Movies – Kong: Skull Island Review (or “Unsurprisingly Clichéd”

March 22, 2017

It’s fair to say that Kong: Skull Island is an unremarkable movie.

Though the premise is decent and there’s nothing particularly bad about its execution, I left with the feeling that almost no effort went into the development of the plot.

Or to put it another way, while someone probably got paid handsomely for writing the movie, just about anyone off the street could have done a similar job in their sleep.

As I watched it, I just felt like I’d seen it all before and could have ticked off everything that happened on a pre-made cliché sheet.

For example, we have..

  • The scientific expedition where one person knows more than they’ve let on.
  • That person then gets killed.
  • The handsome Indiana Jones style male lead.
  • The plucky girl who tags along for the ride and has no real purpose to the plot beyond a hint at some kind of romantic tie-up with the male lead.
  • And she’s got big tits, obviously.
  • The military guy who starts to go a bit mad and turns into the villain of the piece
  • Samuel L. Jackson (almost) gets to say “Motherfucker”
  • The bloke who decides that for no good reason he’s going to sacrifice his life because he apparently can’t be bothered living anymore.
  • Someone who says “Oh and (insert name here)…thanks” which nobody EVER SAYS in real life.
  • The bit where after initially fearing the monster they soften to him for no reason other than for it to save the day in the end.
  • The monster represented as not anatomically correct (i.e. he’s got no junk).
  • All the good guys surviving.

There are more, but you get the idea.

I’d just like to see a bit of innovation, but I’m not sure that exists anymore.

Still, despite these problems, I suppose I should take the view that it was exactly what I expected it to be and so can’t be too disappointed.

I mean…that’s one way to think about it…

 


Stuart Reviews Restaurants: Lochlands Mill (Dundee Rd, Forfar)

March 5, 2017

It’s been pretty quiet on the restaurant review front lately, for which I apologise.

In recent weeks I’ve spent more time going back to places I’d already eaten, so there hasn’t been much to talk about.

But today I ventured further afield to try somewhere new; Lochlands Mill, just outside of Forfar.

The Venue

Well it took us a while to get their thanks to my car’s shitty sat nav, which suggested I drive across a barrier on the A90, but once we finally – and quite by accident – ended up in the right place, we were met with a

The burger was superb

The burger was superb

nice restaurant.

Rather oddly combining as a pet rehabilitation centre and jewellery store, Lochlands Mill looks quite new and has a fresh design.

It’s not the biggest place in the world, and we were lucky to get the last available table, but once we were in it was clean and comfortable.

The waiting staff were pleasant and were happy to offer recommendations on what to get from the menu.

The Food

While Mhairi went for the Soup & Sandwich combo of Lentil & Vegetable soup and an Egg Mayo & Chive open sandwich, I took the waitress’s recommendation of their home-made burger with bbq sauce and onion rings served on a brioche bun ahead of the Roast of the Day or the Steak & Ale Pie.

She recommended well.

I like to think I’m a good judge of a burger, and sometimes I feel disappointed. There are some places that apparently specialise in their burgers – like Rascals in St. Andrews for example – that don’t actually make good burgers.  What they do is try to hide the bland and substandard flavour of their ready-made meat patty with all the wild and wacky toppings available, as if they are more important.

But this burger was different. I could tell that it was freshly made just before it was served, with its rough, uneven shape, and while I’ll be honest and say I’d have preferred it a little less well done, it had a robust

Apparently the open sandwich had the perfect blend of egg to mayonaisse

Apparently the open sandwich had the perfect blend of egg to mayonaisse

flavour. The onion ring was also well cooked and not greasy, which complimented it nicely along with the Applewood smoked cheddar.

Mhairi also enjoyed her food, with the soup being declared light to eat but filling, while the sandwich was considered to have the perfect ratio of egg to mayonnaise.

High praise indeed.

The Drink

Plenty of variety of soft drink, but it won’t come as a surprise to know I went for a lemonade. Shocking, eh? Mhairi veered off the well beaten path though and elected for an Irn Bru.

The Vegetarian’s Viewpoint

It should be noted that both the Beer Kitchen and the Meat House in Dundee were considered for today’s lunch but had very little for vegetarians. While I’m sure that’s exactly the most shocking revelation from a place called The Meat House, it actually had far more choice than the Beer Kitchen.

Anyway, there were both light and main options for the carrot munchers at Lochlands Mill, so there were no complaints in that department.

The Price

All in, it came to £21.10, which isn’t bad at all. In fact, Mhairi’s meal only amounted to £6.50 which really is pretty good.

Final Thoughts

A top quality burger, a clean and comfortable venue and plenty choice for vegetarians means this is one place we’ll definitely be going back to soon.

I’d probably book a table in advance though as I think we were pretty lucky to get a table.

 

 


Movies – Patriot’s Day Review

March 5, 2017

It seems as though movies based on true stories are in vogue at the moment as Patriot’s Day is the third one I’ve seen in as many weeks.

This one wasn’t a learning experience like The Founder, nor was it particularly schmaltzy like Hidden Figures; it merely presented a recent news story for the viewer to experience.patriots_day_ver3

I’m sure most people – unless they simply don’t follow the news – knew about the Boston Marathon bombings of a few years ago, and so the narrative of the film will hardly have come as a surprise, but that didn’t take away from its drama and impact.

Personally, I watch stuff like this and think “Jeez, that actually happened” and get pretty caught up in it all. I see the impact of the bombings – the deaths of a small number of people and the permanent injuries suffered by others – and take it more seriously than any fictional drama.

Above that though, it was enjoyable. The cast was strong, it never lulled and it had a few moments that I would describe as ‘Punchtheairtastic’; the scene where the Chinese guy escapes and tells the police to “Get those motherfuckers” immediately springs to mine.

The one thing that stood out for me though was that Mark Wahlberg’s character was so obviously fictional. One single cop managed to be patrolling the finish line when the bomb went off and was also at the scene of both terrorist’s arrest? It was too coincidental to be true. But I think it was required. Without his character to provide a link between every major event, Patriot’s Day would probably have seemed disjointed. As much as it’s based on a true story, if it was entirely accurate to the truth then it might not have made for such a good movie.

Why they spent so much time on this fake character’s knee injury though, I could not tell you…


Movies – The Founder Review (or ‘A Film Based On A True Story That’s Actually Interesting’)

February 25, 2017

If you read my review of Hidden Figures earlier this week, you’ll note that I said that I enjoyed it.

Now that’s true, but while writing the review I had trouble coming up with an angle to approach it from, and now I realise why that was.

It wasn’t exactly ground-breaking.

Before the movie started, I knew exactly how it would pan out; these three women would face some adversity but ultimately would help play a small part in the launch of a rocket. And that’s what happened.founder

Now let’s face it, that isn’t a particularly interesting story, and I think it gets away with it because it is based on true events.

But should it?

I’ve now seen three films this year based on true events. Hidden Figures was good but hardly dramatic, while Jackie told a story we all know and in an attempt to be different presented it from a perspective that turned out to be neither interesting nor satisfying.

The Founder meanwhile is different.

It tells a story that I had never actually heard before and more-over it’s a story that I found genuinely informative.

It’s about how the McDonalds empire was created, and while on paper that doesn’t sound all that engrossing, it’s only when you sit down to watch it that you realise that you’ve never really considered a world before fast food was created. It’s something that we take for-granted now and yet there was a time before it was part of people’s lives.

I found it fascinating, and the way it all came about – and I won’t ruin it for you because I believe it’s worth watching without foreknowledge – offered up a moral dilemma about the business practices of Ray Kroc that inspired some debate between myself and my girlfriend afterwards. I still haven’t decided whether he was in the right, and I like that.

Of course, there are other elements that make this a great movie, not least the performances Michael Keaton (Kroc) and Nick Offerman and John Carrol-Lynch (The McDonald brothers), who bring some weight to their respective characters.

The only part that let it down slightly was the stuff about Kroc’s home life. It exists only to offer a sub-plot, presumably to stretch it out a little bit more, but I didn’t think it was touched upon enough to justify its inclusion.

That though doesn’t take much away from what I thought was a highly entertaining film and one that sets an example of the type of true story that studios should look to tell in the future.

It’s definitely worth seeing.

 

 


Movies – Hidden Figures Review

February 20, 2017

There have been a fair amount of cinematic releases over the past few years that have dealt with the lack of equal rights in the USA in the early-to-mid 20th century, so in that regard Hidden Figures is hiddennothing ground-breaking.

But each time the subject matter is dealt with, it’s still makes you pause for thought and consider how backwards society was not so long ago.

How true the events of the movie are is difficult to tell as it all felt very feel-good and schmaltzy – with Kevin Costner’s character in particular seeming to have 21st century ideals in regards to race relations – but that was fine considering the tone of Hidden Figures was markedly different to that of a movie like Selma.

I think it was just meant to be a bit of light fun with an underlying message to make you think, and if that is the case, it achieved it. I certainly enjoyed it, and felt the casting was pretty much spot on. The only area where I thought it suffered was that while it was meant to tell the story of all three women, the focus was almost entirely on Katherine Johnson. That’s not a bad thing as her’s was probably the most interesting story, but the adventures of Mary Jackson were barely touched upon.

As a final note – and I know I mentioned this last year in my review of Midnight Run but I feel the need to say it again – what has happened to Kirsten Dunst? She’s the same age as me, yet easily looks a good 10 years older now.

Worrying.

Anyway, Hidden Figures is good. I recommend seeing it.

 


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.