Saturday, May 29, 2010

Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time review.

When I first heard that the Prince of Persia franchise was being adapted for the big screen, I have to say I was curious. I fondly remembered the old pixelated 1989 classic that had filled many hours and led to some quite frustrated outbursts. So I was naturally interested in seeing whether the movie would tap into this nostalgia. Well the short answer is no.

Of course being a modern film - with backing from Disney and Jerry Bruckheimer no less – it’s a big swashbuckling adventure piece, much in the same vein as Pirate of the Caribbean or Aladdin. You get the same big action scenes and some flashy camera work, but less in the way of interesting plot.

The story follows Destan (Jake Gyllenhaal), an orphan who was adopted by the King of Persia after showing courage in capital city’s market place. Years later Destan, who is now a Prince, leads an attack to a city that is believed to be producing weapons. However, evil is afoot as the King is murdered and Destan is blamed. As a result he is forced to team-up with Princess Tamina (Gemma Areton), the deposed ruler of the fallen city he conquered, to clear his name. On the way he encounters the secret of the mysterious Dagger of Time (which allows the holder to travel short distances back in time), and his quest to clear his name turns into a race against time to save the world from destruction from an evil lurking in the background.

So there you have it, it’s a by the numbers good vs. evil battle, with a bit of comic relief (including a performance by the excellent Alfred Molina) and an odd-couple dynamic between the Princess and Destan. In fact it seems the princess’s emotional range is limited to cold sarcasm or whiney sanctimony. I don’t think this is necessarily the fault of Areton, it’s just that the character was written to be one dimensional. Also she does tend to go on and on about how peaceful her kingdom was before the Persians came blundering in; accusing her of making the Middle Ages equivalent to WMDs. But she does it so much that by the end you’d think she was Princess of the bloody Lollipop Kingdom, where there are rivers of chocolate and happy children of all different colours and creeds playing nicely together with dimpled joy.


And there is the biggest problem with the film, that there are too many parallels with the Iraq war. Realistically, this must be aimed at the parents of the kids going to see Prince of Persia, as they are more likely to be captivated by the back-flipping action and the special effects. I can’t really see them going there for political context, nor do I think many of their memories will be long enough to understand such a comparison. So for the unfortunate adults who have been brought along you feel like you are being repeatedly told off for letting the Iraq war happen. My initial reaction was: “my bad. Sorry. Now I’m going to stare at the floor for a while looking guilty”. Then I remember wait, I opposed the Iraq war. Why am I being ticked off for something I didn’t do?

Political whinging aside, there are other problems with the film. One thing that bugged me in particular, was the fact that everyone spoke in an English accent; mainly because I thought this was meant to be set in the middle-east. Surely they could have had one or two foreign sounding accents, you know just for atmosphere. Otherwise it feels like you’re finding out for the first time that the British Empire in fact originated in Ancient Persia.

The film’s protagonist Destan is basically your archetypal diamond-in-the-rough-made-good with a pure heart and kickass moves, and who seems to spend most of the film showing that Incompetent Guards 4 U is still doing a roaring trade in heavily guarded fortresses. However he fails to notice an obvious villain standing next to him.

*Spoilers follow*




I am of course talking about Ben Kingsley’s performance as Destan’s adoptive uncle Nizam, who secretly has his eyes on the throne of Persia. Now, I know this point is meant to be a significant twist in the film. However, look at the obvious signs! It’s The Hood for God’s sake! Then again without that the plot would be rather linier.



*Spoilers end*

The villain makes heavy use of several mysterious assassin characters called Hashshashin. Now at first, I was a bit stumped by this, thinking: “Hang on ninjas in the Middle East? You’re having a laugh!” However, this part is actually historically accurate to a point. The downside of these guys is that one of them seems to overuse snakes as their weapons. By the third or fourth time I saw the snake charmer hashsahshin use one of his slithering friends, I was tempted to scream: “I’ve had enough of these muthafuckin’ snakes in this muthafuckin’ movie.” It felt that they were just there to show off some impressive CGI effects, and they can certainly stick a job done stamp on that. Sometimes though, it would be nice if you replaced some of that visual wankery with a bit more character development.

Now I’ve been quite critical about this movie, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s terrible. To be fair to it, it’s a rather good example of a video game movie. The plot isn’t so poor its cringe worthy, and the characters are bearable for the most part. Also aside from being scolded a lot for causing the Iraq war the humour isn’t too bad for older viewers, and you can at least justify spending a night out seeing Prince of Persia at the cinema. The thing is though; it’s just not that special. It makes a good one off viewing, but after that you’ll quickly forget about it.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Why I'm not excited about Sex and the City 2

There is an uneasy feeling in the air. Something awful this way comes. The first signs of the coming apocalypse are drawing near. I am of course talking about the nearing release of every-man’s nightmare: Sex and the City 2. Or as I like to think of it: Carrie and her squawking bum-chums Strike Back.

That’s right! The most apocalyptic movie event of the year is soon to touch down at a ground zero near you, and, as you can imagine, I will be hiding away in my concrete bunker until the storm has passed. Now having never seen either film I could be accused of judging the franchise too harshly, so let me just clear the air here.

Firstly, I thought the series was watchable at times. Hell, I even found myself laughing at some of the jokes. The movies on the other hand look like pure torture for heterosexuals possessing a Y chromosome, and maybe the odd homosexual female. I’ve even heard fans of the series telling me the film is rubbish, so there is no good reason for me to see it. Secondly seeing the films would require paying money to see Sarah Jessica Parkers’ face enlarged on the big screen which I don’t think my heart, mind, and eyes could take. I simply refuse to on principal, considering I can scarcely manage seeing SJP up on the publicity billboards. Twice now I’ve nearly crashed my car whilst shielding my eyes from the sparkly; mascara-lined, hideousness of it all.

The biggest problem I have with the movies however is the fact that it is treated like a big event; much like the pretentious galas that the ‘gals’ seem to be invited to all the time whilst us mere mortals just make do with the occasional night at the cinema or going to the pub. Of course being a straight male, I don’t understand the hype. In fact I find the hype behind it so perplexing it actually makes me angry. What is it I’m not seeing that is so great? Am I mad, or are the majority of people who liked the film just loopy?

So why am I not excited about Sex and the City 2? Well, I’ll tell you:

· As I’ve already stated: I hate Sarah Jessica Parker. The fact that this film just seems to be another ego trip for the lanky horse in make-up, suggests that there is little to like about the movie.

· The fact that the first film (and the TV series is partially to blame as well) has led to a spin off us unpleasant ads based on the four clucking hens in designer shoes of the apocalypse. There are less obvious ones: like the terrifying glimpse into a world where a hen-night-style regime change has taken place, and is featured in the Boots adverts, and there are more overt and strange examples.

· It encourages the view that it is ok to religiously worship overpriced clothes and shoes. We’re still in a fucking credit-crunch! Stop dangling the carrot of decadence in the eyes of people who will only go out and run up huge credit card bills trying to emulate this hapless excess. That’s right! I am accusing Sex and the City of destroying our economy.

· The films glamorise a niche, vacuous, narcissistic sub-culture, which I could envisage putting scruffy people to death if it ever seized power.

· Feminism came a long way in the 1960s thanks to the pioneering women of that age, only for it to be high-jacked by the four well-dressed morons.

· The second movie is set in Abu Dhabi, a country with a shocking record of human rights violations against women. Somehow this fact is ignored, as the country is championed as an ideal girly holiday destination. Another strike for women’s equality wouldn’t you say? Then again screw equality, as the ladies want their cosmos, and pampering.

· I simply will not get most of the humour. My brain is not able to handle jokes about ‘women’s problems’, gynaecology, cocktails, and boyfriends. It just will not compute.

· All my female friends will start cooing on Facebook about how great it is, and how much they are looking forward to it, while I cower in my cave feeling left out by the fact there is no way I can relate to the material in question.

In sum, I think I would hate this movie so much I’d probably give myself post-traumatic stress watching it. I’m suffering enough having watched the trailer for a bit of context on the film, which I can safely say caused me to die a little watching it.I may have preferred it if they’d introduced some real adversity to the characters like, for instance: The Girls have to rethink their lives after the world descends into chaos following a short lived nuclear war, and they find themselves fighting for survival amongst the madness. At least that would have made me chuckle.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Heroes, and Flash Forward: A Eulogy

It’s been a real hack and slash kind-of week for the American networks, with NBC and ABC respectively canning a big name series each, those being: Heroes and Flash Forward.

This is sad for differing reasons. Heroes was a show which showed such potential in its early days, being well written, well cast and engaging, but never lived up to its initial success in latter years and ended up driving frustrated fans away (myself included) with its grandiose plots which went nowhere, and for falling for the age old sci-fi habit of introducing way too many new super-powered characters no-one cared about. Now the old dog that was Heroes has been led out into the yard, by its master NBC, and been given a bullet in the back of the head, to put the once great superhero drama out of its misery (and so we never have to put up with Peter Petrelli's gurning look of surprise, or whiny super-cheerleader Claire, again). A cruel, but kind, punishment indeed, but the old boy was just too much to keep.

Flashforward on the other hand has been prematurely axed, having only been on air for one season, and really

never showed us what it could really do. Once again there was a stellar cast (of mainly English origin, I might add), and an interesting - albeit quite ambitious - premise, but it just never lived up to its promise. With Flashforward it feels like the plug from the incubator has been pulled by ABC. And all that might have been, simply becomes a never was.


As you can see it’s been a bad day for the established American Dramas; with Scrubs - another shadow of it's former self - being put out of it's misery too, and Lost only two weeks away from its finale, we can expect the American schedules to be drastically different from now on. We have entered a brave new world of American drama it seems.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Please Sralan? Can we have some more?

The first thing I thought when I saw this was, why? Why, why, why? Is this the next stage for reality TV: giving us sociopathic and insufferable teenagers instead of giving us insufferable or sociopathic adults?

I know modern childhood comes under a lot of scrutiny these days. If we believed what we saw on the news or TV alone, we’d honestly believe every child was an overweight; ASBO holding; sweary; under-age-sexed; stabber-hoodie. Let’s face it, childhood innocence has been worn away by scare stories, so with that in mind, I assumed something like the Junior Apprentice would be the final nail in the coffin.

Similarly to the adult equivalent the 16-17 year old contestants are set business style tasks – albeit horribly unrealistic, given the lack of time and resources available to them – by Lord high grand poobah (formerly Sralan) Sugar. Although this time, instead of winning a chance to have a job with the jowly scowler himself, the kiddlies can win £25,000, but unfortunately the catch is the use of this prize fund is controlled by Lord Sugar.

That does seem a little lame a prize, as how would you feel having to go up to Lord Pinstripes and his heavies in the boardroom and beg for your pocket money? It’s like a meeting with a bank manager for a loan, but one hundred times scarier.

The strangest thing about this whole exercise in reality TV diversification is seeing these precocious individuals dressed, and dolled, up as if they are adults. Yes indeed, it’s puberty in bankers clothing. Also funny, is that at their age the contestants sometimes look as young as 13 and as old as 20. This is something I had forgotton about being that age: that everyone advances into adulthood at different stages. This is especially the case with the boys, where some look like they are barely out of short trousers and still have breaking vocal chords, whilst others look like they’ve been through uni or beyond.

The lack of mature voices is a bit of a problem however, as I can see myself slowly losing patience with their screechy bleating, which is like listening to nails on a chalkboard.

The first episode made for interesting viewing. It began with Master and Commander Sugar telling the contestants how the next few weeks are going to work, whilst cracking poor jokes, which should hopefully see his gag-writers sacked.

After that the pubescent gang were carted over to the contestant house, which is the usual affair for The Apprentice: i.e. a plush London town-house with some quirky interior design. Of course there was no time for relaxation, as it’s down to business right away and the teams set about coming up with a name. Naturally they picked something punchy and pretentious: Instinct in the case of the boy’s team and Revolution for the girls. So it looks like I still have to wait for Apprentice candidates to pick something more evil sounding like: Sinister, Crush, or Obliterate.

That being done, the task proper got underway and this week they were out on the streets selling cheese. While the girls - well I say the girls as one, Zoe Plummer, basically stole the show, which led to jealous tears from usurped project manager Hibah – did a solid overall job and won. The boys comparatively floundered under the lack of control from team manager Jordan; who then blamed his weaknesses on his team, although that didn’t stop him getting his marching orders from Mighty Lord S.

So having watched the first episode I have drawn up some pros and cons of the Junior Apprentice:
Pros:

· When the kids screw up, they screw up royally.

· I was genuinely curious to see how a more muzzled Sugar would behave.

· I am curious to see how long before the teenage instincts take over in the house, and a tempestuous teen relationship begins.

· It is still as entertaining as the normal Apprentice.

Cons:

· It is harder to criticise candidates of their age, as you can’t say they know better. Every time they screw up it’s all a lesson in experience for them, rather than a reminder they are cocky so-and-sos with no real talent except for dreaming up delusional attributes (like in the adult equivalent).

· The fact that Sralan has transformed into Lord Sugar. It is truly the end of an era for psudonoms.

· It is genuinely eerie seeing people that young in well turned out suits and acting this maturely despite their physical immaturity.

· We have already seen tears and I expect more to come, which is quite difficult to watch at times. After all, watching a reverse Father Christmas berate a young person to the point of tears, seems unnecessarily cruel.

So basically, it has to be said the Junior Apprentice is worth a watch. I also hate to admit it, but the teens selected for the show do a respectable job for their age. They are comparatively more pleasant than their adult counterparts, and probably have far more potential and competence.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Iron Man 2: A review

High expectations rested on the shoulders of Jon Favereau and his team for this second outing in the Iron Man franchise. The first Iron Man movie was a box office and critical smash; anticipation for a second film was sky high. So it is good to see that Iron Man 2 does not suffer from disappointing second sequel syndrome.

Most pleasing is the fact the familiar faces of Robert Downey Jr, Paul Bettany (voicing JARVIS, the computer) and Gwyneth Paltrow, are joined by several new ones, including: Sam Rockwell, Mickey Rourke, Don Cheadle (replacing the unavailable Terrence Howard in the role of Lt Col James Rhodes), and Scarlett Johansson. So there is very much the feeling that the gangs all (or at least mostly) here, and a few extra friends have been brought along for good measure.

The film picks up almost exactly where the first left off, with Tony Stark (Downey Jr) announcing to the world that he is Iron Man, and since then has, in his own words: "privatized world peace." However, whilst on the surface everything seems peachy, there is trouble brewing. Ivan Vanko, the disgruntled son of a Russian ex-employee of Stark - who helped developed the power core used to power the Iron Man suit - is out for revenge against Tony believing he is to blame for his families decent into poverty. Unfortunately Tony has problems of his own, the technology keeping him alive is slowly poisoning him, and a US Senate committee along with arch business rival Justin Hammer (Rockwell), are itching to get the technology of the Iron Man suit from him to use it as a weapon and for profit.

Jon Favereau has once again outdone himself in his direction, and balances big splashy action sequences with more regular-paced dialogue driven scenes between the characters. All however are equally satisfying for different reasons, like the witty back-and-forth between Tony Stark and ‘Pepper’ Potts (Paltrow), or the huge fight scene between Iron Man and the Hammer drones. Thankfully the latter don’t suffer from Michael Bay’s Transformer-style shakey-cam, so you can at least see what’s going on. Of course it’s the action which drives the film, and what action! The Monaco racing scenes were some of my favourite action scenes in a movie this year - although I am biased as a Formula One fan. But in that context, and having seen several attempts at filming motor racing for the big screen, this would rank as one of the better attempts.

Also the casting of Rockwell, as Justin Hammer, is particularly sublime. Hammer is exactly what Tony isn’t: uncool; underhanded and lacking self-confidence. He is a man very much left in Stark’s shadow, and Rockwell plays him to a slimy par-excellence. Scarlett Johannson is also an interesting addition to the cast, although I worry that she is simply there as window dressing. Her character Natalie Rushman is a little vapid, and her only purpose in the film is to be sexy. Don’t get me wrong, this is one of the sexiest performances I have ever seen from her, but for an actress of her caliber this role feels rather wasted on her.

A major criticism of this movie is that Rourke’s Vanko gets way too little screen time. During the establishing scenes we are made to expect that he will be at the forefront of the plot, and whilst he plays a significant part, he is not in your face for very long at all, and you do have to wonder if that’s down to the fact he can communicate only in Russian sounding mumbles and pained expressions. Don’t get me wrong Rourke is a fine actor (just look at The Wrestler) and he is well casted for this role, but if his dialogue delivery was such an issue that they had to cut down the character’s screen time, then get a man in who can talk properly!

Also there are too many plot threads weaved through the narrative. True, these are held together respectably and the film isn’t too labored by all the circulating twists, however, perhaps the writers should have cut at least one thread of this intermingling plotline out, as this would have allowed us to have spent more time with one of the others in more depth. This is especially felt in a number of scenes, which neatly introduces Iron Man’s connection to the up-coming Avengers film, and look as if they’ve been bolted on to promote said movie.

So in summary, Iron Man 2 lives up to the hype of its predecessor, and with gusto. It’s hard to call which of the two Iron Man films is the best, as both are satisfying Super hero flicks, with delicious action sequences, fine casting; acting and direction. I know some people have been disappointed by the sequel, but I went in with low expectations and was pleasantly surprised with what I saw.

Monday, May 10, 2010

How hot are the Tories and Labour for a piece of Lib Dem action

Since the uncertain outcome of the election last Thursday, we are faced with the befuddlement of the power makers thrashing out a deal to decide just who is in charge of us for the next five years or less.

To be honest there's been a lot of posturing and indecisiveness, where for once, Nick Clegg the Lib Dem leader, is quite crucial to the next government. Some have even gone so far as to call him the 'kingmaker' of this hung parliament. However, I have likened the whole charade to dating. What we now are seeing is basically a play for Lib Dem's affections, with the two other parties making grand gestures to see off the other.

First of all we have seen the frumpy librarian of the Lib Dem, remove her hair pins, glasses to reveal she is actually quite attractive, and none more-so than to the horny lads: Labour and Tory, who decide to vye for her attention.

At first it seemed she was drawn to Tory and his foppish charms and wealth, including many estates and famous friends. However, whilst their first date went well - let's be fair Tory showed her a good time, but didn't completely spoil her - and they agreed a second, she also secretly began seeing the college lecturer like Labour behind Tory's back. The latter always seemed like a better match for Lib Dem. They shared the same love of books, and Labour was an old romantic, but he just couldn't offer her as much as Tory could.

Both the boys were desperate to win Lib Dem, but she was unsure which to trust. To be fair both were bastards but she trusted their capacity to change. They both wanted only to please her whilst they were dating, and offered her so much.

Things then came to a climax when Labour then found out that Lib Dem had been on a second date with Tory. He wanted to know what he could do to change her mind, and even offered to change his personality and appearance for her. However, Tory was furious at the two-timing and decided to up the ante further by getting down on one knee to propose to Lib Dem, but only if she promised never to see Labour again.

Who will she choose, and ultimately end up being screwed by? Well, we're still waiting on that to be fair. Who says that Politics isn't a soap opera of its own?

Friday, May 07, 2010

A Well Hung Parliament, innit.

So after all the wild promises coming out the mouths of the candidates these last 4 weeks, we finally have come to the decision time, or should I say indecision time.

The only thing that is clear about the election results is that the people of the UK - as a whole - really didn't know which party they wanted to win the most, according to the first past the post rules of parliamentary politics at least. So we are faced for the first time since 1974 with a hung parliament where no party has a clear majority. If the winning party was decided by the majority of seats alone then the Conservative party would be the clear winners of the day, but as things stand (thankfully, being a left wing voter who really doesn't care much for the Conservatives) no one has really won anything.  In the meantime we were left with the party leaders trying to cling onto the political hot potato, then flinging it into the air with scalded hands, whilst another eager leader tries to catch it with his red stinging fingers.

One thing that is clear, for all the - sincere or not - talk of change from the party leaders, the UK electorate have rather got that. We have had about 2 decades of majority governments, often with rather lamentable results whether it be destroying the rural communities; ransacking British owned services and industry; overloading public services with unnecessary bureaucracy, overseeing the rise of PC culture and the removal of responsibility from the individual, or just building up an unsustainable   economy based on unfettered spending. Labour and Tory governments of the last 20 years have made a right mess of it, and perhaps one party being free to run amok almost unchecked with it's own agenda, should be consigned to the dustbin of history.

This also marks a fairer system for people in minority parties, who wish to get their constituancies' wishes across, and now have a better platform to do so as the big parties scrabble around for partners to form a coalition government. It's telling that the big parties were decrying a hung parliament outcome as a disaster; of course it is for them as they would no longer be able to wield the same level of power - quite a turn off in the world of politics - and their disgruntlement speaks volumes about their self interested agenda, whilst however for the little guy it's a great window of opportunity. Personally that strikes me as a real change in our system as it gets some fresher ideas across at least. 


It was an interesting election night in general as hope, turned to agitation, to disappointment, to gloom, to head in the oven, well for many Labour supporters at least as the Conservative gains began to roll in with depressing frequency - or if like me you were hoping for the Lib Dems to make significant gains. It was as unconventional election as we have had in a long time, with a candidate getting injured in a plane crash,  another getting in a punch up, voters, turning up in record numbers, being turned away from some polling stations which were unable to cope with the massive turnout and several big names in parliament losing their seats. It's been messy, it's been controversial, it's been different.

It's still impossible to say who will lead the country for the next five years. Gordon Brown has literally just come out to make some stalling comments, vaguely alluding to electoral reform, probably the first stage of Labour's political power play to get the Liberal Democrats to form a coalition government with them. One thing is for sure this is probably going to continue for an uncertain number of hours, or even days and we're probably going to be left in the dark until they decide. Got to love democracy eh? But at least there's a slim hope for change in the future, and sometimes in politics that's the best you can hope for. Still there is a lot more to come yet.

So far we've seen Brown stalling, Clegg biding, and Cameron trying to snatch power while he holds the advantage, whilst making an inspired speech about how the Torys stand for hope, not fear; which got me wondering who does vote for that, and why we don't see a Fear or Terror (perhaps fronted by Adam Sutler from V for Vendetta, or Big Brother from Nineteen Eighty Four) party running for government. There are many deals yet to be struck, but I am tempted to see the effect the ongoing saga has on the TV presenters covering the story, as they decend into exhaustion from lack of sleep. I can imagine the polite persona, of a tired David Dimbleby with heavy bags under his eyes, snapping loudly and losing his temper at an interviewee who refuses to give him a straight answer, or a sleep deprived Jeremy Vine finally believes he is living in one of his matrix-style election visual metaphors.

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

Japin' Round the World: Epilogue (Is that reality calling? Tell him I'm busy)

So did all that just happen? That's a question I've been considering this past week, as I slowly readapt to life in the UK. Because not a lot seems to have changed in my hometown (except for maybe one or two shops and bars morphing into new identities), it's very easy to wonder if the last three months were a kind of freaky dream. Jet lag of course doesn't help the matter.

It was a nice dream that would be the overarching feel of it. As with any dream it was a bit odd at times (like seeing a dog wearing glasses and a Boston Red Sox jersey, but then that's just Japan for you I feel); there were moments of panic and worry occasionally, but then to wake up back where I started again is naturally an anti-climax. My home is very nice to be fair, we get a relative balance on weather; there is no threat of earthquakes, tidal waves and tornados etc. Well, aside from the odd Icelandic Volcanic fuck up, but that's just Iceland causing trouble for Europe again, the scamp. All the same though, it's nowhere near as exciting as the great beyond of the Asia Pacific that I've left behind.

So what's happened since I bade farewell to Japan? The flight home itself could be best described as restless. I didn't sleep, and why would I want to as from my perspective my flight began in the morning and continued until late evening, and its hard to sleep in the light. Crossing time zones confused this a lot as I arrived in the UK at what was mid-afternoon. The strangest thing is that because I'd been awake; in perpetual sunlight for about 24 hours, I didn't crash as massively as I was expecting. It didn't make the transference back to my old life any easier though, as trying to work out the confusing change in time difference and how many hours this meant I'd been awake for etc, and what time it would be if I'd stayed awake that long normally without changing the time all the way, was enough to turn my mind in knots. It was like being bullied by a giant watch.

After that befuddlement not a lot has happened. It's a bit awkward sliding back into normality again, as quite honestly I forget what normality was. This is also not helped by arriving back into a country which is in full swing for a major election, and at a time when many of my friends are in a state of limbo between end of year exams, the end of their year at university, or even their impending graduation, so whatever's going on now won't be in a couple of months. It's like up is down, left is small tangerine and north is 1968. Yep, whatever normal was before I left, it ain't here now.

Unfortunately as unsure as life is for my friends, I am also now faced with the big impending questions of what now? I went away hoping to get my head together on what my life’s ambition is, and I'm really not much better off. Sure, I quite fancy some stability, but not to construct my own cell. Thankfully as I'm still readjusting that staves off the over looming big questions of life, for now.

So looking back at the trip for a second, what was the best part? Well, whilst cutting through the bullshit of being 'unable to choose one bit, as it all blurs together,' I'm going to say New Zealand. It's just an amazing country with so much going for it and with little pretension in doing it. It's just a pity I didn't have more time there really. After that I'd say Vietnam in general was certainly a high-point. It was a fascinating country, which justified me going out into Asia, as it delivered the sort of different experience I was looking for.

So in summary I've achieved a lot over the past few months, and am now buggered if I know what I'm doing. Here are some statistics to quickly sum up the trip:

• I visited 7 countries. (in order Hong Kong, Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand, Australia, New Zealand and Japan)
• 3 of these countries were ex-British colonies.
• All the places I visited except Japan and Thailand had been under the imperial control of a European nation in their history.
• All but Hong Kong and Vietnam had monarchs of some description.
• I spent 7 weeks out of the 13 in English speaking nations.
• All counties drove on the left, except for Vietnam and Cambodia.
• 5 countries required me to know how to use chopsticks.
• 3 countries occupied a single landmass of some sort.
• My trip lasted 100 days.
• Overall I spent about a week in transit of some description.
• When I left the UK it was winter. Despite it being the same season in Asia I was thrust into (what is in my UK frost addled mind) summer conditions. Then 5 weeks later when I moved onto Australia it was then autumn (but still summery, to my mind again) and in New Zealand the same albeit a bit colder, and then when I arrived in Japan the seasons skipped back to spring. It was a bit like the description in this video.