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All reviews - Movies (107) - TV Shows (28) - DVDs (14) - Books (35) - Music (49) - Games (24)

Junior

Posted : 15 years, 6 months ago on 25 January 2009 10:47 (A review of W.)

The movie is largely based on the public perception of George W. Bush (at least among the people who oppose or dislike him) as a man who was intellectually over matched by the demands of the Presidency and was manipulated into invading Iraq largely by Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld. The overall movie lacks depth but makes for good entertainment. It softens up his image somewhat, painting him as essentially good, though not very bright.

The acting is very very good, I can't believe this film didn't get major Oscar acting nominations. Josh Brolin is stellar as the 43rd American President and Richard Dreyfuss is chillingly effective as Dick Cheney.

I'm guessing someone who supported Bush would not like this movie, and someone who dislikes Bush probably will. You've been warned.


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Outliers: The Story of Success review

Posted : 15 years, 6 months ago on 16 January 2009 08:33 (A review of Outliers: The Story of Success)

The first book of 2009 and what a cracker it is. Malcolm Gladwell hits another home run (his third in a row, following 'The Tipping Point' and 'Blink') with this remarkable book. The book is sobering and enlightening at the same time. It explains with absolute clarity how success doesn't come from (just) innate ability, opportunity and hard work play an even bigger part in anyone's success.

The last chapter in the book has this passage which captures to a great extent the message of the book:

"It is not easy to be so honest about where we're from. It would be simpler for my mother to portray her success as a straightforward triumph over victimhood,
....
....
Bill Gates could accept the title of genius, and leave it at that. It takes no small degree of humility for him to look back on his life and say, "I was very lucky." And he was. The Mothers' Club of Lakeside Academy bought him a computer in 1968.
.....
.....
Superstar lawyers and math whizzes and software entrepreneurs appear at first blush to lie outside ordinary experience. But they don't. They are products of history and community, of opportunity and legacy. Their success is not exceptional and mysterious. It is grounded in a web of advantages and inheritances, some deserved, some not, some earned, some just plain lucky - but all critical to making them who they are. The outlier, in the end, is no outlier at all."



Reading the book, the whole book, not only gives me a sense of gratefulness for the immense opportunities that my family has provided for me, but also a little shame for not recognising and making the most of them. And last but not least, it hopefully gives me some insight into the best I can do for my children, which at this point seems like following most of what my parents did for me.


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Beautiful World review

Posted : 15 years, 6 months ago on 15 January 2009 05:40 (A review of Beautiful World)

I was shocked when I heard that Take That were not only together again but they also made a successful comeback with this album a couple of years ago. The last time they released anything I was wearing shorts in high school. I was even more shocked when I realised that I actually enjoyed listening to most of it as well.

It's your typical Take That album, there is one absolutely killer song - Patience, a handful of good songs and filler. The boys (minus Robbie Williams) sound good, in fact even better than ten years ago. Gary Barlow can still write some good lyrics (with help from the rest this time around). It's not an earth shattering album, but it's a good pop album.

The boys have grown up, honed their singing and writing skills and come back better than ever. I can't say that for any other former boy band from the last 20 years (this list is long - NKOTB, Back Street Boys, N'Sync, Boyz II Men, and on and on). As a result, this is a stunning comeback as the whole effort sounds very natural and not some artificial comeback to cash in on past popularity.


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Give Up review

Posted : 15 years, 6 months ago on 12 January 2009 12:19 (A review of Give Up)

A side project for Death Cab For Cutie's Ben Gibbard, the Postal Service marries his plaintive vocals and songwriting talent with electronica. The songwriting is emo/indie, which is typically Gibbard's style. The result is interesting, very reminiscent of the Canadian band Stars. The opening song is absolutely killer and the rest of the album, though clearly experimental, is pretty consistent. Death Cab fans who can stomach the music and electronica fans looking for more than the usual emotional depth in their songs would be well advised to check the album out.


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Garden Ruin (Dig) review

Posted : 15 years, 6 months ago on 8 January 2009 10:33 (A review of Garden Ruin (Dig))

Calexico has an interesting eclectic mix of music. At their best they produce exceptionally good acoustic rock tinged with Americana and Mexican music. This album isn't them at their best but it's still a well written and solid album. Their music and songwriting remains eclectic as always (there's lyrics in English, Spanish and French in here) and the songs are consistently entertaining. They finish the album very strongly with the noisiest song of the bunch - All Systems Red. This isn't an album for new listeners but a satisfying listen for someone who is already a fan of the band.


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Caramel review

Posted : 15 years, 6 months ago on 5 January 2009 01:55 (A review of Caramel)

Gentle romantic comedy/drama (i.e. chick flick) centered around a beauty salon in Beirut and primarily the women who work there. Romance & humour, heartbreak & happiness, covers the usual gamut for this genre of film and does it without going over the top. The first time director does a good job and is herself part of the equally competent ensemble cast. The background score and the rest of the music is beautiful and adds to the atmosphere.


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Revolutionary Road review

Posted : 15 years, 6 months ago on 4 January 2009 08:08 (A review of Revolutionary Road)

Sam Mendes attempts to do 'American Beauty' for the 50s with semi-successful results. The acting is top notch and direction is reasonable but it's hard to connect to a couple in the 50s, it was a different world. Still, the emptiness of their lives, felt especially by Winslet's character was palpable. Occasional doses of humour and irony light up the otherwise slightly dull progression of the screenplay.


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The best book I've read all year

Posted : 15 years, 7 months ago on 28 December 2008 03:10 (A review of The Forever War)

Dexter Filkins started as the foreign correspondent at the Los Angeles Times before moving on to work for the New York Times. During this time, he covered the rise of the Taliban in Afghanistan, the American invasion there after 9/11. The bulk of the time was spent covering the war in Iraq. This book is based on his eyewitness accounts of the wars in both countries.

That dry description does no justice to this stunning book. The author has an extraordinary ability to bring the brutal reality of the war right up in your face. He uses simple and direct language to describe what he sees and hears and keeps his personal observations to a minimum. The genius of the author lies in knowing how to distill his vast store of observations and conversations, which is where his remarkable insight comes to the fore. His empathy and affection for his subjects and the occasional flashes of humour give the book a warmth despite the brutal and uncompromising nature of his coverage.

The first four years of the war on Iraq occupies nearly 80% of the book. His coverage exposes the monumentally catastrophic lack of post war planning that took place before the American invasion. The troops did not understand the country or the people and were unprepared, even clueless. It is also clear that the troops themselves are not to blame - they went in to fight an army, not a terrorist insurgency and certainly not to rebuild a country torn apart by the rule of a brutal dictator and three wars in three decades. They went in and also continue to stay with the best of intentions, as much as possible. While the author does not explicitly point any fingers, he doesn't have to. It is painfully clear that the incompetence of the political appointees let down the troops and the Iraqi people very badly.

As the book progresses, the numbness that is felt by the author can be felt by the reader as well. It is difficult to read about the steady stream of brutalities that comprises war - not some glorified and sanitised version presented by Hollywood, but the real thing - without feeling a little numb. Whether you support this war or you don't, this book will give you plenty to move you and plenty to think about.

And finally, I am in awe of Dexter Filkins, his bravery, his intelligence, his empathy and his compassion. I am glad he went to these places and I am even gladder that he survived to tell his tale. He is a truly remarkable individual.


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Huh?

Posted : 15 years, 7 months ago on 13 December 2008 08:35 (A review of Chinese Democracy)

Seventeen years after Use Your Illusion I&II, Axl Rose delivers an album which for all intents and purposes should be called 'Use Your Illusion III'. I must ask, WTF has he been doing for the last fourteen years? Why spend all this time, fire and alienate all the members of the band, have all this endless talk about a new sound, re-record over and over, spend a reported eleven million dollars on production costs and still come up with an album that sounds like it could have been released in 1991? I mean, WTF dude?

As for the album itself, it's good. I'm not disappointed. The music is so densely produced that it takes a few listens to reveal itself. Axl has essentially taken the more bombastic elements of the GnR sound and re-created it with a different bunch of musicians. It's not the tight sound of Appetite for Destruction but the more overblown sound of Use Your Illusion. Guitar solos, pianos, a string quartet, voice overs - you name it, it's in there somewhere. You would admire his sense for detail and song craft, if only he hadn't taken a decade and a half to come up with it.

To sum it up, it's a good album and Axl Rose is a prick.


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CSI: Hard Evidence review

Posted : 15 years, 8 months ago on 1 December 2008 04:34 (A review of CSI: Hard Evidence)

The last CSI game I played was on the PC - CSI: Three Dimensions of Murder. That was a very good game, engrossing and varied in it's cases. It also had very good game play, which never got in the way and added to the fun. Based on my previous experience, I got this game for my Wii, hoping to have another fun experience. I was *bitterly* disappointed.

They have basically made a rather clunky port of the PC game. The graphics are essentially similar to the last game. which look very dated three years on. They have kept the interface exactly the same as the PC game without bothering to update it or create something that uses the Wii's capabilities. It doesn't translate well to the Wii and is difficult to navigate which ends up detracting from the fun. Add to this, there's numerous visual and gameplay glitches. Have I mentioned how cheap this whole game feels?

Unless you are a hard core CSI fan and *must* play every game with CSI plastered on it, avoid this game. And if you must play it, try the PC version, it might offer better game play. And if you must play it on the Wii, rent it before you throw away any money on it.


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