July 3, 2019

The MCU Project: Captain America A Winter Soldier [2014]

This whole project was my idea, so I shouldn’t really moan, but the general tone of Bernard’s last review seems applicable here as well. Another standard superhero movie with lots of explosions. With having a recurring cast of characters, there is plenty of opportunity for those characters to grow and develop, but what you see of that is forced and fake.

We watched this on Friday night with home made pizza. Making pizza has long been a tradition in Casa Uborka, and it is notable that this was the first time young Bernard has really got stuck into helping with it. He made the bespoke tomato sauce, with herbs from the garden, and also did the topping design. It could probably have done with a slightly hotter oven, but was satisfying all the same.

Unlike this movie, which is mainly about some sort of ocean-based crisis with very large flying weapons. As you may have figured out from the title, this movie is about Captain America, whose chemical-based superpowers make him really good at jumping. He is accompanied, prettily, by Black Widow, who kills people with cartwheels kind of like me in a Les Mills Body Combat class but considerably more graceful and more effective. BW stands in for all the girly girls in this movie, and therefore has to be rescued a couple of times.

The main theme of the movie is trust. It’s subtle, but if you watch carefully you will pick up on this. Who can you trust? Trust nobody. Seriously. We didn’t.

The evil baddie in this movie is a Herr Flic type played by that lovely guy from The Detectorists, and something to do with an algorithm, which they don’t expect you to understand. You know this because all descriptions of what it is and what it does are utterly garbled nonsense. In the end, of course, it fails to do what it was supposed to do, however I gather there is some foreshadowing of a successful attempt to commit similar genocide in a future movie. So that’s something to look forward to.

CAAWS has less cgi in it than the other films we’ve seen so far, a lot of stormtrooper shooting, and at least one highly implausible car chase. There is not one single witty line in the entire script, and the best thing about it was when my knitting took a turn for the interesting. What’s up next? Who knows, but I predict there will be a great deal of shooting and white men saving the earth.

Karen
June 28, 2019

The MCU Project: Thor The Dark World [2013]

Thor The Dark World seemed much less objectifying than the last Thor and I didn’t really seem to get what the Dark World was but that probably doesn’t matter, the Dark World doesn’t seem too major in this film.

It starts off with Thor’s crew fighting in a battle field, they seem completely outnumbered but thanks to Movie Logic they still win, no points why because Thor comes flying in, hits his hammer on the ground and makes a very large earthquake which is extremely powerful but only spreads out around 50 yards. He fights a few more times, this time more of a fighting montage cutting between different fights.

Then we cut back to girls in their early 20s who are exploring some sort of abandoned building which has powers to move stuff around and into other dimensions. Jane (Main early 20s girl) is there with another girl called Darcie who is by some chance the other early 20s girl from Thor. Darcie and some other people they find are having fun with a portal which just leads to another portal above it but weirdly, sometimes when they go through, they don’t come out the top portal but that is probably just RNG. Jane goes exploring and finds a weird doorway in a weird building which seems to have other weird things. That’s the power of 3 there. There is a strange power generator on the other side. Elon Musk should try that for unlimited energy. It takes control of her. oOoOoOhHhH SpOoOoOkYyYyY.

Thor takes her back to Asgard then sets off into the ice enemy world which has been around a while and they have always been enemies. Thor gets betrayed by Loki and Loki hands Thor over to the ice enemies DUN DUN DUNNNN but then when the ice leader reaches for Loki, Loki kills him! DUN DUN DUNNNN and it turns out Loki just double-crossed the ice creatures.The ice enemies are back in Earth but Thor is stuck in the ice creatures world!!!!!

Thor finds the other side of the portal which is a big yay for everyone. This seems to be the destination from where the thingys come through if they don’t come back through the top. He heads back and saves the day regular Superhero Style.

It wasn’t a particularly special film, there wasn’t much which differed it from other films inside the MCU series so far and other similar style films as well.

Bernard
June 18, 2019

Alcohol-Free Beers (Part Four)

(Follows on from Part One and Part Two and Part Three)

The situation has changed slightly since my previous review post. Until recently, I was replacing the majority of my beer consumption at home with alcohol-free alternatives, but still generally drinking regular beer when out on the town. But this is no longer the case, and it turns things on its head. No longer am I scouring the shelves of supermarkets, comparing the range on offer in Tesco compared to Morrisons etc, but I am now at the mercy of pub landlords and what they choose to carry. The rules of the game have changed.

Thanks to a busy week of socialising, I have a few things to report. Sadly it didn’t occur to me to take photos of these beers at the time. Probably not a huge loss, as a photo of a green bottle doesn’t really tell you much, and the lighting in pubs is generally poor. But let’s begin.

Heineken 0.0

I was in The Golden Fleece (London ) with my sister and a friend of hers on Wednesday evening and this was the only alcohol-free beer in their fridge. It’s been a while since I’ve had Heineken, but I recall that it was one of my preferred lagers back when I used to drink lager sometimes in my late teens and early twenties. This stuff didn’t taste too bad at all, and I’ll be honest that by the end of the evening I had forgotten that I was even drinking alcohol-free beer at all. We were scrolling through the dating app on my sister’s phone, helping her to filter out the weirdos, give a second look to some chaps who were maybe not classically good looking but seemed to have other redeeming qualities, and compose the perfect introductory message to a very tasty-looking chap called Mark. To all those who think that they need alcohol to have a good time, I say piffle!

Budweiser Budvar B:Free

The following night I was in the Greyfriar in Reading, meeting up with a friend who I haven’t seen in a year but was in the area. I recommended this pub because it’s near the station and carries a great selection of interesting beers, however sadly it does not seem to extend that same service to those who don’t want alcohol. Again, just the one alcohol-free beer, and it’s Budvar. Now, Budvar is another of those lagers that I was quite keen on back in my late teens. One thing you should be aware of, if you’re not already, is that Budweiser Budvar and Budweiser have very little in common. The former is a Czech brewery, the latter American. The Czech one is the original, and best. Sadly, I was disappointed by the alcohol-free version. It’s an awful long time since I’ve had a Budvar, so it’s hard to know whether my tastes have changed or if the alcohol-free one simply doesn’t match up to the original. After a couple of these, I was strongly considering going to The Nag’s Head or The Castle Tap, both of which are within a 10 minute walk and reportedly have a much better selection of alcohol-free beers. However, my friend had a train to catch in about half an hour, so it made more sense to stay put and have one more. Next time, I think I’ll bypass the Greyfriar and go straight to one of those instead.

Clausthaler Unfiltered Non-alcoholic

Back home on Saturday evening, I cracked open a bottle of this lager that I had had in the fridge since I found in the supermarket the other week. And it’s very nice stuff – similar to the Free Damm that I sampled in the last batch, this has got a pleasant sweetness to it, though whereas the Free Damm has a “delicate honeyed florality” as I described it at the time, this one has more of a citrusy tang to it. Very refreshing, and another really great showing by Team Lager. In a cage match between it and the Free Damm, I’d probably give the latter the victory, if only because it comes in cans so they occupy less space on the shelf and in the fridge.

Beck’s Blue

This week’s socalising bonanza comes to a close with Father’s Day lunch at Tang in Bracknell. Again, only one alcohol-free beer behind the counter here, and it’s Beck’s Blue. Now I’ve never been a fan of Beck’s, so this one is like the biggest challenge of all. Of all the alcohol-free beers in the supermarket, this is the one that I’ve avoided purchasing most of all, but now that I’m drinking alcohol-free beers in pubs, it was only a matter of time until I found myself in this situation.

How did it go? Not bad, actually. Only had the one, and to be honest, I would take it over the Budvar. Maybe it’s because my expectations were very low, who knows. But on the whole, I don’t think it deserves the prejudice that I’ve shown against it, and if we were ranking all these alcohol-free beers (now up to 15!), there’d be definitely at least 3, and maybe even 5, beers that I’d put below it.

It’s been a very lagery sort of week, hasn’t it?

Pete
  • Comments: 1
  • I've started drinking a lot more alcohol free beer too, and I've been genuinely delighted ... - Swisslet
June 16, 2019

The MCU Project: Iron Man 3 [2013]

Well, would you look at that. Thanks to the fact that, in this watch sequence, there are two films between Iron Man 2 and Iron Man 3, it falls to me to review the Iron Man film again. I feel a bit silly for using up all my good jokes in the last one now.

After all the ensemblitude of The Avengers (or Avengers Assemble depending upon which country you’re in) we’re now back to the good old formula where it’s basically all about Robert Downey Jr. And in this film, even more so than before, because in this one he spends a lot of time out of his Iron Man suit, reflecting on what it all means to be Tony Stark and so on and so on.

The cast in this isn’t quite as mind-boggling as the previous Iron Man film. Whereas last time I was saying things like “Oh cool, Sam Rockwell” and “hey, is that Mickey Rourke?” this time it’s “Is that… Guy… Thing?” (the correct answer was, of course, Pearce). Ben Kingsley’s also present – fairly early on in the film I made a note “No idea what accent Ben Kingsley is supposed to be doing” and wondered if maybe the guy had forgotten how to act, but I should have had more faith, as it actually turns out that Ben Kingsley’s dubious accent is instrumental to the plot, and I was startlingly astute to remark upon it! One point for Pete! Unlike earlier films, Jon Favreau doesn’t direct this one. However, that frees him up to give himself a much bigger acting role. To me, he’ll always be Monica’s rich playboy boyfriend.

Of course, it wouldn’t be an Iron Man film without Tony Stark also having to grapple with some threat to his health. In the first film, it was the shrapnel trying to move into his heart. In the second, palladium poisoning. This time, it’s good old-fashioned anxiety attacks. If I may tentatively offer an observation, it’s that these films might be getting a teensy bit formulaic.

Given that the previous film’s climactic battle involved Iron Man facing down a huge army of autonomous military robots which had been hacked to follow the whims of an evil villain, you may be somewhat surprised to discover fairly early on in this movie that Tony Stark has been hard at work building a huge army of autonomous military robots. Nothing could possibly go wrong. Indeed, I had barely finished making a note in my notepad to this end, that we are treated to a scene of Tony and Pepper being woken up in their sleep by one of them going haywire and attacking Pepper. We all roll our eyes in unison.

The first act of the film ends with Tony addressing the television cameras, and through them, the evil bad guy for this film, and giving out his home address. “Come get some” he says, to which evil bad guy does exactly that, and Tony’s home is reduced to a smouldering ruin, with Iron Man suits and sports cars alike tumbling off of the hillside and into the Pacific Ocean. Welp, there goes the R8. Tony sneaks off into Tennessee with the whole world (but for a plucky young lad) thinking he’s dead.

So this is where the extended Iron Manless section of the film begins. It’s like that bit in a computer game where, after having accumulated a huge arsenal of weapons and health potions, they get briefly taken away from you, and you have to learn to survive with only your acquired skills for a little while. Tony bodges up some new tools, the snow falls, and a totally gratuitous and unexplained bikini pageant just appears out of nowhere for about five seconds. This section of the film plods along at a steady pace, but there are some very nice scenes in here.

There’s a twist! The bad guy isn’t who you were supposed to think he was, and was in fact, the person who you actually thought he was going to be, because you’ve seen all this kind of shit before and writers are just awful at telegraphing this sort of thing. Tony gets reunited with his Iron Manses, and performs one of the most spectacular and ridiculous rescue sequences in the history of cinema, leaving me trying to figure out whether the spectacularness justifies the ridiculousness or not. It’s a difficult one to call.

Now I should warn you that this final paragraph contains some spoilers for the ending of the film. It also contains some red herrings and decoys, so I’m hoping that by the end of this blog post you will be equal parts infuriated and confused, whether you’ve seen the film or not. Here we go.

Big final battle sequence is under way, and so far Tony’s army of autonomous Iron Man suits seem to be behaving themselves. The fact that each of these suits can in an instant switch between being suit or robot soldier does lend itself to some very cute moments. As always, Tony has to save Pepper Potts, but this time it seems that he has failed. The wise film-watcher knows that something is going to be up with this, and indeed it turns out that she’s turned into an awesome immortal fire-based being who kicks some serious ass. “Don’t worry darling, I’ll be able to turn you back” says Tony once all the baddies have been defeated. Pepper says “fuck that noise, this is brilliant, I’m feeling empowered for the first time in my life.” Nah, not really. What she really says is “I need you to make a grand gesture that demonstrates your commitment to me.” Tony says “you mean like this?” and then proceeds to destroy the entirety of his Iron Man army that just saved his life, her life, Rhodes’ life, and POTUS’ life to boot, and she says “oh darling it’s just what I always wanted. Do you think that the viewers have taken the hint that this is the last Iron Man film?” and Tony says “no, I think we should be more explicit. Let’s show clips from the last 3 films over the end credits” and Pepper says “hang on, end credits? Are we in a film?” and they both turn towards the camera and wink.

Pete
June 15, 2019

The MCU Project: The Avengers [2012]

As you can see, we are working hard on this project, the wintry weather assisting us in our urge to snuggle under blankets of an evening. I even had a hot water bottle one night this week; a far cry from that June heatwave 13 years ago, when the Small Boy first put in an appearance.

Anyhoo, you want to hear about this film, I suppose. I think we can call this the first Avengers ensemble movie, featuring exotic superheroes of both mythical and scientific origin, and also Hawkeye who is basically just a fancy sniper. The film is directed by Joss Whedon, scores a surprising 8.1 on IMDB, and we watched it while eating a delicious if slightly on the dry side home-made lamb biryani.

The film opens in some sort of military place where everyone is having a bit of a panic because of the energy surge from the tesseract. At this point we don’t know what those words mean, but fortunately Nick Fury does, and he sets about assembling the team. We retrieve Black Widow, who I suspect is Pete’s favourite because she kicks ass and her outfit fits her like an anime porn star, from a situation where she is required to kick ass and then pick up her stillettos before she leaves. She then fetches Bruce Banner, now played with lovely dry delivery of some of the wittiest lines in the film by Mark Rufalo. Captain “Cap” America shows up with all his muscles, and Tony “Iron Man” Stark brings his Boris Johnson levels of self-belief.

Our villain, nay supervillain, for the evening is Loki, complete with reindeer horns and a pointy stick, which he uses to brainwash some of the good guys to beef up his team. He sets about doing various megalomaniac odds and ends, in league with the Night King and a range of otherworldly baddies. It turns out that this tesseract thing is the door between the worlds, and the energy surge is what opens it. Quite pleased that I figured that out.

Thor shows up. He and Iron Man flirt a bit. There’s quite a lot of fighting. Loki gets put in a cage. The superheroes have philosophical moments, meant to illustrate them coming to terms, in their different ways, with their dark origin stories and the sources of their power. So let’s say the theme of this one is that they are all discovering their value, except for Iron Man who is already fully convinced of his own value, but still has room to grow, which he does, resulting in the further boosting of his own ego. The other theme is fighting and things exploding.

Bechdel-wise, the women in this movie don’t have the opportunity to speak to each other about anything. In Gwyneth Paltrow’s scenes with RDJ, she is barefoot while he wears platform soles, so we don’t notice that they are the same height, because clearly that would be an implausible aspect of their characters. I’ve mentioned the outfits. I’ve mentioned the ass kicking. I’m not sure they balance each other out. As Bernard says, they’ve got to make the movie interesting somehow.

Karen
June 13, 2019

The MCU Project: Thor [2011]

Thor is the fifth film in the MCU, it seems to be the least ‘male is amazing, us females should all talk about that male’ film so far so I’m hoping it carries on in this train.

The starter seems to be quite, I am your king and I am dying, you will be king, my son but there has to be something which happens to disrupt it. After becoming King of Asgard, Thor decides instantly start a war with a weird ice creature species who have been enemies for a while. His father banishes him which seems about over-dramatic but films have to be interesting somehow. He gets banished to Earth where he meets a crew of an old man and two teenage girls, probably in their early 20s. They suddenly set about finding out about Thor and why he is here using children’s books from a library instead of asking him which sounds pretty stupid but Thor didn’t seem that willing to talk.

During this search, the overhear someone in an old-style Mexico City fast-food restaurant where some people are talking about a crashed meteor, a.k.a Thor’s Hammer so Thor sets out about finding the Hammer and taking it back but the old king seems to have enchanted it to only be able to be lifted by someone worthy, seems a bit Merlin Sword in the Stone but it’s a film, it HAS to be original, I mean, who has ever heard of a non-original film, certainly not me, that’s for sure.

Mean whilst, Loki seems to be getting his own back at Asgard, don’t see why he needs to do that but anything for entertainment, huh. He lets some of the weird ice creature in through the Observatory Portal (a portal which allows you to go to any of the 9 realms ( Earth seems to be something called Jotunheim)).

Loki controls some sort of metal creature which shoots flames out of it’s mouth and I personally think it is some sort of Iron Man clone which Loki obviously copied from another movie *COUGH COUGH* Iron Man *COUGH COUGH*.

Thor says ‘These people have done nothing wrong, take me’ and whatever else he said after that which probably isn’t relevant because we all get the sad romantic ‘TAKE ME’ which Thor was obviously going for and that seems to make him worthy and the Hammer comes flying back to him, he knocks the weird metal creature senseless which we never expected and is allowed back into Asgard where he has to fight Loki and the weird ice creatures because Loki seems to be threatening his own kingdom, I think he is a worse leader than Thor.

After Thor OBVIOUSLY beat them senseless as well, he destroys the Observatory Portal so no one can go between realms anymore, all ends well which we never expected either and Asgard is in peace. YAY! Never Expected!

Bernard
June 11, 2019

I really have no idea what the point of this story is

A few years ago, while I was at a local music festival, I saw a band playing who were something quite special. A group of four really cheerful, healthy-looking teenagers, playing great pop songs with gusto and actively engaging with the crowd. It was an afternoon that stuck in the memory. They seemed to have a lot of enthusiasm, and I made a mental note that they had the potential for considerable success.

About a year later, I discovered that my band had been fortunate enough to get a gig supporting them at a pub in my town. I spent the next few weeks singing their praises to my bandmates and just generally getting very excited about the upcoming gig.

The evening of the gig arrived. I unloaded my gear and was able to park just around the corner. Getting a good parking spot always feels like a small victory. As I started setting up, I was a little disappointed that none of the members of the headlining band were around – I was hoping to have a chance to chat with them, but ah well. The hour of our support slot approached, and still no sign of them. At this point, I started to think “hmmm, bad form.” It’s considered protocol at small gigs that you show support to the other bands playing by not just showing up for your set and leaving immediately afterwards.

Our set ended, and at last the headline band showed up. I almost didn’t recognise them, because they weren’t the cheerful kids I remembered. Their successes had changed them, and they were now a bunch of unsmiling, sunken-cheeked emo kids wearing eyeliner and scowling while ignoring pretty much everyone. After spending literally an entire hour trying to get their wireless IEM1 systems to work while their audience waited patiently, they eventually started playing, much much later than scheduled, and performed a severely truncated set with zero charm or stagecraft before noise curfew.

I felt embarrassed for having endorsed this band so enthusiastically to my bandmates. I felt like my own reputation was diminished, as they were so embarrassingly lifeless.

That gig was about two years ago. My own band split up a few months later, and the headline band in question split up earlier this year. In their farewell Facebook page they claim to have hit #14 in the charts. After some research, I discovered that one of their EPs debuted at #14 in the iTunes chart. This sounds like it must be a notable accomplishment, but the fact that the band don’t have a Wikipedia page suggests that they can’t be that successful.

  1. in-ear monitoring []
Pete
June 10, 2019

The MCU Project: Iron Man 2 [2010]

It’s my turn to write the review again, and this time it’s Iron Man 2.

The film opens with Tony Stark as Iron Man as national celebrity and hero, harkening back (well, forwards I suppose) to the scene in Captain America where the eponymous superhero is spending more time gallivanting and flashing his charms than fighting bad dudes. A large number of attractive young ladies dance around in tight shiny outfits for a while to make sure that the one-handed popcorn eaters in the audience are satisfied, and Tony Stark pontificates about how now they have Iron Man, no-one in the world will possibly attack America. I lower my pen to my notepad and jot down “Pride before a fall perhaps?”

Iron Man 2: Ironic Boogaloo

The film then introduces a frankly jaw-droppingly star-studded cast over the course of the next few minutes, before taking us into a frankly somewhat bold extended courtroom scene. This would have the ability to send any 12 year olds in the audience to sleep, were it not for the fact that the cheeky maverick Tony Stark is immune to being held in contempt and so can make glib wisecracks to his heart’s content. One of the perks of being rich I suppose.

Twenty minutes in and I’m experiencing flashbacks to the experience of watching Captain America, as I think “hang on, I think I’ve seen this before. Yes, I’ve definitely seen this before.” Vanko, our big bad guy for this evening, is introduced. He’s a Russian who drinks lots of vodka. We don’t really spend a lot of time in this film exploring his motives. It’s briefly touched upon, but skimmed over as quickly as possible, for fear that spending too much time on it would reduce the amount of time available for explosions and appreciation of the female form.

Iron Man 2: The Ironing

It won’t surprise you to learn that this film, like all the others so far, is pretty embarrassing in its sexism. At one point Karen asked “vis a vis the Bechdel test, have either of those two” (referring to the only two female characters of significance) “had a conversation that doesn’t revolve around Tony Stark?” to which I replied “no, but then I don’t think anyone else has either.” Pepper Potts gets promoted to CEO of Stark Industries on merit, which is cool, but then she struggles under the workload, perhaps because she’s a woman. Scarlett Johannson shows up and kicks some serious ass, which is cool, but she does it in a very and-now-I’m-sticking-my-bum-out way, perhaps because she’s a woman. Elongated Muskrat shows up as himself in a very awkward and robotically-delivered cameo, perhaps because he’s so filthy fucking rich that he can have whatever he wants.

2 Iron 2 Ferrous

Our first big fight occurs at the Monaco Historic Grand Prix. Safety is clearly not a priority at this event. Tony Stark decides at the last minute to drive, replacing the previously scheduled driver on his team. The race officials all think this is fine. The other drivers, instead of saying “there’s no fucking way I’m driving with that lunatic on the circuit in a 200mph death machine”, say “yes, this is fine.” A random guy in an orange jumpsuit (that’s Vanko, but they don’t know that yet) walks onto the track. At this point I expect the marshalls are all reaching for their red flags, but the head marshall says “no, don’t even think about stopping the race, I want to see how this pans out.” Random guy whips out some sort of electric whip weapon the likes of which has never been seen. Head marshall again has no problem with this. Random guy starts CUTTING CARS IN FUCKING HALF. Head marshall says “eh, I’m sure he’ll be gone in a minute. Let the race continue.” Meanwhile the pit crews are on the radio to their drivers saying “There are people probably dying between Piscine and Rascasse but it’ll be clear by the time you get there, I think.”

Iron Man 2: This Time It’s Ore-sonal

Vanko gets imprisoned but broken out by Justin Hammer, played by Sam Rockwell, who is one of those actors who I have a huge amount of respect for by dint of his ability to convincingly play pretty much any role you can think of. Right from the start you can tell where this dynamic is going – Hammer thinks that he’s holding the cards, but oh look here’s our old friend pride-before-a-fall. Curse your sudden but inevitable betrayal, Vanko! Vanko’s one of those uberhacker types who can break into any system by typing really fast for ten seconds. With these skills, he decides to make a robot army to destroy Iron Man, which strikes me as somewhat implausible, as you would be better off applying those skills to steal Tony Stark’s bank details instead, which would destroy him in a much cleaner, less risky fashion.

Another subplot that has been running throughout is Tony’s imminent death from palladium poisoning thanks to the glowy dongle in his chest. With a little help from Nick Fury, Tony discovers that his dad had actually solved this problem decades ago, but had been unable to implement it due to limitations in the technology of his time. Apparently unlimited money and resources back then are no match for one guy’s hand-made basement particle accelerator today. I know that no-one expects scientific accuracy from these sorts of films, but does it have to be so blatantly bollocks?

Iron Man 2: Back In The Habit

After a few more scenes of driving around in an Audi R8 (hey, remember back when those were exotic?) we get the final fight scene. Tony and Rhodes (who was working for Hammer for a while, until he realised “hang on, are we the baddies?”) fight off Vanko’s robot army with consummate ease, so you are in no doubt that the main event is yet to come. Vanko shows up1, good guys win (but only just, of course), Tony saves Pepper Potts one more time for good measure, film ends.

Themes of this film? Revenge, hubris, ladies’ bums. Next film will be Thor. Karen and I have definitely seen this one before.

  1. at this point, Karen and Bernard had a little punning tour de force, which I include here at their insistence. “He’s Ivan Man! Ivan Man, do you get it? Because his name is Ivan but Ivan sounds a bit like Iron!” and “Time to shoot the high pressure vodka gun!” and something about “Spud gun! Potatos! Because Russia!” and “You need two spud guns, one on each side, to make sure the potatoes are (adopts dubious Russian accent) evenly distributed among the people!” []
Pete