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Living in a hot country as I do, the need to hydrate is something that has to be thoroughly considered on every cycling, hiking and long dog-walking trip I take. Despite the abundance of cold water fountains in parks and streets, it is essential in a hot country to make sure you have enough water at all times. One way of ensuring this happens, without having to schlep a great big environmentally unfriendly plastic water bottle around the whole time, is to purchase the Aquatina Collapsible Pocket Water Bottle which provides an environmental and practical solution to ensuring you can fill up a water bottle without compromising space.
The design behind this little gem is simple ...too simple for the TV's Dragons Den, who decided not to invest in this product. It is a collapsible plastic which when fully extended holds half a litre of water and when collapsed, goes down to about a third of its size. The bottle is PET and BPA Free which means it is safe to refill and use again and certainly a lot safer than an ordinary plastic bottle.
The bottle comes in different colours - I opted for the Blue - because I am a boy, but there are also pink, green and white bottles to choose from. The bottles are dishwasher safe with an easy, yet secure screw-able black lid, which mercifully under quite extreme conditions has not leaked once. The bottle itself appears to be very well made and admirably durable, as in the 6 months I have owned it, it has come under relatively tough examination.
I purchased this bottle online at ebay for just under 5 Pounds and it can be purchased from Amazon, Milletts and Robert Dyas to name but a few places I stumbled upon this bottle. In all places, I haven't seen this bottle priced more than 5.99.
I adore my water bottle. I take it everywhere - the gym, to work, on hikes, cycle rides and dog walks. It has survived deserts, mountains and even the inquisitive mouths of dogs and 6 months on - the bottle is still as good as new and still as useful. Uber-handy to put in a back pack or hand bag, this is a little gem that can filled at water taps and fountains which may ultimately make the difference between a safe hike and a bad case of dehydration.
There is only one real criticism I have of the Aquatina Collapsible Water Bottle and that is size... As i have been told for years by that size matters, I tend to agree. I would love to see a 1 litre version, which would provide more water security offered as 500 ml isnt a huge amount of water when really needed, but for a handy space saving water bottle for under 5 pounds, this really gets my vote
Every now and again, I have the good fortune of stumbling across a film that I have never even heard and which turns out to be actually very good. One such film that I stumbled upon was Eastern Promises - directed by legend David Cronenberg and featuring a strong cast of actors that include Naomi Watts, Vincent Cassel and Viggo Mortenson.
Its difficult to describe the plot of this 2007 film without giving too much away, so in the interest of preventing spoilers, what i can tell you is that this is a film that beautifully and authentically probes the seedy underworld of the Russian mafia in modern day London. The film centers around a Russian crime family in London, headed by Semyon ( played majestically by Armin Mueller-Stahl), and includes his son Kirill (another fine masterpiece of acting by Frenchman Vincent Cassel) and Kirill's driver Nikolai (again , superbly acted by Viggo Mortensen). A london midwife Anna (Naomi Watts),find herself involved after she discovers a diary belonging to a Russian teenage mother who died during childbirth in the hospital Anna works in.......
The dark and dreary side of london is captured well by Cronenberg, with the sinister and rarely seen side to London exposed by clever cinematography aided by the good ol' British weather. Often, when Russian gangsters are involved there is a wide array of almost comical accents and caricatures on display, but in Cassel and Mortenson, we are treated to a masterclass of authenticity, and for me, two of their finest performances outside of La Haine (Cassel) and A History of Violence (mortenson). Credit also to Watts who carries off the role of the sweet maternally determined nurse with aplomb. Mortensen received an Oscar nomination for his part and there were a host of international awards for this film and its actors.. and rightly so!. Cronenberg has created an exciting, gripping and engaging thriller that due to the masterful acting, cinematography and attention to detail will ensure that audiences will still be enjoying this film in years to come
Overall - a great film that had me on the edge of my seat throughout, with acting performances and cinematography that are truly first class. Highly recommended when you fancy watching something brilliant that isn't too 'hollywoody'.
Run time 100 mins
FILM ONLY REVIEW
I will openly admit that I am not the greatest fan of Jason Statham; I found his films very one dimensional and his acting so wooden I have an urge to varnish the screen every time he is on. So it was to my surprise, I actually enjoyed a film he starred in.
The Bank Job is an enjoyable British made film written by the British legends Dick Clement and Ian La Frenias, that thankfully lacks the explosions and unnecessary car chases seen all too often in heist and robbery movies made the other side of the Atlantic. There is something uniquely British about both the story and the film which warmed the cockles enough to ignore the wooden like nature of Mr Statham...which to be fair...London gangster? It's the part he was born for.
The Bank Job is the incredible true story of a bank heist that happened in London in 1971 involving a motley crew of thieves, pimps, royalty, London spivs and government officials all involved in an intricate plot to rob a bank because of the contents of a safety deposit box.
I went into this film knowing virtually nothing of the actual events that happened in real life but this in no way detracts from the film. In fact, the more you learn the events in the film are real, the more intriguing this film becomes.
Jason Statham puts in a solid performance as Terry Leather - the East London car dealer leading the bank robbers, whilst the beautiful Saffron Burrows puts in a solid shift as Martine Love. There is also a very commendable casting of David Suchet as the sex shop owner who exudes a seedy menace that makes you forget that he is Poirot!.
The story is fast paced enough to keep you in suspense and the story is told in a way that keeps your interest throughout. However, the director Donaldson does fail to resist the temptation to go a little too far in the 1970's The Sweeney/London gangster cliched script, but you would rather this than something too American or lacking realism. There are also a few scenes that look like a parody of those 'Confessions of...' films from the 70's but overall, Statham does well, the director tells an intriguing story and the cast is ably filled with a good collection of British actors and actresses that Brits will instantly recognize.
A good film telling the fascinating true story of a bank job in 1970's London.
Run Time 111 mins (slightly too long IMO)
FILM ONLY REVIEW
Zombie films are very hit and miss for me. Some I have found excellent like the brilliant Danny Boyle flick 28 days later and some I have found very amusing like Shaun of the Dead, however, most of the zombie type films I have found to be a bore - too simplistic, too incredulous and too much like all the others. It is nearly 50 years since Romero's Night of the Living Dead and although Zombieland in 2009 gained popularity for the Zombie genre, I could generally take or leave a zombie movie. Having said that, I was treated to Warm Bodies last night at the cinema and although this does not capture the brilliance of 28 days later or the humour of a Shaun of the Dead, Warm Bodies stands out as an unusual and entertaining zombie movie.
What makes this film stand out from any zombie movie I have ever seen, is the fact that this is essentially a love film....yes a zombie love film....it could even be described as a zombie-rom-com.....as there are differing levels of good humour in the film - everything from slap stick to intelligent and subtle comedy - directed brilliantly Jonathan Levine (he of 50/50 fame).
I don't want to give much away in the plot as i would recommend go seeing this film and finding out yourselves, but the basic gist of the film is the story of R - a zombie played artfully by Nicholas Hoult and a non-zombie woman -Julie - whose boyfriend R has just eaten the brains of. The story is told from R's point of view, an unusual concept in itself to have the zombie narrate most of the movie.
This is not your standard post-apocalyptic zombie movie. There are so many layers to this film that I intend to watch again. The love story could be straight out of Romeo and Juliet, (R - Romeo, J - Julie) whilst the director pays homage to the type of zombie horror Romero gave to the world. The young director and the young cast make this a very accessible film for younger audiences to go watch. Being of an age that doesn't qualify for being part of that 'younger audience', I did not feel isolated and out of touch with the film. The soundtrack, which includes older musical hits helped with that feeling and gave this film a very accessible feel. no matter what your age, sex and film preferences.
Overall, a very enjoyable and original film, amusing in places, scary in other, but all-in-all... a very heart warming film that has mass broad appeal.
Run time - 98 mins
Be prepared! that's my motto - or one of them at least - the others focus on never saying no to free food and trying everything twice! Part of this preparedness is to have a well stocked first aid cabinet, which includes the Tesco Stretch Bandage.
What is it
It's a 5cm x 4.5m stretched white bandage, part of the recently revamped Tesco value range, and priced very competitively at just 28 pence. The normal crepe bandage was priced at 84 pence and of the same size.
A nasty fall on a wet floor meant my elbow was poking out of the skin and not tucked neatly under as it should be. Whilst, explaining to my concerned wife that a litre of blood and a protruding elbow bone were not sufficient reasons to go to a hospital.. I am a man after all!... i relented to the use of a bandage.
Easily taken out of its cellophane wrapper, the bandage was applied to the elbow after applying a dressing, stretched around a few times and fastened with a safety pin (not supplied). The bandage held in place and absorbed the blood, noticeably stemming the flow instantaneously. I would recommend the use of some dressing before applying the bandage, as the combination seemed to work very well indeed.
After a short while, i agreed to go to the hospital where stitches were indeed applied. In the two hours in between I had noticed the edges were getting frayed already, which raises concerns over the long term durability of this product. Other than that, i found this to be useful and very cheap addition to my first aid cabinet. I have since added a 'proper' bandage to the cabinet, as i have reservations of the long term reliability and durability of this product, but as a support bandage and something 'to have' in case of emergencies, this was 28 pence well spent and would recommend to everyone to have.
FILM ONLY REVIEW
Every now and again, you stumble across a documentary that makes you go 'Wow' and The Imposter is definitely one of those wow inducing documentaries.
Without imparting too much of the storyline upon you, it is the true story of a French man who managed to successfully pose as a missing 16 year old Texan boy, fooling the family and a whole host of governmental authorities at the same time.
this is such a well made documentary, so well edited that at times you do not know whether or not you are watching a re-enactment or the real thing. Bart Layton, the director, expertly collates interviews and events and presents them in an honest and riveting fashion that leaves you engaged and in suspense throughout.
All the characters are interviewed in a real and transparent fashion which adds to the feeling of sheer suspense which many studio's spend hundreds of millions of dollars trying and failing to recreate. The characters involved are compelling and their stories are gripping from start to finish.
What impressed me more than anything was how the individual stories were told and blended together, weaving actual footage of events with reenactments so seamlessly you forgot this was not a fictional film, but a documentary.
This has so much appeal on so many levels, but any fan of murder-mystery, true-life stories or unsolved mysteries will lap this up like a kitten with cream. The expert handling of serious family trauma and a hard to fathom story was duly recognised with a host of deserved awards going to The Imposter. Want something different? something other than a 'hollywood movie' to watch? then look no further than The Imposter.
Run Time 99 mins
Director - Bart Layton
Tesco Micro-Lite Mummy Sleeping Bag: Microlite Mummy
Slowly but surely after a complete change in location and lifestyle I have been building up my survival cupboard - a wardrobe in the spare room that is gradually building up to be my 'in-case-of-nuclear-war-break-mdf' store; complete with Swedish Army Ration Packs, 5 different cooking stoves, a Gas Mask and whole manner of assorted bits of rubbish I've considered cheap enough to drip slowly into the store. One such item is the Tesco Microlite sleeping bag priced at £15.76 from Tesco online.
I have a few sleeping bags already, but what attracted me to this one, other than a credit card limit apparently burning a hole in my pocket, was its size. I know size isn't important to some (ahem) and that's what I have told myself for years, but a nice small sleeping bag is a godsend in a full backpack.
The bag itself is in the Mummy style, which doesn't mean it listens to Abba and tells you to eat your greens, but is shaped like the Egyptian Mummy, tapering down to the feet with a hood on top which can be pulled in using the attached cord and thus making you look like a Mummy.
Coming with its own sack, the graphite and lime sleeping bag when it is unfurled stretches to 218cm in length and is 80cms at its widest point, and the depth being 80cm. Made entirely out of polyester both inside and out, the bags weighs just 0.9kg with a two reversible zip. The comfort rating +13.2 - +16.3c with an extreme rating of +1.7c, which for the warm climes I live in suits me fine.
I'm a broad man of 175cm (just under 5, 9 in old money) and the comfort factor wasn't that great. The bag definitely felt 'snug' and I felt my movement a little restricted. The two nights I used were both around the 13 - 17c levels and the bag, although tight, kept me at a good temperature during the night. I didn't wake up sweating like a swamp donkey on a treadmill and I didn't freeze like a river in Finland. I wouldn't say it felt like a goldilocks type just-right but the comfort factor was surprisingly good for a relatively cheap sleeping bag, once you discount the tight feeling.
For anyone my size and broad stature (like a roman god I like to think) this bag was too snug. Anyone bigger width and length wise might find this a non-usable bag, but for the two nights I used it, it did the job. I thought the large chunky zip might be a problem if I rolled on it but over the two nights I didn't notice it.
This isn't a bad sleeping for its £15.76 price. I quite like the colours of it as it something different from the usual green or red. I wouldn't recommend this as a main bag to hiking Everest in the winter. But if you 5, 9 and under and not so wide this would be a good addition to the summer camping bag. Its lightweight and takes up very little room once rolled up. Using the compression straps on the polyester sack to put the bag in, I managed to roll this up to a 12 x 12 lump. This, in my case, creates more space in the bag for a variety of ebay bought junk like my Guatemalan Army Mosquito Net.
Overall, its a decent lightweight sleeping bag which if size isn't an issue, can be a great addition to a kit bag, especially in summer.
Available from Tesco Direct at £15.76
In my quest to get back down to my 'fighting weight' I have stocked my home with a variety of exercise equipment which over time are slowly but surely being relegated to dust covered room corners and even dustier cupboards. One such item that falls under the soda-stream category of 'good idea at the time, never use' was the Argos Value Range Gym Ball.
What Is It For?
The Gym Ball or Swiss Ball as it sometimes known is designed for two purposes... Three if you want to recreate badly a scene from The Prisoner with Patrick McGoohan. The first use is for exercise and is designed to tone and strengthen core muscles. The second use is for yoga-like exercise designed to improve balance and coordination.
What Is It?
Costing £4.99 from Argos both in-store and online, this exercise ball has a maximum user weight recommendation of 125kg (19st 10lbs) which thankfully I am well within. Coming with the 55cm white inflatable ball is a rather cheap and useless pump which after two pumps was quickly abandoned (story of my life!) in favour of a better pump I already had.
Included are printed instructions for usage with pictures which were particularly helpful. Having had experience of a Swiss Ball at a gym, I was pretty au-fait with what to do but I can see how the instructions would be of great use to a beginner.
After a pumping up session lasting no more than a few minutes (I would imagine using the pump provided would take a great deal longer), the ball was ready for action. As soon as it was fully pumped up I was concerned that the ball would not be large enough for me. I am 5,9, not the tallest tree in the forest but by no means a wee sapling and I really felt the ball was just a tad too small for me. Not so small that it was totally useless, but small enough that it hampered some of the exercises I was doing, limiting its effectiveness.
After the initial use, I had to pump up the ball again to ensure maximum inflation, but I can attribute this to me not pumping it to the max previously as the three or four times I used it after required no further pumping.
I have a few issues with this ball. Firstly, at 55cm in diameter, I would say that this is a little too small for me. The weight restrictions were not a problem and I never felt that it would explode or indeed implode, but for someone of my height this ball was a little too small. I feel for a smaller woman this would be an ideal size. The second issue I have this ball is the pump. The pump is s cheap a pump as I have seen anywhere. Luckily, I have a selection of good pumps that I use for kayaks, bikes and even footballs, but if I was to have to rely on the pump provided, I could see a pumping up of the ball taking a good 10 minutes at least.
Despite all this, for a piece of exercise equipment costing under a fiver this isn't bad at all. This is definitely a product I would recommend for women and the smaller man and I ended up giving this to my better half and spending £7 to get a larger ball (also later to languish in the cupboard keeping the smaller ball company)
Would I recommend it?
Yes and No. Yes to men/women under 5, 6 in possession of a good pump and No to anyone over 5, 6. The ball can be an effective piece of equipment for those wishing to tone muscles and improve balance but for me, a ball at least 65cm was needed to perform the exercises correctly.
Film Only Review
Funny comedies seem few and far between at the moment. I can count the number of films that I have laughed out loud to (what the kids call LOL) on one hand since Bridesmaids and so any sort of comedy release is met with a child like optimism.
Produced by Judd Appatow and staring Paul Rudd, Jenifer Aniston, Justin Theroux and Alan Alda, the signs were very good for this film. Indeed, it starts well as a humorous satire on American society but then descends into a mediocre, far fetched romp set in a hippy commune full of eccentrics and oddballs testing the boundaries of believability.
I wanted to like this film and in truth there are some genuinely funny lines and a few laugh out loud moments. It's a fun and novel idea for a light rom-com movie - professional couple George (Rudd) and Linda (Aniston) leave New York with nothing to show for their life's work but a car filled with boxes, try the hippy life and encounter a plethora of odd ball characters with supposed hilarious consequences. Some jokes work superbly as you would expect from an Appatow (He of The 40 Year Old Virgin" and "Superbad" to name but a few) and had the cinema, including me, guffawing with laughter but these jokes were few and far between, and sometimes way too long to set up which meant long periods of watching Anniston, Theroux and Alda ham it up under the disappointing direction of David Wain (Role Models 2008).
The jokes can be a bit 'potty mouth' in places which might be a problem for some but with Appatow involved this should be expected. The amount of full frontal nudity wasn't expected and after a little while it became too repetitive. Rudd turns in another fine performance, playing the stressed George with aplomb. Normally a fan of Aniston, I was a little disappointed with her performance and although she definitely tried, her role of Linda failed to impress which I will put down to the less than impressive, direction-less direction of Wain. This is not Paul Rudd and Jennifer Aniston's first time of working together; they both co-starred together in 18 episodes of the sitcom "Friends" and the chemistry was satisfactory enough but let down by a poor supporting cast making it a hard to believe comedy.
An interesting plot that to me was a wasted opportunity, there are just enough funny jokes and scenes that make this film watchable but it doesn't cut it as a truly memorable or funny film. The script seemed a little lazy at times as did some of the character portrayals, but this isn't the worst comedy film you'll see by a country mile. A likeable enough film, but not one that is going to stand out in your memory.
"Wanderlust", Rated "R" for Adult Situations, Profanity, Adult Humor, Sexual Dialog, Graphic Nudity & Mild Violence. Running Time: 1hr&38mns.
I dunno about you, but I seem to go through headphones like there is no tomorrow. A combination of carelessness, physical exercise and an over excited Saluki dog has meant I am on pair no. 4 for the year and we are not even into July yet. Having waved goodbye to the most recent pair after catching them on my bike handle bar and ripping them painfully from my ears and ipod, I was given a pair of JVC Ha F140pn Gumy Phones by a friend feeling pity for me having to cycle 15km with only my thoughts to keep me company.
Although given to me as a present, a quick scan of the interweb tells me that these cost anywhere between £4 and £15. Amazon and Play.com both offer these at the lowest prices - just under £4
Coming in a variety of different colours, (nine) I was presented with a rather garish Valencia orange pair, but it could've been worse - they come in pink too! The design is very much the standard earphone design and made of the cheap looking plastic that most earphones are made of. The right and left earphone are clearly labeled.
Cable + Jack
The earphones come with a one metre cord (3.3ft in old money) and the jack is the regular sized jack which will fit into any iphone/ipod/mp3 player/laptop/computer.
How they fared
Whilst these do not give concert -like sound bursting your ear drums, the volume level was noticeably higher than some earphones I have had in the past. The 13.5mm Neodymium driver units inside provide a decent, crisp sound which I was actually impressed with, regardless of price. If I had paid £20 for these, I would still be impressed with the sound quality.
Although a little cheap and flimsy to the touch, they survived the 15km bike ride and subsequent carelessness and playful attacks by an exuberant dog. This was 3 weeks ago so I don't want to tempt fate, but so far I have been impressed with their robustness.
The cord is a good length - not so long that it gets in the way, especially on a bike, but long enough to be comfortable doing exercise or attached to a pc unit.
The colour is what the kids call 'funky' and I believe JVC produced the colours to match those of the ipod nano range. I have grown to like the garish Valencia orange and it almost matches my fake tan
These were comfortable earphones. Not the most comfortable in the world, but they fitted nicely in my ears and more importantly stayed there when pulled.
Value-wise, I think these are a good deal. The sound quality that these provide is well worth £4 and I know I have paid 5 times that amount for inferior sound quality
If you are looking for a decent pair of earphones, I have yet to find one as good as these for under a fiver. JVC has always been a name I trust and will continue to do so from my JVC Ha F140pn Gumy Phones experience. A definite recommendation from me
There are many things that give me pain in my life, ranging from the general failings of modern society to the passing of spicy Yemenite food,(I'll never learn - it's just too tasty!) but on this particular occasion, the provider of pain warranting relief was a pulled muscle in my neck. I'm not sure if it was caused by my recent sojourns to the gym after an 18 month absence and a few inches on the waistline, or if it was down to the fact that I am not used to cranking my neck up to see Tottenham Hotspur so far up the league table; but either way, I was in pain and I wanted to take something to relieve it. Having recently purchased for the first time, the Tesco Extra Power Pain Relievers for the first ever time, and read their uses, I thought I would give them a go.
What They to Be Used For:
The pack states that: For the relief of mild to moderate pain including headache, migraine, neuralgia, toothache, sore throat and period pains. They are also for the symptomatic relief of sprains, strains rheumatic pains, sciatica, lumbago, fibrositis, muscular aches and pains, joint swelling and stiffness, influenza, feverishness and feverish colds.
As with all medications it is important to read the dosage and instructions provided. In this case it is: Adults, elderly and young persons over 16 years: 1 or 2 caplets every 4 hours up to a maximum of 6 caplets over 24 hours.
Not to give to children under 16 years and to swallow with water. There is a leaflet inside the box which lists possible side effects, storage advice and the ingredients other than the 300mg of aspirin, 200mg of paracetamol and 45mg of caffeine stated on the front of the pack. The caplets do contain sorbitol (E420) which apparently if you are intolerant to some sugars you may want to consult a doctor before taking.
Cost and Comparison
Available from Tesco stores and Tesco online they are priced at 40 pence, down from 45 pence. This is for 16 caplets and the price offer is available until the 15/4/2012. How this compares to some of the similar pain relievers offered by Tesco can be seen here:
Tesco Extra Power Pain Relievers 16 caplets 40 pence
Tesco Ibuprofen 200mg Tablets (16) 41 pence
Tesco Paracetamol 500Mg 16 Tablets 15 pence
Tesco Ibuprofen 200Mg Liquid Caps 16S 115 pence
Nurofen Tablets 200mg16S 180 pence
Anadin Extra 16 caplets 190 pence
It is worth noting that the Anadin Extra contains exactly the same levels of aspirin, paracetamol and caffeine as the Tesco Extra Power Pain Relievers reviewed here.
Tolerant to sorbitol, I took the caplet with water as instructed and waited for the pain in my neck (no, not my other half) to abate. The time I took the caplet was at about 9pm and I first noticed the pain dissipating was around the 9.30 - 9.45pm time. I was tucked up in bed with the 'er indoors supping from a cup of Options Turkish Delight Hot Chocolate (must review that sometime - low calorie chocolately gold!) whilst watching an episode of the excellent Breaking Bad (another to add to the ever-growing list to review) and I felt the pain in my neck noticeably subsiding. I was positioned correctly in accordance with the instructions of a qualified physiotherapist - luckily I have the pick of either a mother or sister in that field. Sure enough the paracetamol and the aspirin, both analgesics, kicked in and the pain had abated enough for me to feel the difference. Whereas the pain was quite overwhelming in the sense that it limited my movements, within a quarter of an hour my movements were less painful and I as restricted less.
What has to be said in this review is that by about 10.30pm I was sound asleep mid episode. The caffeine which apparently helps increase the effects of paracetamol and makes you more alert; had, in fact, not made me more alert. 10.30pm is not the normal time I take the wooden hill to Bedfordshire, my mother doesn't dictate my bed times now - I have a fiancé for that. So, I can only put the effects of the caplet as being strong enough to aid the sleep process. I was pleasantly surprised at the noticeable effect the caplets had so I shouldn't be surprised at them helping bring about sleep early and I would be certainly interested in testing their strength during more traditional waking hours.
For the price of 40 pence, a pittance compared to the Anadin Extra containing the same ingredients and nearly 5 times the price, these certainly tick the box when it comes to value. They also tick the box when it comes to pain relief. My neck was in considerably less pain, or least I was feeling it considerably less. However, the strength of these caplets would make me wary about taking these during the day, particularly during the afternoon when energy levels are low. These caplets do exactly what they say on the box and I would have no hesitation in taking them again if I didn't mind aiding the sleep process along with seeing the pain abate.
Overall an effective, high strength pain reliever that compares very favorably to alternatives cost wise but I would have reservations about using if I needed to be alert and felt the 45 mg of caffeine did not support alertness. Still, a good addition to the medical cabinet and I am happy with my purchase.
Now, those that know me or have read some of my reviews in the past will be aware of my fascination of preparing for the apocalypse. I make no secret of the fact that secretly I am hoping for a bubonic plague or nuclear meltdown, just so I can use my expired ration packs from the Norwegian Army and my Guatemalan Army jungle machete and ultimately prove my doubters wrong, who mocked me for my off-the-wall survivalist buys from ebay.
Contagion is an interesting film, or at least the subject matter is. It's a procedural thriller looking at how worryingly easy a pandemic virus can spread worldwide and the devastating after effects it causes and leaves behind. We follow the spread of the virus day by day as multiple deaths surface around the world.
This truly is an all star cast with Matt Damon, Gwenyth Paltrow, Laurence Fishburne, Elliot Gould, and Jude Law amongst the A-list ensemble and in truth none of them let you down as actors, in particular Jude Law and Matt Damon. The Director is Steven Soderbergh, probably best known for his Oscar winning directorship of Traffic, and with such a cast, such a director and such an interesting storyline it was a real surprise and disappointment that this film was so underwhelming.
This is a film that did not know what it was - the story was told in a ramshackle and disjointed manner; following different subplots hastily and without connecting to the characters. It was hard to feel empathy for a character or truly 'get them' with just fleeting appearances on screen in slow moving almost unattached plots. I left the film not knowing if this was a paranoia based thriller, an exercise in fear, a conspiracy film or an unsubtle satire - either way Contagion failed on all accounts.
Apart from being slow and dare I say it, a little tedious; there was too much medical jargon, too many clichéd scenarios and characters and an absenteeism in the storylines that left me begging for something to happen... anything at all!! Whether the entire human race died or a cure saved all; you really didn't care you just wanted something to happen. Every single character's plot line in this movie could have been removed without consequence. After you've seen it you'll realize that none of it mattered, nor intertwined, nor propelled the story.
I have read some reviews that said it was an edge of the seat thought provoking thriller. Well, I don't know what seats they are perched on but they sure as hell are not big seats and the only thoughts this film provoked was along the lines of what a wasted opportunity.
I won't spoil the ending; Steven Soderberg did a good enough job of that himself. But this is a film that could've been so much better on so many counts. Great cast, interesting subject matter but this was far too meandering, no depth and more a collection of slow disjointed subplots than a thrilling film drama.
Run time 106 mins
The Way Back
This is a film only review, I repeat, a film only review
Continuing my season of film reviews and my ongoing Barry Norman impression (showing my age there) I shall be enlightening you with a review of last night's movie - The Way Back.
The writer and director of this recently released film is Peter Weir, an Australian who has directed some very notable films including The Mosquito Coast, Gallipoli, Truman Show and Dead Poets Society to name but just a few. The film is based on the true story of Slavomir Rawicz or Witold Glinski depending on who you believe as both men have claimed that the book which this film is based is of their incredible story.
So what is this incredible story you ask. Quite simply it is the story of a group of escapees from a Siberian gulag and their 4000 mile journey overland to India in 1942. The group of escapees is quite an eclectic bunch of individuals and it would be a crime to label this 'a film about people walking out of Russia' as there is so much more to this film that than that.
I'm going to set my stall out early and say I really enjoyed this film. There was so much to enjoy about this film, firstly;
I can count the number of Colin Farrell films I have enjoyed on two maybe three fingers, but in the role of a Valka, a knife wielding thug, he excelled and as the film progressed so did his Russian accent. Ed Harris gave an assured performance as Mr Smith with all the usual gravitas you would expect from this fine actor. I was also hugely impressed with Saoirse Ronan who played Irena, a young girl picked up along the travels. The interaction between Smith and Irena in a father-daughter way was acting straight out of the top draw. Brit actor Jim Sturgess playing the lead part of Janusz also put in a sterling acting performance as the cast interacted well under Weirs stewardship.
When actors try foreign accents it can go horribly and detract from the film, (Kevin Bacon - White Elephant) but when you find yourself commending the likes of Colin Farrell on his fine acting and accent, you know there is a good director behind the film and really, Peter Weir is one of the best.
The landscapes filmed in this are breathtakingly immense. From the snow filled woodlands, through the deserts of Mongolia, on to the mountains of Tibet and finally at the lush hills of India, you cannot fail to be taken in by the wonderful scenery so beautifully filmed. Even the interaction and personal struggles of the characters take prominence; you are enveloped into the majestic vastness of the landscapes; truly awe inspiring stuff.
The human element to the story is a fascinating one. The interaction between the characters is excellent and I love the way the characters unfold throughout the story with subtlety and finesse. The suffering and struggle for freedom is portrayed intelligently and brilliantly and whilst my only criticism can be that a few of the characters were not developed enough, you really got to know most of the main characters.
Even though this film was long at 133 minutes, the more the film progressed, the more it had the feel of an epic about it. An interesting enough storyline made fascinating by quality directing, magnificent cinematography, inspired casting and some very good acting. It was all too easy getting lost in this film and the subtle nuances to the film make this one I would definitely watch again.
Rating - PG-13
Cast -Ed Harris
Director Peter Weir
IMDB - http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1023114/
This is a film only review.
When you are in a relationship with someone from a very different background, in my case London suburb vs Santiago suburb, one of the joys of the internet, and let's face it there are many, can be the sharing of different films and tv series that you loved throughout your years. So far, I've been treated to Chilean Telethon and Vina Del mar (Annual Music Festival - (think Live Aid without the charity) Whilst i was watching Supergran, pressgang and grange hill, 'er indoors was watching a group of scantily clad dancers tripping the light fantastic to a variety of exotic and dance styles, the common dominator of which being that they would all receive a barrage of complaints should they be shown pre-watershed on Factor X, or whatever the kids call it. Anyway, the point I am making is that the Woman in Black was one of those films that stood out when I was a kid and when I downloaded it to show and share a 'scary film from my youth' Saturday evening this was the film I chose. She wasn't very impressed. The film didn't stand the test of time too well and in an age of gore and effects the film from the 80's looked its age. With this in mind, I was excited to see a remake starring Daniel Radcliffe - yes, Harry Potter himself, and set about watching the film at the earliest opportunity laden with high expectations.
The Woman in Black is the name of the name of the 1983 novel by Susan Hill that was adapted for the screen by Jane Goldman (Wossy's missus), directed by James Watkins (Eden Lake) and made by Hammer Studios (British Horror Legends). In a time when gore and disturbance reign supreme in the cinematic world of horror, films such as The Woman in Black, The Others and The Orphanage stand out because they rely on old fashioned suspense and a good creepy twist or two. Arthur Kipps (Daniel Radcliffe) is a young lawyer recovering from the death of his wife who died whilst giving birth to his son. Having been sent by his employers to some far-flung village to sort out the papers of the recently deceased owner Mrs Drablow of Eel Marsh, a big old fashioned scary gothic house accessible only when the tide permits, Kipps embarks upon a journey off frightening discovery.
I want to start the critique by saying that there is much to be admired in the exemplary cinematography in The Woman in Black and credit is due to Tim Maurice-Jones, a close associate of Guy Ritchie - they worked on Lock, Stock..., Snatch and Revolver - for providing a distinctly well shot movie dripping with classic Roger Corman-esqe creepiness. Maurice-Jones who was also responsible for the cinematography for the critically acclaimed and imho a visually and a memorably stunning White Lightning (2009,) captures the dark forbiddance that oozes from the eerie Eel Marsh
If you are a fan of the old school classic boo-jump horrors, you will not be disappointed; plenty to make you jump off your seat and a good few moments to get the 'ol ticker working as you follow the Kipps character unravel a series of mysterious and deadly events. Radcliffe puts in a sterling performance and if this film is anything to go by, he looks more than capable of shaking off those Harry Potter chains. Ciaran Hyndes puts in a good solid turn as Simon Daily, the first car owner of the county and whose wife - played admirably by Janet McTeer - has gone mad following the death of their son. The plot unravels at a good pace, if only a bit too slow at the beginning and the momentum and the suspense gather nicely towards an atmospheric end that differs from the book. This has proven to be pretty decisive but without wanting to give anything away that would detract from your enjoyment, the ending has been 'Hollywood-ized' a little but to any length that detracts noticeably from the film. True, the ending could've had more 'oomph' but this was a Hammer film; gothic creepy films with the odd good shock and some things that will catch your fright, not a modern-day gory horror that will make your stomach turn.
There is plenty to like about this old-fashioned boo-jump movie; well shot, well acted and well told. It doesn't disturb you like some horrors but you leave the film with a faster beating heart. The special effects were a little hit and miss but that was only highlighted by the excellent cinematography. A good film but not a great one, it is best enjoyed with a full or as near to full cinematic experience as possible, to really get the most out of the limited (there could have been more and they could have been more powerful) shock moments but for an evenings entertainment it wasn't bad at all.
Verdict - A good film well made by the bastions of British horror - Hammer Films with solid acting and great locations. The Woman in Black offers something different to the modern day horror film and although this is not going to go down as one of the very best 'boo-jump' films, it is certainly watchable enough, with an appeal for all ages (except those too young!)
Runtime 95 mins
FILM ONLY REVIEW - NO SPOLIERS!!!!
Last night I was lucky enough to be one of about 150 people able to see an advanced screening of the new Spielberg film 'War Horse', a good month before it hits Israeli screens. Now, I do not know about you, but the man responsible for such classics as Schindler's List, Jaws, E.T, Saving Private Ryan and others had a bit to make up for after Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull and more recently The adventures of Tintin. So it was with baited breath (must get that seen to!) that I went to see his new directorial film, written jointly by Richard Curtis - he of Love Actually and Four Weddings fame.
Now, as I understand it, the film is based on a children's novel by Michael Morpurgo which became a play that did well in theatres in the UK and the US. Never having seen the play I cannot make any comparisons, but the reviews for it were very good.
Set during the First World War, it is an 'against all odds' story of Albert Narracott, played by Jeremy Irvine, and his beloved horse Joey in Britain when World War I is about to begin. Joey is sold by Albert's alcoholic father to the cavalry and finds himself caught n the devastating fields of a devastating war while Albert attempts to find him.
The cast is strong with a solid performance by relatively unknown Jeremy Irvine, and there is fine support by Emily Watson, Benedict Cumberbatch, Peter Mullan, David Thewlis, Tom Hiddleston and Toby Kebbel but what really steals the show is not the story, which if you look closely enough has more holes than a Swiss cheese, but the truly wonderful cinematography by Janusz KamiÅ"ski and if that man does not get an Oscar for it I am the son of monkeys uncle. Barring a few too many gratuitous and unnecessary sunsets, the cinematography was simply breathtaking and gave the film the epic proportions it needs, making you almost forget the fact that Germans and French characters all spoke near perfect English with accents that would not seem out of place in Allo Allo.
The influence of Richard Curtis as a writer is very apparent - there is a fair amount of Schmaltz (roughly translated as fatty bits) that you would expect to see from the man that penned Love Actually, but for those who remember the final scene in Blackadder in WWI, they will know recognize his ability to portray a poignancy that would bring a tear to even the most resilient of eyes.
Criticisms of the film include some very lazy clichés, hard to believe sub-plots, historical inaccuracies and characters as one dimensional as can possibly be. But you know what? It all gets lost in the touching and beautifully filmed story of a boy and his horse. The horrors of war are conveyed adequately enough without the gore and bloodshed seen in Saving Private Ryan and if you are willing to forgive a bit of schmaltz and some holes in the story, you are left with a feel good epic that provokes emotion and passion.