Born to Run? Why I’m gonna start running again.

One of my major regrets is that I stopped running when I went back to university in 2013. By that point I’d been running for almost two years, and I loved it, not only was I in better shape, but it was a great chance to clear my head, it made me feel good and I just enjoyed doing it.

So, why did I stop?

Well, the first hurdle was trying to adjust to university life again. Unlike Film Studies, Nursing was a pretty intense course and I was in lectures pretty much five days a week, in the evenings I was wiped out and would just hang out with my flatmates and I didn’t fancy waking up super early for a run before lectures I found difficult.

The other issue was that living in halls put me off the idea a little. I didn’t want to come back after a run looking all sweaty, red faced and gross. I know that’s daft, but in 2013, despite being at my lightest for years, I was still massively self conscious, and cared a lot about what other people thought about me. I think moving to a new city and going back into halls had really shaken me, I was around a decade older than my flatmates and I felt a bit of an outsider. I also worried that I looked lame trying to hang out with them and that my running might be judged, which is silly and not something I should have let get under my skin.

As a result in the entire first year I managed about three runs.

It was pretty dumb as the running probably would have given me a release valve for the stresses of the course and with a Park Run a few minutes away I could probably have improved my performances over that time. Unfortunately, I just kinda let it peter out.

Of course, the major impact of this was that my weight started to creep back up, not helped by the fact that I was drinking more and eating crap.

But I think a worse effect was on my mental health and wellbeing.

I was never a super runner, I wasn’t the fastest and I didn’t cover massive distances, usually around the 8-9k mark in around an hour. And I probably looked a total mess, but the thing is, none of these things mattered.

I’ve heard of “runner’s high”, this feeling of being utterly in the zone, exhilarated and even a bit euphoric, and I totally had a version of that. After a few minutes I would find my rhythm and enter what I call the Juggernaut Zone.

juggernaut

This was the feeling of being unstoppable I got when I was in full flow. I’d run straight ahead, feeling that anybody on my path had best get out of my way because I felt unstoppable.

It was a great feeling, especially for someone like me, who usually felt kinda powerless or adrift. When running I had purpose, I had power. I was the Juggernaut, b***h!

I’d love to get that feeling back again. While my life is a lot better in lots of ways than it was in 2013, I’d be lying if I didn’t acknowledge that some stuff has got worse. Not only am I physically worse now, but my body image has taken a real kicking. I’ve always been self conscious and never felt particularly proud or happy with the man in the mirror, but I know that when I was running I felt better about myself.

This wasn’t because my scales were telling me that (in fact, I was only weighing about every six months or so, if that) but because of how I felt about myself. Sure, I was tired after a run, but I’d earned that tiredness, and it was getting easier all the time. That good feeling didn’t end with the run, it carried over into my everyday life. Hell, that newfound confidence was part of what gave me the nerve to gamble with going back to university.

That might not have worked out, but I think if I hadn’t I’d probably still be working my crappy job in Swansea, living in a rented room and never would have met WoM and built the life that I have now.

I’m not saying that running is gonna cure everything, but if it helps with my weight loss and body issues, that alone will be a good thing. But I think having that outlet and doing something constructive and for myself every couple of days will make me feel a lot better in myself. And if I feel better about myself I’m probably more likely to try to better myself further.

So, I’ve downloaded a new Couch to 5k app and I’m going to give it another go. It got me there the first time, so here’s hoping it can do the trick again.

juggernaut return

It’s coming…

Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.

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Book Review: Origin by Dan Brown

I quite like Dan Brown’s novels, which are pretty good on the level of gripping page turning thrillers, and this fits the same mould as his earlier books that I’ve read The Da Vinci Code and Deception Point. This is a sequel to Da Vinci Code, and our hero again is Robert Langdon who has to run around more European cities as he tries to solve clues and avoid a tangled conspiracy.

origin brown

Langdon is in Madrid to hear a friend and former student deliver a presentation which is touted as having massive repercussions for all mankind. The presentation is to be given by Edmond Kirsch, a billionaire tech genius who promises that it will answer the major questions of “where we come from and where we’re going” as a specious and will damage a lot of religions, which Edmond is fine with, being a rather vocal atheist.

Edmond has shared the presentation with three major religious leaders, who were shaken by his findings. While the presentation is going ahead Langdon is warned of an assassination attempt by Winston, the advanced AI that Edmond built which serves as the guide around the museum where the presentation takes place.

Langdon is unable to stop Edmond being killed and in the aftermath is under suspicion, but the assassin is revealed to have been added to the list last minute at the request of the Spanish royal family. The heir to the Spanish throne, Prince Julian is said to have asked for the man to be admitted and his fiancee, Ambra Vidal, is the museum curator. Are the royal family behind the assassination? Are they in league with the Catholic church to hush up Edmond’s discovery?

Langdon and Vidal, assisted by the computer Winston decide that they should find a way for Edmond’s presentation to be aired and need to work out what Edmond’s secret password was and where the supercomputer to launch it is. And so Langdon and Vidal are on the run while the assassin follows them from Madrid to Barcelona as they follow the clues.

Can they figure out the 47 character password needed to access the presentation? Who can they trust? Who is behind the assassination and can they stay ahead of the killer?

First the good parts of this book, there are some nice discussions of religion vs science, especially the view held by Langdon that both are trying to answer the same questions but in different ways. Can religions survive as science progresses?

Also the action is well done, and Brown’s habit of short, punchy chapters make this a very easy, quick read that quickly draws you in. There’s enough intrigue and doubt to keep you guessing and the mystery over who is behind the assassination is handled well although I did guess it ahead of the reveal. But credit to Brown who does set up a few different possibilities and ensures you’re never sure who Langdon should trust.

And now the weaknesses. One is the character of Edmond, who I thought was a bit of a dick, meaning that when he does get whacked I wasn’t massively upset about it. It clearly has an impact on the other characters, but I was just glad that we wouldn’t have to put up with the pompous character anymore.

Which leads me to the second, and bigger, flaw in the novel. After the entire book sets up the earth shattering nature of Edmond’s presentation when it’s finally revealed I found it massively underwhelming. For one thing, it drags a bit and Edmond continues to be a self aggrandising douche, but worse is that it’s not even that big of a deal. Having been set up as proof that will shake the world’s religions it doesn’t have that impact and the “proof” Edmond has found is a bit shaky.

While some is explained, that Edmond softened the ending a bit, it doesn’t quite hang together. This section of the book stumbles a bit, feeling slow and overly wordy. And as I said, I don’t think anything that is said would impact that much on religion. Maybe Edmond just thought he was a bigger deal than he was?

Verdict: For the most part this book works as a blockbuster read, but the ending lets it down. 6/10.

Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.

 


Film Review: The Meg

As a film studies student I heard all about “high concept” films, this being the idea of blockbusters having simple premises which could be pitched in a sentence or two. Some people are a little snooty on this, but sometimes it helps to be able to sell a movie in twenty-five words or less. And this one was sold to me in six; Jason Statham versus a giant shark.

WoM wasn’t as enthused as for some reason she doesn’t like The Stath, which is just weird. But she agreed to go see it with me and actually enjoyed it more than she’d expected, as she’d dismissed it as looking stupid. It is stupid of course, but it’s jolly good fun at the same time.

meg poster

A small sub is exploring the bottom of the ocean, testing a theory that the water is deeper than previously thought and that beneath a natural barrier of almost freezing water is an undiscovered realm which could include all kinds of new life. The sub goes through the barrier and explores but is attacked by something in the deep. The last message sent by the captain, Lori (Jessica McNamee), is that something is down there and that “Jonas was right”.

Jason Statham is Jonas, a deep sea rescue diver who five years earlier was forced to leave behind two shipmates on a damaged nuclear sub in order to save the lives of the crew they had got out. He maintained that something had attacked the other sub, breaching the hull, and that had he not left all would have perished. Dismissed as crazy or cowardly, he quit diving and moved to Thailand were he drinks his days away. This is one of the parts of the movie I really liked, in that instead of being a depressed drunk, moping around the place, Statham’s character is rather cheery, chatting to the locals, smiling away and constantly holding a beer.

meg statham li

Statham and Li

Jonas is approached to rescue the mission by old friend Mac (Cliff Curtis), who is in charge of the mission and who works for Dr Minway Zhang (Winston Chao), who oversees the base it launched for. It turns out Lori is Jonas’ ex wife and he agrees to the mission.

Lori and her crew are attacked again once they get the lights back on, and so they stay in the dark, the sub damaged. Zhang’s daughter Suyin (Li Bingbing) decides to head down to save them in a small “glider”, but her lights draw out the beasty. It turns out to be a giant shark, or Megladon, thought to have died out millions of years earlier. But it has been alive the whole time, beneath the natural barrier.

meg shark

Jonas arrives in time to save Suyin and she escapes, leaving him to extract Lori and her crew. Unfortunately, with the beast bearing down on them one of the crew (played by Heroes’ Masi Oka) shuts the hatch and stays behind, saving the others but sacrificing himself. Jonas and the others get to safety, but upon leaving they break the barrier, which allows the Meg out before closing again.

With a giant shark rampaging through the ocean it’s up to Jonas, Suyin and the research base’s staff to try and stop it. Can they stop nature’s ultimate killing machine before it turns the seas into it’s personal buffet? And is killing it the right thing to do?

Yes, of course it is. It’s a giant, vicious shark. Luckily, the film doesn’t bog itself down in the ethics of this as the conversation basically goes like this;

The Stath: We gotta kill it.

Scientist: But this is a one of it’s kind life form.

The Stath: It’s gonna eat people. We’re gonna kill it.

Scientist: Okay, I guess.

From then on the film is the team trying to track down the nasty fish, which chomps it’s way through a variety of ships, supporting characters and whales.

The action sequences are quite fun and there are a couple of tense moments and jumps that keep you hooked in. Unfortunately the ending is a little anticlimactic, and the film never fully embraces it’s goofiness. That’s not to say it takes itself too seriously as there’s plenty of humour and the bantering, jokey dialogue is well done.

As ever, Statham brings his own gravelly voiced charisma to the table and is likeable and engaging as Jonas, our courageous hero. In the supporting cast, Li matches him well as the smart Suyin, and they make their underdeveloped love story work.

The rest of the cast are rather underused, although Rainn Wilson’s cowardly and greedy billionaire is quite fun and Page Kennedy gets a few laughs as the team’s only non-swimmer who sensibly argues for just getting to dry land and staying there. Others like Curtis and McNamee have barely anything to do and Ruby Rose is a background player.

It’s a whole lotta fun, even if there are a few obvious plot developments and the ending doesn’t quite satisfy in say the way Jaws does, but this was never going to be Jaws, this is a film where Jason Statham fights a giant shark, and on that level, it totally works and I can’t wait for a sequel where he fights a giant squid or something.

Verdict: Silly but very good fun. Statham carries the film well and it has enough scares and thrills to keep you entertained. The supporting cast don’t have much to do but they do it well, and the main stars, Statham and the shark are great. A good Saturday evening movie when you don’t want to think too hard. 7/10.

Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.


A Tale of Two Futures: 2518

This question courtesy of Pointless Overthinking:

How do you think humanity will be in 500 years?

Speculating about the future is a surefire way to make yourself look stupid to future generations. But I’ve made myself look stupid to the current one plenty of times, so why not add a future generation to the list?

Where will humanity be in 500 years? Jeez, that makes you think, doesn’t it? Personally, my visions of a potential future depend on how I’m feeling. I’m generally an optimistic kinda guy, but when faced with the utter s**tshow that arrives with the news some days I’m thinking the glass is half empty and filled with p**s that I’ve just drunk by mistake.

So, let’s go dystopian first.

Manking is burning through Earth’s natural resources and with medical resistant bugs, genetic engineering, climate change, insane leaders, rampant greed, intolerance, nightmarish poverty, cats and dogs living together, and overpopulation I’m going old school and imagining a massive war. World War With a Vengeance.

What’s left of humanity will scratch out a living in the ruins of our current world, all our progress will be forgotten. Small groups will band together for survival in an inhospitable world ravaged by disease, heat and war. Or the world could flood. Basically, it’s Mad Max or Waterworld. As a weak swimmer I’m going for Mad Max, although I may opt out of the leather fetish wear.

MCDROWA EC002

The upshot? Well, earth will have a chance to recover and with all the countries gone maybe there can be a new society developing and they can get it right.

Of course, it could be even worse and in 500 years humanity is totally gone and the world is in the hands of whatever species rises to the top. I’m gonna bet it won’t be pugs.

But what about the sunny forecast?

Well, it’s essentially Star Trek. Mankind sets it’s petty differences aside for a golden era of tolerance, acceptance and harmony. Together we band together to explore the universe allowing Earth to recover in our absence and set up new homes.

trek tos crew

Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.


Film Review: Ant-Man and the Wasp

One of the questions during Infinity War was where was Paul Rudd’s Ant-Man? As one of only a handful of heroes not to appear, Marvel fans were left wondering where he and Hawkeye were when Thanos attacked. Luckily this film explains a lot of what Scott Lang was up to.

antwasp pos

Last seen locked up with the rest of Team Captain America (Chris Evans) at the end of Civil War, Scott has done a deal which has seen him allowed to return home but forced to live under house arrest. He has gone into business with best friend Luis (Michael Pena) starting a security company, and has no contact with Hope Van Dyne (Evangeline Lilly) or Hank Pym (Michael Douglas), who helped him become Ant-Man.

After Scott shrunk to a subatomic level entering the quantum realm and returned, Hank has begun to think that his wife may still be alive, trapped down there. The father and daughter team prepare to find Janet (Michelle Pfeiffer), but their machine doesn’t work, however, Scott has weird dreams about Janet and her memories. After leaving a message with Hank, they kidnap Scott, who worries about breaking parole with only a few days left.

While they try to work out what’s going on they have to deal with black marketeers who are after the quantum tech Hank is working on, and a mysterious figure known as Ghost (Hannah John-Kamen), who wants the quantum machine in order to drain Janet’s quantum energy to stabilise her powers which cause her immense pain and are slowly killing her.

Can Scott make peace with Hank after forcing him underground and stealing his suit? Will Scott and Hope reconcile and get their relationship going properly? Will they rescue Janet or will Ghost get to her first? Will Scott get caught and sent back to jail?

First of all, I have to say that this movie is great fun. The dialogue sparkles with humour and the action scenes are magnificent, really making use of the characters’ shrinking and growing powers to create striking, inventive fights and chases. Paul Rudd is predictably great as Scott Lang, and is a likeable, charming presence at the heart of the film and Lilly does really well as his more collected partner. Lilly’s intensity and badassery is a nice contrast to Rudd’s goofiness, and the Wasp is a great addition to the MCU and I hope to see more, but this is still Rudd’s movie.

antwasp wasp

Despite everything this movie does right this feels like a lesser entry into the MCU canon. While still hugely entertaining it fails to live up to the shared universe’s recent run of form (Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2, Spider-Man: Homecoming, Thor: Ragnarok, Avengers: Infinity War). It’s hard to pinpoint exactly what’s missing but I think it may have to do with two major factors:

Firstly, after the massive scale of Infinity War it feels rather small scale, and while it explains Scott’s absence there to an extent and has one killer reference to the film’s events, it lacks the emotional punch of that film.

Secondly, the film drops the ball with Ghost.

antwasp ghost

Ghost kicking Ant-Man’s ass

A lot of people say that the MCU has a villain problem, but for me this is something the most recent run has worked hard to fix. We’ve had characters like The Vulture, Killmonger, Hela, Ego and Thanos, all villains who have posed a serious threat while also having solid motivation and varying degrees of depth. You felt some sympathy for Killmonger and Hela, cast out by their families. Ego was unrepentant in his ruthless plot. Thanos while flawed showed some love for Gamora and the Vulture remains probably the best of the bunch, a flawed, desperate man pushed to extremes to support his family.

So, what’s wrong with Ghost? Simply put the film makes her far too sympathetic. We see her suffering from the effects of her powers, hear the tragic backstory about how she gained them and how SHIELD weaponized her. The problem is that this could set up a debate about which life is more important, Janet or Ghost. Is it fair to save Janet if it means they can’t cure Ghost, is it okay to kill Janet to save a life? Unfortunately this conflict is never fully developed and while Hank offers to help we never see him working on it, as he’s focused on his wife, understandably.

Worst of all, the film’s actual resolution feels rushed, overly simple and disappointing.

It seems the film has decided that Ghost isn’t a true villain and they throw in Walton Goggins’ smarmy black marketeer, Sonny Burch. While Goggins is quite good in the role he’s clearly there to be a real villain of the piece, but his goons are never an even match. Perhaps had they given Burch a few flash weapons or even a super-powered goon for hire the fights may have been more evenly matched, but as it is they pose little obstacle for our heroes or Ghost.

antwasp giant

What are rent-a-thugs gonna do against a guy who can become a giant?

The laughs come fast and furious, the characters are solid and engaging. The visuals are magnificent and well worth checking out on the big screen, but the film sags and disappoints at the end. Well, apart from one of the best post credit scenes so far.

It feels a waste of the characters and a step back, the first film since Thor: The Dark World that feels like a rushed sequel and not part of a growing universe.

Verdict: Fun, but disappointing. Rudd, Lilly and Pena are great, but they soften the villain too much and it’s definitely a lower tier Marvel movie. 7/10.

Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.


Film Review: Mission: Impossible- Fallout

I’m not gonna lie, I’d kinda lost track of the Mission: Impossible franchise. It turns out that this is the sixth film and I’ve missed the previous instalment, Rogue Nation. Luckily, this film does a good job of getting you up to speed before the action kicks in.

mifall pos

It’s been two years since Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) stopped former MI6 agent turned anarchist Solomon Lane (Sean Harris), stopping his international syndicate of rogue agents. While many of his associates have been taken out in the intervening period there are several who have never been identified and they continue to work as terrorists for hire. Hunt is tasked with stopping the sale of three plutonium cores which could make nuclear weapons.

Unfortunately, during the operation Hunt’s friend Luther (Ving Rhames) is held at gunpoint, and the cores are stolen. The cores are held by the Apostles, Lane’s followers. They are to be sold to John Lark, a fundamentalist terrorist, however, nobody can ID Lark as all his associates have been taken out by the CIA. Hunt is reluctantly partnered with Walker (Henry Cavill) a CIA agent to take Lark out of the picture, pose as Lark and get the nukes back. Walker’s boss describes him as hammer to Hunt’s scalpel, and the character is portrayed as a powerhouse, and revealed to be the man behind taking out most of Lane’s associates. Their contrasting approaches and outlooks cause tensions as the two men are forced to work together.

mifall cavill

The mission hits complications, including the arrival of Ilsa (Rebecca Ferguson), who previously worked with Hunt in bringing down Lane, a former colleague at MI6. Lark is killed and Hunt can’t create a mask, so wings it, cosying up to the broker known as the White Widow (Vanessa Kirby). Things become more complicated when it’s revealed that the deal is for the nukes to be traded to Lark after he helps break Lane out of custody.

Of course, Lane will recognise Hunt and Hunt’s reluctant to kill a bunch of French coppers. So, he double crosses the Widow’s team and extracts Lane himself, hoping that he can still make the trade for the nukes and save the world from disaster.

I really loved this movie. Like I said, it fills in the back story quickly enough and in a way that doesn’t resort to some bloke spouting exposition. That out of the way the whole movie is a roller coaster of thrills and spills, with plenty of double crosses and twists along the way.

Right at the centre of this is Cruise as Hunt. Cruise is brilliant in the action hero role, convincing in the fight scenes and bringing a lot of charisma to the role. Given that he’s been playing Hunt for over twenty years (man, I feel old now) he seems utterly at home as the character who is a mix of seemingly indestructible super spy and blagger. At several points the well laid plans unravel and Hunt is forced to wing it, which adds fun and unpredictability to the proceedings.

mifall cruise

It’s also good that as we seem him survive all these threats and dangers, that Hunt remains human and vulnerable, in part due to his connections with other people, not just his team but the wife he had to leave and now lives in hiding. It’s a human aspect and well handled, particularly in a scene where Luther explains the situation to Ilsa, urging her to back away as his feelings for her make Ethan vulnerable.

The supporting cast are solid from Rhames as his right hand man and best friend, to Simon Pegg’s techie comic relief. But the great strength is that a lot of the characters are quite ambiguous and you’re not sure who Hunt can trust beyond his core group. Is Cavill’s Walker on the level, or does he have other orders from the CIA? How much faith should we place in Alec Baldwin’s boss character? What is Ilsa’s involvement?

There’s a surprising amount of humour in the film, which worked for me, especially in the dialogue between the team and some of Hunt’s reactions as things spiral out of control around him.

mifall team

Another plus point is Sean Harris’ villain Lane, who is shown to be capable, vicious and ruthless, but without lurching into caricature. In fact, his softly spoken performance gives the character more gravitas and holds the attention better than any ranting supervillain would.

But the film thrives on it’s action sequences, and they are absolutely wonderful. Car chases, rooftop chases, parachuting through a thunder storm, shoot outs, fist fights, helicopter chases, helicopter chases all leave the audience perched on the edge of their seat. There are unbearably tense scenes, near misses and amazing visuals, the whole movie a brilliant thrill ride that locks you in, even when the stunts reach ridiculous levels. As I said, Hunt is beyond tough, surviving crashes and bruising brawls and somehow still having enough in the tank to run full pelt for ages. Despite this, you can’t look away and WoM and I were fully engrossed in the movie.

Given that I lost interest halfway through Spectre, it’s glad that someone is still making entertaining spy movies, and I’m definitely ready for the seventh movie now.

Verdict: Action packed but with moments of humour and genuine heart, this is a hugely entertaining spy thriller with plenty of turns in the road. Fantastic fun. 8/10.

Any thoughts? You know what to do? BETEO.


Book Review: The Kingdom by the Sea by Paul Theroux

This is an odd one for a travel book as it doesn’t concern far off and exotic places, instead it deals with places that are often familiar to me. In 1982, after eleven years living in London, Paul Theroux realised that he still hadn’t seen much of Britain, the capital city being almost a separate country. And so he set off to travel clockwise around the coastline, and records his impressions here.

theroux kingdom

The book is an odd mix of the familiar and the alien, while many of the place names are familiar (Eastbourne, Barry Island, Tenby etc.) there are big differences. As L.P. Hartley observed, the past is a foreign country, and while there are some things that haven’t changed, some of the sights witnessed by Theroux feel foreign to me.

Theroux records the journey in his usual intelligent, captivating way, with a keen eye for the characters he meets and a way of making insightful observations about the local character and outlook. Throughout his quick sketches and impressions of the people he encounters feel real, and he captures their contradictions and foibles wonderfully.

Travelling as the Falklands War rages, Theroux uses this frequently to examine the British outlook and attitude, and as an outsider can see the odd way the country works. He remarks on the depression and grim economic times, the jingoistic tabloid coverage at odds with the more quiet way the public deals with the war, and the way that Britain is changing but unchanged. Old castles that have stood for centuries remain as do old traditions, even as industries die around them and factories fall quiet.

It’s an interesting look at a certain period of British history, a ground level look at the way people lived, capturing the society with an outsider’s eye. Theroux is wry and humorous in places, and his relationship with Britain is complicated, a mixture of affection, frustration and confusion. There are places he hates along the way, but often he finds something to admire, whether it’s the landscape or the people.

An interesting and entertaining read, quite nice to read about places you know and see how they’ve changed, and how they’ve stayed the same.

Verdict: A very engaging read helped by Theroux’s writing which is insightful and smart throughout. 8/10.

Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.


Film Review: The Incredibles 2

Fourteen years.

Fourteen years.

That’s how long it’s been since The Incredibles came out and finally a sequel arrives. One almost feels sorry for this film, arriving with the weight of expectation that even the mightiest super would struggle to hold up. The first movie is such a wonderful movie, and has become so beloved to me that this movie, despite being good fun gets squished by the expectation.

inc2 poster

Kicking off right after the first movie the superhero family of the Parrs are debating their next move. They failed to stop the Underminer (Pixar regular John Ratzenberger) and are blamed for the resulting destruction. Worse, teenage daughter Violet (Sarah Vowell) was seen by her crush without her mask and so he has to be mind wiped. After being bailed out of police custody they learn that the agency which has hidden and protected them over the years is shutting down, and the best they can do is provide two weeks at a motel.

While the Incredibles were arrested their friend Frozone (Samuel L. Jackson) escapes and is approached by a mysterious figure. In a scene echoing Jackson’s appearance as Nick Fury in Iron Man, he recruits Mr Incredible and Elastigirl (Craig T. Nelson and Holly Hunter, respectively) and they meet with the Deavors. The Deavors are Evelyn and Winston (Catherine Keener and Bob Odenkirk), siblings who run a major corporation and who’s father was a big supporter of the supers back in the day. They plan to get the law changed, allowing the superheroes to return, they plan this by getting good PR and so they ask Elastigirl to join them, as she is the least destructive of the trio. This causes friction between the couple, but Mr Incredible decides to be the stay at home dad if it means he can get back in the tights.

inc2 elastigirl

While he struggles with the parenting duties, Elastigirl pulls of some big saves but finds herself facing a new foe, the villain named Screenslaver, who hypnotises people to do his bidding.

Can Mr Incredible adjust to being a full time dad? Will Elastigirl taking the spotlight cause trouble for the pair? Can she stop the Screenslaver? How much more of Violet’s teenage strops do we have to sit through?

Like Finding Dory and Monsters University, this is a solid and entertaining family flick, with great visuals, big laughs and some great characters, but like those films it suffers because it doesn’t quite match the previous movie. The first flick had a solid plot and all the threads came together- Mr Incredible felt helpless, Dash felt constrained and Violet felt like a freak, and all three got to work their issues and embrace their powers, leaving them stronger and more united.

The problem here is that some of the threads are left hanging or never fully developed. The hint of tension between Elastigirl and Mr Incredible never builds to anything, and while he becomes a better dad, but it just kinda happens. Similarly there are hints about Elastigirl enjoying being out on her own in the spotlight, but the film never provides the confrontation between her and Mr Incredible to fully explore these themes.

Similarly, I don’t care about Violet’s story anymore. It feels like they’ve forced this subplot in, and it never really resonates. Dash is relegated to merely struggling with maths and the most interesting of their kids is Jack-Jack, who continues to develop a plethora of powers which are one of the film’s strongest parts.

inc2 jack jack

While I laughed frequently, and the action sequences are gripping enough, I couldn’t shake the feeling of missed opportunities. The identity of the villain is so easy to figure out it never seems a surprise, and the new Supers who are introduced have some impressive powers but are never developed. One, Voyd, voiced by Sophia Bush, is a slightly nervous fan of Elastigirl’s but at the end there’s no pay off. There’s no moment where Elastigirl approaches her and passes the torch, or embraces her. Instead, she chats to Violet in the aftermath.

There are some great moments and some nice touches, particularly Mr Incredible’s characterisation and struggles. As he begins to struggle with the workload of the children he keeps this quiet, refuses to acknowledge he’s in trouble. It’s a typically masculine trait to not want to appear weak, especially when you’re expected to be the strong one. For me it works, but again, it’s resolution feels a bit hasty and underdeveloped.

That’s the problem. When the film hits it’s stride, it’s very good and fun, but the peaks aren’t high enough to counteract the moments that don’t quite work.

This is a very good film, but following a truly great one, it always feels like a disappointment. Perhaps rewatching it again will soften my view, but leaving the cinema I felt distinctly underwhelmed. This just wasn’t worth the wait.

Verdict: Pixar continue to produce entertaining and stunning films, but some of the plots feel thin and it lacks that big blow out moment to truly satisfy. If you don’t twig who the villain is very early on then frankly, see a doctor, you may be in a coma. Fun, but nowhere near it’s predecessor. 7/10.

Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.


Fat Boy on a Diet: July Update: Meh

Apologies for this one going out a couple of days late, I’m sure the suspense has been killing you. I was in work on the 31st and too bushed afterwards to write anything down.

I seem to be in work all the time at the moment and I ain’t gonna lie, it’s draining me quite a lot. While my sleep has improved the fact my days off are fewer and more spread out it means I haven’t had the chance to really recharge.

This means I’m crabbier and less motivated, content to spend my evenings on the couch watching The Miss Fisher Mysteries. But I don’t want to go on, we all work and we all know working sucks. I’m sure there are jobs that don’t but these seem to be rare.

This means that while I lost weight in July it wasn’t the big improvement that I was hoping for. I’d built it up that this would be the month where I really got going and turned it around. Lots of healthy eating, more exercise and a big loss at the weigh in.

Unfortunately, the weight didn’t fall off as quickly as planned and I finished July feeling a bit disappointed. It wasn’t awful, but it wasn’t great. It was frustratingly average.

Here’s hoping August goes better I guess.

Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.


Film Review: The Kissing Booth

I love a good teen rom com.

This isn’t one.

The central conceit here is that there are two best friends, Elle and Lee (Joey King and Joel Courtney), who have been friends since they were little kids. Now high schoolers their friendship endures thanks to a series of rules they follow. However, one of the rules is that Lee’s older brother is off limits. Of course, Elle falls for Noah (Jacob Elordi) and he for her. Cue much sneaking around and inevitable drama when it all comes to light.

kissingbooth

The title refers to the fundraiser that Elle and Lee set up for their dance club, where Elle kisses Noah for the first time.

The problem with this movie is that the character of Noah is underwritten to the point that aside from being a hot guy, you never understand why Elle falls for him. He’s set up as a big man on campus, a popular jock who regularly gets into fights, but that’s it. You keep thinking that the film will add a second layer, but nothing develops. I mean, he’s going to Harvard, which I assume means he’s smart, but we see no evidence of this. He’s a slightly aggressive meathead at the start, and he pretty much continues to be the same aside from occasionally professing his love for Elle.

The whole movie feels old fashioned. This extends to the soundtrack, which features some old tracks. In the early stages of the movie it’s found out that Noah has warned guys off Elle and protects her, but this feels a bit of a cliche and like something from an ’80s teen movie. And a bad one at that, not a John Hughes movie. Elle is slightly annoyed by this but very quickly starts viewing it as a sign that he cares for her and that it’s kinda sweet. What?!

Similarly, after another jock slaps her arse while wearing a short skirt, Elle then dates said jock and Noah actually uses the phrase “asking for it”, which the film does flag but quickly moves on from. The whole episode is handled extremely poorly.

The love story is painfully flat throughout, which is a shame, because Joey King is quite charming as Elle in the other scenes of the movie. She shares genuine chemistry with Joel Courtney, who is the standout as Lee. Unfortunately, with them being separated by her sneaking around and the following fallout the strongest part of the film vanishes for a long period of the movie.

It’s also kinda lame that Elle gets to deliver this speech about how being a best friend doesn’t give Lee the right to tell her who to love. I’m firmly Team Lee here, as the major issue is that she snuck around and lied to him about it. Also, we get one scene where Lee reveals why he is so upset and it’s another missed opportunity. He says that Noah gets everything, and that Elle was the one thing that was his, which is a bit possessive and less interesting. They could have talked about how Lee felt like he was always in Noah’s shadow, that he feels like a lamer version of him or that people use him to get close to Noah. All of these would have had a bit more resonance than the poor reason we get in the end.

There are a few funny moments and, as I said, Courtney and King are on fine form, but the rest of the movie is a mess. Supporting characters are distinctly one note,

I know some may feel I was expecting too much from a teen movie, but that’s unfair. The genre has produced far superior fare, and this falls far short of previous movies. And it feels like a step backwards, the teen genre has had some quite clever, witty films over the years including Clueless and Easy A, this lacks their intelligence and humour.

Oh, and the adult roles are lacking too. I’m a firm believer that quite often the adult characters bring a lot to teen movies, but here the parents and teachers are poorly written too, Molly Ringwald turns up as Lee and Noah’s mum but gets a couple of scenes.

While Netflix has succeeded with it’s shows, I’m massively unimpressed with their movie output. Avoid.

Verdict: Poorly written and with a male love interest who is painfully undeveloped, this film falls flat and is rather forgettable. The two leads have chemistry but are let down by a mediocre script which feels outdated, overly simple and shallow. 3/10.

Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.