An Atomic Review, Atomic Pizza Oxford

If having two restaurants at different ends of an Oxford street isn’t a sign of a business in full demand, I don’t know what is. Atomic Pizza sees all the characters of your childhood proudly covering the restaurant in a 50’s diner & comicbook mashup. We ate in the presence of a life size Carbonite Han Solo.

Their pizza bases are made fresh, on the premises, daily and quite the base too, they offer thin or calzone, I chose the thin and enjoyed a soft, chewy base with a crispy crust, very moreish.

The menu plays out like a comic book, each item on the menu is named after a famous character from so many areas of iconic comic, film, game, TV and music culture, each with a unique taste and as appetising as the next. You can even design your own pizza if you’re feeling creative.

I decided on The Gambit, a delicious combination of tender chicken, bacon, Cajun spice, three huge onion rings and a tangy bbq sauce drizzled around for good measure. Not to forget the rich tomato sauce and bubbling mozzarella keeping it all together. All in all, Big flavour throughout, brilliant from start to finish and a great display of Americanised Neapolitan heritage. This is a real contender.

My friend and agent had the Sloppy Al, £9.75, as a calzone, and with beef chilli (Veggie option too), red jalapenos, Cajun spice, chilli flakes, nacho’s, mozzarella and a tomato base, this was a pizza closely related to a burrito and a genius creation for a fan of spice.

It’s worth noting how great the service was, the kitchen is on form and the front of house were ever attentive and not just because I’d worn my best Hemingway turtleneck, brought my finest notebook and was scribbling away in between bites.

I dare you to take a peek at the menu online and not find something that’ll kick start your belly rumbling like a Hells Angel on a Hogg. In fact, I double dare you.

http://www.atomicburger.co.uk/pizza-menu/

A First Class Film

As a big film ponce I’m not a massive fan of the big budget blockbusters that bundles of people flock to see time and time again.

This particular point of view is aimed at the not so marvelous comic book movies. I do like comic book characters, well some of them, but not the films they jump into these days, the action packed one-liners that are getting ever more ridiculous in an attempt to push their subjective hero’s to the maximum.

What they lack in story they make up for with long winded action sequences and a baddy that seems impossible to defeat, right up until the last quarter of the film, when the hero finally realizes that they are in fact super human and the baddy is just a jumped up power fiend with a weakness for pride & honor or something.

Which is odd, seeing as the comic books these wildly interesting characters spawned from revolved around the story and characters, with fight scenes that barely rivaled “Pow” and “Whaam”, dialogue pretty much stays the same, lazy script writers.

 

One of my many problems with these films is the way that they pretty much transfer a comic and put it into film. Take me as a bit of a cynic, but I’d much rather see a 3D version of the hero’s we so often fantasized about, a character come to life rather than a 2D stereotype of their former drawn selves.

 

But enough of the ranting, how I bloody love a great British rant, I want to pick out my most recent favourite in the comic world films, one out of the consistently inconsistent X-men franchise, and that is the first class First Class.

It was a fresh take on a group of misfits that have a past as interesting as it’s future, I’m surprised they didn’t open the franchise with a how they came to be story, but very glad they didn’t because Matthew Vaughn gave the film such a beautiful base, a set of characters that were as deep as the colours they were living in, super stylish and with a story to get invested in, (I don’t think it’s possible to get away from villains that want world dominance and to start world war three, they ought to take a leaf out of Putin’s book, so I’ve given up contending the greedy power hungry villains.) the story had a realness that was as much a surprise as it was a joy to sink into.

 

One thing I appreciated was seeing the characters in a different light, seeing a side of them we hadn’t seen before and to give Xavier a hard time finding and coordinating his team, without making every scene with a group a laughable affair like the hilarious scenes that the avengers gave us, (too full of sass and terribly stitched together lines that tried so hard to sound and look cool, and we all know, that ain’t cool) was a great start to my favourite X-men movie and a worthy second place on a comic book film scale, second to, of course, Chris Nolan’s Batman – A showcase in how to do it right: well known characters in a fresh story. (I wonder who’s bright idea it was to start up another series already, next there’ll be a tv show

 

To oppose my enjoyment in this film, I’ve got my piece about the ending, it’s rare these days to come out of the cinema without having something to say, so here’s mine.

For any prequel, we come to see how things started out, we all know the characters and what they’ve been up to in their futures and so we all tend to know a fair bit more about the characters than they do themselves. This is a beautiful platform for irony and foresight, bringing the audience into the film with the characters, we as an audience can get so much more involved and invested if foresight and irony are used in a way that Shakespeare would be impressed with.

We all knew that at some stage Xavier would become paralyzed.

We all knew that Erik would become a villain as Magneto.

And I for one was more than surprised when those two, very large changes and twists in the characters fates were revealed right at the last scene. This confused me, before it frustrated me, why, when the whole audience knows that it will happen, why would a writer put those two challenges into the end of the first movie that is bringing to light their pasts, yes put the ideas into motion, I like where Erik left off, trying to make right where he has been wronged, yet still holding strong feelings for Xavier, still not quite Magneto. That works as a good end to lead into a second film.

But I can’t get over the paralyzing of Xavier, it’s just too soon and more importantly too obvious, coming from the man with the ending of layer cake under his belt, it seems Hollywood got the better of him and the production company kept a close eye on the last minutes of film.

 

It frustrates me because I would have loved to of seen a sequel to the prequel, I for one have had about enough of the old cast of X-men, they’re too much like the comic book films that don’t do any justice to the characters and stories that earned them time on the silver screen. I would have liked to seen Xavier battle with Erik, the two pulling in two very different directions and each trying to get the other thinking in the same way, each trying to get the other to become better.

It’s not just the fact that they ended the first film on a character pivots that could’ve made a heartbreaking second act downward spiral for Xavier and the chance for Erik to become more Magneto with the power of the team behind him, he could be leading them all down a darker path while Xavier struggles to come to terms and manage with paralysis, honing his talents.

 

Instead, we see the return of the first stand crew mix, straight away, second film in, with the originals. True to comic book folklore but most definitely an Alien vs Predator type film, a final squeeze to get the last drops of life from the franchise and cast, before the next bunch stroll in.

One thing that really gets my goat is when a film that comes from a book, short story or comic just doesn’t make a good transition from the pages to the screen.

Not only is it hard to ruin already credited work, but also doesn’t give an audience any faith in writing. Films rarely get the same amount of depth that comes from the pages, but the story is still being brought to life and all that it needs is a good translation into script, trim the fat and lean it down, but whatever the fat, don’t cut and scrimp on character, don’t waver from the story, and make sure the dialogue is natural and not too written.

 

Back to the rant in hand, I feel a meeting of both casts of the x men series wouldn’t of been such a problem if we had at least seen them try and keep the new series separate, if they hadn’t ended the film like they did and instead followed on into another film, where we get to see more of our favourite characters growing into the X-men, more past to feast on and foresight to keep us on the edge of our seat, fiendishly chewing on finger nails.

 

And what a success the first Origin film was, a strangely short series considering the vast amount of characters available to delve into. And to all those who say Wolverine is the only one who’s interesting enough to hold his own movie, aren’t you in the least bit intrigued at how the rest of the not Wolverine members came to be? Not even one bit of intrigued at how Cyclops got on in his teens?

 

So what if there isn’t much past to dredge up, a writer is credible only for their creativity, yeah they’re playing with pre made characters, but we all used to make up scenarios for our toys to act out, no need to get uptight about how fanboys and girls are going to take it, they’d appreciate a respectable film that doesn’t fade away like a poorly taken polaroid. I’d like to see who ever is in control of letting these films be made, make something for the different medium, something exciting, something new.

 

And all this results in my not wanting to go and see the latest X-men shenanigans. I can’t take another catastrophic save the world fiasco, let alone with all the troubles and gliches that come from time travel and then the effects of a double sized cast, narrower dialogue and next to no time to get to know any of the characters, again another spike at the lack of a fresh series.

All I can think about is how the characters interact with one another, a Professor X looking back at his former, full bodied self and also a chance to twist Erik’s thumb to not be a nob and go all evil Magneto and The Brotherhood.

Wolverine being wolverine, who doesn’t like that, we can just leave him to go a bit rogue, save the world and have a cigar.

A chance for mystique to get up to no good and generally be a confusing, whose side are you on twist to the party.

And whom are we left with? A few other mutants who can’t quite get into the limelight, constantly over shadowed by, not the army of alien robotics that are going to be attempting the destruction of the world, but by the mess that is going to be created from an already large ensemble cast almost doubling, with a light bit of time travel to get everyone suitably confused to boot. Bring forth the physicists to point out some flaws, they’ve got rather good after their Looper warm up.

 

There looks to be too much happening at once, yet another “it’s based on an actual comicbook storyline” problem for everyone enduring it, I’d like to know how many comics it took to tie up that storyline. The problem being, it is a legitimate comic book story, but as I have and will keep saying, it’s not easy to just transfer anything into a film, something has got to give.

Unless you’re Peter Jackson and you manage to make three long films out of one not so long book, the opposite side of the scale of the not quite right book to film dilemma. I won’t get into it now but we could’ve seen The Hobbit as one film and then crafted a very nice trilogy out of the other Baggins books in the same Hobbiton collection, instead of stretching out the hobbit, filling in spots and picking out lead villains form different books and mashing them all into one happy trilogy that makes me wonder how The Lord of the Rings got away unscathed, to sound like a fool – I was expecting to see the Hobbit done in a similar fashion to the Lord Of The Rings and be reliant on Tolkien’s writing to pack the punches for themselves.

 

Though I do like the idea of not keeping to the straight and narrow, mainly when talking about comic books, they can keep going as long as writers keep doing so, the same I reckon, will be best devised in the film industry, when producing the bloody things. Get a good writer to write a good story for the characters to deal with and not see comic book preachers chopping up random lines and letters to patch together films that would resemble a 90’s ransom note, put together with the tatty magazines you get to peruse while waiting for the dentist to take a peek at your teeth.

 

I can’t imagine that Bond would just stop when they run out of the books; it’d just spark a fire for writers to do their thing and create some new adventures for the British icon. Now that is a franchise that has become truly great, some slumps here and there but fully on its feet thanks to Mendes.

 

And here I am, hoping for a lift in the quality of comic book films, yes the base target audience is children, but you take a look in a comic book store and count how many under fifteens there are.

 

Now, I ought to go and see Days Of Future Past, but with a description like this:

The X-Men send Wolverine to the past in a desperate effort to change history and prevent an event that results in doom for both humans and mutants.

It’s very hard to summon up the will power.

However, there is hope still for them to recover this time travelling snag, already there is a date for the next X; 2016, back to the First Class cast, good.

Name? X-Men Apocalypse, I’ll let you judge that book by its cover.

How to make money from photography (or loose change with snaps)

I just read a magazine about how to make money from photography. For a relatively large magazine I wasn’t expecting to get on with every page, I tend to skim through to find the articles that stand out to me, a prospecting photographer trying to scope some path to take.

Now when you reach the end of a magazine before you’ve really read a thing it tends to twig that you aren’t interested in its contents, normally that could be down to the buyer picking up the wrong magazine, but as a photographer trying to make money from photography it seemed like a pretty good deal.

I was looking for some new ideas and a look into the realms of professional photography, the sort that inspires and amazes, the real big wigs of fashion, portrait and roaming travellers engaging in adventures, challenges and beauty.

But alas, I was mistaken. I either have too high a visual of what a photographer can really create and earn or the magazine wasn’t aimed at me: a photographer trying to make money from the craft. I wasn’t expecting to be shown a golden path to the Testino’s, leibovitz’s or even to the adventurous lifestyles to the likes of Aaron Huey or Steve Bloom, but what was catered for was an insight into the apparent pinnacle of money making photography, the wedding snapper, a known start up for many but, in danger of sounding arrogant, I’m aiming to become more than a pro looking wedding photographer and that was where the mag and I got off on the wrong foot; My professional photographer versus the magazines idea of a professional snapper.

The insight that the magazine gave me into a world I’m desperate to break into was of a bleak, wedding fueled ship, guiding me how to sell my photos to family customers. An article on how to be more professional based it’s guidance around the professionalism that a wedding photographer would bring to clients, it wasn’t without good insights into taking yourself seriously and general how to guide to being business headed, but to flip a few drab pages onto a huge segment of the magazine, “Social photography, learn all you need to know about running a portrait or wedding photography business”, more weddings I see, and after a brief nose through the pages beyond the title that explained how to be a professional wedding photographer, I was getting de ja vu by now, even when looking at the dog ends of the article that covered portraiture, not the large format portraiture that a quick look through any fashion mag would reveal, but family photographs, dealing with someone’s pain in the arse children, products to put your snaps on for a quirky little something something for the children to smash or the dog to chew, a customized piece of tat that would rival the best football shirt filled buy a hat with the name of the city you’re in shops that litter the streets of tourist crammed destinations around the globe. Not exactly the maximized profits I was imagining of raking in as a pro photo merchant.

So I was left to the next exciting title, this one with promise, “Jobs in photography” I like the sound of that, despite having a pretty sure idea of what kind of jobs are in photography, I was hoping for a good walkthrough of how to make it in whatever field I might find myself in, turns out there are four; landscape, travel, wildlife and sports. Again I’m mystified at the lack of recognition large-scale professional photography that this magazine, actually MagBook, gives to the biggest photography market. What do the Professionals at Digital SLR photography have against big business?

The sky’s the limit folks, why limit yourself and now your clients to being a jolly good wedding photographer or, now reading into the other jobs in photography, a sporty traveller taking pictures of cows in the field next to a local cricket match, hitting all the boxes that you had to offer. And to have a read of each little segment based on these other jobs I could so excitedly be doing if I spent a bit of time buying more and more kit that’s so necessary to become a pro, I was delighted to find that I could be selling my photographs to magazines, or as postcards, calendars and stock agencies, more high hopes for an aspiring pro and to boot I was shown how to really kick it up a gear; have I thought about opening up a market stall, no? How about making Ebay work for you? Yes, you too could make money by taking pics of the shit you’re selling back to the Ebay market, I’ve never thought nor dreamed of selling my prints to an online auction specializing in selling things on the cheap from china. I love Ebay, it’s a great place to pick up kit but come on! I want to make a living off my photographic talents, not learning “how to keep the taxman on the side”.

Was I wrong in thinking this magazine, sorry – MagBook, was I wrong in thinking that I might actually get a grasp of what I’m supposed to do in order to start making steps in the right direction to becoming a pro? Was I wrong in thinking that by purchasing the Mag that it’d be more of an investment than a regret, I could’ve spent the money on some colouring books instead and probably auctioned off my efforts when I’d got tired of keeping it in the lines.

And despite throwing the mag out my window for the chickens in my garden to make a nest out of, I thought to the people that will be heading towards this mags idea of a pro, camera excitedly snapping away at fields, relatives weddings and robins for the glossy pages of their favourite magazines, hoping to get a mention, a free tit bit and maybe even the hope of a call back.

And then my thoughts head towards the disillusioned writers, editors, creators and whoever else they got to write up the damp text that slops about between the pages, where had they hoped to be? Where had they landed instead?

In a magazine based on helping photographers become something more of themselves with handy tutorials on the cheap, how to think up shoots the like of an A level photographer would have kittens about creating. What happened to making something that someone would really aspire to, powerful images that make someone like me wake up from the daily drivel found in almost everything these days and feel the power of another’s eye, another’s vision, a language for the visual, for the one’s looking to escape the day to day, the sort of photographs that stay with you, inspire the best work, choose the destination for adventure, bring forward the primal instinct to just be better, to become great, to be noticed.

And as I write this I eye up the other magazines that I bought when I got the MagBook that has been the pinnacle to my frustrations today, another magazine that is also made by Digital Photographers lies like a schrodinger experiment on the table, by not looking into the pages it is both another uninspiring page to page and also an awakening to the next level of photography I’m jumping to, all it takes is for me to open the thing and see if the cat comes flying out claws flailing, or if the poor thing’s been subject to spilled poison.

But the magazine I think I will most likely revel from and inspire in me the want to shoot better images, to become the professional I believe I can be, is the one I have open already and it’s in the shape of a monthly mens magazine, sorry- quarterly, one filled with the sort of photography I can admire.

So I have learnt from mistake, not to judge a magazine by its cover, no matter how enticing or promising. Maybe my professional making magazine lies on the shelves of the overly fine art, steam powered trains that strike a pose in the opposite direction of the photographer. Yet for some reason I just don’t think I’ll find any path through the pages of any magazine, the truth is out there and the only way I will get to understand how the photographers I love carved their steps is to go direct to the source, learn what you want to know not what you think you ought to, to not focus on the kit but the quality of what you’re shooting, because that’s what you have to love in order to spend a lifetime looking through a lens at it and what you shoot will most likely last longer than the shooter, as rapper Kendrick Lamar states: “Everybody gon’ respect the shooter, but the one in front of the gun lives forever.” Obviously coming from different perspectives of what we call a shooter, but it’s a good way to think more about what you’re pointing the lens at as we could all make something timeless at the click from the finger.