Sunday, March 28, 2010

March Films

The Informant (2009) Matt Damon, Scott Bakula, Joel McHale, Melanie Lynskey. Dir: Steven Soderburgh

A young executive turns informant by mistake but has plenty to hide himself. What first appears to be a comedy of incompetence soon turns into something darker and more startling. Damon carries the film as the bewildering lead it what is a modest but intriguing black comedy.


First Man into Space (1959) Marshall Thompson, Marla Landi, Bill Edward, Robert Ayres. Dir: Robert Day.

The first man into space crashes down to earth, turned into a monster by meteor dust. Old school Saturday morning film. Although the standard monster on a rampage story, the film benefits from some stylish shooting and genuine attempt to present space travel seriously. Generally good fun.


Harry Potter & The Half Blood Prince (2009) Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint, Emma Watson, Michael Gambon. Dir: David Yates

Dumbledore tries to prepare Harry for the battle that is to come. A step backward from the Order of the Phoenix, there’s too much information to digest and not enough excitement. The teen dramatics are a little bit tiresome too. The realisation remains handsome.


The Tingler (1959) Vincent Price, Judith Evelyn, Darryl Hickman, Patricia Cutts. Dir: William Castle.

A scientist speculates about a creature in the body that causes fear and tries to extract it. Totally daft proposition that’s handled with surprising skill and wit, although without the in theatre gimmicks, the finale does not stand up. All around good fun nevertheless.


The Damned United (2009) Michael Sheen, Timothy Spall, Jim Broadbent, Col Meaney. Dir: Tom Hooper

Brian Clough’s disastrously short lived tenure as the manager of Leeds United. A fun retelling of events, with Sheen displaying his usually impeccable impersonation skills. But it’s a little lightweight, we only scratch the surface of the characters, and we never feel the pressures they’re under.


The Hurt Locker (2009) Jeremy Renner, Anthony Mackie, Brian Geraghty. Dir: Kathryn Bigelow

A US bomb disposal squad in Iraq is joined by a new member. Expertly tense and gritty thriller that throws light on a terrifying job and the kind of people who do that job. But little bits of ‘Hollywood’ slip in, and it undermines some of its realism.


Key Largo (1948) Humphrey Bogart, Edward G. Robinson, Lauren Bacall, Lionel Barrymore, Claire Trevor. Dir: John Huston.

An ex-soldier visits a family of a dead comrade but they’re taken hostage in a hotel by gangsters. Hampered by cardboard characters, Bogart seems to sleep walk thought it, the pace picks up and this becomes a tense and sometimes quite nasty crime thriller.


The Road (2010) Viggo Mortensen, Kodi Smit-McPhee, Michael K. Williams, Robert Duvall. Dir: John Hillcoat

In a post-apocalyptic world, a man and his son travel across a brutal landscape. It’s hard to fault the acting, the direction and the gravitas of the writing, but it’s so bleak. Only the finale contains the smallest crumbs of hope. Not one destined for repeated viewing. Contains cannibalism.


Saturday, March 20, 2010

The Ordeal

So yes I went to India. Big place, quite hot. I was staying at the bosses flat along with him and 3 other guys, 2 Kiwis and 1 South African, which is why it was a relief to find that Gujarat was a dry state, I don’t imagine I could’ve kept up.

Things got off to a spectacular start when I lost my debit card. You see, cash machines in India aren’t like cash machines in England, where after selecting your amount, you get your card dispensed back to you followed by your money. In India, you get your cash then your card, well I assume so, I just took my cash and left.

I didn’t suffer from jet lag too badly at first, but as the week went on, my health took a few hits. Office hours were from 11 to 8 over there, so that the office was open while the UK was open. And because I had to check up on my UK team every day, I was constantly watching the time and most of the clocks at the office were set to UK time. Lunch wasn’t till 3, and because the boss doesn’t get to India that often, working hours were frequently extended due to meetings and such like. We wouldn’t get dinner till about 10pm. Most of the time, I really had no idea what time of day it actually was.

Then of course once back at the flat, we just sat about till the early hours, and there was at least one heavy drinks session in the evening. And I’m not so good at sleeping in new beds anyway. Gradually, each day I got more tired and exhausted. The air-con did and didn’t help; it was good for keeping the temperature down, but it left you with a nasty dry throat in the morning.

I got properly hammered at the end of the first week. And despite the booze, still struggled to sleep, but things got worse. The drinking weakened my immune system, leaving me totally unprepared for a long journey across India for a cricket match. The country air hit my nostrils, and left them dripping for most of the day. We were supposed to be in an executive box; in reality this was a concrete room with windows, plastic lawn chairs and an air condition barely fixed to the wall. And as for the toilet – it’s a good job I didn’t have the runs or else I’d have been screwed. If I’d have dared place my behind on one of those seats, something would’ve probably sprung from the black water within and bitten my balls off, it did look like new forms of life could evolve down there. Did I mention that I don't even like cricket. There was a machine gun point at the crowds as they came in, what a welcome!

Fortunately for the second week we were moved from Baroda to Surat, where we stayed in a decent hotel and I got a room to myself. Finally some peace, it didn’t feel like I was on duty in front of the boss for once. Unfortunately it was then that I experienced the obligatory Westerner visiting India stomach problems. Frequent diarrhoea (I didn’t urinate for over 2 days) and unpleasant stomach cramps. These managed to carry me through to the end of the trip.

So overall it was quite an ordeal. To aid my stomach's recovery I made sure that I reaquinted it with an English breakfast, KFC, sausage and cheese mash, roast dinner and cheese sandwichs as soon as possible when I got back. It was hard work, but very necessary.

Monday, March 15, 2010

No Respect....

Sunday, March 07, 2010

I've been to India

Yes, the title isn’t lying, I’ve been to India. Look here’s me standing on a roof,that would be very easy to fall off if I tripped.

They aren’t much for health and safety over in India; for the first time visitor the first thing that will instantly frighten is the roads. There are no rules on the roads, except that you drive on the left hand side, and not even that is always strictly adhered to. Everyone is pushing in front of everyone else, and everyone is honking their horn to say ‘get out of my way’. No matter where you are, just listen closely, block out the sounds around you, and you can hear a car horn sounding.

How do you cross the road? You walk out into moving traffic. They will go around you, as long as you stay firm - panic and dash and you’re finished. It’s mostly rickshaw and motorcycles, there are very few cars, and no one’s going very fast really, because it’s so crowded. Still, it would probably hurt, and some of those wrecked cars on the motorway certainly made me feel more uncomfortable, especially as our driver was particularly psychotic, even by the local standards – other driver’s shared our opinion that this guy was a knob, and showed it.

Why was I there? Well I wasn’t on holiday, although obviously I spent some time working on my tan. I was there on business (well not officially according to my visa, I think that cost more) working with my team of SEO writers over there, doing training and such like. I then subsequently learnt that the SEO managers were going to use my team to remedy their own mistakes, by making out they’re not doing enough and that 5 times as much work needs to be done. Call me crazy, but if a strategy isn’t working the answer isn’t do lots more of it and then it’ll work. Of course it’s easy for me to criticise, I’m good at my job and can think logically, not everyone is blessed with these attributes.

More on this trip soon...