Mini-movie Review: A Star is Born

It is one of the most talked about movies of the year, so of course I jumped at the chance of getting a preview of Bradley Coopers A Star is Born tonight at Movie House Dublin Road Belfast.

A remake of the 1976 musical romcom starring Barbra Streisand and Kris Kristofferson.Which in itself was a remake of the 1936 drama starring Janet Gaynor and Fredric March adapted from a Judy Garland musical.

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The 2018 version stars pop star Lady Gaga and tells the story of two singers at different points of their stardom, you have probably seen the trailers and read the numerous positive reviews but what are my thoughts….

This is a tear-jerker of a film, a tragic tale of two lovers told through an amazing score with fantastic vocals from both awarding winning pop star Gaga and actor Cooper. It is beautifully shot with poignant moments of intimate love, passion and despair. Beautiful crowd scenes filmed in sold out concert halls and festivals.

Reminiscent to musical stories of tragic love like Walk the line-the Johnny Cash story. This tale is not what I was expecting, I don’t know why I had a preconception of another fairy-tale rise of a pop star story but this is much more Shakespearean. A haunted Romeo with a star struck Juliet. Not to everyone’s taste in tonight’s screening but I was left choking back tears in the final scenes.

So in summary and without any spoilers; personally I thought it was worth a watch, it shows the pressure of a modern popstar to always look perfect and the pressures of a modern relationship. I think it is one remake which has justified it’s update. If you are heading to a screening this week bring a few tissues. Perfect for a date night or a mate night.

Emer D xx

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Theatre Review:Fame at Kings Theatre Edinburgh

Fame the musical is a homage to the movie and the subsequent TV spin-off. The action takes place in and around the High School of performing arts on West 46th Street in New York City between 1980 and 1984. The productions pre-set image of two Manhattan skyscrapers and a little yellow taxi, with sounds of the city traffic, sets the scene where the audience is transported to the bustling inner city streets.

 

In the opening number we meet the budding performers waiting for their acceptance letter, teenagers dressed in sweatpants, legwarmers and oversized sweatshirts. From the off we see the ensemble are a talented bunch of dancers, singers and musicians; triple threats who have some inspiring choreography. However here is my first issue the actors are cast as teenagers and personally some are more believable then others but suspending this reality we meet the class of 1984.

 

Cleverly the production introduces each of the characters through a rollcall in home room, this is where we first encounter Miss Sherman played by Mica Paris. This stern powerhouse character is devoted to her pupils and Paris shines in the role with her only solo bringing down the house in the second act (before she closes the production with the title track in the encore). I would love to have heard more of her amazing voice.

 

As for the other characters they are love struck, brash, fame hungry and long-legged. We follow the development of the shy Serena into our leading star, the illiterate Tyrone who can bust a move, the comical Joe (who is far too fond of his appendage for my liking!), the musical genius Schlomo who is trying to escape his father’s stardom and the troubled Carmen who wants to live forever.

 

Throw in a few other bit characters; ballet dancer Iris (played by Jorgie Porter of Hollyoaks fame) who wants to keep up a pretence of being a French ballerina, the rock loving trumpet player, the grungy female drummer and the resident choreographer (who unfortunately doesn’t use the line “ you want fame? Well, fame costs. And right here is where you start paying in sweat!) And we have a drama school. Like the TV series there is more drama in the lunch room than there is the class room. Perfect for fans of the original movie for a trip down memory lane and a nostalgic 80’s night out. They may even have a lesson to teach the get famous quick millennials!

Restaurant Review: The Fort, Belfast

I found a gem of a restaurant hidden below Cave Hill, Belfast this week and I had to share! The Fort, 648 Antrim Rd is hidden just off the main road opposite a busy petrol station but it has some of the best home cooking and comfort food I’ve tasted!

Head Chef Joe Louden, who has recently returned back to N.I after years working in top restaurants and hotels has brought a whole new depth of flavour to the restaurant.

The Fort has a menu to suit all! We visited on a Sunday where a brunch and dinner menu was available but we couldn’t resist trying two of the evening specials as well.

The Goats Cheese came perfectly presented with the most more-ish pickled beetroot and the succulent Pablo breaded pork fritters hit the spot with the amusing  bright green puree! A delight for the eyes and the tastebuds!

Then it was on to the mains. We ordered the Healthy breakfast and the roast chicken.

Don’t let the name fool you the Healthy Breakfast maybe grilled bacon and poached eggs but it was my favourite the tiny details such as the fresh pepper relish and the marinated sunflower seeds made this dish completely something else it made me lick my lips and want to lick the plate!

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The Sunday Roast at The Fort is exactly what you crave at this point of the year, as the nights are getting darker and you want something filling and comforting. The chicken was perfectly prepared and cooked; moist and delicious and it came with all the trimmings!

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As if we hadn’t eaten enough delicious morsels, the chef also sent us out the amazing fish cake with hollandaise sauce a special on the menu at the weekend. Again I can’t help but sing praise on this dish despite it being maybe a bit oversized (it was the size of my hand!) the fish was flaky and perfectly seasoned, the hollandaise delicious.

After all that food, I felt satisfied but that I was in need of good walk, good thing Cave hill and the gorgeous Belfast Castle is right around the corner!  I highly recommend you check out The Fort Restaurant, I’m sure I’ll be home back soon.

Emer D xx

 

Guest Theatre Review: Shrek The Musical at The Grand Opera House Belfast

By popular demand my kid reviewers are back! G&K attended the press night of Shrek The Musical at the Grand Opera House last night and in their own words this is would they thought of the Dreamworks fairytale……

We loved Shrek at the opera house tonight! It’s not exactly like the movie which is a good thing. Instead it’s about Shrek going on a trip with his donkey friend to rescue Princess Fiona from a dragon. If he doesn’t bring her back for Lord Farquaad to marry, he will lose his swamp home. 

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Our favourite characters were Lord Farquaad and Donkey. Their costumes were so clever – Lord Farquaad’s was made so that the actor was on his knees and had pretend little legs sticking out. It was so funny when he sat on top of the wall and swung his legs around!

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Donkey had hooves and a furry body and tail – it was a man but he really looked like a donkey! He was always making jokes and our favourite song he sang was the one with the 3 Blind Mice.

The stage kept changing and there was so many puppets and moving things. Our favourite bit was when Shrek & Donkey were walking and the back of the stage moved with them and puppets kept appearing like Puss in Boots & the Cow that jumped over the Moon. And the best puppet is the Gingerbread Man – the Sugar Plum Fairy made him talk but hid her face behind him when she spoke.

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We know everyone enjoyed it as they all stood up at the end

We would definitely recommend it to mums & dads and children over the age of 5 or 6. There were some little kids near us that got too tired near the end. Oh and there are green slushies for sale at the break – hopefully your mum will buy you one. Ours wouldn’t & that was the only bad thing all evening. 

G & K (age almost 10)

Who needs the Westend when we have all this!! (September Theatre Reviews)

Wow! What a week it has been for the theatre scene in Belfast. I have been treated to the joy of cabaret in the MAC, been through an out of body experience with Archy in the Grand Opera House and my passion for the power of NI music and arts has been reborn at the Lyric. I have been in awe of the amazing homegrown talent,those born and bred in this small island and those who have adopted us for now, somehow I’m going to sum this all up in one blog post for you dear reader, wish me luck?!

Archy in Manhattan

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Let’s start with Archy in Manhattan at the Grand Opera House. A new write by Marie Jones and directed by Ian McElhinney. Archy tells the story of a poet who is reincarnated into the body of a cockroach. It is a play which is one that needs to be seen to be believed! It’s a stripped back production with minimal lighting, projection and levelled staging being the only tools available to the actors. There is nowhere to hide and the direction is clear, the actors literally jump into your imagination. After a few minutes the audience are transported to the New York gutters and high rise buildings in this very intimate playing space. The story is hard to pinpoint a simple plot, it is about Life/death struggles, transcending, broadway rats, baby spiders, a flirty ladybird and so much more. Bonkers, humourous and bizarre but in a really good way! A very talented cast made up of some of NIs best known actors; Dan Gordon, Tara Lynne O’Neill, Abi McGibbon,Michael Condron, Katie Tumelty are lead by the talented and very energetic Matthew McElhinney.  This show was only on a short run in the Baby Grand Studio but I’m sure I can see it being reincarnated very soon.

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The World Goes ‘Round

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My love affair of Blunt Fringe Productions continues!! If you don’t know who these guys are you are missing out. They springboard actors and musicians into fully immersive and quality productions, The World Goes ‘Round  is no exception. The audience is welcomed into the Luminaire Club, a cabaret style theatre where drinks are flowing as well as dry ice and twinkling lights. The production itself is a mixture of melancholic moods, complete merriment and frivolous joy with marvellous musicals numbers! Full of memorable music, a few jazz hands and tap steps plus fantastic vocals. It filled me with pure joy! Under Rachel Logan Fee’s expert eye the fantastic cast including Aveen Biddle and Conor McFarlane from Derry and Stephanie McConville from Lurgan throughly entertain. The audience is transported to Broadway via the songs of Kander and Ebb. Highlights; the amazing vocals by Will Arundell on Kiss of the Spider Woman and the ensembles acrobatic performance on roller skates to The Rink. Catch it while you can at The MAC until 15 September.

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Good Vibrations

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Based on the BAFTA winning film Good Vibrations (by Colin Carberry and Glen Patterson). This production tells the real life story of Terri Hooley, affectionately known as the godfather of punk in Northern Ireland. It’s the story of a punk music revolution in the midst of the troubles and the stage production in the Lyric is entertaining, thought-provoking and poignant. I’m a little biased when it comes to this production knowing the fabulous director Des Kennedy since uni days but also having had a little bit of extras fun on the film, add to that I’m a punk loving girl from the Northwest so of course this was going to hit the spot. But I wasn’t expecting it to blow the socks off me!

 

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Aaron McCusker excels at portraying Terri with empathy and passion. Accompained by Niamh Perry as Ruth, their love story reduced me to tears at points. This is a casting made in heaven, the relationship of Hooley and his muse is full of ups and downs and this pair have that magic touch to recreate that special spark on stage. Add to this the fantastic multi-talented Christina Nelson, Sean Kearns (amazing portrayal of Peel), Goldie Fawn, Dylan Reid, Jolene O Hara, Nial McNamee and my personal favourite Gavin Peden (I love how quickly he transforms from sneed bank manager to punk) and we have a show easily guaranteed Westend/Broadway success.

A fantastic atmosphere and set, I felt like we re-lived the 70s movement. Rudi, The Outcasts and the Undertones are all represented with pride! And what a homage to the punk legend of Belfast the one and only Terri Hooley!! As the great man says NI is full of talent and potential we just need to remind the rest of the world.

And I think this week in terms of theatre there is no place I’d rather be than home.

Emer D xx

Something for September: Winterfell Festival and Kildare Village

The summer holidays are coming to an end and everyone’s getting back to a normal routine but although the family hours of free time maybe reduced, I still have a few suggestions to make the most out of your weekend.

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A fan of Game of Thrones why not check out the Winterfell Festival on Sunday 16th September at Castle Ward.

Recently I stepped into the world of the Stark family at Castle Ward, Co. Down. Meeting at the Clock Tower of the historic estate in the courtyard (which was used as a film location for the popular HBO programme Game of Thrones in season one) we were cloaked and transported to Westeros. We sampled storytelling (meeting actors who play Lord Ned Stark, Lady Stark and King Robert), we ate a Game of Thrones picnic in the beautiful surroundings of the Strangford Lough (provided by local restaurant The Cuan) and heard stories of White Walkers!

Our tour guides were well informed on all the film sites and I loved checking out filming locations around the estate including Audleys Castle which formed Freys Towers in the show. We even got a chance to learn some sword skills from trained extras. Although my highlight of the day was the archery, we stood on the very spot where young Bran Stark trained with his brothers and took our shot. I was absolutely useless but it was so much fun. Big Game of Thrones fan? Or even just looking for a fun family activity then this is the day out for you. With lots of places to eat and picnic on the estate, lots of nice of forest walks as well as the beautiful historic Castle Ward. The Winterfell festival also adds a full programme of events and entertainment including theatrical performances, live jousting, falconry,archery, a medieval village and Dire Wolves (yes, you can meet the actual dogs who played Summer and Grey Wind in the TV show!)
Tickets for the festival and full information can be found at www.national trust.org.uk/winterfell

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Fancy a shopping trip for you and your little shopaholics why not visit the shopping Mecca of Ireland; Kildare Village.

Last weekend I took a Sunday day trip to Kildare Village, the outlet shopping village outside of Dublin. I have to say I was pleasantly surprised I’d be hearing a lot about this outlet but having been spoilt by BIG outlet villages in the states, I’ve never really found anywhere that compares.
However Kildare Village is one of the most picturesque outlets I have every seen, covered in blossoms and with pretty shop fronts and even prettier cafes and pop up food carts I have to say it ranks right up there with Woodbury Common in New York!! And that’s just the aesthetic!


It also has some fantastic bargains and offers to be had from labels such as Prada, Michael Kors, Mulberry,Pandora,Swaroski and many many more.With lots of fun zones for the kids including the new Imaginosity zone and I’m sure they would love a black charcoal ice cream, it’s a fun day trip for all the family.
I popped down with the #NIBLoggerBrunch crew and we all had a lovely brunch, did some painting with prosecco then hit the shops. I got some beautiful new jewellery and some of the my favourite Rituals products for the half of the price but wanted to buy so much more, I think a Christmas shopping trip maybe in order!!! Plus if you are insta wannabie this is the place for you lots and lots of photo walls. Come on you know you want to make your friends jealous!!

Want to know more about Kildare Village find out all the details here: www.kildarevillage.com
Heading from Belfast why not make the journey stress free by taking the trip with McCombs check out there day trip options at: McCombs Kildare Village Shopping Trip

Guest Review: A life to Style plus her twins check out Awful Auntie at the Grand Opera House Belfast

Last night myself and my nephews enjoyed a night at the theatre watching Awful Auntie at the Grand Opera House they loved it, highlights from them fart noises, puppets and adventures up chimneys. However there not quite at the reviewing stage yet. So thankfully the lovely Avril Keys of A Life to Style fame brought her gorgeous little twins to check it out and this is what they had to say, over to you Avril!

Emer D xx

Awful Auntie

Tonight, the twins and I were invited to review the first night of David Walliam’s ‘Awful Auntie’ so I decided to task the girls with writing the review-after all, it’s for the kids isn’t it? Well actually, it has something for all the family and there’s one joke at the end that is strictly for the grown up’s! Cue lots of confusion among the children as the adults laughed their heads off. 

Back to the review, starting with G who has read the book.

‘I really enjoyed Awful Auntie’ & my favourite character was the Butler (‘Gibbon’ played by Richard James) because he did crazy things all the time like using a lawnmower instead of a hoover and baking slippers! It was so cool how the stage moved around and the owl was very realistic even though it was a puppet being held by a lady. 
The story was just like the book which was great as I wasn’t sure how they would do some of the parts of the book like the car in the lake but they did.
I would definitely recommend going to see it and give it 10/10. If you go, bring your pocket money as you can buy an owl bracelet after!’
WritingMeanwhile K hadn’t already read the book but she wants to now!
‘I thought the show was great and my favourite character was the Butler because at the end when he was supposed to bow, he was facing the wrong way!
The Auntie was not a nice lady and is actually a man actor dressed up. She ties Stella up and is trying to turn the house into an owl museum. But she was funny too, especially when she kept slipping on the marbles and falling over. 
There are some bottom burps and one Big Bang that gave me a fright! I would give the show 9/10. I took away one mark because I thought the owl should have been on an invisible string and not attached to a lady.’
And there you go! Immediate and honest – that’s kids for you. Definitely a great show to finish off the summer holidays on a high. Starring Timothy Speyer & Georgina Leonidas, It’s on until Saturday night at the Grand Opera House and tickets can be booked on this link: goh.co.uk.
*We were guests of the Opera House for this performance but were not obliged to share a review or paid in any way/