Thursday, December 14, 2017

Doing the Deacon thing

A few months ago Wifey and I were approached by our pastor who asked if we'd be interested in joining church leadership - her an elder, me a deacon.

It was a bit of a crazy request, mainly because it's unusual for husband and wife to both be in church leadership (especially if they have a young family), but he felt it was a possible prompt from God so thought it worth exploring.

We were a bit surprised, but offered to go away and think/pray about it. Having done so, we felt it was right to accept, but to stagger things slightly - Wifey to start 'Eldering' first and me to 'Deac' a few months later.

Wifey has taken to her new role well, and is realy in her element. Me, I've only just been voted in (it was unanimous I think, so there's a vote of confidence!), so I have yet to find out what it's like.

It's dawned on me that I am of the age where me and and a lot of my peers are now the ones in church leadership, which is sort of scary. Years ago, I used to watch the leaders from the congregation and see them as older, wisened 'grown up' people, and it's a bit weird to think that maybe younger people now see me that way (maybe not the 'wisened' bit - just the 'older' bit).

I don't feel at all qualified, but I guess I have a reasonable length of life experience to draw upon (although maybe not so much when it comes to churchy stuff).

Who knows? Maybe I'll end up being a pastor one day (cue copious amounts of laughter and derision).

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Justice League - a review

Warning: spoilers!

Justice league picks up after the events of Batman vs Superman, with a world left reeling from the aftermath of a cataclysmic battle between Superman and a kryptonite monster.

Fearing that something even worse will come to destroy the planet, Batman sets out to form a team of metahumans in preparation for the looming threat. With Wonder Woman already on the team. Aquaman, The Flash and Cyborg eventually join – just as the lucifer-like Steppenwolf wreaks havoc looking for three of the ‘mother boxes’ (devices containing unlimited power).

Overall, I liked this film. It managed to handle its varied elements well and struck a decent balance between darkness and humour. While it was mercifully tight in terms of running time, it did feel slightly rushed. There was a lot to pack in (introducing new characters, setting up the threat,

Each of the League members brought something to the party: Batman’s gadgets and know-how, Wonder Woman’s level-headedness and kick-ass moves, The Flash’s comedic lines (and ultra-fast speed, of course), Cyborg’s tortured intensity combined with superior hacking skills and Aquaman’s demigod surfer dude-ness. Whilst the team chemistry hasn’t quite gelled yet, I think this is a good start and hopefully can be built upon in the follow up (if there is one).

Last of all, there’s Superman – coming back from the dead and predictably saving the day, although his role is small it’s not insignificant.

In some ways it’s a miracle this film ever got made and is in any way coherent. Not only did it suffer from its director pulling out after the tragic death of his daughter, but it needed $25 million of reshoots which also included the infamous digital removal of Henry Cavill’s moustache. It’s kind of noticeable if you’re looking for it, but if you didn’t know you’d be none the wiser.

One thing that disappointed me about Justice League was the aspect ratio it was shot in. Batman vs Superman was shot in 1.44:1 but Justice League in 1.85:1 (I think, anyway - IMDB is a bit confusing on this). Because of this, the former film felt more epic to me. The widescreen aspect helped convey the sense that this was an ‘event’ film. Justice League, on the other hand, felt like a bog-standard movie to me. It may have something to do with the cinema I saw it in (they have a tendency to keep the lights dimmed throughout the film, which is kind of annoying), but with a film like this I want to feel totally immersed in the experience.

Another disappintment was the character of Steppenwulf. He could have been big and scary and monstrous enough to prove a worthy baddie, but being a completely CGI character took away from anything he could have been. Why do filmmakers insist on this? It looks totally fake and pulls you out of the movie. It's not a DC thing, either. Marvel are just as bad with their woefully CGI'd Thanos.

As for the soundtrack, it was great to have Danny Elfman scoring the music. I have great affection for what he did on the Michael Keaton Batman films, and so it was nice to have him return to caped crusader territory. The original Batman theme tune was thrown in here and there (as well as the John Williams Superman fanfare at one point).

Overall, Justice League did a good job in my opinion (with the odds stacked against it in numerous ways), but the cracks in the DC Extended Universe seem to be all too clear.

Maybe DC should cut loose from Warner Brothers (a la Marvel) and do a reboot to their intellectual property. Even though it's not meant to be a competition, their comic book rivals are steaming ahead and can't seem to put a foot wrong.

And that's a real shame, because DC have some great characters that deserve decent treatment on the silver screen.

Friday, December 1, 2017

Avengers: Infinity War Trailer (yaaaawwwwnnn)

OK, so the Avenger: Infinity War trailer has dropped.


Please excuse the sarcasm.

I feel like I'm one of very few who are actually bored bored bored by all this comic superhero garbage. 

OK, I call it garbage but that's not fair. They're not all terrible.

It's just the relentlessness of them being stuffed down our throats that gets to me.

My reaction to this trailer was this:
- how can they shoehorn all of those characters into one film and make anything close to coherent?
- the CGI on Thanos is really bad. I mean, like, terrible!
- oh look, there's another portal thingy in the sky ... again
- there are legions of baddie soldier monster type things ... again
- seems like the entire world is under threat but superheroes will sort things out ... again

Is it called 'Infinity War' because this WILL NEVER END???


Thursday, November 30, 2017

Christmas is coming!!!

Every year, it's always the same. I look forward to the festive season with excitement, and by the time Boxing Day comes around I am sick of anything and everything to do with baby Jesus and all of the tinselly tat that surrounds him.

I try hard to hold off until at least December the 1st, but having had an 'early Christmas' with Wifey's dad (who's heading off to Australia for winter) – complete with presents and dinner with all the trimmings – it's difficult not to get sucked into it all.

So, as December looms I am bracing myself, determined to enjoy the season and not become the anti-Santa or whatever.

Pray for me.

Films I've Seen of Late (November)

#65 A United Kingdom (2016)
Moving and stirring story of the birth of the African nation of Botswana. Originally a British protectorate, Bechuanaland became independent after a long struggle with its British rulers. Secretes Khama, the next in line to the chieftainship, falls in love with an English girl while studying at University. The resultant opposition (from both the British estblishment and Batswana people is unsurprising but depressing) - although love and freedom prove resiliant enough.

#66 Capture the Flag (2015)
Okay-ish animation about a boy and his friend who accidentally end up on a mission to the moon (along with their ex-astronaut grandpa), in an attempt to stop an evil Elon Musk-type billionaire from claiming the moon for himself. Enjoyable enough, but all the family-friendly messages feel shallow and forced.

#67 Murder on the Orient Express (2017)
Kenneth Brannagh does a fine turn as eccentric Belgian super sleuth Hercules Poirot in this new adaptation of the classic murder mystery. Lavish sets and an all star cast are the cherry on top of a tight script and inventive direction from Ken. A great couple of hours of escapism.

#68 My Scientology Movie (2015)
Louis Théroux tackles the ultra-secretive Scientology sect in this feature-length documentary. Louis is his trademark self, quizzing his subjects with a self-deprecating innocence, although members of the so-called 'church' are mostly absent because of their secrecy and refusal to participate. Instead, most of the film centres around a former leader who has been excommunicated by the church. Whilst providing a fascinating insight into a bizarro mind-control cult, Louis’ movie doesn’t really deliver on its perceived promise.

#69 Pacific Rim (2013)
Giant robots battling enormous inter-dimensional monsters. That is all.

#70 Allied (2016)
Brad Pitt and Marion Cottilard play World War Two spies who fall in love after completing a daring mission together. This love is thrown into disarray, however, when one of them is accused of being a German double agent after they have moved to London and gotten married. With a tight and tense script, along with lush sets and costumes, Allied keeps you guessing to the end in what is a great thriller.

#71 La La Land (2016)
The lives of an aspiring actress and frustrated jazz pianist entwine amongst the bizarre backdrop of Los Angeles and Hollywood dreams. I’m not a huge fan of musicals, but La La Land was a pleasant surprise, thanks mostly to the excellent Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling. More importantly, it’s a good story too.

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Allergic to Coffee?

I have become one of those people who I used to despise - a coffee snob.

That's right. I turn my nose up at instant coffee and even grind my own coffee beans.

What the hell happened?

I don't really know, but one thing that I've discovered is that I have some weird olfactory (that's stuff to do with the sense of smelling in case you didn't know) response to coffee. Actually it's coffee shops.

If I make my own coffee at home, it has no effect, but if I go to a coffee shop (regardless of brand) afterwards my sense of smell is dominated by a weird coffee aroma. Its sort of like a stale coffee smell.

I've written about the coffee shop aroma before on my blog, but to actually have it as some kind of phantom smell is quite unsettling.

All I can think of is that it's some kind mild allergic reaction.

I'd love to know if anytone else is afflicted by this - and whether it's a recognised medical condition.

In the meantime, I'll just go and have another cup of joe...

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Films I've Seen of Late (October)

#59 Storks (2015)
Passable animation featuring Andy Samberg (who pretty much plays his character from Brooklyn 99) about storks delivering babies or something. At least it kept the kids happy.

#60 Blade Runner (1982)
One of the best films of all time (IMHO), I fancied a rewatch before catching the sequel in cinemas (if I get a chance). Gritty sci-fi with a film noir twist, Ridley Scott’s vision of a decaying future LA doesn’t fail anywhere: story, cinematography, musical score, acting, special effects - it all still holds up fantastically well thirty years later. To make a sequel anywhere near as good seem an impossible task.

#61 Lego Ninjago Movie (2017)
The third ‘live action’ Lego movie, Ninjago fails to live up to its predecessors. There’s plenty of wink-wink / breaking the fourth wall humour, as seems is obligatory for this sort of film (just to keep the grown ups happy) but something still seems to be missing. Disappointing.

#62 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (1954)
Classic Disney epic adventure about three men held captive by the mysterious Captain Nemo aboard his technological underwater marvel, the Nautilus. Still stands up well against modern films, and sticks as closely to the source material as is reasonably possible.

#63 Supernova (2000)
Sci-if thriller/horror with a slight identity problem. Despite the solid performances from leads Spader and Bassett, the problems with its script and meddling from the studio ultimately let it down.

#64 The Mountain Between Us (2017)
Two strangers (Idris Elba and Kate Winslet) become stranded on a desolate mountain range when their chartered pilot crashes. As they struggle to survive, they form a strong bond which carries them through near-starvation and freezing temperatures. A powerful and emotional journey with breathtaking scenery and moving scenes.