300 followers!


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Hey readers and even people who just stumble by this blog on their way to another one … I just reached 300 followers.  That makes me so happy!!  I love writing and I love sharing my opinion … so I’m sure you can imagine when there are people out there that actually take the time to read anything I post, it adds so much to my hobby I can hardly put it into words.  Thank you again to all those that have stuck with me since 2007 (jeez…) and those that only pass by once in a while, or to those new readers who may like something I’ve wrote.  You’re all valued and appreciated and I hope sincerely you stop by often.  I will continue to post reviews and opinions and look forward to your comments, likes and general interest.

Thanks again.

Craig.

Off topic: Garbage record store day


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Yesterday (April 19th) marked the annual Record Store Day event where across the globe traditional record stores sell limited edition vinyl releases, often limited to a short supply to an army of hardcore fans.  My favourite band, Garbage marked this day by collaborating with singer Brody Dalle (below, right) on ‘Girls Talk Shit’ along with their own track, ‘Time Will Destroy Everything’, which has previously only been used as an intro (and outro) track to their recent world tour.  I personally am very eager to get my hands on these tracks but don’t have a record store near me where they will be sold (or er, have a turntable).  So like last year’s release of ‘Because The Night’ with The Screaming Females, I hope we see an I-tunes release in the near future – and maybe a music video?  That’d be cool.

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Frozen


Viewed – 19 April 2014  Pay-per-view

A Disney movie is always an attractive prospect for me … beautiful animation, a classic storyline and lots of fun characters and sing-a-long tunes.  In recent years with the likes of Pixar and Studio Ghibli earning critical acclaim and doing things a little different, it would be easy to forget the blue print created by the house of mouse.

Frozen

This latest offering is based on the ‘The Ice Queen’ by Hans Christian Anderson and tells the story of Elsa, a princess cursed with the ability to control ice, who after an innocent playtime turns to disaster, is forced to live secluded from her sister, Anna and everyone in their kingdom.

This is classic Disney fair, a fantasy world, enchanted creatures, spells, magic and a wintery backdrop – all topped off with a series of loud and brash songs.  Although think more Broadway than other Disney offerings with some of the musical numbers feeling more operatic than usual, and apart from the enjoyable ‘Let It Go’ mostly blur into one.  Thankfully we do get a decent comedy side kick in the shape of talking snowman Olaf, some fun side characters including a comical shop keeper and plenty of action (a giant snow monster!!).  I don’t know but for me it relied a little too much on Disney tradition, offering little new to an old concept.  I was left clueless as to the origins of Elsa’s curse, surprised by a plot development early on that was just glossed over (ahem, it involves the parents) but impressed by the great twist to a message that was getting hammered home a bit too strongly.

The character of Anna (voiced by Kristen Bell) however does lift this out of near mediocrity; all feisty, clumsy and genuinely likeable … and I did feel for Elsa’s plight also.  Yet for Disney this seemed stuck in a past that the likes of Pixar and DreamWorks etc. left behind long ago (for good or bad).  Maybe I’m being a bit harsh, but when a movie makes you feel like you’ve seen it a dozen times before – no matter how well done (and this is well done) – then it’s still doing something wrong.

Verdict:  3 /5

Xbox One – what next?


Xbox One Controller

I have had my XBOX One for a few months now and have been quite happy with it.  Not so happy have I been with all the negative press Microsoft and it’s new machine have been getting.  Firstly I am puzzled by this emphasis on 1080p / 60fps that the PS4 has been touting in many of it’s games.  What really is the big deal?  How many gamers out there play their games on 50 inch televisions?  Because that or close to that size is how you’ll notice much difference from 720p to 1080p … and having sat and played Metal Gear Solid: Ground Zeroes and Titanfall, both games that are running below full HD resolution on the Xbox One … I can confirm that these are ‘superb’ looking titles that more than satisfy me even as a self-confessed graphics whore. 

I like the user interface, have enjoyed the Kinect even if I feel it’s a little under-used (although XBOX record that is awesome, as is pausing Netflix).  The controller is also great and feels great and is a joy to use.  Yet I do get the feeling that Microsoft rushed out their machine in wake of the PS4’s announcement – really, it so looked like that.  This can be confirmed with the wealth of updates to the console to add features that a little longer development time would have put in place from day one.  Yes the machine isn’t as powerful as the Sony platform and that’s unlikely to change even with the recent announcement of DirectX 12 for the machine, which will reportedly aid development, something which developers have struggled with, resulting in games running with slightly less bells & whistles (see above…).

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But what can Microsoft do about this, to win back fans to their console brand who may be looking to the PS4 more favourably?  In a word – games.  This year’s forthcoming E3 promises to have a big show from Microsoft and Xbox, and I really hope there are some big announcements – but what we really need, and quickly is in-game footage of announced exclusives such as Quantum Break, Sunset Overdrive and Halo 5 … come on Microsoft, sell your system by doing what you did with the 360 – throwing down our throats big names, quality games that the public can’t ignore – regardless of what is coming to PS4.  You have the money, you have the ability … just f*****g do it already!

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On a plus there’s games I am looking forward to.  I am open minded about Watch Dogs despite the delays and recent reports of a visual downgrade since the E3 2012 reveal.  It could still be a very involving open world game.  Also I am tempted to pre-order Murdered: Soul Suspect which also looks good, sort of a supernatural spin on L.A. Noir.  The future looks good for XBOX One despite the bad press and there are plenty of things to look forward to … Microsoft just need to start making some wise and clever choices and let the games sell their console rather than the media features.

I’m not saying I won’t get a PS4 some time in the future, but for now in comparison to the Xbox One the games just aren’t grabbing me.  That could all change, so we’ll see what happens.

Carrie


Viewed – 15 April 2014  online rental

It’s difficult to really say what we as movie lovers actually want from a remake.  In my opinion they have usually only worked when the source material is ropey or lacking in the first place, with some exceptions of course.  So now we come to what was possibly one of my most dreaded rehashes.  First mistake – remake a bonafide classic of the genre, Brian De Palma’s 1976 adaptation of Stephen King’s debut novel.  Second mistake – the casting of pretty starlet Chloe Grace Moretz, something I have ranted about here on this very blog.

Carrie

But brushing such fears aside, what is it actually like?  Well let’s back track a little and tell you what we have here.  Moretz plays lonely, bullied high school kid Carrie White, who lives in the shadow of her god-fearing, domineering mother (Julianne Moore) and pretty much tries to go unnoticed … until that is she gets her period in the school showers and becomes a cruel laughing stock to everyone who witnesses it.  But hey, Prom Night is on the horizon, so things can only get better … right?

Let’s just say straight away, I was wrong about Chloe Grace Moretz.  She is actually surprisingly convincing as the outcast Carrie, something I didn’t see coming and hey I’ll admit when I am wrong.  She portrays the iconic role previously played by Sissy Spacek very well indeed, and even seems to have grown somewhat as an actress in the process.  The second slam dunk is Julianne Moore – absolutely perfect as Carrie’s demented bible-quoting mother, and does the impossible by equalling the performance of the excellent Piper Laurie – possibly the true highlight of the original.  The rest of the cast aren’t quite so interesting; we get the token popular girl who grows a conscience, the bully who basically is like every other bitch in such movies, and the do-gooder gym teacher … all not adding much.  Director Kimberly Pierce however is clearly well-traversed in De Palma’s movie and this is basically a very close never-really-daring-to-try-anything-new sort of remake – although when the original pretty much hit all the right notes, that can be (mostly) forgiven.

Some bits are drawn out (the car sequence…), there’s too much CGI and the final prom bit fails to go for the jugular … oh and sorry Chloe you don’t look scary covered in blood.  Overall though this is a hell of a lot better than I could have expected.  Recommended.

Verdict:  3.5 /5