Hotel

Due to the joy’s of international business I found myself with a need to get on a train at some ridiculously early time so that I could meet clients who knows where country England. Naturally that mean looking for a place to stay in close proximity to Euston station. Hotels in Euston vicinity there are many. They vary from less than budget to national debts in price and so I found myself dragging a suitcase along a backroad to a hotel that had the appearance of every other building in London. Bland and boring faded tan interrupted by repugnant grey. It did not look positive. I subsequently discovered that around Euston is like that.

Never mind, to bed. I have previously elucidated as the my preferences for rooms and it all starts with the bed. Clean sheets, big bed, check. Ooo bonus marks, the bed is firm and pillows middling stiff. Best hotel bed for a while. Bathroom is clean and there are no mold bits or wet patches, check.

Is the place a shoe box? No room to swing a cat. Or in this case no opportunity to unpack a suitcase short of having it up on the bed. Is there a fridge with things in it? No. Is there bottled water there for free? No. Is the room well laid out? Surprisingly yes. Is the desk usable for work? Not really there is a TV in the way. Is there a weird smell? No.

The important things. Where are the power points? Next to the desk? No but it’s close enough. Pass marks. Next to the night table? Well there is no night table but there is a second point right next to the bed. Pass. Lastly and perhaps almost as important as the power. Do you have free, good quality internet access? Good.

Room, Bed and in room Facilities – 3.5 star

I was greeted by some fantastically nice staff but unfortunately they seem to be governed an acranistic set of rules. Why on earth do you need to give hotel staff your passport number. Firstly I am an English citizen and secondly people living in England with English accents seem to avoid this. Still it’s not the fault of the staff.

When there are was something that I needed the staff to do they were more than willing to accommodate my need for clean laundry and to hold onto a bag for 6 hours.

Staff, service and checking out and in – 4 stars

I took the breakfast package as part of my stay. After staying at more expensive hotels in London I was not expecting the cheaper Thistle to offer a breakfast as good. I was in for a surprise and though there wasn’t the same level of options for the breads (I don’t eat a lot of bread) on the side I would say that this was the only short coming.

As I mentioned above Euston is not the center of the party when it comes to London. So going out to find a meal and some for of entertainment was a bit of an ordeal. I ended up having a meal in Euston Station. A bit of a let down to be honest but staying at Euston is about convenience it is not a foodie or entertainment destination.

Food, beverages and entertainment – 4 stars

Though there are a number of things that annoyed me about my stay at the thistle such as the small room and the fact that breakfast starts at 6:30 all in all I enjoyed my stay at the Thistle and I would stay there again.

Hotel score:     4 stars

Christian, Movie

I enjoyed this movie and was drawn in by it. I have watched it a couple of times now and I find that each time I do I come back to the same points. Points I hope to explain as I go through this review.

Writing this review was harder than I thought it would be. I didn’t have high expectations. I have seen “Facing the Giants”, “Fireproof” and “Courageous” and for the most part I have found the story lines positive, biblical and linear. To a certain extent I find myself thinking about this story in the same way. It has a great positive message. It is full of biblical value. And unfortunately it is very linear. With too many of these moves I find that all the conflict is at the beginning and its associated resolution takes up the majority of the movie.

Looking at it from a pure storyteller perspective I love the first half of the movie and then spend the last 30-50 minutes waiting for limited character development, or limited conflict and resolution. I find it hard to resolve, mentally, that the most contentious part of the movie is about 30 minutes from the credits and some may argue that this was not even the high point of the movie. From here the resolution drags out over 30 minutes. For me it is a drag. Others may find solace in the resurrection of family and restitution of people. I am left feeling conflicted by this and would have liked a more concise ending.

For story, pacing and scenes – 2.5 stars

When it comes to casting I have seen a number of articles talking about the decision to change to a majority black cast and how that changes the movie. I think all the articles that talk to this say it was a positive move particularly as the move came out during so of the American race protests. I don’t think that this is a profitable line of review. Whilst it is important to look at context for movies and their impacts, I am of the opinion that race discussions remove quality from the equation and substitute it with affirmative action. I can’t really comment as to the race situation in the US but as I do business in Africa I can say that affirmative action never is as positive as it’s proponents assure us. And ability, on all sides, is oppressed in favour of those with connections. The result is corruption.

All that being said, as far as I understand there was none of that thought in the minds of the directors nor in the part of the actors themselves. The story is not race and so the actors have no pressure in that regard. I find it hard to judge the performance of children in general and Alena Pitts as the daughter is no exception. Emotion is the key to quality acting and there is a tendency for youth to over dramatise or play things as dead. On both accounts Alena’s performance is good and the scenes she is in progress well. T.C. Stallings who plays the father is a different kettle of fish. He comes across as cocky and self assured when he needs to and contrite when needed. His scenes aren’t over acted and he is a genuine compliment to the main character Elizabeth Jordan.

Priscilla Shirer plays the main character and I found her performance less nuanced than that of Stallings. Her performance was positive but on re-watching the move I was waiting for her scenes to be over. Not usually a good thing but I have to say that is because the character and presentation of Miss Clara stole the show. Karen Abercrombie, who plays Miss Clara, has brought to life one of the characters I will enjoy for a long time to come. Having grown up with a praying Granny (You will have to forgive the English title) myself,  I can say Karen got it very right. Whilst I don’t denigrate any of the other performances, in my mind it will not be those, the story line nor the biblical lessons learned that bring me back to this movie. I will come to see Miss Clara serve up cold coffee and remember mine who actually made my friends put a bar of soap in their mouth “to wash that filth out”.

For acting, casting and portrayal – 4 stars

When it comes to biblical content there was little doubt that the movie is a high morals type of movie and should score well. Consequently in the expectations vs realisation stakes War Room surprisingly looses points. The straight forward resolution of the spiritual conflict I found disappointing. Not because I can’t believe that God can resolve issues that easily but rather because for a movie predicated on the war aspect of Spirituality there was little actual war. Don’t misunderstand I liked the premise and the prayer lessons were fantastic. But the resolution came so easily that it feels like opportunity lost.

That being said, the Kendrick brothers always have very strong biblical stances in their films. Where things are shown that are of poor morals or questionable content it is always shown as reprehensible. This movie is no exception and I would not have any problems showing it to young audiences. Though the content may not be of sufficient interest to younger views there would be no issues with content.

For biblical relevance, ethics and suitability for children – 4 stars

All in all the averaging of scores is pulled down by a story line that promises much but seems to spend too much time presenting the results of a God given victory and not enough time in the building of conflict and it’s associated resolution. To me I don’t handle movies very well where the ending is +30% of the movie. That being said it is by far the Kendrick brothers best work and I really enjoyed Miss Clara. I forgive them much for her creation. Having seen this movie three times would I watch it again. I’m not sure. Would I recommend it to others. It depends. I am not sure how a non christian would appreciate this movie but for saved people it is a must see. For these reasons I am willing to allocate a few extra points.

Movie rating – 4 stars

Best line of the movie

Someone’s been praying in this closet

How do you know it is her prayer closet?

It’s almost like it’s baked in.

Hotel

So I had the pleasure of arriving in London, after flying for 14 hours, at the most awkward of times. Late evening. Yes I know that there is plenty of public transport and such things in England run late and so forth. But who is rude enough to tell friends that they will arrive at their place at 11:30 in the evening expecting a late dinner and a bed for the night. That’s what hotels are for. So a quick stroll through the inter-webs and I had a booking for the Novotel. I have to say that I have stayed at the Novotel in South East Asia and so I had expectations going in.

Hotel rooms are always nice places for me. I like the fact that he bed is made the sheets clean and the bathroom sparkling. I like these things because at home it is my job to make them that way and I hate those chores. So when I arrive at a hotel I want clean sheets on a bed that easily supports my 6ft frame without my feet hanging of the end. I have tried sleeping diagonally but no matter how many times that tell you its a Queen double it isn’t if I don’t fit. Clean sheets, big bed, check. Bathroom is clean and there are no mold bits or wet patches, check.

Now we get onto the other bits. Is the place a shoe box? No. Is there a fridge with things in it? Yes. Is there bottled water there for free? No. Is the room well laid out? Ok. Is there space? Yes. Can I put my suitcase on something? Yes. Is the desk usable for work? Ok. Is there a weird smell? No. But the biggest question I always have is, where are the power points? I travel on business. I want power points in two key places. Next to the desk so I can charge my laptop overnight and next to the night table so I can do the same with my phone whilst I use it lying in bed. I absolutely hate crawling under this, fishing behind that, or some loose connection on a random piece of furniture like a picture frame. I don’t like small spaces where I have to jam in my international adapter and I really don’t like having prop it on ten things because the power point is loose. But no Lastly and perhaps almost as important as the power. Do you have free, good quality internet access? Check.

Room, Bed and in room Facilities – 4 star

Half of the experience of hotels is the service you receive from the staff. I had the pleasure of being greeted served by a few polite ladies. One of whom was from Poland and spoke good English with limited accent. The check in and out experience was efficient and short which is always appreciated. Unfortunately this good experience was let down by the serving staff in the restaurant who managed to get my order wrong. I will give them that my accent may be somewhat hard to understand but when you point to the item in the menu and the server leans over to look there is no excuse. What can I say that right there is a 100 point down grade.

Staff, service and checking out and in – 4 stars

I took the breakfast package as part of my stay. From an economics point of view these things are hard to judge as the cost of food is so different in different countries. Consequently I can really only go with a general feeling of ripped off or not. But let me start by saying that what was advertised as a “Buffet English Breakfast” was actually pretty good. I would perhaps quibble about the term “English Breakfast” in any meal that contains hash browns or any form of cereal as both of those items are, by origin, American. Additionally the presence of things like baguettes, cheese and salami would also seem to make the term “English” redundant. That being said the food itself was good. A buffet with three types of eggs on offer is not as common as people would like. The relatively grease less state of the hash browns was good. Food wasn’t destroyed by the warmers and the selection of food both hot and cold was wide and well prepared. There wasn’t the selection of juices you see in south America or south east Asia but receiving good black tea in a pot was a pleasant surprise. No Earl Grey this, some other country “breakfast” that , just good tea. All in all one of the best buffet breakfasts I have had the please of having.

Unfortunately the good work done by the morning meal was something of a contrast to the meal I had the night before. I cannot say that the food was bad but things were more “frayed at the edges”. For example I understand that this is England and not the US but if you have buffalo wings on the menu that are not at all spicy then you don’t know what buffalo wings should be. They were nice but the coating was more sweet than spicy. The blue cheese sauce that came with it was also disappointing. It was also sweetly flavoured but did not resemble blue cheese. For the mains I ordered a tomato based pasta dish and though it came with Parmesan cheese which did not melt the note of the dish was poor due to the rather watery tomato sauce. They issue a free drink voucher on check in but quibble that it is not for a GBP 5 name brand drink but only for a GBP 3 house brand drink, something you need a magnifying glass to read on the voucher. I understand the cost implications but this just detracts from the otherwise positive experience of receiving a free drink. Either pitch in for the free drink or don’t. This just creates angst with the clients.

In a nutshell the food was a mixed bag and except that the hotel is so far from anything else in future I might give the dinner a miss in future. Breakfast though was well worth the extra few pounds.

About entertainment. There was none. It’s a Sunday night so nothing expected.

Food, beverages and entertainment – 4 stars

I took the time to have a quick swim on arrival as I needed to stretch something. The pool was heavily chlorinated which is something I both appreciate and dislike. Not interested in getting lots of bugs but I also don’t fancy having my eyes dissolved.

There is nothing to do near the hotel and there is nowhere to go without a car so if you have expectations of a fun night out this is not the place to stay. But realistically this Hotel is there for those like I who have just flown in. When all is said an done. This hotel is not nirvana but as a stop after 23 hours of travel it was everything I needed it to be.

Hotel score:     4 stars

Christian, Movie

It wasn’t opening night so I did not expect to see huge numbers roll up to see Joseph Fiennes in Risen. But it was disappointing to find myself as one of 4 in the cinemas. Christian groups complain that there is never enough good quality christian movies out there. And they have a point. If you are a Christian looking for christian morals and values the pickings are slim. Still when someone makes a good christian film nobody turns up. That really sums it up.

That aside the movie itself was actually good. I know my tone comes across as surprised but after the recent drivel that was “Noah” or “Exodus: Gods and Kings” my expectations were low. There were a couple of things that I found difficult to swallow and for the same reason that both Noah and Exodus failed, which I will discuss later. But on the whole it was an enjoyable movie.

The film was shot in Andalucia Spain and looks exactly as I imagine Israel looks or would look back then. I travel to Israel soon and I will let you know if that is the case. In any event it set the tone early and well. The movie starts with the main character, played by Joseph Fiennes fighting and killing Barabbas. From there we follow the main character through the death resurrection and reappearance of Jesus. In terms of plot and story line the movie wound through some rather interesting scenes. Scenes that I certainly did not anticipate. Biblical stories that I know were related in different ways and with characters that I did not expect to see. On the whole however the story was interesting and it held me as I tried to put myself into the shoes of a soldier going about his business until he meets an very complicated situation. This for me was what made a lot of the movie work and some of it fall down. I keep going back to the ending. Would I have left it there. Perhaps but I might have thrown in a line or two hinting that main character may see Peter again.

For story, pacing and scenery – 3.5 stars

When I start to think about the acting in this movie. I can’t go past Joseph Fiennes performance. I find him completely believable in his portrayal of a roman tribune. My sister teaches ancient history and made consistent comments the relevance of tribunes and their place in the Roman empire of the day. Tribunes are very significant as they carry military power but need to have been both sponsored by powerful people and been voted into office. It explains why his number two cannot just succeed to his role. Fiennes manages to both come across as someone with unquestioned authority and also as someone who is a man of the people. In all this the personal quest of his though not ever present in the story plays out in his actions.

For his part Felton has come a long way from playing Malfoy in Harry Potter. In the begging there is the youth unsure of himself. Though there is an eagerness there pointing to a desire to go further. Though some of this is undoubtedly the writing Felton’s performance was much better that I anticipated and I found myself enjoying his scenes. Peter is also another surprise packet played by Stewart Scudamore. Though hardly alone in the good supporting actor or actress. As an actor I really enjoy the performances of Peter Firth and he did not let me down with this performance. His constant tension with the imminent visit of Caesar and the “troublesome” Jews is well portrayed. Certainly contributing to this being my favorite aspect of the movie.

For acting, casting and portrayal – 4.5 stars

The trouble form me however in this movie is essentially the same problem as with both Noah and Exodus. Though, thankfully, in this case to a much lesser degree. Let me put this as a paragraph all by itself so it stands out.

When you make a movie about biblical things. Don’t contradict the bible.

To be fair they haven’t exactly, which is why they are not in Exodus territory much less Noah. I can get past some of the extra biblical stuff such as the death of Barabbas or the arrest and questioning of disciples and Mary. I can even be persuaded that the Roman might have seen Jesus after his death. But there is no record of Jesus performing any miracles after his death. I think that things like that are going to make this movie harder for strong Christians to support. They are very protective of the bible and it’s veracity as historical fact.

When it comes to watch-ability for young viewers. There are a number of things to watch out for. There is violence in this and crucifixion and realistic blood but it is not as bad as Mel Gibson’s “Passion of the Christ”. On the plus side there is none of the myriad of other things that are morally problematic.

For biblical relevance, ethics and suitability for children – 3.5 starts

Consequently this move comes in with the above mentioned good rating. I have to confess that i was surprised it did so well but at the end of each review I reserve my self a few points for a general feeling and weighting. For me the best thing about this movie is that it questioned my beliefs and challenged me to look again at Jesus. Surely that is what makes a movie worth watching. It makes you feel and look at yourself.

Movie score:        4 stars.