Monday, May 22, 2017

Cadbury Oreo Mint and Peanut Butter

Cadbury have recently dropped two new flavours of Dairy Milk Oreo: Mint and Peanut Butter. I've reviewed their original flavour here, which feels like a bit of a fraud seeing as the filling doesn't seem to actually be the proper Oreo creme. It's not a terrible chocolate bar, just not as Oreo-y as it could be.

So, onto these new iterations.

Curious.

For some reason Dairy Milk doesn't really go with peanut buttter. Reese's peanut butter cups taste amazing, but Dairy Milk does not. I wonder if it's because Reese's chocolate is darker and the peanut paste is more salty..?

Peanut Butter Oreos work as a cookie, but this doesn't quite... so I will give this chocolate bar 6 out of 10.


Hmm. This is more like it. Mint and chocolate are natural taste companions, and combined with the Oreo makes a tasty treat. 8 out of 10 for this one. Yum!

I wonder if Cadbury will continue the trend and try another flavour? Personally, I think Strawberry would be a good option. Strawberry flavour Oreos are pretty awesome.

C'mon Cadbury - work your magic!

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

New Dredd TV Series In Development



I couldn't quite believe my eyes when I saw social media filling up with news about a new TV show based on the Judge Dredd comics: Judge Dredd: Mega-City One.

As a longtime fan of the character, I have had to deal with the disappointment of seeing Dredd's character fail at the cinema box office - not once, but twice. I have seen America's Marvel and DC surge and dominate Hollywood, while Britain's 2000AD fail to get anywhere despite its vast range of brilliant stories and characters.

The idea that Dredd would return to the silver screen seemed far fetched - even with the Dredd Sequel fan campaign - but now, it seems, there's a new ray of hope. Rebelllion (the licence-holders of Dredd and associated characters) have announced they are working on a new iteration of Dredd. This time for the smaller screen.

I am super-excited, if a little cautious, about this announcement. On the plus side, Rebellion are the custodians of Dredd. They know and love the character well so I'm sure will be determined to do a good job. They've got good backing with IM Global and Mark Stern (executive producer who previously worked for the Syfy channel on Battlestar Galactica). There's clearly a desire for more Dredd, thanks to the critical response to the 2012 Dredd film, and if Rebellion can persuade Karl Urban to return to judging duties, they're off to a great start.

My main reservation is that Rebellion have no experience of making TV. They refer to their experience in making computer games, which is certainly a similar industry, but I still think TV is different. Added to that, Mega-City One is a formidable canvas to work with. It's massively rich and bizarre just in terms of characters alone. Portraying this vast metropolis is going to be a huge challenge, I'm sure. Dredd 2012 had a budget of $35,000,000 and struggled to put Dredd's hometown up onscreen (although it did a good job all things considering). With an estimated $1,000,000 per epsiode, JD:MC-1 will have a lot less resources to work with.

Despite these niggles, I remain optimistic. Dredd and his world have always been ripe for live action, it's just the technology, willpower and finance have never quite been available.

That is, until now.

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Is Welsh independence a good idea?

Ever since the disaster that was Brexit, I've been pondering on the future of the UK. With Scotland charging towards an independence referendum and the recent snap election looming this June, the stability of the 'union' is more uncertain than ever.

As always, there's polarised opinion about this and the Welsh question of independence is hard to ignore. Better arguments for it can be read elsewhere (See http://yes.cymru/independence/
and https://freewales.org/independent-wales-prosperous-wales/). Plenty of people will guffaw at the very notion of Welsh independence, but given that we may not have a 'United Kingdom' for much longer I think serious thought needs to be given to this idea.

For a long time, I've been one of the naysayers seeing Windependence (my new word everyone! yes, just as awful as 'Brexit') as a total joke, but now things have changed on the political scene I'm beginning to see it as a potential way forward for this small nation known for its mountains, male voice choirs, dragons (fictional ones, obviously) and poets.

Our current 'Welsh Government' has fewer powers than the Scottish Parliament or any other fully independent sate – but it's a start. I don't see why we can't build on what we've already got and work toward Windependence within the next decade or so.

Why am I thinking this way? Well, it's partly because of Brexit (and to a lesser extent, Trump's rise to power). Times they are a-changing and I think now more than ever, people need to call for change – but the kind of change that benefits the majority, not the precious few with power and wealth.

People will cry that we're 'too small' and 'economically weak' but one look at Iceland as a comparison proves that we are more than capable of holding our own on the world stage:

Iceland vs Wales

Population of Iceland: 330,000
Population of Wales: 3,000,000

GDP of Iceland: $17 billion
GDP of Wales: $70 billion

So, Iceland – an independent State like the USA, Russia, France or Japan – has 10% of the population and 20% of the GDP of Wales but the idea of Welsh Independence is laughed off by the English (and plenty of Welsh too). Interestingly, Iceland has one of the lowest economic inequality rates in the world and one of best Human Development Indices.

I've nothing against Icelanders. They are no doubt a noble and worthy people, and their land is majestic and beautful – but it's cold, stuck in the middle of the North Sea and beer costs something like £8 a pint. Not the greatest of selling points for a nation state, one might think. And yet, they're doing just fine.

I don't think we need to sever ties with England in some bad divorce kind of way (a la Brexit), but perhaps it helps to view the smaller parts of the union as England's children. For centuries, these children have lived under the shadow of their parent and perhaps rightly so.

Now, in the 21st century, though - perhaps it's time for the children to finally grow up.

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Films I've seen of late 2017 (April)

April's been a bumper month for my movie watching, it seems. This is partly because I've discovered documentaries on Netflix, which I don't mind watching in chunks. Maybe also April is a pretty long month...?

#17 Back In Time (2015)
Released on the 30th anniversary of Back to The Future, Back In Time features interviews with the cast and creators of the much-loved 'greatest time travel movie ever'. Some interesting and fascinating snippets from those who made the film, punctuated by stories from the many fans who have kept the BTTF flame alive. Notable omissions are Biff's Thomas F Wilson (not sure why) and George's Crispin Glover (for obvious reasons).
(8/10)

#18 The BFG (2016)
Spielberg's filmmaking craft is the perfect match to Dahl's storytelling in this faithful adaptation of the much-loved children's classic. Mark Rylance (BFG) and Ruby Barnhill (Sophie) have an excellent chemistry, in spite of the CGI wizardry.
(8.5/10)

#19 Ghostbusters (2016)
The hateful backlash against this reboot was unnecessary and unjustified. Sure, it pales into comparison to the original movies, but it has a lot of heart and plenty of funny moments. The cameos and constant references to the source material dilute the film as a whole, preventing it from being a decent film in its own right (the best way to do reboots, in my opinion). This is as close to Ghostbusters 3 as we'll ever get, so worth a watch.
(6.5/10)

#20 Dreams of a Life (2011)
Joyce Vincent died alone in her North London flat in 2003 but wasn't discovered until over 2 years later - her fully decomposed corpse lying on the floor with the TV still playing. Why she was left for such a long time is explored in this documentary via interviews with friends and colleagues, shocked by Joyce's fate. Dreams of a Life builds up a picture of an enigmatic woman who never stayed in the same place and was apparently plagued by demons nobody could really fathom. A fascinating and heartbreaking film.
(8/10)

#21 Twelve Monkeys (1995)
I last saw this at the cinema on its original release and it's aged well. Bruce Willis is on top form as the hero sent back in time to gather information about a deadly virus that wipes out most of humanity. One of Terry Gilliam's most mainstream successes, this time travel tale is full of Gilliam's trademark production design and quirkiness but it manages to keep things on track without being too weird. Good to watch again.
(8.5/10)

#22 Boss Baby (2017)
Potentially a painful ninety minutes, Boss Baby is actually quite a sweet film that centres around the main character's angst of having a new sibling join the family. It has moments of weirdness, it's true, and the drive of the story is slightly questionable – but Alec Baldwin's performance lends a fair whack of credibility to this above average kid's film.
(6/10)

#23 Go With Me (2015)
A dark and moody thriller, Go With Me is a simple tale of revenge set in an Oregon logging town. Ray Liota is Blackway, the local ex-cop crime boss who threatens a new resident (Julia Stiles) after she escapes his advances. The sheriff prefers not to get involved, so she enlists the help of two loggers (Anthony Hopkins and Alexander Ludwig) who end up taking the law into their own hands to track down the elusive Blackway. Great performances all round and a satisfying ending to a very lean but effective story.
(8/10)

#24 What We Do In The Shadows (2014)
Four vampires sharing a flat form the basis of this mockumentary from the creators of Flight of the Conchords. A mostly hilarious look at life for the undead in 21st century New Zealand, 'Shadows' is a fresh take on both modern horror and spoof genres with a quirky Kiwi spin. Lots of gruesome silliness.
(8/10)

#25 Eddie the Eagle (2015)
Biopic about Eddie 'The Eagle' Edwards and his ski jumping antics at the 1988 Winter Olympics in Calgary. Moving and funny, Taron Egerton is the spitting image of Edwards in mannerisms as well as looks. It's a shame they had to invent Hugh Jackman's character (and a lot of other plot points) for the sake of a Hollywood storyline, but at least the finale in Calgary is fairly true to the real thing. 
(8/10)

Saturday, April 22, 2017

General Election '17 Thoughts

When I heard about the snap election, I felt very much like the first lady in this clip, bless 'er:
Now I've calmed down a bit, I've had a think about what to do.

Theresa May has been very shrewd calling an election at a time when the opposition is weak and largely ineffective. I admire Corbyn a lot for his principles, but I think it's a pretty long shot that he'll become PM. The Tories know this and hope that a victory in June will cement their position of power.

I don't think all Tories are evil. I am sure that many are hardworking decent people who care deeply about their constituents, but it is the leadership that bothers me. There appears to be a callousness and indifference to 'ordinary people' about them – and I believe this will only worsen as Brexit becomes more of a reality.

So, what am I going to do about it?

Well, just because my bet is that May will still probably keep her job doesn't mean I shouldn't do something to fight against our Tory overlords.

Firstly, I'm supporting More United, a political movement that supports progressive MPs (whatever the party) and then I've decided to join Plaid Cymru. I think post-Brexit Wales will be worse off than the rest of the UK and believe that only Plaid will fight for Welsh interests in Westminster.

Alongside that, I think it's time we started thinking seriously about Welsh Independence (Windependence, if you will), and Plaid is the one party that is open to the idea. If Scotland can seriously contemplate it, and if other, smaller countries can survive as nation states than I think maybe it's time for Wales to take steps. After all, I don't think we've got much to lose.

If, like me, you've felt a bit paralysed by ineffective politics of late – try not to be. Do something practical to try and make our political landscape better (otherwise nothing will change).

Saturday, April 15, 2017

What dreams may come

The word 'Dream' is a funny word.

This occured to me after watching Spielberg's film adaptation of the BFG. The titular giant has taken it upon himself to gives children nice dreams by blowing them into their bedroom through the window at night.

There's a lot of talk about wonderful dreams (flying, eating ice cream, meeting the queen, going into space etc.) but here's the thing: I can't really relate to this as I don't think I've had that many 'nice' dreams in my life. Don't get me wrong, it's not like I spend every night enduring endless nightmares. Most of the dreams I can remember have been largely anxiety-driven and cover such scenarios as: sitting an exam, being naked in public, going to toilet in public, arguing with people I'm angry at, missing a plane/bus/boat, being late for an interview/important meeting ... the list is pretty endless. To top off the list, I've frequently dreamed about the end of the world which usually entails a nuclear armageddon or cataclysmic tsunami.

Not much fun, eh?

If I'm not dreaming about tomorrow's presentation or money woes, I'll be dreaming in surreal locations and narratives that make no sense. I had a dream last night that involved some friends, guinea pigs, the next door neighbour, a church, a restaurant and some sense of where I used to live when I was younger. Trying to actually describe the dream as a story and what it was about would be pretty hard. 

Of course, this may just be a symptom of being a grown up. As young children, we don't generally have the pressures and responsibilities of raising a family or paying the bills. Maybe the innocence of childhood affords more pleasant nighttime dreaming but by the time we're grown up we've mostly forgotten them and moved on to weird stuff.

People talk about their 'dreams coming true', wanting the 'home of their dreams' or 'living the dream' but if I took those phrases literally I'd be stressing about my mum's old 2CV that was slowly melting in front of my eyes, sitting in a building with no roof or running away from an expanding mushroom cloud.

Monday, April 10, 2017

Getting into the Carmarthen Film Festival


I was recently informed that the short film I wrote and directed has made it into the Carmarthen Bay Film Festival. Woohoo!

We have submitted to a number of other festivals but not had any luck until now, so it was a nice surprise to learn that we have been nominated for two categories: No Budget Short and Short Film Made in Wales 2017.

Myself and the other producers have pondered over our apparent lack of success with our other submissions and concluded that it all comes down to that good old fashioned staple of consumerism: Money.

Put simply, filmmaking is expensive. It costs money to do, or at least if you want to do it at a certain level you need dosh. We didn't have any money for Refuge – well, a few hundred quid at most – so it was very much a low/zero budget short. If you've watched a short on the internet and it has high production values, chances are it really did have high production values. Many of the festivals we entered were fairly big international affairs and no doubt bigger budget productions entered them to get lots of good exposure.

I'm not begrudging these other filmmakers – good luck to them, I say – but I'm annoyed we went through the expensive process of approaching festivals when we were up against the big guns and had very little chance of getting anywhere.

Still, we got into a festival and that was the very least I was hoping for. If we win, that will be an even bigger bonus.

But I won't hold my breath.