Saturday, 29 August 2009

Film Review: Sin Nombre

I went to see the brilliant 'Sin Nombre' the other night, at the Ritzy Cinema in Brixton, and had to write about it.

Sin Nombre, a directorial debut for Cary Fukunaga, is a Spanish language film, mostly set in Mexico but also in Honduras, and centres on two storylines which come together in a beautiful, touching and tragic way. There are some outstanding performances, particulalry from the young lead actors in the film.

The film, part gangster movie part road trip, is a grim reminder of the poverty and destitution in the region, little seen from the Disney like resorts of Cancun. The film zooms in on those those who turn to gang life as a way of finding purpose and gaining respect; and the heartbreaking plight of those seeking to make a better life for themselves by escaping.

When her father is deported back to Honduras from New Jersey, Sayra (Paulina Gaitan) finds herself with little choice but to go with her father, who she hardly knows, on the long trip via Mexico on a freight train to try and get back to New Jersey, where her father's new family still lives.

Meanwhile, in Mexico, El Casper (played by Edgar Flores) is a member of the infamous Mara Salvatrucha. The Mara is a brutal, criminal and far reaching gang which has members across Mexico and the US. After recruiting the young Smiley (Kristyan Ferrer) into the gang, El Casper starts to become disillusioned with gang life, preferring to spend his time with his secret girfriend Martha Marlene (Diana Garcia). The leader of this particular branch of the gang Lil' Mago (Huerta Mejia) become suspicious of El Casper's absences and questions his loyalty.

Ultimately it is his love for Martha Marlene, and the tragedy and events that follow, that causes El Casper to meet with Sayra and her father and uncle at the US bound freight train boarding point. Lil' Mago, Smiley and Casper are determined to rob the stowaways of their money and an altercation between Sayra and Lil' Mago ends with El Casper taking the life changing actions that sees him become a marked man on the run from his gang.

It is from here onwards that the stories merge and a beautiful friendship between Sayra and El Casper develops, as they make their way across Mexico to try and get to the US.

This film is certainly not a feel good film and the characters and story stayed with me for a long while after seeing it. Cary Fukunaga has captured beautifully, if shockingly the plight of those whose lives he sought to portray. Using real migrants making that hopeful journey on a real train and a mixture of professional actors and street kids the film really hits home. This is an acomplished debut from Fukunaga, which once again shows the talent for film making in Latin America.

What do you think?

Saturday, 22 August 2009

Man Bag Yourself One Of These: The Best Man Bags

The average man now carries an astonishing range of gadgets and gizmo's around with them - from i-pods, mobile phones and blackberries; to the more traditional items such as keys, wallet, a pen, notebook and glasses. With the Britsh weather being as unpreditcable as ever you can also throw into the mix an umbrella and sunglasses. Oh and we haven't even mentioned grooming products yet - a quick spray of aftershave before that date after work?

So it really surprises me that so many men are still against the idea of a man bag. I mean, where does a man put all of these things if he doesn't have a bag to carry them in, because lets face it bulging trouser or jacket pockets are not attractive? Particularly if you have splashed out on some decent threads. Or if you are wearing skinny jeans!

There are now so many good men's bags around ranging from sporty to classic, masculine to camp, edgy to the frankly ridiculous that it must be impossible not to find one that suits your style.

Since getting my first Man Bag (A black Mulberry Seth, pictured below) I could never live without one. I do have a thing for Mulberry bags. They are classy, timeless and long lasting; getting better with age particularly once they have been bashed about a bit. I soon followed up the Seth with a brown Mulberry Barnaby (also pictured), which has slightly more room for those days where I need to take more out with me.

For work, I like my bag to match my shoes and belt (sad I know) and so at the momnet I am looking for a bag in a lighter brown but not another Mulberry - I want something different. In my search I came across this lovely Vivienne Westwood satchel (below) which is reduced from £418 to £214 on This is an absolute bargain! I am not sure which season this bag is from but to be honest I think with good quality bags, as long as they aren't too fashion forward it doesn't really matter.

Personally I steer well clear of the shopper. For me it is just too feminine but I have seen some nice ones. I suppose it depends on your individual style and whether you think you can pull one off. On the right person they can look great.

Anyway I thought I would pull together some of my favourite man bags of the moment:

BEST SPORTY - This green, white and red tennis bag from Lacoste has to be one of the best sports bags I have seen. Smart and masculine this is the bag to get you to the gym in style or dazzle your opponent on the tennis court. The bad news is I have never actually found it!

BEST HIGH STREET - This All Saints grey messenger is classy without being too smart, a great bag to wear casually with jeans. All saints do a great range of men's bags.

BEST DESIGNER - For this one I am going back to Vivienne Westwood. There are two reasons for this. Firstly it is a classic bag that will never date, it looks strong and masculine and hardwearing, with some nice details that sets it apart from other similar bags. Secondly it's the price - £209 for a Vivienne Westwood bag is a bargain. Bring on payday I say!

BEST LUXURY - this Mulberry Balthazar bag is beautiful and at £995 does not come cheap, but I think it is worth every penny. It's beautiful soft luxurious leather means that this will add real touch of class to whatever you are wearing and it's simple, classic design will never be out of fashion. This is a bag for life.

BEST BARGAIN - This Topman red check holdall, at £35 is the way to go if you are looking for something more bright and colourful. It's bargain price means that you won't have splashed out when you eventually tire of it.

What do you think?

Wednesday, 19 August 2009

Shameful Treatment of South African Athlete Caster Semenya

I am sitting here watching the World Athletics Championships and am really outraged at the way the whole Caster Semenya - is she a man or a woman? - thing is being handled? The South African 800 metre runner has been the talk of the championships today.

Granted, she does look rather masculine, but she is also a human being and innocent until proven guilty! All the speculation over her gender must be so upsetting for her.

If she was suspected of being a drugs cheat, she would be tested in private and nothing would be made public until both the A and B samples had been analysed. However, in this case the whole world seems to know that she is due to be tested. Why was this information released? I think it is really unfair.

She also had to go out and run, with all that media speculation too, which must have been horrible, particularly if it turns out that she is in fact a woman. She won by the way!

Even if she does turn out to be a man, it still could have been handled in a much better way because at this stage we still don't know for sure.
What do you think?

Who Will Have The X Factor In 2009?

X Factor returns to our (UK) screens this Saturday evening (ITV1 7:00pm) and I personally CANNOT WAIT!!! I absolutely love this show. Cheryl Cole, Simon Cowell, Dannii Minogue and Louis Walsh will once again battle it out to find the next UK pop star.

After a pretty strong batch of hopefuls in 2008 in which the amazing Alexandra Burke won, I just hope this year offers as much talent, excitement and drama.

Who will wear the best outfits - Cheryl or Dannii?....Who will have the biggest diva strop - Simon or Louis?....

Who will be the winner? Another soultastic female a la Leona and Alexandra? Another bland male (yes that's you Leon Jackson), or maybe it is the time for a boy or girl band to finally take the title? Although with JLS still riding high in the UK charts and Girls Aloud, the Sugababes and the Saturdays around maybe there isn't enough room for a new band?

We haven't even heard any of Alexandra Burke's new songs yet, although I expect we will get to see the first track from her debut Album and the follow up to last year's Christmas Number 1 - Hallelujah on the show. I really hope it's good, it has been such a long wait.

Anyway back to this year...

This year promises to be a great year for celebrity masterclasses and appearances - with Madonna rumoured to be on the show. There will of course be the obligatory Michael Jackson episode - where the majority of the contestants will murder his songs. A lovely way to remember him don't you think?

And I haven't even mentioned the freaks yet! What can I say? Words don't even begin to describe how deluded some of these people are to even think they can sing. Obviously some of them just want to be on the show and that's fine. But the really hiarious ones are those who actually believe that they have the X factor and are horrified, outraged even that the judges dare to say they can't sing.

I would like to take this opportunity to say goodbye to Saturday nights out for the next 15 or so weeks, because I will be sitting comfortably on the sofa - Cringing, Laughing, Screaming and probably towards the end Crying!
What do you think?

Friday, 14 August 2009

Celebrating or Cashing in? Agyness Deyn in Harpers Bazaar Style Tribute to Michael Jackson

Now I am not saying that this kind of thing isn't happening all over the world, but the pictures of British model Agyness Deyn in a range of Michael Jackson style outfits, posing with a Bubbles lookalike, have been plastered all over the newspapers here in the UK; so I am using it as an example.

My question is, is Harper's Bazaar really celebtrating the style of Michael Jackson or is it just a plot to sell magazines? Maybe it's both and maybe I am just cynical, but I don't ever remmber them 'celebrating' his style when he was alive? I wasn't born yesterday, I know magazines will often put anything on the cover to generate sales - I saw the 'tornado girl' episode of Ugly Betty!

There is no denying the photos are great and Agyness wears the outfits well but I think this was about using a hot right now model in a shoot about a hot right now topic and less about the style influence of MJ, which is a shame.

Admittedly I haven't seen the edition yet, so maybe I am being presumptious, but I will be interested to see if there is much editorial content of note in the 6 page spread; which acutally celebtrates his style. Or whether it will just be a bunch of photographs? I may be proved wrong! In which case I will eat my Fedora.
What do you think?

Thursday, 13 August 2009

A Puma in the Palace?

There has been talk over the last few days of a puma wandering around some woodland in Crystal Palace, South London, near to where I live. Posting on Virtual Norwood, Helen Barrett said she saw a "huge black cat, at least five foot long."

In 2005 in nearby Sydenham there were similar sightings of a big cat, which was nicknamed the Beast of Sydenham. It allegedly attacked a man in his garden and there was a huge police search, which was unsuccesful.

Apparently sightings of big cats in the UK occur frequently and there are even websites set up, which are dedicated to proving that big cats are roaming around the UK, such as big cat news.

So keep a watch out next time you are strolling through the woods...the Palace Puma could be out there....walking amongst the dinosaurs!
What do you think?

Wednesday, 12 August 2009

Can Andy Murray Win the US Open This Year (2009)?

Is 2009 the year that Andy Murray finally wins a Grand Slam? After coming so close last year in the US Open (he made the final against Federer) he has got to be in with a shout right? Murray says that the hard courts are his preferred surface and it is here that he won the Junior US Open in , so here is hoping.

With Nadal having missed Wimbledon and therefore losing his title, he will be keen to return to winning ways and fight his way back to the number 1 spot. However, Murray did beat Nadal on the way to the final last year, so he has it in him to beat him on the hard courts. Nadal's troublesome knee could cause him problems.

If Andy Roddick plays like he did at Wimbledon, cheered on by his home crowd, he could be a serious threat too and will take confidence from the fact that he beat Murray at Wimbledon this year.

I may be wrong but I am discounting Novak Djokovic, as I don't think he is a major threat. He doesn't seem to have the hunger of Murray, Federer and Nadal and now that he has made some good money, I think he will slowly drop down the rakings a bit.

And obviously nobody should ever discount Federer, that goes without saying! Federer, even when you think he is not playing brilliantly, seems to be able to just take it up another gear and find a way to win. He must surely be the favourite to win this year?

Maybe it is foolhardy optimism but I feel like a major Grand Slam win is just around the corner for Andy Murray. I like his spirit and attitude, the way he has bulked and strengthened up and worked hard to improve his game. Sure he comes across as moody sometimes, but that is probably down to how focused he is on being the best. If that's what it takes to win a grand slam I am happy to allow him that.

Come on Andy YOU CAN DO IT!

The US Open starts on 31st August 2009
What do you think?

Monday, 10 August 2009

Selfridges Opens Christmas Shop in August!

It's August (in case you didn't know) and many people will be looking forward to, or just coming back from, a well earned summer holiday - jetting off to somewhere warm and tropical and lazing around on the beach.

I have already had my holiday abroad and boy am I glad I did, because the 'barbeque summer' that the British weather forecasters promised us did not materialise. But anyway I digress...

It might seem like a long way away (136 days to be precise) but Selfridges in London has just opened its Christmas store! In August!

Is it me or does Christmas seem to come around earlier with each passing year? If it carries on like this we will be shopping for Christmas 2011 in July 2010; it's ridiculous! It takes all the fun out of the 'festive season' because the season lasts nearly HALF THE YEAR - there is nothing to get excited about. I personally will refuse to go into any Christmas shop until at least the 1st December.

Selfridges say that they are making the most of the low Pound and the fact that there are lots of tourists here in the UK this summer. Now I am all for boosting our economy, especially during the credit crunch and maybe it's just me; but surely the last thing on people's minds when visiting another city in the middle of summer is purchasing Christmas decorations? 

What about our theatres, bars, parks, restaurants, galleries and museums. London has so much more to offer than traipsing around Selfridges (as much as I do love it) for purple articificial Christmas trees.

Anyway rant over, I am off to paint my Easter Eggs.
What do you think?

Picture Perfect Positano

A few weeks ago I spent 10 fantastic days in Positano, Italy on the beautiful Costiera Amalfitana (Amalfi Coast). Positano, South of Naples and East of Sorrento, is a chic picture perfect town of white and pastel coloured houses, built into the rocky cliffside of argubly one of the most beautiful stretches of coast in Europe.

We arrived from Naples by boat (it has to be the best way to arrive) and the view of Positano as it comes into view is simply breathtaking. The colours were so vibrant and it appeared that the houses and hotels were literally clinging to the rocks in the air.

After a brief struggle up some steep steps with our luggage and a brief taxi ride (we had heavy bags) we arrived at our hotel - the 3* Hotel Montemare. The Montemare is a small friendly family run hotel with amazing views from the lovely terrace. The terrace also housed the hotel restaurant and pizzeria - Il Capitano where we enjoyed a tranquil meal one evening looking down over the town.

The hotel itself was high up enough to enjoy the beautiful sea views but close enough to walk to the town centre and the beach, which was perfect. The room was light, spacious and comfortable. It had a good air conditioning system, which was a godsend in the basking heat that we enjoyed whilst in Italy. The whole of one wall in the room was decorated with a huge colourful painted mural of Positano and the balcony whilst small enjoyed enjoyed a sea view from which to watch the sunset over the sea.

Getting around Positano was relatively easy but as it is built into the side of the cliffs and split across a ravine, there were numerous stairs everywhere (see below). However, there was a local bus route that ran frequently and the road was easier to walk down (but busier with cars).

There are numerous boutiques and shops, selling everything from souvenirs to beachwear to designer handbags and sunglasses (there was even an outlet of Missoni). In addition there were art galleries aplenty (see my other article) and jewellery stalls lined the bourgainvillea covered street that ran alongisde the Palazzo Murat.

There were plenty of restaurants to ensure that you could eat somewhere different every night if you wished. Seafood, not surprisingly, was abundent, as well as lots of delicious pizza. Restaurants in Positano were not cheap on the whole, although there were some more reasonably priced ones dotted about. My favourite was Buco di Bacco and we ate there twice. Situated upstairs, on the seafront, the restaurant has hosted numerous famous people over the years, such as Jackie and Aristotle Onassis. Buco di Bacco was buzzy and friendly, well decorated with gorgeous lighting with a lovely view over the beach. The food was delicicous (I had a partularly memorable piece of sea bream) and the desserts to die for.

Other good restaurants were La Pergola and Cafe Positano (which although situated by the roadside had a lovely romantic atmosphere).

There are two beaches in Positano, both set into a kind of cove. The beaches are pebbly along this part of the coast, although we had sungloungers each day so didn't have to suffer any discomfort. I Preferred the Spiaggia Formillo to the larger, busier Spiaggia Grande as it felt more spacious and relaxaed. Spiaggia Fornillo has a number of friendly beachside restaurants/cafes and we particularly liked Ferdinando's bar, with Ferdinando himself being the most welcoming host, offering great value food with daily specials prepared by Mama!

Positano is well placed to do a number of day trips. We arrived from Naples, visited Pompeii (via Sorrento) and hired a Piaggia to drive to Amalfi and Ravello (a stunning village higher up in the mountains) - both definitely worth a vist!
The Amalfi Coast is beautiful and I will definitely return there, to Positano in particular. I can see now why Sienna Miller and Balthazar Getty chose it as the place to reunite a year after they holidayed here together.

What do you think?

Wednesday, 5 August 2009

Teenager Paints Giant Penis on Roof of Parents House

I have just seen this on the BBC website and thought I would share it with you. It made me laugh anyway....

From the BBC "An 18-year-old has secretly painted a 60ft drawing of a phallus on the roof of his parents' £1million mansion in Berkshire. It was there for a year before his parents found out. They say he'll have to scrub it off when he gets back from travelling."

.... Firstly, what ever posessed the boy to do this? His parents must really have pissed him off. Secondly how the hell did he get up there to do it? Thirdly who actually found it, a passenger on a passing plain, a passing hot air baloon? I am sure he will have lots of fun scrubbing it off!

What do you think?

Great Work Bill: Clinton to the rescue in North Korea

It was really heartening to hear that Bill Clinton had helped to secure the release of the two jailed American journalists, Laura Ling and Euna Lee, from North Korea.

With North Korea being one of the most secretive places on earth, which has a notoriously difficult relationship with the west, I think it was a very bold decision for Clinton to go and try to negotiate with Kim Jong-il. And it worked. The families of the two women involved must be so pleased.

Can you imagine George Bush attempting it? Ha Ha - it would have been a total catastrophe! The two women would probably have been sentenced to life in prison.

This certainly won't do Bill's image any harm! It's kind of ironic though that it should be him that went to North Korea, after all isn't his wife Secretary of State?

What do you think?
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