Tuesday 31 May 2011

Today's Review: Having Hardly Any Battery Left On My Phone

I'm about to go out, perhaps to work, perhaps just out for a few hours. I look at my phone and realised it has a little less battery than I'd hoped. I've got no time to charge it, so I'm just gonna have to go with the flow. Hopefully I won't need to use it as much as I hoped.

I walk down the street without music. Everything's quiet, I can't walk to a beat, tap my fingers, I feel empty, but it's bearable. Hopefully I don't need to find my way somewhere, Maps can drain battery pretty fast. Looking up things on the internet is out too, and I can't check my Facebook and Twitter as often. It's just like being back using a normal phone. Every last bit of that battery is reserved for texts and calls.

In ways it's refreshing. Having to use my wits to find where I'm going. Thinking about things for a while instead of just looking them up on Google. It's living the way I used to, before everything got too easy. But after a bit of thought, I wish I just had more battery. Everything being easy is awesome. The internet is awesome, and I miss it.

But for today I have to tough it out. I text a few people, make a couple of calls, percentage point by percentage point drains away. I feel on edge the whole time I'm out. What if I need to call someone? Sometimes I'm not so lucky. The phone may die completely while I'm making a call, leaving me unable to make a more important one. But sometimes it's okay, I can get home with a couple of percent left to spare. In goes the charger, and all my stress goes away. Now I can internet to my heart's content.

My rating: 1/5

Monday 30 May 2011

Today's Review: Broken Glass

You know what's useful? Glass. Glass can be good for all kinds of things. Looking through, looking at your reflection in, drinking from, putting flowers in, putting random beads in because apparently that looks nice sitting in the corner of the room. Glass is awesome. It looks cool too.

You know what's not useful? When glass breaks. And when glass breaks, it tends to really want to ruin your day. You may get the odd occasion when you get a nice clean break in your glasses or mirrors, but most of the time every fibre of that material is longing for freedom, leaing across the room into laces you never thought physically possible to be reachable by an inanimate shard. There they lay in wait, longing for you to pick them up with bare fingers because you can't be bothered to get a brush, and you're feeling risky. Or longing for your forgetful foot to land gracefully on top, just so it can sink in and taste your blood. Broken glass shards are bastards. They like to sink in and become like a funky looking thorn. But even the massive chunks give you trouble, slicing you a new orifice if you pick them up the wrong way. Broken glass is only there to cause pain, suffering and annoyance.

Don't just take it from me, ask John McClane.

My rating: 0/5

Sunday 29 May 2011

Today's Review: Powerade Energy: Berry

Whenever a new kind of drink turns up at work I just gotta try it. Sometimes I fall in love, sometimes I am disgusted. Powerade falls into the latter category.

It's so promising, with such a great name. POWERADE! It gives you power! No, wait, energy! Double energy! I'm not sure how exactly you get double the energy, or how they classify that energy, but it's represented by a cube split into two strangely shaped halves. So does it give you two halves of energy, which when coupled give you one full energy? They describe it as both perking you up and keeping you going. But last time I checked, when you drink any kind of energy drink it perks you up from your slump, keeps you going for about an hour, and then you crash back down to where you started from or worse. Just one burst of energy, don't try to fob it off as two different kinds.

But enough about energy, who cares, how does it taste? Shit, to be honest. They say it's berry flavour, but the only fruit juices in the ingredients are orange and blackberry. That's only half berries. I'd rather have double berries than double energy. The result tastes like really cheap wine, but without any alcohol. So drinking Powerade feels like being a recovering alcoholic hobo who has managed to extract alcohol from shitty booze and replace it with something he calls energy but in fact is probably his own urine. Just sayin'.

My rating: 0/5

Saturday 28 May 2011

Today's Review: Tesco Roast Potatoes

Another Saturday night working, another trip to discover reduced goodies in Tesco. This time I picked up a pot of pasta that was probably way too big for one person, but it was all good. At a routine stop by the hot deli for reduced chicken and sausages and the like, I discovered a new wonder, roast potatoes. My my, how could I resist? And at 65p too. Turns out I probably should've resisted.

Look at that. It even looks soggy. Because, y'know, they're soggy. It seems like they've been boiled until they're soft, roasted for about 10 minutes, to give that nice burnt edge look, and then boiled some more and dumped in a bag. They have that melt in the mouth factor, but only because they slosh around until they break down to nothing. Well, at least they tasted like potatoes, and they're hot, but they could do so much better.

Of course, I say this because over the last couple of years I have perfected my roast potatoes. My roast potatoes are so awesome they're as good, if not better than my future mother in law's. And I construct them using mere potatoes and salt taken from the aisles of Tesco, and it takes little effort to get them awesome. Not sure how they'd do under a glaring hot plate for a few hours, but they'd certainly be better than this, all salty and crunchy and awesome. If you think I'm tooting my own horn here, you should hear me go on about my yorkshire puddings, because they are the absolute bomb. 

So yes, disappointing. Tesco should therefore hire me as a full time roast potato maker, 'cause they're doing it wrong.

My rating: 1/5

Friday 27 May 2011

Today's Review: The Fighter

So yes, all the award winners are coming out on Blu-Ray/DVD. Some I haven't seen. That includes The Fighter. Everyone tends to go a bit ape shit for a boxing movie. Probably because a lot of guys don't want to watch a movie if it doesn't involve someone's bodily fluids spilling out at one point, but they can also comfort themselves with the fact that it's a wonderful underdog story instead of just some inexplicably-still-alive person blowing shit up for two hours. 

The Fighter is pretty damn good though. It stars Mark Wahlberg, which isn't a great thing, since he's ruined the Max Payne franchise for me and is apparently about to do the same with Uncharted. He is widely recognised as not a great actor, but most of the criticism came from the awful The Happening, which almost even ruined Zooey Deschanel for me. So here he is stepping up to the bat again, and I must say I didn't find him that unlikeable in the movie, but that's probably because his co-star Christian Bale made me hate him a whole lot more.

Wahlberg plays Micky (no 'e'), a budding boxer who is managed by his mother and trained by his brother, Dicky (Bale), who one knocked down a high profile guy while boxing and is still feeding off the glory, whether it's there or not. Trouble is, Dicky is a tiny bit addicted to crack, looks like shit and acts like a pretentious jackass, and their mother (Melissa Leo) is all about loyalty, and surrounded by her what seems like 500 sisters they're very good at keeping Micky in his place, which is in a dead end town that worships a drug addict. 

So The Fighter is about one man's struggle to break away from his family loyalties and actually try to make a name for himself. And no matter how you feel about Wahlberg, or find his character uninspiring, his family are so undeniably wormy and full of themselves you can't help but root for the good guy. Bale and Leo won Oscars for their roles as brother and mother, and it's not hard to see why. They take on their roles perfectly and I was almost fuming every time they started being dicks. 

The story is well paced, and there are a couple of turns along the way that keep the events fresh, instead of just being stuck in a town with women calling each other skanks. The main catalyst of change is Micky's new girlfriend, Charlene, played by Amy Adams. I've only ever seen her in airy fairy roles, mostly about twenty times playing Giselle in Enchanted, so it's really cool to see her using a gritty accent and threatening to pull someone's hair out of their head. Everyone just fitted their parts really well, maybe apart from Wahlberg. I wasn't really concentrating much on him, it was much more interesting seeing everyone else fight over his attention. It seems that Micky is just along for the ride, going with whatever feels good at the time, and his character is certainly overshadowed by the talent surrounding him.

That's not to say the story was bland. I'm aware it was based on true events, so it wasn't the most exciting thing I've ever seen, but it progressed nicely and kept my attention quite well. The Fighter was good. It wasn't one of my favourite movies of the year, probably wouldn't make it to be nominated for my Best Picture, but it's definitely worth a watch.

My rating: 4/5

Thursday 26 May 2011

Today's Review: My First 100 Reviews

Yesterday I wrote my 100th A Review A Day entry. Ain't that cool? 100 is a big number, it sounds like a lot of posts that took a long time, but due to my strict daily policy it's actually been just over three months since I started this blog.

Why did I start writing a review a day? I'd always meant to start writing reviews for all the free movies and game I got from work, but after not getting a job I applied for, I decided to be more proactive in my approach to writing and hopefully refine my skills. But just reviewing movies could get a bit boring, so I thought it would be interesting to review one thing every day, be it film, game, food or inanimate object. It gets my creative sparks flowing, but also keeps me to a strict deadline I can use to discipline myself.

So far around half of my reviews have been about things you'd expect to find reviews of, which means I've written an awful lot of shit about random things. But most of the time that's a lot of fun, and it lets me employ parody, farce and various other things I wouldn't normally be able to use effectively. I'm aware that the awesome band We Are Scientists started writing reviews of random things on their website before I did, but theirs are few and far between, and my goal is apparently to write a review of everything in existence.

I've always been highly critical of my own writing, and that hasn't changed since I've started this blog. Some entries I'm really proud of, but some I think are really suffering, mostly because I've written them at 11pm after not being inspired much during the day. But still, I'm quite impressed that I've not missed a single review so far, apart from the time the website went down and I had to post my review the next day. Damn you, internets. At the end of it all, not every review I write is going to be golden, I'll be inspired to write more about some things. In fact, I find this current review to be a little bit pretentious. Why would anyone want to read me evaluating my own work? But this is my blog, so you're at my mercy now. Evil laugh and such.

So while we're being boring, let's take a look at some stats. Since my blog began I have had 2,606 page views. That's quite a big number, but it only averages around 26 views per review, until you see my top hits that is. My three most viewed posts are all food related. The KFC Brazer, Pizza Hut Deli Americano pizza and Cadbury's Chocos have had 415, 385 and 202 views respectively. The next most popular post only has 50 views, so I have no idea why those three are so popular. Maybe people value food reviews above all else, or maybe the freak occurrence I saw with the Deli Americano pizza review rising to the top of the Google search results has been replicated for other foods. I don't quite know how it's happening, but those three reviews account for over a third of my total views. Crazy.

That's not to say I don't have some regular readers. At least, I hope I do. If there are any regulars reading this, feel free to comment so I don't feel sad and alone in this cold blogosphere. Not that I started this to be massively famous or anything, but if people out there are enjoying it would be good to know. I like feedback, even if it's feedback telling me I'm awful. Than I can be less awful.

Well, it's been a good 100 days. Here's to the next 100, and all the ones after that. Maybe now it's time to start putting some ads around the page. I've put enough time into this, time to get paid pennies for my work. See you around.

My rating: 4/5

Wednesday 25 May 2011

Today's Review: Attack The Block

I was going to see QI last night. We didn't get in though, which sucked tremendous amounts of balls. So thankfully I remembered the Coronet in Notting Hill has £3.50 tickets on Tuesdays. Problem solved. Attack The Block was playing, and it's one of those movies I decided I want to see based on the poster. Inner city rude boys against aliens? Count me in.

Sticking the fact that it's related to Shaun Of The Dead on the poster to anything seems like a grab for attention, but in this case it fits the bill quite well. Attack The Block does for the alien movie what Shaun Of The Dead did for the zombie movie. It's one of those rare parodies that is a respectable movie in its own right, and follows the flawless execution seen in Shaun and Hot Fuzz of taking what should be a big budget Hollywood movie and pushing it into a very British setting. 

Attack The Block follows Moses, a young boy living in a particularly unsavoury block of flats in South London. Along with his gang of ruffians, they mug a woman at knife point on Bonfire Night, before a meteorite crashes into a nearby car and an alien jumps out and attacks them. Feeling personally wronged for having been scratched by a strange creature, Moses of course hunts it down and beats the shit out of it. Then he and his gang deliver it to the top of "the block" to see if their residential stoned TV watcher can figure out what the hell it is. However, more aliens are on the way, and these ones are massive, black, "gorilla wolf motherfuckers" with glowing blue teeth. And when they start advancing all bets are off. Even with the gang tooled up with random weapons from their flats they quickly find themselves fighting for their lives.

The constant running in and around the block kind of reminds me of Skyline, except this movie was actually good, and not just because there were samurai swords involved. Skyline had a much broader scope, but instead chose to focus on some instantly unlikeable kids shitting themselves for an hour and a half. The protagonists of Attack The Block start out with you hating them just for being the standard rude boy stereotype, but as the plot progresses you get to learn more about them, and see the lengths they go to to protect their home and each other. That's not to say that their initial behaviour is redeemed, indeed the movie makes a very good point of not trying to explain away why they were out mugging that evening. The boys admit it happened but don't express any regret for it, but maybe that's because they're fighting massive aliens with fluorescent teeth, so that's the last thing on their minds. 

Attack The Block isn't a massively funny movie. The comedy is there, and much like Shaun Of The Dead it lies in the inherent Britishness that is being pumped into the genre, but in this movie it's not as prominent, the action and grittiness stand beside it equally. The gang talk their lingo at lightning speed, and the odd remark of wanting to be home playing Fifa instead are good for quick laughs. Everyone stays in character throughout, and while at times it may be a little hard to understand if you're not familiar with the lingo, the gang's dialogue and reactions to situations are pitch perfect.

The aliens are threatening, the soundtrack is awesome and the characters are likeable despite being people everyone would usually despise. While the plot suffers a little towards the end, there's not much that could have been done within the confines of a block of flats. But I had a good time watching it, and that's what counts.

My rating: 4/5

Tuesday 24 May 2011

Today's Review: The Shoulder Straps On My Jacket

After a particularly healthy shopping trip today, I returned home with a backpack full of vegetables. Sliding it off my shoulder, I felt a small "pop" as a button came off the shoulder strap of my jacket. "Oh crap," I thought, "now I won't be able to..." but I couldn't think of what I'd not be able to do with my bow defunct shoulder strap. What are they for? Attaching military insignia and decoration and the like. But I don't have any of those as my jacket is from Debenhams and not the military.

I see no practical application for these things in my life. I could hang some shopping bags from them, but that would look stupid. It seems more likely that large people would just grab me by them as I run away from muggings. I guess they're there for decoration, but they just look a bit stupid. Especially now one is unrestrained and flapping in the wind.

Oh well. I guess I'll just go and find a couple of falcons and get them to perch on the straps. Then they could fly me around places and attack my enemies. It's the only thing I can think of.

My rating: 1/5

Monday 23 May 2011

Today's Review: True Grit

I'd begun to lose faith in the Coen brothers. I haven't seen all of their movies, I'll be honest. I'm not as much of a fanatic about them as a lot of people are. For example, I've only seen The Big Lebowski once, and I must not have given it the attention it deserves, as I didn't think it was amazing and everyone else seems to. Fargo was very good however, and No Country For Old Men has earned its place in my Blu-Ray collection. But after that came Burn After Reading, which was alright, and then A Serious Man, which I didn't get in the slightest. Oh well, I thought, it was good for a while there. But now the Coen's have brought me True Grit, and I'm hay again. 

It seems that the Coens felt they were slipping too, because they've brought back the stars of two of their biggest movies, Jeff Bridges and Josh Brolin, and returned to the dusty setting that served them well in No Country For Old Men. Just look at that poster up there, it looks awesome. Bridges, Brolin, Damon, all great names. Wait, who's that girl hanging out in the background? Don't mind her, she's a newcomer.

Oh wait, do mind her, because she pretty much steals the show. Hailee Stanfield plays Mattie Ross, a girl looking to avenge the death of her father in the old West, and looking to hire a ranger with "true grit", Rooster Cogburn (Bridges) to help her track down the guy who did it. So off they set into dangerous territory, swapping stories and insults along the way. Mattie seems to have some grit herself, because she never lets up on her mission, and is determined to see that everything is done according to her plan, despite Texas ranger LaBoeuf (Damon) getting in the way.

This is one of those movies that I did not want to stop watching. Normally after 15 minutes or so of a movie I get distracted by something on the internet, or start playing with my phone, because I'm a product of the 21st Century. But True Grit managed to hold my attention all the way through, and I loved every minute of it. Every single character was so well thought out, and their portrayals were absolutely perfect. Even the somewhat brief appearances by the villains near the end were completely awesome, especially Barry Pepper's portrayal of the spit-happy bandit Lucky Ned. Not only were the characters great in their own right, the repartee between them was outstanding. Be it Mattie and Cogburn swapping life stories or a standoff between hero and villain, the script does suffer and always holds your attention. There's a part at a campfire where after a lengthy conversation Mattie says she'll tell everyone a ghost story, before the scene ends. I would've loved to have heard that story, especially since she was getting her companions involved. The ability to provide me with lengthy dialogue in movies and still leave me wanting more has only lately been matched by Tarantino's Inglourious Basterds. 

But a movie can't just get by on the acting, no matter how good it is. But True Grit delivers in every way. It's beautifully shot, the story is wonderfully paced, the settings and costumes look so authentic. Even the way everyone delivers their lines seems perfect, everyone growling, enunciating properly and using all the slang you'd expect a rough cowboy to use. Even though my only reference material for such is other Western movies, but still. Awesome. It's easy to see why it was nominated for ten Academy Awards, because every individual aspect of it comes together wonderfully.

This is the part where I'd usually talk about the bad points, but I couldn't find any. Sure, people may have talked for longer than is normally entertaining, but with this strong a script it's not a bad point at all. At no point was I sitting and thinking the scene I was watching was unnecessary, and I love to point out when that happens. 

Nope, True Grit is just awesome. So watch it.

My rating: 5/5

Sunday 22 May 2011

Today's Review: My MacBook Surgery

If there's one thing kids like to do, it's to play with all of your expensive electronic equipment until it breaks. Well, I assume all kids like to do it, because mine love it. Since bearing children we have had two broken iPhones, two broken cameras, and a dead MacBook. Thankfully my iPhones were replaced via insurance and nice Geniuses, but my first MacBook died after a puke related incident, a week after my warranty expired. Boom, £800 for a new one. Which I then promptly dropped on its screen. Hence my current FrankenMac.

So my new MacBook has been slowly degrading since my son was born. Cracks are appearing, and the screen has gone a bit wonky. Until the other day when I entered the living room to find the MacBook on the floor with the screen half hanging off. I thought that was fantastic, because even if I wanted to get it fixed I couldn't close the screen properly to take it anywhere. So I took it upon myself to find the problem.

So after much unscrewing, and shards of plastic and metal falling out all over the place, I had managed to free the screen from the rest of the casing, and could identify the problem. Somehow the screen itself was still intact, but the hinges connecting it to the base had snapped, despite being made of metal. The plastic hinge cover had basically been destroyed too, meaning there wasn't much connecting the screen to the base at all. I briefly thought about taking it to an Apple store, before realising that they'd probably charge me hundreds of pounds for it. So off to eBay I went, and found the parts that I needed for £26. Two days later, they were delivered. Now the fiddly bit.

Mmm, shiny new parts. I thought it might be simple enough to replace the hinges, but they're rooted pretty deep inside the machine, so of course I had to disassemble the whole thing. I'd done it before with my completely busted MacBook, but this one is still working, so I had to trust myself to not break stuff while I was rooting around inside.

Having lost every precision screwdriver set I've ever owned, I had to root through around 15 random screwdrivers lying in my tool box in order to find one to take out the screws. There are a lot of screws. On the side, round the back, inside the battery compartment, inside the memory compartment. All quite small and fiddly. Since my kids were running around at the time, I for some reason thought it best to connect them all to a magnet that fell out while I was examining my screen, just so I didn't lose any. Because I'm a bit thick like that.

After much screwing and prying, the guts were revealed. Thankfully the keyboard disconnects very easily, and there's direct acces to most thing you need. Taking off the hinges was easy enough, but the problem came when putting in the new ones and working them around the wires leading into the screen itself, and the ones running to the camera and mic. But eventually I sorted it all out, screwed on the plastic cover and voila.

Look at those shiny new hinges. Of course, I still have to actually connect the screen back onto the base, but that was as simple as just sliding it on top of the hinges.

Hooray, it stands up again. My work here is done. Oh wait, the guts are still exposed and I have to screw all those infernal screws back in. But no biggie. Apart from I'm not sure which screws went where...

But I did it. And I didn't break anything. Except the keyboard and trackpad didn't work. Probably should have tested that before I put all the screws back in. But no problem, I'm like a pro now. So off came the casing, keyboard disconnected and reconnected, and all back together again. Like a boss. Except I have a few screws left over. I'm sure they're not important. I can hear the collective exasperated sigh of technical minded Mac people. Haters gonna hate. 

My rating: 4/5

Saturday 21 May 2011

Today's Review: The Rapture

The end of the world. When will it be? Science places it at several million years away, when the sun turns into a red giant and envelopes Earth, at which point the human race will be long extinct. But that's obviously bullshit, because the real answer lies in one book that was written ages ago, and it takes a hell of a lot of analysis and guess work to get a real answer, but it's there.

The Rapture was today, as predicted by Harold Camping, a guy who knows about these things because he's read the Bible. At 6 p.m. earthquakes would shake our world,  and all the good Christians would meet Jesus in the air, and be taken to heaven, leaving us sinners, in preparation for the end of the world five months from now. I presume the start time was 6 p.m. because Camping called Jesus to get an estimated delivery time and he could only say he'd be coming from 8 a.m., and 6 at the latest.

I was at work at 6 this evening, because I feel that the thing people really need before they are delivered from Earth is to watch a movie and eat some popcorn. I didn't feel an earthquake, but that's probably because Britain isn't on a fault line, so we're lucky there. I didn't see any bright lights or people rising up either, but that could have been because I was surrounded by sinners. I didn't see Jesus anywhere, but I'd assume that he'd be floating above Big Ben or some other landmark, so it would suck if you're being Raptured all the way from Scotland. You might be really slow at the flying and everyone would be gone by the time you got there.

To be honest, I'm not sure if the Rapture occurred at all. There don't appear to be any news reports confirming it, but if anyone could hush the media it would be Jesus. But how are people supposed to rise up anyway? Tractor beams? Maybe God expected us to have evolved the power of flight by now, but instead we've been evolving modern medicine to the point where totally inadequate people can breed. Oops.

Well, I'd probably like to stay on Earth anyway. Sure, the world may end in five months, but everyone would know that, it'd be a free for all. I could probably go everywhere I wanted to, there'd be peace on Earth probably. One world banded together under threat of apocalypse, just like at the end of Watchmen. Oops, spoiler. You've only got five months to read it, so you'd better get to it.

Well, I'm a man of science, and no empirical evidence suggests to me that Jesus did not come and take his people. Sorry, but I'd need to see something on YouTube, because I believe everything I see on the internet. But perhaps the Rapture wasn't what everyone was expecting anyway. Maybe everyone just lost a pound, or sprouted a second head for a split second and felt a bit awkward afterwards. Either way it all feels like a bit of a cop out.

My rating: 0/5

By the way, I've been studying one of my books for a while, and I'm pretty sure that Voldemort is gonna rise next month, so keep an eye on that.

Friday 20 May 2011

Today's Review: L.A. Noire

When Rockstar release a game, it's pretty much expected to cause a buzz nowadays. Their last two major releases, Grand Theft Auto IV and Red Dead Redemption, have been critically acclaimed for their deep size, storylines and graphical quality. So when Rockstar announced the release of L.A. Noire there was enough to be excited about that it was a film noir style game based in 1940s L.A.

Then some gameplay got revealed. Everyone was blown away again. L.A. Noire uses a new type of facial scanning technology, that literally puts the actor into a game. No longer do they just lend their voices, but each and every smirk, eyebrow lift arm movement to their on-screen character. This is where the crux of the game lies, and it's a very intriguing spin that has never been explored to this extent in a video game before.

If you love Rockstar games solely for your ability to go on a rampage and murder innocents and policemen alike, then you might want to rethink what you're picking up L.A. Noire for. You play as a cop this time, working your way up through the LAPD, taking on different cases over several departments. Sure, you can free-roam around the massive city, taking cars and hitting pedestrians if you like, but you politely ask people for their cars instead of punching them in the face, and running someone over pretty much just gives you some text saying "That was naughty, we'll tell you off later".

L.A. Noire is essentially what you'd get if you took GTA, removed all the mindless violence and stuck a Phoenix Wright game in its place. If you're not familiar with Phoenix Wright, it's a DS game series in which you explore crime scenes, find evidence, and present said evidence in court to disprove testimonies and find the right perpetrator for the crime. I've constantly been reminded of Phoenix Wright as I've been working my way through L.A. Noire, and since I love those games it's no bad thing. But L.A. Noire takes it so much further. Instead of just reading testimonies and presenting clear evidence for contradictions, you have to examine every character's facial expressions, body movements, and tone of voice, and get the option to either accept what they say as truth, push a little harder, or go all out and tell them they're lying, with the corroborating evidence.

Throughout the first few cases, I became a little disillusioned with this system. There's a grace period after they're talking in which the person sits and exhibits behaviour. It seemed if they looked straight at you, they were telling the truth. If they looked away a little, they needed a little push, and if they were not looking at all they were most likely lying. Easy peasy, I thought. My Psychology degree is worth something after all. But then I got a bit further and found it a lot tougher. You have to really examine everyone as they're talking, take into account the situation they're in, and only then can you make a properly informed choice.

But don't think that blindly guessing will get you through okay. If you accuse a suspect of something they didn't do, they can get angry, which could lead to them not providing you with a clue you could need to find the real perp. If you don't find enough evidence or get the right information out of people, you can get a very shitty case rating and a bollocking from your superior. It's possible to miss whole scenes, or get different ones altogether. For example, in once case I managed to head off some thugs raiding an apartment and give them what for, but the next time I played they'd left by the time I got there. In another I was chasing a cab through the streets via information I was getting over police radio. Of course, I crashed my car beyond repair and lost the trail, but after restarting I didn't get a lead on the cab at all, and it turns out it was important to really getting to the root of the case. One suspect ran and got charged, but a friend of mine never saw im running at all. It seems like multiple playthroughs are required to really get the most of how the cases pan out.

I'm probably just less than halfway through the game, and so far most cases seem quite unconnected, apart from a potential serial killer. But old people's names are starting to crop up, so it seems that everything will come together through underlying plot points to deliver a kick ass second half. I don't think that's too much to ask either. This is Rockstar, and the story lines of GTA IV and Red Dead Redemption were just as engrossing, with all the recurring characters and twists and turns of an awesomely written 40 hour movie.

In this respect, L.A. Noire isn't without its faults. Sure, the character work is amazing, the idle banter in driving scenes is as great as always. But in the end it plays out a little too much like a movie. You get your case, go to a place, find some things, talk to someone, and repeat until you finish the case. The evidence collecting is basically walking around and pressing a button when your controller vibrates, and the interrogation is listening to someone talk and then pressing a button. There's not too much playability involved in the story so far, apart from the odd car chase and driving scenes, and you can even get your partner to just drive you places automatically. But hey, Heavy Rain was all about pressing some buttons now and again, and that was an awesome game. And with the Rockstar team behind L.A. Noire they really make up for the lack of action by really pulling you into the story. Instead of being a boring experience like it sounds, it's actually really refreshing having to think and observe your way through a game instead of shooting blindly.

But for the impatient among us, there are added Street Crime missions to break up the story. You can answer various radio transmissions to shoot down a petty criminal with a gun or chase someone through the city streets. I haven't taken too many of these missions so far as they tend to contribute to the collateral damage that can affect my case rating, but mostly these are a bit unfulfilling. You go somewhere, shoot someone, call in someone to take away the body and have a sad look on your face, which makes me think things could have gone differently. Every time I tried to take someone alive though, they just pistol whipped me in the face when I got close. Death it is for you then buddy.

So yeah, L.A. Noire is awesome. So far. And I haven't even experienced the potential I'm sure the story has. So I'm going to carry on playing with it now. There's evidence to be found, even if the game makes me pick up twice as much rubbish per crime scene than actual clues. "Hmm, this empty bottle could be important. Oh wait, it's not. Just like the other ten I've picked up are not."

My rating: 5/5

Thursday 19 May 2011

Today's Review: This Text I Got

Free message it says. I do hope it's free, otherwise there would be some system whereby you could just send a text to someone and get paid for it. Then the world's economy would collapse overnight. But thanks for clarifying that this is not yet occurring. But anyway, now I've calmed down from imagining sleeping under a newspaper, what is the purpose of this message?

"Our records indicate you may be entitled to £3850 for the accident you had". Well, obviously they want to get straight to this point, because the message doesn't even bother to explain who's sending it. Although there would be a name showing up at the top if I had the number saved. Is this a number everyone should have stored in the phone? Did I meet a prolific injury lawyer who gave me his number while I was drunk, but I didn't put it in my phone properly? What am I missing out on here, and what stories did I tell this prolific injury lawyer involving an accident I had? Come to think of it, what accident did I have? I can't think of anything particularly devastating. Nothing that's worth almost £3,850. Unless you're talking about... my child? Sure, she wasn't planned, but she's no accident. How dare you Mr. Random Encounter Injury Lawyer, I don't need compensation for that. Or are you trying to buy her? Shame on you. And for such a small amount. I could put her to work and earn more than that in less than a year on minimum wage.

Why such a specific amount anyway? So you can claim legal expenses of £150? This is getting worse by the minute. Whoever sent this is evil. They want to buy my children for small amounts and put them to work sending out texts to other people. I will not stand for this.


Ah, all is right with the world again.

My rating: 0/5

Wednesday 18 May 2011

Today's Review: Love And Other Drugs

Oh look, it's a quirky romantic comedy starring Jake Gyllenhaal and Anne Hathaway. Or is it? The description on the box implies it. The trailer implies it too. But underneath all the cliché is quite a dramatic turn that made this not quite your ordinary rom-com.

Gyllenhaal plays Jamie, a cocky, bad boy electronics salesman who gets fired from his job because he's a cocky bad boy who screws loads of women, including the boss' wife. So instead he turns his hand to becoming a cocky, bad boy pharmaceuticals salesman, because that makes more money and he can still screw loads of women. It was really a good indication for me of how the movie was gonna go when it started out with Gyllenhaal strutting his asshole self in front of swooning females. Oooh, he thinks he's sexy now, but surely there'll be some revelation that will change his ways.

Of course, he meets his match in Maggie, played by Hathaway, a confident sassy girl who ends up just wanting copious amounts of sex with him with no strings attached. Of course, I cry, the standard fuck buddy movie, until one of the two realises they want to take things further, and dramatic consequences occur before they get back together in the end anyway.

There's one catch though, Maggie has early onset Parkinson's disease. So while the first half of the movie sinks into quirky comedy cliché, the latter half delves a lot deeper into the consequences of the disease, and the strain that it puts upon the couple's relationship. This is where Love And Other Drugs shines. Both Gyllenhaal and Hathaway have had some great dramatic roles in the past, and this movie lets them showcase both their dramatic and comedic side. Some of the jokes were quite funny, but the movie slowed down beautifully in the penultimate acts to portray some genuine emotion. 

There's a whole side story about the rise of Viagra and Jamie's success with selling it, and it doesn't really seem to fit into the rest of the story, but once you realise that this movie is based on a non-fiction book you can easily forgive it. Sometimes it's good to not have everything tie in together, because life isn't just a series of completely interwoven events. Makes it seem a lot more real. And while Jamie's work life doesn't really have any relation to what's happening in his relationship, it provides a good cutaway from the dramatic happenings by providing some comic relief at times.

Sadly, the movie doesn't quite end on the high note it reaches in most of the latter half, shifting back into the much more comfortable romantic comedy ending scenario. Not to say it's entirely a bad ending, but I wasn't expecting it to shift so obviously back into cliché territory. Still, Love And Other Drugs is a lot better than I expected, and is worth a watch if you like your romantic movies but want something a little bit different, and more adult. It'll even keep the otherwise bored men occupied too, because you get to see Hathaway's boobies about once every ten minutes.

My rating: 3/5

Tuesday 17 May 2011

Today's Review: The Circle

There are many shapes around today. You have the square, the triangle, the rectangle, the diamond, oh wait, that's just a knocked over square. There are other, hexagons, dodecahedrons, polytagoreannippolopolislygingas (I just looked up the longest shape name on Google. I hope that's a real shape, although it almost containing the words "nipple" and "ginger" means it doesn't have a lot going for it). But for all practical reasons, only a few of those heavily populate the world around us.

Looking around now, there's an abundance of rectangles. Windows, cabinets, TVs, unless you're some fancy interior design fanatic, most of the stuff in your home is rectangular, or at least square. It's probably the most useful shape, but what of circles? Circles are just cool. Though entirely useless in the sense of holding things, without circles we wouldn't even have wheels. The wheel is placed alongside fire as one of the most important discoveries in human history, and this has regularly been celebrated in modern times by jumping motorbikes through circles that are on fire, or burning shitloads of tyres.

So yeah, wheels. They're circles. Not enough? Earth is round, the sun is round, and they're the main things that gave us life and are keeping us alive. Without circles we'd be doing all crazy kinds of square shaped orbits, and if life was even formed at all we'd be freezing to death every time our planet got to a corner in its orbit.

What do you do for fun these days? Play some sport? Watch movies? Well, both activities probably involve balls or DVDs. Both circular. Maybe you just like to spin in circles for fun, because you're a bit weird. Well, try spinning in a square. Not as fun is it? In everything we do, there's probably a circle involved one step of the way that is integral to the process. Gears in machines used to be circles, and even now we're relying on wind farms and water turbines to produce electricity. See, squares might look nice, but when it gets down to it they're not gonna move much, and if they do they won't like going around those corners. Circles have no corners, because they don't need anyone. They just get the job done, and they can keep spinning and rolling forever, as long as Newton doesn't stop them.

So embrace the circle. Without circles we'd all be dead from nuclear war or zombies or something. Just don't try to use them as furniture. Unless it's a table. That's okay. And some circular vases look pretty nice. Whatever, circles are cool.

My rating: 4/5

Monday 16 May 2011

Today's Review: Daleks

Just recently I started watching Doctor Who again. I tried to watch it when it was first rebooted, but I couldn't get into it. But I have been informed that this is due to the fact that the first four series were mostly terribly written, and since Steven Moffat has taken over it has turned much more amazing. I very much enjoyed series five indeed, but I feel I have to go back over the somewhat shitty stuff to get the rest of the backstories that I'm currently missing out on. I watched a few of the older ones when I was a child, some of the aliens I saw scared the hell out of me, but there's one I never quite undestood. The Dalek.

Daleks are synonymous with Doctor Who. There have been countless anecdotes by old people recounting how they hid behind the sofa cushions, or the sofa itself, whenever a Dalek graced their TV screen in the 60s. Many regard them as the most terrifying Doctor Who villain of all time. But why? Look at the thing.

It's a bulky robot. With one eye and one gun. It's not exactly the most threatening thing I've seen, especially since no one's bothered to redesign it even in the slightest in the last 50 years so it no longer looks like it's holding a plunger and a whisk. This is the most terrifying creature? What about the mannequins that had freakin' guns in their hands? They scared the crap out of me. Even Cybermen were more scary, they at least had more than one weapon, and they had a heck of a lot more mobility.

They have flimsy wheels on their base, they're pretty fat, and they can only see through one circular eye. They can't even turn around that fast, all you'd need to do to avoid one is keeping running around it singing "You can't catch me". The whisk-gun is about as useful as a T-Rex arm that shoots death rays, as in, pretty useful, but only if something is within a certain radius. Their computer-interfacing plunger thing is probably even less useful. What if the interface is larger than the plunger? What if it's at a dodgy angle? They've got all those weird little balls on their bottom half as well. I know they serve some purpose but I'm sure they could have used more guns or eyes or something.

I'll admit, I haven't properly brushed up on the entire history of the Daleks, but from what I've heard they can be quite powerful. When they're connected to computer systems and the like. But for basic ground combat, when we have very agile humans with guns and such, I don't see how they pose any sort of threat. Hell, at first they couldn't even climb up stairs. Until they changed that by letting them hover, 'cause they realised how stupid it all was. That's the thing I don't understand about how the Daleks have developed over time. Every time one of their shortcomings was getting in the way of the story, they just seem to have gained the ability to do something for no particular reason other than that someone said so. They couldn't go upstairs, so suddenly they could hover. Now they can fly. None of the physical characteristics have changed, but they gain new abilities whenever they feel like it.

But why? The Dalek casing is just a housing for a mutated alien. You'd think all the times that they've been rebuilt they'd put in some schematic updates. An eye in the back of the head? A more maneuverable weapon? Nah, what we've got is fine, even though every time we've tried to do something we've been foiled by one man wielding a screwdriver. 

You can lecture me on how I don't understand Dalek biology or history, because I don't know it all. There might be perfectly good reasons as to why they can't be upgraded, but you try and tell me that this fat weaponised wheelchair is terrifying, and I'm pretty sure you'd be wrong.

My rating: 2/5

Sunday 15 May 2011

Today's Review: The Fact That My Shelves Will Not Properly Hold All The Disney Classics

We went on holiday to Orlando in December 2008, and of course a trip to Disney World was involved. My childhood was reborn within me, and I revelled in all the imagery and characters that I had grown up with. But the experience left me somewhat disappointed in myself. I had never seen Sleeping Beauty, or sat through the entirety of Cinderella. There were only a few of these timeless movies that I had watched quite a bit when I was a kid. My children would not share my fate.

Now, just over two years later, I have collected almost every Disney animated classic. In a week's time the 50th, Tangled, will be released, which of course I shall get with haste. But there's a problem. It won't fit properly on my shelves. I used to have one alcove on my Ikea Expedit bookcase to house all the kids' DVDs, and there wasn't too much trouble keeping my Disney collection in the front row. I had a couple of Blu-Ray versions of the newest ones, and they were placed with the rest of my Blu-Rays. But of course, since I wanted to collect all the classics one day, I had to place them in chronological order of release, Blu-Ray next to DVD and all. For a while I resorted to placing the second half of my collection behind the first, but that second row houses the undisputed classics of the 1990s, and the rejuvenated awesomeness that has come around now John Lasseter is at the helm. So, the kids' DVD section is now spread across two shelves. But each shelf only holds 23 DVDs. It's just no good. Sure, there are two movies that have so far eluded me, Basil The Great Mouse Detective, which is going for ridiculous prices on eBay, and Make Mine Music, which hasn't even been released in this country, but even with the 48/50 that I will own in two weeks, some DVDs will have to be relegated to something other than the front spot.

I have no room to start another shelf of kids DVDs, and even if I did it would look empty and unloved. I could transfer over my Pixar Blu-Rays to make up the space, but they belong in my collection because I get boners over everything they make (no paedophilic subtext intended). I don't want to relegate any of my collection to the back row, even if there are a few movies that neither I or anyone else had heard of before I started collecting. It seems the only option is to find some more shelves. But I don't want to do that because I am cheap and like my things the way they are. Therein lies the dilemma. Damn you Ikea, damn you to hell. Why make a bookcase that only holds 23 cases? 25 is a round number, and people like round numbers. Maybe you designed it to only hold round numbers of books, but that makes no sense because books are all different sizes. I only assume you made it this way to taunt me.

Maybe I'll give Ikea the finger, invest in a shelf that holds my Disney DVDs perfectly. Until Winnie The Pooh comes out. Then I'll cry again. And in 19 years I'll wish I had my old Expedit back so I can fit my 69 movies in. But at the moment I'm annoyed. Because nerds get annoyed when they can't properly organise their passionately collected nerdy things.

My rating: 0/5

Saturday 14 May 2011

Today's Review: The Reduced Section At Tesco

Food is a funny old thing. So many warnings and use by dates, and ways of cooking it so we don't kill ourselves. When did food get so dangerous? Sure, in the really olden days it used to want to eat us too, but when we pick something up off the shelves we shouldn't be wondering how we can stop it from harming us. Best before and use by dates are just a way to stop companies being sued by ill people. If something is alright by your judgement then it's probably alright to eat. Unless you're stupid.

But there is one upside to these printed dates. When things get close to them and haven't sold, the people selling them lower the price and stick them in a separate section. I frequent the reduced sections in Tesco, and they have provided me with many a fine food to eat that is exactly the same as food I would get elsewhere at the store, normally at half the price. If I'm at work and fancy a little something to eat, I can normally nip over and spend a couple of pounds on an almighty feast. Just today I got two Cornish pasties and two mini apple crumbles for just over £1. My stomach almost came, before it realised that that was biologically impossible.

The reduced section has served me well over the years. I've had microwaveable treats, fancy cheeses, fancy meats, quiche, breads, fruit, desserts a plenty. There's almost always something there that can get my tumbly rumbling. But it's not for the picky people amongst us. If you're a fussy eater, it's not a good way to buy your food. You are at the mercy of what everyone else discards, and if most people don't like it enough to buy it a fussy person probably wouldn't either. Sometimes the section even likes to tease me. They have stuff that takes half an hour to cook in the oven, when I'm looking for something to stick in the microwave. Things are left there that I really want, only to find out that there's no reduced price label on it. If I have a fruitless trip to the reduced section I can be quite saddened. But mostly it is a wonderful place to go and explore, even if you have to push some old ladies out of the way to get dibs on the treats.

My rating: 4/5

Also an honourable mention to the Co-Op near my place that put all their pastries at 10p each the other night. They fed me for two days. Omnomnom.

Friday 13 May 2011

Today's Review: The Mess My Kids Make

I'm surrounded by mess. There are toys, clothes, plates, stuff just strewn everywhere. It never used to be this way. The were no toys, anyway. It used to be just me, alone, in my room, surrounded by things i'd discarded and couldn't be bothered to clean up in my adolescent laziness. Those were the days. The days when your parents would tell you to clean your room and did it for you eventually anyway.

That's because they know. They know what's coming. While they're picking up your empty plates and only slightly dirty clothes, they're laughing inside. Because one day you'll be the parent, and the harsh truth will hit you. It's not so bad at first. You've got a tiny little baby, it can't even move. It just lies there, drinking milk, screaming, sleeping. But then the nappies start to get a little too dirty. You start getting poop on your arms, and it annoys you, but you can't take it out on the baby.

Soon enough they'll begin to move. Roll over, crawl, that's okay, they're not interested in grabbing things ye- holy fuck everything's been pulled off the shelves. Keep your possessions out of reach people, they're going down. DVD boxes will be trampled, discs broken, taken out of alphabetical order for God's sake. But that's just your stuff. You know what kids like to play with? Toys. Toys get everywhere. You find cars in your shoes, a piece in the bedroom for a toy that is in the living room.

It's okay to start with. You don't have too many toys, not too many pieces, you can put it all back quite easily. But children get toys all the time. Birthdays, Christmas, it just increases the amount of mess that can build up in your home. Soon enough you'll leave the room for just a second and an almighty crash will pull you back to find your child sitting in a pile of stuff that he finds interesting for one minute. Then they'll go and destroy something else. Oh well, you think, tidying up the first pile. But as soon as that's done and you move onto something else, they're back destroying the first thing. I swear it's some kind of sick game telepathically communicated between all babies.

Whatever you do, don't have two kids. That's twice the mess. They can gang up on you. While you're clearing up one thing they're destroying two. It only ends when they're asleep, but even then they're kicking off bed sheets or peeing themselves or something. And when one is a couple of years older than the other they'll start to complain that some of their favourite toys are missing. Sure, they've emptied the entire box looking for their one item, but you can guarantee it's behind the washing machine or something because the little one just thought "You know what? I'm gonna throw these things around today for no reason"

Food gets thrown on the floor, drinks get knocked over. Shoes get kicked off, clothes taken off and left on the floor. Faces get dirty, sofas get dirtier somehow. Mess, mess, mess.I know it'll get better. My kids will become more disciplined, they'll learn to value everything being in its right place. But right now it's messy, and I don't like that. But I guess I'll just bite my tongue, carry on with what I've become accustomed to, and wait for the day when I turn up to see my grandkids and find the place is a bomb site. How d'you like them apples, kids?

My rating: 0/5

Thursday 12 May 2011

Today's Review: Blogspot Not Working

So it's just gone 11pm, I just got home from work, I still need to write a review for today. What do I review? So many choices of random things, but let's open up Blogger first. 

Oh wait, I can't, because it's unavailable. UNAVAILABLE?! I have a strict self-set deadline to adhere to, there's only 50 minutes left, and I can't even get onto the site. How inconsiderate. Maybe they're overloaded, maybe some computers blew up. Maybe they were hacked by the same people as PSN, not that that would make any sense whatsoever. Either way, I don't care and it sucks. So here I am, writing my review in TextEdit because I can't do it properly. At least I have something to review. 

When websites go down, we can understand. Nothing can be perfect. We get maintenance messages, cute little jokes couple with cute cartoon characters. It's all explained to us with nice apologies. But it still pisses us off. This is the future. If we want to check out which celebrity is saying something slightly controversial to another, we don't want a big fat Fail Whale being stuck in our face. We understand things go wrong, but we don't have to be okay with it.

The site's still down, there's only 35 minutes left now. How dare they take away my perfect post rate. I feel so helpless. So when this is posted past midnight, to those of you who care enough to check up on me every day, just know it's not my fault. The internet broke. And I'm not happy.

My rating: 0/5

Oh wait, it's up again now, and I can change the date stamp. That's cool.

My rating: 1/5

Oh wait, Wednesday's review has been deleted. Fffffffuuuuuu...

My rating: -1/5

Now it's back, but I'm still annoyed.

My rating: 0/5

Wednesday 11 May 2011

Today's Review: Gulliver's Travels

When Gulliver's Travels was announced, there was a bit of an uproar. You see, the novel by Jonathon Swift is regarded as a bit of a literary classic, and the intention to make it into a family comedy starring Jack Black didn't sit well with the fans. I studied Gulliver's Travels during my time in high school, and since it was a book I didn't despise reading I thought that I could sort of place myself in the outraged fanboy camp. "What are they doing?! This is a classic!" I found myself saying, before realising that in fact I'd only read it once because I was told to and never had again. But hey, perhaps being on more neutral ground I can enjoy this family friendly caper.

Or not. You see, Gulliver's Travels shouldn't just offend everyone that loves the original story, it should just plain offend everyone. It's bad. Really bad. First of all, I can see no reason why this was ever given the name Gulliver's Travels in the first place. They could've called this movie "Jack Black Meets Some Tiny People And Hilarity Ensues" and it would have had the same effect on kids. It seems that the only reason they decided to say it was based on the book was to piss off everyone who's ever read it. The people behind Gulliver's Travels have committed the same pointless crime that Tim Burton did with Alice In Wonderland a while back. They think they're doing an adaptation, but really they're wrenching someone else's characters out of their rightful place and putting them in a story they made up that really has nothing to do with the original at all. At least, I don't recall the part of the book where Gulliver fights a giant robot with electric fists. It probably would've made me more interested.

Sure, the underlying story may be the same, but it's only because the people behind this came up with a half arsed idea that they couldn't be bothered to finish, so they stole someone else's story and put loads of potty humour and pop culture references on top. Job done. Oh wait, no it wasn't, because then they had to do this:

You get a book free if you buy the Blu-Ray. But it's not the actual book of Gulliver's Travels, this is a novelisation of the movie. Even the cover shows how ridiculous it gets. The novel, Gulliver's Travels, based on the film, Gulliver's Travels, based on the screenplay of Gulliver's Travels? I'm sure it would also say that the screenplay was based on the novel Gulliver's Travels, but then it would be obvious how stupid this whole thing is, plus they ran out of space from writing that other stuff. For a minute I thought this movie might be passable because it might get kids to want to read the original, you know, get off their butts for once and enjoy some culture. But instead they've just made a book about Jack Black fighting a robot.

Well, I think I've digressed enough. What's the actual movie like? As I said before, it's bad. Jack Black plays a loser who is inexplicably called Gulliver in the 21st century. He wakes up in the morning and acts out some scenes with his Star Wars toys, so that the older people watching can think "Hey, that's a Star Wars! I know that, and finally I can share something with my child!" while the child thinks "What the hell is this?" Don't worry, the Star Wars thing comes back later as a little callback, but in my mind it was more like "Okay, you've done this already, have you really run out of ideas to put in your 80 minute movie?"

So Gulliver goes to work as a lowly mailroom man, and inexplicably finds himself accepting a writing job that is literally arranged for him by unknown forces during a single conversation. He is to travel to Bermuda and write about things so he can impress the travel editor that he has a crush on. But wait, trouble's afoot on his journey as he's swept into a reverse whirlpool thingy. It's never explained. I never expected it to be. And so he awakens on the island of Lilliput, with small British people poking him.

All the little people are British. The bad little people from the other island are French. Gulliver turns out to be their saviour, and of course he's the American everyman. A bit one dimensional, you might think. You'd be right, because that goes for every single character. There is no development whatsoever. Apart from the inevitable conclusion where the guy who is clearly a loser realises that if he tried a little bit he could not be such a loser, but actually he just wins because he is a giant fighting tiny people. 

There is some semblance of a plot, but only because they lifted it out of Swift's novel. It would be compelling to follow if it wasn't ground to a halt every now and then by Jack Black prancing around the screen in the way Jack Black always does, and injecting movie references and old rock songs into every scene, the way Jack Black always does. Seriously, he's been doing this stuff for years. Do people still want to see this?

Scenes are always, always too short. Which is a strange thing for me to say, because with every passing minute I wished the movie would end. But there are literally scenes in this movie that last a few seconds. There's no clear cut off point, and it just fades to black when you expect something else to happen or be said. There's a part where Gulliver goes to another island that, in a strange turn of events, has giant people living on it. Again, lifted from the novel, but in the context of this movie a complete and utter waste of time, highlighted by the fact that the whole thing lasts for about five minutes, in most of that time Jack Black is dressed as a baby and that there's a scene that starts with Jack Black in a bed, shows him rolling over and then fades to black.

Do not watch this movie. If you have kids who want to watch it, try and get them to watch something else. I actually couldn't see much that would appeal to a child, apart from the electric robot. I guess that's why they threw it in there. But I suppose kids will be kids, if they want to watch it they probably will against your wishes. Just make sure you'll be there at the end to comfort them.

My rating: 1/5
'Cause despite all that is wrong with it, giant electric robots are cool.

Tuesday 10 May 2011

Today's Review: Black Swan

I don't like it when a movie gets too hyped up. It builds up your expectations, and if you leave it too long it builds them up so much that no matter how good the movie is it will disappoint you. For instance, I didn't watch Shrek for absolutely ages, and only gave in to people telling me how great it was. I didn't really like it. But that could be 'cause I'm a Pixar fanboy. Quite a few movies have been hyped up recently, but I've managed to still enjoy them as I caught them at the cinema. The Dark Knight, Inception and The King's Speech blew me away. Black Swan, however, I didn't quite catch in time.

Natalie Portman plays Nina, a ballet dancer who is under a bit of pressure. She's going for the main role in a production of Swan Lake, and she feels that everyone is against her. Also she's batshit crazy. From what I'd heard about the movie I was expecting a lot more push coming from the ballet director and Nina's rival, Lily (Mila Kunis). I was expecting a lot more of the relationships between the people to develop, and the resulting effect on Nina's psyche to be exposed in the final act. This movie did not turn out to be what I expected.

That's another thing that sometimes can destroy my enjoyment of something. If I think it's going to go one way and it goes another, I get disappointed. But I shouldn't be expecting anything. Normally I like to know as little about a movie as possible before I go to see it, so I can appreciate it for what it is. And although I had firm beliefs about what Black Swan was going to do, I can appreciate what it's actually all about.

The performances were great, and while I thought that there would be a constant struggle between Lily and Nina that actually wasn't there, it lets Portman mostly steal the show, and I can see how she received the awards she got for her role. This focus also makes for some great scenes where Ninas is really struggling against herself for a grip on reality. The hallucination scenes are never too over the top, and they let the tension build up quite effectively to the movie's climax. They also involve a lot of mutilation involving fingernails. I have seen some depraved movies in my time, with all sorts of gruesome and gory acts, and never batted an eyelid, but Black Swan's constant fingernail play was making me cringe constantly. I'm not a fan of fingernail injuries.

But despite the fact that the actual hallucination scenes play out well, there's a bit too much emphasis on the build up to them. It was clear soon after Black Swan started that mirrors were playing a big part in this mental struggle, and I thought that was kind of cool. Then in every single scene I would see a mirror, and it started to annoy me. Yes, I know, mirror, distorted images, fighting your own reflection/psyche/whatever, blah blah blah. But as the story progressed and the importance of the mirror became more apparent, I accepted that although they probably spent half the budget on mirrors, it might have been worth it.

Black Swan is a solid movie. The performances are acted wonderfully, and Portman and Kunis' months of ballet training really pay off in the dance scenes. The hallucination scenes in particular are very well done, and it's interesting how much of the time you find yourself questioning what is real and what's just inside Nina's head. All in all this serves to pull you into the story, the uncertainty about what is real lets you empathise with Nina, and makes her confusion and stress feel more real. Because you might not ever go insane, but you've got a fair idea what it's like because that girl in that movie kept looking in mirrors and seeing weird stuff. Psychology.

My rating: 4/5

Monday 9 May 2011

Today's Review: Rubber

Rubber is a movie about a serial killer. A serial killer that is also a tyre. If that isn't enough reason to watch it, then maybe you should stick to boring unoriginal stuff. But if you actually go and watch the movie, you'll find out there's a lot more to it.

We begin with a desert scene, a dirt road with many chairs placed along it. A car drives towards the camera, knocking down every one, until it stops in the foreground, a man gets out of the boot and starts to deliver a speech about everything in both movies and real life containing an element of no reason. This does a nice job of setting up what we're going to see throughout, and immediately answers the question that most people will be thinking. "Why is this movie about a tyre that kills people?" No reason.

The tyre in question is called Robert, apparently. One day he rises out of the desert sand and begins to roll of his own volition. Before long though, he comes across a couple of bottles lying on the ground and decides to destroy them. Apparently he finds this fun, because before long he's using his latent psychic powers to explode the heads of animals and people. Why? No reason. 

But before we're introduced to Robert, we see an audience. A group of people in the desert who are given binoculars in order to watch the "film" that is happening in front of them. This is where the other half of Rubber focuses its efforts. The audience within the film are there to offer up the critiques that we would be thinking of in real life, and the entire feature contains references to how audiences perceive the content of movies. Whenever we see a scene with Robert claiming his next victim, there's a cut back to the audience talking amongst themselves about what they've just seen. Some of them are disgusted, some are intrigued, it really seems like a fair representation of the movie viewing public. As the movie progresses we see the audience's participation get less and then more important, and there's a wonderful scene in which one member takes matters into his own hands and starts questioning why the characters aren't doing something more effective in taking down the rubber menace. 

Rubber is shot beautifully, the music choices are fantastic, and the sound effects of Robert himself are absolutely perfect, whether he's rolling down the road or performing his telekinetic head explosion feat. I have no idea what a tyre using psychic powers sounds like, but I imagine it would sound exactly as it does in this movie. Many have called Rubber pretentious, saying it's bathing in its own classification as a celebration of no reason. Other people are just turned off by the fact that there's a killer tyre in it, but they should just shut up and actually watch it. Yes, it's not the greatest movie ever, but it certainly is original, and the ways it tries to commentate on audience relationships with movies is something I've never seen before. Nothing is ever explained in a solid way, and there's plenty of ambiguity for its message to be seen in different ways. It's worth watching Rubber just to join in the discussion about what it means and if its relevant, and if you can't be bothered with all that you should just watch it anyway, because it's a movie about a tyre that blows up people's heads.

My rating: 4/5

Sunday 8 May 2011

Today's Review: Cheesecake

If someone says that they don't like cheesecake then they either haven't tried cheesecake or they're flat out lying. Cheesecake is the best thing to happen to humanity since existence itself. It is delicious, it is creamy, and I hold firm the belief that if you eat enough of it you will actually lose weight. Because it's a nice thing to think.

Everyone knows cheese goes well with everything, but we only seem to test this theory in a limited way. Cheese with meats, bread, salads, no one really goes that extra mile. But one day, someone was eating some cake and thought "You know what would be really good in this cake? Cheese." He is a hero. The reaction to cheesecake from most people is something like "Eurgh, it's got cheese in it?" The name probably isn't doing massively well for it, maybe if it were called "super delicious cake" there'd be more love. But this point of view irritates me. if I scarfed down some unidentified food stuff that was both delicious and with a texture that didn't make me want to blow chunks,  and then someone told me it was elephant's testicles or something, I'd go straight to the zoo and tell those animals to keep up the good work with whatever they're doing with their genitals. Yes, cheesecake contains cheese. But it's sooooo good.

Cheesecake has the perfect trifecta of dessert qualities. It's fruity, it's creamy, it's crunchy(ish). I used to just be a fiend for the biscuit base, but now I have grown to appreciate the taste of all three layers swirling around my willing mouth. When I eat cheesecake nothing is a problem. I could be minutes away from death, but if someone shoved a cheesecake under my nose I would die happy. But which topping would I have?

There are so many fruits, there's chocolate, all of them make me want to grow extra mouths so I can eat all of them at once. I've always been tempted to make my own cheesecake with some kind of magic topping combination, but once I think about the amount of ingredients and effort involved I realise that in the time it take to make one I could've gone and bought several times the amount of cheesecake, gotten home, eaten it all and fallen into a diabetic coma. So I salute you, cheesecake creators. You must be some of those people who have never tried cheesecake, or else the production lines would be empty and your exploded carcasses will have splattered the walls with mascarpone and compote. Or maybe you're just robots. That would be cooler.

My rating: 5/5

Saturday 7 May 2011

Today's Review: People Who Lick Their Fingers To Turn Pages

I served a guy today. He took out a small wad of notes, licked his finger, took one off the top and handed it to me. Gee, thanks. Just what I wanted, a bank note covered in your spittle. It's almost as bad as the people who put their debit card between their teeth before taking it out and handing it to me spit side first. It's still bad though, and a lot more prevalent. Since the beginning of my days, where there has been a relatively older person reading a book or magazine, or going through some paperwork, there has been a nonchalant licking of fingers.

I'm not alone in my opinion, just do a quick search on Google and you'll find plenty of people asking why this is necessary. It's widely assumed that old people have dried out fingers that can't turn pages, so the saliva helps them with that, but there are plenty of younger-ish people who lick their fingers to turn pages all the time. But in my experience none of my peers have ever used such a tactic, and I'm sure I would've called them out on it if I saw it. So in my view it's just old people with incompetent fingers.

I've had a problem turning a page probably only a few times in my life. All it took was a bit of persistence. Trying again, maybe a third time, but I managed to turn that page. At no point did I think "You know what would really help? Shoving my finger in my mouth and then trying." If I was gonna do that I might as well just spit on the page. You know why I didn't do either? Because it's disgusting.

On these very same sites where people are questioning why this happens, there exist several springing to defend it. "Oh, it's really hard to turn pages without licking my fingers. It's only a bit of spit, haven't you got worse things to worry about?" Oh sure, you need to do it, so it's perfectly acceptable, especially if you feel uncomfortable using the alternatives, like a rubber tip on your finger, or using some other form of liquid. Hey, I can't shake hands with someone until I've hocked a big fat loogie into my palm, otherwise I can't get a good grip. Does that mean it's okay for me to do? No it does not, so I reserve the right to call you all filthy people with inadequate hands.

My rating: 0/5

Friday 6 May 2011

Today's Review: Burlesque

Burlesque has been out on Blu-Ray for two weeks now, but I only just got around to watching it. How lazy of me. It's one I've been wanting to see though, just for morbid curiosity about how good it could be. It's okay. Not awful, not great. So I guess it met all my expectations really. 

Burlesque is basically a vessel for Christina Aguilera to show off a little bit of acting talent in between singing big song numbers on screen. Aguilera plays Ali, a girl who's had enough of her small town life and one day decides to quit her job and move to LA and become a singer. Of course, she has no problem moving or finding an apartment, even when she has no job to pick up when she gets there. But that's okay, because the first club she visits has some burlesque dancers, and the owner sings a song and Ali thinks "Wow, this is exactly what I wanna do". Then she asks the barman for a job and gets accepted straight away, 'cause that's how employment works in LA. 

The club is owned by Tess, played by Cher, who in a plot point that I never saw coming is having trouble with the club almost being foreclosed. She needs something special to start pulling in the money, and lo and behold, Ali butts into dancer auditions and bellows her lungs out, and everyone fawns over her because she's awesome. There is one girl, Nikkie (Kristen Bell) who has the perfectly natural human reaction of being massively jealous of all the attention being drawn away from her, but she's just portrayed as a massive bitch, so forget about her. 

All of this happens within the first hour, so the final half is basically devoted to Ali belting out various songs while dancing in skimpy outfits, all the while seeing no real change in the club's success because 
Tess is still in a bit of trouble. I appreciate that they've put the smallest bit of effort into the story of what is essentially a movie all about the music, but it just turns the whole thing into a fun game of seeing who can guess the most lines and plot point before they happen.

Also, Ali gets her place robbed, and for some reason can't go back there, so she shacks up with the number one barman while his girlfriend is away on business. Oh, you guessed it, they start to like each other. But it's not that simple, because he has a fianceé. At this point, once again, Burlesque chooses to employ an obvious plot point I've seen in so many movies recently, but it's one that I seriously have a pet peeve about. In the good old days, it used to be that if the main love interest was already taken, his other half would be a total bitch, and it would be clear that they should have never gotten together in the first place. Nowadays though, I feel sorry for the woman who will eventually get dumped for this new pretty version that's come along. They're not massively portrayed in a negative light at all. In fact, all that's said in Burlesque is that the guy's fianceé is always talking about herself. Fuck me, rip up the prenup and call off the wedding, we can't solve this slight by talking or anything, I'll just go and find some other woman.

But I digress, the plot is clearly not too important in this movie. If it was meant to be then they've failed. It's all about the music, the dance numbers, all that stuff. I've gotta say, I'm a sucker for a good song and dance, and I was sufficiently entertained during this movie. It wasn't all just Aguilera bursting out her wavering roars, she actually took some quiet time and sang a couple of smooth ballads. It sounded good, and it looked good. Even the acting in between wasn't the bad. Aguilera was actually quite good in my eye, although I couldn't figure out if it was because she can actually act a little, or if it was just that everyone else was so average she blended in quite nicely.

Burlesque isn't an awful film. Sure, it's bland and the storyline and dialogue are predictable, but if you get easily memerised by sequins and slutty outfits, this is one for you.

My rating: 3/5