Wok to Walk – I’d wok elsewhere

I was walking through Soho in London and I came upon a noodle bar called “wok to walk” on Brewer street and thought I’d get some takeaway noodles for lunch. The place certainly looks promising with a trendy look and feel, organized and clean cooking area, and 3 step menu. There’s 2 types of chili sauce on the tables along with your standard asian restaurant accompaniments It’s all fresh and made to order in front of you and service was quick. I decided on udon noodles with chicken and broccoli with Thai coconut sauce as it has a couple spicy-looking symbols next to it and I like some heat. The portion size was disappointingly small for my £6.35, nevertheless I headed back to work with a sense of optimism which was unfortunately misplaced.

Overall the food was pretty disappointing. Although the noodles and broccoli were well cooked the chicken was dry and there wasn’t nearly enough of it and the broccoli to warrant the cost of the food. Still, a good sauce would have made it all worthwhile but sadly the Thai Coconut I chose because of the 2 fiery heat symbols next to it on the menu was devoid of both spice and flavor. I got a hint or two of lemongrass but no fish sauce or lime, none of that tongue-coating sweet-sour-salty wonderfulness you would expect from even a moderately good thai sauce and there wasn’t even a hunt of heat. I know that there’s a big difference between what I and your mainstream human consider hot but I can tell you with absolute certainty that no chili has been even brought into the vicinity of that poor excuse for a sauce.

Whomever created Wok to Walk spent plenty of time on the look and feel of the place and not nearly enough on the quality of the food. I didn’t come in because they had trendy-looking white-on-orange signs, I came in because I wanted some good food. If I’d paid half the price I did I still would have considered it a waste of money and at the price I paid it’s highway robbery. Do yourself a favor and go to Wasabi or Samurai instead. It’s not made to order but it’s much better value for money.

Review – “The Road” by Cormac McCarthy

“The Road” by Cormac McCarthy is a haunting story of a dying man trying to save his son in a world blasted of all life and hope after an un-named apocalypse, empty of all but the “lucky” few survivors scrabbling for the precious few remaining cans of food in the burnt ruins of the world. The only reason he hasn’t used his only remaining bullet to end his own suffering is his desperation to get his young son he loves far enough south to survive the coming winter.

There is very little reminiscence in this novel, you don’t learn much about this man or what happened to the world because it truly doesn’t matter. The starving people in this story are down to their rudiments both in mind and body, almost all personality and emotion leached out of them. They are as grey as the landscape.

The author manages to maintain an undercurrent of desperation, fear, and hopelessness in this novel in a way that is completely immersive and convincing. The author states that he got the idea when in Texas with his son, and to me this seems like an outpouring of the fear every father has about his children, only amplified. The detailed way he narrates the day to day struggle of the characters and the man’s hopes and fears tells me this is a story about the author and his son, that this is a vehicle for him to vent his worries about the future. I’m a new father and this really connected with me in ways hard to explain which is one of the reasons I find this book so compelling.

This is one of the best books I’ve ever read and it’s certainly one of the darkest. I highly recommend it but it is not for the faint of heart.

“rec” – a review

I didn’t know anything about rec before I started to watch it besides the fact it’s horror-thriller genre, but if I had heard that the plot contained zombies, trapped people, and government conspiracy I would have thought been here done that, bought the tee-shirt, wore it out, then used it as a rag in a bottle full of gasoline and motor oil that I would have hurled at the next movie with all three of those elements.
Zombies are overused as baddies to the point where they are almost expected, and people trapped somewhere while bad things happen to them is such a staple of horror cinema that you’d think there’s no way to have a genuinely new movie about it. Also the documentary single-camera point of view has also been done. Truly there was nothing new about this movie you can point to, so you’d think it’s not even worth pulling out of the cover.

But you’d be wrong.

Just as every other overused genres have occasional brilliant pieces this movie for all its seemingly recycled ideas is done so well that I couldn’t have cared less. It’s well acted, well shot, and the direction keep the action flowing as well as the screams. Even when you know what’s coming, and you do know what’s coming because it’s fairly transparent, you still jump and to me that’s what makes this one of my favorite zombie movies of all time. It’s amazing that a film that truly doesn’t have an original concept in it can be so well done as to be as good as many of the movies it’s literally stolen ideas from. I recommend you watch this in the dark with the sound up, it’s worth it.

Review – Star Trek – warning spoilers

When I saw the new Star Trek movie last night I went in without any real expectations besides seeing an entertaining movie. I used to be a bit of a trekkie when I was a kid in that I liked the TV shows and movies, but not to the level of geekdom. More recently I’ve not been very interested as I’ve found the series in the past decade to be nothing but a re-hashing and re-re-hashing of next generation plots so when I heard that it was a complete re-imagining of Star Trek rather than just a prequel I thought it could be in the entire spectrum from fantastic to dire. I’m pleased to say I thought it was enjoyable and pretty good, but not nearly as good as it could easily have been. It’s rare to find a movie that I don’t think could be improved. Alien, Aliens, and the original cut of the original Star Wars are a few sci-fi examples which I personally think are about as good as they can get. Any changes would just make them different, not better.
The new Star Trek is different. I liked it but I can think of many ways it could have been a better film. The idea of the movie is to show the evolution of Kirk and Spock from youth through academy to being on the Enterprise. That’s a huge wealth of material and could have led to a rich storyline and several moview, instead this movie was rushed to the point of ridiculousness. After a great first sequence there’s one scene apiece about Kirk and Spock’s youth and then another one as young adults, then they’re both at the academy, Kirk as a cadet and Spock as an instructor, with Uhura as a eye candy. There’s about 5 or 10 minutes which breeze over all of Kirk’s academy days (none of Spock’s at all), then all of a sudden they’re on the Enterprise in the midst of the crisis and Kirk’s made first officer to Spock being captain. Now mind you Kirk is still at this point a cadet who hasn’t even graduated so it’s pushing it to say the least to make him XO of the Federation’s latest and greatest flagship as he has no experience whatsoever. An artificial and stereotyped conflict is generated between Kirk and Spock which I think takes away from the film as it’s never really developed, and it’s a symptom of the movie’s main flaw. The other characters: McCoy, Sulu, Checkov, and Scotty get kinda chucked at you with no history and for the most part are almost parodies of the characters from the old series. None of them get any real time to flourish and they instead have to resort to the mannerisms and lines from the original series characters in hopes you’ll fill in the blanks. They even bring in Leonard Nimoy to play an old Spock from an alternate universe (the one we know) ostensibly to give a reason for the plotline but more likely to give some sort of artificial credence to die-hard fans whom the producers mistakenly feel wouldn’t otherwise see this as a “real Trek” film. The effect is unfortunately wasted and actually takes away from what was already, for me at least, working on its own.
The plot is standard trek fare: a crazy Romulan bent on destroying the federation, except this is an alternate timeline from the Trek we know so things go differently. This isn’t a problem for me as I’ve never given a crap about the Star Trek “Lexicon”: the accumulation of Trek lore which is to trekkies as the Bible is to a Baptist. The alternate timeline gives them a license to go in a completely direction plot and style-wise which I find exciting and the movie does a decent job at using this to tell an old story in a new way. Eric Bana as the Romulan baddie of the week doesn’t have a very workable plot or character to work with as the reason he’s pissed off with the Federation makes little sense, so all he can really produce is a sort of general super-evilness without any direction. It’s not that he isn’t believable, it’s just there’s nothing for him to make us believe. Still, it’s not that big a deal as the baddie isn’t as important as the crew of the Enterprise and it’s enough to make the movie work.
I have to say they made some good casting decisions for the primary characters. The young Kirk is pretty good and I liked the guy who played Spock. The other characters didn’t get developed enough to know whether they were any good or not; they were sprung whole, mannerisms and all, giving us no idea where they got them from. Maybe I didn’t like that part because I’m used to the actors from the old series, but I think it’s because we were cheated out of so much of what a prequel is supposed to give you; insight into what made the later characters the beings we know and love. I wanted to see them grow up a bit, not be shoveled at you as complete characters. Kirk comes out of the box as a fantastic, legendary leader with incredible confidence and I just don’t buy it. A person is greatly influenced by life experience and this movie doesn’t even begin to touch on the experiences that made these characters, and I found it hard to digest.
It could have been so much better and still told the same story more or less. After the academy they could have been junior officers on the enterprise or some other ship and gone through some sort of crisis that would have allowed them to develop from kids to adults, and show us how they formed a team and learned to trust each other. This format would also have let the new actors make these characters their own rather than forcing the issue and the movie would seem much less rushed. Some evolution would have made sense of the context of the film, instead it’s all thrown at us mixed with loads of special-effects.
Flaws aside there’s plenty to like in this movie. They did an excellent job of capturing the sights and sounds of the old series but brought them completely up to date in a way I really liked, and they worked in some light humor that evoked a bit of the old series’ spirit. The special effects are excellent and the action sequences are exciting and well-directed. I liked the direction they took the movie, and I like the possibilities of this alternate universe. The new Kirk and Spock worked for me not because they did a good job at re-creating the old Kirk and Spock but because they didn’t try. They had a chance to make these characters anew and did it well. I liked this movie but didn’t love it; it didn’t try to do too much, it just tried to do it the wrong way. Everything was just a bit too quick and convenient in this film, which had the goal of getting Kirk from unborn foetus to the captain’s chair with the full complement of characters and battling evil as soon as humanly possible, which it accomplishes in about 20 minutes. I was slightly disappointed by this lack of development, but not enough to keep me from recommending my friends watch it as it is still well worth seeing for its good points. Get some popcorn and get ready for some fun.