Wednesday, 31 December 2014

Today's Review: Brothers Cranberry & Lime Cider

The new year is upon us, and I decided tonight was one of the rare occasions I was going to drink. So I picked up a few bottles of cider in order to get a bit merry. T|his one in particular caught my eye, I do like interesting fruity flavours, and this one boasted cranberry and lime all wrapped up in one bottle.

I'm not normally a fan of cranberry juice, it's a little dry for my liking. But in this drink it's a winner. It's bold, dark and fruity, and certainly overrides the taste of the alcohol, it tastes more like sparkling juice than cider. The lime is a welcome addition too, and it's probably what takes the dryness out of the cranberry. It adds a nice sour twist, while keeping the whole thing pretty refreshing. It certainly didn't take long to polish off the bottle, and I'd certainly recommend this flavour to anyone who wants to broaden their cider horizons.

My rating: 5/5

Tuesday, 30 December 2014

Today's Review: New Socks On Laminate Flooring

Well, Christmas is over, and that means it's time to find places for all the gifts we have piled up. I got some socks this year, and apparently I've reached the ripe old age where I actually appreciate socks as a gift. So today. I put some of those bad boys on.

New socks are nice, but what is not nice is what I encountered walking into my living room. You see, I have laminate flooring there, because I have three small children, and any carpet would be destroyed within months. But that also means that stepping into the room with new socks on is like stepping onto an ice rink. I know I should be prepared for it, but I leave it so long between new pairs of socks that I forget what's going to happen. So every step I'm sliding all over the place, and though I've yet to fall over, it's still pretty annoying. 

Sure, it only lasts for a day or so, but it's a problem I'd rather not deal with. It always catches me off guard and has me sliding around like a fool. I am not a fan.

My rating: 1/5

Monday, 29 December 2014

Today's Review: Jolly Rancher Stix

Jolly Rancher sure is a tasty candy. They normally come in bite size pieces, but you can also get this stick form, which is strange, but hey, it's worth a try.

Yeah, these are basically elongated hard candy sticks, and I picked up both cherry and apple flavours. The actual taste of them is as fantastic as regular Jolly Ranchers, very bold and extremely fruity. They may taste more like sugary candy fruit forms than the real thing, but they're definitely juicy, fruity and awesome.

My problem here is with the shape. Why is it in stick form? The original sweets are good, they're easy to pop in your mouth, and you can work on them from there. But with a stick, you either have to bite through the thing, or lick your way through and make a sticky mess. Either way, it's certainly inconvenient to eat. These Stix are very tasty, but you're better off looking out for the regular packs of Jolly Rancher.

My rating: 3/5

Sunday, 28 December 2014

Today's Review: Angry Birds Star Wars Fruit Gummies

If anyone's stuck on gift ideas for me, it's always a safe bet to get me imported sweets. Case in point, this box of Angry Birds Star Wars gummies I got the other day. It's always nice to know that there's a sweet to complement your favourite mobile game, and what's more, there are five "collectable" box designs to look for. Y'know, just in case you like to collect empty cardboard boxes.

But enough about the concept and packaging, this is what you'll find inside. Six gummy flavours, in the shape of Angry Birds that are in the shape of Star Wars characters. Well, mine weren't exactly perfect, but you can kind of make them out if you squint and turn your head. 

But hey, the proof of the gummy is in the tasting, and these aren't all bad. There's a good selection of "darker" flavours, in the form of strawberry, cherry, grape and blue raspberry, and they all taste pretty fruity. The blue raspberry and cherry are a little on the weak side, but they're still pretty nice. There's also lemon and apple, and while the apple is not all that flavoursome, the lemon is very bold, with a bit of a sour kick. So really, it's half and half with these, some great, some okay. They're all nice though, so grabbing a box isn't a bad idea. Just don't expect to be blown away by all the flavours.

My rating: 4/5

Saturday, 27 December 2014

Today's Review: Thorntons Fabulous Fudge Milk Chocolate

Just a quick review of an interesting bar I picked up in W.H. Smiths before Christmas. I'm not one to frequent Thorntons, so this fudge filled chocolate bar looked novel enough to me. Instead of a layer throughout, they've opted for many little chunks of fudge, for an uneven and surprising fudge experience.

Overall, it's not bad at all. The chocolate is nice and smooth, and the fudge is very tasty, chewy bit with a creamy texture. The only problem is that the inconsistency of texture between the fudge and the chocolate is a little jarring. The chocolate quickly melts away, leaving you chewing on the fudge pieces. It's not a particularly bad thing, but it did stop me enjoying the bar 100%. This is a tasty, interesting bar from Thorntons though, and well worth a try.

My rating: 4/5

Friday, 26 December 2014

Today's Review: Apple Zings

I sure do love to try out American cereal, but a lot of the imported stuff has extortionate prices. I never feel like shelling out £9 for a box, but thankfully I found this off brand cereal in Tesco for a mere £3, that is apparently comparable to Apple Jacks. I'm not sure what else it says under that green tape, apparently they're vitamins that don't apply to British people. 

As for the cereal, Apple Jacks is one I've been wanting to try for a while. Despite not being overly fond of cinnamon, I was quite curious. Turns out I got a bit more than I bargained for. The ratio seen in the picture is pretty much what you get in the box, a whole lot of cinnamon hoops, and not many apple ones. 

The apple ones are quite nice and fruity, but the cinnamon ones are a little bit intense for my liking. With the imbalance of flavours, the cinnamon does end up trouncing the apple, and while there's nothing inherently wrong with the flavours the result isn't the great for me. A little too much spice, not enough fruit. If you're a fan of cinnamon, these are probably a good choice, but if Apple Jacks are the same as these, I'll probably pass on a box of the proper stuff.

My rating: 3/5

Thursday, 25 December 2014

Today's Review: Christmas Crackers

Merry Christmas everybody, the time of year we embrace all manner of tradition. We drag trees into our living rooms, adorn them with sparkly things, wrap gifts in gaudy paper and leave a mince pie on a plate for a fictional fat guy. While most Christmas traditions are strange, I think there's one that beats them all, and that is the Christmas cracker.

Christmas dinner is a staple. We all need to have that slap up meal that brings the family together. But eating isn't enough, we have to bring these brightly coloured cardboard tubes into it, and with them come all kinds of dilemma. Who do we share our cracker with? Why is no one sharing their cracker with me? If the other person gets the bigger half, do they keep it or give it back? We don't need this kind of tension before a big family meal, but the cracker provides it, with an added bang to boot. 

It's not like crackers are important. You get a hat, sure, but only half the people at the table wear it (I don't because my head is too big, and also because I'm a terrible person). Apart from that, you may get a joke that makes everyone groan, and a trinket that you'll never use again. How many fortune telling fish, mini decks of cards and tiny padlocks does one person need? 

I'm not sure how crackers evolved to be a Christmas tradition, but it's certainly one of the strangest, and it just seems to be a way to squeeze more money out of everyone during the festive season. Sure, it's a little bit of fun, we all appreciate a terrible joke once in a while, and I like it when the banger doesn't work the first time, so I have to do it outside the tube. It makes it so much louder. I guess the appeal of crackers is purely in the tradition, it's something that brings families together, a bit of festive fun before tucking into a good meal. But that doesn't automatically make them fun. Crackers are weird.

My rating: 1/5

Wednesday, 24 December 2014

Today's Review: Cinnamon Crisps

For someone who used to loathe cinnamon, I've certainly come a long way. I spied this box of Cinnamon Crisps in a 99p shop and thought "Man, those look good". 

Basically, these are cinnamon flavoured biscuits. It's not a thing I've really seen lining the biscuit aisles, but it's a simple enough idea. They're pretty much like Nice biscuits, but with cinnamon instead of coconut. There isn't too much cinnamon, so it didn't blow my head off, but it's certainly noticeable. There's also a nice sprinkling of sugar on top, and it makes for a lovely, sweet, slightly spicy biscuit. There's a lot in the pack, but once I ate one I found it pretty hard to stop. These are lovely crunchy biscuits, with a very subtle cinnamon spice. I'll definitely pick up some more in the future.

My rating: 5/5

Tuesday, 23 December 2014

Today's Review: Fuzzy Brush Chewable Toothbrush

Let me paint a picture for you. It's the end of a long night's clubbing, or the conclusion of a nice date at the movies or a bowling alley, or let's say somewhere else with toilet facilities. Upon emptying your bladder, you spy the little vending machine by the door. You may be tempted to pick up a prophylactic, or a little blue pill, depending on what you think your chances may be. But you also have the option of a chewable toothbrush. Perhaps you had too many onions in your hot dog earlier, or you've drunk so much that your body decided to reject it right back out of your face. Either way, this little lifesaver could be the difference in wooing the lady with fresh, minty breath, or seeing her flee in terror at your dirty pie hole. I said I'd paint a picture, but it's more of a rough sketch. I can't say I have much experience with having to buy disposable toothbrushes from condom machines, but the other day I figured I'd go for it, and here it is.

Yes, a chewable toothbrush. The idea intrigued me, though I wasn't sure how exactly it would differ from, say, a piece of gum. Turns out it does differ quite a lot, as it looks like half a bear trap that could be hidden really well in the snow. A polar bear trap, perhaps. I wondered why it took such an odd shape, thinking it wouldn't matter once it was all chewed up anyway. But while this toothbrush states it is chewable, it doesn't actually change state. The aim is to roll it around your teeth, squeezing it with all your dental might, in order to release some minty stuff contained within the bristles. The helpful instruction disc shows you how to do that, and I actually didn't find it too hard to reach most of the surface area of my teeth. The backs were tricky to get to, but I managed to do a pretty good job. It was easy enough to tell where I'd rolled this thing to, as it leaves behind a pretty fresh, minty finish. In that respect, I was surprised. It looks like a gimmick, but it actually works somewhat effectively. I was left with a minty fresh mouth, although to be honest I didn't have particularly dirty teeth to start with.

I don't know how this brush would hold up to dirtier teeth, but I assume it wouldn't be that great at picking bits out from in between them, who knows what kind of things some people are shoving in their mouths in night clubs. Also, despite being left with a minty maw, it didn't feel all that different from eating a piece of gum, and I think I'd much rather be seen chewing on gum than manically swilling a piece of plastic around my teeth just to brush the right spot. Still, if you're stuck for options, and find yourself with terrible breath in a bathroom, this does do the job. But you'd get the same effect for much less effort if you just planned ahead and carried some gum around. This brush is okay, but I don't think I'll be trying it again.

My rating: 3/5

Monday, 22 December 2014

Today's Review: Rockstar XDurance Electric Fruit Mix

My experience of Rockstar drinks have been quite mixed, from the mediocre to the downright awful, although the sugar free one wasn't bad. I decided to dive in again when I spied this interesting green concoction. It claims to be an "electric fruit mix", though I'm not sure what that means. I'm not aware of any fruits that are electronic, and closer inspection of the can informed me that this is watermelon flavoured. Is the drinks infused with electricty? After all, it's supposed to provide me with "performance energy" that may improve my "XDurance". They can't all be buzz words, right?

Well, this drink certainly has a watermelon flavour. It's that distinctly sweet kind of watermelon you may find in a Jolly Rancher or bubblegum, and it's not all that bad. The problem is that the drink also tastes like syrup. It's a little thick, and quite sickly, and it's clear that there's a fair amount of sugar lurking in here. If it was a different flavour I'd probably be giving it lower marks, but the watermelon fits in quite well here, and distracts from the sickly taste quite a bit. It's still not a drink I would recommend, but at least it's drinkable, and I got a nice little buzz out of it. There are certainly better energy drinks out there though.

My rating: 2/5

Sunday, 21 December 2014

Today's Review: Penguins Of Madagascar

I've never been overly fond of the Madagascar series, although I did quite enjoy the third instalment. Along every step of the way, however, the penguins have given me conflicted feelings. They seem to be pretty almost shoehorned in, a more polished version of Ice Age's Scrat that distract from the main plot with over the top special agent themed tomfoolery. I'm not sure why, but I didn't quite get the appeal, and they seemed to me to be more of a novelty than anything else. So finding out that there was going to be an entire movie about them, I was a little skeptical. I know they've already had their own TV show, but I really haven't paid attention to that.

Penguins Of Madagascar starts as an origin story, showing our heroes Skipper, Rico and Kowlaksi rescuing an egg containing a baby Private when they were mere chicks. They already have their excellent planning and acrobatic skills, so don't expect any training montages. Once the penguins are all together, we jump immediately to right after the events of Madagascar 3, where the team celebrate Private's tenth birthday, but also stumble into a nefarious plot spearheaded by the evil Dr. Octavius. With another crack team of agents also on his tail, can the penguins save the day?

Well, the plot leaves quite a lot to be desired. It's a generic secret agent/revenge story that never feels very fleshed out. Good enough for a kid's movie, but nothing special. Thankfully, that isn't the major attraction. Wherever the penguins have been involved, there have always been some high octane, acrobatic mad cap plans to carry out, and this movie turns that dial up to 11. For every lull in the story, there's a wonderfully choreographed action sequence that is just plain entertaining to watch. Chase scenes, infiltrations, there's always some action going on, and the penguins always lend their unique style to the proceedings. 

There are also a good few laughs to be had throughout. There's a fair amount of visual humour, but there are a few golden one liners scattered around that definitely had me chuckling. It's certainly not a consistently hilarious movie, but there was certainly enough to keep me entertained. There's also a pretty good cast behind the animals. The penguins all have their voice actors returning, but there are also some good appearances by John Malkovich, Benedict Cumberbatch, Ken Jeong, and even a small turn by Werner Herzog. Sure, there are no Oscar worthy performances here, but every character has a pretty good voice behind them. 

Penguins Of Madagascar is better than I was expecting. It's certainly not the best animated movie I've seen this year, but I definitely enjoyed myself. It's an action packed family offering that looks great, and while it may be a little thin on the ground plot-wise, it's a nice piece of entertainment for a few hours on a winter's day.

My rating: 4/5

Saturday, 20 December 2014

Today's Review: Wonka Fun Dip

Dip Dab style sweets aren't ever my first choice for a snack, but I think they're worth trying out from time to time. There's just something uncomfortably time consuming about having to work your way through the deposits of sherbet with whatever lollipop tool you're given. The ones I've tried in the UK are okay, a few nice fruity flavours and dipping options. But I found this effort by Wonka in Mr. Simms, and I had to give it a go.

A Dip Dab offers one type of sherbet, a Double Dip sports two. This Fun Dip goes the extra mile, showcasing three distinct sherbets, as well as two sticks to dip into them. That was impressive enough to start with, but actually digging into the sherbet, I was met with a whole host of lovely flavours. The Cherry Yum Diddly is probably the least adventurous of all, but it's certainly nice and fruity, with a flavour quite reminiscent of natural cherries. The Razzapple Magic dip is a fantastically sour blue raspberry effort, and the tang of the sherbet makes for a fizzy little party on the tongue. Finally, there's the Grape Yumptious, which sports that all American grape candy flavour. It doesn't taste much like real grapes at all, but it's a very bold, dark, sweet flavour that I can't get enough of for some reason. It's also quite tangy to boot, which I think only enhances the flavour that comes out of it. As for the sticks you pick up the sherbet with, they're pretty thick and sturdy, much like the stick you find in a Double Dip. Even if you have some left over after cleaning out the sherbet, they're pretty tasty to munch on.

So there you have it. If you're a sherbet dipping fanatic looking for something a bit more ambitious, look no further than Wonka's Fun Dip. Every flavour is awesome, and you get an abundance of dipping tools to help you out. Well worth a try.

My rating: 5/5

Friday, 19 December 2014

Today's Review: Cookies 'N' Cream Bites

I've tried various varieties of "Bites" before, with mixed results. I figured I'd tried all of them, but I found this interesting little box in Mr. Simms today. After all the weird and wonderful desserts that have been turned into bitey form, this cookies and cream flavour goes back towards the regular old cookie dough bites. 

The innards of these is the regular cookie dough seen in other flavours, while the outside is a "white confectionery coating". That certainly doesn't sound appetising, and it's really not. I see it's where the "cream" part comes from, but it's far too thick and pretty sickly, as if they should have gone for white chocolate, but didn't want to bother with the chocolate part. It left quite a bad taste in my mouth, much like the effect I get when I eat a Hershey bar. The cookie dough inside did a little to offset the coating, but it really isn't enough. If you want to try some Bites, there are some better flavours out there. The regular cookie dough, or even the fudge brownie are worth a go, but I'd leave these on the shelf.

My rating: 1/5

Thursday, 18 December 2014

Today's Review: Kit Kat Toffee Treat

Kit Kat have really been stepping up their game recently, bringing out some pretty nice new flavours. Their double caramel effort from a few months back was particularly nice, and while I may be a little late in picking up these new toffee Kit Kats, I was definitely looking forward to giving them a go.

There's not all that much to say about these. They certainly do look the part, with a light brown chocolate occupying the top three quarters of the fingers. This is where the toffee resides, in the form of a flavoured white chocolate. It sells pretty damn good, and it's a nice choice, as the chocolate is light enough to really let the flavour come through, and it's certainly a very bold one, a distinct toffee taste that permeates through the classic biscuit filling and the regular chocolate underside. It's pretty much a classic Kit Kat, with a very tasty new topping. I'll definitely be buying some more in the future.

My rating: 5/5

Wednesday, 17 December 2014

Today's Review: Twizzlers Filled Twists Sweet & Sour

I've tried Twizzlers before, and I was actually pretty disappointed. There was just something about them that didn't appeal to me, and I believe it's that they were quite dry and chewy. But, I decided to try them again when I found this interesting variety. While the original Twizzlers are regular old strawberry, these ones come in both citrus and cherry flavours. If that wasn't enough, these ones also have a tangy filling in the middle, so I was hoping these would blow those boring normal ones out of the water.

The sweet and sour factor is a good idea, and these are some very nice flavours to go with. The cherry is bold, dark and fruity, and the citrus certainly has a very nice tang to it. Unfortunately, the liquorice did seem to suffer a bit, becoming a little bitter as I chewed, most likely the natural flavourings giving way to the artificial ones. However, to save me disappointment, the filling gave a nice little kick. An extra bit of tangy goodness that provided a little bit of moisture to facilitate chewing.The result was a very fruity sweet with a nice tart filling. I certainly enjoyed them a lot more than the regular Twizzlers, and while they may not be perfect, they're certainly tasty.

My rating: 4/5

Tuesday, 16 December 2014

Today's Review: Cracker Jacks

I watch a lot of American TV and movies, and I often find characters tossing out random snack names, that everyone else just accepts as normal. I have made it my mission to seek out and try as many of these as possible, be it Tootsie Rolls, Charleston Chews, orange soda or Cap'n Crunch. There is one snack in particular that has eluded me for many years though. Many characters often speak of devouring entire boxes of Cracker Jacks, and I managed to find one the other day. I'm guessing they come in larger boxes stateside, to facilitate the character's guilt at eating an entire one, but this tiny pack was enough for me to see what all the fuss is about.

The packaging says it all really, these are caramel coated popcorn and peanuts. It may sound a bit boring, but hey, these things have been around for ages, so I figured they must be pretty good. Turns out, they are. The popcorn is soft, with a nice chewy exterior, and while there are certainly fewer peanuts than kernels, they give off enough flavour to make the whole experience quite nutty. Even eating a popcorn kernel on its own, I was picking up hints of peanut, and the caramel coating on everything made it all nice and sweet. It didn't take me long to devour the box, so I know what all those gluttonous Americans mean now. I also got a prize inside, in the form of a sticker for an American sports team that I don't know, so overall its was a pretty awesome experience. Now when someone talks about eating Cracker Jacks, I'll know exactly what they're talking about.

My rating: 5/5

Monday, 15 December 2014

Today's Review: Paddington

I'm surprised it's taken this long for Paddington Bear to be updated for modern audiences. But here he is. I hadn't heard much about this movie before I went to see it, but judging by the trailer, it didn't look all that bad. I can't say I'm particularly knowledgeable in Paddington related matters either, but perhaps that's a good thing, as I can't nitpick over what he's become. 

Paddington (Ben Whishaw) is a bear hailing from deepest, darkest Peru, who arrives at Paddington station in search of a new home. Paddington eventually has a chance encounter with the Brown family, headed by a no nonsense, cynical father (Hugh Bonneville) and an accepting, adventurous mother (Sally Hawkins). After begrudgingly inviting him into their home for the night, Mr. Brown sets about finding a new home for Paddington, inadvertently catching the attention of Natural History Museum taxidermist Millicent (Nicole Kidman). 

The plot certainly isn't anything special. Kidman plays your cookie cutter kid's movie villain after an interesting animal, and there's the usual sort of cat and mouse fare, but the rest of the movie is padded out with slapstick scenes of destruction and musings from Paddington alongside montages of the family. That may sound boring, but while the main plot certainly drags its feet, the rest is so well produced that I didn't mind sitting through it. Paddington is beautifully animated and provided with a fantastic voice performance by Whishaw, and even while he's accidentally destroying things he's simply charming, and it's all put together very well.

The overall look of the movie is wonderful. It has a very fantastical feel to it, be it the building whose internal memo system works via hydraulic pipes, or the Wes Anderson-esque plod through the rooms of the family home, every scene is just a delight to look at. Everything is accentuated by some great performances from some of Britain's greats, particularly Bonneville and a lovely turn from Peter Capaldi. Even Kidman turns a quite generic villain into something quite nice.

Paddington is a good family movie. It looks fantastic, has some great performances throughout, and I just had a lot of fun watching it. The plot may leave a lot to be desired, and slows down the whole affair in some places, but it may well be the best family movie this winter season. 

My rating: 4/5

Sunday, 14 December 2014

Today's Review: Getting Superglue All Over Your Fingers

Earlier, while rooting around in the kitchen drawer, resplendent with odds and ends, I actually thought I'd found what I was looking for. A key, hopefully the spare front door key, but it turns out it wasn't. Oh well, at least I came away from my search with something, and that something was a split tube of superglue fused to my hand.

If you've ever used superglue, I'm sure you've found a small blob on your finger afterwards, and promptly stuck it to another finger just to see how well it sticks. If you have, I'm sure you'll know it's pretty effective, and the same is true for entire leaky tubes and multiple fingers. I'm not going to pretend like I had the worst possible experience, I could have had more glue drying on my skin, and certainly in a more sensitive area, but I did still have to prise the tube away from my flesh, and then proceed to work on the now-dried thick white residue.

It's not how I wanted to spend half an hour on a Sunday evening, but after submerging my fingers in water for a while, I found the dried glue was quite easy to peel off in sizeable chunks. In fact, it was quite satisfying when I pulled off a particularly large piece, so it really was more fun than I expected it to be. Still not something I'd recommend, but certainly an interesting experience.

There may be a few flakes of glue left on my fingertips, but that's nothing my constant skin shedding won't fix in due course. There certainly aren't any real benefits of getting your fingers covered in superglue, you wouldn't even be able to climb walls like Spiderman. It's an annoyance, and it can be a little painful if you have to peel things off yourself, but I certainly found how to make the best of a situation, and all in all it's not too bad. I can't speak for covering other body parts in superglue though, so I'll go ahead and strongly advise against that.

My rating: 3/5

Saturday, 13 December 2014

Today's Review: Butterbeer

I went to the Warner Bros. Studios your last night, and while the experience in its entirety is a review my tired mind cannot endeavour to make right now, I can provide a little snippet of one of the freebies I picked up along with my ticket. This is Butterbeer, the mystical, magical drink that Harry can't wait to try out in the books.

Well, they've tried to recreate the experience in little plastic cups, and while I was hoping for the warm version, I was still excited to try this out. It's basically a cold, fizzy cream soda, with a nice creamy froth, underlaid by some buttery syrup. It tastes less like the butterscotch is hoped for, and more like butter, so overall it's a little sickly. Thankfully, the drink itself is not all that thick, and manages to be quite refreshing. But it's just not what I was expecting. The cream soda taste is quite overwhelming, which isn't bad, but I was hoping for a bit more of a balance between flavours. This Butterbeer is quite a nice effort, but I certainly wouldn't go out of my way to buy some more.

My rating: 3/5

Friday, 12 December 2014

Today's Review: Lemsip Max Apple & Cinnamon

I've been looking out for festive treats over the last few weeks, but I hardly expected to find one amongst the medicines. It makes sense though, my annual winter head cold is rising, and I need Lemsip to keep it at bay. I can abide the lemon stuff, so I normally go for blackcurrant, but today I was spoilt for choice and had to go with this apple and cinnamon flavour. After all, 'tis the season.

While the blackcurrant is quite dark and flavoursome, I was expecting this one to be quite light and bitter, much like the lemon. Instead, I was pleasantly surprised. It has a crisp, fruity Apple taste, with just a hint of spice that warms up the tastebuds rather than setting them alight. In fact, it tastes quite like apple pie, which may sound strange for a drink, but certainly had a soothing effect on my cold symptoms. If you're suffering in these cold months, a mug of this tasty Lemsip should fix you up.

My rating: 5/5

Thursday, 11 December 2014

Today's Review: Chocolate Orange Digestives

They're back! Although I don't know where they've been, or when they were around before. This is the first time I've tried them, but I certainly wish I had before. It's a simple twist on the classic chocolate digestives, and I always welcome a bit of orange with my chocolate. After all, 'tis the season, and orange chocolate is apparently a festive thing. So let's tuck in.

There's not too much to say about these, but it's all good stuff. You have the buttery biscuit base, the classic, crumbly, awesome tasting digestive biscuit. Layered on top is the smooth milk chocolate, just enough to add a lovely creamy texture and take away from the potential dryness of the biscuit. The orange hint dwells within the chocolate, but appears to reside throughout. It's a smooth orange taste, not too tart or too strong, and it lasts until the very last crumb. I always preferred the chocolate digestives over the dry versions, but these certainly surpass the ordinary chocolate ones. I hope they stick around, because they're damn tasty.

My rating: 5/5

Wednesday, 10 December 2014

Today's Review: Cheesestrings Spread

Having dominated the string cheese market for many years, Cheesestrings have decided to extend their reach to the cream cheese section, by delivering a Cheesestring spread. I'm not sure exactly how this works, since, y'know, Cheesestrings are string cheese, so to make a Cheesestring spread you are losing the very essence of Cheesestrings. But hey, who am I to stop them doing something different?

Well, this spread is okay. It pretty much tastes like Dairylea, but as far as cream cheese is concerned, it seems that the Cheesestrings guys have sided more with the cream. It's pretty sweet and creamy, but it's certainly more spreadable than Dairlyea, so I'll give it more points for that. It really doesn't taste like Cheesestrings though, just another generic cheese spread. Not that it's bad, it's just decidedly average. There are plenty more nice cream cheese options out there, and this is just another one piled on top. It's certainly not awful, but it's nothing special. It's good to spread, and it tastes alright, so it will probably be good for any kids who point it out during the weekly shop. All you grown ups should probably stick with Philadelphia though.

My rating: 3/5

Tuesday, 9 December 2014

Today's Review: Tesco Finest Oriental Bites Selection

It's time to go back to the party food, although I'm yet to have a party. But hey, I'm always partial to some bite size goodies, so I used the vouchers I was sent by Tesco to pick up these oriental bites. They're like Chinese food, but like, backwards and spherical. Or like scotch eggs with a very oriental twist. They come in three varieties: Prawn and rice bubble bites, chicken katsu bites and chicken satay crouton bites. All very nice sounding, but how do they work in ball form?

Well, they certainly looked good coming out of the oven. The most visually striking one is the satay crouton bite, surrounded with crunchy croutons, like a blocky, 8-bit hedgehog. The inside is nice and creamy, with a citrusy hint, with a nice meaty texture added by the chicken. That's when I could taste it anyway, as the croutons are pretty overpowering. Crunchy, and nice, but they do drown out the rest of the nice flavours.

As for the chicken katsu, they're probably the most bland looking, with a simple coating that doesn't really get in the way of the inside. There's a lot of meat in these, and a nice bit of sauce in the middle. Definitely tasty and creamy, but there's a little too much chicken for my liking, and overall it becomes a little bland and dry.

The prawn bubble bites were a nice change after the chicken. A slightly crunchy coating on the outside, with a change of texture inside, and some rice thrown in for good measure. They're also very aromatic, with a nice hint of spice, but there's some lemon grass tossed in that really overwhelmed the senses. It may have been nicer in a smaller quantity, but as it stands it just seems a bit off.

These bites are all employing some great ideas, it just seems that the recipes are a bit off. While they're all pretty tasty, there seems to be one element of each that's just a bit off, that overwhelms the others. With a bit more balance these could be great, but as they are they're just alright. If you're fond of Chinese food, though, by all means pick them up, you may disagree with me entirely.

My rating: 3/5

Monday, 8 December 2014

Today's Review: Gü Salted Caramel Hot Chocolate

I reviewed Gü's ready made, chilled hot chocolate a few days ago, and was certainly blown away with how tasty and easy to prepare it was. So I couldn't resist going back to Tesco to try out this salted caramel flavour. Hopefully it would kick it up a notch and deliver an even tastier hot chocolate experience.

This stuff is the same deal preparation wise. Pour it in a mug, stick it in the microwave for a couple of minutes and you're good to go. The best thing is that the recommended nuking time leaves you with something immediately drinkable, rather than a mugful of liquid akin to the surface of the sun. So it was a case of bottoms up straight away. This hot chocolate is infused with some nice caramel flavouring. It's not overly strong, the hot chocolate base is still very sweet and flavoursome, there's just as velvety hint that is present in every mouthful. It makes for a slightly smoother experience, detracting from the ever so slightly sickly texture of the pure hot chocolate. However, I did find that this flavour suffers from being in the microwave. While the regular variety was smooth throughout, there were a few "lumps" in this one, probably a case of the caramel becoming a bit too cooked. It didn't affect the flavour at all, it just made the cup a bit inconsistent, and overall I didn't really enjoy it as much as the regular. Also, while the caramel was clearly noticeable in every mouthful, I didn't really get much of a salty taste, probably due to the overwhelming sweetness of the other elements.

This salted caramel hot chocolate is a good drink, and certainly one that fits nicely into the range. It just has a few minor shortcomings that means I can't rate it as highly as the regular flavour. If you want a bit of caramel in your hot chocolate, go ahead and buy it, but if you're after a smoother experience, stick with the normal. Either way, you'll still have a good time.

My rating: 4/5

Sunday, 7 December 2014

Today's Review: Reese's Giant Chocolate Bar

If America knows how to do one thing well, it's combining chocolate with peanut butter. It's only just caught on over here, but the Reese's Peanut Butter Cup is an American institution, and one that I've heard many Brits compliment over the years. I'm glad the trend is catching on, because now I can find things like this Reese's peanut butter chocolate bar, which was down to only £1.50 in Tesco. I love the cups, so the thought of having that magnified into a massive slab of chocolate was too good to resist.

There's not much to this, really. It's a big chocolate bar, filled with creamy Reese's peanut butter. Each piece is pretty massive, probably comparable in size to a single Reese's cup. But while I find that the cups tend to have a little too much peanut butter inside, the chocolate in this bar does a lot to remedy it. There's a thick outer casing on all sides, and while it's not the best chocolate, I've tasted, it does the job well. Besides, the peanut butter still wins out, with a creamy, nutty taste that's just delicious. The chocolate lends some lovely, sweet undertones, which is all well and good, but as with most Reese's products, there's just a little too much sweetness going on. Even after a couple of squares, it was quite sickly, the peanut butter especially being very filling. But I certainly enjoyed every moment of it. 

This Reese's bar is a decadent, sweet, creamy nutty treat. It is perhaps a little too much for some people, and you may make yourself sick if you eat the whole bar in one go, but you'll certainly enjoy the ride.

My rating: 4/5

Saturday, 6 December 2014

Today's Review: Tesco Finest Smoked Salmon Canapés With Beetroot Pearls

Christmas time means party time, and while I'm not one to throw a formal gathering, I was sent some vouchers by Tesco with which to try out their Finest party range. There are a few interesting treats to try from, though unfortunately I couldn't find the most interesting sounding in my local stores, such as the saucy test tube bubble shots, popping candy chicken skewers and glitter laden prawns. So, dejected, I grabbed a few of the others on offer, including these smoked salmon canapés.

You can't beat a bit of smoked salmon and cream cheese, so I knew this would be a winner for me. This is an appetiser you can assemble yourself, consisting of seeded cracker breads, which you can top with lemon and chive sour cream, smoke salmon and tiny beetroot pearls. As such, I attempted to emulate the picture on the front to the best of my ability:

Well, I won't win any points for that one, but you get the gist. There are certainly some interesting ingredients here, and while I didn't endeavour to sample them individually, all the flavours came out pretty well when all stacked atop each other. The crisp bread is a good base, nice and crunchy, with some great added texture from the seeds. The sour cream is fantastic too, creamy and smooth with a lovely citrus hint. The salmon is, well, just good salmon. Nothing fancy added to it, but it stands well on its own. The beetroot pearls are perhaps the most interesting touch, they look great, and in pearl form it's easy to put on as much or as little as you like. Not that the flavour is intrusive, just a nice, dark layer that brings everything together quite nicely. I did find that the pearls were easier to put on the sour cream layer, otherwise they tend to roll off the salmon. They may not look as nice that way, but you'll get a better spread of flavour.

So yeah, these taste damn good. Creamy, crunchy smoked salmon delights that look pretty fancy to boot. You can assemble them all yourself before a party, or let the guests go at them like a fancy Attack A Snak. The best thing is that there's plenty of all the elements to go around. I was able to pile everything on pretty thickly without running out at the end. I even had enough of the sour cream left over to put on a bagel, which was awesome. These canapés make for great party food, and I can't wait to try out the other treats I picked up.

My rating: 5/5

Friday, 5 December 2014

Today's Review: Gü Hot Chocolate

'Tis the season, and there's nothing better than curling up on a warm Winter's evening with a nice mug of hot chocolate. But, y'know, all this home made hot chocolate business can be a bit daunting. Do we go for powder, or flakes? Mix it with water, or milk? Well, milk, obviously. But I've always found mixing a hot chocolate perfectly to be pretty difficult. Whether it's spilling some on the side during the initial mixing, some kind of messy expansion in the microwave, or powdery remnants on the bottom of the mug, there's always something not quite right. But Gü have got us all covered. This hot chocolate comes pre-mixed, albeit chilled. So all it takes is a couple of minutes in the microwave, and you have yourself a residue-free mug of hot chocolate.

I've had a few Gü puddings in my time, and I've loved every one. It's nice to see they've carried on that quality into this hot chocolate. It's fantastically chocolatey, dark but creamy, and with a thickness to it that's just right. It would probably get quite sickly if you go for more than a mugful, but on its own it simply makes for an indulgent chocolatey treat. Even if you don't want to warm it up, it can drunk as a very naughty chocolate shake. It's good at all temperatures, but after this chilly day, it certainly warmed me up fresh from the microwave. I'm not sure there's much else to say. Gü have provided a carton of fantastic tasting hot chocolate that's easy to prepare. Just try it, you won't regret it.

My rating: 5/5 

Thursday, 4 December 2014

Today's Review: Lindt Creation Chocolate Cake

I don't normally pick up Lindt chocolate, but I'm always glad when I do. They do some damn tasty chocolate, and when there's truffle involved as well it's just heavenly. So it only took one look at this bar to make me grab it. Lindt chocolate, truffle and chocolate cake? Sign me up.

So let's break this down. The outer layer is the good old fashioned Lindt milk chocolate. Creamy, delicious, if you've had Lindt before you know how it is. It's quite a thick layer, so there's enough milk chocolate to keep the whole bar quite a light affair. Underneath is the dark chocolate truffle. It's soft, almost sauce-like. The best thing I can compare it to is the topping of your regular chocolate fudge cake, but with a darker flavour. There isn't too much of it inside, but it still adds a very bold, dark flavour, and did actually get a little sickly after a while.

As for the "melting heart" that the packaging promises? Well, I certainly didn't see any hearts in there, and I can only make the assumption that the truffle and the heart are one of the same. I also can't see how this is a chocolate cake flavoured bar, because there isn't any hint of cake in there at all. Chocolate filled with dark chocolate does not a cake make, where's the doughy goodness? Not even a few chunks. All we have is a chocolate bar with a chocolate filling. Don't get me wrong, it's not a bad bar, but it's not what I was expecting when I picked it up. It's just a thick, somewhat sickly bar, and there are certainly better Lindt Creations out there. This is an alright choice if you like dark chocolate truffles, but it's not quite for me.

My rating: 3/5

Wednesday, 3 December 2014

Today's Review: Aero Orange & Choc Mousse

I'm not much of a yoghurt eater. Sure, I'll eat one if it's in front of me, but I don't find myself diving into the aisle when I go shopping. But I saw these right in front of me when walking into Morrisons the other week, and I couldn't resist picking them up and giving them a go. Basically, they're orange Aero mousses, and they are limited edition. I'm not sure if they've been around before, but they were certainly new to me.

The first thing I noticed about these mousses is just how orangey they are. The majority of it is orange, with just a swirl of chocolate, which in hindsight I should have known just from looking at the packaging. As such, the chocolate is a little drowned out by the sheer amount of orange flavour present here. Then again, the actual orange Aero bar is particularly orangey too, so it wasn't too bad overall. Perhaps a little more chocolate would have been a good thing though. The texture is just a little off as well. It's definitely mousse-like, but it's a little too aerated and bubbly for my liking. I know that's the Aero style, but after I'd finished a pot I didn't really feel satisfied. I'd rather have a bit more mousse and less air, but I enjoyed what I did get to eat. If you're a fan of the orange Aero bar, you can't go wrong with this one. If you're not, you probably weren't gonna try this anyway.

My rating: 4/5

Tuesday, 2 December 2014

Today's Review: Vimto Tongue Ticklers

I'm always up for trying out some Vimto sweets, I haven't met one that I didn't like. I found this little treat at Morrisons the other day, which promised to tickle my tongue. They also promise a secret Vimto flavour, just after stating that they have a mixed fruit flavour, so I don't know what to believe.

The packet consists of six separately wrapped chewy sweets, much like the Xtreme Chewits. Each one certainly starts out a bit hard to sink your teeth into, but after a few chomps they get chewy enough. The flavour is distinctly Vimto, a lovely blackcurrant/raspberry concoction, and it lasts throughout the entire sweet. What I didn't get much was the tingly tongue. I was expecting something sour, also much like the Xtreme Chewits, although maybe not quite as Xtreme. But these weren't tangy at all. They're certainly nice sweets, but they didn't deliver on their tickly promise. If you're just after some chewy, Vimto flavour sweets, however, these will do nicely.

My rating: 4/5

Monday, 1 December 2014

Today's Review: Method Cleaning Products

It's always nice to receive some products to sample, and while most of mine have been the kind that I can devour wholeheartedly, this time I was sent some stuff from Method, who have released some very nice looking, non-toxic JoyceLynne Aryan Nation products. So technically I could devour them wholeheartedly, but I thought I should use them for their intended purpose. Now, I don't normally do the cleaning in my household. Not because I refuse to do chores, or that I think it's a woman's job, it's just when I do it I normally do it poorly, so I have assumed other responsibilities that I can do without sucking. But since I had these to review, I thought I'd give them a go.

The main feature in my package was a "honeycrisp apple" surface cleaner, and if there's an apple that I want my place to smell of, it's definitely one that involves honey. One of the main selling points of this cleaner is that it's non-toxic, and it certainly contains a lot of interesting naturally derived ingredients that I can't quite fully understand. Some are derived from corn and coconut, and while I'm not sure how they work, I think the main point is that you can spray this stuff on your surfaces without burning your skin or staining your clothes, and that's a bonus. It also means there are no nasty chemical smells left behind afterwards, just a pretty pleasant honey and apple scent. While I may not be the most knowledgable in the grime busting business, this stuff certainly did clean off the gunk that had built up in my kitchen, leaving a nice shine at the end. I'm not sure how it would stand up to thick dirt, but if you're at that point you probably need to break out the industrial strength stuff. As it stands, this Method cleaner is nice smelling and simply clean.

I also got a nice bottle of air freshener, and living with three young children, there are certainly unpleasant smells hanging around a lot of the time. I've dabbled with aerosol stuff in the past, and while it's nice smelling at first, they do all seem to turn a bit chemically before fading away. The Method stuff, however, still has none of that nasty stuff, boasting natural ingredients, and powered by air somehow. Basically, you spray, the bottom bit rises up, and some nice smelling stuff comes out. I got the tangerine variety, which certainly left a nice citrus scent hanging in the air for a fair while after I sprayed it. Sure, it wore off eventually, but it's certainly in the top ranks of the air fresheners I've tried, with a nice, simple, fruity smell that doesn't choke you when you accidentally breathe a little in. Or when you spray and purposefully shove your face in the falling invisible cloud to catch a whiff. As an added bonus, the air freshener bottle has an interesting halo surrounding the spray button, which not only looks cool, but allows you to spin it round your finger like a six shooter, so you can pretend to be a rootin', tootin' housekeeping cowboy.

I wasn't expecting to be blown away by these Method products, I just expected to spray, wipe, and leave a middling review on them. But I really can't find anything wrong with these. They smell nice, they're not packed full of nasty chemicals, and they left whatever I used them on looking and smelling clean. So find them at your local Tesco and give them a go, they're really nice.

My rating: 5/5

Sunday, 30 November 2014

Today's Review: Häagen-Dazs Chocolate Hazelnut Brittle

It's been a while since I've had some ice cream. Many people would steer clear of it now we're getting into the colder months, but it's always a good time for ice cream as far as I'm concerned. Especially when that ice cream is half price Häagen-Dazs. Skimming through the flavours for something that tickled my fancy, I came across this chocolate hazelnut brittle flavour. I don't believe it's particularly new, but I'd certainly never tried it before, and there's something about the festive season and nuts, they just go well together. So I was sold.

You know, I was expecting there to be a lot more hazelnut in this ice cream than there actually is. Sure, it's in the nut brittle, but I was hoping there would be some swirled into the ice cream. Instead, this is just a straightforward chocolate ice cream, and although there are a fair few chunks of brittle, they're not that big, and not too flavoursome either. It's like eating chocolate ice cream with a bit of a crunch to it. Not that that's a bad thing, I was just hoping it would be a more nutty experience, and I was met with something distinctly chocolatey. This is a nice ice cream, but if you're after either a chocolate or nut hit, you're better off seeking out a different flavour, as this is very middle of the road.

My rating: 3/5

Saturday, 29 November 2014

Today's Review: Terry's Chocolate Orange Doughnuts

On occasion I have enjoyed the Cadbury doughnuts that have graced the Tesco bakery for a good while now. Now there's a slightly more festive option available, in the form of these Terry's Chocolate Orange doughnuts. But how close to the original classic can these doughy treats get?

Well, they certainly are chocolatey, featuring a chocolate doughnut, topped with chocolate, and filled with orangey chocolate. Despite only the filling having the orange flavour, I certainly got a hit of it from my first bite, and it continued until the end. There's not too much of the gooey innards, but in a way that's good, no one wants to bite into a doughnut and get chocolate oozing out everywhere. There's certainly enough filling to make every bite orangey, and it's pretty well spread throughout the entire thing. The doughnut itself is the main concern here. It's quite, well, doughy, in that it's pretty dry. If there was no filling, it would certainly be far too chewy for my liking, but thankfully the middle provides a little moisture. Still, the dough certainly is chocolatey, and the chocolate on top just adds another delicious layer, with a smattering of flakes to add a bit more texture. 

If you're looking for something Chocolate Orange themed but a little different, these may be up your street. They may be a little dry, but they're definitely tasty. They certainly don't beat the regular, classic orange though.

My rating: 4/5

Friday, 28 November 2014

Today's Review: Nativity 3: Dude, Where's My Donkey?!

Well, that title is something of an indication of how this is going to go. I watched the first Nativity several years ago, and while it wasn't fantastic, it was still a pretty alright Christmas movie. I skipped the second one, but I've heard that wasn't bad either, and with David Tennant leading the way I'm tempted to go back and give it a casual viewing. But hey, this one has Martin Clunes, so how bad could it be?

I would say I don't want to spoil the plot, but since there's such little semblance of coherent plot I don't think I can really jeopardise it. They say it's a mostly improvised movie, and it really shows, but not in a good way. We start with a girl named Lauren recounting how her father, Mr. Shepherd (Clunes) managed to woo a betrothed vocal coach (Catherine Tate) away from a big shot "flash mob superstar", and it's all presented in such a way that I was sure that I'd missed out on some major plot points laid out in Nativity 2. After a bit of research, however, I've found that all these characters weren't even in the second movie, so why they feel the need to introduce everyone in such a strange way, I don't know. 

Also, I lied before. Nativity 3 doesn't start with this flashback narration, it begins in a shopping centre where a flash mob pops up and everyone has tons of fun. How festive. Anyhow, we then see the focus shift to St. Bernadette's school, where a big childish man named Mr. Poppy is let go by the new headmistress, because he has no qualifications that deem him safe to teach children, and there's an Ofsted inspection coming up. How does Mr. Poppy react? Well, he concludes that to save the school from shutting down, he needs to sneak back in and recruit pupils to take part in a "flash mob competition" (even though the very definition of a flash mob is that they are unexpected). 

Mr. Shepherd is shoehorned in at this point, arriving at the school as a "super teacher" meant to bring everyone up to standard, but after being kicked by a donkey he suffers complete memory loss, and it's up to Mr. Poppy and a handful of ragamuffin dancing children to help him out. However, after consulting a doctor, they receive the expert medical opinion that they should just flood him with Christmas based stimuli instead of visiting a neurologist. So begins a sequence of events more baffling than those I just described, where a clearly inept adult and his amnesia-suffering companion kidnap a group of over ten children from school, and drag them all over the place to dance and attempt to piece back Mr. Shepherd's memory.

I could write all day about how much this movie makes no sense. But I've gone on for long enough, and even writing those last few paragraphs was painful. Let's just safely say that Nativity 3 is so nonsensical that even the biggest suspension of disbelief won't save you. It doesn't even seem like anyone wrote a script, they just threw everyone into a random place, gave them one take to blurt out whatever they could make up and called it a day. The performances are awful, the jokes are flat, even the songs, which are meant to be the main focus, are uninspired and poorly dubbed. Nativity 3 is the worst movie I've seen in a long while, and I recommend you stay away lest your Christmas spirit be crushed.

My rating: 0/5

Thursday, 27 November 2014

Today's Review: Southern Electric's Bus Stop Advert

I saw this interesting piece of advertising on the way home today, and while most ads are designed to be snappy, communicating their messages clearly within seconds, this one simply left me baffled.

Southern Electric are proud that all their customer call centres are in the UK. Well, that's nice, but it certainly doesn't explain the half faded orangutang gracing the majority of this picture. In fact, nothing does. Why is that orangutang there? Is it even an orangutang? I admit I'm not completely up to speed on my species of ape, but there's not even as much of a mention here as to why that thing is taking up the advert with no explanation. Is it a thinly veiled racist dig at those who prefer to outsource call centres to other countries? Or is it a statement that their green policies are preventing rainforests or whatever from being destroyed? Because hey, that would be something to be proud of, I'd prefer they mention that, instead of talking about having a building in this country and then sticking an ape over the top of everything.

In fact, the fact that Southern Electric have call centres in the UK is not something I'd consider all that important. I know it's become a big thing with people moaning about accents and British jobs and whatnot, but I'd prefer to be with an electricity company who is proud of delivering good quality and consistent service. That way I'd never even have to ring a call centre. Though to be fair to Southern Electric, when I used to call them they had Jack Johnson's entire In Between Dreams album as the hold music, so maybe their call centres are something to be proud of. It doesn't stop that picture being any less baffling though. 

My rating: 1/5

Wednesday, 26 November 2014

Today's Review: Tesco Finest Mature Devonshire Cheddar & Norfolk Ale Chutney Crisps

My word, that's a mouthful. It seems these days all the food has to say which part of Britain the ingredients come from, just so everyone knows just how British they are. "Cheddar & Ale Chutney" was all I needed to know, not the geographical origins. Is Norfolk ale chutney really the best ale chutney? I don't know, but I doubt I'm going to get the full effect when it's powdered and sprinkled onto potatoes. But hey, these crisps might be pretty good. I mean, I'm not a big fan of cheese crisps, or ale, but I was willing to give these the benefit of the doubt.

Well, these crisps certainly are cheesy. It's definitely something of a mature flavour, but it's quite smooth at the same time. My tastebuds weren't overloaded with cheesiness, because I was certainly picking up a distinct ale flavour as well. It helps to distract from the cheese, and the chutney element shines through as well, delivering some nice, fruity undertones. Unfortunately, this only lasts for a little while, before the cheese takes over the show, but for that little while these crisps are something a little different, but not quite as insane as some of the flavours I've tried over the years. I can't say I'm a big fan of these, as while I did notice the hints of ale, I don't really like the taste. But for some distinctly British crisps this Christmas time, these deliver something a little bit different, without straying too far from classic roots.

My rating: 4/5

Tuesday, 25 November 2014

Today's Review: Kraft Macaroni & Cheese

I can't say I eat mac 'n' cheese all that often, but I certainly couldn't pass up this box when I saw it reduced in Tesco. Kraft Macaroni & Cheese is a national dish of Canada (known as Kraft Dinner over there), and is one of those foods that have been referenced in many shows and movies from across the Atlantic, but has so far eluded my grasp. The box I found is a little lighter in colour than the classic, but I assume that's just because of the emphasis on whole grain. Either way, it's original flavour so we can't be that far off.

Well, before I could taste the Kraft Dinner, I had to prepare it, something I'm not quite used to doing for a review. Thankfully it's pretty damn easy to make up. The macaroni lies in waiting, loose in the box, so all you need to do it boil it for seven to nine minutes, pour in the sachet of cheese sauce powder, add in a few tablespoons of milk and margarine and you're good to go. 

I was a little concerned after mixing that I'd put in the wrong quantities. After all, the pasta certainly wasn't swimming in sauce, because apparently that's something I've come to expect from a food I barely eat. But in the case of this Kraft Dinner,  it seems less is more. The sauce is creamy and smooth, and while it's definitely cheesy, it's not overwhelmingly so. The texture and flavour of the pasta has a chance to shine through, and although the macaroni is pretty small, there's certainly enough to make a delicious, filling meal. Although I can't call myself an expert on the tastiness of mac 'n' cheese, I believe there's a reason why the Kraft version has been popular since the 1930s. It's just really nice. If you can get a box, give it a go.

My rating: 5/5

Monday, 24 November 2014

Today's Review: The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1

Apparently I didn't review the second instalment of The Hunger Games, but Catching Fire was a damn fine adaptation of a pretty exciting book. After watching the first movie I blazed through the books, and the last certainly wowed me. Now the first part of the movies based on Mockingjay is at the cinema. Yes, it's another victim of the two-parter final instalment epidemic that's taking Hollywood by storm, but I had faith that this would still be pretty exciting. By the way, if you haven't seen the first two, don't read this, although I'm sure that goes without saying.

Katniss has survived her second Hunger Games, albeit after an explosive ending (literally). She now finds herself residing in District 13, a place thought to be destroyed by the Capitol. The president of District 13 (Alma Coin) informs Katniss that her actions have sparked the beginnings of revolution, with members of other districts starting to rise up. With Katniss taking on the role of the Mockingjay, Coin hopes to unite the districts and take down the Capitol once and for all. But it's not such an easy choice for Katniss. With President Snow seemingly watching her every move, and with loved ones that could still be targeted, will she be able to lead a revolution?

Mockingjay is quite a departure from the first two instalments of The Hunger Games series, most notably because it doesn't actually feature a Hunger Games. This was certainly a good thing in my eyes, as I remember letting out an exasperated sigh at the idea being recycled for Catching Fire (although it was pulled off extremely well in the end). From reading the book, I know that Mockinjay is a very worthy finale to the trilogy, but splitting it into two parts doesn't bode too well for it onscreen. With so many new elements and characters to introduce, the first half of the book is something of a slow burner, and this is reflected in the movie adaptation. Still, they've managed to squeeze some pretty good action scenes out of it, especially one that wasn't explored with much detail in the book, as the narrative is seen solely through Katniss' eyes. When explosions and gunfire aren't taking up screen time, we are treated with a lot of war room planning, and Katniss alternating between anger and sorrow, and while it does get a little boring after a while, there's enough here to break it all up a bit.

One of the main things that saves Mockingjay Part 1 from being boring is the performances. Lawrence is on top form, moving from appallingly acted propaganda star to impassioned freedom fighter with relative ease. She certainly cements herself in the position as the very best choice to portray the lead. The supporting characters are wonderfully cast as well, from the late, great Phillip Seymour Hoffman to newly cast Julianne Moore, and even a small but very able turn from Natalie Dormer. Considering the script isn't overly engaging or full of action, the dialogue between the characters was enough to keep me interested until the somewhat abrupt end.

Aside from the acting, the visuals can't be faulted either. The settings are extremely apt, from the dark and dingy District 13 to the sprawling Capitol and vast forests surrounding the districts, everything fits in well with the feel of the movie, and the action scenes are perfectly shot to give just the right amount of suspense. 

Mockingjay Part 1 is by no means perfect. It's a bit boring, but it's saved by some great performances and a little bit of liberty taken with the source material. I could say that Mockingjay would have benefitted from being shot as one movie, but I'm not sure that would be the case. Part 1 serves to get most of the set up out of the way, and while it's certainly not as exciting as the first two instalments, it definitely kept me entertained. Roll on next year, the final movie looks set to be a blast.

My rating: 4/5