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zargb5 (UK)

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Knowing [Blu-ray] [2009]
Knowing [Blu-ray] [2009]
Dvd ~ Nicolas Cage
Offered by DVD Overstocks
Price: £4.49

7 of 12 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars religious allegory, 12 Feb. 2010
This review is from: Knowing [Blu-ray] [2009] (Blu-ray)
For starters the director Proyas has no real feel or respect for science fiction. His total mishandling of the film 'I Robot' shows this.

The first 15 minutes of this film really capture ones interest. Cage (an MIT professor in astrophysics) giving his class a premise about determinism and randomness. Then there's a time capsule and some sort of code with all the dates over 50 years of disasters, deaths and locations. Somewhat pointless seen as it is buried for 50 years anyway. Good start but its downhill from there....

The code is utterly predictable no random numbers, determinism is the order of the day. The reason for the code being given is utterly tenuous and just there for dramatic effect only. There is a bit of jungian psycho babble about synchronicity and no mention of chaos or complexity theory let alone quantum mechanics which is probability based. Randomness is never explored, don't expect the complex exploration of free will vs determinism that is the excellent series 'Flashforward'

No these are just glossed over. It is God's universe which harks back to the safe and cosy world of Newton classical physics, everything determined, predictable and CERTAIN.

I was surprised that the film didn't mention the quackery of Nostradamus or the equally absurd comic fantasy of Drosnan's 'Bible Code'

As usual the message from God is garbled, enigmatic and quixotic (they usually are in these affairs)The all powerful, all knowing God just wants to have an apocalypse and wipe out humanity again (and most of the innocent animals) but this time by fire (just for a bit of a change) Ironically he wants to save the vegetarian children (so presumably if Hitler was a child at this time he would have been one of the chosen. (Now that would have made a more interesting film)

The ark story if taken literally is just about mass genocide (this time on a planetary scale) So presume all the other predicted disasters in the movie must have been planned by HIM as well seen as he is omnipotent, omniescent and omnipresent etc (didn't anyone find this somewhat pathologically insane?

This just turned into just an ark story, the aliens were so angel like as to be deliberately angels of the biblical kind. Then we get the end of days and an atheist who comes to believe in the after life.

The chosen choldren have strange men whispering in their minds telling them they will be safe and at the end Cage happily lets his son and girl friend go with the rather menacing 'looking angels' I would have been prone to shoot the lead one and be responsible and not let them take anybody let alone my son. There was no assurances about their safety or what would happen to them.

If this isn't a religious film then i'm not typing this on a pc.

In the new Eden with the tree of life and lovely corn fields blowing in the breeze - I wonder how long the children took before they starting calling meetings with conch shells, painting their faces with war paint, worked out a pecking order, making weapons out of tree branches and eating those lovely fluffy rabbits the alien/angels enticed them with (do you wanna see some rabbits?). The 2 children and 2 rabbits indicates rather unsubtley that the alien/angels are saving 2 of everything.

I don't suppose there were any 'bad' germs or viruses there either. And who would be there to indoctrinate the impressionable children? (sorry teach)the chosen few? A lot in this film is not questioned but merely left out. In the end sequence we see only 2 children one male one female, could it be the old Adam and Eve cliche again? so ponderously done to death in 50's written SF that it became embarrassing to ever use it again? Should someone have told the makers of this film? If the world is deterministic then evolution goes out the window as does free will. So all the unchosen don't have a choice in their predicament either.

It was just one more hack hollywood no brainer muzak probably aimed at the mass market bible belt type viewer or religious fundamentalists.

The blu ray looks great, sounds excellent,some of the effects cgi look very artificial especially the air crash and Eden looks like an illustration from the 'watchtower' Very unsubtle religious allegory. It cannot be mistaken for anything else. It just compounded my atheistic beliefs even more.


Images of Metheny
Images of Metheny
Price: £21.15

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars excellent album, 9 Feb. 2010
This review is from: Images of Metheny (Audio CD)
Jason Vieaux somehow manages to endow these tunes with the essence of Metheny's musical vision. Apparently he met Mr Metheny before the recording and after the fact Metheny stated how delighted he was with the end result.

Vieaux is an impeccable classical guitar technician and even though these are metheny/mays tunes he still manages to endow them with his own stamp as well.

It is truly amazing how he manages to distil the 13 minute metheny track 'everyday i thank you' into about 4 minutes and not leave anything out. You will understand this 'apparent' contradiction on hearing this track.

Hopefully Metheny fans will explore this, but i hope classical guitar fans will also find this album of interest. Metheny is an underated composer who is often cited as being in part responsible for bringing melody back into the modern jazz idiom.

This is not an improvisatory album but Vieaux does such an excellent job in his arrangements that hardly matters. It is also testament to the writing skills of metheny that his tunes can be transposed to other musical idioms.

The recording is warm, clear and present with excellent dynamics.

I highly recommend this album along with Bob Curnow's big band arrangements of Metheny/Mays music.


Mike Stern Band - Paris Concert [Blu-ray] [2008] [2009] [Region Free]
Mike Stern Band - Paris Concert [Blu-ray] [2008] [2009] [Region Free]
Dvd ~ Mike Stern
Price: £22.47

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars No problem, 5 Feb. 2010
I rented this blu ray version before buying it due to the 2 previous reviewers reporting synch problems. I only use a high quality 2 channel set up because i don't have the room for 5.1 or 7.1 setups.

I can report i had no synch problems whatsoever on watching this. Whilst the picture was not pin sharp it was definitely an improvement on the standard version (which i own)

The concert itself runs to just over one and a half hours and there are no extras.
This concert as opposed to the previous 'new morning' Stern concert released a few years ago has a better balance of energetic tracks interspersed with a few ballad type numbers.
The concert is excellent and will not disappoint if you are a Stern fan.


Standards
Standards
Price: £13.33

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of Birelli's best, 4 Feb. 2010
This review is from: Standards (Audio CD)
This is definitely one of lagrene's best albums. Basically as the title states this is a collection of 12 standards played by Birelli (Guitar) Andre Ceccarelli (drums) & Niels Henning Orsted Pedersen (Bass)

This trio are really synchronous with each other and play with great energy and verve. The subtle moments are beautifully played with great feeling and the high energy moments really show what this trio can do. All the players are masters of their instruments and this utterly shows through in the great interaction and playing.

The album is one of the best engineered and produced albums i have ever heard.

Recommended


The Cosmic Blueprint: New Discoveries in Nature's Creative Ability to Order the Universe
The Cosmic Blueprint: New Discoveries in Nature's Creative Ability to Order the Universe
by Paul Davies
Edition: Paperback
Price: £11.70

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars thought provoking book, 1 Feb. 2010
This is not always an easy book to get through but is well worth the effort. Davies is a bit of a darling of the Templeton establishment which for atheists (like myself)may be a major turn off. But Davies manages to steer a course through science and theology without being overtly religious 9until the last paragraph of the book)
The science of complexity and chaos are described fairly well along with the 'spontaneous' events which at the edge of chaos seem to produce more complex emergent forms and processes.

Whether you want to believe that these probablistic events are somehow teleological or a blind emergent process is your preference. The book questions both ideas with equally well and the only way to really understand where allegiances lay is to understand the arguments.

Davies manages to pick out the inherent problems with evolutionary theory, reductionist science and holistic science to try to explain how complex forms emerge from simpler rules and forms using the new science of chaos and complexity theory. Certain sections one feels could have been more detailed to show how complicated the arguments are. I would recommend John Casti's book 'paradigms lost' & 'paradigms regained' for a more concise look at the problems of how replicating material may have evolved from the bare elements of the universe.

This is a well written book but should be read with an open mind about the processes being described. Self organising principles do not appear as if by magic and the new paradigm is beginning to show the way to help explain the theoretical gaps in evolutionary/reductionist/classical theory as regards emergent processes in nature which are complex from simple rules.

The 'interpretation' that these rules are God derived or an infinite process of emerging forms from nature alone is up to the reader. One thing that is certain is that if you start with simple elements ie hydrogen/helium and a little lithium you eventually end up with an amazing plethora of forms both animate and inanimate which could be infinite in their structure and possibilities. The old biblical idea of 'definitely ending up with bipedal human beings from such a process over billions of years must surely be questioned if not totally falsified bearing in mind this new information.

It seems we are still stuck in the trap of teleological 'common sense'thinking - and we know that 'common sense' thinking can often lead us down the wrong garden path.

Davies to his due is insistent in his view that any emerging new view about the apparent progress of structure and processes must have scientific basis or it is useless mystical nonsense. Any new ideas about the emergent processes and infinite complexities and structure of form in the universe must also be consistent and incorporate what we have already learned scientifically.

The process of shrinking God back to the pre big bang singularity and sub-sub atomic levels goes another step forward. There's not many places left to hide surely? Unless you wish to believe that the universe is somehow evolving itself toward consciousness, complexity and awareness ala De Chardin. Davies while writing from the standpoint of science and not really giving the reader HIS personal leanings toward religion in a direct manner eventually in the last paragraph states that 'something must be behind it all' is this strange sentence meaning a directed intelligence? or a non intelligent design? (whatever that may be)It would be more interesting if Davies would give us a more direct explanation of what he actually means? Is it a kind of placation to the religious believers? or leaving enough room so he gets the Templemen prize again?


Orchestrion
Orchestrion
Price: £7.01

13 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars fascinating album, 28 Jan. 2010
This review is from: Orchestrion (Audio CD)
I won't go into any detail about the actual orchestrion itself. Other reviewers have done that very well and there are many links on youtube and Mr Metheny's website which explain and show how it works. Make no mistake though the orchestrion is a major progressive development technologically over the older versions and the player piano.

The orchestrion sounds uncannily like a group of musicians (that is how convincing this new invention is) It does sound somewhat different to Pat's varying ensembles but there are complex interactions going on on the macro scale as well as the micro scale of the music.
In a sense this is a kind of follow up to the old album 'new Chautauqua' On that album pat tried to use the studio as an instrument with overdubbed guitars etc to build up the songs. On that album probably due to the technology available and restricted studio time he came away with a very listenable album whose sparseness was highly appealing. On Orchestrion he is afforded a broader, richer pallette to work from and 20 odd years more musical experience.

The Orchestrion is a machine which has been humanised (or gives the illusion of such) It is a very tight but flexible sounding 'ensemble'all under the control of Mr Metheny.

I felt a little underwhelmed on first listen but several plays later this album really begins to grow in the memory. There are a lot of very complex things going on in this music, structurally, rhythmically and melodically & Pat plays some wonderful melodic solos over all of this.

Pat has always done his own thing musically and often taken some wide detours on his musical journey (Song X, Zero tolerance for silence, the sign of 4 etc) Orchestrion unlike those albums follows more in the footesteps of the PMG albums/Secret Story and the way up. If the fans wish to follow that is up to them.

The songs on the album (all multi instrumental) have all the hall marks of a Metheny composition but the orchestrion allows him the personal freedom to change the songs often subtly and to do new things. There are new twists to a lot of the music here and like 'Secret Story' the spaces are often filled with great detail in the sound.

The first track is one of the many highlights on the album and is a little reminiscent of 'first circle' from the album of the same name. It builds to a wonderful climactic apotheosis. There are a lot of time changes in the songs which keeps the listener's attention also.

Some attention has been brought to the quality of the drumming/bass playing on this album, namely that it is not up to the standards of a Mcbride or a Sanchez. I think this is asking over and beyond the possibilities of Pat and the orchestrion. The bass and drumming segments are definitely functional within the compositional structure of the works here and while not sounding like a well honed bass/drummer do a very fine job. One has to remember the bass parts on albums like 'New Chautauqua' and 'As falls wichita...' which Pat played himself. Those were obviously not as good as a well crafted bass player but did the job within the context of the pieces. Overall critics have very positive things to say about this album. I'm sure if we get an 'Orchestrion 2' it will be even better than this one.

My only criticism of the album is that it feels too short (this is not the case though in reality it is around 54 mins) which indicates that the album is definitely engrossing.

Albums which are immediately likeable usually don't get played much ultimately (in my experience) This one though will certainly be played a lot. Sadly some fans seem to be somewhat resistant to this new device and change of Pat's, for those who decide to stay the course there are many rewards.

Highly recommended.
Comment Comments (8) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Mar 3, 2010 12:13 AM GMT


Star Trek (3-Disc Digital Copy Special Edition) [Blu-ray] [2009]
Star Trek (3-Disc Digital Copy Special Edition) [Blu-ray] [2009]
Dvd ~ Chris Pine

39 of 83 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Please Hollywood ......some of us do have brains.....and like to use them, 15 Jan. 2010
First, this film looks and sounds utterly stunning on blu ray, but that's like buying a book because you like the picture on the cover dust jacket....beware the actual contents.....

Trek needed a reboot. It got it in the backside. The franchise has been failing for donkeys years, the best way to reboot this would have been to make it relevant to current political/social problems and lose a massive dose of the over idealistic naivity.

But no we get a 100 million dollar amazing looking movie devoid of any really intelligent plot, a James Bond stereotype villain in fancy dress and a bunch of witty sardonic self referential jokes for the 17 to 34 year old target market. Oh and its very quick paced in case you suffer from attention deficit disorder.

Gone are the amazingly prescient gadgets of the original series.

The future isn't what it used to be.

Here we get a alternate reality Trek, thanks to the original Spock who manages somehow to miss-time the explosion of a supernova (unusually) and causes the time line to get altered. This changes history so all that went before The original Trek universe) was a completely pointless exercise- and also an open licence to do what you will in the new one.

This film whilst looking stunning fails badly. There is a little self parody in there which was always part of the original Trek universe. I think they needed a really good science adviser who isn't a 'yes' man. A more believable plot may have worked wonders. In fact a plot centered around the 'human condition' rather than flashy effects.

There are references to the original series and films which will probably go above the heads of new fans, but overall the movie is too fast paced to really concentrate properly on the actual characters (despite the hype that this is a character driven movie) This is trek on speed or an overdose of 'E' numbers.

Big budget movies are mere spectacle (at least the post modernists got something right) Basically we have a few witty lines wrapped around a collection of action sequences which consist of the staple and tried and tested ingredients of most blockbusters: car chase, bar brawl, sexual innuendo (keep the sexists happy)a bit of inter species alpha male, space battles, and more fighting. And finally surprise surprise they save Earth yet again. I would never have dreamed they would have come up with that ending. A bit more real ingenuity in the script department may have made the predictable ending more palatable.

Not much inner reflection so far. The motivations of Nero the arch baddy are not explored at all really (surely that should have been the whole centre of the narrative?)

The better episodes of the original often had actual SF writers (Theodore Sturgeon, Harlan Ellison, Norman Spinrad, Jerome Bixby, Richard Matheson) and these were usually the best episodes of the 3 series by far. The science content was not always spot on but it was fairly consistent and reasoned out.

The science content of the movie is blatantly steamrollered over and there are quite a few inconsistencies in the timing of the plot and events. There are some bizarre inclusions of things like 'red matter' which is not explained or why to stop a star going supernova you turn it into a black hole? That certainly wouldn't save Romulus. Pure mumbo jumbo science. If you wished somehow to destroy a planet with a black hole you wouldn't need to drill a hole to its core- just releasing the 'hole' near to the planet would be enough as it would certainly find its own way to the centre of the gravity well without any help. It may take some time to 'swallow up' the planet depending upon its own mass and the planets in question. It certainly wouldn't happen in seconds. A lot of time would be available to evac a lot of inhabitants. There would be easier ways to wipe out a planet probably using radiation from above the atmosphere. But seen as Nero's ship was a converted mining vessel sure some big old asteroids would have sufficed and a mass driver? See 1001 imaginary ways of how to destroy a planet and or its organic life. (ISBN 234 567 891.)

Unlike the original series i really don't think this passive PS3 game (because that is what it is really)will stand up to more than one viewing. The Trek references are there to try and alley the original fans, the rest will please people new to the franchise who really don't want to contemplate using any grey matter cells to consider the human condition.

Casting was merely adequate. Nimoy was the only actor who gave Vulcans any depth, sensitivity and believe-ability - often in very subtle ways. (Quinto gave slight hints of this at certain moments but on the whole just sounds like a robot) Pegg as Scotty is at least honest and gives us a straight impressionistic parody ala Mel Brooks 'Spaceballs.' Shatner was mature,interesting and believable as Kirk, whereas Pine and most of the rest of the cast is there to pull in the 16 to 34 year demarcation film audience. He is mainly irritating, arrogant, immature and therefore unbelievable. As another reviewer has pointed out - he goes from failed first year cadet to captain in the blink of an eye. The gullible detector has come on again. The only plus is the inclusion of Urban as 'Bones' who plays the character like De forest Kelly - though he gets very little to do with the actual plot.

The main role for this film was the relationship between Spock & Kirk, the rest of the cast were merely background players. The important interaction and balance between Kirk, Spock and Bones was not really explored satisfactorily because the pace of the film did not allow it.

This is probably down to the bad scriptwriting and oh so obvious formulaic blockbuster plot devices. Why are we so gullible?

There in lies the problem with this film. It has to please the original fans to some extent but also has to appeal and entice in a new audience. It does go some way in managing this epic feat - but ultimately the original stories were based on good character interaction WITH good humanistic storylines. The dichotomy is hinted at in the film but not realised.

Big budget movies and the intelligence of the target audience are akin to Newton's inverse square law of gravity. The bigger the budget the more you have to attract the lowest common denominator.

This will be huge, but i enjoy trying to sweep leaves in a pile in a strong wind.
Comment Comments (11) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Sep 27, 2013 12:14 PM BST


The Planets [DVD]
The Planets [DVD]
Dvd ~ Mark Halliley
Offered by A ENTERTAINMENT
Price: £3.73

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Pity its not in HD, 8 Jan. 2010
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: The Planets [DVD] (DVD)
Excellent series explaining in some depth and detail our solar system and our attempts to understand it. It's a great pity that this type of documentary is now a thing of the past being replaced by dumbed down versions hosted by mainly celebrities of one kind or another. Here the scientists themselves explain the discoveries and mysteries and convey the excitement and joy of discovery. It is far superior to the 'in your face' attention deficit programmes like 'Space' and History Channels 'Universe' which while having better cgi graphics lack in every other dept.

The beauty of this series is that it is allowed to unfold naturally and questions are posed and then answered, then other questions follow somewhat akin to how the actual scientific method works.

Please ignore the Amazon review it does not reflect the programme accurately.

My only criticism is that this series was probably made before HD took off. So we won't get to see an HD version. Though i have been informed that a lot of the elements were 'filmed' possibly in 70mm so who knows?

Highly recommended.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jan 19, 2011 3:04 PM GMT


Star Trek: The Original Series - Season 3 [Blu-ray] [1966]
Star Trek: The Original Series - Season 3 [Blu-ray] [1966]
Dvd ~ Lee Bergere
Price: £20.00

5 of 16 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars least interesting of the 3 original series, 6 Jan. 2010
Series 1 of the original Star Trek was excellent. By series 2 about half the episodes were good. When we got to series 3 the scripts had taken a nose dive and shows most of this series at its very worst. There are some exceptions but overall this series was a real clunker and comprised such gems as 'Spock's Brain' 'Spectre of the Gun' & 'Savage Curtain' probably the worst episodes produced ever. There were highlights mainly consisting of about 6 or so episodes out of the 26.(All our yesterdays, Tholian web, day of the dove,Is There In Truth No beauty? mark of gideon, elaan of troyius) The rest were often poorly developed or downright cliched and naive.

On a positive note this new set looks amazing, the new cgi is excellent and carries on from the high quality of the first 2 seasons. Trouble is with such poor episodes, it doesn't matter if they look good or not because this series was just plainly terribly when compared to the lofty heights of series 1 and part of series 2. Part of this was down to budgetry restrictions, low morale and the inclusion of the Fred Freiberger as producer (who went on to produce the massively inane Space 1999)

The storylines in series 3 were at times laughably naive on the whole (especially the plot and characterisation of the female Romulan commander in 'the enterprise incident'), the characterisations shaky or abundantly contradictory with what had gone before. The plotlines were ill conceived, weak or poorly realised. The plots basically consisted of cheap trick manipulations ie obvious plot devices, which cast member would fall in love that episode (mainly Kirk as usual) The acting took a nosedive too, even though the regulars tried their best with the formulaic almost pantomime scripts.

In a sense the 3rd series should never had been made and was just another nail in the coffin. If there had been a 4th season it would have fallen into self parody.

The main highlight of this set is the inclusion of the original pilot of Star Trek "The cage" which has been beautifully rendered and restored.

Lots of extras if you like that sort of thing

Recommended for completists only.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Apr 22, 2010 8:06 PM BST


Star Trek: The Original Series - Season 2 [Blu-ray] [1966]
Star Trek: The Original Series - Season 2 [Blu-ray] [1966]
Dvd ~ William Shatner
Price: £20.00

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars great set, 6 Jan. 2010
This dvd set is great, the new cgi is tastefully and seamlessly done. It segs in nicely with the old footage. I have a lot of these episodes on previous incarnations, but to be honest if i want to watch any episodes i dip into these newly mastered discs instead. The box and packaging are better than the HD version it looks more professional and fits in better with my other dvd collection.

In comparison the new CGI fits in beautifully and there is no self conscious extra footage so the pace of the episodes is not interrupted. The remastered normal footage looks cleaner and less grainy with more detail, scratches have been removed and there is a better contrasting color balance, the sound is slightly improved over older versions. The opening sequence has been re recorded and Shatner's opening line remastered. The remastered segments are mainly matte backdrop effects ie cities, planets and shots of ships, the rest is intact, so all the rubber monsters and often shaky sets are retained whether good or bad.

The remastering is a big improvement over the previous one and the new CGI pays great homage to the original team that designed and made the show. Forget the negative nay sayers, this is how the show should have been remastered in the first place. The standard definition version looks good, but it is well worth forking out the extra money if you want blu ray definition. The old cgi footage is there if you really want to watch it. The episodes which gain most from the new cgi are "Doomsday machine" "Ultimate Computer" and "Amok Time"

The 4 stars is just for the content. The 2nd series was good but a small proportion of the series wasn't up to the standard of series 1 in my opinion. The original masters are getting old so there are some small discrepancies between scenes with contrast and volume of dialogue, but these are minor and have been dealt with as best as they could.

The show has never looked better. Recommended.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jan 13, 2010 7:39 AM GMT


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