Film review- Us


Directed by Jordan Peele

Starring Lupita Nyong’o, Winston Duke, Elisabeth Moss

A few minutes after seeing the new film from Jordan Peele, my gut reaction to Us is it’s one of the best movies of the decade.

Okay, bold words. Some films soon go off the boil a day or two after seeing them, but this has just the right mix of comedy, horror, conspiracy theory, siege mentality and more to keep genre fans rubbing their hands with glee and academics stroking their chins over the true meaning of this, that or the other.

It begins with an African American family at a fairground. Mum goes to the loo, dad is busy playing a game, so daughter slips away with a toffee apple and goes to a hall of mirrors.

There she sees something that terrifies her so much, she goes into a PTSD-like state. Whatever went on in that attraction was not good.

Fast forward to present day, and she’s an adult with a loving husband, a young son with a fondness for masks and magic tricks and a daughter obsessed with her phone.

They innocently return to the scene of the crime on holiday and meet up with some friends. They shoot the breeze, discuss trivial matters like dad’s boat, and then when the family are all settled down in their rent a cabin, strange things start happening.

There’s somebody out there and it’s obvious they’re not stopping by to borrow a cup of sugar.

Hidden within the movie are recurring numbers and symbols which may or may not be important. You decide. There’s also rabbits. Lots of them. A throwback to Get Out’s Run Rabbit Run during the early minutes? Possibly.

The cast are mostly terrific. The initially modest premise turns out to be surprisingly more epic than many thrillers of this type, and the soundtrack is superb. Peele really knows how to get the most scares for his money, but there are also some gloriously witty throwaway lines.

There are times when it goes a bit too far, but rather a film go too far than not far enough.

Get out of the house and go and see Us. It’s an experience you may never forget.



Review: Pairings Wine Bar, York

Pairings Wine Bar

It’s a long time since I’ve reviewed any eatery in York, one of my favourite cities and pastimes. 
However, the daffs are out, spring has sprung, and when invited to Pairings wine bar for lunch one Saturday, it looks like the perfect way to break me out of that hermetically sealed weekend rut. 

Pairings, just round the corner from the Jorvik Centre, is a beautiful little eatery, bustling with life. The staff are warm and welcoming; it has that cool deli vibe you find in London and all cosmopolitan cities, and even if you just fancy a cappuccino and a slice of cake, they do that too. 

But, as the name suggests, Pairings is all about the marriage of food and wine. And in this case it helps that General Manager James knows his subject inside out. 
We’re soon seated and savouring a mystery wine. Dark, fruity, effervescent, but like a Scooby-Doo villain, isn’t unveiled until the end of that episode – after any potential wine-related prejudices are washed away. 
Smart move. How many times would we turn our noses up at something because of the baggage attached? 

The Wensleydale Brie with crackers is phenomenal, especially when paired with…’Zoiks Scoob! It was the Lambrusco di Modena, Sassomoro, NV all along’. 
A mischievous little number from the Emilia-Romagna region of Italy.
My palate is well and truly tickled, and as the place continues to fill up, we enjoy our second of four courses. 
Now when it comes to olives, I’m a bit of a Tasmanian Devil. You’ll usually see a bowl full; a cartoon cloud of energy and then an empty container, and me dabbing the corners of my mouth with a napkin. They are my Achilles heel, when pitted and full of flavour. 

I savour a Dos Cortados, Williams & Humbert, 20-year-Palo Cortado from Jerez, Spain. It’s a dry sherry; something I wouldn’t normally go for as I have such a sweet tooth, but paired with Gordal Olives, it’s a winning union of flavours. 
Now at this point, if I was one of those Wall Street tycoons, I would phone my broker immediately and tell them to sell pork bellies and buy Gordal Olives immediately. The taste is out of this world, and knowing my better half has an aversion to them, I’m not ashamed to say, “All the more for me”. Except having offered her half, Rachel quite happily goes back for more. They’re that good. 
(Whatever next? She starts watching Star Wars movies? I can but hope). 

The sherry she’s not so keen on, but I know my limits. One glass is enough. The Gordal, or “fat one” olives, are soon dispensed with while I savour the buttery, golden offering from one of the world’s most prestigious wine-producers. 

The penultimate choice is equally moreish. A Morning Fog Chardonnay, Wente, 2016 is an amiable Californian, crisper than the misty dawns which roll over one of my favourite American regions, San Francisco. 
(In the mid-nineties I toured the Robert Mondavi vineyard in California, trying to expand my knowledge of fine wines while on an epic US tour, but was met with contempt by the staff, probably because I was wearing a Scooby-Doo tee shirt and Hawaiian shorts. Unsurprisingly, that sort of thing does not go down well in such an ultra conservative region). 
Paired with Delice de Cremier (a triple unpasteurised cream cheese produced in the Champagne, Burgundy region of France), it’s a winning combination of flavours which complement one another beautifully. The best cheese in the world? Maybe. It’s certainly up there. 

I mention to James at the start of our culinary odyssey that I’m a fan of Argentinean Malbec, and he chooses the perfect final offering. A 2016 Malamado, Zuccardi, 2016, from the Mendoza region of Argentina goes down a treat with a triple chocolate and caramel brownie. 

The atmosphere is so pleasant, we opt for cappuccinos (outstanding, and a better price than many high profile chains) while I purchase a few quids’ worth of those amazing olives. 

There’s no second guessing about whether we’d come back one day. It’s the sort of eatery we’d take our wine-loving Floridian friends to when they come over, keen to show off the best Yorkshire has to offer. 
After the month from Hell, Pairings is a little slice of Heaven, and the highlight of the weekend. (Or indeed any weekend over the past few weeks). 
There’s just the right amount of food and wine for us to carry on pottering around York without pounding heads or feeling like we need to put another notch on our belts. 
Whether you’re a wine expert or just someone seeking a palate-tickling diversion for an hour or so, this is a real spirit-lifter. 
In a word? Outstanding. 

Theatre review – Club Tropicana

Club Tropicana
Grand Opera House, York
By Roger Crow/@RogerCrow
Some jukebox musicals have a clear sense of identity. They’re usually the ones based on films like Footloose or inspired by a band’s back catalogue. 
Then there are others which are constructed from a string of eighties classics, like the movie Walking on Sunshine, or Club Tropicana. 
The latter stars X Factor winner Joe McElderry, a likeable bloke whose time on the show many years ago brightened many a weekend before he won the contest and dropped off my radar. 
Kate Robbins on the other hand has been one of Blighty’s most reliable triple threats for years. A brilliant actor, singer and comedian, although these days she’s perhaps better known as Emily Atack’s mum. 
The fun takes place at the eponymous Spanish hotel, where the drinks are free (well, some of them) and as luck would have it, is the setting for a bride and groom who got cold feet on their big day. Wouldn’t you know it? They have checked into the same hostelry with their friends by sheer coincidence. 
Meanwhile, a hotel inspector is looking to close the resort unless they’re impressed by what they see. 
At this point I think this is remarkably similar to Benidorm: The Musical, but there’s enough of a twist to ease that nagging sense of deja vu. 
The book by Michael Gyngell is a lot of fun, and while many of the gags are far from subtle, on a bleak Monday night, it’s hard not to get carried along with the wave of goodwill. 

Directors Samuel Holmes and Nick Winston do a fine job of ensuring there’s rarely a dull moment, while Nick Winston’s choreography is also a feast for the eyes. As is the set and costume design by Diego Pitarch. 
But while your average punter won’t give a hoot about who did what behind the scenes, the front-of-house talent is a joy. 

Neil McDermott, Emily Tierney and former Sugababe star Amelle Berrabah all do a terrific job of lifting the spirits, and while the performances are far more solid than the shaky sets, whether intentional or not, even the erratic lift doors add to the comedy. 
Of course the nostalgic tunes help glue the scenes together, and they’re not always the obvious choices. Kate Robbins’ Spanish cleaner (occasionally channelling Hattie Jacques in Carry On Abroad) and Jill-of-all-trades singing the Minder theme is a curve ball that works surprisingly well. Perhaps far better than ABC’s The Look of Love, which was more annoying than entertaining in the opening scenes. But going in cold to any jukebox musical is always a bit of a shock to the system, especially when it’s as full on as that track. Some of us need time to adjust to characters and sets rather than be thrown in at the deep end with a chorus of wannabe Martin Frys. 
It’s not too much of a surprise when Cyndi Lauper’s classic Girls Just Wanna Have Fun is given an airing, but the biggest laugh of the night is Joe and company’s version of Making Your Mind Up, for reasons that soon become apparent when you see the show. 
And any production with the ballad version of A-ha’s Take on Me gets my vote, especially when it works as well as this version. 
McElderry is a great singer, as we all know, but a far trickier gift is comic timing, and he’s a force to be reckoned with on stage. Like Ms Robbins, every time he appears, the show steps up a gear. Yes, I know he’s the star, but it doesn’t always follow that the biggest name on the bill is the most entertaining. Thankfully that’s definitely the case here. 
While some productions outstay their welcome, this is just the right length for the wafer-thin story. I don’t remember the eighties being as fun as this, probably because they weren’t, but it’s a joy to see a show that has no political agenda. It’s just a feelgood assault on the senses with a bunch of absurdly talented folks doing what they do best. 
The fact I’d happily see it all again when it plays Hull New Theatre in a few weeks (15 – 20 April) is testament to its success.