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n223705326_6349730_4249You might think you know about Japan but if it’s simply sushi, samurai and Sony to you then think again. Here are 6 reasons you won’t find in any guidebook about why it’s great to live and work in Japan.

 

 

 

 

 

1. You’ll Get Treated Like A Celebrity.

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Japan is a very homogeneous society with only 1.5% of the population not being native born Japanese people, so most people you meet won’t have much experience with non-Japanese people. Rather than causing problems though this means you’ll get treated like a celeb. Strangers, especially kids, will want you to sign your autograph and take photos with them and lots of neighbours will want to take the new foreigner out to show off their own culture.

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If you live outside the big cities then everyone in your neighbourhood is likely to know you by name and don’t be surprised if you receive lots of gifts ranging from extra vegetables from their garden to bottles of fancy booze or even just a lot of time and help getting accommodated to living in Japan.  It can be very surreal but don’t worry, this attention usually fades over time as people get to know you. Still, it’s fun to feel like a star for those first few months.

 

2. You Can Live Life 24/7.

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The majority of Japanese people don’t leave the office until 9, 10 or even 11pm at night. This thankfully doesn’t usually apply to TEFL teachers but it means that in the big cities life carries on 24/7. Need a new sofa at 3 in the morning, need to pay your bills or just have the munchies? Chances are there is a department or convenience store open somewhere that can help you out.
In fact the only thing that does close early is the transport with train services normally ending at 11pm and the first train the next morning not starting until 6. This means that if you decide to go out to a club then your best bet is probably to stay out all night and head home the next day. Fortunately lots of places like karaoke bars or bowling alleys charge special discounted overnight rates that can make partying the whole night through until the next day actually work out cheaper than going out for a few hours in the evening.

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The variety of leisure activities you can do at night also outdoes anything in Europe or America. As well as the normal distractions of eating, drinking and dancing you can sing at karaoke, pet some cats in a cat café, read some Japanese comics in a manga café, play the night away in a gaming arcade or have a hot relaxing bath in an onsen (hot spring).

 

3. You’ll Try Amazing New Foods.

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Japan boasts some of the most diverse, delicious and delectable food in the whole world. You probably know all about sushi (pickled rice) and sashimi (raw fish) and you won’t find better anywhere else but have you ever tried okonomiyaki (a kind of a cross between an omelette and a pizza), takoyaki (octopus dumplings), shabu-shabu (a sharing hot pot filled with soup that you use to lightly cook vegetables and very thin slices of beef or pork) or Oden (eggs, mountain potatoes, daikon radish and lots of different kinds of fish cakes stewed in a soy broth)? The variety of food in Japan is astonishing, and even better, nearly everywhere you go has a local specialty so you’ll always be discovering new and even more delicious dishes no matter how long you stay.

Plus, possibly the biggest secret that outsiders don’t know about are nomihodai or all you can drink restaurants. You pay a set price per person per hour and then can drink as much as you like within that time. Shhh, keep that one a secret.

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And, in addition to the traditional treats, Japan puts its own delicious spin on other cuisines; like Kare Pan (a sort of crispy donut filled with curry) or Tonkatsu (tempura battered deep fried pork cutlets served with a Japanese version of Worcestershire sauce).

 

4. You Can Join In Fun Festivals.

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Japan loves a matsuri (festival) and is always looking for any excuse to have a party. Most festivals are free to enter and they’re so common that you can probably find something going on most weekends.

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Festivals range in size from small, local affairs put on by villages where a spectacular float containing a Kami (God) gets taken out for his exercise to city wide firework displays that last for hours.

Then there are the particularly famous festivals that draw in tourists from all over to visit. Gion Matsuri in Kyoto is a parade featuring gorgeous, ornate floats. Tenjin Matsuri in Osaka has hundreds of boats decorated with lanterns floating down the river. Yuki Matsuri in Sapporo has about a dozen enormous snow sculptures and hundreds of smaller ice sculptures lining the streets. There is even a naked man festival in Konomiya where thousands of barely clad men parade through the streets to the temple for the chance to receive a bundle of holy sticks.

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Whilst any tourist can simply visit the major festivals living in Japan means you get the chance to take part. So if you’ve ever fancied fighting in the nude for some sticks or taking god for a walk here is your chance. It’s an opportunity to experience something you’ll keep with you for your whole life.

 

5. You’ll Get Back To Nature.

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In Tokyo or Osaka it is easy to think that Japan is one massive cityscape with nothing but concrete, glass and steel as far as the eye can see. In reality through, because of the shape of the islands, you’re rarely more than an hour from the mountains in one direction or the beach in the other.
There’s a nice mix of nature in Japan to suit all tastes. If you just fancy a day trip then there are plenty of well trod hiking trails that are lined with the odd vending machine to quench your thirst. If you’re more of an explorer than there are still vast unspoilt cedar forests for you to get lost in and filled with interesting wildlife; wild boar, tanooki (raccoon dogs) and even Japanese macaques.

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Some of the particularly beautiful natural spots that won’t make the major guidebooks include; travel through the snow road cut into the Hokkoda Mountains which in springtime are covered in a pristine white layer of powder; take a hike along the elevated walkways that cross the Ayamedaira National Park and appreciate the stark beauty of the wetlands; go wind surfing on the enormous blue waters of Lake Biwa; play in the mini-desert of the Tottori sand dunes; join the throngs in watching the maple leaves in Miyajima turn a breathtaking shade of scarlet and hug an 1,800 year old cedar in the misty and ancient feeling Mount Haku National Park.

 

6. You Can Time Travel.

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In 1603 Japan closed its borders to the rest of the world and for the next 200 years its technology and culture remained largely unchanged until, in 1868, Commodore Matthew Perry of the United States Navy forcibly opened the borders delivering overnight two centuries worth of changes and new technologies.

The result of this is that instead of a gradual change there is a marked line between the past and the present and even today wooden temples that are hundreds of years old stand side by side with modern sky scrapers.

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It’s easy to time travel in Japan, walk anywhere and you’re soon likely to find an old shrine hidden in the corner of even the busiest metropolis. But it’s more than just buildings and artefacts. Rituals and festivals keep history alive. Traditional dress is still worn on special occasions and traditional crafts are still practised. Head to Arashiyama and you can still see cormorant fishing. On Sado island they still use barrel boats because the shape and manoeuvrability makes them well suited to fishing along that coast. Walk the streets of Gion and expect to see Geisha rushing to appointments, walking, living symbols of Japan’s past.

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And these aren’t mere tourist attractions but things you can join in too. Come autumn time you might just be invited to help your neighbours make mochi (rice cakes) the traditional way, by whacking wet rice with a great big wooden mallet.

 

 

Of course this article can only skim the surface of all the secrets and wonders waiting for you to discover for yourself. Maybe you’ve been to Japan and think we’ve forgotten one of the best reasons to live there, in which case please tell us in the comments below. The only way to really get to know Japan is to go and experience it and maybe you’ll discover the next hidden treasure. Don’t wait, start your adventure today by talking to one of our TEFL Experts.

 

image attributation; Illustration by tofugu.com, “Shibuya Crossing at Night” by Tony Northrup, “Okonomoiyaki,” “Oden,” “Kare Pan,” “Matsuri,”  “Hanabi” and “Cormorant Fishing” are used under a Wikimedia Commons license. all other images by Richard Adam Halls.

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lifeforce_posterLifeforce 1985

Director: Tobe Hooper

In the not too distant future (next Sunday AD) the space ship Churchill (and as the name implies, it is a British spaceship, providing probably the most fantastical element of the entire screenplay) is on a joint British and American mission led by Col. Tom Carlsen (Steve Railsback) to investigate Hayley’s Comet for… reasons.

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Their mission takes a turn for the bizarre though when they come across an enormous spaceship filled with giant dessicated bat creatures and what appears to be 3 young, attractive and naked humans, two men and one woman, in some kind of suspended animation pod. This strikes the crew as not entirely normal so they decide to take the pods back onto the Churchill.

 

Things can’t have gone very well after that because the next time we see the Churchill it’s a month later and another missions has been launched to try and discover what the hell happened to it. This second team finds one hell of a mystery, a burnt out space ship, a missing escape pod and the same three people in the same three pods.

 

Taking them back to the Space Research Centre in London various scientists begin to pontificate upon just what the bloody hell happened and what the hell they’ve brought back to Earth. Said pontificating quickly ends when the female body (played by Mathilda May of checks imdb something called Naked Tango) gets up and reveals herself to be some kind of energy vampire. This has gruesome results for the poor guy that was tasked with watching her because he soon resembles a tasty jerky snack far more than I’m sure he’d want to.

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Two missions are then launched, find the girl and find out what the hell happened to the security guard. Mission one becomes a lot more urgent when during his autopsy the guard gets up and repeats the energy vampire trick on the pathologist ending up naked and rather confused but decidedly not dead. It becomes even more urgent when more human jerky starts showing up in London parks and it becomes downright frantic (well as frantic as the British establishment could get in the 80’s meaning that our scientists have switched from earl grey to builder’s tea) when the two male vampires get loose as well.

 

You would think finding a naked woman wandering around mid 80’s London wouldn’t prove too tricky, and you’d be right. Unfortunately our target has a couple of sneaky abilities including the ability to possess bodies and all hope seems lost. That is until Col Carlsen turns up in Texas in the missing escape pod with a helpful new set of psychic powers that let him track our mysterious lady down. And they’d better hurry too because that spaceship is now in an ominous orbit over London that probably isn’t going to be a good thing. What’s more the two male vampires have been quite busy making friends all over London.

 

A brief summary of Lifeforce might not sound like an Oscar winning masterpiece but it certainly has a lot of elements that should add up to a fun schlocky time. Based on a novel with the somewhat on the nose title of “Vampires from SpaceLifeforce features about 30 minutes of completely nude attractive space vampire ladies, an apocalyptic London overrun with vampires, a gigantic space ship full of monstrous bats, Patrick Stewart possessed by a sexy space vampire lady that he physically transforms into at points and a climax that involves not one but two car chases, a swordfight and a sex scene in St Paul’s cathedral atop a mountain of corpses.

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Surely all of those elements must guarantee at least some amusement right? Well maybe in another film but not even Mathilda May’s considerable artistic merits (both of them) can save Lifeforce from its main problem, it is terrifically boring.

 

 

Lifeforce clocks in at nearly two hours and a good hour and 15 minutes of that* consists of three men standing in a room and expositing. Not talking, not developing character or delighting us with well written dialogue just blandly explaining what is happening in the plot. Worse still they just seem to know what’s happening without investigating it. One of the characters is an “expert” (a death expert specifically which does raise the question of why the UK’s Space Agency feels the need to employ a death expert) and his catchphrase seems to be “As I feared” aka “I’m bullshitting that what has just happened is exactly what I thought would happen all along to maintain the illusion that I’m an expert in anything.” Another character is literally psychic and thus knows what is happening and what will happen next. Lifeforce is obsessed with telling where it should be showing with nearly every possible moment of interest and excitement replaced with more sodding exposition. The most egregious example being when the death expert phones his friends and tells them that he just had a sword fight with one of the male vampires. You know movie, a sword fight might have been a fun scene to watch, I’m so glad you decided to show our two main characters making a phone call in a helicopter instead.

 

Later on London gets overrun with vampiric hordes, would it have been more interesting to relay that information visually maybe instead of hearing about it from a military guard.

 

And it’s not like Lifeforce has a particularly complicated plot either, space vampire escapes, psychic dude pursues her across London. There I did 90% of the plot in one sentence. But the film insists on explaining stuff again and again and even explaining stuff that has no relevance whatsoever to the plot all at the expense of anything that could be fun to watch.

 

I know why of course. Lifeforce ran monstrously overtime and over budget and it is a hell of a lot quicker and cheaper to film three men in a room talking than a London overrun with vampire hordes but that doesn’t make the film any less terrible.

 

It isn’t all bad though. Tobe Hooper is not up to the task of bringing any life to the interminable talking scenes but when a set piece does happen he rises to the occasion and reminds you why we all liked Tobe Hopper to begin with. There is a scene where they tie one of the jerky corpses (which despite my mocking are actually a very well done special effect, especially in a film that is otherwise so cheap) to a table to see what happens when it wakes up. The scene is genuinely horrific, frightening in that way where you want to look away but can’t.

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Despite a few good scenes though it is definitely not a good film nor is it so bad its good. Lifeforce’s main claim to fame back in the day was the copious amount of nudity it provided for poor desperate perverts.** Now we’ve got the internet though? Lifeforce just doesn’t have anything to offer.

 

 

 

 

*The remaining running time consists of 15 minutes actually interesting stuff and 30 minutes bewbs.

**aka teenaged boys.

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Rise of the Guardians has an absolutely brilliant high concept at its heart. Basically, it’s The Avengers but with fables and legendary characters. So we get a super hero team composed of Santa Claus, The Easter Bunny, The Tooth Fairy, The Sandman and their newest member, Jack Frost.

I am an enormous fan of postmodernism and the growing trend in pop-culture for remixing and re-imagining classical fictional concepts. Rise of the Guardians fits into a tradition that includes works like The Sandman (the comics by Neil Gaiman and various artists), League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (again the excellent comics by Kevin O’Neil and Alan Moore and not the terrible movie), Sluggy Freelance’s Holiday Wars story arc or even lots of Terry Pratchett’s Discworld work and especially Hogfather.  There’s something I just find incredibly satisfying about taking existing characters and re-imagining them to work in a new context.

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Having decided the context is basically a super-hero team the reinventions on display here are really clever. Santa becomes North (Alec Baldwin), a Cossack wielding dual cavalry sabers and leading an army of Yeti’s with his naughty list magically tattooed on one arm and his nice list on the other. The Easter Bunny (Hugh Jackman) becomes a man sized rabbit armed with boomerangs and a network of magic tunnels that lets him travel anywhere on Earth in a near instant. The Tooth Fairy (Isla Fisher) is the leader of a race of hummingbird like creatures that safeguard teeth because teeth contain childhood memories. The Sandman is literally made of sand, as are dreams and he shapes his body and his sand to make dreams, or modes of transport, or weapons. Finally we have Jack Frost (Chris Pine), a trickster spirit in a hoodie who can glide on winds and freeze things with his magic staff.

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These five join forces to fight Pitch Black (Jude Law), the literal boogeyman, who is aiming to corrupt the dream’s of children so that they no longer believe in the guardians and he can rule a world of fear.

The ideas and concepts being played with in Rise of the Guardians are really intelligent and brilliantly thought out. For example, as Pitch’s plans expand and belief in The Guardians fail North, Easter Bunny and Tooth lose their powers but Jack Frost doesn’t, making him their most powerful tool against Pitch. Initially you question why this would be the case since it seems like a plot device but when you think about it it’s perfectly logical.  This is because Christmas, Easter and Tooth Fairies are entirely human constructs, without Human’s to do it their would be no Christmas. However frost still exists even if nobody believes in Jack Frost so of course Jack Frost still has his power’s even without belief, belief just makes him stronger.

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The film is full of cool ideas like this that it doesn’t feel the need to explain, trusting the audience to “get” the reasons why these characters have been changed and how the fantasy world presented works. Considering this is a kid’s film the lack of obvious exposition is really refreshing and it enhances the pleasure of the re-imagining. If the film makers felt the need to explain every change it takes away the fun of figuring it out for yourself, which really is Rise of the Guardian’s biggest appeal.

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Outside of how well it deals with its high concept though how does it work as a film? Sadly it is only okay on the narrative level.

Rise of the Guardians starts with Jack Frost being born on a frozen lake. He is a complete Tabula Rasa, not knowing who he is, where he came from or what his purpose in life is but apparently knowing his name and quickly learning he has the powers to glide on winds and create ice.

Unfortunately he’s also invisible and intangible to everyone in the world leaving him entirely alone.

The film then flashes forwards 300 years to modern day where Jack spends his days playing with kids without their knowledge, starting snowball fights, guiding sleds, causing snow days and generally having fun from the sidelines.

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That carefree life gets interrupted though when Jack gets kidnapped by some Yeti’s and taken to the North Pole. It turns out North has had an encounter with pitch Black, a villain they thought defeated long ago and he has gathered the guardians to take him down. What’s more the Man in the Moon has signaled to North that Jack is to join the Guardians.

Jack wants nothing to do with them, he’s used to being alone and doing his own thing rather than co-operating or following rules but North is adamant that he was chosen for a reason and what’s more his reason for existing must be something to do with helping children or the Man in the Moon wouldn’t have created him in the first place. Jack decides to tag long with the team’s first mission, to save the Tooth Fairy’s castle from Pitch, more to ride North’s sleigh than anything else but when he gets there Tooth informs him that he used to be a person before becoming Jack Frost and that his baby teeth will restore his memories of his human life if they can get them back from Pitch.

Wanting to find out about his past Jack joins in the next mission which turns out to be a trap as Pitch turns the Sandman himself into black nightmare sand Pitch can control. There will only be nightmares in the world now until Pitch is defeated. In the process though they learn that Jack’s power is particularly effective against Pitch and if he helps them they might be able to bring him down and rescue The Sandman.

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The remaining Guardians hatch a plan to safeguard Easter using Jack’s frost powers to defeat pitch if he attacks but Pitch leads Jack away with the promise of giving him his teeth. Jack accepts and gets his memories back but in the time he is gone Pitch attacks the others and this year there will be no more Easter.

Broken and defeated can The Guardians bring Pitch down once and for all or will children all over the world no longer believe in anything but fear and the darkness?

It’s a kids movie, what do you think?

I really can’t criticise the story at all. It’s a perfectly serviceable 3 act structure, the main character has an arc and grows and changes, the side characters also have arcs that relate to the main character and finally the villain’s plan makes perfect sense and his motivations are logical and compelling. You can probably guess how the story will go after watching it for 15 minutes but its a kids film and that won’t be a problem for them.

But I think the story lacks something to elevate it above simply fine. It isn’t particularly visually impressive for example. The animation is fine and I love the way different characters move** but there isn’t anything to gawp at like you’d get in a Ghibli or a Disney film. It’s not that funny. It’s not unfunny but it’s not trying for belly laughs and the joke rate is low, about 1 chuckle every 5 or 10 minutes. It isn’t particularly scary, Pitch is an effective villain but it doesn’t have the nightmare fuel of something like Toy Story or Coraline. It’s characters are well drawn but it doesn’t have the heartfelt emotions of something like How to Train your Dragon. It’s action sequences are okay but they’re short and not terribly inventive. It just feels like a film that is okay at everything but not particularly great at any one thing.***

As kids films go you could do a lot worse. This is a perfectly okay film in every respect with the added fun of some really creative and clever reinventions. If the concept of Fairytale Avengers sounds like it would appeal to you you’ll probably enjoy Rise of the Guardians but I don’t think anybody could love it.

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*I think it’s a sort of microcosm of how genre works. Genre works by combining familiar elements in new and novel ways. Audiences want their expectations to be met when they seek out fiction but they don’t want something entirely familiar. Genre helps with this contradiction because you know when you watch, say, a sci-fi film, that you’ll get futuristic technology, aliens, lasers, monsters, etc but you don’t know how the story will end, what the villain is or their motivations, etc.

Reinventing a character works in a similar way. We take all the familiar elements but recombine them in a manner that is pleasingly novel.

**so that Jack is always light on his feet and moving like a dancer but Bunny moves like a Bunny and Pitch seems to slide and glide everywhere.

*** I do want to praise the voice acting actually. Jude Law is not an actor I have much time for but his Pitch is great. He resists the urge to full on camp like most actors would do when playing the literal embodiment of fear and instead is really restrained. He’s effectively creepy but when he offers Jack Frost the opportunity to team up you actually believe that he could consider Jack a friend. Law has created a  rare villain here who seems equal parts terrifying and utterly human. Chris Pine puts in an unexpectedly good performance as Jack too. He’s not a voice actor but he delivers a performance that easily matches an experienced one here providing a voice that is not at all like his own. Alex Baldwin as Russian Santa so deeply disappears into his character that you’d have no idea it was Alex Baldwin at all. In fact almost all the voice acting is good with the exception of some of the kids.

Night of the Dead is an institution in Leeds. Part of the Leeds International Film Festival it’s a horror movie marathon that runs from 10 o’clock in the evening until 10 o’clock in the morning the next day. Well, sometimes 10, sometimes 11 or 12 or the next day or weeks later. They overrun a lot is what I’m hinting at.

As well as showing a whole bunch of horror films it also features tons of funny or twisted horror shorts, competitions, games and sometimes interviews with directors.*

The shorts are routinely amazing, showcasing some of the sharpest, funniest writing I’ve ever seen in the horror genre and some real originality and inventiveness. To that effect I’ve put as many of the shorts from this year’s festival as I can find on Youtube at the end of this post. Warning, most of them feature gruesome, violent and explicit content. NSFW.

And it’s a good thing the shorts are good because the films they show are usually awful. The hit to miss ratio of this event is just appalling. I’ve been going for three years now and have seen 14 films at Night of the Dead and I can honestly say 3 of them were good. A further 2 were so bad they’re good and 1 (Little Deaths) may be the most upsetting thing I have ever seen. Mostly though the films they show are distinctly average horror efforts showcasing maybe one or two flashes of invention against a backdrop of bland, predictable mediocrity.

But it’s a fun time so I thought I’d review this year’s crop of films for you.

* This is always a mistake because the crowd at Night of the Dead get fairly rowdy. As an example after I watched Little Deaths the 3 directors came up to talk to the audience and the first question asked of them was “why is yer film so shit?”

100 Bloody Acres (2012)

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100 Bloody Acres tells the story of two brothers, Reg and Lindsay Morgan, fertiliser manufacturers in rural Australia who produce a speciality organic fertiliser that’s proving quite popular and effective with local farmers. What’s their secret? Why ground up human remains of course! Oh but don’t worry, they’re not murderers. For now they’re restricting themselves to stealing bodies from traffic accidents, as Reg does at the start of the film. But that means a spotty supply at best and the Morgan’s need to get enough bodies in to fulfill a big order they have coming up. They might have to resort to murder if their luck doesn’t change.

Unfortunately fate intervenes in the form of three young adults trying to get to a local music festival who hitch a lift with Reg. He isn’t intending to kill them but when they discover the dead body he has in the back of his van, well, he can’t very well let them go after that can he?

Horror Comedy might actually be my favourite genre of film. Good examples of the genre represent some of my all time favourite films; Evil Dead 2, Gremlins 2 and Shaun of the Dead for example. I’m not sure why I like it so much but I think it has something to do with the nature of both individual genres.

Horror and comedy are the only two genres that work to evoke a direct physical response in the viewer, laughter in the case of a comedy and fear (so screams, elevated heart rate, etc) in the case of horror. Oh and porn too of course. You don’t need to analyse the characters, the story structure or the mis-en-scene to determine if a comedy is effective. If it made you laugh it’s a good comedy and that’s all there is to it.

But I find myself struggling with both horror and comedies these days. I very rarely watch a modern comedy I like, or a modern horror film that scares me. Partly it’s an age thing. Both genres rely on novelty to some extent and once you get the beats and rhythms of a joke or a scare down it can be very hard for a film to have novelty for you.

And a horror comedy is even harder. Not only does it have to scare me and make me laugh but those are two very different things with very opposing tones. Making something funny can completely undercut any sense of menace it held and make the scares impossible.

So yeah, horror comedy is very hard to do but if you pull it off you’ve made something really special.

100 Bloody Acres does not pull it off, but it very nearly does.

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The failings are all on the horror side. This film never scared me, once. Worse I never really felt a sense of dread or tension, even slightly. It just isn’t a horror film.

What it is, really, is a farce with potentially horrific consequences. All farces are predicated on the protagonist trying to avoid something bad happening but usually that bad thing is embarrassment, or losing their job, or losing money. In 100 Bloody Acres the bad thing is being turned into ground fertiliser but other than that and some gore that’s played for laughs there isn’t much horror in this supposed horror comedy.

As a farce though it is great! A good farce is a hard thing to construct anyway but gut wrenchingly funny if you can manage it and 100 Bloody Acres does. The film is hysterical from start to end full of colourful funny characters and some great gags. I particularly enjoyed the only example in cinema I can remember of chekov’s cum rag and the line “he wants my potassium”.

It also avoids many of the sins of bad farces. None of the characters are idiots. Some characters are stupid but their actions make sense for what they know and what they want at the time, nobody does something for the sake of a cheap gag it all emerges naturally from the situation. Also all of the characters are likeable and well drawn with nobody coming across as a lazy comic stereotype.

Basically if you like a good farce and don’t mind gore then you will enjoy 100 Bloody Acres. It’s no classic but it’s a funny, smartly put together comedy.

Unfortunately it was all downhill from that point on.

Savaged (2013)

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I’m a big fan of bad films. I’m rarely happier than sitting around with a bunch of mates, drinking good beer and ruthlessly mocking something terrible. Troll 2, The Room, Birdemic, etc. I would much rather watch these again than masterpieces like Citizen Kane or The Godfather.

Films can be bad for lots of reasons. Some have bad ideas that no level of competency can save (Baby Geniuses comes to mind), others have grand visions whose reach exceeds the filmmakers grasp (like the low budget video cheese form the 80’s that produced any number of Blade Runner, Star Wars and Terminator rip offs), some more are just the product of lazy apathetic film makers who weren’t trying very hard and so produce a lackluster result (Catwoman) and best of all are the films where the ideas and execution all combine to forma perfect storm of “what were they thinking” (Manos, Troll 2, etc).

Savaged is a rare species of bad film indeed, the kind of film where almost everything clicks. Almost everything. The story has a good idea, the production values, editing, direction, cinematography special effects, they all work but one, thing is off and it overshadows and pulls down everything else in the film. It’s like painting the Mona Lisa but inexplicably giving her a clown wig. Sure the rest of the painting is a masterpiece of composition and technique but all you can see is the clown wig and it is hilarious.

Savaged tells the story of a deaf mute girl (Amanda Adrienne) who decides to travel across the southwest of America to move in with her boyfriend in California. Along the way she is captured by a gang of rednecks, raped, stabbed and left for dead in a shallow grave.* A Native American Shaman** attempts to bring her back to life but instead merely infests her with the angry ghost of an Apache warrior. Fueled by supernatural powers she sets about getting revenge on the people who killed her.

That’s kind of an awesome story idea right? I mean, dodgy sexual politics aside supernatural rape revenge thriller is pretty original and it’s a solid narrative concept. Native American imagery is kind of under-utilised in horror too so this has real potential.

And in many ways it fulfills that potential. The story hits all the obvious beats at the obvious times, it provides the gore and action you’d expect and you get to see horrible bastards meet their comeuppance.

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It’s directed by Michael S. Ojeda who has not directed a full length film before but has extensive experience on T.V. and has worked as a cinematographer and a second unit guy before. Based on the strength of this he’s got a bright future ahead of him as the film is shot and edited brilliantly. It avoids the usual issues with shaky cam and instead puts together coherent and exciting action sequences.

He does have one slightly dodgy directorial decision in that he at some point decided to shoot the entire film through an Instagram filter but overall he’s a fine director.***

However Michael S. Ojeda also wrote this film and that’s where the clown wig starts to come in. The script for Savaged is irredeemably atrocious, just jaw droppingly terrible. This is a film in which the following lines of dialogue are spoken by actual human beings who were (presumably) paid money to say them.

“When I kill something it stays dead!”

“Something dead’s been living here.”

And my personal favourite, said with utter sincerity.

“Will we be together forever?”

“Yes, forever and ever and ever.”

Everyone in this film talks like idiots. They sound like aliens that are trying out this strange human concept you call language. It’s just hilariously, appallingly wrong.

And whilst those examples are the highlights, trust me every line spoken is at best clunky and at worst hysterically bad.

Some of the actors gamely struggle with it. Tom Ardavany who plays West seems to know that his character is supposed to be a real badass but whilst he’s trying really, really hard to sound tough his lines are so poorly written it gives the impression of someone just trying to bullshit his friends that he’s all hardcore.

Other actors…do not fare as well. Brionne Davis, who plays our heroine’s boyfriend, singularly fails to give a believable read once. Every word that comes out of his mouth sounds like he’s some kind of robot speaking words as somebody else types them. There’s one scene where he’s supposed to be ominously threatening our villains about all the horrible things his girlfriend is going to do to them  which is intercut with scenes of her reaping carnage and destruction. It’s obviously supposed to be a “cool” moment but it’s just so annoying. When he’s finally silenced by a blow to the head from a fire extinguisher the audience I was with cheered and I must confess, I yelled “thank you!” out loud at that point.

And he’s not even the worst offender, that honour goes to the Apache Shaman. There’s a scene at the end of the film with him and the boyfriend that is so difficult to watch that it threatens to circle round from bad to Dadaist genius.

The effect is to undercut any attempt at mood the film tries, but of course it keeps trying. It’s trying to show you The Exorcist, or Alien, or The Shining but all you can see is that every character is wearing a clown wig and it never stops being funny!

Savaged is far from the worst film I’ve ever seen but it’s a are and special kind of bad that has its own charms and if you’re an aficionado of bad films I strongly urge you to watch it.

*The film was advertised as being like I Spit on your Grave so I knew there was going to be a rape. I did not expect the girl who was going to be raped to be a deaf/mute and I could feel the audience bristle with discomfort when this was revealed. It’s as if we all thought “I’m fairly sure this is offensive” all at the same time.

**He shows up and my friend Dave said “Oh dear I think something racist is going to happen.” Dave was right.

***Oh and one scene where our heroine is gifted with magical Apache weapons which has to be seen to be believed.

On Air (2012)

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How’s this for a Twilight Zone pitch.

Late Night Pirate Radio D.J. Doc Rock (Marcus Knufken) takes a call one evening from a mysterious killer called The Night Slasher who has been murdering women in the unnamed German city they both live in.

The Killer’s ultimatum; he has a woman at his mercy and he will kill her in one hour unless Doc Rock convinces him not to.

That is a simple and brilliant premise for a high concept Thriller in the style of Phone Booth or Buried. It’s full of potential for suspense and I was really looking forward to On Air at this year’s Night of the Dead.

Suffice it to say I was disappointed.

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On Air singularly fails to build up tension because the story is told incredibly ineptly. To put it bluntly I didn’t understand what was happening most of the time and if you don’t understand what’s happening there can be no tension. Tension is all about expectation. You know something bad is going to happen and you wait, breathlessly, hesitatingly with mounting horror for the bad thing to happen or be averted and the tension to be released. However if you don’t understand what is going on there can be no anticipation of what will happen next and thus no tension.

I’d be tempted to right this off as me being an idiot but after the film ended my friends and I argued for a good 10 – 15 minutes about what had actually happened and only then we did reach a  tentative agreement. Clearly we can’t all be idiots. I mean this is a German film so there may be some translation issues but the problems with comprehensibility run much deeper than that.

The main issue is that this is one of those thrillers that wants to provide you with a twist every 10 minutes to make you rethink your assumptions. That would be fine except some of those assumptions are baffling or contrary to what the twist implies. For example; one of the twists later in the film is the revelation that The Night Slasher has captured the police detective’s daughter. This is presented as a shocking twist but for whatever reason I was under the assumption that this was the case already. So rather than me going, gasp, how shocking, i’m instead thinking “wait, wait I thought he knew it was his daughter that had been captured, why is he shocked now?” Some parts of the set-up seem to be assumed and just aren’t explained. For example I didn’t realise that the film is set in the D.J.’s house until the last 15 minutes because I quite sensibly assumed that people don’t tend to have full radio studios in their basements so this was something of a shock to me but is presented NOT as a twist.

I spent most of the film being confused and then just growing increasingly irritated by the fact that I was confused and was struggling to follow what was happening.

Trying to figure out what’s going on in a film can be exciting and interesting. Something like 13 Monkeys, for example, requires you to pay close attention to follow the narrative and decode what is happening. But in 13 Monkeys I got the sense that Terry Gilliam knows what he is doing, whereas in On Air I just grew increasingly annoyed at what I decided was incompetent film making.

Annoying to watch, not scary, not particularly inventive and wasting a potentially clever premise. It’s not even so bad it’s good it’s just devoid of any cinematic pleasure whatsoever.

They Will Outlive Us All (2013)

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I am going to horribly spoil the plot of this film. I am going to horribly spoil it because the only thing really worth talking about in this film involves a spoiler.

Ready.

The setting is 2016 New York in a future that has been wracked with hurricanes due to climate change. Life carries on mostly as normal but the repeated hammering by storms that New York receives has messed up the infrastructure massively. The emergency services are taxed to breaking point and basically won’t attend most problems. There is a curfew in effect, blackouts are common and water supplies are spotty. Supposedly you can drink the tapwater again but to roommates Margot (Jessi Gotta) and Daniel (Nat Cassidy) it smells kind of funny so they stick to bottled water.

And it’s a good thing they do because something in the water is causing the following things to happen 1. people who drink it get sick 2. after they get sick they appear to turn into slow moving, not particularly aggressive zombies 3. after a bit of wandering around as a zombie a giant cockroach crawls out of their mouth and they drop down dead.

Margot and Daniel discover points 1, 2 and 3 in very short order and then spend the rest of their day barricaded in their shit hole apartment fighting a pair of giant cockroaches. They kill one and trap the other one in their toilet.

From a mixture of celebration at having dispatched the monsters and wanting to forget this ever happened the two room mates start drinking heavily and pass out on their couch. Margot sleepily gets up in the middle of the night and goes to the toilet where she falls asleep on it.

Wherein a cockroach crawls up her ass and into her stomach and she then vomits it out of her mouth.

I’ll let that sink for a moment.

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This is a film in which a women quite graphically, and at length, vomits an enormous cockroach. One that had previously entered her from (one presumes) her anus.

I was all ready to go on a “horror films are misogynistic” rant but the actress that played the scene, the writer that wrote that scene and the director and cinematographer that shot it are all women. In fact they’re the same woman, Jessi Gotta. So I guess I just have to wonder what the hell is wrong with Ms Gotta and leave it at that.

Anyway after that…memorable, scene the two room mates kill the remaining cockroach and after getting washed up a bit the two friends head out into a New York overrun with zombies.

The End.

You may have noticed not a lot happens in that plot summary and that’s because there isn’t much plot to summarise in this film. There are maybe 4 or 5 scenes that actually contribute to the plot and they could comfortably be told in a half hour.

And yet this is a 73 minute film? What the hell takes up all the running time?

The answer is not a lot. Mostly it’s just the two main characters sitting on a couch and talking.

But those scenes of the two characters talking are the best parts of the film.

The closest comparison to They Will Outlive Us All that you’re likely to have seen is Kevin Smith’s Clerks but even that isn’t a perfect comparison. Like Clerks TWOUA is exceedingly low budget with a very small cast and only a few locations. Both aren’t hugely concerned with plot or narrative although both make token gestures towards it (TWOUA significantly moreso). Both use a very limited set of camera angles and focus on naturalism and naturalistic dialogue. The main difference is that where Clerks had jokes TWOUA has gross out horror moments but the main bulk of both films is just the feeling of hanging out with the main characters. Most of TWOUA is dialogue but it isn’t particularly witty or insightful it’s just kind of normal.

What keeps the film going is the chemistry between the two leads. These two seem like genuine friends and their dialogue sounds like the kind of pointless conversations friends have with each other when just hanging out. After a few minutes of this the two leads become really likeable and it becomes quite fun to just spend time in their company.

Even at 73 minutes it’s far too long though and as much as it’s nice to just spend time with the two leads they can’t sustain your interest for as long as they’re asked to.

So They Will outlive Us All. If you’d like to hang out with two fairly pleasant people for over an hour and then see one of them vomit up a cockroach this is the film for you.

Antisocial (2013)

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There’s a reason lots of low budget film makers make zombie movies. Zombie movies are easy! They require a small speaking cast of usually no more than 5 or 6 characters, they’re set on at most 1 or 2 main locations and those locations can be as prosaic as somebody’s house and they have a really simple easy to copy story structure. A bunch of people hole up in a single location, argue, fight zombies and die off one by one until either all are dead or some survive.

The only real cost is cameras and make-up and even then you can cheat the make-up if you’re really poor. Honestly it’s so simple you and some mates could make a full length zombie film in your backyard in an afternoon without too much hassle.

That doesn’t mean it would be any good though.

Zombie movies are easy but good zombie movies, significantly harder. Good zombie movies require things like scripts, actors and directors that can create tension and those are all hard.

So maybe you cheat and you make a zombie movie, but with a twist! And again there are plenty of zombie movies that take that approach. Zombie Movies are basically a microcosm of genre as a whole. Genre is all about taking familiar elements and recombining them in novel ways, zombie movies are usually about taking the same stock elements but applying one novelty to them. For example it might be a traditional zombie film but take place in a different location like space (Dead Space), or a school (High School of the Dead); or maybe it’s a traditional zombie movie but it’s happening to a specific group of people like forensic pathologists (13 Eerie) or Yakuza (Versus) ; maybe you mash it up with another genre like romantic comedy (Shaun of the Dead) or a crime film.

This opens up the genre massively allowing for new ideas but also the potential for some biting* satire as in Romero’s “of the Dead” series and as such Zombie films have actually attracted some of the smartest horror film makers over the years who want to use the simple story structure to make a point.

Antisocial’s innovation is to change the way the zombies work so that rather than the plague being spread by biting or airborne virus it is instead spread by (spoilers) facebook.

Okay not facebook “The Social Red Room” because they don’t want to get sued but yeah, facebook.

Hey, what a neat satirical idea! The concept that our dependency upon things like smartphones and social networking has turned us all into zombies. It’s like updating Romero’s consumerist satire from Dawn of the Dead to the Millenial age. Okay movie you have my attention, what are you going to do with this idea?

…..

(crickets)

….

Oh, nothing, You’re going to do nothing with it. I see.

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Antisocial has a very clever premise that is rife with potential for social commentary, satire or even paranoid horror but the filmmakers have wasted it entirely because having thought up this premise they clearly thought that that was enough and the film would just kind of happen around it. No effort whatsoever has been expended upon developing the script in any way shape or form to capitalise on this premise.

Instead the film is filled with endless tedious scenes of chaarcters having some variation of the followign argument.

“I’m not infected.”

“Yes, you are.”

“No I’m not.”

“Yes, you are. You went on facebook and we have already established at this point that everyone who has been on facebook will turn into a zombie.”

“Yes but I won’t.”

“But you will.”

….turns into zombie and attacks everyone

That’s it, that’s the whole film over and over again for you. Tension? Comedy? Satire? Forget it.

Dear makers of Antisocial, it is not enough to have just one good idea. You also need a decent script, actors and director. Go get those and then try and make this film again.

* pun intended

So that was this year’s Night of the Dead. Two absolute wastes of time  and worse, wastes of good premises(Antiscoial and On Air), one good film (100 Bloody Acres) one film so bad it’s good (Savaged) and one film that is alternately boring, pleasant and disgusting (They Will Outlive us All).

That’s better results than most years.

We also had a host of shorts which I’ve included at the end here for everyone to watch. I couldn’t find every short that was shown on Youtube but suffice it to say this gives a representative flavour.

Fist of Jesus is simply amazing. Gory, ridiculous fun. I’m not going to spoil any of it for you, just watch it now and thank me later.

Alastor is okay. It has a nice premise and some decent moody camera work but is a touch dull and long for the story it has.

Both Box films are more a showcase for some clever animation but they’re fun bits of fluff.

Cargo is so creative, and inventive and amazing it borders on genius. One of the smartest and most moving takes on the zombie genre I’ve ever seen

Hey Guys,

Just a heads up and an apology but we’re going into low content mode for a while on Mummyboon.

I recently landed a new job that is great for me and allows me to exercise a lot more creativity and scratch my writing itch.

It has two drawbacks though.

Firstly it takes up a lot of the time I would otherwise have spent writing and working on this blog.

Secondly after spending a day of writing I don’t necessarily want to come home and write some more.

In addition to that November is National Novel Writing Month and I’m going to try and finish my novel in it so any free time I do have to dedicate to writing needs to be directed towards that.

All of which has combined to make it basically impossible to update my blog right now.

I’m not abandoning Mummyboon forever though, far from it. I still need to finish my look back at X-Force, I still need to finish Teenage Mutant Ninja Origins and there is a whole new pokemon game out that I need to review the designs for. I am constantly thinking up content that I can add to this blog.

However don’t expect anything until December and even then service is likely to be spotty until next February.

Once again I apologise to any followers I do have. Stick with me guys, I’ll be back.

-Adam

 

 

So I was disappointed to find out that skipping posting on Saturday did not cause the internet to break in half. I was half hoping that the lack of regularly scheduled Mummyboon content would cause much wailing and gnashing of teeth and that my inbox would be flooded with suicidal lamentations.

Sadly this was not the case…all I ask is your undying affection and obedience without hesitation. Is that too much?

Nonetheless you might be wondering why I no post? Well because I’ve been on holiday enjoying the wonders of Northern France and Holland (and yes it was Holland specifically before anyone gets pedantic). I’d built up a bit of a buffer before going away but didn’t have a chance to post anything between getting home and Saturday coming to pass.

I didn’t want to skip the week entirely though but I don’t have the time to put anything particularly complicated together so here are my comments on a few nerdy news announcements.

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Whilst I was gone D23, Disney’s big annual fan convention happened and we learned lots about upcoming Disney projects, including one I’ve written about before Big Hero 6.

“Big Hero 6” features brilliant robotics prodigy Hiro Hamada, who finds himself in the grips of a criminal plot that threatens to destroy the fast-paced, high-tech city of San Fransokyo. With the help of his closest companion–a robot named Baymax–Hiro joins forces with a reluctant team of first-time crime fighters on a mission to save their city. Inspired by the Marvel comics of the same name, and featuring comic-book style action and all the heart and humor audiences expect from Walt Disney Animation Studios, the CG-animated “Big Hero 6” hits theaters in 3D on Nov. 7, 2014.

Whilst I still think San-Fransokyo is an appalling name I kind of like the notion that this is going to be a world that freely mixes bits of Japanese and American culture. The Golden Gate Bridge with Torii Gate stylings in the concept art posted above is particularly nifty. Considering this is a property that was two American guys doing their best to affectionately parody Japanese concepts and ideas that themselves were often riffs on American concepts setting it in a world that is a strange mixture of American and Japanese culture is a smart idea. It also avoids the potential problem of audiences in America being put off by a Japanese setting and too much Japanese cultural baggage.

Nintendo have announced loads of Pokemon news recently, particularly regarding the new games X and Y. Whilst Black and White basically perfected the formula as it has stood for 5 generations now X and Y seem to be shaking up the game considerably. 3D graphics and movement, customised attack animation,  new ways of battling (Sky Battles and Horde battles with 1 pokemon against 5 aggressors) riding pokemon and a new type, Fairy type.

Incidentally I totally called Fairy Type back in this blog post here. You may refer to me as Nostradamus from now on.

But the only change I want to talk about is Mega Evolution.

What is Mega Evolution? Why watch the video above and find out.

Well, did you watch it? Did you find out what it is?

Fucking stupid, that’s what it is.

Okay, okay, gameplay wise this isn’t a massive deal. Pokemon that change form have been a feature of the games since the 2nd generation. Now usually these form changes don’t happen during battle and if they do they usually don’t effect stats whereas clearly these new forms will all improve the pokemon’s stats as well as alter their appearance. That’s fine by me. I don’t think Baziken or Mewtwo need to be any better than they already are but  it’s a cool mechanic and it allows for four stage evolutions which was always going to happen at some point.

What I have a problem with is that it turns the game into Digimon.

In Digimon evolution is a temporary thing. You activate it for a short period and then when your monster has used that strength boost it reverts back to an earlier stage in its development. Also all these stages have terms attached such as champion stage, ultimate stage and of course “Mega”*

Evolution in pokemon is a permanent mutation with pros and cons. Although your monster gets stronger it also gets less cute and learns moves more slowly. Also it can change the typing and the ability entirely and once your evolve there is no going back. Mega Evolution then isn’t an evolution in pokemon terms, it’s a power-up coupled with a sprite change. It shouldn’t be called evolution.

I doubt it will bother me too much whilst playing the game (unless it becomes a major plot point) but it is the first piece of X and Y news I’ve actively disliked.

On a more positive note Nintendo also announced Pokemon: The Origin, a oneoff anime special that will tell the story of Red and Blue.

Who are Red and Blue you may ask? Well they’re the stars of the original pokemon games and the original pokemon manga.

“Isn’t that Ash Ketchum?” you oh so naively ask?

NO, NO IT ISN’T ASH FUCKING IDIOT KETCHUM! YOU SHUT YOUR DAMN MOUTH NOOB! RED IS AWESOME ASH IS A TEN YEAR OLD IDIOT WITH SOME KIND OF GROWTH DEFICIENCY AND…

Sorry I, may have lost my composure for a bit there.

But to answer your question more succinctly, no, Ash is the star of the anime and is very similar to Red but Red existed as a character prior to the anime and has a few key differences. For starters he is a much more seriously minded character and a far better pokemon trainer. Ash has never won a league but Red became the champion of the original league and an enemy trainer in Gold and Silver.

This new anime is the first time Red and his rival Blue will feature in a cartoon. I’m usually not a fan of the pokemon anime. It’s fine for what it is; a cartoon to get kids interested in buying pokemon games and toys and whilst I haven’t watched the original Japanese version** the English dub can be surprisingly funny at times.

Pokemon: The Origin though looks like a lot of fun. As well as pushing all my nostalgia buttons hard the animation looks gorgeous. Nintendo may have convinced me to watch a pokemon anime for the first time since I was ten.**

Last bit of nerdy news to discuss is the announcement of the new Doctor Who: this guy.

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My reaction to the last two new Doctor announcements was “who?” followed by “he’s a bit young isn’t he?” followed by instantly loving them once I got to see them perform as the Doctor. So the fact that my reaction this time was “oh I know him, good actor,” followed by “oh and he’s the oldest doctor since the first, interesting.” might just mean that I have doomed Capaldi’s efforts before they begin.

Seriously though Peter Capaldi is a fine actor and he can do that turning emotions on a dime thing that David Tennant used to do in his sleep. He’s bound to be significantly less physical than Matt Smith but this is no bad thing, and the age gap means we can shake this companion/doctor romance stuff that has permeated nearly every doctor/companion relationship in the modern show.

I also like the fact that millions of fangirls on twitter are upset that they cast an older bloke because I am perverse and enjoy the misery of others. Especially fangirls and fanboys.

It will be sad to see Matt Smith go though. He is easily my all time favourite doctor. It’s all in the way he moves; like an alien who isn’t sure what his arms are for.

Sadly Steven Moffat will be staying on as show runner which is a shame. I love Moffat as a writer, Coupling, Sherlock, these are some of my favourite TV shows of all time and the episodes he wrote whilst Russell T Davies was in charge of Doctor Who were among the best the show ever produced. However, his tenure as show runner has been overall bad. There have been some highlights and some good stories but the general quality of stories has taken a sharp turn down.

So that’s my thoughts on some recent nerdy topics. Tomorrow normal service resumes with some film reviews.

* this knowledge gained entirely from the anime, I never played any of the games

** this isn’t strictly true actually, I used to watch it on the treadmill at the gym in Kobe but between running and it being in Japanese I didn’t really follow the dialogue very well. Other things I used to watch whilst on the treadmill included baseball and sumo which are a bit easier to follow without dialogue.

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So what have I been writing about these last few months. We’ve done some film reviews, we’ve started a long series all about the Teenage Mutant Ninja turtles, I’ve discussed adaptation extensively.

Hmmm, I think it might be time for me to talk about Kit-Kats.

Yes, Kit-Kats. Despite not having lived in Japan for 3 years I have retained my ability to find special Kit-Kats remains. This time it’s due to a donation from a friend of mine so thank you Kaori Yoshikawa, and if you’re interested in reading about Kit-Kats then you should all thank her too.

Incidentally if anyone in future wants to donate some kit-kats to me to review, or any Japanese foodstuffs, I am more than happy to do that. You can find me on twitter at RAdamHalls if you have a suggestion.

So Kaori gave me three flavours, two of which are green tea variants and the final one of which is a passion fruit flavour. I think I’ve discussed green tea enough on this blog to be honest and these flavours don’t seem to be adding anything new so we’ll just talk about the packaging briefly and then move on to the real star of the show, passion fruit.

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So let’s start with the pink one. Well it’s a very attractive box, the contrast of pink and green works nicely and it avoids being overtly cluttered. We have a picture of a cup of matcha which looks very inviting (do not be tricked, matcha looks significantly nicer than it tastes ) and some beautiful pink sakura blossoms. All in all this is a well composed Kit-Kat package.

Oh and there’s some Kanji on there, and hey! Just for a change this is Kanji I can read, one of them says Sakura and the others say Matcha and…

Oh hell!

This is a new flavour isn’t it. I’m going to have to review it again.

Arse biscuits.

Yes, a little research and reading the back of the packet confirms it, this Kit-Kat is flavoured with both matcha which I’ve reviewed many, many times before and sakura (i.e. cherry blossom) which I have not reviewed before.

I have had sakura tea before though and my main impression of it was that it was really salty. Really salty. Saltier than you’re imagining. Picture some seawater, now add some salt, now boil it for a bit so some of the water evaporates, now ejaculate into it. Saltier.

Which is not what you’d expect something called cherry blossom to taste of. You’d probably imagine there’d be some cherry aspect to it. But nope, just water and salt. Does that sound like an appetising cup of tea to you? Probably not, and if it does consider seeking a doctor, your tastebuds are broken.

It was basically a thoroughly unpleasant experience and not one I ever hoped to re-create so you can imagine I’m absolutely thrilled to have to try a sakura matcha Kit-Kat.

For any Japanese people reading this that’s an example of sarcasm, you might refer to it as an “American joke” and look bemused.

Oh well, before we get to that let’s look at the individual wrapper.

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It’s actually one of the best individual wrappers I can remember seeing and uses a pattern that’s completely new too. Rather than having one massive Kit-Kat logo in the middle that spoils the design it has a pattern of smaller red Kit-Kat logos repeating along with sakura blossoms, kanji and the English name all set against a patterned pink background. It’s very attractive and it makes sense, you have already bought the product by the time you see the indivdual wrapper, you don’t need yet another big red logo slapped in the middle. It’s not like you’ve forgotten in the time it tales you to take the individual wrapper out of the box that you’re eating a Kit-Kat.

Or does Kit-Kat think that people will forget? That because it’s pink and not red they’ll undergo some kind of existential crisis and break down into some kind of fit if they don’t see a Kit-Kat logo?

Nah, it’s probably a marketing rule thing.

It’s in the tasting that I have to own up to a problem with these particular three flavours. They didn’t make it through their journey over seas and then sit around in my flat in the middle of the hottest heatwave in the U.K. on record entirely unscathed. Instead they’ve melted into one big chocolatey wafery mess that will probably prove a detriment to the eating somewhat.

You never know though, it might be an improvement.

But with that in mind let’s give it a shot, sakura matcha. How does it taste?

If you said like every other matcha Kit-Kat I’ve ever eaten then…you’re wrong actually. I know I was surprised too. I went into this fully expecting it to be boring and samey but this is nice, really really nice and quite distinct from other green tea or matcha flavours. For starters it isn’t too sweet, nor is it too bitter. If anything the main flavour is cream. It does taste of green tea, obviously but it has a really strong, smooth creamy feel to it that it is absolutely delightful both flavour and texture wise.

And then in the aftertaste the saltiness of the sakura comes through. But whereas in tea it was disgusting in chocolate it works. It cuts the sweetness considerably and livens up the taste buds so the green tea and creamy notes really sing. If you’ve ever had a white fudge pretzel flip (I have confused every non-American and every Brit not my age) it’s similar only not as sweet and with a subtle green tea flavour to it. It’s really very moreish actually and works extremely well with a real cuppa.

This one was a bit of a revelation, I expected something disgusting but it’s a complete and utter winner.

So what about the other flavour?

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Well no luck with the Kanji this time but some research reveals this is Uji Matcha, basically a kind of very refined, very high quality matcha. I’m not the world’s biggest matcha fan and have absolutely no idea what Uji matcha tastes like or how it is distinguished from regular matcha.

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The package is okay but a touch busy. I like the use of black as  main colour, it really let’s the colours of green and red work together rather than clashing and adds a touch of sophistication. It’s also something I associate with Japnese tea houses which often have polished black wood as their main colour with highlights of red, gold and green. The off kilter design reduces the clutter and I really like the umbrella which is one of those quintessentially Japanese things. The only part I don’t like really is patterned cloth in pink and purple which adds a clashing colour and makes it unclear what exactly we’re looking at. Rather than a box of powdered tea it makes the green section look like some kind of cloth which is kind of confusing.

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The individual wrapper is similar to the sakura matcha just not as nice. Same repeating pattern but instead of gorgeous sakura leaves and pink we have tea leaves and green. It’s still a great wrapper though and so much more adult and inviting than most Kit-Kat wrappers.

Flavour wise it’s green tea, bitter but quite fresh and with a very refreshing after taste. It’s also not too sweet and, like the sakura matcha, surprisingly creamy. It’s a green tea Kit-Kat ultimately which are a dime a dozen but it’s a really good green tea Kit-Kat which can’t be said for most of them.

And it manages to avoid the soapy and waxy  chocolate problem

Finally we have passion fruit.

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The box is a really lovely colour. It’s a got gradient fade on it and is in various hues of yellow and orange but it just looks so warm, summery and inviting. It’s also not too busy for a change and I like the layout choice of using the trail of biscuit to lead your eye down from the Kit-Kat logo to the picture in the bottom right.

I do have two massive problems with it though.

Firsly the colour of the Kit-Kat in the picture is really close to the colour of the background so it kind of blends in. If it were me I’d have made the bottom right of the box purple so the Kit-Kat picture really pops. Also the pictures of the passion fruit are too small, not nearly delicious looking enough and they’re red? Now I’m not someone who use passion fruit all the time or anything but in my experience passion fruit are purple aren’t they? In fact i just did a google image search and got this back.

yogurt_passionfruit_second

That is a decidedly purple fruit, am I not right? There are few things in life more purple. Grimace from McDonalds, The Phantom and Ronnie (y’know Purple Ronnie? Nope, just confused all non-brits. Google it Americans) maybe but a passion fruit hAs to rank highly on your top ten list of purple things. However, the one on the box is, at best, maroon. Not the colour of a passion fruit at all. And that seems like such a weird design choice considering purple and yellow are contrasting colours and go great on packaging together. I wonder if the artist is colour blind, or has some kind of fear of the colour purple. Maybe he read The Color Purple the novel and forever associates it with lesbians. Maybe he got so distracted thinking of lesbians that he couldn’t possibly paint a purple passion fruit. I mean a passion fruit is kind of yonnic (I just gave you an awesome new word peeps, it’s the vagina equivalent of phallic, use it and impress your friends) so I can see where the lesbian fantasies might start.

Do you ever stop, read what you just wrote and have a little cry? No, me either. I stop, read what I’ve written and shrug nonchalantly, like a Frenchman. I’m half cut and it’s a fucking Kit-Kat, you’re all lucky I’m this coherent.

Where was I? Oh yeah, maroon passion fruits.

I can only assume it was done so the fruit wouldn’t clash with the Kit-Kat logo but it’s not something they’ve ever been concerned with before.

The individual wrapper is even worse, look at it.

CIMG4484

It’s plain yellow with a slight gradient, a Kit-Kat logo that is absolutely massive and loads and loads of text. No interesting or pleasurable aesthetic features just text on a plain background. What a terrible lazy effort.

Well, with packaging this bad, hopefully the Kit-Kat tastes better.

Unfortunately it isn’t great. For starters not only is it waxy, really waxy, waxier than any Kit-kat I’ve had recently but it is also weirdly gritty. I was prepared to put that down to the abuse it’s suffered in the heat but neither of the green tea flavours were gritty in the slightest and this is unpleasantly gritty to the extent that its hard to eat.

The flavour isn’t too bad. It starts off bland and then hits you with a really powerful hint of fresh, fruity passion fruit flavour. It is unmistakably passion fruit and if you like that flavour (and I do, I’m a massive passion fruit fan) it’s very realistic and very nice. And then it fades almost instantly back to blandness again.

It isn’t too sweet at least, being part of the “adult sweetness” range and that can be a problem for passion fruit flavoured products.

Overall I’d call this one a dud. Although it does a nice job of recreating the flavour of passion fruit the texture is simply disgusting and hard to get past.

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