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Posts Tagged ‘review’

And now I’m right back at school and with so many interesting, challenging, fun things to do before now and when I go back home in two and a half weeks.  Wow.  Such a short amount of time before I’m heading right back, yet everyone makes it out to be such a long time.  But really, that’s two weeks of classes (and, oh you know, five exams), six chapters of psych to read, one stats assignment, three art projects, and Mrs Dalloway to finish up.  And then four/five finals!  I can do it, I can do it!

This weekend, I’m taking two days out on Friday and Saturday in order to make a (spoilers) for my mum for her joint birthday and Christmas present.  I’ll tell you what it is after I give her the gift, and I’ll be sure to put up pictures (with my new Nikon Coolpix that needs to be removed from its box).  Rest assured that it is something both artsy and never previously done by me.  My art professor is giving a class to a few of us about how to make unsaid object, so it will be pretty exciting to learn a new skill (even if I will be probably horrible at it).  I’ll give you a hint if you promise not to tell my mum, though.

Anyway, Thanksgiving holidays went well, though I saw less of my friends than I had anticipated.  I had two delicious meals with my mum’s side of the family and also with my dad’s/sister’s, was able to visit my work and chat with the managers, went to a bonfire with friends, and I even went Black Friday shopping to get money off of some boots I had bought a few days before ($100 off of the original price is incentive enough for me to brave the hordes of shoppers).  Somehow, Noah and I found a spot at the very, very front of where we wanted to be at the mall.  And thank God, because otherwise, it meant parking at least a half mile away, which would require us to cross seven lanes of very busy traffic.

But I spent a lot of time reading comics (such as Questionable Content and xkcd) and watching old episodes of Cowboy Bebop, which sort of felt like me from eighth grade coming to punch me in the face.  After six years of travelling, it’s built up some momentum.  My brother also gave me all of Harvey Birdman: Attorney at Law before he set out to move in with my dad, which, yes, happened on Sunday.  Hopefully he will be getting along a lot better down in Florida than here in Missouri where it’s just constant bickering.

The rain is coming in now, though, with chilly winds and so little light that it should be criminal.  I’ll set off to listen to more Natacha Atlas songs on Youtube so that I can decide which of her albums to buy today since I have a coupon from Amazon.  Oh, decisions, decisions.  Halim or Gedida?  Both are awesome albums of Egyptian/Arabic/French songs blended with electronic, hip hop beats.  She’s like listening to a young generation from the Gaza Strip.  So I’ll leave you to go decide on an album, though there’s really no wrong choice; both that I’ve previewed are amazing.

PS: If there were any more links in this post, I’m pretty sure WordPress would explode.  I just thought it would be fun to give some examples and references to you folks for all of the crazy things I chat about.

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On Saturday afternoon, my friends and I got together to watch the new Alice in Wonderland movie, and since I love writing up reviews, I figured I’d share a little.  I will try my darnedest to stay away from spoilers.

Just to put it out there, I really enjoyed the film.  It was a nice mixture of creepy from our Tim Burton, and while the script was fairly basic and not the best thing in the world, it was also quite imaginatively built from Lewis Carroll’s works.  Also, I watched it in 3D, and it wins an award from me as the first 3D film to not have made me feel ill.  I went into the theatre telling my friends that I was going to, “Throw up all over the movie screen.”  And, I left the theatre feeling just as well as I had come in.  Quite an accomplishment.

I think a major reason for not feeling sick was that this 3D is not for gags.  It wasn’t like in The Final Destination where bolts and body pieces were being flung out at you.  This was subtle.  The 3D added depth and layers to the movie that would have otherwise gone unnoticed in a 2D film.  I felt as though it enhanced the movie rather than take away from it.  Though I didn’t see Avatar in 3D, I was told by friends that it was the similar type of 3D.  Thank goodness.  It gives me hope for the films coming out in the future that require wearing the glasses and getting all ready to see the depth (cue Toy Story 3).

I also give a major A+ to costume design.  Honestly, I wanted Alice’s wardrobe and probably over mentioned it to my friend Daniel throughout the entire film.  Each character had lovely, imaginative costumes, and I was particularly happy with the outfits worn by Alice in both castles, the Mad Hatter’s full costume, and the hair designs for the ladies during the 1800’s scenes.  Very nice, very imaginative, and very beautiful.

The sets were interesting as well.  Granted, almost all of them were green-screens, but I was still fairly happy.  I enjoyed the contrasts in colours used between the outfits and landscapes, not to mention the architecture work (or should I say imagination) going into the castles of the queens.  It was nice to see something moulded that way.

Acting was pretty good.  Mia Wasikowska did a great job with her first large roll, and Johnny Depp was funny as always with nervous ticks and characterisations.  I would have liked to see more character (and show time for that matter) from Anne Hathaway.  She never really got a chance to develop her character or show more personality.  Meanwhile, Helena Bonham Carter was enjoyable to watch, even if it’s basically the same character she’s always played (Oh, hi, Bellatrix).  The rest of the parts were also quite good, excluding Matt Lucas as Tweedledee and Tweedledum.  I have to admit that it didn’t flow nicely and didn’t seem goofy enough for the characters.  But, I can’t have everything.

The only complaints I have about the film lie in the editing and writing.  There were times when things moved too quickly (like establishing plot points) or where the writing fell short of what was happening (escape scenes, et cetera).  And I was disappointed that Anne Hathaway’s part seemed so short.  But, all in all, still a pretty good film.  I would give it a 7 or 8 out of 10, which is a pretty good rating in my book.  (The only tens I’ve ever given were for Lord of the Rings, Avatar, Aladdin, and Moulin Rouge, if you are counting the IMDB ratings.)

So, go ahead and see it in 3D; it adds nicely to the film.  And enjoy yourself.  It’s not a film meant to replace your old Alice in Wonderland but to lie beside it.

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300 (AKA: What?)

Rarely do I encounter a film that has me asking “Are you fucking kidding me?” every other scene, but I’ve now found a film that not only asks me that, but constantly.  The thing that distinguishes this film from, oh say, Twilight* or Superbad** or any other movie that has me asking this, was that this film was actually a bit entertaining.

This film is 300.

Now, I’m pretty sure the writers heard about the battle and thought,”Hmm, there were these guys from Sparta who all died fighting the Persians.  How can we use this to make a two hours film of barely dressed men running around killing each other?”  Well, they came up with the script for 300, called it a good thing, and produced it to an adoring audience of college guys who like baddassery and high school girls who want to see abs galore.

I finally watched this film, though, and the thing that caught my attention the most (aside from some very sexy men), was that King Xerxes seemed to not only have a lot of warriors, but a lot of interesting warriors.  I was not aware that the Persian army contained ninjas, trolls, Oliphaunts, giants, Quasimodo, goats that can play musical instruments, snake women, and a very effeminate king.  Yeah, turns out that history forgot about this; who knew?

Really, though?  It was entertaining, but it wasn’t history.  And not every film has to be historically accurate, but I honestly think that film producers could have made a film both historically accurate and entertaining.  It could still be epic, but in more of an interesting way rather than an action kind of way.  After all, diplomacy can be sexy; it’s just finding the right kind of diplomacy to make smart sexy rather than brawn.  But that’s just me.  And as we all know, I’m quite biased.

But I won’t diss too much on 300.  Its what-the-fuckery made it interesting, and it was a good watch on a stressful day.  I just like to complain about how it’s labelled an historic drama when it is an action movie.  Because, when a giant gets stabbed in the eye and rips out the knife to keep fighting, I tend to call bull shit.  But, it had a killer soundtrack, nice effects, and wasn’t half bad for how Hollywood goes.  So, not too bad.

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*For the record, I dislike Twilight; it seems to encourage abusive relationships far too much for my liking.  Plus, I’m more of a Lestat fan than an Edward fan when it comes to vampires.

**I watched Superbad for the first time a few months ago, and I honestly couldn’t even finish it.  I managed to watch it for an hour before completely giving up.  It was crude, not funny, and lacked wit that was needed to balance out the disgusting scenes.  Really, the movie was disgusting; there’s no other way to put it.  Superbad is honestly the only film that I have ever seen that I have hated or completely detested.  It is beyond me why it has such favourable attention from people my age, and even for those who aren’t.  If you like this film, sorry, but I stand by what I say.  I think it’s absolutely horrible.

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Yesterday, I woke up around nine, and it being a Sunday morning, I decided to put the iPod onto some Loreena McKennitt and just lie in bed until I felt like moving.  After about an hour of listening to music and reading Harry Potter, my room mate awoke and started getting ready for the day.  When she climbed down from bed, we both noticed that there was a CD on the floor.  But we were lazy and kept it there.  Later, Jess’s friend walked in and saw the CD on the floor and picked it up.  On the front, it was labelled “Contra”.

Well, shit son.  That got me up.

Contra is the name of the new Vampire Weekend album that was released last month, and seeing the new CD under my door was like Christmas coming all over again.  Turns out that my neighbour in the dorm next to me got it for me since she knew that I loved Vampire Weekend.  Ah, I love my friends.

So, here’s a little review, slash, I want to talk about music time.

I listened to the full album a week before it was released when NPR had it on its website along with an article, and my first impressions were very positive.  It had the same beachy feel as the first album, and it was musically impressive.  After giving it some more listening to with the actual CD, this was reconfirmed.  I’m glad that the vibes are the same, and the background music is impressive.  I wasn’t expecting the forceful strings.  Not at all.

So far, my favourite songs are Horchata and California English.  After some more listens, I can tell you more.  But I generally approve.  Unfortunately, some of my friends did not and said that Vampire Weekend had sold out and become less of a band.  To be honest, I don’t see it.  Their new album hasn’t changed much from the first, except it’s maybe a little more mature (a little).  I’m not a nay-sayer to this album; they did a good job.

Anyway, I recommend giving it a good listening to.  Making a playlist is pretty fun, too.  I combined it with Arcade Fire, the Beatles, the Strokes, and Panic! At the Disco’s Pretty Odd album.  Very enjoyable.

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Well, time’s up.  Today is my last day of winter holidays before I go back to Truman, and the feeling is bitter-sweet.  The work load for the next semester is looming over my head, chock full of psychology (two classes), health (also two classes), physics, and German.  I’ve taken a look at the syllabuses already out, and they’re intense.  Looks like I got off easy last semester.  Go figure.

But, I won’t deny that I’m a little excited to get back.  For starters, I like the food there.  My family isn’t that vegetarian friendly in terms of what we have around the house, so I’ve been living off humus, bread, crackers, cheese, soy milk, and tomatoes for the past week.  Granted, I like all of those, but it will be nice to get back to lots of vegetables.  I’m pumped for the food.

And then, I’m also very happy to get to see my house again.  It will feel weird without Aaron there, but I suppose it will force me to actually make more friends.  Luckily, my other friends will still be there, and some of us may or may not go out to dinner on Sunday night since the cafeteria will not be open.

Driving back should be okay.  I’m going back up with Noah around nine in the morning or so.  That way, we avoid traffic and have plenty of time to unpack and relax before classes start.  The only thing that he won’t like about driving back is that we will be listening to my CDs and not his music (AKA: Lady Gaga).  The Zunes and iPods have no place in the truck since its stereo gets all messed up from the cassette used to hook up the MP3 players.

That brings us to what we will be listening to.  I’m thinking a healthy dose of Regina Spektor, Flobots, Florence + the Machines, The Strokes, and Enya. Okay, I may replace Enya with something else.  Maybe some Jack Johnson or Vampire Weekend.  But, all in all, I’m calling it a day for my music.  Relaxed and groovin’.  And absolutely no Lady Gaga.  It’s not that I have something against her, it’s just that she’s the only thing my friends listen to, and I’m a bit sick of it.  I swear, if I hear ‘Rah-Rah-Ah-Ah-Ah’ again…

Anyway, since I’m the queen of making lists and then ignoring them, I’ll make a list of everything that needs to get done today before I can leave tomorrow morning:

  • Make some CD playlists.
  • Actually unpack my suitcase so that I can repack.
  • Do laundry.
  • Help my sister pick out her wedding dress.
  • Finish my purse that I sewed up over break.
  • Actually pack everything hanging out in my room.
  • Gather my physics and German notes from high school.  I think they’ll come in handy next semester.
  • Sew up my skirt whose hem came out (sad day).

If you’re reading this, I hope that you too had a wonderful winter holiday and that work or school isn’t too dreadful.  Good luck in your studies if you are attending university, and good luck with this cold.  I realise that, should you be in Missouri like me, three degrees is a lot to put up with.  Especially with the wind.

PS: Florence + The Machine Review:

Completely awesome band that I discovered over break.  Florence Welch has a strong voice perfectly suited for her style of indie rock mixed with bits of soul and baroque pop.  It’s good to groove to or just to sit around and listen while reading.  If you listen to one of her songs, I recommend checking out Rabbit Heart, Drumming Song, or You’ve Got the Love.  Lucky for you, those are her singles whose videos you can watch on Youtube.

I made a lovely playlist on my iTunes with her, though.  It’s Florence + The Machine, Lily Allen, Marie Antoinette Soundtrack, Beirut, Emiliana Torrini, and Jack Johnson.  Sounds great to me, though a little schizophrenic.

Well, this is my musical gift to you, I suppose.  Enjoy, should you chose to listen.

(Side note: This band is not for everyone.  If you like indie rock, I think you’ll enjoy it.  If you don’t, well…)

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Avatar Review

Last night, my friends and I got together from our hectic lives at university to see the new Avatar film. And, let me tell you, I was thinking of all kinds of wonderful things to write about it the entire time that I watched it. For starters, it had a lot of your average film-plot, but it was laid out quite nicely. Not to mention that the cinematography was absolutely brilliant. So, here’s my lovely review of Avatar. I’ll shy away from any spoilers until the end, and they will be clearly labelled. No worries.

The thing I liked the most about it was that, even though it was filled with your character clichés, it wasn’t overly done. Yes, you had your chosen one, your rebel, your INTJ, your hard-core bad guy that just wouldn’t die, your weasel, your nerdy guy, and even your love-interest who gets mad half-way through. But, each were portrayed very nicely. So, I give a big thumbs up to all of the characters, especially to the character of Grace whom I found quite refreshing (not to mention that she was a red-headed INTJ. How can I not be happy?).

The dialogue in the film is a little off during the first ten minutes or so, but I feel like it gets a lot better from there.  It has to explain a lot of back story since it takes place in the future, and that’s understandable.  Once they get past that, though, things can get less corny by means of what’s said.  Also, if you’re a language buff, you may be very interested in the alien language used during the film.  It was completely crafted by the creators and a linguist, and it sounds very beautiful.  It may never become as great as the language used in Star Trek or anything, but you may see people become very interested in trying to learn phrases from the language.

That, or maybe you’ll  juts appreciate the accent of the aliens when they speak English.

I’ve heard a lot of negative things about the plot, and I’d just like to tell you that most of those complaints are completely unwarranted. Yes, the plot is recognisable. But there are only about seven plots in the world to use anyway, so that’s not suprising. And, yes, you could often tell what was going to happen, but it was never to the point where you could get angry just because you called that. I liked the plot just fine. A nice save-the-world mentality.

Not to mention that it was kind enough to include a moral: All humans are complete dumb-arses. I feel like that’s a general principle in most films, including those that try to act against that, but it was highlighted in this film on several occasions. The humans make the wrong decisions, forever and for always.  And you will not be rooting for the humans.  Unless you’re a business executive, and still, there’s room for shying away from the humans in this film.

Something I thought was interesting during Avatar, though, was how much it reminded me of Pocahontas. Hell, I even called the tribal leader Chief Powhatan in lack of a better name. But it had its Disney version Pocahontas vibes that I personally enjoyed. In fact, if you were to think about other films and how pieces of them compare to Avatar, here’s what I’d tell you: Imagine Pocahontas meets Chronicles of Narnia. Got that? Now add copious amounts of drugs. Now, mix in some Star Wars, mostly the fighting from the original three. Once you’ve shaken that up a bit, add some of the epic battle scenes and especially Aragorn’s epic speech from Lord of the Rings. Once you’ve got all of those mixed together, you get something vaguely like Avatar, but you’re still never going to get close to it. You see, no other film has quite compared to this, not only because of the Aliens, but also because of the complexities of the languages, cultures, and religion.

But again, major Pocahontas vibes. I thought they’d start singing ‘Colour of the Wind’ at some point.  Instead, our chosen one was just called an idiot.  Same, same, but different.

And the cinematography really was brilliant.  It wasn’t the type of brilliant to make you draw breath at the start of each scene, but it was very rewarding to just sit there and view the colours and clear dimensions.  Much of the world brought to life appear almost like fibre-optics, and the colours used in the lights are intense and beautifully created.  Many scenes are completely computer generated, but for once, you’ll nearly forget that and start thinking about where on Earth this was filmed… but it wasn’t.  The filming also had a nearly 3-D effect, but without making me feeling car-sick.  Thank goodness.

And, for everyone wondering about the computer generated characters (which basically make up half of the movie), it was brilliantly done.  I’d read a review somewhere that said the makers of the film weren’t interested in actually having it done until they saw that computer generated characters could hold their own.  Well, they had seen the character Gollum in Lord of the Rings, and supposedly that changed their minds.  But, let me tell you, Gollum doesn’t even come close to how nicely done these alien creatures (and alien animals, as well) were portrayed.  Finally, we have characters that can express emotions, be shown in full interaction with humans, and move around without it looking off.  When they cry, it looks legit.  Just to put that out there.

Now, Avatar isn’t my favourite film in the world (that spot is still reserved for Lord of the Rings), but I really don’t have too many complaints.  Some people may have called for more battle and more gore, but I was fine without it.  (As someone who spent more than half of Final Destination 4 either outside of the theatre or with her eyes closed, it was nice not to have to shy away from the screen.)

But, all in all, great film, and I highly recommend seeing it.  If you can get yourself to a theatre, do it, because it’s going to look much better from a fifty foot screen than from your home screen on DVD.  It was finally a film that was worth the ten dollars.

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Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past few years, you’ve probably heard the title Skinny Bitch thrown around once or twice.  Granted, you may not know what Skinny Bitch pertains to, but you’ve most likely heard of it nonetheless.

Skinny Bitch is a health book by Rory Freedman and Kim Barnouin, two former Ford fashion models who have helped counsel models, athletes, and actors using their method of weight loss.  The book stresses that health leads to weight loss and not the other way around, and gives a smart-mouthed approach to getting in shape.  The back cover of the book basically sums it up:

“Stop being a moron and start getting skinny!  If you can’t take one more day of self-loathing, you’re ready to hear the truth: You cannot keep shovelling the same crap into your mouth every day and expect to lose weight.  Authors Rory Freedman and Kim Barnouin are your new smart-mouthed girlfriends who won’t mince words and will finally tell you the truth about what you’re feeding yourself.  And they’ll guide you on making intelligent and educated decisions about food.  They may be bitches, but they are skinny bitches.  And you’ll be one too–after you get with the program and start eating right.”

I first heard about the book around a year ago and immediately bought it.  Unlike dieting books or fad eating habits, it actually pertained to vegetarianism and veganism because of health related issues rather than the usual “don’t eat meat–you kill animals” argument that I kept hearing.  It also had strong arguments for eating organic materials and really thinking about what you were eating and how those chemicals are going to affect you later.

So, I ended up reading the book over the winter and spring, and I must say that it honestly did change my eating habits.   It was direct about eating meat and its consequences, and it encouraged me to start eating only three or so servings of meat per week (a more healthy level when compared to my former three servings per day).  I also enjoyed that it was more about health in choosing to be vegan rather than just the Peta crap.

Though it ended up having a full chapter about animal cruelty while advocating veganism, it was interesting to point out the health concerns associated with animal cruelty.  When animals get scared, they produce more hormones, and upon hearing other animals dying in line, these hormones sky-rocket immediately before slaughter.  These hormones are still in the animals after death, and we end up eating them.  It’s one of the reasons that animal meat can make your heart-rate increase (not to mention the animal fats).

Another interesting thing pointed out was that high levels of protein are actually really bad for you (take that, Atkins).  Americans and Europeans eat several servings of meat per day.  In comparison, the rest of the world usually limits its meat intake to three times per week.  This is much healthier for your body since it decreases the amount of urea in your body.  The big thing about urea is that, when you eat large levels of protein, your body’s digestive process produces nitrogen waste in the form of urea.  Urea itself must be removed the from the body immediately, as it’s toxic.  So, have problems peeing to much?  Maybe you should lay off the meat.  It’s flooding your body with urea, and your body needs to use the restroom because of it.

Skinny Bitch also highlighted statistics of health when comparing meat eaters to vegetarians, how our bodies are not meant to digest meat, and how the government basically doesn’t give a shit about what’s in your food.  It stresses taking eating into your own hands, which we should anyway but rarely do.

Generally, if you are at all interested in losing weight, getting healthy, vegetarianism, veganism, or learning to filter your food, I highly recommend this book.  Just be prepared for some strong language and getting yelled at constantly by the authors.

Hopefully you’ll find this book interesting; I certainly have.  Enjoy.

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