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Colin McCartney (United Kingdom)

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Blackhat [DVD] [2015]
Blackhat [DVD] [2015]
Dvd ~ Chris Hemsworth
Price: £10.00

12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Decent Michael Mann thriller, despite what the film critics might say, 22 Feb. 2015
This review is from: Blackhat [DVD] [2015] (DVD)
With its uninspired trailer and poor (to date) critical reception I had fairly low expectations for "Blackhat" and watched it only out of loyalty to Michael Mann, who is one of my favourite directors. I'm glad to report then that my initial gut feelings about the movie were proved entirely wrong.

As ever with Mann's films, the stunning cinematography - which in "Blackhat" is in globe-spanning locations - make this film worth seeing. The visual aspect of some scenes made the hairs on the back of my neck stand up - a long time since a film has done that to me. Script-wise and plot-wise, some of it seems to be partially re-hashed from previous MM pictures - it steals bits, both visually and also dialogue-wise, from at least some of the following: "Collateral", "Heat", "Miami Vice" and "Manhunter". However there are lots of original bits too. One minor annoyance - which is surprisingly kept to a minimum: you know how every time in Hollywoodland when someone goes near a computer, it goes "beedly-beedly beep"? A noise that no computer (least of all those used by the FBI and CIA, one imagines) has ever, ever made involuntarily? Well you would hope that a director of Michael Mann's originality could get around that - well, he does in some parts but not in others. Maybe the producers asked him to up the beep quota so that half-wits and old ladies would know that THIS IS A COMPUTER.

Cast-wise Chris Hemsworth and Wei Tang mainly appear to be there for their looks whereas John Ortiz and Viola Davis are under-used.

The plot - loosely speaking - about cyber crime isn't one to inspire off the page but seeing the film helps, as does an interest in the subject matter. I suspect people who are not into technology will not be into this. The movie shapes up well for the first two thirds or so, but there are some holes credibility wise, particularly towards the end - unless that is, in Indonesia you can wave around guns and knives in public and people just walk past you? I've never been to Indonesia so please tell me if I am wrong.

Anyway, for Mann fans like me, this is another film that hits the spot. For anyone else - well there probably isn't enough action for action movie fans - Mann's films are action films for film buffs i.e. technically great but possibly a bit boring for those who like their big orange CGI explosions. There will be much worse films out this year given favourable reviews by the recognised critics - glad to note that at time of writing my fellow Amazon reviewers at least, are in agreement that this is a good film.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Apr 3, 2015 1:05 AM BST

Digital Solutions
Digital Solutions
Price: £19.20

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Techno Galaxy, 21 Feb. 2015
This review is from: Digital Solutions (Audio CD)
"Digital Solutions" is the sound of Model 500 updated for 2015: the return of the Godfather of Techno (though he's never really been away - check 2013's collaboration with Basic Channel's Moritz von Oswald, Borderland).

It's always difficult to give an early assessment of a new Juan Atkins record. Like his white counterparts Kraftwerk, he IS that far ahead of his time. Without doubt his CV is the only one on Planet Earth that runs the risk of being returned by the Kling Klang studios stamped "overqualified". Atkins' releases have a tendency to make a quiet entry and mature over years, if not decades - check his track "Starlight"(from Deep Space) by way of example.

So on current evidence, the lean digital solutions (44 minutes in total) to our analogue problems are: pop, electro, driving techno and funk. This music might sound kind of familiar, but that is only because it is probably already in your subconscious - Atkins having influenced generations of producers who now feature on daytime radio. The record is like a mapping of the DNA of modern music. Featuring legendary Detroit producer and occasional collaborator Mike Banks on three of its nine tracks, if you don't like this then you won't like Detroit Techno.

Limitless [Blu-ray]
Limitless [Blu-ray]
Dvd ~ Bradley Cooper
Offered by best_value_entertainment
Price: £5.47

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A film for our times, 8 Feb. 2015
This review is from: Limitless [Blu-ray] (Blu-ray)
Limitless is a film with some grand ideas - so grand that at times it struggles to encapsulate them. Much has been made of the film's stance on drugs but I actually think this is incidental to the story rather than at its core: Bradley Cooper's character takes addictive pills, therefore he will inevitably exhibit signs of drug addiction, that's it.

For me this film has two main themes:

Firstly - what the difference is between successful people and otherwise unsuccessful people. Might this be explained by some sort of conspiracy theory (one possibly involving a secret wonder drug?) It's a fanciful idea maybe, but it is a question worth exploring, one which many of those on the lower rungs will have pondered in some way at some time in their lives.

Secondly - and even more interestingly, the film highlights the fact that even without pills EVERYONE is (mainly because of the internet - though that is not a theme here) becoming omniscient which poses questions about what could this mean for the near future.

I think it's true to say that there are holes in the plot of "Limitless" and/or aspects which could have been better, but the grandness of the concept raises big questions that a film can't possibly answer. Some have criticised the film's weak ending - I think the ending is in fact ambiguous and not necessarily meant to be taken literally - similar in a way e.g. to the ending of The King of Comedy [DVD] [1982]

Overall Limitless's success comes down to the fact that its makers were able to convey such big ideas in a watchable way and, do so with such visual flare.

Star Trek Into Darkness (Blu-ray + Digital Copy) [Region Free]
Star Trek Into Darkness (Blu-ray + Digital Copy) [Region Free]
Dvd ~ Chris Pine
Price: £7.10

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A worthy addition to the Star Trek catalogue, 5 Feb. 2015
I'd put off watching this for some time as I'd heard that it wasn't very good. However I'm happy to report that actually it's not at bad at all. The film does start to sag a little about two thirds of the way through, though not to the extent I wanted to switch off. The end of the film - the closing titles - is a nice tribute to the original TV series (bring it back, again, maybe?)

Chris Pine does a good Captain Kirk, and Zoe Saldana is great as Uhura. Karl Urban's McCoy ain't bad either. I'm not so sure about Zachary Quinto as Spock, or even Simon Pegg's Scotty - I can't fault their efforts, they just seem to me to be a little bit miscast.

If you're a fan of Star trek "Into Darkness" is definitely worth a watch. If you're not, well then it's probably not going to win you over (unlike the last Star Trek [DVD] - which did get the series some new fans).


Ill Manors [DVD]
Ill Manors [DVD]
Dvd ~ Riz Ahmed
Offered by westworld-
Price: £11.03

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Dubstep cinema at its best, 4 Feb. 2015
This review is from: Ill Manors [DVD] (DVD)
On the face of it, "Ill Manors" looks like it might be heavy going - and it kind of is, but its fast pace and unpredictable story keep the viewer hooked until the end. Whilst it's a harrowing watch, it is surprisingly, not depressing. Whilst I think this film is still maybe just slightly too long, it was 40 minutes in before I even looked at my watch. An innovative debut from Ben Drew who, on the strength of this, I think we can expect great things from as a director in the future. As another reviewer mentioned, "Ill Manors" does seem to be influenced to an extent by TV series The Wire: Complete HBO Season 1-5 [DVD], although whilst that was largely based on a work of journalism, this I suspect is based on actual life experience. The cinematography is also quite similar to "The Wire" in places though "Ill Manors" is much less character-driven than the former. Fans of Nicholas Winding Refn's Pusher Trilogy [DVD], Mike Leigh's Meantime - Special Edition [1983] [DVD], Ridley Scott's American Gangster Extended Edition [2007] [DVD]" and John Cooper Clarke (- watch the film and you'll see why) should also check this one out.


Real World 25
Real World 25
Price: £12.19

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Accessible collection of tracks from Peter Gabriel's Real World label, 2 Feb. 2015
This review is from: Real World 25 (Audio CD)
One of the first records to be made at Real World studios, by my calculations, must have been New Order's "Technique"? Sadly New Order themselves don't feature on this 25th anniversary compilation of the record label but that record's balearic feel might as well have been a template for what a lot of this Real World box set contains.

Perhaps mistakenly thought of as a "world music" label, the accompanying blurb for this album in fact cites the varied tastes of John Peel as a possible influence: essentially to find and put out music that the label's owners liked. OK, so it's not as "out there" as the late great JP's selections. In fact this is undoubtedly easier listening altogether, but it nevertheless contains a huge variety of styles and yet hangs well together as an LP - one you could even put on as background at a dinner party without raising too many eyebrows. My one and only other Real World label purchase was Peter Gabriel's soundtrack to "The Last Tempatation of Christ" - now that one WAS a bit avant-garde, sounding almost like Cabaret Voltaire. Whilst one of the tracks from that record does feature, the music on here perhaps has more in common with its owner's big sellers, like "So" - kind of mainstream but interesting. I was a bit worried that this might have been on more of a worthy-but-dull Andy Kershaw tip but that couldn't be further away from the reality.

The box set is well packaged and for once the Amazon product pictures at time of writing do justice to what the finished product actually looks like.

This one is recommended to those who fancy listening to something to chill out to but are also on the lookout for new sounds and artists.

Frozen [DVD]
Frozen [DVD]
Dvd ~ Chris Buck
Offered by 247dvd
Price: £9.53

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Review #4491 - and 4491 customers can't be wrong., 31 Jan. 2015
This review is from: Frozen [DVD] (DVD)
There's nothing new whatsoever about Frozen - a Disney film inspired by Hans Christian Andersen's "The Snow Queen". It's no "Toy Story"; there are no jokes in here for knowing adults - this is 100% a children's film. Yet, I love it - it is probably the best children's animation I have ever seen. What is does, it does very well. It's not trying to be too clever, yet it is very thoughtfully written. Charming characters, great musical numbers and nice-looking scenery - this one has that certain elusive magic that captures the imagination of kids. Adults, on the other hand, will be impressed by Frozen's sheer quality. To those who criticise its lack of innovation: kids don't necessarily look for that - by all means buy them an Autechre CD for Christmas and see what thanks you get. Only the most cynical of cynics could not like this film - and I am quite cynical (and not generally a lover of Disney films). This is deservedly one of the best selling DVD of the 2010s (puzzlingly at time of writing outsold only by the just OK "Avatar") - it is a film everyone, regardless of age, regardless of how irritated they may be by hearing karaoke versions of "Let it Go", should buy.

A 21st Century classic.
Comment Comments (5) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Feb 5, 2015 9:17 PM GMT

Radio On [DVD]
Radio On [DVD]
Dvd ~ David Beames
Offered by A2Z Entertains
Price: £9.00

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wir fahren fahren fahren auf der Autobahn, 28 Jan. 2015
This review is from: Radio On [DVD] (DVD)
Watching "Radio On" reminds me of a certain type of film made my music artists. Later films of the type Johnny Yesno Redux [DVD] [2011] (Cabaret Voltaire), Pet Shop Boys - It Couldn't Happen [VHS] [1987], Daft Punk's Electroma [DVD] [2007] and Jeff Mills: Man From Tomorrow [DVD]: I expect "Radio On" will have been an influence on the makers of at least some of those films. As far as films which influenced this go, then director Chris Petit cites (in the extras) Get Carter [1971] [DVD] as a major influence, but I'm also getting vibes of Bill Douglas, early Ken Loach and Saturday Night and Sunday Morning (DVD +Blu-ray). The total quality feel of this film is, I suspect, due in no small part to the Wim Wenders who was the associate producer.

For what it is, "Radio On" is perhaps a bit on the long side at 1h 40m - none of the music films I mentioned above are anywhere near that length. That said, there's nothing much you'd want to edit out. Andrew Bryant's soldier character is a main highlight for me but everyone will have their own favourite bits. The black and white cinematography is very striking and the soundtrack, containing David Bowie and Kraftwerk almost appears to predict a future era when copies of soundtrack albums like Trainspotting were to be found in every home. Although there is in fact no soundtrack LP for "Radio On", if it had been made today it would most certainly have had a high profile one.

As with all BFI DVDs, this edition is packaged by people who care - the cover insert is printed on both sides and there's a 28 page booklet. Pity the major film studios don't give such attention to detail. In an age when everyone's turning to streaming, and the hard copy is less important (particularly with films) this is a nice edition to keep.

Overall, "Radio On" is a blueprint for its kind.

Barbour Leather Wash Bag - Dark Brown
Barbour Leather Wash Bag - Dark Brown

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Essential travelling toiletries bag for geezers of distinction, 25 Jan. 2015
This classy men's toiletries bag sure beats hurriedly sticking your toothbrush, shaving gear and deodorant in a plastic bag every time you pack. Razors and toothbrushes, for example, can get a little messy - not only does this great bag stop the clothes in your overnight getting stained from toothpaste residue etc, but the interior of both the main compartment and the zip front pocket has a wipe-clean lining so the bag itself doesn't get too grotty over time. Small and easily stowable, in any travel bag, this Barbour wash bag is still big enough to hold all the toiletries a gent would need for any trip away - toothbrush, toothpaste, shaving foam, razor, moisturiser, deodorant, aftershave- with room for some more for those of a poncier disposition. It is expensive but with its leather exterior and classic design it should last a lifetime (provided you don't lose it).

Computer Controlled Acoustic Instruments pt2 EP
Computer Controlled Acoustic Instruments pt2 EP
Price: £7.99

6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The sound of toys, possessed by an evil toymaster, 23 Jan. 2015
Word has it that "Computer Controlled Acoustic Instruments pt2 EP" contains music played by Richard D. James's self-built computer-controlled orchestra. A continuation, of sorts of Tom Jenkinson's pioneering Music For Robots (also released on Warp, around 9 months ago).

This release may be packaged similarly to the latest Aphex Twin LP Syro but the similarity largely ends there. CCAIP2EP is not really a companion work, though the track "asiatsana" might have fitted on here. It's a 28 minute mini-LP of short/medium length percussive neo-classical music. Stripped down sound (in places almost to the point where it could be used as a demonstration recording for stereophonic sound), as opposed to Syro's dense layering. In fact if anything this is closer in vibe to Aphex's 2001 album Drukqs. The music can be challenging in places, but the short track lengths make this an accessible release overall and much less daunting than a lot of modern classical stuff. A headphone listen reveals come weird background noises which sound like kids and dogs - as though this was recorded live in RDJ's house (which it may well have been, who knows). And it does have beats as well - which are all too welcome, as the menacing opener "diskhat ALL prepared1mixed 13" kicks in. Whilst I loved "Syro" (album of the year 2014 for me, that one) it doesn't contain any obvious "killer" track, whereas CCAIP2EP does: "piano un 10 it happened". A melodic piano piece which is part "Avril 13th", part greatest ever R&B intro ever - a sarcastic scream of "sample me" aimed at Kanye West, perhaps?

CCAIP2EP is yet another step forward for the Aphex Twin. The influence of "Syro" is already all over Radio 1 (if anyone ever listens to that these days?) and I predict this little record will be no less influential.

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