Magic in the New Year

We decided to start the New Year with some magic, and so we booked the Making of Harry Potter tour by Warner Bros Studio, London on New Year’s Day.

We drove to Watford on New Year’s Eve and stayed in a hotel near the Bhaktivedanta Manor (ISKCON temple). We visited the temple that evening (given it was safe to do so on New Year’s Eve than on a New Year’s Day). Given that it was at least 20 mins away from the Watford Town Center, it was quiet and apart from some fireworks we had a relatively calm and quiet end of the year 2021. On New Year’s Day, we went to the Town Center (parked at Atria Shopping Center) and roamed the almost empty high street for a while. Found a place called “Crispy Dosa” where we had our lunch. They had very good south Indian food. I loved my Chettinad Dosa.

After that, it was a 15 min drive to the studio. Mr M was getting on my nerves as he was very leisure and wanted to arrive at the studio only a few minutes before the start of the tour. I wasn’t so sure but given the new year and the new me thing going on in my head, I decided to give him the benefit of doubt and tried to do my calm breathing exercises (it worked!!!) We were spot on time and the tour began as soon as the majority of the folks had arrived. Didn’t realize that there would be that many people in there and this was reduced count. I wonder how many normal attend the tour in a non-pandemic situation.

They warned us that the tour takes around 3 hours and there would be a cafe halfway through for us to sit and have some rest and refreshments if we wish to do so. The entrance was well done, with interactive screens and people talking etc. From there you go on to a small theatre room where they show the video of what the place is about and then the screens go up and you see “The Great Hall” and that is the actual entrance of your self guided tour. The lady who was explaining the stuff in the Great Hall was too fast and too loud. She could have done it a little better, but I zoned her out and was on my own exploring stuff.

There is so much to see and experience and enjoy. This tour also shows how much goes on in the background for something that comes up in the movie for a mere 2 seconds. I have always appreciated the effort by the artists who work behind the scenes to bring something which might closely resemble the imagination of an author or a fan. It is not easy and sometimes it fails, but when it clicks and succeeds you get something like Harry Potter which becomes a huge sensation. The detailed sketches on the architecture of the buildings that were built, the makeup, the costumes, the food that is shown on the tables, the automotive used, the amount of mechanical and electronic wizardry involved in all these things is amazing. It was so much fun.

One of the highlights of the whole tour for us was the awe-inspiring Gringotts Bank and the way the dragon demolishes the bank. It was amazing. The Diagon Alley was another one of those places which I loved 🙂 and when we were ooh-ing and aah-ing over these things we come to the halfway point and then we have to go out for a bit to find the Knight’s bus and Potter’s Place in Godric’s Hollow, the Privet Drive and the Hogwart’s Bridge all sprinkled with some snow. Such fun! 🙂 The Goblins was one more thing that surprised me. How much work has gone into their makeup and I didn’t know that Warwick Davies played two Goblins apart from being Professor Flitwick. Interesting. Since we didn’t take a break at all and didn’t linger too much on the things which are more catered to be more interactive with kids (where kids could practice their spells for the battle, or do the Yule Ball steps, etc. etc.) we kind of completed the tour in about 2 hours and 15 mins or so. But by the time we browsed the shop towards the end and bought a souvenir and came out to the Food Hall our legs couldn’t hold us up.

If you like Harry Potter this is a definite must-see place. Makes you appreciate the effort that has gone into the movie more and also the effect of a series on a whole generation (or two). I am glad that I belong to the generation of Harry Potters (not necessary grew up on it, but was there to see it grow into a phenomenon). Also, it would be wise to stay after the trip (unlike us who had to drive all the way back to Swansea afterwards) as the tour can be tiring. And they have a food place (apart from a Starbucks and a Frog’s cafe which sells amazing milkshakes) inside the studio which we weren’t aware of. If we had known then we might not have stopped off at Watford (and then I might have missed my dosa!!!).

I am glad we started this year with this tour. I truly enjoyed it. Here are a few photographs from the tour.

In retrospective (how cliché!)

I have already spoken about my journeys this year as part of the weekly photography challenge. So I thought, why not talk about other stuff.

WordPress: I wrote ~260 posts this year on this blog. Fewer posts since August but then I have tried and kept my weekly posts as much as possible.

Instagram: I posted ~215 photos on my Instagram. The number might have increased since last year, but that might be because I compensated my lack of blogging by photo blogging in Instagram 🙂

Goodreads: 108 books recorded (which is less than last year but given my current work conditions I do take a very long time to read one book especially during school days) I also moved my Amazon’s Kindle Unlimited account from US to the one in the UK because payment was becoming an issue and I couldn’t get hold of any local novels that I find in some of the shops around here.

TV/Movies: Didn’t watch many movies except for the odd ones here and there. We recently watched Star Wars: The Last Jedi. We did complete a couple of series which we miss so dearly. Inspector George Gently & New Tricks were our favourites. A Touch of Frost is coming very close to the end. We miss the old group in Are you being served? The ones from Season 8 is alright, but they do miss something from the earlier seasons.

Apart from those, well, I moved to this new country, got my residence card, quit my 13-year job and an 18+-year-old career, moved to my favourite career of Teaching, gave up my Zumba creds (can no longer teach Zumba), travelled to a new city (Padua), missed a friend’s wedding in India and she eventually moved to the US, enjoyed my snow for a couple of days and so on and so forth. Too many things crammed in a year. All exciting and leading the way to another hopeful year.

I am not going to talk about all the other news items that have happened over the year because those have been talked about everywhere. All I wish is that people be more sensible in terms of their own self and that of others, be more hopeful, be more truthful, be more supportive, be more considerate, and be healthier in the years to come.

Wishing you all a very Happy and a Healthy New Year.

 

WftPoftA

When we went to the Odeon Cinemas, the self-service Ticketing machine shows the above as the movie title and it took a while for me to figure it out.  I was worried if the movie, War for the Planet of the Apes, was already out of that cinema given that it wasn’t even a week since it was released. Seriously, can’t they just have it as Planet of the Apes – 3 in case the title was too long?

Mr M hadn’t watched any of the prequels so I had to fill in him on the happenings of the previous movies even before we went in. But I needn’t have bothered because they give you a brief two line synopsis along with the name of the movies. That was clever. And from there the story starts. There is never a dull moment. Humour relief is brought by one new introduction, who introduces himself as the ‘bad monkey’. It is like the life comes a full circle in this movie. I thoroughly enjoyed it. I ain’t going too much into the story because it might spoil it for you. The Colonel’s story line is such that you find yourself thinking if he is right as does Caesar.  Titbits that include the current situation like ‘the wall’ finds its way into the movie which is also very clever. You know that it will have its own cliche moments. But that is acceptable. That is what this movie was all about. But it does have its own twists and turns.

Mr M also enjoyed the movie even though he thought it a little weird (having seen the old Planet of the Apes movies) but at least it kept him awake and indulged and that is a big plus 😉

All in all, a very enjoyable and a technically very well done movie. Andy Serkis has done a brilliant job. I sincerely hope that they stop the sequel or prequel to this saga here and now. Do not want to corrupt a nice series and dilute the strength of the story and its characters.

Now for some books and movie

I think it is time for some books and movies in this blog. Been a while since I wrote about any of them. Last month I read a book called “The Sound of Rain” by Gregg Olsen. I absolutely loved it. I did an all nighter which Mr M wasn’t very happy about. But then I did not have an option. I was so involved in the book I just couldn’t keep it down. I had to finish it off else I wouldn’t get any sleep. But then I did finish it off and ended up not getting any sleep 😀 There were twists and turns until the very end. Drove me doolally (a word I learnt from Mr M) for a bit and surprised me at the end.

After that, I ended up going through some romance novels because I had to relax and not strain myself by missing more sleep. But when I travelled to India, I was already jet lagged and with so much work that was pending, sleep was something that was foreign to me for a couple of days. So I decided to pick up another one that was on my kindle library and decided to use my sleepless nights to finish it off. This one was called “The Sixth Window” by Rachel Abbott. Good that I picked it up during my sleepless nights. Otherwise, I would have had to do one. Another gripping tale. A little bit more disturbing than the other one and scarier too in terms of child abuse and stuff like that. But the culprit was again someone I had least expected. These two books surprised me that way. After reading so many mystery books and watching such series you tend to think a little bit in those terms and usually, I am at least 70% correct with the guesses. These two threw me for a loop.

I would definitely recommend these two if you like mysteries. Now to the movie of the week. Bahubali 2. There is a lot of controversy going on with this one. It is a sequel to Bahubali. I liked the first one too (except for the heroine) and that ended in a cliff hanger. This one tells you the back story (which takes up most of the screen space) and how the story concludes. We know that the good triumphs over the evil in these historical dramas. So it is not the end that is the surprise. It is the how and why. It was close to 3 hours or so, but I wasn’t bored. I like to see such pure masala entertainment now and then. The graphics in this movie was amazing. I absolutely loved it. Wasn’t too cheesy. It was more dreamlike. Storywise it isn’t anything different from what we see in many other movies. Except that it has some historical background to it and all the grandeur attached to it. The songs were picturized very well. If only the dialogues in many places weren’t dubbed in Tamil from Telugu it would have been brilliant. I hate watching dubbed movies or scenes. Anushka was good in her acting and so was Ramya Krishnan. I was glad that I could enjoy it with my family members and the kids enjoyed it too (even though my nephew became too emotional when Bahubali gets killed – it isn’t a spoiler alert. We know he gets killed even in the first movie)

Entertainments galore

We are nearing the end of Inspector Lewis. Already on to our 9th season. Wonder what we will do after it is over. Mr. M is already having some withdrawal symptoms 😉 And surprises in Death in Paradise. Out goes Humphrey and in comes, Jack Mooney, played by the Irish actor Ardal O’Hanlon (Mr. M tells me he is from Father Ted…I have seen only two episodes of it so far…so couldn’t really place him). I am sure lot of us would be feeling a bit weird about it, but the transition was smooth, unlike the last time when Humphrey was pulled in because Poole (played by Ben Miller) died. That was a huge change. But I am enjoying Mr. Mooney as I did the other two. Common Sense, a BBC series where a select people from the public all over the UK discuss the weekly happenings, is another series that we are watching regularly. This is very different from the others as this involves real people and how they feel about important issues that were in the news every week. They are really very funny and honest. I like the butcher couple a lot. I am still keeping a tab on Taboo, with all its gory and blood and grime.

Watched a couple of very good movies. Old ones but golden ones, I should say. The first one was 12 Angry Men. If you haven’t watched it, and if you like crime drama, you should try it. 12 jury members of a murder trial are the main characters in this movie. They are sent to discuss the fate of a young boy who was accused of killing his father. They reconstruct the whole story piece by piece. It is a very interesting screenplay. You start with a mindset and slowly and steadily each one’s motives for their decision is questioned. I really enjoyed the movie.

And yesterday we managed to catch up on To Kill a Mockingbird. I haven’t read the book, wasn’t really sure if I would like it. But I enjoyed the movie. I don’t have to tell you much about it because I am sure it is one of the must-see movies of all times. And I am sure it makes sense even in this day and age. Gregory Peck is amazing. If you haven’t watched it either, give it a try.

Another 3-hour long movie we watched a while ago was A Passage to India. Again, I haven’t read the book, but the movie was nonetheless different and managed to hold my attention for all of those three hours. I am not sure I would have had the patience to read the book. But the dynamics of the varied characters are quite intriguing in this one. It could have had some editing done to it, but then the character’s depth would have taken a beating.

We also had been to a couple of museums. Will get around to copying those photographs sometime next week. I am being lazy over the weekend and not participating in the weekend prompts as of now. I hope to get back to it soon. Until then, I do hope you enjoy my photographs and random TV and Movie updates. And I could definitely use another extra day for the weekend. Don’t you? 😉