Sunday, 28 November 2010

Ann Widdecombe - Why I dislike her.

What can I say about this particular person. She is in some ways thoroughly pathetic and pitiable, yet in other ways you can't help but admire her. If only because of her ability to say what she thinks - but you know, there are plenty more people out there to admire for that who are far more classy, glamorous and more importantly humane. [See Joanna Lumly as example]

I'm sure that even if you didn't watch it, you'd know that she is currently in her 9th week on Strictly Come Dancing.
To start with, you admired her for trying - she took the comments from the judges - 3 of which rearranged the marking scale for her. One week I believe she even got a 6.
Craig (and quite rightly, really) has been stubbornly refusing to give in to her - he is marking her according to the dances, not Anton's limitless imagination or the cringe-laugh factor. I have to agree with him: She shouldn't be shoving other people out of the competition. Unfortunately that is the way the British Voting Public works.
John Seargeant just happened to have the good grace and conscience to bow out when a far better dancer was voted off.

Anne Widdecombe: she's had songs written about her (Victoria Wood's is the most famous I suspect) and she's had all sorts of jokes made about her. Her steadfast personality is admirable in politics, despite her policies (which are awful btw; summarised here v. briefly), but I'm afraid that I'm losing any seriously grudging respect/admiration for her fast. She is an embarrassment. She is simply displaying the true reason that she "chose" to be celibate. Bitchy, yes, but I don't care.

Her refusal to even attempt to dance something that is a standard in a dance like the Rumba or Salsa is just pathetic. It's not "suggestive" to have Anton lean over her from behind in that inward body roll thing. It is a standard dance move - I don't think sex when I see it. Just shows how frustrated she is, if you ask me.
I can understand her desire to not show us what she "wouldn't show the Pope" - in fact, believe me, we're ALL grateful. But that doesn't mean that she should prohibit moves that would otherwise appear in a dance. not that she'd have done it well, anyway. No doubt the weight of her chest would have result in her tipping forward and falling onto her face.

I'm not sure why, though, she let Anton fling her around the dance floor, and to pull her around by her leg. That's just the most stupid substitute for "suggestive" steps that they both could have come up with.
How is that maintaining her dignity? Seriously. She's got her priorities crossed, not her legs - there is less dignity in this shit than there is in her being held close to Anton and letting him unbutton one more shirt button.

Having fun? Yeah, perhaps she is. And I can't help but applaud Anton's relentless imagination trying to come up with routines that she will be willing to even try. Being flung about doesn't earn respect from people with an IQ higher than that of their dog.

I have to say that the Titanic routine this week was almost good - incredibly stupid and pointless, perhaps, but she almost did something.
Her argument that she has every right to be voted through each week does hold up in a democratic society, but then so does the right to prohibit abortions in America - it's legal, but that doesn't mean it's ethical. 

She doesn't have to come up with stupid tricks and gimmicks, but then, she probably knows that that wouldn't get her anywhere. She probably had fewer votes the week she took it vaguely seriously than the week she was forklifted off the stage.

 Even her costumes have gone down hill. Apart from this week, her dresses have grown more and more ridiculous, looking less as though she is trying to look presentable and more as though she is hoping that the audience will vote her through to endure more humiliation.

For a [ex] politician this is a somewhat worrying trait. It is perhaps reminiscent of Boris Johnson's victory during the campaign to be Mayor of London - less because of his policies, but more because he is such a loveable yet bumbling prat most of the time, when on television.
However, "BoJo" doesn't have horrendous policies and nasty personal opinions - he's just a bit of a baffoon. Unfortunately, Ann seems to be getting the public to forget her ugly involvement in politics.
Or the stupid protest voting that goes on - The BNP only got a seat in the Euro elections because people thought that voting for fun wouldn't matter since nobody else did. Well that backfired, didn't it?

I could write about how she's a horrible person all round, but that's a separate blog post all together; Why Ann is NOT a national treasure.

Saturday, 27 November 2010

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - Part 1

Ok, I'm over a week late with watching it, but you know, I had other things to do. 

I think it's best I start with a brief summery of the 6th film's main failings since I rewatched it last night with a friend who'd not yet seen it.
The biggest failing, which I noted in the cinema on first viewing was that instead of spending a little more time with Dumbledore and explaining to Harry about how and why Voldemort chose the objects he did to turn into horcruxes, they faffed about by burning the Burrow, an event that does not happen in the book.

As a result, the 7th film(s) will have Harry and his pals somehow haphazardly coming across horcruxes with plain luck. Yes, Hermione works out that they need Gryffindor's sword, and yes they work out the tale of the Deathly Hallows, but I can't help but feel this was rather careless of the directors, if they wish the films to be easily understood by non-book readers. 
I physically winced when Ron angrily pointed out that he couldn't believe Dumbledore spent all that time with Harry and didn't even tell him how to destroy horcruxes - because I knew that Dumbledore at least told Harry what they most likely were and therefore they'd be.

Right, as for the seventh film, I actually quite enjoyed it - hell, I was ready (not rearing, but ready) to sit another 2 hours to watch the second half. I have no idea why people these days are unable to watch Gone-with-the-Wind-length films. But maybe that's just me.

It begins with a scene only hinted at in the seventh book, which I thought was rather touching: Hermione ''sorting out'', as it were, her parents' memories of her. If they don't know who she is, then they can't be harmed.

Heartbreaking though, if you think about it. The audience seemed to feel quite sorry for her.

We have a quick scene with the Dursleys leaving, Petunia looking, dare I say it? Remorseful? No sign of Dudley though which is interesting. Must have shoved him in a wardrobe that was on the roof of the car or something. 

Finally the book parts get going - the collection of Harry by members of the Order (Bill very quickly introduced since we missed him in the 6th film) and Ron and Hermione was very well done, with the 7 Daniel Radcliffs wearing other people's clothing and using other people's voices and making jokes.
The subsequent fight and flight scene as the death eaters ambush the Harrys was actually quite thrilling. We see them scatter but all the focus is on Real Harry and Hagrid in Sirius's motorcycle. Whilst it wasn't quite canon, Hedwig's demise was actually more upsetting that way - in trying to protect Harry (rather than being in her cage and accidentally getting hit) she not only dies but gives him away as the Real One. 
The only thing that made me "oh no, they didn't...><" was when Voldemort's failure to kill him resulted in a big dramatic "NoOoOoOoOoOoOo!!!!! *lightening and thunder*" [I kid you not]

Madeye's death was briefly dealt with, and more or less wiped under the carpet, with only mutterings from me about that "bastard, Mundungus". I'm more angry with Film Mundungus than I am with the book Mundungus, cause I thought that Madeye was, along with Luna, one of the few characters done flawlessly in the films. Shame.

I can see why some critics would argue that there was a lot of drawn out scenes, as Harry, Ron and Hermione don't get up to much in the wilderness. I liked it, though - there's no point in missing things out and shoving too many fast-paced and action scenes into a smaller time frame. I think that those films tend to be slightly poorer than films that have lulls in between. I'm not saying that this film is a 5 star masterpiece, but it would have been spoiled if they just juiced up the half of the book which was about theory and what was going on in their heads rather than fighting and Total War.
Besides, the countryside they used was beautiful - I can't help but wonder if it was all filmed in England. It wouldn't surprise me if there were Wizarding World bits of the map that us Muggles don't know about.

Sophie Thompson (left) David O'Hara (right)
Harry's already changed back, you see.
I think I should pay a little tribute to three otherwise forgotten actors in this, who I thought did a good job: Sophie Thompson, Steffan Rhodri and David O'Hara as the Polyjuice Potioned Hermione, Ron and Harry in the Ministry of Magic. As you may remember, they must retrieve the true horcrux locket, since the one which had been obtained in vain by Dumbledore and Harry in the 6th film was fake. To infiltrate the ministry, they knock out three random employees there, and use polyjuice potion.
They all act awkward and confused admirably. Or so I thought. Particularly David O'Hara as hopeless Ron.

I suspect that 80+% of people that watched the film were moved by the return and exit of Dobby the House Elf. He tags along with Kreacher when he is looking for Mundungus, and after that is instrumental in the rescue of Harry, Ron and Hermione from the Malfoy mansion. He even has a little patriotic (sort of) speech - "Dobby has no owner. Dobby is a free elf. Dobby will save his friends". Unfortunately, those of you that have read the book know how that went down with Bellatrix and what befell him.

The scene was ruined perhaps by too short a dramatic pause after his last lines, but the tears were there. It did not count as crying though, cause they stayed behind the rims of my eyes, so there.

Death giving the youngest brother the
invisibility cloak.
The effects in the film are getting far better. Ok, I think they'll never perfect Nagini, but apparently slightly larger-than-normal pythons are too difficult. And then there's Ralph Fiennes, the noseless thing that he is.

The scene in which we learn the story of the Deathly Hallows - the three wizards that attempted to defy Death - was exquisite.  I thought it was beautiful, artistic and engaging. It was quite Tim Burtonesque, I suppose - I did think ''Corpse Bride'' with the Resurrection Stone. It was pretty shadow puppeting.

I'll keep it brief with "the sex scene" - not exactly a sex scene. More like two topless people with serious snogging. And lots of smoke. Briefly, about 2 seconds. The most saucy part of the film, arguably, is when Harry strips down to his boxers to dive into a minus-temperatures pond because an unexplained apparition of a Doe indicated that he should.

Unlike J.K.Rowling, the directors KNOW that Snape and Draco are lost souls. At the start, with the torture and killing of the Muggle Studies teacher of Hogwarts, there is quite clearly supposed to be hint of back story to Snape, as she begs him "Please, Severus... we were friends". A test by Voldemort, perhaps? But Alan Rickman plays him well, as does Snape, so perhaps that hint of sympathy is imagined.
Draco, on the other hand, is quite clearly being traumatised by the cruelty, despite what he thinks of Muggles and Muggle Studies.
The Malfoys are quite clearly on edge, what with Voldemort's temper being a bit testy. Seems Bellatrix is the only relative of the Malfoys who's got any - well, it's not respect, but you know. Favour, I guess - from Voldemort. Perhaps because of her amazing hair? Which gets more and more copious each film, I'm sure.

Overall, I give the film 8/10. It's certainly the best one of the series. I suppose the directors are actually skimming through the books now. What with all the loose ends that are tied up, they need to know how it's done.

The acting has really broadened out, too. Like Rupert Grint's shoulders.

By the way, since I saw this picture before I saw the film, I couldn't watch this scene without picturing the party hats. Slight shame there xD

Friday, 26 November 2010

Shepherd's Pie or Cottage Pie?

Ok, so I made my first Shepherd's Pie today. 

Look at it, isn't it gorgeous? =D
But this sparked the discussion between a friend and I about what is Shepherd's Pie, and what is Cottage Pie - I personally thought that what I made was the mince variant of the lamb version, whilst Cottage pie would just be plain meat and potato, no veg at all. (That's the distinction my local Spar has made with its ready meals, anyway).

In Scotland, they say that the lamb version is Shepherd's pie (make sense, when you consider that shepherds herd sheep, not cows) and the beef is Cottage Pie.

This is what our good ol' friend, Wikipedia says:

The term "shepherd's pie" did not appear until the 1870s,[2] and since then it has been used synonymously with "cottage pie", regardless of whether the principal ingredient was beef or mutton.[2][3][4][5][6][7][8] There is now a popular tendency for "shepherd's pie" to be used when the meat is mutton or lamb,[9] with the suggested origin being that shepherds are concerned with sheep[10] and not cattle,[11][12] This may, however, be an example of folk etymology.

 So it would seem that what I've made is neither, considering Traditional Shepherd's/Cottage pie doesn't appear to have beans/peas/carrot (delete as applicable to taste) separating the potato from the mince. 

What the person I was talking to about this claims to make is (in my mind a bit wrong...):
I make what I call a cottage pie, with beef mince, onions, green beans, baked beans and mashed potato on top. In the oven.
And lots of gravy on top :p 

Well, at least I know mine was delicious. <3 And plenty of left overs. :D

How do you make it?

Cool Stuff - "The Invisible Man", Liu Bolin

Ah, the stuff you hear about from Have I Got News For You. This really Cool Thing is Chinese clamoflage artist, Liu Bolin, who became what papers have called an "Invisible Man", because he couldn't get a job elsewhere.
He goes all over the world, and paints himself the exact colour of the scenery. I think it's cool, personally.


So yeah, that's the cool thing I found out about today. Probably old news, knowing it...

I think whomever it is that paints him does a great job.

Tuesday, 23 November 2010

A Few Things I Don't Yet Understand About [my] University

  1. The suggested work load - Some of you might correct me on this, but I *think* that I remember hearing that the recommended time spent a week on a subject is 40 hours a week per module - so if 3 hours a week is taken up by seminar and lectures per module, that leaves you 37 hours to study per module, which would leave you just 48 hours to do everything else in your life.
    (7x 24) - (40x3) = 48.
    Factor in sleeping and eating times, that's say 8 hours x 7 a week, plus maybe (3 x 1.5) x 7 for eating meals and then you're supposed to have a balanced work-social life, so if you're spending a good 3 or 4 nights a week doing something that isn't work for ~5 hours (I know people who party more, but I'm talking more more about just downtime on an average night) that's 20 hours... not entirely sure how that works... if you sleep and work to the department's poorly phrased schedule, you have 2 hours a week to do whatever else you like - shower and brush your teeth, I imagine.

    Of course, if individual tutors stopped pretending that their module was the only one available for the course, and they applied the 40 hours to all three modules in total (making it just over 8 hours each week per module, which doesn't actually seem enough) then perhaps that'd be easier to understand.

  2.  We graduate in our colleges - Most people will agree with me, I think, that if a person makes the majority of his friends through his degree scheme, it'd be much nicer to graduate with said people in his degree scheme. Unfortunately, this is impossible if they are all from different colleges. It can happen that you graduate with one person you barely know cause you were only flatmates for one year and went in separate circles, instead of milling around with your besties from your course in which you've shared 3 years together. I shall be graduating this year, and will perhaps see three people I know but don't actually hang around with - one is my flatmate whom I've not seen in over a week, and there're a couple of people I recognise from first year, and then there's one dude I know, and do speak to occasionally (he had a very dapper suit on yesterday, for example, with a really nice tie) but will probably not see on the day anyway. And besides, he does Physics. I do history. It's almost strange we know each other at all, really. [Actually, I have mixed with quite a few physicists. It just sort of happened.]

  3. Angela Baywater - for other students at my university, that's probably 'nuff said.

  4. Where the porters go when they're ''on patrol'' - They're wonderful people and they love it when you get mail BUT porters are mysterious creatures. They have walkie talkies they never respond to, and these weird things called ''patrols''. You'd think that'd be obvious - clearly, they're walking around campus doing their thing. I argue that that is rot. Most of the time, when the porter's lodge is dingy, with a football match on the pc on silent, and a sign in the window stating the porter's whereabouts as 'on patrol', he is in fact just going for some air. He is probably musing life and the buzzing noises of the saw near by (we have building works) or the annoying yelling and screeching of young adults returning at 3am after a night at the Sugarhouse. He probably thinks deep deep things, in a corner of campus where nobody can happen upon him.
    Sometimes, he is not even on patrol, but is using that excuse when it's his lunch break. Or when he's gone to the loo. He even uses it as an excuse when he's actually been to sort out a student's short circuited kitchen (as the last time I saw him).
    Whether and where the porter "patrols" is going to forever be a mystery.

  5. Extreme Heels + Copious Booze = amazing agility - I can't help but admire scantily clad girls wearing beautifully dangerous heels on cobbled streets, clearly smashed off their face being able to walk, albeit not in a straight line, pretty normally. I can barely stand in those things sober, so goodness knows how that works. Generally girls coming back from a night out are walking better once their feet are partially crippled than when they're starting out at the start of the night.

  6. How girls who got at least one A at Alevel are still stupid enough to wander around town or campus when it's subzero degrees outside (and had been snowing the night before) wearing less than 50cm of vertical length pieces of fabric. Coming back from town and complaining of cold feet when wearing a hat, gloves, scarf, hoody, leggings AND cotton tights, knee high boots and a coat made me look, well, like an arse, in comparison to the squatting mass of blue flesh on the curb waiting for a taxi. 
    Didn't stop me saying "I could really use some ear muffs right now" as loudly as I could to my equally well-wrapped up friend without sounding like a complete dick. I'm sorry, but when you know that hypothermia technically kicks in when you're just 2 degrees cooler than the normal body temperature, you can't help but feel bitchy and scornful of those idiots complaining when they're the ones going around in practically nothing - not even a pair of skin-tone tights to complete the outfit. Skanky.

 I'll probably add more to the list - anybody that has something about university or their university specifically that you'd like to add may comment.

Sunday, 21 November 2010

Many a things a happening.

First term so far has had its ups and downs. Fortunately the downs were mostly cause I was ill. =D
Yay me.

I've made many new friends - Ian the Bowland Barman, Jeremy the County Barman, That lovely American girl that's here for a year, other people that have now joined the society. I've been chilling out a lot with my friends and spending a ridiculous amount of money in doing so. It all adds up, you know.
I've achieved one or two of my goals for this year. I've had to change one, perhaps, but that doesn't matter.

Let's see. What have I done? I've finished one essay out of 2 I need to do this year, I'm a bit behind with my dissertation cause the sources turned out to be tricky to get hold of - I have to read one or two in Old English. Yay.

      I've had teacher training with the volunteering unit on campus, and I went to their social which was great fun. It involved really good free food, epic games of Giant Jenga, Twister, hoola hooping contests (I can still do it! Not done it since primary school, and I tell you, doing it for more than 3 minutes is oddly tiring) space hopping, ''INVOLVE Olympics'' - my team came second - and just chatting to people who also love to work with children. I tell you though. Space hoppers are really hard on your inner thighs when you're on a slippery floor and you've never done it before.
      I've also got an official job. As in, paid and contract and everything - I'm working for Aim Higher, trying to persuade people that whatever reason they have for not going to University when they've got the academic ability to is not really an issue. Bit hard to sound convincing when you've got the Government undermining everything you say.
I'm so cool.
      Probably not of a huge consequence to you lot, but I've got lovely new clothes, too. I LOVE my tartan skirt. It's so comfy and soft and pretty. I'm always a bit cautious with tartans. I tend to dislike the pattern after a closer look. But this one, I really like. Except I have to put a bit of tape on one of the fake buckles, cause the bits that go through the leather of belts and such sticks up at a right angle, threatening to pierce my shirts. Not very friendly! And it hurts when I unwittingly ram my hands onto my hips.
It's cool though, that part of my skirt is always covered by a top. I don't really like tucking them into my skirt... don't like the back of the waist line so much.
     I've been to the cinema, as you might have guessed. I actually also saw Burke and Hare, but I've not felt I could really bother writing an entire entry about it. It was ok, that's all. I mean, they said themselves it's not historically accurate, but it's not going to be on my pre-order list. I plan to see the first half of the last Harry Potter film. I'm a canon-Potter fan, so I shall be critiquing the film against the book. If there are scenes that are irrelevant or never happened in the book, I will rage, just as I did with the sixth film, when the Deatheaters burned down The Burrow.

Nom nom nom
The guys and I have been having loads of fun. We've seen films, been to town, (ah there's another friend, the Juice Cafe guy. Go to Juice Cafe for milkshakes! They're WAY better than Diggles. Seriously. And it was Juice Cafe that came up with the idea and recipe in the first place!) When I had my training, I missed out of the History Society trip to York. :( But we made up for it by having a film night in my room with Some Like It Hot and trying out 99p facemasks from Superdrug. We all had different ones - but only Hannah's and Simon's came out looking pasty and cool. I just looked sunburned for a while.
Hannah and I have been trying to do Pilates - we've been once, then one or the other of us was ill, and the instructor was ill when we weren't, so you know. But we'll probably go again tomorrow!
We've been doing Art Soc, too. I dunno. It's not quite as structured as it was sold to us, but apparently that was to do with Amazon orders and such for t-shirt week. I enjoyed the life drawing, and the door sign stuff though. So there are two hobbies there ''expanding''. I've been going to live music nights with Kate, and it's making me want to join a band more and more. Maybe not here, but I've made my mind up to try out for the Linton Jazz Band. Though it's really nostalgia for the Windband at my secondary school that I'm really feeling. :(

He's such a poser.
My ex-flatmates and I met up, too, when the lovely Ibby came to visit. She's a working gal, now, so the weekend was greatly appreciated. Twas with them that I saw Red,  and we had a lovely long dinner at the Bella Italia.

And my younger (height does not = age) brother and grandfather came a-visitin' as well. That was fun. Get on quite well with my brother, see.

....And stuff. Yeah, there's probably loads I've missed out. It's got to that point where I'll have something to write, but it seems lame or I get distracted by something else really cool.
Had quite a few weird dreams, too. I have to write up that one with dragons in. All I wanted to do was to meet Kate by Greaves Park. Jeeze.

Sunday, 14 November 2010

Long-pronged forks and fisticuffs are apparently the most effective weapons against Zombies.

It was dark, and I was crouching behind some tall boxes. I peeked through the crack and listened to the discussion going on between the Dean and some other strange, dark looking people.
It'll happen soon, they said. Then it will have begun and the road to domination would be complete. It'd start at County bar and move throughout the country.

I got away and spread the word: the zombies are coming, week 10, during the Winterfest. County bar will be attacked first. 
I'd seen what the protoypes could do - one female zombie kept a machete inside her, which she drew out through her eye socket. (She removed the eyeball first) I had sneaked out a very long-pronged fork, which I knew would be dangerous to them if in the hands of the students.

I and my friends and others in my college were assembled in the bar. We had ammunition in the back of the bar. We barricaded the doors. The windows were glass, but for now they'd do. The air was tense, and we were nervous. I was kicking and punching the air as I fidgeted, knowing that if we didn't do something - didn't fight back, then there'd be nothing stopping them making their way towards Alex Square and the Winterfest.

One girl arrived in a neon green skirt, with heels. It was a pencil skirt and she could barely move her legs apart to walk normal length strides, never mind kick. I told her to go back to change - didn't she know that they'd be here soon? How could she fight in that?
I spied a surley looking boy in the corner. He had the bad 90s curtain fringe, and pale pale face with shadows around his eyes. He saw me looking and as I started towards him, feeling worried in my stomach, he got up and left. I was almost sure it was one I'd seen when I discovered this plan.
I sat with my friends, as we discussed the plan. They were worried. I reassured them, saying that the long pronged fork would be of use to us. Kate was carrying a large baseball bat. 

Soon it was dark. If you looked along the length of the window, down the spine, you could see the white tents and lights from the Winterfest on the edge of Alex Square, near Greggs.
People came out of the shadows. Those of us in the bar took up our weapons. We were surrounded by 5, perhaps 6 of them. The machete girl came out, with a cat by the scruff in her right hand, and the machete in her left. She held the cat up, holding it under the stomach, and slit its back open, letting the spurts of blood spot the ground and around the bar. She looked at me and smiled.
I knew that that was how they were going to seal us in - with some sort of force field. The surly lad from before had his face up against the window, and I looked at him face to face through the glass. I felt my fist curling in anger and testosterone.

How dare they do this to us?! 
I saw the tents in Alex Sq from the corner of my eye and fear gripped my stomach - what if we couldn't stop them? 

And then I woke up, thank GOD.

Retired and Extremely Dangerous

Mixed reviews online - generally, I can see what they mean, and I guess if you review films for a living, you will have seen this plot line at least 50 times before. So I forgive the 2-star givers.

For me, however, I considered the film to be enjoyable and funny - yes, the fight scenes generally don't include a lot of danger (it's a 12A, get over it) and yes, the jokes are probably as old as its cast, and yeah, Morgan Freeman isn't exactly stretching himself into a new character. I still rather loved it though.

Not read the comic, so I won't be making comparisons.

The plot is pretty basic: Ageing Bruce Willis (he's so bald!) has fallen gently in love with the girl that answers the phone at the pensions office. He tells her he's coming to visit, but that night he's attacked by (very sloppy, I must say) unknown assailants who DEFINITELY wanted him dead. He realises that his phone's probably been tapped, and so goes to kidnap the girl of his dreams for her own safety.

He meets up with his old pals in the form of aged, ill but still active 88 year old Morgan Freeman, the absolutely insane paranoid John Malkovich, the mysterious but cuddly Brian Cox and the glamourously deadly Helen Mirren in order to infiltrate the FBI HQ, and to take down the person(s) behind the death orders.

The film has gags in it, and the cast is fantastic, but it's one of those films that could still be better. The writing was a bit predictable - there was the aforementioned lack of danger. Perhaps that's why it was a 12A film, or perhaps that is what they were aiming for. But the special FBI agent moves and the gun fights and the explosions were all too perfectly choreographed. That doesn't mean, of course, watching Helen Mirren handling an enormous machine gun whilst in a gala dinner dress wasn't entertaining.
Perhaps if the writers had followed the cast's lead, the film might have been better - the lines were delivered very well, but there wasn't always enough pace, or the action scenes were too formulaic. The end of the film was a bit too clich├ęd for words.

What I do know is that despite it being yet another Bruce Willis Proves He Still Has It at 50+ film, he is still endearing (and cool) and John Malkovich's performance was brilliant.
The sub-romance plot between Cox and Mirren was more enjoyable than the main romantic plot between Willis and Mary Louise-Parker, though.

I'd give the film 3.5 out of 5 - still enjoyable and fun to watch, but it wasn't quite brilliant.