Thursday, 16 November 2017

Ace of Seafood

My review was published by Digitally Downloaded here.

Wednesday, 1 November 2017

Paris Can Wait

An American wife staying at Cannes with her American film producing husband is forced, through ear pain, to separate herself from her husband’s international adventuring. The two agree to meet at Paris the next day.
Thus begins a road trip movie depicting the car journey of said American wife to Paris. Key point being, she is driven by her husband’s French business partner, who happens to be a middle aged French bachelor. And yes, your first guess as to the ensuing sexual tension is correct, and yes, given the casting of Diane Lane as our hero, the whole thing feels a lot like a French Under the Tuscan Sun. Or does it?
The main thing you will notice with Paris Can Wait is the lack of a plot. I’m serious: the movie lets the journey’s sights, art and food do the talking. I’d call this one a comparative cultural tour: on one hand, the American culture the movie assumes we’re familiar with, as represented by a capitalist/consumerist family woman; on the other French culture, represented by a never-married never-had-kids middle aged man. The destination, Paris, alludes to the American fascination with a city that probably stands out as being the most blatant counter evidence to that classic American capitalism oriented state of mind.
Add the false reason for the whole affair to begin with (an ear ache that's miraculously cured using homeopathic ear drops), and you can argue the whole excuse for the journey and thus the movie is a fabrication. Fact of the matter is, this casual car trip is not very practical in real life. Most people would find it unaffordable, and a lot of their time would be spent messing around looking for parking and then getting to their destination by foot. I do wonder how much of the lifestyle demonstrated in the movie is actually accessible to the average French; I simply don't know the answer.
I was lucky enough to have done a very similar road trip. Mine was real, quite expensive, but at the same time, it made me love France, too.
Overall:
I suspect Paris Can Wait will receive a lot of criticism for its narrative's shortcomings. I, on the other hand, quite appreciated the intention of producing a movie that isn't the same as everything else.
3.5 out of 5 crabs.

Monday, 30 October 2017

Wonder Woman

In a world where we have been conditioned to accept that superhero movies are not much more than an episode in a long series of movies spanning endlessly across the years, Wonder Woman is the episode that introduces this particular superhero into the narrative. It does so through a very feminist tale of a women stuck in a world of men in order to defend it. The particular scenario here revolves mainly around World War 1.
At the end, after all the positive build up, we are expected to accept that love is the solution to this world's problems (we are also politely asked to ignore the ‘how’ part). Such ambiguity aside, my problem was mainly to do with Wonder Woman the film taking too long to get to where it wanted to.
I will put it this way: in this age of the digital effects, I am finding it very hard to maintain the high doses of superhero movies pushed our way. Sure, I appreciate the feminism and consider the world of cinema significantly lacking in this department, but at the same time I am clearly suffering from advanced superhero fatigue.
Overall: Sorry, Wonder Woman, but you generally bored me. 2.5 out of 5 crabs.

Friday, 27 October 2017

The Greatest Story Ever Told So Far by Lawrence Krauss

In the Greatest Story Ever Told So Far, physicist Lawrence Krauss wishes to recount the history of particle physics from its very beginning to pretty much today. The clear narrative tool it wishes to use in order to get there is to draw on the analogy with The Greatest Story Ever Told, as in - given Krauss is a famous atheist - point out the shortcomings of a book that assumes everything there is to know has already been identified and cannot be changed, and compare that with the scientific endeavours that always, and by definition, have to reinvent themselves when facing the truth. Unlike that bible,
We cannot understand that hidden world [of particle physics] with intuitions based solely on direct sensation. That is the story I want to tell here.
We might prefer to deny this uncomfortable, inconvenient reality, this impersonal, apparently random universe, but if we view it in another context, all of this need not be depressing. A universe without purpose, which is the way it is as far as I can tell, is far more exciting than one designed just for us because it means that the possibilities of existence are so much more diverse and far ranging. It is perfectly reasonable to claim that religion, in the Western world, may be the mother of science. But as any parent knows, children rarely grow up to be models of their parents.
Thus begins a journey that takes us from the humble beginnings of Newton, Faraday and Maxwell to the Higgs boson and the Large Hadron Collider. As the book's title gives away, there is on ongoing theme here of patting oneself on the back throughout. Krauss is telling us, again and again, that this story of particle physics he is telling us is humanity's greatest intellectual achievement thus far. Which is a fine claim to make, but do allow me to indulge in cultural relativism for a minute and ask if this is truly the case? Or at least, can we genuinely, quantitatively, argue that of all humanity's intellectual achievements, this particular one is the bestest?
Perhaps; I am definitely not qualified to offer an opinion on the matter. Nor do I wholeheartedly subscribe to liberal relativism. I do, however, appreciate humility; and given Krauss himself is a physicist, I am sort of repelled by this exercise of patting oneself at the back that is this book. Sure, much praise is due, but personally I prefer the type of praise that comes from the outside.
Praise such as yours truly's. I am quite a fan of Lawrence Krauss; I have attended live presentations of his, and even had the pleasure of chatting with him in person and the privilege of having our photo taken together (it wasn't a selfie!). So yes, I do praise Krauss for his efforts in helping this great achievement of humanity's and for doing his best to explain it to the laymen.
However... Ultimately, and like many before him, I argue The Greatest Story Ever Told So Far fails in being able to popularise particle physics for the masses. Unless you are much smarter than I am, or able to dedicate much more concentration that I could afford, I would put my money on you losing Krauss somewhere along the way. As hard as he tries, the task of explaining particle physics to a person as ignorant as yours truly proved to be significantly above this particular book. Maybe one day the field will be able to field a Richard  Dawkins grade populiser, but till then I (we) am pretty much where I (we) was before this book came along, at least when it comes to my (our?) understanding of the field.
Overall: I truly appreciate the approach of explaining physics through its history. It creates a narrative and it helps establish the layer upon layer of discoveries. However, as glorious as this book’s ambition may be, it is still a failure.
2 out of 5 crabs.

Wednesday, 25 October 2017

Manchester by the Sea

Manchester by the Sea tells the story of a man who seems to be living life under rather sad circumstances. Catch is, we can’t really tell what these circumstances are. As we go further into the film, we learn about him and his family. Life wasn’t easy on them; their share of the luck of the draw clearly wasn’t the best hand.
In effect, Manchester by the Sea is a journey movie. On one hand, it is its hero who journeys back to where he grew up so that we can learn what had happened while, at the same time, allow us to see how the people around him are coming to grips with the past. On the other hand, it is us viewers that are taken along for a ride as the movie slowly exposes the truth that all participants other than us viewers already know.
Generally speaking, I don’t like being taken for a ride, but Manchester by the Sea does a fine job of painting an interesting tapestry of round characters as it tells its story. So I approve!
I will note Manchester bears more than a passing resemblance to Ernest Hemingway's Islands in the Stream, but I’ll leave that at that; no need for bloopers here. That said, why are all the Boston based movies so depressing?
Overall: Unusually finely constructed movie deserving 4 out of 5 crabs.

Sunday, 22 October 2017

Colossal

Colossal felt like something special right from the start, with the title printed in tiny letters over its opening credits. Turned out I was right.
Colossal is a movie about people with personal problems that, instead of the usual deconstruction of something big into something smaller (e.g., a war into a statement on the relationship between the sexes), deconstructs the personal problems into something much bigger: a Godzilla like monster that reigns havoc over the city of Seoul.
What can I say? Deconstruction of such magnitude works very well through cinema. And it’s also great art, to boot.
Overall:
I can see Colossal getting “meh” grade ratings, but yours truly found it to truly live up to its name. It is an innovative artistic statement, it deals with things we all feel at the personal level, and it uses science fiction to make a point of that. Who could ask for anything more?
4.5 out of 5 crabs.

Thursday, 19 October 2017

Ogre

My review was published in Digitally Downloaded here.
I'm quite proud of this review and of having the opportunity to write it in the first place. As far as the review is concerned, I suspect I will be the only person to review this video game in the world to still own the original board game (and yes, the photos of that original board game you will see in the review are the photos I took of my own set).
The better part were the memories. It reminded me of how my uncle, doing his best to support my learning and development, ordered the board game for me from the USA. It wasn't a trivial affair; there were no credit cards, back then. He had to buy American cash, then post it by snail mail to some catalog company. We played Ogre, and then he bought me a book on Ogre tactics to boot.
I had a great time playing board games with my uncle. For this, and for so much more, I owe him a lot.

Monday, 9 October 2017

FIFA 18

My 4000+ words thesis on FIFA 18 was published at Digitally Downloaded here.
There are several reasons for the review's length "problem". Firstly, unlike most FIFA reviews, this was not an incremental one (of the "what has changed since last year" type). Secondly, there are so many modes and options in this game that a review ignoring some or most would potentially do the game injustice or at least leave its reviewer open to flank attacks along the lines of the "how can you criticise the game when you haven't tried X?"
Thirdly, and most importantly for me, is the fact I have a long history with FIFA. FIFA, my closest friends and I went a long way together, and no matter what I will always hold this video game series in high regard.