Widows: Movie Review.


I love Steve McQueen movies.  I really do.

But he makes some strange decisions and isn’t 100% consistent.  This is one of his mis-steps.

Thankfully and rightfully (IMHO) 12 Years A Slave won best movie at the Oscars last time out but its predecessor, Shame, was an oddly unsettling cinematic experience.

His debut, Hunger, has been overlooked, again in my opinion – I think it’s a masterpiece and gave Michael Fassbender his launchpad.

So, now.  Film Four.  (By Film Four.)

It’s based on a fairly pulpy Lynda Le Plant TV series, but Mcqueen has reimagined it for the arthouse.

Some elements of it are great, not least Viola Davis in the lead role and the stunning cinematography.

But after that it starts to break down.

It’s a bit cryptic.  One of the baddies’ diction is so bad as to render whole scenes indecipherable, the resolution is confusing and it’s too long.

It’s a bit boring if truth be told.

Sorry Steve, mate.


Suspiria: Film review.


I was thrilled to see the original of this movie by Dario Argento at Summerhall in Edinburgh during this year’s Fringe with the original score performed by Goblin, live on stage.

It was a great experience but, in my view, it’s an overhyped movie with little to recommend other than the astonishing score and the remarkable cinematography in its vivid, over-saturated colour.

The film itself is pretty unremarkable.,

But it was enough to tempt me into seeing the remake which is, in my view, much more remarkable.

It’s an incredibly odd follow on from director Luca Gaudanino’s “Call Me By Your Name’ – a touching and sentimental coming of age gay romance set in Italy and starring the incredible Timothy Chalomet.

This leaps genres like I’ve rarely seen a director do.

Gaudanino’s remake has none of the zing of the original, indeed the colour palette is quite muted.  It’s also dull throughout as a result of the endless rain (then snow).

It’s set in 1977 West Berlin with the Baader-Meinhoff (RAF) gang in full flow and providing a sinister backdrop to what is already a sinister movie.

Guadanino casts Dakota Johnson (50 Shades of Grey) and a malevolent Tilda Swinton brilliantly, but I also liked the performance of Mia Goth as Johnson’s best friend in a crazy dance school.

The award winning dance school that Johnson seeks and gains entrance too after a remarkable audition is actually a witches coven and Johnson appears to be the next sacrificial lamb to the God the witches worship.

But it’s not that straightforward.

It’s a long, slow, considered movie with an inevitable Sixth Act (yes it’s presented in six acts) denouement that’s a fantastic gore-fest.

The movie is getting mixed reviews and I understand that.  It’s really slow.  It’s arthouse not shock mall theatre.  If you want Halloween forget it.

But it’s great.

Really well directed and acted and Thom Yorke’s score is great although less intrusive than Goblin’s.


An absolute treasure in the heart of Scotland. The Grandtully Hotel by Ballintaggart.

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Travel writers go into paroxysms of joy when they stumble upon places that are unexpected because of their settings.  Open the Sunday Times every week and you’ll read about the top 20 hidden gems in food, hotels, spas, towns etc.

This is one of them.

Grandtully is a one horse town situated five miles from the A9 on the main road north from Perth to Inverness.  Previously its nearby fame came from the awesome Motogrill (Scotland’s greatest greasy spoon and a true competitor to Westmoreland for best service station).  But this is an altogether different proposition.

The hotel, with only eight rooms, has been transformed from a shabby hostel into a boutique residence that usually only the big cities offer, and even then this level of quality is not the norm.

This is a beautifully designed residence with many, many delightful designer touches and a dining room to match.

We ate today, in mid-November so somewhat off-season, and the dining was partaken in the superbly cool bar.  When I say cool I mean the decor because it was anything but cool with its glowing log fire set in the centre.  Cosy indeed.

First impressions are of the bar which offers very good choices of craft beers. (Specifically Pilot brewery from Leith who have effected what almost amounts to a tap takeover.  If you like good beer you will like the Grandtully.)

The food comes in three forms.  Little bites like the gorgeous beetroot cured smoked salmon at £1 a portion and the orgasmic Black pudding and pork croquettes – we had three but wished we had had 30.  And a Highland Charcuterie plate for only £4.  Lovely.

We then tried their signature small plate of salt and spicy squid with a tangy fish sauce dip.  Magnificent.

Our mains were to die for.  My belly of lamb (a first for me) was both juicy and crispy, the monkfish with fennel and salsa verde was excellent and Amy’s Monkfish and cod curry was utterly delicious (£10!).

Desserts did not disappoint.  A lovely raspberry doughnut ( a wee bit heavy) with a superb raspberry sorbet, a superb chocolate Torte and a delicious walnut Choux pastry all hit the spot.

They have wine on tap – a Cotes du Rhone and an unfiltered Corsican white were both interesting and good value.

This is the real deal.  I expect to see Grandtully picking up awards galore in the years to come for both the hotel AND the restaurant.

And it’s affordable.

Get there before it gets unbookable.