Thursday, July 30, 2015

Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation review

On the hunt for the elusive ‘Syndicate’ in London, Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise, admirably unfatigued) realises that they’re onto him, and not only that, they’re three steps ahead of him at his own game. At the same time, the C.I.A. (led by Alec Baldwin, terrifically uptight) have reached the end of their tether with the unorthodox methods and messy results of the IMF, leading them to shut them down. Which leaves Ethan with no support, hunted, and seeking the head of the terrorist organisation, hoping to shut them down before they shut him down. Mission Impossible, indeed.

I’ve seen the first three of the Mission: Impossible movies but not the critically acclaimed Ghost Protocol, which is a shame because I love me some Jeremy Renner and Simon Pegg. Fortunately, they reprise their roles in Rogue Nation, and with some aplomb. Renner is the king of finely walking that thin line between surly and charismatic (and look how pretty!!!), and Simon Pegg, whilst he appears in a few too unfunny ‘comedies’ for my liking, was born to play the comedy sidekick that he does here, and the bromance between him and Cruise carries extremely well on screen. In another Summer action blockbuster I watched a few weeks ago, Ant-Man, Michael Peña served a similar role, and he, too, lit up the screen whenever he was on. It’s no coincidence that I was amused and entertained by M:I5 and Ant-man throughout.

The story is, as with Fast and Furious 7, flimsier than a Victoria Secret bikini and a barely-veiled excuse to line up noisy action sequence upon action sequence. But, as with F&F7, the action sequences themselves are so thrilling, and so textured, so bombastic, that as soon as the film started and we were launched into Cruise jumping onto a moving plane, I was just hooked. 

The introduction of Rebecca Ferguson as a British undercover spy who Hunt may or may not be able to trust, was an inspired piece of casting: at 31, she’s still great to look at (dat lime green dress at the opera), but she’s considerably more experienced than the naïve ingénue, and as such, much more believable in her kick-ass role. The fight scenes where she and Cruise collaborated to beat up the baddies were incredibly satisfying. A cameo by Tom Hollander as the Prime Minister also made for a diverting watch.

Overall, Mission: Impossible -  Rogue Nation raised the bar for action films; I wasn’t able to keep my eyes off the screen. Excitement buzzed in every frame, from an adrenaline-pumping motorcycle chase, to Cruise jumping into a security system immersed deep underwater with only 3 minutes worth of oxygen and an extremely tense finale sat around a London cafe. Furthermore, whilst in the three M:I movies I’ve seen, I definitely didn’t doubt Hunt’s dedication to the cause for defending his country, a pleasant addition in Rogue Nation was the lengths he went to to protect his friend Benji. 

I know I’ve already used the word ‘bromance’ in this review, but the bickering and banter between Cruise and Pegg was a delight to watch, and added some much-needed levity between all the life-risking.

I’ve namedropped a few 2015 action movies in this review, so one more can’t hurt. Sam Mendes’ follow-up to his last James Bond movie, Spectre, is out in October, and the trailer has me salivating, not least because the movie boasts the rather beautiful Léa Seydoux playing a doctor. If that lives up to the previews, then 2015 is going to be the most illustrious year for action movies since… I don’t even know when. Thrilling stuff!


Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Restaurant review: Tierra Peru (Angel)

I booked a Groupon deal to try out the seven-course tasting menu at Tierra Peru. By my count, that makes it the first Peruvian restaurant I’ve ever been to. In terms of ease of using the Groupon deal:

- I called up in advance to book a session a few weeks before the time we actually went, and the only permissible time windows were 6pm and 8pm, which was inconvenient for me given it was a Friday and we wouldn’t have gotten to the venue from work in time.
- The time slots available on the weekend were more suitable to my schedule, so the second time I tried to arrange a session, was more successful.
- About 50% of the Groupon/LivingSocial deals I try out stick a tip on at the end of the meal, so I wasn’t surprised when they tacked one on. However, the value of the tip was 12.5%: more than the service merited.

As for the deal, there were some non-entities (starters were a tasteless mound of rice), but overall, they were a culinary delight. 

My favourites were the cheese balls, the potatoes and the prawns (the latter of which there was lamentably little of). My least favourite plate was the pork, and I would have liked less of the chickpeas for some more meat instead.

Another shortcoming over dining at Tierra Peru was a bottle of Inca Kola was £5 for a big bottle, when it didn’t come with ice and tasted far too warm for my liking. 

Overall, I enjoyed the dining experience there, but for the price of Groupon, the tip and the drink, there didn’t seem to be much in the way of "discount".

Grade: B

Monday, July 27, 2015

Review of two karaoke places (The Old School Yard, China City)

I’m quite a big fan of karaoke, and am looking to test out various places in London, then let y’all know my thoughts on them, so if there’s anywhere dire, you don’t have to do that to yourself!

The Old School Yard (Borough)
The place was relatively easy to find, just a quick walk from Borough tube station. The room we were given was a very generous size, so everyone had place to sit down, dump their bags, with there still being plenty of space left over, and the décor was relatively well-maintained, which is more than can be said of other places I’ve been (Bloomsbury Bowling Lane). The song-list was totally modern (One Direction, check. Shake it Off by Taylor Swift, check. Wrecking Ball, check) and facilities extremely easy to operate, and I particularly liked the addition of a cute disco ball in the room to add ambience. If you go during Happy Hour (6pm-8pm), you can get cocktails for £4.50, and they represent decent value for money because after two Long Island Ice teas I was singing loudly and freely with abandon. My trip to the Old School Yard is my favourite memory of going to karaoke; singing out-of-tune and joyfully with my girlfriends was just the greatest fun, and as you can probably see in this photo, I had the time of my life!
Grade: A

China City (Chinatown)

China City is the first place in London where the deposit for the karaoke went on our food, so in essence, the karaoke came free with the food. As a restaurant, there’s definitely better places in Chinatown. The food was overpriced (probably to earn back the cost of operating the karaoke) and over-oily, and, whilst the people I was with didn’t complain that much, I think that was because a few of them didn’t eat Chinese food regularly. I do, and there are several places in Chinatown that outshine China City. The waiters were also very surly and rolled their eyes at me when I asked for serviettes, but that’s nothing new for a Chinese restaurant.

But in terms of karaoke, I can’t fault it. The song-list was up to date and had all the songs that I love jamming to – Fancy, Kanye West, One Direction, and I had a jolly time doing so. The slight downside of having karaoke whilst we had our dinner were that lots of people were reluctant to get up from the dinner table to sing. In fact, the most disappointing factor about this visit was that we were with some self-absorbed preeners who were far more interested in laughing at the bad way I was singing during karaoke than joining in themselves. The popular cheerleader schtick ain't fooling anyone, you're not in high school any more, sweetheart. (My ex, who was there at the time, chose to act aloof and refused to sing. Should have known then that we weren't a good fit). But I won’t let that cloud my opinion of China City. The food wasn’t the best, but I know that with the right company, I could have had a fantastic time here.
Grade: B+ 

If you have a karaoke place you'd like me to review, send me an email at

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

RESTAURANT REVIEW: Cabana (Shepherd’s Bush)

A day out shopping in London just isn’t the same without a fulfilling meal at the end of it, and Brazilian barbecue chain Cabana has set up sticks in both Westfield Stratford and the Shepherd’s Bush venue, which is the one I visited. With colourful, welcoming interiors, and jaunt Portuguese crooners singing in the background, I probably would have paid it a visit sooner rather than later, but the fact that they accepted Tastecard made eating there even more desirable.

At the time we visited, Happy Hour was also taking place, and I had a Red Tail Parrot, which went down a treat (but was suspiciously lax on the alcohol, disappointing, given it cost £7). My friend had the Dream Team 1970, which he wasn’t a big fan of, but I thought was fine – the bitterness suited the taste of the cocktail.

As for the food, starters were delicious but far too small had they retailed at the price in the menu, sans Tastecard. £3.95 for three small little rice balls simply didn’t impress. Throughout our time in Cabana me and Joe likened it to Nando’s (despite the latter being Portuguese, the former Brazilian), and whilst Nando’s is a bit overpriced for what it is, at least I wouldn’t feel awful eating there without a Tastecard. Cabana’s prices are fine with Tastecard, but without, nothing short of extortionate. I ate my starters in no more than four bites.

As for the pulled pork burger I had for the main meal, I wasn’t sold. Pulled pork is one of my favourite ingredients, and I’ve had many a delicious meal from my old work canteen with pulled pork in it, and my mouth still waters when I think about the pulled pork from Joe’s Southern Kitchen. I don’t even know how you can get it wrong. But the pulled pork from Cabana was lamentably, on the tasteless side. Pro tip to the chefs in Cabana: sticking a Brazil flag on a tasteless, tiny burger doesn't make it more succulent or larger.

Overall, I’d recommend the place if you have a Tastecard, but sadly it doesn’t pass the ‘would I eat there for the original prices posted on the menu?’ acid test. The food was perfectly satisfying, but take a look at the picture of the burger for yourself – is that worth £10?

Grade: B

Wednesday, July 01, 2015

Emsy's Favourite Songs, 2k15 edition

It starts with Kanye West, ends with Kanye West, and has everything from Taylor Swift, One Direction and Nina Simone in the middle.

  1. Homecoming (Kanye West ft. Chris Martin)
  2. Son of a Preacher Man (Dusty Springfield)
  3. Alison (Elvis Costello)
  4. What Makes You Beautiful (One Direction)
  5. Rocky Raccoon (The Beatles)
  6. Hallelujah (Rufus Wainwright)
  7. Sinnerman (Nina Simone)
  8. I Knew You Were Trouble (Taylor Swift)
  9. Sexy! No No No… (Girls Aloud)
  10. Clam, Crab, Cockle, Cowrie (Joanna Newsom)
  11. Off to the Races (Lana del Rey)
  12. Fancy (Iggy Azalea ft. Charli XCX)
  13. November Has Come (Gorillaz)
  14. Samson (Regina Spektor)
  15. Romeo and Juliet (Dire Straits)
  16. Run this Town (Rihanna, Jay-Z and Kanye West)
  17. Power (Kanye West)
  18. Untouchable (Girls Aloud)
  19. This is What Makes Us Girls (Lana del Rey)
  20. Paper Planes (M.I.A.)
  21. Talk Show Host (Radiohead)
  22. Lullaby (Dixie Chicks)
  23. All These Things that I've Done (The Killers)
  24. Angie Baby (Helen Reddy)
  25. 22 (Taylor Swift)
  26. Wild Boys (Duran Duran)
  27. Love the Way You Lie Part II (Rihanna ft. Eminem)
  28. Head over Heels (Tears for Fears)
  29. Boys Don't Cry (The Cure)
  30. One Thing (One Direction)
  31. Good Old Fashioned Lover Boy (Queen)
  32. Let it Go (Idina Menzel)
  33. Problem (Ariana Grande ft. Iggy Azalea)
  34. Glory Box (Portishead)
  35. Hey Stephen (Taylor Swift)
  36. Empire State of Mind: Broken Down (Alicia Keys)
  37. 2am (The Saturdays)
  38. Adia (Sarah McLachlan)
  39. Tiny Dancer (Elton John)
  40. Baba O'Riley (The Who)
  41. Wildwood Flower (June Carter Cash)
  42. The Loving Kind (Girls Aloud)
  43. California Dreamin' (The Mamas and the Papas)
  44. Chelsea Dagger (The Fratellis)
  45. My Father's Gun (Elton John)
  46. Riding in Cars with Boys (Lana del Rey)
  47. Seasons of Love (Idina Menzel)
  48. When She Loved Me (Sarah McLachlan)
  49. Royals (Lorde)
  50. Hey Jude (The Beatles)
  51. Brandy Alexander (Feist)
  52. Don't Stop Believin' (Journey)
  53. Defying Gravity (Idina Menzel)
  54. Love Affair (Regina Spektor)
  55. Video Games (Lana del Rey)
  56. I Don't Want to Go to Chelsea (Elvis Costello)
  57. Dragon Queen (Yeah Yeah Yeahs)
  58. Under Pressure (Queen ft. David Bowie)
  59. Brown Eyes (Lady Gaga)
  60. It Wouldn’t Have Made Any Difference (Todd Rundgren)
  61. Everybody Wants to Rule the World (Tears for Fears)
  62. Underneath Your Clothes (Shakira)
  63. Beneath Your Beautiful (Labrinth ft. Emile Sande)
  64. Breathe (Taylor Swift)
  65. Travelin' Soldier (Dixie Chicks)
  66. Numb Encore (Jay Z ft. Linkin Park)
  67. Lovely Head (Goldfrapp)
  68. I Wish I Knew How it Feels to Be Free (Nina Simone)
  69. Shout (Tears for Fears)
  70. She (Elvis Costello)
  71. Vincent (Don McLean)
  72. Golden Slumbers (K.D. Lang)
  73. Lullaby (The Cure)
  74. Love will Tear us Apart (Joy Division)
  75. All Along the Watchtower (Devlin ft. Ed Sheeran)
  76. While My Guitar Gently Weeps (The Beatles)
  77. Pennies in my Pocket (Emilio Estefan)
  78. Jackson (Johnny and June Carter Cash)
  79. Wonderwall (Oasis)
  80. Airplanes part 2 (B.o.B, Hayley Williams & Eminem)
  81. The Killing Moon (Echo and the Bunnymen)
  82. The River (Joni Mitchell)
  83. Chasing Cars (Snow Patrol)
  84. Hey Mama (Kanye West)
  85. Braille (Regina Spektor)
  86. Back to Black (Amy Winehouse)
  87. O Saya (A.R. Rahman ft. M.I.A)
  88. Baby (Justin Bieber ft. Ludacris)
  89. Chillin' (WALE ft. Lady Gaga)
  90. Take a Bow (Rihanna)
  91. About the Boy (Little Mix)
  92. Work (Kelly Rowland)
  93. Ignition (Remix) (R. Kelly)
  94. Breathe Me (Sia)
  95. Strict Machine (Goldfrapp)
  96. Notorious (Duran Duran)
  97. Too Young (Phoenix)
  98. Call the Shots (Girls Aloud)
  99. Shake it Off (Taylor Swift)
  100. Gold Digger (Kanye West ft. Jamie Foxx)