Sunday, October 30, 2011

Recommendation: I Love You Phillip Morris

I first became aware of the film I Love You Phillip Morris when a trailer for it began playing in my local Blockbuster. Until that moment I had never heard of this movie, and if I had, I would have thought it had something to with cigarettes, like Thank You For Smoking. Not so.

I Love You Phillip Morris is the true story of con artist Steven Russell, played by Jim Carrey. He is arrested for his cons, and while in prison, he falls in love with a sweet young man named Phillip Morris (Ewan McGregor). The rest of the film chronicles their love story and Steven's attempts to make a life for the two of them. But can he clean up his act, or will Steven's life as a confidence man continue to cause trouble?

The movie is at turns romantic, touching, sad, and hilarious. Mostly, it's hilarious. Here's what professional film critic (not actor) Roger Moore of the Orlando Sentinel had to say about the film:
Despite its title, it has nothing to do with cigarettes. But its star, as he once famously said on screen, is absolutely "smokin'." 
Jim Carrey is the narrator, heart of soul of "I Love You Phillip Morris," transforming what could have been a cliched con man comedy, generic Jim Carrey character comedy, or run-of-the-mill gay coming-out comedy into something smarter, sweeter, and downright giddy.
There's a lot more to the film than I have described, but I am loathe to give anything away. Just take my word for it. It's a good movie.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Grocery stores are different here

During my recent sojourn to my local Tesco Metro, I came across a few products that I thought deserved to be photographed. I'm sure this will be the first in a series of similar blog posts. 

Why in the world would a tissue need to be "mansize"? On second thought, do not answer that. 

Note: this is a clear soda, not unlike Sprite. If this doesn't seem strange to you,
then you are perhaps more worldly than I. This is the only color of cream soda I have ever seen. 

Fanta Beach?! It's strawberry-kiwi flavored! This sounds amazing.


This picture is awful. The focal point is illegible. I apologize. What you're meant to be seeing is the sign in the back that reads "Pot Snacks." Teehee. Not what they meant, but that would be a brilliant idea. 

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

My Olympic Dream Comes True*

As most of you probably know, next year's Summer Olympics are being held in London. I'm working on getting tickets. Apparently it's pretty popular. Who knew? So I'm not sure if I'll actually get to go. I'll keep you posted on that.

BUT the real news is what happened on Monday. As a sponsor of the Olympics, Coke is doing a publicity tour around the UK to get nominations for torch bearers. They're giving away free Coke and LETTING PEOPLE HOLD THE OLYMPIC TORCH!


That's right, jealous readers, the Olympic Torch was visiting the University of Edinburgh on Monday afternoon, and my friend Kyley and I went to see it. I expected it just to be on display so we could all "ooh" and "ahh." But no. There was a line to hold it and have your picture taken. We even had to wear special torch-bearer gloves. Then they gave us wee Cokes! It was exhilarating. Check out my photo shoot!

As you can see, I took a whirlwind tour around the UK.

*I'm not an athlete. My Olympics dreams do not extend beyond touching the torch. And maybe seeing Nastia Liukin in London.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Love is in the Air

October is 2/3 of the way done, and you know what that means, dear readers. That's right, love is in the air. To celebrate love today, here is a video I just found of Jim Carrey confessing his love for Emma Stone. Heart-warming. Happy Friday!

Thursday, October 20, 2011

The Lion King... in 3D!

For those of you who don't know, Disney has re-released The Lion King in theaters, remastered and in 3D. So of course, I went to see it.

The showing I attended was at 9:20pm. There were no children present. The entire audience seemed to consist of 20-somethings, who were all clearly reliving their childhoods. The excitement in the air was palpable!

Before the film, there were a few indications that the people who designed the previews were, perhaps, not targeting the audience that was, at that moment, occupying the theater. We got commercials for Barbie and Legos. Then there were trailers for Arthur Christmas, Hugo, Puss in Boots, and Happy Feet Two. Ok, maybe they were targeting me, because I am very excited about Happy Feet Two. But that's beside the point. What I'm getting at is that there was a certain air of childishness within the theater that night. And I loved it!

At long last, after all those previews, the screen went black and then the famous Disney logo appeared, complete with castle and that "D" that nobody realized was a "D" for years and that, to this day, makes me think of some kind of distorted backward "G." Aww, nostalgia.

Of course, they've updated it for the younger generation.
These kids and their  CGI film studio logos. Back in my day...
In the moments before the movie started, in the quiet of the theater, the excitement could be contained no longer. Almost everyone began spontaneously to giggle, as if the level of joy they felt at being there was too great to maintain their silence and the only sound appropriate to express such joy was the most innocent and childlike of all sounds: the giggle. Then, as if in a dream, the sun began to rise and that first note sounded loud and bright and thus commenced 89 minutes of me having goosebumps.

It was wonderful. The movie looked great, all remastered and whatnot. And the 3D wasn't bad, neither! It makes you so amazed to remember that it was all hand-drawn. Having not seen the movie in years, I picked up on way more jokes this time. My favorites were the almost-constant animal puns. This scene is a prime example. Hilarious. (Just like this delightful raccoon.)

During every song, you could tell that the whole theater was itching to sing along but resisting out of movie theater courtesy. There was one moment, however, when things almost got ugly. During this scene, some heartless jerks, who clearly did not have any respect for their fellow man, poked their heads in the theater and started yelling nonsense. I'm fairly certain that if they hadn't stopped within another minute, everyone in the theater was prepared to go down there and destroy them. Luckily, it did not come to this.

Other than that momentary hiccup, The Lion King in 3D was a rousing success! It was even worth the 70-minutes roundtrip it took for me to walk there and back. I definitely recommend going. You may not be a big Disney fan, but this is a seriously enjoyable movie, and seeing in the theater, surrounded by people who are totally loving it, might just melt your hard, cold heart and remind you what it was like to be a child again.

I will leave you with this link to the Moviefone blog, where they have created a list of 17 interesting things you may not have known about The Lion King. For example, "originally, the movie was going to be called 'King of the Jungle,' until the filmmakers realized that lions live on the savanna, not in the jungle." Ha! Good catch, filmmakers.

Happy Thursday!

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Great Cinema

The other day I popped into the Pound Saver to pick up a few odds and ends. For those of you not living in the UK, the Pound Saver is the equivalent of a Dollar Store. Only it uses pounds. So it's the $1.60 Store, depending on the exchange rate.

While I was there, I stumbled upon this gem of British filmmaking. I present to you... IRON HERO!

I know this picture is pretty difficult to read, so to help you out, the top says "The heart of 'Superman', The mind and body of 'Terminator'." The bottom reads "Part man... Part machine... All hero." 

Now, unless this obvious Iron Man rip-off literally has a human heart (which he might, I don't know), I would argue that to have the heart of Superman but the mind and body of Terminator just makes him Terminator from Terminator 2. If you haven't seen that film, spoiler alert, he's a good guy in it. 

I could go on about how lame this cover is (for example, I could mention that the line at the bottom is practically a quotation of the RoboCop tagline), but I'd like to move on to what I found out about the movie by doing a Google search. First, the IMDb page refers to the movie as Metal Man. I believe that's because it was released as Iron Hero in the UK in 2008 but as Metal Man in Germany in 2010.

Here's the plot summary as provided by "Anonymous" on IMDb:
Kyle Finn has the ultimate combat machine, a metal suit with super-human powers, and he uses it to defend the good and fight evil. That 'evil' comes in the form of Reed, his ninja henchmen and the Mecha Terror robot: has the Metal Man finally met his match?
This just keeps getting better. This raises several questions, like, is this a robot, with the mind and body of Terminator? Or, is this an Iron Man suit with a person inside? I'm pretty sure it has to be one or the other. Unless the suit transforms Kyle Finn into a robot with a human heart. Or maybe Kyle is a robot. Maybe the summary should read "Kyle Finn IS the ultimate combat machine... and he uses HIMSELF to defend the good and fight evil." Also, what kind of a super villain is named Reed? And why does he have both ninja henchman AND an evil robot? Oh, and the same questions I asked regarding Metal Man apply to Mecha Terror: robot, suit, etc.? 

Oh so many questions! Why, oh, why didn't I shell out the £1 to buy this movie?

Well, we're in luck, dear readers, because someone out there did. And then he recorded a series of four YouTube videos, adding up to about 37 minutes, in which he reviews the whole movie. If you really want to see how bad this movie is, I recommend at least watching the first of the four videos. He includes clips and an ongoing plot summary that is, frankly, pretty amazing. Just when you think Iron Hero cannot get any worse... it does. Incredible.

Ah, the things you find in the Scottish Dollar Store. 

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

A Castle! Ooh! Aah!

This past Saturday my friend Sabrina and I joined the International Student Centre on a trip to Culzean Castle. That's Culzean, pronounced cuh-LAY-in. Yes, I know there's a z in there. I don't pretend that the pronunciation of Gaelic things makes sense.

Anyhow, we visited this delightful castle, which is on the west coast, about 2 1/2 hours by bus from Edinburgh.

See, there it is. Historically, the castle and its grounds belonged to the Kennedy family, but it is now owned by the National Trust for Scotland. We rode there on a charter bus with 70 of our closest friends. And I do mean closest. I have never seen a bus designed to fit so many people into such a small space. Across each row, there were a total of five seats, three on one side of the aisle, two on the other. The seats and the aisle were each about 2/3 the width of a normal bus seat. Needless to say, not the most comfortable of rides. But,seeing as I woke up at 7:30am that Saturday, I spent most of my time in the sardine can sleeping.

Upon our arrival at Culzean Castle, we were given maps and told when to meet for our castle tour. As it turns out, the land upon which Culzean Castle sits is quite expansive. It includes lakes, forests, lush meadows, a beach, some lovely cliffs, and even some enticing caves, where we were unable to explore because the tide was too high.

Our first stop before the castle tour was the beach. At this point, we were still hoping to find the caves. No dice, but we did get to enjoy that crisp autumn sea air. The beach at Culzean is not exactly a place you would go sunbathing, but it was still a beautiful sight.

After our beach adventure, we set out along a road through the forest to find the park's secondhand bookshop. I bet you're wondering why the castle grounds need a secondhand bookshop. I assure you, it has not been there since ancient times. It's quite a nice scheme, actually. All of their books are donated, and all of the proceeds go toward castle upkeep. It's a nice alternative to selling souvenirs and knickknacks, I say. Of course, they have those too.

Around 1:30pm Sabrina and I returned to the castle for our tour. No photos were allowed inside, but trust me when I tell you it is amazing. Every room screams decadence. Marble fireplaces, ornate rugs, sculpted ceilings. Oh and of course, each room is equipped with a bell for summoning servants, who moved through the house using secret passageways so that the masters never had to see the help. The walls boast portraits of the various earls and marquesses of the family, most of whom were named Archibald. Our guide was a delightful man named Mark, who was just full of knowledge about the various lords of the family. He even told us the origin of the phrase "to lose face," which apparently comes from the makeup women used to wear in the olden days. They would put a layer of wax under their makeup to fill in their pox-scars, and when they sat by the fire, their faces would start melting off. De-LIGHT-ful.

Post-tour, we went in search of the swan pond. That's right. SWAN POND! On the way, we found the Walled Garden, which made me feel like I was in the Secret Garden, only it was a little better tended and a little less secret than I would have liked.

The swan pond was about a 10-minute walk from the garden, and about five minutes after we got there we had to head back to the bus. But we did have time for a couple of pictures. As one of my compatriots commented, "I've never been so close to a swan without it trying to bite me." It's always a good day when you can get close to a swan and not get attacked. 

After that, it was a quick walk back to the cramped bus by way of the deer park. Because when you are super-wealthy, you keep your own field full of deer. That's just how it works. 

I hope you enjoyed my trip to Culzean Castle, dear readers. I hope to have many more adventures in old Scottish places. So stayed tuned!

Below you will find more pictures of the castle and grounds. All photo credits for this post go to Miss Sabrina Uswak, who has sweet photo-editing skills and the foresight to bring a digital camera that didn't die within the first 20 minutes of our arrival. 

P.S. If you like the blog, consider signing up to be a follower. It's very easy, particularly if you have a Google email address, and it won't get you added to any mailing lists. It's really just there to boost my ego. Because after all, isn't that what this blog is all about? Cheers!

Friday, October 7, 2011

I think Gaga would be proud

Recommendation: Legend of the Seeker

Disclaimer: This is pretty nerdy. Do not continue reading if you want to keep thinking of me as really cool. If you've already had the veil torn from your eyes, by all means, read on.

If you are fan of fantasy, I must recommend Legend of the Seeker. This is a two-pronged recommendation, as Legend of the Seeker is both a short-lived television series and a book series, on which the TV show was based. Well, to be more precise, the book series is called the Sword of Truth series, but its main character is, you guessed it, the Seeker.

I watched the show first. The two seasons it ran are available to watch on Netflix, and it won my heart. It has elements of several shows I've liked over the years, particularly Xena: Warrior Princess and Buffy the Vampire Slayer. It combines a "chosen one"-type hero with all the cheesy special effects you expect from a made-for-TV adventure series. Magical powers, fantastical beasts, evil warlords, occasional zombies. What more could you ask?

It's a really enjoyable time, and after I finished the second season of the show, I found myself wanting more from these characters. I really loved their relationships in particular (because I am a woman), and it was then that I discovered the whole thing was based on a book series.

The first book follows the first season of the TV show pretty closely. There are some minor differences, some places where the action of the book was altered slightly to fit a more serial format, and some things that are just downright different. But I think the TV show captured the spirit of the books well, and anything that was changed during the adaptation only serves to make the book more interesting to me, as I'm not sure exactly what will happen. It keeps things exciting.

The first Sword of Truth book is called Wizard's First Rule, and last I checked, Legend of the Seeker is available for streaming on Netflix. I recommend starting with the show, but that's just me. Also be warned that the love story is played up a lot more in the book than in the show, but then again, I think the book is also more violent, so I guess it balances out.


As a bonus, here is an interview with the main characters from the show. It answers a few questions about what the show is about. Also they talk about New Zealand and wanting to hug sheep.

Oh and just so you are not confused if you watch the show after watching this video, note that the Richard character does not speak with an Australian accent. That threw me a bit when I heard Craig Horner (the actor) speak.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Scottish McDonald's: An Investigative Report

In my world travels, I have often been intrigued by the regional differences one can find in that most hallowed of fast-food chains, McDonald's. As we all know, one of the primary the reasons you go to McDonald's is for the consistency. No matter where in the country you are, you can always count on McDonald's being the same. Go to a different country, though, and all bets are off.

If you're in South Korea, you can expect to eat Bulgogi burgers. If you're in Cyprus, you can apparently purchase Carlsberg beer. So what about Scotland? Well, dear readers, it is my duty as your resident bloggist to find the answers to these kinds of pressing questions. Last week, I walked a little less than 2 miles to my local McDonald's to try out the Scottish version of American fast-food.

Of course, they had some of the usual fare: Big Macs, french fries, Chicken McNuggets, Quarter Pounders, and Filet o' Fish sandwiches. There were a few things, however, that were different. Nothing as extreme as Shrimp Burgers or Vegatable McCurry, but still not the same as what you've had if you've only ever eaten at McDonald's in the States.

I only ordered the four items I found most different/interesting/potentially appetizing. They are detailed below, with pictures. In addition to these four, they had Snack Wraps in Garlic and Herb flavor, something called a Chicken Legend, which I think was just a fried chicken sandwich, and a variety of "Deli Choices" in flavors like spicy vegetable and sweet chili chicken.

But now on the stuff I actually tasted. Here is my meal:

Scottish Product #1: 1955 Burger

I'm really not sure why they named it that. Presumably, everyone in Scotland in the 1950s preferred their burgers this way, but I cannot confirm that, as I am not a Scottish Marty McFly (he would be named Marty MacFly). This twist on your traditional cheeseburger comes with lettuce, tomato, grilled onions, bacon, and some kind of smoky sauce. They were really into smoky things at that McDonald's, which you will see more of later on. The burger doesn't look terribly appetizing all open like that, but I wanted to give an accurate picture of what was inside, minus the tomato, which I removed. It was ok, but of the things I ate that day, it was my least favorite. The smoky sauce just wasn't doing it for me.

Scottish Product #2: Potato Wedges

While I love your traditional McDonald's fries, I have to say that I am a huge fan of the potato wedges. They are more potato-y than their thinner cousins, which I think makes them less greasy and therefore, healthier. (I'm pretty sure they're not healthier, don't eat lots of them just because I said it's ok.) They are also slightly seasoned, which is a nice touch.

Scottish Product #3: Crunchie McFlurry

The McFlurry is, of course, a staple of McDonald's cuisine. What makes the McFlurrys from the Scottish McDonald's unique is that they're made with British candy rather than American, obviously. This one is made with one of my personal favorites, the Crunchie bar. If you've never had a Crunchie, you are missing out. If you don't live in the UK, maybe you can order them on Amazon. If you do live in the UK and have never had one, shame on you. Go buy a Crunchie.

Scottish Product #4: Shake 'n' Taste Chicken

This is my favorite product of the day and the one that I felt required the most explanation/pictures. It is more of a "snack" product, rather than a main course. What it is, is a paper bag with two chicken strips and a packet of flavoring. 

Note again the preference for "smoky." Yum. As the flavor packet says, you rip it open, tip it into the chicken bag, shake, and enjoy.

You end up with chicken strips coated in a vaguely sticky BBQ-flavored powder. The snack was a bit problematic because the powder didn't really distribute evenly over the chicken, and a good deal of it remained on the inside of the bag. However, it was really tasty and made me wish all fast-food chains gave me BBQ powder with my chicken strips.

Well, I hope you've enjoyed this sojourn into the pinnacle of Scottish cuisine, my friends. Until next time, I will be working off the 3000 calories I consumed for your sake in the name of truth.

The End... or is it?

Yeah, it's the end.