Super 8

 Usually I don't review films that are more than 6 months old, but with "Super 8" I'm going to make an exception. I had really looked forward to watching this film as it is written and directed by J. J: Abrams and produced by Steven Spielberg, but it turned out to be almost impossible to get to watch it!

"Super 8" opened in theatres in June 2011 and made it to Denmark, where I live, on July 28th, 2011. That's all well and good, but the problem was that although it was shown in two different cinemas in my hometown, it disappeared almost immediately again. I only had one shot at it the day before the last show, but when I realised that the film didn't start until 9.30 p.m. - which meant that with its 112 minutes running time + commercials and trailers it wouldn't end until midnight - I gave up. At that point our local public transportation had stopped for the day and there was no way I was able to get back home, so I had to wait for the DVD.

The DVD was released in early 2012 and I expected to get it for my birthday, but I didn't. After that I forgot about it until recently when I spotted it in the local DVD store for only £4.95. I bought it straight away and watched it the same evening with my 13 year old daughter and we were both surprised at what we saw.

"Super 8" is not really horror and it's not really sci-fi, either, but a supernatural suspense film, telling the story of a bunch of kids who in the summer of 1979 shoot a super 8 film in a small town in Ohio. While filming, they witness a catastrophic train crash and shortly after people, dogs and electric appliances start to disappear from town. Something inexplicable and terrifying has been set in motion due to the train wreck and despite military opposition, the kids set out to solve the mystery.

When I watched the film, I guess what I had expected to see was a "mashup" of "The Blair Witch Project", "The Day of the Triffids" and John Carpenter's "The Fog". Instead I got a cross between "The Goonies" and "E.T." with a dash of "District 9". Furthermore it's a film that will appeal to mostly a young audience aged 10-12 despite the PG-13 rating.

When that is said, it's a charming little film, funny, moving and exciting, and the young cast acts so well. Joel Courtney as Joe Lamb - the young hero of the film - is believable, touching and very likeable. Elle Fanning as Alice Dainard is impressive, showing her wide range as an actress, and Riley Griffiths portraying Charles Kaznyk - a part that reminded me of a young Orson Welles - is confident, cool and a bit manic, like he should be. The rest of the kids are great, too. Of the adult cast especially Ron Eldard as Alice's father Louis Dainard stays in mind. His portray of a poor, disillusioned (and drunk) single parent is superb.

I can't say that I was disappointed in "Super 8" as it is a good film, but it was just so different from what I had expected. I guess what I liked the most about it was that over the film's credits, you actually get to see Charles' super 8 film "The Case", which the kids had been shooting during the entire film. That bit was hilarious and a very nice surprise.

Four out of five stars: **** (but only because my PC won't allow me to give it 3½ stars!)

Tankens bager

The Danish indie band "Tankens bager" (the baker of thoughts), was founded in 2008 and last year they made a CD named "Tankens bager" too. It's an EP with six songs, all in Tankens bager's characteristic folk-pop style.
The songs on the EP are all more or less cut from the same cloth with traces of Danish folk-rock from the seventies. The songs are slow, dreamy, melancholy and very catchy and Claus Dencher's lead vocal reaches back to the Danish singer-songwriter sound of the seventies, subdued and sensitive. Mikkel Schacht-Petersen's lead guitar is both soft and sharp, Nicolai Dall Lorenzen's sax playful and the rhythm section consisting on Jesper Vang on bass and René Moeller Dehnfjeld on drums is a driving force, propelling the songs forward.

All songs are written by Claus Dencher except for "Laengsel" (Longing) that is written by Jesper Vang, and my favourite is probably "Redning" (Rescue) with its deep and somewhat droll lyrics. The lyrics to all of the songs are in Danish, by the way.

If you like poetic pop, this EP is a must. The only thing I'm not so keen on is that the songs end rather abruptly as if the band hasn't figured out yet how to end a song properly. But that's just a minor detail as all in all the EP "Tankens bager" is a little folk-pop gem.
For more info, you can visit the band's Facebook page: http://da-dk.facebook.com/pages/Tankens-Bager/179878572055234.

You, Me and a Cup of Tea

 "You, Me and a Cup of Tea" is the title of an English coffee table book - or should I say tea table book? The book is a celebration of Tetley Tea's 175 anniversary and it is made in partnership with CLIC Sargent, the UK’s leading children and young people’s cancer charity.

This limited edition book is a collection of 175 stories from tea drinkers from across the UK including Tetley Tea employees, families affected by cancer, who have been supported by CLIC Sargent, and then a handful of British celebrities. To be honest, I didn't know very many of the celebrities, though, only Jane Asher, Derren Brown, Melanie C, Bryan Ferry, Katie Melua, James Phelps, Oliver Phelps and Alan Titchmarsh, but then again, I'm not British. Most of the stories are told by "ordinary people", anyway, sharing their "magical" tea memories as Tetley puts it.
When you read the book, the first thing that you'll notice is that this is just a 112 pages long Tetley tea ad. As such it is not a very good read and the main reason for buying this book would be to support CLIC Sargent, as proceeds from the sale of the book go to this charity.

The second thing you'll notice is that the "magical" memories are all more or less the same. You can divide them into only 9 categories, the categories being:
1. Tea consumed in connection with pregnancies/births
2. Drinking tea with friends/family
3. Having your husband/children bring you a cup of tea in bed
4. Drinking tea when being asked to become a bridesmaid/Godmother
5. Drinking tea with celebrities
6. Drinking tea in bad weather
7. Missing Tetley tea when you are abroad
8. Celebrating new careers with tea
9. Comforting yourself with tea after having received bad news
Statistically you'll find 19.4 stories in each category, although some categories are more frequent than others. The most frequent are stories about mothers and daughters who live in separate countries but stay in touch on Skype while drinking tea. It is pretty boring having to read the same kind of stories over and over again, but at least it's better than the so-called "poems" that some people have written about their special tea moment. These poems are all clumsy and embarrassing to put it mildly.

I must say that I'm rather surprised that the stories vary so little. One should think that when you ask the British nation to share their most special tea moments, you'd come up with something better than "I had a cuppa with my nan" or "we were drinking tea when my friend asked me to be her bridesmaid". It seems that people never do anything interesting while drinking tea, or maybe the people contributing just have very boring lives?

I would have thought that a strong tea-drinking nation like the UK would have had better stories to tell, but no. In fact I had a hard time coming up with some favourite stories from the book as they are all more or less the same, but in the end I found 3 stories that were a bit extraordinary. One is by Helen Brannagan who discovered that her blind son is able to distinguish contrast colours. Another is by Jonny McNee who tells about making his first cup of tea at the age of 19 - this guy can really write! And finally there is illusionist Derren Brown's contribution about why it's often a bad idea to meet your idols - this guy can write, too.

I guess with a book like "You, Me and a Cup of Tea", the idea is that you're not supposed to read it from cover to cover. It is after all a "tea table book", suited only to flick through and then maybe read a page here and there. And at least the book looks nice with lots of photos and a pretty layout, but it really could do with some proofreading. I've never seen so many typos in a single book before!

"You, Me and a Cup of Tea" can be ordered from www.tetley.com and it costs £7.99.

Three out of five stars: ***

Treasury - Harry Potter's Universe

"Treasury - Harry Potter's Universe" is the name of an (unauthorised?) exhibition at the Funen Art Museum in Odense, Denmark. The exhibition consists of Harry Potter related items borrowed from different museums, libraries, schools and private collectors.
When first I heard about the exhibition, I thought, "Oh, no! This can't be good." I had imagined to see a lot of bric-a-brac and stuffed animals from the museum vault that had little or nothing to do with Harry Potter, but to be honest I was pleasantly surprised.
 The exhibition consisted of three small rooms called "Professor Snape's potion workshop", "The Hogwart's Hall" and "The Forbidden Forest". The first room, the potion workshop, seemed rather empty, as there were only two display cases, one with different potions and potion remedies, the other with a bezoar, floo powder and dead animals in formaldehyde. Although the items were few, they were still pretty interesting.
The next room, "The Hogwart's Hall", was the biggest. Here you could see a lot of different items on display connected to the story of Harry Potter. There was a Nimbus 2000 broom, the wands of Harry, Hermione, Ron, Dumbledore and Voldemort, the Golden Snitch, The Philosopher's Stone, the head from HP3, the Mirror of Erised (although it didn't work properly), the Marauder's Map, different Weasley Wizard Wheezes products, Hermione's timetable, Lily Potter's letter to Sirius Black and a lot more.
 Most of the stuff had no doubt been bought in either "The Wizarding World of Harry Potter" at Universal Orlando or at the "Warner Bros. Studio Tour London – The Making of Harry Potter", but still it was quite interesting and there was a lot to see.
 The last room, the smallest, was "The Forbidden Forest". Here you'd find the stuffed animals that I had expected to see! A stuffed owl was said to be Hedwig, a rat was Scabbers (although it had all its toes), Pigwidgeon and Mrs. Norris were there as well and a dragon egg.
All in all I enjoyed the experience, especially the Hogwart's Hall, but Snape's workshop was okay, too. I also liked that "Hedwig's Theme" (played on harp) could be heard in every room. Very nice. The exhibition was too small, though, as you could hardly use half an hour there, so it was a good thing that the £5 entrance ticket provided access to the rest of the museum as well. That way I came to see four exhibitions of contemporary art, too!
"Treasure - Harry Potter's Universe" is open daily from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. (except Mondays) and if you live in Denmark, I would recommend that you go see it, because let's face it. Denmark loves Harry Potter, but Harry Potter doesn't love Denmark. Up until now only the Weasley twins (Phelps twins) have graced our capital Copenhagen with their presence at the Danish premiere of Harry Potter 7, part 1 and then J. K. Rowling visited the Danish "Harry Potter capital" Odense when she received the Hans Christian Andersen Literature Award. Both visits were back in 2010. In my opinion, there is no way that the official "Harry Potter - The Exhibition" is ever going to reach Denmark, so the "Treasury - Harry Potter Universe" at the Funen Art Museum is probably the closest we'll get. The exhibition runs until December 2nd, 2012.

Harry Potter Festival 2012

The Harry Potter Festival in Odense, Denmark, celebrated its 10th anniversary on October 18-21, 2012. I wasn't able to attend the festival myself as I was in England, attending a charity ball with some REAL Harry Potter stars, but that's a whole different story, which you can read about in my Harry Moseley Charity Ball blog post. Instead of me, my daughter went to the festival with her dad and she wasn't impressed.
 The Harry Potter Festival in Odense used to be one of the best in the world, the kids going to Hogwarts and the entire city centre turning into a cross between Diagon Alley and Hogsmeade. Two years ago Hogwarts was closed, which was a really bad idea as it was the heart of the festival, but unfortunately Odense City and the main library, that organise the festival, have decided to stick to this folly, so Hogwarts was closed this year as well. Furthermore they had come up with another bad idea. The Town Square, where Diagon Alley used to be situated next to Hogwarts, Hagrid's hut, Snape's dungeon and the Forbidden Forrest, had been abandoned all together. Instead the Forbidden Forrest had been closed, Hagrid had been moved to a church in Jernbanegade (Station Street), Snape to the Funen Art Museum, Diagon Alley to Grey Friars Square and Hogsmeade to Vintapper Straede (Tapster Alley). Because of that, there was no physical core to the festival anymore and people had to run around town to find the different Harry Potter events, which was quite confusing according to my daughter.

Furthermore the festival had turned into a moneymaking machine. In "the old days" you had to pay a small fee to attend Hogwarts, but everything else was free. Nowadays you have to pay for most of what is happening and there's a strict age-limit to several of the events. Thursday the 8-12 year olds were thus able to ride the Hogwart's Express if they paid £7.50 for 75 minutes. Friday the 8-15 year olds could participate in a Harry Potter role play if they paid £12.50 for a couple of hours. And also Friday you could listen to Odense Symphony Orchestra play music from the Harry Potter films if you paid £10 for 90 minutes. Furthermore you had to pay £2.50 (which is an increase of 25%) to shop in Hogsmeade and Diagon Alley and you had to pay for food and drink in huge catering tents instead of getting it for free in The Leaky Cauldron and Madam Puddifoot’s Tea Salon. This way you could easily get to spend £50 per person in order to take part in the festival, which is quite over the top, I think.
Anyway, the Harry Potter Festival 2012 was the biggest ever, or so the papers said. 10,000 people attended it, but when my daughter was there Saturday - which is usually the busiest day as that is when the Harry Potter marked takes place - she only met a handful. She said that Diagon Alley (the marked) was more or less empty and there was hardly anything to look at except for Gringotts Wizarding Bank and St. Mungo's Hospital for Magical Maladies and Injuries.
 She managed to locate Quality Quidditch Supplies as well, but that had been moved to Snape's former dungeon in the old town monastery away from the rest of Diagon Alley. The only good thing about that was that the shop is now closer to the Quidditch pitch, which is situated in the nearby Hans Christian Andersen Garden, locally known as the fairytale garden. As something new you could even try to fly a broom across Odense River, but my daughter didn't see anyone doing it as you had to pay for that, too.
All in all it's safe to say that my daughter won't be visiting the Harry Potter Festival next year and if it doesn't improve, I probably won't either. Although the festival attracts more and more people, Odense City and the library seem set on destroying the great concept they once had. Don't get me wrong. I think it's great that a larger area of the city is in use during the festival, but please choose locations close to each other, so that kids don't have to run around town on their own, and please bring the Harry Potter/Diagon Alley marked back to the Town Square and please, please, PLEASE reopen Hogwarts!!!

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