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Posts Tagged ‘Good’

Up

Review for the Kiddies

Up is a fantastic, exciting voyage to South America! With a magic flying house, grouchy grandpa-type Carl Fredricksen and his little buddy Russell explore the jungle, meet a funny talking dog, and save a giant bird from a crazy old man in a zepplin! Featuring lots of laughs and some surprisingly tense action, Up isn’t for super-young kids, but any child over 5 will have a whole flying house full of fun!

Review for Grownups

Up spends its first 20 minutes or so grinding away at its protagonist’s life so savagely that it may reduce you to tears. Carl marries his childhood sweetheart, and in short cinematic order their lives rush by. Unable to have the children they desire, Carl and his wife Ellie pin their dreams on an eventual voyage to Venezuela, one she does not live to see. Crushed and alone, Carl spends all day in his house, talking to his dead wife while a heartless and marginalizing city grows up around him. Eventually, he is committed to a home, and realizing he has nothing to lose in death, flies his house on the voyage his dead wife always wanted to take. Carl’s flying house and the film’s other aeronautic hijinks show more than a passing Hayao Miyazaki inspiration, which is to be expected due to his close relationship with Pixar exec John Lasseter.

Carl is accompanied on his trek by Russell, a boyscout whose enthusiasm for nature is motivated by the love of a father who has long since abandoned him. The villain of the film is Carl’s boyhood hero, a man so lonely and obsessed that he seems less genuinely evil and more completely pitiable. Behind most of the film, these undertones of losing people and ideas we love can be felt in how the characters act and what they do. The whole movie is built on foundations of sorrow.

You might think this would make Up a sad movie, and it does, but it also makes its many happy moments stand out that much more clearly. The movie draws strong, heartfelt performances from all the members of its talented cast, and had, to me, no slip-ups on its way. And don’t worry: if you’ve seen the short film The Ark, and about halfway through Up you start to worry it’ll end the same way- it doesn’t. You can relax. Unlike Pixar’s other movies, Up probably won’t have a lot of commercial visibility. There will be some product tie-ins, but many companies have already publicly shied from the film. The reason is pretty obvious; ageism is an established thing in movies and just because Pixar rose above it doesn’t mean companies will.

In short: Up is a moving, sophisticated film that will appeal to adults and children on totally different levels and shines above other kids cinema on the market as a complex narrative on human feelings and behavior.

9/10

Categories: Movies Tags: , , ,

Camacho Connecticut

Brand: Camacho
Size: 7.0″ x 48 (churchill)
Wrapper: Ecudorian Connecticut
Binder: Honduras
Filler: Honduras and Dominican
Price: MSRP $170.00 box of 25

The Camacho Connecticut is a sneaky little devil. On the outside it appears as your standard light Connecticut wrapper which normally gives you the impression that the filler is also light. This is where you are wrong. The Camacho Connecticut is full of spiciness with periods of creaminess which is subtle enough to balance out the smoke and provides a very interesting yet tasty experience.

I picked up the Camacho Connecticut from the Party Source Davidoff tastings a couple of weeks ago and didn’t even realize I had put it in my humidor until yesterday (shame on me). So without much thought, I snagged it out and prepared to smoke.

First Third:

At first glance the cap of the cigar is very prominent. You can tell that this cigar was constructed very well. The cigar has a nice aroma too it, almost creamy like. The wrapper looks to provide a smooth smoke. The first few puffs has an incredibly smooth draw and smooth taste, yet has a bite too it. The darker tobaccos mixed with the lighter wrapper really compliment each other well. Near the end of the first third the spiciness tends to die down and sticks with a more smooth and creamy taste which is welcomed nicely.

Halfway Point:

The smoothness continues, and the burn is still very even. The draw is excellent and I haven’t had any problems smoking it thus far. The herbal spiciness returned with hints of cedar mixed in as well.

Finale:

The cigar is now a lot darker and you can definitely rate this as medium bodied, maybe even a bit more than that. Though the cigar has gotten darker (which I normally prefer anyway), the smoothness of the wrapper continues to complement the fillers which creates a very interesting smoking experience. I don’t want to put it out. ๐Ÿ™‚

The Camacho Connecticut is an excellent cigar and I would probably rate it as one of my top 10 cigars as of recent, along with the Cuvee Rouge which is also an excellent cigar. Camacho has created a very interesting smoke with the light/dark mixture and the creaminess/spiciness of the cigar will definitely leave your palate excited throughout and wanting more once you are done. ๐Ÿ™‚ Good job Camacho!

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Cusano LXI Habano Sun Grown

Brand: Cusano
Size: 5.0 x 50 (robusto)
Wrapper: Double wrapper Ecuadorian sun grown
Binder: part of double wrapper
Filler: Mixed Ligero tobacco
Price: MSRP $4.93 a stick

I picked up this cigar from the recent Cusano cigar tastings and wasn’t sure what to expect. This is apparently the first full bodied smoke from Cusano but I’m not sure how true that is. Cusano is normally in the light to medium bodied realm of cigars. An Ecuadorian sun grown leaf with a double wrapper makes for a smooth smoke. The richness of this cigar is very prominent and it’s a very good competitor for other full bodied smokes currently on the market.

First Third:

The cigar started out with a very full flavor and earthy tones. I’m not sure what happened but the burn was a bit uneven at first. It eventually started to even itself out after about 10 minutes or so into it though so no harm no foul.

Halfway Point:

The cigar really started to pick up on it’s full flavor now but still had a smoothness to the smoke and draw. The construction of the cigar held up very well and there were no burn issues or unraveling going on at this point. My buddy also smoked this with me and his started to come apart a bit but that may be due to his cutting too much into the cap of the stick. Toward the midway point I started picking up more of a spiciness to the stick which complimented the sun grown wrapper very well.

Finale:

More of the spiciness started to hit my tongue and my palate was full of flavor at this point. As I was nearing the end, I was disappointed that I had to put it out (as most smokers probably understand) but it finished nicely.

I love full bodied cigars and this one is definitely up there as a contender. I would most definitely buy this stick again in the future. Cusano has a winner here with an excellent introduction into the full bodied cigar market. I look forward to seeing more full bodied options from Cusano in the future.

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Guyver: Dark Hero

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It’s always dicey adapting a cartoon for live action. Finding real people who look like cartoon characters is hard, as is replicating the unrealistic feats that animated characters are capable of in aย  believable way. This problem is doubled when you try to adapt animation from Japan, where the prominence of animated cinema arose specifically in order to depict wild stunts and crazy monsters that Japanese film companies of the early-mid 20th century had neither the money nor the real estate to film.

The Guyver is kind of a media dynasty. There’s comic books, movies, TV shows, and, one would assume, cuddly Guyver plushes. For those not in the know, the Guyver is a suit of armor aliens built in order to shove humans inside and make cheap frontline soldiers for their horrific space wars. The prototypes rebelled and the aliens left Earth, leaving behind some dormant Guyver suits and an army of angry, lonesome mutant soldiers. Everyone wants a Guyver suit of their own, but predictably plucky young people get most of them. Rather like Power Rangers, said hero wanders about encountering danger, transforming with their armor, and kicking lots of faces. Because the Guyver is dark and edgy, there’s lots of blood and screaming and the suit comes out of you eww gross yuck! It’s kind of an adult cartoon, as envisioned by ten year olds.

Dark Hero follows the original properties as well as it can with no budget. Sean (Solid Snake) has what he believes to be the only Guyver suit. It makes him run around fighting crime, even though he’d rather just sit around his filthy apartment doodling in his dream journal. When he sees some symbols on television that he believes are related to the Guyver suit, he sets off for Utah to visit an archaelogical dig. Wouldn’t you know it, an entire corporation of bad guys in rubber monster suits is after the dig as well, and it’s up to Sean to pretty much kill every last one of them as savagely as rubber suit science permits.

Coming up since small times on the 60s-70s Godzilla films, I really got into this film. The suits are surprisingly good, and the Guyver armor is pretty on-model with the anime. The fights are pretty decent too, although there’s a surprising amount of non-fighting and it isn’t particularly interesting. Sean whines and moans about having awesome alien space armor that lets him shoot lasers out of his head, he romances an average-looking archaeologist, and some stuff happens with the FBI. But none of that matters because this is a guys in rubber suits hitting each other movie, and it totally delivers.

Actually, it may deliver too well. The violence in Dark Hero can be surprisingly graphic, and contrasted with the rather silly-looking suitework the effect is sort of confusing. It’s like if you were watching Sesame Street, and Big Bird pecked out Grover’s eyes. But if you can get past that, Guyver: Dark Hero offers something interesting: a live action anime adaptation that is both entertaining and faithful to its source materials.

6/10 (bump it up to 7/10 if you’re like me and giggle with glee when dudes in rubber suits body slam each other)

Open Source Roundup: Inkscape Vs Illustrator

Inkscape is a totally free vector art program. It’s pretty robust, but like many open source apps, it feels a little more old-fashioned than Adobe Illustrator, it’s retail cousin. For instance, if you apply a gradient to a shape in Inkscape, you can’t move it; you have to put your gradient on a new shape, place that over the existing shape as you see fit and mask it. Throwback functionality like this will make newbies and users who depend on illustrator‘s simplicity groan, but with patience you can do everything you can do in illustrator in Inkscape.

…Except edit .Ai files. Yes, while Gimp can edit PSDs and OpenOffice can edit Microsoft’s native formats, you can’t switch content between Illustrator and Inkscape so easily. While this limitation may hurt inkscape’s commercial applications (only a little, since it can make .SVG files) it is no barrier to using this excellent free tool for home art projects.

7.5/10 (and it’ll go up as the program improves, I’d wager)

Categories: Technology Tags: , , ,

Terminator Salvation

May 24, 2009 1 comment

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I went into this one with low expectations. The director of Charlie’s Angels shooting a movie written by the writers of Catwoman? No thanks! Fortunately I was wrong. Dead wrong. Terminated wrong, even.

‘K, maybe not.

Terminator does not disappoint. The machines are gritty and convincing, the landscape one of deserts and blasted cities, and in true 80s sci-fi tradition, Skynet has built a glowing blue monolith big enough to see from space for its lair. Although the film does not quite mirror James Cameron’s hazy blue hellscapes from Terminator 1 and 2, it belongs to the same world, a world where awful machines try constantly to kill you for no reason. An excellent job is done making the terminators look flashy and new without betraying the industrial asthetic of the original films.

The cinematography is good too. The camera bobs around a lot, but not too much, and action scenes are immersive and well-framed. The effects shots are pretty well composited, thanks in part to a generous use of real models and props. The film does have an unhealthy dependency on closeups of people’s faces during conversations, to the point that whenever talking happens the screen is totally filled with the speakers’ faces. That’s okay- this ain’t a talkin’ movie, it’s a terminatin’ movie.

The human element is less successful than the machine element, but not in the way you might expect. Anton Yelchin’s performance as they young Kyle Reese is heartfelt and compelling, a big step up from his rather phoned-in part in Star Trek. Sam Worthington, a terminator who doesn’t know he’s a terminator and so uses his terminating skills for justice, is an exciting hero with lots of (wasted) potential. Michael Ironside is in there, and I’ll watch anything with Michael Ironside in it. Moon Bloodgood plays a pilot who… well, who is better than she was in Pathfinder. But she’s only been at this for three years, and I’ll give her the benefit of the doubt.

No, the weak link in this production is, amazingly enough, Christian Bale. I feel funny saying that because, you know, Batman, but there it is. Bale pressed director McG to expand his part, butted into the editing room daily, and judging from the press basically enfant terrible’d his way around the set start to finish- and it shows. What was meant to be the story of Marcus, the killer cyborg with a heart of gold, becomes all about Bale’s John Connor. Bale deadpans his way through meaningless bookend radio broadcasts that hurt the flow of the film, chews scenery like Shatner in any scene he’s allowed to join, and generally wrecks the pace of the film. A strong director (Nolan) who can keep Bale in line can extract a good film from him, but he obviously isn’t someone who can be trusted to go all auteur. His over-the-top performance brings the film down, and makes him seem like less of an actor than he really is.

My verdict: Terminator Salvation is a fun summer action film, well worth your seven bucks. It has action, adventure, a tiny modicum of drama, and a charming 80s feel that matches the original movies- but weak direction of a pushy star kind of drags it down.

Oh, and Arnold’s CG head looks way better than Patrick Stewart’s CG head inย  Wolverine. Just putting that out there.

8/10

…But how did Skynet know who Kyle Reese was before he went back in time?

Categories: Movies Tags: , , ,

Stargate

I have never been a sci-fi type of girl, but I have to admit, Stargate is by far one of the best shows ever made. 10 seasons just wasn’t long enough. (WARNING: SPOILERS)

After watching Farscape on and off with my husband, I was a little concerned Stargate would not be good, boy was I mistaken! The plot of the show was great, there was comedy, tragedy, adventure, and the characters are the type you never forget. O’Neil was by far the most awesome captain anyone could ask for on a mission, and Sam and Daniel were priceless. Add Tilk to the bunch and you have the best team ever!

I was very disappointed when O’Neil had to leave the show. I was so worried it just wouldn’t be good any more, and although no one could fill his shoes, Cameron Mitchell did a great job! Ben Browder was excellent on this show! Even Claudia Black grew on me after a while.

Two things I wish would have happened during the show…O’Neil and Sam would have talked about their feelings for each other earlier and Daniel and Vahla would have really ended up together (not just in the time ship they were stuck in)

My least favorite episode was the 200th episode. I know it was supposed to be goofy, that is probably why I didn’t care for it. My favorite episode, well all the others!

Over all, wonderful show! I would recommend anyone watch this show from beginning to end. Oh, and I am secretly in love with Daniel. There was just something about his nerdiness that got to me, what can I say, I have a thing for guys that wear glasses and get excited about other wise boring things!

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