Slides at Tate Modern

Test Site

At London’s Tate Modern, a new sculpture is on display that allows visitors a new way of experiencing a piece of modern art.

The ‘Test Site’ is a piece of impressive engineering created by Carsten Höller.

I had the unique opportunity to try out the slides with a friend during a visit to the popular art gallery. The slides are truly magnificent when you see the large artwork up-close in the cavernous space of the Turbine Hall.

We went on the two ‘smaller’ slides for starters and it was quite good fun as you spiral down inside the glass and metal tube.

Later on, we went to the fourth floor to experience the second highest slide… It took around 10 seconds to travel down four stories in Tate Modern and it was fantastic as it dips and turns in a spectacular rate.

Next time, I will have a go on the highest slide on the fifth floor…

Casino Royale

Casino Royale

This new take on the existing franchise of the famous British spy series created by Ian Fleming has made James Bond, the secret service agent, as a more human and emotional driven character. Casino Royale is based on Fleming’s first novel in which we see Bond earning his ‘double-0’ status and the license to kill.

The film opens with an atmospheric black and white sequence in which Bond brutally kills his first victim in a blood-strewn public toilet. This action scene alone reveals the character we are all familiar with has become a more tougher, no-nonsense kind of guy who doesn’t give a damn what everyone thinks.

The film immediately proceeds to a dramatic and exciting chase scene across Madagascar between Bond (Daniel Craig) and a bomb-maker, which ends up in a disaster. Reprimanded by M (Judi Dench) for his recklessness, Bond takes matters into his own hands and heads to Bahamas where he sees a possible lead in terrorism.

Eventually this leads him to Casino Royale in Montenegro where he plays a high-stakes poker game against Le Chiffre (Mads Mikkelsen), with the hopes of making the terrorism investments go bad while being paired with the sultry Vesper Lynd (Eva Green) as a secret agent for the British treasury.

When Daniel Craig was first announced to be the new actor portraying James Bond last year, many critics were complaining that he wasn’t the right choice. Some were saying he was “too blonde” and “bland.” And yet, in Casino Royale, Daniel Craig has proved these doubters wrong with an exceptional performance in the lead role.

His on-screen presence is truly spectacular. From the moment he steps out of the sea in a similar way to Ursula Andress in Dr. No, the new physic of Bond, with the pumping thighs, bulging pecs and inflated ego shows a new side to the character. I believe Daniel Craig’s portrayal is as good or better than Sean Connery – who is considered to be the best Bond over the years.

Director Martin Campbell – who worked on his first Bond film with Pierce Bronsan back in 1995 with GoldenEye – has created a beautiful look to the film with exotic locations and dramatic action pieces. Working with Paul Haggis excellent script (who also wrote the 2006 Oscar-winning Crash), it’s interesting how Campbell has forced this new Bond movie as ‘back to basics’ without any aid of gadgets.

Speaking of action sequences, these were all done for real, ignoring all CGI and green screen technology to create more ‘realism’. To be honest, it works spectacular well especially the Miami airport scenes.

As for Bond’s love interests, he has two on offer, the lovely Solange (played by Caterina Munro) and Vesper Lynd (featuring the gorgeous Eva Green). Of the two Bond girls, it is Eva who gets more screen time in which she brings a highly intellectual charm coupled with just the right amount of fragility. Her chemistry with Craig, though, is a bit too enhanced by the script’s romantic angle that veers dangerously close to getting the better of the movie’s overall dynamism. This was the only criticism I had; these scenes when Bond professed his love to Vesper after recovering from his (naked) torture seemed to drag on a bit too much…

Despite that and with a running time a little over two hours, the climactic showdown in the canals of Venice feels less exciting than it could have been. But in the end, Craig and Campbell give enough reason for one to overlook such faults. Through their recreation of the legendary role, the gamble on showing Bond’s first mission, as a secret agent making his break, seems to pay off and I’ll look forward to his next, new mission in 2008.

Borat: Film review


If you enjoy the humour and comical timing from the talented Sacha Baron Cohen with Da Ali G Show, then this latest movie – Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan – will be a treat for fans.

The sketches in this mock documentary focus on Borat travelling across North America sampling the culture in this Western civilisation. He is a journalist for the local Kazahstan TV network and his mission is to report back to his home country in aid of learning the American way of life.

His first stop is New York City and during his brief visit in the Big Apple, he tries to express his welcome by kissing complete strangers in public, but not to great success…

Borat is in “the glorious US and A” to film his show and as you know, the Kazahstan reporter has a unique way of interviewing his guests. Watching Sacha Baron Cohen’s performance is always fascinating and often creates hilarious results. He really has a special talent of creating mischief based on people’s responses and his humour will always make you laugh.

After a day’s filming, Borat discovers Baywatch (but more importantly Pamela Anderson) whilst watching TV back in his hotel. He then sets out on an epic quest from New York City to California (where Pearl Harbour and Texas are…) hoping to locate Pamela and asking her for marriage.

As Borat travels across the vast country he encounters many amusing situations including: Learning to drive and then purchases an ice cream truck for the trip; accidentally enters a Jewish-owned Bed & Breakfast (Borat is anti-Semitic), in which he consequently holds a cross and his money close as he speaks fearfully into the camera of how the clever, shape-shifting Jews attempted to poison him… And later, he buys a grizzly bear for protection after the traumatic experience.

He eventually reaches Los Angeles to meet his elusive Pamela Anderson. I won’t spoil it for you when he asks the former Baywatch star for his hand in marriage!

Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan is an entertaining and amusing movie. It is apparent that Sacha Baron Cohen has done something remarkable by creating an anti-Semitic, misogynist and bigoted character. Okay, the cruel jokes might offend some but this movie provides a shock to all emotions with outrageous, gross and disturbing images. In the end, this is a fantastic comedy featuring Sacha Baron Cohen in his finest hour.

24: Season 5 DVD

As a fan of this cult ‘real-time’ television series, I am amazed by the show’s popularity regardless of how many terrorists Jack Bauer kills.

In day five, Bauer comes out of hiding and after being framed for the murder of the former President (and good friend) David Palmer, our American hero needs to find out the truth. What follows is an epic, twisting and dramatic plot that leaves a trail of conspiracies leading to the White House administrators…

The first episode of season five was shocking as two well-liked characters were killed before the day even got started… It’s a testament to the writers and producers who always provide a thrilling drama to the award-winning show. Kiefer Sutherland yet again puts in an amazing performance as CTU Agent Jack Bauer, but it’s Gregory Itzin who proves the biggest reason to watch, stealing entire episodes as invertebrate President Charles Logan as he struggles the longest day of his life.

Meeting the Gorillaz

Gorillaz Rise of the Ogre

After work, I had the opportunity to attend a book signing at my local Waterstone’s bookshop, featuring the creators of the Gorillaz cartoon band.

The new book, Rise of the Ogre, is a superb autobiography based on the group. The illustrations by Jamie Hewlett are excellent and after seeing his work in a recent Design Museum exhibition earlier this year, I have become a big fan of his work.

Blur singer Damon Albam and the author of the book, Cass Brown, were there alongside Hewlett to sign my copy.

Leaf’s forum signatures

Leaf's two signatures

After using my old Monkey Grand Prix theme forum signature around 12 months now, I’ve decided to update this with a new image.

The original featured the cute AiAi from Super Monkey Ball (one of my favourite games on the Nintendo GameCube) and 2005 Formula One World Champion Fernando Alonso (currently my favourite driver in motor racing).

With the new signature, I have incorporated the two Bauer characters from the hit TV show 24 – Jack and Kim (played by Kiefer Sutherland and Elisha Cuthbert respectively) – along with AiAi and the new 2006 F1 champion.

This new image is now proudly displayed at the bottom of each my post on the Eternal Sunset forum.

London Expo October 2006

Last weekend, was the London Anime Expo. It was the perfect opportunity to meet the members of the Eternal Sunset and ToykoToys forums by going to this social event.

On Saturday, I’ve planned to meet Yas at Covent Garden in the morning, before joining Mike, Jason and Josh at the Expo in Docklands. I got to Covent Garden around 9am and I noticed a young man waiting outside the Tube station… I thought: “Hmm, I wonder where Yas is?”

I picked up my mobile and called him. Yas answered and at the corner of my eye, there was a young man across the street picking up his mobile at the same time! I said to Yas: “Where are you?” He replied back: “Hi Leaf, I’m in Marks & Spencer. I will be out in a sec.”

I gave him five minutes waiting for him to appear from M&S. At that time, the young man across the street approach me and gave me a look… I think he might recognise me but wasn’t so sure… After five minutes I called Mike and told him that I was meeting up with Yas. When I hanged up the young man who was waiting all this time said to me: “Hi Leaf?” It was Yas all this time!

After a formal introduction, we made out way to the Expo in Docklands. Getting there proved to be a nightmare as there was planned engineering works on the DLR (Docklands Light Railway). We planned to meet Mike, Josh and Jason at the show around 10am and considering they had a head start, expected to get there before us.

In the end, we beat them because Mike got on a wrong train and had to start from the beginning! We finally met up around 10.30am and it was nice to see little Josh and Jason in person!

The Expo was very busy on Saturday, and with so much to see it, we needed to plan out what to do. I told Josh that the signing for Hot Fuzz (with Simon Pegg and Nick Frost) would take place around 2pm. So in the mean time, we just went to each stand and look at the merchandising on display.

Mike brought a few stuff while Yas recording some pictures on a digital camera and camcorder. As two o’clock approach, we head to the main Hot Fuzz stand to grab the perfect spot for autographs. Unfortunately everyone thought the same thing and there was quite a crowd. And then, a member of security told us that we couldn’t get an autograph unless you visit the Q&A session beforehand. I think it was a deliberately act of moving the big crowd away from the area…

Jason, Josh and I went to the Q&A but it was packed and we had to stand at the back. The session was quite good showing video clips from the new film and it was amusing to see Simon Pegg and Nick Frost answering questions and then throwing free Hot Fuzz t-shirts to the crowd!

After the Q&A, we hurried back to the Hot Fuzz stand for the signing. Already there was a queue… It was badly organised with a lack of security guards prevent people queue jumping but Josh and I were in the line. After queuing up for 15 minutes, we got our Shaun Of The Dead stuff signed by the two stars and the look on Josh’s face was filled with joy and happiness!

We met up with Mike and Yas later on to tell him the good news. He was impressed by our efforts.

In the afternoon, we were joined by Kerry and Matt (from the ToykoToys forum) and it was nice to meet them in person. They were dressed up for the occasion!

After the Hot Fuzz signing, I decided to take the two boys back to Central London. Mike and Yas decided to stay behind at the Expo so that they could attend the Cosplay show. It turned out to be very bad, as you needed a ticket to get in… So Mike sneakily filmed the whole show with his hidden camcorder standing at the back…

I took Josh and Jason around the many shops in the West End, including Playlounge. After going around the different places, the two boys become hungry so I took them to a food hall to grab something to eat.

By now, we were all feeling rather tired so we sat down in the Apple Store to relax (we wanted to play on the new Macs but there were all taken by people writing their emails).

Around 7pm, my mobile rang and it was Mike saying he was at Piccadilly Circus. He had left the Expo show and was now waiting for us.

We met up with Yas and Mike at Piccadilly and I asked him how was the show. “Don’t ask…” Mike said.

Yas and Mike were now hungry after spending all day at the Expo. We needed to go somewhere to eat. Yas mentioned Covent Garden so we decided to make our way there.

We had a nice dinner sitting outside in Covent Garden. We would then joined by two of Mike’s close friends afterwards plus Kerry and Matt, who came straight from the hotel.

By now, it was approaching 9pm and Kerry wanted to go to the pub. But for Josh and Jason, it has been a long and tiring day… Mike asked them if they wanted to go back to the hotel. In the end, we decided to let them tag along and jokily we said we would sneak them in!

We went to this pub near Tottenham Court Road and had a nice friendly chat over a pint of beer. Afterwards, we made our own separate ways back home.

On Sunday, we decided to visit the Science Museum and check out the Game On exhibition. I met up with Yas first at Charing Cross and then join the others at the museum itself.

Spent the next two hours playing classic/modern games such as the Bomberman, Super Mario and Jason’s favourite Halo. Mike thrashed me on Super Mario Kart!

We also jammed on Guitar Hero, which had the main image projected on the wall so that everyone can see our rockin’ performance!

After the exhibition, we made our way to Knightsbridge and had a spot of lunch in a nice Italian restaurant. Everyone had pizza while I had the ‘seafood’ spaghetti. There was even a large pawn on my plate and I didn’t know how to eat it!

We then spent the last few hours in Forbidden Planet, and I noticed Jason was buying so many things as he had a large bag of goodies!

As the day draw to a close, we said goodbye and made our way back to the train station. It had been a really good fun weekend and I said to Mike we should meet up again sometime soon.

24 Season 6 preview trailer

Jack Bauer

Jack Bauer was last seen, bound and tortured, on a ship headed for China. His life is now the tipping point for US international relations.

So what’s in store for Jack? As the clock ticks closer to the season six premiere in January, the official 24 website is proud to show a special, extended season preview.

Click here see the trailer

Looking forward to the new series of my favourite TV drama in the new year.

Massa wins the Brazilian Grand Prix, while Alonso takes the drivers’ title

Felipe Massa and Fernando Alonso

Ferrari’s Felipe Massa became the first Brazilian to win his home race since the late, great Ayrton Senna back in 1993. The new World Champion, Fernando Alonso, finished in second position with Honda’s Jenson Button in third.

Alonso is now the youngest double world champion and it was a fantastic achievement after a long season battle with Michael Schumacher. The outgoing seven times world champion – taking part in his final ever Formula One race – drove superbly despite suffering a rear-left puncture in the early stages of the Grand Prix. He produced a great comeback drive to finish in fourth, setting the fastest lap during the 71-lap race.

Michael’s performance was magnificent and it’s a shame that we won’t be able to see this kind of driving standards next year… The other drivers and Formula One fans around the world will miss his level of dedication and commitment in the sport.
As for Alonso, the Spaniard did what was required to win his second consecutive title by finishing in the points to take that important drivers’ championship. He drove a steady race and avoided trouble to finish behind the winner Massa, who simply drove a lights-to-flag race.

Massa was overcome with emotion after winning and has even admitted that this was the “easiest drives of his career”.

“It is just amazing isn’t it,” said a tearful Massa. “After 13 years without a Brazilian winning the Brazilian Grand Prix for me it is just amazing to be in front of my people, the first year I have a good car, a fantastic car.

“It was probably the easiest race of my life. I could control everything and wasn’t pushing a lot. I was happy to have that moment.

“It is just a dream come true. You see the whole people bringing the flag, screaming your name and jumping, dancing, whatever, just for you. It is difficult to explain, whatever drivers would love to be in my position, Fernando won his home Grand Prix this year and it was fantastic.

“It is the best day of my life.”

I believe the new 2006 world champion must be feeling the same way and after the race, Fernando Alonso paid tribute to his main rival Michael Schumacher following the German’s final Formula One race in Brazil. The Spaniard said it had been an honour racing against Schumacher.

“It has been very close and I think it is good to fight with him,” said Alonso. “I always said that to become champion when Michael is still on track gives it more value.

“I was extremely lucky to win the world championships when he races, I think we all wish him the best for his new life with his family.

“It has for us been pleasure for us to race with him.”

Schumacher, ten points behind Alonso but with seven wins each, had needed one last victory to have any hope of an unprecedented eighth title while the Spaniard required only a single point from his last race with Renault before joining McLaren next year.

Renault team boss Flavio Briatore also paid homage to Schumacher following his amazing drive at Interlagos.

“I think today we have to show great respect for Michael Schumacher, because what he’s done today will go down in the history of F1,” Briatore said. “He was flying. I don’t know what he had but he was literally flying.

“We’ve won a difficult championship against an extremely difficult rival, Ferrari, so congratulations to them too for keeping the title open even too much.”

So after 18-races in this exciting and dramatic season, it’s nice to see Fernando Alonso winning his second championship. The Spaniard drove superbly all year in the Renault R26 and it is such a rich reward for the driver and the French manufacturer to win the drivers’ and constructors’ title after a year long battle against Michael and Ferrari.

Thank you Michael for providing some great drives all season. Without your dedication to the sport, we wouldn’t have a tense and dramatic season finale. You will be sadly missed when the new Formula One season resumes in Melbourne next March.

Ridge Racer 2

The new hype-realistic arcade racing game from Namco is a rather familiar affair to this game reviewer. As a fan of the original Ridge Racers on the PlayStation, this new ‘sequel’ on the PSP seems to lack any new features that differential the launch title for the handheld console.

Sure it still features the over-the-top oversteer moments when ‘powersliding’ around the corners and as an arcade game, it provides thrills for a short amount of time. But the lack of new content in particular online play is disappointing.

Ridge Racer 2 should be branded as Ridge Racer Remixed as this new game only seems to provides new cars, music and tracks (from the past Ridge Racer games including Ridge Racer Type 4, Rage Racer and Ridge Racer Revolution).

As a game, it still fantastic to play with the sublime handling and visuals. But you can’t help think that Namco has missed out on an opportunity to take it in a new direction.

There are two modes available in Ridge Racer 2 – Duel and Survival. But no Online play (which everyone wanted) unfortunately… As you can tell by the two names, Duel is a series of races in which you compete against a single opponent while Survival is a simple lap-by-lap knockout. Both these modes feel like filler than new content but fans of Ridge Racer will be pretty happy.

In conclusion, Ridge Racer 2 is great fun but a poor excuse of a sequel. It feels like a carbon copy of the original game including that dynamic difficulty curve… At one point you are winning the races in World Tour mode with ease and then the game goes into ‘cheating’ mode in which the AI-controller cars seem to have infinite boost…

In addition, the new cars don’t really look new either. More like a remodelled versions of the same old vehicles…

But Ridge Racer 2 is most definitely an improvement over the first game but by no means an essential purchase. If nine new tracks seems like good value to you, then you won’t be disappointed, as the core gameplay is as entertaining as ever, but don’t say you weren’t warned!