Wednesday, 27 April 2011

Growing up.

I was hit with some daunting news today, reiterated by my mother from my cousin. A little back story for those who don't know even though I whinge about it enough. I'm applying to do economics in Aberystwyth university come September. I need two Bs and the Welsh baccalaureate. Before I can even think about the future, I should finish all of these off and indefinitely pass with flying colours; preferably with two As at least. But I started drifting from the present, to the future. A scary thought for a teenager.

She gave me the news that if I really want to get into investment banking or broking or whatever, I need to apply for internships as soon as possible. Preferably as I start university so I have the confirmed place to boast to employers. She knows a few people who did economics and are now doing banking and broking as a job. It's something I'd like to do and I'm interested in doing. She informed my mum that she could get me application forms for internships in these companies. These companies are in London. To me, that's beyond scary.

When you think about it, it's an incredible opportunity which shouldn't be ignored. I'm not going to ignore it either but I'm still frightened by the prospect. London? It's the capital. The population is in excess, it's hectic, it's dangerous, it's expensive and lonely. It's a lonely place for someone like me to pack up and go to. Words can't describe the fear. I panicked earlier, even though it's at least three years away. A bit ridiculous when you think about it but I still can't help worry about moving to London. I'd be leaving family and friends to start fresh in a brand new city which is full to the brim of talent. There's competition in every aspect of London and that frightens someone so painfully average like me.

I'm getting ahead of myself, of course. These are all hypothetical. I need to actually get accepted to the internship, pass my degree (with 1:1 or 2:1 at least) and before that, get the grades now. That leads me to another frightening idea. What if I don't get the grades? I know two Bs aren't hard and they're easily manageable but I'm a professional procrastinator. I ultimately suffer not from laziness but lethargy. I have desire, passion and interest but I lack the drive to achieve. I live in a sort of bubble where I think no harm can happen. I know this is false but I can't help it.

Another decision today came rather suddenly but I've been thinking about it for the past few months. Aberystwyth has a north American exchange project. I want to apply for this but only one of the colleges actually interest me, the University of Pittsburgh. It's the highest ranked out of the colleges and is the only one I'd be even remotely interested in going to. Now that's a bold statement, I have to be accepted of course but London was daunting to me so what about America? An entirely different culture, society, country, continent and so on. If I can't cope in London at the age of twenty-two, then what hope do I have in America at the age of twenty?

Time is precious. Growing up doesn't mean being overly serious and failing to grow up doesn't mean holding on to the joys of student life and irresponsibility. It simply means compromises. I have to make a few compromises. Things I'm scared of doing but oddly excited for as well. My plan is simple. I'm going to face the future and plan ahead. Goals cause motivation and now I have mine: University, American exchange, internship and career. It's seemingly perfect but I have to work. My pledge is to start working on my coursework, revision, baccalaureate and even working on my personality and fitness (I'm pretty unhealthy at the moment). These changes are all easy to write but I plan on sticking to them. I don't want to be left behind...not again.

Tuesday, 26 April 2011

AV, the monarchy and democracy.

It's been a while since I've written something political and opinionated but this twigged an interest. A pretty broad array of topics but they are all linked. The May 5th referendum is about changing our voting system. We're currently using the First Past the Post (FPTP) system and the referendum wants us to change it to the alternate vote (AV) system. Now, in my opinion, we should all vote yes on this referendum. Not because the AV system is much better and fairer - which it is - but simply because the FPTP system is undemocratic and the "No to AV" campaign has been using misleading information.

The new AV system is pretty simple. Instead of just choosing one party to abide by you pick a preferential order by numbering the boxes 1, 2, 3 and so on. The No campaign have been saying that this system is too complicated and would make unfair results where people in third place would get into power. That is wrong. The idea that the person in third place - or lower down - will get into power makes no sense, it lacks logic. Either way, if the person in third did get into power it would still be fair thanks to the preferential order of voting. So explain to me, morons who like to twist the words and lie to get what they want, how is that unfair? Also, using a picture of five runners to explain to me that the person who's about to collapse will win the race is even more moronic.

This is wrong.

Let's carry on with the tripe that's being pedalled by the prolific No campaigners. They keep incessantly telling me how the AV system is going to cost £250m. Let's dispel this blatant lie. First of all, the referendum itself is going to cost £91m which changes that £250m to £159m already. Therefore, I've already proven that it is a lie pushed to you for their own personal gain. Now, another £130m is apparently on electronic vote counting machines. They are not being bought for AV and they aren't needed for AV so I think it'll be a good ol' ballot paper and hard work to count. That is it. I believe that is what is going to happen. Either way, if they did buy those machines it would be for future elections as well and not just for this voting system. That's another £130m gone from their outlandish £250m figure leaving us with £29m left. Now, yes, that £29m will be spent on informing people how to use the AV system which is quite insulting. It's simple, you pick preferences and - as I've heard so far - you pick at least three but you can pick as many as you like.

It will create more coalitions but don't judge the current coalition; it's just a Tory government pretending to be a coalition. Coalitions work. Fact. You don't even need to leave Europe to see that. If you're Welsh (like me) you won't even have to look further than our Welsh assembly. Oddly, it works. A coalition between Labour and Plaid Cymru has had no problems and I'd say the Welsh assembly is a pretty successful, middle-left government. But, there are plenty of other successful coalition governments which compromise and challenge each other and really end up making things better - a bit better than usual anyway.

This voting system is better than the current FPTP but is by no means the best voting system. This is just a step in the right direction. A friend of mine described it as a sideways step to move forward but I'd say it's a bit more diagonal as it is slightly positively progressive. It may not be the best reason to vote yes but it makes more sense than to say no. The no campaign - ran mostly by traditionalists and right-winged Tories masquerading as liberals (they wear Nick Clegg masks in their demonstrations to prove that this is a negative thing) - have said that the BNP will have more power and more seats if the AV system were to come in. If that's true then why are the BNP against this voting system?

Even though we're voting for a different voting system to be more "democratic", I find that hard to believe. Britain is one of the biggest hypocrisies. We preach democracy, we impose democracy, we shed blood over the name of democracy yet we technically don't have one. We, instead, have a monarchy. You may not think that the monarchy do that much bar cut red ribbons and make boring speeches written by pretentious idiots, but they do. Before each law is passed, it needs "royal assent". That means the queen has every right to not sign it and not create the law. Rarely do the monarchy say no but it still leads questions as to why an unelected person still gets the final decision.

It has it's positives and negatives. For example, the queen said that she will not ask the BNP to govern the country even if they win the election. That makes me happy knowing that those idiots won't get into power but it's still not democratic. Practice what you preach, to use a cliché. We're over in Libya fighting to give them democracy and stop the innocent people being slaughtered and raped yet we don't have one. There's more than a hint of hypocrisy in our policies.

Now that leads to the royal wedding. At first I was a little angered that our tax money was paying for a wedding of two people. There are massive cuts which are unnecessary but apparently a wedding isn't wasteful - was my first thought. Two random people who fell for each other and decided they wanted to spend eternity together. Now, by thinking about it, I regret my dislike of the royal wedding. I won't take a part and it won't really effect me but the aftermath will. They've estimated that 2bn people will be watching the royal wedding. TWO. BILLION. That's a lot of people and a niche so that we can advertise in between, get people to pay expensive television rights and pretty much cash-in on the whole idea.

We may have spent between £20m-£40m (hard to find definitive numbers oddly) of our money on it but we're going to make so much back. From the TV licenses alone we'll probably make about £200m (a rough estimate considering 150 different TV channels will be broadcasting it) and then there's the memorabilia, the advertisements, the rental space, the tourists and so on. Say goodbye to the recession since we just made a tonne of money back. You know what that SHOULD mean? George Osborne should stop cutting but of course that won't happen. He'll move it around instead and make sure the rich get richer and the poor get poorer and start dying out. That's always been his plan and always will be.

To sum up in a semi-brief manner. You should all vote yes to AV. It may cost a little bit but it's a step in the right direction. In my opinion, we should all vote for our national and local area and then tally the votes that way. That's the fairest way. Each vote counts and the highest percentage gets into power. That way, Labour would have won a lot more elections. The monarchy makes this country democratic and hypocritical but I suppose they do no real harm since they're like a cash-cow with gold (oil is probably more lucrative now) instead of milk. Royal wedding is a good thing for this country since we'll make a bomb off other people's interest in something so pointless. Result.

Friday, 22 April 2011

Sucker Punch.

Sucker Punch.

I was strangely excited for this film. I read a few interviews about it and the more I read on the more interested I got in the film. I was excited to see it. A gleaming cast of fantastic yet underrated actors has set this film alight. Intrigue about this film has been mostly from the male perspective as it is women in tight and skimpy clothing running around with big guns kicking ass in a fantasy world. I can't think of a man who isn't pleased by the concept. What about the execution?

Plot: A young girl is institutionalised by her abusive stepfather. Retreating to an alternative reality as a coping strategy, she envisions a plan which will help her escape from the mental facility.

Zack Snyder clearly likes showing off. It's what he does best. Looking back at 300 what are the stand-out moments? The incredible fight scenes in slow-mo with fantastic shots. Realism, gore and violence submerged into a fantasy world. Unfortunately, it feels like he's just showing off with Sucker Punch. He shows off his flowing style with obscure detail shots (an example of this is Baby Doll's button coming off in the opening credits and a slow-mo shot as it spins, a bit like the Watchmen smiley face scene) and a lot of action. The storyline always lacks though.

Cast: Emily Browning, Vanessa Hudgens, Jena Malone, Jamie Chung, Carla Gugino, Oscar Isaac and Abbie Cornish. Directed by Zack Snyder.

The entire back story of Emily Browning's Baby Doll is summed up in the opening scene during one or maybe two songs, I'm not sure. Another thing about this film is there is a lot of music. This means less script and that's probably why the storyline is poor in comparison. It's an original script and quite a clever one. A girl is institutionalised by her cruel and abusive step-father after a weird and sort of unexplained back-story. There she is planned to be lobotomised and plans an escape. To escape she replaces the institution with a brothel where she does a dance which leads her into another fantasy world to complete a mission.

There are four missions. In these missions she's simply looking for four simple items: A map, fire, a knife and a key. These are obviously complicated in her fantasies, with a dragon representing fire and so on. In this institution, she meets her kick arse, take no mercy, fiesty and sexy gal pals. They are Sweet Pea (Abbie Cornish), Rocket (Jena Malone), Blondie (Vanessa Hudgens) and Amber (Jamie Chung). In these fantasy worlds they fight for the items in obscure ways - when Baby Doll is only dancing. You never get to see the dance, only a pathetic jig before hand so don't get excited or curious. There's no point because you'll never see it.

Plot holes ironically leak through each tier of fantasy and so on. You catch no glimpse of what is actually happening while they're fighting - which is a shame. Coherence or lucidity would make this a much better film. Being that you know that when you walk in you'll see hot women in fantasy landscapes shooting and fighting, you can't really be disappointed. That's exactly what you get. Although, being a 12A means that it has been toned down in a lot of ways. There's no swearing, no blood, no limbs so is it really Snyder's work?

I have an obligation to bring up the CGI as it truly is incredible. Incredible fight scenes with reanimated steam-powered Nazis (please don't speak about realism or how ridiculous that is - it's in her head!) and other incredibly visual fight scenes you can't help but be impressed. It's a lot to soak in so I'm glad the 3D conversion was cancelled otherwise you'd have a massive headache. It's a shame that the CGI can't mask the cheesy lines from a rather weak and poor script.

You can't help but want the stuff to be answered. I mean, the back-story is never truly confirmed. Maybe it is confirmed but due to the nature it is shot, you can't help but have doubts. It's either bad directing or suggestive directing and I can't decide. I went in knowing what I was going to get but I'd at least like answers, but with no definition between reality and the brothel fantasy it's a bit hard to get an answer. It's like asking a stripper an ethical question, she dances and you're enjoying but she never answers properly; apt as it is set in a brothel.

Look out for Vanessa Hudgens's inexplicable line. I'd like to know what she says because it doesn't sound like words to me.

Its CGI is breakthrough. Outlandish fantasy worlds with incredible effects. Oddly good if you were lobotomised to watch this film as no thinking would be perfect. Expect massive explosions, outlandish fights, tiny outfits with cheesy lines. Great idea lacking the storyline execution and coherence needed to make it brilliant.

★★★

Sunday, 3 April 2011

Paul.

Paul movie poster.

From the first advertisement (the first of many, many, MANY advertisements) people got excited. Simon Pegg and Nick Frost were teaming up again to make the third of the "blood and ice cream trilogy"; everyone was wrong. I told everyone that this wasn't the third of the "Cornetto trilogy" but they didn't believe me. There's one huge difference from Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz: It's American. Obviously, the two main stars are British but it's directed by Greg Mottola of Superbad and Adventureland and not Edgar Wright. It's based in America, with less British humour and with nothing but American co-stars. The third of the trilogy is The World's End, if you were curious and they sat down with Edgar Wright a week after this was released to finally get it started. IMDb says it'll be done by 2014.

Plot: Two British comic-book geeks traveling across the U.S. encounter an alien outside Area 51.

In my opinion, the reason this film has had mixed reviews was because it was misleading and people thought it was the third of the trilogy. In the adverts, they even had clips from Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz so of course there was going to be confusion. It was a bad idea by the marketers. This film was advertised so much that I actually didn't want to see it because of it. Usually, a film which advertises itself so much uses the best bits in the advert which leads to nothing but a massive disappointment.

Luckily - in this rare case - it was brilliant. Paul was the spawn of chatter between Simon Pegg and Nick Frost in the back garden of the Shaun of the Dead set back in 2004. Of course, they're both busy so it must have taken a while to get a full script going, get it produced, get a director and so on. Either way, it finally arrived in the cinema on Valentine's day and it's still here. That's a relatively long time for a film to be in the cinema. Probably an attempt to get back most of the money it spent on mass marketing. Even cadred had an advertisement of it (via Alienware).

Laughs were immediate as soon as you met the two main characters of the film. Their nerdy attire in a nerd haven, meeting their nerd idol who was nothing but cold, blunt and brilliant and carrying on their cross-country tour of UFO hotspots. After some driving they meet their little alien friend named Paul. I must say, I'm not the biggest fan of Seth Rogen because, in my opinion, he won't top his performance in The 40 Year Old Virgin. He enters with a pretty weak, toilet-humour joke which made me groan but that was one of the only, if not only, bad joke by him.

Cast: Simon Pegg, Nick Frost and Seth Rogen. Directed by Greg Mottola.


Now we see an agent (Jason Bateman) who's chasing Paul so they can take him back to Area 51 and harness his brain to see what they can learn since he fulfilled his usefulness. Him and his mysterious boss are desperate to catch up with him whilst recruiting two agents who have no idea what they're chasing or looking for.

As they continue, you notice that Graeme Willy (Pegg) and Clive Gollings (Frost) are more alien to America than Paul. Although, Seth Rogen literally plays himself. A swearing, weed head but from another planet. Pegg and Frost are fans of the sci-fi genre so expect loads of references to any form of sci-fi alien related film. For example, the aliens who play the same song over and over again in that bar in Star Wars can be heard in a bar whilst their escaping.

Clive Gollings: It's not fat, it's power!

Never mind harbouring a fugitive who's an extra-terrestrial, they end up kidnapping a Bible bashing, Jesus freak named Ruth Buggs (Kristen Wiig) who ends up awkwardly experiencing anything and everything she can since meeting Paul. He makes her an experimental, sex-addict, potty-mouth by disproving her one-world theology. What ensues is an extra hilarious character in an already humorous outing.

The second half breaks the predictability of the previous half, bursting through with a few moments which drop your jaw as you didn't expect it. It's sort of amateur Edgar Wright style but yet it works. The film is filled with quite a few American clichés but there is still British humour in there to enjoy. Especially British attributes (excessive apologising is one). This is a funny film but do not expect Shaun of the Dead or Hot Fuzz. It caters more for Americans by not being very breakthrough with the humour, not daring but still highly amusing and it will have you quoting the film.

Thoroughly enjoyable and you will laugh all the way through. It's light-hearted humour but you can't help but wish for a heavier, more daring adventure.

★★★★

Friday, 1 April 2011

Libya.

You’re damned if you do and you’re damned if you don’t. It’s true that you can’t please everyone but is it because people have their morals and reasons mixed up? Everyone has an opinion and we all think differently but you shouldn’t disagree with our military intervention. Gaddafi/Gadhafi/Qaddafi (or the other hundred or so variations of his name) is a genocidal maniac who kills innocent people in his country. But it’s his country, right? We should just let it happen? No.

We have a right to intervene. In fact, we have more than just a right. It’s more of a necessity. A very high majority (and the very small minority are disgusting) think Hitler was a psycho and he needed to be stopped and yet Gaddafi and Hitler are the same. They both murder innocent people. The only difference is we’ve been ignoring Gaddafi for years. He’s been killing unarmed, oppressed civilians of Libya since he came in to power but instead of helping out and saving those lives, we cashed in by selling him products to murder.

Iraq is a very debatable subject. The lies that initiated the war, the potential reason of puppet of America, oil, greed and son but something came out of it. Something great. We got rid of another genocidal dictator. Plenty of these exist and yet we haven’t gotten rid of them all but one less is always a great thing. Installing democracy in Iraq has been a struggle. To be honest, I think it is seen as a secondary or maybe even tertiary objective. Nevertheless, it’s an objective which is needed to be done. They are resistant to this because of the way we’ve tried to create a democracy. We aren’t helping, we’re hindering. Operation Iraqi Freedom is proving impossible when we offer no real assistance. We must not repeat this on Libya.

The reason we’re in Libya is to stop people from being murdered, raped and injured. Gaddafi even hired mercenaries to go out and rape the wives and daughters of the protesters. These protesters are potentially sacrificing themselves for something we ignore and take advantage of. They want equality, freedom, a real government. They don’t want a rich, melting candle in charge of their lives. We are there to protect those people. We are there to stop him from bombing peaceful protests. I don’t understand why we can be against this?

We are not sending innocent people to their death for no reason. It’s not as if we’re sending conscripts. We are sending people whose job it is to protect. A British life has no more worth than any other life. Our soldiers agree to this, they know what they’re doing. They agree to their wage, their potential loss of life or injury and so on. There are innocent people who aren’t soldiers dying in Libya in an attempt to be free. They saw what happened in Egypt and they have the right to the same equality.

Military intervention shouldn’t only be accepted but be accepted as a given, an imperative. The freedom of the middle-east is necessary and not only there. We still have eastern Asia (for example, North Korea who suffer severe oppression, poverty and censorship), most of Africa, central America, South America and so on. Democracy shouldn’t be a western idea, it should be compulsory around the world. To those who disagree with our intervention, ask yourself if our intervention during WW2 was wrong? Would you expect an intervention if you were in the same circumstances? Of course we would want it. In fact, we’d demand it. If we cared as much about democracy and the loss of innocent lives as we do about menial things like the price of Sky TV and over-immigration (which is bullshit), the world would be filled with equality, democracy and it would be a hippy dream. I suppose that’s hopeless idealism in our ignorant and selfish country.