Sunday 31 July 2011

Today's Review: My M&Ms Tie

I went to Florida back in 2008, and it was a particular desire of mine to really experience the American lifestyle by visiting a couple of malls. In the Florida Mall, however, was something a little different. An M&Ms store. One of only two in the world, the other being in New York. Now there's on in London, and that excites me, but I digress.

Upon entering the store you are greeted with massive tubes of M&Ms. Every colour you can imagine, and you can just fill up a bag and take them, which is just what I wanted to do. But there was a special offer on. Spend a certain amount of dollar on M&Ms merchandise and you got a bag for free. Challenge accepted, I thought.

There is a lot of M&Ms merchandise. Amelia, at that time just over a year old, had her mind set on a basket ball. It was pretty cool, so I picked up a couple of shot glasses for presents and was almost there. Then I spotted this tie:

"Wow, awesome! This tie is really wacky and cool like me" is what I assume I thought at the time, because lookign back I have no idea what I was thinking. Look at it. Just look at it. Who would wear that tie? I wore it yesterday to work, but that's because we were dressing up as clowns, and in lieu of an actual outfit I wore the most ridiculous clothes I owned. This tie is in fact the most ridiculous thing I owned.

I guess at the time I thought I could wear it outside as part of my slightly outlandish dress code, but every time I wear something the thought of accessorising with this tie is enough to make me shudder. I have no idea who would seriously wear this tie, because I can't even wear it when I'm not being serious.

It strikes me as the kind of tie some obnoxious office worker wears in order to convey his sense of fun, because his tedious career has managed to crush the ability to express any kind of joy out of every facet of his body. His only option is to attempt to connect with the joy of being alive by drastically altering an element of his suit. The result, however, is people saying "Oh yeah, John, he's the guy over htere with the stupid tie".

So this tie will remain in my cupboard, a constant reminder of times when my judgement was not the most reliable of things. Perhaps one day I can give it to someone as a joke gift, and then it can sit in their cupboard as a constant reminder of how much they hate me.

My rating: 0/5

Saturday 30 July 2011

Today's Review: Doritos Nacho Cheese Dip

I am a man who appreciates a good dip, but Doritos have only ever served up two types. There's the generic salsa, in hot and mild varieties, and the sour cream and chive. I'll eat salsa occasionally, but it doesn't really do much for me. Sour cream, on the other hand, is awesome, I could eat that all day.

But what of the other dips out in the big bright world? I've dabbled in hummus, guacamole, and various others, and when I went to America last I decided to go for the salsa con queso, or chili cheese. Cheese is invariably awesome, so to have it melted with chili and put on things was a dream come true. But the dip I tried out there left a lot to be desired. It was a bit too creamy, and the heat was a bit off-putting. Not that it was too hot, it just didn't feel right. Upon returning to the UK I noticed that Tesco have ventured into this territory with their nacho chili cheese dip, which tastes awesome. However, after a while it does start to be a bit uncomfortably spicy, and the little pieces of nacho inside are a bit weird, feels like you're getting sloppy seconds from a double dipper.

But now Doritos have stepped up to the plate:

It's Nacho Cheese time, bitches. I know this has been out a while, but I was apprehensive of buying it, because Doritos dips are expensive, man, pretty much the price of the chips themselves. But now they are 2 for £2, so I couldn't resist any longer.

I didn't buy any Doritos chips to go with them, because aside from Chili Heatwave, which just taste awesome, the only reason I buy tortilla chips is to get dip from the jar and into my face. So I opted for the cheaper Tesco versions, which are just as good at transporting dip.

The first thing I noticed was the difference between this dip and the Tesco variety:

Smooth man, real smooth. No chunks, no discolouration, just pure melted chili cheese goodness. It did remind me of the disappointing American style though, but my fears were put to rest as I began to dip.

It's a real creamy experience. The cheesiness is spot on, and not over-empowering, and there's just the right amount of spice to keep it interesting without taking over your taste buds. Why did I ever doubt you, Doritos? Clearly you have taken so long filling this gap in your market so you can perfect the recipe. After devouring over half the jar, as seen above, I can safely say that this is one of my new favourite dips, not quite taking over the sour cream, but it's close. Whenever I want something spicy and my budget allows for it, Doritos Nacho Cheese will be heartily funneled into my mouth.

My rating: 5/5

Friday 29 July 2011

Today's Review: Hobo With A Shotgun

Oh yes, it's another movie based off a trailer from Tarantio and Rodriguez's Grindhouse. This one was the winner of a contest Rodriguez held, but the fact that they eventually made it into a full length feature is awesome.

Rutger Hauer plays the titular Hobo. Upon jumping off a train into a new locale known locally as "Fucktown", he quickly realises it is a place of despair, ruled by a crazy, violent mob king and his sons. Innocent people are killed for sport, and violence and fear are pretty much all the townspeople know. Well, this hobo quickly decides he's had enough. After watching a few people get killed, he wanders into a pawn shop hoping to buy a lawnmower, but instead ends up wielding a shotgun to defend the shopkeeper and another customer from robbers. And so his new persona is born. He is a hobo, with a shotgun, and he will not stop until Fucktown's streets are clean again.

Hobo With A Shotgun is pretty much a perfect take on the exploitation movie. Guts and blood are thrown around in buckets. The lines rarely make any sense, but are obviously written with great care, with such gems as "Tell it to Mother Theresa while she's fingerbanging you in hell!" and "I'm gonna sleep in your bloody carcasses tonight!". The plot is nonsensical, the characters are over the top and the acting is overly cheesy, but it's obvious that it was all engineered to be that way. To the casual observer it would fall into the "so bad it's good" range, but knowing that this was the intention helps you appreciate the effort that went into it.

The violence is the main aspect of the film. There are many dismemberments, murders of innocent people, and really quite shocking scenes. It's exploitation at its finest, designed to provoke an extreme reaction from the audience by being ridiculously violent and disturbing. It never lets up either. There may be the odd "character development" scene but it's not long before it descends into the mindless killing. The movie is also goddamn hilarious. The one liners come thick and fast, and there are a certain couple of characters introduced near the end for no apparent reason who are absolutely awesome.

Hobo With A Shotgun is the perfect modern day exploitation movie. If you liked Machete, this movie takes it up a notch, disposing with any unnecessary stuff such as a coherent plot, and replacing it with shit tons of violence and one liners. It's just a great movie.

My rating: 5/5

Thursday 28 July 2011

Today's Review: Source Code

Source Code is an interesting movie. I saw it at the cinema, but didn't do a review of it then for some reason. It's a shame, because I had a lot of issues with the movie that I couldn't seem to remember after watching it a second time. Maybe it's because I had some expectations of what it was going to be the first time that didn't exist once I knew what was going on, so maybe giving it another watch was a good thing.

Source Code follows a helicopter pilot named Colter Stevens (Jake Gyllenhaal) who wakes up on a train, but the woman across from him seems to think he's someone else. A bit strange, because last thing he knew he was flying a tour in Afghanistan. He doesn't get too much time to ponder the situation though, as within a few minutes the train explodes and he wakes up in a crashed helicopter. There he receives a transmission from a Captain Goodwin (Vera Farmiga) who tells him he needs to go back in and find out who the bomber is.

So after a few more run throughs of the same situation, each ending in certain blasty doom, we learn that Stevens is apparently a candidate for participation in a project known as Source Code. The train in question actually blew up that morning, but the technology being used for Stevens allows him to take over the memory of one of the victims and explore the surroundings in order to identify the terrorist in order to prevent another attack later that day. Sound confusing? Well, it kind of is.

You see, Source Code is never explained too much. We only really hear about it through the often inane ramblings of Dr. Rutledge (Jeffrey Wright), the man in charge of the program. Basically there's something special about our hero that allows him to infiltrate the afterglow left by the brain that retains the last eight minutes of life, and that allows Stevens to relive events of the past in an alternate reality. Somehow. If you want more of a description of how it works you'll be disappointed, you just have to accept that that's the way it is.

But in this case it's not really a bad thing. We don't need to know the complicated science behind Source Code because we're too busy concentrating on figuring out who is bombing this damn train. Also with Stevens' relationship with the woman across from him, Christina (Michelle Monaghan). Basically the same eight minutes are relived again and again, each time with Stevens screwing something up or actually getting closer to solving the mystery. The best way I can describe Source Code is basically Groundhog Day with a bomb. On a train. Each time Stevens gets a little better, but his mission won't end until he gets it right.

It's really a movie trying to work on two levels. Much like The Adjustment Bureau, it's a love story but with a sci-fi twist. Not only that, but there's a certain amount of thriller in there, what with the bomb and terrorists and everything. So there's a lot to keep track of, but Source Code is a nicely paced movie that doesn't let you forget about the other plot elements while it's trying to progress another.

Source Code is not without its flaws though. There seem to be a few too many loose ends at the end of the movie. Perhaps they're setting it up for a sequel, although I don't see what they'd do in that, but the end of the movie really seems like it shouldn't be the end, I was looking for a little extra to end it all nicely. There are a couple of things throughout that don't really go anywhere either. While the main plotline of the bomb ties itself up quite nicely and efficiently (perhaps a little too efficiently), there's a point in which Stevens learns that he is inside a program, and proceeds to pull some kind of mind trick to make his cockpit slightly larger. But that's it. It seemed like he could maybe do more, but it never really goes anywhere.

Source Code is a pretty original movie though. While it seems to borrow from a few other genres, it's managed to pull them all together into something quite different. There may be some loose ends here and there, but the bulk of the movie is a well crafted thriller with quite a good love story throughout as well. While I may not remember some of the points I had against Source Code, one of them was the fact that I'd liked to have seen a bit more added on to the end, and if one of my complaints is that I didn't get enough then that's no bad thing. Source Code is by no means a perfect movie, but it's certainly something different, and quite refreshing.

My rating: 4/5

Wednesday 27 July 2011

Today's Review: Super

Super is a bit like Kick-Ass. Let me get that comparison out of the way first, as it's the one that most people are likely to being up. Yes, they both involve random citizens dressing up in silly costumes and fighting crime, but the two movies are actually quite different.

Super follows Frank D'Arbo (Rainn Wilson), who is a pretty unhappy guy, as his wife Sarah (Liv Tyler) has left him for her drug dealer (Kevin Bacon). So, in his desperation he decides to become a superhero named The Crimson Bolt and beat down criminals with a wrench, hoping to one day work his way up to the point where he can "rescue" his wife. Perfectly normal reaction. Problem is, when he decides to save her, he find the odds stacked against him, mainly because the drug dealers have guns and he only has a wrench. So he begrudgingly recruits a sidekick in the form of Libby (Ellen Page), a slightly crazy comic book clerk who discovers his secret identity and also cannot wait to crack open villains' heads as superhero sidekick Boltie.

The main difference between Super and Kick-Ass is the overall tone and message of the movie. While Kick-Ass had over the top action scenes with thumping music and witty dialogue, Super is a much grittier take on the theme. There are still overly violent moments, lots of blood and gore, but it all seems a bit off. The Crimson Bolt doesn't really seem to know what he's doing, and there are times when the pain he doles out is probably not as necessary as he thinks. There's a certain incident where he inflicts his wrath on a person who cuts in line, and at this point the viewer is really forced to think about whether the protagonist is really a hero after all, or just a mentally unstable man. This feeling never really goes away, and increases quite dramatically once Boltie arrives on the scene ready to indiscriminately beat the crap out of people. There is normally a point in these vigilante movies where it becomes clear that the heroes are finally being accepted and praised, but there isn't one in Super. It leaves a lingering thought that vigilantism is probably not the best way to get the job done, and is open to a lot of bad calls and unnecessary violence.

Gritty messages aside, Super is still a comedy, even if it is quite a dark one. Ellen Page in particular does a great job in portraying Libby, managing to be quite funny yet undeniably psychotic at the same time. Rainn Wilson is also good as The Crimson Bolt, spouting his catchphrase "Shut up, crime!", and while there aren't tons of laughs packed into the movie, it's still very fun to watch.

But Super is not perfect. At times it can be quite slow, especially with the introduction of Boltie, who is only really in the last half hour. Showing more of the pair working together would have been quite entertaining, and while the relationship between the two is firmly established, I'm sure there was more fun to be had. The main plot line itself feels quite flimsy, it's basically just about a guy going after another guy. The four main actors are great in their roles, but adding just a few more people could have done really well as far as character and plot development was concerned.

Super is a good movie. It certainly doesn't match the quality of Kick-Ass, but there's a much deeper level that I really appreciated. It actually confronted and made me think about the ramifications of what the characters were actually doing, and there are certainly some slightly shocking scenes that really drive the point home. So while Super may not be entirely great on the production side, it kind of makes up for it as far as the underlying message is concerned.

My rating: 3/5

Tuesday 26 July 2011

Today's Review: Kids Who Steal Pick 'N' Mix At Work

I get the appeal of pick 'n' mix. It's all just sitting there, sitting in loads of tiny tubs, ripe for the picking. And hey, no one's gonna miss just one sweet, right? You'll probably see the odd adult having a sneaky grab at some raspberries and blackberries, but most hold off because they know it's wrong to steal, they have been folded perfectly into society.

Kids, though, have no shame. In fact they take the piss. Normally I wouldn't mind too much, I might air the odd "tsk" when I see another's child swipe a jelly bean, but nothing more than that. But when I'm at work, that pick 'n' mix stand is my responsibility, and the fact that some parents just leave their children to wander over and tuck in bewilders me. My daughter doesn't raid the pick 'n' mix. We told her no when she looked at the sweets longingly, and she listened. Probably one of the few times when she actually has listened, so I guess we're lucky there. My son, I fear, will be harder to handle. But I shall try my best, and I won't keep my eye off him when I'm around.

I can't say the same for other parents though. A woman once came into the store, and her son proceeded to run towards the sweet sweet candy. His mum said "I know where you're going", but then, nothing. So I was subjected to a few minutes of the kid running over there, coming back with his face full of something, then going back over when it was time for another, all while his mother stood on the other side of the shop looking at DVDs. This pissed me off a little, so when he went to grab another I ran in front of him and kept the flaps closed, and whispered "no" to him when he tried to reach for it. He wasn't happy with that, and as soon as I had to go back behind the till he was diving in and helping himself again.

Damn kids. Eating all my sweets. They are like my treasure, and I am the ordained knight who has sworn to ensure their safety. Only much less glamorous than that. I saw another kid today. Out of the corner of my eye I saw him reach in and grab something, and I kept watching him. It took him a while to notice me, but when he did he clearly knew he was caught, because he tried to throw me off by pulling off some fast punching power ranger shit. Ain't gonna fly with me son, I know what you did, and your mediocre acrobatics aren't throwing me off your scent.

At the end of the day, though, there's not much I can do. I can't tell customers to take better care of their kids, nor do I have the facility or willpower to argue that they should pay for the few cola bottles their spawn ingested. I guess these kind of things are to be expected, there's probably some kind of allowance for it, but those damn kids still piss me off. Maybe I'll just print out some pictures of the hygienically-challenged people I've seen dig their mitts into the sweets and hold them up to the next kid I see. That'll learn 'em.

My rating: 0/5

Monday 25 July 2011

Today's Review: Tiny Bottles Of Jack Daniel's

Teenty tiny bottle of Jack Daniel's, sitting in my cupboard for ages. One day I decide to have a drink, well, more like a gulp, and then you are gone. What is the point in you, tiny bottle of Jack Daniel's? I know you came free with the Jack Daniel's memorabilia in a fancy box I got as a present, but the liquid inside you will not even get me close to drunk. How lame of you, tiny bottle of Jack Daniel's.

My rating: 1/5

Sunday 24 July 2011

Today's Review: Ben & Jerry's Sundae On The Common

There are two types of people in this world, those who love Ben & Jerry's, and those who haven't tried Ben & Jerry's. I guess there could be a group of people who have tried Ben & Jerry's and don't love it, but I hardly think they can be classified as people. I for one love Ben & Jerry's, so imagine my excitement when I learned that they were hosting an entire festival of music and ice cream.

Well, around five years ago, that is. I've been four times since then, so one could say I'm a bit of a Sundae On The Common veteran, especially due to the fact that I can validly moan how it cost me £5 to get in the first time compared to the £17 a ticket I shelled out this year. But it's still worth it, because it means free Ben & Jerry's all day long. But there are other things too.

There are band, sure. What festival would be complete without bands? The Sundae lineups have always been a bit low key. They've always managed to pull in someone quite well known to headline though, and while today saw performances from Gary Numan and Maximo Park, I didn't particularly pay too much attention to the music. Mainly because these guys were with me:

Amelia is a good kid, she basically doesn't run off, she's well trained. Alex, not so much at the moment. I'm sure his time will come, but right now he just likes to run off in random directions. So a lot of our time was spent chasing him down, fighting off ice cream related tantrums and cleaning up the aforementioned ice cream. And there was a lot of ice cream. Dotted around the field are various marquees, each of which is host to two or more different Ben & Jerry's flavours. You line up, get a free scoop of your choice and go on your merry way. You can do this all day long. It's an all you can eat awesome ice cream buffet. The only problem is that obviously the queues can be quite massive, but at the start of the day, and at the end when people start to leave and watch bands, it's quite easy to walk in and out within a couple of minutes. Needless to say I ate a lot of ice cream. I pretty much love every flavour, though Phish Food is my favourite. The most elusive of the day though, was this:

'Wich hasn't been on sale for a little while, but now it's coming back. There were a few women handing out whole 'Wichs from baskets, but they were elusive and ran out quickly. I managed to snag two though, 'cause I farkin' love 'em.

So yes, there is ice cream. Lots of ice cream. And while you can make up the price of the ticket in ice cream consumption alone, it is getting harder now the prices are rising each year. But fear not, there is much more to do. There's a petting farm, helter skelter, carousel, toe wrestling,  and many other activities peppered around the place. These activities are where the festival really shines through. There's an absolute ton for kids to do, which makes it a really nice family oriented event. The best part for the kids was the play area tucked away in the corner, boasting a marquee full of toys, a magic show, balloon animals, face painting and a bouncy castle:

We spent the better part of two hours in there. The kids actually stayed in one place for once, and it was great to see them have so much fun with the wealth of toys all over the place. But soon it was time to go and get more ice cream, 'cause ice cream is awesome and we all love it.

Sundae On The Common is basically the best festival I've been to. I used to go to V, but I've found that nowadays it's full of complete dicks and is an entirely unpleasant experience. Sundae is a breath of fresh air. Everyone seems to just be having fun, especially the growing number of kids we see from year to year. The addition of free ice cream just makes it so much better. Ben and Jerry deserve all the praise they can get, so I would definitely recommend this day out to anybody I meet. But don't all come at once, I don't want to wait too long for my ice cream.

My rating: 5/5

Saturday 23 July 2011

Today's Review: The Inneffectiveness Of My Printer

I bought a wireless printer a few months back, one that actually is wireless out of the box, unlike the last one I bought in a moment of stupid. It was also cheap and cool looking, and the ink is easy to replace too, so it's all good. So was the printer, I could click a button on my laptop in the living room and have stuff print out in the bedroom. Classy.

But tonight I needed the printer, and it turned out to be completely useless. I am going to Sundae On The Common tomorrow, and I needed to print the tickets, despite having been able to print them since May. No problem, I thought, clicking "Print" on the PDF on my MacBook. Oh wait, it's not connecting. No worries though, because I recently moved my iMac into the bedroom and hooked the printer up to USB, so with one swift email I transferred the tickets and myself into the other room.

First things first, installing the software. RElatively easy to find and install, and after a reboot I was good to go. Or so I thought. I was greeted with a "Select Device" screen, and one of the boxes duly informed me it couldn't find a printer connected via USB. Even though there was a printer connected by USB in front of me. So I took an alternate route, attempting to select it directly from the print menu. Still no such luck. So not only do I have a printer that doesn't want to be wireless, I have one that doesn't even want to be wired. It is clearly a printer pondering its own futile existence of ink cycles and test pages, and it's having a bit of a crisis. 

At this point I was annoyed. So I fiddled with buttons. One of the menus had an option that said "Games", which I thought was quite odd. Why would anyone want to play a game on a tiny printer screen? So I selected the option and chose Sudoku. It was at this point I realised that it would print out Sudoku puzzles for me, and I had selected two, which turned out to be Easy and Very Easy, hardly taxing. 

But what of the tickets? Well, in one last act of desperation I hauled my MacBook into the bedroom and hooked it up via USB. Instantly printed tickets. Was that so hard printer? Clearly you were in an existential crisis and needed the thought processes that creating a Sudoku requires to stir you from your braindead slumber. But I don't care about that, because you're a printer and you should damn well work.

My rating: 2/5

Friday 22 July 2011

Today's Review: Cars 2

As I stated just this week, I am a massive Pixar fanboy. I own every movie, I've seen them all at the cinema, and I farkin' love them. Since they pioneered the CGI movie they have consistently kept their place at the top of the genre. They manage to create movies with perhaps the flimsiest of premises (Toys are actually alive, a rat likes to cook food, etc.) and populate them with instantly likeable and deep characters, references just for the adults and heart warming, even tear jerking moments. I saw Toy Story with my parents, the next few with my high school friends, and the next few with my girlfriend/fiancée, and I've been a massive fan every step of the way. Today was the first time I took my daughter to the cinema, so that's special too.

So imagine my horror a month or so back when Cars 2 opened in America to really bad reviews. Everyone was calling it the first "terrible" Pixar movie, and I didn't want to believe them. I read a few of the reviews, noted the main criticisms, but all the while I had faith that these people were just willing Pixar to fail eventually, and were gloating now that Pixar have made something that is not quite on par with everything else they've made.

In some respect, I believe I was right. Cars 2 is not amazing, but it's not terrible either. I tried to go into this movie with an impartial frame of mind, and I was quite prepared for it being awful. Cars was probably my least favourite Pixar movie, but after Amelia developed an obsession with it it grew on me. Still, I wasn't sure how much material they could use for a sequel.

Cars 2 sees us rejoin Mater and Lightning McQueen as they embark on a World Grand Prix, which is really just three races in Tokyo, Italy, and London. On the way, however, Mater manages to get mistaken for a spy and pulled into an international secret operation. That's about it really, as far as the plot goes. Not the strongest that Pixar have delivered, but they do make some good use of it.

Lightning McQueen's part is greatly reduced to pretty much minor character, he just spends some time racing around while Mater gets to have all the fun. But Mater is probably the best character of the franchise. While many probably hate him, his idiotic charms have made him stand out from everybody else, even earning him a starring role in the Cars Toons series. With Cars 2 we get introduced to Finn McMissile, a James Bond style British agent played by Michael Caine, and he's pretty cool, if a little one dimensional.

As usual, Pixar have a lot of fun with their chosen genre, filling the movie to the gills with car chases, explosions, and perhaps a slightly worrying amount of guns and "deaths" for a kid's movie. The action scenes are wonderfully planned out, and look awesome, pretty much just like a Bond movie, where every chase is a car chase.

In fact, the whole movie looks amazing. From the shiny race cars to the water and lighting effect, Pixar have worked their usual magic. Of particular note is the various real buildings they have recreated from the cities featured. These landmarks look amazing, even down to the smallest detail of the miniature car statues adorning the buildings in Italy. With the wealth of new places introduced, however, there is of course a multitude of car related puns, which can get old rather quickly. It's like they've pulled in some pun writers from The Sun as consultants.

So yes, there's lots of action, be it explosions and car chases or racing. But that's really as deep as this movie goes. Don't expect any moment that'll make you burst into tears, which Up managed to do in its first 15 minutes and Toy Story pulled off with its mere nostalgia value. But after two years of making us cry like babies, maybe it's time that Pixar took their foot off the throttle a bit and just had some fun. While Pixar have been known for the morals and meaningful moments they add to their movies, they can't get it on the money every time. They did try to include a message about friendship in Cars 2 though, but it fell pretty flat against the secret agent backdrop.

Cars 2 is the worst movie Pixar has made. But it is by no means terrible. There is still a certain amount of love poured into this project, and it's a very decent homage to spy movies. It isn't Oscar worthy, but neither is any other CGI crap that is spewed out nowadays, and it's still a lot better than any of that. I can certainly acknowledge the complaints that many have had about Cars 2, but I can't understand why they are so actively promoting their hatred. So Pixar haven't made a masterpiece. I'm sure the magic still isn't dead, and I hope no one really gives up on them after one un-amazing movie out of 12.

My rating: 3/5

Thursday 21 July 2011

Today's Review: The Amount Of Olives I Have Left To Eat

It was yet another day scanning the shelves in the reduced section. Nothing of interest this time. But as I departed to glumly get regular-priced groceries, what should I see but a fair Tesco maiden delivering tarts and pots of olives from the deli. Of course I rushed back and took my pick, and not being an olive connoisseur I just went with the ones that looked like those nice ones I had in Nando's once.

I've grown to like olives over the last year or so, but I grossly misjudged my willingness to sit and eat them as a snack. It was the price that drew me, only 80p for the whole pot, down from £4. But now I realise it's a shallow victory. I've had them for a day. Look at the pitiful dent I've made in that pot. There's a note on the side that says "Use within 2 days of purchase", and I'm already halfway through that time. I don't normally strictly adhere to best before notices, but in a pot of cold slimy things I would start to feel very uneasy if they changed in flavour or consistency. I don't know what olives are like when they go off. It's a treacherous new world.

Besides, the note also says "Use within 2 days". This implies I should probably add them to some haute cuisine, not just gorge on them in the middle of the night like a classy fat person. But that is what I must do, because I can't be bothered to make anything to put olives in. Hopefully I shall demolish this pot within the allotted time, but at the moment it's looking bleak. Wish me luck.

My rating: 2/5

Wednesday 20 July 2011

Today's Review: Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows Part 2

Well, it's been a long journey, but the last Harry Potter movie is out. No one's been this excited since the last Harry Potter book came out. Love it or hate it, there's no denying that J.K. Rowling's wizarding stories have become a massive phenomenon, and has probably overtaken bad teeth as the thing people know the British for. I think I got into Harry Potter around when the third or fourth book was out, but I have gladly read all the books. I think I read a couple within the space of a day or two, a feat only previously matched by Douglas Adams novels.

While the first movie was good, it was clear that the kids cast in it were not great actors. But it's been great to watch them grow and mature with the story, and it's really been an acting masterclass for them to take their characters from light-hearted kids in peril to teenagers in mortal danger.

If you haven't seen any of the others, as I probably said my Deathly Hallows Part 1 review, go and watch them, I'm not going to recap the story. But Part 2 opens straight after the climax of the first, funnily enough. Voldemort has grown to be pretty badass, and he has a new wand which is awesome. Meanwhile, Harry Ron and Hermione have managed to stop traipsing through forests and are looking to visit some more exotic places to destroy the rest of Voldemort's soul. Their first port of call is Gringott's, where they plan to break into one of the impenetrable vaults. After this, however, the only option is to find the last piece, hidden somewhere in Hogwart's. Trouble is, Voldemort and his army are on the trail, and the stage is set for the final battle between good and evil in the iconic school.

The Harry Potter movies have always had the ability to sink big budgets into the special effects and cast, due to the huge following it had from the beginning. But in the last few years the productions have become suitably more epic, and very dark. This is definitely no exception. The sets look stunning, and no expense is spared on the amount of spells flying around as the battles intensify. The great choices that were made with the casting of characters at the beginning of the series pay off well here too, with every actor giving it their best as their very lives are in immediate danger. Even Neville Longbottom has turned into a real dude.

There were several times when some chills went down my spine. The ever present menace, and the exchanges between good guys and bad guys just made for great cinema. The movie is beautifully shot, and the whole production leads to a very emotional and adrenaline fueled ending to the story.

There were a couple of areas where Deathly Hallows Part 2 was lacking, however. My main concern was with the pacing. Everything is going well up until the main battle of Hogwart's. This was one of my favourite parts of the book, with the action constantly shifting between characters and various groups of people turning up to join in the fight. I thought that Rowling must be writing in all this stuff just to make it difficult for the people who made the movie to include everything, turns out I was right. As soon as the battle begins we start to follow just Harry, Ron and Hermione, as they run around various staircases trying to figure out what to do. We know there's a huge battle going on outside, but all we see is snippets, and a scene where we follow Harry as he runs through the action. When I was reading the book I was imagining sweeping shots like in the battle scenes of Lord Of The Rings, but instead it all felt a little rushed, with some important elements left out. We see the fate of several characters in the aftermath, but we never see how they actually got into that situation, when it was clearly explained in the book. It all makes me feel the tiniest bit cheated, as the whole point of splitting the movie into two parts was to make sure everything was portrayed, and with Part 2 being almost 20 minutes shorter than Part 1 they could have easily squeezed in some more of the action.

The 3D wasn't great too. I know I hate it when 3D is used simply as a tool for making shit fly in your face, but I have seen movie where the depth factor is used to really good effect, even in, dare I say, Avatar. But with Deathly Hallows Part 2 the 3D just felt a little tacked on, quite flat, and really did nothing to add to the experience. It's stranger still how a movie in two parts only has the latter half in 3D, if they wanted to make it 3D why not do the whole thing? Without the 3D the series would still be awesome, and that bit more consistent.

These are my only two concerns with the movie though, and they feel a little bit nitpicky. Well, apart from the first one. But despite the pacing issues this is an outstanding ending to the series, and really raises the bar with the amount of love and effort poured into these movies. It's exciting, it's emotional, it's well acted and wonderfully made. You'll laugh, you'll cry, you'll pretend you can do magic afterwards! It's Harry Potter, bitches.

My rating: 4/5

Tuesday 19 July 2011

Today's Review: The Amount Of Wires Behind My TV

Just look at that. Just look at it. It's insane. Basically we painted the living room today, and decided to rearrange the shelving again, which is fine from a furniture moving point of view, there's only three cabinets. But when you take into account all the rewiring it becomes quite a massive task.

I suppose it's my fault, I have so many things plugged into my system simultaneously, but it makes everything convenient and easy to access. Let me break it down for you:

TV: 2 wires
Sound amp: 7 wires
XBox (with Kinect): 5 wires
PS3: 2 wires
Wii: 3 wires
PS2: 2 wires
Dreamcast: 2 wires
NES: 1 wire
Hard drives: 4 wires
Router: 2 wires

That's 30 damn wires, and I'm sure I'm missing some. It would be okay if they just stayed where I put them, but due to some unknown force of nature any wires left alone will become inexplicably tangled. In fact, I dropped a wire onto the floor earlier, turned around for a second, and when I turned back it had tangled into another one. Baffling.

That's why I like to have all my stuff plugged in at the same time. Going back there and switching cables around just to play a different console is a nightmarish thought. So despite the sheer amount of wires lying around back there, I can play and watch my entire collection of games and movies with a couple of remotes. And that's awesome.

My rating: 3/5

Monday 18 July 2011

Today's Review: Rango

I am a complete and utter Pixar fanboy. I have seen many other movies of the CG animation age, and have disliked pretty much all of them apart from those that my beloved Pixar have made. But lately that's changed. Other companies really seem to be stepping up to the mark and are making movies that I actually quite enjoy. Certainly not as much as Pixar, but definitely better than I was used to. Rango is one of these movies.

Rango is a story of a lizard (Johnny Depp) who is in the middle of an identity crisis, as well as a glass terrarium on the back of his owners' car. But then he's knocked off the back and forced to wander through the Mojave desert, eventually coming across an iguana named Beans (Isla Fisher), and the town of Dirt, a Wild West style town populated by a wide variety of desert critters. Trouble is they don't take too kindly to his company, so our hero on the persona of Rango, a lean mean killing machine, and he is soon promoted to the position of town sheriff due to a string of dumb luck. Unfortunately his first order of business is to find out where the entire town's water supply has gone, and it's not going to be easy.

Rango is one of those great forms of parody, it's absolutely dripping with Western movie references, but is a great Western in its own right. Just one with slapstick humour and aimed at kids. Not that this is primarily a kid's movie. There are guns, deaths, it all seems quite an adult affair. Still, the action and story are tame enough to keep little ones entertained, even if a lot of it might fly over their heads. But as an adult viewer there's a lot to keep you entertained. you've got the Wild West movie parodies, the trippy dream sequences, and the adult references embedded among the various poop jokes. Hey, gotta keep everyone happy, right?

The movie looks amazing. The water and dust effect are probably the best I've seen in a CG movie, and a good thing too, because a movie about deserts and water needs to have realistic effects. The characters are greatly animated too, feathers and scales look almost real, and the emotions the characters convey are great.

The real standout feature is the voice cast. Depp and Fisher are wonderful in their roles, even though they sound nothing like they normally do. The movie boasts a great voice cast, with Bill Nighy, Ray Winstone and Ned Beatty, among others. Everyone does a great job, putting on their Western drawls to really suck you into their world. Even the minor roles are awesome, especially the owl Mariachi band who follow Rango around, eagerly awaiting his "inevitable" death.

Of course, this being a kid's film, the story is not as deep and intense as you'd expect from a regular Western movie. But the movie does a great job of peppering a quite bland plot with menacing and vivid characters, beautiful locations and a great sense of humour. Rango isn't just a great kid's movie, it's a great movie. Even if there are a few too many poop jokes.

My rating: 4/5

Sunday 17 July 2011

Today's Review: Justin Bieber: Never Say Never

Why do I do this to myself? I don't know, perhaps I'm on a mission to watch every movie ever. Perhaps I like to torture myself. But I did indeed sit down last night and watch the Justin Bieber movie. But let's clear something up first. I am in no way a fan of Justin Bieber, but I wouldn't say I hated him either. I really don't get all the venom that is tossed around whenever someone as much as casually mentions Bieber. Sure, he may be a little self-centered, but given the fact that he's become an international star in a few short years, I'll forgive him for thinking a little highly of himself. He may be annoying too, but if that's the case just don't listen to him. It seems that the hate being thrown around is purely a response to the completely hysterical and really creepy fanbase of tween girls that has grown around him. For every girl that want to marry Justin Bieber, there's a guy who wants to kill him dead.

So we'll start the review by saying that if you don't like Justin Bieber, you won't like this movie. I'm sure that was pretty obvious, but it's worth stating. I went into this movie dispelling my predispositions about Bieber, merely to view it afresh and without bias. And to be honest, it wasn't bad.

Never Say Never is basically a documentary following the life of Bieber from the origins of his talent, through to his discovery on YouTube and eventual stardom. The movie is pretty well balanced throughout, and the story flows quite nicely. The entire movie is based around the main event of his career, his sell out show at Madison Square Garden, and as we see his story progress through the actual documentary part we're treated(?) to several live performances from that show. It's cool to see these juxtapositions of a young boy playing a little guitar and the older Bieber giving it all he's got in front of thousands of screaming fans.

To be honest, I didn't leave with any more of a negative impression of Bieber than I already had. I figured this movie would justify the hatred that is aimed towards him, but although I found it to be a little bit pretentious at first when he's prancing around and not really talking to the camera, he soon loosens up and he seems like a nice enough guy. There's a part where his vocal chords become damaged and he has to postpone a couple of shows, and he really seems to feel bad about that. Sure, the movie could easily be skewed to paint him in a positive light, but there really doesn't seem to be that much awful about him.

The same cannot be said about his fans though. Seriously, what are they on? Do they not realise how damn creepy they are? If a bunch of guys were drooling over a 16 year old girl there'd probably be an investigation from the FBI. You don't see thousands of screaming guys at Hannah Montana shows, saying how much they'd like to marry her, and grabbing her at every opportunity. I don't know what it is with young girls, but Never Say Never has its fair share of clips of hysterical girls literally crying because they get to see Bieber in person. CREEPY.

So yes, all in all, it's not a bad film. Sure, it's full of people saying how amazingly talented he is, but these are his family and people who signed him. Of course they're gonna praise him. You can't even trust Michael Moore to make an unbiased documentary, people. Besides, I didn't realise before I saw this movie that Bieber can play a whole load of instruments, and is actually quite good at them, and at dancing too. He certainly has some talent, and good on him for making the most of it. I'm not gonna become a Belieber anytime soon, and I certainly still don't dig his music, but I'm not going to troll the internet saying how he should die just because a load of crazy girls want to somehow be the one to marry him because he looks nice and indirectly calls them "baby".

Never Say Never was a lot better than I thought it would be, especially as I thought it would be shit. It's a well paced and quite informative documentary, and if you're a Bieber fan it's definitely worth watching. I certainly enjoyed it a lot more than Big Mommas. If I were a Belieber, I would give it full marks, but since I don't particularly enjoy the subject matter I can't say it totally captivated me. But it was still well made.

My rating: 3/5

Saturday 16 July 2011

Today's Review: My Thumb Injury

What is wrong with this picture? I'll give you a hint. My damn thumb nail is split. This has never happened to me before, and I used to cringe when someone informed me that one of their nails had split open. How do you even do that? Well, I'm still not sure.

I was at work, using the scanner gun. It gets a bit boring sometimes, so I like to add a bit of flair, twirling it around, throwing it from hand to hand. But during one of these innocent little hand passes the scanner instead whacked into my thumb nail, immediately splitting it and causing it to bleed. I'm not sure how that's even possible. It didn't even hit it that hard. Either the laws of physics were bent for a split second or I'm not getting enough calcium in my diet, and my nails are brittle shadows of their former selves.

Anyway, thumb injuries suck. I wrapped it in a plaster and spent the rest of the evening acting like an invalid. There's something about wearing a plaster that makes you feel like you can't do anything with the affected area, and it turns out that thumbs are pretty useful. Worst of all, it doesn't work on the iPhone screen, so whenever I was texting I had to use a thumb and an index finger, so I looked like some kind of idiot who's scared of technology.

But the plaster's off now, and the cut isn't too bad. It stings from time to time, but I don't think I'll be catching it on anything much. It still sucks balls though, and I still have no idea how it happened.

My rating: 0/5

Friday 15 July 2011

Today's Review: Big Mommas: Like Father Like Son

I think I actually went to see Big Momma's House at the cinema. I was 13 and naïve, but even so I still remember it being a terrible movie. So imagine my shock when a sequel arrived. I didn't watch that one. But earlier this week a third instalment was delivered. Since I now get to watch movies for free, I decided to subject myself to the torture. The things I do for review material.

So here we have Big Mommas: Like Father Like Son, because apparently the material for Big Momma doing things in a house has all dried up. Martin Lawrence returns to reprise his role as the titular character. Get it? 'Cause he dresses up as a woman with big tits. That's the best the humour is gonna get folks, live with it. Anyway, apparently Lawrence's character had a wife in the last movie, but she's not in this one, because she didn't want to star in a piece of shit. So that's cool.

Lawrence plays Malcolm Turner, an FBI agent who we promptly see abusing his powers at the beginning of the movie to chase down a postman for his mail. Turns out he was after a decision letter from the colleges his stepson Trent (Brandon T. Jackson) applied for. Because the envelope is thick, he assumes he got in, which is apparently good enough for everyone because the envelope is never actually opened. Trouble is, Trent isn't at home to open it. So Turner promptly abuses his powers yet again to track him down via his phone. 

But to Turner's horror, Trent doesn't want to go to college, he wants to be a famous rapper, as evidenced by the three minute song that we see him perform. Predictably, Turner doesn't like that idea, and refuses to sign the contract to let his stepson go off and rap. So Trent has the bright idea of ambushing Turner while he's on an undercover operation. Good going.

Anyway, the operation doesn't go according to plan, because the inexplicably Russian bad guy spots the massive microphone strapped to the informant's chest, who is then duly murdered in front of Trent. Uh oh, shit's gonna hit the fan. But don't worry, Turner has a plan. You see, the evidence they need to convict the guy is hidden in an all girl's school for some reason, and Trent needs protection. Therefore the solution is not to conduct a quick search of the school approved by the FBI and quickly bring down this guy, but for Turner and Trent to dress up as women and stay there for a few days until they find it.

It's at this point I'm pretty certain that Turner doesn't work for the FBI anymore. He just seems to float around looking for reasons to dress up as a fat lady and infiltrate places, and now he's getting his son into it. Anyway, they quickly work their way into school, with Trent as a pupil and Turner as a house mother. The girl already present aren't too impressed with this intrusion, not because these people clearly look and sound like men in drag, but because they're all bitches for some reason. But things quickly warm up as everyone gets to be friends. 

I was trying to make notes as I went along that highlights everything wrong with this movie, but I quickly realised that this would result in a critical essay of over 9,000 words. So let me summarise, this movie is absolutely awful. Seriously, really awful. I'm not sure I could pinpoint a single joke throughout. Sure, there's a point where Big Momma breaks a table, and is introduced as Big Momma with a reply that basically states "She certainly is big". There's also a janitor who is really attracted to guys dressed in fat drag, but since this movie is a PG it doesn't really go anywhere.

The actual main plot of the movie is probably condensed into about 20 minutes of run time. The rest is spent watching our two heroes plod around accidentally using their low voice for a split second, talking to girls and bursting into random musical numbers. Yes, random musical numbers. This school is a performing arts school, did I not mention? So we have Trent rapping for no good reason, and a scene where all the girls do their hair while dancing to Tik Tok. It's like Big Mommas doesn't know if it wants to be a comedy or a High School Musical style movie, and it completely fails to be, well, even a movie.

I won't comment on the pacing, or the capability of the actors, because in all honesty it's a complete fucking mess. It angers me that this movie was made, I'm angry at myself for actually watching it to the end. Don't watch this movie. Please don't watch it.

My rating: 0/5

Thursday 14 July 2011

Today's Review: Limitless

Limitless looked to me like a movie where a guy takes a pill and then spends an inordinate amount of time driving cars and beating people up. No idea where I got the impression, 'cause it's actually a lot more than that.

Limitless stars Bradley Cooper as Eddie Morra, a guy who's pretty down on his luck. He has a book contract, not that he's written a word of his book, his girlfriend has dumped him for being an aimless loser, and his life pretty much sucks. Then one day he meets his ex-wife's brother in the street, who offers him a clear pill that will apparently make everything a lot better for him.Eddie thinks "Hey, why not?" and dutifuly downs it, 'cause what harm could a transparent pill be? It's probably just a piece of plastic or something.

Except it's not. The pill, known as NZT-48, actually opens up new synapses in the brain that allows people to unlock their full potential. Eddie finishes his book in a few days, learns languages just by half paying attention to audio tapes, and manages to find patterns in the stock market to make shitloads of money. Trouble is, his ex-brother-in-law gets murdered by unknown assailants, and Eddie's only supply of NZT is what he recovers from the victim's oven.

Of course, the drug is pretty amazing, and is manufactured by somebody, and Eddie soon finds himself being chased by shadowy people, and also the loan shark he borrowed money from in order to invest in stocks. Everyone seems to want a piece of what Eddie's got, but of course Eddie is still using NZT, so he can keep one step ahead at all times with his newfound awesome brain powers. But as side effects start to emerge from his drug usage, he must balance up his personal health with the income and evasion abilitied that the drug provides him.

There is not as much action in Limitless as I thought there'd be. Sure, there's a fist fight, where Eddie recalls snippets of fights he's seen on TV through his life and can replicate them perfectly, but the majority of ways that he uses his powers is in the manipulation of stock markets, and the learning of new skills and languages. Bradley Cooper does a great job in the lead role, and oozes charisma as the charming drugged up Eddie. His narration throughout the film is great too.

Probably the best thing about Limitless is that everything doesn't go great for Eddie. Sure, there are people after him, which you'd expect from this kind of movie, but the side effects that emerge from his constant consumption of NZT are a nice touch. As Eddie begins to find more people who have taken the drug the side effects become more apparent. This is where a great element of the effects of drug abuse is thrown in, and is used to quite good effect.

Limitless almost delves into the style of Requiem For A Dream at time. When Eddie is on NZT, the once gloomy and grey picture quickly brightens up and becomes vibrant with colour. Trippy special effect are also used to convey the wackiness of being on this drug. It almost mimics the trippy sequences seen in Requiem For A Dream, and when Eddie starts suffering from the side effects he looks to be in a bad way, but it also very reluctant to give the drug up. This side plot is quite an interesting take on drug dependency in real life, and I wish they'd gone further into this, but it all seems to vanish as the end of the movie approaches.

Limitless is a lot better than I thought it would be. It could have been an all out action movie, but the direction it takes is quite smart, and there are some quite thought provoking moments throughout. While it does eventually follow quite Hollywood-style conventions, it leaves enough ambiguity to raise discussion. The characters are great and there are enough twists and turns to hold your attention. In all, it's a very good movie.

My rating: 4/5

Tuesday 12 July 2011

Today's Review: The Toilets At Southend Pizza Hut

We had a little trip to the seaside today. Certainly not the best day for it, but hey, we had fun. But before beachery, there was Pizza Hut, and with those unlimited refills a man's gotta go. So imagine my surprise when I walked in and saw this:

I'm sure most of you have played the urinal etiquette flash game online. If you' haven't, here it is. Basically the rule goes that men standing at urinals should normally be separated by one to avoid unnecessary junk watching. This bathroom does not only ignore that rule by having only two urinals, but laughs right in its face by placing the two urinals directly next to something else.

It doesn't bother me too much, I'm not a urinal user myself. I much prefer the comfort of solace and toilet paper that a cubicle provides. But imagine if someone was in the first cubicle, or it was out of order. I would be forced to go in the one next to the wall. If someone decides to try and dissolve the urinal cake while I'm inside, the first thing I'm greeted with upon leaving the cubicle is an eyeful of someone else's junk. If I wasn't paying attention I might even bump into them and disrupt the stream. You never want that to happen.

The other urinal isn't positioned better. It's right next to a sink, meaning if one person is washing their hands, and another is peeing in the urinal, cleaning yourself is not an option unless you want to rub up against a guy with his tackle out. Add to this the fact that the sink requiring you to snuggle up next to an exposed man is actually the child's sink, and you've got a recipe for disaster.

Maybe I shouldn't be too hard on them, maybe this is the best they could do with the space they had. But on the other side of the sinks, out of shot, is a massive radiator. Could they not have positioned that next to the urinal and moved the sinks further up? I fear the cubicle situation is unavoidable, but they could easily rectify the sinks. But alas, these toilets are massively cramped, and I'm sure they will be the source of much male awkwardness and invasions of personal space for years to come.

My rating: 0/5

Monday 11 July 2011

Today's Review: Flamin' Hot Cheetos

Ah, Cheetos. Favourite snack of American geeks. They have become known for the inability to stop once you start eating a packet, and the yellowy dust residue that they leave on your fingers. Sadly, Cheetos only had a brief appearance in the UK, with the sale of "Dangerously Cheezy" Cheetos in the early 2000s. But now they are nowhere to be seen. Imagine my delight at visiting Oman and seeing a wide variety of Cheetos on offer.

The average Cheeto is fine, but pretty much like the Wotsits I can get at home, only larger. They're good, but nowhere near as good a Crunchy Cheetos. These are nobbly sticks of cheesy goodness, and once I had a taste I was in love. Sadly, I was also tempted to pick up the Flamin' Hot variety. Note that these are manufactured in the Middle East, and when they say something is hot, they mean it. Not that these are off the scale, but they're a lot hotter than the average pussily-labelled "hot" snack. My memories of them were not too great, and while there were regular Crunchy Cheetos to scarf I was happy leaving them well enough alone.

On my most recent visit I found a new flavour, Cheddar Jalapeño Cheetos. They blew me away. They were as good as Crunchy Cheetos, but with a really nice spicy kick that was totally awesome. Since I am now back in this country, and my mother offered to bring me back some food, I asked for a couple of bags of Cheddar Jalapeño. Instead she brought me Flamin' Hot. Makes sense.

Naturally I was disappointed. These Cheetos are pretty hot, it's probably wise not to eat a whole bag in one sitting, because your mouth would be on fire and your stomach would cry. But, with a significant lack of any other form of Cheeto, I tucked in.

Yeah, they're pretty much bright red. They look redder in real life. Also, if you direct your attention to the top of the picture, you can see the sandy deposits of aforementioned Cheeto dust. It's best to save this until you have finished eating your portion, because licking that dust off your fingers is the shiznit. The dust in Flamin' Hot Cheetos, however, is slightly evil. It makes your fingers red. It seeps into any cracks in your lips and turns them red. But as a seasoned geek I can just shrug and say "I was eatin' Cheetos" and no one thinks any less of me than they did before. 

Thankfully, my previous memories of Flamin' Hot Cheetos were not affirmed here. I found myself devouring quite a few in one sitting. Sure, they're not as good as the other Crunchy Cheeto varieties, but they still taste good. If you're not one to handle your spicy foods, it's probably best to stay away and seek out something milder. I have a strong stomach for spiciness though, which I probably mostly inherited from my dad, he eats chillies like a fiend. So don't be dissuaded by the hotness. It's quite satisfying, and these Cheetos are still really moreish. Just not so much as others.

My rating: 3/5

Saturday 9 July 2011

Today's Review: The Lincoln Lawyer

I only really know Matthew McConaughey from the romantic comedies he's been in lately, and the fact that women seem to swoon at the thought of him. So I guess I was a little apprehensive when I picked up a serious looking movie that I'd never heard of before that starred him.

The Lincoln Lawyer follows Mickey Haller, a defence attorney who drives around town with all his paperwork in the back of a Lincoln Town Car. Why? I'm not quite sure. He has his own apartment, I guess he just likes having an office that moves. Haller's driver, an old client of his, is the owner of the car, and he's driving Haller around to pay off some legal fees. So I guess that ties up that loose end.

Anyway, Haller is going about his business, defending people who most likely did the crime anyway, but Haller seems to do a good job of getting them off. One day a big case falls into his lap. Louis Roulet (Ryan Phillipe), the son of a real estate hotshot, is charged with beating up a prostitute, and Haller wastes no time in getting his legal fees and working on his case.

Trouble is, not everything is at it seems. This case starts to worry Haller, as there is a striking similarity between it and one that he dealt with in the past, where his client was sentenced to life in prison despite protesting his innocence. As Haller uncovers more information he's pulled into a dangerous game which forces him to re-evaluate his methods in order to obtain justice.

McConaughey does a fantastic job as Haller. He's smooth talking but manages to maintain a serious persona when things start getting out of hand. The way that McConaughey and Phillipe play off against each other is great too, and there are some quite menacing scenes featuring both when the story really gets going.

The story does take a little while to get going though. We start by following Haller around as he goes about his daily business, making shortcuts by being mostly charming, extorting more money than he should out of clients, everything seems hunky dory. But once the film takes on a darker and more serious tone, it made me wish there was more of this throughout the rest of the movie. Still, it was good to see the two sides to Haller's character, and McConaughey plays both really well. The light hearted opening scenes of the film also help pull the audience in when the plot thickens, highlighting the danger that Haller puts himself in by accepting the case.

I enjoyed The Lincoln Lawyer a lot more than I thought I would. I expected to get sick of McConaughey, and for the plot to not grab me in the slightest. But what I got was a taut thriller that managed to keep my attention throughout. It's a great story, although it can be a little slow in places, and everyone in the cast is great. I was nicely surprised, maybe you will be too. Hell, even the guy who wrote the book said they did a great job with the movie.

My rating: 4/5

Friday 8 July 2011

Today's Review: Fair Game

Fair Game is a movie based on the true story of Valerie Plame, a CIA operative who was exposed amid controversy surrounding the war in Iraq. I guess it was quite a big story, but I was only 16 when all this happened, so I was probably too concerned with being a sulky teenager to notice.

The story follows Valerie (Naomi Watts) and her husband, Joseph Wilson (Sean Penn). Joseph is sent to Niger upon recommendation from his wife in order to ascertain whether uranium is being sold to Iraq. Upon finding no evidence he makes his report, only to have George Bush go to war anyway and claims he received intelligence that a deal did go ahead. Understandably, this makes Joseph quite pissed, so he publishes an article stating that he in fact said the complete opposite, 'cause, you know, he did. So a member of the staff at the white House retaliates, uncovers Valerie's identity as a CIA operative attempting to criticise the government and effectively ruins her career.

The setup of this story, understandably, is quite long winded. Considering this was a movie about Valerie's struggle to seek justice and clear her and her husband's names, pretty much half the film was concerned with the events leading up to the publishing of the articles. Of course, it's essential to know the backstory, and in this case there was quite a lot to tell, but Fair Game seems to cut off quite prematurely, and leaves a major part of the plot to a sequence in the credits, which doesn't really bring closure to the story. If they couldn't have cut down some of the build up, they could have easily made the movie a bit longer in order to wrap everything up nicely. 

Despite this, Fair Game is a pretty good movie. Watts and Penn do great jobs in their respective roles, and although they seem a little bit boring in the beginning when they're just doing their jobs, as everything starts to fall apart they show some great emotion and play off each other quite well. The higher ups at the CIA that Valerie have to deal with all do well in their roles too, managing to stay quite detached from the movie itself, but always appear to be hanging around as a quite domineering presence.

That's probably the best thing about this movie. While it's marketed as a thriller, it doesn't have the generic scenes of the bad guys plotting on how to take down their prey. The focus is mainly on Valerie and Joseph, their reactions to what's happening and their relationship. There could easily have been a role cast for George Bush, but instead his part is portrayed solely in real footage of his press conferences, which adds a great sense of realism to the movie. The couple are shown watching and reacting to the exact same footage that was shown at the time, and while there is slight bias in the fact that we never see George Bush defend himself for what he said (if he did at all), it shows the effect that what he said during those press conferences affected the characters we're following in a profound way.

Fair Game is not your run-of-the-mill thriller. There are hardly any explosions, apart from the odd segments following a family in Iraq during the initial bombings, another great addition to help realise the effect that this war had on people. There are no car chases and no guns. It's a well-thought out and emotional thriller, dealing with the stresses that the US government placed on this couple, and how they attempted to fight against it and rise above it. It adds quite a personal touch to the abundance of information we were given when American went to war. I just wish it was a bit longer so they could have carried on the story to its full conclusion.

My rating: 4/5

Thursday 7 July 2011

Today's Review: Strawberry Puffs

What is this madness? Not Sugar Puffs, but Strawberry Puffs. Crazy! This is not the type of breakfast cereal I'd buy on a whim, but since all the cereals were on a 3 for 2 offer I could at least be safe in the knowledge that I had some backup cereals should this one fail to please me.

Good thing too, because Strawberry Puffs are very strange. I poured myself a bowl and got to munching, only to be confronted with a familiar taste. You know what that taste was? Sugar Puffs. Well, slightly off-tasting Sugar Puffs, but Sugar Puffs all the same. Not a hint of strawberry at all. I felt cheated. Betrayed. How could they draw me in like that, promising the sweet taste of Sugar Puffs augmented by a juicy strawberry taste? It's a lie, a damn dirty lie!

Well, actually, I had to do a little control test just to be sure, so I sampled a dry handful of puffs. To my surprise there was a slight strawberry taste, but it seems the addition of milk cancels that out completely. Which is a bit pointless because who drinks cereal without milk? No one. I beat even lactose intolerant people would prefer to have unsteady bowls than to eat cereal dry. 

Anyway, the strawberry taste isn't too great anyway. Probably because the only element in the ingredients that has anything to do with strawberries is the 0.5% of "Strawberry Powder", and an even smaller amount of "natural strawberry flavouring". Sounds delightful. I guess the milk absorbs all the powder and destroys it because it is a pussy. Or perhaps the fact that there's five times as much honey in the cereal masks the flavour anyway.

The only conclusion I can reach is that the creators of Strawberry Puffs simply aim to trick you into tasting the strawberry flavour by bombarding you with strawberry imagery. Just look at that picture of the box, it looks like a giant strawberry. Plus it's "Limited Edition", better taste those strawberries fast, kids, they're not gonna be here forever.

Then you have the back, with a big picture of a strawberry, and a strawberry related joke for you to chuckle at. "Why were the little strawberries upset? Because their parents were in a jam!" Let laughter commence. So, with all these strawberry thoughts floating through your brain, you're prepared to shove a big old spoonful of cereal in your face and go to strawberry heaven.

Well, it doesn't happen folks, don't be fooled. The back of the box there also contains several honey jokes and references. They don't want you to forget that this is still a honey-based cereal, just like Sugar Puffs. Don't get me wrong, Sugar Puffs are great, apart from the bit where your pee smells like them after eating. But to lure me in with the promise of strawberries and fail to deliver? Shame on you, shame on you.

My rating: 1/5

Wednesday 6 July 2011

Today's Review: Submarine

I've always loved Richard Ayoade, since he first blessed my screen as Dean Learner in Garth Marenghi's Darkplace. Then I found out he was directing a movie, and I was like "Whaaaat?" Turns out now I love him even more.

Submarine follows the life of teenager Oliver Tate (Craig Roberts). He has a plan for his life, and although he manages to get himself a girlfriend in the form of Jordana (Yasmin Paige), his parents' relationship isn't going as well as he thought, as evidenced by regular room searches and the position of their dimmer switch. He has a separate mix tape for each stage and mood of his life, and he thinks he knows exactly what he's doing.

Unfortunately, he's socially inept and his mother thinks he's crazy. But that doesn't stop him embarking on a journey to lose his virginity and stop his mother from having an affair with the new next door neighbour. Oliver believes everything is in his control, and has several plans laid out to make sure everything happens correctly, but his constant spying and meddling only serves to make things worse.

Roberts does an excellent job of portraying Oliver. He simply radiates awkwardness, but manages to speak in the overconfident way that his character feels about himself. As his life plans begin to deteriorate, his reactions get more and more absurd, playing out scenarios that will surely fix everything like in the movies, or taking on the persona of his formerly depressed dad, dressing gown, hot lemon and all. While everyone in the cast is wonderful, it is Roberts who really steals the show.

Submarine is not a generic teenage love story. It is very abstract at times, with scenes devolving into super 8 form and strange dream sequences. Perhaps the strangest part is not being able to pin down when the movie is set. Sometimes it could easily be the 80s, others it seems more like the 90s, but overall it seems like there is no real time setting, it just harks back to a simpler time when there were no mobile phones or internet, and proper love letters were written. This feeling of confusion really adds to the tone of the movie, detaching the viewer from the events going on, perhaps in the same way that Oliver Tate is detached, just observing, making plans and following them.

Submarine is wonderfully filmed. It seems that Ayoade never wants to waste a shot, and uses angles and zooms to the best of his ability. The result is a very artistic looking picture, and accompanied by its haunting music and soundtrack by Arctic Monkeys frontman Alex Turner, it makes for a very unique movie.  Ayoade did an excellent job with the script too. I've never read the book Submarine was adapted from, but the dialogue is awesome, and made me laugh out loud in places due to the wonderful delivery by the actors.

Submarine is not your average movie. It is a highly stylised and artistic film about the pains of teenage life, seen through the eyes of a strange but wonderful boy. It is a great achievement for a debut movie, and I really look forward to anything Richard Ayoade offers in the future.

My rating: 5/5

Tuesday 5 July 2011

Today's Review: Anuvahood

I was actually almost looking forward to this movie. I thought it would be the send up that this ridiculous genre of London rudeboy movies needs. Unfortunately I was wrong. My suspicions were raised even before I got to the DVD menu. There was a teaser trailer about the new movie "from the producers of Shank and Anuvahood". It's called Sket. Except they didn't tell me anything about it except for the title. Still, it's a slang word for a whore, so that'll sure be exciting.

Next was some grime artist that I don't remember the name of, probably something like Dirty Platez or Grim Nappiez. He was telling me how when a film like this comes out, everyone's excited and wants to download it straight away, but this costs the movie industry millions, so don't do it yeh? The way he spoke to me in his harsh London tones, pointing his hands at me and moving them around, it really spoke to me. I'll never download a movie again.

But onto the movie. Adam Deacon is in it, like he's in pretty much every other movie like this, be it Kidulthood or Shank. This time he plays the lead, Kenneth. You'd expect him to be some street wise gangster willing to mess up some bluds, but no, this time he is a wasteman. Excuse me for my lingo, but I've been hearing this stuff for almost an hour and a half, nothing else makes sense anymore. Anyway, everything Kenneth does is wrong. First he quits his job at Laimsbury's (good one, almost didn't get that), and every attempt to make money or get some girls backfires, presumably not because he's demanding to perform sexual acts on a woman, but because he's doing it in slightly the wrong way.

What follows is a hilarious chain of events that sees Kenneth stumble his way through life, hanging out with his friends, trying to sell weed, and mentoring a Spanish guy who's moved to the area to learn English. Why this character exists, I don't know, because he seems to just sit there when he should be telling everyone how wrong everything they say and do is.

This is what baffles me about these types of movies. I can hardly understand what they're saying. Fortunately I have access to Urban Dictionary, and have managed to decipher some phrases from sitting through other movies in the genre, but I'm sure there should be a subtitle option that actually translates everything into proper English. Lingo is thrown about at such a speed it's hard to even make out any words, were it not for the fact that these people repeat themselves about three times. At one point someone calls Kenneth "jammy", and Kenneth proceeds to tell them that jam is in fact something you put on toast, obviously stating that you should not say anything that has another meaning in the English language. Yet in the very next sentence he says "You wanna stay here and jam?" Way to stick to your guns there, big guy. 

Working in Blockbuster you have to learn to inform people when the movie they've picked up is foreign. 95% of the time they will put it back, because they only picked it up because there's someone with a gun on the cover. People don't want to read subtitles, they want to know when the English version is coming out. I despair. But these very same people are the ones who will rent out movies like Anuvahood, which are clearly not in English at all. Cries of "murk", "shank", "sket", "bludclot" and "fam" are rattled off at ridiculous speeds, and it was hard to keep up with what was going on.

Not that there was too much going on. It's the same old generic London youth gangster crap. Someone robs someone else, the victim tries to get their stuff back, which pisses off the guy who did it, so they have a showdown. Tension is in the air, but thankfully a good old bout of violence makes everything okay again, because that's just how it goes. Everyone now respects our hero because he managed to punch a guy in the face, because previously he was un-punchable or something. 

The characters were difficult to relate to, because I'm not a scumbag. I was watching the first half of the movie thinking this might well be a spoof, because the characters are so ridiculously over the top and hyper. But then I remembered that in movies like Kidulthood the characters were pretty much the same, and that was meant to be serious. I guess the only thing that makes this a comedy is that the lead is a loser, but I didn't really get drawn into that because every single character seemed like a loser to me.

Okay, so I clearly hate these types of movies. But Anuvahood, considering its circumstances, is not so bad. It actually has a storyline, despite the amount of time the characters spend rambling about how many "links" they've got, and I appreciate that they're trying to send up the genre, even if the result was completely wrong. At least it'll keep the people who made it and the people who watch it off the streets for a while, so they can't go around shouting about "peng gash" and shanking unfortunates to take their trainers. If you like your rudeboy gangster movies you'll probably want to give this a go. If you've never seen any, you'll be completely baffled and horrified. 

My rating: 2/5