Tuesday, 25 March 2014

Burger Meats Bun, Glasgow:

 It's no secret that there is a special place in my heart for a good burger.  Last September I posted my list of Edinburgh's best burgers, and intended to write a corresponding one for Glasgow.  Sadly, this venture has been put on hold since I became a poor (and extremely busy) student again!  Still, when I was through for Glasgow's Film Festival last month, I did manage to pay my first visit to a restaurant I'd heard a lot about called Burger Meats Bun.

Source: here

Burger Meats Bun is hidden in a basement on West Regent Street, and when Nicola and I first popped in on a busy Friday night it was standing room only.  While waiting for a table, we enjoyed a drink at the bar.  As you probably know, I'm a fan of a cocktail or two, so I opted for a Dark & Stormy, with dark rum, lime juice and ginger beer.  It was delicious!  But I should have mixed it up before I drank it...  Rookie mistake.

After waiting our turn, we were seated at a tiny bar style table and asked for our order.  One of my favourite things about Burger Meats Bun is the simplicity of their menu.  You might think that a choice of three beef burgers, two chicken burgers, a veggie burger and a few sides isn't much, but when the burgers are this good, there's no need to dress them up with too many fancy toppings.  And, believe me, these burgers really are unbelievably tasty - I can't stress that enough!

The minimal menu also cuts down the excruciating decision making process, and pretty much eliminates the chances of food envy when your friend's burger looks infinitely more delicious than your own on arrival.  In my expert opinion, you can't beat a good, old fashioned cheese burger, and that's exactly what I ordered.

Burger Meats Bun don't believe in plates.  Of course, no plates mean no washing up, and that's a philosophy I can get on board with.  Instead, our burgers arrived wrapped in paper (kind of like McDonald's, but better) accompanied by a bucket of homemade fries.  The homemade part is important, because so many restaurants let their amazing burgers down with bog standard frozen chips.  We treated ourselves to a couple of yummy Pineapple Express cocktails with our food, which were on the specials board.

Okay, I have a confession to make now.  My first Burger Meats Bun experience was so good that I went back with other friends two days later.  And I ordered exactly the same thing.  Excessive?  No, because this was (on both occasions) the BEST burger I have eaten in a long time.  And if that doesn't persuade you, then I don't know what will!

Wednesday, 12 March 2014

Memoirs of a film critic:

A few weeks ago, I was lucky enough to review several new films for WOW247 at this year's Glasgow Film Festival.  I'd never been to the festival before, so it was a rare and exciting experience for a film lover like me!

The film screenings were split between the lovely Glasgow Film Theatre and the top floor of the local Cineworld.  I now have no issues whatsoever with going to see a movie on my own, and there were actually quite a few solo cinemagoers at every screening I attended, which made me feel less self conscious.  I quickly learned that taking notes in a dark cinema is NOT easy.  At one point I considered writing my notes down in shorthand, but they would have been absolutely illegible if I had done that, so it's probably for the best!  For future reviews, I might consider investing in a pen with a built in light...

All in all, I saw five films over three days in February, starting with Wes Anderson's latest comedy The Grand Budapest Hotel.  This screening wasn't for a review, I just didn't want to miss the opportunity to see the film two weeks before it came out in UK cinemas!  I wasn't disappointed either.  As with most Wes Anderson films, the star studded cast was hilarious (particularly Ralph Fiennes), the script full of witty one liners and the set, costumes and cinematography painstakingly beautiful. 

The first film I officially reviewed was called A Long Way Down, starring Pierce Brosnan and Aaron Paul (Jesse from Breaking Bad) among others.  Based on a Nick Hornby novel (a fact I didn't know until I overheard someone else in the cinema mention it before the film started - on the ball!) it's a fairly entertaining (if unrealistic) story that delves into a great deal of complex human emotions.  You can read my full write up here and, if you're interested, A Long Way Down comes out on the 21st of March.

Next up (a couple of days later) was the Indian production The Lunchbox, which I really enjoyed and may even be the highlight of the movies I reviewed.  My parents love India and Indian culture and around Christmas time they introduced me to an adorable film called English Vinglish.  After reading a little about The Lunchbox in the film festival programme, I decided that it sounded in a similar vein to English Vinglish, and I was right.  I actually think The Lunchbox is the better film, and you can read why here.  See it if you get the chance!

Then came the day of three films in one go, which (sadly) turned out to be only two when my screening of French documentary On The Edge of the World was abruptly cancelled.  This was also the day where I treated myself to a gin and tonic and some sweeties in the afternoon screening (see above photo for proof).  Very professional.  Don't tell my editor...

In the morning I saw Terry Gilliam's latest sci-fi offering, The Zero Theorem.  Although Gilliam is famous for directing cult classics like Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas and Brazil, I mostly chose to see the film because it stars Christoph Waltz (who was amazing in Inglourious Basterds and pretty damn good in Django Unchained) without knowing anything else about the story.  While it isn't my usual cup of tea, it kept me entertained, and there were some aspects of The Zero Theorem that impressed me.  Have a look at my review here, and catch it in cinemas this Friday (14th March).

After a quick lunch break, I headed in to see my last GFF movie, Workers.  Unfortunately, this brilliant Mexican comedy doesn't seem to have a UK release date, which is hugely disappointing because I loved it.  Read all about what made it so watchable here.  

For some reason, the foreign films I saw at the festival far outshone the English speaking movies, with the exception of The Grand Budapest Hotel.  The cinematography in both The Lunchbox and Workers was so flawless that there was almost no need for dialogue to explain the story unfolding onscreen.  In some ways, A Long Way Down and The Zero Theorem seemed to dumb things down for their audiences, rather than letting powerful images speak for themselves.

My fellow reviewer and partner in crime, Nicola, was my bus buddy on a few trips to and from Glasgow during the festival.  We did attempt to be super productive and write up our reviews on the bus home most nights, but it turns out that typing on the bus makes me feel travel sick.  Who knew?

I absolutely loved my Glasgow Film Festival experience, and felt so honoured to see these films before the majority of the public, and have the chance to review them.  I can definitely see how regular film critics might become jaded after sitting through one too many flops, but there are surely worse jobs out there.  Most importantly, seeing such a wide variety of movies in such a short space of time reminded me that I am seriously passionate about film!

Friday, 7 March 2014

Instagram #20:

1. I was extremely popular with Nicola's pets when I met them, for some reason!
2. Nicola practicing high fives with her furry friend.
3. A delicious Lovecrumbs special for Valentine's Day (I even shared it with my Valentine!).

4. The lovely Jordan being 'SO AMERICAN' (her words not mine) at her awesome flat party.
5. Craig and a doggy friend.
6. Pizza party!

7. Being pretentious on the bus with our matching MacBooks.  (It turns out that trying to type on my laptop on the bus makes me travel sick, who knew?)
8. I splashed out for a posh pay day lunch, but it wasn't really worth it in the end.  Looks good, though!
9. I finally framed the amazing birthday card my friend Tom drew and coloured for me.  It's a bit of an obscure reference, but watch this video and you'll understand.

Tuesday, 4 March 2014

The Organ Grinder's Monkey album launch:

A few weeks ago, I brought your attention to the brilliant Edinburgh band Meursault, and their attempt to raise £3,000 on Kickstarter (read my original post here).  In the end, over £5,000 was pledged by fans and supporters of the group (an amazing result!) and this weekend they'll be on their way to Texas for the famous SXSW music festival.

In return for our pennies, Craig and I were jointly rewarded with a copy of the Organ Grinder's Monkey covers album Meursault recorded in just a few days, and a screen printed poster of the album's track listing.  I love the cute little monkey (designed by the talented Fiona Buckle) and we will definitely be framing our poster as a souvenir.

We also pledged for tickets to the album's live launch night, which took place last Saturday night at Penicuik Town Hall.  Meursault's fantastic line up of musicians played The Organ Grinder's Monkey from start to finish, and held the attention of their delighted audience for over two hours.  The full track listing of the album was kept secret until the night of the gig, which made collecting our album and poster on arrival very exciting!

I knew more covers on The Organ Grinder's Monkey than I initially thought I would, and was especially pleased to hear Meursault's take on one of my favourite Mountain Goats songs, No Children.  The gig had a truly happy atmosphere, and I felt lucky to be in on such a special and intimate performance.  When the band reappear on this side of the Atlantic, be sure to catch them live and see for yourself!

The music portion of SXSW will take place between the 11th and 16th of March, and Meursault will then tour around America.  You can see their Kickstarter page here for more information, or follow their progress on Facebook and Twitter.

Sunday, 2 March 2014

Inferior Book Group #6:

Throughout the (terrifyingly) short month of February, I've been reading the children's favourite Peter Pan which - it turns out - may not be as family friendly as I initially thought.  Although I knew the basic story, I had never read or been read Peter Pan.  I bought the book in the first year of my undergrad and (in true Alex style) only got around to reading it five years later.

For anyone who might not know, Peter Pan is the story of a boy who never wants to grow up, living on a mystical island called Neverland along with natives, pirates and his own gang of 'lost boys'.  Peter Pan was written by Scottish author J.M. Barrie, first as a play (in 1904) and then later in novel form in 1911.  Its most famous screen adaptation was the 1953 Disney cartoon, but there have been many others, and it is also a popular pantomime during the festive period.

Source: here

As I already mentioned, Peter Pan is a much more sinister novel than I had been lead to believe.  Though mischievous on stage and screen, the fairy Tinkerbell is nothing short of a witch in Barrie's story, and Peter himself isn't much better.  I have a feeling a few of the darker jokes have been included for the benefit of parents reading the story to their children, who would be none the wiser.  The novel's narrator often chips in with his own feelings about certain characters, and takes a particular dislike to Mrs Darling, for reasons that are never fully explained.

Out of curiosity, I decided to revisit the Disney Peter Pan once I had finished reading the book and compare the two.  I learned that a) I had actually never seen the movie before and b) it misses a lot of the story out.  In the film, Wendy and her little brothers only spend a single day in Neverland, meaning that their parents never know they are gone.  In Barrie's book, the children seem to be away for months, and Mr and Mrs Darling are deeply affected by their absence.  It was interesting to see how Disney sugar coated what was already a story thought to be suitable for children!

Source: here

During March, I'll finally be getting round to the F. Scott Fitzgerald classic, The Great Gatsby.  Somehow I avoided this one in high school and uni, but I'm looking forward to seeing how it differs from the recent Baz Luhrmann film.