Celluloid

Super Hero Free Afternoon: Gone Girl

As I was sitting through the previews at the movies on Sunday, I caught myself flinching and looking to my left when some Hollywood super star or another dropped the F-bomb. It was then I realised – there’s only grown-ups here with me today, and I’m pretty sure they can handle a swear word or two…

What a shock when it registered just how long it had been since I had gone to a movie with other adults, and not my kids. I sighed a contented sigh at the prospect of (1) seeing a film that did not have one single super hero in it; (2) seeing a film which was unlikely to involve any explosions and; (3) not needing to worry about what the person sitting next to me was hearing, seeing, or thinking.

tbyl reviewersIn short, despite the sometimes grubby content matter of the film, Gone Girl, it was always going to be a great day at the movies. The fact that a bunch of TBYL Reviewers and I had managed to get out of the house together made it all the sweeter.

I’d been looking forward to seeing Gone Girl, starring Ben Affleck and Rosamund Pike, in the way that one normally does with a film based on a book they’ve enjoyed – with equal parts excitement and trepidation. The general assumption that ‘the movie is never as good as the book’ holds true in many instances, and many a good reading experience has been tarnished by a shoddy film adaption. Despite this, I had seen the trailer and my first impressions had been that the look of the film seemed pretty spot on, and the casting was right on the money. I thought it would be worth a watch.

gone girl

I’m not a huge Ben Affleck fan, I find him just a little bit boring (sorry!), but I really think that he was a perfect fit for Nick Dunne. Rosamund Pike is an interesting actor, with a most definite ‘dark horse’ aspect to her acting, so again I thought her pretty right as Amy Dunne.

As it happens Rosamund played Amy more in the realm of ‘mad as a cut snake’ than just simply dark, and created a truly deplorable character, quite clearly capable of anything. And I mean anything. The most violent and disturbing scenes of this film all centre around her, perpetrated as a means for her to see her way clear of the gigantic mess she finds herself in.

Affleck, as Nick played dull, disengaged husband to a tee. He was convincingly emotionally awkward, making the whole ‘most probably a wife-killer’ part of this story believable. This, of course, is very important to the story, we need to believe that Nick is not a nice guy.

Now, this of course is where I ponder on the great metaphysical conundrum of book-to-film adaptions. What would this film have been like if I hadn’t read the book?  Would the movie have been more suspenseful, if I’d not known the twist? Would I have guessed what was coming? Would I have been as gripped by this pretty detailed, fairly dialogue-driven story, if I was not, as a reader, waiting to see how the story would unfold on screen? My sister (and TBYL Reviewer) Tam was sitting with me, and she’d not read the book. I asked her after the movie what she thought, and she assured me that her head was still spinning. She didn’t see the Second Act coming at all, and the story did not at all end up where, at the the beginning of the film, she thought it would be.

She found it suspenseful, frightening and above all, pretty gripping. In her opinion, the reasonably long playing time of this film (about 2 and half hours) went really quickly, it didn’t drag at any point.


Personally, I felt the same way – Gone Girl held my attention from start to finish (as had the novel). Perhaps some of the chill, the suspense was taken out of it for me, knowing which way the wind was going to turn but I don’t think that’s a major problem at all, it was still a pretty wild ride.

Gone Girl is not for the faint of heart, and at times gets quite nasty. It’s necessary to the story so I didn’t have any issue with it, and it’s by far not the most disturbing film I’ve seen. Nonetheless, if you don’t like blood or swearing, perhaps give this movie a miss. Otherwise, I would definitely recommend this movie, especially to lovers of crime and suspense. It’s a well put together story, well acted (mostly) and leaves you wondering, what next?

Gone Girl is in cinemas now.

If you’re interested, you’ll find my review of Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl, here…

 

Epic: The Turning

You might remember that a month or so ago, during the Melbourne Film Festival, I attended a session at The Forum that featured a varied cast of writers and directors, who’d come together to talking about their part in the epic film project The Turning.

A unique cinema event The Turning involved seventeen talented Australian directors from diverse artistic disciplines, each given the task of creating a chapter of the hauntingly beautiful novel by multi award-winning author Tim Winton.

Hugo Weaving as Bob Lang, Commission (based on Tim Winton's The Turning) - Photograph by David Dare Parker Commission David Dare Parker

The end product promises to be nothing short of spectacular, the linking and overlapping stories explore the extraordinary turning points in ordinary people’s lives in a stunning portrait of a small coastal community. As characters face second thoughts and regret, relationships irretrievably alter, resolves are made or broken, and lives change direction forever.

Long Clear View

This watershed film reinterprets and re-imagines Tim’s classic novel for the screen.

It’s hard to describe in words the beauty of these films, so I’d encourage you to take a look at some of the shorts yourself, here…

Sand

It promises to be an event, not just a film. Running for around 3 hours with an intermission, limited screenings of this exciting film is a complete night out. You can find out where it’s showing via their website www.theturning.com.au

Reunion
What a wonderfully bookish way to spend an evening – I hope you’ll consider going along, I know I’m certainly going to! Feel free to pop by and let us know what you think, it promises to be a very special experience…

 

My Monday: My favourite love-story

I’ve heard it said, that February is the month of romance.

Personally, I’ve always found that February is more the month of no more sleep-ins, a new school year starting, going back to work, and subsequently trying to catch-up after a month of down-time. Bah humbug.

But this year, I’m changing my tune. I’m going to get into the spirit of Valentine’s Day with a little light reading and a classic film.

And so, my first My Monday for 2012 is all about one of my favourite stories of all time – Truman Capote’s heartbreaker Breakfast at Tiffany’s. A tale that can make even me; ever practical, slightly cynical, a little too matter-of-fact, feel positively romantic.

I know it’s not the most original choice for this time of year, but for me, this story is the epitome of style, romance and that New York, New York feeling. Both the film and the novel in equal measure have an undeniable allure, a sweetness, a street-smartness and a delightful element of intrigue.

“Also, she had a cat and she played the guitar. On days when the sun was strong, she would wash her hair, and together with the cat, a red tiger-striped tom, sit out on the fire escape thumbing a guitar while her hair dried. Whenever I heard the music, I would go stand quietly by my window. She played very well, and sometimes sang too. Sang in the hoarse, breaking tones of a boy’s adolescent voice. She know all the show hits, Cole Porter and Kurt Weill; especially she liked the songs from Oklahoma! which were new that summer and everywhere. But there were moments when she played songs that made you wonder where she learned them, where indeed she came from. Harsh-tender wandering tunes with words that smacked of piney-woods or prairie.”

And of course, there’s this:

Each time I read this gorgeous novella I am perplexed by Holly…Is she an innocent? Is she a woman in charge of her own destiny? Or is she simply on a wild, wild ride through 1940s New York – peppered with gangsters, smitten neighbours and trips to the powder-room?

I’m going to read it again tonight, and I’ll try and work her out all over again.

And then of course there’s the film, and there’s Hepburn. Audrey Hepburn has become synonymous with Holly Golightly and her New York style, her sophistication has become iconic, the very measure of beauty.

When I was New York I almost missed out on seeing Central Park and I blame this entirely on the film. I lost myself for hours, deep inside Tiffany’s – hypnotised by sparkle and mental images of Audrey Hepburn, sipping coffee, strolling slowly on a New York morning. Before I knew it, I’d cut my day in half and had time only enough for a quick wander through Central Park. Never mind, next time.

I’d love to be planning another trip to the Big Apple, but a date night to the Astor Theatre will have to suffice – they’re showing Breakfast at Tiffany’s next weekend.

And with that, that’s my February set, and Matt be warned, I’ll expect diamonds this Valentines Day.

Buy your own copy of Breakfast at Tiffany’s at the TBYL Store!

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Sign up for TBYL Book Club here…

Modern learnings

A week or so ago, I was lucky enough to get to check out the Art Gallery of Ballarat’s upcoming exhibition, Australian Modern Masterpieces from the Art Gallery of New South Wales.


The exhibition has since opened, and so I thought it would be timely to let you know about the other great complimentary events that are going on at the gallery as part of this exhibit. These film screenings and lunchtime recitals will help you to really get into spirit of this impressive stage of Australian art, to learn a bit more about the colourful characters who were working in the art world at this time.

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Film screenings
Celebrate Australian cultural expression with special movie screenings on the wall of the gallery Function Hall. Bring a beanbag and enjoy a glass of wine as you experience some Australian classics. Free screenings – donation requested for supper. Presented by the Art Gallery of Ballarat in partnership with Ballarat Film Society.

A Son is Born and The Picture Show Man
Saturday, 22 October at 8pm
This double feature brings together a 1946 family melodrama featuring Peter Finch and John McCallum with the nostalgic 1977 nostalgia piece The Picture Show Man, starring John Meillon.

Between Wars
Thursday, 27 October at 8pm
This 1974 feature is one of the few Australian features to range over the socio-political landscape. It stars Corin Redgrave and Judy Morris. It will be proceded by shorts including the 1985 The Drover’s Wife.

Heritage and Squizzy Taylor
Tuesday, 22 November at 8pm
A homegrown gangster classic, this Simpson Le Mesurier film starring Jackie Weaver was released in 1982. It pairs up with Charles Chauvel’s second sound feature from 1935.

Lunchtime recitals
Explore different aspects of 20th century Australia with these special lunchtime events. Entry by donation. Presented by the Art Gallery of Ballarat in partnership with Bronwyn Blaiklock, Ballarat Writers Inc and the University of Ballarat.

Eric Christopher Perry and Bronwyn Blaiklock
Friday, 18 November at 12.30pm
Join tenor Eric Christopher Perry and pianist Bronwyn Blkaiklock as they explore a diverse range of Australian song and piano music, reflecting the cultural movements in the Australian Modern masteprieces exhibition. They present sample elements borrowed, adapted and created in a unique soundscape.

Nathan Curnow – The Angry Penguins
Friday, 25 November at 12.30pm
Join award-winning poet Nathan Curnow for readings from the 1940s ‘Angry Penguins’ era, including the notorious Ern Malley poems -the literary hoax that aimed to discredit the Australian avant-garde.

Sheridan Palmer on Bernard Smith and Modernism’s Tradition
Wednesday, 9 November at 12.15pm
Dr Sheridan Palmer, who is writing a biography of the notable Australian art critic Bernard Smith who is known as the father of Australian art history. In this talk she discusses the importance of Bernard Smith as a major player in defining the history of Modernism, that extraordinary cycle of stylistic changes and ideologies in which new codes of behaviour, dress, architecture and politics redefined culture and ostensibly freed modern life from its traditions. This talk will be repeated at 6pm, when wine and cheese will be available.

Text taken from Art Gallery of Ballarat promotional brochure. Full details of all upcoming events can be found on the gallery’s website.

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I’m hoping to get to the Nathan Curnow – Angry Penguins session myself. Well worth a day trip, as is the exhibition itself. Please treat yourself!

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Bayside Film Festival

Now, I know I’m supposed to be taking it a bit easy this month and I am, on the most part behaving myself pretty well. But, I am starting to get a bit bored being housebound, and I’d like to avoid cabin fever setting in if I can.

So, with that in mind I was pleased to get my hands on a couple of tickets to the Bayside Film Festival’s opening night next Wednesday.

Fittingly too, the movie they’re screening is a film set in my favourite New York, New York. It’s Love Etc. and it documents the relationships of five very different individuals in a fascinating contrast and comparison.

I’m so pleased I’m able to see this film, it looks wonderful. I’m sure it’ll be very moving and I’m hoping it’ll be a perfect outing for a mid-week date night.

I’ll put together a review of the film once I’ve seen it, and I’d love to hear from anyone who’s seen it already…

The Bayside Film Festival is running from the 17 August to 20 August, and includes workshops, short films, and two other feature films; I am Eleven and Amal. It’s being held at the Palace Brighton Bay, a gorgeous cinema just further ensuring a great night out.

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Oscar’s laughing

Now this was an interesting one…Walt Disney’s Fantasia at the Palais Theatre. To me, it was a perfect combination, but I really wasn’t sure how it would suit Matt and the boys. Still, being hell bent on getting us all along to many and varied types of outings, I insisted. It was a completely perfect day for a family outing and a great day to head down to St Kilda. We even managed a little walk along the foreshore, albeit a chilly one.

Evan was suitably impressed with the Palais, and kindly indulged me by listening to the stories of when I saw the Arctic Monkey’s from the balcony, and how I saw Bob Dylan play there when I was a teenager. Matt and I enjoyed the novelty of visiting the Palais during the day, something neither of us had done before. It was also a bit of fun to be able to stroll around the dress circle a bit more casually than you would normally be able to.

Oscar was just excited about being taken to the movies again, and was quite thrilled to be amongst so many other little kids.

I don’t think I’ve seen Fantasia before, at least not in its entirety. It is such a beautiful experience. It mesmerises and quietly inspires. I particularly liked the opening sequence and Beethoven’s Pastoral Symphony. 

Evan wasn’t quite so sure about this part of the film, I think the the unicorns were a little too ‘My Little Pony‘ for his tastes, but he really seemed to enjoy The Sorcerer’s Apprentice and the film overall. It took him a bit by surprise that there was no story as such, but he quickly got used to it.

Oscar really got into the The Rite of Spring scene, which was probably no surprise…what kind of kid doesn’t get into some dinosaur action! The dancing hippos and crocodiles in Dance of the Hours had him laughing out loud. I’ve not actually ever heard him laugh like that at a film before, it was a special treat. He really seemed to enjoy the music too, he even tried at one point to sing along with the orchestra. It was a nice follow-up to his jazz experience last month.

It was very cute to hear all the kids, including Oscar, ooh and ah throughout the film. The absence of dialogue seemed to give them license to chat more than they would normally, and they loved pointing out what was on the screen. It was interesting that this type of film experience seemed to be less immersive, less all-consuming than say a Pixar or Dreamworks film, the kids moved and chattered and laughed out loud…something that doesn’t seem to happen so much in the cinema normally. It was a nice experience, to hear them interpret what they were seeing as they were seeing it.

This screening was held as part of the Music on Film Festival. I really love the idea of this festival, and will be keeping an eye out for it next year. I wish I was a little freer today, if I was I’d spend the whole day watching films – they’re having a Scorsese Sunday!

Finally, I really have to thank Little Melbourne again. Firstly for making sure that we knew about this great event and secondly, for running the ticket give-away…I can’t remember the last time I won a prize, and it was perfect! Thanks guys, you rock!

And next for some lego

What have you got planned for the second week of these wintery holidays?

When Bond meets Pixar, it’s gotta be a blast!

Every school holidays I try and take the boys to at least one film. I love the movies, and going with the kids is a great excuse to indulge in some Pixar magic. I left the choice of film up to them, but I have to admit that I was quietly pleased when Oscar’s pick was Cars 2.

Booking online takes so much pain out of the school holiday movie process, and with our home-printed tickets we skipped the line and cruised into cinema 2 with no further ado.

We settled in with popcorn, chips and choc-tops, thoroughly enjoyed the short Toy Story film (Pixar always include a little short-film treat), and then got geared up for what turned out to be a surprisingly different film to original Cars. Yes, the characters were much the same but the storyline was so different it  was almost unrecognisable.

The movie begins as a carbon-copy James Bond intro with a perfectly cast Michael Caine getting into all sorts of trouble as Finn McMissile, including an exciting explosion-rife and gadget-reliant car chase. After this somewhat unexpected introduction to the film, we pop back to Radiator Springs where we get a quick refresh of characters and back-stories and it quickly becomes obvious that this time round Mater is going to be the star of the show.

The story goes that Lightening McQueen and his small-town pit-crew travel around the globe to compete in a World Grand Prix. The international race is a brilliant vehicle for some spectacular scenery, a major drawcard of the film. The Pixar gang have absolutely outdone themselves this time around…the scenery in Japan, Italy and London is just to die for. The Italian Rivera almost brought tears to my eyes – the blue waters peppered with yachts and villas made me even more aware of the fact we’re smack bang in the middle of a grey, cold old Melbourne winter. Tokyo and the rainbow bridge in Japan was gorgeous too.

I’m pretty sure that this side of the film was pretty much lost on the kids, but they did seem to really get into the action and excitement of the races and the secret mission storyline that Mater finds himself part of. Oscar still hasn’t stopped talking about how Mater got gatling guns (just great! not…) I get the feeling that the details of the plot might have been a little tricky for the younger ones, but older Evan seemed to really get into the intrigue. Oscar seemed happy with the colour and motion, and the grown-ups in the cinema seemed to giggle at the in-jokes in all the right places.

I’ve got to admit, I liked the first Cars film more, and I think to be honest the boys did too. In saying that, there is nothing actually wrong with this film, and as I mentioned it is spectacular to look at. Well worth a trip to the big screen, and a good one if you’ve got a few kids of different ages to entertain.

The film’s website is worth a look too, it’s a bit of fun.

Coming up…
I’ve got a couple of exciting things coming up over the next few days. I was lucky, lucky, lucky and won tickets (big thanks to Little Melbourne) to see Fantasia at the Palais Theatre in St Kilda.

This very special screening is part of the Music on Film Festival being held at the moment. You can find out more information here, and it’s well worth a sticky-beak as there’s some great films showing over the weekend. I’m really looking forward to showing the boys one of my favourite venues in Melbourne.

I’ve also just booked tickets to see The Art of the Brick in Fed Square next week. I have a sneaking suspicion that this is more about my love of Lego than anything else, but I’m sure that the boys will love it too.

I’ll share my thoughts on both of these, and then head off to my book club meeting next week, after which I’ll give you a run down of what we made of the novel Room by Emma Donoghue.

P.S. Don’t forget to enter the running for this month’s give-away, full details here…entries close 14 July.

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Empty promises, empty cradles

Sorry for the bit of dead-air of late, it’s been a flat out couple of weeks. I’ve filled out about a billion forms for the kids, been trained at work to within an inch of my life, and been scanned and squished and prodded by sonographers.

But today I’ve a bit of a chance to catch my breath, settle in at home and reflect a little on the film I saw on Sunday.

As it happens, it’s taken me a few days to get my head around Oranges and SunshineBased on the book of the same name (it was previously called Empty Cradles and you’ll still find it under this title as well) by Margaret Humphreys, this film is both perturbing and heart-breaking.

The film is Margaret’s story, and tells of how she and her husband became instrumental in the exposer of Britian’s little known-about child migration schemes. Margaret not only brought this scandalous policy to the notice of the British and Australian public, but also worked tirelessly to provide the individuals moved from Britain to Australia with information about themselves and their families.

Many of these people were moved to homes and institutions in Australia without birth certificates or records of any type, and as such weren’t sure of their name, where they were born or even their date of birth. Many children were moved under false pretences, being told they were orphans, and that they’d be going to a better life. On the flip-side, many mothers were informed that their children had been adopted by a caring family (one who could better care for them) when in fact their children had been placed in state care, orphanages or on farms. Margaret’s work throughout the 1980s located parents that were thought to be dead, transforming ‘orphans’ overnight, and allowing for the most amazing reconciliations.

Emily Watson plays Margaret Humphreys, and does the most amazing job. She is smart, dedicated and incredibly strong. Her anguish is palpable, and her sacrifices obvious. The story itself focuses largely on two main characters – Jack, played by Hugo Weaving and Len, played by David Wenham. The lives of Jack and Len are changed by Margaret’s work, and they become her loyal friends and protectors. This is the most interesting role I’ve seen Weaving in for awhile, his intensity is gut-wrenching and incredibly genuine – your heart breaks with him. Wenham is his usual quirky self, a perfect fit for the character of Len who’s stand-offish, but tender. His trust is hard to win, but well worth winning.

Photo: Child Migrants Trust

I’m a bit unaccustomed to this kind of film, and don’t often offer an opinion on issues of ethics or politics, but this film really put a bit of fire in my belly. I’m still trying to work out how this type of government intervention was allowed to happen. I know that many people put forward defences such as – ‘It was a different time’, ‘different morals, different values’, or ‘it was in the childrens’ best interest’ but to me, in light of the damages caused by these schemes, they seem pretty hollow. The same kinds of defences have been offered to explain away the unforgivable harm done to Australia’s Stolen Generation – most of us now know that there is simply no justification for this kind of treatment of people.

What do you guys think? Is it enough to say we didn’t know any better at the time? How can we avoid the same types of things happening in our own day and age?

‘My First Monster Movie’

Ok, so Super 8 isn’t exactly my first monster movie, but I think it’s a fair hint as to the target audience for this particular film.

Matt and I went to see this film a couple of weeks ago, not quite sure whether we were going to see an adult film or a kids’ film. The cast were mostly teenagers, but the storyline seemed to be potentially quite gruesome.

As it turns out, it’s a bit of something of both, and it seemed to me to be a really nice introduction to the monster movie genre for a new generation, a real ‘My First Monster Movie’ experience.

Super 8 is the story of Joe Lamb (Joel Courtney) a likeable young kid who’s in the process of dealing with the death of his mother. He finds company and comfort from his friends, a motley gang of young teenagers obsessed with film-making, busily creating a zombie film for an upcoming short-film competition. Their passion for film-making gives vehicle to some great amateur schlock-horror (my favourite kind!) and gives the kids reason to be out in the middle of the night. It’s during this midnight filming that they’re witness to the most spectacular train wreck ever…

I’ll pause here to say that in my opinion, this train wreck is the best thing about this film. I’d go so far as to say that this is the best wreck I’ve ever seen in a film…just the right amount of chaos, pyrotechnics, and carnage. It is perfectly timed, and incredibly believable. After it had finished, I wanted to go back and watch it over again.

As it turns out, the crash marks the beginning of a not very subtle military cover-up. The kids, and Joe’s father Jackson Lamb (Kyle Chandler) find themselves squarely in the middle of some pretty serious monster madness.

Super 8 is a really fun film, and wonderfully reminiscent of films like The Goonies and Stand By Me, two personal favs.

I’m still in two minds as to whether Evan, who’s 10, is old enough for this film. There are two scenes that might be a little too much for him just yet. I think it’d be pretty right for 12 – 13 years olds though, especially if they’ve seen a few films in their time. In saying all that, in time I will most probably cave and let Evan watch it, with a little bit of censoring perhap. It really does seem to have been put together as a great introduction to the genre.


This film made for a perfect date night for hubby and I, and I’m sure it’ll get a run a few times through at home once it’s out on DVD. I’d recommend a look if you like monster films, a bit of alien action, and a fun boys-own-adventure storyline.


Have you got a date night coming up? What’s the plan?

Brainwashing al la Elmo

Oscar loves chocolate.  If we could have chocolate for dinner, we’d have a happy three year old and a very peaceful house.

But alas, apparently chocolate isn’t good for main meals, and so we must battle. Sometimes we reach a compromise and settle on vegemite toast, yoghurt or bananas for dinner but most often I stick to my guns and Oscar sits sullenly in front of a plate of untouched food, next to a nagging Mum who’s not only driving him nutty, but also the rest of the family.

I’ve tried negotiation.  I’ve tried flat-out bribery.  I’ve tried threats.  I’ve played good cop.  I’ve played bad cop.  All to little or no avail.

Oscar is a healthy, happy kid. He’s growing well and he never stops running, so my concerns are not nutritional.  Nonetheless, I do worry about the habits that are being learnt as he grows up…he is so quickly becoming a big boy and I know only too well how deeply ingrained eating habits can become. So I was getting desperate, I really needed to win this argument.

Last week I used a different approach in the hope of convincing Oscar that new food wasn’t enemy number one.  At the risk of being shown up as a not so perfect mother, I’d like to run this strategy past you as I’m interested to hear what people think about it…

I used the power of television. More specifically, the influence of one little red monster named Elmo.

Last week at the video shop, instead of Ben 10 or Toy Story, I convinced Oscar to choose Sesame Street’s Happy Healthy Monsters. After this, the ‘brainwashing’ commenced – happy monsters love to jump, happy monsters love to drink milk, happy monsters love to eat healthy, fresh food. And they do all these things with a great big smile ontheir face.

And guess what?  So did Oscar…

The process was helped no end by the play-along game Oscar found in the Extras section where Oscar was able to help Cookie Monster make salads, spaghetti and meatballs, fruit salad. I reinforced this by asking Oscar to help me cook dinner that night. I know it’s not a new idea, but I really did find that Oscar was much more interested in eating what he’d had a part in cooking.

We’ve had a much better go of it since then. It’s not perfect, but we’re certainly getting there. Oscar will now eat rice and vegetables, he’s loving fish and even though we have to call it ‘fish’, he quite likes chicken too.

So my question is this – does TV have a legitimate place in helping to teach children?  I know many people would say a big no, while others would say that it’s a means to an end and you do what you have to do to teach your kids the best of lessons.

What do you think?