Thursday, 21 December 2017

Atomic Blonde

From out of the background of the 1989 fall of the Berlin Wall comes a spy action story that kicks James Bond in the balls and then some. As the powers of East and West grapple with the Wall’s final collapse, an all beaten up Lorraine (Chalize Theron) is telling us, through a London debriefing, exactly how she got every black mark on her body during the past two weeks of her East German spy asset recovery adventures.
So, yes, Theron kicks ass throughout, and demonstrates very vividly how to beat the men conspiring against her (and, I assume, by extension, against all women). I will also add she is not shy of making the most of her physical assets as she proves the point.
Long cut action scenes, shot oh so very well, provide a stark contrast to the chaotic mess being fed to us in every other movie using that headache inducing technique that grew so fashionable. Complicated choreography aside, it is clear Theron herself performed through at least a major part of her stunts; I wouldn’t be surprised if some of the bruises she carries in the movie were real.
With a soundtrack comprised of the best of eighties’ Cold War music (or, at least, music produced in the Western border areas of the iron curtain), Atomic Blonde is delightful from start to finish.
This one is all about Theron from start to finish, which leads me to conclude the world would be at a loss if we do not get more of Theron’s form and quality. 3.5 out of 5 crabs.

Monday, 18 December 2017

The Last Jedi

I am not about to surrender any plot details here, but I will start at the end: following the disappointing remake that was The Force Awakens and the overall mediocre feeling I was left with by Rogue One, The Last Jedi managed one thing very well: cementing the notion I am well and truly over Star Wars. The magic is gone; what’s left are mediocre space fantasy movies filled with special effects and tons of merchandising opportunities.
Obviously, the devil is in the details.
Unlike other movies in the series, which are not much more than a collection of loosely tied action scenes (these used to be imaginative, now they are just one more sample of CGI), The Last Jedi does offer us a palette of  characters that are clearly struggling as they develop. Thus it clearly deviates from the old style of “bad guys did this therefore we need to do that”; things are not clear cut anymore. Further, Last Jedi is dripping with self conscience humour; I suspect these will end up as the movie’s main legacy to the franchise. Oh, and best of all, The Last Jedi is no remake of The Empire Strikes Back, as many (yours truly included) have feared, even if the two share a lack of Death Stars.
Theme wise, The Last Jedi is about leaving the past behind, the extent to which this is done, and the varying ways in which this can get done. That theme goes with the bigger theme of leaving the Lucas era behind in favour of the Disney-ian world of Star Wars.
Whether you consider the latter a positive or not, the above do not change the unavoidable fact The Last Jedi is still a very to-the-formula type film, the product of Superficiality Inc. Yes, we can see many (emphasis on "many") characters struggling, but perhaps the need to create an abundance of merchandising opportunities has left each such struggle as shallow as. There is little in the way of depth or background; they all do X, fail at it, and therefore do Y instead next time around. Sorry, that could work for a computer program, but it is not good enough when telling a human story.
By far the brightest element of The Last Jedi is Mark Hamill, whose performance is better than I have ever seen him produce and generally leaves his character as the best thing to take out of the movie. And, with the risk of spoiling the movie for you, I will mention he can talk.
The Last Jedi felt like a movie that passed by me. I wouldn’t call it boring, but it never touched, moved, or involved me in any way. It was just... Meh.
2.5 out of 5 crabs.

Wednesday, 13 December 2017

Attentat 1942

My review was published at Digitally Downloaded here.
I will note that, as usual, my original text went through much editing. However, this time around the text was toned up rather than toned down. Usually, I have to tame myself so as to write as per gentle Australian etiquette rather than brutal Israelism.

Thursday, 16 November 2017

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.
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 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.
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


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


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.

Saturday, 16 September 2017

Their Finest

Their Finest poses itself as a tale of a woman film script writer in the thick of World War 2 Britain. Not much goes around that does not involve the war effort, and that applies to the film industry, too; it is all about wartime propaganda. Thus our hero (friend of this blog's Gemma Arterton) finds herself in the wrangles of scripting a movie about the heroism of Dunkirk that is meant to not only appeal to British viewers at home, but also encourage Americans to get off their neutral @$$.
I said poses itself, because Their Finest is actually a movie about feminism and women making ends meet for men despite all the trouble men lead them through. It starts when our scriptwriter gets her first job and is explicitly told she will only get a fraction of what the men doing her role will get, because, hey, she's a woman. And it develops further and further. All while, it has to be said, leveraging off on the idea of movies as works of fiction that we accept for real (after all, that is the entire point of propaganda); but if that is the case, then what does it mean about a movie that shows us how valuable women are?
Arterton aside, I quite liked Bill Nighy in the role of the elderly actor who thinks too much of himself but falls so easily to the [positive] manipulations of "our" scriptwriter.
Overall: Fine, light but thoughtful, British entertainment. 3 out of 5 crabs.

Wednesday, 13 September 2017

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2

There really isn't that much for me to say about the second episode of Guardians of the Galaxy; my main take out of the movie is that this is clearly a sequel, and a sequel designed to bring forth more sequels at that. Looks like there will be Guardians of the Galaxy movies produced till well after your grand grand children leave this earth.
Not that there's anything wrong with that, because as far as space adventures go, Volume 2 is a delightful mix of action of the shallow but fun type. Produced at Hollywood blockbuster production values grade, this one is as fun as; or rather, as they say, awesome!
The plot involves Star Lord's (Chris Pratt) encounter with the father he had never known (Kurt Russell), but it is actually more about the personal interactions between the Guardians' crew. To put it simply, they find things about one another.
If there are any surprises, these involve Pratt's brick like acting. Which is a surprise, given he was fully able to act in previous movies of his, and given others (say, Zoe Saldana) show no signs of similar infliction. On a personal note, I will add I quite like having the character of Nebula back; I think she is, by far, my series' favourite.
Overall: Shallow as, but what's wrong with having some fun between all those suns? 3.5 out of 5 crabs.
P.S. The soundtrack isn't half as good as the first episode's. So white bread music it's not even funny.

Monday, 11 September 2017


How often are you able to say, with regards to a movie, something along the lines of "yes, I remember when that happened"? Well, for me, Lion is one such case; I remember when its story broke over the news. That news story was a mesmerising one: an Indian boy adopted by an Australian family from Tasmania as an orphan, now in his twenties, had managed to locate his original family in India and reunite with them. And this time, it's personal; as in, it was not a Hollywood made plot.
The movie version of the tale is a story of two halves. The first tells the story of the young child that, for one reason or another, boards a train that sees him crossing to India's other side. He has no idea where he is and he doesn't even speak the local language. He does, however, manage to escape the doom of child molestation and ends up at an orphanage that, eventually, sees him adopted by an Aussie family (Nicole Kidman and David Wenham).
More than fifty minutes into the film we cross to its second half. The boy, now an Aussie through and through and a Melbourne university student, is coming to grips with the fact he actually had a family in India. I do wonder why Dev Patel was cast for the job, given the lack of shortage of Aussies of Indian origins. Anyway, supported by friends, including his girlfriend (Rooney Mara), he embarks on the seemingly impossible task of locating his original family using the tidbits of memories still in his head and the internet's mapping services.
On the upside, we do know this story has a happy ending. On the other, I cannot claim the movie has much more to offer beyond its authentic uplifting story. In all other ways, it follows the traditional extortion based film techniques that similar dramas have deployed for decades. I will also argue the film is significantly longer than it should have been, especially that second half.
Overall: Lion offers interesting insight into India. Most of all, it's got an ace of a story to tell. I’ll be a bit harsh, though, given this imperfect movie’s ample uplift-ifcation, and give it 3 out of 5 crabs.

Saturday, 9 September 2017

The Revenant

I will admit to being late to The Revenant's party, but I will also admit it's a party well worth admitting to. The story of a guy called Glass (Leonardo DiCaprio) out there in the wilds of the Wild West (before it even turned it to be The Wild West), surviving a bear attack to avenge the person who betrayed him, is a simple story by today's standards. It's just that this movie tells it well.
Complexity is added to this tale through weaving in the matter of Native Americans' relationships with the Europeans that were exterminating them. It also has to be said that while Glass was a real person, this - The Revenant movie - is a fictionalised version of his original tale. Through the passage of time and its unreliable sources, our story is bound to be almost as fictional as the Bible's.
Ultimately, The Revenant feels like a long David Attenborough like expansive, two and a half hour long, opus on humans vs nature. I particularly liked friend of this blog Tom Hardy's performance, this time in the role of the baddie.
Overall: 4 out of 5 crabs.

Thursday, 7 September 2017

Toni Erdmann

If I told you Toni Erdmann is a two and half hours long human drama featuring no music soundtrack, plenty of long cuts, and a handheld camera throughout you would probably think this one's a nightmare. I am here to tell you it's not; it is, actually, a movie that, for a change, does break the paradigm of movie making.
Story wise, we follow a mature German father who wishes to get close to his daughter, now a high flying executive working in Romania through a high flying company that's there to make a killing by, amongst others, depriving Romanians off their jobs. In order to get through to his daughter, the father creates the identity of this Toni Erdmann who is "there as a consultant".
The whole process exposes the humanity of the situation in a manner that is best left for you to explore by watching the movie. For our purposes here, I will state this is straight in your face cinema that goes for authenticity rather than the manufactured artificiality of Hollywood. And hooray for that!
Overall: Not the easiest movie to watch, but one to learn from. 4 out of 5 crabs.

Tuesday, 5 September 2017

Dataclysm by Christian Rudder

From the guy that gave the world OK Cupid and is acting as the online service's chief statistician comes Dataclysm, a book (or rather, in my case, an audiobook) that is all about number crunching. That is to say, the author analyses the big data available to him through OK Cupid and comes up with some interesting conclusions; he then looks further afield, towards compatriots such as Facebook, Twitter and Google; and from all of that he conjures tons of insight about this world we live in.
Thus we get to look at racial relationships in the USA, and the numbers are rather scary. I will put it this way, I could have never imagines the situation in the Land of the Free to be as bad as it is, but - what can I do? - the numbers don't lie. Similarly, Dataclysm examines LGBT related affairs, along the way concluding rather conclusively that 5% of the population is gay and then looks at how certain parts keep it a secret while others are open - what does this say about our society?
The theme goes on. Men vs. women, urban vs. rural: whatever the case at hand happens to be, the lines on our made-up map disappear and instead the "real" maps come up. National borders don't mean a thing in big data number crunching.
Dataclysm is thus a good read, an eye opener that calls a spade a spade for better and worse. As an audiobook, it suffers more than a bit given the large number of graphs that have to be read aloud to the reader, but it is always manageable.
At the end of it all, Rudder does complain - in an exercise of self irony - about us progressing towards a society where people and entire populations are reduced to single numbers. In doing so, he also sounds the alarm on privacy, noting he himself stays away from social media: perhaps, Rudder asks, by the time we realise what is happening to our privacy in this world of Googles and Facebooks, big data will crunch it all and there won't be any possibility for privacy left (because machines would have already analysed all that is there to analyse about us).
Quite up to date in a field where every week brings us fresher grounds, Dataclysm is well worth reading. I will emphasise the word "reading", because I believe such a book of numbers would be better served in book form than audiobook. Still, I will reduce the audiobook to a single figure of 3.5 out of 5 crabs.
Further reading:
If you seek a counter view, try David Brin's The Transparent Society; as you can tell, I had found it to be out of date and grossly naive with its core view that surveillance is fine because we could surveil the surveillers.
For what I consider a much more realistic view of the world we live in, I would point you at this article entitle You Are the Product. I would also point you at my own post, here.

Thursday, 31 August 2017

Ken Follett's The Pillars of the Earth

The review was published at Digitally Downloaded here.
I will add a personal note noting the published version misses on a couple of paragraphs I had originally submitted. I think the result is a dryer, too laconic, review that lacks some necessary air.
Which goes to show there are sacrifices to be made when submitting oneself to the mercies of an editor. I am surprised how annoying I'm finding it, but I'm sure I'll get over it just the same.

Friday, 25 August 2017

The Gulf by Anna Sprgo-Ryan

"I think this is a song of hope", said Robert Plant as the band Led Zeppelin started playing Stairway to Heaven on that historical night of theirs at New York's Madison Square Garden. That performance has been recorded for prosperity under the live album The Songs Remains the Same.
The reason why I am mentioning all of the above here is that I think The Gulf, with all the social issues it is documenting and all the sadness in it, is a book of hope.
Told through the eyes of 16 year old Skye, Anna Spargo-Ryan's second book (after The Paper House) takes place at South Australia. Skye lives at a rental apartment in Adelaide together with her single mother and 10 year old brother Ben (I'm pretty sure Ben Ten had a factor in this); her father had long disappeared. Clearly, they are not among the financially better off, and clearly her mother does not enjoy her position in the world.
Two things happen to break the idyll. First, the mother brings Jason home, a guy she met at a Big W queue and quickly develops a relationship with. And second, the family is thrown out of their apartment when its owner sells it. The solution to the family's immediate problem? Move over to Jason's rundown house at the remote rural town of Port Flinders.
Let us just say that things don't go too smoothly with this move and all.
The Gulf is an ode to all those people on the other side of the social divide, the people we generally tend not to devote much thought to. These are the people who live in rural Australia, for whom opportunities are much harder to come by (I will add that the setting receives similar treatment in Australian Rules, a movie that depicts the emptiness of life in rural Australia; that film deals with white to aboriginal relationships, though). These are also Australia's rental class people, the people for whom owning a house they could call home in Australia is no longer an option. It is about single mothers, whom the social welfare system in Australia discriminates against (with the Liberal government doing its best to make life even harder); they are often trapped in a vicious circle between being able to work and being able to afford care for their children. It is about sexual abuse. It is about gender discrimination and the fact that most women still live in a world that has them exposed to predatory males. And it is about the victims of bullying.
Even if you, dear reader, are at a privileged position where none of the above classifications are relevant to you, Spargo-Ryan will politely point out that is ever so easy to find yourself there; not that much needs to happen, really.
As with Spargo-Ryan's previous book, the beauty here is in the level of detail that renders the experience so vivid. It made Ben, to name but one example, one of my all time favourite fictional characters; I could see so much of his naive intellect in children that I know in real life. There is beauty and impact in that level of detail, and what starts feeling like a teenager's diary turns into a book that read, to me, like a thriller. It is not that often that a book was able to put me so clearly inside a teenager's mind, let alone a female teenager.
At the personal level, I happened to be reading this book while listening to the music of Phillip Glass. I have grown to associate that minimalist classical music inseparable to this book, with its dramatic ups and downs providing the perfect soundtrack to The Gulf. I know this is pure coincidence, but it did contribute a lot to my enjoyment from both book and music. To which I will also add that the very fact The Gulf lends itself so well to Glass' superb music is further testimony to its qualities.
Overall: Brimming with authenticity, I qualify The Gulf as a true work of art, a book that captures a significant portion of the Australian experience oh so very well. 4.5 out of 5 crabs (and yes, the book does feature crabs!).

Friday, 11 August 2017

Train to Busan

First, let me praise Train to Busan for being an ambitious shoot, not doubt about it. Given it is a Korean film, and not a product of the Hollywood factory, that is well worth noting. There is more to it, though.
This horror movie tells of an infection that spreads throughout Korea and turns people into vampire like zombies (exact definitions aside, you get the point; if one seeks to live, one should avoid these living dead). Salvation lies at Busan, hence the heroes of this movie take a fast train (that is, the exact opposite of a Melbourne train) from the capital Seoul towards salvation. But will they make it?
On course are very blatant statements on what's important in life and who it is that ruins things for the rest / all of us. I'll put it this way, Donald Trump will not like this movie.
I will also note Busan is at Korea’s southern tip. Heading to its safety from Seoul probably holds more meaning to Korean viewers than it does for me, especially given tensions between north and south.
Overall: Look, we've seen many such movies already; the main novelty lies with the Korean nature of this movie and the glimpse it gives us at Korean culture. For now, though, I will settle with a score of 3 out of 5 crabs.

Wednesday, 9 August 2017

Hacksaw Ridge

I will admit it, I used to love Mel Gibson, both as actor and director. I mean, Mad Max. As for Braveheart, even though I see the nasty streak it carries, I still think it's a classic. But clearly, not everything (or, in this case, everybody) ages like good wine, and Gibson's Hacksaw Ridge is a fine example.
Story wise, this WW2 war movie is based on the authentic tale of an American pacifist who still wanted to join the war effort despite his religious based inclinations of no harm; his solution was to serve as medic. And good on him, he was obviously a hero through and through IRL. The problem is not the character or its story, the problem is Gibson.
Director Gibson will not skip an opportunity to shove us his views on religion, and by extension sex. Gibson is not shy in portraying the Japanese as nothing more than a prop that's there to serve for nothing but die at American hands (often literally). And Gibson likes his blood.
If you seek yourself some right wing religious propaganda that is lacking any shred of subtlety, look no further than Hacksaw Ridge.
Overall: 2 out of 5 crabs.

Monday, 7 August 2017

Manhattan Night

Film noir is a well established genre that doesn't seem to be getting much of a break these past few decades. Nor does it get that break off Manhattan Night, a modern day film noir attempt about an endangered newspaper journalist (Adrien Brody) whose life destabilises when he stumbles upon a femme fatale.
It is the latter than attracted me to this film in the form of Yvonne Strahovski, an actress I will always remember as Mass Effect's Miranda as well as Chuck's kickass agent Sarah Walker. Alas, both movie and Strahovski are hampered a rather poor plot.
Overall: 2.5 out of 5 crabs.

Saturday, 5 August 2017

The Keeping Room

The Keeping Room is, to put it bluntly, a movie about women trying to get by in an environment plagued by predatory males. It does what it does to deliver its point, as in, it sets itself during the American civil war and tells the story of three southerner women (two white, one black) as they try to survive in an environment now deprived of all its men (because the latter went to wage war).
They get along, more or less. That is, until the men from the north start making their way towards their area as they are winning the war.
When push comes to shove, racial lines blur and the black woman almost becomes an equal. But gender lines do not blur, and the only way our women can make it out alive is if they turn into men.
Overall: Not the best drama ever, but it certainly delivers on its core point. 3 out of 5 crabs.

Thursday, 3 August 2017

The Love Witch

A deliberately eccentric, deliberately B movie style in acting and looks, deliberately made to look like it is set in the seventies but clearly not. The Love Witch is a colorful examination of male to female relationships as viewed from the female side, for a change (and what a novelty this is for American cinema!).
Story wise, this fantastic tale of witchcraft involves a love witch that cannot get men (in all the senses that apply to that verb). They either fail her when she loves them or fail when her love is too strong. What could a woman do?
Overall: 3 out of 5 crabs.

Tuesday, 1 August 2017

The Paper House by Anna Spargo-Ryan

It should be fairly obvious to anyone who knows me that books such as The Paper House are not yours truly's run of the mill material. For a start, it is fiction; and further, it is not science fiction, which happens to be my main route down the dark alley of non-non-fiction.
So, why Paper House? It's because I know the author, Anna Spargo-Ryan, from Twitter. And it's because she happens to be a fellow resident of Melbourne. And, as it happens (not that I knew it in advance), The Paper House is as Melbourne a book as a book can be. But just in case you are still worried, I will add that Spargo-Ryan is alright: she's a gamer, and she even got the Switch the day it came out just so she could play Breath of the Wild. Case closed.
The Paper House's hero is the classic anti hero. A modern day Melbourne woman, happily married, is expecting a child. So much so that our family of two moves out of the lively inner city to the quiet outer suburbs, where they can afford a home fit for a family. Life takes the odd turn, though, and our hero goes through the stillbirth of her child pretty close to the end of its due term. Not surprisingly, she is devastated by the experience; however, her particular case seems to carry that devastation an extra notch or two.
At which point our book's mechanics kick into action. For every chapter on the latest in the story of the hero coming to terms with her loss, we have a shorter chapter from her childhood. Together, the tales of past and present converge to portray the image of a dysfunctional family haunted by a severe case of mental illness in their midst. As you can imagine, the chemistry of past and present tale builds up as the book goes.
The beauty of The Paper House lies in not that much happening, story wise, while still filling a book up. Credit goes to Spargo-Ryan for rich language and tons of little details that do an excellent job in the suspension of disbelief department. To give but one example, the hero's accounting of hospital parking costs stroke a chord with this reader. I would argue that the ability to create so much depth with so little is testimony of great writing.
Overall: I would say The Paper House proved an excellent break from my usual reading material, one that was both enjoyable and educational. If you seek a Melbourne centred book and do not mind a couple of hundred pages filled with sadness, do give this book and this author a go. 4 out of 5 crabs from me.

Saturday, 29 July 2017

Top Crab #11

Yes, I know, and I am well ashamed of the fact this blog has not been properly maintained lately. I still take notes on the movies and books I would like to review here, for the simple fact I consider taking such notes an integral part of the experience they offer; the problem is, editing those notes into a publishable post that wouldn’t put my editorial standards into too much shame takes time. And time is by far the my precious resource.
That, however, does not mean I can not or should not summarise the year that was and point at my crabbiest favourites for the 11th time in this blog’s 11th years of existence. So here goes:

Best movie:
As has been noted in previous years, genuinely good movies are hard to come by. It’s not that they do not exist; I think their rarity in my life is a result of three factors:
1. I do not have as much time for movies as I used to have. Watching good movies comes as a result of experimenting with materials, often wasting one’s time on many duds on the way to that shining star. Alas, I can rarely afford such luxuries anymore.
2. A lot of my movie watching time is consumed by “must watch” events, like the latest Star Wars flick. While these might be must watch movies due to the marketing hype, these movies also tend to be rather ordinary.
3. I will also admit that I often seek out the ordinary Hollywood production line type of a film just so I can vege out of this world’s troubles. These specimen do the job in that particular department, but at the same time it also means I did not make good use of my time given my life’s goal of expanding my horizons.
With these caveats in mind, I will point out to the movie I probably liked the most this year, The Nice Guys. I liked it for several reasons: it is a well made movie with fine actors, including some personal favourites; it is a pretty entertaining movie; it is a smart movie in the sense that it is a allegory about film making inside of a film that is inside of the film; and it follows on another great movie that often does not receives the acknowledgements that it is due for, Kiss Kiss Bang Bang.

Best book:
Two books have dominated my reading this year, both coming from the Israeli philosopher (at least in that old Greek sense of the word) Yuval Noah Harari. The first is a few years old, Sapiens, and discusses the history of humans and what makes us special. The second, the newly published Homo Deus, attempts to look at the future of humanity through the lens of history. That is to say, given where we came from and what we have achieved, have a guess at where we will be going. Agree or disagree with Harari’s analysis, both books are great triggers for many a follow up thought, and thus both books are my winners for this year. My clear winners.
Homo Deus is a particular achievement in the field of raising thoughts. Harari agrees that prophecy is for the foolish and does not expect his to turn out right. The point, however, is that in looking backwards in order to look forwards he manages to provide a thorough, or as thorough as they come, multidisciplinary analysis of the future. And doing so is such a readable, pleasurable, form is the best achievement in writing that I managed to bump into this year.

Best music:
With Bowie getting the nod last year, it seems like I’m on a trend of acknowledging recently deceased artists with an illustrious career behind them. But hey.
So this year’s recently deceased musician to leave the scene with a bang is Leonard Cohen, and he did so with a great album - You Want It Darker. An album that feels as if he knew he was bidding this world goodbye.

What is probably worth noting is that, unlike Bowie, I was never a big Leonard Cohen fan. It was his previous album from 2014, Popular Problems, that captivated me in Cohen’s name for the very first time. A feat I attribute to lyrics such as
I always liked it slow
I never liked it fast
You want to get there soon
I want to get there last
With those words, Cohen has summarised my main take from the experience of parenthood.

Best TV:
As much as the role of movies is declining in my life, the role of quality TV is on the rise. Artistic movies might be on the decline due to commercialisation, but at the same time artistic TV seems on the rise through the power of the Internet.
With that in mind, I would like to offer you my two winners for the year.
First is yet another Scandinavian small screen adaptation, Kenneth Branagh’s adaptation of Wallander (which has been running on and off for many years now, but this year reached its satisfying conclusion). Not only does Wallander supply good criminal detective stories set in an alluring Sweden (though, weirdly, an English speaking Sweden), it also did so while involving the viewer in the existential debates that Detective Wallander has to grapple with through his work/life balance. Although extreme, these thoughts probably plague all thinking humans as they grow older, and as such are worth proper examination. As well as celebration.
The second TV series I would like to commend is not half as good on philosophical grounds, but it is still a breakthrough. The Expanse is a science fiction TV series about a future when humankind grew to populate the solar system (but is at the earlier stages of doing so). It is also probably the first properly made (production values wise) hardcore science fiction of the Asimov grade I ever had the pleasure of bumping into, visually. If, like me, you are a fan of classic science fiction, I warmly urge you towards The Expanse’s direction.

Best video games:
If there is one area I feel I had made substantial progress in and which has made substantial progress into my life this year, that would be the area of video gaming. The bulk of this progress can be attributed to a single website, Digitally Downloaded, and most of the credit for this progress should go to one person, the editor of Digitally Downloaded, Matt Sainsbury. [Also worth noting is the fact I never met Matt Sainsbury in person. All of our interactions have been Internet based, which - as far as I am concerned - is all the evidence I need for the Internet’s virtual world being an integral part of what we normally refer to as IRL - In Real Life.]
To put it into a single paragraph, I started this year dismayed with the world of video gaming being limited to sequel upon sequel of trashy games that contribute nothing to humanity’s perceptions of this world (at least through the eyes of yours truly). Along came Digitally Downloaded, a website that looks at games as works of art, and achieved two things. First, it demonstrated to me that I am not the only one who seeks an expansion to one’s horizons through video games, which I consider the cutting edge of modern day art. And second, it pointed me towards this whole galaxy of games that tend to slip under the radar of big marketing, games that are designed for people like me and are often made by people like me. Lo and behold, with one fell swoop I found myself living in a great universe!
With that long introduction in mind, I would like to share with you the biggest games in my life this past year. Not surprisingly, these are both games played for mobile platforms, because one does not have much time to sit in front of one’s TV or computer nowadays; gaming happens in between other, mandatory parts of lie, but it is the gaming which often makes those other parts of life worth living through.
As far as gaming hours are concerned, Fire Emblem has robbed the bulk of my gaming time off me. First through its very charming mobile incarnation of Fire Emblem Heroes on my iPad, but foremost through Fire Emblem Fates on the Nintendo 3DS. Narrative wise, I consider the latter one of the best if not the best crafted games ever: the tale of two symmetric royal families duelling with one another, one seemingly good while the other seemingly evil, provides a much to learn from analogy to all earthly conflict. Split into three different games, allowing you to take the “good”, “bad” or “neutral” sides, you quickly learn that things are not what they seem; that, for example, the bad isn’t made of evil people but rather of people just like you, and the good isn’t made entirely of infallible people. If I have to choose one of the three, I would urge you to go for Conquest, the hardest (but never too hard, really) of the three episodes and - more importantly - the one where you take the "baddie" side.
There is much, much, more to say about the game. Instead of repeating others’ words, though, I will point you at this interesting analysis of Fates.
My second gaming pick of the year is a more personal affair. Human Resource Machine on mobile is a game that is not a game in the classic entertainment sense of the word; it has you performing Assembly level programming on a CPU (but does it under the pretence of a company HR department). I don’t know about you, but in my youth I did plenty such Assembler programming on my then computer; I even wrote my own compiler.
Much water went down the river since, with much mud and sewer, too. Looking back at those days of glorious programming, I cannot avoid thinking of all the things I could have become if I pushed onwards with my then passion. I cannot avoid the feeling of missed opportunities. I cannot escape the conclusion that, in more than one way, through this and then that, I have wasted my life instead of answering its true calling.
And if that’s not an awesome return on investment for a game that cost me a dollar (I bought it when it was on discount), I don’t know what is.

Friday, 28 July 2017

Despicable Me 3

The first Despicable Me movie had something original up its sleeve: it was genuinely original to have a baddie as the star of a kids' movie. Then came Despicable Me 2, and its solution to the originality problem was to have our baddie team up with a female partner in order to form the old style ideal family (because Hollywood is conservative as, and a single parent family shall not be tolerated). For the third movie in the series our studio chose to switch the focus to the Minions, creating a mediocre movie in the process, but hey, Minions!
By the time they have reached the fourth episode, Despicable Me 3, our studio clearly ran out of ideas. The best they could come up with was a twin brother.
So yes, no, Despicable Me 3 really has nothing new to offer us viewers. Sure, kids will like it still, but seriously, don't you think our children deserve better?
Overall: 2 out of 5 crabs for a franchise that should take a look what happened to Shrek and know when to quit.

Wednesday, 26 July 2017

The Great Wall

Having previously reviewed Ghost in the Shell, I thought I should continue the trend of Far Eastern stories starring very white Class A Hollywood stars with The Great Wall. There is a big difference between the two movies, though: while one is an uninvolving style over everything affair, the other is a pretty entertaining action movie.
To clarify, The Great Wall is a fantasy movie taking place at or around of the ancient Chinese wall under some sort of a very Dynasty Warriors like setting. Matt Damon is a European soldier of fortune accompanied by other Europeans on a crusade to acquire "black powder" and thus gain unthinkable wealth and the right for a first go at every brothel (I didn't make this up, the movie did). After being chased off by robbers he stumbles at night on a monster, and later makes his way to said Great Wall where he's taken captive.
As it turns out, the wall's purpose is to fend off China from the attack of this huge flock of monsters Damon's character had already encountered. Protecting China is a very colorful, numerous and impeccably organised army determined to protect the mainland (and by extension, the world entire) from these impeding monsters. How will the soldier of fortune fare with this ideology driven army? And how will the two sides deal with the dragons about to attack their dungeon?
So yes, much action follows in what turns out to be a very The Last Samurai version of House of Flying Daggers. The Great Wall is a very visually striking film, and clearly no money has been spared on accessories and such - it looks like the crew from Lord of the Rings was allowed to have another go here (though I have no idea whether these were actually the same folk at work here).
One last thing before closing off. China is represented here mostly through a young female general (Jing Tian). As much as the film seems crying for it, we never end up in a relationship between her and Damon's character; not even a kiss. Which, in my opinion, benefits affairs greatly. It also enhances the analogy between the movie's Europeans coming to exploit China for what it has and the real life situation of "our" approach to China.
Overall: Ultimately, this is not much more than a good looking action movie. But it does offer more than most, and that heavy touch of Chinese myth spicing works wonders. 3.5 out of 5 crabs.

Monday, 24 July 2017

Ghost in the Shell

Lowdown: The adventures of the first robot endowed with a human brain.
Back in the late nineties I watched a Japanese anime that offered breakthrough ideas on the integration of human and machine. Frankly, I do not remember much from that anime or the manga series it was based on. I do know, however, that when a new Ghost in the Shell was announced, a live action version starring Scarlett Johansson, there was much protesting on how such an iconic Japanese concept was brutalised to the alter of Hollywood stardom. And frankly, I concurred.
I was, still, curious, and I gave this new movie a go. After all, it hits all the right buttons, genre wise: a futuristic tale of a person endowed with machine enhancements that push the envelop further. As I said, I do not remember much of the original; in this movie, this new revolutionarily enhanced human is used as a crime fighting weapon to fight a mysterious adversary that is attacking the scientists of the very same weapons company it (she?) came from.
Clearly, the idea has merit. However, it is failed by the execution department. Ghost in the Shell is set in a very Blade Runner like world, with some of The Fifth Element flavour. Only that unlike Blade Runner this one feels more like a “haven’t we’ve seen this way too many times before” affair, thus raising the question on the lack of originality.
Similarly, Ghost in the Shell seems to be all about the choreography of the shot. Everything has to look like it came off peak Matrix. OK, I can live with that, but the problem is that this visual factor comes at the expense of substance: things like character development or a good plot. The result? An uninvolving affair; I could hardly relate to any of the characters, this finding myself rather bored with the affair despite the visual richness and the short duration.
I did like seeing Pilou Asbæk, of Borgen fame, in a muscly role. And it was nice to see Juliette Binoche, too, mostly because I was reminded just how good that movie Chocolate was. But other than that? A waste of time.
Overall: It started the wrong way and it continued the wrong way. 2 out of 5 crabs.

Friday, 30 June 2017

Monument Valley 2, 4D Toys, Subdivision Infinity, and Poly Bridge

The collection of mini iOS reviews was published at Digitally Downloaded here.
Since there are some pretty good games in there, I will add that while my reviews were published as per the original text I have written, my scores were all lowered. I would very much like to use my own blog here in order to set the record straight:
  1. Monument Valley 2: 4.5 out of 5 crabs for one of the most beautiful games ever.
  2. 4D Toys: 5 out of 5 crabs for a cutting edge maths education tool.
  3. Subdivision Infinity: 2.5 out of 5 crabs.
  4. Poly Bridge: 5 out of 5 crabs for one of my favourite games [now on mobile].
And just so you don't get the wrong idea, I will also add the score corrections imposed by Digitally Downloaded were in accordance to their scoring policy. So there you go: everyone's happy now.

Thursday, 1 June 2017

Perfect Strangers (Perfetti sconosciuti)

Several middle aged friends meet up, partners included, at the apartment of one of them in order to jointly watch a lunar eclipse over dinner & wine. They’ve known each other since childhood and managed to make their partners feel like they are part of the group; they are so close they hold no secrets from one another. Or do they?
One of the wives, an under-appreciated therapist, suggests they all put their phones on the table. Everything these black boxes receive that night will be there for all to see. The friends go ahead with this; for the result of their joint exercise, please refer to the movie title.
For a film that’s all about dialog at an apartment’s living room, Perfect Strangers is, well, almost perfect. Sure, the case presented in the movie does seem a bit on the extreme side of contrived (I assume being Italian is part and parcel of the plot), but regardless - if ever one needed a reminder that “nothing to hide, nothing to fear” is a meaningless phrase because we all have something to hide, Perfect Strangers offers fine proof through an excellent sample of movie making. Who would have thought a movie demonstrating just how much of us is stored on the black boxes we carry in our back pockets would come out of Italy of all places?
Best scene: The ending, with the members of our group departing, is so brilliant! Not that I can tell you what happens, but it makes a very valid statement about our approach to the bliss of ignorance.
Overall: 4 out of 5 crabs.

Tuesday, 30 May 2017


A Jewish boy from working class New Jersey goes to a Ohio college, partly because of smarts and partly to avoid the Korean War that is killing many of his acquaintances. There he meets a girl with mental problems who introduces him to sex. He does not know how to handle this newly found gift; his mother, on the other hand, knows what's best for her son.
In parallel, our boy confronts the Dean over his absence of conformism: he's an atheist that won't join his fellow Jews at college, won't mingle in general with fellow students, avoids going to the college's obligatory sermons, and instead takes pride in his love of Bertrand Russell. In other words, he and I have a lot in common.
Indignation deals in many themes, but the dominant one is to do with the price society demands of us when we do not conform: our lives, be it in the physical or spiritual sense.
Overall: While trying to tell the good tale, it felt to me like Indignation is rather lacking in focus. It might have worked well as a Philip Roth book, but as a movie it too compromised. 3 out of 5 crabs.

Thursday, 18 May 2017

No Stick Shooter

Published at Digitally Downloaded.
On a completely unrelated note, I will add that by my reckoning this blog's queue is more than twenty reviews long at the moment. The management would like to apologise for these delays.

Wednesday, 26 April 2017


Published at Digitally Downloaded.
I will add here that I thoroughly enjoyed this game as well as reviewing it.

Tuesday, 18 April 2017

Crimson Peak

A highly stylised, high production value horror movie featuring A class stars that tries to make a bold statement on the maddening nature of love through a tale of horror and ghosts. When you pill the visual layers off, however, what you are left with is... nothing special.
Overall: 2.5 out of 5 crabs for this Guillermo del Toro film starring Aussie Mia Wasikowska, alongside some bloody foreigners such as Jessica Chastain (some would say Chastain is reprising her Zero Dark Thirty role) and Tom Hiddleston.

Monday, 17 April 2017

Sword of Destiny

Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon was an instant classic, one of the rare few movies that did change my perception of what movies can be. Naturally, I was curios when I learnt Netflix has a sequel in its archives, Sword of Destiny. Even if Ang Lee was no longer directing and Chow Yun-fat no longer starring, it was still of much interest; besides, Michelle Yeoh is still around.
One thing that’s immediately clear is that Sword of Destiny is no Hidden Dragon. For a start, it capitulates in the form of speaking English. Yeoh is at its centre, with the theme of missed love repeating itself in a story of her character’s other love (the one that turned out to be second to her love of Yun-fat’s character). So yes, we are talking classic sequel material here.
There is less of that poetic sense to the movie and quite a lot of the fighting that, by now and to these eyes, does not seem as majestic as is did more than 15 years ago. I would say the movie overall does not look as good as the original, too.
Overall: “Not as good” is the key theme here, I guess. Sword of Destiny isn’t a bad movie at all, but it is simply not as good, begging the question - why bother in the first place? 3 out of 5 crabs material that occasionally reaches higher grades.

Friday, 14 April 2017

The Handmaiden

We’ve seen stories about double crossings, quadruple crossings and what not many times before. The Handmaiden stands out in crowd because its tale is heavily erotic, seeming to pit the woman against the men. And it is also a Korean production!
Affairs involve a Korean handmaiden looking after her Japanese master, but actually acting as an insider whose aim is to ensure the elaborate plot to rob her lady master works. Love, however, has a way of derailing even the most detailed of plans.
For a movie about double crossings, I felt like I was being double crossed myself by The Handmaiden. First because the story is told in three parts, each exposing us to more and more of the truth. However, unlike other movie playing this same trick, there does not seem to be a reason for each part to expose us to its certain truths other than pure manipulation; it is not like we are only seeing what a specific character saw, limited by their own perspective. Thus the film quite manipulative.
And second, while there is nothing wrong with erotic movies, The Handmaiden does tend to feel too gray shady trash like to me. Your mileage may vary, but I felt a bit conned.
Overall: Probably worth watching due to its historical context. Also, how often did you watch a Korean movie? 3 out of 5 crabs.

Thursday, 13 April 2017

Always Shine

Two friends, both young and attractive female actors (stars Mackenzie Davis and Caitlin FitzGerald). One’s career is on the rise, with lead roles albeit in movies that mainly call on her to expose her body rather than acting talents. But she has a future and a boyfriend.
The other is struggling to make ends meet, financially, or - for that matter - get any acting role at all. But she feels like she is the real thing, much better than her seemingly successful yet lying fake of a friend.
Yes, when the two head into a retreat together, they will collide. Roles will be switched. And as movies go, yes, there is potential in there for a great movie, but the end result relies too much on the physical attraction of its leads than on anything else. Despite being short, I felt Always Shine is too long.
Overall: Torn by the conflict between an interesting idea and good female leads on one side, and the film’s inability to really get me truly hooked, I will give Always Shine 2.5 out of 5 crabs.

Wednesday, 12 April 2017

Tucker and Dale Vs. Evil

Two good hearted hillbillies, Tucker and Dale, take some time off to renovate a crumbling "vacation home" of their dreams that they bought in the woods. A bunch of well off and stuck up college kids encounter them along the way and, thinking our Dale and Tucker are evil (cos they’re hillbillies), starts attacking them.
One by one our college students die in the process of said attack through freak (and terribly funny) accidents, which only convinces their remaining mates further about the evil nature of their opponents. In the process, we go through the whole checklist of horror movies list of cheap tricks.
But jokes aside, it is the college kids that turn out to be the evil ones as the hillbillies do their best to save the day for everybody.  Tucker and Dale is a comedy, but it did leave me wondering how often did the above happen in real life between nations? Say, the USA knowingly falsifying evidence of WMDs in order to wage war on Iraq?
Overall: While no breakthrough in the art of cinema making, Tucker and Dale Vs. Evil is no average horror movie but rather a lot of fun. 3.5 out of 5 crabs for so benignly raising deep questions.

Tuesday, 11 April 2017

Rogue One

I can argue Star Wars movie aren’t what they used to be, but why would that be any news to you? From the moment those ewoks showed up on Return of the Jedi, that careful web of magic and fantasy woven so beautifully by Star Wars and Empire Strikes Back had started shattering. One by one came the awful prequels, and last year - in an act of desperation - we got a one to one remake of Star Wars that was named The Force Awakens. Entertaining as the latter was, repeat viewing could not hide its numerous compromises; that was not the Star Wars I was looking for.
And now comes Rogue One, straying from the main story to provide us with a more gritty take on the universe from a galaxy far far away. I like the idea, especially the way it clearly indicates that the pure of heart rebels are nothing but pure; in a world where world leaders want us to think in binary terms such as “you’re either with us or against us”, it is good to point the grey out.
Yet, like everything Star Wars since Jedi, Rogue One falls into that classic trap of making a movie that is all about invoking memories of the great previous episodes without doing too much of the new. Or providing a plot that is more into the action/entertainment side than the cerebral side. The result? An hour into this two hour plus affair, we found ourselves asleep.
So yes, that says more about how exhausted we are than how bad Rogue One is, but still, this is a Star Wars movie, god damn it!
The second half is better at the entertainment department, but still… The plot is yet another tale of family intrigue. It tells us of a father forcefully recruited to design the Death Star for our beloved Empire by one Krennic (the ever so excellent Ben Mendelssohn). That reluctant father generates a compromised design, and leaves a trail of crumbs that his daughter (Felicity Jones) can follow in order to acquire the Death Star plans [so that Luke can destroy it in Star Wars].
That’s it pretty much for the plot. Other than Jones’ character, no one receives the treatment they deserve and all is too one dimensional. Every time The Force was mentioned I wanted to bang my head on the wall.
Worst scene:
In order to merge the plot with Star Wars’, Rogue One utilises digital technology to present us with the presence of the Peter Cushing, may he rest in peace, as Tarkin. Only that said technology is far from great and Tarkin looks rather grotesque.
However, as grotesque as he may look, that is nothing compared to the digital portrayal of a young Princess Leia our movie concludes with. That is outright keep you awake with nightmares material.
Overall: Star Wars is now officially a meh rated family soap opera comprised of forgettable episodes of space faring entertainment. 3 out of 5 crabs.
Let the Disney accountants rejoice!

Thursday, 30 March 2017


Passengers is a a classic case of a classic science fiction tale told in three acts. At its core is the basic moral question of where we draw the line between the rights of the individual against the rights of others. Specifically, in the case of Passengers, how far can an individual go when fending for oneself at the expense of others?
That individual is Jim (Chris Pratt), an earthly passenger aboard a space ship taking him plus five thousand others to a new human colony. Through a malfunction, Jim finds himself awoken from hibernation and completely on his own 15 years from the start of the ship’s 120 year long journey; if all goes according to plan, everyone else is still asleep and won't wake till way past Jim's death of old age. On his own, Jim grapples with the dilemma of whether his solitude is worth addressing by messing about with the rest of the still hibernating folk around him. Specifically, Aurora (Jennifer Lawrence), with whom he falls in love.
Clearly, one does not recruit Jennifer Lawrence for a role but then keep her asleep throughout the duration of the movie. Eventually, our Adam and Eve will be called to make personal sacrifices when the pendulum changes and the question is no longer how much should the many sacrifice for the individual but rather how much is it reasonable for the individual to give back to the many.
Clearly, these are questions worth making a movie to promote a discussion on. Problem is, Passengers is an American movie, so things do gravitate towards the cheesy, the promised land at the end of the rainbow type conclusion. In order to get there, Passengers is not afraid to throw in physical impossibilities (despite taking much effort to present a very authentic space travel environment at first). Nor is it afraid to use the superior genes of its stars to titillate the viewer in quite unnecessary ways.
Overall: It’s a shame Passengers’ commercial aspirations had to ruin the great foundations it had built. Then again, that is the story of Hollywood in a nutshell. 3 out of 5 crabs that could have easily been much, much more.

Thursday, 23 March 2017


The three acts tale of a black kid growing up with a druggie mother, turning into a teenager fellow kids bully, turning into an adult is - as can be totally expected - a really disturbing one. Moonlight is a tale of a segregated world in which black people grow under the influence of crime and, despite some good intentions to be found all around, have little in the way of an outlook to look forward to.
If you can tolerate the handheld camera style you will be in for a treat in reality TV like story telling and acting.
Overall: 3 out of 5 crabs.

Tuesday, 21 March 2017

The Girl on the Train

Funny that. If you travel on a Melbounre train, you will hardly see any people outside those waiting to board the train at the various stations. Let alone observe folks’ entire life stories. Yet this is exactly what we get with this American interpretation of the British book, The Girl on the Train.
A woman (Emily Blunt), who - we quickly learn - is a rather disturbed alcoholic - is a regular train traveler who can tell us all about several people she observes daily out of her ride. With two other women entering the story, these observations quickly turn into a murder story. Which, in turn, makes The Girl on the Train into yet another member of the “it's always the one you least suspect” club movie. With, dare I say, not much to add to the genre.
Blunt is good, but the whole skipping between timelines and women is rather heavy handed. I haven’t read the book; it could well be that it does not have much to offer beyond easy to sell cheap thrills. But I doubt this big screen rendition does the book much good.
Overall: 2.5 out of 5 crabs.

Monday, 20 March 2017

The Meaning of Science by Tim Lewens

Once upon a time in another world, I had a book called The Philosophy of Science that I developed a weird relationship with. First time I read it as a young boy, I thought it was bizarre; I was going for the science and ended up reading arguments piled over counter arguments. But with time I realised this made sense, revisited that book several times, and have grown fond of the complicated scene it exposed before me. Explaining what makes science different to other philosophies is no easy feat!
Years went by and that book got lost as I skipped several continents across the world. Then I bumped upon this book called The Meaning of Science, and immediately thought that, hey, here is a great opportunity for me to revive old acquaintances.
Only that this did not turned out to be the case.
The Meaning of Science is split into two parts, each with its own allegedly standalone chapters (I say allegedly because while the book may claim chapters can be read out of order, I did find inter references). The first part aims to establish what science is, philosophically, and the second tries to discuss the implications of that through practical examples.
However, right from the word go, with its discussion on science vs. pseudoscience, The Meaning of Science lost me. I understand philosophy can be a complicated affair, but I could not understand was that first chapter’s message - did it tell me there is a way to tell pseudoscience apart from science or did it argue the two are indistinguishable?
Whichever way the author had intended to be, the whole book is quite poor on the readability department. So much so it made it hard for this reader to tell the chaff from the wheat; or, more importantly, be able to critically assess the examples used by the book.
I admit it entirely possible The Meaning of Science is a book way above my current intellectual capacity. However, even if that is the case, it only proves this is not a book that qualifies as a good dose of popular philosophy to the intermediate reader seeking to learn philosophy the way one learns science from a popular science book.
I therefore award The Meaning of Science 1 out of 5 crabs.

Sunday, 19 March 2017


If you’ve watched one of the other Dan Brown book based movies starring Tom Hanks, The Da Vinci Code and Angels & Demons, you would know exactly what to expect out of Inferno. More of the same of the little these two other movies had to offer, that is.
The plot starts off like your classic JRPG: our hero (Hanks) wakes up suffering from amnesia, but through the occasional flashback comes back to realise what is truly going on around him (an experience uncomfortably stretched across the width of this entirely uninspiring film). In between we are exposed to the occasional improbable action scene taking place at classic historic places in Florence, Venice and Istanbul and featuring much 2c occult bullshit.
It’s good to see Sidse Babett Knudsen, of Borgen fame, again in a supporting role. Yet both her and Hanks deserve so much better!
Overall: A numb time waster if there ever was one. 2 out of 5 crabs.