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”

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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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