Saturday, March 22, 2008

There Will Be Blood

I saw There Will Be Blood on Friday night. I had wanted to see the film for a while but I had been putting off going to see it. It just looked so heavy and I knew that it was a difficult film with a very long running time. Now, a long film doesn't both me but only if it is good. If a film is good then the longer the better. To say that this film is good is a serious understatement. When I got out of the cinema I knew that I liked it but wasn't sure to what extent. It was only when I started thinking about this review that I realised just how good it really is.

I do believe that I have seen a brilliant piece of work. A work of genius perhaps. It had everything from wonderful direction, beautiful cinematography, the amazing score (superb work from Jonny Greenwood), great performances and a very intriguing story. I was aware while watching the film that even over an hour into the film I was still unsure of where the story was going. Then even when it came to the end I was surprised at where it finished up. Surprisingly there were a couple of moments in the film that got the audience laughing out loud. Though I do think that in one instance it was probably not the intention of the film-makers.

It is a very long film but at no point did I notice the time going by. I just wanted to see what was coming next. I have to comment on the mood in the film. The director Paul T. Anderson (PTA) used the score and the look of the film to create a true sense of dread through parts of the film. At least that is how I felt while watching. Also the bravery of the director for opening the film with a near twenty minute stretch with no dialogue is to be applauded.

Having seen the film now I can agree that Daniel Day-Lewis was good value for his Oscar win. Some people have claimed he is overacting but I disagree strongly. Yes, it is a loud performance but that is the character he was playing, he needed to be that over the top. Having said that I would still have preferred to have seen Viggo Mortensen win best actor.

I think that PTA should have been honoured as best director at the Oscars. I just feel that the work done was more impressive in that he gave the film a totally unique look. There is a very high chance you will not have seen another film that looks like this. (No disrespect to the Coen Brothers though as I loved No Country for Old Men). Just another point about the Oscars. The score by Jonny Greenwood was disqualified and that is a tragedy. It does sound similar to some Radiohead music understandably and that for me is a major plus point.

I noticed a few people in the cinema left at around the two hour mark. That is something I just don't understand. They give the movie two hours and then leave? Why not stay for the final part rather than have the first two hours go to waste?

I would thoroughly recommend the film to anyone who has had their fill of blockbuster superhero movies for the moment.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

A Wii for me

I got a Nintendo Wii over the past weekend for my birthday. I heard on Friday that Tesco were doing a good deal on games consoles, offering 25% back on consoles. A good deal, no doubt. The package came with Wii Sports (as do all Wii consoles), Wii Play, an extra controller and a copy of Rayman Raving Rabbids.

It was a birthday present for Sunday but we didn't manage to hold out on opening it till then. We broke it open though on Saturday night and had some great fun creating our Mii's. For those who don't know what a Mii is, it is a graphical representation of the gamer, i.e. an avatar. It offers a great variety of control over the look of your Mii. I think mine actually bears a good resemblance to myself. I like the way that they appear in the games like Wii Sports and Wii Play, it gives the games a real personal touch.

As for the games themselves I'm quite happy. Now there is nothing here that totally blew me away like Gears of War did when I first booted up the Xbox 360. Having said that it is common knowledge that the Wii is a less powerful machine and comparisons are unfair. It offers a totally different gameplay experience. You just have to have your first round of bowling done on Wii Sports to realise just how different this machine is to the Xbox. I've had great fun with all the sports in Wii Sports. I think the bowling is my favourite but then tennis is really good too. It is a shame thought that the game is not wifi enabled. Still we can't have everything.

Wii Play is a little simplistic for my tastes but some of the mini games offer up some fun, such as the cow racing and the duck hunt style shooter. It does also offer great value for money as you basically get the game free with the remote. The third game Rayman was surprisingly good. It boils down to a bunch of mini games but there is a huge variety of them and the majority are good fun. It really does put the remote to good use as there is such variety in the moves you need to pull off to complete the games. It is also quite addictive to boot.

I like a bit of retro gaming and I was looking forward to testing out the Wii's Virtual Console. It is just like XBLA but it specialises in old consoles games. I downloaded Super Mario Bros. 3 from the site, it is the original NES version from 1990 and not the updated version from Super Mario All Stars. The game does look dated but that is to be expected. What is unexpected is that I am remembering all the secrets of the game. It feels like I was just playing this game yesterday for the first time. It really is one of the very best platform games ever developed and I will download Super Mario World later.

These are just my first impressions of the console and thus far I'm happy. It is a more simplistic machine than the Xbox, no more so than in it's online implementation. Still simple isn't necessarily a bad thing in gaming. I think the Wii is a good complement to the Xbox and I can see why so many people have room for both. I look forward to my first full proper game on the system, which at this point is looking like it will be Super Paper Mario.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Photography course review

So this week saw the end of my Digital Beginners photography class. I really enjoyed the class and the eight weeks really flew by. The course covered indoor shooting, portraits, macro shots, night shooting and the rule of thirds.

It was all very interesting and I believe that it has improved my photography skills. I had intended to continue on and do the follow on course, the improvers course. However, it turns out that my Canon Ixus 75 isn't quite powerful enough for the course. I need to have more manual control over the aperture, shutter speed and exposure. Basically this means I need to invest in an dSLR.

My original idea was to do the first two courses before getting a dSLR. I wanted to do the course first so that I could be sure I really was interested in photography before making any further investment in hardware. I guess I will get the dSLR sooner than I thought. I have my eye on the Canon EOS 400D which is supposedly the camera of choice for the amateur. I know that this camera is soon to be replaced by the 450D model but that model will have a hefty price tag. My opinion is that if the 400D is the right model now just because it will be super-ceded next month doesn't make it a bad camera. Plus the price should drop further as soon as the new model comes out.

We finished off the course with a small photo competition. I didn't win but I got a three pictures into the final selection, which I am happy about. One of those pictures I've posed before, the macro shot of M&Ms. The one thing I didn't like about the course was the constant beating of the drum about Google's Picasa program. I agree it is a great piece of software but hearing just how great every week began to grate on me quickly. Still I can't wait for the Mac OSX version to be released.

The picture above is just something I threw together this morning. I saw the technique during the course and I really liked it. I turned the four shots black and white in Picasa and darkened the shadows and raised the highlights. Something that I wouldn't have done eight weeks ago.

Saturday, March 8, 2008

FA Cup folly

I am so annoyed over Manchester United's exit from the FA Cup today. Going out to Portsmouth at home! How did that happen? They beat them recently enough in the league and while they only won two nil that day they played them off the park and missed a host of chances. The same thing happened again today but this time they didn't take any of their chances and lost to a penalty. So, so annoying.

I've heard Ferguson giving out about the referee and yes, I agree that he made a mistake in not awarding a penalty to United in the early stages of the first half but he isn't addressing the real issues. They played well, controlled the game and made chances but they didn't take them. Not for the first time either. I still think they need a real goalscoring striker and I've thought that all season. I know Rooney and Tevez have both scored goals this season but neither are near 25 goals. A striker like Berbatov or Eto playing in this team would easily have 25-30 goals. I'm not saying get rid of either Rooney or Tevez just have them playalongside a real goalscorer. At least Ronaldo is doing the business.

It should make me happy that at least Chelsea were knocked out today too but that infuriate me more as it should have meant United being the out and out favourite for the competition. I suppose in recent times they have been unlucky as this I think, was their 13th consecutive meeting with Premier league opposition. Compare that with a team like Liverpool who always seem to be playing lower league opposition.

Anyway, there is always next year.