Train to Busan “Busanhaeng” film review

You may think you know all about zombies but have you wondered what it would be like to be on a train with fifty of them all running after you and gnashing at your ankles?

Zombies on a train is the premise of this film, a big hit in South Korea. If you had no idea this film was a horror, or that it featured zombies, it might be quite exciting but I imagine most people will go into this knowing exactly what to expect.

Some kind of catastrophe has led to an outbreak in which dozens of writhing undead are roaming the streets of Seoul looking for their next victims. A group of travellers including main lead Gong Yu are on the train to Busan.  They’ve barely gone twenty minutes before there is clearly something wrong with some of the passengers. Checking the situation on their phones, the passengers see that the country is in a state of emergency.


They try to leave at the next station but find that the soldiers who are waiting for them have already been bitten. The most exciting and tense scenes are when the group must flee back on to the zombie ridden train, running away from swarms of rabid recruits. Once back on its a long journey for the remainder of the film. Here’s where the film runs out of steam. Once you’ve seen one zombie, you’ve seen them all. The film becomes a very standard struggle for survival and the scenes of characters running down train corridors become very repetitive.

It’s not a bad film.  Its directed in expedient fashion but for a train film its seriously lacking any ambient sound effects such as the clickety-clack sound  you would expect of a train on a track (or do South Korean trains run completely silently?).Fans of zombies will not be disappointed.Otherwise,  it’s more of what we’ve already seen many times over.

My score: 6/10.

What attracts white men to Asian women?

With so many white men in relationships with women from Asian countries, I thought it would be interesting to document some of the most famous of white/asian couples.

To be honest, we all no the stereotype of the geeky white guy who can’t get anywhere with women of his own kind, so he finds more action with women from Asia (who probably find white guys more attractive than men from their own countries). True, their are plenty of nothing-special-about-them men with what seem to be amazing women. How do they do it? I don’t know the answers. But some men are just attracted to women from other countries (more than their own).

Here are three great examples of super-successful white men who also happen to have married Oriental women.

John Lennon

It has to start with Lennon. The question that always gets asked is why he could have been attracted to Yoko when he could have had almost any woman in the world. People can’t seem to accept that he could have been in love with her. I find it touching that they were always together; wherever he went, she went too. It’s no surprise that he was unable to live without her. In fact, Yoko was by his side the night he was tragically shot in New York City.

73636Mark Zuckerberg


Although the film the Social Network portrayed him as a near-sociopath who couldn’t get over his girlfriend breaking up with him, in real life Zuckerberg seems to have done more than ok for himself. He married his Harvard girlfriend Priscilla Chan in  2009. No doubt he could’t find someone to match his wife’s intellect and beauty amongst his fellow white students.

Woody Allen


After three marriages and one very complicated relationship with Mia Farrow, Allen married Farrow’s adopted daughter Soon-Yi. Although he had never had legal rights as an adoptive parent, there was to some a disturbing hint of psychological incest about their relationship. 20 years on and maybe it’s not so strange. The couple seem to understand, support and care for each other (the foundations on which love is built on).


Female K-fans: are they ruining things for the rest of us?

Sometimes it’s not easy to be  a fan of Korea. The language is very difficult for one thing. The country can be hard to understand and the people can be fairly intolerant of foreigners (not all, but definitely some). What makes it really difficult are the many fans who seem to like Korea because of the recent Korean wave, known as Hallyu. The popularity of Korean dramas and pop-music has led to fans calling anything Korean  K-something or other: from food to dramas.

I don’t hate K-pop, I think it’s enjoyable if inane part of Korean culture. I like the old traditions and I don’t think that K-pop, or K-drama has anything of value to say about Korean culture. That hasn’t stopped seemingly thousands of fans from making annoying you-tube videos with pop-up emoticons and sappy music. Most of them are extremely boring  They also try and copy Korean behaviour such as age-yo, where every expression is exaggerated and baby-talk is used. Most korean women rarely act in this way but that hasn’t stopped them from adapting it in a bizarre piece of cross-cultural appropriation.

Korea has a rich history dating back thousands of years but most fans (they seem to be mainly female) seem to think Korean culture starts with Girls Generation and Super Junior. I would be surprised if someone based their love of England on songs by the Spice Girls and Take That.

Although I enjoy learning about Korea (I’ve read several books about its history) I don’t think everything that has come out of the country has done in recent years has been great. However these fans are making me wonder if I should start loving a different Asian country (like Japan) instead.

Sosharu – review of the restaurant review by Giles Coren

Jason Atherton is a great guy. He signed my menu for me when he was the guest chef for the London Art Week Pavilion in 2013.

When Gordon Ramsay opened his Maze restaurant in 2005, he chose Atherton to work there as head chef. I remember being amazed by the range of food, and the fact that you could order 10 or 12 small plates of tapas style dishes. The sharing concept was a new idea for London then but now you can find it everywhere in restaurants ranging from Peruvian ceviche joints to Italian tapas (Bocca Di Lupo).

As well as several Social restaurants, Atherton has now added Sosharu to the list. I haven’t been, but the restaurant has been reviewed very approvingly by several restaurant critics, including Jay Rayner (The Observer).

Giles Coren is my favourite food critic and I was keen to see what he had to say about it…..

After spending the first page of his review in rapturous praise of the toilets, which leave him ‘with a spring in his step, snd a full 10/10 waiting to be hung around Sosharu’s neck’, he gets round to discussing the food. I normally don’t mind some background information before going into specific details enjoyable but this is overdoing things somewhat.

Coren tries ‘two tiny rectangles of hamachi sashimi’ which come on a tray ‘made of ice and set in a wooden block.’ They are ‘too small to count as food’: it seems like he is going to be harsh about the small portions but he praises the scallop tartare as ‘fresh, summery, relatively filling, and fun to eat with the sleek wooden sticks.’

Then an open temaki, which pleases Coren very much. Not least the playful preparation of the dish, which comes with a miniature plastic bottle, similar to the squeezy bottles so often used by chefs for drizzling and dribbling sauces on to plates. He sees this as evidence of Atherton’s more playful approach to food and notes that ‘the great man may be truly lightening up.’


On trying the ‘best deep-fried chicken’ (Karage); Coren notes the value of his choice (£6.60), and finds himself ‘yodelling for the wasabi mayonnaise again’ which is served in another plastic bottle.  The usually loquacious writer can only describe the taste as ‘dreamy.’

Already won over, he tries a ‘hockey puck of chashu pork belly and a puck of cabbage’ which are served on udon and oyster mushrooms. The presentation, so important in Japanese food, is given as much significance as the taste. The sheet of nori stuck in the side is described as like a 99 flake in a Mister Whippy, and tastes ‘exquisite.’

Too full to eat any more, he leaves a miso-glazed aubergine, having dined there alone.

The winner of the Restaurant writer of the Year award, Coren always makes you feel you can almost taste the food with his vivid descriptions of tastes and flavours.

His final scores are:

Cooking: 8

Service: 7

Bogs: 10.

Review published in the magazine of The Times Magazine. Saturday 10 September.



Coffee: what’s going on?

I really like coffee. I always buy a decent blend when I go to the supermarket and I love finishing dinner at a restaurant with a rich double espresso.

Now, whenever I go somewhere for a coffee, I find that I am served something completely different in aroma and taste to what I drink at home. It tends to be overly sour with strange fruity top-notes.

Unfortunately it seems to be a trend that won’t go away, although the restaurant critic Giles Coren recently referred to the sour coffee served by ‘ash-palated baristas’. An internet search for sour coffee reveals that many people share my distaste as well. Usually, I get the impression that I won’t enjoy the coffee when I go to one of the ultra-hip places. Usually, the more expensive the coffee, the longer it will take to arrive and the worst it woll taste.

I find that Monmouth Coffee serves reliable coffee that tastes similar to what I like to drink at home. Unfortunately, too many coffee-shops are serving up the same, light-roasted acidic robusta coffee that is just about drinkable in a latte or cappuccino or latte but tastes foul when drunk black.

I’ll have to drink my coffee at home from now on……


Tunnel film review

It doesn’t seem long ago when Korean film makers were dazzling the world with prizewinners at International festivals such as Oldboy  and Pieta. As well as these harsh ,violent films there were gentle odes to Buddhism (Spring, Summer, Autumn, Winter, and Spring) and the magnificent Untold Scandal, which set the story of Dangerous Liaisons in the Joseon Dynasty period.

South Korea  has one of the strongest national film industries of any country, but they haven’t had an international hit for several years. Many of its most acclaimed directors have either gone of the rails (kim Ki Duk) or made films for America (Park Chan Wook and Joon-ho Bong.

I watched Tunnel at Wimbledon cinema (shown there because of the large Korean community in New Malden). Although it was a perfectly decently-made  film I wondered why it was so unusually bland. If it wasn’t for the frequent jabs at the Korean government, or references to recent safety disasters such as the Sewol Ferry sinking, this could have been a Hollywood blockbuster.

Driving to work one morning, car salesmen (Jung-soo) finds himself spending longer than he would to like at a gas station when an old man mishears him and puts to much petrol in his car. On they way, he calls his wife Se-hyun  and tells her he has bought a cake for his daughter’s birthday (why is it always the kid’s birthday in these films?) Then, as he enters the tunnel, he is caught in the middle somewhere when a rockslide causes the tunnel to collapse.

Luckily, he can still make communication with the outside world because his film has 82% battery; and even 150 metres underground he always has a perfect mobile phone reception. Calls are made between him and wife Seohyun, as well as the head of the rescue operation Dae-kyoung (O-dal su).


I’m not sure why anyone would want to make a film about a man stuck in a tunnel. The possibility of doing anything new with it are  so small. There’s little in the way of tension. Although film tries to show the lack of water and how he must carefully ration it to be drunk each hour. The film only really becomes exciting when he learns that the tunnel is to be re-built after the chances of finding him alive are considered to low. Then he has to race against time to find his way out), although why he didn’t think of this before I have no idea.

Bae Doona has little to do in this film and we don’t learn anything about their relationship beside the fact that they have a four-year old daughter. The film contains some humour (usually towards the incompetence of the tunnel builders who couldn’t remember how many ceiling fans they had put in) and there’s even a cute dog who has somehow survived under the fallen rubble.

It looks like this film is one for Koreans only.

Rating: 5/10