Movies – T2 Trainspotting Review (or ‘Exposing One Of The Great Pop-Culture Hypocrisies’)

February 7, 2017

Some people are as fanatical about Trainspotting as others are about the likes of Star Wars, Doctor Who, WWE, Game of Thrones or Harry Potter. Some more-so.

Indeed, I’ve never come across so much excitement and fervour among people in general society over the release of a film as this one, and when I went to see it, the sort of whooping enthusiasm in the cinema during the showing of T2 was unlike anything I’ve witnessed before.

People laughed hysterically at early lines of dialogue that were not worthy of a titter, and would shout and cheer when characters first made their appearances on-screen.t2-trainspotting-uk-poster

It was baffling, and to me it represented one of the great hypocrisies of pop-culture among people in my age range.

What it showed me was that in the eyes of the sort of people who would criticise you for being interested in more ‘geeky’ things, it’s perfectly alright to be fanatical about a film if it’s about something ‘cool’ like – in their minds – drugs.

That’s just…pathetic. But it is what it is, and that’s why these people should be largely ignored.

Anyway, my thinly veiled passive aggression aside, I’m happy to judge this on its own merits. I’ve only seen the first Trainspotting once and barely have any memory of it, such was the impact it had on young Stuart, but I didn’t dislike it, so why not give the new one a go?

And I enjoyed it, but I wonder how much of that was down to certain crutches that held it up?

For example, shallow as it is, if it’s got a guy with a broad Scottish accent calling people cunts, then it’ll definitely raise a chuckle, and so thanks to Robert Carlyle I laughed a lot.

And as a Scot and more to the point as a Scottish football fan, the scene in the Rangers pub was probably the funniest and cleverest set piece I’ve seen in any film in ages. How funny that will be to people less aware of the utterly pointless sectarian divide that poisons certain areas in Scotland I couldn’t tell you, but it was funny to me.

Beyond that though? I dunno; it seemed like a bit of a by-the-numbers sequel with an uninspiring overall plot and a limp resolution.

It’s not fair to say that without certain elements it wouldn’t be good though, because those elements were there and so it was good.

So I’d recommend seeing it, but at the same time, don’t quite understand why people are so enthusiastic about it.

I await some snarky replies.


Movies – La La Land Review (or ‘Worthy of the Hype?’)

January 29, 2017

“I’m probably the only woman here who has been dragged along by their boyfriend”, said my girlfriend as the title card for La La Land came on to the big screen today.

She wasn’t keen to see it, and as it turned out did not enjoy it. But then she doesn’t like musicals.

Neither do I really, although not as strongly as her. Sure, I enjoy Disney movies like The Lion King, Aladdin and Beauty and the Beast that have songs throughout them, but if you were lalato ask me to sit down and watch a Fred Astaire musical or something of that ilk, I’d make my excuses and leave.

So why did I want to go to La La Land?

For one thing, everyone’s been raving about it, and even though it’s Oscar season and people tend to rave about movies that are in fact overly-worthy piles of self-important pish, the sheer amount of praise meant that I felt I had to give it a chance.

For another thing, Whiplash is one of the best movies I’ve seen since I started this blog, and seeing as it’s from the same director – Damien Chazelle – I suspected I’d like it.

So did I?

To an extent, yes, I thought it was fun, but there were elements to it that I didn’t think were all that good, and ironically those are some of the parts that have made it stand out to other people.

Or to put it another way, I didn’t like some of the songs.

The opening song on the freeway near LA was a bit cringey and the number about standing out from the crowd had me on the ropes thinking “Have I got to put up with two hours of this?”. Those types of set plays are just not for me, and neither was the musical style within them.

Eventually though, La La Land settled down into a proper story about two people – well performed as they were by Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone –  trying to make their own pathways in the entertainment industry. It was good; it held up well and kept me entertained. The music improved too, with the piano stuff and the later songs – especially the one towards the end when she was in for her audition – being much more my type of thing.

It also looked nice, with the director making great use of colour in his shots. It’s one of these movies where the quality of the director and his vision makes a difference to what you’re seeing. In a world where bland CGI tends to rule, this was a welcome relief.

Finally, I thought the ending was refreshingly different. Without spoiling it for you if you’ve yet to see it, it’s not how this type of film would traditionally end.

So on the whole, I liked La La Land enough to understand why it’s been getting hyped up so much. Some of it just wasn’t to my tastes, but there’s no doubt it’s good for what it is.

If you like that sort of thing, go and see it. If you’re like my girlfriend and have no time for the genre, then don’t bother.

 


Movies – Jackie Review (or ‘Like Something More Interesting Is Going On In The Background’)

January 29, 2017

When I woke up yesterday morning – having seen Jackie on Thursday – I was saddened to read about the death of John Hurt. He was a brilliant actor who did such a great job in shows like I, Claudius and made a small but lasting impression in Doctor Who.

But before I read about his passing, I was about to write this review and say that “…even John Hurt was poor by his standards”. I wondered if it would go down well and be right to jackiecriticise the performance of someone who had just died and who no doubt everyone would be sympathetic towards.

I decided it was fair enough; Hurt was poor by his standards. It took me until he’d been in three scenes to realise that he was playing an Irishman, as if he only decided to put on the accent half way through. I was disappointing.

But then I was disappointed with Jackie in general.

It’s one of these bleak movies that’s clearly trying for an Oscar rather than looking to entertain.

Now I know that a movie about a woman who has just lost her husband isn’t going to be light or whimsical, but for me, the bleakness was slapped on far too thickly, with depressing and relentless incidental music played over almost every scene.

And whether or not she sounded like her or not, all I could see for the most part was Natalie Portman putting on a funny voice. It’s the complete opposite of Tom Hanks in Sully.

Most of all though, it just wasn’t that enjoyable. It felt like something interesting was going on in the background but we were being prompted to focus on the dull stuff. And at the last moment – as if they knew the film had been as dull as dishwater and they needed to wake people up – they finally show JFK getting his head blown off. That seemed very cheap.

So overall, I thought this was a waste of my time. On the plus side, the only way is up for movies in 2017.

I hope…


Stuart Reviews Restaurants – Jessie’s Kitchen (Albert Rd, Broughty Ferry)

January 8, 2017

If you know me and you’ve spoken to me about food and where I like to eat, then you’ll know I love Jessie’s Kitchen.

But I’ve never reviewed it.

So now I will.

Expect compliments.

The Venue

Jessie’s Kitchen is situated in a converted mansion in Broughty Ferry, alongside Turriff’s Garden Centre.

It’s one of these places – especially in the summer – where you can sit, look out the window at the view across the Tay and think to yourself “If this was London, living here would cost

The Tuna Melt. It may look unremarkable but it certainly doesn't taste that way.

The Tuna Melt. It may look unremarkable but it certainly doesn’t taste that way.

millions”. Really, it’s lovely. And the inside is nice as well, with three open, clean and airy rooms with comfortable chairs.

But it isn’t without its problems if I’m being fair. For one thing, if you accidentally end up in the kids friendly room then it’s a bit of a nightmare. That’s not a problem with the venue, but rather the kids. I suppose though it’s good that they at least try to isolate the screaming toddlers to one area.

The other issue is that because of the large bay windows, it can be a bit of a sun-trap, and if you’re unfortunate enough to be at one of the tables where the sun shines straight down on you, it can be mildly uncomfortable.

Those are minor issues though.

I should also mention that the staff are very friendly and always look after us well. When we go, we know we’ll be given good service.

The Food

Jessie’s Kitchen doesn’t try to compete as a high-end restaurant with Michelin star food. Instead it’s a nice lunch spot, where you can get hot and cold sandwiches, baked potatoes and that sort of thing. But it does it very well.

Over the course of the last year, I think I’ve tried almost everything they have on the menu and it’s always good. My personal favourite dish is the tuna melt wrap, which is just brilliant.

The Egg Mayo Baked Potato (and of course the side salad which is part of the appeal)

The Egg Mayo Baked Potato (and of course the side salad which is part of the appeal)

It’s so good it’s frustrating because – and I say this as someone who knows his way around the kitchen – for the life of me, I just cannot make a tuna melt like it.

The same goes for the orange slice, which is my personal pick from their wide selection of cakes and traybakes available to have there or to take away.

Mhairi meanwhile went for the baked potato with egg mayonnaise baked potato. The official word on that was that the potato was well cooked, with a crispy – but not overdone – skin and the egg mayo was extremely tasty.

So we were both happy.

One thing I will say about Jessie’s Kitchen that flies under the radar is the quality of their side salad. In most venues, it’s just a lazily thrown together garnish that adds nothing to the quality of the dish, but at Jessie’s it’s part of the dining experience. Effort goes in to making a salad that is actually tasty and so it’s worth mentioning; who’d have thought it.

The Drink

As usual it was lemonade. No complaints. No massive praise either.

The Vegetarian’s Viewpoint

There’s plenty for veggies at Jessie’s Kitchen and even for – whisper it – vegans. Fill your boots, carrot-munchers.

The Price

It’s fair to say that Jessie’s Kitchen is quite pricey in comparison to venues with similar lunch menus. But on the whole – for reasons listed above – it’s worth it.

The only thing I would be critical of is the price of a slice of cake. The traybakes I have no problem with, but the cakes are more expensive and the size of the slice you get can vary wildly from day-to-day.

Final Thoughts

For around three or four months last year – before I started the restaurant reviews – we’d go to Jessie’s Kitchen every Sunday for lunch. And while we like to try different places now, we know that Jessie’s is there and will always have quality food whenever we go back.

If I’m asked for one single recommendation for somewhere to eat lunch in Dundee, Jessie’s would be my pick.

If you’ve not tried it yet, you should.


Doctor Who – The Return of Doctor Mysterio Review (or ‘Leave It Grant, She’s Not Worth It!’)

January 5, 2017

There’s no doubt that some fans of Doctor Who tuned in to The Return of Doctor Mysterio in the hope that it would be some kind of po-faced Resurrection of the Daleks style massacre story. But as I’ve said before, that’s never going to happen on Christmas Day…Eastenders has that covered after all.

That doesn’t stop them hoping though.

For me, I think it’s fair to expect something sentimental considering the day of broadcast. People like that. I like that.

But it doesn’t mean it can’t have substance, and that’s the main thing. To me, that’s what separates a story like ‘The Doctor, The Widow and The Wardrobe’ from ‘A Christmas Carol’.

So with that in mind, it’s now January 2nd and I’ve had a chance to watch this episode twice.

And here are my thoughts.

Doctor Who: The Return of Doctor Mysterio Review – What’s This One About?

It’s a love story with a toothless alien invasion thrown in to make it ‘Doctor Who-ish’.

Thoughts – The Tale of the Unnecessary Alien Invasion

Now as you know, I’ve reviewed every Doctor Who adventure and that amounts to hundreds of them. And if you’re a regular reader of this blog then you’ll know that I’ve made the point time and time again that

Aliens with heads that split opened. We haven't seen them since the last episode...

Aliens with heads that split opened. We haven’t seen them since the last episode…

Doctor Who doesn’t need to have aliens in every story. Aliens are not what Doctor Who is about; The Doctor travelling in the TARDIS is what it’s about.

And yet it’s clear that someone, somewhere believes that no matter what, there does has to be an alien influence to it.

What that means is you get a story like this, where the writer wants to present a send up of a Superman/Lois Lane style romance between two people who already live together. But he can’t just do that because there has to be a token alien invasion written in somewhere, even if it’s just to tick a box.

These ones were drab and unimaginative, even going as far as to lazily have the same pull-apart-skull gimmick as the aliens in the last story broadcast.

I thought the episode could have worked just as well without them, especially considering the set-up for the superhero was done perfectly well in the pre-credits section.

Leave It Grant, She’s Not Worth It

And it’s the romance where this episode shines.

I liked the idea of the nanny who is a superhero living with the woman he has a crush on. It’s mostly done well, and provided us with the sentiment and the substance. How Grant actually became a superhero was nicely explained too, and made perfect sense within the realms of the show.

But you’ll notice I said it was only ‘mostly’ well done, and that’s because there’s one major flaw in their relationship.

Lucy’s a bitch.

Based on the flashback, I think she’s always known that Grant has a thing for her, and yet when she met him and his best mate, she got off with the mate. Then once he’d left – and after Grant bizarrely decided to stick with her rather than him – she hires him to work in the home and then seems to insist upon him calling her Mrs Lombard.

Let’s bear in mind this is a woman in her early 30s demanding someone of the same age who she went to school with address her in the most formal manner possible. And she also talks down to him in a way that – were it a man talking to a woman – would be flagged up as misogynistic and condescending (“Don’t you worry your pretty little head about it”).

She’s an arsehole, just like John Wayne.

But if he loves her knowing that then it’s his bed and he can lie in it…

Has Anyone Ever Properly Thought Out X-Ray Specs?

Ok, so I’m straying slightly off point here, but it’s referenced a few times in the episode and I want to bring this up.

Grant, she's just lied to your face about wearing that red dress; if the way she treats you day to day isn't a warning sign, this must be!

Grant, she’s just lied to your face about wearing that red dress; if the way she treats you day to day isn’t a warning sign, this must be!

Has nobody ever considered that X-Ray specs simply wouldn’t work in the way we’re supposed to think they would?

In fiction, we’re led to believe that these specs allow you to see people naked, rather as walking skeletons.

That’s fine, but surely if the specs only made clothing invisible, what you’d be left with would be people with weirdly packed-together organs held in place by invisible bras, underwear and other tight apparel. And how is that meant to be exciting?

Maybe I’m overthinking this, but someone has to!!

The Doctor and Nardol

Bearing in mind that this is actually a Doctor Who story, it’s important to take a moment to talk about the main cast, and as always Peter Capaldi is excellent. That there’s a rumour that he may be replaced in 2018 is a disgrace, because he’s clearly the best actor they’ve had in the part.

As for Matt Lucas, I thought he was good, and that doesn’t surprise me. Why? Because I wrongly assumed that as a comedienne, Catherine Tate would be rubbish and yet she’s the best companion the show has had since 1965. Nardol plays to Lucas’s strengths and he manages to work nicely in the background without stealing the spotlight away from anyone else.

Random Observations

  • The cockpit of the alien ship looked a lot like the one from the prison ship in the second episode of Blake’s Seven. And if you didn’t think I was a bit geeky before, I’m sure you do now.
  • It seemed a little bit odd that the Doctor and Lucy just watched Mr Brock being killed in that room and couldn’t be bothered intervening.
  • Also, the scene where Brock is told all about the brains and their plans seemed like bad exposition. Why not just kill him the moment he enters the room?
  • I’m hoping that brief mention at the end of the episode is now finally, finally an end to River Song.
  • Setting the episode in New York made it feel a little bit unusual, but in a good way.
  • The squeezy doll was sinister.
  • Was I the only one to groan when the Daleks appeared in the Coming Soon trailer?
  • And more to the point, was I the only one to laugh at the caption “See The Universe Anew” when there’s obviously yet another fucking Dalek story coming on in the near future?!?

Doctor Who: The Return of Doctor Mysterio Review

If we discount the alien invasion as irrelevant and the obvious character flaws that Lucy has, The Return of Doctor Mysterio ends up being a fun and humorous watch. I enjoyed it on Christmas Day and again when I watched it today.

It also moves at a brisk enough pace and never seems to drag.

No, it’s not going to go down in history as one of the all time greats, and isn’t even a contender for the best Christmas Day episode, but I liked it.

And I look forward to more new episodes soon, even if they do include the Daleks.

 


Stuart Reviews Restaurants: Al-Basha Mediterranean Restaurant & Shisha Bar (Dalgleish Rd, Dundee)

December 24, 2016

Every year on December 23rd, I go out for a big Christmas meal with my friends.

And while the company is always good, the food usually isn’t.

Trying to find somewhere to suit a large group that includes vegetarians, fussy eaters, a guy who “winna eat anything frae the grund”  (to non Dundonians, that means he doesn’t like vegetables) and a large number of people who’ll be drinking and therefore don’t want to take a taxi too far from the city centre can be difficult and it’s meant that in the past after all the exciting suggestions have been shot down, we’ve gone to dreary Italian restaurants like Don Michele or bang average ‘Jack of All Trades’ eateries like Papa Joes.

But this year, much to my amazement, there was a consensus to try somewhere a bit different.

We went to my personal favourite Friday night takeaway spot – but a venue I’ve never sat in to eat at – Al-Basha Mediterranean Restaurant & Shisha Bar on Dalgleish Road.

So how did we get on?

The Venue

Al-Basha is a spacious, well-lit restaurant that is part of Dundee’s Carlton Hotel. I can’t say the venue blew me away as being particularly amazing, but at the same time it was nice enough.  The staff were friendly and attentive, which makes such a difference.

The only thing I would mark it down for was that there was a toilet brush in the men’s lavatory which put me off using it.

Unlike The Bach, it also has easy disabled access.

The Food

You get a choice of a regular menu (which is what we order from when getting our takeaway), but we went for the Tapas menu where they just bring more and more food out.

Just a sample of what we were given.

Just a sample of what we were given.

And boy, did they ever.

It came in the following order.

Round 1: Fruity and Spices Breads with oil, dips and cold cured meats.

Round 2: Flatbreads with a variety of dips including hummus, baba ganoush, artichoke, some kind of coleslaw, a dip with capers and sweet potatoes, and red pepper.

Round 3: Items like garlic mushrooms, fried halloumi, lamb samosas, meatballs in tomato sauce, cauliflower pakoras, chicken rice, spiced potatoes, stewed okra and lamb rice.

Round 4: The vegetarians were give their own massive plates of veggie food that included stuffed vine leaves and peppers, among other things, while the carnivores were given a large amount of meat (kebabs, lamb chops, chicken etc) to wolf down.

Round 5: Dessert in form of grapes, dates, Turkish Delight and some joyous baklava.

Round 6: Quality Street.

Now I suspected we’d be given a lot of food, so I tried to pace myself, but I was stuffed by Round 3; we all were. To get that fourth round was almost a bridge too far, but we soldiered on.

And let me say now, the food here was superb. Everything was well cooked, full of flavour and added to the experience, and as one of our group said “There hasn’t been a single thing here I haven’t loved”. The lamb rice especially is something you have to try.

Honestly, this place is amazing, and it’s also very nice to be exposed to trying new foods and flavours.

But you do have to pace yourself or you’ll end up like Mr Creosote.

The Drink

For me it’s always a lemonade, and I had no complaints on that score. Most of the group consumed copious amounts of wine that seemed to go down well, and to top off the night they tried some sort of exotic shot that smelled like it would strip paint. But they liked it so who am I to judge.

The Vegetarian’s Viewpoint

As you can tell, there was plenty for vegetarians to get their laughing gear around. No complaints at all on that score from them.

The Price

Here’s the best part; for all that food it was £20 per head. Absolutely sensational. That doesn’t include the drinks of course, and while I can’t attest for the value of the alcohol, I’m happy to report that from my perspective it was tremendous value for money.

Final Thoughts

When I’ve mentioned Al-Basha to people over the last few months, the most common response is “Oh, where’s that?” because it’s slightly out-of-the-way and not somewhere that will likely get much foot traffic. But more people need to know about it and understand just how good it is.

I loved the meal last night, and I think everyone else did too (though the guy who doesn’t like vegetables wasn’t there and I think it might have been a little too different for his tastes).

Great value, so much food and nice staff means this is a place you have to try.

But just remember to pace yourselves.


Movies: Rogue One Review (or ‘A Proper Prequel To A New Hope’)

December 16, 2016

From the off I feel I should warn you; this Rogue One review contains spoilers. It has to. So if you haven’t seen it yet, close down this page and come back again when you have.

Ok?

Has everyone who needs to go gone?

Good, I’ll begin.

I knew very little of Rogue One going into it. While I knew it was about members of the Rebel Alliance stealing the plans for the Death Star, for some reason I had it in my head that it would take place a few years star-wars-rogue-one-posterbefore the events of A New Hope.

But I was wrong.

And that’s the masterstroke of Rogue One.

It takes place right before it, finally culminating in a scene that actually leads in to the opening scene of the first Star Wars movie.

And in doing so, it has repercussions.

The first is that every heroic character created for this movie dies. They had to, otherwise you could ask why they weren’t in any of the original movies, and I thought it made for a refreshing change to what we’ve come to expect from Hollywood.

We now live in a world where the sequel is king. Nothing of any real consequences happens to the heroes in movies now because they are obviously being protected for a raft of inevitable follow-ups. But here, every character was expendable. They were one-and-done creations that had no use beyond this movie.

So they are all killed off and as a result, Rogue One became more believable and dramatic.

I should point out as well that I was pretty saddened by that despite loving that they ended up dead, because there were some great characters in there, from the Sheldon Cooper-esque K-2SO droid to the fantastic Oriental double act. These were some of the best and most well-rounded characters we’ve seen in the Star Wars universe, but like I say, they had to die.

Anyway, the other main repercussion that stemmed from setting Rogue One right before A New Hope is that certain characters needed to be a part of it.

Obviously Darth Vader was easy enough to bring back, even though he sounded very old thanks to James Earl Jones’s declining voice, but you’d assume that Grand Moff Tarkin might be a little tougher to replace seeing as Peter Cushing is long since dead.

And yet you’d be wrong. I was genuinely shocked to see that for all intents and purposes, Peter Cushing is in this movie. Technical wizardry – a use of CGI that is actually head turning in these days of over-reliance on computer imagery – means that they were able to have another actor play the part and then super-impose Cushing’s head onto him.

It was a bit freaky, but it added so much authenticity to the movie.

You can keep your constant ‘New York gets destroyed’ use of CGI, Hollywood, this is the proper way to use it!

Speaking of CGI, while I’m sure that it was employed all the way through Rogue One, what I liked about this movie was that it seemed like it didn’t rely too heavily on it. Maybe I’m wrong, but a lot of the sets, scenery and worlds it visited looked like they were brought to life with old-fashioned costume and set design. To me that makes a difference; it makes the Star Wars universe seem more complete than the cold and clinical CGI wankfests you see in the likes of Fantastic Beasts & Where to Find Them and the Marvel movies.

Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, Rogue One had an interesting and engrossing plot and a sharp and at times funny script. That’s the most important thing isn’t it?

Even though it lasts for 2hrs14m, it didn’t feel like it dragged at any point.

If I had any complaint, it would be that the inevitable battle scene towards the end went on for a bit, but as I say above, the fact that it had repercussions softened that blow a little bit for me.

So, to sum up, maybe I’m biased because I love Star Wars, and maybe it’s that I’m still on an initial high from seeing it at the cinema, but for me, Rogue One is the best movie of the year.

I won’t bother saying that you should see it, because if you’ve read this far then you must have already.

So do you agree or have I been too generous?