Movie Review: The Adjustment Bureau (2011)

March 30, 2011 in Movie Reviews, Reviews by pacejmiller

The other day I had a choice of Battle: LA and The Adjustment Bureau, and the general consensus with friends was the former, so I went with it and had a decent time (review here).  The Adjustment Bureau was supposedly ‘crap’ and ‘boring’, though one voice of reason suggested that it was ‘better than expected’.

To be honest, I had really wanted to see The Adjustment Bureau.  From the trailer, it looked like one of those classic sci-fi thrillers (and as I discovered, it was loosely based on a short story by Philip K Dick, the man responsible for Blade Runner, Total Recall and Minority Report, but of course also Paycheck and Next) where you don’t know what the hell is going on but it’s nonetheless all very exciting and thought provoking.

As it turned out, The Adjustment Bureau was both different to what I expected and better than I expected.  If you go into it thinking it’s going to be anything like Blade Runner, Total Recall or Minority Report, you’ll probably come away bitterly disappointed.

There are thilling moments, but The Adjustment Bureau is at its heart an epic love story between a budding politician (played by Matt Damon) and a contemporary dancer (Emily Blunt).  And while it has sci-fi elements and a sci-fi feel to it, it’s not really sci-fi either.  Does fantasy romance with a religious slant count as a genre?

There’s not much of a mystery involved either as you discover what the ‘Adjustment Bureau’ really is relatively early on.  That’s because the focus of the movie is always firmly on the love story.

Therefore, whether you believe in the romance plays a huge part in whether or not you can appreciate the film.  I must admit I was one of the ones that did, mainly because of the excellent chemistry between Damon and Blunt.  Ordinarily I would have thought such an obviously contrived romance would be cringeworthy, but I actually found it rather sweet.  Maybe it’s just the romantic in me.

So while the film was a slow crawl in parts and doesn’t make a whole lot of sense if you think about it, I’m going to go out on a limb and say I enjoyed it.  It’s really a fable about fate and love, and gets you thinking about free will, chance, and whether there are people out there who are meant to be together.

3.5 stars out of 5

2532 Words

March 30, 2011 in Blogging, Misc, Novel, On Writing, Study by pacejmiller

City of Words by Vito Acconci, 1999

Yesterday wasn’t quite as productive as I anticipated.  I went to watch Red Riding Hood — I know — but it’s only because I had a free movie ticket that was expiring in a day or so and would have gone to waste otherwise.  Anyway, review coming soon, but for some reason the movie made me very lethargic and lacking inspiration.

Alas, more writing had to be done.  I powered through yesterday to 2532 words (meaning under 1000 words for a day).  I’ll still take that.  But I really started struggling as I reached the climax of the first chapter.  The wheels were in motion and the story was progressing, but it felt like something was missing.  The prose, the dialogue — none of it was as exciting as I had visualised in my mind.

I started committing the cardinal sin of editing while writing.  According to traditional wisdom, the first draft is supposed to be where you just pour it all out so you can rewrite it and fix it up later.  And it really slowed me down.  And the stuff I was amending wasn’t necessarily making it better.

I have a feeling it’s because I haven’t given enough thought to my protagonist, my narrator.  I’ve spent all my time and effort developing the six or seven other minor characters in the chapter and made them very intriguing people, but I’ve forgotten about the guy the readers are supposed to care most about.

Whatever.  The goal is to just get the first chapter DONE and worry about the rest later.  My guess is it’ll be around 3500 words or so and I’ll have to eventually trim it down to 3000.  Wish me luck.

Lapis Thai at Tianzifang (Shanghai)

March 30, 2011 in China, Food, Reviews, Travel by pacejmiller

Following on my previous post about the hip and trendy Tianzifang in Shanghai, this one is about the restaurant we visited for lunch.  There are literally dozens of restaurants at Tianzifang, and all of them look pretty darn good — from traditional Chinese to Italian to Japanese to Thai, you can be sure you’ll have a decent meal wherever you go.

On advice from my sister, we decided to go to Lapis Thai (Thai Cuisine and Lounge).  According to the business card it is only one of three stores in Shanghai, with a fourth one opening in April 2011.  From the outside it doesn’t look like much because all you can see is the bar, but all the seats are upstairs.

From the inside, with all its traditional wooden fittings, wine cabinets and cushions, Lapis Thai looks and feels like a relaxing place to be.  There are certainly lots of expats dining there, which could be an indication of the type of tastes the restaurant caters for.

Anyway, needless to say, we had a feast.  A huge feast. I know.  You want pictures?  I got pictures!

First, we got the assorted snack platter, which included shrimp cakes, spring rolls, fish cakes and satay sticks.  Very good, similar to the type of appetizer platter we get back in Sydney.

Second, green curry with beef.  Again, the type of stuff we can get at home, but this one dare I say was better than what I’ve had in Sydney.  This one was creamier, more flavoursome, and the beef was very tender.

Third, and I have to apologise for the blurry photo (darn camera couldn’t focus and I didn’t check), fried broccoli and yellow curry and coconut — this one was a highlight because I haven’t had anything like it before.  The curry was also creamy and fragrant, superb stuff.

Fourth, and sorry again for the photo, the spicy and sour pork neck salad.  Another highlight.  Tangy, with a terrific zing.

Fifth, sweet and sour chicken.  An oldie but a goodie.

Sixth, stir fried fat noodle with chicken.

And last but not lease, the sensational pineapple fried rice.

The verdict?  Excellent food with solid variety.  The flavours were on the strong side, especially the sweets and sours, but I like my flavours strong.  The prices are slightly dearer than your local Shanghainese restaurant, but still very affordable for the average tourist.  Definitely recommended for visitors to Tianzifang.

8.5 out of 10!

For more information, check out the Lapis Thai website here.  The Tianzifang store is located at No. 14, Lane 248 Tai Kang Road, Lu Wan District, Shanghai.  Other locations can be found on the website.