Sunday 28 July 2013

Why Job Applications Suck

Applying for your first job as a teenager is one of the most horrific never-ending nightmares of all time. Every single employer will straight out reject your sorry butt, even if you are a top notch applicant with extensive volunteering experience, a loveable personality, and wonderfully exquisite good looks - in other words, me.

Not really. But the point still stands. You can be the best applicant ever and you'll still get rejected from every single goddamn place you apply to. It's a game of luck without a doubt, and something is definitely not right.

The problem with job applications for simple part time careers is that they seem to think you need to be this overqualified and enthusiastic salesman to work for them. When was the last time you saw an ASDA or Tesco employee run up to you with a beaming smile, glowing with positivity and happiness, while trying to sell you one of their many products in a manner so stupid that you thought they were mentally ill? That's right, never. Because that doesn't happen. So why make us do it in the interviews? God knows.

Don't get me started on interviews as a whole, though. Not only do they exude pompousness no matter the employer, but they seem so dramatically unorganized and unaware when the interview is pinned on a teenager trying to scrape in a few pounds to fund their booze-fueled nights out. Why in god's name should I be asked 'Why do you want to work for our generic retail company?'. Well, I simply love serving rude, loud, and often impatient customers who I can share a bond with! 

NO. I want to work for your company because I want money. That doesn't mean I'm a bad applicant, because I want the money so bad that I will inject plenty of effort into the job and I will always do as I am told. That seems like an ideal stance to take on the matter. But if I said that in an interview, it'd be over in two minutes, with the employer saying 'we'll be in touch'. In English, that means 'we will not be in touch'.

But then let's take a look at how you apply. Every employer wants to royally piss off the applicant through complicated and ever changing methods of applying for jobs. Sometimes, employers will advertise their jobs on Directgov - and you'll be linked to their online application. Not bad. Sometimes, you'll find a job online, but will need to go to the store, collect a form, fill it out, then come back to hand it in. Why can't I just have it e-mailed to me? It'd save me a lot of time and hassle. Just let me print it and bring it immediately!

But it only gets more messy now. Sometimes, employers ask for an application form and your CV. Wait...what? You wan't the same details on two forms? Why can't I just hand in my CV with a cover letter specific to the position? Some employers don't even advertise their jobs online. Instead, they advertise it on their shop windows. To be honest, that's not bad at all - at least its still obvious. But then some don't even do that. I applied for a job at Card Factory once and I had to go in and ask to find out a vacancy was available. No advert was posted online or on the window. That's pretty damn stupid.

Let's return to online applications. Don't those things sound so great? And don't they just suck the big one in reality? Yes they do. Online applications always demand you to SIGN UP before you can apply, and so you'll find yourself trying to remember an awful lot of usernames and passwords when sniffing about for a career. Maybe you'll forget you applied to ASDA ages ago, and you'll come back to sign up and then - SORRY, YOU ALREADY HAVE AN ACCOUNT WITH US. Huh?! When was this? I have to give you username to get my password, but I don't know my username! Great! Thanks a bunch. And don't even get me started on the ridiculous questionnaires that, if you fail, completely negate your entire application. Biased backwards ass bullshit.

But for many people, nothing in this article applies to them. You can have a CV that covers half a page (at size 24 font), looks that make it seem like you live in a ditch, and a brain on par with the dumbest of dinosaurs and you'll get a job easily. Some people tend to have such luck. And that's why job applications SUCK.

Excuse my language.

And by the way, I am not unemployed.

Thursday 25 July 2013

Movie Review - The World's End

In the film industry, a 'trilogy' is an overused marketing effort to milk the success from major films. It's not always bad, mind - the sequels can still be great, but trilogies are always projected when the first film earns itself a nice box office receipt; seldom are they planned ahead during the writing process.

So with that said, it's nice to see Edgar Wright and his team of misfits back for their third outing of a trilogy that's actually inventive; connected by recurring gags and similar geeky nods to their explorations of genre, instead of being designed to soak up the money. Grab a drink and bring on the appropriately titled The World's End!

In 1990, a group of five friends concluded their final day of school by undergoing the Golden Mile, a legendary 12-boozer pub crawl in their local town of Newton Haven. Having failed the crawl and consequently gone their separate ways, the group reach adulthood before their tenacious leader Gary King (Simon Pegg) reunites his closest friend Andy Knightley (Nick Frost) and the rest of the gang to give it a second try; however, their return to Newton Haven is met with naught by anxiety and contempt, and they soon realise that something quite disturbing lies at the centre of their former hometown - something that renders the pub crawl the very least of their worries.

Edgar Wright and Simon Pegg have nailed the genres of zombie horror and buddy cop with Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz, and now have their sights set on sci-fi with The World's End  - with their trademark stylistic appeal. The writing is absolute gold from start to finish; Pegg portrays Gary King wonderfully, but it's his dialogue that truly gives him such a comedic edge. Every scene involving the characters conversing is lightning fast and throws jokes at the audience relentlessly; and thankfully none of them feel gratuitous or overused. The script has nailed the humour and in some ways tops the past two films in terms of writing solidity.

But then the story unfolds. The essential premise has Newton Haven being overrun by a strange presence which simply paves the way for an abundance of slapstick fight scenes and nothing else of any substance. The writing remains as good as ever, but seeing Nick Frost become an aggressive killing machine gets old very fast, as does seeing the plot go in no clear direction. The premises of Shaun of the Dead and especially Hot Fuzz had ridiculous but clever ideas implemented into them; they had some genuine tension and emotion, but The World's End lacks such appeal. The premise is to be laughed at and nothing else - this quickly gets boring, and the film's 109 minute run time begins to feel like decades.

It's a real shame, but it feels like the story tries to mimic the ingenuity of the past two films to no avail. Nothing about the central concept of The World's End is very clever or engaging - the violence isn't as appealing as it was in Shaun of the Dead, and the plot is nowhere near as complex or enigmatic as that of Hot Fuzz. A solid British comedy lies beneath the iffy concepts, and criticising the wit and comic gold within the dialogue is simply not possible. However, at the end of the day, Wright and Pegg haven't managed to top their previous efforts and some viewers are bound to come away disappointed.

Thursday 18 July 2013

RETROSPECT - Most Anticipated Films of 2013


When 2013 began, I posted my top five most anticipated films of the year. These films were, in order: Django Unchained, Monsters University, Wreck-It Ralph, Iron Man 3 and Man of Steel. This was before I had seen any of them - my opinions were, of course, purely speculative.

I saw Django in January, Ralph in February, Iron Man 3 in April, Man of Steel in June and Monsters University just last week. So, having seen all the films, it's time to go back to my most anticipated list - and see how each one fared against my initial excitement. Here are these five films in a revised list, from worst to best, based on my final opinions of them!

#5 - Iron Man 3

Iron Man 3 was one of the biggest and most anticipated films of the year. Though Iron Man 2 was met with mixed reception, this third installment sparked a huge wave of hype due to being a follow up to last years Avengers. I couldn't wait to see it myself - the trailers really enforced that a lot is at stake in the narrative and I was beyond impressed with the threatening appeal of the villain. A badass villain was an essential ingredient after Iron Man 2 had one of the worst ones to ever hit a superhero film; but, through some bizarre twist of fate, they made the villain even worse this time around. The Mandarin appears intimidating and rather sinister through his creepy television broadcasts, but is revealed to be a fictional character played by a drunk actor whom Aldrich Killian, the central antagonist, hired to steer attention away from his sinister plot.

The concept is clever but simply ridiculous. It was a bold move, but one that wasn't necessary; making The Mandarin a badass and genuine terrorist would've been a less ambitious move but one that would've resulted in much less polarization amongst the fan feedback. Ben Kingsley becomes a complete laughing stock when protraying the drunken actor who plays Mandarin and Killian is one of the dumbest villains ever put on a screenplay. He wants to conquer the world because he was a skanky nerd and got rejected by Stark at a convention? Seriously? And then there's the Extremis virus, which is seldom elaborated on and just appears to give you generic superpowers to create boring superhuman foes. Iron Man 3 is decent, but boy did they screw up.

#4 - Django Unchained

I love Tarantino but he has earned a ridiculously pretentious image amongst many - everyone thinks whatever he touches turns to gold and that his creative filmmaking styles are always to the benefit of the final product. I can't deny he's a very good director, but sometimes I find him absurdly overrated. Pulp Fiction is fantastic but too long and sluggish, and his Kill Bill films are some of the most boring to ever hit cinema screens. Inglorious Basterds was superb from start to finish, and so I had high hopes for his next project. 

Django Unchained is a good film, but it is also too long, too boring and has no understanding of what editing is. We are forced to watch every single event in the film and Tarantino does his best to shove significance from it in your face and it does not work. It takes over an hour for the main search for Django's wife to begin, and then we must wait ages while we see them all travel to the Candyland plantation in a long and dragged out scene. And then, when an epic climactic gunfight occurs, the film still has 30 minutes of run time left. It has some intense, stylistic violence and great performances, but it is most certainly not one of Tarantino's best.

#3 - Man of Steel

People always shiver in annoyance when they hear the term reboot in film, but after the awfully boring Superman Returns in 2006, the most iconic superhero to ever appear in a comic book really needed one. Christopher Nolan who directed the exceptional Dark Knight trilogy was on board, and the talented Zack Snyder was also hired to direct, with David S. Goyer (Batman Begins) hired to pen the screenplay. As someone not interested in Superman, it was difficult for me to get excited; I find his character to lack complexity and appeal outside of his heroic antics and his invincible nature makes conflict with villains very dull. My excitement grew slightly when the excellent new costume was unveiled in 2011 (it could've done without Cavill's huge crotch bulge, though) and when other marketing stuff began to rise in July 2012, and by the end of the year, I wanted to see it more than anything. Literally, as it was number one on my list!

Man of Steel did not disappoint - it was action packed, somewhat complex and visually stunning. The performances were exceptional, and they were only really dragged down by some of Goyer's iffy lines in the script. This wasn't a huge concern but when you try and fixate Superman into a realistic context, having cheesy and cliché action lines in your script is a big no no. This and the few annoying plot holes aside, Man of Steel was a thrilling and suitably epic summer movie and one that I'm glad to see do well at the worldwide box office.

#2 - Monsters University

There seems to be a lot of debate going on at the moment about Pixar and the level of quality that's slipped away from their films. Toy Story 3 is generally regarded as their last critically successful blockbuster, earning over $1 billion worldwide and a fantastic 99% score on Rotten Tomatoes, with only 3 of the 257 reviews being rotten. Their next project, Cars 2, was met with lukewarm reception upon announcement and even less positivity when released, and last year's Brave had split reactions. Monsters, Inc. is one of their best and most beloved films, so to see them have a go at returning to its world in their current state has worried many people.

But while Cars 2 wasn't great, Brave was a funny and heartwarming tale and Monsters University is no different. It's not even close to overthrowing the emotional weight of the original, which had a touching relationship between protagonist Sulley and Boo, a human child who disastrously slipped into the monster world. Monsters University is very much a comedy at heart, but it still delivers a more sophisticated moral than most animated films these days; Mike never accomplishes his ambitions as a scarer due to a lack of natural talent, but he and Sulley work together to improve both their faults (in Sulley's case, being scary but not knowledgeable). This brings a touch of complexity to a hilarious film, and to say it's not Pixar standards is absolute shit.

#1  - Wreck-It Ralph

When Wreck-It Ralph was first announced, I thought the idea was stupid. It just didn't sound very appealing or clever, but little did I know I was in for one of the biggest surprises of the year. Well, that's a bit of an overstatement. By the time the first trailer arrived in June 2012, my opinion was far less narrow minded and I was extremely fascinated by the concept and the video game cameos - it seemed a lot like a video game version of Who Framed Roger Rabbit, which is indeed a compliment.

Though a 2012 film to Americans and several others, Wreck-It Ralph did not arrive in UK cinemas until February 2013 because Disney apparently hate us. Out of my five most anticipated films of the year, Ralph was by far the best; stunning visuals, superb voice work and a polished storyline make it one of Disney's strongest efforts in recent years. The story has a lot of room for plot holes and conflicts in logic, but this is all avoided through useful exposition and solid writing - the narrative keeps moving at a brisk pace, constructing itself logically and never rendering anything overly complicated. The characters, especially Ralph himself, are consistently loveable, and the humour is solid gold from start to finish. A real winner - Disney should be proud.

Thanks for reading!

Sunday 14 July 2013

Movie Review - Pacific Rim

Sophistication, complex morals and dark undertones. These have become the essential ingredients of summer blockbusters, say many. It's widely believed such conventions were coined by one Christopher Nolan, who pioneered a unique spin on the superhero genre with his Dark Knight trilogy in 2005 which has since had a powerful influence on filmmaking in general. Though he clearly wasn't the first to make summer movies more complex, he certainly popularised it in recent years.

But sometimes, a summer film doesn't need deep morals, philosophical dialogue and allusions to terrorism. Sometimes, all a summer film needs is a bunch of big humanoid robots smashing the hell out of giant monsters. And such a gift has gracefully been bestowed to us in a time of need - in the form of Guillermo del Toro's Pacific Rim.

It was always assumed that alien life lived among the stars, but it instead came from the depths of the Pacific Ocean. Giant monsters dubbed 'Kaiju' begin to lay siege to Earth and its populous cities; to combat the threat, all of the world's nations unite and initiate the Jaeger programme. Robotic humanoid fighters are constructed to fight the alien invasion, but as the Kaiju grow stronger and stronger, even they prove futile during the war. Before the programme is shut down, the tenacious Marshall Stacker Pentecost (Idris Elba) forces his greatest pilot Raleigh Beckett (Charlie Hunnam) out of retirement to work alongside rookie Mako Mori (Rinko Kikuchi) and begin the last stand against the overpowering invaders. With luck, he and and the rookie can be the final ray of hope for the human race.

So that's the basic setup - aliens rise from a mystical portal in the ocean and begin to royally fuck shit up. Pacific Rim is chockablock with magnificently epic action sequences, depicting the gargantuan destruction of numerous environments as the Kaiju and Jaegers battle for ownership of the planet. Del Toro's sci-fi hit is also swimming in a delightful sense of excitement and fun, using quirky humour to its benefit through loveable characters such as Newton (Charlie Day) and Hermann (Burn Gorman) and straying away from any overwhelming negativity. Never does the film feel depressing or sombre, which is a huge plus considering its high stakes premise.

But let's face it, it's the action that people are really interested in. And boy, it does not disappoint. Ignoring the few clunky shots and headache-inducing sound, the fight scenes are spectacularly epic and creatively choreographed. It never actually feels like a bunch of robots mindlessly punching stupid aliens; there are some excellent ideas implemented into the violent battles and some stunning use of special effects, which is all complimented by a superb soundtrack by Ramin Djawadi. The CGI is top notch from start to finish - and made even more stellar in glorious IMAX. The 3D adds nothing to the experience except some eye strain, but the beauty of the images is impossible not to appreciate regardless. Perhaps the sound could've been tweaked as is the case with many IMAX films, but on an aesthetic level, Pacific Rim is wonderfully crafted.

It has problems, however. Aside from what has been said, the film is a bit vague with the backstory of its alien villains and doesn't dedicate enough time to clearly explain any plot twists or revelations. It's not difficult to piece together what is happening, but the film can be quite jarring with its tonal shifts, so much so that it doesn't relax at times to explain relevant details. It also lacks a bit of emotional weight when it comes to such scenes, and it's difficult to care for admittedly likeable characters when their moving moments aren't very well developed.

But what it lacks in substance it makes up for in style. Pacific Rim is a fun and thrilling action film with some incredible fight scenes and superb performances, particularly from Idris Elba and Charlie Hunnam. It's easy to appreciate how it deliberately steers away from being too intelligent - it strives to be an entertaining blockbuster, but not so much that it sinks down to the stupidity of Michael Bay or Roland Emmerich. It treats its audience with a degree of respect, and sensible people should stop seeing shit like Grown Ups 2 and return the favour. Get on it!

Friday 12 July 2013

Movie Review - Monsters University

When we think Pixar, we think amazing. That's the general consensus amongst moviegoers; not only do Pixar create some of the best animated films to ever hit cinema screens, but they've won countless awards and generated huge profits at the box office with every one they make. But an undeniable fact amongst audiences is that 2010's Toy Story 3 was their last critically acclaimed hit; Cars 2 was underwhelming to say the least, and last year's Brave had feedback that was generally polarised. Originality and sequels have both been put aside with the company's next hit - now begins the first Pixar prequel and hopeful redemption to some, Monsters University.

Mike Wazowski (Billy Crystal) has often dreamed of attending the prestigious Monsters University to become a fully qualified scarer - his dreams come true after years of dedicated studying, but he immediately sparks a rivalry with fellow student James P. Sullivan (John Goodman); a slacker whose fearsome appearance makes him the polar opposite of Mike. When both students become part of the mocked fraternity Oozma Kappa to participate in the annual college Scare Games, their rivalry must be put aside in order for them to prove themselves as not only the best scarers in the school; but the team that opened doors everywhere.

With every new film, Pixar demonstrate their unstoppable reign in the field of computer animation; Monsters University is very different from their 2012 hit Brave, with a greater focus on vibrancy and the potential in a cartoony environment. Nevertheless, it is a gorgeous flick from star to finish; the level of detail and fluency within the environments and the characters almost disguise the fact that you're watching digital animation; there's so much emotion and attention injected into every scene that it wouldn't be a stretch to call Monsters University one of Pixar's best looking films to date. The visuals are accompanied by a catchy and upbeat soundtrack to fit into the college theme and excellent voice work from the entire cast, particularly Crystal and Goodman, and especially Helen Mirren as the frightening Dean Hardscrabble.

What really drove the emotional weight of 2001's Monsters, Inc. was Boo and her charming relationship with Sulley. Had that been absent, the film would've really just been a comedy - and that's where Monsters University strives to be. There's not so much of a focus on emotion this time around, with humour taking the helm to drive the story; it actually works well, and the film still yields its own surprises with a nicely developed bond between Mike and Sulley that's also very believable. It ends on a very strong note too, delivering a more complex moral than most lifeless animated hits these days but not so much that it becomes a depressing ordeal. From the minute it starts, Monsters University soon becomes one of the funniest Pixar films and by the time it ends you can't not want to smile.

Aside from some pacing issues and a few plot holes, the film doesn't have any serious faults; what drags it down is that it just doesn't aim very high. It doesn't try to set the bar like other Pixar efforts (save a few), but this isn't a serious problem - it's just the reason why so many were unsatisfied and why it can't be the best animated hit of the year. It's almost impossible not to enjoy it - as a comedy film it certainly delivers, but it will feel like something is missing for many people. Perhaps it is best to appreciate it for what it is rather than moan about what it isn't.

Tuesday 2 July 2013

Movie Review - Despicable Me 2

Outside of the Shrek and Toy Story franchise (and maybe a few others), sequels to animated films have generally been suckier versions of their predecessors. The 2010 hit Despicable Me was never not going to have a successor after such high box office returns, but fuelling a sequel purely on profit is a common but bad sign - thankfully this anticipated sequel still has a unique appeal of its own to justify its existence.

Former villain Gru (Steve Carell) has since abandoned his despicable antics to become a devoted father to his three girls Margo (Miranda Cosgrove), Edith (Dana Gaier) and Agnes (Elsie Fisher). He is soon pulled out of his repetitive life, however, when agent Lucy Wilde (Kristen Wiig) of the Anti-Villain League recruits him under the orders of Silas Ramsbottom (Steve Coogan), the leader of the organization, in order to bring an end to the sinister plots of a secretive villain who only Gru can understand and consequently defeat.

Funny as Gru's Minions are, you can't fuel an entire movie out of their incoherent babble. Thus, you need a premise to justify the return of these characters, and the concept as a whole is reasonably solid if flawed. Gru doesn't return to any evil antics and the film never feels like a dull rehash of its predecessor; instead, Gru is constantly a good guy, having reformed from his devious lifestyle to focus on fatherhood and a new direction for his life. The film tries to explore the conflict this generates with his family, but this often fails to get off the ground and leaves us a bit underwhelmed. That's not the only instance where things are abruptly dropped, however; the script leaves much to be desired at times, with so many plot holes, inconsistencies and unanswered questions that it doesn't feel particularly polished.

But it's still easy to appreciate the film for what it is: a comedy. And it delivers at a constant pace, providing plenty of hilarious gags and witty remarks throughout the story and creating many comical scenarios for the Minions to shine. Their appeal is milked far too much and towards the end they stop being funny, but the film seldom falls back on them to force laughter from the audience. The characters all exude plenty of charm, with newcomer Kristen Wiig bringing a jubilant appeal to Lucy Wilde and Carell continuing his top notch portrayal of the loveable Gru. Her romance with Gru is as trashy as any animated love story, but it works and is a nice change from the conventions of the original film.

Despicable Me wasn't exactly the pinnacle of animated filmmaking; yeah, it was great, but in a narrative sense it wasn't the most deep or complex film ever made. While that's certainly not bad, it's hard to deny that the sequel fails to develop a story that at least tries to go the extra mile; the villain is weak, the plot holes aren't very forgivable and the film relies on its comical appeal far too much. It's clearly a kids film above all and doesn't try to alter this fact, but it remains a fun and gorgeously animated fare that wil still put a smile on everyone's face.

Wait, they actually are making a Minions movie? Well, shit.