Wednesday, October 30

Film: Zombieland: Double Tap Click for more info

Quite shockingly, it's been a decade since the first Zombieland came out, and since I appeared to have enjoyed that back then (I can't claim to have remembered it, so thank heavens for this blog) I was mildly excited about its reprisal.

And Double Tap does a pretty decent job - the ten year gap has clearly stopped the producers from making this just a cash in, and instead we get a film that takes what makes the first so great and turns it up a notch or two. The cast are great, the story more than ample and the action firmly of the slapstick genre. At this rate in 2029 I might even be making a claim for best trilogy.

Fun, tight and well built Double Tap gets a recommendation from me.

Wednesday, October 23

Film: Terminator: Dark Fate Click for more info

Despite many flaws, Dark Fate does what the (first two) Terminator movies do best. They each portray a menacing chase against an insurmountable and never-tiring enemy only to come out tops at the end. In many ways then, Dark Fate is just a remake of Terminator 2. That isn't necessarily a criticism though.

Most of the flaws come from the story and perhaps the pacing of the film. The time travelling and other holes are simply magicked away (not least by completely deleting T3, Salvation and Genisys from existence), while some of the special effects fall short of what is otherwise a great spectacle.

It's easiest to consider the film a series of highly enjoyable and high adrenaline set pieces, and forgive the rest. And as someone who also doesn't mind a bit of fan service, the homages all act as the icing on the cake.

A recommendation from me.

Tuesday, October 15

Film: Ready or Not Click for more info

Apart from looking like a fun romp, I was particularly looking forward to Ready or Not due to it's lead actress, Samara Weaving. I felt that a lot of 2017's The Babysitter's decent comedy horror came from Weaving and hoped the same for this film. And it seems that it was a good bet to have made.

Ready or Not is a lot of fun. It's not the smoothest of films, but does have some genius within. It also doesn't pull any punches - I was surprised at its 18 rating but on balance it was well earned. It also manages to balance its simplistic set up with a rewarding enough payoff, although this is a film that seems to solidly follow the playbook so don't expect too much novelty here.

Ultimately the film, and Weaving, both do enough to earn Ready or Not a recommendation from me.

Tuesday, October 8

Film: Joker Click for more info

Joker is a good film. It's actually a great film. It's been wonderfully produced and the acting treads that fine line between class and comic that very few comic adaptations manage to do. It tackles some pretty high level topics like mental illness and civil revolution, and yet provides enough basic entertainment (be that comedy, drama or even violence) to remain accessible. It's multidimensional too, and gives the viewer plenty to talk about post credits.

The problem is that all these things make Joker merely a very okay Joker film. I'd even argue that it would have been far better, perhaps even reaching classic status, if the film was set outside of Gotham. As it stands the superhero (or rather supervillain) context is superfluous at best - and distracting at worst.

That said, with a bit of effort it's easy enough to ignore the comic book ingredients and enjoy the film for its good parts - a dark, sad tale about how an already disadvantaged soul is transformed by the harsh environment he lives in. And with that qualification the film gets a recommendation from me.

Friday, October 4

Lisbon, Day Four: Jummah, Trams and Tarts

As usual, the day being Jummah meant we had a focal point to build the day around. We found the mosque quite early, so we took the opportunity to to visit the nearby Parque Eduardo VII - a splendid way to kill some time while waiting for prayers.

After lunch at the mosque we headed back to Martim Moniz to catch the famous tram 28. Except after seeing the queue we decided to go with the circular 12 instead, which had the added benefit of keeping us within the vicinity of home.

All that was left for us was to enjoy some tea and pasteis de nata on the square in the sun, in anticipation of our taxis back to the airport. Which brings me to my final hot tip for Lisbon: that terminal 2 is an absolute dive.

Overall I was pleasantly surprised by Lisbon. The place is accessible, cheap and provides enough to remain interesting over a small number of days. It reminds me of a small but closer Istanbul in fact, providing just the right framework to have a stay that allows you to do pretty much whatever you want.

Thursday, October 3

Lisbon, Day 3: The Riverbank

Due to our relative success on Tuesday, we were free to leave the vicinity of the Old Town and head west to mop up the rest of Lisbon. Our first stop was to the Basílica da Estrela, a nice church in which to spend 20-30 minutes or so.

After that we travelled on to the Jerónimos Monastery, another impressive building that required a bit of time to appreciate - entrance to the church was free too.

We then switched to lazy mode and walked along the coast up to the Belem Tower after which we caught a private boat back to the Arco.

It was still relatively early and so after checking out the Timeout Market we headed home for a quick chill before heading out again for an afternoon walk, heading to the Santa Justa elevator to see what the fuss was about.

After dinner we ended up retracing Tuesday's tuktuk ride while checking out the night time views of Alfama as well as some of Lisbon's famous street art along the way.

Wednesday, October 2

Lisbon, Day Two: Sintra and Cascais

A great day trip from Lisbon is to visit Sintra or Cascais. So of course, I geared up to visit both. Trains in Lisbon are cheap and appear reliable, and with a little bit of planning it should be possible to do everything. Hot tip #1: make sure each passenger has their own ticket as you are not allowed to reuse multiple journeys on a single one.

We decided to hit Sintra first, where I walked up the hill to Pena Palace instead of taking the bus. Hot tip #2: make sure you ask someone credible how to make your way up, as the directions we were provided by a taxi driver took us up a road instead of a trail. Still it was a pleasant enough walk, although the Moorish castle at the top was a bit of a bust.

Pena Palace was much better - Hot tip #3: stick to the park ticket as it still lets you explore a huge chunk of the palace.

I joined the rest in the bus back down to the town centre (where the aforementioned walking trails up really start), and then caught a quick taxi to the Cabo de Roca, with a brief stop at Quinta da Regaleira on the way - and if there's anything I feel that we missed it was the gothic palace.

You don't need more than 30 mins or so at Cabo de Roca, so it's arguable as to whether it's worth it or not. Still, there's something undeniably romantic about being at the western most tip of Europe.

We got to Cascais later than planned, but this was okay - it's a place to hang out and have tea and ice creams rather than spend any real time doing anything in. As a last stop of the day it served well in allowing us to chill and unwind on the days hectic schedule. After we were done, we headed back to Lisbon proper for a late dinner.

Tuesday, October 1

Lisbon, Day One: Old Town

For those keeping track, yes, it has been less than a week since my return from Peru. In my defence this stint in Portugal's capital promises to be different for many reasons - it's with extended family for one, and between the length and geography it should in theory just be much easier than the more epic trips I've taken recently. That's the hope anyway.

Such is my attitude to the trip that I haven't actually done any planning, and will try to simply follow the nose of the group as much as possible. Take today, for instance: after an insanely early flight here, and a bit of rest, we did a bit of random wandering and finally caught a tuk tuk tour of the Old Town, which was actually a bit of a decent win considering how the six of us made it good value. We managed to see all the main points this afternoon, enough to allow us to do other things with our remaining days.

After a second rest in our apartment, we headed out to buy some supplies and visit the two mosques in the Old Town - which were both amusingly and depressingly separated by no more than 50 metres.

Dinner was a quick affair at home, after which we went out for a local walk to the Rua Augusta Arch.

So yes, very ad hoc yet pretty productive, as we look to head out of Lisbon proper tomorrow.