Thursday, 28 November 2013

This blog has now moved

This blog has now moved to:

This is for a number of reasons. Partly for a change of scenery. Do pop by.

Sunday, 20 January 2013

The unfortunate case of Texas Chainsaw 3D

When I first saw a poster advertising Texas Chainsaw 3D on a bus I got quite excited. I'm not sure why, but for some reason I expected this film to be fantastic. I was clearly let down. In fact, the more I think about it, the more disappointed I become.

John Luessenhop's addition to the Texas Chainsaw Massacre franchise starts where the 1974 original left off, literally, with the final girl from the first film making a break for it and the cops responding to the call from the truck driver who found her. Luessenhop flashes through those original murders, speeding you to date, just in time to watch a mob burn down Leatherface's family house.

The film centres on a baby who is kidnapped from the homicidal cannibal family. Snap to the present and this baby is played by 26-year-old Alexandra Daddario, who did fine – all things considered. Though I beg you all to think about the maths for a moment; surely the baby should be older. The acting was fine and she did the sexy, slightly crazy thing fine; but I wasn't blown away. In fact, I spent much of the film wondering why whoever was in charge of wardrobe decided she shouldn't wear a bra. I also didn't understand why her midriff had to be on show throughout the whole film; don't get me wrong, it was a lovely stomach, but I want more from a main character than sexy-girl-screaming and sexy-girl-crazy. I actually want a whole lot more from a film than this film even tried to offer.

The 3D itself was a total let down and the movie moved so slow there wasn't a scare in sight. To add to the offences, the only thing I felt was sympathy for Leatherface. I don't want to feel sorry for the bad guy; I want to be screaming for someone to finish him! Instead, I found myself rooting for him, hoping he'd be ok.

The dialogue throughout was basically pointless at almost all sections of the film, and dragged slowly between exchanges. Leatherface, who is known as Jed instead of Babba, seems to have an unlimited supply of chainsaws lying around the house. There is a scene where two of the characters are running away from him and go to all the effort of locking the wooden door with a wooden log. The whole time you're thinking 'he's holding a chainsaw, idiot'. Then he cuts through it. Obviously.

Overall it's efforts were laughable. As a horror movie it was a total fail, but with a fair few lols along the way to try and make up for it. The highlight being near the close of play, involving a meat factory. No scares, patchy storyline, limited tension and bad 3D. Definitely not worth the ridiculous cost of a cinema ticket; made me reminisce about the days it only cost £2.50 to see a film at Hollywood Green.

I'm genuinely a little concerned for the horror movie genre. I can't remember the last time I saw a decent one.

Friday, 28 December 2012

'Tis the season... to lose weight

With Christmas out of the way, and weeks of solid advertising preaching for the season of gluttony, it's time to feel the guilt. What sin! How could you? How could you eat two Christmas dinners and a box of chocolate? What you need now is a diet. But, don't even think about fresh fruit – no, what you need is the best in diet foods: low-fat cake, low-fat yogurt, low-fat ready meals. And don't waste time walking around the park – get a gym membership instead. New trainers, new trackies, new you. That's what you want, isn't it? A new you. A you you don't feel guilty for being. Purge away your sin and spend in the Church of Consumerism. Because you are not a person if you don't.

Every year is much of the same. Every year we are bombarded with the same message: 'tis the season. Somewhere along the line, the festive season went from celebrating love and life to celebrating stuff. Television, news, interwebs, people – everything is telling us to consume as much possible, be it food or stuff. Telling us that without such purchases, Christmas will be a disaster. Telling us not to let our loved ones down. And this line is embedded, one only has to look at the mothers among us to see the stress of ensuring everyone has the perfect Christmas.

But as soon as the day of eating too much food is out the way, the ads switch on us. The very same mediums that were telling us to eat as much as we could, now tell us we've all put on a few pounds. That we've let ourselves go and we simply must lose weight. If we don't, we're undesirable. They're making us feel guilty for doing the very thing we were so encouraged to do, but they're pretending to be on our side all the time. They're offering us guidance and a hand to help us through the difficult transition into that Better You.

In my inbox this morning I found a direct hit. LA Fitness encouraging me to 'join the new year's health resolution' (which, admittedly, I read as 'revolution' the first time. I don't know if that's my dyslexia, or if they engineered it themselves). The tagline reads: 'Start achieving your health and fitness goals today'.

I don't know about everyone else, but I was still on the 'let yourself go' part of the festive season; drinking beer and eating seconds. But it seems I'm supposed to stop eating in time for the next set of festivities: new year's. As we enter into 2013 I need to set myself some new rules for being a better person, and advertisers the world-over are promising to help.

LA Fitness isn't the only company encouraging a change of tact. The diet industry thrives off our insecurities, and this is a great time of year to hit out. It stayed quiet for a couple of weeks, giving us all long enough to eat more than we would usually, to ensure we're primed and ready to purge.

Happy holidays.

Follow Pennie Varvarides on Twitter @superpennie 

Thursday, 24 May 2012

Sustaining sustainability

It seems we've all hit a bump in the road. When the idea of sustainability started creeping up, it was logical and as such its spread made good sense. Picture your fair trade coffee or chocolate bar. People started taking responsibility for the way they ran their businesses and started looking at the long game.

See, if you run a businesses unsustainably, well, that's just it; it's unsustainable. You can't keep damaging the earth, for example, 'cause at some point it isn't going to be able to produce what you're willing it to produce. You can't keep digging stuff up and throwing it away, 'cause you eventually run out of stuff.

It's like going into your kitchen and seeing the cupboards are full and gorging, for days. At some point you run out of food. And at some point you need to restock. We'll what happens if you can't? Say somebody blew up Tesco or something, and that was it, no more. All gone. Destroyed. 

(Ok, maybe the Tesco analogy isn't really up there with clear and distinct bits of prose, but I'm just going to keep talking and hope you're following.)  

Nonetheless, the idea that actions need to be considered in terms of the possibility of it being able to be sustained over time, is great. Real great.

Now, at some point, this became another buzzword. It's a word people throw out there to feign green credentials ('green' is also one of those buzzwords. Like 'up skill' and 'solution'.) But it isn't even just that the word struggles to really mean anything anymore, the word also seems to drum up moans from the masses. The masses who class it all as voodoo or a trick, like wanting to make things last is crazy talk from hippy sorts or witches. It drums up distrust, as though somebody made it all up. Like it's just a theory and the environment is fine - and heck, who gives a crap anyway, right? It'll last longer than me, so what do I care?

All this social responsibility lark is hard work. Energy and materials are expensive, water is essential and recycling takes too long. And don't forget in our beautifully capitalist society we must all worship money and not waste it on frivolous activities, such as preserving the environment. The environment is just there to be raped. Screw the animals, screw the poor and screw our future generations. The world is over-populated anyway.

But the thing is, we don't really have a choice. Or, I guess we do: try and slow our demise down, or try and speed it up.

Sustainability isn't just about the planet and our futures and happy-clappy crap like that. It can also save you money. And one of the saddest things ever is that to get people to do good, you have to bribe them with cash. But whatever, it works. Maybe the reasons aren't so important, when the outcome is so great. So people, weighed down by the crushing costs of energy and governments trying their hardest to make life harder, are slowly getting used to the idea of sustainability; but differently this time. Because the first time round it was all exciting and loud and boomed of its importance, and this time it's almost automatic. Almost. Kids dropping waste in the right bins without thinking, office slaves not over boiling water on the tea runs and finance directors dishing out the upfront costs for energy efficient measures.

People are doing it. Slowly. But we really need to step up our game a bit. 

Monday, 10 October 2011

AsianAdventures - take two

I am not sure if I've told the beginning of this story already, so I'll start there before I move on.

It's three days into my new job at Lux. I'm on my way to work reading a Paulo Coelho book and daydreaming about travelling. I regain focus and turn the page. The title reads 'advice for travellers'.

'Gosh,' I say. 'It must be a sign.'

I get into work and am called into the other room by my editor. He asks me what I'm doing at the end of September and if I'd like to go to Hong Kong...

I'm sure I don't need to tell you how the conversation ended.

So having returned from my AsianAdventures I feel I should share some of my stories. Especially as I don't think I ever got round to writing about my AsianAdventures - take one.

My first press trip. It's like my first book or my first computer – something magical and life changing.

It's now been a week since my awesome week in Asia. When we arrived at the (beautiful) Hotel Icon we all unpacked and did our own thing until the evening. My own thing consisted of a Thai massage in the spa and a quick exploration of the local area.

This was my first time in a five star hotel and my first time in a spa. Both are things I would recommend.

Later that evening we went for dinner, where the Megaman MD insisted on getting everybody very drunk. I successfully avoided such a conclusion, but not drinking any of the shots and instead handing them over to somebody else.

Ha, rule one of journalism: Never be drunker than the people you're talking to.

There was drunkeness and dancing and new friends to be made. I set the tone for the rest of my week by making a few new friends on day one.

The factory we went to visit was in China, which meant my first ChinaTrip. We only got to stay a day and didn't really see much other than the view from the coach and the factory. I am a little in love and most definitely want to return and explore properly.

We definitely faced a communication barrier in China, unlike in Hong Kong. It makes me feel terrible that my language skills aren't great and people always speak English, which is almost an excuse not to try. (Side note: I've decided to learn Italian. Wish me luck.)

One night I managed to take a few of the other editors and the marketing girl to the red light district of Hong Kong. Wan Chai is the home of bars that stay open late mid-week, so that is were we went - to a bar called Amazonia.

Here one of the editors was repeatedly accosted by a prostitute called Sarah.

Wednesday was most of the others' last day, so we did some touristy things. We jumped in a taxi and asked for the bottom of the peak, so we could get the tram. Instead we were taken to the top of the peak, into the carpark of a shopping mall.

We followed the building up to the top, where we discovered we were in fact in the wrong building. We were high up enough to see all the awesome however, so it didn't matter.

It was very windy way up high, which we later discovered the reason for.

We got the tram back down to town and saw a sign saying 'Typhoon 1 has been hoisted' while we waited on the platform.

Later, waiting for the ferry, we saw another sign saying the same thing.

'Gee, they like naming things typhoon out here, don't they?'

It wasn't until later, when the typhoon warning reached a number 3 did we realise what the signs actually meant. Lots of the guys had to fly home that night.

As work was now officially over, I checked out of the beautiful posh hotel and into a horrible YWCA further inland. It was an unpleasant experience. The shower smelt of mould, for one.

So Thursday morning I wake up and leave the YWCA. Walking around an empty Kowloon, I giggle to myself. 'Gosh,' I think. 'How have I managed to find the quiet part of Hong Kong? I wonder where everyone is.'

No cars. No people. Strange.

After walking around for about 30 or 40 minutes, following road signs and intuition I have managed to discover many a council estate-esque place, lots of dead ends and loads of residential roads. And a taxi. A lone taxi.

I flag him down and struggle to ask for the Science Museum. On arrival I am told that the museum is closed - along with the rest of Hong Kong.

Hong Kong closed?

You see, the typhoon warning had gone up to a number 8. Eight is enough to ground flights and close businesses. Do you like how nobody at the YWCA cared to tell me about this? How they just let me walk out to my potential death!

Ok, so my first experience of a typhoon later led me to realise my life was never in any sort of danger, but for dramatic effect, let's pretend it was.

As soon as I stepped outside the Science Museum, down came the rain. And boy, did it come down. I stood under a sheltered bit for a while and watched as others did the same. Unsure how long such rainfalls last, and aware of the fact that rain can't hurt me, I started walking.

The nice hotel was only around the corner, so it wasn't so bad.

I went it, had lunch, used the free wi-fi and waited out the rain.

I ended up booking myself in for a night and spending far too much money on a room. I was there for such a long time and it was just so nice and the other place just so horrid.

And I really wanted a bath. Super expensive bath!

That evening I took myself for a walk along the harbour, when the warning went back down to three. I took pictures along the Avenue of Stars and put my hand in Bruce Lee's handprint.

I then took myself for dinner and had the most amazing thing I've ever eaten. Thai red curry in a baked pumpkin. Lush.

I soon ended up back at Amazonia, and for the first time all trip allowed myself to get drunk. I managed to befriend everyone on and near the dance floor as well as most people outside. It was a fantastic evening.

I spent my last day doing an open bus tour of Hong Kong Island, where I found Victoria Park. I sat for a while by a fountain watching an old man play with toy boats. I also discovered the play area, where they're teaching children to read brail (and English)!

All-in-all: Amazing AsianAdventures. More please.