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

What were they thinking?

Posted : 15 years, 3 months ago on 21 March 2009 09:05 (A review of Scream)

Seriously, what were Chris Cornell and Timbaland thinking when they started making this album? It's an interesting idea in theory, putting together a hip producer with one of the icons of Grunge rock. The result is terrible for the most part. Cornell's vocals sound completely disconnected from the music, as if the music and the vocals were recorded separately. Come to think of it, this is probably exactly what they did, both of them being such busy celebrities.

Most of the album sounds like Timbaland decided to make a remix album of Soundgarden's songs by completely ripping out the music and starting again, with fairly mediocre results. For the most part, it feels like Cornell's vocals have been dropped into another one of the innumerable hip hop albums Timbaland produces. There is no novelty here and certainly no glorious fusion of rock and hip-hop, it all very ho-hum.

It's not *all* doom and gloom. The partnership threatens to work on a few of the songs when they sound like an actual collaboration. That is why I'm giving it a rating of 4 and not 1. The title track and 'Long Gone' are two examples of this. Overall, this is such a waste of talent.


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Sense & Sensibility review

Posted : 15 years, 3 months ago on 19 March 2009 11:15 (A review of Sense & Sensibility)

Solid but unspectacular adaptation of Jane Austen's novel. The story of the Dashwood sisters and their romances is a classic and it shines in this adaptation too. The production quality is predictably high since this is a BBC production. The background score is excellent and the acting and direction is competent. There is the lack of a certain spark that separates the good from the truly excellent but there is very little to complain otherwise.


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Perfect Strangers (2001- ) review

Posted : 15 years, 3 months ago on 19 March 2009 11:09 (A review of Perfect Strangers (2001- ))

The family of our protagonist is invited to a reunion of his extended family in London. He hasn't seen most of the family or doesn't remember seeing them, his branch being the "black sheep" of the group. As the reunion progresses, he comes meets a diverse group of family members and hears their stories, including some from his own past. The stories aren't about buried dirt or scandals in the family but the they are fascinating nevertheless. The writer and director Stephen Poliakoff has a great gift for creating these absorbing stories out of everyday people and events.

The director's theatre background clearly helps him in focusing on how the story is told than on how it looks. The camera is almost always focused on the characters, capturing their expressions and emotions. The drama is generated by the story and the actors and not by any of the embellishments of film making. The whole production comes across as a play on the screen, which is an eminently good thing.

The story is divided into three parts and after watching every part, I couldn't wait to watch the next one. The total running time is four hours it felt much shorter. In the end, I was left wishing that there was just one more tale of family history left to tell.


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The Reader review

Posted : 15 years, 3 months ago on 24 February 2009 06:35 (A review of The Reader)

Possibly the best of the five movies Oscar nominated for Best Movie in 2008. Leaves you with conflicting emotions for the protagonist played by Kate Winslet (who puts in a stellar performance), who was a Nazi prison guard in a Jewish concentration camp. The movie falls short of perfection in the home stretch. I felt like the film-makers were soft-pedalling the horror of the Holocaust, even if their intention was to put a human face on Winslet's character. Still, any movie that makes me think is worth it's weight in gold.


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Curiously Uninteresting

Posted : 15 years, 4 months ago on 22 February 2009 03:23 (A review of The Curious Case of Benjamin Button)

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button isn't too much of a curiosity. It's the same old period drama that's been told on film dozens of times. Let us recap, shall we? Boy is born, boy is abandoned by family, boy grows up with foster parents, boy meets girl, boy goes off to see the world, boy comes back to find girl, girl initially rejects boy, girl finally comes to find the boy and they live happily ever after and then both of them die. Sound curiously familiar? That's because it is.

Taking away the well worn plot, the only novelty in the movie is the curious Benjamin Button himself, primarily the fact that he was born an old man who grows younger as he ages. The gimmick might have been useful if the film makers had done something interesting with it, but they don't. They don't use it to explore something deeper, say for example, what it reveals about people when they react to Button. Unfortunately, most people in the movie seem to be oblivious to his condition, except the love of his life, Daisy (played by an utterly wasted Cate Blanchett). His father abandons him at birth and seems to regret that later and that's about it. Neither does the film explore (beyond the superficial) what it means for Button to be growing younger in a world that is relentlessly growing older. Also, Button is played by the terminally mediocre Brad Pitt, who also provides no curious insights into his character, not that the screenplay helps him in the least.

So what remains is the spectacle of Button going through the 20th century aided by some fantastic make-up work and gorgeous cinematography which was curiously unmoving, to say the least. There were only a couple of parts that made me feel for the characters and shook me out of my boredom. The first was when Benjamin and Daisy go through their short lived and doomed romance. The other parts were the scenes with Daisy on her deathbed with her daughter by her side, caught in New Orleans just before Katrina came and knocked most of the city down. By the end, I was wishing they would spend some time exploring the second story line while the times it was just Benjamin, I was wishing it would just move along quicker.

So in the end, it's mostly another superficial period drama that Hollywood churns out regularly and then the Academy falls over itself to lavish with awards. Three hours of your life are probably better spent elsewhere. Blah.


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No Line on the Horizon review

Posted : 15 years, 4 months ago on 21 February 2009 09:54 (A review of No Line on the Horizon)

U2 has been creating albums for nearly 30 years now and while their creative peak may have been nearly two decades ago with 'Joshua Tree' and 'Achtung Baby', they still make great music for the most part. 'No Line on the Horizon' is their 11th studio album, 28 years on from 'Boy'.

Stylistically, this album falls somewhere between 'Joshua Tree' and 'Achtung Baby'. This shouldn't come as a surprise as U2 have turned back the clock, musically speaking, to their 80s style since 'All That You Can't Leave Behind' in 2000. 'How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb' (from 2004) stuck almost ruthlessly to the template of straight up rock, no flirtations with electronica or anything resembling it. This was disappointing, since I'd always loved their music that mixed rock and electronica, even on the much despised 'Pop'. With this album, U2 have brought back Brian Eno as the producer, who produced 'Achtung Baby', my favourite U2 album in their catalogue.

The album kicks off with the title track and straight away you can hear Eno's influence. The electronic beats aren't as frenzied as on 'Pop', which should please most longtime U2 fans. Next up is 'Magnificent', which is one of the best tracks on the albums and a great example of how the band and Eno mixed their respective styles so successfully 18 years ago. There's plenty of good songs and songwriting till the very end of the album. With 'Unknown Caller', U2 finally write a song about cyber-culture, it only took them 10 years to get to it.

My favourite song comes very late in the album - 'White as Snow'. This is more a Bono song than a U2 song as he sings nostalgically about the lost 'land as white as snow' from his childhood and ends with a lament 'if only a heart could be as white as snow'. Beautifully written and rendered by the man himself.


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Collected - The Best Of Massive Attack : Greatest Hits review

Posted : 15 years, 4 months ago on 15 February 2009 07:01 (A review of Collected - The Best Of Massive Attack : Greatest Hits)

What's amazes me about Massive Attack is that 18 years on, their music still sounds fresh as ever. This quality is exhibited by the rarest of music artists. At the moment, I can only think of Led Zeppelin having that kind of musical catalogue, every album sounds fresh and relevant. Even U2s earliest work sounds a little dated now (though their 90s work still retains this quality). I think this quality comes from being hugely influential, as Massive Attack have been. They didn't need to re-invent themselves every few years, they just did what they did best and the rest of the world paid attention every time (and the same can be said of Led Zeppelin).

Coming to the subject of the review, this collection is an excellent retrospective of Massive Attack's work. The only highlights missing are their non-album collaborations with other artists. It picks fairly evenly from all their albums (Four from Mezzanine and three each from their other studio albums) and adds an excellent new track 'Live with me'. Such is the quality of the material that each of these tracks is a highlight. The most well known track here is probably 'Teardrop' (an edited version of the song is the opening theme to the TV show 'House'). If that's the only song by Massive Attack you've heard, do yourself a favour and pick up the album.

The only gripe I have with this album is the aforementioned collaborations. Having some of those would have made this a true retrospective of their career and not just the music they released in their own albums. I'll mention some here in case anyone wants to check them out:
'I Against I' with Mos Def (from the 'Blade II' OST)
'I Want You' with Madonna (from the 'Something to Remember' collection)
'The Hunter Gets Captured by the Game' with Tracey Thorn (from the 'Batman Forever' OST)

All in all, this is a great introduction to Massive Attack (though missing a few pieces) plus the new song to show that they still have 'it'.


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Not Too Late review

Posted : 15 years, 4 months ago on 6 February 2009 10:36 (A review of Not Too Late)

I've never been a huge fan of Norah Jones. This is the first album that has really caught my fancy. She doesn't sound to jazzy this time around, it's more straight up pop music. With this album, Norah Jones slips comfortably into the female singer-songwriter mould.

There's a bunch of good songs thrown in there - the highlights being 'Thinking about you' and 'Wake me up'. These two songs highlight the two different approaches to the music, the former being piano driven and the latter by the acoustic guitar. Both these approaches work for her and add variety to her usually sleepy music.


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Phantom 2040 review

Posted : 15 years, 4 months ago on 1 February 2009 05:22 (A review of Phantom 2040)

I got hold of this little gem of a series again recently, some ten years after I'd first watched it (gotta love bittorrent). It's a shame that it never got a DVD release, it certainly has the quality to deserve one.

The first season, encompassing twenty episodes is truly excellent. We get an introduction into the world of the Phantom. We touch a variety of topics - environmentalism, the power of big corporations, artificial intelligence, a massively connected society etc etc. I'm a sucker for sci-fi, so a lot of this is immediately appealing. Environmentalism, especially pollution is central to the larger theme of the series, which is something that I really enjoy as well. So the series isn't just another action cartoon for teenagers. It's a solid sci-fi series with it's intelligent story lines and breadth of topics.

The second season goes off the rails a little bit. It's only fifteen episodes, and the first two are recaps of the first season, which are basically throwaway episodes. The next six episodes continue the excellent story line from the first season (till the double episode 'The Sins of out Fathers'), and then all hell breaks loose. It almost feels like the last few episodes were written by a different set of writers. The waste a lot of time next six episodes and then hastily wrap things in the final episode.

This is an excellent sci-fi series, one of the few times an American animated series actually goes toe-to-toe with the best sci-fi Anime out there. At a total of just thirty-five episodes, it manages to keep the quality high for most of it's run, despite the middling run of episodes at the end. I wish someone would do a DVD release, so I can watch it with better quality than the TV captures I have right now.


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Beauty and the Beast (1991) review

Posted : 15 years, 4 months ago on 26 January 2009 05:49 (A review of Beauty and the Beast (1991))

I have to say, this movie is one of the few that has aged really well from my childhood making it one of the more enduring films from pre-teen/early teen years. When I first watched it at the age of 12, I think, it was just a very remarkable cartoon. It captivated me with it's animation, especially the comic staff of the enchanted castle. As I watched it over the years, the romantic aspects of the movie appealed to me as well, and so did the lovely music, while still keeping an appreciation for the things that first captivated me. I also discovered the depth of the characters and the cleverness with which the mannerisms of the enchanted staff of the castle were constructed. This movie works on several levels, as a romance, as a technical achievement, as a fairy tale and as a musical. Possibly the finest Disney movie ever made in their classic style of animated movie making.


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