Saturday, 31 March 2012

Today's Review: Alvin And The Chipmunks: Chipwrecked

Yay, it's the inevitable return of your favourite obnoxious, high pitched, noughties defiled 80s superstars. Not content with scraping buttloads of cash from the wallets of parents the first two times, Chipwrecked is here to completely clear you out and destroy your soul.

This time, the chipmunks (and Chippettes) are on vacation, which is a perfect set up to leaving them abandoned on an island, because everyone knows that's the next logical step when you run out of ideas. There they meet a crazy lady, who besides giving a pretty decent nod to Castaway adds little value to the plot, and get bitten by spiders and have their personalities drastically changed. So hey, I guess they ran out of ideas within the constraints of the characters too. All the while Jason Lee and David Cross in a chicken suit wander around bickering like they don't actually have enough talent to be in anything else. I know it's not true guys. Just say no next time.

So yes, it's fair to say I didn't overly enjoy this movie. But I guess it was bearable. While recent pop hits are belted out in annoying high pitched tones all over the place, the snippets are relatively short compared to the torturous songs of the other two movies. Not that there's much good stuff brought in to replace it. Chipwrecked is just another shameless cash in on a franchise that probably should've been left alone in the first place. But if your kids do push you into watching it, there certainly are worst things out there. Just not too many.

My rating: 1/5

Friday, 30 March 2012

Today's Review: Swinging With The Finkels

Ellie and Alvin Finkel (Mandy Moore and Martin Freeman) have been married for a while now, and the passion in the bedroom has worn off a bit. So to try and fix things they decide that swinging might help to reignite the spark in their marriage. For some reason.

You see all those odd characters there in the poster? They're all pretty much shown during one five minute segment of the movie, and then never seen again. It seems like someone had the idea of having a crazy cast of characters be present during an interview process for swinging, and decided to tack a whole bunch of other stuff on there and call it a romantic comedy. Don't get me wrong, there are some funny scenes throughout, and Freeman and Moore do a good job with what they're given, but the problem is they're not given much. The only thing that sets it apart from other romantic comedies is the aforementioned quirky characters, but they're brushed aside before you can say "tired cliché relationship drama", which is exactly what you're confronted with instead. The idea of the whole swinging aspect is what led me to think this movie might be different, but in reality it's just the same old mediocre story with a little extra scene thrown into the middle. Quite disappointing.

My rating: 2/5

Thursday, 29 March 2012

Today's Review: Breaking Wind... Part 1?

This was a definite rent for me, from the moment I saw the cover. I just needed to see how bad it could possibly be. After all, this isn't the kind of dependable awful spoof from the Meet The Spartans and Epic Movie guys. This is from relative unknowns, so who knows how utterly disastrous it can be?

The first fart joke is a minute and a half in. Of course, that's if you don't count the fact that the title is a fart joke. This has to be the most utterly lazy spoof movie I've ever had the displeasure of watching, and that's saying something after Meet The Spartans and their "let's stretch a single joke out for 10 minutes". This movie just makes no damn sense. There are several attempts to parody scenes from every Twilight movie, but it seems like that was the only idea they had, and when they got to actually trying to write the funny part they said "Pssht, I dunno, put a fart here and an ejaculation there, we're done".

Jacob is fat for some reason, the Cullens (or Colons, HA! see what they did there?) have miniature versions of themselves, for no reason. There's a gigantic battle scene recreation involving Na'vi and several characters portrayed by Johnny Depp, for no reason. The whole thing is a complete mess. I don't think I can really write about it anymore, every time I try and recall scenes it just makes me sad. Do not watch this movie, it will only encourage them to make more. Thankfully there are people like me who can see it for free and warn the population of Earth about what horrors await. Just don't. It's bad. It's so bad.

My rating: 0/5

Wednesday, 28 March 2012

Today's Review: Another Earth

By the sound of Another Earth, I was expecting a pretty awesome sci-fi movie. What I got was slightly different.

Brit Marling stars as Rhoda, a young woman dedicated to spending her life studying the stars. One night while out driving she hears news on the radio of a new planet within visible range of Earth, but while she is distracted looking for it she crashes into another car, killing a woman and child and putting a man in hospital. Four years later she is released from prison, to find news that the other planet is in fact a mirror of Earth, and that one lucky person will be sent to see what life is like on Earth 2. In an attempt to apologise to the man whose life she ruined, former professor John Burroughs (William Mapother), Rhoda finds herself pretending to be a cleaner, and begins to see the effect that she has on the man's life. With Earth 2 looming in the sky, Rhoda can't help but wonder if things are different in her parallel life.

Another Earth isn't so much a sci-fi movie as it is a drama with an ever-present scientific backdrop. The main focus is on the relationship between Rhoda and John, with Earth 2 always looming in the sky, a possibility that if different choices were made then our lives can be different. But that's just the thing. It's all implied. There are brief mentions on news reports about the similarities, and at which point the two worlds' paths changed, but the big reveal or twist you're expecting doesn't really happen. Of course there are developments, and there is an ending, but it's all very ambiguous. While there are many different theories behind it that are very interesting, it would be nice to have perhaps a little more spelled out so that some kind of informed conclusion could be reached rather than guesswork.

Still, the leading couple are pretty damn good in their roles. I was so drawn in to the developing relationship between the two that I didn't mind so much about the lack of sci-fi elements throughout. It reminded me in a way of Melancholia, in the fact that the main focus was the study of how people act in different circumstances, with a foreboding extraterrestrial presence driving the story along and inspiring thought processes.

Another Earth is very much a film that makes you think. The characters are very well rounded and performed nicely, and there's enough ambiguity to promote some interesting theories about the events that unfold. But in that same respect it doesn't feel polished enough, I felt there was a lot more that could have been done with the sci-fi elements to really make this stand out, but it fell a little bit flat in the continuing focus on just the two main characters.

My rating: 3/5

Tuesday, 27 March 2012

Today's Review: The Front Page Of The Daily Mirror Today

I don't know Daily Mirror, I imagine we live in the same world as always. One that's mostly okay but permeated with a few dicks and evil people. What kind of world do we live in where children all around the world are shot and trafficked for sex? The same one we've lived in for hundreds of years now. Except now we have sensationalist media profiting from tracking down the next monster to crucify.

Don't get me wrong with my liberal speech, it is a tragic thing, and it's good it's being reported, but it's not like they meant to shoot the girl. But gang shootings happen everywhere, and much worse in other countries. I can only imagine this article will lead to many complaining about the state of Britain today, and that inevitably leads to blaming immigrants for everything going wrong. That is the kind of world we live in.

My rating: 2/5

Monday, 26 March 2012

Today's Review: Hugo

Hugo (Asa Butterfield) is an orphan boy who lives in a train station in France, maintaining the clocks behind the scenes. Every once in a while he pops out to steal some food, avoiding the watchful eye of the station inspector, Gustave (Sacha Baron Cohen). The only thing that remains to remind Hugo of his father is a run down automaton, for which Hugo also sneaks out to steal parts. After being caught by the station's toymaker, Georges (Ben Kingsley), Hugo starts a journey to understand what connection there might be between this grumpy old man and the machine he is working on, with the assistance of Georges' goddaughter, Isabelle (Chloë Moretz).

Hugo is a lovely fantasy film. Scorsese has created some excellent set pieces with the station itself and the tunnels and clockwork behind the scenes. The characters are wonderfully realised as well, with Hugo's piercing blue eyes reflecting his innocence, and Inspector Gustave's leg brace making him both menacing and comedic. Every character who seems to be evil at first at least have some hint of humanity in them, a troubled past that they are keen to suppress, but in the end there is resolution and everything is wrapped up very nicely.

There are some great performances in this movie. Kingsley and Moretz are great as usual, and even Baron Cohen proves how far he has come from his over the top roles. He still puts on a funny accent, but the way he copes with the character's struggles is very believable. The casting is just great overall and everyone just seems to fit in perfectly with their fantastical surroundings.

All in all, Hugo is just very well made. Scorsese has used his talents to great effect to create a wonderful family film, with great set pieces, wonderful casting and great 3D and visual effects. 

My rating: 5/5

Sunday, 25 March 2012

Today's Review: The Thing

I must admit, I hadn't watched the original version of The Thing until this week. Shame on me. But I thought it would make sense to watch that before this one, even though it is a prequel. Well, technically speaking.

The Thing (2011) is pretty much the same story as The Thing (1982). Sure, it explores the origin of the alien some more, but the rest of the movie plays out the same. Alien is discovered, it does some freaky stuff, absorbs some people, and the entire Arctic team spent the rest of the movie distrusting each other, because any one of them could have been replaced. It pretty much goes through the same stages as the original, so while it is being sold as a prequel, it really is a remake that tacks onto the original in the end. Pretty sneaky, Hollywood.

This time around there's some female company though, in the form of the lead played by Mary Elizabeth Winstead. Although it destroyed my purist Ramona Flowers image of her, she does a pretty good job in The Thing, from coolly and scientifically working through ways to identify who's been replicated to completely losing her shit the next minute.

Effects are so so. Of course it had to be gory to live up to the original, but the CGI is clearly not up to scratch in some places, and I was left thinking that John Carpenter's original effects actually looked a whole lot more gruesome, especially in terms of the blood spewing out whenever somebody's face pops open. In this movie it all just seems a bit too fake, despite how over the top they try to be.

Still, it's a good enough effort. For those who have never seen the original, it's a good enough introduction to the monster. If you actually watch them in the intended order, it can be one of those times where the sequel is better than the first, and probably one of the only times where the sequel is almost 30 years older than the first...

My rating: 3/5

Saturday, 24 March 2012

Today's Review: Happy Feet Two

I can't say I was a fan of the first Happy Feet. I did watch it once, but I don't remember much about it. But hey, that doesn't stop me passing judgement on the second one.

Happy Feet Two continues the story of Mumble (Elijah Wood), the penguin who just can't sing well and opts to tap dance instead. Why does it matter that a penguin can't sing well? Because all the damn penguins are always singing like some Arctic themed High School Musical. Anyway, after Mumble's son Erik gets embarrassed at not doing his dance moves too well, he runs away for a little bit and discovers another penguin colony headed by Sven (Hank Azaria), a penguin who can fly! (Spoiler, he's not a penguin.) After that pointless sidequest, Mumble catches up and returns with his son to their own colony, only to find that a giant glacier has moved in and trapped all the penguins. So now it's up to Mumble and Erik to enlist help to try and free their brethren. For the entire rest of the movie.

Yes, the plot is a little weak. After the initial introduction of the characters it's kind of like an episode of House but with penguins instead of doctors and a giant chunk of ice instead of disease. Does this work? Nope. How about this? Even worse. It all seems to drag along when the entire movie is focused on one plot point that I didn't really care about anyway. They try and punctuate the plot with some side story about a couple of existential Krill played by Matt Damon and Brad Pitt, but it's about as annoying as the whole Scrat thing in Ice Age.

Performances are as you'd expect nowadays in an animated kids movie. Among the (somewhat) respectable actors we find a random P!nk or Common, just thrown in to do some nice singing and attempt to launch their ill fated acting careers. I guess some of the songs are nicely arranged, but most of the time it's just annoying.

The only thing I can't really fault is the visuals. Individual snow flakes look awesome, and the fur on the penguins swirls around nicely as they pull off ridiculous dance moves. It's a very nice looking movie, and some of the action scenes are pretty nicely done, but all in all it just fails to deliver any kind of interesting plot. It'll keep the kids entertained, but it certainly ain't no Pixar.

My rating: 2/5

Friday, 23 March 2012

Today's Review: Four

A man hires a corrupt detective to kidnap his wife and her lover in order to teach them not to mess around behind his back. That's the basic premise of Four, a movie that takes place entirely in an abandoned warehouse on the night of the kidnapping, featuring only exchanges between the four characters. It could have been an original premise if there hadn't been a slew of these single room, small cast movies coming out lately, but can Four stand out on its own?

The first thing that I thought, even by looking at the cover, is that Four would be very much like 44 Inch Chest, a Ray Winstone flick from a couple of years back. I found that to be a garbled, boring mess though, so Four was actually quite a nice change from that. The performances are solid, with each character switching from calm and collected to full on rage at several points during the movie. The conversations are quite sharp and witty and each actor greatly portrays their anger and frustration at the events unfolding throughout.

So yes, the acting is good, the location is spooky and desolate and nicely matches the plot, but the problem is in fact with the plot itself. There's a constant sense of unease building up through the first half of the movie. It feels like not all is going to go smoothly, as evidenced by the movie's tagline. But when the inevitable twists do start happening they just seem to fall flat and the end of the movie left me feeling that it didn't really go anywhere. I hazarded a guess at a few possible outcomes as I was watching, but the actual result didn't strike a chord with me at all.

Perhaps I'd just built my expectations too high, but while the performances are sound, Four just seems like a bit of a mess of an unfinished movie. Still, it's better than 44 Inch Chest.

My rating: 2/5

Thursday, 22 March 2012

Today's Review: Llama's: Sweet Chilli Flavour

At a loss for what to review today, I looked down the biscuit aisle at Tesco hoping something would leap out at me.

Yeah, that'll do it.

Llama's are a new snack food, I think, and a snack food with a story. Apparently there's a llama somewhere who emigrated to the UK and found all their snack food to be bland. So, being the resourceful llama that he is, he created his own snack food range with interesting flavours, with his hooves apparently. How they got past health and safety checks I don't know, but there's one thing that makes up for all of that.

They're shaped like llamas! How cute. So forget about the logistics of a spitting mammal setting up his own snack food business and tuck in.

Llama's biscuits are actually pretty nice. If I had to make a comparison, I'd say they are the UK equivalent of Goldfish crackers, yet another US food that has been unfairly held close to home. The flavour is good, though not too overwhelming, and gives way to the baked wheaty texture of the biscuit itself, which I love. The biscuits are pretty small, so it's easy to mutilate tens of tiny llamas in one session, but I guess that's just a testament to their tastiness. So go and get some of this quirky snack food. I don't know how long they'll be around for.

My rating: 5/5

Wednesday, 21 March 2012

Today's Review: Mass Effect 3

Yay, it's a game I have fully completed before it became too old. But of course it is, it's Mass Effect. Since I bought the first one many years ago I have been hooked on the story, characters and morality and decision choices.

Mass Effect 3 bring the conclusion to quite an epic end, with the invasion of the Reapers that was foretold throughout the first two entries happening within a few minutes of starting the game. While watching the massive aliens descend to Earth and begin to obliterate everything in sight, you once again play Commander Shepard as he escapes on board the Normandy. With Earth falling, it is up to you to travel to the far reaches of the galaxy to bring together the different species and war assets needed to bring the fight back to Earth and finally stop the reapers. But with the same thing happening all over the galaxy, how easy will it be to win allegiances and get everyone to get along nicely?

The answer is not very. There are a couple of really big decisions to make that affect the narrative a hell of a lot more than they have in the other games. Sometimes it comes down to offending an entire species to have your way, and it's up to you to weigh the consequences and how they can affect your readiness for the impending final battle. Missions are a lot more detailed than in the previous instalments, although there are fewer than before, and a lot of old faces will be popping up to assist you in your fight against the reapers, and also Cerberus agents with a shady agenda.

As always, Mass Effect 3 rewards exploration, mostly through the planet scanning minigame. While it certainly isn't as involved as in the first game, it significantly improves upon the resource hunting seen in Mass Effect 2. There's a progress bar for each galaxy you enter, so you know when you've found everything that will help you. Everything you find, and every allegiance you form will contribute to your overall readiness for the final battle, which in turn will affect the ending you get.

But therein the trouble lies. In order to obtain the "perfect" ending your readiness score needs to be very high, which involves either making perfect decisions throughout all three games and finding pretty much every hidden resource in this one, or by playing the online mode to raise the multiplier on your existing score. I'm not normally one to play multiplayer, but I found myself having to play for a few hours in order to get the score I needed to continue with the final mission, which really put a big stopper in my gameplay experience. Even so, the ending does leave something to be desired. There's plenty of anger flying around the internet regarding the endings, enough to provoke a response from Bioware themselves. While I do agree with some amount of what is being said, I didn't find the ending too bad, although perhaps more of a variation would have made things a lot better, and put some weight behind the decision making that is seen throughout the rest of the series.

But it's still the same Mass Effect. Combat is immersive and fluid, with the ability to chuck powers all over the place to dispatch foes. While at times you can get rushed by many strong enemies, there are certain methods that you'll learn to make their defeat easier. Still, there does seem to be an awful lot more combat than anything else, with most side missions being fetch quests for people on the Citadel. It can get a bit tedious at times, but the main missions and primary side quests are much improved over the previous titles, and that's where the meat of the gameplay lies, so it's not too bad.

Despite my unwillingness to play multiplayer on most occasions, I have to admit it isn't too bad. It plays much like Horde mode from Gear Of War, with several waves of enemies converging on you in several locations. You choose your class, complete with their own powers, and as a team of four you can work together to kill everything that moves, with three difficulty levels to mix things up. While it does get quite repetitive, I can't say I was overly bored while playing it, although I only did for a few hours.

Overall Mass Effect 3 is a strong finale to the series. The characters, gameplay and decision making all carry over very well, and I found myself very drawn in during the story, and quite shocked at the consequences of some of the decisions presented to me. Sure, it's not perfect, as many angry nerds around the internet will confirm, but I sure enjoyed the journey before the ending soured thing a bit for me. Hopefully Bioware can go some way to fixing it with their upcoming DLC, and being the series the ending(s) that it deserves.

My rating: 4/5

Tuesday, 20 March 2012

Today's Review: Cadbury's BiscBits: Rocky Road Flavour

I do like a nice Cadbury's biscuit. Their venture into Crunchie and Caramel biscuits a while ago were pretty damn nice, and now they have presented us with BiscBits, biscuit rings in various flavours. There's chocolate orange, mint chocolate and others, but I went for Rocky Road 'cause Rocky Road is just awesome.

Well, they're not truly Rocky Road. The back of the pack states they are "cherry, marshmallow and chocolate flavoured", so I guess I was a bit disappointed. Sure, they taste like Rocky Road, but the best thing about the real thing is the various textures that you get throughout. This is just a flavoured biscuit. Still, a good effort, you probably couldn't squeeze marshmallows and cherries into those tiny rings.

My rating: 4/5

Monday, 19 March 2012

Today's Review: Chocolate Philadelphia

People probably thought this was a little bit crazy, but I thought it was awesome. Chocolate cheesecake is amazing, so why would chocolate flavoured cheese spread not be great?

So yes, this is not your normal Philadelphia, it does indeed taste pretty much like chocolate cheesecake without the biscuit base. The cheesiness isn't so prominent, so it's mostly a nice creamy chocolate spread. It goes well in a sandwich though, and probably on most other things, because come on, it's chocolate cream cheese. If you haven't tried it yet, give it a go, it might not be around forever.

My rating: 5/5

Sunday, 18 March 2012

Today's Review: Lucozade Revive: Lemongrass Flavour

Woo, new energy drink. But this is one of those energy drinks that's trying to be healthy, rather than being all dark and edgy. So we have sensible flavours, like cranberry, and in this case lemongrass. I can't say I've ever tried lemongrass, but I figured it would taste the most like energy, so I got a bottle.

It does indeed taste like plants. Probably because it's made of plants. It's not as bad a taste as I thought it would be. Ever so slightly sour, but quite refreshing. It certainly doesn't provide as much raw energy as those energy drinks packed with taurine and caffeine, but drunk in small sips it kept me sustained at work where otherwise I may have collapsed in a demotivated heap. Certainly not the best energy drink I've had, but a good effort.

My rating: 4/5

Saturday, 17 March 2012

Today's Review: The Adventures Of Tintin: The Secret Of The Unicorn

I dabbled in Tintin when I was a boy, but I can't say I was a fanatic. My heart lay with Asterix, as my year 5 teacher recommended them to me. Still, Tintin was always a good read, and I was quite excited when I found out this movie was being made. Even more so when I found out it was written by Steven Moffat, Edgar Wright and Joe Cornish. Oh baby.

The Secret Of The Unicorn is an adaptation of a few books in the series. I may have read them but I certainly don't remember them too much. Jamie Bell plays Tintin, a young reporter who gets tangled up in an adventure to find a lost treasure, teaming up with drunkard sailor Captain Haddock (Andy Serkis) in a race to find clues against the nefarious Ivan Sakharine (Daniel Craig).

This movie is indeed computer animated, but uses the motion capture technology seen in many movies recently to full effect. The character animations are absolutely stunning, details and facial expressions are perfect, and if I wasn't paying full attention and happened to glance up at the screen, for a split second I thought the people I was looking at were real. The set pieces are astonishing too, especially the water and fire effects that pop up throughout. This certainly is a beautiful movie.

There is also a whole lot of action crammed in. While it sounds like cramming three books into one movie could make it feel a bit rushed, I found the pace to be just right. There are enough calm parts that serve to advance the plot, but they're not around for long before an action scene takes place. These are all beautifully choreographed and executed. There are plane rides, car chases, sword fights, and a sea battle that even puts Pirates Of The Caribbean to shame. These action scenes are where the movie shines, but the story and dialogue written by some of Britain's finest really pull it all together.

The performances are great too. Obviously due to the motion capture technology the actors' facial expressions are carried into the film, and the emotions portrayed are great. Serkis does an excellent job as the rowdy sea captain, screaming and thrashing around like there's no tomorrow. Smaller roles from Simon Pegg and Nick Frost as Thomson and Thompson are also wonderfully done.

The Secret Of The Unicorn is a great movie. I'm trying to think of some faults but I find myself coming up short. It looks great, has great performances and action sequences, and is all wound up with some wonderful music. There seem to be a lot of people in the industry nowadays who are doing a great job of revitalising franchises with some really good movies. I just hope they can carry on.

My rating: 5/5

Friday, 16 March 2012

Today's Review: Greggs' Blueberry Burst Doughnut

I can't resist a good doughnut, especially when it's new and a different flavour. So heading into Greggs for a bottle of water, I couldn't help leaving with one of these.

Mmm, blueberry striped frosting. The doughnut itself is a soft as ever, and the extra kick in the frosting gives it a nice edge. But then you get to the middle, and it all gets better.

A big ol' dollop of blueberry jam. It's smooth, tangy, and while it doesn't quite taste of all natural blueberries, it's certainly welcome in the middle of this doughnut. So give this one a try if you're ever passing by a Greggs. It's pretty damn good.

My rating: 5/5

Thursday, 15 March 2012

Today's Review: Mini Eggs

Well, Easter is upon us. Actually, if you believe the supermarkets, Easter has been upon us since Christmas. Having Easter products on sale so early often enrages people for no good reason, but to me it's all good, because as much as I loathe limited seasonal products, I can't help but love Mini Eggs.

I don't know what it is about them. It's just Cadbury chocolate inside, which is always good, but the only difference is the hard sugary shell on the outside. Kind of like the shell on Smarties, but slightly harder. Somehow the combination just makes it all amazing. Perhaps it's the increased chocolate to shell ratio compared to Smarties, but biting into one of these is both crunchy and satisfyingly chocolatey. Forget Creme Eggs, Mini Eggs are what Easter's all about,

My rating: 5/5

Wednesday, 14 March 2012

Today's Review: Poundland's Instant Cupcake

I could tell this was special just by looking at it. It's got a space on the top for you top add "To..." and "From..." names. This instant cupcake is the gift that says "I care about you so much that I thought this Poundland item would be an acceptable gift, and it also demonstrates my complete lack of faith in your cooking ability". Forget about adding eggs to your Betty Crocker mix and sticking it in the oven for an undetermined amount of time, all this baby needs is 30ml of water and a minute in the microwave. When I'd added the water and mixed it all up, it did smell suspiciously like custard instead of cake mix, but I pressed on. As in the "on" button on the microwave. Ha, I'm witty.

Here's the end result. I wouldn't say it was quite the conventional cupcake, but since it is in a cup I can't argue with their use of terminology. The casing suggests you top it off with some cream or frosting, presumably so they can cover up the vast lack of cake that takes up the top part of the cup. But I'm not here to review frosting, I know I can make good frosting. The question is, what does the cake taste like?

Actually, I was pleasantly surprised. Sure, it's not the best, most succulent cake in the world, but for something I literally poured some water in and nuked for a minute it tasted pretty nice. I was prepared to make a joke about the cup doubling as a receptacle for the puke that results from eating the cake, but now I can't. Even though I just mentioned it. But yeah, pretty nice cake, considering the circumstances. It just goes to show. You should never judge a cake by its shoddy packaging.

My rating: 4/5

Tuesday, 13 March 2012

Today's Review: Justice

Yeah, also known as "Seeking Justice" in America, where it's not even out yet. Our title is way more catchy though.

Justice stars relatively unknown actor Nicholas Cage as Will, a man whose life is turned upside down when his wife is attacked and raped by an unknown assailant. While waiting in the hospital for news of her condition, and clearly distraught, he is approached by a man named Simon (Guy Pearce), who says he represents an organisation that can take care of the perpetrator in exchange for a favour in the future. Will obviously agrees, and justice is swiftly brought down. But later on, when it becomes time for Will to keep up his end of the bargain, he finds himself thrown into a deadly situation in which no one can be trusted.

Justice has a pretty good concept, and for the most part pulls it off pretty well. The shady organisation has all the cool hallmarks. We've got shady meetings, code phrases, undercover operatives, it all seems pretty nicely organised. They even apparently have sponsorships from several snack food companies, because almost every instruction Will receives entails him purchasing a candy bar or some gum. Anyway, the suspense is pretty nicely sustained throughout the movie, and twists and turns pop up all the time. 

The only gripe I have is that with everything building up to a great conclusion, it's not what's delivered. Sure, there's an ending, but with all the build up the final scenes feel a little bit rushed. Still, it's as much about the journey as it is the destination, and there are some nice scenes throughout that make Justice a pretty good action movie. 

Nicholas Cage is his normal self, shouting at things in a confused manner. But I guess that fits Will's character quite nicely, so perhaps Cage is the best casting choice. The rest of the cast are okay, not really anything special, but we're not here for award winning performances, we're here for thrills and action, and Justice certainly delivers on that.

Justice is far from perfect, but it's a well rounded thriller with a neat concept. Perhaps with a little more tweaking round the edges of the plot it could have been a lot better.

My rating: 3/5

Monday, 12 March 2012

Today's Review: Crispy Crunch Rocky

I do love a good Rocky bar from time to time. They're crunchy and tasty, even though they're so small that often one is never enough. I've always gone for the original red variety, but today my eye was drawn to this flavour, one that I'd never seen before. Rockys by themselves are pretty crunchy, but with this one it's in the name. How does it stack up?

Not too well really. As soon as I bit into it something was up. There was no crunch, just some kind of soft squidge as my teeth sank into the wafer inside. Yes, the awesome biscuit that exists inside the original Rocky is gone, replaced by plain old ordinary wafer. I guess it tastes okay, but it's nothing like I was expecting, and compared to the original and best it's just a little disappointing.

My rating: 2/5

Sunday, 11 March 2012

Today's Review: Adverts Featuring An Ensemble Of Regular People Singing

There seems to have been an epidemic of these things lately. On the way home yesterday I was treated to a radio ad for Morrisons, a supermarket chain, in which several "regular joes" participated in a singalong to a well known tune. I can't quite remember what it was, I was just spending the time wondering why on earth being forced to listen to people singing would make me want to go and buy my groceries from a particular chain.

It started out innocently enough. These mass singalongs had purpose, they brought people together to convey a message about the product or company. Here, for example, is a T Mobile produced singalong flash mob to promote the togetherness that the network can provide:

But apparently that ad fared quite well, because before long everyone was doing it, regardless of the message they were trying to convey. We have endless ads featuring regular people crowding together to go to places, singing feel good songs and trying to inspire us to buy products through a sense of national togetherness. Well, I ain't buying it. Sure, a bit of patriotism isn't a bad thing, but that doesn't mean I feel a sense of national pride when I hear a bunch of members of the public brutalising an otherwise good song by singing it segmented and off key. Here's the latest in the line of wonderful singalong ads, released by Cadbury to "inspire" our athletes in the Olympics. I was stuck watching this in front of a video on the internet, and the damn thing was longer than the video I wants to watch:

Isn't that just great? A bunch of people screeching into microphones at radio stations as if people are actually encouraging this. If I were a British athlete and woke up to that noise in the early morning, I'd throw my event at the games, and when they asked me what went wrong in the interview afterwards, I'd lay the blame solely on Cadbury and their stupid advertising.

Call me an unpatriotic jerk all you want, but if these people were on The X Factor we'd be laughing them off the stage. Just stop this madness, people. Hearing regular people screeching on TV will not inspire me to buy your product.

My rating: 0/5

Saturday, 10 March 2012

Today's Review: The Help

The Help is a drama based in civil rights era America. Skeeter (Emma Stone), a girl who has just graduated college and returned home to become a journalist, is horrified to discover that the maid who pretty much raised her has left the family household, and that her former school friends have all settled down, had children, and hired their own black maids to do all the menial chores that are beneath them, including looking after their own children. The most notably racist of the women of the town is Hilly (Bryce Dallas Howard), who is attempting to build separate outdoors bathrooms for the help so that their "diseases" can't be spread to the decent white folk. Skeeter is horrified by the treatment of the black women, so decides to write a book filled with testimonials from the maids, and after some reluctance, two women named Aibileen and Minny (Viola Davis and Olivia Spencer) agree to contribute.

The Help is a great movie. I could pretty much tell it would be from the trailers alone, seeing as I have a soft spot for historical dramas these days. Still, it could have disappointed me, and it did not. Every performance is outstanding. Davis and Spencer shine as the oppressed ladies trying to get their side of the story heard, and Dallas Howard absolutely drips with evil, she makes me want to punch her in the face even though she's a girl. There are some really deep moments throughout this movie, it hits quite hard, especially as you realise that not more than 50 years ago this kind of thing was common place. There are some great comedic and inspirational moments throughout too, so The Help is kind of a rollercoaster ride. There's a great story running through the movie concerning a chocolate pie, and a very touching side plot involving Minny's new employer after she falls out with Hilly.

I can't find much fault with The Help. It's easy to see why it got a best picture nod at the Oscars. Despite it being almost two and a half hours long I really got absorbed, and it held my interest to the end. You'll laugh, you'll cry, you'll want to punch evil girls in the face.

My rating: 5/5

Friday, 9 March 2012

Today's Review: Twilight: Breaking Dawn Part 1

Hooray, it's that time again. All the old gang are back. We've got Bella, the pale emo girl who never smiles, Edward, the pale whiny vampire, and Jacob, the surprisingly bronzed guy who turns into a wolf when he gets pissed off. Bella and Edward become happily married in Breaking Dawn, ushering in a whole new life of being happy and carefree togeth... Oh wait, Bella gets knocked up with a vampire baby that starts to kill her from the inside.

Not much more to say about the plot, because that's it. I don't see why they split this final book into two movies. Oh wait, yes I do, it's so they can drag out the franchise and get twice as much money. But still, Breaking Dawn Part 1 is quite an uneventful movie. Sure, there are the suspenseful scenes near the end, and it does get quite interesting then, but the first half is taken up by slow motion airy romantic scenes that didn't really get me anywhere near emotional because Bella NEVER smiles. She just seems to drift along accepting whatever happens to her.

I guess that's part of Bella's character, but I can't be too sure. I think I've seen Kristen Stewart exhibit emotion in other movies, but her portrayal of Bella is so dull I'm beginning to wonder if the character is just emotionally mentally damaged. The other performances are a little better, but Robert Pattinson just does his broody pale guy thing scowling in the corner, while Taylor Lautner just sneers a lot while showing off his pecs.

Perhaps I'm being too harsh, but this is definitely my second least favourite movie in the franchise. New Moon was the worst purely because half of it was just Bella crying. They did do somethings quite well in Breaking Dawn Part 1. When Bella starts to deteriorate due to vampire baby, whoever was in charge of her make-up and digital body work did a damn good job, she looks like a near-dead drug addict. In fact, all the effects are pretty nice, and the movie does look pretty damn good in some places. It's just a shame that the story and cast are so slow and bland. Oh well, one more movie and it's all over.

My rating: 2/5

Thursday, 8 March 2012

Today's Review: 50/50

Is cancer funny? Pretty much no. Can it be portrayed in a semi-heartwarming and humorous way? Sure, there are plenty of dramatic comedies dealing with disease and death where people accept their fates and begin making wisecracks.

50/50 stars Joseph Gordon-Levitt as Adam, a guy who finds out he has a rare form of spinal cancer and has a 50% chance of survival. Understandably he's not too happy with that, but with his best friend Kyle (Seth Rogen) in tow he starts to undergo his treatment, forming new relationships, severing others, and strengthening old ones along the way.

I'd heard good things about this movie. I was expecting it to be quite groundbreaking in that it actually sounded like I was going to laugh my ass off at a movie about cancer. That wasn't quite the case, which may be a good thing, because I might have looked like a monster. 50/50 is one of those dramatic comedies that mostly focuses on the disease itself, the things it can do to relationships, and quirky observances that happen along the way. There's not too much of the vulgar, witty humour that I'm used to seeing coming out of Seth Rogen's mouth, it's all quite a calm and understated affair.

I think that's where the main problem lies. 50/50 is quite a slow paced movie. Sure, things happen, and treatment for cancer can be a drawn out process, but I did find myself losing interest at several points throughout. Thankfully Joseph Gordon-Levitt is as excellent as he always is, and he managed to keep me engaged long enough to finish it. There are strong performances from the rest of the cast too, but the slow plot doesn't help them really exhibit their best characteristics. 50/50 is certainly not a bad movie, but I think I was just expecting too much from it. It's still a heartwarming, realistic drama, but the comedy element that has been much touted really isn't all that present.

My rating: 3/5

Wednesday, 7 March 2012

Today's Review: The Awakening

The Awakening is a horror set in the early 1920s. Rebecca Hall stars as Florence, a woman who has devoted her life to exposing supposed ghost sightings and savants as fakes. When a man named Robert (Dominic West) shows up and states he has a case of a real ghost haunting the boarding school he works at, Florence is intrigued. After seemingly getting to the root of the problem in a matter of days, it starts to become clear that not everything is as it seems, and there is certainly some presence in the school, with interest in Florence.

The Awakening is quite a slow burner. It takes a while to start out, and even then it plods along slightly. But it's very deliberately done in order to keep up the confusion and suspense. There's great imagery all over the place, and clues that point towards the ending. Not that they ruin anything, but when you look back at the events of the film after watching, everything falls into place. It's very well put together, although not overly scary. There are a few good jump scares, yes, but most of the effort is put into creating a constant sense of unease.

Pretty much everyone in The Awakening is fantastic. Rebecca Hall does an outstanding job going from confident hoax exposer to quivering wreck, and West takes on a great lead male role. The children are all pretty convincing too, and only help to add to the atmosphere of the movie, especially one boy by the name of Tom (Isaac Hempstead Wright).

If you're after a good horror, The Awakening is definitely one to go for. It's not an outright crap your pants scare fest, but it's a deeply thought out and involved movie. It may be a bit slow at times, but the payoff is satisfying and will leave you thinking for a while.

My rating: 4/5

Tuesday, 6 March 2012

Today's Review: Monster Rehab

Holy crap, a new Monster! I always get excited over a new energy drink flavour, but this one sounded a little bit strange. "Tea + Still Lemonade + Energy", because "Energy" counts as a drink I guess. Apparently it's designed to both refresh and relax you, not sure how, but there you go. Perhaps that yellow is meant to be calming, but to me it looks a little obnoxious.

Truth is, it doesn't taste great. As I've stated before, the energy drinks that are more effective for me are the ones that actually taste like energy drinks. This one does taste a bit like lemonade, but quite cloudy, and the other shit that's thrown in there doesn't make it very refreshing. I managed to finish the can, and it wasn't too bad, but it didn't wake me up too much. I'll go with the regular Monster anyday.

My rating: 2/5

Monday, 5 March 2012

Today's Review: Anonymous

Anonymous seems to have crept up on me. I saw a few posters around when it came out in the cinema, but I'd completely forgotten about it until the DVD turned up. But I sure did look forward to watching it.

Anonymous harks back to the times of Shakespeare and the rule of Queen Elizabeth. The movie portrays a conspiracy theory of sorts, that states Shakespeare in fact did not write any of the plays attributed to him. In the midst of Elizabeth's unwillingness to name an heir to the throne, Edward deVere, Earl of Oxford (Rhys Ifans), pens many plays and hands them over to a little known struggling playwright, Ben Jonson, to perform. After one of the first showings sparks an uprising in the audience, Jonson is reluctant to claim authorship himself, leaving the glory free to be taken by William Shakespeare. The plays that de Vere writes are designed to skew the opinion of the public into backing the heir that de Vere wishes to take the throne, but will his plan go as smoothly as he wants?

The premise of Anonymous is quite excellent. Although there may be no proof whatsoever into the theory, it is very nicely integrated with the political turbulence of the time. There are some historical inaccuracies that have been pointed out on Wikipedia and the like, but in the name of entertainment the movie is a very good effort.

The only real problem I had with the movie is that fact that it jumps around a lot. Some of the action takes place in the time of Shakespeare's rising fame, while half shows the earlier life of de Vere, his prodigious talent for writing, and his relationship with Elizabeth. Many characters are introduced and the action often jumps backwards and forwards without warning, so if you're not paying attention it's quite easy to get lost.

Still, the plot is quite well rounded, and supported by some great performances. Ifans is wonderful in his role, though kudos as well to Jamie Campbell Bower, who plays the younger version of de Vere. While the plot may seem a bit awkward at times, the overall story and the well portrayed characters should keep your attention. I certainly enjoyed it.

My rating: 4/5

Sunday, 4 March 2012

Today's Review: The Rum Diary

The Rum Diary follows the story of Paul Kemp, played by Johnny Depp. After becoming fed up with America, he flies on down to Puerto Rico to write for a newspaper. After befriending a few oddballs and becoming quite taken with rum, he meets an enterprising businessman (Aaron Eckhart) who has a proposition that could do Kemp a lot of good. But with the rum making every day a little more wacky, it's not long before things start tearing at the seams.

The Rum Diary is quite a drawn out movie. It seems to lazily glide along with no real direction. I guess that's a reflection of the main character, but that's not really what I want to see in a movie. It's just a sequence of scenes in which Johnny Depp plays a drunk guy and gets into mishaps. Don't get me wrong, it's quite entertaining in places, especially in the middle when Kemp and his newspaper friend have some car trouble in the countryside. But at the end of it all the plot just kind of fizzles out, and I was left wondering if there was really much point.

But that doesn't mean The Rum Diary is bad, it just means there isn't a great amount of substance to it. There are some great performances in this movie, especially from Johnny Depp and Michale Rispoli. I was watching it in the early hours of the morning, and while most movies would have me drifting off to sleep at this time, The Rum Diary kept me entertained enough to stay awake until the end. Good effort, but I'm sure there could have been a bit more to it if they tried.

My rating: 3/5

Saturday, 3 March 2012

Today's Review: Tesco's Snowco Snaps

Holy crap! How has no one else thought of this? Probably because it's a little weird. Snowco Snaps are pretty much like Coco Pops, but covered in white chocolate instead of milk. Pretty crazy, especially for breakfast, but it's a novel idea. The cereal itself is a tad larger than your regular Coco Pop, not sure why, but there you go.

As for the taste, it will certainly take some getting used to. I wouldn't say it's a bad tasting cereal, but because the flavour is so novel, and white chocolate normally isn't associated with breakfast, it just all feel a little odd. Especially when it turns the milk white chocolatey as well. Perhaps after a few more bowls I shall become more accustomed, but I'm pretty sure it won't reach the heights of regular chocolate cereals in my esteem. Still, good idea, and good effort.

My rating: 3/5

Friday, 2 March 2012

Today's Review: Immortals

Ooh, big men with swords and shields and shit. I know this one is going to be popular.

Immortals is the latest in the seemingly endless onslaught of Greek mythology inspired kill-em-ups that Hollywood have been churning out recently. Well, it's either Greek mythology or medieval stuff. I don't know why America has such a big boner for those kinds of actions movies. I guess it's because they never experienced it. By the time they gained independence it was all over, all they had was the wild west.

Immortals tells the story of Theseus, a strapping young man who's really good with a spear whose destiny becomes intertwined with the gods after a formidable army marches its way through the region. The "Immortals" in question are both the gods and the titans, the former of which banished the latter after a big ass fight in the sky. Well, there's a guy named Hyperion who isn't too happy with the gods as they let his family die, so he decides to set the titans free and watch as the gods are all slaughtered. If only Theseus didn't keep getting in his way all the time. Pesky meddling kid.

Immortals is your regular Greek slasher movie. There are lots of swords, countless guards that can be easily struck down by one guy with a spear, and a few huge dudes that are seemingly invincible and speak only in grunts. If you're looking for something that'll make you think, I don't even know why you'd consider this. It's all been done before really, but I must admit that Immortals was quite well done, although as mind numbing as all the others.

The cast is fairly standard. It's a plethora of young men with impressive physiques running around with no tops on a lot of the time despite them running into battle. I don't know why guys get so hung up on watching romantic comedies, this movie has to be one of the most homo-erotic things I've seen in a while. Put some damn armour on, you hussies. The acting, understandably, is so so, but no one's really going to watch it for Oscar material, it's all about the action, and that's all pulled off pretty nicely, with nice slow motion effects and good choreography.

So yes, Immortals is better than a lot of the hack and slash movies I've seen in recent months. But it's still only alright. There's just nothing too special about it, it just kind of drifts in the middle of the road. If you like your swords and blood and fighting though, this one is definitely for you.

My rating: 3/5

Thursday, 1 March 2012

Today's Review: No Fear Energy Drink

You know, I was thinking there just aren't enough brands of energy drink out there these days, I never have quite enough choice. But now my problems are solved in the form of No Fear, an energy drink by... a clothing brand. Go figure. But hey, the can is black and it has a skull on the front, so it's going to appeal to all those tween boys who want to look edgy and cool, then just get hyperactive on the stuff and talk rapidly about butts and things.

Perhaps I'm being too harsh. There's always room for an energy drink in my life, perhaps a new one can one day dethrone my favourites. To be honest, No Fear isn't too bad. It tastes like most other energy drinks, if not a little watered down. I'd hardly call it extreme energy, but it's not an awful drink. But what really sullied the experience for me was thins fucking thing:

"What is that?!" I hear you cry. Why, it's the technology of the future, a resealable drinks can. Apparently No Fear thought their drink was too extreme to finish in one sitting, so this fancy thing was plopped on top. Perhaps a good idea in theory, but in reality it's a nightmare. 

How does it work? Basically you twist the black plastic part around and it open up a small hole directly in the centre of the top of the can. It really has to be experienced to be believed, but I'm sure you can guess how annoying this thing is to drink. While with a regular can you'd perch your lips over the corner, with No Fear you have to basically plaster your lips over the top of the can, and lift it all the way up to get some drink. Even then, the tiny size of the hole ensures you don't get a refreshing mouthful for a good few seconds, and all that while people around you are wondering why that guy over there can't drink things properly. 

It's a pretty awful way of drinking things. Even if I managed to get a decent amount of drink, the moment any part of my lips broke the seal around the hole some of the drink went dribbling down my chin. Do we really need resealable cans? I don't think so. I've never heard anyone complain about it. Even if you were to address the problem, this is clearly not the way to do it. 

My rating: 0/5