Posts Tagged Review

Taken 2

20130119-075107.jpgI don’t have a lot to say about this one; it was exactly what I expected and did not disappoint. I’d say it isn’t as dark as the first one, which renders it more of a straight-forward hero fantasy.
In a way, this reminds me of a book series I’ve read, 3rd World Products, which sometimes reads a bit too much as self-aggrandizement by the author. Taken 2, as well as Taken for that matter, likely avoid this by simply feeling more detached from the writer.



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Killing Them Softly

Killing Them SoftlyWhat to say… watching Brad Pitt always seems to be entertaining. James Galdolfini was disappointing, though I blame the writing — his acting was fine.

I couldn’t escape the feeling that this was a very week shadow of Goodfellas. It didn’t help that Ray Liotta was there to remind me of what it could have aspired to be. I guess that’s all I have to say.

Correction, I do have more to say. I walked into the wrong theater at first and didn’t realize it until about 10 minutes after the start time. I don’t think I missed much more than the previews, and at least there were 4 or 5 people in the correct theater as compared to no other people in the wrong theater. (It was showing pre-show commercials the whole time I was there — probably 25 minutes.)

Thus far, and speaking as if I haven’t already seen more movies, this is the worst of the five movies I’ve seen with MoviePass.

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Red Dawn

Red DawnRed Dawn was the first movie I saw simply because I didn’t have to pay an incremental cost for it. I had a spare couple of hours while my daughter was at an event and made use of it to see this movie, despite my particularly low expectations.

To my surprise, I actually enjoyed it. It wasn’t great by any means, but I wasn’t bored or particularly annoyed. It probably helps that I really don’t remember much about the original version.

I find it somewhat interesting how some movies trigger a resistance to my ability to suspend disbelief, and others don’t. I’ve noticed before that if a movie (or TV show) attempts to explain something, and does a poor job at it, I’m likely to be very annoyed. On the other hand, if no real explanation is attempted, it’s much easier to simply accept the premise.

How does that apply to this movie? Well, there’s never really any attempt to explain exactly how or why the precipitous events occurred. Partly, this is because the characters themselves simply don’t know. Mostly, however, I credit the writer and/or director for avoiding any temptation at a narrative explanation.

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Rise of the Guardians

51oUxzZzmBLIt had been some time since we saw a movie as a family, mostly because Brittney had been going through a phase of disdain for American-produced animated movies. Despite this, she was excited to see Rise of the Guardians. Unfortunately, some odd timing led to Marci and McKenzie seeing it at one theater in the morning while Brittney and I saw it a bit later at a different theater.

All of us enjoyed the movie, though it did require a fair amount of glossing over some obvious story problems. The action and suspense are well done and the characters are relatively sympathetic with nice dashes of humor.

I use the Run-Pee app to check if there is any reason to stay after the credits and this movie is one of those where that paid off. Brittney and I were trying to tell people to stay, but the wait was pretty long and most people left. Even Marci and McKenzie missed the bonus scene in their viewing. Nothing really significant happens, but it’s entertaining enough to justify the wait.

After the movie, Brittney declared that she had regained her interest in this type of movie and now she wants to see Wreck-It-Ralph.

This post is part of my series of mini-reviews of movies I’ve seen via MoviePass. This is post is not sponsored in any way and I’m simply using the fact that I’m paying for a MoviePass subscription as extra motivation to write these reviews.

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On the day I signed up for MoviePass, Marci wanted to go see Flight, but I couldn’t bring myself to pay for a movie after having just paid for a subscription (and I wouldn’t be able to use the MoviePass until the card arrived in the mail). She went ahead and saw it that night, so I saw it later on my own.

I find that this is a difficult movie to review, particularly without giving spoilers. I felt like the movie was very well done on most counts, including pacing, acting and visuals. Overall, I enjoyed it, though I felt that the ending was missing just a bit of punch.

Well, that’s certainly a mini review!

This post is part of my series of mini-reviews of movies I’ve seen via MoviePass. This is post is not sponsored in any way and I’m simply using the fact that I’m paying for a MoviePass subscription as extra motivation to write these reviews.

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I recently subscribed to MoviePass, a monthly subscription to unlimited¹ movie theater admissions. For this reason, I’m likely to see more new movies than I used to, which led me to decide to post brief reviews.

I’m arbitrarily restricting this project to movies I see via MoviePass, though I reserve the right to change my mind. (I’m seeing The Hobbit on Saturday without using MoviePass, but assuming I enjoy it, I might see it again with MoviePass.) On with the review!

LincolnMarci and I saw Lincoln about a week ago. I went in without really knowing what the movie was about beyond it’s titular subject. After seeing it, I’ve come to the conclusion that this vagueness is by design. If the title had been “The 13th Amendment” or “The Means Justifies the Ends”, I’m not sure the movie would have had as much appeal.

That’s what it’s about: the struggles, manipulations, lies and extortion that went into getting slavery officially abolished from our fundamental legal document.

It’s not for everyone. I think that enjoyment of the movie is predicated on enjoyment of observing the nitty-gritty ugliness of the political machinery that shapes and reshapes the foundations of our “great experiment”.

I enjoyed every minute.

¹ Actually, there are several limits: only one admission per day, only one admission per movie, ticket must be same-day, you have to be physically at the theater to use the app to enable the purchase, the theater has to accept Discover, 3D and other enhanced viewings aren’t supported

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Cortex Camera

About a month-and-a-half ago, I did something I don’t usually do: I purchased an iPhone camera app for $2.99. I’m certainly no stranger to purchasing apps, but I typically pay little attention to alternative camera apps and I seldom purchase an app — particularly for more than 99¢ — without either a friend’s suggestion or a trial version.

However, something about a mini-review of Cortex Camera convinced me to buy it. What this camera app does is take a quick burst of photos, lasting a few seconds, and then quickly processes those into a single photo. The result is supposed to be a higher quality photo than the built-in camera can provide in lower light settings.

My initial testing was basically positive, but I found it to have fairly limited use. It didn’t support iOS 6’s new low-light functionality, so it really only worked in moderate lighting. In such lighting, Cortex Camera’s results did have more detail and less noise than photos from the built-in camera, but the built-in results were really “good enough”. In true low-light, the built-in camera’s boosted ISO produced much better results. I didn’t delete the app, but wasn’t sure I would be likely to use it.

About a month ago, Cortex Camera received an update with several enhancements. The most notable was support for iOS6’s low-light mode. With this change, the app has become much more useful, as I will now demonstrate.

I took these two photos from the same spot. I had to back up extra so that the trees would block fewer lights, so I zoomed-in when taking both photos, though not by exactly the same amount as you can see. Even in these very-scaled-down versions (click them for full-size), you can see how much smoother the sky is in the Cortex shot.


Built-in iPhone 5 Camera, zoomed


Cortex Cam, 8MP, zoomed

I did the crops below on the iPad and tried to get them to be the same. One disadvantage of using the iPad is that I can’t look at one crop while I do the other. In retrospect, I could have easily used my iPhone to check the other crop (though I would have had to pause The Daily Show). Even then, the sizes would still have been different due to the slightly different zoom of the original images. I do not think these differences have any effect on the obvious quality win of the Cortex versions.


built-in, 100% crop


Cortex Cam, 100% crop


built-in, 100% crop


Cortex Cam, 100% crop

From these crops you can see that the built-in camera produced very muddy results, presumably due to some aggressive noise correction. Also, there is appreciably more motion blur. I’m not certain, but I think that Cortex uses a shorter exposer and then relies on a certain amount of additive combination of the composite photos to increase the effective exposure. In any event, I’m quite please with the results; well worth $3.

In case it isn’t obvious, this technique — and thus, Cortex Camera — isn’t useful for photos of moving objects.

One other point: some of Cortex Camera’s functionality is iPhone 5 only. On older iPhones, I believe it takes a video rather than multiple photos, so the final resolution is a bit lower (though higher than the video resolution). Also, it’s supposed to support 12.5MP on the iPhone 5, but with that enabled, the app consistently crashes for me.

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BK Stuffed Steakhouse

Based on the appeal of a coupon (with a picture), and possibly a TV ad, I decided to try Burger King’s new BK Stuffed Steakhouse for lunch yesterday. I honestly wasn’t expecting much, apart from 600 calories (not counting the onion rings and sauce that I also had – yikes!).

Here’s how Burger King describes it:

When you take a flame-broiled patty, stuff it with jalapeños and cheddar cheese on the inside, top it with spicy poblano sauce, ripe tomato and crisp iceberg lettuce, and put it all inside a toasted, corn-dusted bun … well, you’ve got yourself a fire hazard. What we’re saying is we had to get the fire marshal’s permission to sell this thing.

Here’s how I describe it:


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Roaring Fork

I’m sitting in my car watching Bridget Jones’s Diary on my iPad waiting for the buzz from my last margarita to wear off. I just finished enjoying a nice happy hour at The Roaring Fork.

I’m writing this post to praise the Green Chile Pork Stew, which is, in a word, delightful. Spicy and savory, it is served with flour tortillas and I eat it as fajitas. Yum! Happy Hour price is $6 (normally $10) and a portion fills all six tortillas that are served with it.

As the stew was shared among three people, I also had the Tortilla Soup. I was happy to discover that they serve it by pouring the base of the soup over the chicken, avocado, etc. at the table. The soup was also delicious, though I was a flight of three 2-ounce margaritas in at that point, plus a portion of a full-size one, so my opinion could have been slightly suspect. 🙂 Once I have a slight buzz, I think I tend to really enjoy food.

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Date Night Movie Reviews

Do to some scheduling changes, Marci and I have suddenly ended up with a free night once a week. This week, I suggested we go see a movie and she upped the ante to a double feature. We saw The Blind Side and The Book of Eli.

The Blind Side

I had completely forgotten that Marci saw this while I was in Vegas. I guess she wanted to see it again, so it’s all good. Given how long this has been out, I’m just going to briefly describe what surprised me.

First, I was never able to reconcile Sanda Bullock’s voice in the movie with her voice in my memory. I found this odd, but it didn’t detract from the movie. In fact, it may have allowed me to better separate actress from character.

Second, I thought the actor playing the younger son stole pretty much every scene he was in. I expect there’s nothing original about this thought, but I hadn’t heard anything about him before seeing the movie. As wonderful as Bullock did, I’m surprised this young actor was more lauded for his performance.

Finally, I honestly had expected more drama. The movie was lighter than I exepcted it to be. This isn’t a complaint as I’m perfectly satisfied with what I got, it just wasn’t quite what I had anticipated. All told, it was a very enjoyable movie, and while it doesn’t jump onto my purchase list, I certainly wouldn’t mind seeing it again.

The Book of Eli

While I had seen enough previous to have a vague idea of this movie, I really didn’t have a good grasp of what to expect beyond a kick-ass Denzel Washington in some sort of post-apocolyptic world. With a book. And it was.

I thought the movie got off to a bit of a slow start, though that feeling was enhanced by the fact that I had chosen the movie and wasn’t certain how interested Marci really was. However, once it got moving I was never again bothered by the pacing.

Fair warning, it’s a violent movie, well deserving of its R rating. I don’t want to give anything away, so I’ll just say that I enjoyed the ride of the movie and then the ending stepped things up enough that I definitely want to see this one again. I haven’t decided yet if I want to own it, as I’m not sure I’ll really want more than a second viewing. I suppose the second viewing will be the true test.

Totally Unrelated Aside(with thanks to kapgar for TUA) I want an iPad and I can’t even really articulate why. Hmm, that’s not quite right. I want one because it looks sleek and fast for what it does and a starting price of $500 is low enough to be tempting (despite the fact that I’ll end up with a more expensive model). What I have yet to determine is when and where I would actually use it. It’s not going to be on my person like my iPhone, so I can’t just use it whenever I have a some time to waste. And if I’m lounging at home, I’m more likely to use my laptop so that I can multitask. (I have Aperture and Quicken running most of the time that I’m doing something else.) Oh well, time will tell. By the time the 3G version is available, something else may have… Squirrel!

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