Monday 31 October 2011

Today's Review: Contagion

Yes, it's time for another disaster movie. But hey, at least this one's not about zombies. In fact, it's a whole different kind of movie.

Contagion has an ensemble cast, and a pretty good one too. Gwyneth Paltrow, Kate Winslet, Laurence Fishburne, Matt Damon, Jude Law and Marion Cotillard all play characters dealing with the outbreak of a new form of disease, one that spreads easily and kills within days. Damon plays the husband of one of the first infected, who is played by Paltrow. He is pretty much the only regular citizen mainly featured in this movie, as the other characters are employees of various health centres who are tasked with researching and preventing the disease.

Yes, in a typical disaster movie you'd have several sweeping shots of ravaged streets, people trying to escape the impending disaster, a real Hollywood sense of urgency. But Contagion treats the subject in an extremely different way. The scenes of citizens panicking and even having the disease are minimal, and most of the movie deal with what happens behind the scenes, from the initial stages of identifying clusters of infection, to obtaining a sample and working to control mass panic while attempting to develop a vaccine. It may sound boring compared to an action filled thriller, and there are certainly no zombies, but the story really pulls you in. At times it does get a little complicated, and almost feels like watching a documentary about how an epidemic is dealt with, but the result is a completely unique take on the genre.

Everyone in this movie plays their roles extremely well. Damon particularly stands out as the surviving husband attempting to prevent the rest of his family getting infected. Jude Law plays an increasingly slimy blogger who is attempting to uncover the "truth" behind the infection and cure, and often oozes with charm. The health workers played by the others are believably frantic in dealing with the virus and their loved ones, which helps to pull you in and make you pay attention to what's going on in the story. Without some well played parts the scientific elements of the movie would have fallen quite flat.

Contagion may be another thriller about disease, but it's very intelligent and presents a unique viewpoint behind outbreaks. What happened in the labs in George A. Romero's world? We may not know for sure, but Contagion gives us a fair idea, and proves that it could sometimes be as interesting as what's happening outside.

My rating: 4/5

Sunday 30 October 2011

Today's Review: Missing Seeing 11,111 Views On My Blog

11,114 views. Aw man, if I'd have signed on some other time today I could have seen a right magic number. Not that I'm in the habit of watching my post views tick up day in and day out, but it's nice to see the total whenever I sign in to write my daily entry, and watching that number go up every day does indeed spur me on to continue my quest. Over 11,000 views in just over eight months may not be huge in internet terms, but it sure means a lot to me.

So perhaps another day I shall witness 22,222 page views, and maybe then I'll somehow award a prize. But keep reading, people. There's still plenty of things I haven't reviewed yet.

My rating: 3/5

Saturday 29 October 2011

Today's Review: Losing Internet For A Moment

I think it's fair to say that I'm pretty reliant on the internet. Not a day goes by where I don't look something up on the internet, and a day certainly hasn't gone by where I haven't posted an entry on this blog, or at least tried to in that time the site was down.

I can't really imagine what life would be like without the internet. Well, actually, I can, because I lived through it when I was a child. It was a scary, uncertain place. The only way to find something out was to go and find a book or something with the information you need. That may have meant a short walk to the library, not too bad, but then you had to scour through books, or go elsewhere and buy magazines, and even in that case you're at the mercy of the author, and whether they decide to write about what you know.

But with the internet, you can look up anything, at any time. Wikipedia is a revolution, and there's no shortage of random people on Yahoo Answers asking and answering questions about even the most mundane subjects. You can find routes, talk to friends, pretty much anything you want.

Until your internet goes down. Then you're just stuck sitting there in front of an unconnected computer. Sure, it might have a dictionary, but apart from that it's pretty useless, just relying on what's on the hard drive, which in a large amount of cases is copious amounts of porn. It's probably not too much of a problem for older generation, they still have those dusty old encyclopedias they used before the internet came along, and the probably still buy the newspaper every day too. But I can safely say I have no books of educational value to me whatsoever. Newspapers are just unwieldy too. With the internet I could find out pretty much anything within seconds, but once the router starts playing up a little I'm plunged into a void of non-communication. It's just the state of things today, I truly am a 21st century boy. Thankfully tonight I restarted the router and I was fine, but in the case of a full internet outage I don't know what it would be like. I know I'd learn to adapt, but nothing would be the same again.

Since the outage was short though, I guess it wasn't so bad. It made me think for a little while, summon up enough to write this review, and now I am safely sitting in my chair with a portal to the world again. If anything, it was life affirming. Be grateful for the internet you have, because you'll surely miss it when it's gone.

My rating: 1/5

Friday 28 October 2011

Today's Review: Waiting In For Couriers

We sold some stuff on eBay last week, something that normally fills me with some sense of dread. There's the taking pictures and listing, which I guess is never really too bad, but then there's also the inevitable questions about some insignificant detail of the item, or whether you can ship it to some country you've hardly heard of, and provide the price right away. Still, it's all bearable. The real pain comes with the packaging and sending. Most small items go in a jiffy bag and straight to the post office, no problem. But when there's something big and Royal Mail will probably charge you a fortune, it's worth going online and booking a courier.

But here's the thing. We had a collection booked for yesterday, they could have turned up anytime from 7am to 6pm. They didn't, at all. So of course, we complained, and were told we would have pickup today, and a request sent for a collection as early as possible. This was good, as we were planning to have a family day out somewhere, our last chance this week.

Well, they didn't turn up until 6pm. I guess that request was met with a "Nah, screw that". I really don't understand why we, as an advanced people, need to give up our entire days to wait around for package collection and delivery. First world problem, I know, but it's a prevalent one. You'd think with today's technology we could be given a more precise time. Hell, we could even be given an online map that tracks the vehicle's location and sends you a message when it's en route to your house. But no, we're stuck sitting indoors, twitching the curtains at the slightest van-like noise. It's just archaic.

So another day was wasted. At least they picked it up this time, but it still annoyed the hell out of me. There are so many ways deliveries and things could be made better, but everyone just seems to be unwilling to make any changes. I don't know, maybe I'm talking out of my ass and it's technically impossible, but in this day and age I refuse to believe it. So come on people, make it better. I'm tired of waiting.

My rating: 0/5

Thursday 27 October 2011

Today's Review: Life In A Day

Life In A Day is a very interesting idea. On July 24th, 2010, people filmed themselves going about their lives and answering a few questions, and uploaded the result to YouTube. Out of the 4,500 hours of footage gathered from that day, Life In A Day was created, a 90 minute documentary, filmed by who knows how many people.

The approach taken to this movie was pretty well thought out as well. While most of the footage is taken from YouTube users with their own video cameras, equipment was also sent out to various places in the developing world in order to get a glimpse of life in cultures all across the globe. Life In A Day actually plays out over the day as well, starting out with people waking up, carrying on through mealtimes, and ending near the stroke of midnight.

On the way various themes are covered. There are the questions posed to users in the challenge specification, such as "What's in your pocket?" and "What do you love?", but there were obviously many themes picked out from the footage itself, so we are treated to montages of people eating, drumming, and even sitting on the john. Lovely.

The whole movie is pretty much a peaceful, light hearted affair. There are a few occasions where people are talking to the camera, and obviously these have been picked for their emotional impact, and indeed I did well up during a couple of these scenes. A large amount of footage, however, is just of people going about their lives in different places around the world. Just getting a little glimpse into everyday actions, and occasionally the extraordinary, is something you never really see on film. Normally a documentary film has some kind of agenda, but in the same vein as the movie Babies from last year, we just see what people were doing on a certain day.

You might think that the agenda of Life In A Day is just to raise your spirits about humanity and simply portray happy, upbeat footage. I was pleased to see, however, that some less than happy clips were spliced in, with some ill people talking about their ordeals, but especially in the form of a darker montage towards the end. It reminds us that though there is lots of good in the world, all is clearly not well.

Life In A Day was an ambitious project, and it was really pulled together well. While clips are short and swiftly cut, I didn't want to stop watching. The need to focus on each clip before it's gone really drags you into the experience, and the wide variety of footage portrayed is both interesting and emotional. It's simply a great piece of film making, and well worth a watch.

My rating: 5/5

Wednesday 26 October 2011

Today's Review: Going Through Random Articles On Wikipedia To Get Review Ideas

Yes, it's clear that from time to time I have worked for most of the night, only to come home with nothing to review. I reviewed that once in fact, but I can't do that again. With nothing really standing out at me tonight I decided to click "Random article" on Wikipedia in the hopes that something would inspire me.

Everyone loves Wikipedia, hell, I got my degree through using Wikipedia a lot. Its articles may not be completely accurate, but at least they have links you can follow through externally. But despite there being a wealth of information if you know what you're looking for, if you ask for a random article there is no way you are going to be interested in most of what you see. I only got a few clicks in before I realised how ridiculous it was. Among others I was given a Japanese footballer, a type of lawn mower, and my personal favourite, "galactosylacylglycerol O-acyltransferase", which I'm told is "an enzyme that catalyzes the chemical reaction: acyl-[acyl-carrier-protein] + sn-3-D-galactosyl-sn-2-acylglycerol \rightleftharpoons [acyl-carrier-protein] + D-galactosyldiacylglycerol"

I don't know about that, but it would make a pretty good name for a super villain. Mainly because it starts with "Galacto", but also, when the hero discovers this villain is behind the plot and says his name in a confrontational kind of way, it would take him a very long time and he could be easily overpowered during.

Again, I digress. The point is, if you're looking for an idea, do not go trawling through random articles on Wikipedia. You may learn a few things, but you'll probably never use them.

My rating: 1/5 

Tuesday 25 October 2011

Today's Review: Tesco's Pumpkin Pie

I think I've only tried a bit of pumpkin once before, and I didn't like it. Pumpkins are purely for carving, but since my daughter is afraid of them my contact with them shall be minimal this Halloween. But one day I hope to be an American, and if I can't be professional and well off enough to get a green card, I'm hoping they can just test me on how American I really am, and a key component of that would be liking pumpkin pie.

To my surprise, there was some pumpkin pie in Tesco, and in the reduced section too. "Why not?" I thought, throwing aside all previous misconceptions I may have had about pumpkins. Then I opened it up. It doesn't look great. It looks like quiche, which is normally quite eggy in flavour, so that put me off a little. I don't know if pumpkin pie is meant to look like that or not, I've had no other pie before with which to compare it to. Plus, I know those are pumpkin seeds on top, but am I really meant to eat them? Look at them, they don't look edible, they're freakin' huge. Still, I'm not one to judge a disgusting looking foo by how disgusting it looks. The proof is in the pudding, or the tasting thereof, so down the hatch it went.

I say down the hatch, but in fact I mean I took a couple of small bites and then gave up. I didn't like it. It wasn't particularly awful, I could have easily finished it, but it just didn't taste nice to me, and there was a bag of salt and vinegar crisps calling my taste buds. Pumpkin just ain't good, especially in quiche form. It's too bitter for my liking, and I don't really understand why people would want to eat it. Oh well, there goes my citizenship. Unless I can get in on my love of Cap'n Crunch and Cheetos.

My rating: 1/5

Monday 24 October 2011

Today's Review: The Weather Getting Colder

It's a fact of life. The weather gets colder when it gets to that certain time of year. Winter in most places, except for Australia because they like to be different apparently. We've had quite a good year so far in good old England. While the summer wasn't amazingly hot, it was still warm enough, and the random heatwave in October was pretty weird, but nice too.

But that's over now. I can feel the days counting down until I have to do the unthinkable and turn on the central heating. I'm wearing a jumper in my own house, that's how I know it's getting cold. I used to prefer the cold, it was my philosophy that you can keep putting more clothes on, but you can't keep taking clothes off. But from my time in Oman I've learned that while heat can be a bit unbearable at times, it's generally not too bad. At least it keeps you warm. The cold though, it sucks. It makes you shiver, and want to curl up in a ball under blankets. When I said you can keep putting clothes on, I'd never really tried it. Have you tried wearing two or more pairs of socks? Good luck getting your shoes on after that. Good luck buying increasingly sized jumpers and trousers to pile onto yourself too.

Yes, the cold turns us into covered up shivering idiots. While the warm sensation of being snuggled up and toasty is unparalleled, why can't we just have that feeling all the time in the form of some nice pleasant weather? Hurry up global warming.

My rating: 1/5

Sunday 23 October 2011

Today's Review: Sporks

I don't care how silly the name is, sporks are pretty awesome. They combine the stabby tines of the fork and the scoopy goodness of the spoon. Sporks are the utensil of choice at KFC, whichever dish you desire, all you need to be able to eat it is a spork. It's hard to see why sporks are not more mainstream. Why do we still rely on three independent pieces of cutlery to eat? There have been attempts to combine all three into one, but that normally results in a double ended cutlery nightmare. Besides, we still want to eat with two hands, we just don't want to change between fork and spoon whenever we come to something different.

While your first time using a spork may blow you away, the limitations do become apparent after a while. The tines are not really long enough, so you can't pierce a whole stack of meat to drop into your eager mouth, nor can you scoop up a massive amount of soup, if you're less ruggedly manly. Yes, the spork was revolutionary, but these bad points are stopping it becoming a mainstream form of cutlery. Until this, that is:

Look at that, it's amazing. Clearly when combining two things isn't good enough, a better solution is just to put them on top of each other. Perhaps not effective in most situations, but in this it seems to do the job. You could pierce a thick hunk of beef and scoop up enough gravy to wash it down with this beast. Although, thinking about it now, how would you get the food off the spoon? In an awkward sideways eating motion, or at the risk of stabbing yourself in the back of the throat? Perhaps this isn't the revolutionary design the spork is crying out for, but it's certainly a start. There is always hope for the spork, because it's seriously an awesome idea, and has helped many people save the strain of switching utensils for many years.

My rating: 4/5

Saturday 22 October 2011

Today's Review: Larry Crowne

Tom Hanks and Julia Roberts? You can't go wrong with that combination, surely? Apparently it can.

Larry Crowne is about, surprise surprise, a man named Larry Crowne (Hanks). He's been a good employee of a generic large store for a long time, but that doesn't stop them firing his ass based on the fact that he never went to college. On the verge of financial ruin, and unable to get hired by anyone else, he decides to just head to college, where he takes the first piece of advice that the dean gives him and takes three classes that will "change his life". One of these is a speech class run by Mrs. Tainot (Roberts), a beautiful yet unhappy and grouchy teacher who Larry inexplicably starts to pursue. Larry also befriends a group of scooter riders, and in fact anyone else who crosses his path, so you can really see his life turn around.

Therein lies a major problem with the film. Everyone that Larry meets in the movie instantly seems to like him and want to help him out. There is little to no tension, it's just a series of scenes where Larry does everything right and seems really happy, and his friends start piling up so much that we hardly even see relationships develop. The only glimpses we see of his speech class are the students giving increasingly adequate speeches, but apparently off camera they become really good friends and get taught very effectively by Mrs. Tainot, because at the end they're a tight knit speech giving group. It would be good if they portrayed any of this development, but instead we're just left to assume that everyone's doing fine and they all like each other anyway.

I don't know, maybe I should shake off my Hollywood tinted glasses that expect conflict and volatile relationships, perhaps in this new world and economy everyone does just want to help each other out, but it seems so unreal. Larry Crowne certainly isn't an awful movie though. It's very upbeat, obviously, and there is some great talent in the form of George Takei and Bryan Cranston, it's just there's not enough character development in there to really help them shine.

Larry Crowne really is a feel good movie. It's kind of funny in places, but mostly it's just about a guy floating his way through a time in his life when most people would be depressed and lonely. Perhaps that's something we need in this economic climate, but to me it just came off as a bit boring and underdeveloped.

My rating: 2/5

Friday 21 October 2011

Today's Review: Food For Louis

I got home from work about an hour ago, and as per usual I had not yet written a review. Today I had no ideas though, so I decided to mope around the internet until I got a flash of inspiration. Then I found Food For Louis.

Food For Louis is a YouTube channel created by a complete maniac. I was first introduced via a link to his video named "Eating A Live Giant Scoprion". He does exactly what the title says really. He has a live scorpion in his hand, which he dangles into his mouth and chows down on. Disgusting, right? You haven't seen the half of it.

Though Food For Louis only has 14 videos so far, you can watch such other delights as "Eating A Rotting Dead Frog" and "Drinking 10 Blended Mice", the latter being marked for inappropriate content, probably because, you know, he blends and drinks ten dead mice. As I have had a fair bit of experience in internet shock videos, this doesn't phase me too much, although it's clear it's completely disgusting, but anyone who is a little squeamish should probably stay away.

But perhaps we should be thanking Louis. Why does this person feel the need to eat dead or living things for the purposes of entertainment? I don't know. But since this aspect of humanity had previously not been explored on film, at least now we can cross it off our list and no one will ever have to do anything so disgusting and stupid for the rest of our species' existence. As Louis wretches and swallows various disgusting pieces of animal, we can be safe in the knowledge that it is in fact pretty disgusting both to experience and view, even though we probably could've figured that out anyway.

My rating: 2/5

Thursday 20 October 2011

Today's Review: Pizza Hut's Flapjack And Raisin Cookie Dough Dessert

I do review a lot of Pizza Hut stuff don't I? I could probably be their full time menu reviewer (hint hint). But honestly, I don't go to Pizza Hut too much, it's just that whenever I do there's always something new to try. New things make ideas for reviews, so I just have to go and try stuff. While I reviewed the Cookie Dough dessert experience in the restaurant itself not so long ago, they now have several variation on that theme. Since I love oatmeal raisin cookies, this one screamed out at me.

Yes, they call it flapjack raisin, but they might as well call it oatmeal raisin, because that's the right way of doing it. It is like a warm, half baked oatmeal raisin cookie covered in ice cream, and that part is indeed totally orgasmic. It wasn't burnt at all, and not too hot either, leaving my taste buds free to experience that melt in the mouth feeling. The only strange aspect I thought was the toffee sauce. Certainly not a bad thing, it was quite nice, but it was certainly a weird choice to drizzle on top of oatmeal raisin. Perhaps if any of you guys want to try it you can ask for no sauce and go and siphon some chocolate or strawberry from the ice cream factory instead. Whatever floats your boat, but I guess any sauce would be as strange as any other on top of this. 

Overall, a good effort. It's nice to see them change up some of the old favourites, even if it is just for a little while. So get in there while you can people, it's oaty raisiny heaven.

My rating: 4/5

Wednesday 19 October 2011

Today's Review: Explaining Air Pressure To A 4-Year-Old

It doesn't work out so well. Here's a tip, next time your child asks why it's windy, just say "Because it is". Or at least make sure they know what air is before explaining its movement towards low pressure areas. Hell, I didn't even know what wind was until a few years ago. But now I am prepared for all the random questions. But explaining them isn't going to be easy.

My rating: 1/5

Tuesday 18 October 2011

Today's Review: Having A Cough For Ages

I've had a cough for a while now. Almost two weeks in fact. I'm goddamn sick of it. Okay, I know that coughs happen, I shouldn't complain, but this is really pissing me off.

First of all, it's just the cough. That's it. Normally you'd get a cold or something with it, and you'd treat the whole package. Hell, when the sniffles and sore throat goes away you'd probably be glad to just have a cough. But if you've only got a cough, and it's been going on for a long time, that's not cool.

The intensity of the coughing is probably the worst thing. Coughing can be discrete, and doesn't have to adversely affect you much. But not for me, oh no. My throat decides to tickle and sends me into massive hacking coughs, that shudder through my body and leave me aching and sore after a day's worth. Coughing should not be like this. It's taking over my life and running me down, and just as it seems to let up it comes right back again.

It's been quite resistant to medication as well. I've had vitamin C, Soothers, Lemsip, cough syrup, everything helps, but not for long. This cough is a creation of the devil, its only purpose is to make me suffer for no apparent reason. It may well go away on its own, but I wish it would hurry the hell up. I hate it.

My rating: 0/5

Monday 17 October 2011

Today's Review: Green Lantern

With Marvel still releasing movies left and right, and actually doing quite a good job of it lately, it's up to DC to try and step up to the mark. Sure we have Nolan's Batman movies, which are an entity unto themselves. But otherwise we just have a pretty crappy Superman reboot in recent years. So enter Green Lantern, DC's latest attempt at cashing in on the revitalised superhero genre.

Green Lantern follows Hal Jordan (Ryan Reynolds), a test pilot who is pretty reckless, like most protagonists these days. His father was killed in a test pilot run of his own, so Hal wants to live up to his aspirations, and to his credit he is pretty good at flying. But after screwing up his last test run his future is uncertain. Thankfully an alien ship has crash landed nearby containing a fatally wounded Green Lantern, sworn protectors of the different sectors of the universe.Each Green Lantern has a ring that grants them their power and chooses a successor, and on this occasion Hal is chosen due to his fearless nature. So off he zooms to the Green Lantern base, the planet Oa, where he is trained in the ways of the ring, but where he is also informed of the impending threat of an entity which threatens to conquer the universe.

So yes, there's a lot of mystical interplanetary stuff going on here. There is clearly a lot of background to the story which is explained in detail in the comics, seeing as there are 3,600 Green Lanterns in total. But this movie spends so much time introducing Hal that when the Green Lantern induction process starts, he just zooms along to the planet, meets three Lanterns and doesn't spend much time there anyway. I know Hal is pretty fearless, but to just shrug off being transported to an alien world and given the responsibility of protecting a large portion of the universe feels a bit sloppy. The actual enemies of the movie aren't given much development either, which leads to some battles which, while visually quite impressive, are a bit anti-climactic.

The movie is two hours long, so there is a lot of stuff that could have been put in, but it seems they just crammed a lot of the wrong stuff in, and it seems quite drawn out. Before the proper fight with the first adversary, I'm sure I fell asleep for about ten minutes but still didn't miss anything interesting. Everything just seemed to carry on from when I dropped off. So the pacing is indeed a bit off, but the fact that they've gone into so much detail with Hal's backstory is good for developing his character, and this movie is mostly about him. If there were sequels there would be plenty of room for fleshing out other characters and spending more time on Oa, but since this movie has been poorly received it's not looking too likely.

Still, there is some solid acting throughout the movie, and the fight scenes are quite well constructed, especially given the unlimited amount of stuff the ring can create from green light. Green Lantern is by no means a terrible movie, there is just a lot of time spent on stuff that doesn't really matter, and other aspects that cry out for development. Perhaps if the priorities had been set right this time around we'd be looking forward to the inevitable sequel. But while the future is uncertain, I certainly wouldn't turn my nose up at another story of Hal and his magic green ring.

My rating: 3/5

Sunday 16 October 2011

Today's Review: Retreat

Yes, this week I actually got round to watching some movies that I'd never heard of before. At risk of them being awful, of course, but this week's offerings didn't look too bad, especially Retreat.
Martin and Kate (Cillian Murphy and Thandie Newton) are a married couple trying to get over a recent tragedy. Together they take a trip to a remote island in order to rekindle their relationship. A few days in, however, an injured man stumbles towards their cottage from the shore. His name is Jack (Jamie Bell), and he claims that he is a member of the military, and that there has been an outbreak of a new strain of flu on the mainland that is ravaging the population. As he boards up the cottage, the three are left with no contact with the outside world, and Martin and Kate must decide whether to trust what this stranger is saying...

Retreat is pretty excellently done. Aside from a couple of tiny parts, these three are the only people in the movie, and it's only set on the island itself. It's a great small ensemble cast, and everyone gives it their all. As the characters' attitudes change and the suspicions start to kick in, I was really taken along for the ride. Attitudes do change at quite a rate, however, and all of the characters end up being a little too erratic, but the parts are never really played too over the top.

Retreat is a thriller not so much in the sense of there being several twists and turns, but more that there is always an air of suspicion, and you can never tell whether Jack is being completely honest with the couple. The tension builds up very nicely, and the final scenes bring the whole story together, offering more surprises when you're sure that you know everything that's going on. 

For a movie with three actors shot in a cottage, I was surprisingly captivated. Granted, this movie doesn't quite pack the punch of a large budget thriller, there is only so much they could have done with the location and cast. Despite this though, Retreat certainly is a solid movie. There has been a real lack of good thrillers lately, but the plunge I took into this unknown movie was well worth it.

My rating: 4/5

Saturday 15 October 2011

Today's Review: Having No Computers At Work

I think it's pretty obvious that society would crumble if all the computers stopped working. But that's shit for the future, like when we run out of electricity, or when all the machines become self aware and just don't want to live on the planet anymore. So they build a giant rocket and leave us behind. Or something like that.

But tonight I got a little taste of life without computers. At work, like most other places of work, we serve customers through a computer system. It scans the barcodes, it takes the money, and it keeps a record of everything. Except today the server went down. So who had to take the records? We did, on pieces of paper. Needless to say, the long numbers on barcodes that computers can read with a bleep take a helluva lot longer to write down painstakingly on a sheet. Everything takes about five times longer, and the kicker is that it's Saturday. While it wasn't a particularly busy Saturday, there was never really a point in the day where I was not writing down a number or working out a total, and it's completely tired me out. Maybe it's due to the lack of a gap between customers, maybe it's the large amount of manual writing I haven't done in yeats, but oh man, it's not cool.

It seems my eyes have become too accustomed to monitors and TVs too. Eight hours at work staring at a computer is fine, but a few hours of looking at a piece of paper and I felt like there was something wrong with my sight. Staring at screens may ruin your sight, but apparently only if you attempt to go back to the boring ages after.

Thankfully I have the next two days off, during which I can stare at my several functioning screens and return to a sense of normality. But a world without computers is a dark, evil place. I wish never to return.

My rating: 0/5

Friday 14 October 2011

Today's Review: Tesco Pear Drops Squash

Apparently drinks that taste like sweet shop treats is something there is demand for. So much so that Tesco have developed squashes flavoured like pear drops, cola bottles and lemon sherbert. The least disgusting sounding of those was the pear drops, so tally ho, down the hatch and all that. 

It actually tastes an awful lot like pear drops. It's like someone's taken a bagful and dissolved them into a glass of water. But also, therein the problem lies. Do we really want to be drinking sweets? Sure, it tastes authentic, but then you realise you might as well be drinking some homebrewed concoction, like those vodka shots with Skittles in. It just doesn't feel right. It could be a hell of a lot worse though. I can't imagine what the cola bottle variety tastes like. But since most squashes are fruit based anyway, being pear drop flavoured isn't a bad thing. I wouldn't drink it religiously, but it's good for something a little different.

My rating: 4/5

Thursday 13 October 2011

Today's Review: Bad Teacher

I was quite looking forward to this movie. It seemed like a lot of fun, kind of like something that hasn't really been done before. Jason Segel's in it too, so that's awesome, and I don't care what anyone says, Justin Timberlake is pretty good too.

Bad Teacher follows the exploits of Elisabeth Halsey (Cameron Diaz), a woman engaged to a wealthy person, and about to quite her job as a teacher. Trouble is her partner dumps her, so once again Halsey is forced to go back to school and work on finding another rich man, who in fact emerges in the form of substitute teacher Scott (Timberlake). But in order to win him over she's convinced she needs some new boobs because his ex also had big boobs. Great logic there. So it's up to her to use all her bad teaching skills to swindle as much money as she can for the op, while avoiding the advances of the gym teacher (Segel), and the snooping goody two shoes teacher Amy Squirrel (Lucy Punch).

That's about as much story as I could extract from the movie. There's definitely a plot line, and a clear ending that wraps things up, but what's inbetween is just so awkwardly put together. It's as if the writers wrote out a bunch of scenes that sounded funny, then though "Shit, we have to link these all together somehow". The progression of Halsey and Scott's relationship is at one point so fast that I thought I'd accidentally skipped a scene. I suppose having the action jump around from place to place keeps it a bit fresher, but it just ends up being so confusing, and characters get totally left behind and underdeveloped when there was actually some potential for them. They just seem to pop up whenever a joke needs to be bounced off them, and then they get shoved to one side so Cameron Diaz can wear a different outfit and talk about her boobs some more.

Still, there are some funny moments in the movie. Nothing's really held back along the way, so expect plenty of swearing and drugs. Yes, Halsey really is a bad teacher, she starts out just not giving a crap, and this provides some good comedic moments. But her attitude seems to fluctuate so much throughout the movie that it's hard to tell when she's being genuine or manipulative. The supporting actors definitely do well though, especially Lucy Punch as the hyperactive number one teacher.

Bad Teacher is an entertaining enough movie. Once you get over all the chopping and changing of set pieces and scenes there is definitely some funny stuff in here. But what lets it down is the sense of detachment between scenes, and the lack of character development that results. If you don't think about it too much though, Bad Teacher is pretty good.

My rating: 3/5

Wednesday 12 October 2011

Today's Review: Doritos Jalapeno Fire And Pepsi Max Citrus Freeze

Oh yeah, it's a double review. But why? I'll tell you why. Pepsi and Walkers have joined together in an unholy union to make you spend your money on a gimmick. You've got the firy crisps and the freezing drink. I get how crisps can be hot, but I wasn't too sure about the Pepsi. Of course, I was still going to try it, 'cause that's what I do.

Let's look at the Doritos first. The bag was pretty much half empty, which you would expect in some crisps nowadays, but not normally in a bag of Doritos. Still, I got them cheap, so no real complaints. When I took the first bite I thought one thing and one thing only. They taste exactly like Flamin' Hot Monster Munch. There's absolutely no mistaking it. But before everyone goes up in arms, I'll say that it works in Dorito form. Monster Munch are quite maizey and get smooshed up quite easily, making the flavour go a bit flat. The same flavour in a Dorito form results in a nice crunchy chip, and somehow there is a much more pronounced feeling of spiciness left after the chip has been swallowed. So while they're not too amazing at first, there is a certain satisfying aftertaste. It gets better the more you eat.

So with my mouth somewhat burny, I turned my attention to the Citrus Freeze. Lime flavoured Pepsi isn't a bad thing, even if my only experience with it is when they run out of lemon in pubs and restaurants. The real question is how they emulated the "freeze" part, presumably through some kind of chemical. Boy was I right. It just doesn't taste right. The lime is definitely there, but any hint of Pepsi is overpowered by whatever it is they're using to convince you that your mouth is cooling down. I guess they gave up on an authentic flavour in the end, ad just went with something that chemically rinses out your mouth of all other flavours. It's less freeze, more antifreeze.

So there we have it. A cross-company combination that doesn't quite hit the spot. The Doritos, while first disappointing with recycled flavour, have a surprising kick. The Pepsi, however, I wouldn't recommend. Just stick with regular, Or go buy a yoghurt drink, dairy helps the burning taste. 

My rating: 
Doritos: 4/5
Pepsi: 1/5

Tuesday 11 October 2011

Today's Review: Serge Island Egg Nog

Another day with no ideas, another trip down the ethnic type food aisle. This time something really caught my attention. This sweet innocent carton of egg nog. It baffled me in a way, especially upon learning it was from Jamaica. I thought egg nog was only really popular in America and Canada, but apparently the Caribbean folks like it too. Of course I had to buy it, I'd never tried egg nog on its own, only in Starbucks special Christmas latte form. 

When I took the carton through self service, however, it came up as a restricted item. I figured since it was in a carton, with a straw, and with a goddamn cartoon cow on the front, it wouldn't have any of the alcohol you'd normally mix in. But when the assistant came over to authorise me we perused the ingredients and found out that it does indeed have rum in it. So that's cool. Don't touch this carton with the cartoon cow, kids! It's got daddy's special juice in it. Despite the over 25 policy on alcohol, the guy let me have it without I.D., presumably because getting wasted and unruly on this stuff would be the most ineffective way of achieving anything. You'd probably just puke from the vast amount of dairy.

The taste? Pretty damn good. It was very much like the egg nog shots in the aforementioned lattes, and had a nice flavour and a smooth texture. What little rum that was in there in no way encroached on the rest of the drink. I feel I should stock up on these and work my way through on the upcoming Christmas nights. It's good stuff, people. Don't let that freaky cartoon cow put you off.

My rating: 5/5

Monday 10 October 2011

Today's Review: The Poster On An Empty Shop Near My Place

There's an art shop on the road leading to town that's been open for as long as I can remember. But now, sadly it has closed down. Probably because their stuff was really expensive. But I did buy some scented highlighters in there, which was nice. 

But now that it's empty, Tesco are poised to move in and add another store to their Chelmsford range, despite having two already within 10 minutes walking distance. Well, the street this store is on still has a nice range of independent local stores, and understandably they're not too happy about Tesco moving in right next to them. There are a few posters up in their windows, but then someone put this one up. I'm not sure I understand the message.

Certainly at first glance it's obvious it's an anti-Tesco message. But they way they've gone about it is strange. Are they proposing that we throw petrol bombs through the window of this empty store, or is it when Tesco opens. Either way, why would we use Tesco Value petrol bombs? Isn't Tesco the enemy here? We should be making our own. Destroying Tesco with their own petrol bombs would be pretty ironic, but I'm sure Tesco don't sell petrol bombs anyway.

Perhaps I'm looking at this the wrong way. Maybe the people are just concerned about the quality of their petrol bombs suffering if they buy them from a vast corporation. I don't know what's in a Tesco Value petrol bomb, but I'm pretty sure it wouldn't be as explosive as one a local guy down the street would knock up for me. Stop providing us with shoddy explosives, supermarket assholes! What if it accidentally blows my face off?

At least we get a bit of text to steer us in the right direction. "The people vs The supermarkets". Clearly it's war. But if Tesco are manufacturing the petrol bombs it's clear who's going to win. Even so, I don't see how the people can be against the supermarkets. Supermarkets need people. While it's true that local businesses will certainly lose out on pricing, it is ultimately up to the people to decide where they shop. So let's stop threatening people with petrol bombs, and set up a good old fashioned store based battle of wits instead. No more silly posters.

My rating: 0/5

Sunday 9 October 2011

Today's Review: Pizza Hut's All Day Breakfast Pizza

There's nothing quite like trying a new Pizza Hut pizza. In fact, there's often something new every time I order, Pizza Hut change their menu more than I change my underwear (if that were true I would be a completely disgusting human being). 

So here we have one of the more interesting pizzas I've seen, the All Day Breakfast. In theory it shouldn't be too much different from a regular pizza. It has bacon, sausage, tomato and mushrooms, pretty standard. But lurking underneath is not the regular tomato sauce, but baked bean sauce. I know baked bean sauce technically is tomato sauce, but it's different. And what a difference it makes. While the toppings are indeed quite nice, there's something about the sauce that gives it a very different kick. The whole combination of flavours really makes it taste like an all day breakfast sandwich. Yes, that even includes a sight hint of scrambled egg. I don't exactly know how the egg flavour comes about from this combination of toppings, but to me it was a nice surprise and really topped off the breakfast-y offering. 

Probably the best thing about this pizza is I won't feel bad eating it for breakfast, because it is clearly for breakfast, just look at the name. Still, the fact that it is a pizza adds a little strangeness to it all. The problem lies in the crust. I got the stuffed crust, because I don't believe in any other form, but it's really like chasing down your breakfast with a melted cheese string, it just seems odd. Still, I don't see how pan or italian crusts would taste any less strange, because at the end of it all they're all pizza crust. But this is a good offering, Pizza Hut. Whatever will you come up with next?

My rating: 4/5

Saturday 8 October 2011

Today's Review: Dust

Dust is gross. In fact, it's dis-dust-ing. Ha. What is the point in dust? I say absolutely nothing. I'm sure many others say the same thing. I know there are scientific explanations behind dust, we've got it all worked out, but really, why does it exist? Can't the world be more efficient? But no. There's crap lying around everywhere.

Dead skin cells, broken down rocks, just tiny bits of disgusting things all over the place. Why, at the pinnacle of our evolution, do we have to go around scraping dead bits of things off our furniture? It's not right. This is the future, we should have lasers that do that shit for us, or we should have scienced our way out of it by now. Science is a verb now.

Sorry if I hurt your feelings, duster companies, but you just shouldn't be there. That manpower could be used to create anti-dust measures. Let's ban this scourge from our planet, let's have tiny nanobots that eat our flaking flesh and bid farewell to the madness that is all this crappy dust. Peace out.

My rating: 0/5

Friday 7 October 2011

Today's Review: Crazy, Stupid Love

Another free cinema ticket this week, but not so much flexibility on times to go. Having heard nothing about this movie I didn't quite know what to expect, but hey, why not? It's free.

Crazy, Stupid Love opens with Cal Weaver (Steve Carell) and his wife Emily (Julianne Moore) having a regular dinner date as a regular married couple. Until Emily lets slip that she wants a divorce, that is. Gingerly accepting his fate, Cal moves away from the family home and starts to have lonely drinks at a bar. After several nights of lamenting to himself, a man who is always a hit with the ladies, Jacob (Ryan Gosling) offers to help him spruce himself up and start to move on to other women, and plenty of them. So begins Cal's rejuvenation, but while he pulls himself out of his slump he also has to deal with his son (Jonah Bobo), who has fallen in love with his babysitter.

It may seem like a standard romantic comedy plot, but there's a lot more to it. As the story progresses the characters' feelings start to change, and the whole dynamic is often shifted without warning. Where this movie really succeeds is with the ensemble cast. While the movie seems to focus on Cal a lot towards the beginning, we begin to spend a lot of time with the other characters, which allows for some real character development, especially in the form of Gosling's ladies man. Every character has their ups and downs, and while most romantic comedies have a clear good vs. evil role in the form of relationships, everyone in Crazy, Stupid Love tends to make both good and bad decisions, and the developments throughout do a really good job of helping you change your perspective of someone who you were sure was a bad person.

Everyone in the cast plays their parts fantastically. Carell is as awesome as always, and and the other main leads pull in great performances. But even the smaller parts are wonderfully performed. Bobo, who I've never seen in a movie before, was often hilarious, and smaller parts from Analeigh Tipton and Marisa Tomei really added a hysterical edge.

Crazy, Stupid Love was a very surprising movie for me. Though it did start to drag a little near the end, the twists and turns of the characters proved entertaining enough, especially at the point where the storylines all intersect near the end. While there are several laugh out loud moments, there are also some heartwarming ones, and the way the characters' behaviours and beliefs change keeps this movie fresh and different from any others I've seen recently. Hey, I might even pay to watch it again.

My rating: 5/5

Thursday 6 October 2011

Today's Review: Brodyquest

Brodyquest needs no explanation. It is an entity unto itself. I has all the makings of a great internet video, being completely random elements and a catchy theme tune. Every once in a while there has to be something new on the waves, and while before there was Nyan Cat, now there is Brodyquest.

Just watch it. Marvel at the wonderful tune, gaze in wonder at the sheer amount of Adrien Brody, and be amazed at the journey he takes. This is not just a YouTube video, this is something that everyone can relate to. It's a timeless quest. It's a Brodyquest.

My rating: 5/5

Wednesday 5 October 2011

Today's Review: Surpassing 10,000 Pageviews

Woo, this blog reached 10,000 pageviews today. That's a landmark number, right? I've been doing this thing for almost eight months now, so it works out to over 1,000 views a month on average. That seems relatively successful in my eyes, although I know the internet is a big place.

Still, I haven't been shamelessly plugging this blog to any comments section I can find, so I guess some of these views could be attributed to... dare I say... regulars? I know I have a few friends who like to read my reviews regularly (thanks guys, you make me feel warm and fuzzy inside), but perhaps there are some other people out there who aren't bored of me yet.

Still, it could also be thousands of people stumbling randomly upon me, but hey, that's better than nothing. So while sometimes finding something to review each day gets a little tedious, seeing that this stuff is actually getting read is enough to spur me on. At the end of it all it's fun to do, so hopefully I can carry it through to the next 10,000. Thanks for reading my stuff, all you lovely people.

My rating: 5/5

Tuesday 4 October 2011

Today's Review: Real Steel

You know what's cool? Getting tickets to a free screening. The movie may be terrible, but you get to go to the cinema for free. So when I got some tickets to see Real Steel, I thought "Hmm, a movie about some boxing robots. That's gonna be lame", but off I went anyway. But you know what? It wasn't bad.

Real Steel is indeed about boxing robots, but it's not only about boxing robots Hugh Jackman plays Charlie Kenton, a guy who is down on his luck and trying to scrape together all the money he can by doing tiny gigs with his worn out fighting robot. When it gets completely destroyed he quickly has to find a way to pay off his mounting debts. Thankfully, an opportunity comes up in the form of his estranged son, Max (Dakota Goyo). Max's mother has died, and Charlie agrees to sign off custody to Max's rich aunt for a nice sum of money. The only catch is he has to look after him for the summer. In case you haven't realised, Charlie is a bit of a pretentious dick. Anyway, on a routine thieving trip to a local robot junk yard, Max stumbles upon an old sparring robot, and is convinced he can win some matches with it. Charlie is obviously not so convinced, but once they get results the father and son embark on a journey through the leagues of robot boxing.

I'll start by saying that the robots look pretty awesome. It's particularly nice that despite being set in the 2020s the robots and computers seem to be the only real advancements in science. It paints a more realistic depiction of the near future, and doesn't go overboard with hi-tech gadgetry. The robots themselves have a wide range too. Atom, the robot that Max finds, is an early model, and it shows. But there are many other designs, some pieced together from junk and some working their way up to polished world class behemoths. The designs really emphasise the difference between the big league robots and the underdogs, which is a very important aspect of the movie, as it's quite like Rocky with robots.

The fight scenes are well organised, and don't take up too much of the movie. What is shown is real fun to watch, and some of the final fight scenes of the movie got the adrenaline suitably pumping. Where the majority of this movie shines, however, is in the relationship between Charlie and Max. They start out indifferent to each other, but soon they bond over their passion for robot boxing, and the training of Atom becomes a great development point for their relationship, as well as the long hours spent on the road between fights. The way this development really succeeds is in the quality of the actors. Jackman does a great job of leading Charlie from a douchebag to something a whole lot more, and Goyo is absolutely fantastic as Max. You can really root for him as he screams and dances his way through the victories of his robot companion, and the chemistry between Goyo and Jackman adds a lot of heart to a movie that I though would be a hunk of cold steel.

Real Steel is not without its flaws though. There is a love interest for Charlie, played by Evangeline Lily, but her character doesn't seem entirely necessary, and isn't fleshed out too well. The movie can get a little slow paced at times, especially when switching from packed stadium to dusty American roads, and there are certainly some predictable elements thrown in. But don't let the premise fool you. Real Steel may well have a lot of robot fighting action, but it has a whole lot more than that. What was put forward as an unimportant part of the plot actually adds a lot of substance to what could easily be written off as a trashy Hollywood movie.

My rating: 4/5

Monday 3 October 2011

Today's Review: A Little Bit Of Heaven

Didn't I already review a romantic comedy with Kate Hudson? Oh yeah, turns out she likes to do lots of them. Except this one is much more derpessing.

Hudson plays Marley, a confident working woman who has no need for a man in her life. Until she finds out she has colon cancer that is. Before she discovers this she's visited in a dream by God, who is played by Whoopi Goldberg, just because. Whoopi tells her she's dying, and gives her three wishes. Marley, being Marley, goes all sarcastic and wastes two of them, and then is told that she'll find out the third. Why it can't be to stay alive, I don't know. But surprise surprise, the thing she really needs is to find a man, which she does in the form of her nervous Mexican doctor. So it's time for Marley to face up to her relationship fears, because that's so much harder to do than accept a premature death.

Hudson starts out playing the typical Hudson character, which is basically a bit of a bitch. But I was actually quite surprised to find some real character development in this movie. As Marley degenerates she begins to look really ill, and really does a lot to become a better person and get some closure in her life.

That being said, it's still not that great. It's predictable, some elements are a bit too rushed, and the supporting characters aren't really shelled out too effectively, they're mainly just there to cry a lot. Still, it's better than the few romantic movies I've seen lately, and as the movie wears on it gets more emotional and provides some nice closure. Predictable as it may be, it's sure to jerk a few tears in the emotionally fragile.

My rating: 3/5

Sunday 2 October 2011

Today's Review: Cadbury Screme Egg

You know what I'm not too much of a fan of? Creme Eggs. They show up every Easter, and people go absolutely doolally over them because they're only out at Easter. They're not too bad to eat, I'll given them that. But every year they're smaller, and more expensive, and all they are is a chocolate shell filled with icing. You can feel your teeth rot as you eat one, but I guess that doesn't really matter, as long as it's a novelty egg shaped chocolate that you can praise the lord for upon its return.

But now it's time to cash in on another holiday, because someone at Kraft finally had the idea that "creme" sounds a bit like "scream", and so the Screme Egg was born. It's a Halloween themed egg, of course. What separated it from Creme Eggs? Well, the inside is promised to be ghostly green goo.

Oh wait, did you think it would be all green? Hey, me too. It's okay, we'll work through the pain together. Look at that though, come on, it's sloppy. With a Creme Egg I can understand the colouring, it's egg white and yolk. But this is a spooky version, I expect a large amount of ectoplasm when I bite the top off. Instead I have to scoop out the insides to find any trace of green. Perhaps an all green filling would be a bit too much though. I remember once when I had green ketchup and it made me feel a bit sick. The brain can do that to you, you know. But still, they could have made some more effort.

Or perhaps they could just quit with the tomfoolery. Everyone loves Creme Eggs, perhaps it's only because they're out at Easter, but if you're going to start bringing them out for other holidays, why not bring them out all year round? No need to buy batches of food colouring or come up with clever alternative name puns (the only one I could think of for Christmas is Creme Eggnog, that would certainly be an interesting flavour).

But no, shameless cash in it is. But still, everyone is going to snap them up, because they can't get enough sugar in goo form. And they feel guilty every time they just whip up some icing sugar in a bowl, scoop it up in their hands and shove it into their face in a cold dark room. Not that I know what that's like.

My rating: 2/5

Saturday 1 October 2011

Today's Review: Chalet Girl

Chalet Girl has been out to rent for a few weeks (It's all about the Blockbuster exclusives people), but it's going on general release on Monday, so I'm still timely with this review despite avoiding for a while. It looks like the traditional soppy romantic comedy, but people have actually said it was quite good, so I decided to give it a chance.

Felicity Jones plays Kim, a former pro skateboarder who is stuck working in some nameless chicken based takeaway after losing her drive following the loss of her mother. All of a sudden, the girl she's apparently been working with for a while decides to inform her that there is a higher paid job that she can recommend Kim for. No idea why she held off so long, but after discovering she's not quite posh enough to cater to rich clients, she is given an opportunity anyway and is sent off to a chalet in Austria owned by some rich people. While there she attempts to save lots of money to help her hopeless dad (Bill Bailey), but ends up getting distracted by a new found love of snowboarding and the owner of the chalet's son, Johnny (Ed Westwick).

Guess what happens in the end? Go on, I dare you. We all know what's going to happen as soon as she picks up a snowboard, and especially when she decides to enter a local competition. We also know what's going to happen when she meets the guy she's got her arms around on the poster. But there are all the awkward situations and twists and turns that you'd expect. There are some funny parts, and it is slightly less cringeworthy than most romantic comedies, but it still ends up being all too predictable.

I think the trouble is they tried to cram a bit too much into it. Yes, there's a love story, but the main focus on the movie seems to be about Kim's developing snowboarding skills. This is what sets the movie apart from others, and it's actually quite neatly done. But they spend so much time focusing on it that the love story seems very tacked on and rushed. There's no real relationship development between the two, he's just a bit nice to her and suddenly it's love or something.

Jones plays Kim well though, despite the soppy tangents she goes off on she plays the attitude laden independent woman quite nicely. Bill Bailey and Bill Nighy turn in good performances as the main characters' parents, but no one else is too inspiring. Perhaps it's just because their characters had no development, but it didn't seem like they were giving it their all either.

All in all there's just too much going on, and not enough focus on any of it. As I said before, if the love story was dropped it might have been better. Not every woman in a comedy needs to get with a man to make her happy, maybe all she needs in life at the moment is her snowboard, and not some fling with a guy who is so lovely because he smiled at her and said some nice things. Come on people, give me some love I can believe in.

My rating: 2/5