Thursday, September 29, 2016

Restaurant review: THE CUBAN (Camden Town)

I went to The Cuban with my friend Joy a few weeks ago using a Groupon deal that cost £22, and it illustrated precisely why I’m hesitant to buy Too Good to Be True food deals from Groupon. This one definitely was.

On the Groupon page, it promised the holder to £88.45 worth of food. This is what you could get if you’d been given normal-sized dishes of the food (of which I was able to see on the tables of other diners around me). But this wasn’t what me and Joy (nor, having a peruse of Tripadvisor, anyone who went there using a Groupon voucher got). Instead, you get infinitesimal portions of the food. Blink and it’s gone! So it definitely wasn’t £88.45 worth of food, and if they were going to advertise such a deal, they should have scaled down the original price to represent the quantity of food you’d be getting, so that the buyer of the deal would have some indication of how much the food would really be worth.

I’m a fast eater at the best of times (pig.gif), but most of these portions photographed above wouldn’t even constitute half a bite. I was nowhere near full at the end of the ‘meal’.

On top of this, the restaurant was extremely understaffed. When we first arrived, there was one waitress manning the doors. She told us to sit down and she’d come to us, which we thought a little odd, as she didn’t ask where we were planning on sitting. Would she forget about us?

You bet your ass she did.

Yet, when I went up to her some 15 minutes later (we waited very patiently, deciding to give her the benefit of the doubt) to tell her where we were sat, she curtly gave me the brush off, telling me that she’d be with me. No smile, and faint flickers of an eyeroll, suggesting that if I tried to voice my discontent, she would bite my head off. An unhelpful dragon of a woman.

The cocktails were also uninspiring, both in flavour and presentation:

So yeah, pretty rotten food and service at this place, but I will shoulder some of the blame. I’d tried to get a delicious tapas experience on the cheap from Groupon and in the majority of the cases, they just don’t exist.

The Escapologist was an exception, rather than the rule, of when a Groupon deal actually delivers what it promises, but this relies on the vendor being honest and above board. The people who advertised The Cuban deal definitely weren’t that. I left feeling very short-changed.

In short, they lied.

Grade: F

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

My first ever purchase from Ted Baker.

There's currently a 20% off at Ted Baker for students, so I just had to make the most of it to buy a handbag I've been eyeing at Ted Baker for quite some time and in doing so, using retail therapy as a coping mechanism for the vague post-brother flying the nest blues! 

I'm in love with the chain - it allows me to wear it over my shoulder, making it a cool alternative to the only other designer handbag I own, my sky blue Michael Kors one. Unlike my Michael Kors handbag, this one's a lot darker too, so I can accessorise it with more outfits and not have to worry about it getting dirty.

So yippee! I has two handbags now :)

The next Ted Baker I have an eye on is this cream beauty:

Anyone have this? Thoughts?

Dual roles blogathon: Paul Dano in THERE WILL BE BLOOD (2007)

Slight spoilers for TWBB ahead, so, I would recommend you don’t read this piece if you haven’t seen the movie!


Paul Thomas Anderson's modern masterpiece, There Will Be Blood, is a fascinating tale of Daniel Plainview (Daniel Day-Lewis)'s journey as an oil tycoon, and the strategic moves he make during his ascent to the top. His rise to power is both facilitated and impeded by two characters, both played by Paul Dano: twins Paul and Eli Sunday.

The decision to cast Dano as both the Sunday brothers (and ergo, making them twins) wasn't originally in director P.T. Anderson's plans. Kel O'Neill was initially pencilled in to play the mild-mannered brother Paul. But the actor was too intimidated by the director, and pulled out at the last minute, causing some creative problem-solving in the form of casting Dano as both the characters, and making them twins.

Dano's role as Paul Sunday consists of a brief appearance, but is crucial to the plot. At the start of the film, he seeks out Plainview to alert him about a lucrative area to drill for oil in. Dano plays Paul Sunday with a meek, child-like quality. It helps that Paul Dano has one of those ageless faces. He is 32 but could pass for a teenager, a helpful trait to have in the ageist world of Hollywood casting, but one Dano capitalises on only to embark on projects that fulfil him, rather than chase the next money train, which he could easily do.

(Incidentally, for the movie nerds out there, Dano playing a character called Paul in this film means that both Daniel Day-Lewis and Dano play characters with the same Christian names as themselves). #Symmetry

With Paul Sunday's tip, Daniel Plainview makes his way to Little Boston, California to scout out this piece of land. It requires buying acres from the Sunday family, where Eli Sunday, an ambitious preacher, drives a hard bargain for his father's land. He wants whatever Daniel’s offering, and $5,000 for Eli's church. 

Plainview takes an instant dislike to Eli Sunday and his sanctimonious ways, finding the way Eli constantly badgers him about his debt to the church infuriating. Eli's compelling sermons also draw workers away from working on Plainview's ranch and towards his church.

But the thing about Eli that Daniel Plainview loathes the most is that he can read Eli like a magazine, and he sees himself in him. Both men are con artists, who will do and say whatever the audience wants to hear to get what they want. They just go about it in different ways. Plainview sees Eli as a low-rent version of himself, and Eli knows that. Eli isn’t buying what Plainview is selling, and vice versa.

There Will Be Blood undoubtedly belongs to Daniel Day-Lewis, who won a well-deserved Best Actor Oscar for his mesmeric, unforgettable performance. It truly is a spectacular, charismatic piece of acting, and what impressed me most about it is that DDL, like other actors who I admire (Saoirse Ronan, Rooney Mara), does 95% of his emoting with his pupils.

But it his scenes with Dano which linger the memory the most, the way the men interact and play off each other, being spurred on by their mutual dislike, makes the power struggle between them in There Will Be Blood so gripping. The fact that the Dano was pretty much ignored come Awards Season 2008, with only BAFTA acknowledging his excellence in TWBB with a nomination, makes me sad.

The baptism scene, where Eli makes a spectacle of exorcising the past from Daniel, humiliating him, shouting at and even slapping at Plainview to exorcise the bad spirits from him. It's a hypnotic and darkly comic scene, and I definitely noticed a rise in Dano's character's spirits, like he was mirroring the mannerisms of the man he was preaching at. The way he goads Plainview about his Achilles Heel - his son - illustrated that, in that scene at least, Eli had the control over him, and he was going to make the most of it.

Because Dano plays both the Sunday brothers, some film-goers have wondered if they were supposed to be the same character pretending to be two people, particularly as you never see both of them on screen at the same time. But I read Paul and Eli Sunday as unambiguously, two different people. Eli's rant at his father about his 'stupid son Paul', as well as the final scene, where Daniel lauds over Eli how he paid Paul off and how is brother is a winner, and he, a loser, pretty much put that to bed.

Nonetheless, having the same actor play two different roles does have an inherent element of confusion and trickery. The kind of odd cinematic game you wouldn’t put past Paul Thomas Anderson, who’s offbeat Punch-Drunk Love teased out a fine serious turn from Adam Sandler, of all people. If anyone can turn the tables and pull the rug from underneath you, it’s P.T. Anderson.

I've got a lot of time for Paul Dano, who constantly surprises me with his off-kilter acting choices. I squeed with delight when I spotted him playing the fictional embodiment of the Tolstoy in the BBC’s War and Peace this year (my brother was watching).

The fact that he's not a conventional Hollywood heartthrob yet has still done very well for himself in a predominantly superficial industry is a testament to his talent (incidentally, this is precisely the reason why I idolise Jonah Hill, even if the two men’s acting styles are quite different), and I like how Dano pursues film roles for the art, rather than the money. I also dig that he doesn’t thirst for awards like some (tho, seriously. Just because he doesn't strive for recognition doesn't excuse him being passed over by the Award bodies for his work in this movie).

There Will Be Blood ranks as one of his finest performances, and certainly the best film he's appeared in. Of Dano’s upcoming projects, I'm most psyched for his writing & directorial debut, where he will direct his Prisoners co-star Jake Gyllenhaal in a tale of a relationship falling apart. I will be first in the queue to see it at the cinemas.

Godspeed, Mr. Dano. Cinema needs more auteurs like you.


This post is my entry in Christina Wehner's blogathon about Dual Roles in movies. Head on over to read other fabulous articles from bloggers on actors who have played more than one role in a film!

Monday, September 26, 2016

Brief reviews of two fast food places, QUALITY FISH CHIPS N KEBABS and MORLEY'S (Orpington)

Quality Fish Chips N Kebabs

I'm not sure why I willingly opted for kebabs when I was sober, but I decided to get my Sunday junk food from somewhere other than McDonald's for once (which is situated across the road from this place).

The combo pictured above was £5.90. I enjoyed the chips - chunky chips that you usually get with your fish and chips are my favourite kind, but the kebab didn't seem to have any flavour, and the salad and sauces that were added to it weren't very well distributed. There was too much in the way of cabbage and barely any onions (a much preferred ingredient).

Overall, not a big fan; don't think I'll be going back.



My brother swears by this place, and as I'm always keen to give patronage to local fast food joints in Orpington rather than the big multinational companies (McDs, KFC), I was keen to give this place a try.

Quite the opposite of Quality Fish Chips N Kebabs, Morley's chips disappointed (stale, made me pine for McDonald's fries), but the chicken completely hit the spot. I wolfed mine down. 

I've since been to Morley's several times (you can get lunch and a drink for £3) and in terms of cheap, cheerful, delicious junk food lunches, it does exactly what it says on the tin!


Sunday, September 25, 2016

Film review: THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN (Antoine Fuqua, 2016)

The town of Rose Creek is terrorised by mercenary Bart Bogue and his henchmen, who wishes to mine it for oil. In standing up to the villains, several innocent people are slaughtered in cold blood, including Matthew Cullen, leaving his grieving widow Emma (Haley Bennett) seeking retribution. She implores bounty hunter Sam Chisolm (Denzel Washington) to defend her townspeople, a request he initially declines, until he hears who the enemy is. 

However, Sam alone isn't enough to overturn Bart's army, so he recruits wayward gambler Josh Faraday (Chris Pratt) using Josh's horse as barter. Faraday then enlists the help of Sam's former acquaintance, a sharpshooter named Goodnight Robicheaux (Ethan Hawke) and gets his companion, assassin Billy Rocks (Byung-hun Lee), thrown in for free. The foursome are rounded off with wanted outlaw Vasquez (Manuel Garcia-Rulfo), giant Jack Horne (Vincent D'Onofrio),  and a Comanche warrior Red Harvest (Martin Sensmeier).

The trailer for The Magnificent Seven was so cool and enticing that it made me momentarily forget my aversion for needless Hollywood remakes, of which Oldboy is the worst of a sorry bunch from recent years. But, in Antoine Fuque's plodder of a film, I realised that the film peaked at the strategic bass drop on the ad.

The film's four most well-known stars: Denzel Washington, Chris Pratt, Ethan Hawke and Peter Sarsagaard barely make it out of first gear. Pratt and Sarsgaard, in particular, both who have done exemplary work in the past, phone it in on crushingly disappointing levels.  Pratt, so charismatic in Guardians of the Galaxy, seems to think he can ride on the memory of his charm in this film, and exhibits no attempt at characterisation in his role. Waving his hands around to do a card trick is about the most he exerts himself.

Sarsgaard is equally limp as the villain, to the point where it detriments the film. Because The Magnificent Seven then lacks a compelling antagonist, it renders all the expensive (the film had had a eye-watering budget of $95 million) training montages shown in the film hollow, because we're simply not afraid of the force they're all priming themselves to face.

For the Training Day fans out there, of which I am one, the scenes between Denzel Washington and Ethan Hawke lack the spice and spark that the two organically just had in Antoine Fuqua's earlier film. This is as much to blame on the clunky screenplay as it does the performers, where practically every character in the film speaks in (not very incisive, it has to be said) one-liners but strung together, it doesn't come close to resembling dialogue.

The cast member who makes the most lasting impression is pretty Haley Bennett as Emma, who the script graciously refrains from making a damsel in distress trope. Bennett fleshes out a 2D(ish) character into something resembling a human with a beating heart, and her early scenes where she pleads to Chisolm's sense of humanity do carry genuine pathos.

Perhaps rising star Bennett (who will next be seen in October's release The Girl on the Train), unlike the four male movie stars who I've named and shamed, actually bothered in Magnificent Seven because she cannot yet rest on the laurels of her name alone. The supporting cast also feature some witty turns, especially South Korean actor Byung-hun Lee who throws knives with panache and inhibits his taciturn/cool character with ease, and the always memorable Vincent D'Onofrio, who plays against his formidable physicality as surprisingly soft-spoken tracker.

There are a few gripping action sequences (which were the main contributor to my generous decision to award The Magnificent Seven 6/10), but they could all have been trimmed by at least 20% in the editing room. The final set piece dragged far too much and caused the payoff to feel frustratingly anti-climactic.

The Magnificent Seven touches upon topics of substance such as male companionship, the destructive nature of greed, carrying the guilt of one's actions (Hawke's character is crippled with bouts of PTSD) and bigotry, but they are all dealt with and resolved in a very superficial, Hollwood manner. Some of the cinematography is nice and the iconography of the seven men riding on horses will certainly make for some decent gifs. But sadly, The Magnificent Seven proved to be a lot less than the sum of its parts.

Not so magnificent, after all.


Tuesday, September 20, 2016

The Girl on the Bus

I’m a huge Emmy Blunt fan. She’s gorgeous, talented, and that West London accent does funny things to me. I even stood outside in the rain last year during the Sicario premiere just to get a glimpse of her, which resulted in me having a cold for a week just as I was beginning my thesis, so that was a bit foolish. (To add to the nonsensicalness of that exercise, I still haven’t gotten round to seeing Sicario . It’s just not my genre).

Anyway, I was really excited by The Girl on the Train trailer when I first saw it. The content looked extremely intriguing and dark, invariably evoking memories of Gone Girl. After all, both are big-screen adaptations of best-selling thrillers with a beautiful British actress playing the lead, unreliable narrators and the word ‘Girl’ in the title.

Furthermore, the employment of a remix of Kanye West’s Heartless was dope; it rivalled War Dogs’ using a cover of No Church in the Wild in terms of ‘using a Kanye song to entice the audience’ stakes (although the best use of Kanye West in a film trailer is still, IMO, Power in The Social Network trailer. The conflation of the lyrics [‘No one man should have all that power’] and the plot of that film, especially Jesse Eisenberg’s superb performance as a hubristic megalomaniac, is just so astute).

However, my interest in The Girl on the Train dwindled slightly when I saw it only got rated 15. I was hoping it was going to be the second 2016 film that I’d seen that was 18-rated, the other being the rather unremarkable The Neon Demon. I saw 5 2015 releases that were an 18 (Diary of a Teenage Girl, Fifty Shades of Grey, The Hateful Eight, Legend, Knock Knock), so I’d really be hoping to match that amount of 18s watched this year. But nah, The Girl on the Train is only a 15.

Not only that, it got a 15A in Ireland, who unlike the BBFC, have the 16 rating that they slap on movies that sit in that awkward 15/18 hinterland. But the fact that the Irish film board didn’t even need to get a 16 out tells me it’s not even gonna be a hard 15!


So there goes my hopes of this film being 2016’s Gone Girl.

How could they be so heartless?