Archive for the ‘Review’ Category

Quantum of Solace

Saturday, November 8th, 2008

I made it to the cinema last night to see the latest James Bond movie. And I thought it was excellent! A spoiler-free review follows.

It very much continues in the darker vein that Casino Royale started, with a brooding and violent Bond. Well, I suppose violence goes with the territory. Maybe pitiless would be a better word. And almost without wit – this is a Bond who has been hurt, and he is taking it out on the world.

The film starts off with a blistering pace, with so everything happening so quickly that it’s a bit of a relief when things settle down a bit. I have to admit that while I liked the movie, I do miss the light and shade of the earlier movies, and I would prefer it to be a little less bleak. And I’d rather that he didn’t wreck his beautiful care just so quickly. But I enjoyed it, am looking forward to where they’re going to go next with the franchise, as they continue to evolve it into a slightly different beast.

New Toy

Friday, August 22nd, 2008

A couple of weeks ago I finally got myself a new mobile phone, after much pondering. It’s taken me a little while to get into it, but today clinched it, and I’ve decided that I definitely like it.

It’s a Sony Ericsson C702. For me, it has two key features – it’s a Sony Ericsson, which means it works pretty much the same way as my previous phone (a Sony Ericsson K800), except that it’s got a built-in GPS.

I’ve been tempted to buy a sat-nav for ages, but I’ve been resisting because I don’t often drive to unknown places; however I’ve always remained very keen on the technology. Now that GPS is available in phones (some of the new Nokias, and of course the devil’s own iPhone), it’s even more attractive.

Of course, multi-purpose devices can never work as well as a dedicated single-purpose one. Sat-navs work out where they are very quickly, whereas this one can take quite a while to pick up the satellite signal (a few minutes sometimes). For the first few days, the performance was very poor, but it has improved as it has downloaded more info from the satellites (something called an almanac, apparently). And once it does get locked on, it’s pretty reliable, and works fine inside a car.

I’ve been experimenting with it on my bike, with some success, but today it managed to guide me reliably from Manchester Airport to a meeting in Doncaster, and back again (over 2 and a half hours of driving) with the voice telling me every turn of the way. And since it was just my mobile phone sitting in the car, and not a GPS stuck on the windscreen, I am very impressed. It also still had enough charge to make phone calls, which is also useful for a phone.

I know the camera isn’t as good as the old one was, and in time I’ll probably miss that, but for now, I really like my new phone. 🙂

The Dark Knight

Thursday, July 31st, 2008

Wow. What a great movie!

I don’t think I need to say much more than that.

Mark Ronson and the Version Players

Thursday, July 24th, 2008

One of the few new CDs I’ve bought was Version, an album of celebrity covers all produced and arranged by Mark Ronson, the man behind Amy Winehouse and Lily Allen. I love the Ronson sound, which I always think is a bit retro, with a big brassy sound.

So when I saw a flyer for a live concert in Belfast’s St. George’s Market in my barbers, I was interested. So my sister (also a fan) and myself got some tickets and went along last night.

The market is quite a nice venue -not too big, and with a very down to earth feel (that’ll be the smell of fish, especially at the back). But the sound was really a bit woeful – vocals sometimes just got lost among the heavy instrumentation (strings and horns), and the whole sound was just a bit muddied. It was a bit hard to make out anything that you didn’t already know.

It’s a shame the sound wasn’t better, but a good night out.


Monday, July 21st, 2008

You can’t have missed all the talk about the big kids’ movie of the summer. Being a big kid myself, I couldn’t resist going along.

I thought it was really good. As has been widely reported, it starts with a fairly long section with no human beings, and hence no dialogue, since neither Wall-E nor Eve speaks. But despite there being no narrative, I think the story starts very strongly, with the film showing us Wall-E’s lonely life, rather than just telling us about it. I thought this part of the movie was brilliant, and very touching, as we see him going about his mission to clean up a ruined earth singlehandedly.

It then all changes once Wall-E meets Eve, and together they go to the Axiom, where we see what has become of the human race. As you’d expect, it’s not a pretty picture, as humanity has had nothing to do for 700 years – not even having to stand up (living in hover chairs), or having to chew (since everything comes in a cup). But the movie, while damning of our throwaway culture and increasing obesity, doesn’t lecture too much. Indeed, at the end it shows the triumph of the human spirit, as the captain takes on the challenge of returning to earth, and to a long slow rebuilding, which is shown in the closing titles.

Unexpectedly, this film manages to be a touching love story, an object lesson in how to treat our world and its resources, and a cartoon comedy. I think it’s a great combination.
But be warned that other people I’ve spoken to think that the lack of dialogue makes the film boring, and they didn’t like it much at all. Philistines…

The new iphone

Tuesday, July 15th, 2008

I went to have a play with the new iphone 3G on Friday afternoon. It really is a very impressive piece of kit.

It’s got a big, clear, beautiful screen. It’s got the cutest user interface ever, which makes that screen literally strokable. The zooming is really clever (you just put two fingers on the screen and move them apart, or together, and the application resizes with your fingers). Google maps is impressive on any machine, but on that screen, and with a GPS to tell you where you are, it’s fantastic.

But it’s got one horrible flaw – you won’t write many text messages with it. The keyboard is one application which doesn’t flip round when you turn the phone from portrait to landscape, which means that the keyboard is just too small. If it had real buttons, it would be easy enough to use, but because it has a touch screen, it’s basically unusable, and I typed nothing but jibberish (yeah, I know, no change there).

When you add in the fact that it is a 3G phone from O2, the network which has the worst 3G coverage, it’s got some really big negatives against it.

So I managed to resist buying one, and so saved myself a fortune.

So long Doctor Who (no spoilers)

Saturday, July 5th, 2008

So that’s how the big cliffhanger resolved!

Tonight’s episode had lots of good things – the plot used a couple of old hooks, which was nice. Davros was at his ranting maniacal best, which I always love, and his plot had a nice catastrophic scale to it.

But it was so obviously a Russell T. Davies script. The action was compressed down almost to the point of some things getting lost, just so he could spend ages on gooey-eyed looks. All of Doctor Who doesn’t have to be about Rose!

But, all the same, Doctor Who does rock, and next year, when it’s not on, I’ll miss it.

Indiana Jones

Saturday, May 24th, 2008

I’m not long back from the cinema, from watching Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. I know, the second time back at the cinema in only three weeks, but I couldn’t resist. There’s a couple of spoilers below, so if you don’t want to see the results, you may want to look away now.

So, what’s it like? Well, to be honest, I found it a bit unsatisfying. It’s got most of the right ingredients, but it just didn’t really work for me. It’s got good action sequences, (although a little silly in places) it’s got some good humour (as usual). It’s good a good cast, (though perhaps quite a large one), and I think Cate Blanchett made a reasonable baddie. Despite some concerns about his age, Harrison Ford can still pull it off, and I have to admit that I quite liked Shia Lebeouf (who I also liked in Transformers) as the young sidekick.

So what was it that didn’t work? Well, as is often the problem with these things, it’s all about the script. It starts straight into the action, slightly jarringly, with no real introduction. But I can forgive it that. What really doesn’t work for me is the central plot device. As I have blogged before, I still have the image in my mind of the famous crystal skull from Arthur C. Clarkes Mysterious World, but this film isn’t about that real skull, or one like it. Instead it becomes fairly clear from an early stage that this is an alien skull. The Indiana Jones movies have always had a supernatural element to them, but somehow having an alien artefact at the heart of the film rather than a supernatural one seems to cheapen it to me. I’m not sure why that is. Maybe it’s because of Stargate, where the whole thesis of the show is that supernatural things have scientific explanations, and there are no gods. Or maybe it comes back to my christian rejection of the Erich Von Daniken thesis that all of our religions are just based on alien visitations. In any case, I found it to be slightly flat, and lacking in the sense of wonder that the previous movies gave me.

But on the bright side, it must have been better than the Eurovision Song Contest 😀


Iron Man

Saturday, May 3rd, 2008

Went to the cinema last night to see Iron Man. I haven’t been to the movies for ages, as nothing much has interested me. But I really enjoyed this one – it’s a really good action movie. It also raises some fairly interesting points. The whole set-up in Afghanistan is interesting; it’s a country that has been fought over for millennia, from Alexander the Great, through the Romans, Ottomans, Mongols, Russians, and now the Americans. I thought the Afghan villain’s main speech was pretty well-written, and seemed plausible, as they are a people who are very aware of their warrior history.

The fact that the plot centered around weapons manufacture was also interesting, as that’s a very current subject. Only a week or two ago a shipment of arms for Zimbabwe got sent back to China, as dock workers refused to unload it. I thought that was a great act of humanity, and those guys will be unsung heroes, whatever happens in Zimbabwe. Likewise in the UK we still haven’t got to the bottom of the story of the Saudi arms deal which wasn’t quite investigated. The film makes interesting arguments on the morality of making weapons from both sides.

With these movies, the effects are always good, but more unusually I thought that it also told a good story, and that Robert Downey Jr. did a great job in the lead role.

So a good night out, and something like 7 or 8 out of 10.