Friday, January 30, 2015

DVD of the Week: The Secret Life of Walter Mitty

The blurring of fantasy and reality is - or at least should be - a rich source of drama. Several filmakers, most notably Terry Gilliam, have made it their stock in trade, but the Dream Sequence is a pretty ubiquitous device. The Secret Life of Walter Mitty is pretty much all about Dream Sequences, the idea that someone can escape the humdrum of their existence into a more exciting one, and whilst it doens't really owe a lot (other than core concept) from the earlier film whose name it borrows, it makes a decent stab at it. Directed and starring Ben Stiller, the movie follows Walter Mitty, a "Negative Asset Manager" at Life Magazine, but lives a quiet life, in a quiet job, whist dreaming of asking out a co-worker (Kristen Wiig) and the waiting for that moment when his life will explode into action. As the magazine is shut down, the photograph earmarked for the last Cover goes missing, and Walter sets out to find it by tracking down the elusive photographer (Sean Penn), wherever he happens to be in the world.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Book Review: The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet

Anyone who even casually glances at this blog, or my twitter feed, or facebook page, or, to be honest, probably just meets me, will quickly reach the conclusion that I'm a total geek. They're not wrong. I've been swimming in that ocean a long time, and not always been totally comfortable with it, but one of the benefits of age can be you stop giving a toss about who you think you should be and just concentrate on being who I actually am, geeky bit and all. And now I sound like that song from Frozen. Anyway, despite spending a lot of my free entertainment hours on watching, reading, and talking about all manner of geeky stuff, I do occasionally feel the urge to come up for air, and consume something outside the Great Geek Ocean, because I also like content diversity and shiny new things. 

Friday, January 23, 2015

First Impressions: The Man in the High Castle

As much as I am believer in the oft-quoted idea that we live in a "television golden age", it's also a strange, shifting one for which the future isn't really clear. This is especially in true in the UK, with it's super-fragmented landscape when it comes to getting access to the source of this Golden Age, the US. Sure, Sky have a lock on HBO, and generally treat their other imports pretty well, but if a show you love has the misfortune to be picked up by one of the other networks you're taking a risk getting committed. At the very least you need to be prepared to follow it all over the schedule. And then, of course, are the shows we never get at all. However, one of the bright spots in all this is that the likes of Netflix and Amazon, desperate to stay ahead in the streaming game, are now commissioning their own shows, and releasing them internationally. Amazon are even playing the "crowd-sourcing" game, releasing a series of pilots for critical review before deciding which ones to take forward. 

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

DVD of the Week: Prisoners

Well, it's Awards Season again, and the film press is again talking itself to stupidity about what is going to win what at the Oscars this year, and what it all means. It's acres and acres of column inches that serve mostly to warn of the dangers of over analyzing small samples sizes that probably don't have a lot of meaning behind them anywhere. A case in point being the number of articles that are criticizing the Oscars for the (true, and sad) lack of diversity in this years field written by some of the same people, in the same newspapers, that praised the bravery of the same voters for elevating 12 Years a Slave so much. Meanwhile, we're still watching films that count as "also rans" from last years Oscar run up. This week, the Hugh Jackman/Jake Gyllenhaal thriller, Prisoners.

Friday, January 16, 2015

Games Review: The Vanishing of Ethan Carter

"This game is a narrative experience that will not hold your hand" intones the opening statement of The Vanishing of Ethan Carter, stark words on a black screen that act as the games main promise. And then, true to it's word, it dumps out on a disused railway line in a forest, as "psychic detective" Paul Prospero, and just leaves you to it. And so begins a fascinating, clever, wonderful, and yet deeply flawed experiment in what a game is, and how we, the players, relate to it. It's a game that generated a lot of buzz when it came out, but didn't seem to linger in the wider consciousness as much as fellow "Walking Simulator" Gone Home, but still wound up my first purchase from this years Steam Winter Sale, and the game I went straight onto after finishing Shadows of Mordor, because it seemed right up my street. 

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

First Impressions: Supernatural

I've quite enjoyed writing up "First Impressions" of all the new shows that aired in the autumn, which gives a nice base-line of what you got you watching a show in the first place, especially compared to a review of a full season. Most shows change and grow enormously in their first 10 episodes or so, and few come out of the gate well rounded or confident in what they want to be. Early episodes can be a scattershot blast of ideas as the writers and actors try to get a feel for what works and what doesn't, and that can often be lost as you look back knowing what the show became once it found it feet. This is a long way of saying that I'd like to more of them, especially as we try and catch up on shows that we've missed along the way. So next up is a show that is now hitting it's 10th series, but I've never seen a single episode of: Supernatural. 

Friday, January 9, 2015

DVD(s) of the Week: Divergent and Amazing Spiderman 2

So in an attempt to clear the decks for the New Year, I thought I'd roll together a last couple of DVD reviews before we get going on anything properly new. It also lets me cover off two movies that I really can't think of that much to say about - one is decent, the other less so, but neither so bad, nor good, that I feel excited enough to write a huge review about. Which is a shame, really, because both have potential, both have strengths, but neither both end up just as easy passers of time rather than anything to shout about, or at. So, without further ado, a quick catch up Divergent, and first, Amazing Spiderman 2

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Movie Review: Paddington

Well hello there, and welcome to 2015! The turn of the year traditionally brings with it all sorts of plans and resolutions, but you won't find any here, other than to try and keep posting about stuff I've enjoyed (and occasionally not-enjoyed) in a hopefully mildly diverting sort of way. As such, the choice of the first thing to post for the year can be a bit of a hard one - should it be the first thing I saw in the New Year? Something wrapping up the Old Year? In the end, I decided to go for something that does, at least, sum up a plan for the year, and that plan is to take Robert (4) to more movies and hopefully infect him with the love of cinema that has always been part of our household (I hope). We sucessfully took him last year, so, faced with a Training Day of just the two of us, I thought I'd take him to see Paddington