Gemma Corden

Cultural recommendations for those of us who like going to see stuff but don’t always get it

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Reviews for Friends #8 Gone Girl

The hotly anticipated film adaptation of the hit novel, Gone Girl, is finally out! Well, hotly anticipated by everyone but me - I knew literally zero about this book / film until I saw the trailer a few weeks ago. For those others who have, like myself, been living in a bubble Gone Girl is a cynical portrait of a marriage - a grimly fascinating, starkly bleak satire of modern domestic life and the social politics of crime.

The film flits fitfully between the present and past as a complex story unfolds. Two impossibly good-looking writers, Nick and Amy Dunne, meet and marry in New York where they both enjoy successful careers. But a few years later the couple are forced to move to Nick’s home town - Missouri, not quite so glamorous - as the recession hits and Nick’s mother becomes unwell. One day, Nick returns home after an early morning drinking session with his twin sister, at the bar...

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Reviews for Friends #7 Magic In The Moonlight

Magic In The Moonlight
Directed by Woody Allen

Woody Allen rather churns them out doesn’t he? As a result, some of his recent efforts have been dramatically better than others. Whilst Magic In The Moonlight isn’t a patch on, say, Midnight In Paris for being too frothy and really quite silly in places, it does offer up a good dose of tongue-in-cheek humour saved by typically cleverly observed characters - all in all making for a perfect Sunday afternoon film.

You can hand Colin Firth pretty much any script and he can be trusted to turn it into something of a special performance - and he does so again here in the role of Stanley Crawford.

Set in the late 1920s on the French Riviera (think sweeping coastal views and flappers), Stanley is a solid, rational Brit who’s profession as a magician - his alter-ego is moustachioed Chinaman Wei Ling Soo - provides him with the motivation, skills...

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Lee Bul at the Ikon - truly ikonic

At the weekend I went to see the highly anticipated first ever solo UK exhibition of works by Korean artist Lee Bul. Three days later, my head still spins.

To be more accurate I didn’t simply see the show - I immersed myself in it. This collection demands it - the large-scale sculptural installations entice you in with their attractive colour, sparkle and playfulness. However once inside you realise you are enclosed in a claustrophobic, almost sinister, space in which you look back at yourself - uncomfortably close - through fragmented mirrors. Everything suddenly feels fragile and unstable.

Lee Bul was born in 1964, and studied sculpture at Hongik University in the late eighties. In the year of her graduation, South Korea declared itself a democracy.

Her recent work explores modernist utopian ideas through dramatic, architectural sculpture. In the first piece of this exhibition...

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The “I’m getting older and enjoy going for weekends away” UK Getaway Guide

Destination 1 “The strangest town in Wales” Laugharne, Carmarthenshire

Embarrassingly, I’d never heard of this place until I read a profile in House & Garden magazine (see, getting older…) last year. In it Kate Quill wrote “there are few places in the world where landscape and art are so inextricably linked.” I was immediately hooked.

When I told my Dad where I was going, the first thing he asked was “Ah, so you’re going to the tin shed, then?”

…Had I made a mistake?

Certainly not. After getting lost in the beautiful, almost melancholy geography of this antiquated hidden gem I can understand its pull. And I’m in stellar company – Mick Jagger, Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton, Peter O Toole, President Carter and, er, Pearce Brosnan have all made the pilgrimage to Laugharne in order to explore the town’s links with literature. Most notably, the celebrated poet Dylan Thomas.


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Reviews For Friends #6 Bananagrams

Reviews For Friends 6 – Bananagrams

For those who don’t enjoy the intensity and general seriousness of Scrabble, I present to you – Bananagrams!

The banana – everyone’s favourite suggestive fruit. Happily, the game is just as jolly as the name.

First off, the game is shaped like an actual banana. Well, the bag it comes in is. Despite the less-than-attractive combination of lurid yellow and brown, I think I’d rather like a handbag version.

And secondly, who doesn’t love shouting out silly things? Split! Peel! Bananas!

Basically it’s a word game using little square tiles (who doesn’t love that satisfying tactile thrill of little tiles). So far, so Scrabble.

But the difference with Bananagrams is its simplicity and same-time solitary play.

All tiles are placed face down in the middle of the table, with each player taking a number for themselves. Once play starts (signaled by the...

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Reviews for Friends #5 Aston Hall

I feel the need to use a well-worn cliché to describe my visit to Aston Hall – you just don’t know what’s on your own doorstep.

Having grown up in neighbouring Perry Barr, my visit at aged 31 was long overdue – and well worth the wait.

Nestled in a rather incongruous location - at the top of a hill in the middle of Aston, right next to the Villa ground, Aston Hall is one big surprise. You could be forgiven for not quite believing that such grandeur exists where it does – but it’s not so surprising, when you consider that Aston was once much larger in size and importance than Birmingham itself.

Redisplayed to the public thanks to a development project, Aston Hall boasts sumptuous interiors from the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries, including the magnificent Long Gallery.

Our visit started with an unexpected but fascinating exhibition about the history of Aston itself, in the Astonish...

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Reviews for Friends #4 BFI Mediatheque

The British Film Institute have installed a Mediatheque – their eighth in the UK – in the Library of Birmingham.

“Have they?!” I hear you say – yes, it is true! I can’t believe it isn’t advertised more widely.

If, like me, you love TV, especially old TV, then this really is the place for you. A true hidden gem, the Mediatheque is a space that gives you access to over 2,500 titles from the BFI National Archive – for free. The archive is the world’s greatest and most diverse collection of film and television. From home movies to feature films, documentaries to kids’ TV, many titles have rarely been seen since their original release or broadcast – if at all.

In light of astronomical cinema prices, this is an exceptionally good alternative.

You can choose the films you want to see before your visit from the BFI website. Then travel to the Library of Birmingham, book into a private...

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Reviews for Friends #3 Wildewoman

Wildewoman, Lucius

In their debut record, Wildewoman, this Brooklyn-based quintet, fronted by co-lead singers Jess Wolfe and Holly Laessig, demonstrate heartfelt and intelligent lyricism delivered in a punchy, engaging style.

I apologise for using this word but, I find them really, well, refreshing – and I don’t refer to their distinctive visual brand (matching twin-like look Wolfe and Laessig). It’s their honest storytelling and musical versatility that appeals to me, making for a really enjoyable, rounded album.

There’s a country-esque mood in Go Home, a couple of soaring anthem tracks in How Loud Your Heart Gets and Don’t Just Sit There, which aren’t really my cup of tea, swinging round to a more acoustic, almost a cappella sound in Two Of Us On The Run and Monsters.

All underpinned by good old honest pop, with funky bass riffs and hand-clapping reminiscent of Motown productions...

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Reviews for Friends #2 Joe

Joe is a raw, dirty, almost primal and ultimately really depressing portrayal of a group of men in the contemporary South.

This film was so angry. Everyone was angry. Even the dogs were angry. But it made for a very tense and suspenseful watch, right from the outset. The soundtrack was sensational in building the mood of growing unease.

As an unashamed Nicholas Cage fan, it was great to see him on good form in the lead role of Joe, a troubled ex-con struggling to keep on the straight and narrow. His life crosses paths with that of 15-year old Gary and his family. Gary Poulter delivered a tremendous performance in the role of the boy’s alcoholic father. Terrifying beard.

Joe becomes an unlikely role model for Gary and, as events take place, is faced with a life-changing decision, ultimately forced to chose between redemption or ruin.

The film took a turn of total desperate horror in...

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Reviews for Friends #1 Finding Vivian Mair

I initially read about this film in Harper’s Bazaar, and it immediately caught my imagination – tapping right into my penchant for nosiness…

Finding Vivian Mair is a powerful personal portrait of a stranger, an eccentric – a secretive nanny with an undiscovered talent in street photography.

Director, John Maloof, essentially takes on the role of self-appointed private detective when he happens upon a collection of her negatives at auction. And very well done on Maloof for answering the call of fate, devoting himself to the challenge of opening this undiscovered work to the light.

It puts me in mind of a cinematic Who Do You Think You Are, with bite!

The film maps out Maloof’s journey as he uncovers more of Mair’s work, meets those few who knew her and discovers more about the woman behind the camera. It is well researched and beautifully put together, with a real build up of...

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