This 2013 action-thriller, directed by Antoine Fuqua, delivers lots of action.  Its like a tin of Ronseal – is does exactly what is says on the tin, although in this case the film delivers exactly as how one would expect this film to be.  Pro-American – we will always save the day kind-of theme running throughout is a true delight and spectacle from beginning to end.  I have to admit I found it exciting at times and got lost amongst all the action.  I guess I am just getting tired of the format of the timer also counting down to about 5 seconds before everything is fixed, so for that it was typical of many other films that have gone before.  So that, if you will, is my only caution with this film.

It has some truly amazing actors, most notably Gerard Butler, Aarun Eckhart and the fantastic, Morgan Freeman.  Morgan always seems to deliver every time.  It also has the gorgeous, Rich Yune (born Richard Yun, 1971) as the villainous, KANG.  So I was in heaven watching the film to say the least.

Overall I would give this film a very strong 8 out of 10.  Definitely one to watch on the big screen at the cinema to get all the action delivered in ones seat, with the wide screen and the full impact of cinema-surround-sound.  So after you have read this review, don’t wait around, go to the cinema and get yourself sat down ready for action.

Today I met up with my friend Tam, who I haven’t seen for ages. Was lovely to catch up. We had decided to meet at the O2 in late afternoon to watch two movies, and, in-between, grab a bite to eat. The two movies for the day were ‘Dark Skies’ and ‘Scary Movie V’. Both of the films were very different, and my reviews are below.

FILM REVIEW: DARK SKIES

If you believe in aliens, then this is definitely a film to watch. This film, directed by Steven Soderbergh, is an American sci-fi horror/thriller. At times it is quite laughable and one that doesn’t scare you that much. It is more of suspense that horror, if I am honest. As with all films like this, I am getting tired of the Paranormal Activity film-based approach, I mean with a similar set up, cameras being installed to monitor things, and something sinister happening. The film is like an amalgamation of the plots of the numerous Paranormal Activity films and the 2013 film, ‘Mama’. Yet the film fails to deliver in the way that these films have done. There is really nothing unique, apart from the added factor of alien lifeforms being the basis of this film, as opposed to a possessed demon/troubled spirit.

In light of this, the score of this film from me isn’t very high, scoring a benign 4 out of 10. Yes its something to watch if you need to kill some time, but if you have something better to do, then you’ll be disappointed. Perhaps however, it is better to see this film at the cinema as opposed to at home, as you will get the big screen experience and perhaps be slightly more scared than you would be watching it on a 42 inch LED TV.

FILM REVIEW: SCARY MOVIE V

I will be blunt, it is a case of been there done that and bought the t-shirt four times before, and now it feels like the new t-shirt is a bit dull and boring. In other words, the design could do with an upgrade/refreshing. Nonetheless, I was amused throughout and found it laughable, especially with it ripping the majority of the story-line from Mama, and adding in the other horrors to the mix, before making is satirical touches to them. All in all a good laugh, and for that I’d score it 5 out of 10. You definitely know what type of film you are going in for, and what to expect. So if you’re in the mood to be amused, then this is a film to watch, either at the cinema, or if you don’t get round to it when its out, then wait for it on DVD, BluRay or online streaming.

On the IMDB website this film has been given an overall rating of 7.4 out of 10.  If I am blunt, I would not give it such a high score.  While I accept that this was directed by Danny Boyle, a very creative and talented individual, I have to admit I was left some what disappointed.  For me the film is worth a good 6 but nothing higher.  Perhaps my friend Matt, with whom I watched this film with at the O2, may differ in his view, but nonetheless it is mine.

As for the film, I found it cumbersome at times and protracted.  It flitted from one thing to the next, and could give rise to some confusion as to what was reality and what was not.  Indeed, it was a bit like watching the film, ‘Inception’, raising many questions throughout the film than answered.  To say it almost turned me into a trance is quite close to it. That said, it was enjoyable, and the soundtrack behind the scenes that unfolded before ones eyes on the big screen was exceptional.  It truly did correlate well to the film throughout.  It is also nice to see that a number of films, that have been realised this year, are set in London, which is a fabulous city and one which I feel should feature more in the films ahead.

James McAvoy, as Simon, and Rosario Dawson, as Elizabeth, were the key actors within the film and they did a marvellous job.  James is very good looking, so for the gay-guys and women out there your eyes are in for a treat.  Rosario is very talented at what she does and I look forward to seeing future films with her taking a leading role.

The storyline behind the film was solid, more-or-less, and told the story of many lives colliding together with what would seem unrelated individuals – criminals, an art auctioneer and hypnotherapist.  So for that, it was very original and my hats off to the writers Joe Ahearne and John Hodge.

In summary – a good film, but as stated by my good friend Matt in his blog, its one that you can wait for to come out on DVD, or for those more advanced with technology – BluRay and streaming through such services as Netflix and Sky Movies.

This film promised a lot and delivered with an all-star cast.  Just like a classic novel every moment was savored.  The story told cannot be said to be truly melodious throughout, with periods of anguish, animosity and things from the past being stirred once again from the lives of the characters.

It was a film full of sophistication and class throughout, and Dustin Hoffman, as director, did a sterling job in this creation.   To my surprise, as commented by my learned friend Matt, Mr Hoffman did not feature in his own film, which I would have thought he might have wished to do.  With the likes of Dame Maggie Smith, (as Jean Horton), Tom Courtenay (as Reginald Paget), Billy Connolly (as Wilf Bond) and Pauline Collins (as Cissy Robson), it was always going to be the case that the film would be epic.

The Quartet is a relaxing and peaceful film, and therefore it will not appeal to everyone.  I would compare it to Marmite; you’ll either love it or hate it!  If you are looking for an action packed, jaw dripping, eye engrossing film, this isn’t the one for you.  If you want to retreat to a more sedate, tranquil place and unwind, then you’ll love it.  This is a film you can either watch in the cinema, or wait for its release on Blu-ray and DVD.  Unlike the ‘Life of Pi’, I would not say that it is absolutely mandatory to watch on the big screen.

Overall a beautiful film, and as it will not appeal to everyone, I’d give it a solid score of 7/10.

The Christmas break up north with family was exactly what the doctor ordered!  It has given me the very necessary time to take a step back, slow down and assess things.  In my day-to-day life in London things just seem to take over, and especially in 2012 which felt like a whirlwind.  I don’t know about you, but it only seemed like yesterday that 2012 had started, let alone the dawn of yet another year – the year 2013.

December was a month spent with family, work colleagues and friends.  The work Christmas dinner and drinks was a very enjoyable evening – that’s to say I didn’t hear of many complaints, apart from my failed attempts at giving a speech (about six times I have been told).  So here are my words of caution now to anyone, do not ask me to give a speech, unless: (a) you want to find a cure for insomnia, (b) someone has spent time writing one for me, (c) you have the patience of a saint, or (d) you have a large alcoholic beverage to get through the pain.  So don’t say you haven’t been warned!

To describe Christmas in three words I would say: ‘a humble one’.  It was not a Christmas about giving and receiving big gifts, as has been the case in previous years, but instead one about people, and in particular FAMILY.  And you know what…. it has been very refreshing and one of the best I have had.  I had the opportunity to catch up with my parents and brothers and his respective partner, finding out what’s been going on in their busy lives, and I also got reacquainted with friends I haven’t seen for several years, including my dear friend Dave.  Without my family, and my friends, I would not be in the position I am now.  So I want to say here, thank you so very much for all your love, guidance, help and support you have given me over the years.

New Year was ‘a quiet one’.  And while I am only 26, it was spent having an early night and waking up all refreshed and energised without waking up with the hangover I suffered with last year.  Instead I was able to enjoy a lovely meal with Kraus, Jack and Joe, with wine and a good chat.  It was a very enjoyable afternoon and one I will treasure in the year ahead.

2012 was a year of change – a bit like arriving at your terminus with the driver going, “All Change…”.  It was a year with many great memories and treasured experiences.  It was a year that I learnt more about myself, and that includes the bad and the ugly in addition to the good!  I met new acquaintances and from it made some new friends that I am very grateful to have.  I secured a great job, and I got to play a small part in the delivery of the Olympic and Paralympic Games in London, and most importantly, I had fun along the way.  So I want to thank everyone in my life, and those people that know me, for making it such a wonderful year.  While in some ways I did have my downs as well as ups, it was, on the whole, a great year and I hope it continues in an upwards tragetory for the year ahead, the year that is 2013.

So for 2013 I haven’t made any dramatic or drastic resolutions, but instead have opted to go back to basics (and NO – I am not talking about the Sainsbury’s food range!).  My resolution for the year ahead is: to be more patient, make time for my friends, relax more, cherish the things I have, focus on health and fitness, and lastly to smile.  Simple I know, but one thing this Christmas has shown me especially, is that I have, in the mad rush of last year, failed on several occasions to do this.

So without further a do, Happy New Year!  I hope it brings you all much happiness, joy, love, prosperity and success!  AND remember, enjoy life in the best way you can, focusing on the things you do have, cherishing friends and family and making yourself a better person.

I was fortunate, as a Cineworld Unlimited member, to be able to see an early screening of this film. The remainder of you will have to wait until 20th December in the UK.

It is definitely a film you MUST go and see. I say it’s obligatory as its awesome. It was heart warming, mesmerising and deep – one that stirs so many emotions inside yourself (or at least it had that effect on me). Albeit, throughout the latter part of the film my dear friend Matt, kept offering, and myself denying, a sip of delightful single malt whisky from his-hip flask.

Matt aside (dare I say it?), and getting back to the film, Ang Lee, as director, did a stunning job with all of the effects and hooking the attention of the audience in portraying the story told in the 2001 novel by Yann Martel. It tells a story of a 16 year old boy that sets sail for Canada on a fateful voyage from which the true story comes alive. It’s a story about survival and how many lessons can be learnt from ones past and applied and adapted to the present situation.

Suraj Sharma, the talented actor, plays the key role and is gorgeous to say the least! He brings so much to his charming and enchanting character, and by the end had done a sterling job in bringing the story alive. He physically did look exhausted by the end! Definitely an actor to watch out for in the future ahead, and one I will keep my eye out for.

As for the locations in the film, my hats off to those that were behind this. They truly did deliver, along with those that carried out the filming. To get Matt to praise this particular aspect during the film is praise indeed, as it has to be noted it’s a very rare thing for him to do, and even rarer for him to be complimentary to me (but I know he tries).

This is a film for the family to watch and one great for a winters day, or evening. And without elaborating further and destroying the story that is told, just make sure you go and watch it in 3D at the cinema – you won’t be disappointed!

In closing, its a great film to see out 2012 and see the approach of the New Year on the imminent horizon. I can’t rate it high enough as its off the scale! You never know, you may even shed a tear at the end (like I did, as I’m a complete softy at heart)!

Great Expectations, and great they were! This was a delightful film to watch at the cinema on a late Sunday afternoon with the sun setting in the sky. A great story created by Charles Dickens with his deep and complex characters in which the story has so many levels. He was a master of story telling and the director of this version of the story really did a fantastic job at capturing the characters that Dickens so well describes. The film had dark moments, with an excellent all cast.

Watch it. You will love it as I did.

Well November has been and gone, and no I didn’t sign up to the moustache goings on this year. While I do praise those that do partake in this awareness event concerning men’s health issues, it is a little lost on me, especially with my baby face; and despite me shaving everyday, I just couldn’t grow a moustache like the average man. So to those that did, well done and congratulations for going through with it.

Now this has been quite an active month, and for a number of notable reasons.

Cross Trainer

Following on from my update last month, and luckily to say, I haven’t been plagued with problems with wisdom teeth as now they have been and gone, well at least the lower ones, and hopefully I don’t have any problems with the upper ones. The idea of another set of wisdom teeth extractions does not bode well. On the upside it has meant that I’ve had an uninterrupted phase on improving my physical health by attending the gym after work regularly. I’ve found it indeed a great way to de-stress and gives me the time to reflect on the day whilst listening to trance music to keep me moving to a beat.  So for this month, just gone, the cross trainer has been my best friend!

Now moving on to the more interesting stuff, or perhaps I’ve made you fall asleep already, if I have and you’ve been suffering with insomnia…then spread the word…you’ve finally found a cure!  If not, thanks for reading on and better luck next time!!!  First Friday in to the month was a day of rest from the work place, and I spent it having lunch with a friend and doing some sightseeing around the galleries in London. I do admit, the National Portrait Gallery is a great place to go to escape the hustle and bustle that is London.  Following on from my leisurely day, I head to a wine bar not far from my office to celebrate a work colleagues belated birthday. It was a time of true enlightenment and laughter seeing my colleague open the presents that had been bought for her….some interesting gifts I have to say!  A cheerful evening with some nice wine, laughter and a great time overall. Hope you had a great one.

Skyfall

Saturday, and yes I had a mild headache in the morning, which was kindly whisked away by a fry up before heading to catch up with Tam to watch the new Bond film, ‘Skyfall’ which I reviewed at the beginning of the month and can be found below. Sat in the Sky Premier screen, the full action exploded in front of my eyes and I was lost for several hours deeply absorbed in the story, before departing our separate ways after a brief analysis of the movie.

That Sunday it was back at the gym, before having a light bite for lunch and watching the day leisurely go by.  I have to admit very refreshing. I did some reading of a book I’ve been reading called, ‘The fish rots from the head’ and gives an I depth guide into the inner workings of corporate governance.  For some, they’d find this boring, but for me is an area of which I am rather interest, and partly because one day I’d like to work my way up the career ladder, and therefore this is an area that I want to become more knowledgeable of.

Monday that followed, I caught up with Justin who I haven’t seen in a long time, at least over a year, and went and watched the film, Silent Hill 2: Revelation and in 3D.  Throughout the film I clenched my eyes together at times, and jumped in others.  We both laughed at how remarkably pathetic I was before having a catch up over coffee in Starbucks, enjoying the Christmas drink offer of two for one: toffee nut latte and praline mocha. I have to admit the former was delicious, and you’ll have to ask my friend what he thought of the latter.

Freedom

Afterwards I headed to central London to talk to a Eduardo about law as he’s just started his LLB programme, and in doing so, made me realise what a fantastic time I had when I was studying the subject up north.  Also made me realise how much I still remember, even if I was a bit rusty at times.  After the discussion, I had a leisurely walk along Oxford Street to Marble Arch, before heading back home for a rest and some more reading in the evening of the fiction book, ‘Freedom’ by Jonathan Franzen.  The book is a revelation itself, and I love delving into the various lives of the characters, so thank you Joseph for the book recommendation…you know my taste in books quite well.

British Museum

Tuesday, my final day off on annual leave from the office, I decided against going to the gym and instead spent it having what I like to call ‘cultural time’, and this is where I take time out to learn new things by visiting a museum or an art gallery.  On this occasion I visited two museums: The National History Museum and The Transport for London Museum, the former based in between Tottenham Court Road and Holborn Tube stations, and the latter in the central square area of Covent Garden.  Now I won’t go into too much detail here, as I have already talked about it in my earlier post this month, which you will find below and may find it interesting to read, or not, which ever is the case.  As per usual, I headed to Starbucks to grab another delicious Toffee Nut latte without the cream….have to cut the extra calories out where possible.  Oooh so saved about 10 calories there then!  Arh well just like Rome wasn’t built in a day, nor will my weight be lost in the same period.  If you know of a miracle cure, please let me know.

The remainder of the month of November by contrast to the beginning has heavily revolved around going to work, keeping on top of paper work and going to the gym.  I am in a phase of my life where I am continuing to battle with losing the weight I want to get rid of, so instead of looking in the mirror in the morning and going ‘urgh’ to replace it with, ‘not bad!’  Im not asking for much am I.  It has also been spent reading a lot a many different books, and has been great as the nights have been getting colder.

argo

The last two weekends of November I spent time with Matt and Jamen, helping the former with organising his wardrobe, and both of them for dinner.  They introduced me to two great places for dinner, a place on Commercial Road and another called Pie Crust, which is situated on Stratford High Street. Alongside this, I watch two movies with Matt, both of which I reviewed earlier in my blog, ‘Twilight’ which was an utter saga, and ‘Argo’ which I have to say was phenomenal and cannot recommend enough.  So thank you Matt and Jamen.

So all in all a great month, and that was the month of November.  Now I am very much looking forward to the festivities that December will bring and of course seeing my family for Christmas, whom I love very dearly.

Have I cured your insomnia? Hahaha.

All the best, BENJAMIN

I raise this question at a point where a UKIP by-election candidate has called placing children with gay couples “unhealthy”, and has been called to apologise for doing so. Shasha Khan, Green Party candidate and Marisha Ray, Liberal Democrat candidate have branded this comment as “repugnant and grotesque” and ” discrimination and prejudice at its very worst”, respectively. And in many ways I agree with them. I find it difficult when one tries to defend their comments on this issue by justifying it on being a deeply religious Christian, as it flies in the face of the main teachings, ‘treat thy neighbour as thy would want to be treated.’

Yes I can accept that for many it may appear strange, but isn’t the key issue, especially when, as commented by Andy Stranack that we have over 60,000 children in care in the Uk, that we place these children in loving homes with a couple who will care, nurture, look after them and love them? By saying the comments of being ‘unhealthy’ we are going back to a key stigmatisation that has been raised time and time again against, and about people that are gay and lesbian. To put it simply, this is not true!

One time ago, it was not unconscionable in the USA to force black men, women and children to sit at the back of the bus, and to treat them in contempt, which was so heavily campaigned against by the likes of Dr Martin Luther-King. Back then, people could have perfectly said that it was ‘unhealthy’ for them to reproduce. Again, under Hitler’s Third Reich, Jews and other deemed groups/individual were singled out as being inhuman. Thankfully such views have now been challenged and we have addressed this prejudice. We are all human and deserve to be listened to and respected. The same now has to be done for those who are gay and lesbian and want to adopt, providing homes for children that want to be loved, cared for, and live in a family that will be supportive of them as they grow up.

The crisis is already here, over 60,000 children that want to be in a loving family, and people saying gay and lesbian couples – ‘no, back of the queue’, or ‘not today…you’re unhealthy’ and ‘sorry you don’t meet the prerequisite criteria.’ What I also have difficulty is with people who say they have deeply held Christian beliefs, which teach one to care for others, yet would decline to allow gay and lesbian people to raise children who are so wanting for love and to be cared for. To me that is putting oneself ahead of the needs of others, when we a solution to this crisis which is glaring back at our faces.

People against gay and lesbians raising children say, well the children will have an unbalanced upbringing. Yet they seem to adopt an ideal view when considering raising children. Can you give me an example of an ideal family? Straight couples get divorced! Doesn’t that unbalance a child’s upbringing? Also, they often forget to think if you’re a child in care waiting for someone to adopt, then the likelihood is the child has already been affected in that sense. Wouldn’t a child in that situation crave having two people raise them, irrespective of whether its a man and a woman or two people of the same sex? Also what about children that are raised by their mother, who lives with their sister because her man has either died or not present? Are we saying in that instance the child is unbalanced and will be messed up?

The key issue is, if the couple wanting to adopt can, then they should be allowed to. provided they are committed to doing so. The law in the Uk accepts this in theory at least. In practice….well that’s more of a grey area. All couples should be able to decide whether or not they want to have a family, and bring up a child.

So for those that have reservations, let’s shake things up a little. We don’t live in an ideal world…so stop trying to create the white picket fence neighbourhood…as in practice it’s only there for a select few. The key should be providing love and affection and raising a child to be good, irrespective of what sexuality the people are that raise and adopt them.

So in closing, my view is the answer can be simply put: gay and lesbian couples are just as healthy as heterosexual couples to adopt and raise a child or more. The issue should be will the child be cared for, loved and looked after, and will the couple act in the best interests of the child.

Now it takes a lot for me to agree with the Daily Mail, especially as its a tabloid, but they were correct in stating that this is “a cracking good spy thriller.” This is a page turner and one you won’t want to put down. This is the second book in which Alex Milius appears, and if you haven’t read the earlier book you must read ‘A spy by nature’ before venturing on to the story set in Madrid.

Charles Cumming is very gifted writer in this genre area, and one who competes with the likes of the Jason Bourne characters. The reason is simple, his characters come across as realistic and the settings well researched. He is very adept at suddenly springing a twist in the fabric of the story and when you least expect it. This is a novel to read if you’re into your spy thrillers, pleasure is guaranteed. Like a modern day version of ‘Tinker tailor solder spy’….well not exactly, but definitely is up there. Indeed I’d say Charles is more accessible to more readers!

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