TV Review – Warehouse 13: All the Time in the World

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Warehouse 13’s penultimate episode of its 4th season, All the Time in the World, is an interesting watch. Existing mostly to elaborate on Anthony Head’s villainous Paracelsus in time for the season finale, the episode deals primarily with the tragedy of death verses the greater tragedy of immortality. The subject matter is certainly more serious and heady than most episodes of the show, though the episode retains the trademark humour (be that a good thing or a bad thing) and tone that long-time viewers will be familiar with. Whilst All the Time in the World is certainly one of the more enjoyable episodes of the series thus far, it consists almost entirely of set-up for the next episode. Perhaps the strongest reason to watch the episode is its cast. This episode is a veritable “who’s-who” of genre television actors, many of whom have strong cult followings due to their appearances in other sci-fi shows. James Marsters (best known for his role as Spike in Buffy the Vampire Slayer), Polly Walker (known for Rome and the ill-fated Battlestar Galactica prequel series- Caprica) and the previously mentioned Anthony Head (who has appeared in so many programmes of this nature that it is actually a surprise to realise that he hasn’t appeared in Warehouse 13 already) all have significant roles to play in the proceedings as the members of a family of immortals. Head’s Paracelsus (who shares virtually nothing with his historical counterpart other than his name and his interest in science) plans to finally make himself immortal by using the two separated parts of the legendary Philosopher’s Stone. Pete (Eddie McClintock) and Myka (Joanne Kelly) are dispatched to stop Paracelsus’ nefarious scheme because his existence threatens the safety of the Warehouse and its contents. The episodes’ B-Plot concerns Artie (Saul Rubinek) and Steve (Aaron Ashmore) trying to save Claudia (Allison Scagliotti) who’s potentially crumbling to death inside a bronze shell.

Being the episode that leads into a series finale, All the Time in the World possesses a degree of tension that was lacking in previous episodes of the show. These episodes are frequently when massive changes like character deaths occur in order to bring more emotional resonance to the final episode. As a result, one cannot be sure when viewing the episode whether or not the characters will be successful in their endeavours to stop Paracelsus and save Claudia. There is a great deal of emotional weight in this episode; from the tragic immortal lives of Paracelsus’ extended family to the reminder that Myka has cancer that she is refusing to receive treatment for. The emotional steaks have never felt higher for the show which is usually a more optimistic and reassuring watch. This darker streak turns the episode into a refreshing watch, even if Pete’s childish one-liners frequently break up the tension of a scene. There are certainly problems with the episode. Anthony Head plays Paracelsus as a cackling madman; a disappointment since Head has the acting talent to make this character into a sophisticated antagonist with legitimate reasons for wanting to be immortal beyond simple megalomania. Josh Blaylock as the immortal teenage nephew of Paracelsus is wooden and irritating- both as a character and as a performance. All important scenes explaining the mythology of the Warehouses are rushed through with little proper explanation. However, these are fairly minor faults in what was a surprisingly strong episode. Even the location subtitles (that announce when the action has moved to a new city or country) which are usually loud and obnoxious were used cleverly in this episode. All the Time in the World is certainly a strong set-up for the series finale.

Image reproduced from TV.com

Film Review: This is the End

This is the End
This is the End tries very boldly to blend two very different styles together. Mad cap humour meets end of the world. Rather like chalk and cheese and this is the main problem the film has. Most would avoid contrasting themes but this offering ploughs on regardless and things just get lost.

One minute eternal doom and mayhem, followed by laughter then back to the explosions and more mayhem…

Rather like the new Battlestar Galatica – ‘EastEnders in Space’ but in an episode where Apollo would take a happy pill. “The Cylons are coming! We’re all gonna die! Yippee! Let’s ride a Viper! Wheeee!!!” Hmmm…

It was largely an excuse for Seth Rogen, James Franco and others to act stupid and get paid for the privilege. The scriptwriters must have declared a holiday for this picture and left it to the stars themselves to plot. You could see the gags coming a mile off.

Emma Watson, Channing Tatum, Rihanna plus Jason Segel make appearances and that annoying Jonah Hill who seems to be popping up everywhere like those annoying IKEA gnomes! Nearly everyone was trying to get their faces in. No wonder, they were getting paid lots to act stupid! Now why wasn’t this film listed in the job centres?

I remember a show years ago that was a BBC comedy, the first episode featured the death of a character. Hardly laughing material and it was done in a way that was crass and very unfunny. Death might be a funny thing, but it has to be handled correctly.

I hated Dumb and Dumber but that leaps ahead of this effort. But for me I was more disappointed by James Franco. Once again he chooses a vehicle that doesn’t show off his talents. From the greatest film of all ‘Rise of the Apes’ to this??? He is very good but his current choice of roles is pause for concern.

Lacking in any style and plot, it was just a series of mismatched apocalypse style sketch scenes. This might work on programmes such as The Fast Show or The Peep show but as a big film it’s just awful. I was cringing.

Although many will like the silly gags, Rogen’s facial expressions and debauchery. I for one like something solid in my choices. It was a like a rebel without a clue. I’m amazed at some of the positive reviews I’ve read about this. I’m like – say what?

For me, this is one show I would ask for a refund if it were possible. Only 1/10 from me. If I want to see a bunch of people acting stupid I know where I can do that for free!

Image reproduced from wikipedia.com
Trailer reproduced from YouTube / CieonMovies

Corkers: Rock & Roll Crisps in Space

The press pack for these Corkers Crisps tells me they are made from a unique variety of potato (Naturalo, apparently), are sliced thinner for a better texture, are made locally and sustainably in Cambridgeshire, are served on BA, at Kew Gardens and The British Library, have been on television and even travelled to space.

That’s quite a series of achievements for a company that is only 4 years old and was dreamt up on a ski lift.

Founded in 2009 by friends Ross Taylor and Rod Garnham, the entire business is based at the Taylor family farm just outside Cambridge, meaning that everything is done in one place, so visitors can dig their own spud and see it made into crisps in under an hour.

All of this would be for nought, however, if the crisps were not any good. But they are actually some of the best I’ve ever had.

Where mass-market branded crisps tend to be greasy, overly salted and rather harsh, these feel like they have been made with real attention to detail; not at all greasy, with good, well-balanced flavours, they are very good crisps.

The CWB children were naturally keen to help out with a tasting so we opened up all six packets and got to work.

The quality of all varieties was uniformly high and choices for best crisp really just came down to personal preference.

For me, the more traditional flavours worked best – the Sea Salt was fine, the Sea Salt and Black Pepper had a lovely kick of aromatic black pepper whilst the Sea Salt and Cider Vinegar was nicely sweet-sharp and salty.

The more ambitious flavours of Sweet Thai Chili, Red Leicester and Caramelised Onion plus Pork Sausage and English Mustard I found a bit less convincing overall and rather sweeter, but from equally well-made base materials.

Corkers Crisps 40g bags are priced around 75p each.

Wine of The Month – July 2013

July – the height of summer before the August break. Or at least that’s what we hope for; picnics and garden parties, lazy summer Sundays and long evenings, barbecues and salads.

Summer foods are lighter and we need wines to match – this means generally whites, with the odd barbecue red.

Umbrele Sauvignon Blanc, Romania – Bacchanalia (£6.49)

 

I used to visit Romania regularly on business – I never fell in love with Bucharest as a city, but I quickly became a fan of the wines there; mostly well-made, modern food wines with plenty of fruit.

This entry-level Sauvignon is in much the same vein – lots of ripe tropical fruit expression, good acidity and a touch of zestiness.

With its zingy freshness, it will work well as an aperitif, with mixed anti-pasti, grilled fish or roast white meat.

An unexpected twist is some late harvest character that adds rich fullness and atypical aromas of ripe peaches, apricots and galia melon over the more-usual nettles and gooseberries.

If you are bored of Sauvignon, or like the idea of something different, this is definitely worth a try – and an absolute bargain to boot.

Esporao Reserva Branco 2011, Portugal – Cambridge Wine Merchants (£11.95)

Historically known for its ports, Portugal has been on the cusp of receiving recognition for its table wines, both reds and whites, for a long time now.

The country’s most famous white is vinho verde – a very light and refreshing wine from the north. This Esporao from Alentejo region is, however, quite different and rather more ambitious.

On first opening, it has lots of everything – ripe tropical fruit, sweet spice, florality and toasty new oak; a bit like you ordered the entire menu.

But with some aeration, it all starts to fall into place – the oakiness settles down and is matched by a lovely streak of acidity with good savoury depth and pure fruit expression.

Precise, elegant and balanced, this is a lovely wine with plenty of aging potential. It has an IWC Trophy and featured in Olly Smith’s Top 50 Portuguese Wines.

Jancis Robinson, reviewing the 2007, notes it is more Rhone-esque than Portuguese and almost impossible to identify blind – which should make for some interesting dinner party discussions.

Match with roast white meats or sea bass.

Bodegas Borsao ‘Monte Oton’ Campo de Borja Garnacha, Spain – Noel Young Wines (£5.99)

 

This Spanish red is a perfect barbecue wine or picnic sipper – it’s sealed with a screw cap and has lots of juicy, food friendly acidity.

Spain is traditionally home to dusty, chunky reds, but this is grown at altitude on north-facing slopes for freshness.

It is full of expressive aromas of morello cherries, plummy fruit, liquorice, leather, vanilla and spice.

The palate is juicy and mouthfilling, with a lovely sour-cherry acidity, more plummy and dark berry fruit with sweet vanilla, spice and roughed-up herbs.

Another summer bargain – match with mixed anti-pasti or barbecued meats.

Main image credit: http://www.ub.indiana.edu/wp-content/uploads/2013/05/summer-sun.gif

Chocolate: Italy’s Founding Fathers

Bacio-PeruginaThere are conflicting series as to how and when chocolate reached Italy. Some historians believe it was around the middle of
the 16th century when the exiled duke Emmanuel-Philibert returned to power, having experienced the delights of chocolate in Spain.

The popular theory is that chocolate was imported by a Florentine merchant, Antonio Carletti, who discovered it while travelling the world in search of new products to sell. The most likely theory is that chocolate was brought in as a medicine through the convents and monasteries.

By the 17th century a growing number of chocolate companies have become established in northern Italy, particularly
around the towns of Perugia and Turin. These companies in turn began to export the newly developed products to other European countries.

A collection of recipes by an 18th-century Italian priest shows the imagination of the Italians in the use of chocolate compared with other countries. Recipes included such dishes as: liver dipped in chocolate and fried, chocolate soup, chocolate pudding with veal, marrow and candied fruit, and chocolate polenta.

The Italians have always been accomplished confectionery and dessert makers. They started using chocolate as an ingredient very early on and thus established themselves as leading experts in the art of making fine chocolates. In 1884, when the Russian Tsar commissioned from the jeweller Fabergé his first golden egg with it surprise feeling of precious stones, Italian producers introduced what may have been the first chocolate Easter eggs containing a surprise gift.

The Italian chocolate industry is centred around Turin in Piedmont and Perugia in Umbria. Production on a commercial level developed in the early 19th century when Bozelli, an engineer from Genoa, designed a machine capable of producing over 300kg of chocolate per day. By the end of the century the industry was booming.

Turin is recognised as Italy’s chocolate capital. Every year during the last week of March there is a huge chocolate festival when you are surrounded by the rich scent of chocolate on every street corner. For the past 300 years, Turin has produced its world famous gianduja – a mixture of chocolate and hazelnuts. Turin is also known for bicerin, a beverage of coffee, chocolate and fresh whipped cream that originated in a coffee shop bearing the same name back in the 1800s. Another delicacy is chocolate filled with grappa, an Italian digestive which is made from grape seeds leftover from wine making.

There are several long-established firms in northern Italy. These include Caffarel, from whom the Italians learned to make chocolate, and Baratti & Milano, from the Turin area; Perugina (now owned by Nestlé) from Perugia, makers of the famous “Baci” (kisses) chocolate with the memorable packaging; and Majani in Bologna who now produce the ultimate in designer chocolates.

Image reproduced from bambini.eu

Carrot and Orange Breakfast Muffins

Image reproduced from gulchathaii.blogspot.co.ukHealthy eating is no easy feat and fitting a healthy breakfast inside your hectic mornings can seem like an impossible task.

However I have the perfect solution, a low fat, lot calorie breakfast treat which is also pretty tasty, breakfast muffins.

The recipe is simple and you can make them on a Sunday so that they’re ready to grab and go whilst you rush to work, they even help you get your fruit and veg in.

Do you need any more convincing?

 

You will need:

  • 75ml Olive oil – Though this sounds like a lot, olive oil actually helps your body digest vegetables to allow you to fully absorb all their nutrients.
  • 100g Unrefined cane sugar – You can use regular sugar, but unrefined sugar is closer to it’s natural form and hasn’t undergone as many chemical processes so it’s better for your body.
  • 1 large orange, zest and 3tbsp juice
  • ½ tsp ground cinnamon
  • 250g spelt flour – Spelt flour is less processed than wheat flour and does not contain the same nasty toxins, it’s also lower in calories
  • 1tsp baking powder – you can substitute this with bicarbonate of soda depending on what’s in your cupboard
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 mug of grated carrot – change the amount according to taste, using a little less will disguise the vegetable taste from fussy eaters
  • A large handful of walnuts

To make:

  • Pre-heat your oven to 180oc, make sure to do this after you have prepared your ingredients or you will waste energy.
  • Pop the orange, eggs, olive oil and cinnamon into a large mixing bowl and whisk until the liquid is frothy.
  • Add the flour and baking powder. Using a metal spoon fold them into the mixture using a figure of eight movement, this will prevent air bubbles being destroyed and will ensure that your muffins will raise.
  • Pour in the carrot and walnuts, gently fold into the mixture.
  • Spoon into cases making sure you put equal amounts in each case so that they will require the same length of time to cook. Place in the oven for approximately 25-30 minutes, you can use this time to clean up, the muffins will be ready when you can place a skewer through the muffins and bring it out clean.
  • Leave to cool on a cooling tray then place them in an air tight container ready for breakfast.

Image reproduced from gulchathaii.blogspot.co.uk

Only Children and Drunks Tell the Truth – Part 3

I’ve seen enough anger turn to violence amongst the drunk and the restless to know that anger in its most basic form is a cry for help, a sad loss of control on one’s life. It’s a frustrating, difficult thing for someone to have to deal with and repress their whole life, a feeling of hopelessness – the pain that delivers anger stifled away in a box somewhere, until a few drinks down the line and someone opens the lid. As long as our society communicates that men like this will never change, they never will.

Identity crisis imposes this as inevitable, as soon as we start labeling someone as an abuser, an alcoholic, obese whatever, they will become and remain that person with those attributes if that is what they start to believe. And although I think it is partially very humbling to be able to acknowledge ones’ self as abusively inclined, it is very impractical to be labeled as ‘unchangeable’ as it were. What is one supposed to do then!?

We are not used to being punished for our own ailments, if we should want to change and struggle so to do so, then it obviously is a problem, an illness of a sort and where are these men (and women) supposed to turn when the whole world is prejudiced and judgmental of their ‘illness.’ They are, quite inevitably fated to be abusive for the rest of their lives, apparently it is something quite out of their own control – of course it will remain that way without help.

I suppose Chris Brown will be the ultimate test of this: if it really is true that no matter what a man may say – that he will change, that he is sorry beyond repentance, that the echelon of his love knows no bounds…that they will not change, then surely even Brown will not be immune to this, not even the guardianship of his fame will be able to protect him, if every abuser truly is ‘incurable,’ then Chris Brown will strike again.

He has access to the best of help though – suddenly in the case of a celebrity the whole scenario becomes a situation in severe need of help amongst all the criticism of course. So if Chris Brown continues along his path of righteousness and never strikes again will the world begin to recognise that perhaps the rest of them and us out there actually really could do with a bit of help? It’s such a classic case of the abuser becoming the ‘abused’ but it seems no one is prepared to stop the cycle, only inclined to judge and to punish. I think violence is within human nature, it has been a part of our culture for centuries, seen through hunting and competition, the real issue we face today is down to being able to control it.

And who’s to say…one day when I am inebriated enough and someone does just that one thing that tickles a nerve of mine just enough to provoke my inner child to jump out, I might find myself in just the same position, just as contemptible as the outburst of Chris Brown. But, I will be excused somewhat as I am a woman. I may spend the night in a cell, I may face a fine, prosecution, conviction even, if my victim happens to press charges but I will never uphold the same monstrous reputation as someone like Chris Brown will for the rest of his life.

Because despite the principle facing the matter, despite the fact I might have actually terrified myself (and my victim) upon how far my anger reached so unpreventable, I am not as threatening, I cannot be as dangerous. Even though my turmoil and hatred might be as great as his ever was, no one will ever view my outburst in the same light as his, and is that right? I might have the same inclinations to hurt, the same loss of control, but I will never be the labeled abuser upon my one attack as I quite simply do not have the capacity to be so damaging. I’m no child anymore, and on two glasses of merlot I wouldn’t exactly be able to claim right now that I am…drunk? But I reckon that’s the truth.

Image reproduced from wisegeek.com

TV Review: Warehouse 13 – Runaway

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Runaway is a Warehouse 13 episode that fully embraces the inherent silliness of the show and its characters. At times, the characters feel less like themselves and more like parodies of themselves. The usually grumpy and cantankerous Artie (Saul Rubinek) spends this episode literally screaming about the social importance of birthday clowns. The frequently childish and immature Pete (Eddie McClintock) has devolved into a total buffoon, deliberately misquoting The Fugitive in an attempt to be funny. Bizarrely, this approach of exaggerating the traits of the show’s characters makes the episode surprisingly entertaining- though perhaps not in the way that the show’s creators intended. As is usually the case with Warehouse 13, the episode is split into two plot-lines. The first follows Myka (Joanne Kelly), Pete and Steve (Aaron Ashmore) investigating a bizarre prison break involving molten lava. The trio soon realise that their opponent has some relation to a local gang who’ve members both behind bars and on the streets. The second plot-line deals with Artie gradually going deaf due to an unfortunate attack of Beethoven’s magical clock (as previously mentioned, this episode is more than a little silly). The prison plot-line also features an appearance by an old flame of Steve’s, who provides something of an insight into the most underdeveloped of the Warehouse agents. The episode should be credited for presenting a gay relationship in a matter-of-fact manner rather than feeling the need to overemphasise the character’s orientation in order to appear more tolerant; something many other well-meaning television shows do when presenting LGBT characters.

The overall theme of the episode appears to be compassion. The compassion Claudia (Allison Scagliotti) shows for Artie as she tries to help him save his sense of hearing contrasts with the broken and formerly compassionate relationship shared by Steve and his ex. The episode’s villain (as is so often the case with this show, the term is used very loosely) commits some grisly atrocities for compassionate reasons. There is an overall optimistic and light-hearted tone to this episode. As a result, the comedic aspects that normally feel out of place (like Pete’s childish jokes) feel a great deal more appropriate. Perhaps if Warehouse 13 permitted itself to adopt the tone of this particular episode more often, it could carve out a more distinctive identity for itself amongst procedural genre shows. However, some aspects of the episode suggest that the program is as flawed as ever. Most notable is that the episode’s creators clearly have no understanding of how lava works. At one point, Myka and Pete surf atop a car that is rolling through molten magma as if it’s thick mud. Apparently in the Warehouse 13 universe, car tires simply don’t melt. Whilst some might dismiss this as an unimportant nitpick, it’s not an overstatement to say that it completely takes the viewer out of the scene. One is no longer able to imagine that the characters are in any kind of peril. All the viewer sees is two actors pretending to dodge computer-generated lava. This is a huge problem with the episode because this sequence is supposed to be the epic finale. Despite the fact that the whole episode is clearly more whimsical in tone than most shows modern viewers are likely used to, the lava sequence is so utterly absurd that it essentially breaks the finale. Not uncommonly for Warehouse 13, Runaway is fun but flawed. Its faults, whilst not numerous, are pretty damaging and might make it a frustrating viewing for those more suited to similar programs (such as Supernatural or Fringe) that take themselves more seriously. The episode is ultimately a fun experience and one gets the distinct impression that fun is exactly what it was intended to be.