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All reviews - Movies (3) - TV Shows (1) - DVDs (28) - Music (12) - Games (5)

Not for epileptics!

Posted : 9 years, 4 months ago on 6 May 2010 05:22 (A review of Dead Leaves)

Okay, the plot only just barely makes the slightest amount of sense, but story is clearly not meant to be the main attraction here. Dead Leaves is a frenetic and highly stylized visual ride through an outrageously obscene and violent dystopic future. It's not a dreary ride, though. Tongue is planted firmly in cheek. The design and animation is ridiculously imaginative. Worth checking out.

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just okay

Posted : 10 years, 10 months ago on 25 November 2008 03:57 (A review of Guitar Hero World Tour)

The pros:
- A huge track list filled with tons of great songs
- A relatively quiet drum set with an extra pad
- More complex bass lines thanks to an added note (open strum).

The cons:
- LONG load times between just about every menu and song
- Sub-par sound. Songs are mixed pretty poorly.
- Ugly graphics. Par for the course with a PS2, yes, but Guitar Hero 3 looked much prettier, by comparison.
- Tiny, hard to read fonts for the singer.
- Buggy equipment. My high-hat pad only works if you hit it in a sweet spot. The mic seems to have a hard time tracking tones compared with Rock Band's.

Except for the soundtrack, this game is inferior to Rock Band in just about every respect. It's worth picking up if you've got some extra cash and want something new to play waiting for Rock Band 2 to be released for the PS2, but it's hard to recommend except to folks who are crazy about these kind of games.

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Inara unplugged

Posted : 10 years, 10 months ago on 21 November 2008 04:59 (A review of An Invitation)

Inara George has attained a fair amount of fame as the vocal half of the electronic pop duo The Bird and the Bee. "An Invitation" is her second solo album, and for it she enlists Van Dyke Parks to provide lush orchestral instrumentals on the album.

Parks' influence on this album cannot be overstated. While his arrangements do follow loose variations of the verse/chorus/verse format, each segment of each song feels unique rather than repetitious due to subtle changes to rhythm, syncopation, instrumentation, and melody. It's not avant garde-- as a listener you'll never feel lost or left behind by a composer who's disappeared up his own behind. It is, however, *interesting* music.

And George's vocals follow Parks' lead. While she lacks range as a singer, on this album she certainly displays a lot more depth than we've heard from her before.

"An Invitation" is quite a departure from Inara George's previous work both with The Bird and the Bee and as a solo artist. If you're looking for guitar and synth driven pop, you won't find it here. But you just might find something far better if you're willing to give it a chance and really listen.


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Posted : 11 years, 2 months ago on 3 July 2008 04:21 (A review of War (Widescreen Edition))

I rated this a 6, and it's all for Jet Li's awesome (as always) action sequences. But even that modest rating might be too high considering the absolute awfulness of the script.

I cannot stress "awful" enough, here. From the so-cliche-it-hurts plot (dueling-crime-families, a la "Yojimbo" and "A Fistful of Dollars", melded with a tired cop-avenging-his-partner's-murder story), to the hamfisted dialogue, to the mindblowingly retarded "twist" ending, "War" is a magnificent failure.

But the action is solid, stylishly staged and photographed, and if you're a Jet Li or Stratham fan then "War" is still worth watching. Just go into this one with low expectations (even by action movie standards)... and perhaps switch the audio to Spanish or whatever for the last 15 minutes so you're not distracted by the ridiculous ending.

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Romantic comedy for geeks.

Posted : 11 years, 2 months ago on 2 July 2008 07:43 (A review of Free Enterprise: Love Long & Party (Five Year Mission Two-Disc Extended Edition))

"Free Enterprise" is a rather conventionally plotted romantic comedy. But instead of well-groomed, successful men (eg, George Clooney) or profane slacker-stoners (eg, any Judd Apatow character), the male protagonists in "Free Enterprise" are a group of super-geeks living in LA who idolize Star Trek's Captain James T. Kirk and possess a seemingly endless knowledge of sci-fi trivia. They spend their days working unglamorous industry jobs, awkwardly courting women, roaming the toy stores and comic shops of the city looking for rare collectibles, and, of course, quoting Star Wars and Star Trek at every opportunity.

When one of the guys, a financially irresponsible mooch and unlikely Lothario named Rob, meets the woman of his (and every geek's) dreams in Claire, can he manage to keep her? Will their relationship undermine his friendship with his geeky cadre? Meanwhile, Rob's best friend, Mark, will soon be turning 30, and visions of Logan's Run haunt his dreams.

A chance meeting with their idol, William Shatner (playing himself, self-effacingly), at bookstore turns into a night of drinks, and eventually a friendship. Shatner is dealing with his own woman problems, and also mulling over a one-man musical version of Shakespeare's "Julius Caesar".

Shatner, by the way, is hilarious. He gets some of the best lines in the movie. He's not a preening arrogant jerk like he's sometimes made out to be, nor is he the bold leader of the Captain Kirk mold. He's just an endearing goofball with a crazy dream.

Whether or not you find this film funny will depend heavily on your own knowledge of sci-fi. If you find the idea of grown men obsessing over a 30-year old television show hopelessly pathetic, then the movie will probably induce more groans than laughs. If, however, you too can instantly name a 5-letter Star Wars planet that begins with the the letter "E", you'll probably find the film hilarious.

Filmed in 1997, released theatrically and then quickly to a barebones DVD in 1999, the independent feature film "Free Enterprise", written by Mark Altman and Robert Burnett and directed by Burnett, was re-released by Anchor Bay in a 2-disc special edition in 2006. In this edition, the running time of the film is extended by 6 minutes and audio commentaries by the writers and stars (including William Shatner) were added, in addition to a making-of documentary and deleted scenes.

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eye-poppingly gorgeous

Posted : 11 years, 3 months ago on 23 June 2008 03:37 (A review of Curse of the Golden Flower)

Love triangles, political intrigue, murder, coups, battles big and small, Zhang Yimou's "Curse of the Golden Flower" has it all-- maybe too much, actually.

If you've seen Zhang Yimou's other films in the genre, "Hero" and "House of Flying Daggers" then you know what to expect. Stunning photography, sets, and costumes, a plot full of twists and turns, crosses and double-crosses, and, of course, a bit of kung fu thrown in for good measure.

"Curse of the Golden Flower" is by far the prettiest of his films. Every scene inside the Forbidden City is an explosion of gorgeous color. Every character is decked out from head to toe in intricate costumes of silk and gold.

There are less action scenes than in "Hero" and "House of Flying Daggers", but the final action sequence is bigger than anything that appeared in the first two, and easily rivals the beautiful chaos of the Spartan/Persian battles in "300".

But don't let all these visual delights distract you from the subtitles. The story is quite complex, with literally every named character in the film having his or her own independent backstory and agenda, each of them key to understanding the events that preceded and follow.

This is a dense film, and I'm guessing a second viewing would be required by many to either understand the whole of complex story or the fully appreciate the visual artistry, or both.

But this density is also a liability. So many characters must split the 2 hour run time that it's hard for any one of them to be fully fleshed out.

Strongly recommended.

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a little *too* hip

Posted : 11 years, 3 months ago on 3 June 2008 06:16 (A review of Juno (2007))

First of all, let me state the obvious: "Juno" is a very funny, very clever movie. But the post-modern ironic detachment that all the characters (save Paulie, Mark, and Vanessa) exhibit sucks the soul from the film.

The acting is very good, the direction is competent (if very consciously indie), but the screenwriter doesn't give each character their own voice. With the exception of the three mentioned above, all the character's dialogue seem drawn from the same hipster well, with always just the right witty barb on hand to combat any creeping signs of real heart or emotion.

Also, the claim that "Juno" courageously tackles politically sensitive subjects is overblown. The abortion question is dodged with a throw-away line about fingernails. Teen sex is just a plot device, neither glorified, damned, or much addressed at all except as a recurring gag on Paulie's competence (or lack thereof) "in chair."

Even with all the unjustified hype, it's hard to dislike the film, though, mostly because, as I said at the start of this review, it's so terribly clever. It's worth several viewings, but I wouldn't put it on par with "Ghost World", let alone "Rushmore" or "The Squid and the Whale" as far as coming of age films go.

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A classic of the genre.

Posted : 11 years, 7 months ago on 25 February 2008 07:29 (A review of Two Sevens Clash: 30th Anniversary Edition (Dlx))

Everything that could possibly be said about the music on this album has already been put forward in the glowing reviews it has received since its original release 30 years ago so instead I'll comment on the presentation and sound of this new deluxe edition.

First of all, the packaging is not the standard 5" H x 5.5" W jewel case that most CDs come in. Instead, it measures 7.5" H x 5.5" W, the size of a DVD case. Not a big deal, but worth pointing out.

Inside the case is a sleeve containing a 12 page booklet. In the booklet are several essays about Culture, and about the creation of Two Sevens Clash and its impact written by music critic Lenny Kaye, Culture's bandleader Joseph Hill, producer Joe Gibbs, reggae godfather Burning Spear, legendary reggae percussionist Sly Dunbar, and others.

One of the biggest worries when buying roots reggae albums is the quality of transfer to CD. I've personally been burned on a few reggae purchases where it seems as though the producers simply recorded straight from an LP of questionable quality. Well, I'm happy to report that the sound quality of Two Sevens Clash is absolutely pristine, easily as a good as any of the excellent Bob Marley reissues that Island released a few years ago.

Definitely worth picking up.

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lesser Brooks

Posted : 11 years, 10 months ago on 26 November 2007 07:22 (A review of High Anxiety)

"High Anxiety" is fun for a Hitchcock geek, much less so for those unfamiliar with the Master's work.

The film's standalone gags are very hit and miss, and often hobbled by Mel's presence. He's a good writer, but a not a great performer-- certainly not lead role material. It's no wonder his best films ("The Producers", "Blazing Saddles", and "Young Frankenstein") all have Mel more behind the camera rather than in front of it.

Another thing that's off is the timing of the gags. It's been said that brevity is the soul of wit, and too many jokes are just too drawn out, either in concept or simply due to a lack of good editing.

What makes the film worthwhile is its spoofs of Hitchcock films, from "Psycho" to "Birds" to "North by Northwest" to "Vertigo" (though, strangely, there's no use of the famous Vertigo effect, caused by zooming the camera in while physically pulling the camera back).

If you're a huge Hitchcock fan or a Mel Brooks completist then you'll probably want to own this. Others should rent it if they're curious, but it's hard for me to recommend it.

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Posted : 11 years, 10 months ago on 26 November 2007 05:17 (A review of I'll Sleep When I'm Dead)

I picked up this DVD because its director, Mike Hodges, also directed the awesome revenge thriller "Get Carter" (1971) with Michael Caine. "I'll Sleep When I'm Dead" starring Clive Owens has an almost identical premise: badass gangster comes to town to avenge his brother's murder.

Unfortunately, unlike "Get Carter", there's very little actual revenge here. Instead, we get 2 hours of our protagonist moping around the countryside and then the city having stilted conversations with flat characters (most of whom end up having absolutely nothing to do with the plot) before anything happens. Then the movie ends.

Look, I don't mind "moody" and "contemplative" films-- heck, I'll happily sit through a 3-hour Tarkovsky flick-- but the subjects and characters have to be interesting to make it work and that's unfortunately where "I'll Sleep When I'm Dead" fails.

I blame the screenwriting. Characters don't converse as much as they deliver longwinded speeches to the each other. The plotting is poor, as well. There's a big backstory that never gets a satisfactory explanation, and numerous subplots that never get resolved.

Bottom line: If you're looking for an action-packed thriller, this ain't it. If you're looking for an interesting meditation on revenge, this ain't it either.


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