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SmilingBuddha

SmilingBuddha

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Reviews written

since 30/11/-0001

13

The Usual Suspects (DVD) 19/10/2009

"And like that... he's gone,"

The Usual Suspects (DVD) Having had this lying around for a long time, I finally got round to watching it and I was surprised at just how good it was. Given that I had not heard a great deal about it, I did not have especially high expectations and I was blown away. To sum the plot up without giving too much away, a group of assorted criminals (and one ex-criminal) are herded up in connection with a robbery and end up grouping together to do some jobs. The key to this film is perspective and how brilliantly the director manages to manipulate it to create a compelling thriller. The plot is exciting and filled with twists - truly gripping stuff. The final sequence is where the film really reaches it's pinnacle and it left me sat awestruck. The characters are all very well acted and are deep enough to be believable. The way they react with each other feels natural and they make it all the more enjoyable to watch. After it had finished, I immediately wanted to watch it again. Not because the plot was so complicated that I didn't understand the first time but because it was almost as though the world I had glimpsed the first time had not been enough and I was coming back for more. I also wanted to try and spot the clues which I could not possibly have picked up the first time. On a side note, the movie this most reminds me of is Memento. In both films information is cleverly withheld in such a way as to manipulate the way you perceive the events unfolding, leading you one way and then the other. ...

Bronson (DVD) 18/10/2009

Prison Cell or Hotel Room?

Bronson (DVD) "Bronson" is the controversial biopic of our "most dangerous prisoner" Charles Bronson directed by Nicolas Winding Refn and starring Tom Hardy. I hadn't actually heard about the prisoner, Bronson until a round on Have I Got News where Boris Johnson called him a "greased piglet". Maybe I should just watch more news and less comedy panel shows. The film has the caged Bronson narrating his life which is played through flashbacks in his tough guy demeanor via a sort of prison interview sans interviewer. It is also inter-spliced with surreal scenes of him covered in face paint on a stage in front of a large audience attempting to entertain them with anecdotes of his life. These are never actually explained, although I assume they serve some sort of metaphorical purpose, perhaps suggesting his craving for fame. There is only one character here, Bronson. The focus rarely goes into much detail about anyone else other than their peripheral interactions with Bronson. It is easily understandable how people could see this film as glorifying Bronson, as well as violence and crime in general. The fight scenes are set to a classical score used to numb the graphic violence, drawing comparisons to A Clockwork Orange. The robbery scenes made the act appear almost trivial and the quick court scenes didn't help. It also turns out a fair few of the events portrayed, never actually took place. These events - such as his failed love interest - I believe have been added just to make Bronson more ...

Saints Row 2 (Xbox 360) 15/07/2009

Decent GTA Alternative

Saints Row 2 (Xbox 360) Given that this is very obviously a GTA:IV "knock off" alot of my review will be comparing the two. In fact, I never even would have bought this game if my Xbox hadn't scratched my GTA:IV disk. I didn't want to buy a game I'd already completed so I decided to check out the alternative GTA "clone". It's a pretty simple objective. After you wake up from a coma, the 3rd Street Saints have become nobodies and you must bring them back into power by defeating three gangs: the drug dealing Sons of Samedis, the Japanese Ronin and the Brotherhood. Not to mention the multi-billion dollar Ultor conversation. The story consists of short clips that play prior to the missions which explain what you've gotta do as well as short mission conclusion clips. The brief dialogue in turn leads to little character attachement. The fact that most of them are fairly one dimensional doesn't help. It's pretty cool to see your custom characters in the cutscenes though. It is by no means linear as at most points during the game you have a choice of three missions (split between the three gangs). Every time you complete a story mission you take another piece of gang territory from that gang. As a sandbox game, Saints Row excels. The sprawling city is massive and feels live a living breathing city. What's really great about this game though is that there is just so much to do and such a variety. If you look on the map it is littered with icons. There are a multitude of sidemissions to kill some time ...

Reservoir Dogs (DVD) 15/07/2009

"Why am I Mr. Pink?" - Reservoir Dogs

Reservoir Dogs (DVD) I knew very little about this film going in. I knew they were all named after colours and walked about in cheap black suits, that was about it. This is actually the first Tarantino film I've ever watched, other than blurry segments of Pulp Fiction during a party at 1 in the morning and I'm very glad I did. To summarise the story in a sentence, the film depicts the events before and after a botched jewel heist. I'll leave it at that, I don't want to give anything away until you see it for yourself. It's best to go in like I did, knowing nothing. The plot unfolds fantastically. Tarantino knows exactly when to reveal the right details and when it's time to take a little look into the past. The result is everything coming together in one gradual fluid motion which is so tremendously riveting to watch. Let me get this much straight: the plot is great but it's the characters who truly make the film. I'm pretty damn sure Tarantino knows this as well. On the opening scene, we're straight into the eight men conversing while eating at a diner. It's almost like he's saying "Okay, here are the guys you're going to get to know for the next hour and a bit,". As hard as it may seem to like a group of cop-killing scumbags, you subliminally end up ranking them in your head according to their of varying degrees of likability. It's almost like you pick your favourites and hope for the best. Given that almost all of the current story takes place in the same warehouse, it's almost like ...

Son Cubano [Goldies] - Various Artists 14/07/2009

Three Unusual Weddings

Son Cubano [Goldies] - Various Artists Shot in mockumentary style, Confetti revolves around a competition set up by a top bridal magazine to find the most original wedding. We follow the three competing couples - two nudists, two tennis players and two fans of musicals - in their struggle for victory as well as having a great wedding. All the couples have been given the stereotypical gay wedding planners, Gregory and Archie, to aid them. The magazine however, are more concerned about which couple would look best on the front cover. What may draw a lot of people to this film is that there are a bunch of famous British comedians to be found - Jimmy Carr, Martin Freeman and Robert Webb for starters. I've got to give it some kudos simply for that, as a big Mitchell and Webb fan. The acting was brilliant, it honestly could have fooled me into believing it was a real documentary at times. Whether that just says I'm gullible, I don't know. Also, I'm not sure if it's improvised but it certainly feels that way and if it is, it's very well done. As you would expect for a film about weddings, there is a lot of emotion packed in. It's all pulled off very well, and since it's in mockumentary style with solid acting it doesn't feel cheesy at all. On the downside, I found the lead up - where they introduced the couples - to be excruciatingly dull. Their toneless voices combined with the overall slowness of the sequence, just made me feel like I'm watching some sort of apathetic mush. I found all the actual funny moments ...

Gattaca (DVD) 05/07/2009

Gattaca

Gattaca (DVD) As I became a fan of Andrew Niccol's work after watching The Trueman Show, I was really looking forward to watching this and I wasn't disappointed. Set in a "not too distant future" where parents can genetically configure their children down to the last detail prior to birth which has resulted in DNA being the determining feature of a persons social class. The film stars Ethan Hawke as Vincent Freeman, a troubled member of the social underclass struggling against discrimination in his dream to become an astronaut. As the main character, through his narration we learn of his troubled past and how he instilled in himself his sense of self-worth. His character is very well executed and appeals to the underdog in all of us. Jude Law played Jerome Morrow, who I found to be the most interesting character. Paralyzed from the waist down, he is a former swimming star with a genetic profile. Equipped with a snobbish drawl, his performance is solid throughout and I found him a fascinating character. Uma Thurman is also in there as Vincent's lover. Her performance could have used some more emotion as she can across rather bland. I felt no connection to her whatsoever but luckily her role was not too significant. There is very little action in this film. A quick punch in the nose is as close as it gets. So those expecting a sort of Minority Report with lots of fighting while flying around on jetpacks will be sorely disappointed. This is an intelligent film and the meat of the film ...

Fight Club (DVD) 01/07/2009

Counter Culture Masterpiece

Fight Club (DVD) If you haven't heard of Fight Club by now you've probably been living in a cave. I went a long time before watching this film. Mainly because of the title: "Fight Club". This, along with the imagery, somehow convinced me it would be a throw-away Hollywood fight flick that would consist of sweaty men fighting in dark rooms for a while and that I should avoid it at all costs. Oh how wrong I was. Fighting, although obviously included, takes a backseat to the fantastic story. The film is much more of a psychological thriller than a fight flick. It stars Edward Norton as a mild mannered office worker who becomes embroiled in the anarchic world of soap dealer Tyler Durden (Brad Pitt). The mismatched duo make for great viewing as we see the two of them react with each other as they gain infamy. Helena Bonham Carter is also included in the cast as the suicidal Marla Singer, a manic depressive who our unnamed narrator also becomes entangled with. There is also a varied bunch of side characters, most notably Meat Loaf as Robert Paulson. Even though narrated by Norton's character, the focus of the film is clearly placed on Tyler. The narrator spends a great deal of attention on him going into his background, to our pleasure as he is such an unusual character. The plot is a work of genius. I won't go into it too much as not to spoil it but there are some very well engineered scenes in this that will stick with you and will no doubt go down in film history. Apart from the dark and ...

V for Vendetta 30/06/2009

V For Vendetta: Antihero Extrordinaire

V for Vendetta Set in a dystopian future Britain where a totalitarian dictatorship rules the plot follows masked antihero V on his path of vengeance and his quest to enlighten the ordinary citizen on the evils of their tyrannical government that they have let slip into power. Evey Hammond (Natalie Portman), an assistant at the British Telecom Network and whose parents were political activists is saved by V from the secret police and becomes reluctantly entangled in V's pursuit. Having never read the comic books, or in fact ever having heard of V For Vendetta until this film, it was entirely new territory for me and I was absolutely blown away. The sideplot follows Inspector Finch, one of the more human characters aligned with the government, as he attempts to chase down V. His story gives us a unique perspective on the regime by taking us deep into the corrupt organisation. This sideplot is extremely useful as it gives us a much more well-rounded impression of the V For Vendetta universe. The wide array of characters seeks to cover different aspects of and perspectives on the governments villainy. From the zealous "Voice of London" TV presenter (Bill O'Reilly anyone?), Creedy, the leader of the gestapo-like fingermen to the elderly pedophile priest and the guilt-ridden concentration camp doctor. Despite the numerous characters they each get their unique points across and they fit together like a perfect jigsaw. The plot overall is fantastic, the closest thing to a fault I could pick ...

Never Back Down (DVD) 28/06/2009

Never Back Down: Remarkably Predictable

Never Back Down (DVD) Firstly, if you are to obtain any fulfillment from this film you must first seriously dumb yourself down - do not expect anything intellectually stimulating, take everything at face value and ignore how similar it is to the far superior Karate Kid. Unfortunately, for most of us, we don't have that luxury. There is absolutely nothing surprising about this film, there is no chance of me revealing any spoilers as you can easily predict the rest of the plot once all the main characters are revealed. For example, there is a nice pretty girl (who he will eventually get) dating a jerk who beats him up (who he will eventually beat up) - only four of many parallels to the Karate Kid. I found it quite peculiar how all these supposed high school students look about twenty-something but we'll ignore that. On the other hand, the fight scenes aren't too bad and maybe even enough to get you pumped if you are easily influenced. Some of the music isn't too bad either although it is usually part of some hideous music montage which litter the film. The ending in a way, is rather unsettling as prior to the final fight Mr. Generic Arrogant Jerk was being an arrogant generic jerk to our hero but then a day after his comeuppance (during which he gets beaten to a bloody pulp) he has a fleeting glance with our underdog hero where he smiles nicely as if to say "I'm so glad we had that fight. Thank you for punching me to bits and proving me wrong. I mean, what a great way to solve arguments," I ...

The Matrix Reloaded (DVD) 27/06/2009

The Matrix Reloaded: Dissapointing

The Matrix Reloaded (DVD) As a big fan of the original I was greatly looking forward to this, however it didn't live up to the hype. My main issue was the story, I could practically hear the plot straining to be deep and profound but this falls flat on its face. The plot, which is entangled in vague philosophy ("Not how, but why"), is unnecessarily confusing and I eventually found myself wondering, does this plot make sense or is it simply that I just don't care? I actually cringed at the final two door "choice" (despite being very predictable). I am fairly confident that their line of thought whilst developing that scene was "The pill thing went down well, let's throw it in again - I dunno, make something up,". They did manage to add some new interesting characters, the twins spring to mind - however there is very little focus on them in anything other than action sequences. The enigmatic Merovingian I also found very intriguing and they did rightfully focus on him. As a quick sidenote, I didn't give a flying fig about the relationship between Trinity and Neo. I put this down largely to the fact the script didn't flesh out the characters enough as well as their rather cold acting. A long gap between watching the original and this film could also contribute to this. They did manage to salvage some of the cool factor and even though the fight scenes feel far too mechanical and souless to the extent that they become very hard to enjoy, there is some beauty to be extracted. The cast keep their ultra ...

Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare (Xbox 360) 27/06/2009

Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare

Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare (Xbox 360) This was one of my first Xbox 360 games and I think I have played it more than all my other games collectively. It was also the first COD game that I have bought and the story made perfect sense nonetheless, so this would be the perfect game to get you started. The storyline is interesting, relatively easy to follow and does not require an much political knowledge. It revolves around a possible-WWIII style situation in which has you dropped into various locations around the Middle East and Russia. From there, the story gradually unfolds. The gameplay is coated with a sort of slick realism which makes you feel as though you've been dropped into the middle of Black Hawk Down. The AI is the best I have encountered in a first person shooter and you get the genuine feel that the area is alive and in the moment. Sound-wise it performed perfectly - there is something very enjoyable about the sound of your gun letting loose especially the AK47, or maybe that is just me being a gun nut. I have heard gamers complain about the regenerating health system in which once you are hit you can hide for a couple of seconds until you are back at full health. I've also been told by friends they found the campaign to be too short. I tend to disagree, I found the missions were well-structured and just about long enough. Even if you consider it to be too short the quality of the missions is such that this can be easily excused. Without doubt, what unlocked the most out of this game for me was ...

1984 - George Orwell 27/06/2009

2 + 2 = A Fantastic Work of Art

1984 - George Orwell Being a lover of dystopian fiction, I've had this book for a while now. Although I've only read it once I've dipped back in many times to read certain chapters and passages. To briefly summarise the plot without giving too much away, the novel is set in a segregated society gripped by war and riddled with censorship in an imaginary future (1984, given that the book was written in 1948). We follow outer party bureaucrat Winston Smith as he evades the thought police in his search for the truth. It is definitely worth reading this well crafted novel for such a wide variety of reasons: the gripping storyline, the satirical humour, the resonant political messages or quite simply just to know what people are talking about when they say "Orwellian" or the origin of the term Big Brother. The (often very accurate) predictions Orwell makes about future society is in itself very interesting and it should also be noted, that despite being written in 1948 the language is not particularly difficult and fairly contemporary. This is a book that truly deserves the impact is has created. P.S - If you can't spare the money, your local library will no doubt have a copy.

JD Sports (Shop) 20/12/2008

Spectacularly poor customer service

JD Sports (Shop) I had been lured in by a sale they had been having and hoped to maybe grab a bargain or two. Let me say this first, I found nothing particularly wrong with the pricing or the selection. That was all rather unremarkable and as you would expect it to be. The only reason I gave the store a one star, was the awful customer service and intimidating atmosphere they managed to create. Two teenage girls who I later realised were employees, that looked about 16, loitered around the store leaning on the racks, chatting loudly so the whole store could hear about some drink-fuelled party they had been to and some boy one of them had bedded. The tattooed figure I asked about a pair of shoes I was interested in buying answered me briefly in an inhuman monotone mumble and never made eye contact. In the end, I didn't find the good bargains I had hoped for and just grabbed a few trackies and jeans I liked the look of then took them to the counter. I (and those behind me in the queue) then had to wait for the cashier to finish his inane personal conversation with some 10 year old child he clearly had a history with. Once he was ready, he halfheartedly began to pack my purchases. I managed to agitate him by politely pointing out that he had left out a pair of jeans, at which he laughed patronisingly before sneering that he 'knew' and mumbled something inaudible as he began stuffing it hastily into the bag. The most irritating selection of pop music (The Ting Tings, Arghhh) was ...
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