Film Review: Black Panther

Often the weight of expectation can seriously damage your enjoyment of a movie, and having watched the excitement and adoration for this film grow online when I finally got to see it this week it had a lot to live up to.

To it’s credit it is a solid movie, entertaining throughout and a worthy addition to the MCU. However, for me it seems like a second tier entry in the series and not quite as good as some of the hype had said.

The film deals with T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman) returning to his homeland of Wakanda to assume the throne following the death of his father (see Captain America: Civil War). He must deal with his own doubts about whether he is ready to rule.

He also pursues Ulysseus Klaue (Andy Serkis) an arms dealer who has stolen Wakanda’s most valuable resource, Vibranium, the metal which powers their advanced technology. Klaue also has a new ally in Killmonger (Michael B Jordan), a vicious and ruthless individual with a murky past and secret connections to the Wakandan royal family.

Can T’Challa adapt to his new role as king and maintain justice? Can Wakanda keep it’s advances secret and safe from the rest of the world?

The good for this movie is that it continues the entertaining, fun and action filled tone that the Marvel universe is built on. It also creates a whole new setting in Wakanda, a high tech utopia. To the credit of the filmmakers they have crafted a fictional society that feels real, with it’s own traditions, factions and history.

Some aspects of this are wonderfully done like the Dora Milaje, an all female elite guard who are shown as a brilliantly badass fighting force. Or the way each of Wakanda’s five tribes is different.

However, there was one aspect of Wakanda that struck a bum note with me. It seems massively selfish of the country to horde the technology it has, and while concerns over their weaponry are understandable, their withholding of medical advancements is hard to defend. This forms part of the plot of the film but at times the “Wakanda is best” rhetoric from some characters felt a little bit full of itself.

Similarly a point about how Wakanda had been spared oppression unlike much of Africa didn’t ring true. Yes, it had kept out foreign invaders, but T’Challa’s ancestors had taken over the five tribes because of the powers given to them by Vibranium.

These minor points aside the movie works well, although for once this is a comic book film that could have benefited from more villains, perhaps a henchman for Killmonger. It would have provided a second more viable threat for the finale.

That being said the finale is pretty good anyway, and the fight scenes throughout are very well done, particularly the larger scale battles. There’s also a belter of a car chase.

I enjoyed this movie and had great fun. I’ve long liked the character of T’Challa and Boseman does good work here, even if the love subplot was a little underwhelming. And there are some good new characters introduced, particularly M’Baku (Winston Duke) leader of one of Wakanda’s tribes and a swaggering, colourful character who exists on the fringe of Wakandan society. Similarly I also really liked Okoye, the Dora Milaje leader played by The Walking Dead star Danai Gurira, who can kickass but hints at a softer, more humorous side.

A solid adventure and ticks a lot of boxes, but I think I went in expecting too much.

Verdict; 8/10.

Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.


Climbing Kilimanjaro. Kinda.

Kilimanjaro, Africa’s highest mountain which, as we all know, rises like Olympus above the Serengeti. Climbing this mountain has become a regular charity fundraising event, and this year in aid of Sport Relief, it’s my turn.


I’ve joined the charity’s step challenge fundraiser and one of the challenges is the Kilimanjaro one. This means I have to try and make 58,750 steps before the 23rd of March, which is roughly how much it takes to get to the top.

I’ll keep you guys up to date with how I do, and if you fancy sponsoring me that would be great. Here’s the link. Thanks.

Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.

Fundraising for the Unfit

I spent a lot of the last week quite tired and fed up thanks to moving house and work. Despite this towards the end of the week I was seized by a sudden burst of energy and enthusiasm.

The focus of this? My resolutions list, particularly item 3- Cross at least one item off the Bucket List. I’ve been thinking and planning a few of them, and will keep you posted.

One of the items is to raise £1m for charity. I’ve known from when I added this to the list that it would be something that took time, with me chipping away at the amount over the years.

Which has got me thinking about what I can do to raise some cash? I’m nowhere near healthy enough to do a race at the moment (although hopefully after shifting some weight I can get back into running) and I’m not crafty enough to make things to sell.

I’ve thought of a few lazy fundraising ideas:

  • Bad movie marathon- people donate and suggest terrible films for me to watch. I try to watch as many as possible.
  • Blog marathon. I try to write as many blog posts as possible in 24 hours. Although would probably help if I invested in a decent laptop first.
  • Tattoo auction. People bid to chose what marks part of my skin. Massively risky, but would generate publicity.
  • Man vs Food challenge. Would seriously damage my weight loss attempts, but would count as crossing something else off my list.

Would you donate to someone doing one of those? Or have any ideas of your own for how I can raise some money? If so, you know what to do. BETEO.

Book Review: Frozen Heat by Richard Castle

Having recently finished and rewatched Castle I was eager to throw myself back into the tie-in novels and this, the fourth instalment, didn’t disappoint.

Nikki Heat investigates when a body is found crammed into a suitcase and stashed in a freezer truck. But the case becomes painfully personal when she recognises the case as having belonged to her mother, stolen the night of her murder.

Digging into the case she discovers more connections to her mother and her death, and soon begins to delve into a murky world of secrets and conspiracy. Learning new things about her mother, Heat must confront the secrets she kept and is left questioning her morality.

Aided by wisecracking journalist Jameson Rook, Heat hunts for justice but must also deal with the walls she has built up emotionally. Are these more hurtful than helpful?

Again, I think that this book provides more for viewers of the show as there are little injokes and references to it (they even work in a Firefly reference). Similarly, the characters are thinly veiled versions of the show’s, meaning long-term fans will have a clearer image of the characters.

However, I believe that even for newcomers to the world would enjoy what is a fun, if formulaic, thriller. This is the kind of airport novel which entertains and grips you enough but won’t change your life.

Verdict: An involving and entertaining thriller which ticks a lot of boxes and is a fun, gripping way to pass the time. 7/10.

Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.

Fat Boy on a Diet: Just Keep Swimming

After posting my February update on Monday I went swimming properly for the first time since the late ’90s.

I’ve never been a particularly strong swimmer and out of my primary school class I was one of the last to move from the kiddie pool to the proper one. I was way behind the curve in earning my 100m swimming badge, getting mine at a point where their prestige had worn out for my classmates.

One of my few athletic achievements

Throw in the whole having to be topless aspect and I wasn’t exactly hammering down the door of my nearest baths.

But things changed last year. Under the Floridian sun and with a pool at our resort it seemed foolish to avoid the pool. And with WoM offering me reassurance and making me feel better about myself I hit the pool.

Nobody laughed. Nobody recoiled in horror. Nobody really cared, they just all went about their business.

As years of body image baggage and self consciousness drifted away, I quite enjoyed myself.

So, looking for a new way to exercise and shift some weight, I joined WoM at the pool today.

It did not begin well as after one length of painfully slow breast stroke my leg cramped up. I’ve had cramp before, but never in this spot, so it wasn’t fun. A bit of stretching and I was good to go.

I set myself a target of 20 lengths, ensuring a decent workout but allowing me time for some breathers.

Swimming is hard. Especially when you can’t completely remember how you do it.

My technique was pretty poor, but improved slightly with tips from WoM. My shoulders hurt from trying to keep my head up and I drank half the pool as I messed up my timing.

Compared to jogging, swimming sucks. There was no music and my mind didn’t wander. When I used to run I would daydream or plan things, but in the pool I was thinking about timing, technique and focused on that.

Also, I lacked the confidence I had on a run. When I got into my running rhythm I felt good, strong and unstoppable. Anyone who got in my way had better move, because I wasn’t stopping. I was the Juggernaut, b***h!

In the pool I felt slow, out of shape and meekly went around two old ladies chatting in my path.

Despite all this, I managed to hit my target and go beyond it, finishing 24 lengths.

Afterwards I felt pretty good. It wasn’t fun, but I felt better.

I’ll be going back. I need the exercise. I want to get better. And I can’t ignore Dory’s advice.

Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.

Book Review: The Beautiful Dream by Ralf Haley

I found myself identifying a lot with Ralf Haley. Like him I was a kid who loved football and who dreamed of being a professional. And like him, I was nowhere near good enough.

It’s a dream billions of kids have across the world, with only a relatively small number of them achieving it. I knew I was crap even as a kid, and realised that my few skills – okay in the air, hoofed clearances and hacking tackles, weren’t going to be enough. And so, my dream faded away aside from bus stop daydreams where I envision myself leading Swansea to Champions League glory.

Haley, however, reignites his dream and despite hating exercise and not having played a proper match in years decides to give it one last go. He just wants to get paid to play once. One euro, one minute, it doesn’t matter. He’ll still be able to say “I was a professional footballer”.

Haley sends requests for trials all over the world. He joins the gym, which he hates and tries to play more football. He also starts saving money from the job he hates to fund his trip to various countries.

He chooses smaller, less successful footballing nations and sets out with his brother in tow. Malta, Andorra, Latvia and Lithuania are among his destinations as he tries to get a game.

It’s a frankly crazy idea but one that is admirable in it’s ambition, naivety and optimism. Haley wants it badly, and throws himself into his trials.

The problem is that while the quest is noble, it feels half baked and left me wanting more. Haley gives himself a few months to train and save cash, leaving him a relatively small budget. I found myself wondering why he didn’t save for longer which would have helped him go to more places and got his fitness to a higher level too.

This not only would have made the book more interesting and given Haley more countries to write about, but would have helped his chances, as his low key build up leaves his mission looking pretty likely.

The writing is good, if nothing special and could do with a bit more of a polish. And the tone shifts quite a lot, with lots of moaning slightly souring the optimism of his journey. Haley is likeable enough and fairly humorous, but the banter between him and his brother grated on me, completely failing to win me over. It’s like an inside joke, with me being the outsider who views it as stupid.

That being said it was a decent read and Haley’s conclusion is strong. And I had to admire him for just going for it, despite the odds.

Verdict: Flawed but fun, Haley’s dreams surpass his abilities as a writer. A decent attempt at the dream but at times a frustrating one as you wish he had done more. 7/10.

Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.

Fat Boy on a Diet: February Update: Two Steps Forward, One Step Back

February has been a mixed bag. It started off pretty good, with me passing the point where I had lost a stone.

Unfortunately there was a bit of a wobble and I put some of the weight back on.

I was worried that given this stumble I would start sliding back, but thanks to some will power and Lent I’ve turned it around and I managed to lose weight in the last week or so.

The problem is that while I lost most of the weight, I’m ending the month slightly heavier than I started. Disappointing.

Anyway, with a house move in March and me deciding to take more exercise, hopefully the downward trend can continue without any more blips. Tune in at the end of March for the next update.

Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.

Book Review: In the Arms of Family by Chris Philbrook

Part six of Philbrook’s Adrian’s Undead Diary series picks up after the previous instalment’s revelation that one of Adrian’s allies had been under the sway of evil forces. Here we see our hero and his allies dealing with this and also fresh challenges.

There are new, shady types about in town and some of their allies are brought down by a man on the inside. Now those survivors are living with Adran but he knows one is not to be trusted. But which one.

By witholding the identity of this traitor Philbrook ratchets up the tension and leaves the reader unsure and uneasy at the prospect of their next move. Similarly, aside from vague allusions, the new group of enemy survivors are kept hidden. It leaves Adrian worried about what to do next and leaves the reader on the hook.

Elsewhere Philbrook does very well in slowly, steadily building the good vs evil story in the background and bringing the players together. It’s great writing and provides a deeper meaning for the zombies.

As ever Adrian’s diary is at times crude and vulgar, but it works for the character and makes it feel more real. And despite writing from this perspective for much of the book Philbrook is fleshing out some of the supporting cast nicely.

This book doesn’t have as many interludes as before which is a shame as each one so far has served to expand the world Philbrook is building and introduce fresh characters and events. They also provide more tension for the reader than the diary entry format does.

And as with every book so far it left me craving more.

Verdict: Another solid entry in the series which adds more threats and deepens the storyline. Well written and utterly gripping. 8/10.

Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.

Book Review: What Does This Button Do? By Bruce Dickinson

Iron Maiden frontman and Bruce Dickinson, would be an interesting bloke based purely on his rock god status. But this book reveals a man for whom music is just one of many interests.

These include flying, machines, history and fencing. All of these side interests add depth to a man who could just have stuck to the music side of his life. Throughout this book Dickinson comes across as a smart bloke, but one without too much ego. When there is boasting it’s undercut with humour and balanced out when he owns his failures.

Despite this the book disappoints, mainly because of how thin it is. You get the impression there are plenty of stories left untold, and he confesses to being selective. In fact, the personal side aside from band break ups and learning to fly is completely missing. There are no romances or relationships, and his family don’t feature after he heads to university in the 70s.

It’s these gaps that leave the reader, or this reader at least, feeling a little short changed. Dickinson’s no frills writing is likeable and charming, and makes good company to be in, but frequently it feels too guarded or too shallow. More went on than is told.

That’s not that it’s without emotion, particularly a sequence where Bruce visits wartorn Sarajevo or his cancer fight. Both are handled well, without too much wallowing.

It’s a decent read, but leaves you wanting more and knowing that Dickinson could have given so much book.

Therefore it’s a decent read, but sadly underwhelming.

Verdict: Dickinson is funny, clever and good company. There are some good tales and insight, but it feels as though the walls are up and a lot is missing. Entertaining enough but by no means definitive. 6/10.

Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.

Film Review: The Greatest Showman

Okay, right off the bat I need to be clear; I know this is a highly fictionalized version of PT Barnum’s life and that it whitewashes more controversial and problematic parts of the tale. However, this is a review of the film, not a comparison with facts. Therefore I stress my enjoyment of the movie is not an endorsment of the real life Barnum.

So, yeah, I enjoyed this film. I went in slightly apprehensive as for some reason I thought it was a Baz Luhrman movie, but it’s actually directed by Michael Gracey who has Luhrman’s abilities with choreography and big sequences, without his more overblown excesses.

Hugh Jackman excels as Barnum, a poor boy desperate to succeed and win the posh girl he loves. He makes Barnum a likeable character, a showy individual who blags his way through life.

He sets up a museum of curiosities in New York and quickly assembles a cast of unique individuals.

The film paints the freak show in an empowering light, with Barnum giving the performers a family and a home and treating them fairly. It’s a leap from the real story and it feels a little bit of a cop out, but the performers do well. Keala Settle playing the Bearded Lady is the focal point for this, a woman blessed with a great singing voice who gains confidence through her role in Barnum’s show.

The problems arise when Barnum becomes obsessed with respectability and showing up his dismissive inlaws. The chip on his shoulder is understandable, and it adds conflict. Caught up in his first highbrow success, the singer Jenny Lind (Rebecca Ferguson) he places himself in a financial danger and drives a wedge between himself and those close to him.

He ignores the show, treats the performers as though he is ashamed of them and his marriage to Charity, fantastically played by Michelle Williams, is shaken.

Williams is solid throughout, in a quieter, more fragile role who attempts to curb Barnum’s excesses and get him to appreciate his life, to let go of his deep rooted grievances and merely enjoy the happy life he has built. She serves as the balance to him and her singing is on point, it’s not a showy role compared to others but it is a solid performance.

Jackman carries the weight brilliantly, his Barnum a charming individual with relatable, understandable flaws. Even as he becomes selfish and foolish he keeps audiences onside and pulls back from utter scoundrel territory.

It helps that Jackman is phenomenal in the song and dance numbers, especially a strong opening number and several big duets with Williams.

The songs are fantastic throughout and the direction creates many outstanding set pieces. The strongest are Settle’s defiant “This Is Me” and a heartfelt duet between Zac Efron and Zendaya, “Rewrite the Stars” is lush, romantic and beautiful filmmaking.

The Efron and Zendaya subplot which sees his upper class man join as Barnum’s apprentice and fall for the trapeze artist is well played, if slightly rushed. It feels as though one or two scenes more might have fleshed out the romance more, but both performers do their jobs well.

It’s especially good to see Efron back to exuding his early charm and talents, having been in a few dumb comedies. He may be second fiddle to Jackman, but he showcases charisma which proves he could and should be one of the leading men of his generation.

In fact, the cast is universally good and the effect is a fantastic musical which charmed me. Big, daring and striking this mixes old school musicals with modern tech and effects.

The subject matter, despite the efforts to clean it up and give it an empowering spin, can’t eliminate the exploitation entirely and the appearance of circus animals was for me a jolt out of my disbelief. But taken as a musical and a work of fiction it succeeded in impressing and entertaining me.

Fun and well made, but probably won’t bear up to much scrutiny or factual analysis.

Verdict: An enjoyable and beautifully crafted musical, if one checks reality at the door and just goes with it. Jackman and Efron are standouts in a cast who are all on form. 8/10.

Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.