Wednesday, August 4

Film: Fast & Furious 9 Click for more info

So it turns out that there are two types of ridiculous. The first type is the fun, jaw dropping, hi-fiving type that the Fast & Furious franchise is well known for. The second type is Fast & Furious 9.

There's a running gag-slash-social-understanding that each F&F has to out do the previous one, and after 9 generations (or ten if you count Hobbs & Shaw) it's kind of expected that the series would eventually disappear up its own exhaust pipe. And don't get me started on how unceremoniously they took a poo on their own timeline.

But ultimately this is another F&F film and has the same cars, action and self-deprecation that we've kind of come to love (or hate). As one of nine (or ten if you count Hobbs & Shaw) it fits right in. It's just a shame that it wasn't worth the 15 month wait to watch.

Wednesday, July 28

Book: The Bands of Mourning, Brandon Sanderson Click for more info

If I ever had reservations about Era 2 of the Mistborn series, they all came to a head with the third book. Less "middling" than the last, a lot happens in a very short amount of time - it felt like a screenplay or that I was watching a movie a lot of the time.

But my biggest issue (and to be clear, I don't quite mean "issue" in a problematic way) was with the plot and how it developed. It's clear by now that Mistborn will not maintain its independence in the Cosmere, and so rapid opening up of the universe is probably to be expected... but nevertheless it was a little jarring just how quickly things got crazy.

That said after reading the shorter novels in the Cosmere I'm ready to return to the deeper volumes of Stormlight - although I think I have a few short stories to mop up first.

Tuesday, June 29

Book: Shadows of Self, Brandon Sanderson Click for more info

It's almost uncanny how "middle" the middle of trilogies can be. There's probably a science, or least an understanding, of this, but as a consumer of media I can't help but notice it.

And so it is here. Shadows of Self is a well padded story (that is to say not the most efficient), but does do its job of expanding not just the second Era of Scadrial, but also the previous trilogy - there's even what I suspect are breadcrumbs that lead to an insight to the Cosmere as a whole grand plan.

So exciting enough stuff, but the book still manages to underwhelm with its timepassing approach. Yes, there are twists and retcons, and yes, the story is decent enough. But overall the empty calories become just too much to bear. That being said, I suspect reading the next part in the series back to back with this one will serve to enhance both. We'll see.

Wednesday, June 23

Film: A Quiet Place Part II Click for more info

Sometimes sequels overstep their mark and so trash the vision of the films they are following. Conversely a good sequel manages to give more while retaining the spirit and elegance of the first as a stand-alone film. Good examples of this are BTTF2 and more recently John Wick 2. A Quiet Place Part II is the latest entry to that list.

There are so many echoes of the first film here, and yet it holds it's own as a great film. It is more ambitious and flavourful than the first, and yet complements it as an introduction rather than superseding it. The films come as a set, and not set against each other. Krasinski really is a genius.

It does share some issues with the first - pacing being the main one. But that's even more incredible given how AQP2 weighs in at 97 minutes, and it would be churlish to claim that it wastes too much time.

So yes, this film does exactly what is asked of it and makes a perfect reintroduction to cinema 15 months after the last time I visited. It's made me realise how much I've missed the cinema, even though my ability to focus for even 97 minutes seems to have diminished since then.

Sunday, June 6

Food: Patri Click for more info

The first warning was in the tag-line. I almost knew what to expect with food described as "artisan". Although I kind of blame Dishoom for creating the idea of a humblebrag indian at least it's able to back it up with some decent chops (perhaps even literally).

Patri however was very normal. I suppose if you're a chaat lover or gol guppa gulper then you might see something special, but if not there really isn't much to justify the entry price here (although thinking about it now, the Shahi Lal Maas may have actually been the most tender lamb curry I've eaten).

The place was empty, which was both nice and foreboding at the same time, while we were well looked after by our server. I was a little surprised by the bill considering what we had ordered, but that may have just been an incorrect perception given how narrow our order was (essentially a biryani and two curries).

It might have been the perfect place to lounge in on a warm Sunday afternoon - it was just missing that specialness in food that would have made this more than just another place to write about.

Monday, May 24

Book: Allomancer Jak and the Pits of Eltania, Brandon Sanderson Click for more info

The second and final interlude before the next book in the series and we are once again sent back to Scadrial to have fun with allomancy. This book is probably the most different of the ones I read so far, being presented as a text having been written in the universe itself. I will admit that the meta pushed my ability to suspend my disbelief but it was all over before I knew it so it's hardly a big complaint. What is a complaint was the overused footnotes by the "editor" used as a kind of crutch or foil to make some prety cheap gags, kind of like inapproriate hashtags.

But it was different, and that's one of the nice things about the Cosmere.

Saturday, May 22

Book: Sixth of the Dusk, Brandon Sanderson Click for more info

Now this was more like it. As I head back into the shorter stories in the Cosmere, I find myself with the material that I most enjoy: a speedy and efficient - yet most certainly not shallow - romp in a new world (and like Shadows for Silence, set on a brand new planet). And that with some brilliant characterisation to boot.

It just goes to show how each approach really does seem to have a different intent - its a dissonance that I should probably embrace when it comes to the larger volumes. Until then I'll enjoy the stuff I know I like.

Food: Hala Click for more info

Is there such a thing as a bad Turkish? The cuisine has been so heavily optimised and commoditised that I probably wouldn't be able to tell the difference between two restaurants in a blind test - heck, I'd probably struggle with my eyes open too. The point is that these days it's pretty difficult to find bad Turkish food.

So it's left to the paraphernalia to distinguish between them all. I've already alluded above that they all seem to look the same, so really what we're actually talking about here are service and price.

Hala had pretty decent service, particularly after factoring in The Times In Which We Live. Food was taken with a smile and served quickly, and the needs of all eating were met.

Price-wise it gets a little complicated. Hala isn't the cheapest place to go for a meal, but with such generous portions it's very easy to be a little strategic about ordering, resulting in a pretty decent cost per head. Of course such shenanigans won't suit everyone (but I would wager they also wouldn't care too much about the bottom line anyway).

Ultimately though there wasn't really much to raise Hala above a the usual - which is doubly significant being located on a road with so many similar options. A safe and solid bet then.

Wednesday, May 19

Book: Words of Radiance, Brandon Sanderson Click for more info

If the various Cosmere worlds are representative of different aspects of storytelling, then The Stormlight Archive would definitely cover that of "worldbuilding", of which Words of Radiance is very much a middle book.

It's not been a favourable read. It meanders a lot, spending too many words to say very little. This is actually quite disappointing as it was the tightness of Elantris, Mistborn and Warbreaker that attracted me so much to the Cosmere in the first place.

But it wasn't all bad. The set pieces, when they finally came, were awesome, as were the not so subtle easter eggs. On balance, I would say that the pay offs were just about worth it - I'm certainly not giving up on the Cosmere any time soon - but the book could have been so much better if it had picked a more concise path.

It's just as well that the Cosmere is made up of various aspects of storytelling.

Thursday, February 4

Book: Shadows for Silence in the Forests of Hell, Brandon Sanderson Click for more info

The last in this literary intermission is another standalone story, this time set on a planet all of its own. Like The Emperor's Soul, that also makes it more ambitious than the other short stories I've read in the Cosmere. That said it felt less magical than the others, leaning more on traditional fantasy notes.

Even though it shouldn't have been, that lack of technical depth was a little jarring, although the book was otherwise a decent read. If that sounds like a criticism it's not - it's more an failing of mine to place it in what I understand as the being the larger Cosmere. I suspect that's something I'll figure out eventually though.

Monday, February 1

Book: The Emperor's Soul, Brandon Sanderson Click for more info

The second of the trio of short stories is a standalone story, albeit one that shares a planet with Elantris. What's peculiar about that is how we're introduced to a new form of magic - although how it relates to what we saw in Elantris remains to be seen.

A bit longer than a short story, Soul takes its time. It uses that pace to spin a greater yarn, fleshing out characters and a world that we might not even have a chance to revisit. That both makes me sad and excites me.

As a stand alone book it more than holds its own, although at this point in my journey its hard to see things without trying to fit them into the larger Cosmere. Whatever the case, I found it to be more than enough to carry itself through from beginning to end.

Wednesday, January 27

Book: The Eleventh Metal, Brandon Sanderson Click for more info

As my quest to consume everything Cosmere takes a more COD turn, I reached a point in the publishing order which presented me not one but three short stories in a row. The first of which heads back to Scadrial, allomancy and... Kelsier.

After moving to (and of course, enjoying) Era 2 of Mistborn, going back to the familiar was comforting more than anything else. And yet, the hunt for the titular eleventh metal firmly anchors the past with the current by normalising the existence (and knowledge) of set of metals wider than the 12 or so introduced to us in Era 1.

Other than that, expect more concise and clear Sanderson goodness from Scadrial.

Monday, January 25

Book: The Alloy of Law, Brandon Sanderson Click for more info

I have to admit that after the brain melting slog that was the Dune Trilogy, coming back to The Cosmere was a delightful joy. It once again affirmed that a good book isn't just a function of its world or characters, but also of its accessibility.

And of course accessibility doesn't mean "easy" or "less". There is a science to telling a story, and it's a skill that Sanderson has in spades. And so we're easily able to digest a complicated system of magic, complex character development and follow a story with all of its twists and turns.

The Alloy of Law brings us back to a much later Scadrial, where the events of the original Mistborn trilogy are but a distant memory. Things are familiar, but also different, another way in to the comfort in reading this book.

The story itself is great enough to keep you going, while also being wholly self aware than this is but the start of a new era - that there will be more and bigger things to come. But unlike other recent trilogies I may have read, I don't continue with trepidation and a sigh, but in excitement, eager to know just how it'll all play out, certain that, at the very least, finding out won't be a chore.

And so, on we go.

Monday, January 11

Book: Children of Dune, Frank Herbert Click for more info

And so we come at last to the third (and for me, final) book of the "essential" Dune trilogy. By now I've been well conditioned into knowing what to expect, and as a result managed to get through this volume relatively unscathed.

In many ways Children is an amalgamation of the previous two books, combining the scope and ambition (and bat-poo craziness) of Dune with the speed and conciseness of Messiah. That in itself doesn't make it a better book than either however, as the same issues with pacing and plot still manage to outweigh what brilliance is trying to get out of the author's mind.

But reading the third book is just as essential as it does manage to provide closure to the Dune saga, bookending the most important developments in it's universe while keeping the door open for those who wish to explore further. However, while I can't say I regret reading this trilogy, I do know that I didn't enjoy it enough to proceed further with it - in fact I don't see myself revisiting these books at all.

On the plus side I do think that the universe is ripe for adapting to other media, and so am very much looking forward to the movie when it finally releases. As another aside, I also expect to enjoy the recently re-released boardgame much more than I would have having not read the books. Just another example of how brilliant the Dune universe is, if not the books that flagship that universe are.