Tuesday, 21 December 2010

The Films I Liked Most At The Pictures in 2010

I think I saw more films at the pictures this year than in any other year ever, probably thanks to getting a membership card for the Chapter Arts Centre in Cardiff (a bargain at £25 for me and my girlfriend). Some of them were right clunkers - especially The Ghost (which was simply preposterous) and Iron Man 2 (which struggled to shoe-horn its 'expanded universe' into anything resembling a plot). Some of them were brilliant. Here, in no particular order, is them:

The Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call - New Orleans

I've not seen the original all the way through, but that apparently means I've seen more of it than Werner Herzog, who directed this remake. Out goes Catholic guilt. Out goes New York City. Out goes Harvey Keitel. In comes Nic Cage being completely insane as he tries to solve a murder in post-Katrina New Orleans. Words cannot do it justice.

The Social Network

A brilliant portrait of a young man with no social skills who revolutionises how people socialise. Director David Fincher reins in his visual style and lets the script 'do the talking' (that's a joke about Aaron Sorkin's dialogue!). Much more than just a "film about Facebook".

Four Lions

Chris Morris generates a brilliant amount of humour by (FILM STUDIES) juxtaposing the absurdities of extremism against the mundaneness of modern life.

Scott Pilgrim Vs The World

Won my heart with its opening scenes and didn't let it go for the film's duration. I can appreciate that it's not for everyone (read some of the 1 star reviews of the DVD over on Amazon) but I thought it was great (though the ending wasn't as good as the comics).

Sunday, 12 December 2010

The Albums I Listened To Most This Year.

I don't use Last.fm or anything, so this won't be based on anything other than my selective memory, but never mind. In no particular order, I give to you...

Yeasayer - Odd Blood

Mostly for Ampling Alp and O.N.E I'll admit, but this album lived in my kitchen and pretty much sound-tracked all my cooking for a good few months.

Surfer Blood - Astro Coast

I found this slightly underwhelming at first. The first 2 songs are great but the rest of it didn't really do anything, but for some reason I kept going back to it and now I'm completely in love with the whole album. Especially the track 'Anchorage', which starts quite slowly and then explodes into life as it progresses. Deceptively simple.

The National - High Violet

Pretty much a victory lap after Alligator and Boxer. Utterly brilliant nonetheless. Probably the best band in the world.

The Walkmen - Lisbon

Unfortunately they'll probably always be "that band who did The Rat" (I think when they last played Cardiff that was even on the poster), but away from that undoubted 'indie disco' classic they've, in their own way, slowly started to equal The National for that whole 'bruised masculinity / triumph in the face of adversity' thing.

Arcade Fire - The Suburbs

Not quite as good as Funeral (obviously) but a slight refocusing and a move away from the bombast that made Neon Bible a bit overbearing at times. I really like this album.

Friday, 30 July 2010

At The Pictures: Inception and Toy Story 3

Been putting off writing about Inception, wanted to let it sink in a bit more. I really enjoyed it, and it’s great seeing original content in Summer blockbusters. The look, pacing, sound and structure were all great. But as time goes by the effects of it are wearing off a little and I’m starting to think “was it actually that good?” – the characters were a little bit one dimensional, and there was a bit too much talky-explainy scenes. I did enjoy it though, and I’m probably going to go and see it again, but it’s not a 5 star classic. Nice clothes though, and I’m enjoying reading various people’s interpretations, which are bordering on fan-fiction, about ‘what was REALLY going on’.

Toy Story 3 was just another example of Pixar’s brilliance. You really can’t fault them. My one gripe is that I wanted loads more Mr Pricklepants. Let’s hope he gets his own spin-off. I can’t really think of anything to say. It’s not as good as Up. It might be better than The Incredibles.

Friday, 9 July 2010

At The Pictures: Greenberg

So last night I saw Greenberg, the latest film from Noah Baumbech or whatever he’s called. It stars Ben Stiller as the titular Roger Greenberg who retuns to his native LA following an exile in New York, and some kind of unspecified psychological breakdown inducing hospital stay. He hangs out with his brother’s PA, and meets up with his old band mate. All three central performances are pretty great, some of the best work I’ve seen from Stiller and Rhys Ifans. I’d not seen the girl in anything else but she was also great. Like a less hot less annoying Zoeey Deschanel. They’ve all got various issues and problems, and the plot doesn’t really go anywhere – the pet dog’s ongoing illness is the only narrative arc really, but it’s still engaging throughout and occasionally funny. I particularly enjoyed Greenberg’s ranty letters. The Mayor of New York, the airline company, a taxi firm, and Pakistan all fall foul of his poison pen. It’s not really a comedy though, just East Coast anxieties moved to sunny LA.

Friday, 2 July 2010

Books What I Done Been Reading

On the bus this morning I finally finished reading Jonathan Lethem’s The Fortress Of Solitude, which I’d been given as a birthday gift back in March.

The book is essentially about New York, and Brooklyn in particular. It takes a panorama of themes equal to The Wire in scope. Race relations, gentrification, the end of hippy ideologies, music, drugs, graffiti, and some other bits and bobs are all touched upon as we follow the lives of 2 character growing up from the 70s to the present-ish day. There’s also a vein of the fantastic running through the book’s core, which intertwines with the characters’ love of comic books.

The whole thing’s pretty ambitious basically, and the writing style is a bit dense at first – it took a while for it to grip me, but I’m really glad I stuck with it.

Thursday, 1 July 2010

At The Pictures: The Killer Inside Me and The Brothers Bloom

I went to the cinema twice in 2 days. Crazy.

First I saw Michael Winterbottom's The Killer Inside Me, which came shrink wrapped in controversy. It wasn't that bad reeeeeeeally. The violent scenes were pretty grim, but there was no implication that the women were enjoying it - which is a criticism I've read in some reviews. The film deals with the old literary staple of The Unreliable Narrator, but to me it didn't quite work. There's also a really bad CGI scene at one point. If you don't have the budget for a decent effects shot, then don't bother. I can't decide if I actually liked it or not. File under 'hmmm, interesting' I suppose.

The Brothers Bloom is Rian Johnson's follow up the opinion splitting Brick. For some reason it's taken about 2 years for it to reach UK cinemas. I really liked it, but I can see that it's not for everyone. Like Brick, it makes no allusions to being set in the 'real' world, which grates on some for reasons I don't get. It's a bit 'indie film by numbers' at times. A little Coen Bros, a bit of Wes Anderson, etcetera etcetera, but I don't mind a bit of that. All the locations they filmed at were stunning, and the trio of central performers were great. Plot wise I don't think it quite manages to do everything it was trying to, but it's a fun ride. Hope his next film gets here sooner rather than later.

Monday, 21 June 2010

At The Pictures round-up

Hello Blog! Seen some films, forgot to blog about them. Let's see if I can remember them all.

The Ghost - Not very good. Silly pot-boiler of a thriller that didn't really work. The whole thing hinged on some hidden evidence that really would have been found within about 5 minutes if the baddies had done a proper search for it. Ludicrous twist at the end as well. Oh dear. I've never seen my girlfriend hate anything as much as she did this film (except for the drug dealer guy who used to park in our car park in the old flat, and the Evil Ninja Cat from down the road).

4 Lions - This broke my run of 'going to see underwhelming films'. Hurrah! A great film from Chris Morris of Brasseye etc fame. A nice companion film to In The Loop in a way, both exploring different aspects of The War On Terror blahdiblahblah. The phrase 'rubber dinghy rapids' still has me chuckling. Gets very dark in places, as expected, but it's hilarious for about 99% of the time.

The Bad Lieutenant: Port Of Call New Orleans - Werner Herzog's bonkers 'remake' is pretty much the best film I've seen this year. The only word I find that can do it justice is 'wild'. It's also hilarious. Even the old couple sat in front of me (who started out saying "I didn't think it was going to be like this" during one of the earlier scenes) were howling with laughter at the iguana scene. Another fantastic Nic Cage performance following Kick Ass.

Next up I might go and see The Killer Inside Me, though I'm going to look like a right stealth-perv going to watch it on my own :-(

Tuesday, 4 May 2010

At The Pictures: A Single Man & Iron Man 2

Had 2 slightly underwhelming trips to the pictures last week, let's hope whatever I see next restores my faith in cinema.

First up was A Single Man, the lauded debut from fashion man Tom Ford. The direction was a bit OTT for my tastes, lots of slow lingering arty shots. It was a bit like those perfume adverts you get at Christmas time, only a bit depressing. The performances were great though, Tony From Skins did particularly well to overcome his weird mega-tan and the worst jumper ever created. Ultimately it felt empty though, and the ending was a bit of cop-out.

Iron Man 2 is the imaginatively titled sequel to Iron Man, the surprise hit of whenever it was that it first came out. Like A Single Man, it has some cracking performances - Downey Jr is perfect in the lead roll, but it's Sam Rockwell that steals the thunder with his fantastic turn as a business rival desperate to cash in on the Iron Man arms race. Unfortunately the film really does fall apart around them. The plot is really unengaging and doesn't really do anything beyond moving us from point A to point B. Mickey Rourke has a great intro but isn't really given much to do after that. Scarlett Johansen is utterly pointless. Samuel Jackon turns up for a confusing cameo that probably means nothing to non 'fanboy' types, and the director Jon Favreau vainly inserts himself into as many scenes as possible. On top of this you've also got Gwyneth Paltrow in a will-they-won't-they roll that's hard to get excited about, and Don Cheadle gets to be War Machine for a bit. Even though there's already way too much going on, they then shoe horn in a load of 'world building' stuff to supposedly wet our appetites for the other Marvel films in production - Thor, Captain America, and The Avengers. It's not a bad film in any way, but it's not a good film either. It's a bit of a shame really.

The Pizza Slice: Cafe Citta

Cafe Citta's biggest boast is that they have Cardiff's only wood burning pizza oven, countering the claims made by the gas burning 0 Degrees and Prezzo. So obviously I've been itching to go since I noticed it opening a few months ago. I wasn't sat close enough to the oven to see it exactly, but there was definitely wood smoke in the air as I ordered a ham and mushroom. Unfortunately it wasn't a stone oven, but some kind of metal one, so the oven can't sustain the fierce 400 degree heat of a proper pizza oven - no 90 second pizzas here, but it was still one of the best pizzas I've had in Cardiff. Nice base, slightly charred (though not blistered), and crisp at the edge. What really sang though was the quality of the ham. Not sure exactly what sort of pig it came from, but it was really tasty. The service was a bit slow as the oven isn't big enough to cope with the demand of a full restaurant in which everyone wants pizza. Which was a shame, but the pizza we were presented with was worth the wait I suppose. The side salad that came with it wasn't particularly great, and I've had better coffee as well, but I'd still be happy to return.

Thursday, 8 April 2010

At The Pictures: Hurt Locker and Kick Ass

Haven't had much time for blogging for various boring reasons so I'm a bit behind.

The Hurt Locker - finally got round to seeing this a few weeks ago in Chapter's Cinema 2 (the tiny one that's all red with stars). If I could, I'd see every film in the world in that little room. Mind you, it did get really warm what with it being completely full of people - including 2 brilliant old ladies sat behind me who went "gosh!" and "no!" and talked about mints in that brilliant way that only old ladies can. DIGRESSION! Sorry, the film itself was pretty good but I didn't really take anything away from it. Definitely not the best film of the last year, but good enough. It goes downhill a bit towards the end, but the tension is (for the majority) held throughout and the main character's recklessness is engaging. It just loses it at the end. I really didn't like the last scene at all, wrong choice of music more than anything. Anyway, nerd face on - I really want Katheryn Bigelow to direct The Avengers. She's built her career making films about men being manly, and if you just swap the 2 leads from Hurt Locker with Captain America (the straigh-laced 'by the book' character) and Iron Man as the reckless one and you've pretty much nailed the dynamic. Oh well, she/they won't do it and The Avengers is going to be a horrible mess of a turd.

Kick Ass - when I studied for my A Level in Film we did this bit about genres, and how there's 3 stages to a genre's developement. Kick Ass shows the superhero/comic book genre (restarted by X Men about 10 years ago) moving into the 3rd and final phase, what we called The Decadent Phase. Basically what this means is that it gets a bit postmodern and dicks about with the genre conventions and the viewer's expectations. Kick Ass does it brilliantly as well, from that opening shot of the crazy guy attempting to fly and onwards, it's basically made the whole genre redundant - Mark Webb's Spider-Man reboot feels especially irrelevent now (though I'll keep an open mind 'till I see some footage obvs). Nic Cage channelling Adam West is one of the greatest things I've seen on screen. The only thing I didn't like was the use of music from other films. It's fine when it's done in a pop cultural way, the Banana Splits theme soundtracking Hit Girl's first massacre is brilliant, but when it just cuts into straight 'film music' from 28 Days Later and Sunshine it really jarred me out of the moment (especially with the Sunshine one, as I couldn't remember what film I'd heard it in before and it was bugging me). But all in all it's a cracking little film and well worth watching.

Side note re: Kick Ass - Where the hell was my Scott Pilgrim trailer Cineworld? I'd been avoiding it online all week so I could catch it on the big screen! Boo-urns. I've watched it online now anyway. Looks like Edgar Wright has really nailed the feel of it and the visuals, but I'm still unconvinced on Michael Cera as Pilgrim. Wait & See innit.

Tuesday, 16 March 2010

What I Did On My Holidays: Aberaeron

As a birthday treat the girlfriend booked us a weekend away on the coast in Aberaeron. She got us a lovely little thatched cottage through Under The Thatch.

We got there on Friday afternoon, and were pleasantly surprised that the owners (or whoever) had left us a pint of milk and some amazing pics (welsh cakes, not pictures). The cottage itself was great, the outside was lime-washed pink and the inside was really nicely done up with a sleeping area on a mezzanine floor, and a wood burning fire stove in the living room area. We wandered into town and had amazing fish and chips with mushy peas at The New Celt, and a pint of Rev James in The Monachdy. Town was pretty quiet actually, considering it was a Friday. Hadn’t really realised that the population would be so seasonal. After that we went back to the cottage for a relax. A short while after she’d booked it, my girlfriend received an email informing her that the cottage now had a hot tub installed in a small outhouse, so we gave it a go. It was set at 40 degrees Celsius, and we couldn’t get the temperature to drop any lower despite frantic jabbing at the minus button. Neither of us are particularly great with heat. I don’t think we managed to stay in there for more than 20 minutes, it was just too hot. We had the windows open and everything, by the end we were sitting on the tub’s edge with just our legs in the water and it was still horrible. Need to stick to a luke-warm tub in future.

On the Saturday we drove down to Newquay and had a walk along the beach. Again, a lot of things were still shut for the season, so we ended up driving north to Aberystwyth. We had a walk about the shops and along the front, had a pint and watched half of the Wales game, had a cup of tea and a toasted sandwich, and played on the 2p machines in the arcade. Then we drove back to the cottage. In the evening we went to the Harbourmaster, which is a gastropub of sorts I guess. We ate in the bar (didn’t really fancy paying the restaurant prices). Girlfriend had a nice bit of grey mullet on linguine pasta; I had the burger which, whilst being tasty enough, basically fell foul to every ‘chefs trying to over-poshify their burgers’ cliché. The bun was really crusty, the cheese was too strong and didn’t melt properly, and the whole thing was too big to actually take a bite out of. In the end I had to abandon the bun lid and eat it with a knife and fork. Every chef considering burger cooking should be forced to watch Heston Blumenthal’s In Search Of Perfection where he makes the perfect burger. The man understands. They also served it on a chopping block. A trendy double bluff at appearing rustic that a lot of restaurants seem to be doing – it’s better than serving it on slate though, nothing worse than the scrape of a knife against a sheet of slate. After that it was back to the cottage for a couple glasses of wine and I finally finished reading China Mieville’s The City & The City, which I’d been reading since around Christmas time. Short review: it’s good, but as with all of his other books, it’s got more ideas than story.

Then we came home on Sunday to do Mothering Sunday stuff with assorted mothers, and then won £125 at the pub quiz. All in all, it was a lovely relaxing weekend. 10/10.

Thursday, 11 March 2010

The Pizza Slice: Pizza Express and Strada

Sorry, have been falling behind on my Pizza Slicing. I’ve got 2 to tell you about.

Had an Al Tirolo at Pizza Express. Speck Ham, and a medley of various mushrooms. Really enjoyed it. It was topped with some fresh parsley after it had been cooked, though I would have liked a little more of it. It was on the Romana base which I am a fan of. Was considering going for their new ‘hottest ever pizza’ from the new range from the guest chef, but I wasn’t in a spicy mood and I quite like a bit of veg on my pizza. I’ll give it a whirl next time. I had a nice lemon tart for pudding.

Then about a week later we went to Strada as we were in the Bay anyway to watch Richard Herring at the Glee Club. Was once again impressed with the weight of the glasses and the pop-top bottles of table water. I ordered the Bresaola, which features thin strips of cured beef and huge dollops of ricotta, topped with fresh rocket. It was nice, though the ricotta was a bit rich, and there wasn’t that much flavour to the beef itself. Had a nice macchiato coffee after.

Still can't decide which of these 2 high street titans is my favourite. Think Pizza Express slightly pips it, as it’s slightly tastier and the menu has more depth. However, I find Strada a nicer ‘dining out’ experience, and I also prefer their bases.

Thursday, 4 March 2010

BBC 6Music

Like a lot of people, I was pretty disapointed to read about the BBC's proposals to shut down BBC 6 Music as part of their 'strategic review'. Here is the letter that I emailed to the BBC Trust to add my name to the thousands calling for them to reconsider. I adapted it from another letter I saw on the internets (can't remember where sorry, probably linked from DiS) but added some more of my views etc. It's not brilliantly written, but I hope I got my message across coherently and I'm glad I managed to not slip into "you should get rid of Chris Moyles!" territory - a slightly elitist argument that just makes you come across like an indie/middle-class/Guardian reading/leftish version of the always hilarious spEak You're bRanes comments that litter the internet.

I didn't really mention the Asian Network as it's something I have no knowledge of, or interest in (if I'm being honest), though I'm sure it provides a fine service:

To whom it may concern,

I am writing to address proposals announced this morning which suggest the possible closure of BBC 6music.
On the whole I am a loyal supporter of the BBC and the licence fee, and understand that the way in which the organisation is funded places it under a unique pressure to appeal to mainstream and niche audiences alike.

I have been a semi-regular listener to the service since it was first launched in 2002, originally through Freeview and the Listen Again feature online, and more recently through DAB radios, and feel that the station has really grown into itself – the recent additions of Lauren Laverne and Jarvis Cocker to the schedule have further complimented the station.

It is my belief that this station fulfils a remit that the commercial broadcasting sector does not. The Strategy Review itself states that 6 Music "plays a wide range of music that listeners do not hear elsewhere and it introduces many listeners to music that is new to them", and the website
http://comparemyradio.com/compare - which compares unique songs played by various radio stations – shows little overlap between 6Music and it’s nearest competitors (such as the various XFM stations, NME, and Absolute). The same website also highlights 6 Music’s uniqueness when compared to the other BBC stations playing ‘popular music’ (which is itself an out-dated term, which fails to grasp the shear breadth of music falling under this banner). Trying to shoe-horn 6 Music’s shows and values into either Radio 1 or Radio 2 would mean cutting back on some of the programming which currently makes those 2 stations currently successful.

I also find it disheartening that the BBC, having spent the past 8 years encouraging people to upgrade their old FM radios to the newer DAB technology (which I did a few months back, at a cost of roughly £80), are now retreating from this sector with the closure of 6 Music and the Asian Network.

I understand that these proposals have to be considered and approved by the BBC Trust before any cuts are made, and so would like to add my voice to those requesting that the Trust strongly consider rejecting the call to close these stations. Their very existence proves the validity and necessity of both the license fee and the BBC, especially in an age when commercial pressure on broadcast media is stronger than ever.
Kind regards,


If anyone reading this cares about 6 Music then please email your concerns to the BBC Trust, and if you can find the time to fill out the online consultation response then that'd be great as well (I've not done this yet myself, but we've got 'till near the end of May to do so). Twibbon, #save6Music, online petitions, and Facebook groups are all lovely gestures, but you need to send the message direct to the BBC for it to have any kind of impact.

I noticed a curious semi parallel last night as well when I was reading an interview with Toby Whithouse, the creator of BBC3's Being Human - a programme highlighted in the BBC strategic review as an example of the success of BBC3.

The pilot episode of Being Human was first broadcast on BBC3 as part of a package of pilots designed to encourage new drama or something. Out of that package, it was a programme called Phoo Action that received a full series commission. Phoo Action was a kitsch, 60s style martial arts programme, from the creator of Tank Girl and Gorillaz, that was slightly reminiscent of the Green Hornet. However, it was Being Human that had received the higher viewing figures on broadcast, and more importantly it was Being Human that resonated with viewers. There was an internet outcry (which past me by, I never saw the pilot), and a full series of Being Human was eventually commissioned (though with a slightly altered cast).

The 2nd series of Being Human ended a week ago, the finale received viewing figures of 1million plus (brilliant for BBC3), and the format has been sold on to an American network for a remake. Phoo Action has, so far as I remember, never progressed beyond the pilot.

I think there's an important message in this for the BBC management to remember; sometimes the fans know better, and the customer is often right.

Wednesday, 24 February 2010

At The Pictures: Up In The Air

This could have easily been awful, a Garden State for grown-ups, but luckily they kept it off the well beaten path of Oscar baiting rom-coms. The script and direction are pretty snappy, and the trio of central performances are all great. It’s a cliché to go on about how George Clooney is like Carey Grant et all, but he really is the only proper Old Hollywood Movie Star we have nowadays.

Using ‘real people’ whose lives have been affected by the recession was a bit of a gimmick, but it does give the film a weighty punch – reining it in from what could have been a slightly screwball knock-about comedy.

And it’s always a pleasure seeing JK Simmons and Sam Elliot pop up in scene stealing turns.

Friday, 12 February 2010

The Pizza Slice: Zero Degrees

Zero Degrees should technically be the greatest place on earth. It’s a microbrewery that serves pizza. I should be in heaven. Instead, I’m actually in a converted garage and no amount of snazzy wall hangings can banish the feeling that you’re in a warehouse. The beer is actually pretty nice, fair dos. I stuck to the Pale Ale for the night; an American style amber bitter, but I can also vouch for the Black Lager being nice. Wasn’t so fussed on the Mango beer, and I don’t know if I could drink more than a pint of the Wheat Ale.

The pizzas are all a little bit too gimmicky unfortunately. If I wanted duck wraps, I’d go to a Chinese restaurant. If I wanted a curry, I’d go to a curry house. I don’t want hoi sin duck pizza. I don’t want curry pizza. I certainly never want pear on my pizza. I ended up going for a Four Seasons, but I asked the waiter if they could mix up the ingredients instead of the pointless quartering you usually get on this kind of pizza. This is a sore point for me; I want maximised toppings per mouthful, not some conveyer belt of flavours. I made a brilliant joke about how “what with global warming and everything, the seasons are all merging together anyway”, but the waiter didn’t seem to appreciate it. Chef also seemed to have trouble with this concept, as he forgot to add the pepperoni. When I pointed this out to the waiter he promptly took the pizza away, and returned a few minutes later with the exact same pizza scattered with some pepperoni. Whether or not there’s room for pepperoni on a 4 Seasons pizza is another debate entirely.

The pizza was nice enough in the end. They’ve made them a bit smaller since the last time I visited, which is good because they were way too big before. They could do with adding some non bready non cheesy starters to the menu, though the grilled halloumi wrapped in Parma ham and sage I had was actually really nice.

Tuesday, 9 February 2010

Going Out For Dinner Club #1

One of my friends decided we should all make a regular effort to go out for food together every now and then, which we’ve imaginatively titled Going Out For Dinner Club. It’s weird that this really isn’t something we Brits feel culturally comfortable doing. People will happily spend £30 upwards on a boozy night, but find this a fairly high price for a nice plate of food.

Anyway, Club #1 saw us visit The Canteen on Clifton Street which specialises in veggie and vegan friendly food (and loads of gluten free/celiac options as well, fair dos). The restaurant offered a really reasonable 3 meals for about £13 deal from a nice limited menu so you know it’s all cooked from scratch (massive menus usually means microwaved ready meals). The open kitchen meant you could see the chef working away at the food as well. I ate the following:

Starter: Not Duck Roll w/ Plum Sauce – some kind of veggie take on the Chinese classic, no idea what they used but it was actually quite a convincing substitute.
Mains: Chicken and Vegetable laksa – the only meat dish on the menu (there was also a tofu alternative) and it came with an impressive amount of chicken. I’m not usually a fan of udon noodles though I didn’t mind them here, I wouldn’t have minded if the soup had a bit more of a spice kick to it but that’s just me.
Pudding: A huge slab of sticky toffee pudding. I could grumble that it came with ice cream when I’d have preferred custard, but that’s just nit picking.

My only complaint was that I had to ask 3 times for a fork to eat my mains with. Can’t really manage noodles on a spoon alone. Looking around at my friends’ meals and everything looked pretty nice, though the vegetable tagine lacked any excitement. The starter of tofu satay looked great, and that’s from someone who hates tofu.

Special mention as well for the beer list. I plumped for the Samuel Adams Boston Lager in celebration of my (almost) upcoming holiday. It’s nice seeing a restaurant pay as much attention to the beer choice as they do the wines. Not a Carling/Fosters/Stella/Carlsberg in sight!

Overall score: 7/10 – nice food though it lacked that “depth of flavour” (sorry, food ponce) which makes you really slow down and extract as much taste as you possibly can from each mouthful. Would eat again (when they change the menu over).

Wednesday, 27 January 2010

At The Pictures: A Prophet (Un Prophete)

I thought A Prophet was a really solid example of its genre, a good film worth seeing, but not the masterpiece attributed 5 stars by the broadsheets. It’s excellently filmed, a couple of scenes in particular stand out for their brutality, and I really enjoyed a couple of ‘neat’ flourishes that added to your understanding of the characters (I won't spoil them though). Speaking of which, there’s a couple of great performances at the heart of the film; Malik’s ascension from juvenile delinquent to hardened crim, and the jail’s Corsican kingpin Cesar’s story-arc are both excellently portrayed.

Ultimately though the film felt a bit over-long at 2.5 hours, and Malik’s rise through the prison ranks reminded me of the early stages of a Grand Theft Auto game – running missions for various unsavoury types, earning your own money and power etc. These scenes could have been cut down a bit and amalgamated more to give the film a slightly punchier pace. The more surreal flourishes felt really peripheral to the rest of the film and should have either been left out entirely or expanded to have more of an impact.

Can I please nominate Sir Tony ‘Opkins for the role of Cesar in the probably inevitable US remake? Cheers.

Thursday, 7 January 2010

At The Pictures: Avatar

Nothing much I can say about this. Saw it at the new “Imax” screen in Cardiff Bay (which isn’t anywhere near the size of the proper IMAX screen at London’s BFI Southbank cinema). The visuals were amazing and papered over any cracks in the plot (which was a bit clunky it’s fair to say). The worst bit was the hippy rave scene, it looked a bit like a Mass actually. The best bit is when a dragon grabs a helicopter in mid-flight and throws it at another helicopter. That was chuffing awesome.