nostalgia throughout it felt appropriate for our austerity focused country, harking back to the golden days of espionage.

Sam Mendes has done a fantastic job, blending iconic Bond scenes (Bond sailing into his enemies lair twice with typical suave bravado,) and epic exotic locations with incredible cinematography. One scene see’s Bond stalking his target in a multi walled glass building with the Shanghai Ad billboards reflecting as an ever changing smokescreen back drop, falling in and out of the shadows as the lights changed – it completely blew my mind.

In a change from the norm however much of the film is set on home turf with a real sense of reality and relevance as London and M16 itself comes under terrorist attack using the most modern of technologies, the internet. The film also sees a changing of the guard – there’s a brilliantly geek-chic new Q, and a new Moneypenny, with a further sense of scene setting for future films. Javier Bardem makes one of the most cringeworthy and psychologically disturbing bad guy’s for some time too, with a camp twist on being mad, bad and simultaneously brilliant.

I loved it, every second and definitely think it’s one of the best yet… but what I want to know is what did you think about it? Have you seen it this weekend? Will you be going to see it? Do share your thoughts readers, good or bad 🙂


Disclaimer: Tickets for this showing of Skyfall were provided by Ladbrokes as part of the Ladbrokes night out campaign.

Florence’s Book Club: Anna Karenina

Quite often, I end up reading books because they are coming out on film. I’m not too pedantic about which way round these things come, but it does spoil a book somewhat if I already know the ending. I often find too, that film trailers motivate me to read a book I would never have picked up. Even though I love classics, there’s no hard sell involved to point me in that direction so when I see the costumes and romance brought to life on film I’m a sucker for flipping open a dusty front cover.

‘There are as many Loves as there are Hearts’ – Leo Tolstoy

So this month’s book is Anna Karenina, a iconic character and incredibly romantic story, that is due to be released as a film (starring Kiera Knightley, who by now must be used to being strapped into a corset for most of her adult life, and Jude Law as her husband,) on September the 7th here in the UK.

For those of you yet to be convinced, I’ve included the trailer here. Watch it and gasp – at the sets, costumes and drama.

I’d love to hear from those of you who have read or perhaps even studied it… have you enjoyed it? Is it worth reading? Anybody going to join me?


PS – Please excuse the typos this morning – an old version got saved, pre-edit!

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