Thursday 31 March 2011

Today's Review: Hangovers

I woke up this morning with a hangover. Hangovers are precisely why I don't drink often, alongside the fact that I would waste large amounts of money getting to the stage where I have a hangover. I don't know how people do it every week, I guess they're used to it. But I see no fun in regularly spending my hard earned money by tipping poison into my face and having to shake off the effects the next day.

Don't get me wrong, I like to get drunk on the rare occasion. Being drunk is fun, but the aftermath ain't pretty. A hangover is basically your body kicking your ass because you poisoned yourself last night. You get a headache 'cause the ethanol made you pee out all your fluids until you were dehydrated, and you wanna puke 'cause it irritated your stomach lining too. Cue hundreds of people crawling under the covers and not wanting to come out, saying "Oh, i'll never drink again", a line which they promptly ignore the next weekend.

I had to get up with my two kids early this morning. I spent most of the next three hours lying still with my eyes closed, wishing it would all go away. A couple of years ago I woke up, moved my head, knew I was going to be sick and promptly threw up all over my hallway. When I was 15 I drank a bottle of vodka in Camden, threw up in the tube station, got put in an ambulance and taken to a hospital i'd never heard of, and didn't get my hangover until two days later, but that was a doozy.

You can see that I've gotten better. I've discovered that alcohol isn't really worth my time and money most of the time, only when I want to get stinking drunk, which is mostly on my birthday, because why not? I guess alcohol would be a bit better if it weren't for the resulting hangover. It's like if you got given a really nice present but then the next day someone punched you in the face and it hurt all day.

My rating: 0/5

Wednesday 30 March 2011

Today's Review: Birthdays

Today it's my birthday. I'm 24. How depressing. I can't even pretend I'm young anymore. I'm like, in my mid 20s. Birthdays are great when you're a kid, you get crap loads of presents, parties, cakes, all that jazz. The enjoyment gets less as you get older, but that's probably because everyone's too busy stressing about how they're closer to death to go out and do anything about it.

There is a certain mathematical formula in place for calculating a person's enjoyment of Christmas, mostly involving the ratio of money spent versus value of presents received. This is inevitably going to get higher as you get older, so it is easy to understand why old people don't like Christmas until they're really old and can just spend the day trolling everyone with nasty comments that can be passed off as a "funny turn". Birthdays shouldn't be like that though. The day is all about you. More people enjoy their birthdays than Christmas, but a chunk of it is portrayed as "Ha ha, you're gonna die even sooner".

Truth is, we're always getting closer to dying. As They Might Be Giants said, "You're older than you've ever been and now you're even older, and now you're older still". We don't need a specific day of the year in order to celebrate our advancement in age, it's happening constantly. If anything, we should be depressed every day. You might be slowly dying, but you also might step in front of a bus, so just deal with it. Enjoy every day, especially your birthday. Milk it for all it's worth. If anyone asks you to do something, just say "But it's my birthday!" until it becomes a reasonable excuse for everything. Ask for something you kinda wanted to buy but didn't want to waste your own money on. Presents are free money, we feel less guilt owning something that turns out to be crap if someone else bought it.

My birthday hasn't gone quite according to plan. My mother became ill, so we have no babysitter, Pizza Hut had no 50% off voucher. But I'm rolling with the punches. Amelia got sent home from nursery 'cause she was sick, but that meant I got to spend more time with her, so it's all good. And soon I'm going to go out and get drunk, which I only really do on my birthday. Tomorrow's review will probably be about the state of my head.

My rating: 5/5

Tuesday 29 March 2011

Today's Review: Barleylands

We like to take the kids somewhere special at least once every month. It spares them from experiencing monotony and eventually a hatred of their parents. Today we went to Barleylands, just on the outskirts of Billericay, Essex. Upon entering you are greeted by a quaint selection of craft shops, selling tacky but cute stuff for not too extortionate prices. But we weren't here to shop. We were here for the heart and soul of Barleylands, the farm park.

I've been to a few farm parks in my time. They've all got the same animals, and Barleylands today had significantly less animals than usual. We fed some sheep, which was all well and good, but every distinguishing member of the farm park visiting community knows that what sets each one apart from the other is the quality and quantity of the play areas dotted around. Barleylands is by far the favourite i've been to. If you think that the best thing about having kids is being able to support and encourage a budding life to grow in front of your eyes, you're right, but it's tied with being able to play on all the cool shit you used to love when you were a kid, and all the new stuff that's been invented since.

Here's a hint: always go to these places mid-week. There are very few people around, including staff, a lot of the stuff is unsupervised, so even if you're not supposed to climb around the soft play areas you can go ahead and do it anyway. Also, Barleylands has a small collection of toy tractors that your kids can ride and pedal on to get around. I'm assuming that on the weekends a bloodbath ensues every time a kid tries to get hold of one, but Amelia was happily pedalling her blue tractor while Alex got a free ride on one of the smaller ones.

Talk about a life of luxury
So what of the play areas? Well, nestled in a barn at the back of the park is this beast:

Oh yeah, ball cannon fortress, baby. Hundreds of foam balls, four lines of air powered cannons, this shit is awesome. Easy to pick up, difficult to master, you'll find yourself calculating specific trajectories just so you can hit your loved ones in the face. Unfortunately, Alex didn't like the sound of pressurised air launching things, so off we went to find greener pastures.

Ah, slide heaven. The one on the left there, it's super fast, and you land right in a massive pool of balls. The one on the right says you need a mat to go down it, but screw that, I tried it and I went way too slow. But the mother lode is the one in the middle. I haven't seen a death drop slide like that in over 10 years, and I figured the health and safety nuts around nowadays would've gotten rid of them all. 

But hell no, here it is in all its two-story glory. Going down one of these things is like going through a wormhole right back to my childhood. Those tables way in the background there, they had quite a few parents just sitting down and talking. Bullshit I say, they don't know what they're missing. I probably went down these slides more than some of the kids there. But we couldn't stay here all day. Believe it or not, there was something better to do.

Two words. Jumping. Pillow. It's like a bouncy castle but without being a pussy. It's like a trampoline but without the blunt force trauma if you fall off. It's the perfect combination. You can jump high on this thing, and it's just pure fun. If I had a garden, i'd get one of these. Good for exercise, comfy to lie on, and if you go in the middle of the week, you can regularly get it all to yourself. But if any kids try and get on, you can just keep bouncing right next to them and they'll probably fly off eventually. 

I will be going again. My addiction to bouncing requires it.

My rating: 5/5

Monday 28 March 2011

Today's Review: Wake Wood

Against my own opinions that I dispensed in my last horror movie review, this week I took a leap of faith and took home a lesser known horror movie that wasn't foreign. But it's Irish, so I guess that's something. Can't say i've seen an Irish horror before.

Wake Wood starts out with an Irish couple, Louise and Patrick, living their wonderful family life with their young daughter, Alice. But this is a horror movie, so of course it won't stay that way. So in due course, Alice gets horribly mauled by a stray dog and dies. That's more like it. Parents cry, waa waa, fast forward to an undetermined point in the future when Louise and Patrick move to a new town (Wake Wood, who'd have known?) for some reason or other. I guess to get over their grief, but apart from a small argument involving throwing out their daughters' stuff she's never really discussed.

That is, until their car breaks down in the woods and Louise witnesses some kind of strange ritual involving the local townspeople and a dismembered corpse. But instead of saying "Let's get the hell out of here", she just returns to her daily routine, no biggy. But when some strange girl who visits town for a few days mentions her daughter's name, she goes ape shit and demands to know what's going on. So, naturally, the strange cultist townspeople divulge their massive secret. Turns out that if someone's just under a year dead, they can be brought back to life for three days. And conveniently, this couple who lost their daughter happened to relocate to the one area that can offer this perk. So, they go for it. All it takes is once corpse adorned with a special memento, with specific bones broken, covered in shit and set on fire, and boom, out comes their daughter like a calf from a cow's vagina. Delightful.

But Alice is alive and well, and soon enough the happy family are playing together, laughing, hugging etc. This is probably the best part of the movie. It really encapsulates what so many people who have lost their child would love to have the opportunity to do, and if it were not in a horror movie, it's probably a premise that could be played out to really good dramatic effect. But unfortunately, it is a horror movie, and by the time the three days are up some problems arise.

First of all, Louise and Patrick don't want to give up their daughter, but thankfully the townsfolk tell them to shut the hell up and do what they say. Okay, fair enough, they reply. But sadly Alice overhears what's going on, realises where she's about to go and isn't too thrilled with the idea. Now what started out as a pretty good movie quickly descends into cheap gory special effects, shitty camera angles and an ending that I must say I didn't fully understand.

Wake Wood starts out as a promising little gem, but once the originality is out of the way it quickly descends into a messy cliché. It's a shame no one stuck with it, it could have been something a lot better.

My rating: 3/5

Sunday 27 March 2011

Today's Review: iPhone Message Tones

I like Apple. They make awesome stuff. It doesn't just look amazing, it just works. Haters gonna hate, and they regularly do, but shut the hell up and get a Mac, assholes. I wish everything I had were made by Apple. If they had Apple life support machines at hospital I'd probably find a way to self induce a coma, 'cause being hooked up to one of those is surely better than real life.

 I got my first iPod when I was about 14, then I got another one when that one died about 4 years later. That one's dead now too, sad face. I currently have my Frankenstein MacBook made from two broken ones that I mentioned in a previous review. Apple stuff doesn't break easily, I just have a tendency to break nice expensive stuff. With that in mind, I am currently on my fourth iPhone. I dropped my first 3G while trying to take a picture of otters. The screen smashed on some grit. It still worked completely fine, and once i'd swiped out the tiny shards of glass it was fine. But it was also insured, so I got myself a new one. Then the iPhone 4 came out, and I queued for 6 hours to pick it up because clearly I am awesome. Alas, a misconnection in the button forced me to take it into the Apple Store where they supplied me with a spanking new one. Almost three years, four iPhones. How impressive of me.

My iPhone does everything I want it to. It Facebooks, it tweets, it knows what songs are when I hold it up to speakers, it tells me where places are, what movies are on nearby, scans barcodes and gives me the best prices, and supplies me with teh lulz and many pointless games. But despite all the things I can do on my iPhone, there is one thing I lament. I can't change the damn message tone.

The iPhone 5 is close to being announced. FIVE. It's been almost four years since the first iPhone was brought out, and since then it's been fitted with 3G, two cameras, a compass, retina screen, and software updates that make it much more awesome each time. But still I'm not able to make my own message tone. Custom ringtone? That's fine, but somehow Steve Jobs has an awfully big problem with letting people choose the sound of their text message.

He's not completely without compassion though, there are about twenty message tones to choose from thanks to a previous update that added to the original six. The problem is, every single one of them sounds like shit being scraped on sandpaper. Which I assume just sounds like shit, but with a grating tinge to it. So, I've had the Tri-Tone message tone for the entirety of my iPhone ownership time.

Problem is, I don't know anyone with an iPhone who doesn't use the Tri-Tone tone. It wasn't such a big problem a couple of years ago when iPhones were quite rare, but now you can walk into a busy shop and be guaranteed that at least five people have an iPhone in your vicinity. So when one person gets a message, everyone gets out their phone. I'd find it mightily hilarious if I weren't one of the people who has to check, but I am, and it's annoying. The tone also matches the sound that Macs make when something's finished installing, so that's not much help either.

I want to make my own message tone. Is that too much to ask? I could, if I jailbroke my phone, but that seems a lot of effort for something that could have been implemented a long time ago by Apple. What are they doing? Putting a third, sideways camera on the new iPhone so you can have Facetime conversations including an awkwardly angled shot of someone standing next to you? Here's a hint. Stop all production on the iPhone for what, five minutes, and make it so I can have the "I found a secret" theme from Zelda play every time someone texts me. Then you will have my complete, unwavering love and attention.

My rating: 1/5

Saturday 26 March 2011

Today's Review: Daylight Savings Time

I'm writing this review with an hour before my deadline. OR AM I? For you see, the clocks are going forward. So what once was ten past midnight will soon be ten past one, and then I will not have done a review a day and I will die horribly of shame. Mind = blown. Love it or hate it, we have Daylight Savings Time to thank for this marvellous feat.

Daylight Savings Time in its current form was invented by a guy called George Vernon Hudson. He liked to collect insects in his spare time, and he valued the hours after work in which he could use the daylight to fulfill this pastime. But it got darker earlier in the winter, so less daylight he had. Instead of just grinning and bearing it like anyone else would do, he decided to say "Hey, everyone, just change your watches so I can catch some more bugs, kay?"

Daylight Savings was basically a way for ancient people with no electricity to make the use of the extra sunshine afforded to them in the summer to do things they wouldn't otherwise be able to see because they were all stupid and hadn't invented proper lighting systems. Farmers would be able to use the valuable sunlight to gather crops, men could collect their insects and be able to golf for longer.

The farmer issue is quite valid, I suppose. But still, if farmers need sunlight, why not just wake up an hour earlier? Why make everybody else change their clocks? Farmers were a lot more important and plentiful back in the day, but now there are grumpy businessmen who survive on coffee that eternally curse these farmers when they lose an hour's sleep. Maybe it's time to stop this silliness once and for all. We have lights everywhere now. Hell, my phone can produce a pretty blinding flashlight. You know what the government would say today if you tried to introduce DST? "Fuck off, get up early you lazy little shit", or something more media friendly but with the same basic message. My dad lives in Oman, there's no DST there at all. They've got loads of farmers there, or I assume so, someone has to own all those goats I see in the mountains all the time. But there people get into work at 6am and are finished by 3pm, when the sun starts to go in. They don't need to change their clocks to satisfy people, they just get up at different times. Why is it so hard for Western civilisation to just deal with it?

DST is outdated, it's unnecessary. There are different countries in the same time zones where one observes it and the other doesn't. Time zones are enough to have to work around business wise, you don't need to have to figure out how many more hours someone is ahead or behind. Why can't we all just get along, and do our daylight fuelles work when the sun is out rather than based on what time it is? Then maybe everyone can stop saying "Spring forward, fall back" and "Oooh, don't forget to change the clocks". My clocks change themselves, because I am not a hermit. And I prefer "Spring carries on the consistent flow of time, and so does fall". It might not have a ring to it, but it makes a lot more sense.

My rating: 0/5. Or is it 1/5? No, it's 0/5. Stop playing silly buggers.

Friday 25 March 2011

Today's Review: This Puzzle I Found In A Charity Shop

It was just a regular day, perusing the toys in my local charity shops, when amongst the normal jigsaws promoting heretic cartoonish behaviour I found this lost gem. It is a jigsaw named "Twenty Pictures Illustrative Of The Life Of Jesus Christ". Finally, just what I needed. My child spends so little time doing Christian themed jigsaws, finally I can introduce her to such amazing life periods as "Crucifixion" and "Washing His Disciples' Feet". Each pane is elaborately drawn with no background or skin colour, and coloured in yellow, blue and purple. This particular version of the puzzle is a faithful reproduction of a Victorian jigsaw, which is good for me because I like to base my faith on the version of a book some guy wrote over 100 years ago rather than the version of a book someone wrote in the last ten years.

I think my favourite thing about this puzzle is that each pane is in no way related to any other and no explanation behind each is given. I like this because one of my favourite pastimes is to take passages of the Bible out of their original context and use them to pass judgement on modern day events while touting that my views were right because I picked a single sentence verbatim from a book. Introducing such thinking at an early age should help my children develop into the God-fearing Bible-bashing wonder that I am. Thanks, "Twenty Pictures Illustrative Of The Life Of Jesus Christ". You're my new favourite toy.

My rating:

Thursday 24 March 2011

Today's Review: Cute Slightly Ditsy Girls Who Play Fun Songs On The Ukelele

I just watched a video of a cute but slightly ditsy girl playing a fun song on a ukulele about having Stephen Fry's babies, to Stephen Fry. Her name is Molly Lewis.

It was fun, cute and slightly ditsy. While I was watching it, I was reminded of another cute but slightly ditsy girl who plays fun songs on a ukulele. The latter cute but slightly ditsy girl who plays fun songs on a ukulele you might recognise as Gooch from the later seasons of Scrubs. She was the cute but slightly ditsy girl who played fun songs on a ukulele. Her real name is Kate Micucci. If you miss her antics, you can also catch her on the new comedy show Raising Hope, in which she plays a cute but slightly ditsy girl playing fun songs on a ukulele.

The songs are fun. Ukuleles make everything fun, but the lyrics are always fun. Though I guess that could be because the lyrics are put to a ukulele. There's always some kind of cute but slightly ditsy humour about the lyrics of both these cute but slightly ditsy young women, but i'm sure if you confessed to being a serial killer in the form of song while playing a ukulele the police would just start smiling and bobbing in their seats and then forget to arrest you after.

Well, I just did a Google search, and found a top 10 of cute but slightly ditsy girls playing ukulele. I guess there's some kind of movement out there. I wish some of these cute but slightly ditsy girls would stop playing so many covers and work on doing more of their original cute but slightly ditsy songs. I there were only one type of music in the world, it should be this. Then everyone would wander along without a care and everyone would have ukuleles for instruments, which is good because they're quite small. Imagine if everyone in the world had a grand piano. Where would they all fit?

My rating: Five cute but slightly ditsy girls playing fun songs on five ukuleles. That has to be the best rating you could give anything ever.

Wednesday 23 March 2011

Today's Review: Monsters

"ET - Exceptionally Terrific" says New Of The World, apparently. That's funny, I get it, it's because this movie is about aliens, and you thought it was good. But I guess calling the movie "Aliens" crosses paths with James Cameron, and you never want to do that.

Monsters is about aliens though. But there's no real reason why it should be. The story goes that six years ago a probe was sent into space to collect samples of potential extraterrestrial life, but crash landed on its way back to Earth and spunked alien babies all over the place. But apparently our planet holds the exact conditions needed for these aliens to survive and grow, or at least half of Mexico does. Why not a more native Godzilla type origin? Eh, everyone loved District 9 I guess, so we'll go with aliens.

Monster was written, shot and directed by one man, Gareth Edwards. He basically drove around Mexico with a small crew, filmed what he needed, often without permission and with whichever people were hanging around at the time, then took it all home, added in special effects by himself and bam, film done. It's quite an achievement that such a small crew managed to make this movie on such a small budget, the settings are very well captured and there's no significant loss in production value compared to many other movies i've seen.

So 6 years have passed, half of Mexico is a "quarantine" zone, and our story involves a young photojournalist being ordered by his boss to escort his daughter to the coast where she can catch a ferry back to the States. But of course, it all goes wrong and they end up having to hike through the infected zone to the closed off US border. What action filled adventures will they get up to?

The answer is not many. I get what Edwards was trying to do, telling the story after the aliens came, instead of the constant obsession with showing mass battles against the newcomers, but he could have made it a bit more eventful. The guy from the Daily Mirror who said it's "action packed" clearly wandered into the wrong movie. They don't even get into the infected zone until over halfway through, and even then most of their time is spent idly wandering through the wilderness and chatting to people about how weird it is that there are monsters around.

The one or two encounters that happen through the journey aren't exciting in any way whatsoever. One is pretty much ignored, the other sees our heroes hiding in a car until the thing goes away. It's hardly edge of your seat stuff. Still, the atmosphere is there, and while not much is seen of the monsters themselves, the effects of their presence and the military's response are very well communicated throughout, and there's enough character development to let you care about the two main characters, even though they're never in any immediate danger.

If you're looking for an action packed alien movie, this is most definitely not for you. Try District 9 instead, 'cause that's awesome. If you're not looking for an action packed alien movie, then by all means try it, but don't say I didn't warn you. It's not that great.

My rating: 2/5

Tuesday 22 March 2011

Today's Review: Unstoppable

Unstoppable is that movie about trains with Denzel Washington in it. No, wait, that other one about trains with Denzel Washington in it. He plays Frank Barnes, a veteran engineer who works on a railroad, mentoring Will Colson (Chris Pine), a new conductor also working on the railroad. Since one's old and one's young, there's some friction, but hey, they're professionals, they can control themselves. Plus they both have problems with respective members of their family shunning them, so they've got something to talk about.

So off our intrepid soon-to-be-heroes go to perform a good day's work, spouting some train based nonsense that I don't know, but it sure makes me think they know what they're talking about. Meanwhile some lumbering employees have to move a big-ass train from one track to another, and they spout some more train based nonsense that only serves to tell me that some form of brakes aren't functioning and that they may know what they're talking about, but don't care much. Somewhere along the way the driver hops out to flip a track switch, and through some Final Destination style trickery the throttle gets knocked up in his absence.

So, we've got a runaway freight train, uncontrolled. Oh, and it's also carrying toxic chemicals. But here's the kicker, there are school kids on a field trip on the very same line. Their field trip is actually being on the train, learning about railway safety. How lame. When I was at school the train was a way to get to an exciting place. But you should see the kids on this train, they're excited as hell. Although how you learn about being safe on a railway while you're on a train, I don't know.

The school kids don't get obliterated, sadly, but the train still rolls on, with plenty of other things to smash in its path. But when all rescue attempts fail, Barnes suddenly formulates his own plan to stop the runaway, and since they both have someone they need to prove themselves to with heroics, Colson joins in too.

The suspense never really lets up in this movie. The "villain" may be a train, but it's a pretty domineering bad guy given the size and the reiterations of the damage it could do. It helps that the chemistry between Pine and Washington is really great and helps you to identify with the characters. Washington mans the intercom like a pro also, something he healthily established in his previous railway outing The Taking Of Pelham 123.

For a big Hollywood disaster movie, it's refreshing to see less emphasis being placed on special effects and explosions and more on the potential danger of the situation. The train and setting must have cost a shedload, but it all goes towards the constant suspense rather than several quick thrills. There's not too much to be said against the movie in general, some cliches are in place, but I wouldn't expect there not to be any. Unstoppable is probably one of the best Hollywood action thrillers i've seen in a while.

My rating: 4/5

Monday 21 March 2011

Today's Review: The Guy Typing Really Loudly On The Train

I went to London today, it was good stuff, especially due to the new free iPhone 4 replacement I got (Thanks to lovely Christopher of the Covent Garden Apple Store, you're my favourite kind of genius, the kind that gives me free stuff). So on the way home I was, happily tossing particularly riled up birds at things, when all of a sudden - holy mother of God what is that outrageously loud tapping?

There's a guy in front of me, a couple of seats down, and all I can hear is the cries of his laptop's keys as he unceremoniously batters them with his fingers. Every application of the space bar is like a thunderclap. Okay, I might be exaggerating a little here, but he was typing pretty damn loudly. I'm aware of the noise that I'm currently making as I type this, it's certainly noticeable, but nowhere near as much as the guy on the train.

Granted, I don't know the whole story, maybe his laptop just has naturally loud keys. But I was feeling judgemental, and he was that kind of commuter type, you know the kind, the one who feels his bag deserves its own seat. So let's roll with it.

I suppose it wouldn't be so bad if he were a pretty fast typer. His fingers would skip along the keys merrily, never dwelling enough to slam their down their fingery vengeance. But this guy was kinda slow. Not the slowest typer I've heard, but there was a good few seconds between each thunderous space bar application. It was slow deliberate typing, which I immediately took to mean, in my dickish frame of mind, "Hey, look everybody, I'm doing really important work that demands loud keystrokes!"

I guess my main concern was for the keyboard itself. My laptops have been no stranger to abuse. My first Windows laptop was severely punched for constantly jolty video playback, and sadly my fist destroyed the hard drive. My first MacBook shut down for no apparent reason, though my daughter puking milk into the keys couldn't have helped. My second MacBook was dropped on its screen due to a precariously short network cable, but thankfully I still had "Pukey Mac" to hand so I could swap screens over. That's right, my current MacBook is a freakish Frankenstein's monster creation borne of the abuse of laptops with a combined value of £1600. Now I cringe every time a piece of the notoriously flimsy casing gets cracked, I squirm every time there could be any excess pressure applied to the screen. My heart aches when I hear someone viciously poking at their keyboard like a disgruntled caveman.

You probably think I'm being unfair, you might disagree with what I'm saying, but just don't type so damn hard, people. Slide your fingers across your laptop keyboard as if your typing were a sensual encounter with the man/woman/object of your dreams. Words are best when they flow beautifully, and fingers gliding gracefully across a keyboard will produce more fluid poetry than barbaric hammering. I bid you good night, and make sure you watch out for the review from that guy about "That judgemental jerk playing Angry Birds on the train home while I was trying to work"

My rating:
THIS COULD BE YOU!!! (Situation may have been exaggerated for dramatic effect)

Sunday 20 March 2011

Today's Review: We Are What We Are

When some of the lesser known movies get delivered to Blockbuster, it can really be hit and miss. I used to snatch up anything that looked remotely interesting, but i've become more discerning over the last few months as I've spent far too many hours watching complete and utter shit. This week, We Are What We Are came in, with blurb at the top of the case touting "A cannibal gore-fest". "Oh great" I thought, "another torture porn movie", until I turned over the case and realised it was in Spanish. Suddenly I was interested. Most of the crap I've been watching are American horror movies with all gore and no substance, but all the new horror movies I've seen in recent years, Let The Right One In, Rec, The Orphanage, have all been great.

Sadly, We Are What We Are isn't great. But it's not bad either. The plot focuses on a family of cannibals in Mexico, whose father dies suddenly and leaves them with the responsibility of claiming victims to put on the table, and the gruesome chore is passed onto the sons. This movie is as much about coming of age and the grieving process and everyone's eventual adaptation to their new roles as it is about horror, perhaps even more so.

The blurbs on the cover are basically lies. This movie is in no way a "gore-fest", neither is the gore particularly shocking by today's American standard. For the first hour there's hardly any blood at all, and the violence that happens afterwards is quite understated and more expressed through sound than imagery. It's sad that this is actually a break from the norm of horror movies, because focusing less on how much dismemberment you can show and instead focusing on characterisation and suspense is what horror should be about. You want to feel for the characters, not wonder in which gruesome way they're going to die.

With the inordinate amount of time spent on the killers, you do indeed feel for them. The characters' transitions aren't easy, there are many arguments within the family, but never is their hunger for human flesh thrown into question, they're just carrying on with their normal behaviour. One thing I noticed throughout was that they never actually mention eating the victims, they're always "picking something up for tomorrow", like normal family dinner conversation, or preparing for "the ritual". Well, maybe not quite normal.

Overall, the movie goes quite slowly. Not too much happens in the first hour, and the culmination of the plot is largely crammed into the final 20 minutes, featuring probably the shortest and most effective police investigation i've seen before (apparently there's a specific code the Mexican police have memorised for "people trying to eat a dude"). All in all, it's nothing particularly special, but in the midst of the cornucopia of gore filles torture movies, it's a breath of fresh air to see a movie focusing more on the people involved, especially if those people are the monsters. Maybe it's the effect of all the other over the top movies desensitising me to any kind of violence, but I did find it a bit boring for my liking, but watching the family's reaction to and acceptance of the father's death was quite unique. It's been a while since i've empathised so much with a murderer. Except for Dexter, he's just awesome.

My rating: 3/5

Saturday 19 March 2011

Today's Review: Max

I was watching Dragon's Den a few weeks ago, and there was a guy on there, touting a toilet training aid called Max. He wasn't too successful, but a few days ago, what do I see on the shelf at Tesco? This very product. So it was time to look more into this.

Meet Max. It's a ball with a face in it that you throw into the john. "Wherefore?" I hear you cry. Well, apparently if your kids are having trouble getting their waste in the toilet then seeing a funny face looking up at them is much more effective. I can kinda see the point, if I looked down the toilet and saw a face staring back up at me, I'd probably shit myself. But that would be okay, 'cause poo just runs straight off this bad boy.

My daughter potty trained quite well, so I must admit that I have probably missed the point of the product, I'm sure it has been a wonderful help to many parents out there. But seriously, a ball with a face on it? I needed some more to work with on this to fully understand it, so to the website I went. 

The first thing I noticed was the URL: You'd expect it to have something to do with the product that's plastered all over the page, but I guess they're not being too subtle with the fact that their target audience is probably a bunch of goons. We have the usual fare, testimonials, bullet pointed reasons why this product is awesome, but some of them seem a little off. Max can "Help to save money on 'disposable nappies'!" Why is "disposable nappies" in quotation marks? Are they only allegedly disposable? Have I been wasting hundreds of pounds of nappies when I should have been wringing them out, scraping them off and plastering them back on my children? Dammit.

Max, the site also assures me, "Makes using the toilet a part of playtime, not an interruption to it!" Riiight. Not sure if I want my children to think that defecating themselves is something to do when they're bored, but I can kind of see the point behind this one. Everything's a game when you're a kid, and I often find myself aiming my whizz at particular points of the toilet to stave off the usual urinary boredom. There wouldn't be a market for those toilet target boards for adults if it wasn't true that we like to have fun while we pee. 

You may be starting to win me over, Max. But wait, apparently you help "children of all ages to be more accurate, including Dad!" You think you know me, Max? You think you know me? I take pride in my aim. You know those arguments couples always have about leaving the toilet seat up? Don't happen in my household, 'cause the toilet seat never goes up. For I have learned the secret art of peeing through a hole slightly smaller than the one I was peeing through before. Hell, when we started putting kid's toilet seats on top of the original toilet seat, I took it as a challenge to perfect my aim in an even smaller toilet opening, and I succeeded. Anyone who questions the perfection of my whizz trajectory ain't getting my money. 

My rating: 2/5

Friday 18 March 2011

Today's Review: Easter Eggs With Mugs

So, it's about 500 years until Easter, so of course the shops are filled with Easter eggs. Some are cheap, some are massively expensive. But all are chocolate. There's something about Easter eggs that make them tastier than normal chocolate. I guess it's the small time frame in which they are available. Perhaps the curve of the egg unlocks the flavour in a unique way. But however much I love Easter egg chocolate, there's one trend that has emerged in recent years that I just can't tolerate.

What the hell is that? A mug? Why is it taking up valuable chocolate space? How is it relevant to anything? Easter is about chocolate, and also I guess about Jesus waking up from a coma or something. But I tell you what Jesus didn't do when he got up, and that is ask for a cup of coffee. The egg is a symbol of ressurection, they made it chocolate 'cause chocolate is awesome, but at which point did someone think "You know what these eggs are missing? A receptacle for hot beverages"?

Look at this madness. Over half the packaging taken up by ceramic. I can't eat that shit. Is this just some kind of filler to stop the people of the world eating so much chocolate? Sounds like it's some kind of way to piss everyone in the world off. You know who likes mugs? Someone who drinks tea, coffee and the like. You know what those people already have? Mugs. Of their own choosing. Probably specifically chosen to complement the decor of their kitchen. Or ones from their children saying how awesome of a parent they are. A mug touting the name of their favourite brand of chocolate probably isn't in fitting with their collection. 

Milkybars are for kids, primarily. I never drank from a mug as a kid, and I wouldn't trust my kids with a mug at the moment. Especially an Easter egg mug, they'd probably hurl it at the floor because they got a mug instead of the chocolate they wanted. It wouldn't be so bad if it was just one brand of Easter egg with a mug that i'd seen. I still wouldn't understand it, but I could forgive it. But there are so many of these damn things. Why? WHY?!

Just look at that. What an ugly mug. You know who buys this? A mug. If I got that for Easter, I'd feel mugged off. I've run out of mug puns. 

My rating:

Thursday 17 March 2011

Today's Review: Angry Birds

I am primarily a console gamer. I have poured hours and hours into RPGs and shooters, some taking upwards of 40 hours to finish. But a simple game on the iPhone is looking to take up so much more. That game is Angry Birds.

Angry Birds is the utmost evil of video games. Play time is very short, less than a minute for any given level. But you're bound to be playing the same level tens of times until you actually get it right. What started out as a minute's play can quickly turn into an hour, but your mind still thinks that it's not too time consuming. Angry Birds has remained in the top iPhone app charts for as long as I can remember, and over 50 million people have downloaded it. That's pretty much Wii sales figures, and it was only available on smart phones until a couple of months ago. That's pretty impressive.

The premise of Angry Birds is simple.

There are some birds, and their eggs are missing. Turns out, some green pigs stole them, so the birds launch a kamikaze mission to destroy all of pigkind by destroying themselves in the process. Probably not the brightest of ideas, but they're birds without wings, they're probably inbred and not the most intelligent.

Here's the first level. You've got a red bird, in a catapult, and a pig in a wooden fortress. The aim, of course, is to catapult the bird into the blocks, topple it over and hopefully destroy the pig. It's a physics based game, so making a perfect shot takes a lot of fine tuning, but it's easy to wreak havoc just by launching a bird anywhere in the target area. 

The red bird is pretty boring though. It just goes where you throw it. As you progress through the levels, you get new birds to play with. Like the yellow one, that speeds up if you touch it in midair, or the blue one, that splits into three and can smash through ice blocks easily.

Three birds are better than one. Except when they're tiny and fly off in the wrong direction.

But wait, there's more. There are fat white birds who drop an egg bomb when you tap the screen in midair, then fly off deflated to cause a little more destruction wherever it lands, or the fat black bird who smashes through stone blocks before exploding in an awesome fashion.

Mmm, points.
Finally, you have the most recent additions, the boomerang bird, which turns back on itself in midair for a sneaky back attack, and the big red big brother bird, which will absolutely smash whatever it lands on

Needless to say, once all these birds have been introduced and used, you start to get a combination of them to use throughout the later levels, and all in a particular order.

That's the appeal of Angry Birds. It's easy to start, fiendishly difficult to master. Even if you manage to destroy all the pigs with all the birds you're given, you might only get a one star rating for your efforts.
To get three stars you need to make sure you cause the most destruction you can with the least birds possible, and this is where most of your time is spent. First figuring out which birds to fire where, and then spending several tries getting them all on the right trajectory. If you're a smart phone toilet gamer (86% of Angry Birds players admitted to playing on the toilet according to recent research), the people you live with will start to fear for the health of your bowels. 

So, you've spent several hundred hours of your life shooting birds at pigs and you've finally got three stars on all the levels. You have beaten the infernal game, there is nothing more it can throw at you. Oh wait, here, have a new game mode. 

Is it a bird? Yes. Is it a plane? No, it's a bird. This is the Mighty Eagle, a recently added extra bird that chases a can of sardines you throw and obliterates everything in its path. A good way to clear those levels you can't quite do, you might think. But no, to conquer the Mighty Eagle mode you have to make it so the bird destroys every single block on screen. What fresh hell is this? I spent the good part of an hour last night getting 100% destruction on one level, and that wasn't even on my phone. I hate you Angry Birds, but you make me love you so much. Do Android users dream of electric birds? Probably. They're taking over my head all the damn time.

My rating: 5/5

Wednesday 16 March 2011

Today's Review: Friday by Rebecca Black

So there's this video that has become a YouTube sensation over the last few weeks, it's not hard to see why:

Yes, it's terrible. I first saw it last week, and after a minute I turned it off, foolishly thinking this was just a more awful than ordinary song. But today I went back, and finally absorbed all that this track and its accompanying video has to offer. Then I watched it again to take screenshots. This has drained me, dear readers, so I hope you appreciate the effort.

Friday is a song about Friday. That's basically all it is. The lyrics are the most obvious you could think of when writing a song about Friday, but you don't just make a song that is a stream of consciousness about what happens when it's Friday. Oh wait, someone did though, and it's this song.

So, the video starts with our hero waking up at 7am. You know she's waking up at 7am, 'cause there's a shot of the clock saying 7am, her hair is messed up as if she just woke up, and she's singing that she's waking up at 7am. In a way this video is amazing, but only in the way that if you need something explained you only need to look to the three or four audiovisual cues that are happening at that one time. It's foolproof. Anyway, Rebecca heads downstairs, spouts some lyrical mastery about eating cereal (from a bowl, just to make that clear), and out the door she goes, ready to catch her bus to school.

Oh wait, her friends pull up, evidenced by her friends pulling up and the lyric "I see my friends". Wait a minute. These people look way too young to drive, even by American standards, and especially too young to own a brand new convertible. Damn rich kids. Plus Rebecca is 13, what's she doing hanging round with of age driving friends? Never mind, this set piece leads us beautifully onto the pre-chorus of the song: "Kickin' in the front seat, chillin' in the back seat, gotta make my mind up, which seat can I take?" Note that she doesn't ask which seat she should take, or which seat she will take. No, this is clearly a logic problem that requires solving. So let's get to it. This car seats five people. I assume Rebecca cannot drive, as she was just going to catch a school bus. So that cuts half of the front portion of the car out completely. Now we look to where her friends are currently positioned. The passenger seat is also taken, and there is a significant gap between the homies in the back. So one can safely assume that the back seat in the middle is the one that she will take. Let's see if we're right.

Bingo. Rebecca applauds you. At this point I could highlight the educational value of the video, until I notice that these guys are driving down a road at high speed with no fucking seatbelts on. They're having to splice seatbelts into episodes of Peppa Pig now, so how did this get past everyone? I guess they're just too cool for school, and basic safety regulations.

So now we have moved onto the chorus. It basically states that it is currently Friday, and everyone is looking forward to the weekend, which will consist of both partying and fun. I sure hope nothing goes wrong.

Okay, cool, now she's cruising down the highway not only with no seatbelt, but standing up in the back of a car. But this time they're on their way to a party, so they're even more entitled to perform dangerous driving activities. Also, her friends are different this time, there's not a boy in sight. I can only assume that this is because her previous compadres were horribly injured in a seatbelt-less car crash and couldn't quite make it to the Friday fun party. But Rebecca's fine, and she's keeping us up to date with the time, apparently it's 7:45. And there's a full moon almost at its apex in the sky. Clearly the Earth has spun off its axis, but no one cares at the moment, 'cause guess what, it's Friday. 

Anyhoo, in the second verse, more lyrical mastery is employed, such as the gem "Fun, fun, think about fun, you know what it is". Yes, I do know what fun is, especially because currently, I am experiencing none of the symptoms associated with it. She also says her friend is by her right, but nothing about the other people in the car. I guess these hurried replacement friends just aren't that fun, and I thought about it, I know what it is. So after another chorus we're treated to a rousing bridge, which says that yesterday was Thursday, today is Friday, Saturday is tomorrow and Sunday is after that. This is revolutionary stuff man, there's so much information in this song that hasn't sunk in yet. Teach me more Rebecca!

Oh wait, we're gonna watch a dude rapping instead. Clearly this man is a lot older than the other kids in this video, and he is either on his way to the aforementioned party, or he's just some random guy in a car also expressing his love of Fridays. Either way, it's kinda creepy. He celebrates the fact that there's a car next to him, as if that's never happened any time he's ever driven, and also that he overtakes a school bus. Why a school bus is driving down a highway on Friday night, I don't know, but this guy doesn't care, so why should I? Let's get to the party!

Alriiiiight, here we ar- wait, this is just that girl from before standing in front of a tree, with some lights behind her. This isn't a party, no one's got any drinks or anything, they're just watching this girl sing a song about how good Fridays are. I guess they are pretty good if people gather round to watch you in the evening. So to close we have the chorus twice, just to hit it home about how awesome this day is. The crowd raise their arms between lines to accent the lyrics, but they're all unclear about whether they're saying "Yeah" or "Hey", so it just comes out as a garbled "Hyeeahey!"

So, the song draws to a close, everyone applauds, and it's surely agreed that a good Friday was had by all. 

Better get out of there soon though, this guy is clearly coming to pick up some young teens.

My rating: FRIDAY!

Tuesday 15 March 2011

Today's Review: Tiredness

I'm tired. Don't you hate being tired? I know I do. I've got stuff I want to do. Sleep is an inconvenience at the best of times, but I can excuse that, I need to sleep for some reason. But then my body goes and winds right down by being tired. I have been sat here on the sofa for a long time, wanting to get up and do something but not being able to physically motivate myself. My mind is sluggish, my eyes hurt and my muscles ache.

Fuck that. This is my body. I'm in control. If I want to stay awake i'll bally well stay awake. But everything I try and do is impaired by this tired feeling spreading through me like a disease. There should be unwritten and unspoken rules about my brain being able to switch itself off at agreed times, we should be masters of our own sleeping destiny.

But no. Not gonna happen. Tiredness will continue to hound us until we die. It'll get worse. We'll get more tired. Hell, we'll probably even die tired. Wanna go for a run after a long day at work? Tough shit, you're tired. Been travelling around all day, which shouldn't really make you tired 'cause you're sitting down? Actually, yeah, you're tired. Eaten a comfortably large amount of food? Oh, guess what, you're tired.

I figured evolution would have beaten this stupid feeling out of us by now. Sure, we need a little bit of notice as to when the brain wants to shut down, but so many people are stuck in a perpetual state of tiredness it's hard to figure out when it's real or not. Often I'll get so downtrodden and fatigued in the middle of the day, but on the walk home I'll suddenly perk right up. It's so inconsistent and inconvenient. Even if we get the rest of our actions sorted in the most efficient way possible, tiredness can come along and wipe it all out from under you.

It used to be that the world was so little to do in the world that we probably needed to loaf around and sleep just to avoid being bored to death. But now there's so much stuff to do that being tired just isn't practical anymore. One day we won't need sleep because our brains will be replaced with robots. Or something. But until then, we're stuck with being tired. What bullshit.

My rating: 0/5

Sorry for the poor review, I was tired when I wrote it.

Monday 14 March 2011

Today's Review: The Wet Patch On My Trousers

Well, it looks like I pissed myself. I haven't though. I'm sure people don't think I'm insane enough to lose control of my bladder and/or penis trajectory and then post the result on the internet. In truth, I was filling a bucket, ready to mop, 'cause I'm well domesticated like, and I briefly lost control of the shower head trajectory. I must repeat, however, that my penis trajectory control is fine.

Now that it's clear that I'm not incontinent, let's get down to the wet patch itself. It's not nice. It's wet, for one thing. I don't want part of my trousers to be wet. Granted, it's better than having the entire pair of trousers wet, but I still don't want it. Trousers should be dry. They're designed to keep you warm and protected. This. Ruined. Everything.

When I walk, my leg gets slightly wet, and the thing about water is that even if it starts out as warm and wet, it soon descends into the cold and wet. I am displeased. Every step is uncomfortable. Uncomfortable I say! And whilst I know with absolute certainty that this was not a pee pee related incident, the wet patch itself is ambiguous, and the first conclusion people with jump to is of course stray urine. Woe is me, I am sullied with the patch of shame!

Actually, while I was writing this, the patch has pretty much dried out. Order is almost restored. So I guess there is a good side to wet patches, and it is that they dry out pretty quickly. Especially with warm laptops on top of them. I'll deal with my irradiated testicles later.

My rating:

See? Because I was mopping. I WAS MOPPING!

Sunday 13 March 2011

Today's Review: Miracle Blade Perfection Set From JML

I do not own a Miracle Blade Perfection Set. I was perusing the JML website for products I could simply not live without, and this was probably most fitting. The informercial highlights all the problems I have with my current set of knives. 

Yeah, that always happens when I hack at a tomato like a manic prehistoric half-man. If only my knives could teach me the finesse to not blindly stab at my foodstuffs. But wait, that's not all.

Man, that's all me.  Could it be that a set of knives have finally become available that means I can move my construction equipment out of the kitchen? Surely not.

But yes, here they are. Not just knives, Miracle Blades. Just look at that selection. There's a knife, a slightly bigger knife, a fatter knife, a longer knife and a curvy knife. Now I won't feel lost when my cookbook tells me to use Miracle Blade number 5. My life is complete. Scissors too. I'm amazed. On close inspection they may just look like sharp knives, compared to my clearly inadequate not as sharp knives. But don't be fooled, these are Miracle Blades. They can't say miracle unless it's true, 'cause Jesus would kick them in the balls.

Case in point. How many other knife sets can you use to fulfill your lifelong dream of slicing a pineapple in midair for your fruit salad? I can safely say I've never tried with any knives, but I can only assume this skill comes exclusively with Miracle Blades. After all, they're made of German stainless steel. I don't now if that's better than other nation's stainless steel, but it must be, otherwise they wouldn't have mentioned its nationality. 

I love you, Miracle Blades. I have never used you, but one day I'm sure i'll take the plunge and buy more blades than I'll ever need. Then I can stop looking like this:

Every single day with the damn hacksaw.

My rating:

This one goes up to 11.

Saturday 12 March 2011

Today's Review: Machete

Back in 2007, Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez released Grindhouse, a double feature in the vein of the 70s horror/exploitation movies that they both grew up watching. Tarantino's Death Proof, I must admit, I haven't seen yet, as i'm clearly a cretin. But Rodriguez's contribution, Planet Terror, was all kinds of awesome. Gore, explosions and a chick with an assault rifle for a leg. Oh yes. Anyways, in between the features were a few fake trailers for other Grindhouse style films. One of them was made by Rodriguez, and was entitled Machete. 3 years later, Rodriguez released the full length version of it. It too, is all kinds of awesome.

It might be hard to see how a movie that started out as a joke trailer could be that great, but the trailer itself set up quite a complex plot. The titular Machete, played by Danny Trejo, is an ex-federale who was double crossed in his Mexican hometown. Several years later, he's a down and out immigrant worker in Texas, until he's hired to kill a US senator for $150,000 by a mysterious man. Turns out the whole thing's a set up though, and the senator's attempted assassination by a Mexican will help him get elected so he can send all the immigrants out of the country. So Machete takes it upon himself to wreak vengeance on everyone who has crossed him. Mostly with machetes, 'cause that's his name.

The movie starts with a slice-happy action scene, complete with triple decapitation, but soon after delves into the plot development stage. I was a bit tired at the time, so I thought I might not make it through, but then Machete ripped out someone's intestine and used it to jump out of a window and swing down to the next, so my faith was quickly restored. There are plenty of ridiculous, over the top action stunts, and weapons are improvised almost as much as in Dead Rising. The action rarely lets up, only to set up the next double cross or twist in the plot. The amount of characters introduced is plentiful, and they all intersect each other at several points in the story, seeking vengeance or dispatching their own brand of justice. Still, it never gets too complex, and the whole thing really keeps your attention.

Clichés and one liners are everywhere. Sexy nurses and makeout scenes are spliced in just for the hell of it, but while this is normally considered a bad thing, it's great in Machete because it's a parody of every movie like that. Despite this, you still get drawn into believing this is a viable stand alone movie, but you can laugh out loud when something ridiculous happens.

The only minor quibble I had with Machete is that what while it started out with the picture being grainy like a traditional Grindhouse picture, this quickly disappeared. I can see how black bits jumping all over the screen could be annoying, but it lent an authenticity to the experience, and I quickly noticed the style had changed. But I just as soon forgot about it when the story got going, and that awesome action scenes started. At this point I was glad I could see it in all its HD glory, and no, not just because you get to see Lindsay Lohan's nipples. You get to see a load of explosions and gore as well. *Ahem*, well, now the fun of Machete is over, it's only a short wait until Hobo With A Shotgun comes out. With a name like that, you can't go wrong.

My rating:

That's still not as many machetes as Machete has.

Friday 11 March 2011

Today's Review: Really Short Reviews

I did one of these earlier in the week, mainly for comedic value. But sometimes you need to do a short review 'cause you haven't had much time to write one. They're okay, but they can be quite boring and unfulfilling.

My rating: 2/5

Thursday 10 March 2011

Today's Review: Coasters

I don't think I've seen a coaster in years. I definitely haven't used one in years, one may have subliminally come into my sight, but it wasn't worth concentrating on. Coasters are funny things. Their sole purpose is to put drinks on. But here's the kicker, you have to put them on flat, stable surfaces. You know, the ones that you can put drinks on.

I don't get it. Okay, I get the idea of them. Apparently when you put a glass or a cup down on a table or something it's likely to leave a ring. I've gotta tell you though, I don't notice any rings on my surfaces. Probably because I have two young kids, and my surfaces are forever covered in yoghurt and crumbs, but still. I've never poured a drink that's so deliciously cool that it forms running condensation like in the adverts. I've spilled coffee sometimes, that makes a ring, but on no other occasion has this happened. Which leads me to the conclusion that coasters are exclusively for clean freaks and old shaky people. 

Considering the ring-stopping nature of the coaster, I still fail to see the point. Surely it's just moving the ring to another venue? I feel like going to someone's place and saying "Eww, look at your dirty coasters." Besides, a coaster doesn't give too much protection against spillages. Sure, those old ugly straw ones can probably soak up a fair amount, but most coasters are non-absorbent, and only slightly larger than the cup or glass you're placing on it. Spill enough and you've just got a coaster shaped ring (square?) on your table. Back to square one, with a vengeance.

Okay, so let's say you're down with coasters. Which ones do you choose? There are so many. Different designs, different slogans, which coaster best reflects your amazing personality? Searching for coasters on Amazon via Google brings up several commemorative William & Kate royal wedding designs, and i'm pretty sure no one cares about that. But upon further research, there's a cornucopia of coaster delights. Floral, Mr. Men, sexy plain black in expensive materials, you can have anything. I got a bit excited for a second, until I realised that no matter what slogan or picture your coaster has, it will spend a large amount of time being covered with a beverage, and the rest of the time sitting there, not matching anything around it (unless you're really good at all that), and once the original novelty has worn off i'm sure everyone will think of you as "that guy with the lame coasters".

Screw that, I won't be that guy. My furniture will wear their rings proudly, and if anyone questions them, i'll pummel them to death with the coasters people have given me that are in a cupboard somewhere. "You want a coaster?! Here's your damn coaster! Embedded in your head, if you didn't understand my meaning due to your sudden onset brain damage."

My rating:

Seriously, why would you want that in your house?