Monday, July 31

Film: Mission: Impossible - Dead Reckoning Part One Click for more info

My issues with this film are slightly more profound than whether it was good or bad. The truth is that I enjoyed it for what it was: a showcase of set pieces supporting some strange plot that I didn't really care much about. It did all that action stuff well, and threw in some decent charm and comedy too.

At times I did feel that I had seen some of it all before (haven't we done the BMW car chase in a European city already? And was that Tom Holland in the background of the train scene?), but that's not what spoiled the movie. It just felt like something was missing. It took me a while to figure out what that was - an ending.

Which I suppose shouldn't have come as a surprise considering the title of the film, but I guess I'm still reeling from how Infinity War managed to pull it off. So although the acting, production, stunts and action was as fine as any Mission: Impossible film has offered, Dead Reckoning doesn't quite make my top three or even four of the franchise. That doesn't make it a bad film, just a disappointing one, and it's still some of the best action you'll see on the screen this summer.

Tuesday, July 25

Film: Barbie Click for more info

If anything, the idea of a Barbie movie solicited a range of reactions, which broadly fall into the following categories:

  1. Those girls (and boys and men and women) who were hugely looking forward to a film about their favourite doll/merchandise;
  2. Those who hate everything about Barbie (and women, and men and the world) who felt it a duty to protest;
  3. Those who wanted to watch the film out of some kind of irony for the 'gram (we call these the barbenheimer crowd); and
  4. Those who had faith that this film was going to be genuinely great, self aware and knew exactly who its various audiences were.

And if a film is judged by how it fulfils the expectations of its audience, well then Barbie is one of the greatest films of all time, since all the, quite disparate, groups above seemed to have come away relatively satiated.

Of course it's not one of the greatest films of all time, but Barbie is a good movie - or as good as a movie about Barbie can be. Like any good family movie, it manages to entertain on various levels, and although the social commentary does labour at times the film knows it and even calls that out. Put another way, it takes the audience with it.

It's well produced, and everyone manages to pull off the kind of plastic acting you'd want from a Barbie movie. And of course everyone is so pretty. Yes, the plot is thin, but it does the job.

The point is that Barbie is a good movie and only offensive and problematic if you really spend the time and effort looking for that - and even then it does a good job. Recommended.

Wednesday, July 19

Film: Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny Click for more info

After the disappointment that was Crystal Skull, my expectations for the fifth Indy film was as low as you could get for someone who nevertheless felt obliged to go see it. So it was with a pleasant sense of surprise that I left the cinema actually having enjoyed this movie - and in many ways for the reasons that were lacking 15(!) years ago.

First things first - Harrison Ford was not too old to reprise this role. Of course de-aging tech was featured (and not too badly either), but not to lean on and the majority of the film was indeed about our favourite adventuring octogenarian, albeit supported by some youthful co-leads.

But it was mainly the return of fundamental Indy ingredients that made this film so fun. We had Nazis, we had magic, we had clues and graves. We had satire and fun and quips and banter. We had swooshing action. It just got all the basics right.

That said I do recognise that this is it, that there won't (and shouldn't) be any further Indiana Jones movies after this. And as sad as that is, I'm glad that the series goes out on a high note rather than what we were left with last time.

Tuesday, July 11

Edmonton 2023

Coming back to Edmonton after so soon was weird. It feels like yesterday that we were last here (and given that my Shredded Wheat was still in the larder, that's not too far from the truth), almost as if it was the stay in London in between that was the trip. In some ways this reduced the sheen, the holiday vibe, of the trip - similar to Karachi which I no longer look at as special either. But that's not a bad thing: it shows that my relationship with the town and the people in it has evolved into something deeper and intrinsic.

Still, this trip was special - mainly due to Eid pulling in so many people. This gave the trip its own party atmosphere, with lots of socialising and activities going on - and in many ways it balanced the normality of the trip otherwise.

Otherwise the usual things held true: I ate too much, I was even less impressed by West Ed Mall, we played lots of games, and we were well looked after by uncle and cousins. We even managed to visit Bianca Amor's Liquidation Store (although it said a lot about how long we've been away seeing the same stock on the shelves).

All that's left to see is when we'll be back to continue our with our time here. Given my diminishing enthusiasm for general touristic travel, I wouldn't bet on it being too long.

Saturday, July 8

The BBQ at Long Lake

The second mass family get together was held on the shores of Long Lake, a regular event on the Edmonton calendar, but this time generously scheduled to coincide with our visit.

Quite frankly I wouldn't know where to start in organising a self catered 100-person picnic BBQ like this (apparently there was a spreadsheet somewhere) but it all worked with the experience and "all hands" mentality of those attending - at one point there were three fires going.

The lake itself was nice, and I managed to get my feet wet for a good while. One of the attendees even brought an inflatable dinghy to take us out in which definitely was beyond the call of duty.

As with all good picnics, the day only ended once the sun set. Heading toward the end of our visit to Edmonton, it was definitely a great way to see the trip out.

Monday, July 3


I often make a silly, non-serious oath that I will never go back to Jasper or Banff again. They are places I've seen and done and have had some amazing memories of, but I also find them to be inefficient and, let's face it, it's not like the mountains change much over time.

But as there were a critical mass of out-of-towners, it did make sense to make a trip out - and for various reasons (not least of which was the cost of accommodation for 26 people) it was decided to make it a day trip. Which essentially meant an early start and a late end. Oof.

Otherwise as expected there wasn't any surprises here - we saw wildlife and mountains and ate some great BBQ'd food. We visited the Maligne and Pyramid Lakes and of course stopped by the Athabasca Falls (which in some ways are more significant to me than Niagara).

So yeah, despite my faux-protestations, our 24-plus-hours stint to Jasper was actually pretty great and another example of how sometimes things turn out much better than as promised on paper.

Sunday, July 2

Book: The Butcher of Anderson Station, James S. A. Corey Click for more info

I quite like the whole novella idea. I first came across it in serious use during my reading of The Cosmere, although The Wheel Of Time also had a single novella to include in any OCD binging of the series. These short stories serve as a great pit-stop between heavier novels, a bit like palette cleansers, but also serve a great purpose in filling in some of the details washed over in mainline stories.

The downside is collecting them all. But in the case of The Expanse that's been solved with the publication of Memory's Legion, a complete set of short stories from the series. Rather than read this volume as a book, I'll use it as a reference to plug away at its stories in publication order.

First up then is the story of Colonel Fred Johnson, covering two major events in his life. The first you might be able to guess, the second is more about his attempt at redemption. It's a decent story to tell and I found the flavour helpful... but it was also a useful exercise as I found it an easier read than Leviathan Wakes, somewhat subduing the fears I had of Corey as a writer.

Other than that there's not much to say about this particular short story. If you're going for a complete Expanse reading then it's just as essential (and easy to read) as the rest.