Archive for September, 2009

A tale of 3 movies

I’ve watched 3 movies in the last 24hrs; yes that is how busy I have been. One was picked by someone else and the other two by me. None of them however were movies I was itching to see, more a case of I’ll stick this on and see what it’s like.

First up (and the one not chosen by me) was How to Lose Friends and Alienate people. I’m not sure why I had avoided this one as its main star is one of my favorite current British actors, Simon Pegg.

I don’t think that it’s his performances alone that make him stand out so much as the material and roles that he normally picks. From Big Train, to Star Trek and Spaced to Shaun of the Dead he has made me laugh in each. I didn’t laugh at his role in Dr Who, but then I don’t think I was supposed to.

In this tale Pegg is the story’s main character and is plucked from running a small English magazine by a powerful American magazine owner and asked to go work in New York amongst the glitz glamour and high society that he normally writes so scornfully about. I’m not sure how much of a parody of Megan Fox’s life her character was, or if she realized that she was in essence taking the piss out of her current situation, but the requirement to smile, act dumb and pretty was dutifully met. Though not stretched Kirsten Dunst played her part of aspiring writer stuck in a world of gloss and glam well also.

Overall worth a watch and had some laugh out loud moments. I may be giving it more praise than it deserves purely as I thought it would be dire. 2nd place amongst the 3.

Secondly I watched Echelon conspiracy. I’ll keep this as short as possible otherwise you’ll read a lot of negativity.

Utter piss. From bad acting, to stupid story continuity gaps, being badly cast, badly scored, possibly the most pointless sex scene ever in a movie and just all-round garbage. If you want to watch a movie about the danger of computer intelligence watch Eagle eye as a better alternative released at a similar time or stick terminator on again.

Out of the 3 movies it comes in 4th as not watching a movie takes 3rd place.

Lastly I watched Apocalypto. Again I had no real desire to watch this movie and again I’m not sure why. I suppose that there is a part of me that thinks Mel Gibson, although great as an actor in 80s-90s action flicks has a habit of being too liberal with the truth and facts surrounding the stories he directs.

So let me be clear, I know very little about pre Columbus South America. Hell I know very little about it now in the modern world. My only personal experience is that I spent a few days in Tijuana and that’s a less authentic a taste of South American Culture than an Old El Paso dinner kit.

I think though that is why I could enjoy the movie; I don’t know if it was in any way shape or form an accurate portrayal of life in South America for that time period, it might as well have been set on Mars, so I didn’t judge I just enjoyed. I’m guessing that with Mel Gibson at the helm that it’s not very consistent with the facts and figures but, what it is and what he has achieved is a movie which took me on a journey for a snap shot look at a of someone’s life totally different to anything I have watched before.

So to this I give first place, based on originality of content and despite me being very tired as well as the movie being over 2hrs long I was kept awake and engaged throughout.

Sightseeing on the Indian Ocean

So yes I am here for work, but problem after problem means its delay after delay.  I’ve now spent 2 weeks bobbing about at sea, my internet connection (via satellite) is similar to dial up so despite taking some cool pictures I can’t share them till I get back to dry land.

I did today however spot a humpback whale, which is a first for me.  I have seen smaller whales in the wild before but never something so big.  I’ve also seen a few sharks, little uns not of the Jaws calibre, and belive it or not snakes.  Yes I know eels would make more sense but I was speaking to one of the old timers on board who tells me that the snakes come out this far. 

There is a chance he’s taking the piss, but he seemed genuine enough!

Not a lot else to say other than my movie page is starting to swell with all the down time I have.

Fantastic 5 on Fridays 80’s nostalgia movies

With Friday fast coming to an end and the fact that I have failed to keep up with my Fantastic 5 on Fridays I bring you Fantastic 5 on Friday’s late edition.

Tonight’s topic 80’s kids movies!

I’m coming at this less from the angle of purely good movies from the 80’s but movies that you watched as a child of the 80’s on a rainy bank holiday. In order to make the list you have to be a single movie and have no be part of a trilogy (apologies to Indiana Jones and Marty McFly & Mr Miyagi) and not have been rereleased as part of special edition anniversary set or similar.

This in essence means I ruled out the first 2 films down in ET and the Goonies, but they were just too straight forward anyway.

In no particular order the Fantastic 5 on Fridays 80’s nostalgia movies;

 Harry and the Hendersons    – All the way back in 1987 when this came out and I actually still remember seeing it in the cinema.  The thing I remember most is post movie being in the bathroom and another kid asking me if I liked the movie, I said yeah and he agreed.  He then proceeded to tell me that his favourite bit was when the guy took out his knife and slashed the tyres on the car!?!  I’m guessing that kid is now in jail.

 Flight of the navigator – Who didn’t love flight of the navigator? The tale of a kid who falls into a ravine and ‘wakes up’ 8 years later to find the whole world around him has aged and changed whilst he is still the same.  He then becomes a guinea pig for NASA, meets Sarah Jessica Parker and decides to jump aboard a space craft and become friends with its CPU called Max.  Obviously.

DARYL  – I mainly remember thinking the main kid in this movie was annoying (perhaps I wasn’t alone and that’s why he doesn’t work in movies anymore) although the film was great as a child.  The general premise is that the military build a robot child (D.A.R.Y.L. stands for Data Analyzing Robot Youth Lifeform) and set him loose to live in middle America with an unsuspecting family.  The movie is basically the hi jinx that this produces with an undertone of “what will we do when robots can think for themselves

Explorers – The movie that first brought Ethan Hawke and River Phoenix to our screens was this tale of 3 boys and their adventure into space, I haven’t seen it in a long time but  I remember thinking it was great at the time.

 Watership down –  Ok I’ll be honest this one is technically a 70’s movie and was made before I was even born, however it did play many times through the 80’s on TV when I was a nipper and I remember being freaked out and slightly disturbed by some of the scenes even though it animation about rabbits.  For me John Hurt and Richard Briers have 2 of the best voices for telling stories that I have ever heard. 

Those that nearly made the list and aren’t mentioned in the apologies above are Short Circuit, The boy who could fly, Monster squad and the never-ending story (original).

 Anything I should change?

Seasons

There is a funny thing with seasons, everyone expects you to have a favourite.

I haven’t looked at any stats on this but I reckon that the majority of the public would choose summer as their No 1.

Not me.beer

I think summer is great, warm weather, lots of time spent socializing outdoors, beer gardens & bikinis.

Brilliant I agree, but it’s not the best.

I think for the general public winter would come in second, especially in the western world as it plays home to the largest of the family gathering of the year. You can indulge in too much food, then too much booze for the 2 weeks of Christmas and New Year and its ok because so many others are doing it too. Who doesn’t love Christmas? And a personal favorite for me which only comes around in winter is that the snowboard gets waxed and everyone who loves snow sports can head to the mountains and enjoy some time outdoors doing what they love.

But that’s still not my choice.

I think, truth be told, I’m an Autumn/fall person. I don’t know why but I have a few ideas.

1. I love to snowboard. I love to be outdoors having fun with my friends, pushing my comfort zone a bit, getting the adrenaline flowing and then laughing about it all afterwards with après beers. My gear is old, I’m not that good but I have a damn good time. So why don’t I prefer winter? Well fall is all about the nervous energy of how much fun I’m ABOUT to have. The same way that Christmas Eve sees young children don their PJ’s in the middle of the afternoon; I’m enjoying the build up to the season.

 
2. According to the calendar the New Year is in winter, but is it really? Since I was little the true New Year has been when summer and fall meet. You disagree? From preschool to primary? From the little kids at primary school to then mixing it with the big kids at secondary? What about when you moved out your house and went away for University? Any of that happen between December and January? Nah thought not. For the vast majority of my life the true New Year has been governed by the academic calendar not the standard one. Even though school was a long time ago now the imprint remains, when really young it was all about getting new ‘cool stuff’. As a small child getting luminous highlighters for the first time WTF that was awesome. Getting slightly older and further through school, heading back after the break saw the chance to meet up with friends you may not have seen for a while and bumping back into girls you spent the whole year before wishing you had some interesting chat for. Maybe this would be your year. Start a fresh; pick your own rules. One year older, none the wiser but twice as brave.

 

latern
3. Halloween. Do I need to elaborate? You get to scare the shit out of people when you are little and then you get given enough high sugar treats to sink a battle ship for your actions and then when you get into your late teens and early twenties all the girls take it as an excuse to wear as little as possible and everyone gets drunk. I don’t have kids yet but I’m sure it’s a pretty fun time to be a parent, unless you’re the parent of a teenage daughter. Sorry.

 
4. A personal one; I graduated Uni at the start of the summer yes, but then I had to work my ass off to get money together to travel overseas at the end of it. Yes I’m a bit predictable but it was to go do a season snowboarding 10,000 miles away from home. When the leaves started falling that year and I realized that the culmination of a dream of a few years was coming to fruition and that I was starting a new chapter, to try out a new type of life, and I was the happiest I had been in a long time.

 
5. Another personal one but to not include it would be detrimental to the entire list. I met my girlfriend in the autumn. Awwww. I know it sounds a bit pathetic, but the first part of our time together had a backdrop of oranges and browns, cold winds and too much rain (We lived in Scotland at the time). It was a fantastic time, a bit of a golden age, and I can’t escape that it all came about in that season.

So that is really the way I feel about seasons, it’s not that the others are bad seasons but the mix of fun times ahead, new beginnings and happy memories make this a good season for me.

What season does it for you?

If you are wondering why spring doesn’t get a mention it’s because its known for cleaning, the snow is gone but it’s still cold and not allot else. Doesn’t give it a lot of hope really.

A trip away

What a difference a day makes.  Or a few in this case.

I had planned to put up another fantastic  five on Fridays list but the last few days have been pretty hectic, and have culminated with me now sitting in the floor if the airport departure lounge awaiting a flight to Australia.

I’ve never been to Australia before, and I would have thought that I would be at least a little bit excited but in all honesty I’m tired and can’t be bothered with the 15hr flight to Sydney, kicking about for a few hours then flying on to Perth.  This isn’t a leisure trip and I’m not really expecting to get anytime to do any sightseeing or adventuring so right now it just seems like a long way away.

The bottom line is that the company that I used to work for called and asked me to do some contract work (which I have before) and really the money goes a long way to feeding my snowboard habit so I couldn’t turn it down.  I don’t want to sound like I’m a slave to the money, but sometimes the sensible thing to do is not look the gift horse in the mouth and take what’s on offer.

I used to find airports really interesting and exciting places, people going all over the world on there own mini adventures, trying something new.  Now all I can think is that in airport kids can be really annoying, people when tired enough can sleep on just about anything and all the airports in North America smell the same.

4hrs of traveling down, about another 20 to go……..

“Hey Mr Sandman”

I have built sandcastles in my time but some how they were never this good;

 Sandman

Food glorious food.

Food glorious food.

I haven’t blogged nearly as much about food on here as I thought I would when this blog was born. I am what you would call ‘food orientated’. I don’t use the term ‘foodie’ as I don’t like it, and I won’t use the term greedy as it makes me think of that fat kid in Willy Wonka, and the term greed overall conjures up negative images of some greedy megalomaniac and I don’t want to draw comparisons to either thank you very much.

Although between you and me I probably am greedy when it comes down to it with food.

Today my girlfriend has made lasagna, which despite the two us being together a fair whack of time, and me being lucky enough to have tried a host of different culinary creations courtesy of her time spent in the kitchen not once has it been lasagna.

lasagne

As a food item its one of the best there is, a better creation to come from Italy I’m yet to see (I do include their cars in there too) for the simple reason that done properly its gastronomical heaven. Yes it has been basterdized by the shit in a plastic microwaveable tray merchants who sell it on the cheap from frozen food sections of supermarkets globally but that’s no more really lasagna than McDonald’s big mac is fine dining.

Good lasagna, proper lasagna, takes a lot of time, a bit of effort but the deep flavours of the ragu mixed with the light creamy béchamel sauce generously laced with cheese make it all worthwhile. A generous helping of crusty garlic bread with that? Bliss.

Something else I have come to realise about lasagna (I have no PhD in the subject nor did I appreciate pre typing that I had such strong opinions on it) is that the best ones I have had have always been homemade. Its bit of a rare feat amongst most foods that spring to mind that the best versions haven’t been in some restaurant. That’s not to say I think my mum’s is the best (although she does a damn good version) or that my own is the greatest (I use this recipe with a few tweaks) but it just seems generally the best ones I can think of have always been in the home of a friend or relative rather than a restaurant.

 With any wild crazy claims such as these its best to look at the why, and I think there are 2 fundamental reasons in this case;

1. When at a nice Italian restaurant there is too many other fantastic looking recipes on the menu that I could never hope to recreate in my own kitchen so it’s best to adventure a bit and try something new. Choosing lasagna would be a bit like Frodo opting to stay in the Shire.

2. Lasagna like so many dishes that are truly great is best eaten socially with friends. Lasagna for 1 brings back connotations of the frozen food section, where as the hand crafted lasagna for 10 piping hot out the oven is a fantastic event. Much appreciated by those who are already getting wobbly form the pre meal beers and wine. Therefore I associate lasagna with good times with good friends.

So in summary, lasagna has the right blend of flavours, with the soft centre and crispy edges, the right range of textures. And you can even make some for your mates easier than trying to cook a single portion. Perfect.

 If you do look at the recipe I use and think it’s too much hassle, wait for a rainy day when there is not a lot else going on, open a bottle of red to enjoy with it as you create and you won’t be disappointed