Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Play Misty for Me (1971): Suspense and Efficient Acting

Play Misty for Me
Play Misty for Me is Clint Eastwood's directorial debut released in the distant 1971. He has embarked on various directions making all kinds of films for the next 40 years but rarely his movies have been so suspenseful as his first effort. This does not necessarily mean that Play Misty for Me is his best film (in fact, it exposes enough shortcomings) but on the thrilling side, the movie has a lot to offer (especially for an early 70s film).

The story revolves around disc jockey Dave (Clint Eastwood), a demented female fan of his (Jessica Walter) and the consequences of their brief affair and Evelyn's obsession when Dave's ex-girlfriend Tobie (Donna Mills) comes back into the picture. It has appeared earlier that Evelyn phones to the radio station every night asking Dave to play Erroll Garner's song "Misty" but this is the nicest of her doings. She spoils Dave's business appointment, penetrates into his house, offends his housemaid and makes his life terrible. As Dave's current love interest, Tobie is in danger even more.

The movie offers plenty of suspense and most of the time throughout its second half you would look forward for something (bad) to happen. The acting contributes a lot to the overall tension. Jessica Walter is a brilliant psycho that makes you constantly wonder what to expect next when she's on the screen and even more when she's not. She looks harmless and in the next moment violent. Her unstableness only intensifies the terror. Clint Eastwood makes one of his strong performances and his self-confidence fits well the movie and its threatening atmosphere. Donna Mills is fragile and unsuspecting, almost self-attracting troubles. The rest of the cast is Ok with director Don Siegel deserving mentioning primarily because of his peculiar game with Eastwood's character.

Now for the worse part. While Play Misty for Me offers enough of suspense, it's not so scary as many of the movies released in the years following it. The narrative and most of the events are predictable and there are almost no surprises. This perception however could be referred to the genre's oversaturation nowadays. Another weakness is the Semi-Obligatory Lyrical Interlude (the name comes from Roger Ebert) when Dave and Tobie walk for a couple of minutes under the tunes of a hit song. Although the scene is nice to watch and shares the dark tones of the movie, the whole sequence is just too long and boring.

Another unnecessary scene is the festival one. I can't find its purpose and probably the only thing it helps for is to make you wondering whether something wrong is going to happen during it. Finally, we have a police officer behaving unprofessionally and apparently marching towards his demise with ease.

Despite its flaws Play Misty for Me is a solid debut effort for Clint Eastwood. Although it has probably not aged quite well, the movie has offered a good thrilling story at the time and efficient performances. It's a film that a lover of the genre will enjoy and it drops a hint of Eastwood's directorial potential which we have been able to witness for decades.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

When Fall Movies Are Too Happy or Too Dark What Are the Alternatives?

This is a guest article from our friend Raj.

Happy Feet 2
Major Hollywood productions have recently become more black and white in their emphasis, particularly during the fall season. New films have lately been either entirely happy and sweet hearted affairs (think of Happy Feet Two, The Muppets, the entirely bubbly New Year's Eve, and so on), or rolling to the dark, violent or gloomy side of the human experience (the latest Twilight installment, Immortals, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo). There are always films in between, but the most promoted blockbusters tend to trend between one pole and the other.

So what is a moviegoer, from the humble malls of Peoria to the Leicester Square Cinema, supposed to do with their entertainment money, with a range of depicted human experience that is only snowflake white or pitch black? Well, what more and more people are doing is widening their menu for getting access to new movies. Many film lovers are getting acquainted with the smaller, quirkier, and most often more honest independent films that don't necessarily cleave to a particular formula, or paint the world as either Day-Glo colors or as a zombie horror fest. On cable, channels like IFC or Sundance are often proving to be preferable to stay home and watch, compared to new releases.

The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn - Part 1
Others are getting reacquainted with the classic Hollywood and international features released between the '30s and '60s, which offer a sea of choices for those looking for all varieties of possible views and tones about the drama of life, quite often with superior performers doing the roles. This may mean, again, staying at home and being entertained by Blu-Ray discs and Turner Classic Movies selections versus running to a multiplex. Avoiding wasting money is the immediate benefit of this approach to movies, as well as regularly viewing a higher grade, classic example of each genre.

After all, when it comes down to it, it may just be necessary to stop subsidizing the dumbing down of human drama that is going on with current Hollywood product, by not attending each month until they produce a better crop of films. The average family now has two rich sources (DVDs, and cable movie channels) that provide over 80 years of choices to mine from, that makes it possible to skip the latest pile of simplistic box office releases altogether. Perhaps the studios would then get with the program and give the public more original, complex, and satisfying explorations of the human experience.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Seatwave.com Ticket Exchange Service: Unprofessional & Irresponsible

In a nutshell: If you have any other alternatives, do not use the ticket exchange service of Seatwave.com!

Since there was not anyone to warn me and I was not smart enough to do a small preliminary research on Seatwave's service (as I usually do for other services), I made the mistake to buy tickets via their fan to fan ticket exchange. I suppose, it's needless to say that practically Seatwave is not a "fan to fan" exchange service rather than a platform for reselling tickets on a speculative basis. But this is not the real problem as far as you are aware of it initially and I assume that everyone who is not excessively naive would guess this fact immediately.

The actual issue with Seatwave.com (and all of the website's variations like seatwave.it. seatwave.ie, etc.) is that their service is extremely unprofessional and they rely only on chance in order to complete the ticket exchange between the involved parties successfully. You will read about many guarantees on their site which they offer automatically for free with your purchase of any ticket(s) and you may even pay for some additional protections. All of these mean nothing if you are not prepared to lose a lot of your time and nerves.

So, here goes my experience with Seatwave. Unaware that I should not use them, I ordered several tickets for Paul McCartney's concert on 26/11/2011 in Bologna, Italy. I made the order on 15/11/2011 and it was explicitly stated the tickets were already ready for shipping. Since I didn't receive any tracking information until the end of the next day, I contacted their support with a question when the tickets would be shipped cause I was worried they would not arrive before 24/11/2011 when I intended to fly to Italy. A kind of an automatic reply followed on the next day notifying me that the tickets should be shipped on 18/11/2011 (three days after my order). I actually received a UPS tracking number on 18/11/2011. For my surprise, after checking the tracking information I found that the scheduled delivery by UPS was for 25/11/2011. I would not need the tickets at that time. I contacted Seatwave support again (a little bit more worried now) and this time I received a human response informing me that the tickets probably would travel faster and I should expect them to arrive by the end of 22/11/2011.

I checked the UPS tracking page again on 21/11/2011 and I found the tickets were not travelling fast enough and I didn't see any chances that they would arrive on the next day. I contacted Seatwave.com support once more. This time they confirmed that according to UPS the tickets would arrive on 25/11/2011. And now the bigger fun began. I contacted Seatwave via the chat option on their website. Without even asking them about a refund (I didn't care for a refund at that point anyway) they informed me they would not refund me because the tickets would arrive before the date of the event. Seatwave's support didn't care the delivery would be after my flight to Italy and they also didn't even try to observe their User agreement which stated that Seatwave would try to deliver the tickets at least 2 days before the event and if they were unsuccessful in that attempt they would either find replacement tickets or otherwise refund the full amount you had paid.

I explained to them that they were in violation of their own user agreement and the fun continued. They answered me that normally people had to travel to the venue at the date of the event and more bullshit like this. I still do not believe that most people book flights for international trips at the actual date of the flight, especially when they intend to attend a concert or any other kind of event. After almost a whole day lost in stupid arguments with Seatwave's support, I informed them again that I didn't care about the refund and all I wanted was they keep their guarantees listed on their site. I wanted tickets, not a refund which I would get one way or another if eventually I needed to.

Read the second part of this article by following the link Seatwave.com Experience, Part 2.

Seatwave.com Ticket Exchange Service: Unprofessional & Irresponsible, Part 2

(Read the first part of this article by following the link Seatwave.com Experience, Part 1.)

On the next day, I began to think about other solutions because apparently Seatwave's support was useless. I was considering several options but the one that appeared successful was to contact them via Twitter. Meanwhile, the support offered me another useless solution by offering me to use a particular courier service to redeliver the tickets (expected to arrive at my home by the end of the day on 25/11/2011). This had to happen eventually in less than a day (from Friday night to Saturday afternoon). Seatwave assumed that this service will cost about 50 euro and they agreed to pay for it. But after I contacted the courier it appeared there was not a standard service like this and a customized one would cost no less than 600 euro, far more than Seatwave's estimate.

Finally, after contacting them via Twitter, somebody (from their headquarters I suppose) contacted me by phone and at the same time I received an email from their support's supervisor who informed me that they would find replacement tickets. And they actually did. But I received them a couple of hours before the concert in my hotel in Bologna and because of some traffic on the way to the venue, I arrived just before the commencement of the gig and I was at an unenviable position in the arena.

Since the article became too long, I intentionally skipped several more inadequate actions by Seatwave like for example, sending me a wrong tracking number for the second delivery. But just to make the whole story even more ridiculous, here is another one. The first set of tickets actually had not arrived on 25/11/2011 at my home. The first delivery attempt by UPS had been on 28/11/2011 (2 days after the event) and it failed due to inability of the UPS guy to find the address (it's strange why they hadn't used a map in 21st century) so the actual delivery happened on 30/11/2011 (4 days after the concert).

So, to recapitulate:
- It took Seatwave.com 15 days to deliver tickets that they claimed were ready for sending at the date of my purchase;
- Seatwave's support was completely unaware of the time needed for a delivery by UPS;
- Seatwave refused to observe their User agreement until I contacted them via Twitter;
- They hurried up to inform me that they were not going to refund me even without asking them about a refund;
- The initial set of tickets was delivered 4 days after the date of the event and would be delivered not earlier than 2 days after the gig anyway (even if the UPS guy had found the address the first time);
- I lost literally two days to write and argue with Seatwave for something that was obviously their fault. Despite all of their guarantees and without any sensible reason, they delayed the initial shipping with 3 days, they used the slowest possible UPS service and their support didn't care at all that the tickets wouldn't arrive on time;
- I didn't know whether I would receive the tickets for the gig almost until its commencement (this was really unpleasant).

For me, it's clear I will never use Seatwave again. I strongly recommend that you avoid them too. It seems much better to use eBay or another service in order to find tickets for an event instead of using Seatwave. My obnoxious experience unambiguously shows (at least to me) that Seatwave.com offers an unprofessional and irresponsible service and apparently, they rely only on luck in order to fulfil their side of the agreement. They try to discourage you from pursuing justice and it's not until you show them you have some legal knowledge and customer rights awareness that they start doing something really constructive and helpful in order to resolve an issue.

P.S. I initially thought the tickets would be sent directly from the person on the other side of the particular "fan to fan" ticket exchange deal. Actually, both of the packages have been dispatched with "Seatwave, Milano" filled in the "sender" field so I don't really know who has initiated the shipment.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Paul McCartney's Concert at Unipol Arena, Bologna, Italy

Paul McCartney
While being abroad last week I managed to see Paul McCartney's concert in Bologna, Italy on 26/11/2011. The event was the first of the European gigs on his "On the Run" tour and I hope this article could give a good overview of what to be expected from Paul's subsequent shows. Because I don't like sitting at the sides of a venue and since there were not any seating places in front of the stage in the case of Unipol Arena, I had to get a standing ticket. And because all of these tickets were sold out at the time I knew I could go to the concert, I made the mistake to use Seatwave.com aftermarket ticket service, which unfortunately appeared to be among the most amateurish services I had ever used in my entire long-lived Internet experience. Due to the latter fact as well as for some Bologna traffic problems on the way to the venue, my position in the hall was not among the best and although I had a direct view to the stage, it was mainly for the presence of a couple of big screens that I was able to see Paul McCartney and his band in good proportions.

The gig started with a small (normal) delay and continued for not less than two and a half hours. Sir Paul McCartney was in a relatively good shape considering his age. He changed half a dozen of musical instruments including bass and 6-string guitars, piano, mandoline and a small size guitar. McCartney's band comprised of good players who were almost constantly smiling and apparently having a good time on the stage. Because of Paul's frequent instrument changes some of his fellow musicians were also able to demonstrate skills on various instruments.

The audience counted about 20 thousands of fans. They were of all ages but I was surprised that the number of young people was considerable. I saw several persons that almost lost consciousness but I would attribute this to their inexperience in crowded areas rather than some 21st century "Beatlemania".

The sound was not at its best in the beginning of the show but after a couple of songs it got better and was decent until the end of the gig. The lighting was Ok and as mentioned already the big video screens were of huge help for many of the attendees. There were not numerous lighting or pyrotechnic effects. There was not any fancy choreography. The major part of the show was just great music, dedicated performances, a lot of smiles and just occasionally there were some remarkable special effects. It was just as it had to be for a performer who created (many of) the most recognizable songs of the 20th century.

As for the songs, many of Paul McCartney's masterpieces were there. He played more than 20 songs of the Beatles, 5 songs of his great Band on the Run album plus several other gems from his long career. Of course, in a setlist comprised of just 35 tracks (otherwise, more than enough for a single concert), Paul could not include even every big hit he had ever written. But it was nice to hear many of the songs which had made the Beatles such a significant phenomenon and some of McCartney's Wings and solo greatest hits. Sir Paul McCartney tried to include a bit of everything. There were plenty of ballads as well as many harder rocking tracks. He sang a song for John Lennon ("Here Today") and included a part of "Give Piece a Chance" at the end of "A Day in the Life". He sang "Something" for George Harrison. He played a small tribute to Jimi Hendrix (a piece of "Foxy Lady"). There were some fireworks on "Live and Let Die" and of course, the recent Grammy winner "Helter Skelter" was also included in the set list. Several times, Paul tried to spoke a little bit of Italian as a kind gesture to the public and at the end he performed his usual two small sets of encores.

The gig was a good value for money, something I would naturally expect from Paul McCartney. The only thing I have to stress and it is not a fault of McCartney's or his crew is that if you are a fan of a particular performer or a band, you should try to be closer to the stage, either sitting or standing, because the emotions are completely different there. I almost always manage to achieve a good position (if I care for the artist) but unfortunately, I was not able this time which spoiled the gig a bit for me. Apart from this personal reason, Sir Paul McCartney and the concert as a whole were great and I would definitely recommend attending one (or more) of his "On the Run" tour gigs if you have the chance.

At last, below are the songs Paul McCartney played in Bologna, not ordered in the particular setlist's sequence (note that "Come and Get It", a song first recorded by Paul at the end of the Beatles' era, was performed live by McCartney for the first time ever).
The Beatles songs: A Day in the Life / Give Peace a Chance, All My Loving, And I Love Her, Back in the U.S.S.R., Blackbird, Day Tripper, Eleanor Rigby, Get Back, Golden Slumbers / Carry That Weight / The End, Got to Get You into My Life, Helter Skelter, Hey Jude, I'm Looking Through You, I've Got a Feeling, Let It Be, Magical Mystery Tour, Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da, Paperback Writer, Something, The Long and Winding Road, The Night Before, The Word / All You Need Is Love, Yesterday
Paul McCartney / Wings songs: Band on the Run, Come and Get It, Dance Tonight, Here Today, Jet, Junior's Farm, Let Me Roll It, Live and Let Die, Maybe I'm Amazed, Mrs Vandebilt, Nineteen Hundred and Eighty-Five
The Fireman song: Sing the Changes

Friday, December 2, 2011

Wizz Air: Another Unpleasant Experience

It happened to me again. Another unpleasant experience with Wizz Air. You can read my first adventure with them here and my opinion about the website wizzair.com, which is an important part of Wizz Air service, here. This time there were not large queues of passengers at the airport, still one of the flights was late due to accumulated delay. The leg room was again very insufficient but nothing unexpected in this department either. In addition, they made us to replace our home-printed web check-in papers with new boarding passes at one of the airports, which made the home-printed passes pretty much unnecessary. Yet, people will continue to print expendable paper at home until Wizz Air is charging an airport check-in fee if you have not preliminary made a web check-in. But all of these were not a surprise.

The thing that really annoyed me was that they broke my suitcase. I suppose, it happens sometimes. But in the case of Wizz Air it's more irritating cause you have to pay for your check-in luggage. This is the reason why almost everybody travels with just hand baggage on Wizz Air flights and this leads to additional discomfort for all of the passengers since there is not enough space for everyone's hand luggage in the cabin of the plane. Everyone carries a big piece of cabin luggage (up to the allowed limits and sometimes even exceeding them) which actually results in even more uncomfortable trip because many passengers have to put their "real" hand luggage below their seats.

Another related problem partially due to the above one is that you have to compete for earlier boarding on the plane because first, you have to be ahead of the others if you want to put your baggage in the designated compartments and second if you are not flying alone chances are you will seat separated from your fellow-travellers if you've not been fast enough to leave behind the majority of "competitors". I don't know why Wizz Air do not assign seats at the time of check-in, especially when you are forced to check-in twice actually. This "first-come, first-served" principle seems a little bit inappropriate for an airline company. After all, assigning seats is a far easier task than transporting passengers.

Now, to return on the broken trunk. I wouldn't be so annoyed if there were not 2 particular reasons. First, most of the passengers do not pay the additional tax for baggage so Wizz Air flights practically have almost nothing to handle in this aspect. I would expect that a large company as they are pretending to be should know how to handle just a few suitcases. They should have enough time to handle them carefully because of their small number. And second, I had paid for my luggage explicitly. It had not been just a free supplement to my ticket but a separate service I had paid for. If they cannot handle my luggage properly, they should not charge me for such a service.

Finally, when I arrived at the airport and I saw my trunk had been broken, I asked the corresponding clerk should I file a complaint against Wizz Air. The answer was, "you will just lose your time and most likely receive nothing". I wouldn't usually agree easily to not take any action but in this case, I did. Having all of my previous experience with Wizz Air in mind, I thought the guy was probably right: Wizz Air don't care too much for the services they offer, neither for your opinion.

You may ask, why did I use them for a second time. Well, they are obviously cheaper, especially if you catch the right time to book. And what is not less important there are itineraries that are not covered with direct flights by any other airline company so you do not have much of a choice anyway if you don't want to change several planes before you reach your destination.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Avoid International Roaming Charges with Rebtel

Calling from:
Calling to:
Find Calling Rates
Since I've been recently abroad, I want to share with you a cool way to avoid the usual high roaming charges. With this idea, international roaming calls you make will be charged as local calls and this is possible with the help of Rebtel's cheap international calling service. If you already have a Rebtel account, you probably know the basic principles of their service but for the rest, I am going to make a short introduction of Rebtel before delving into particulars about how to cut your international roaming charges.

Rebtel offer a service that allows you to make cheap international calls by calling a preliminary assigned local number instead of your contact's foreign number. When you create a Rebtel account you have to add your international contacts in it so the service can assign a unique local number for each of your friends or relatives. This means that if you are in the United Kingdom, Rebtel will create UK local numbers for all of your contacts which you can use forever from then on. The trick is that when you call one of these local numbers, you are still able to talk with your foreign friends but the international part of the call is accomplished over the Internet. The result is that you only pay for the local call and a small charge for the service provided by Rebtel. As far as I know Rebtel's service is provided in about 50 countries in the world and you can check their calling rates from country to country by using the box on the left.

Now about the mobile roaming. In order to use Rebtel to your advantage while being abroad, you will need to purchase a local SIM card on arrival in the foreign country. It doesn't have to be some special international roaming SIM card but the one offering the cheapest calling rates for making local calls in the particular country. Having a local SIM card enables you to use a cell phone calls provider originating in the foreign country and thus you can avoid the hefty international roaming charges that your domestic provider normally charge. When you buy the new SIM card, you have to add it to your Rebtel account and new local numbers will be automatically created for your previously saved contacts. Now, you can dial to any of your contacts back home by using these new local numbers and the charges for the international part of the call will be avoided in a way similar to the already described before. So, this was the easier part.

The trickier task (if you want to achieve it at all) is to receive cheaper calls from your relatives or friends when you're abroad. In order to call you they have three options: either to dial your old number; to call to the number of your new local SIM card; or to create a Rebtel account themselves and call to your new number without paying for an international call by using the standard Rebtel service. Of course, the best option for them (without even knowing that you're abroad) would be to dial your usual old number. But in order to avoid the international roaming fees in this case you have to forward your old number to an assigned by Rebtel number to your new foreign local SIM card. Thus, the international part of the call would be practically between your old number and your new SIM card but since this forwarding will be serviced by Rebtel, you will avoid the roaming charges for it. Now, this might seem like an additional trouble (although it involves nothing more than just entering the number of your new foreign SIM card into your Rebtel account in order to get an assigned Rebtel number for it and just one forwarding from your domestic number to the assigned new number after that) but the good news is you can simply ignore the task of making the incoming roaming calls cheaper cause the prices for them are significantly lower than the prices for outgoing calls.

Having said the above, we should stress that this solution may not be always better than using just the conventional international roaming service of your domestic mobile provider. For example, if you plan to call back home only once or just to receive a couple of short calls from your relatives at home, using your usual phone number won't lead to very high roaming charges. Yet in other cases you can save considerably by using Rebtel's service abroad. Some proper usages would include:
  • staying abroad for a long period of time;
  • making a lot of calls back home over a long or even a short period of time;
  • making (even a few) very long calls to your home country.

Usually, since the international roaming charges are in times lower for receiving incoming calls than for making outgoing ones, if you only plan to receive calls, probably you don't have to bother for the roaming charges too much. If you intend to initiate calls yourself, it's good to consider the Rebtel option. You should check their prices from the country you're visiting to your own country and also the prices of the local SIM cards in the country you will temporarily reside in. Having both in mind, you should be able to make the best decision for your particular situation.

Of course, even if you don't plan to use international roaming a lot, you can still create a Rebtel account in case you don't have one yet cause you can always use it for making cheap international calls even when you are home (which is Rebtel's service primary intention anyway). And remember that calling to international landline phones is up to tens of times cheaper than the calls to international mobile phones so Rebtel can bring you even higher savings in this area.

I am glad to inform you that a couple of days after publishing this article Rebtel offered our site a coupon for 100% bonus on first deposits so if you want to sign up and try their service (they offer also a first free call) use this link which will automatically land you on the page with the bonus offer (I do not know exactly how long the offer will be valid but I hope it will stay active until the end of December).

If you are further interested in Rebtel, you can find a few Rebtel highlights here and several tips for making even cheaper international calls here.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

...And What about Twitter?

Twitter bird
After criticizing Facebook and Skype, first of which I use rather sporadically and the second one mostly due to some of my old contacts switching from other instant messengers to it, now I have to say a few words about Twitter. Like Facebook and Skype it has become a huge phenomenon and it's hard to ignore it. So, here we go.

To begin with, Twitter shares a lot of similarities with other social networking services. It has a fancy name although it is a dictionary word. Most of its content is useless and just a filler. Many of its ordinary consumers pile huge number of followers/friends just to sport a big list of them while at the same time, there are spammers, Internet marketers, businesses, etc. that intentionally build large contact bases in order to achieve some shady goals. Similarly to Facebook, Twitter has millions of users and probably an exaggeratedly big potential in the eyes of the investors. But... unlikely for a service of this type, I actually find a couple of beneficial usages when I think of Twitter.

The first useful side of Twitter is that popular persons (artists, celebrities, politicians), not so popular folks and all kinds of companies can share news, important information, promotions, various notifications and whatnot with their admirers, customers, friends or simply "followers". Of course, this does not prevent the continuous flow of superfluous data but it would be unfair to deny there is a certain amount of good stuff. What distinguishes Twitter in this respect is its format and the basic idea of microblogging. The short messages are ideal for efficient sharing of qualitative content which otherwise would be diluted in texts with bigger size.

The second beneficial usage of Twitter is the opportunity to contact companies directly with questions or requests. It's an additional channel to communicate with those companies which have Twitter accounts and as my experience indicates it is considerably more productive than for example, to deal with their standard support teams. Again, the short format of the tweets allows for meaty communication and the availability of direct messages provides for private conversations if needed. I have already had several successful attempts in this direction, the latter being to contact Seatwave.com representatives after their regular support team appeared to be absolutely useless. My assumption is that most of the companies assign for Twitter tasks personnel from their staff that is more dedicated to customer satisfaction than their support teams (which with some rare exceptions primarily send standard trashy replies of no use that in many cases even offend your intelligence). Having a concerned person on the other side in the case of contacting a company "directly" via Twitter could be often surprisingly satisfactory.

Well, although I do acknowledge that Twitter is of more use than other online social networking services, I am not a big fan of it either. I admit I mainly utilize it to send messages than to receive tweets and since I don't have a need to contact companies too often, this limits my overall usage of it. I also have not any intention to buy Twitter shares when (and if) their public offering happens cause I believe all services in this field are seriously overestimated. Nevertheless, I see Twitter's good aspects and if you are among its fans, I won't expel you from this blog. ;)

Monday, November 28, 2011

Kind Hearts and Coronets (1949): A Gem in Black and White

Kind Hearts and Coronets
You might have actually been aware that Sir Alec Guinness is a Jedi (Star Wars' Obi-Wan Kenobi) but I guess you do not know he has been also able to spawn himself into eight persons simultaneously if you haven't seen Kind Hearts and Coronets. This is a great movie in many aspects and Sir Alec Guinness' multiple roles are only one of them. The film sports other notable performances too and in addition offers a captivating plot, subtle storytelling, masterful direction and brilliant execution. You cannot be sure what will be the outcome of the movie up to its very end and even then you could still wonder how to treat its irony. This is one of those films that make you question yourself whether black and white movies could be ever outdone.

Kind Hearts and Coronets tells the story of Louis Mazzini (Dennis Price), a distant relative of the Duke of D'Ascoyne. Louis' mother has been banished from D'Ascoynes because of her marriage to an Italian opera singer so Louis has lived all of his life spurned from the noble family. When D'Ascoynes reject to bury his mother's body in the aristocratic family's tomb Louis plots to become the next Duke of D'Ascoyne. However, this task is not easy since there are eight other heirs who stand between him and the title of the Duke. When Louis' marriage proposal is declined by his love interest Sibella Holland (Joan Greenwood) due to his poverty, the young man decides to bring his murderous plan to life. And the fun begins.

As mentioned above, one of the highlights in Kind Hearts and Coronets is Sir Alec Guinness' rare performance of 8 different persons. You might have guessed that these eight comprise the D'Ascoyne family and to make Guinness' achievement even more notable, they are not only males. All of the D'Ascoynes share similar external features, which is normal for relatives but at the same time they are distinctive enough in order to be taken for separate people. Additionally, Sir Alec Guinness manages to put a different personality in each of the characters he plays. Another (often overlooked) gem in the movie is the leading performance of Dennis Price who makes of Louis Mazzini a calm, determined and convincing villain and at the same time succeeds to win our sympathy. The two women (of course, there is more than one) around Louis, Sibella Holland and the recent widow Edith D'Ascoyne are portrayed very well by Joan Greenwood and Valerie Hobson, the former making us to believe that Sibella is an artful tempter and the latter successfully presenting Edith as a delicate and stylish lady.

The plot does not offer numerous twists until the movie's ending approaches but the film's beauty prior to this point is in its details and storytelling. The narrative is very tranquil as if the story is not about murders, death and immoral behaviour. There is plenty of (dark) humour, either subtle or not and many of the funny lines flow effortlessly along the lead character's narration: "The advent of twin sons to the Duke was a terrible blow. Fortunately, an epidemic of diphtheria restored the status quo almost immediately and even brought me a bonus in the shape of the Duchess." or "The upshot was that I was dismissed on the spot. I decided to repay him in kind by dismissing him with equal suddenness from this world."

The story is genuinely absorbing, once because it has a good premise and twice cause it's not clear what is going to happen until the end of the movie. The ending itself is superb and one could see the film just because of it. The whole execution of Kind Hearts and Coronets is almost flawless and it's a rarity to find a movie so balanced and complete as this. If you haven't had a chance to see the film until now, do yourself a favour and watch this classic soon. The movie has a full potential to catch you unprepared for its charm and your first viewing probably won't be your last.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

The Change-Up (2011): Another Mediocre Comedy

The Change-Up
It's hard to say whether Horrible Bosses (review) or The Change-Up is a more mediocre movie. The latter has a more common plot while at the same time it wins in the field of more beautiful actresses. Both have Jason Bateman starring in a leading role. Horrible Bosses sports the more celebrated cast featuring Kevin Spacey, Jennifer Aniston, Colin Farrell and Donald Sutherland compared to the cast of The Change-Up which "only" has to offer Ryan Reynolds, Leslie Mann, Olivia Wilde and Alan Arkin. We can continue with comparisons like these but independently of any juxtaposition, both of the movies are not among the good ones.

The Change-Up offers the worn story of Dave Lockwood (Jason Bateman) and Mitch Planko (Ryan Reynolds), two friends who accidentally switch their bodies while peeing in a fountain. The usual complications follow when Dave and Mitch try to change their bodies back. Mitch has to deal with Dave's wife Jamie (Leslie Mann), his children and their diapers while Dave has to experience Mitch's sexual life in the face of a pregnant woman, a suspicious role in a shady movie and probably a long-dreamed sex with his real-life legal associate Sabrina (Olivia Wilde). If this is not enough the irresponsible Mitch has to successfully execute the deal of Dave's business life.

Starting with the implausible change of bodies, The Change-Up continues in the same vein with a string of unmotivated actions coming either from the leads or their ladies. The behavior of Mitch in Dave's firm is also inadequate and subsequently it's strange that he's not fired long before the completion of the important deal. I would naturally expect that are movie like this could not be the most probable portrayal of the real life but the lack of motivation in pretty much every sequence of actions is too excessive. Still, there are scenes and jokes that are funny on their own and although they do not add to the entire story of the movie, every piece of banter is a plus for a film of this type.

The cast of The Change-Up is Ok for a light comedy. Jason Bateman has the harder task to tame Mitch in Dave's body and it doesn't work always like a charm. Ryan Reynolds has the easier part and he's doing fine. The ladies, Leslie Mann and Olivia Wilde, are very beautiful as usual and could be considered among the main reasons to see the movie: both are very charming, attractive and their acting is decent. Alan Arkin has a couple of short appearances as Mitch's father and while this is not the film which will bring him another Oscar, he is a nice addition to the cast.

Among the good sides of the movie is its similarity with Crazy, Stupid, Love. since The Change-Up also explores mid-life identity crises although it's even less profound than the former film. There are some unexpected or surprising scenes too like the "tattooing" or the "baseball tickets" ones. So if you don't approach the movie with high expectations of great humor or believable story, you can even actually like it if you see it without children at home.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Horrible Bosses (2011): Not Horrible but a Mediocre Movie

Horrible Bosses
While it may not be the case with Jennifer Aniston you'll usually expect to see Kevin Spacey and even Colin Farrell in a better movie than Horrible Bosses. It's a comedy with a bit of a criminal flavor but the funniest thing in the film is the stupidity of some of the characters. There are people that find this movie to be surprising and with lots of twist but I cannot second that statement. There are small twists here and there but the bigger picture is pretty clear from the beginning and any occasional twists and funny moments are only enough to keep Horrible Bosses not so horrible as the bosses in it.

The movie is about three friends that hate their bosses for different reasons. Nick Hendricks (Jason Bateman) hates Mr. Dave Harken (Kevin Spacey) because Harken heavily exploits Nick, denies him a long overdue promotion and eventually blackmails Nick in order to keep him in the firm. Kurt Buckman (Jason Sudeikis) hates the new boss Bobby Pellitt (Colin Farrell) who unlike his father before him does not appreciate Kurt's work, uses drugs and he's not mentally stable. But Kurt actually likes his job. Finally, Dale Arbus (Charlie Day) hates Dr. Julia Harris (Jennifer Aniston) who constantly attempts sexual abuse on him and similarly to Dave Harken blackmails Dale with a former charge of child offending so he does not dare to quit. Thus, being unable to leave their jobs, the three friends decide to kill their horrible bosses.

The premise of the plot is not the most standard one but it is somehow limited. You wouldn't expect that our "good" heroes are going to become real murderers just to get rid of their superiors. Many of the situations are forced and the narrative while not fully predictable in details from the very beginning leads to the only logical outcome at the end. And apart of the unpredictability pointed by other reviewers, I cannot find also a lot of dark humor in Horrible Bosses (check Kind Hearts and Coronets for huge portions of it) but it's always a matter of perception.

The cast is interesting and it offers bigger names for the supporting roles while the leading parts are assigned to less famous actors. Kevin Spacey makes a good performance as Dave Harken but his character is annoying as pretty much most of the other individuals in Horrible Bosses. The exaggeration in the portrayal of both the bad and the good guys actually makes the story and the characters in particular hardly believable although the performances are not bad on their own. It also hard to believe that Mr. Harken could cry at all but you'll see him almost doing it in one of the scenes and this practically ruins the already depicted character.

Objectively speaking, Horrible Bosses has a few funny moments and some potential to be appreciated by a certain group of (teenager) moviegoers. It is definitely not a must-see film and it does not worth seeing this picture in a movie theater but you could take a look at it if you have nothing better to do at home some day.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

In Time (2011): Only the Poor Die Young

In Time
In Time is the latest brainchild of writer/director Andrew Niccol who you probably know from Gattaca. It is a high concept movie set in a dystopian futuristic society where people don't age past 25 and time is money. Literally. The more you have, the longer you live. Obviously this is an idea which doesn't bet on subtlety. And neither does its implementation.

In Time is direct and straightforward in a lot of ways. The world depicted has a clean retro-futuristic styling similar in this respect to Gattaca. The story is a take on Bonnie and Clyde with a robinhoodian cause. Its mythological grounds are well placed in this futuristic but almost timeless setting, which goes to some depth exploring the concept and its implications. Time related puns are probably too many, though. The movie shows some real obsession with them. They can be occasionally brilliant, but often a little too obvious. On the other hand, some of the more subtle elements derived from the literality of the "Time is money" reality are actually entertaining and thoughtful. The differences in the functional way the rich and poor dress, for example. Or how the rich are careful in their daily routines. You certainly don't want to die accidentally when there are millenia to lose.

The greatest strength of the movie lies in the stylish visual approach it takes in showing the world. Its decors have a role as important as the base idea and the story. Helping on the visual side is cinematographer Roger Deakins. This is his first digitally shot movie (images captured with the Arri Alexa) and he did a wonderful job. High profile cinematographers tend to stick to what they know best (film) and avoid risks. But In Time (together with Drive and The Social Network) shows that digital is now at least as good a medium for image capture as film. And probably even better on the technical side.

In regard to the acting Justin Timberlake is doing ok in the lead. He has certain physicality to his performance, which fits the role. Amanda Seyfried as his love interest and a partner in crime doesn't have much to do other than looking around with wide-open eyes. Cillian Murphy, as the Timekeeper, feels somewhat underdeveloped and not used to his full potential. On a second thought, this is true for almost all characters. Notable exceptions are Vincent Kartheiser as Sylvia's father and Alex Pettyfer as the leader of a gang of time thieves.

Simplicity is both the strength and the fall of In Time. It has an interesting concept and an interesting world, which happen to be tied to a not so interesting story. The movie is quite blunt at times, and the occasionally sloppy storytelling doesn't help. Pacing problems (excuse the pun) are notable and the ending is rather weak.

With all of its shortcomings, choppiness and overt straightforwardness, there is something unique and distinct about Andrew Niccol's movies, which makes In Time worth seeing too. And it also happens to have a timely release, what with the Occupy Wall Street movement.

Friday, October 28, 2011

The Adventures of Tintin (2011): A New Challenge for Spielberg

The Adventures of Tintin
Steven Spielberg's commitment to Tintin probably raised an eyebrow or two. Apparently, he was acquainted with the original comic books by Hergé and became a fan sometime in the early 1980s after some critic compared Raiders of the Lost Ark to Tintin. And he held the rights for a movie adaptation for almost thirty years. The Adventures of Tintin is Spielberg's first animated movie. Interestingly, it is not done be his former company Dreamworks, instead it is made by Weta Digital. The project is in a lot of ways collaboration with Peter Jackson who is also a fan of the original series. On this movie Jackson is credited as a producer, but he will direct the sequel. A third movie co-directed by both Spielberg and Jackson is a possibility.

After seeing the finished product the comparisons with the Indiana Jones movies are easy to justify. The Adventures of Tintin is an old school adventure and, when it works, it is spectacular and channels the spirit of Indy Jones. But Tintin does not quite have the soul of it all the time. One can probably blame the technicalities of CGI for that. The characters are simple, often stereotypical and one-dimensional (much like in an Indy film), and that's a good thing in this case. The movie keeps a fast pace, blending adventure and action but has a tendency to prolong the action parts a little too much. And somewhat absurdly, the end felt both too fast and overstretched at the same time.

All imagery is rendered with realistic materials but, unlike Robert Zemeckis's efforts in this field, uncanny valley is avoided through character stylization which more or less follows the original designs of Herge. Colors and lighting are beautiful. Longtime Spielberg's director of photography Janusz Kaminski served as a lighting consultant on the project, very much like Roger Deakins did on How to Train Your Dragon and Rango, and the film-like quality of the lighting is readily apparent. The actual movement animations leave place for improvement, though. And character stylization in The Adventures of Tintin is too much on the Dreamworks side here and there (which is not a good thing for those who wonder).

The camerawork is vigorous. Apparently Spielberg did a lot of it himself. It seems like he got a new toy - the virtual camera - got swept by its freedom and could not stop playing with it. Sometimes this leads to breathtaking shots but the result is not always positive. The camera is often unrestrained and distracting. This, coupled with the occasional show-off on the rendering side, almost breaks the immersion at times.

The above may sound rather critical, but The Adventures of Tintin is actually a pretty good movie. It is probably the best animated film this year so far, together with Rango. It is good entertainment and has that cozy oldschool Spielberg feeling to it (well, most of the time, at least). Kids will undoubtedly love it. And on top of that, it features some crisp, competent and unobtrusive stereo 3D, as expected from a rendered movie.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Coeus the Boxing Titan - The Boxing Titan Spawns (2011)

Coeus the Boxing Titan - The Boxing Titan Spawns cover
Coeus the Boxing Titan is a music project originating from Grand Rapids, Minnesota, USA. Its sole member Aron "Aro" Patterson is the project's universal performer as well as the songwriter of the tracks on their debut recording The Boxing Titan Spawns. The effort is advertised as a progressive rock project that will slowly kick your ass. Well, it's hard to merely label it "prog rock" but the latter part of the statement seems completely true cause The Boxing Titan Spawns slowly grows on you: when you listen to it for the first time, the overall impression is getting better towards the end of the album and additionally, your ass is in a real danger if you continue to examine the songs repeatedly.

Although Coeus the Boxing Titan is a project that spawns genuine interest and The Boxing Titan Spawns itself is definitely a promising and satisfying effort, I am not going to use entirely superlatives for the album as many reviewers do when they consider new artists. I think such approach is quite inappropriate since it diminishes the trustworthiness of the particular review and it's perfectly possible to evaluate a good record without plunging so deep into praises. So, to start on a moderate note, the vocals on the album are at times more distractive than captivating. They play an important role though cause the singing helps to tie the various tracks together. The compositions are well varied and if there was not such a binding element like the vocal work, the recording would have a more chaotic feel.

Another piece that most likely won't win a Grammy Award is the cover of The Boxing Titan Spawns. It's apparent that the creation of the artwork has not cost a fortune and it's hard to call it a masterpiece but who would expect a great cover work from a 21st century album intended primarily for digital download. Then again, the cover is efficient and illustrates the titles of the project and the album adequately. The lyrics are worthy and attempt to carry out messages among the emotional landscapes they draw. I sense some hip-hop influence in the texts' structure and content although it's sometimes hard to differentiate the words because of substantial voice effects.

Now to the really entertaining stuff. The melodies on the album are delightful and haunting. Because of their beauty I am inclined to devaluate the singing and to call it distracting at times. There are tracks where the vocals blend well and in fact add to the melody, e.g., "Like Vegas". There are other songs like the opening "Tension In Cloudland" that only partially benefits from the singing. Personally, I prefer the melodic singing to the more narrative approach that's probably where my different perception of certain pieces comes from. Anyway, the craftsmanship behind the tunes is impressive and having in mind the presumptive low cost of the production, the sonic realization of the project is admirable.

Besides the obvious alternative, progressive, psychedelic and post rock influences on this dominantly industrial music recording, I can notice some Kraftwerk's and Mike Oldfield's passages among the electronic elements and effects in the compositions and even some glam rock ornaments. My personal favorite songs are "Like Vegas" with its relaxed but eerie spirit, "This Time" offering a fascinating atmosphere and the final instrumental track curiously titled "February, This Is For You" which provides for an elevated ending of the record.

Having in mind the consistency of the album, we can safely expect future gems coming out from Coeus the Boxing Titan or Aron Patterson. And in regard to the present release, you can buy The Boxing Titan Spawns from Amazon or iTunes. You can also find more information about the project on its Facebook page here.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Le locataire (1976) / The Tenant: Paranoid Roman Polanski

The Adventures of Tintin
If you've read Roger Ebert's review of this film maybe you think The Tenant (Le locataire) is an awful movie. The other possibility is to consider Ebert's review terrible which is probably the better option. Unlike the cases of praising movies, Roger Ebert often tends to lack arguments when criticizing films. And this time, it's hard to find even a single serious reason in his review against Roman Polanski's movie itself. Instead, the most remarkable flaw mentioned by Ebert seems to be that The Tenant is an embarrassment cause Polanski has done a film about a character like himself... The only reasonable explanation of Ebert's writing could be he has expected a lot better movie to follow Polanski's classic Chinatown.

With all of the above I don't want to say The Tenant (Le locataire) is a masterpiece because it is not. But it's also not such a horrible creation. The film is centered on Polish immigrant Trelkovsky (Roman Polanski himself) and his paranoia. Trelkovsky rents an apartment previously inhabited by a young woman who has committed suicide. His neighbours in the building are strange people hating and spying on each other. The only thing they love seems to be silence. Gradually, Trelkovsky decides that everybody in the house is against him and there is a huge plot involving even outsiders aiming his transformation into the suicide woman and forcing him to follow her sin.

The Tenant definitely has issues but it sports also some good performances, a decent plot and occasionally an unexpected scene or two. Roman Polanski puts a good performance of Trelkovsky. It could be due to similarities shared between the actor and the character but Polanski is a very good match for the role and it's hard to think of what could be a better replacement. Isabelle Adjani has a small part in the movie as a friend of the woman who has attempted suicide and Adjani is very charming and adorable, especially in the scenes at her home. And then we have Shelley Winters who is a convincingly dissatisfied concierge of the haunted building.

The plot of The Tenant is decent without being very original. It doesn't offer huge surprises and it's clear where it is going too early in the movie. There are particular episodes here and there that you won't see coming although it's hard to explicitly define them as good, rather the opposite: Trelkovsky slaps a child for a non-apparent reason and there are some double suicide attempts as well as replicated hospital visits. The Tenant has problems mainly with its ending sequences which although not fully predictable in their details are too weird and forced to be easily absorbed.

Despite its flaws, The Tenant creates a good account of contemporary alienation and selfishness. It may not be the most believable story of paranoid men but it offers considerable amount of shocking reality. Roman Polanski is probably at his acting best here although he has more than a couple of better films as far as directing and writing are concerned. If you love paranoid movies or you are among Polanski's die-hard fans, you should see The Tenant. For the rest of the average cinema lovers, it's hard to give a definitive recommendation so it's up to you and your sixth sense.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Crazy, Stupid, Love. (2011): Enjoyable, if not the Most Believable

Crazy, Stupid, Love.
If you think Crazy, Stupid, Love. is not going to offer some serious portions of drama, you won't be surprised. But if you think it will be a great romantic comedy, probably you won't be completely satisfied. The truth is, this is a good movie offering plenty of comic situations with romantic flavor plus a decent cast and acting. It is not the most believable film in its entirety but otherwise pretty much every scene could happen in reality if considered separately.

Cal Weaver (Steve Carell) is a "happily" married man who is incredibly surprised to hear his wife Emily (Julianne Moore) wants a divorce because of her adultery with David Lindhagen (Kevin Bacon), a colleague of hers. Their children and especially the son Robbie (Jonah Bobo) are not fascinated by the idea of separated parents so they try to bring their mom and dad together again. Meanwhile, Cal demonstrates big problems in his communication with other women, so a young Casanova named Jacob Palmer (Ryan Gosling) decides to help Cal. In his attempts to become like Jacob, Cal sleeps with teacher Kate (Marisa Tomei) as well as with several other women while at the same time Jacob unexpectedly falls in love with lawyer Hannah (Emma Stone). Don't worry if this sounds just like a trivial mess, Crazy, Stupid, Love. will grow into a bigger tangle later.

The solid cast listed above provides for solid performances. Steve Carell is good in portraying both Cal's miserable life in the beginning as well as the "self-confident" Cal later. Ryan Gosling is calm and captivating as Jacob and it's easy to believe he is all girls' favorite. Julianne Moore ensures the uncomfortable appearance of Emily after she initiates the divorce and makes the character to look guilty and exhausted. In her short screen time, Marisa Tomei presents well an ex-alcoholic teacher in a desperate need of love while Kevin Bacon is stable as Emily's colleague and tempter. Emma Stone appears charming and innocent in Hannah's naivety. And Jonah Bobo is a cool teenager with decent chances for a bright future.

The dramatic moments in Crazy, Stupid, Love. will hardly make you cry and their main purpose is to put a bit of drama in the comedy but then there are some pathetic speeches that could force you to shed a tear or two. The movie offers a kind of unanticipated twist especially if you haven't been careful and farseeing until a certain point and after it everything becomes fully predictable again. Actually, a single twist is more than anyone would usually expect from a movie in the romcom genre so in this aspect the norm is overfulfiled. Yet the film's enchantment suffers to a degree from the twist coming way too early.

As mentioned initially, almost everything in the movie taken separately is feasible but gathered in one place seems hard to believe. Thus, if you are a firm follower of realism in the cinema, you could be annoyed eventually. On the other hand, it's a (Hollywood) movie so a share of excessiveness in the number of less probable events should be anticipated. All in all, Crazy, Stupid, Love. is not recommendable for special effects and action lovers but it's an easy choice for romantic comedy admirers cause the movie offers enough entertainment and funny moments in order to position itself among the better films of the romcom genre this year.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Midnight in Paris (2011): Not Woody Allen's Best but Beautiful to Watch

Midnight in Paris
The latest Woody Allen effort Midnight in Paris is in his favorite romantic comedy vein and not for the first time it is combined with elements of fantasy. Allen is a fairly productive writer / director and his movies are not drastically different from each other so if you don't expect something innovative from him, you won't be surprised for good or for bad. What makes this film easily recommendable for viewing is its beauty.

After a series of lovely Paris shots, Midnight in Paris continues with a pretty much standard Woody Allen's setting. An engaged couple is on a visit in Paris together with the girl's parents. Gil (Owen Wilson) is the future bridegroom who is in love with the city and its beauty as well as with Paris' endless inspirational potential. As a real romantic he wants to drop his successful writing job in Hollywood in order to become a novel writer. His partner Inez (Rachel McAdams) is far more practical. She doesn't approve Gil's book-writing ambitions, neither his romantic fall for Paris. Her parents are not exactly charmed by Gil either. As a result, Inez finds a distraction in her former classmate Paul (Michael Sheen) while Gil discovers a way to visit his fantasies.

Midnight in Paris sports an interesting cast. Owen Wilson is intended to replace the usual Woody Allen character and he suits well for the purpose. Wilson is not exactly Allen but nevertheless he displays many of Allen's characters features in his own way. Rachel McAdams is not very likeable (both physically and mentally) as Inez, completely in accordance with Allen's intention, I suppose. Michael Sheen is really annoying in his performance and is another good choice in the movie. There are a few short appearances of Carla Bruni as a museum guide, maybe as an actual reference to Paris in her current real life role of France's first lady. There are also notable performances of Kathy Bates and Marion Cotillard, both of which are doing a great job, but I won't discuss their parts in order to avoid spoilers.

To touch upon eventual weaknesses of the film, I have to mention again the certain degree of repetitiveness in Woody Allen's movies although having Owen Wilson instead of Allen himself gives the film a bit of different flavor. Another possible weak spot could be the predictability of Midnight in Paris in terms that you'll be hardly surprised by the ending. Finally, the naivety of Gil with regard to Inez is annoying and not very believable.

The strength of Midnight in Paris except for the heap of magnificent and captivating shots of day and night Paris lies in its fantasy parts. They are imaginative and rich in famous characters. There are many references to particular artists' lives and works. A reference that immediately distinguishes itself is to Luis Buñuel's film El ángel exterminador (The Exterminating Angel) and it will most probably make you smile even if you are not familiar with Luis Bunuel's work.

Midnight in Paris is certainly not the best of Woody Allen's movies but it's among his better efforts of the last couple of decades: it offers a spectacular view on Paris and an exciting adventure for (nostalgic) romantics.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

The Breakfast Club (1985): No Breakfast, Just Talking (Club)

The Breakfast Club
The Breakfast Club offers no action, no fantasy, no special visual effects or anything like that. The Breakfast Club offers just talking and that's all. Well, there's a bit of sleeping among all of the talking but nothing really outstanding in this sleep. It's one of those movies that gathers several persons in one room and let them talk.

Five high school students spend a Saturday detention together and in the process they turn into "The Breakfast Club". They do not have much in common or at least, that's what they think. But during the day the teenagers discover a lot to talk about and the detention becomes less and less boring. They are labelled the Athlete, the Princess, the Criminal, the Brain and the Basketcase and they fit quite well in this variety of descriptions. But even such variegated group of people share similar problems and all of the students experience fear, pressure, love, failure, disappointment, etc.

Fairly speaking, the cast of The Breakfast Club accomplishes a great job cause it's not easy to entertain your audience for an hour and a half with nothing more than talking. Judd Nelson in the role of "the Criminal" John Bender does a big part of the talking and he is very charming as he demonstrates there is a lot of brain and insight behind the mask of the bad guy. Emilio Estevez is quite convincing as Andrew Clark, "the Athlete". He certainly looks and acts like a sportsman who is not sure whether he is doing the right thing. Anthony Michael Hall plays "the Brain" Brian Johnson who seems to enjoy the fact he's in detention with the others. Molly Ringwald is "the Princess" Claire Standish, a common high school character. And Ally Sheedy has the tough part of Allison Reynolds, "the Basketcase". Sheedy makes a notable performance here. She is really weird and very credible in her acting. Finally, Paul Gleason as the vice-principal of the school Richard Vernon is the least convincing in the movie but this is hardly his fault. It's just his role being too cartoonish and unbelievable.

The Breakfast Club offers a lot of fun but simultaneously it touches serious topics: students relationship with their parents; how different stereotypes in school treat each other; various ways to deal with alienation and hostile reality. The movie sports some interesting thoughts and a bunch of memorable quotes. It has become a major influence on teen films since the 1980s and many later works reference it.

There is a couple of issues though that prevents the movie from being superb. The first already mentioned problem is that the character of the teacher is not very feasible and his behavior lacks motivation. The reason that sends Allison in detention is not very well motivated either although it's a curious one. The other more serious flaw is rooted in the final part of the movie for which the filmmakers have chosen too Hollywoodish approach. Instead of adding something positive to the whole picture, this practically ruins much of the good impression the film has made until that point.

Despite the issues, The Breakfast Club is one of the more solid efforts coming from director John Hughes. He has done well with the task to entertain under limited conditions. If you are not a die-hard action genre fan and you have some passion for teenager movies, you'll probably like this film even if you won't love it.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

ACDSee Pro 5 and ACDSee Photo Manager 14 Release Announcement

This is a brief inspection of the latest release of the two ACDSee photo management solutions ACDSee Pro 5 and ACDSee Photo Manager 14. ACD Systems keep releasing new versions of their photo management software in several month long periods. This is simultaneously nice since it helps providing new features over a short space of time and a bit frustrating because the fans of ACDSee software are in a situation to update their products too often. For good or for bad, below are the new features included in both of the ACDSee photo editing software products.

ACDSee Pro 5 Photo Management Software
ACDSee Pro 5 photo management and photo editing software
  • Split-toning - with this feature you can tone differently parts of your picture, for example, add a tinted color to shadows and another one to highlights.
  • Smarter Sharpening - allows you to focus the sharpening effect on edges and textures of the photograph rather than editing non-textured areas.
  • Drawing Tools - with drawing tools you can add shapes/lines as circles, squares, arrows, etc. to attract attention to particular elements in the image. (You can also adjust the width, feathering and blending of the brush to create subtle or dramatic drawing effects.)
  • Dodge and Burn - this tool allows you to target highlights, midtones or shadows for lightening or darkening and gives you the possibility to add vibrance selectively and to saturate or desaturate areas.
  • Special Effects - the Special Effects palette allows you to apply and fine-tune the following new effects: Lomo effect for applying an edgy, retro feel to the images; Orton effect to make your pictures look pastel-like and ethereal; Collage effect to turn your photos into a collage of prints.
  • Remove Metadata tool - provides an opportunity to protect the details related to your camera settings, locations and equipment by editing EXIF and IPTC metadata information out of your files.
  • Batch Export tool - allows you to make presets for exporting groups of images to specified folders, formats, file names, color spaces and dimensions.
  • Color Labels - offer the possibility to group and organize your photos without separating them in different folders by assigning a particular color to a particular stage of your workflow process (available also in ACDSee 14).

ACDSee 14 Photo Management Software
ACDSee Photo Manager 14
  • Map view and Geotagging Support - this feature comes from the previous version of ACD Systems' professional photo management software ACDSee Pro 4 and allows you to organize or find your pictures by location. You can use the location of photos coming from GPS-enabled cameras or add location info yourself. You are able to use the map for zooming in and finding all of the photos taken at a certain location.
  • Special Effects - the new pre-set special effects here are the already mentioned ones above (in ACDSee Pro 5 section): Collage effect, Lomo effect and Orton effect.
  • Custom Metadata Panel - allows you to use custom views in order to see only the metadata that is meaningful to you.
  • Color labels - allow you to tag your images with colors in order to mark their stage in the workflow process (like in ACDSee Pro 5).
  • Drawing Tools - with these you can draw by hand or select from a predefined lines and shapes in order to draw attention to specific part of your images.
  • Online features - ACDSee online features now make it possible to post photo albums on Facebook, email albums and tweet links to albums. RAW format images can be shared too.

For a full product description or if you want to get a free trial copy or directly to buy ACDSee Photo Manager 14 check this link. For ACD Systems' professional photo management software in the face of ACDSee Pro 5 look here.