Monday, October 31, 2016

Greetings from Paris.

Had my caricature drawn this evening, which I found amusing:

A caricature. Like Jennifer Lawrence's unbearable performance in American Hustle.

My best friend Anna said the look on my face in this picture is identical to the look on my face when I'm talking to someone who's boring me. Ehehe.

The French get Park Chan-Wook's Handmaiden, my most anticipated movie of 2016, three months before the British do! No fair.

By the way, I like that France has stayed true to the literal meaning of the film's title, Agassi in their translation, rather than giving a slightly more specific meaning to the title, as we've done.

And finally, a side-by-side of the The Accountant poster in the metro in Paris and the underground in London:


Strange how despite staying true to Agassi's title, they decided to re-brand The Accountant with a new title of their own!

Friday, October 28, 2016

Film review: LUCK-KEY [럭키] (Lee Gye-beok, 2016)



Jae-sung, a struggling actor (Lee Joon) who is about to take his life, seizes an opportunity when he spots Hyong-Wook (Yoo Hae-jin), flash hitman who has slipped on a bar of soap and made momentarily unconscious, by switching locker keys with him and assuming his identity. The 32-year-old out-of-luck actor enjoys Wook's wealth whilst the older man, with a lost memory and only the insurance card of the man whole stole his identity, tries to figure out who he is.

The set-up means there are visual gags and situational comedy aplenty as Hyong-Wook realises he has supreme martial arts skills, but, rather than using them to kill, carves a range of creative foods at the restaurant he acquires a job at. There are hints of Trading Places in the stark contrast in the way Hyong-Wook and Jae-Sung live; one having rolls of cash stored in biscuit tins and the other living in squalor, with the equivalent of two bucks to his name. However, the film doesn't delve too deep into  examining its social conscience, deciding instead to enjoy the farce instead.

As the plot develops, both men acquire love interests. Jae-Sung develops feelings for Eun Ju, the woman Hyong-Wook was tracking, presumably his next hit, whereas Lina (Jo Yoon-hee), who took care of Wook after his accident, is the one who gets him the restaurant gig, and supports him when he decides to pursue an acting career (in a classic case of dramatic irony, Wook meets Jae-sung's father, believing that he's his dad, and Jae-sung's father speaks dismissively of his actual son's unimpressive acting career, giving Wook the necessary resolve to become famous).

Although Eun Ju's character is relegated to the damsel in distress trope, Lina is winning as Wook's love interest, and the two share a great, tentative chemistry. The parallels with OldBoy, in that a supportive female helps the protagonist try to work out their mazy past in a Korean film, was not lost on me, although Luck-Key was a substantially fluffier watch than OldBoy. By giving the two characters romantic subplots, it grounds them and gives them motivation for their actions, motivation that Jae-sung, a deadbeat who was contemplating suicide at the start of the film, could do with. 

Hyong Wook's adventures as an actor are comedy gold, and the film manages to traverse all manner of humour around the shooting process, some refreshing, some more clichéd. Hyong-Wook's adeptness in a fistfight catches the eye of the director, much to the chagrin of the divaish star of the show, a story arc that has been covered many times before, but given a Korean spin, still has legs. I also giggled as one of Hyong-Wook's competing actors, at the start of the process sensing he's fresh meat, tries to trip him up, but then, as Wook's star factor rises, he tries to coattail off his glory.


The other three leads are perfectly functional in their roles but Yoo Hae-jin is the shining star of the film, and it's not for nothing that Luck-Key revolves around him. A veteran of South Korean cinema, his character goes on a voyage that has him modulating between suave bad-ass, inept extra in historical movies, and bemused leading man, and Yoo Hae-jin excels at not only bringing plausibility to every wacky plot turn, but also imbuing Wook with an honest everyman quality that the audience will find endearing.

Overall, Luck-Key is a polished, charming film, with a neat subversive twist at the end that I didn't anticipate and more than enough chuckle-raising moments to keep the audience's attention until then. The fight scenes are well-choreographed and the big set-piece at the end was surprisingly gripping. Furthermore, for all the film's mockery of actors, it definitely has a soft spot for films, as hinted at by the affectionate closing credits.

Several have tried to balance comedy, drama, romance and action, and precious few of pulled it off. Luck-Key can count itself one of the lucky ones.

8/10

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If you enjoyed my review, check out the others here!

Review: JERKKIES (Farringdon)

Spending in excess of a fiver for my lunch is not really my modus operandi, something you may have gleamed from my last blog, where I reviewed a bunch of Easy Cook noodles, all which retailed at 45p a pack or less. Another life hack I am extremely fond of (even if my waistline isn’t), is that every Monday, the Metro have promotional vouchers for McDonald’s, where you can get fries and either a Big Mac, McChicken sandwich, Quarter Pounder or, my personal favourite, filet o fish, for a mere £1.99.

These are two very purse-friendly options, but too much of anything can make you sick, so I strove to take advantage of my office’s Farringdon location to exercise some variety with regards to my lunch, and sample some of the local talent. And that’s how I found myself at Jerkkies, a fast-food joint that claims to produce ‘authentic Caribbean cuisine’.

I had the lunchtime deal, which was one of a selection of chicken dishes (or vegetarian equivalent), along with rice and Peas/ white Rice, steamed vegetables/green Salad and plantain for £6.50. I went for the chicken stew, because the gravy which the chicken had been cooked in looked (and smelt delicious).


I was happy with my selection, given that the element I could control turned out to be the best part about the meal. The stew had a fabulous taste, even if individual pieces of meat in it were hit and miss – some were succulent, other parts tasted bland and chewy. 

There were other missteps in the takeaway container, too. The white rice and peas had been lazily cooked, and the vegetables were soggy and low-quality. These components, graciously, were redeemed by the plantain, which I doused in generous amounts of sweet and sour sauce (it was free, so naturally, I helped myself), and tasted heavenly, the s&s sauce really coaxing out the plantain's texture.

So overall, a satisfying amalgam of flavours, where the tantalising taste of the stew masked some of the cooking shortcuts the chefs made with regards to the vegetables and rice. It was certainly a memorable lunch in a week where I’d been feasting on noodles. I’m glad I sampled Jerkkies, and I have no doubt that I’ll get a craving for the unadulterated in-you-face character of its creations one day in a few months, and saunter back. But for £6.50, I was hoping for more.

B

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Review of five instant noodles



For me, one of the most memorable parts of Amy Dunne’s mordant ‘Cool Girl’ diatribe in Gone Girl was when she declared ‘because Cool Girls are above all, hot." This comment is delivered in relation to how she kills herself in order to stay a lithe, desirable size 2 (UK 6/8), to little appreciation from her perfidious husband, Nick.

Given that Amy is generally perceived to be a murderous psychopath, I probably shouldn’t pay this line too much heed, but for some reason, it’s really resonated with me, and as such, I’m trying hard to watch my weight. 

The first step towards losing weight and eating healthier was to stop having so many lunches at McDonald’s. A substitute I explored was easy cook noodles, and thus, here are my thoughts on five different types I’ve sampled recently.

Morrisons BBQ Beef noodles 85g, 25p
There was nothing barbequey or beefy about the taste of this, I’m afraid. The noodles came out stale and tasteless, and even the liquid it was boiled in didn’t have any particular flavour. The very cheap price signals to me that this is predominantly marketed at students, although if students eat this before a night out, the lack of nutritional content means their stomachs will be insufficiently lined pre-heavy drinking, and it could well result in them chundering out their dinner. Considering how it purports to be one of the more filling of the four (total calories: 466, apparently), it doesn’t do what it says on the packaging. 2/10.

Morrisons Mild Curry flavour noodles, 85g, 25p
Gar. Another ghastly Morrisons creation. As with its predecessor, it has thin noodles that tasted of nothing and a sauce which didn’t taste remotely of curry (at least they spoke truth about the ‘mild’ part, mind). The mild curry flavour noodles purports to have 458 calories in the entire bag and it did make more of a dent on my hunger levels than the ‘meal’ from the day before, so I’ll give it +1 mark for that. 3/10.

Nissin Demae Ramen Spicy Noodles 100g, 45p
Unlike the two Morrisons travesties, the Nissin Demae Ramen noodles were deliciously thick and unrepentantly eggy. The sauce the pack yielded had flavour too! Whilst it wasn’t the burn-your-tongue-off levels of spiciness that the bright red packaging might lead you to think/dread, it was sufficiently hot to satiate my need for spiciness. What’s more, this bag came with a sachet of the sauce as well as sesame oil, which gave the meal a welcome kick. Plus, you’ve seen my cooking – you know how much I dig my oil. 8/10.


Newgate instant snack shot noodles sweet and spicy 67g
This Lidl product weighs less than the three easy cook noodles I’ve appraised so far, and as such, is lower on calorific content. On the bright side, the dried flavouring that came in a sachet for those other three, which could lead to a slight mess, was embedded in the noodle here, meaning you could avoid any pouring mishaps. The noodles here came in a strange angular shape, and were even thinner than Morrisons ones, but had more noodle length to atone for it. After you’ve finished with the noodles, I’d recommend re-filling the bowl/mug with boiling hot water, because the solid flavouring is concentrated enough to make a nice brew out of it. Not that filling, but tastes good whilst it lasts. 7/10.

Ko-Lee Taste Sensation Classic Chicken flavour 85g, 28p
For just 3p more than the two disappointing Morrisons own brand noodles, you can get this in the same store, and it’s much more filling and appetising. As with the other Chinese-style noodles, the Nissin Demae, this also comes with a small sachet of sesame oil, as well as a pack of dried flavouring that far exceeds the quantity in any of the other four noodles assessed. The resulting liquid brew is a nice concoction for you to savour, which redeems the (once again, common to Morrisons) thin, bland-tasting noodles. 7/10.

Common to all of these five products was a real ease to use, as the names suggested. You're supposed to boil them over the hob, but I found putting half the amount in my Chelsea mug and applying hot water to it, as pictured below, was just as effective, and saved considerably on the washing up!


Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Bar review: McQUEEN (Old Street)

Named after an actor who is generally perceived to be one of the coolest screen presences of all time, McQueen the bar is somewhat of a misnomer. It strives to be stylish, alright, but isn’t swagger something you just effortlessly have? It’s not really je ne sais quoi if you’re trying desperately to procure the quoi in question.

I went to McQueen last night on an "Asians in London" meet-up, and the entire ground floor was rented out to us, which was a nice gesture of hospitality. I thought such a busy event was a little under-staffed, considering Asians and non-Asians came pouring in in their droves, and at one point, I asked if I could have a drink to a boy at the til and he told me ‘I don’t serve’. Why do you stand behind the bar then mate?

I wasn’t completely sold on the décor, which consisted of lots of weird and wacky statues and ornaments, but the individual pieces didn’t fit with each other to give a cohesive image of the bar, and certainly not very Steve McQueenish. This wall hanging below is a bit creepy, truth be told:



I also wasn’t too impressed with the close positioning of the sofas at the centre of the room, which meant that it was practically impossible not to bump into someone if you wanted to head towards the bar.

My Litmus test for whether or not I consider a London bar overpriced or not is the price of that first round (assuming the round is for two people). If it falls below £10, then I’m a fan. Hence why I adore so many Wetherspoons so. 

If that first round exceeds £10, that’s not the end of the world, but the bar has to have a certain élan to atone for their above-median prices of drinks. And that isn’t an excessively taxing imposition; I’ve had excellent impressions of several bars in London that charge a pretty penny for their drinks, ranging from The Escapologist to Reverend JW Simpson, because their cocktails were just on point.

After all, I don’t mind paying over the odds if the ambience and quality of service matches the price. McQueen sadly didn’t have that; the atmosphere was fairly stale and consisted purely of the  noise from conversations of the people at the event. Would it have killed the managers to play some pop music?

For the next round, I ordered a soft drink in order to save some money. But a lime cordial was shockingly priced at £2.50 (it's 40p in a lot of London pubs!)

In terms of riding on the laurels of its Shoreditch location and not delivering on the rest, it’s definitely not the most guilty (that would be, hands down, Worship Street Whistling Shop, one of the worst bars in London). But McQueen was nothing earth-shattering, and certainly nothing the man it was named after would hurry to write home about.

Grade: C

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The rest of my bar reviews are all listed here. If you would like me to review your's, e-mail me at lemon_and_lime7@hotmail.com.

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Haters gonna hate.


Film review: LA VOIE LACTÉE [THE MILKY WAY] (Luis Buñuel, 1969)


Luis Buñuel'a irreverent send-up of Christianity sees Pierre (Paul Frankeur) and Jean (Laurent Terzieff) embarking on a religious pilgrimage from France to Santiago de Compostela in Spain. Along the way, they come a series of unexpected events, from walking in on a ritual from a secret sect, being asked to moderate a duel, and a chance meeting with the Grim Reaper.

La Voie lactée's surrealist elements and indictment of Catholicism render it classic Luis Buñuel, but  neither of these two components were employed terribly effectively. As in Tristana, I found the dream sequences distractingly low-quality, and because the whole file had a trippy vibe, it was difficult to delineate the fantasy sequences from the actual storytelling. The cutaways didn't add anything to the narrative, and, perhaps because I'm treated due to shows like Family GuyI usually expect my cut-aways to be, you know, funny. Here, they were met with a *tumbleweed*-style reaction.

The Catholic Church offers ample material for mockery, and having their teachings torn apart, something that Pedro Almodóvar does effectively in several of his films. He achieves it by writing characters such as a shady priests into various stories (e.g. La mala educación), and then allowing the plot to unravel as the hypocrisy and corruption of said characters are exposed. That way, the audience sees these people for the monsters they are, whilst recognising their religious background played a formative role in this. We have been shown, rather than told.

But in La Voie lactée, the speeches delivered by characters in this film by preachers and brainwashed kids, written in such an brazen way so as to make the deliverers look stupid, felt like the audience was being spoon-fed to laugh at these characters and ridicule their beliefs. The contradictory things they were spouting were too out there and nonsensical for it to be plausible that the character believed in what they were saying.

The closing titles of the film, which laid out all the problems with religious dogmas, epitomises Buñuel's heavy-handed approach:  if the film had done its job properly, the audience should already know this. They wouldn't need it rammed down their throat. This complete lack of nuance meant I was, lamentably, not able to enjoy this film as much as I would have liked to. (I like ridiculing religion as much as the next person!)

However, as with previous Buñuel titles, I was still amused by the film, and scenes which were darkly comic and the audience unsure whether or not to laugh meant we were kept on their toes. One vignette, where a woman lies on the cross and has her hands pinned to it like Jesus Christ, was visually discreet but made an arresting impression. And the benefit of having so many short scenes, pieced together in a sketch-like way, meant that the viewer was at least, never bored.

I wouldn't classify La Voie lactée as Buñuel's best work. But it's a curious entry into his filmography that his aficionados might derive more enjoyment from than I did. 

6/10

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If you enjoyed this review, the rest of my reviews are here!

Cooking Stuff that Looks Bad But Tastes Delicious #2: The Veggie Supreme.

Since this dish doesn't feature any meat or fish, I will call it 'The Veggie Supreme'.


As pictured, the ingredients were:
- cheddar cheese
- chips
- red onions
- peppers
- oil (drizzled a little too liberally over the chips and peppers)

I cut pieces of cheddar cheese and onions and bunged them into the yellow peppers, then topped it up with oil. I probably put too much oil in, because as you can see on the oven dish, there's a fair bit of spillage. I also poured salt in the peppers pre-putting it in the oven, but that's up to you.

And, as with The Nemo, I had tomato ketchup to enjoy the chips with! Nomnomnom.

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Here's a photo of my dad's incredible authentic Chinese cooking!


Wowcher buy: THREE PAIRS OF DOUBLE CRYSTAL EARRINGS FROM FAKURMA


The Wowcher website claims that these three earrings collectively retail at £119.97, which I'm cynical about. They were selling at £12 on the Wowcher website, so £4 per pair of earrings, which I thought was reasonable enough.

I really like these dainty little earrings. The option of gold, silver or rose-gold means I can always find a pair that will go with the colour scheme of my outfit, and the ergonomic design means that the earring fits elegantly on one's ear, without the fit being too snug or too loose. I would perhaps have liked the jewels to look a bit 'sparklier', but, for the price I paid, can't complain too much!

Grade: A-/B+

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Film review: TRISTANA (Luis Buñuel, 1970)

Tristana (Catherine Deneuve), a recently orphaned God-fearing beauty, is given sanctuary by her new legal guardian Don Lope (Fernando Rey), a crusty old womaniser who hates religion, sympathises with the underbelly of society, and likes to backpat himself for being so anti-establishment. Much like the character Rey played in That Obscure Object of Desire, he develops an infatuation with the female lead, and it’s not long before he’s thrown caution to his wind regarding taking Tristana under his wing, choosing to take her under him instead.



From some of the other Buñuel titles I’ve reviewed, it’s evident that the man has got sex on the mind, but his depiction of Don Lope’s carnal instincts and Tristana’s grudging acquiescence to them in this film are surprisingly PG-rated (although, given the mature themes and disturbing imagery in this film, I thought the MPAA awarding this film a PG-13, made more sense) and visually restrained. The unsettling, Woody Allen-esque relationship is portrayed with a few fleeting shots of Tristana impassively getting undressed, before the scene ends. Surprisingly subtle for Buñuel, but it suits the atonal style of the film, and its messages about the double-standards of religious Spanish society.

Deneuve and Rey, two of Brunel’s favourite collaborators, prosper under his direction. As the eponymous lead, Deneuve alchemizes Tristana’s spirit effortlessly. At the beginning, she is a carefree, wide-eyed young girl who just wishes to honour her mother's love of pray. By the end, and not altogether surprisingly given what she has been through,  as her character develops, she is a resolute and cold-hearted, and absolutely God-less.

It’s evident that she’s repulsed by her legal guardian’s grabby hands (not the first time a Guardian's been handsy, amirite?), but she grins and bears it in a disquietingly silent manner. As in Belle de Jour, Deneuve portrays her character taking everything just accepting what comes to her under a façade of equanimity, which only leaves the audience more tantalised about what she’s really thinking.

Fernando Rey portrays a monster with more than a small touch of Humbert Humbert. Tristana is an unusual story because it’s not so much a case of Stockholm Syndrome, as the woman coming back to take revenge – revenge by mistreatment – on the man who so impulsively, selfishly, debased her. And her interpretation of the best kind of justice is to simultaneously be with him (in legal union) and not be with him (in emotion and physically).

The central dynamic between Tristana and Don Lope is fascinating. Despite the fact that he defiled her and she rightly resents him for taking her innocence, this is juxtaposed hatred is with her inherent Christian grace towards him, which consists of gratitude for taking her in when she was destitute, as well as a giddy sense of triumph later when he gets older and more pathetic, and she, more beautiful. These emotions come together to create a cocktail of power that she lauds over him.

Buñuel is known for his surrealist elements, but that was the component I liked least about Tristana - Don Lope’s decapitated head swinging from a bell was off-beat but now looks dated. Tristana also lacks the moments of playful levity that The Diary of a Chambermaid and That Obscure Object of Desire had, rendering it a more straightforward piece of storytelling, although in doing so, it doesn't quite reach the peaks of those two titles. Finally, the fact that the film was shot and set in Toledo, Spain, yet the characters speak French, is a tad jarring.

It’s not the best spin on Lolita in a film I’ve seen - that would be Sam Mendes’ incredible American Beauty, but, like That Obscure Object of Desire, survives the test of time well in its astute dissection of gender politics and the blurred, and often confusing, line between love and hate. 

Buñuel  for all his seedy voyeursim, understands that sex is just as much about emotional control as it is about physical lust, and his detached, capable direction, Deneuve’s suitably frosty performance (quite literally, given the film's aloof coda) and the compelling story make for a bizarre, but thoroughly watchable experience.

7.5/10

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If you enjoyed this, all my film reviews are collated here.

Cooking Stuff that Looks Bad But Tastes Delicious #1: The Nemo.


I've been making the most of my mum being in China and having the kitchen to myself recently (I don't like cooking when surrounded by people, haha). 

My concoctions don't look too appetising, but as I bung in ingredients I like and ingredients I like only, I'm usually very pleased with the end product!

So in this haphazard invention, which I will call 'The Nemo' (because there's fish fingers in it), I put:
- 4 baby potatoes
- one red onion
- one tomato
- cheddar cheese
- oil
- 4 fish fingers

And after it was all cooked, I dipped the fish fingers in tomato ketchup.

Next time I cook it, I would increase the number of baby potatoes to about 6 or 7, as they reduce in size when fried due to it being on the pan for the longest period of time. But apart from that, I really liked The Nemo!

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In other, completely unrelated-to-cooking news, I saw that Damien Chazelle's upcoming La La Land, hotly tipped to rack up multiple Oscar nominations, got a PG in Ireland despite getting a 12A over here.

I find this very interesting because I think it illustrates the Irish are a bit more flexible about single uses of the f-word depending on context, whereas for the BBFC (and the MPAA), it leads to an automatic 12A/PG-13.

A subtle point, but illustrates the nuances in different countries' attitudes towards swearing!

I wonder who hollers the solitary f-bomb in the movie, Emma or Ryan? (Or maybe, given his character's colourful language in Whiplash, J.K. Simmons gets that honour...)

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Film review: I, DANIEL BLAKE (Ken Loach, 2016)



Geordie Daniel Blake (Dave Johns), a lifelong carpenter who's recently suffered a stroke, is signed off work by his doctors and physios. He's a determined chap, who's unafraid of graft and unfazed when his neighbour tells him that many before him have given up due to the countless hoops they have to jump through to get Job Seekers' Allowance. But Dan soon finds that the behemoth bureaucracy facing him as he tries to sign onto JSA proves to be a more arduous task than any physical challenge he's ever been given.

He meets Katie (Hayley Squires), a single mother of two who has been relocated from London as Newcastle is the only area that can house her family in a fracas at the Job Centre. The two form a bond and Daniel's easygoing personality wins the affection of Katie's two young children. Katie tentatively tells Dan of her plans to get a part-time job and pursue an Open University degree. For the briefest of moments, the film hints at deliverance.

But sadly life isn't like that. Katie forgoes dinner in order to feed her kids and has to resort to less than ideal methods just so she can buy necessities like deodorant. Meanwhile, the Job Center continue to make Daniel jump through unfeasible hoops in order to procure his allowance. He tries to tackle every task, such as learning to use the computer, in a workmanlike fashion, but his efforts are slammed for not being good enough.

Wry laughs pepper the film. Dan's straight-talking bluntness and his endearing attempts to tackle technology are amusing, but even these funny scenes are underscored with sadness. After days of trying to sign up to JSA on the computer to no avail, his friend prints out a form the Job Centre could have easily handed to him. Ken Loach's point about the nebulous directions of those In Charge could not be clearer. 

I, Daniel Blake is a tremendously affecting, and illustrates the power of narrative cinema, when effectively handled. After all, reading an account of how some families live below the breadline in the newspaper may evoke an 'ah' from the reader, or in some cases, aversion at being preached at. But watching Daniel and Katie's daily struggles is harrowing; the sight of Katie eating baked beans from the tin out of sheer hunger in the film's most devastating scene, set at a food bank, says more than any amount of column inches could.

I, Daniel Blake illustrates what real problems are and makes the audience grateful for their lot. Dave Johns, Hayley Squires and the rest of the (unheard of) cast all give authentic, natural performances, and the dialogue between characters feel organic. You come to really feel for the central characters: Daniel just wants to be treated with respect, something the Job Centre who regard him as currency, don't afford him, and Katie, who's stoic parent would endure anything to provide for her kids. The level of pathos she incurs as she tries to fulfil this is almost unbearable.

There are a few minor missteps-- Daniel's neighbours' attempts to flog imitation trainers was an amusing sidenote, but added nothing to the film other than giving it some temporal grounding (a character refers to Charlie Adam's goal from the halfway line against Chelsea, setting the year in 2015. Stupid Courtois) The hagiography of the entire working class and depiction of everyone in management as pedantic fools obsessed with keeping Daniel trapped in the Kafka-esque web of 'The Decision Maker' was anything but subtle. Life isn't quite as black and white as that. I also felt the film ended a little abruptly, although this must have been a conscious decision on Loach's part to deprive the audience of closure, which would have been dishonest.

To its credit, the film avoids the temptation to sensationalise poverty, spoon-feeding the audience sanctimonious platitudes that might turn them off such a film and have them rolling their eyes at the contrivances on screen. Plenty of films have been guilty of going overboard in depicting the descent to hell to the point that it felt like the director was taking sadistic relish from piling on the misery. Darren Aronofsky's Requiem for a Dream immediately comes to mind.

But Ken Loach's unfussy, raw directorial approach lets the unflinching gaze of real hardship the characters are put through do the talking. A sobering, heartbreaking watch, but a topical one.

 8.5/10

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Check out the rest of my reviews here!

Half-birthday Top 5s of 2016 (so far).

It's my 26.5th birthday today, so I thought I'd list my top 5 of the dominant 'Oscar' categories as of now (having seen 42 titles). 

For the acting categories I'll try my best to be objective and list in order of 'best' rather than 'favourite'. For example, my favourite performance of the year so far is Jesse Eisenberg in Café Society because I identify with his character the most. He'll almost certainly make my 10 favourite performances of 2016 list, but I concede that it's not necessarily the best male lead acting performance of the year.

To further illustrate this point, in my favourite performances of 2015, I listed Domhnall Gleeson in The Revenant because he looked damn gorgeous with a ginger beard. But objectively, he was probably only the fourth best performance in that dull film after Leo, Tom Hardy and Will Poulter.

I'm doing these lists now so I can show my love to some actors who didn't necessarily appear in prestige pictures, as they might get bumped out of the top 5s when Oscar bait like La La Land and Fences drops. For example, Jena Malone in The Neon Demon, an excellent, arresting turn, wouldn't get near the Oscars, but it was so good it needs to be highlighted. And not just due to the shock of Johanna Mason from The Hunger Games romancing the dead, haha.

And obviously, top films are not so objective because those are just favourites, haha.


Film
01. A United Kingdom 
02. Zootropolis
03. Café Society 
04. Kubo and the Two Strings 
05. Hell or High Water 



Direction
01. Amma Asante, A United Kingdom
02. Travis Knight, Kubo and the Two Strings
03. Pedro Almodóvar, Julieta
04. Dan Trachtenberg, 10 Cloverfield Lane
05. Nicolas Pesce, The Eyes of My Mother



Actor, Leading Role
01. David Oyewolo, A United Kingdom
02. Chris Pine, Hell or High Water
03. Jesse Eisenberg, Café Society 
04. Jonah Hill, War Dogs
05. Miles Teller, War Dogs



Actress, Leading Role
01. Emily Blunt, The Girl on the Train
02. Adriana Ugarte, Julieta
03. Mary Elizabeth Winstead, 10 Cloverfield Lane
04. Rosamund Pike, A United Kingdom
05. Emma Suárez, Julieta



Actor, Supporting Role
01. Alden Ehrenreich, Hail, Caesar!
02. Ben Foster, Hell or High Water
03. John Goodman, 10 Cloverfield Lane
04. Jeff Bridges, Hell or High Water
05. Tom Bennett, David Brent: Life on the Road



Actress, Supporting Role
01. Kate McKinnon, Ghostbusters
02. Jena Malone, The Neon Demon
03. Viola Davis, Suicide Squad
04. Haley Bennett, Magnificent Seven
05. Kristen Stewart, Café Society 



Screenplay (adapted and original) because I CBA to google which were original and adapted and hence do separate categories for both, haha
01. Café Society 
02. War Dogs
03. Zootopia
04. Julieta
05. The Hunt for the Wilderpeople


I haven't watched enough big hitters to do the aural/visual categories, as the best scores and camerawork are usually in the films which aim high and have budgets to match. But yeah, that was that!

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Because I'm a shady cow...


Worst Film
01. High-Rise my only 2/10 score of the year. What a load of bloated wank. Also, it should have been rated 18 because it was so unpleasant to watch.
02. The Boss
05. Absolutely Unfunny Fabulous

Worst Performances
01. Cara Delevingne, Suicide Squad this probably won't change at the end of the year
02. Kris Wu, So Young 2: Never Gone 
03. Ricky Gervais, David Brent: Life on the Road
04. Sienna Miller, High-Rise
05. Chris Pratt, Magnificent Seven

Monday, October 17, 2016

Restaurant review: MILDRED'S (Soho)



Mildred's doesn't take reservations, which almost instantly signals alarm bells to me. The only place that has been an exception to the 'Places which don't take bookings offer terrible service to their diners' has been the excellent On the Bab; everywhere else which doesn't take bookings has shown, quite starkly, that if they don't care about making customers stand in the freezing cold waiting to get fed, they definitely won't think twice about ignoring you if you require the waiter's attention. Mildred's, lamentably, didn't go any way towards disproving that prima facie.

Mildred's is a vegetarian restaurant in Soho, and it will feed you, but, unless you make over £100,000 a year, wear an Armani suit and stockpile the alcohol order, the waiters will look at you like a piece of trash and act like you ought to be grateful that they're gracing you with their company. It also squashes all their punters in like sardines so they can maximise revenue, meaning that the sound of other people's conversations regularly intrude on the one you're conducting.

The burger was reasonably priced at £7, but the chips, which at £3 for twice as much photographed above, felt like a bit of a con. The waiter practically sneered at me and my friend when we said we were going to share a portion of fries, which was not cool. Excuse us for having the audacity to order food of our own volition(!)

I would be lying if I were to say I didn't enjoy my burger; it was plenty tasty and the texture was on point. I liked the enterprising display of flatbread rather than a bun. What a shame then, that the snooty service I'd received from the waiter, who clearly took one look at us and decided we weren't his income level of choosing, had left some a sour taste in my mouth. When we left the restaurant, they didn't even say 'goodbye', but instead, just threw us a 'and don't come back again' look.

I also don't appreciate the presumptuous way they stick on a 12.5% service charge. The service we received at Mildred's (being eye-rolled at, having our requests for water and serviettes all but ignored) was non-existent, bordering on counterproductive to our dining experience. The only beneficial contribution our waiters made were to carry our orders from the kitchen to our table without dropping it. A bit of a stretch at 12.5%, if you ask me.

If you're looking for decent vegetarian nosh but would rather it didn't come with a side order of hauteur, I'd recommend you go to the nearby Tidbits instead. There's a much more down-to-earth, hospitable atmosphere there.

Grade: D+

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All of my restaurant and bar reviews are listed here. Email me at lemon_and_lime7@hotmail.com if you would like me to review your venue!

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Biggest disparity between the BBFC and the IFCO?

Slight disparities between a rating awarded to a movie by the BBFC, and the IFCO, their Irish counterpart, is nothing new. After all, Irish and British sensibilities aren't identical. 

So, for example, When Marnie Was There was a PG in Ireland (as it was in the States), and a U over here. Eddie the Eagle was a 12A in Ireland and a PG over here. Irrational Man was a 15A (the Irish equivalent of a 'soft' 15) in Ireland and a 12A over here. High-Rise was a 16 in Ireland for cinematic release and an 18 on DVD (the Irish don't have a 16 on DVD), whereas it was a 15 over here. Bad Grandpa was an 18 in Ireland and a 15 over here.

On the flipside, films that the Irish have been more permissive with include Belle, a PG in Ireland and the States, and a 12A over here (the scene that got the film its 12A rating pertained to Tom Felton aka Draco Malfoy, being villainous). The Shallows was a 12A in Ireland and a 15 (absurdly) over here. And Gone Girl, an 18 over here, was a 16 in Ireland for cinematic release and then 15 on DVD.

In all of these instances, what is noticeable is that the difference in rating is by one BBFC rating (i.e. one increment between U, PG, 12A, 15, 18).

So imagine my surprise when I opened up my season 2 DVD of The Vicar of Dibley, and spotted this:


That's a difference by two whole ratings!! I can't really see what would cause such a big discrepancy in opinion. 

The Vicar of Dibley, a very warm, amusing show that exhibits Dawn French's impeccable comic timing, has a script which is laden with innuendo, featuring plays on words pertaining to sexual references and strong language. Some of the risqué humour is more suited at 12-level (which some of the DVDs are rated), but I have yet seen anything in the show that suggests 15-rated humour. 

Particularly if you compare it to episodes of Friends, where the sexual dialogue is much more in your face and crude, and 12A-rated films like Paper Towns and About Time, where the characters are constantly talking about masturbation (the former) and BJs (the latter).

So I'm fairly perplexed at what the Irish thought was 15-rated about The Vicar of Dibley. Maybe the religious jokes??

Anyway, I will keep a beady eye out for more gulfs in rating between my two favourite rating bodies! If I find a film we've rated PG and the Irish rated 18, then consider my day made!!

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Saturday, October 15, 2016

Two OOTDs from this week: from the Desk to the Dancefloor.

^^ Sultry selfie with my girl Rebecca from last night. Fridays are for letting your hair down!
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T-shirt: Hollister (procured in the sales for £10.99)
Vest top worn underneath: Primark
Hoop earrings: Accessorize

Hoop earrings: New Look
Dress: Jane Norman
Glasses: Red or Dead

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Things I Learned from the Movies: 5 Life Lessons from Romance

This blog entry is my submission to Speakeasy’s Things I Learned from the Movies blogathon. I thought I’d share five invaluable lessons that I learned from devouring so many romantic films. Because romance is the warmest genre.

Vague spoilers for Blue is the Warmest Colour, Café Society, Carol, Cinema Paradiso, Slumdog Millionaire and Some Like it Hot follow!

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05) Sometimes it’s not about changing the other person. It’s about changing yourself. (Carol)



Carol, my favourite film of 2015, has plenty to recommend about it: flawless performances, and chemistry between, Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara. Sensuous cinematography and production design that transported me right back to 1950s Manhattan. Carter Burwell’s swoon-worthy score. Todd Haynes’ subtle, meticulous direction, never putting a prop wrong.

But what I really love about Carol was how Therese Belivet (Rooney Mara, on transcendent form, and despite the Weinsteins forcing her to commit category fraud at the Oscars, very much a lead performance) transformed over the course of the film. At the beginning she is so wide-eyed and callow that she even mimics what Carol orders for lunch. Her eagerness to please the sophisticated older woman proves to be her downfall, leaving her exposed and a sitting duck to have her heart broken.

At the end of the film, however, we notice how this bruising experience has moulded her. She isn’t the pushover she once was, standing up to Carol when they next meet, and whilst Carol is taken by surprise about this, this makes the older woman respect her more. The closing shot of the film, where the two smile at each other across a crowded restaurant, tantalises with hope, but at the same time, is intelligent enough not to make any empty promises.

The love story in Carol encapsulates that age-old adage: how can someone else love you when you don’t love yourself? Therese’s head-over-heels passionate voyage with Carol was more about finding herself than it was the titular character.

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04) Sometimes, the improbable happens. (Slumdog Millionaire)

It was Jane Austen who observed ‘Friendship is certainly the finest balm for the pangs of disappointed love’. Whilst I don’t refute this, I have another route I take when I don’t want to piss off my friends by ranting about the same cnutty boys hi Deadbeat. Hi AlbiJoe. Hi Boy with the Forest Tattoo / Wolf of Fleet Street. for the ten thousandth time: movies. And Slumdog Millionaire is one of my favourite feel-good movies.


Danny Boyle’s multi-Oscar winner Slumdog Millionaire is regarded by many a sniffy film critic as one of the weakest films to win Best Picture (and they would be wrong in that assertion. That would be Crash). But I bloody love this movie.

The film revolves around a youth from an impoverished part of Mumbai who, from personal life experience, is able to correctly answer all 15 of the questions and win Who Wants to Be a Millionaire, as well as the heart of the girl he’s adored since childhood.

In theory, I should be averse to such a film, as my chief criticism of a lot of the romances I watch are that they are projecting dishonest messages to the audience, an audience of which will surely include impressionable young girls who will take what they see at face value. As a more distrustful 26 year old woman (dating in London means I’ve met far too many Ben Afflecks in Gone Girl-type clowns, let me put it that way), I know better.

But such is the thrill and entertainment value of Slumdog Millionaire that I was able to take off my cynic’s hat and not only forgive the film its contrivances, but positively bask in them. Slumdog Millionaire is a fairy tale. Such a story would never happen to me. But that doesn’t make Jamal’s quest to find Latika any less touching.

No one in the corner has swagger like them.

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03) Well, nobody’s perfect (Some Like it Hot)

A pithy lesson, but an important one. Some Like it Hot, Billy Wilder’s fabulous film about two jazz instrumentalists who go on the run from the mob and disguise themselves as women, has inspired many imitations (for example, the very amusing White Chicks), but the original remains the blueprint.

Even without an important life lesson, I strongly recommend y'all watch Some Like It Hot. It's got sensational zingers (Marilyn Monroe's curvy figure is described as 'Jello on springs'), a musical number with a very sexy Marilyn Monroe and all manner of comedy of errors. 

Much of the laughs arise from Tony Curtis' playboy encouraging  Jack
Lemmon, who's female disguise who has caught the eye of Joe E. Brown's dim-witted millionaire, to lead him on, so that Lemmon can get access to Brown's yacht, which Curtis plans on wooing Monroe with. Does it pay off? Well, it's a romantic comedy...

The film’s most famous line comes at the very end. As the two men escape on a boat with their respective love interests, Lemmon's character takes off his wig, as a means of ending the facade and explaining why he can't marry his besotted admirer. Brown's response, 'well, nobody's perfect', is one of cinema's greatest punchlines.

Man isn't wrong, either.

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 02) Even if it ended, that doesn't stop us dreaming (Blue is the Warmest Colour and Café Society)


The dreamy look that came over Jesse Eisenberg’s Bobby and Kristen Stewart’s Vonnie in Café Society simultaneously as they are on opposite coasts of the United States was some of the most emotionally honest storytelling Woody Allen’s given. Similarly, the ambiguous ending of Blue is the Warmest Colour has Adèle Exarchopoulos still not moving on from the love she shared with Léa Seydoux’s arty Emma, some years after the relationship broke down.

I've included these two examples although there are a tonne of moments of people savouring momentos from past lovers that have affected me (Ennis cradling Jack's shirt in Brokeback Mountain was heartbreaking), because they illustrate two instances of longing: mutual and unrequited. Regardless of whether, like in Café Society, that melancholy feeling is shared, or in Blue is the Warmest Colour, the object of longing has moved on, in both cases, it's best to just cherish the memories.

Cherish the memories and let it be.

There’s nothing wrong with giving old relationships the odd flitter of thought now and then. There are many good reasons why you’re not with that person any more. But the fact that you still occasionally think about them merely shows that what you had was of substance.

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01) Life isn’t like in the movies (Cinema Paradiso)

Cinema Paradiso is a film that means a lot to me, because it conflates the two elements that define my existence: love of cinema, and having a tendency to fall truly, madly, deeply, in love. 



The film charts a young lad, Salvatore’s journey through adolescence and adulthood and the role his local cinema plays on his formative years. At the age of 6, his passion for films and cheeky nature catch the eye of Alfredo, the cinema’s elderly projectionist. Salvatore comes to view Alfredo as a father figure and asks him for advice when he falls hard for the local beauty, Elena, to which Alfredo offers guidance, often in the form of movie quotes.

As life gives him lemons, Salvatore comes to realise that life isn’t quite like the stories shown on the screen, where the love interests always end up together and tribulations of life evaporate. Reality isn’t like that, and Salvatore’s idealised imagining of the world, etched so deeply into his cerebrum from his many hours spent at the cinema, render this harsh lesson ever the more poignant.

It’s a straightforward story, but gorgeously told, and the way Salvatore’s amorous experiences and his cinema-going ones dovetail with each other to build his character, is something that resonates deeply with me. To this day, I’m incapable of hearing Ennio Morricone’s ‘Love Theme’ without crying.

Life doesn't turn out how like in the films. The boy doesn't get the girl. He might get someone else instead, and that person could well be even better.

Ironically, only a film could show me such a crucial lesson.

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Gosh, I love romantic films so much!

If you're new to my blog, holla! If you'd like a flavour of what I cover on my blog, check out my archives!

Monday, October 10, 2016

Film review: I BELONGED TO YOU [从你的全世界路过] (Zhang Yibai, 2016)

Jane Austen's Emma gets a modern day Chinese twist in this film about a popular radio Agony Uncle Chen Mo who gets dumped live on air by his unimpressed girlfriend. In a classic display of #MasculinitySoFragile, he subsequently self-sabotages his life, giving irresponsible, half-assed responses on his show, causing his ratings to plummet. He is assigned a callow young intern, who has an uncharacteristic outburst on the show when one of his callers insults him. This leads his fortunes to reverse, leading him to believe he could win his ex-girlfriend back after all.



There are also various subplots in I Belonged to You, of varying degrees of interest. Mo's inventor cousin and a policewoman who flagrantly abuses her position to chase him around is a cute courtship. His friend Chubby, besotted with a woman several times his attractiveness quotient and working nonstop to send her money, a pairing which seems doomed from the get-go. The protagonist's mother suffers from Alzheimer's, a story arc which fails to give the illness the sensitive treatment it deserves.

I Belonged to You suffers from a complete absence of nuance (the policewoman's fancy for the nerdy cousin is apparent from the first second she looks at him), and characters seem to get from A to B with implausible alacrity, although both are traits common to most Chinese media, so I can't judge it too harshly for that.

What the film did have going for it was that the solipsistic protagonist, whilst unbearably annoying for the majority of the running time, reminded me of myself. (Not even gonna go there). The way he threw his toys out of the pram and repeatedly insulted his ex whilst hedging a bet with her, for which the prize if he won was that he would marry her (he frames this as doing her a favour as she's so ugly, obvs) is petulant and unappetising, but I would be lying if I were to say it didn't mirror the way I behave when suffering from the pangs of disappointed love.

Because of the central character being such a 3D one who does exhibit genuine growth as the film progresses, I'll overlook the fact that he's supposed to have been at university four years ago, putting him in the 25-28 age bracket, yet the actor playing him, Chao Deng, sports grey hair.

The two female love interests: the ex and the lovestruck intern, are both well cast, even if they could do with learning from Saoirse Ronan and Emily Blunt in the crying-on-screen stakes. (Again, I don't think Chinese film stars are exposed to the same training that western ones are, so I will forgive this hiccup as well). 

Both give good portrayals of the characters they're playing: Du Juan capturing the pragmatism of the ex. It is a credit to the astute screenplay that this film doesn't demonize the woman who dumped the protagonist, rather, illustrate her as sensible woman who's outgrown her immature paramour.

As Birdie, Bai Baihe represents Mo's potential for happiness. Bai brings some real pathos to the ‘Ugly Ducking’ trope, who's looks improve through the course of the film, as the character gains confidence. She and Chao Deng have some sweet chemistry together and she gives a moving depiction of a nice girl who would forgo her own feelings to see the man she loves happy.

The love triangle at the centre of I Belonged to You is much more engaging and more emotionally honest than that in the awful Silver Linings Playbook, which is celebrated despite the fact that Tiffany brazenly manipulated Pat. That said, the film does not quite have the polished edge to compete with Woody Allen’s witty Café Society, which had not one but two love triangles.

The film is not without its flaws - for its genre, the running time really should be trimmed by at least 20 minutes. The flip side for it being longer than it should have been, however, was the payout, when it came, felt surprisingly rewarding, and richly merited for the audience, given the plot took a few dark turns that I was not expecting. 

Not perfect, then, but a damn sight better than the last Chinese movie I watched.

7/10

Found Girl.

A couple of blurry / sub-par photos from the BFI London Film Festival!

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I was walking past Leicester Square on Wednesday after the disappointing The Girl on the Train and realised that all the commotion was due to the BFI film première starting!

My phone was, lamentably, on very low battery (biggest shortcoming of Samsung S4 goddamnit) and I was too far away to get good pictures, but here are the low-quality, grainy ones I was able to get!


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Hi Draco! (sadly I didn't get to grab his hand like I did with his Harry Potter co-star five years ago!)

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Jessica Oyelowo

The next few were me grappling desperately trying to get decent photos of Rosamund Pike with my phone's waning battery, all the way squealing 'ROSAMUND PIKE!!!' at the top of my voice.







This is from the next day, before my viewing of A United Kingdom
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And this was the Q&A with director Nicolas Pesce, after The Eyes of My Mother yesterday.


So yeah, I had an amazing time during the BFI Film festival! Love living in London. 

Hopefully next year, I'll a) see more than two films and b) have more battery on my phone to take better-quality photos ♥