Atlas Shrugged: 645,000 Words Later (A Book Review)

Atlas Shrugged, written by Ayn Rand, is by far the longest book I have ever read. At approximately 645,000 words, it is quite the undertaking. For comparison, it is 2.5X as long as the largest Harry Potter book (“Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix”), which sits at 257,045 words. According to Wikipedia, Atlas Shrugged is the 20th largest novel of all-time (9th longest novel written in English).

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Steve Jobs (2015) Movie Review — Michael Fassbender

Steve Jobs (2015) takes us behind the scenes of the digital revolution, to paint a portrait of the man at its epicenter. The story unfolds backstage at three iconic product launches, ending in 1998 with the unveiling of the iMac.
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The most important thing to know about the 2015 take on Steve Jobs is that the movie focuses almost entirely on his Steve Jobs’ personal life, which both helps and hurts the movie. After all, Jobs was a man of many facets and he arguably spent the least amount of time worrying about his personal life. This focus is also what makes this movie so interesting, however. Most people know the other sides of Steve – the self-destructive artist, the visionary and the businessman. So Steve Jobs (2015) decided to take a much closer look at the side we know less about.

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The Hobbit Movie Review — The Desolation of Smaug

The dwarves, along with Bilbo Baggins and Gandalf the Grey, continue their quest to reclaim Erebor, their homeland, from Smaug. Bilbo Baggins is in possession of a mysterious and magical ring.
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The second movie in the Hobbit triology, The Desolation of Smaug, picks up where the first movie left off in reinventing the classic Tolkien story. I use the word reinventing loosely — it is more appropriate to say that the story has been completely rewritten.

The first Hobbit movie brought-on a number of arbitrary story changes; most of which did not significantly alter the story from the original. The Desolation of Smaug, on the other hand, takes this rewriting to a new level by introducing story arcs, events, and characters that were never present in the Hobbit books. Many of these changes dramatically impact the overall story, creating a bastardized version of the original.

Putting aside these major shortcomings, the movie is fairly entertaining. Like the original, one of its biggest strengths is the visuals. The high frame rate, 48fps instead of the standard 24, helps create an immersive world. The animation is also top-notch with many full character computer models being nearly indistinguishable from the real actors.

Bonus: Benedict Cumberbatch motion and voice capture for his amazing work for Smaug

The story seems to rush along at times; a common problem for book-to-movie adaptations. This is particularly odd considering a single 310 page book has been stretched into 3 movies. For some reason they decided to rush certain story arcs and add a great deal of filler for others. The biggest example of filler is the new love story that was introduced — that of the lady-elf and one of the dwarves. This love story was completely absent from the original book and clearly introduced simply to appease audiences supposedly desperate for a love story in everything.

It is these additions that earn The Hobbit a 3-star rating. If they stuck closer to the original story and resisted the urge to hollywood-ify a classic story, it would have been much better. These arbitrary additions are an unwanted distraction for those that are familiar with the story.

The Hobbit – The Desolation of Smaug, is definitely worth watching in theatres, just be sure to try and forget the original story as much as possible to avoid disappointment.

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Iron Man 3 Movie Review — “It Kinda Sucked”

When Tony Stark’s world is torn apart by a formidable terrorist called the Mandarin, he starts an odyssey of rebuilding and retribution.
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I may get a lot of flack for this review but it has to be said: Iron Man 3 kinda sucked.

Before everyone freaks out, the keyword is “kinda”. The movie was very entertaining and had elements of what has made the Iron Man series so great but also included a lot of cheesy moments and ludicrous scenes.

I have not read the Iron Man comics, so I do not know if the movie has stayed true to the originals, however, my main complaint with Iron Man 3 is that it throws whatever semblance of realism existed in the series. One of the things that puts Iron Man and Batman at the top of the super heroes list is the fact that they are at least somewhat realistic. In a previous review of The Dark Knight Rises, I wrote about how refreshing a semi-believable hero is. Batman and Iron Man are great examples of extraordinary people that use technology to accomplish even more extraordinary feats. Unlike Superman, a powerful alien with outright superpowers . . .

See spoiler section for more on the movie’s unbelievability.

Luckily, most of the other great elements of the Iron Man series remained intact. Robert Downey Jr.‘s dialogue was not as sharp as usual but still great and the movie had plenty of funny scenes and didn’t take itself too seriously. Several action scenes were also unrealistic but overall, Iron Man 3 was an action-packed adventure. The visual effects were fantastic as usual and seemed to be very present in every single scene of the movie. If you watch the credits, pay attention towards the end for the EPIC chunk of names attributed to the movie’s visual effects. It’s quite impressive.

Overall, Iron Man will entertain (as it is doing for the masses) but it is a farcry from the quality of the first two movies in the trilogy. It’s worth a watch in the theatres because of its visual effects but don’t fret too much if you can’t make it out for a couple weeks.

P.s. There is a scene after the (particularly long) credits but is highly unnecessary so feel free to head home and not wait for it.

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Unlike previous enemies of Iron Man, the enemies in Iron Man 3 are particularly unbelievable. I mean, c’mon, fire people? The regenerative biological process was interesting, but the fact that it turned people into fire demons was excessively stupid. The most hilariously bad scene in the movie was when Aldrich Killian breathed fire. It was included as a bit of comedy but was just plain ridiculous. Dragon people? I expect so much more of Iron Man.

Spring Breakers Movie Review

Four college girls who land in jail after robbing a restaurant in order to fund their spring break vacation find themselves bailed out by a drug and arms dealer who wants them to do some dirty work.
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The super short review: Spring Breakers was bizarre, sexy, funny and unique. If you are not a fan of the naked female form, perhaps you should opt to watch Safe Haven instead.

Spring Breakers is not the movie you think it is. It is far more “artsy” and “deep” than you could possibly expect from its title and premise. In this case, it was mostly a good thing.

It helps to know what to expect going in to the movie, so pay attention. If you are looking for a lighthearted comedy or mainstream flick, look elsewhere. Spring Breakers has its funny parts and some mainstream good times, but it is far more than that. You will frequently find your brain melting, for example. Not from stupidity but rather from trying to comprehend the insanity you are watching.

Overall though, the movie works. It depicts a life that few of us ever live — the true “wild side” of life — so it is impossible to watch expecting the plot points to be normal. The direction helped add to the bizarre feel of the movie which seems to cause eye-glazing among the general public. A hit with the critics; less so with the general public. If nothing else, Spring Breakers is a very unique movie and should be appreciated for that.

Prudes beware: nudity abounds. Spring Breakers earns its 18A rating within the first 2 minutes with more breasts in the movie than there are aliens in Alien. Although there is no doubt that the nudity helps appease the male audience, it is used in such a way that it actually adds to the validity of the setting. Some nudity, of course, has been thrown in to increase word of mouth.

James Franco does a surprisingly good job playing a drug dealer/rapper/straight-up gansta. His performance was very refreshing after The Great and Miserable Oz. The ladies (Selena Gomez, Vanessa Hudgens, Ashley Benson and Rachel Korine) were great performance-wise as well, though they were largely eye-candy.

In summary: if you go in expecting a weird but unique movie with a lot of boobs, you will not be disappointed.

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Cirque du Soleil: World’s Away Movie Review

A young woman is entranced by an Aerialist. When they fall into the dreamlike world of Cirque du Soleil and are separated, they travel through the different tent worlds trying to find each other.
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Quidam - Cirque du SoleilCirque du Soleil: World’s Away is a movie that combines segments of Cirque du Soleil’s various franchises. The movie has an extremely simplistic plot used to interweave these segments, but for the most part the movie can be considered a “best of” collection of shows.

My favourite part of Cirque is the music — particularly that of Quidam. The musical highlights of Quidam were incredible vocalizations mixed with intricate guitaring (see the video below). Since World’s Away is a compilation, it features Cirque’s varied musical styling including a number of Beatles songs from the LOVE franchise. I still believe Quidam’s music trumps World’s Away overall, but Beatles fans might disagree given the Beatles segments.

Half way through this short review and I have not yet spoken about the acrobatics. Why? They speak for themselves. There is nothing like Cirque du Soleil these days as far as human feats of acrobatics, balance, strength and flexibility. Each act showcases a different feat that will blow your mind.

World’s Away contains its share of these “ooo ahh” moments, however the movie focuses primarily on the more elaborate sets designed for some of the bigger franchises. So while you will see some incredible acrobatics and feats of strength, you will most likely take notice of the ingenious stage designs. In one scene, for example, the entire stage shifts vertically forcing the performers to seemingly defy gravity as the scene plays out.

Despite being quite impressed by World’s Away overall, I am forced to give the movie 3 stars simply because Cirque’s essence cannot be captured in a movie. I have seen Quidam live, so the World’s Away paled in comparison to the live show. Safety Wire’s attached to the performers are more obvious in the movie because of the close-ups which takes away from the fantasy world. During the live shows the wires are virtually invisible.

For those wanting to get a glimpse into the world of Cirque, I recommend spending the hour and a half to check it out. For the real thing, find a local show and see what the fuss is all about!

Lockout Movie Review

Lockout-Movie-Review A man wrongly convicted of conspiracy to commit espionage against the U.S. is offered his freedom if he can rescue the president’s daughter from an outer space prison taken over by violent inmates.star-whitestar-whitestar-white

Perhaps I just like movies way too much and I’m just easily entertained, but it seems like every movie that I expect to be total garbage has been surprisingly me lately. I expected Lockout to be an action movie with nothing but a couple good action scenes yet it turned out to be so much more. Here goes nothing – my Lockout movie review.

Firstly, the movie was very clever. The dialogue was very witty and every utterance was a quip. This was definitely the case for Snow (the main character played by Guy Pearce). His careless attitude had him making jokes about every situation he got into. It added a great touch of humour to the movie, although it was somewhat overdone causing his character to be entirely one-dimensional; one of many factors holding my rating to three stars.

The second impressive aspect of the movie was its originality. The concept of a prison in space is novel (at least to me) and many of the plot twists were somewhat original as well. Most importantly, the movie veered away from some of the most stereotypical elements. Like the witty dialogue, Lockout may have taken this too far by trying a little too hard to be surprising, but for the most part it worked well.

In summary, Lockdown was far more than I expected with its originality, sophistication and originality. Several aspects of the movie held the movie back, including the fact that some of the aspects mentioned above were overdone, however, all-in-all it is a better-than-average action movie. It is worth watching, but waiting to rent it is probably the best move.

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