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All reviews - Movies (108) - TV Shows (28) - DVDs (14) - Books (35) - Music (49) - Games (24)

The Swell Season review

Posted : 5 years, 9 months ago on 14 November 2011 04:56 (A review of The Swell Season)

A documentary about the first tour undertaken by band, The Swell Season, the romance and the ensuing breakup of the two members of the band.

I've been a fan of their music for over 3 years now and had the sketchiest of ideas that the two member of the group were romantically involved as their fame exploded after their Oscar win. Next thing I heard was that they broke up quietly, but not much more than that. They delivered their second (absolutely fantastic) album, which was basically a breakup album but it could have been about any romance. For the first time, the movie gives fans some idea of what went down during their marathon world tour and the aftermath of their Oscar win.

The movie is shot entirely in black and white, adding to the intimacy that already exists. I'm really curious as to how the film makers managed to shoot such intimate moments without being intrusive. Did they hide their cameras or use shoot from a distance? It would be fascinating to know the details of how this film was made.

I'm not convinced that someone who doesn't know the music or enjoy it would appreciate the movie as much as I did. More than half the movie is musical performances by the duo, which I enjoyed immensely. Even if there was none of the drama surrounding their relationship, this footage would have made for a great concert/tour DVD, such is the power of their performances. I'm hoping a soundtrack makes it way to me soon.


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Puss In Boots review

Posted : 5 years, 9 months ago on 6 November 2011 01:28 (A review of Puss In Boots)

Taking classic characters and putting a modern spin on them is always good for a laugh, so we have Puss, Humpty Dumpty, Jack & Jill, Jack of the Beanstalk and the Golden Goose. It's fun to see their new avatars and personalities, but all them also have no common mythology or character trait to tie them together. Completely dissimilar characters can work, but the writers need to be inventive enough to take advantage, but unfortunately for this movie the writers barely have anything cohesive or original to tie together all these elements.

Overall, some really funny moments and some good ideas too, but overall this is a confused mess of a movie and a wasted opportunity. It feels like, and is, a tired summer money-grab summer movie for the pre-teen and early teen audience. The rest of us who were suckered in my the trailer should really just have stayed away.


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Lolita review

Posted : 5 years, 9 months ago on 23 October 2011 10:28 (A review of Lolita)

The movie (like the book) is an interesting study of obsession and desperation. Jeremy Irons plays his part well, but overall it's not great going, largely because the director doesn't really know where to go take the movie. He opts for the gray and gloomy period piece route and the result is that the film has no urgency and tension. We only get the occasional glimpse into the desperate mind of Humbert while the story meanders along the rest of the time. Could (and should) have been much much better.


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Five Against One: The Pearl Jam Story review

Posted : 5 years, 10 months ago on 21 October 2011 06:17 (A review of Five Against One: The Pearl Jam Story)

One of the few (only?) books that delves into the the mysteries of who and what Pearl Jam are. It's not an 'authorized' biography of the band which tend to be fawning, in fact it's not very complementary of the band for the most part. As a huge fan, it is a fascinating read just for that reason.

Just keep in mind the following when you do read the book, fan or not:
1) It ends in 1998, so much of their journey is not documented
2) It focuses a lot on the personality of Eddie Vedder. Maybe it's justified because he's the emotional core (if not the musical core) of the band, but to get a really balanced look at the band, focusing on the rest of the members is a must.
3) There's no participation from the band itself or people who seem to like the band. All the contributors seem to have some axe to grind, which doesn't make for a balanced view of the band, it's largely negative.


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The Mask

Posted : 5 years, 11 months ago on 18 September 2011 10:16 (A review of Drive)

What a wasted opportunity this movie is. Tons of style, great soundtrack and Carey Mulligan, all three things are totally wasted on a script that is utterly void of an interesting plot. The opening sequence is pretty stunning, with minimal dialogue yet plenty of tension, which raised my expectations quite a bit. From there, it was mostly downhill and the movie never moves beyond the style to any sort of substance. I wasn't bored by any means but I just kept waiting for something to happen till the end, and it never did.

The lack of plot is compounded by the fact that I had no clue about the motivations of the main character - the driver. He's two-dimensional and is not developed either as the movie progresses. While the lack of dialogue and the tension makes for reasonable viewing, to be truly engrossed in the movie, I have to empathise with the characters to an extent. The wonderful Carey Mulligan engaged me a little better better with her fluid and expressive face, but unfortunately she didn't have much too work with. As for the driver, in a few scenes he's wearing a mask, and the mask managed to do a better job than Ryan Gosling.

All in all, an absolutely wasted opportunity to pull off something spectacular. Instead, all we got it a mediocre action thriller with a dash of unexpected blood and gore.


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Garbage

Posted : 5 years, 12 months ago on 18 August 2011 08:33 (A review of Final Crisis)

Disclaimer upfront - I don't read any DC or superhero comics in general, other than Batman and I'm not terribly familiar with the characters outside of movies and the occasional graphic novel (and by that I mean 2-3 books in my lifetime) featuring one or more of them.

Final Crisis feels like an experiment that aims to see how much bullshit can be packed into a single book. It starts off reasonably well, the first issue has clarity in the storyline and hints at interesting things ahead. It's rapidly downhill into the gutter from there.

The main problem is that Grant Morrison writes like he is Arthur Clarke, when he actually is - Grant Morrison. This is also the second problem, Grant Morrison writes like this is an Arthur Clarke book, when in fact it's a DC crossover, and a Crisis crossover at that. A Crisis requires that very conceivable character in the DC cannon make an appearance, which obviously destroys any hope of a coherent story. Trying to tell a story that goes beyond a simple action/fantasy/sci-fi adventure story is a mistake of, ahem, cosmic proportions. The result is that while there are some decent ideas in this book (decent, not great, Morrison isn't Clarke), the execution is horrible primarily because the story has barely any coherence. Characters flit in and out, the continuity barely makes any sense and I was wishing for some of that 'Anti-life' myself to make it through to the end.

It's not as if a story of such proportions cannot be pulled off, but you have to understand the constraints. 'Kingdom Come' is a good example of a BIG crossover that was successful. The story didn't try to do too many things and kept the focus on a select group of characters, even as there was a huge supporting cast. Even the mildly complex ideas that Morrison dreams up can work, but the characters have to be very focused. An example is how Morrison made it work, for the most part, in the Batman R.I.P. storyline. Putting the two things together - complex ideas and too many characters, results in disaster. You can't explain the ideas effectively when you keep jumping from character to character and all that time trying to unsuccessfully explain your idea means you can't do any justice to the characters themselves either. Morrison refuses to understand the constraints and the result in total garbage.

Anyway, this was a total waste of about 4 hours it took to me to finally finish this book. I could have done it in less, but I had to keep going back to try and understand what the heck was going on, not that it helped. Unless you read a good chunk of DC's regular series, I doubt you'll make sense of more than 20% of what's going on here. If you do read a good chunk, you might fare better but you'll regret reading it still.


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Batman Forever review

Posted : 6 years ago on 8 August 2011 05:23 (A review of Batman Forever)

A Batman movie that hasn't aged well. I remember enjoying this growing up and the soundtrack is still excellent, but the movie is decidedly average. It's still fun, but the colourful costumes and props and the campy atmosphere just doesn't work very well. Val Kilmer phones in a performance as Batman and appears to be disinterested throughout the movie (which he was apparently). We also get Chris O'Donnell as Robin, who is taken in by Bruce Wayne when his parents are murdered by Two-face. He provides some of the movie's better humorous moments (including a nod to the campy TV series) and does a decent job overall.

The TV series is also obviously Joel Schumacher's inspiration for the look and feel of the whole movie. To be fair, Tim Burton also had a fair amount of camp in the two movies that he directed, but the overwhelming sense was of a foreboding darkness, both in Gotham and in Batman. Schumacher's take on the movies is just pure camp, which was proven by the disastrous sequel, Batman & Robin.


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Jane Eyre review

Posted : 6 years ago on 7 August 2011 09:40 (A review of Jane Eyre)

Some mighty fine acting performances light up this otherwise routine romantic drama. The story might have been path breaking at the time the book was published but it's tough to find any novelty in it today. Despite that, the movie does a great job of telling the story as a romantic drama filled with longing and heartbreak. Mia Wasikowska is excellent as the title character and the rest of the cast keeps pace with her. The background score and the cinematography are fantastic as well.


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Bridesmaids review

Posted : 6 years, 2 months ago on 8 June 2011 11:44 (A review of Bridesmaids)

The movie is absolutely hilarious. I went in expecting a smart romantic comedy, at best, but in reality it's fantastic satire. The movie basically takes all the rituals leading up the wedding (and the wedding itself) and totally blows them all away. I got a hint of what's coming when the Maid of Honor and best friend (Kristen Wiig) and the new, rich best friend (Rose Byrne) try to one-up each other with the speeches at the engagement party. From that point on, it's one surprise after another. The best comedy, by far, this year.


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Shallow

Posted : 6 years, 2 months ago on 8 June 2011 11:39 (A review of L.A. Noire)

For all the great technology and effort that went into designing the game, the results are pretty disappointing. The re-creation of 1940s Los Angeles is impressive in it's detail and the face animation technology employed in the game really is fantastic. Ultimately, this is a very story driven game first and foremost and precious little attention has been paid to the story.

The last set of cases was quite interesting and there was real momentum to the story. Except that, the cases were mostly pointless and terribly cliched - police corruption in the vice squad, wife and lover murder husband, crooked producer rips off mafia financier etc etc. Every LA Film Noir cliche has been employed in this game. In the homicide squad, I followed the same routine for 6 cases straight - talk to husband of murdered woman, talk to bartender, talk to other man at bar. It felt like I'd visited every fucking bar in Los Angeles by the end of that sequence of cases. There are also have smaller 'street crimes' that you encounter when you are driving around the city. They usually involve shooting a lot of people, chasing a suspect on foot or chasing a suspect in the car - over and over. No imagination has been applied here either.

Apart from the problem of mediocre stories, the cases were very linear as well. You don't have a lot of branching in the story, it just goes straight as a straight line. The puzzles in the game could be solved by an 8 yr old. More than 2/3rds of your time is spent driving around to get from one location to another and walking around the crime scene "searching" for clues. If you walk around enough, you'll eventually find them all. I was utterly fed up of the driving and walking by the end. The game really feels like a lot of walking and driving connected by bits of story.

The highlight is supposedly the suspect and witness interrogations, which employ the face animation technology. You can to guess if they're telling the truth, holding back or lying. If it doesn't sound terribly exciting, you would be right. It's easy to tell if the person being interrogated is not being totally truthful, but choosing between accusing them of holding back or lying turns into a bit of guesswork at times. Questions have to be asked in the order they are listed almost all the time or their answers start to sound weird (like referencing information that was revealed in questions higher on the list, that you actually haven't asked). The whole process is more or less linear, like the rest of the game is.

In the final analysis, while I was very impressed with the ambition of the game, the result is half-baked. I'd love to see all the great technology being put to use in a game that has a deeper experience and more attention to detail.


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