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Well done continuation - just like a Star Wars movie is supposed to be
If you like Star Wars, you're going to love this movie. That aside though, if you're looking for a good family movie that appeals to grown-ups and kids alike, but without any cringy silliness, but also (by nature of being a family movie) without overly sophisticated plots, then go enjoy this movie!
The good points (no plot spoilers):
* Good amount of humour - one-liners, funny scenes - without being cheesy or ridiculous.
* Han Solo being Han Solo!
* Great new lead characters that I can see a new trilogy building with.
* Good amount of nostalgia and references to the original trilogy (characters, species in the background), but without being distracting or making it harder on people not so familiar with the original trilogy.
* Good plausible continuity in plot and existing characters.
* Great action scenes, but not dominated by action.
* Fully self-contained movie, but a solid setup for future continued plot development.
* No stupidly goofy character like Jar Jar Binks!
The bad points:
* If you're cynical, you could argue many points and characters are a re-hash of Episode IV.
* No sophisticated plot (if you were looking for that, then this is not the movie you were looking for ;-)
Galapagos 3D (2013)
Solid BBC quality documentary on utterly fascinating islands and their unique animals
The Galapagos Islands and their animals are the stars of this documentary. David Attenborough's narrative gives an easily understandable explanation of how the islands came to be, their lifecycle, the animals that live there, how they got there and evolved, and what is so remarkable about it - their adaptation and evolution. Very interesting to watch, including for children 8 and up.
The shots are very well done, but not as grand and breathtaking as other big scale documentaries with a global scope, but that is largely due to the specialized topic of this mini series. Some of the token shots to just have the aging David Attenborough in the frame felt slightly contrived, but his narrative and delivery of explanations is certainly still up to the task! I watched this in 2D, as I don't like the visual look of 3D, so the "making of" was a bit of a waste, as it focuses a lot on 3D and the difficulties of bringing the big and heavy 3D cameras to hard to reach filming location. A slightly saddening note was also realizing in that last episode how much tourism has (inevitably?) already swamped the Galapagos, especially since the main episodes of the series portrayed an untouched original wilderness.
Hilarious fun for Star Wars fans
If you're a Star Wars fan anywhere from 8 years old to adult, you will love this movie - I was initially skeptical of buying a movie only 22 minutes long, but it crams an incredible amount of humor and detail into it. You will likely watch it at least 3 times to pick up all the funny elements, quick-witted lines, references to the live-action Star Wars movies, and details and jokes in the background.
The animation is very good and fitting for a LEGO Star Wars movie. The storyline is not complex or refined, but that doesn't matter, as the intent and focus is squarely on humor. The humor is best appreciated the more you know the Star Wars movies - most of it is parody, very little is cheap silly humor.
Top quality BBC nature documentary, with amazing camera-work
This mini series is up to the benchmark-setting standard of David Attenborough BBC nature documentaries, even though not narrated by him.
Each episode focuses on the birds of a different continent. The key feature of the documentary series is the bird's-eye view and the life of the birds from their perspective.
The rock-steady close-up camera-work of birds high up in full flight, over fantastic scenery, as well as the bird-mounted cameras, are nothing short of amazing and leaves you wondering how on Earth they did it!
The episodes are narrated by ex-Doctor Who David Tennant with his native Scottish accent. It may take a few minutes to get used to his accent, but like in "Polar Bears", his delivery is refreshing and captivating.
Polar Bears: Spy on the Ice (2011)
Innovative cameras provide intimate insight into the lives and struggles of several polar bears
A very good documentary about the lives and struggles of several families of polar bears through the first year of their cubs. The cinematography, storytelling and pacing is almost up to the standard of a big BBC documentary series. David Tennant provides the narrative in his native Scottish accent, which may be a bit distracting at first.
The "stars" of this documentary are not just the bears, but also the very innovative "spy cameras" that are used to track and film the daily lives of the polar bears up-close. This provides not only a novel perspective, but also some fun moments, as the ever-curious bears initially investigate the remote-controlled cameras until they get used to them. The cameras are camouflaged to look like objects in the natural surroundings, and once the bears ignore them, they go about their business uninhibited. This, and the remarkable picture quality of these mobile cameras, allows for an unprecedented level of closeness.
The pacing is good and given a number of quite funny moments, it should hold the attention of younger viewers as well. Environmental concerns are hinted at, but not pushed like in some other documentaries. True to its title, this is primarily a documentary about polar bears and should be interesting and captivating for anyone with even a slight interest in them.
Action-packed welcome back to the Middle Earth of LOTR
Peter Jackson continues to balance a faithful adaptation of a revered book with the realities of the movie format. The almost 3 hours fly by quickly and it almost feels like the movie needed a slower pace, but I suppose it has to first and foremost "entertain".
The acting is superb and while there are some comical and light-hearted moments, it is never kitschy or childish. I was afraid Bombur was going to turn out to be ridiculously silly, but I was wrong. Gollum is arguably even better than in LOTR and in some scenes surprisingly likable! Martin Freeman is an amazingly convincing hobbit, and Bilbo's relationship with Gandalf is nicely introduced/explained at the beginning.
The New Zealand scenery and sets are as grand and detailed as we are used to from LOTR and the CGI so good that you don't notice it, which in my opinion is the best compliment one could give. The Shire looks wonderful and even more detailed than in LOTR and other locations in both forested and mountainous areas are stunning!
Minor criticisms: 1. The scene with the mountain giants fighting felt a tad unnecessary for the flow of the movie.
2. Some action sequence shots seemed "made for 3D". Note: I watched the 2D version.
3. Only because it was unexpected: This movie is *not* for children, even though the book was intended for children. That will perhaps disappoint the parents of kids who read The Hobbit in anticipation of then watching the movie. I would say the minimum appropriate age for The Hobbit would be 13, but every parent has their own opinions on that.
In summary, an extremely well made, entertaining movie, irrespective of whether or not you've read The Hobbit.
PS: My favorite scenes: * The introduction of the dwarfs - well paced, balanced amount of humor. * The game of riddles - Andy Serkis at his best! * The final scenes concluding the confrontation with the Goblins/Wargs (can't be more specific without spoiling it ;-)
A bit shallow, but not bad. Simple explanations and good graphic illustrations
I have never watched a "Big, Bigger, Biggest" episode, but watched this one specifically because it was about the ISS. The documentary has a good mix of interviews and action shots with some good graphic illustrations thrown in. The "level" (of at least this episode) is aimed at the general population, thus concepts are explained in simple terms, suitable for 12 years and up I would say. For anyone who knows a bit more than the average person about the ISS, this probably doesn't offer anything new. Interestingly though, the scope does not just include the ISS, but every other "space station" that came before it, with the connecting thread being that each successive space station mastered yet another challenge, culminating (so far) in the ultimate space station, the ISS.
The Fast and the Furious (2001)
Shallow movie about hot cars and girls - big problem: they get the "cars" part completely wrong!
OK, I get it, the movie is only to show hot cars and girls, so I won't comment on the thin, improbable and hole-riddled plot. Instead I'm going to list just a few thing that are wrong about the cars in the movie, which I'm guessing was designed for viewers who largely have no clue about cars, maybe because the target audience is slightly too young to drive, i.e. early teens? Well, here goes: 1. NOS seems to be the solution to everything. There is a lot more involved to make a car go fast, yet the shop is full of NOS, NOS, and more NOS parts! Oh, and exhausts, because everyone knows loud exhausts are the 2nd most important thing that makes a car go fast ;-) 2. The car "tops out at 140", let's add some NOS (surprise!) and it'll go faster. If your car tops out at 140, NOS will not help you one bit. Maybe you're running out of gears, maybe the engine should be built for higher revs, but NOS won't change anything about your top speed! 3. The best qualities of the type of cars driven, modern Japanese cars, are cornering and handling. What do they do? They have a drag race on a straight instead - wrong car for this purpose, any average US muscle car will beat the hell out of the Jappa there with less money spent on it (and conversely, a modern Japanese car will leave an average old US muscle car in the dust in an actual race involving lots of corners).
4. Double-clutching ... oh dear, what a complete and utter nonsense! You double-clutch if you have an unsynchronized transmission - very unlikely - and even then only when you down-shift (which you never do in a drag race!) 5. 140mph is fast at the end of a quarter mile, but not that fast in principle, there are *many* European and Japanese cars that have a top speed around that figure or higher, even "family cars".
6. Nitrous oxide doesn't run out after a few seconds (lines in the movie indicate a racer has used his NOS boost "too early").
7. If Vin is serious about drag racing, he wouldn't have a sound system weighing a ton in his car. Note, there's a scene where the geek is explaining how to save 2-3kg of weight on the car they're building later on, so on the other hand they do seem to be interested in saving weight.
8. Towards the end, Vin drives the Charger and does a monstrous wheelie. You don't get that kind of traction/wheelie on anything but big fat racing slicks, yet the car has pretty normal tires on it.
9. While we're at it - the tires are smoking while he does a wheelie?! Wheelie means you have grip. Smoking tires means you don't have grip. Which is it?!? 10. A car like that Charger would definitely have a wheelie bar, especially since a wheelie as big and exaggerated as the one shown in the movie would just cost you time.
11. If you're serious about 1/4 mile times, you're not going to drive a FWD car, but rather a RWD or 4WD car.
12. Surely even the boy-racer scene with Jappa cars finds cheap stickers tacky (no pun intended) and would opt for real airbrush or pin-striping on their prized cars (there is one scene where they put decorative stickers(!) on a car).
13. Why would you rebuild a burnt out Supra?! Apparently their labor is free and restoring the car is done in a leisurely afternoon or something. Oh, and the engine is so special that $15k turns it into a 10s car! These are just off the top of my head, and I'm not even that knowledgeable about cars myself, so I'm sure there's plenty more wrong. The movie doesn't pretend to be anything it isn't, but at least they should have gotten the "car" parts right in what is meant to be a car movie! ...or did I get that wrong and I just watched a very long commercial for NOS (which is a brand name ;-) ?
Clash of the Titans (2010)
Watch the original if you want a story rather than a string of contrived action sequences
I don't mind a remake and try to be open-minded, however, what this remake does is take all the action scenes from the 1981 original, add some more (presumably to squeeze in some 3D effects), and instead drop most of the storyline! What you are left with is a thin contrived plot where the actions of the characters make little sense.
The action scenes and CGI are good, but basically the kind you find in any average blockbuster movie today. There is no innovation, the creatures' looks seem contrived - the riders on the scorpions remind me of the Haradrim of LOTR, and the Kraken's face looks remarkably like a cave troll.
Without spoiling it, the original has intrigues amongst the gods and provides reasons for the actions of the characters (gods, humans and inbetween) - all missing from this remake, which rather concentrates only on the action sequences.
The reasoning of the protagonist makes no sense, as he changes his mind about accepting the gods' gifts when things get tough. The newly introduced love interest makes no sense, their dialog (like most of the lines in the movie) is bland, uninspired & uninspiring, and full of clichés.
The best acting is arguably from Pete Postlethwaite, but he doesn't get to say a lot.
Great Migrations (2010)
Variety with a theme - excellent camera work, great production values
This is an excellent, high quality animal documentary TV mini series. There 7 part series contains 4 actual animal documentary episodes dealing with the challenges arising from their migrations (or being the reason for them in the first place): The episodes titled "Born to Move", "Need to Breed", "Race to Survive", and "Feast or Famine" present these various aspects. Each episode focuses on the stories of a handful of completely different kinds of animals in a variety of locations across the globe - the only thing they have in common is that they all travel great distances in a migratory pattern. This is the clear, cohesive theme throughout the TV series. The remaining 3 episodes are: "Behind the Scenes", "Science of Migrations", and the un-narrated summary/re-hash "Rhythm of Life".
It is suitable for all ages in principle, but it does contain a few cases of predators killing other animals. In particular the crazy ants attacking the red crabs was very sad (esp. since the crazy ants are an introduced pest). Each of the migrations is treated as a story from start to end (or more aptly start of another cycle) in one episode, but the handful of stories per episode are interlaced, so it switches between them.
The camera work and production values are superb - in the same category as Planet Earth. The narrator is not as good though and frequently uses US-style exaggerations and clichéd phrases (very often things are "the greatest in the world", etc.)