Whiplash – Review

My music tastes are pretty eclectic. I like a bit of everything but a bit more of metal. Jazz however is low on the list and big band jazz even less.

So remind me again why am I going to see Whiplash?! Well, it’s down to two things. One is that it is drum based and drums fascinate me. I can’t play them for toffee, but love seeing people who can. Secondly, it’s been tagged Full Metal Jacket meets drums. So now I’m interested.

The story follows a young musician and a maniacal teacher with the most outrageous teaching methods at a high-end music college.

We first see Andrew (Miles Teller) practicing drums alone in the Shaffer Conservatory of Music. Hearing a sound he stops, looks up and we get to see the infamous teacher himself. Terrance Fletcher, (J.K. Simmons) then asks him why did he stop. This prompts Andrew to continue playing, which is met by our first insight to Fletcher’s mindset when he retorts with “I asked you why you stopped and then proceeded to play like a wind up monkey.”

We see Fletcher use much nicer words later in the film in a couple of scenes (yeah that’s about it), but it’s a gentle subtle introduction to the grand master teacher, as later you get to see him in full bore Full Metal Jacket insult mode.

Fletcher’s belief is fear and intimidation is key to getting the most out of his band members. Shouting and chairs flung at his band when they make a mistake is par for the course. However, playing in Fletcher’s class comes a pathway to greatness such is his influence in the music industry.

Our real introduction to Fetcher comes when we hear the band play for the first time and someone’s instrument is out of tune. Your really not prepared for what follows as we see the enraged teacher work his way through band increasing his anger as no-one owns up. Utterly enraged, full bore shouting; nose-to-nose with each student has you flabbergasted. This really is like the lineout in Full Metal Jacket and Sgt Hartman introducing himself to Private Pyle.

After he finds the culprit and sends them packing (after a great Mars Bar joke), your left open jawed at the expletives Fetcher has just unloaded on his own students. Wow.

Having been handpicked, we assume Andrew on his first day might be excused from such behavior. No. Not even slightly. Crying it seems creates even more abuse. Each time Andrew plays, Fletcher comes forth with “Not quite my tempo” and the tension increases each and every time those words are uttered. From now on, I will forever try and work that saying in whenever the need arises!

As a viewer you are as shocked and stunned silent as much as the other band members looking on and just like them, relieved you’re not the target.

While the film doesn’t quite fully advocate Fletchers’ teaching methods, you get to see how much it drives Andrew to play out of his skin, quite literally until it bleeds as he tries to emulate some of his (real life) drum idols, one of which being Buddy Rich.

As the film progresses we follow Andrew as he practices all hours and Fletcher doing whatever it takes to get the best out of his core drummer. This culminates is a simply incredible last scene. Instead of your jaw dropping from the abuse, it’s dropped with awe as Andrew drums for his life. I damn near jumped up punching the air.

What’s more incredible is that Miles Teller is a self taught drummer and all the drumming is for real. However, he played as a rock drummer and as he found out, jazz drumming is a whole new ball game which involved weeks and weeks of teaching and practising.

It’s a fascinating film, loosing based director’s Damien Chalelle music school experience, isn’t perfect. Beyond the shouting there isn’t a much else to the film apart from a great “family meal” which has football playing sons taking centre stage, with drumming being seen as rather laughable by the football son’s parents. You only wish is to put them in front of Fletcher for some abuse.

But you are drawn into Fletchers’ performance and of course Andrew’s drumming skills. J.K. Simmons is just fantastic and given the outrageous abuse he gives face to face with his students must take a lot more skill than it looks. It feels so real, not at all just put on for show. He is very consistent in his role and while you might not think it is the right way of teacher, you totally believe he does not think there is any other way.

Rotten Tomatoes
Empire Magazine

J.K. Simmons
Miles Teller and on-screen girlfriend
Cast and Director

Buddy Rich drum solo’s:
Buddy a few days before his death
Nine minute solo 

Reviewed by invisiblekid

The Raid : Berandal

The Raid 2 Berandal

The first Raid film came almost out of nowhere, but before it was even watched, the talking point was it’s Indonesian, it’s Indonesian Pencak Silat martial art style and it’s directed by, a Welshman!?

Talk turned into stunned silence as before everyone’s eyes the most incredible display unfolded before them. On a budget that Pixar’s Andrew Stanton would scoff at (Mark Kermode podcast fans will know), Gareth Evans turned $1.1 million into something that many couldn’t forget. Fight scenes that no one had seen since Tony Jaa first appeared. Talking of which, where the hell has he gone!?!

Sure it was short on character development, but not many cared since the balletic fighting just blew everyone away.

Soon after, an American remake was announced (BOOOO!), but also a sequel (HURRAY!). Of course the first thing that spring to mind was, what was going to happen with getting famous and the inevitable budget increase. Would we loose the rawness and give way to silliness?

Well no, not even close. The budget only sprang to just over $4 million and this was in fact the movie Gareth originally started to film, but money problems forced him to shoot the tower block scenario and we ended up with the The Raid: Redemption.

Taking place just two hours after the end of that film, we see the star Rama, (Iko Uwais) being forced to go undercover to infiltrate a notorious Jakarta gang as a way of bringing down crooked cops which ties it to the first film.

To start though he needed a cover story and so was “arrested” in order to befriend Uco, the son of the prominent gang leader who is being held in prison. We soon then have our first fight in the tight confines of the prison toilets. Action which makes Jason Bourne’s fight in the the Bourne Ultimatum with Desh when they end up in the toilet looks like a game of slapsies.

What follows to be perfectly honest, is not the most original story. The son feels he’s undervalued by his ol’ dad and plans to make more of a name for himself. However, there is nothing wrong with it either. It’s not cringworthy at all, makes sense, and you get decent amount of human emotion and development

Rama is fully taken in by the gang and is sent on some debt collection runs along with Uco, which end up unsurprisingly, in a fight or two. What follows is what you saw in the first film… and then some. Without the confines of the small tower block corridors and rooms (or toilets), the fights get to breath a bit more.

What doesn’t happen, is you actually being able to breath. Such is the choreography your just laughing, wincing and enjoying what your seeing, no quite believing that each and every hit makes full contact. Yes,  just about every hit is a real a hit, just painstakingly timed to avoid actually doing real damage.

Iko Uwais spent over half a year working with the stunt men in order to perfect the fight scenes and also befriend them, as what was to surely follow would push them to their limits with the inevitable missed timed hits.

The first film made incredible use of inanimate objects, which in your head means more ouch, since you of course know the punches to the head, body etc are pulled slightly. But heads hitting tables, walls, floors, cars, baseball bats, baseball balls, shelves, hammers, pots, pans, chairs, lights, bottles, glasses, cabinets and so on, looks so much more painful in these films.

In the past, it usually looked faked as you can see such weapons bend and give way. Not so in Gareth Evans’ world. They look very, VERY real. And very, VERY painful.

As we are in the open world, we also get out first car chase. This is first for Mr Evans and with the exception of speed, a brilliant one at that. We are far from talking about 100mph crashes. 15-25mph more like for the most part. But it’s the most realistic chase I have seen for a long, long time. It’s proper wheel to wheel bashing and incredible camera work and the inevitable human body hitting metal body.

So far, we’ve had lots of stupendous fights, inc a big nod to Kill Bill and the Crazy 88’s spectacular, minus swords. We also get a female fighter “Hammer Girl”in the vain of Kill Bill’s Gogo Yubari, only this time instead of a meteor hammer, we just get a claw hammer… times two. The destruction of bodies you get to see in a train scene is quite sensational all for the eye to see.

This is fully deserving of it’s 18 certificate. Hell, its quite amazing how the BBFC let it go almost untouched, save for a few frames. Back in the 1980’s, this would have NEVER, EVER seen the light of day. Wow, just wow.

Her guide and brother is “Baseball Bat Man”. A favoured weapon used of course, but one that you have never witnessed like this guy uses it. Sound truly deserves a mention here and the metal thwack rings in your ears and as mentioned, your not for a second taken out of the film by a floppy bat.

As in Redemption, we have two main fights really. One with our Rama facing off with both hammer and bat at the same time (holy crap) and our finale with “Andi”, played by Donny Alamsyah. Now, the boss fight in the first film with “Mad Dog” (Yayan Ruhian) was incredible.

He also make a return in this film, but not at all related. However I’m not sure how well it now stands with Andi’s fight. It is just, just, mind-blowing. Taking days and days and days to film, we have to adversaries going at each other like nothing you’ve seen before. It’s truly incredible.

At it’s Sundance Festival premier, it was shown completely uncut. Quite what was cut I do not know, but it ain’t a whole lot. What you do see, you really question what the point of cutting the odd frame here and there. There is also a shotgun head shot that unless you have seen the real life head shot in the “The Faces of Death” documentary, you have never seen one as real as this.

Given the seamless cut from real life person to a dummy, I have honestly, honestly never seen anything close to that documentary until now. Evidence 100 per cent given by the fact of the shocked laughter of the audience when it took place. I cannot think for one second the team thought it’d make the cut.

So, here we have the most enjoyable martial arts film since, well, Gareth’s last attempt. With Raid 3 already signed, I cannot wait for the next instalment. While there are rumours that Gareth is linked to be the producer of the US remake, yet again it’s going to be pointless.

There is NOTHING that warrants it. Subtitles are not that hard to follow or even need in these films, certainly the first one anyway and I highly doubt the US health and safety bullshit will allow for similar fight sequences.

So get your backside into your local cinema and see this film. It’s one of the best martial arts film ever made. I’d even call it my favourite Asian action film ever made. I need another viewing of Hard Boiled to confirm, but I’m pretty certain this tops the list.

Review by invisiblekid

Trance (2013)















So here we go with Danny Boyle‘s… let’s call it “his film”. Filmed during a break for his preparation of the Olympic Games Opening Ceremony, it’s clear he wanted to let loose. Not as free and loose as say Trainspotting, but definitely a film with little input from Hollywood executives saying what he can and cannot do.

I won’t spoil it by saying too much since towards the end of the film you have no idea what the hell is going on, but the last scene changes everything and you don’t get it until the final take. Even then, you will still be questioning what you have just watched.

In the beginning, we see an auction house (think Sotheby’s) selling a very rare painting. We are introduced to Simon (James McAvoy) who works there and subsequently is involved with the stealing of said painting. However, he suffers a blow to the head and forgets where he has hidden the painting.

The crew he worked for, lead by Frank (Vincent Cassel), hires Elizabeth (Rosario Dawson) a hypnotist to see if she can unlock his memory and to see if he can remember what happened and where Simon has hidden the painting.

It’s not a spoiler to say she gets to know what he is looking for, but from now on, that’s all I’m going to say. However, what follows is a film you need to concentrate 100% for. It bounces back and forth the the extent that actually, paying too much attention almost makes it harder to follow.

It’s strange but if you watch it, you’ll get what I mean. You manage to keep up until near then end when wham! You have no idea what is going on.

If this were a film from any other director, you’d have no faith in it. But knowing who is behind it, which in my opinion is second only to Chris Nolan’s Inception or Memento for mindf**ks, you have faith. That faith I think is restored and rewarded. BUT, I’m not quite sure.

Make no mistake, this is a very good film, which is filmed impeccably with great angles that remind you without doubt, this is made by the same bloke who made Slumdog Millionaire which if nothing else, looked blooming gorgeous.

But an hour after watching, I’m not sure if it is brilliantly written, or in the films world, brilliantly convenient. The trouble is, one makes for a great film, the other makes for a not great film. Again, you need to watch this to get what I mean. Then you’ll know exactly where I’m coming from.

All the acting is great though. Sure the characters sometimes act strangely, but this is purely down to the role they are playing. We are treated to some torture scenes which have you holding onto your fingers with savage pressure and a very painful (for the boys) gunshot wound.

There is also some full frontal female nudity, which at the time grates and seems way out of place, but again, this becomes apparent at the end and you see why Danny was showing you it.

Whatever your you think of my ramblings, you HAVE to see this film. You may love it, but while I doubt you’ll hate it. You may certainly think it’s jumped the shark a bit. But you have to sit down, relax and think about it after it’s over to see if you like it or not. If there ever was a film to watch with a friend or loved one and partake in the act of discussing it over a slice of pie after, this is one of them.

Like I said, you may think in the end it’s stupid, but step back and even if you didn’t like it, you cannot deny right up to the end, you were hooked.

Reviewed by Invisiblekid

The Evil Dead (2013)


Let me start by saying horror films are hard to make nowadays. Kids are not scared by the same things as they were years ago. But yet, so many modern horror films do the same things as found back in the 1970s and 80s.

The choice of going alone in the forest, going downstairs to investigate a noise. All done back then and for the last few years, joked about by today’s modern teenager.

So in recent years, that meaning and scare tactics has waned. So now we have just a competition as to how graphic we can be before the censors jump in and things that make you jump as the tactics to scare you.

This is not horror. Making you jump is not horror. Making you jump is not the same as making you scared to look out of your window or walk down a path in the dark.

Nah, now it’s all about how much blood can we produce and how we can make CGI look real and how much torture we can get away with.

That’s why I’ve not watched or cared about a horror film for years. On hearing the news the The Evil Dead was going to be remade had me crying into my hands and a continued hatred for modern horror.

But also hearing about the involvement of Sam Raimi and Bruce Campbell (the original creators of The Evil Dead) certainly made me think again. Seeing the trailer also brought me forward into thinking, this could be rather good. I was excited about a horror films for this first time in years. The words of the pair saying have faith rang in my head. They made me have faith.

Oh and by the way. This IS a remake. Most on the set have said this isn’t so. This is a new version that should be thought of as it’s own and want it to stand on it’s own two legs. Huh, well the very fact that it copies 99% of the original shows that this is so a remake and they are all liars.

I then saw the red band trailer. Oh the pain. Oh the anger, oh the lies…

This appeared to be nothing more than Evil Dead meets Saw. Gone was the true scares only to be replaced by blood and one frame cuts hoping to make you jump. This had me running for the hills. In one fell swoop had me doubting everything I was told, and in no way had me wanting to race to the cinema to see this.

So here we are with the Blu-ray release. Being such a huge fan of the original, almost a bigger fan of the sequel and liking the third instalment, no matter the reviews, I would sit down and watch this alone, in the dark, on the floor – the snoring black Labrador was taking my place on the leather sofa.

I was hoping to be proved wrong and that this was finally a remaking work remaking. To improve on the original and restore my faith in the horror genre. It didn’t.

The premise of how they get to the cabin is rubbish. To be fair, I don’t know how you could get a bunch of teenagers into a cabin in the woods without it being shit, but this was weak.

A girl hooked on cocaine was going to go cold turkey with the help of her friends, and so this cabin seemed the only only place to do it. I guess Betty Ford was too expensive.

So the group roll up and make themselves comfortable in the cabin. But there is a smell coming from the basement. They investigate and find a load of dead animals and a book wrapped in plastic and barbed wire.

Of course this is an open invitation for it to be opened and the famous words of resurrection of the dead are recited. This I am not bothered about as how else would you raise the dead? By reading a Mr Men book?!

We soon get to the smack addict being left alone outside in the pouring rain who is “taken” by the woods. In the original, the first victim is also attacked by the woods and is bound, tied by it’s branches.

What follows I’m sure you can guess if you don’t know already the infamous scene. A scene that lead to it being cut for the UK video release (as well as other cuts). Later, the original director said he was not a fan and that he wished he cut it out completely. But in true fashion,  the remake tried to improve it and in true fashion failed… Hugely.

I was surprised it was not more graphic, in fact I’d say less so than the original despite the censors allowing much more realistic and explicit footage to be shown nowadays. It has ZERO scares and just reminded you of how much better it was done 32 years ago!

To cut a long story short, the whole film carried on in this manner. To be fair to the film, it was impossible to remake it and for it not to be compared to the sublime original.

There were takes of the 1981 film that took you back, but within seconds we are back to blood and gore and despite the involvement of Sam and Bruce, simply no idea how to make a horror film. At least a good one in the 21st century.

The 1981 version had some great funny moments that this version was sorely lacking. The original didn’t take itself seriously and yet this version has nothing but. It was “Hey look at me, I’m trying be be a great horror film, please come and watch me” all the way through. It tried to be scary, but it just wasn’t. At all and that’s it’s big problem.

I was so bored I found myself drinking yet more Polish 96% Vodka just to get through the film!

The acting was awful and had me wanting everyone in it to be killed ASAP.

The good stuff just reminded you of why you’re not watching the original where it was done better.

It reminds of the remake of Psycho which literally copied the entire film shot for shot but was somehow turned it to utter crap. The ONLY redeeming thing is the fact that with this Evil Dead, God bless ’em, there is very little CGI and what CGI there is, is done very well.

This was a terrible idea and at no point did anyone involved stopped to think the same thing. I urge you, to never go anywhere near this steaming pile of excrement (tho massively better than Eden Lake) and just go out and buy the original Blu-ray and watch how it’s done.

Not scary, not funny, not funny scary, so what was the point?

Further reading on The Evil Dead:

Mark Kermode’s thoughts
Rotten Tomatoes
Empire Magazine

Sous Vide Supreme

I like food. I like good food. My bathroom scales however thinks I should avoid food for while lol. Unfortunately my latest purchase bought in advance of my new kitchen is another food gadget.

What we are talking here is the latest food revolution for the home cook, Sous Vide. The French gave this name to the process of cooking “under vacuum”. Now to do the process and food a great dis-service it’s kind of like posh boil in the bag. Only it’s much, much better. Unlike boil in the bag food, where you just boil the thing to death, sous vide lets you cook just about anything in vacuum sealed bags but at precise temperatures, sometimes for up to 3 days!!

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The Raid review

Having just come home from seeing this incredible movie, I’m not sure where to begin!

Well, alright I may as well start at the beginning. The Raid is an Indonesian martial arts movies filmed by some Welsh bloke you’ve never heard of, using a martial art you’ve never heard of and yet somehow has taken the world by storm. Why? Because it’s one of the greatest martial arts filmed ever made!

The Welshman in question is Gareth Evans whose quest it seems is to bring the Indonesian martial art of Pencak Silat to the worlds masses. With the help of his Indonesian wife, Gareth it seems, has made quite a name for himself over there with a documentary and a previous film invoking the brutal fighting style.

The plot like many films of this genre, is not up to much, however, this is a far better attempt than many. All you need to know is that there is this tower block that is filled with druggies (bar one it seems), with the kingpin at the top and a police swat team at the bottom with orders to take them out. The only character development is getting to know how the main guys like to dispose of their enemies.

While other films say the Ong Bak trilogy just lurch form one scene to the other to get Tony Jaa fighting again, this does seems to flow at a much better pace. After a one fight scene the characters get a break, and so does the audience (and trust me, you’ll need it), but your never taken out of the film or the pressure of the raid (no pun intended).

Right so lets get onto why your going to love this film, the fights. The art of Pencak Silat is magnificent to watch, it’s so fluid, poetic and yes, a bit violent. To me at least, it seems like a cross between Muay Thai, Aikido and the ability to use numerous weapons. Having rehearsed all the fight scenes before filming, the team were able to come up with some amazing battles cheaply but with time to refine them to an incredible detail.

As the victims get laid to waste with some incredibly vicious finishing moves, you are just left in awe at the speed and choreography of each and every one. There are a couple of stand out fights, one is a machete fight, and one later with a two-on-one fight that quite simply left me flabbergasted. It has to be seen to be believed. I can say it is two good guys against a bad guy, and it’s simply like nothing you have seen before. The direction is perfect and helped by the fact that the star of the show Iko Uwais was the choreographer.

Tony Jaa may have breathed a fresh new life into the martial arts films, but he’s going to have to raise his game after this. While the Ong Bak films are stunning and extremely brutal also, they seem a bit to unreal, here, everything seems more realistic. The handheld camera style may help with this, (though nothing like as shaky as the Bourne films), but also the sound is far better.

Ong Bak 2 especially, had pretty ropey sound effects when bones were broken. The only thing I can without doubt can give Tony Jaa, is the length of takes. Many of his fights have very few breaks, with some lasting a few minutes without cutting away.  You don’t get that here, but again, it still feels more like a real fight rather than a set piece.

Already a sequel is in the pipeline with a third film being aimed at to round off a trilogy. This first film was filmed for a little over a $1m, and already the budget has risen sharply for the second film. I’m sure it’ll be fine, but I hope the extra budget doesn’t change the way this was filmed.

Sadly, Hollywood has signed a deal to make an American version and rights to do the same for the next title. Jesus Christ, God help us because there is no way in hell, it could close to this. Executives and insurance would never allow anything like this to be made stateside so really what’s the point?

This is a must see film and I’m fairly sure my favourite Asian action film. I need to revisit the Onk Bak series and certainly Hard Boiled to be sure, but I do believe we have a new target others must reach.

Reviewed by Invisiblekid

Further links:

Rotten Tomatoes



The Simpsons 500th Episode

So here we are at an unbelievable milestone for the most famous family on TV. After first airing on December 17th 1989 they have reached 500 shows! Now, whatever you think of the show, the family or Fox Television, this is quite an achievement.

While Family Guy may have taken the “most dysfunctional family” crown in many peoples opinion, that show has also been cancelled, twice! So to go this distance and by the sound of it the end is still not in sight, this is something you have got to give them credit for.

This is the longest running American sitcom, animated and prime-time show, with a multi hundred million dollar movie and awards galore. They are simply are HUGE… or should that be were.
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The Blind Side

Well as you know, my reviews here are pretty much exclusive of older films. So with that in mind, here’s a film from 2009! Staring Quinton Aaron (Michael Oher) and Sandra Bullock (Leigh Anne Touhy) who won an Oscar for her leaden role in the film.

Based on a true story, the film follows the story of, big friendly and slow black giant from the projects in Memphis Tennessee. With little education in his life, does not know his father and his mom is a crack addict, life is not nice for Michael. By chance, he is given a a place at a Christian school by their football coach who sees Michael as their star defender.

Being a huge late teenager starting in a class with kids barely in their teens, life is at first hard for Michael at his new school. However little child, S.J Tuohysees the giant as a lost soul and make friends with the big guy. One wet, cold night, while making his way to the gym or as he knows it “home”, the child’s parents chance upon Michael and give him a roof for the night at their sizeable home.

One night turns into weeks and slowly but surely they build a bond between them and realise his talent for defending not only in football but in life itself. The key to his future though relies on him needing to graduate and so hires a private tutor (Kathy Bates), a role no doubt helped by that fact she was born in Tennessee.

At first though despite his size and protective nature, he does not do too well at football and his coach has no clue how to teach the giant bear how to play the game.

So in steps Leigh Anne and shows Michael what he needs to do in the only way he can relate to, from there on in football is his future.

He ends up being the the first draft pick for the NFL in 2009.

So that’s the basic outline and I have to say I love this film. I hate to use the term “feel good film”, because, well, in most cases it’s a film and people watch films as an escapism not as a guiding light.

But given that this is based (fairly strongly) on fact I can see this as a feel good film. Not that most can benefit from it and make a change for the better (that’s what I call a real “feel good film/documentary”); however it is a film that lifts the spirit and even shed a tear for sadness growing into joy.

As mentioned, Sandra Bullock won the leading actress for her role. I’m a HUGE Sandra fan, but she’s a very hard cause to fight for. Ever since Speed, much of her film career has been stinkers, but I can’t help but love her. However, in this she does play a blinder of a role, akin to Julia Roberts‘ role in Erin Brockovich though I think Julia did far better than Sandra.

There are big similarities, being a strong based-on-fact woman and a role vastly different from their norm. Both are incredibly good looking for their age, however Julia certainly pulls of the push-up bra better than Sandra does in this film (which must surely have been deliberate). But, and this is a big but, it was fantastic to see Sandra actually work for her money.

To see her in this role proves that she has been a wasted talent and I would assume she hasn’t had many roles like this given to her. I can only imagine she leapt at the chance to be in this film. Sadly it seems, it’s not been a case of a career revival and has been given more roles like this.

The big centre point in this film is the deep south of love, of God and with Christianity overcoming racism. At points the black card is played and is better dealt with in some scenes than others, but given that allegedly the real Tuohy’s applied a big part in this adaptation, time constraints played more than their part in this.

Credit has to go to the other members of the family who make this feel like a great household to depart of. Much credit has to go to Jae Head. His closeness to Michael looks and feel genuine as the whole family takes this stranger and make him instantly a part of the family. Their religion is never forced down are throats as actually Christianity per se, but having not read the book, this is possibly Hollywood glossing over a few aspects of the real events.

Overall I really liked this film, while it was obvious it was “Sandra’s time” at the Oscars she has not moved much from the rom-coms since, she played a great role as does Quinton in his. This makes for defending the Sandra Bullock Fan Club a harder cause to fight for. After the massive disappointment of Johnny English Reborn which was watched immediately preceding this, it was a great watch.

Reviewed by Invisiblekid

The iPhone 4S – one month on

So how is it? Was it worth the upgrade? How is Siri? How’s the battery life? Camera any good? Phone fast enough? iOS 5 any good? Do I miss jailbreaking? Hopefully in the next few (or more) words, I’ll be able to explain my thoughts on Apple’s new phone, the iPhone 4S.

The major reason for me upgrading was that my contract with O2 was at an end and I wanted a change. 3G coverage with O2 is terrible (in my area at least). At work, 3 was the only one with a 3G signal and their all you can eat data plan with the ‘One Plan’ is the only plan on any network for non business users. Deal. So far they have been exceptional with the ability to stream content at work (useful for lunchtime entertainment) and great coverage and speeds. I get 4-5mb at work with a mate’s iPhone 4 getting at least 2mb less, so at least the HSDPA+ abilities of the 4s are a great bonus. In stronger areas I get 6-8mb, which is great for iTunes downloads on the fly. Not close to it’s max rated speeds, but that’s not Apple’s fault and we’re even less likely to reach those than the US.

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Cobb BBQ: The Ultimate Portable BBQ

The Cobb BBQ really is the ultimate in portable BBQs. This thing goes anywhere you can and even carried there while cooking on it!

Originally developed for use in Africa, it meant people could cook in rural areas without electricity and minimising the risk of causing fires using dried corn cobs for fuel. Since it’s inception, it has been developed and improved and is now a world wide success. Needing only a few charcoal briquettes or just a single Cobble Stone, this is more than just a BBQ. It’s a portable cooking system with the ability to smoke, fry (stir and griddle), grill, bake and even make pizzas on. It’s unique design means you can put it anywhere and even pick it up while cooking, thanks to it’s stay cool sides and base. The heat source is isolated within the base so there is no direct contact to the outside of the cooker.

There really is no limit to what you can cook on this, from the usual burgers to whole chickens and joints. Around the where you add the briquettes is a moat where you can add water, beer or wine to keep your food moist or add flavour. The moat also acts as fat collector as the bundled grill grid is slightly dome with holes around the edge, so any fat can run off into the moat. This means there are no flare-ups and little smoke, so you can even use this indoors! You can also add veg or small potatoes in the moat to cook so a proper Sunday roast can be made on this thing.

Right, that’s the story, now what is it like, really. Hah! It’s awesome! Having done all manner of things on it I can confirm this is brilliant. As I mentioned, this is more than just a BBQ, it’s more like a charcoal oven (as described by The Hairy Bikers). Using the lid is essential for cooking most things, due to the fact that your only using a few briquettes it needs the lid to create the heat needed. During the first few uses, means you must suppress the temptation to keep checking the food. However the flip side to this is it makes for a more sociable cook, as you can relax and have a drink or more with your friends and family.

My first attempt with the Cobb was jacket potatoes and the Cobble Stone as the heat source. The Stones are made from Bamboo and wood, which come as a single round brick that fits perfectly in the heat rack. Just light, wait for 4-5 minutes and your ready to cook with enough heat for 2 hours. Having just microwaved potatoes for a few minutes to give them a head start, they were drizzled with olive oil and sprinkled with rock salt and wrapped in foil. Using an additional grill rack that sits onto of the holed grill, allows the food to suspended above the heat just like a traditional BBQ. With the lid on about 60 minutes later then were done to perfection. Crispy skins and hot fluffy insides, nice.

Further attempts were the usual affair with burgers, sausages and the like. All came out great and using some cherry tree wood chunks placed on top of the Cobble Stone gave them a great taste, though it does mean indoor cooking is a no-no due to the smoke. My most recent use was the big one, a whole chicken. Seasoned with some rub and stuff with a lemon and rosemary with wine poured into the moat. Cheap wine is only required given the amount needed and primitive requirements from coking with it. Fearing the time needed to cook throughly, I used some highly recommended Australian Heat Beads. These burn very hot for a bit longer than the Cobble Stones, it is also easy to add more if needed. Around 80 minutes later the chicken was excellent, being flavoursome, moist and well cooked.

Make no mistake, this is not a party cooking machine. Being portable means it’s not got the biggest cooking area and needing to keep the lid on, means en masse cooking needs a bit of organising. But that’s not the point of the Cobb. So, up to this point, there has been no failures, just great food. Bad things? Well yes there are a couple. By the time you add all the accessories it’s not cheap, £200 nearly for everything in the range. There are five cooking pans if you will and I have and want to use all of them, then the bamboo chopping board is great as you can put the meat on it to rest with the lid on top to keep wee beasties out. The board has a groove around the edge so the lid sits perfectly on without sliding should you need to move it. I didn’t get it at the time, but you can get an extension to the lid so you have more room inside to cook bigger chickens etc, and that is needed also in my opinion.

The other bad thing is cleaning it. On a traditional BBQ, you’ll probably just clean the cooking rack and that’s it. Here, you need to clean everything and since it’s a cooker (BBQ that means grease) oil, burnt bits and all. While it’s not too bad at home with hot soapy water and a wire scourer (it’s also dishwasher safe), camping out will require hot water. Just in a tent in a field? Hmm not so good.

But overall, I just love it. I’ve always wanted a proper smoker, but most are too big and if you only want to do a chicken or some ribs, it s bit overkill. So this is perfect to smaller things, is very easy to use and given it can go anywhere, cleaning aside, very practical. Highly recommended indeed.

Here’s some useful links:

US Cobb website
UK site


Article by Invisiblekid.