Friday, May 30

M.F. Husain: Master of Modern Indian Painting Click for more info

Tonight's random cultural visit was to the Victoria and Albert to see an exhibition of works by M.F. Husain. The first adjective I thought of when I saw the preview on the web was "fun", and seeing the pieces live proved that - with vivid colours and an almost cubist yet accessible style. Yes, I suppose it was modern art, but I understood what was going on anyway.

I learned that Husain started his career painting Bollywood cinema movie posters, which I suspect explains why they appealed; you can see the influence once you know it's there.

The only downside of the exhibition was the length - it was pretty much over within ten minutes. If you're in the area then it's definitely worth a look, but unfortunately it's just not enough to warrant a trip to see.

Film: X-Men: Days of Future Past Click for more info

The premise itself was sound: a tie up of all the various X-Men movies done right would have been quite the coup. Add time travel (otherwise known as "how to get away with rebooting") and we have all the ingredients of a classic comic book flick of Avenger proportions.

Alas Days falls slightly short of its potential. I wouldn't call it a bad film, but it is certainly a wasted opportunity. The old guard is underused, as is the context, and I was just kept wanting for more for most of it. The last 45 minutes or so do redeem the movie somewhat, but it all ends up being passable rather than great.

It's more disappointing than bad though, and if you are a comic book junkie then you'll definitely enjoy this anyway.

Thursday, May 29

Book: The Shadow Rising, Robert Jordan Click for more info

And suddenly it clicks - and the sheer scale The Wheel of Time will present became apparent for me in this, the fourth book in the series. We're given a peak behind the curtain in this volume - enough for me to be very excited at the prospect of reading the ten or so more books to come. It actually threw me back to the the handful of JRPGs I played when younger - with headspinning layers upon layers of plot, character and development, all presented in a way that all but forces you to invest in the long game. I actually wouldn't be surprised if some JRPGs borrowed from WoT's storytelling techniques.

As a book The Shadow Rising does drag a little (it's the longest so far in the series), but it's all essential I suppose and does more than enough to whet the appetite. And as far as epics go I'm still pretty early in the whole thing; I can't even guess what's to come.

Wednesday, May 21

Film: Godzilla Click for more info

Let's face it: the version that was released way back in 1998 (which, for those of you in denial was 16 years ago) wasn't that great. It was more a showcase of special effects, the type of shallow film that was gaining traction back then and one we haven't really managed to shake off since. Any newer version was always going to be better, but even so I was expecting some bad things today.

Which is why I was so pleasantly surprised by how much I actually enjoyed the film. Yes, it was still pretty shallow and a good showcase of special effects, but it managed to handle that inevitability by fully embracing the b-movie heritage from which it draws. There wasn't much emotional baggage here, no forced depth of characters, and although there wasn't quite enough Monster fighting for my liking, I didn't seem to mind as that gap wasn't filled by the film makers trying too hard to overcompensate (Pacific Rim, I'm looking at you).

So yes, a jolly good romp and one that I recommend at least for a home viewing.

Tuesday, May 20

Food: StickyWings Click for more info

Most times it's the simple things that work the best. Take StickyWings: not only is it exactly what it says on the tin but also does it so well, and any misgivings I had over a place that only did chicken wings were immediately dismissed when our order arrived.

The simple nature of place didn't limit it though - I can see this as a place for the guys, for mixed groups and for dates. The food was solid and fulfilling, and 20 quid worth of chicken and sides was more than enough for the three of us guys who were eating tonight.

Alas the pessimistic in me can see exactly where StickyWings is heading though - either it'll go under because people will dismiss it or it will become super popular and start cutting corners. It hasn't happened yet, so I'll be sure to be checking it out as much as possible before it does. Totally recommended while it lasts and for me a brilliant alternative to the current spate of "American burger diner bars" cropping up every five minutes.

Thursday, May 15

Food: Notting Hill Kitchen Click for more info

I've not had the chance to try tapas for a good while now - not since 2007 according to these pages, so I was especially looking forward to tonight. I was fortunate enough to be invited once more to a foodie meet-up (and yes, I feel dirty just saying that) at the Notting Hill Kitchen, an almost boutique like joint hidden in plain site in, well, Notting Hill.

Being in such a suave and quiet central London location, the experience started before you even enter the restaurant - you just know this would be a place where the classy and sophisticated go to eat, and in fact I found it a little awkward spoiling the vibe with our oversized and pretty rowdy party. On the other hand I would imagine it being perfect for smaller, more intimate groups, with the maze like layout of the place providing plenty of nooks and crannies in which to embed.

The food was good - well, what I could eat of it as a good 30% of it was meat based (usually pork). That was the fault of the set menu of course - I'm pretty confident that the restaurant has fish and veggie options too. What I did eat was pretty fun - the mini fish burgers and doughnuts placing high in my picks of the evening.

So a pretty interesting place albeit not for large groups - I'm also not able to comment on the price since I didn't pay - but it's definitely somewhere worth checking out if you happen to be in the area on a lazy Sunday lunchtime.

Wednesday, May 14

Food: Meat And Shake Click for more info

Oh Tinseltown, what have you done? Okay, perhaps it's a little unfair to blame what I see as the veteran place for the "fancy burger" epidemic we're currently facing, but I don't remember ever seeing this pseudo-genre of food much before the late nineties. And it would be fair to say that these later ones are an evolution on Tinseltown - they certainly are when it comes to price - but I have to say so far I've been disappointed with most of them. And alas despite the hype coming out of South London about the place, Meat and Shake is no exception.

It all comes down to style over substance - the place does pretty well if all you want to do is take pictures of food and post them on Facebook, or check into whatever app the kids are checking into nowadays. But when it comes to the real point of a restaurant - the food - M&S falls short of the mark. And not before robbing you of a decent amount of wonga too. The whole experience was just so shallow... But I will give it some kudos for the few touches of originality it had on the menu (check out the rack of ribs for example).

But otherwise no, no recommendation here I'm afraid.

Sunday, May 11

Food: Molana Click for more info

"Persian food" has long since lost its effect in making my mouth water - the conclusion being that it would always ever just be bland Indian food. But after finding myself in Ealing and being taken to Molana, I think I've found a place that is not only a decent Iranian but also rather special.

It comes down to basics really - Molana scores top marks in the usual categories: generous portions, good service, a presentable environment. But where it really does amazingly well is in the sheer quality of the food. It was so good, I began to wonder where exactly they must have sourced their ingredients from.

And all this without a premium price - a decent meal won't cost more than 15 quid per head which, for what you get, is pretty good value.

The only downside is the location, but who knows? Maybe I can suggest the place on the way to the airport or something. Recommended.

Saturday, May 10

Food: Vapiano Click for more info

You know, I don't think I eat enough Italian food. Chinese, Indian and (for heaven's sake) Turkish always seem to be the default choices, which is a shame because I think I prefer Italian over most of those.

Whatever the case, it was refreshing to visit Vapiano tonight - the food was good and prepared in pretty novel style, right in front of where you queue to place your order. We went to the Bankside location which was clean and spacious, with some very polite if overworked staff. As as a bonus desserts were good too - and served in both small and large sizes which I considered a masterstroke. The bill was easy to swallow too, with my main and dessert coming to around 12 quid.

Vapiano isn't the most amazing places I've been to, but it's most certainly a solid choice and one I'll definitely go to again if passing.

Thursday, May 8

Film: Bad Neighbours Click for more info

Acting seems like fun. But of all the actors I'm jealous of because of that fun, those who make films like Bad Neighbours top the list. That scatter-shot approach of "here's a context: now go nuts and don't worry about the camera" makes me realise that these guys aren't actually here to film anything; no, they're just having a party and a doss, and as a bonus are selling us the footage.

Because let's face it: we don't watch these films for the plot or the acting. We watch them to see Zac Efron's abs, hear jokes about pee pees and boobies and to witness the sublime Rose Byrne say mofo multiple times. This is pure slapstick, nothing more.

It's also a risky strategy, as slapstick can be very hit and miss. And although there were more than a few laugh out loud moments here, I don't think there were quite enough to carry the film the distance. That's a shame really, as all the ingredients were present and accounted for - they just weren't put together as well as they could have been.

One for a home viewing then.

Wednesday, May 7

Film: The Amazing Spider-Man 2 Click for more info

It says a lot about the state of comic book cinema when you go into an adaptation expecting to hate it. Of course the plus side is that with the low expectations comes a better chance of enjoyment, and such was the case with The Amazing Spider-Man 2. Yes it was sappy (just like the first was, it seems), yes it was confusing and yes there was something quite smelly about the pacing.

But Emma Stone was great, the chemistry between Gwen and Peter electric, and there were some seriously thrilling moments. Whether there was enough to justify the film I'm still trying to figure out, but I do know that I enjoyed the film while it lasted.

So a tentative recommendation then? If you liked the first one, and can get through a couple of hours of wanting to punch Andrew Garfield in the face, then you should definitely check it out. The rest of you should wait for the DVD.

Monday, May 5

Superhanallah Click for more info

Speaking of class creativity that really hits the spot, I'm really loving the stuff that comes out of Superhanallah. Not only does he hate on the Internet and hate on Muslims, he also hates on Muslims on the Internet:

Of course the reason why he's so brilliant and astute has nothing at all to do with him not being brown. No way.