Watching Lately #13

23.4.15



1. Better Call Saul
As a huge Breaking Bad fangirl, I was very pleased to hear Better Call Saul was coming to Netflix this spring. Saul (Bob Odenkirk) was always one of my favourite characters in Breaking Bad, and his signature style of dark humour translates well in his own spin-off show which follows him as he transforms from scam artist Slippin' Jimmy to small-time lawyer Jimmy McGill to the Saul Goodman we know and love. Although it has a slightly different feel to the original, Better Call Saul is every bit as atmospheric. It's a slow burner, just as Breaking Bad was in the beginning, and I'm looking forward to seeing how it progresses over the coming seasons. Plus, I love seeing how everything fits in to the Breaking Bad universe, like the origins of Mike and Tuco, as well as more subtle nods, like the nail salon. AHHHHHH. Watch it!

2. This is 40
Another spin-off (of sorts), This is 40 follows two minor characters from the film Knocked Up, but it's not necessary to have seen one to understand the other. Pete (Paul Rudd) and Debbie (Leslie Mann) are happily married with three kids, their own businesses and a nice big house - that is, until they turn 40 and it all starts to fall apart. Usually I'm a fan of Judd Apatow films, but this one fell a bit flat for me. It wasn't a terrible film, but it was SO LONG (over 2 hours, ugh) for no reason, some scenes were so unnecessarily long that I stopped paying attention. There were funny moments here and there but overall it was just a bit boring.

3. Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt
The latest addition to the ever-growing list of excellent Netflix original series, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt tells the story of Kimmy (Ellie Kemper) who is rescued from a doomsday cult and has to find her feet in the world 15 years on. Leaving her days as one of the "Indiana Mole Women" behind, Kimmy heads to New York City to start life all over again. Seeing Kimmy trying to adapt to normality after 15 years underground is both hilarious and endearing, and her positive outlook on everything can't fail to put a smile on your face. From the makers of 30 Rock, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt is funny and clever - oh, and it has possibly the best theme tune ever.

4. Hot Tub Time Machine 2
Hot Tub Time Machine is kind of a guilty pleasure of mine, I think mostly because it was set in the 80s and had John Cusack in it. Hot Tub Time Machine 2 had neither of these things, which should have been a warning sign that it was going to be pretty terrible. I stand by my view that the first film is actually quite funny, but the second one is just rubbish. Without much of a plot, it's full of jokes that aren't that funny and characters you don't really care about. There were a couple of funny bits, but if I were you I wouldn't bother sitting through this one, even if you were a fan of the first.

5. 22 Jump Street
Yet another sequel (shall I just rename this Watching Lately: Sequel Edition?!), 22 Jump Street takes the winning formula that worked in 21 Jump Street and does it again, and it's pretty funny. Mismatched police officers Schmidt (Jonah Hill) and Jenko (Channing Tatum) are sent back to college on an undercover mission, and they fully immerse themselves in the student life in an attempt to catch a local drug kingpin. This film doesn't take itself too seriously (at some points even acknowledging they're basically making the exact same movie again) but still has a decent plot and funny jokes to tie it all together. I doubt it'll win any awards, but it's an easy, entertaining watch and you'll definitely enjoy it if you like the first one.

6. Life and Death Row
And now for something a little different... Life and Death Row. I find documentaries about serial killers, criminals, prisons and the like absolutely fascinating and stumbled across this on BBC3 a couple of weeks ago. Focusing on some of the youngest death row inmates in the USA, the documentary explored how their crimes, their time on death row and their impending death sentence had impacted not only these young men, but also their families, the victims' families and even their lawyers and people on the jury. The three programmes in the series did a good job of presenting a balanced view and letting you make up your own mind; in some cases the death penalty seemed like a just sentence but in others it seemed like completely the wrong decision. A very thought provoking series, especially for BBC3!

What have you been watching lately?

Gillian x

48 Hours in Newcastle

15.4.15

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· 48 Hours in Newcastle: Burgers, Bridges and #BloggerLodge ·

Sometimes holidays are all about adventuring, exploring and fitting as much activity as humanly possible into two or three days. Other times, it's all about being unbelievably lazy, relaxing and ignoring all other responsibilities. And that's exactly what I did on a recent trip to Newcastle. Travelodge kindly put me up in their recently revamped Newcastle Central hotel and, with the accommodation taken care of, I could concentrate on sleeping, eating and chillaxing. Bags packed and train tickets booked, it was time for a whirlwind 48 hour trip to the Toon.

Eat & Drink
Newcastle is full to the brim with restaurants and bars and, with it being Easter bank holiday weekend, everywhere was busy. After much deliberation, Friday night's restaurant choice was Dabbawal. Their Indian tapas style menu reminded me of one of my Edinburgh faves, Tuk Tuk, so I was looking forward to trying out some sharing dishes. But, by the time we got there I was so hungry I decided to ditch the tapas and opt for a regular main course instead! I'm glad I did as the Railway Lamb Curry I chose, one of the chef's signature dishes, was delicious. A couple of drinks and a couple of naans later, we decided to call it a night and rather than fighting our way round a busy bar, we stopped off in Tesco for some cider to take back to the room. Such a novelty being able to buy alcohol after 10pm!
After some recommendations on Twitter, on Saturday evening we headed to The Fat Hippo Underground. If there's one thing you should know by now it's that I love a good burger, so I couldn't pass up the opportunity to try out one of Newcastle's favourite burger joints. After sharing some jalepeno poppers to keep the hunger pangs at bay, I opted for the Gastro burger which consisted of two beef burger patties, parma ham, rocket and pesto mayo. The burger was just as tasty as I had hoped, and my side of sweet potato fries were top notch. The service was a little bit slow but the food more than made up for it, so I'd definitely recommend trying The Fat Hippo if you're ever in Newcastle.

See & Do
As I mentioned already, this was a lazy holiday. Very lazy. I did have a couple of museums and attractions earmarked as possible to-visits, but turns out comfy kingsize beds are impossible to get out of on a Saturday morning. Instead of doing anything specific, we just wandered around Newcastle and took in the sights. The centre of Newcastle is fairly small and compact so it's really easy to get around on foot. Our hotel was next to the Quayside so we spent a lot of time down by the water; the Gateshead Millennium Bridge looked b-e-a-utiful all lit up at night, and it was equally impressive in the daytime too. Sunday was a lovely sunny day so we headed down to the Quayside for a bit before the train home, and just by accident we timed it perfectly and crossed to the other side of the bridge just as it was about to do its daily tilt. We spent an hour or so basking in the sunshine and watching the world (and the bridge) go by, before having a wander through the Quayside Sunday Market and then on to the train station.

Stay
Travelodge offered me a complimentary two night stay for two, and I chose to stay at the Newcastle Central Hotel. The hotel is in a great location; it's just a 15 minute walk to the train station, 10 minutes to the town centre and 1 minute to the Quayside. Our double room with en suite shower was nice and spacious, and the main attraction was, of course, the kingsize bed. Travelodge have their own "Dreamer" Sleepeezee mattresses which are SO. COMFY. So comfy. Guys, they are so comfy. The room itself was nice and clean with all the basics you'd expect like a TV and tea/coffee making facilities. When we arrived we discovered there was only one towel in the bathroom, but this wasn't a problem as the reception is open 24 hours so we just picked up a spare one (and a hairdryer!) on the way back in from dinner. The Newcastle Central Travelodge also has a bar and cafe where breakfast is served, plus they do lunch and dinner if you're in a rush and want to grab something quickly in the hotel. As you can probably imagine, on the holiday weekend in Newcastle the hotel was full of revellers and stag parties, but once you got in your room things were nice and quiet and it was easy to get a good undisturbed sleep. Well, apart from a fire alarm incident at 2.30am on Friday night when we had to evacuate the building and stand outside for the best part of an hour... a bit of an inconvenience but luckily I had no plans to get up early! Overall, I was really impressed with Travelodge as everything was clean, comfy and just what you need for a weekend away. You have to pay for wifi and our TV only had 5 or 6 channels, which could get annoying for a longer stay, but for a weekend stay on a budget Travelodge was perfect.

Have you been to Newcastle before?

Gillian x

Edinburgh: The Magnum

13.4.15

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One thing I love about Edinburgh is the abundance of good independent restaurants. Despite having lived here for the best part of a decade now, there are still plenty of places I'm yet to visit. The Magnum was one of these places - well, up until a couple of weeks ago that is. I was kindly invited along for a complimentary meal to see what The Magnum is all about.

Situated on the corner of Albany Street and just a minute's walk from York Place, The Magnum describe themselves as a "hidden gem" in the New Town, and I think they're spot on. This isn't an area I'd automatically think of when looking for bars or restaurants, but it's worth venturing down the quiet Georgian streets for good food, good wine and good company. As well as a cosy bar area which is ideal for enjoying some post-work drinks, there's also a separate dining area where you can tuck into a delicious three course meal surrounded by twinkling fairy lights. The menu on the website gives you an idea of what to expect, but dishes change daily according to what's fresh and in season.

When we visited, Laura and I both started off with scallops and black pudding, which was accompanied by confit tomatoes, gremolata and horseradish crisps. This was a lovely light, fresh tasting starter which was the perfect dish to whet our appetite, and up next was duck for me and steak for Laura. The rib eye steak is a regular on The Magnum's menu, and I was assured that it was every bit as delicious as it looked. I opted for the seared duck breast which was served with wild mushrooms, roasted shallots, broad beans and smoked bacon lardons. I don't think that mushrooms and bacon are my favourite accompaniment for duck, but the meat was perfectly cooked so no complaints in that department! Somehow, after all that, we still had a bit of room left for dessert so I ordered the Cranachan cheesecake which used shortbread instead of a traditional cheesecake base and was topped with some rich raspberry compote. Delish! Laura went for the trio of chocolate, which included a sorbet, creme brulee and brownie.

The whole meal at The Magnum felt very relaxed and we spent a good couple of hours sipping our wine, choosing our food and catching up on the day's gossip. It was nice to be separate from the bar area, but you could still hear the hustle and bustle faintly in the background which gave the restaurant a lovely mellow atmosphere. The service was great too, the perfect mix between being attentive and leaving you alone to enjoy your meal. The food is great quality but the prices aren't extortionate so it would be perfect for a special catch-up with friends, a fancy date night, or if you just wanted to treat yourself.

Have you been to The Magnum before?

Gillian x