Alan Partridge: Alpha Papa

I must be up front with this review: we had no idea Alan Partridge existed when we picked up this movie. Now that we have seen the movie, I plan on hunting down the earlier works. That should be an indication of how it went. I peeked at a few reviews and saw a lot of negativity surrounding the fact that this movie just wasn’t as good as other Alan Partridge stuff. Good god, if this is an example of him at his worst then we better track down the rest quickly. Reviews seem very mixed at times, sometimes stating that the character is too tired and over-used, or that it’s not funny because its the same-old same-old jokes… and then swinging in the other direction to claim it’s only funny if you’re already familiar with the character which means its a bust for everyone else.
I’m here to say that none of that is true. Well, since I’m not familiar with the character, I suppose I cannot claim that it is NOT an example of same-old same-old, but you also shouldn’t fuck with a formula that is working. We had no problem following who the character is and becoming interested in more stories, so I’m just going to assume those reviews are being bitchy for the sake of trying to find something interesting to say.

I can’t even explain why it was so good. The plot was pretty dumb, really, but it was just so clever. All of the lines were spot-on with good timing. If you’re not interested in low brow British jokes then I suppose you might not like it much, but if you enjoy jokes about awkwardness, nudity, and poop, you should probably give Alan Partridge a peek.

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Drinking Buddies

Drinking Buddies is labelled “Comedy/Drama”.  This is a lie.  Absolutely nothing funny happens in this movie.  It’s an hour and a half of people drinking beer and whining about relationships, with no interesting plot to speak of.

The thing I enjoyed most about this movie was that my husband picked it, so I got to make fun of him for 90 minutes.

Childhood’s End

Childhood's EndChildhood’s End by Arthur C. Clarke

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This is hard to write a review for. I don’t know if it’s because I was only able to read snippets on lunch breaks for the last few months or what, but it’s just not grabbing me. This is my first Clarke novel I believe, and don’t get me wrong, I really enjoyed his writing, but something about the story just isn’t clicking. It’s like there’s too much premise and not enough plot, and I’m already halfway through.

It’s too bad because I thought I would really enjoy it. Maybe I will try it again when I have more time.

View all my reviews

Sling Blade

I went through IMDB looking for movies rated above 7 which we had not seen before.  There were surprisingly few.

We tend to avoid watching romances, so I ended up with a pile of those. Two bonus reviews!: We watched 500 Days of Summer, which felt incredibly generic to me, but it was somewhat redeemed by the creative structuring – I guess the animated transitions really appealed to me.  Husband hated it.  Then we watched Before Midnight which is apparently the third movie in a trilogy that we have not seen the other two movies in!  We got 45 minutes into that before I burst out with “What the fuck is the point of this movie?!?” and read the synopsis on Wikipedia, only to discover there is no point.  I turned it off.  I haven’t seen the first one so I guess it’s probably better if you’re already invested in the characters and just want to spend more time with them, but it was a colossal waste of 45 minutes as far as I’m concerned.  I want movies to have a god damn plot.

Going through the list went something like this:  “ugh, romance… ugh, romance… ugh, romance… ooh not a romance! … ugh, romance…” so when we unburied Sling Blade I recalled that it was one of the non-romance findings, but I didn’t know much else about it.  I assumed that since it had “blade” in the title that it was some kind of action movie.  It turns out it’s actually a drama, which really makes a lot of sense because if it had been an action movie we would have seen it already.  I don’t know what I was thinking.

I really enjoyed Sling Blade.  It had a plot, which was a good start (seriously, what the fuck why is that movie so highly rated), although I was pretty worried when it opened with 15 minutes of some random guy in a mental hospital rambling about almost having sex with a transvestite.  The movie is the story of Karl, who is a mentally challenged man who has spent the majority of his life in a hospital after killing someone with a “Sling Blade” at the age of 12. He is now “cured” of murderous tendencies, but is completely and obviously not prepared to be turned loose on his own.  They pat him on the head and drive off, leaving him on the curb of the town he was a child in.

The plot itself didn’t really hold any surprises.  The foreshadowing is less of a shadow and more of a neon sign, and I turned to my husband at one point and said “Well, now we know how it ends.”  That’s exactly how it ended. (Although when the guy at the shop tells Karl that once the shop is locked you can’t get out and he’ll get him a key, my husband did predict it would end with him burning to death in a sombre lesson about fire safety regulations.  Now you know that it does not, in fact, end that way.  Sorry for the spoilers.)  Despite knowing what’s going to happen, it’s still gripping somehow, probably because the acting is fantastic.  The characters are all very real (sometimes regrettably so) and they all behave exactly like you expect – which is what makes it both predictable and believable.  That’s good writing and acting.  I recommend checking it out.

Assassin’s Creed Black Flag (First Impressions)

This is kind of cheating since I haven’t really played much of it yet, just the prologue stuff, but I already have some things to say so why not.  I was looking forward to this title because I’ve spent way too much time playing the the AssCreed games.  I played the first one and enjoyed it, until I got to the ending and said “What the fuck” and immediately filed it under a Steam category titled “The Ending Sucks”. It was sorta-kinda redeemed when I played AssCreed 2, aided significantly by the fact that AssCreed 2 was an amazing fucking game.  I put so many hours into it.  And then I immediately went from that into Brotherhood which was similarly amazing because it was the exact same game except polished up to be even better.  By the time I was done Brotherhood, Revelations had come out… but I just couldn’t do it. I couldn’t play more AssCreed yet.  Plus, none of the new mechanics in Revelations really appealed to me.  The tower defense stuff was kind of dumb (I don’t like tower defense in the first place…) and it annoyed me that bomb making took a centre stage spotlight because it meant finding chests was no longer exciting, because all of them held bomb parts now.  Plus Ezio, while still badass, was really old and his facial animations seemed kind of weird to me and enh I dunno it just didn’t appeal to me in the same way.  I figured I would play it one day if only to wrap up the Ezio story, but I never really got around to it.  AssCreed 3 came out and I had no desire whatsoever to play it.  I’ve never been interested in history, and I’m not American, so running around in a forest during the American revolution was wholly uninteresting to me.  Then the reviews came out and they did not inspire me to change my mind.  I didn’t even try a demo of it…

And now I can be a mother fucking pirate oh my god yes.  Whoever is picking the settings for these games, feel free to stand up from your desk right now and announce “Nailed it!” to the office.  I’m saying this without actually having played much of the game, mind you, but I am trusting that it continues to be as awesome as it seems so far.

It also looks amazingly shiny on my computer.  So pretty.  The water makes me want to go swimming.

Quick warning: I rant in this next section.  It is a rant that will probably seem very familiar, and yet no less irrationally angry or profanity laden.  Proceed at your own risk.

My next comment is for the guys in charge of the camera.  You.  Yes you.  You added camera bobbing to Assassin’s Creed and did not add a way to disable it.  You fucking assholes I fucking hate you.  I hope you get fucking fired and never work in this industry again.  Jesus christ it makes me so fucking angry oh my fucking god why.  There was no fucking bobbing in all of the previous games.  I merrily ran around and climbed shit and assassinated people without bobbing for many hundreds of hours and had no headaches or nausea.  It is a THIRD PERSON CAMERA.  IT DOESN’T NEED TO FUCKING BOB.  I HATE YOU ALL.  Is it supposed to enhance immersion by making me go “wow these ships are so real that I actually feel kind of sea sick!” because that’s a STUPID FUCKING THING TO ADD TO YOUR GAME.  I don’t even care if you want to add camera bobbing but let me fucking turn it off.   WHY IS THAT SO FUCKING HARD TO FIGURE OUT.  WHY CAN’T ANYONE IN THIS STUPID GOD DAMN INDUSTRY FIGURE THIS SHIT OUT.  FUCK YOU.  There, I feel better now.

After all that profanity, I will add that the bob isn’t too bad.  It’s enough to give me a headache and probably make me limit my play sessions (which sucks in a game I will probably want to spend 200 hours in, if it’s like the previous ones…) but it’s significantly less worse than Tomb Raider was and I might be able to adjust to it.  I object to that fact that I need to adjust to it at all when it’s completely fucking unnecessary, though.  Fortunately it’s only at its worst when you’re sprinting and jumping, and since this is an Assassin’s Creed game, you don’t do a lot of…….. oh.

Moving on… there are a couple other comments I wanted to make too.

As I said, I skipped 3, so the intro to 4 is my first real experience with “Forest Parkour”.  It gets a resounding *shrug* from me – it’s certainly not as exciting as climbing on historical monuments, but I also don’t hate it as much as a lot of the internet seemed to for 3.  Maybe it’s improved since then.  What did annoy me, though, was looking at a cliff covered in lovely climbable looking ivy and branches and launching Edward at it, only to have him scrabble at it like a cat that just tried to leap up a slanted window.  There were very few walls that you could not make an attempt at climbing in the cities, and when you weren’t going to be able to make it it was pretty obvious due to the lack of features on said wall, so you’d circle around and look for a window or board that looked grabbable.  I found it really hard to determine which cliff walls were climbable or not (any rock climber could climb this shit, come on man) and spent a lot of time experimentally hurling myself into them until I finally just gave up and started looking for obvious paths.  It felt a lot more restrictive than I am used to in AssCreed.  Also Edward was unable to climb up an absolutely perfectly square three-walled “chimney” that any idiot (presuming said idiot was a remarkably in-shape assassin) could have climbed up using mario-style wall jumping or just shimmying.  Even Sam Fisher can do this shit!  Maybe I can buy that as an upgrade later or something but it was VERY disappointing.  Shame on you Edward.  You pussy.

Camera headaches aside, I am very excited to sail around finding treasure maps.  I’m liking the characters so far (they have plenty of time to piss me off though) and I’m looking forward to obsessively collecting shit again.  Unless there are feathers.  Fuck those feathers.

Whistler Chestnut Ale

Holy shit.

It’s so good.

It might be a bit too sweet but… I’m going to finish this bottle and if I have anything else to add I will, but it might be that this is all that needs to be said.

It’s good.  I love Whistler Brewing.

[edit] Okay I have more details now.  It’s still really good, but I will add that it becomes overpowering quite quickly.  It starts out crisp and clean and refreshing with a strong vanilla flavour, and then it hits you with an awesome nutty chestnut flavour, but the strength of the flavours starts to undermine the refreshingness after awhile.  It probably is a bit too sweet, too.

Still amazingly good though.

Chiptole Beer

I buy pretty much everything made by Whistler brewing.  They have me solidly in their pocket, I guess.  I have also liked all of them except for the Lost Lake IPA but that’s only because I hate IPA.  My initial reaction to their Chipotle beer was ” CHIPOTLE beer???  wtf.  … well I guess I’m buying that.”

On the back it says “initial mellow and malty, then giving way to warm and spicy.”  My reaction is “This is a really crisp and refreshing beer.  It tastes exactly like beer.”  I have not yet noticed any warm or spicy flavours.  Not even a smoky one.  Just beer, with a bit too much hops in it.  It’s Whistler so it’s good beer, but ultimately kind of disappointing.

Maybe all the chipotle is in the half of the bottle my husband took.  It didn’t SAY “shake well” but maybe…

Frozen River

We’ve both been really sick, so watching movies has been a popular pass-time this week.  We burned through all the mindless comedies pretty quickly.  Tonight my husband was like “I don’t care, I’ll watch anything” so I wandered around in the drama section for a change.  I came out with Frozen River, partly because it had been nominated for a bunch of awards, and partly because I didn’t want to expend any more energy looking.

The movie was… good.  I think.  It was very realistic with really excellent acting, which I think is what impressed most people and won it awards.  The characters were so believable that I checked to make sure it wasn’t based on a true story… because if it had been based on a true story, it would explain why nothing happens.  I mean, stuff happens, but I don’t see the point.  Why would you write a story that feels this, I dunno… generic?, if not to immortalize something that actually happened?  It feels like the movie should have been a lot more poignant than it was.  Instead, it just felt like “Bad Decisions and Their Consequences: The Movie”, where the characters make bad decisions and then exactly what you would expect to happen goes on to happen.  I gather from some other reviews I peeked at that there was a racial/cultural element that they were going for, so maybe it went right over my head because I live in an area where all of those cultures aren’t nearly as stigmatized as they were maybe expected to be for this movie.

The premise of the movie is that a woman (Ray) is trying to raise her two sons (15 and 5) off of what she earns at her part-time retail job, after her husband runs off with all of their savings in order to feed his gambling addiction – just a few weeks before Christmas, no less.  You know things are rough when all you have to eat is popcorn and orange tang.  To make it worse, they had put money down on a new double-wide trailer which was to be delivered shortly after her husband split with the cash.  Without the savings, the delivery cannot be completed and now she will not have a new home to replace their decaying trailer, AND she’s out the $1500 down payment if she can’t come up with the rest of it before the deadline.

She spots her husband’s car in a parking lot, but it’s being driven by a woman (Lila) from the local Mohawk tribe who claims she found it abandoned at the bus station.  They have some somewhat unfriendly exchanges where they establish that no police are called because apparently it’s legal to steal cars as long as it’s on a reservation where the police have no jurisdiction (wouldn’t the license plate and registration be enough proof of ownership??). Then a hole is casually shot through the door of Lila’s home, to which her reaction is to bitch that she’ll need to have that fixed now.  I know America has a bizarre tolerance to guns but I can’t decide if that was realistic or not.  Lila finally relinquishes the keys, but as Ray is attempting to rig up an incredibly unsafe-looking towing solution to get her two cars home, Lila suggests that she knows someone who will buy the car from her for $2000, which is far more than it’s worth.  Ray agrees to go, and they bounce off down the road with Ray displaying incredibly undisciplined-trigger-discipline as she waves her pistol around to assert her authority while also driving.

Turns out Lila wasn’t actually going to sell the car, she was using the trunk in a smuggling operation to transport illegal immigrants across the border from Canada into the USA.  Since the Mohawk tribe extends across the border, they can cross the frozen river to cross the border and be out of the jurisdiction of the police while doing so.  Each trip nets them $2400.  Lila originally promises to give Ray half, then inexplicably tries to steal the car again (what part of this is going to work out for her, exactly?  Ray knows where she lives, what she does, has a gun, has legal ownership of the vehicle… wtf) before just running off with the cash.  Ray goes home (without picking up her other car…), begs for a promotion to full time at her shitty job and is denied, discovers her TV is about to be repossessed by the Rent-To-Own people (more evidence of bad decision making.  Do not rent-to-own shit, especially not gigantic TVs you can’t afford), then decides to go back to Lila’s house and demand her half of the profits.  Somehow, despite all the backstabbing and shooting, they partner up to do more smuggling runs.

Bad decisions lead to consequences lead to bad decisions lead to consequences, and then the movie ends.  I would not claim the characters learn much of anything through their actions in the movie, which is what made me question why the movie was written.  All I can really find is that there is a theme of “mothers love their children”.  Ray is trying to provide a nice house (and food…) for her children.  Lila is trying to provide money for her son which was taken from her because of a perception that she would be unable to provide for it.  There is a sequence involving an immigrant woman and her baby.  I gather from commentary that the message is that all these women are from different cultures and situations, but they all love and provide for their children… do we really need a movie to tell us that?

It’s not like it wasn’t interesting to watch – it’s incredibly realistic (the bad decisions they make are exactly the kinds of bad decisions you would expect, rather than feeling like an artifact of lazy writing) and the acting is worth a look-see – but it really did feel largely pointless in the end.  I was expecting more from something that won so many awards, but I suppose I just didn’t “get” it.