Saturday, November 22

Food: Hoi An Click for more info

It's hard to believe that it's been over two years since I visited Vietnam, but on of the things that I do remember is how easy we had it, food wise. I'm not that much of a fussy eater but with that ingrained preconception of far east food those of us who are Muslim or Pakistani (or both) have, I was surprised by how much I enjoyed the cuisine we came across during our tour.

Which makes me wonder why it's taken so long to find Hoi An, a halal Vietnamese joint right here on my front step. Now if I'm totally honest I can't really make any claims to the authenticity of the place - I'm far from discerning enough to specify that - but the food tonight was just as good and enjoyable as I remember it being. I stuck to the relatively simple prawn pancake and chicken curry dishes, and they were both sublime in their simplicity.

If there was one complaint it was that of the price: £20 quid a head put today's food miles away from what we had in Vietnam as part of the fun of eating there was the embarrassingly low cost to eat. I guess it was cheaper than a plane ticket, but I can't help but feel it could have been more appropriately priced given the experience. Still, I would go back and I suppose in that sense Hoi An is recommended.

Friday, November 14

Film: Happy New Year Click for more info

It was an especially good year in 2013 for Deepika fans - so it went without saying I was going to see Happy New Year. That said I'm not a total Deepika fanboy: I still haven't watched Finding Fanny for instance, but this film has been on the radar for a while now so was pretty much unavoidable. That's in spite of my misgivings of what appears to be yet another ugly Farah Khan film. But hey, that video alone would have been worth the ticket entry alone.

But what's this? It turns out that Happy New Year wasn't actually that bad after all. In fact it was more than pretty good - it most certainly ranks as one of the funniest Bollywood films I've seen. Yes there are bad bits, but not enough to ruin the film. And yes, that video was a highlight, but even I would have to admit that the remaining DP scenes came second to the giggles the rest of the film had to offer.

It didn't even feel like the three hours it ran for. I wouldn't call HNY a work of art, but as something to enjoy on a rainy grey winter evening it hits the spot and then some. Recommended!

Tuesday, November 11

Film: Interstellar Click for more info

I always hold a level of fear while going to watch a new Christopher Nolan film. That OCD-like behaviour I portray in other spheres of life tends to manifest while watching films too, which means I need to know everything about what happens, the mystery has to work out and everything needs to fall into place. That's not to say that I'm bothered by loose ends - it's never my fault if a script sucks (I'm looking at you, Equilibrium) - but it does bother me when I know it's my lack of concentration or ability to follow that's lacking.

Which brings us to Nolan. The wonderful thing about his films is how watertight they are. Everything makes sense (well within the bounds of the fiction his films are set in), all the pieces fit and the payoff when it all clicks together is almost always ecstatic. The downside is, of course, how damn difficult it is to watch a Nolan film to it fullest extent. I'm still not sure I understand Inception fully and the last time I watched The Prestige I think I picked up at least a handful of new insights. Nothing comes for free I guess.

Interstellar is a great film for both old and new reasons. It has the same multilayered, multidimensional (is there any Nolan film that doesn't play with the passage of time?) and puzzle box feel to it, yet appears to be the most accessible Nolan film to date. There's no head scratching here - okay fine, perhaps I'm overestimating the general level of physics knowledge out there, but I really don't think the science jargon was as much a barrier as, I dunno, dreaming within dreaming or running a film backwards. Even less so for all the trekkies and Whedon geeks out there for whom this will all be par for the course.

But Interstellar was also an action film, a character drama and, okay fine, a space opera (of sorts). You didn't need to put down your popcorn to concentrate if all you wanted was a good story. It was there.

There were flaws though. Some of the answers to the puzzles were a bit weak for Nolan, a result I feel of the lower cost of entry, and the whole thing just didn't feel as water tight as his previous films. Rather than see that as a step back however, I think its a sign of a maturing film maker who has realised enjoyment doesn't necessarily come from making your audience work very hard.

At the end of the day Interstellar is a brilliant film and one that has to be watched. Recommended.