The Unbelievers Movie Review

Renowned scientists Richard Dawkins and Lawrence Krauss cross the globe as they speak publicly about the importance of science and reason in the modern world.
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What The Unbelievers lacks in entertainment and excitement, it makes up for in brilliance.

The Unbelievers is essentially a compilation of some of the great international appearances of Richard Dawkins and Lawrence Krauss as they discuss the importance of science and logic.

Continue reading “The Unbelievers Movie Review”

Gravity Movie Review

A medical engineer and an astronaut work together to survive after an accident leaves them adrift in space.
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Looking for an intense and brilliant movie? Look no further than Gravity, starring Sandra Bullock and George Clooney.

Introduced during the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF), Gravity is a story of survival in one of the most perilous situations possible — lost in space. As you might imagine, Gravity is a very intense movie and Alfonso Cuarón, Gravity’s director, does a phenomenal job recreating the atmosphere of space in the theatre (pun intended!).

One of Alfonso’s tactics for creating tension and a feeling of isolation was stripping the movie of music. It was surprisingly quiet throughout — so much so, that I could hear every word spoken by the child that wouldn’t keep quiet in the row in front of me. Inconsiderate parents! But I digress.

Super condensed review, go!

  • The visuals were the best part of the movie, with animation so realistic you quickly find yourself drifting out in space. For full effect, see Gravity in 3D AVX.
  •  The acting was superb. I would expect nothing less from Sandra Bullock and George Clooney, elite veteran actors. What was interesting was that, other than a few disembodied voices, they were the only actors in the movie. It’s not everyday that the leading actors are the only actors.
  • The music was primarily a heartbeat throughout the film that added a lot of underlying anxiety. If you were to record the heartbeat of someone watching Gravity, the resulting graph would be very jagged.
  • The plot was very basic, which is why Alfonso made the right choice in restricting the movie’s length to 1.5 hours. Any longer and it would have felt drawn-out. My only complaint is with the overdone religious elements included which seem out of place for what is otherwise a sci-fi / science movie.

Overall, this is a movie you definitely want to see, and it is certainly worth seeing on the biggest screen possible. As I mentioned earlier in the post, be sure to catch the movie in AVX 3D and make sure you aren’t sitting next to any children.

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Pacific Rim Movie Review — Feels Like Traditional Hollywood

As a war between humankind and monstrous sea creatures wages on, a former pilot and a trainee are paired up to drive a seemingly obsolete special weapon in a desperate effort to save the world from the apocalypse.
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Pacific Rim was, surprisingly, a pretty good movie. When I first saw a trailer I thought, “pfft, cool action but probably nothing else”. However, I was happy to hear good things about Pacific Rim beyond the action and thought I would give it a shot.

In some ways Pacific Rim feels like Jurassic Park, just a lot worse, of course. It has the eccentric and over-the-top characters (primarily the scientists), a powerful score, and plenty of predictable Hollywood glory. If you forgive the movie for its unoriginal Hollywood elements, you will find it enjoyable.

Pacific Rim was clearly created to appeal to the Japanese and appeal to Kaiju fans. The name for the monsters — Kaiju — is the name used to refer to the Japanese “monster vs. robot” movies. As a result, the movie is full of Japanese elements; some of which are a little too obvious, perhaps. Including Japanese dialogue throughout and the casting of a Japanese lead actress are the most obvious. Interestingly, they decided to set most of the movie off the coast of Hong Kong instead of Japan which would have been the obvious choice.

It should be obvious what Pacific Rim’s primary strenght is: computer animation. The CGI was truly incredible and I cannot begin to understand how long it must have taken to put the movie together. The battles in the ocean are particularly impressive because of the particle effects required for the water, but I digress.

The secondary strength is the story, believe it or not. The concept is quite simple but surprisingly strong. Pacific Rim introduced an interesting means of piloting the robots (with dual-pilot mind control), though it is probably less unique to Japanese fans of Kaiju movies. Emotional elements were woven in relatively well and made you feel for the characters more than the average action movie.

A small thing, but the physics seemed realistic. The massive robots moved somewhat slowly and really felt like the heft they would have in real life. As it turns out, the physics are still ridiculously unrealistic — as made clear in the (magazine-only) Wired article “Fighting Physics: The Megamath in Pacific Rim”. Essentially, a single robot punch in the movie should take 20 seconds instead of the 1.5 seconds portrayed. Still, they certainly feel hefty on-screen!

One of the movie’s weak-points was Charlie Hunnam. He is easy to sell as the “badass” but his acting was never fully convincing. I would consider him B or C-list at best. Rinko Kikuchi was not much stronger, unfortunately. Her acting seemed to get much better as the movie went on but she still had many awkward scenes (some intentionally so, I will admit). Overall though, the acting could have been much worse so I won’t hold a grudge.

Pacific Rim is definitely worth a watch. If you go see it, make sure you watch it on the biggest and most intense screen possible. Ultra AVX or IMAX is a necessity.

Spoilers

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Am I the only one that is mad that they survived at the end? Obviously it is hard to sell a sad ending to Hollywood but I felt it would be poetic if they sacrificed themselves for humankind. Instead their personal feelings for each other almost cost mankind everything. At the very least they could have allowed Raleigh to be the sacrifice for humanity and for Mako.

Kindle Paperwhite Review: Now Available in Canada

The Kindle Paperwhite (now available in Canada) is the first eBook reader I have ever owned and, while I may not be able to directly compare it to previous generations, I can certainly testify to how great this iteration is overall.

If you do not yet have an eBook reader, get one. They are ridiculously convenient and very affordable. When you do decide to get an eBook reader, make it a Kindle Paperwhite or Kobo Glo. After performing extensive research, I came to the conclusion that the Kindle Paperwhite beats out the Glo primarily based on book selection and the Amazon ecosystem, otherwise they are fairly comparable. The Kobo Glo device itself may be more polished overall.

The Kindle Paperwhite is basically flawless; it incorporates all of the things that have made the Kindle the leading eBook reader and made it better. The e-ink technology is incredible, perfectly replicating the printed word. What makes the Paperwhite stand out, however, is the back-lit display (hence the name). Now you can read books more conveniently than ever — no external light sources required, and, unlike devices with glossy screens, the Kindle Paperwhite still reads perfectly in direct sunlight.

So what are its flaws? It is hard to find many but there are a few. Ghosting (remnants of the previously displayed page/image) can be found from time to time unless you set the device to refresh the screen after each page turn and the ghosting makes browsing the web or Amazon store somewhat painful.

Kindle Paperwhite Review vs. Kobo Glo

More importantly though, it seems Amazon cheaped-out on the backlight. Unlike the Kobo Glo, the Paperwhite does not have an evenly lit screen. It is hard to notice in moderate room lighting but when reading in a dark room it is easy to notice the shadows created by the placement of the LEDs towards the bottom of the screen. It seems they could have avoided this distracting effect by adding more LEDs to eliminate the shadows in between, but alas, we are left to deal with it.

Overall though, I could not be happier! I just downloaded the entire Sherlock Holmes collection, that I own in 2 massive tomes in paperback, for a total of $4. The best part is that I can now read across devices including on my iPhone. So I can read on my Kindle and then pick up right from where I left off on the Kindle app on my phone. Very convenient

I waited this long to buy an e-reader and presumably so have many of you. Now is the time to make the jump!

Django Unchained Movie Review

With the help of his mentor, a slave-turned-bounty hunter sets out to rescue his wife from a brutal Mississippi plantation owner.
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Movie Poster - Django Unchained CastDjango Unchained is both very intense and very good. Be warned, however, that the movie has many uncomfortable scenes, even by my standards. Racism runs throughout the entire movie and, although uncomfortable, appears to be an accurate depiction of the monstrosities of the past.

Django Unchained is a movie that does not hold back in any way. Quentin Tarantino seems to fear no one, not even mixed reactions from the audiences, so he does not hold back. This is what separates Quentin Tarantino from other directors — the fact that he has a back bone.

What has always stood out to me about Tarantino movies is the amazing balance he is able to find between dead-seriousness, ridiculous over-the-top violence and pure comedy. As dark as some scenes in Django Unchained were, many were hilarious. And do not get me started on the witty dialogue!

Christoph Waltz is without question, one of my favourite actors and the way he delivers his witty lines is nothing short of amazing. Those that believe they are not familiar with Christoph Walz, may remember his spectacular performance in Inglorious Basterds as part of a hilariously bizarre opening scene (see video below). Needless to say, Waltz is an incredible actor that I hope to see take on many more roles — currently he is primarily a favourite of Tarantino’s.

Django’s character, played by Jamie Foxx, was more simplistic than Waltz’s, however Foxx still crushed the performance. It certainly seemed like the entire purpose of the movie was to first build-up how atrocious slavery was and then have Foxx come in an make up for the harm that was done in glorious fashion. This, he most certainly accomplished.

The plot was simplistic but did not hinder the movie in any way. In fact, I tend to think it a characteristic of some of the best movies – following the Keep-It-Simple-Stupid principle. Instead of a convoluted plot, Django Unchained focused all of it’s attention on Tarantino’s signature blend of action and dialogue and the outcome was very satisfying.

To finish up this post, I figured I would leave you with a checklist that can help you decide whether or not you should see this movie. You should definitely watch Django Unchained if any of the following are true:

  • You are a Tarantino or Christoph Waltz fan
  • You enjoy a movie with a blend of action, comedy and dialogue
  • When you see gore you do not hide in a corner and cry

Seven Psychopaths Movie Review

A struggling screenwriter inadvertently becomes entangled in the Los Angeles criminal underworld after his oddball friends kidnap a gangster’s beloved Shih Tzu.
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Seven Psychopaths is a difficult movie to describe – the premise convoluted. Basically the movie is about a guy writing a movie about psychopaths while being surrounded by psychopaths. However, it is not quite as simple as that.

Without ruining the plot, all I can say is that this is one weird movie, but I mean that in a good way. Have you ever seen Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels or Snatch? Firstly, watch these movies! Secondly, the point that I was trying to make: Seven Psychopaths has a similar feel to them despite not sharing the same writer or director. Lock, Stock and Snatch were directed by the amazingly weird and brilliant Guy Ritchie, while Seven Psychopaths was written and directed by Martin McDonagh.

Now back to trying to describe this movie.

Seven Psychopaths brings a number of things to the table:

  • An multi-layered story
  • Incredible actors
  • Intentional hilarity where hilarity is not expected
  • Brilliant writing and dialogue

The only thing holding this movie back from a 5-star rating in my opinion is its absurdity (which, absurdly, is also the movie’s greatest strength). Some scenes will leave your head spinning at the insanity but you won’t spend long worrying about the room spinning around you because you will be too busy laughing at the many anti-clichés throughout the movie.

Yes, I just invented a word.

There may be a fancy theatre term for it, but when I refer to an anti-cliche, I am referring to a situation that is extremely cliche initially but then plays out entirely differently than you would expect. This movie is full of them and they are delightful.

Noticed how I still haven’t said much about the story? There’s a two-fold reason for that: spoilers and complexity. I will simply say this: Seven Psychopaths is very meta (Google it), bizarre, fun and self-aware. You will be entertained.

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Moon Movie Review | Sam Rockwell & Kevin Spacey

Kevin Spacey stars in Moon | Movie Review Astronaut Sam Bell has a quintessentially personal encounter toward the end of his three-year stint on the Moon, where he, working alongside his computer, GERTY, sends back to Earth parcels of a resource that has helped diminish our planet’s power problems.
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I must tread carefully here because the entire Premise of Moon is essentially a spoiler. So instead I will focus on what makes the movie so great and avoid discussing the plot.

“So what exactly is this movie about and why have I never heard of it?”

The movie is about a man that is serving a 3 year contract on the moon collecting energy to send back to earth. Sam experiences the loneliness of space and the psychological toll it can place on a person. Of course, that is only half of the premise but I cannot speak to the rest of the plot. Just watch it, OK?

The movie is clearly not a Hollywood blockbuster (made most obvious by the imaginary marketing budget the movie had) but it certainly doesn’t feel like it. The movie is shot beautifully and has reasonable computer graphics where they are used. The plot is unique and the acting and dialogue make it one of the best movies that I had never heard of.

Sam Rockwell plays Sam Bell and provides one of this best performances. However, it is Kevin Spacey, playing the voice of GERTY, Sam’s lunar helper, that originally captured my attention. Kevin Spacey has a small role compared to Sam but was cast perfectly for the role of a monotone and creepy robot. Sam is essentially the only character in the entire movie, putting the entire movie at the mercy of his individual performance. Needless to say, he is a great actor with depth.

That is all I have to say about the movie at this point. There are many interesting discussions to be had about the plot so when you’re done watching it let’s discuss it. I’ll be here. Waiting.

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Ted Movie Review: Seth Macfarlane is A Genius

ted-movie-review-2012 As the result of a childhood wish, John Bennett’s teddy bear, Ted, came to life and has been by John’s side ever since – a friendship that’s tested when Lori, John’s girlfriend of four years, wants more from their relationship.
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Seth MacFarlane never ceases to amaze me. Everything he does is pure gold. Well, maybe not the Cleveland show or American Dad . . . but everything else. MacFarlane plays the role of writer, director and (voice) actor in Ted – the first live-action movie to feature his antics.

The movie had everything that people have come to love from MacFarlane: obscene  hilarity, random cut scenes, and a great story. The random cut scenes I am referring to are extremely prominent on Family Guy and if you are not familiar you can check out a compilation here:

Family Guy “Cutscenes”

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Hmt1rTKjpCI

Amazingly Macfarlane was able to incorporate several random cutscenes into the movie staying true to his family guy style. Speaking of style, the movie reeks of it! Every joke is delivered brilliantly and there are countless unexpected laugh-out-loud moments.

If you love Family Guy, you are going to love this movie, plain and simple. Macfarlane includes a number of voice actor cameos from the show along with a bunch of references. My personal favourite was the voice actor for Joe Swanson, the wheelchair-bound cop from the series. By the end of the movie you can tell he pretty much sourced all talent for Ted from his friends working on Family Guy. Of course, this isn’t at all a problem.

So what are you waiting for? Get out there and see this movie! Be warned though, word is travelling about it and the theatres are packed!

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The Hunger Games Movie Review

the-hunger-games-movie-review Set in a future where the Capitol selects a boy and girl from the twelve districts to fight to the death on live television, Katniss Everdeen volunteers to take her younger sister’s place for the latest match.star-whitestar-whitestar-whitestar-white

The Hunger Games wins on so many levels that it will be hard to touch on everything in this movie review.

The Hunger Games is based on the super-popular book series of the same name written by Suzanne Collins and both the movie and books bring something to the table for a variety of audiences. Although the primary target appears to be teens, the movie has universal appeal – for both young and old as well as male and female (unlike some movies *cough* Twilight *cough*). The movies has a good balance of both male and female roles as well as a balance of character types, including a  race-balance (some racists disagree about the casting of some characters). To reiterate, this creates a diverse experience that will be enjoyed by many.

The movie is based in a society in which the government fully oppresses the lower classes and forces impoverished citizens to engage in vicious fights to the death in order to maintain peace. The theme of the movie is extremely relevant given today’s current power struggles (the 99% vs. 1% and the 99% vs. the government) much like In Time. The movie even goes as far as to depict protests as a result of the hunger games that can be mistaken for having turned on CNN.

The Hunger Games was clearly written to illustrate the many problems plaguing modern-day society. Apart from the most obvious message –“watch out for an increasingly powerful government” –the story also spends considerable time illustrating the struggles of the lower class for the audience. It becomes apparent that the upper class is unaware of, or wilfully blind to, the struggles of the oppressed. All they care about is the “reality show”. The reality show idea was taken to the max as the producers of the show were willing to do anything for the ratings – not at all different than in real life (although with less extreme consequences, hopefully). The number of truly relevant modern-day themes written into The Hunger Games is truly incredible.

The movie itself was well-filmed with some interesting camera shots. The editing kept the movie alive even during some of the slower parts (of which there were not many). The music was well-suited throughout and the theme song during the credits was particularly great. Most surprising of all were some of the actors cast. It was a pleasant surprise to see Woody Harrelson; always a welcome addition. There were other surprises that I will leave out in order to avoid spoiling the movie.

Overall, the movie was highly engaging, very timely, well put-together and appealing for a variety of audiences. I cannot wait for the follow-ups.

What did you think?

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In Time Movie Review

in-time-movie-review-2011 In a future where people stop aging at 25, but are engineered to live only one more year, having the means to buy your way out of the situation is a shot at immortal youth. Here, Will Salas finds himself accused of murder and on the run with a hostage – a connection that becomes an important part of the way against the system.

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In Time, starring Justin Timberlake and Olivia Wilde, is a movie that was made for the current political and economic state of the world. The story is that of a future Robin Hood that steals from the rich to restore some sense of equality to the world. The movie perfectly reflects the current state of frustration and protest centered around the ever-growing divide between the rich and the poor.

In Time does not start of running – I was initially convinced it was going to be a disappointment – yet it eventually becomes a great futuristic story of hope for those who are just getting by in life. I am curious to see if it is picked up, like I assume it will be, to support those currently protesting against the excess in the world.

In Time boiled-down to an all-out class war. Specifically about the oppression from the upper class to keep the lower class where they are. The movie introduces both physical and societal means of segregating the rich from the poor and ensuring a distance between the two classes. Justin, as Will, does what he can to bring equity across classes.

Focusing on the movie itself, it certainly had its moments of awkwardness. Some scenes were great while the acting fell flat in others. The concept of “time as currency” was incorporated somewhat haphazardly initially but was used throughout the story in some very interesting ways. The movie certainly brings new meaning to the saying that “time is money”.

Overall, In Time was enjoyable, told an old story in a new way, and was highly relevant in the current economic and political climate. Definitely worth a watch; the sooner the better.

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The movie has two fantastic quotes presenting the two sides of the argument (the rich view, and the not-so-rich view).

In order for some to live forever, some must die.

No one should be immortal if even one person has to die.

What was interesting to me was that right at the beginning of the movie they touched on what I interpreted to be the population problem. The idea that if everyone were to live forever that we wouldn’t be able to support everyone. Certainly with the world’s population recently hitting 7 billion this is an important issue. Can we continue like this?

Getting back to the great quotes, we cannot forget the amazing play on words of:

Don’t waste my time

Which side are you on? Do you believe in class oppression?

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