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StoicCynic "Steve" (London, UK)

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Only Lovers Left Alive [DVD] [2014]
Only Lovers Left Alive [DVD] [2014]
Dvd ~ Tilda Swinton
Price: £5.00

3 of 6 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars A bit dull, really, 17 Sept. 2014
A bit dull, really. Some mildly entertaining dialogue at a couple of points, but the practicalities of the vampire's lives had not been thought through very well, and when one finds oneself musing on such matters while the picture's still running, it's not a good sign. The performances are first-rate, as one might expect from such a cast, but they couldn't save it from being dragged down by the leaden weight of Mr. Jarmusch's obsession with "cool".

The Settlers of Catan Board Game
The Settlers of Catan Board Game
Price: £25.49

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Rather dated, and luck-heavy, 21 Jun. 2013
= Durability:5.0 out of 5 stars  = Fun:3.0 out of 5 stars 
Settlers was a revelation when it first came out. Now, many far better games have surpassed it. I've not played with any of the expansions (though I rather think that board games shouldn't need expansions to improve them), but the base game is pretty luck-heavy. Whilst players may not be eliminated from the game before the end, it's perfectly possible - and not uncommon, if playing with experienced players - to spend three or four consecutive rounds with nothing much to do if the dice go against you, and if this does happen, you can find yourself pretty much out of contention.

Fun for a while, but I'd look at things like 7 Wonders, Fresco, or Ticket to Ride before going with Settlers...

The Pact [DVD]
The Pact [DVD]
Dvd ~ Caity Lotz
Offered by MusicnMedia
Price: £6.35

0 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A few diamonds in a lot of rough., 8 Oct. 2012
This review is from: The Pact [DVD] (DVD)
"The Pact" has a few well executed scary moments, but for the most part the underpowered plot, patchy acting, some depressing cliches, and a fatal lack of plausibility (in the non-supernatural stuff, obviously) render it underwhelming.

It's a shame, as the bits that do work, work very well: there's a fair amount of daylight horror, (which I really wish horror directors would essay more often - it can be extremely effective), some well executed fakeout reveals and, joyously, almost no cheap camera-jolt gags (you know, a quick cut to something right in the camera, coupled with a loud noise - ecchh, I hate 'em!). In fact, the camera dwells just long enough on some of the spooky images to make them properly frightening, because they're confusing at first - you don't really know what you're looking at, and you get just enough time for your mind to resolve it before they cut away...very disturbing. Cheap shocks are not the ones that really sustain, and by avoiding that for the most part, the "horror mechanism" of the film - as opposed to the dodgy plot - delivers. The denouement, whilst again unsatisfying, does have a couple of good moments, but - like so many horror films - the desire to leave us with a "twist" cheapens the epilogue.

B for effort, C for attainment.

Mount Royal Chrome Plated Half Hunter Mechanical Pocket Watch B9m
Mount Royal Chrome Plated Half Hunter Mechanical Pocket Watch B9m
Offered by Jewellery Junkies
Price: £67.50

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Attractive and robust-seeming watch, 3 May 2012
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
Pleasantly heavy, suggesting robustness of construction. The watch is easy to read through the half-hunter crystal, but also - thanks to the sensible positioning of the hinge in the traditional 9 o'clock position - it can easily be opened one handed to see the full dial (I'll never understand why many modern pocket watches have the hinge at 6 o'clock...anyone out there know?).

It seems very accurate so far, with no time lost, and it runs for about a day and a half without winding. My one minor gripe would be the poor single-albert chain supplied: it's rather weedy, with a wire clasp rather than a parrot or lobster clasp, and for attaching to one's attire only a pocket-clip is supplied, as opposed to a T-bar *and* a pocket clip, which would have satisfied those of us who typically wear pocket watches with a waistcoat. As I say, it's a minor thing though...all in all, a good product.

Drive [DVD]
Drive [DVD]
Dvd ~ Ryan Gosling
Offered by Speedy Wonder
Price: £2.95

3 of 5 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Mildly diverting, 17 April 2012
This review is from: Drive [DVD] (DVD)
A paean to 80's driving and crime movies, stylistically quite interesting, this film has an economy of style that initially appeals, then is tolerable, then grates.

For me, apart from what I see as an *excessively* parsimonious spareness of plot, the chief problem is the deliberately absented nature of Ryan Gosling's character: he (Driver) lacks sufficient presence to give the film any emotional impact. It's not that he's an unsympathetic protagonist, he simply barely exists, to the point of implausibility. I understand that the absence is intentional (he's a shell of a person looking for a reason to exist, yada, yada, yada), but I think the enforced lack of engagement becomes intrusively contrived after a while. I'd also speculate that the lack of any truthful emotional context may be why the violence - which, I would argue, is not terribly excessive, gory or intense compared to many contemporary crime dramas - has been perceived by some reviewers here as particularly shocking: it does stand out quite starkly against the painfully minimalist landscape in which it's presented.

Finally, even allowing for the fable-like, allegorical nature of the piece, a lot of what takes place is pretty damn implausible. For example, law-enforcement agencies seem entirely and remarkably uninterested in the rather conspicuous criminal antics of Driver and his opponents, well beyond the point to which I could suspend my incredulity.

I suspect teenage boys with a thing for "cool" will love this picture, though. :-P

Oh, and to those looking for some sort of Jason Statham-style, disengage-brain, "ooh-look-at-them-cars-all-explodin'!!" type of picture: look elsewhere...

Sleeping Beauty [DVD]
Sleeping Beauty [DVD]
Dvd ~ Emily Browning
Offered by hunting_for_a_bargain
Price: £19.98

6 of 9 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Zzzzzzz...wha? it over?, 17 April 2012
This review is from: Sleeping Beauty [DVD] (DVD)
All the while I was watching this film - and most emphatically upon its conclusion - a quote from that deep and philosophical 80's arthouse movie "Planes, Trains and Automobiles", with Steve Martin and John Candy, kept running through my head. I feel it's such an ineluctably compelling assessment of "Sleeping Beauty" that I express a slight paraphrase of it here, as my review:

"And by the way, you know, when you're telling these little stories? Here's a good idea - have a POINT! It makes it SO much more interesting for the audience".
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: May 26, 2012 7:44 PM BST

Fallout: New Vegas (Xbox 360)
Fallout: New Vegas (Xbox 360)
Price: £10.05

21 of 25 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Fallen Out Of Favour..., 29 Nov. 2010
= Fun:2.0 out of 5 stars 
I loved Fallout 3 - scratch that, I REALLY loved F3. And I love Las Vegas. Been there several times, it's my kind of holiday town - and I'm not even a gambler. So I really, really wanted to love Fallout: New Vegas. But I couldn't, because, frankly, it's not very good.

Like many other media artifacts, there are two main elements to a computer game: the technical execution, and the artistic content. The first element is a matter of fact: things work how they're supposed to, or they don't. The second element is a matter of opinion, and you, dear reader, may very well not *agree* with my opinion. So I'm going to deal with those two elements seperately - but I have to say that either of them, taken individually, would lead me to the low rating I give the game.

First, the technical execution. Many, MANY other people have pointed out the problems with freezing, with saved games becoming corrupted, and with Bethesda's rather contemptuous "remedy" for the issues. However, I didn't experience the saved game issues, and actually, a freeze every few hours gameplay I can live with - I save frequently anyway - so I won't belabour those points. What *really* hacked me off were the quest bugs: WAY too many times, quests could not be finished, or even *started* in some cases, because of bugs. In one instance a particular story branch of the main quest became impossible for me to choose, because if I continued down it, I got permanently locked out of the most critical area of the map - so there would have been no way to finish the game. I could've gone back and repeated some several hours of gameplay and tried to make different choices, but since the bug was clearly conditional, and since I had no idea either what the conditions were, or at what point in my save history they'd been met, I was simply forced to choose another path - and it wasn't the one I *would* have chosen. That's just not good enough - in fact it's pretty pathetic, for a major game release. Bethesda spokespeople have mumbled stuff about such a complex game being impossible to completely playtest. Folks, if you don't have the time or resources to properly test your game, then don't release it till you do. Last major technical issue is the long, long, *long* loading times for moving between areas, compounded by the fact that the design of the game is such that very often, travelling around for even a trivial quest objective means looking at a load screen for thirty seconds...moving for three seconds to the entrance to another area...looking at a load screen for thirty seconds...moving for ten seconds to the entrance to *another* area...looking at a load screen...finally, we're where we need to be...right...pick up object X...and go ALL the way back through the process to take the object to where it needs to be. When you spend more time in loading screens than in the game world, it's a BIG problem.

Now the content. And *this* is where my real beef lies. I think that Obsidian (and Bethesda) were way too ambitious with this product, particularly given the aggressive release frame they'd set themselves. Sure, on paper the multiple paths through the main story must have looked cool: multiple factions to work with or against, so you have to pick a path to go down, and if you go one way, you'll never know what things you might've done if you'd gone the other way, just like REAL LIFE!

But it's NOT real life.

Until such time as general purpose computers get a lot more powerful than they are now, any computer game is, by necessity, a strongly linear experience. There is a script, but a good game immerses you in a way that helps you to forget the fact that the narrative is on rails. Now, all game developers have limited time and resources, so I would argue that effort put into developing loads of significant quest branches and sub-branches that - depending on their choices - a given player will *never* see is, artistically, a dead-end, and it effectively makes the game smaller in scope. Yes, you could re-play the game multiple times, and make different choices each time, but unless you're an obsessive fan-boy with more time on your hands than is healthy, why *would* you? F3 had a clear narrative, the story flow was for the most part satisfying, it felt like the character went on a genuine journey - and I think it's *because* it's creators accepted that the state of the art meant the choices had to be restricted.

But F:NV tries to open up the options, and because the technology and development resources aren't at a point where it can be truly open ended, instead of giving a richer more immersive game experience, the restrictiveness of the underlying mechanisms end up constantly reminding us that it's a game: "So, you've reached point X supporting faction A?" says the game. "Right, now you have to annihilate faction B. You don't want to do that? It doesn't make sense to you? It would have been impossible to predict you'd be told to do it, and you'd never have gone down the path of supporting faction A if you'd known? Tough! This is how things are in reality: decisions have consequences!" Except...except that's NOT how things are in reality. In reality, you might well now withdraw support from faction A, and adopt some other strategy. But you can't, because the developers haven't accomodated that perfectly reasonable option; and of course, they can't...they can't accomodate everything. The problem is that by trying, and ultimately failing, to significantly broaden the choices in a narratively coherent way, Obsidian have both fatally exposed the man behind the curtain furiously working the dials and knobs, and at the same time given us a confused, confusing, ultimately unsatisfying experience.

Ah well. Next generation of consoles maybe, when we have true game AI, and weall live on the moon in geodesic domes, wearing silver space-suits, and eating pills instead of food...
Comment Comments (5) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Dec 21, 2010 5:18 PM GMT

Drag Me to Hell [DVD]
Drag Me to Hell [DVD]
Dvd ~ Alison Lohman
Offered by Rikdev Media
Price: £3.63

3 of 5 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Depressing., 31 Aug. 2010
This review is from: Drag Me to Hell [DVD] (DVD)
I so wanted to like this offering, but wheeling out a bunch of horror cliches for a group of dislikable characters to inhabit is pretty lazy, really. I won't list the stuff nicked from other books and movies, but it felt in some places like a weak homage, and in others a shameless rip-off. The "comedy" is sub-Leprechaun 2, there's histrinoics and mugging a plenty, cheap-shot pop-ups in place of tension and dread, some pretty weak CGI, and a frankly stupid and low-rent "twist" ending: Raimi *ought* to be a better writer/director than this, but somehow here, he isn't. And don't be giving me no "Raimi's a legend, look at Evil Dead" caterwauling...yes LET'S look at Evil Dead...oh yeah, it's great, groundbreaking, clever stuff...but so what? Sam Raimi's not really had good form behind the camera in horror since "Evil Dead 2". Jesus, you'll be telling me Eli Roth's not a juvenile hack next...

And the goat somehow reminded me of Roland Rat.

Meh. 2 stars rather than 1 for Raimi's past form.

2012 [DVD] [2010]
2012 [DVD] [2010]
Dvd ~ John Cusack
Offered by Qoolist
Price: £2.74

3 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Amazing!, 11 Jun. 2010
This review is from: 2012 [DVD] [2010] (DVD)
If you are a drooling, shambling cretin, with the critical and cognitive faculties of an amoeba, then you will love this film. Roland Emmerich set the bar pretty damn low with mouth-breather fodder such as "Independence Day" and "The Day After Tomorrow". He clearly took a good long look at that low, low bar, and hurled himself underneath it with all his might. This is an obscenity in the truest sense, because it's a waste of resources that could have been better used elsewhere. I love fantastical narratives, I'm happy to swallow all manner of nonsense, just don't insult my intelligence - and by cracky, this film is a viscous, noisome expectoration in the eye of anyone's intelligence.

And the SFX suck too.

Oh, and 5 stars? Yeah, I lied. Oops.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jun 22, 2010 1:35 AM BST

Knowing [DVD] [2009]
Knowing [DVD] [2009]
Dvd ~ Nicolas Cage
Offered by DVD Overstocks
Price: £3.25

4 of 8 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars I "know" it's no good., 5 Oct. 2009
This review is from: Knowing [DVD] [2009] (DVD)
I rarely write positive reviews. One of the chief reasons is that I feel that the stuff I've liked is good enough that it doesn't usually need cheerleading. Conversely, I feel that I want to contribute in my own small way to the well-being of my fellow humans, by warning them about utter, utter dreck. And by jingo, "Knowing" is a piece of world-class, grade-A, solid-platinum dreck.

I try to avoid movies involving Nicolas "Two-Facial-Expressions" Cage, if possible. However, for some reason the projects he's picked of late have had story premises that intrigued me, so I've given them a punt, thinking I'll just ignore the quintessential woodiness of his acting, and focus on the FX and story. That was the cunning plan, anyway, but it's not gone great so far ("Ghost Rider", "Next"), and now "Knowing" is the barf-flavoured icing on the sewage-soaked cake of that cunning plan's failure. The plots in all these films are SO bad that they break me out of my bubble of Cage-ignoring. I'm beginning to think he's on to me, and is choosing these clunkers to wind me up.

Where to start? From the opening minutes, you're aware that, despite appropriating the trappings of science, this film holds a George Bush-like contempt for it. That's the only way you could possibly explain the portrayal of scientists as blinkered dimwits. For example, Cage's Science Professor buddy stands in front of a big page of numbers on which a clear pattern has been highlighted. Nic tells him that the highlighted numbers contain predictions made 50 years ago of the dates of major disasters, and the number of people who died in the disasters - predictions which were subsequently proven correct. And Science Prof says gets all "skeptical", and says something like "This could just be coincidence...just, y'know, forget about it. You're only getting involved in this 'cos your wife died, dude!". Eh? Wouldn't Science Prof look a *little* more closely at the numbers? Wouldn't he at least be *slightly* interested? What scientist would say those kind of things? I'll tell you: a made-up scientist in a crappy movie! Later, of course, Science Prof realises that Cage was right. "Some people," the movie seems to say "can't see what's RIGHT in FRONT of their FACES, because it, like, goes against what they've already decided in their CLOSED minds! And when they DO finally ACCEPT it, it'll be, like, TOO LATE! D'you hear me! TOO LATE! Here, have a tin-foil hat, man...". It's the perennial cry of the woo-meister - the claim that science is about sticking to preconceptions, when in fact the reverse is true - so when woo-meisters get to make movies, they have a perfect opportunity to construct lovely little straw-men and dress them up in white lab coats.

There's a lot of sequences with Cage looking worried and constipated, or running around shouting and boggling his eyes. The plane and subway train segments seem entirely gratuitous - it's suggested that the aliens who sent the number messages want Cage to be present at those events, but *why*? What is he supposed to do as a result? There are many, many things that are not explained.

Other than that, some of the photography is good. The FX work is OK. The supporting performances are adequate.

I had thought, like a few other reviewers here, that this was going to be a religious tract, but in the end it turns out to be a preposterous sci-fi manqué, albeit with an unhealthy whiff of Scientology about it. It has been suggested that Scientology is a religion for people with WAY more money than sense. Clearly, some folks of the same ilk have taken to investing in movies...

So I guess the next time I feel like giving one of Mr. Cage's offerings a go, I'll think again, because Q:DYSXEBQI SQWU EDBO QFFUQHI YD TKCR, SHQFFO CELYUI. (There's a little code of my own for you to break. Believe me, deciphering that will be a WAY better use of your time than watching this movie...)

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