Wednesday, August 30

Film: Oppenhiemer Click for more info

I don't think that films should be about who directed them. For sure, this is a personal take, but for me good direction is invisible and more about the actors, script and production than the direction. Of course this is a wholly personal opinion (and one with obvious exceptions), but it does mean I tend to be somewhat sensitive to films whose first billing is the person sitting in the directors chair.

As Oppenheimer was a Nolan flick, the film was always going to be more about him than anyone in it. And yet I was interested in how Nolan would deal with non-fiction - with no time travel or dream walking gimmicks to rely on, this could have been as great as The Dark Knight. Alas it was not.

My primary issues with the film were with its direction. I felt that the pacing was very off, Nolan's use of time confusing and distracting. He made what should have been a straightforward story into hard work, and I think I left the theatre understanding only 90% of the film (although that might have been due to the typically obnoxious sound staging Nolan insists on).

What resulted was something that felt like a 3 hour trailer, although I did enjoy the tail end of the movie as things finally became more linear and consolidated.

Ultimately though Oppenheimer was an okay film, but one that could have been great had Nolan not made it.

Thursday, August 24

Book: Drive, James S. A. Corey Click for more info

Two novellas in a row is slightly irritating, but as I'm a slave of release order it's something I have committed to. Thankfully Drive really is a novella - blissfully short at 35 pages, this was a a quick joy to read.

Throwing back to the initial stages of the lore - namely post-Mars but pre-outer Solar System - we get a taste of where things actually started, the event which opened up the wider Expanse to the human race. It's the perfect basis for a novella and entirely optional to the main story, but gives some essential flavour and basis to some of the deeper rooted politics that have developed since.

A great stint, but I'm glad that there's a real book next.

Wednesday, August 23

Film: Blue Beetle Click for more info

Anyone would think that a superhero movie about a super powered boy dressed up as an insect is either a sign of oversaturation or satire. Blue Beetle is not the latter, but neither was the film as bad as its odd concept.

Overall though there was nothing special nor new in this paint-by-numbers origin story. We had the evil corporation, the overpowered villain, the naive heroes and the coming of age and redemption. Yawn etc.

The action was decent though and some of the super powers fun. The hero himself was whiny and annoying, but I suspect that was by design. The film itself was genuinely charming and funny at times. Overall it fell short of something truly great, but managed to be a decent timepass nonetheless.


Another year, and one would hope that the stats would confirm the theory that COVID had caused a bit of a drought. I haven't exactly sat down to count, but it certainly doesn't feel like I have had anything to write home about. Not much travel, not much eating out, films a little under the pre-pandemic par.

One thing I wish I did (and can still do I guess) is start writing about a larger passion that's developed over the last decade or so - that of boardgames. It's my number one activity right now, and 20-something Shak would definitely have started posting about that - and here I am without even a label.

It says a lot then that the content is there, just not being written about. But still on I go, this place having become way too much of a habit to kick now.

Saturday, August 19

Book: Gods of Risk: James S. A. Corey Click for more info

The second novella in the series and this time we have less of a directly relevant tale and more of one which looks to describe the world being built across the Solar System in the book's universe.

Set on Mars, we follow a period in the life of quite the dumbass teenage kid as he tackles what seems to be the same problems most dumbass kids face growing up - just on a planet other than Earth. I suppose the point is to show that humans are gonna human wherever they live in the universe, but the story was of value in setting the context of life on Mars and some of the technological and sociological issues they face in terraforming a planet.

Easily forgettable, you'll not be missing much if you skipped this. That it's quite a long short story makes that even more tempting. But for those who want to lap up as much of the space soap opera as possible this novella delivers.

Thursday, August 10

Book: Caliban's War, James S. A. Corey Click for more info

Book two and like before I immediately noticed a gear change in both pacing and storytelling. More stuff seems to happen in this book, although there remains a similar structure in comparison to the first. We once again have a missing person, a lot of back and forth, many parallel stories that eventually merge, and once again the unveiling of a shadowy conspiracy.

So maybe this is just Leviathan Wakes v2? To be honest I don't feel too cheated - it's still a romp, and perhaps a better one. However I might be annoyed if The Expanse is just the same story told 9 times or so.

Tuesday, August 8

Film: Meg 2: The Trench Click for more info

Meg 2 is a very different film to The Meg. Not that the first was particularly sensible, but this sequel appears to have gone full Fast & Furious, with more action based around the characters kicking and punching than actual large sharks.

This doesn't make it a worse film, just a different one. It definitely held its own, provided you could look past the ridiculousness of it all.

The acting sucked, the plot trundled along, the action preposterous. I don't think I can in good conscience recommend this film - but you'll already know if you'll enjoy it or not. I did!

Saturday, August 5

Food: Zerozero Click for more info

The hook of Zerozero is the zero alcohol policy - something that would have been suicide as less as a decade ago, but more than sustainable in a world where the Muslim pound is easily spent on just as expensive mocktails. Then again, with the lack of alcohol comes halal meat (although in this case they only offered chicken so again not really as big an achievement as the tagline suggests).

So ignoring the novelty, what we have left is a decent enough Italian restaurant offering pizza and pasta at a standard post inflationary cost. Picking what to eat was a little more difficult than I expected, mainly seeing how everything sounded so... bland, but what we did get was passable (if not a bit salty).

The restaurant itself was clean and open and the staff friendly. Costs were a bit higher than I would have liked, coming to £20 per head for a main and shared dessert (although that tiramisu was pretty good).

Overall though, there wasn't much here to warrant a return visit. Zerozero would have been a great place to eat ten years ago, but in the 2020s its just one of many options, many of which I'd much prefer to attend instead.

Tuesday, August 1

Film: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem Click for more info

Incredibly, it's been a whopping 16 years since the excellent TMNT came out. For me this was the standard of TMNT movies - pure and to the point, even though it was set in a post-Shredder world.

Mutant Mayhem brings the same purity to audiences in 2023, at a time where Spider-Man has shown what an action comic cartoon can be. Not much has changed - our teens now have mobile phones, and April is also a teenager. Some of the lore has changed but not enough to be problematic and the overall story and action are great.

But the real genius in this movie is in the acting and the script. These turtles really came across as a bunch of hormonal and emotionally immature teenagers - I'd even go as far as calling them annoying in all the ways teenagers are. Top marks to the creators of this film for capturing it all so well.

Otherwise the film is second only to that other superhero cartoon this year... which is no real criticism really.