Sunday, July 16, 2006

Film: Well... Lex Luthor was great

[Warning: contains spoilers, and I wouldn't want to make the film any more disappointing for you.]

Lois Lane was rose high in a an old-fashioned man's world by hiding - or protecting - something of her femininity. As a result she was in her thirties with everything going well for her, except on the man front. What man could possibly be man enough for Lois? Superman - the man of her dreams - her last chance. He made her fall in love, and he left.

Now he's back. It's five years later. Lois has a son - five years old - and a relationship with another man - for five years. Superman, Lois and the new man are all good looking with dark hair; so is the son Superman's, or the new man's?

Well, who gives a shit? Certainly not the two people who walked out before we found the answer. Nor the thirteen other people who left the cinema the instant the end was in sight - not AT the end, just when it was in sight.

The most ridiculous thing about the film is that the characters ages are all wrong. Lois looks like she is about 22, meaning, she was schtupping Superman - and the other guy - when she was seventeen; no, sixteen given the gestation period. Yet Superman's mum (well, stepmum) looks like she is about a hundred. Great face though - so expressive. In fact, the acting is all good, and the little boy does a great job. But the director should be shot for the too-youthful casting; the very recognisable and distracting bits of Sydney - including real-estate signs with buildings' real addresses on them - leaking into shot; the lack of pace; the lack of tension and the fact that Lex Luthor's boat is bigger on the inside than the outside.

Two notable mentions:

1. Kevin Spacey is brilliant as Lex Luthor. His chilling psychopathy steals the show. And you can see him having a great time acting the part. Every time he hits the screen he notches his villainy up another level.

2. Major overload of biblical imagery - "I sent you to earth, the only son of the father..."; an ark scene, where Lex's ship, carrying the future of superhumanity, is marooned on top of a mountain of crystal; and superman looking at his little boy saying, "The son is the father and the father is the son." Oh, and it just occurred to me that Superman, his son and Superdad's messages in the crystal create a neat trinity: The superfather, the superson and the super holy ghost. Jesus! It makes Narnia look Satanic!

My arse was numb after 10 minutes and stayed that way for the rest of the two-and-a-half hour long film.

Superman Returns, unfortunately
At a cinema near you. It only deserves two weekends, but given that sequels usually make 80% of the original's box office, it should last a bit longer.

Food: the quality of the food is in inverse relationship to the decor

I always wondered why people made such a fuss about Sashimi until I ate it at the Sydney Fish Market, carved straight off the tuna and onto the plate. Fresh fish has some sort of reaction to the soy and wassabe to produce a fizzy tingling feeling on your tongue. Later I was fishing with some guys from work and we found a squid that another group had been using for bait. It was very recently dead, so we ate some - same fizzy tingling feeling. (It was also a bit crunchy, but that was sand.)

The tuna on our sashimi plate at Asakusa had the last remnants of that same tingly feeling, meaning that its tuna was about as fresh as it can be in London. One of our friends noticed that the rice in one of her rolls hadn't quite cooled completely - a sushi no no - but an indicator of unbeatable freshness. The tempura was light and crisp, the gyoza were soft, fluffy and flavoursome with a crunchy bit on each side where they had been cooked, the grilled barbecued steak was wonderfully rare, a little short on flavour, but also about as fresh as it could be in London. All up, the food was superb.

The decor is hideous, but you will ignore it as soon as the food arrives. And, honestly, if the decor turns you off there will be plenty more to take your place, because at 6.30pm on a superbly sunny Saturday evening, we could only get a table in the downstairs overflow section, and we had to be out by eight.

265 Eversholt Street NW1 1BA
(near Mornington Crescent tube)
020 7388 8533 (after 4pm)
Enough superb sushi, sashimi, sushi rolls, grilled beef, teriyaki chicken, tempura, bottled water and green tea for four people: £65

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Books: Read it in summer, while daylight hours outnumber the dark

I don't like scary movies. I was a bit too young the first time I saw Jaws, and for years afterwards I would lie underwater in the shallow end of Nana's pool, staring into the dark blue of the very deep deep end, frozen in fear as I imagined some tiny spot - probably something trivial like a leaf, or a funnel-web spider - coming closer and closer until it became a huge set of open toothy jaws about to crunch through my body. I have settled down a bit, but I still have a moment's pause for thought when I dive through a wave in the surf and see the endless green before me. And one night, marveling at the little fishies while twilight swimming at Balmoral Beach in Sydney, I started humming the song lyric, "Little fish, big fish, swimming in the water" and scared myself so much that I had to get out. So I'm not entirely cured. I am better with books, but I suppose we can conclude that when I suspend disbelief, I probably do it with more commitment than most.

Knowing my history, you will know why I was slightly nervous at the prospect of Shadow Man. But having just read Peter James's serial killer book, and having more than a passing fascination with psychopaths and serial murder, I scoffed at my reservations and ploughed in.

Whowee, this book scared me shitless! Smoky Barrett, an FBI agent scarred and bereft after a serial killer murdered her husband and daughter as she apprehended him, faces the prospect of a new killer targeting her and her team.

What makes the book so good, apart from being so thrillingly scary, is the humanity of her team. They are all real people in an unreal situation, and their coping strategies with the horror they deal with in their job gives them unique character quirks that are almost instantly endearing. It also makes it all the more scary when the killer goes after them. Although it follows the usual "agent must prove sanity to get back her gun and get on the case: but must get back gun and get on the case to prove sanity" formula, the well rounded supporting characters make this a far richer reading experience than the usual barely human hero and cardboard supporting characters.

Shadow Man, Cody McFadyen, Hodder, 2006