30 March 2011

Co-op's Prawn Layered Salad

When I first thought I would start a reviewing blog, I always assumed it would be for games, movies, books.. the media. Food is food, end of. And yes, some of it is amazing, but it is always amazing.

Food isn't really my forte, but this salad needs telling to the world. Normally salads are dry, tasteless and dull. The whole lot is boring and bland. I normally eat salads and leave half due to utter boredom, but not this time.
Co-op's Prawn Layered salad surprised me because, first and foremost, it had flavour.

I think it is the sauce that did it, mixed into everything so it has a fishy tinge that doesn't overwhelm. The lettuce was fresh and watery, the cucumber was, well, cucumber, the prawns were tasty as always and the pasta shells were a nice touch to break up the meat and vegetables.

All in all, a 9 out of 10. A salad you can actually enjoy, and it's healthy too.

29 March 2011

Battle: Los Angeles

Going into this film, I thought that it would be yet another take on the almost exhausted genre that is an alien invasion on the human race. I wasn't wrong, and yet I wasn't right either.

Although it is the classic invasion story, there is so much more to it than that. We go into to the story from a viewpoint that I had yet to experience; a military one. Usually, I don't think much of war films, so I normally don't watch  them. The furthest into that genre I have ever been is Atonement, Brideshead Revisited and Pearl Harbour. So when my boyfriend likened this film to Black Hawk Down, I had no idea what he was talking about. What I do know, though, is that this is an intriguing film about the human race and their determination in the face of adversity as well as their fierce bonds of brother and sisterhood.

I personally enjoyed the film, even though it did have the same themes as many other alien films, including Independence Day and the ever enjoyable Evolution. Strangely, I want to liken it to films like 2012, as they both paint a picture of humans as caring beings who tend to help each other and band together in a crisis. The military viewpoint was a good decision for me, as it pushed the viewer right into the fray after some real heroes. I have to say, I think of military men and women with so much more respect after viewing this film. The amount of pure bravery in the face of certain death astounded me, and I reminded myself that people do this every day.

Although the characters were clearly military, the film showed hidden depths to them, as well as showing the harsh realities of war. The main character in particular was rather a lot more multi faceted than I had thought the film would show him to be. Played by Aaron Eckhart, the main character, Sgt Michael Nantz, is about to retire when he is forced into one last assignment that lands him straight in the middle of an alien invasion. Eckhart, who is most likely to be remembered from his performance in The Dark Knight, does a good job of playing the aloof retiree who is alleged to have abandoned his last team.

With an appearance from Michelle Rodriguez (Lost, Avatar) playing her usual bad-ass role and many virtual unknowns, this is not a star-studded cast, but I found that it didn't have to be as the performances were realistic and well done.

The film was a little slow at the start, but gradually moved up in pace. It did feel like it stopped and started at some points, where the film could have easily finished. However, I think that it finished at the right place. If it had finished any earlier, I would have left the cinema feeling like it had answered nothing. I wanted to know whether the humans won or not, and the end was just enough to conclude that they would. Of course, they left it hanging on a good end note, without giving away the rest of the world's situation.

The special effects were very good, and I was glad that it wasn't in 3D as I wouldn't have been able to watch it, being the flinching viewer that I am. The one thing I am truly disappointed in is that we never really got to have a good look at the aliens that were invading. I always want to see how the artists envisage an alien to look like, whether they are hairy or slimy, tall or tiny. Yet here I never truly got to see a whole alien. I suppose this is because the soldiers didn't really see a whole alien, but I really would have wanted to.

The aliens themselves were very interesting. They looked pretty slimy and you got a good look at their insides, which seem to be very watery. The reason for the invasion was also stated, which I find doesn't often happen in other alien invasion films. They give vague ideas of colonisation without implying what exactly they want. Here, they want water to fuel their ships and their bodies, which beckons the question; How did they get water to live in the first place? This is never answered unfortunately.

The aliens behave in a surprisingly human way. They attack the earth in the same way that we might attack another country; with precision, and a plan. They move their injured comrades out of firing range, just as the humans do, and they dart about trying not to get shot, much like humans do. The aliens are not so much apart from us in this particular film. These are military beings who mirror their human counterparts. It makes me think about our world too; we would kill an alien without a moments hesitation if they were invading us, and yet we do this to each other too.

I have to conclude that this film has really taught me a lot about respect and the nature of humans. Although the theme and the genre has been hugely overdone and some of the characters were not identifiable with the average viewer, I give this an 8 out of 10.

The Internet Movie Database Page for this movie can be found here.

15 March 2011

Fire - Kristin Cashore

Kristin Cashore's second stunning novel is positively one of the best books I have read. Far surpassing her previous book, Graceling, in storytelling and sophistication, Fire is an emotional roller coaster as well as a brilliant read.

Set in a world where monsters are enticingly beautiful creatures with mind controlling powers, the story follows the monster woman, Fire, through her astounding journey to help the king of the Dells, as well as her own. It is a truly fascinating story that entwines beautifully with Cashore's previous novel, but does not need to be read after it.

The characters in this book are extremely well written. Never have I read about characters that are more realistic or less one dimensional. The themes in this story are everything you would expect from a truly gifted fantasy novelist; war, death, betrayal, love, hate, happiness.. even a bit of politics.

The protagonist gives the entire book a well of emotion that threatens to bring the reader to tears. Her fear, anger, happiness and love make us relate to her. Even though she is an intriguingly beautiful woman with flaming red hair, we see her humanity although she is called a monster.

Cashore is a talented writer. Her plot is easy to follow but it has to many surprises and twists that you can't stop reading. This book hardly left my hands when I had a spare second or two. Her descriptions enable a clear image to fill your mind and the conversations are written in such a way that I found them quite enjoyable to follow.

This is definitely a book for those hardcore fantasy fans who want a good read.I never thought anyone could put so much into such a small book.

An amazing 10 out of 10 for this gem of a book.

13 March 2011


Simon Pegg and Nick Frost are back together again for yet another highly amusing take on a classic. 'Paul' is funnier even than its predecessors 'Hot Fuzz' and 'Shaun of the Dead'. With Seth Rogen as the voice behind the little green man, they couldn't go wrong. After all, what's funnier than hearing offhanded swearing coming from a surprisingly life-like alien?

This time the famous duo star as two English 'nerds' who are on a sci-fi road trip, first to the comic-con (that's comic convention to all you non-nerds) and then on to famous sites like Area 51. What they didn't expect on their trip was to actually see an Alien, let alone one that is on the run from the FBI after years of imprisonment.

The plot is pretty obvious after that, but what makes it interesting are the quips, jokes and bad manners that come along during the inevitable chase that ensues. The alien, Paul, is an amusing and likeable character that anyone would want to befriend and the lines that comes out of him are brilliant. He is openly crude and seems to be running around naked half the time.

With appearances from the likes of Sigourney Weaver, Jane Lynch and Jason Bateman, this film has it all. And the swearing didn't even get to me as it so often does with badly made comedies. The duo of Simon Pegg and Nick Frost are always a success, but this was by far the best for me.

This film is an enjoyable, laugh-out-loud comedy about an average alien. Paul is one of the best comedies I have seen in a while, so it gets a 10/10 from me.

11 March 2011

Good News Everyone!


As part of my next year in magazine journalism, I may be (and hopefully will be) doing a unit on film and reviewing. So watch this space, as many of my reviews will be placed here for you all to look at and critique to your hearts content.

Thank you to everyone who has read this blog so far and for my trusty followers.

Zack and Miri Make a Porno

Disclaimer: Today I was feeling like a comedy. Upon reading the cover that this was a 'hilarious, laugh out loud comedy', I decided to give it a go.

Zach and Miri are friends from school who have lived with each other ever since. They are totally broke. So, to get some money, they decide to make a porno. This is fairly self explanatory, and in fact the plot is quite predictable too: After having sex for the first time they realise they are in love and have a tiff over it, only to reunite later in the film.

This is literally the plot.

I didn't go into watching this film with many high expectations, and I was not disappointed. Seth Rogen is slightly amusing but swears rather too much for my liking. There is a great deal of nakedness, as you would expect. Justin Long, who I actually really like, only featured in one scene and was devastatingly bad in it, playing a fairly unconvicing gay porno producer.

The writing was poor at times, and I didn't find any of the dialogue confusing. Any humour I caught was slapstick, and if I'm honest, a bit too sweary for me to find it funny.

Still, the plot had a point. Don't have sex with someone else if you don't love them, even for money. Though clumsily written, the actual filming of the porno scenes were fairly amusing in their ability to make a satire of something I never thought could possibly be satired.

The cover also said that 'if you liked The 40-Year-Old Virgin, Knocked Up, and Superbad, you'll love Zack and Miri'. I do like those films, and I don't think they could have been more wrong.

I would give this 2/10 for entertainment factor. The amusement factor was lacking for me. And the ending was too predictable for words.

8 March 2011

The Book of Lost Things - John Connolly

Chosen by 'The Times Books Group', The Book of Lost Things is an absolute page turner. It has action, suspense, intrigue and a dash of dark fairy tales to sink your teeth into.This book is the most interesting read I have had for a little while now. I dare say it may have topped even Joanne Harris's 'Five Quarters of the Orange', which i particularly enjoyed. John Connolly may just be a genius.

Although many of the factors contributing to the book are from commonly known fairy tales such as Rumpelstiltskin and Snow White, there is a distinctly adult air about it. However, I do think that children will be able to read it and enjoy the book in much the same way that I did.

The plot was very well planned, and didn't go where I expected it to in the slightest. it has a little bit of gore, but nothing that could cause a child any nightmares as such. It does remind me of a certain Alice in Wonderland, where she meets several different characters throughout her journey, after losing the previous one.

The story is set in the second world war, but is mainly inside a world very different and yet strangely not so different, to ours. It is first and foremost, about a boys transition into a young man. It deals with themes such as the death of a loved one, jealousy, betrayal and guilt all in a very adult way. This element is very interesting, considering this is meant to be a children's book. I think that children may not be able to fully grasp these themes as adults do, but nevertheless will enjoy reading them.

Fairytale are the stories that I enjoyed most ad a child, and i can see myself reflected in the main character; their love of reading, their inwardness. I think what the author has done here is cleverly made it so we all can see ourselves in the main character, in both children and adults. After all, no-one is exempt from feelings of anger, sadness and jealousy, just as no-one hated fairy tales when they were younger.

I especially like the way that the fairytale have been integrated into the story. Some, for example, red riding hood, are told as stories to the protagonist, whilst others are characters he meets, like Snow White. It is interesting to note that all of these stories have been changed in some way to add to to main plot of the story. Sleeping Beauty has been drastically altered, and yet you still recognise exactly which fairytale the book refers to.

The book is also very helpful. Not only does it have the actual novel, it also includes a question and answer from the author and some very interesting notes on the fairy tales and myths that he chose to use, including the script of the actual stories to read. I don't think it could get any better.

Overall this is an enticing, if dark, story with everything you could ever want to read involved. I can't get over how good this book was, and I therefore think I shall give this one 10/10. A really good read.

1 March 2011

Beastly - Alex Flinn

This next installation is a modern retelling of the classic fairy tale, Beauty and the Beast, again by Alex Flinn. It is, as with 'A Kiss in Time', very much for teenagers as the protagonist is a 16 year old boy. However, I feel that this story has a lot more work gone into it than the version of Sleeping Beauty did.

The original story of Beauty and the Beast can be seen quite clearly in the plot of this version, and I personally like that the Disney version was also incorporated into it, though not so much that the story lost any reality that it might have had.

The rose garden, which is in the original story, was brought back into being, and I personally think that the symbolism of the rose in this particular book was very clever, if not subtle.

I did not think at first that I would like the modernity of the book. but it turned out to be very interestingly done. The chat room at the beginning that also includes characters from other fairy tales (the little mermaid, snow white and rose red, the princess and the frog) was completely unneeded. I think this tried to make it overtly modern and actually took away from what was already a good plot. The emotion that the beast shows in it could have easily been put into the main story rather than having the chat room.However, the rest was well done.

I have read many books that., although are for young adults, also appeal to an older audience. Philip Pullman's 'His Dark Materials' trilogy is one, Harry Potter, of course, is another. But these books are so to do with younger people than myself, that I cannot put myself in their position and therefore lose myself in the book.

It may be that the author has also missed putting adult emotion in this book, thus rendering me incapable of feeling for the characters.5/10 for effort and cleverness, but it was again, too young for me.