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      23.09.2014 05:19


      • "The occasional laughs"
      • "A good cast (mostly)"


      • "Noisy and shrill"
      • "Boring action scenes"
      • "Unengaging atmosphere"
      • "Incoherent plot"
      • "Completely disregards its source material"

      Video games go Hollywood -- and the results are disastrous.

      As a longtime Nintendo junkie I have to admit that the SUPER MARIO BROS. video game series is a legendary franchise. It was this platformer involving two plumbers rescuing a princess from an army of monstrous turtles (the Koopa Troopas) that single-handedly saved the video game market in 1985. The game proved popular enough to spawn multiple sequels and even a cartoon TV series (which, admittingly, is pretty dated and formulaic, but it did do a respectable job recreating the feel of the series). Given the successful reputation of SUPER MARIO BROS. as a game series, it doesn't seem surprising that a theatrical feature would be attempted. That film version premiered in the summer of 1993, and I was among those who were eager to see it.

      How could it go wrong? More importantly, how DID it go so wrong?

      For one thing, with the exception of the characters' names and a few throwaway references, SUPER MARIO BROS., the movie has absolutely nothing in common with the video game series it's based on. The production completely eschews the lighthearted, colorful atmosphere of the Mushroom Kingdom and instead slaps on a dark, fungus-covered metropolis inhabited by dinosaurs evolved (yes, I said EVOLVED) into human beings. (One figures the scriptwriters mixed up SUPER MARIO WORLD — the only game in the series to set in a dinosaur-populated environment — as the ideal atmosphere for the MARIO franchise in general.) Instead of power-up mushrooms, fireflowers, and goombas, we get a human cast of villains acting (and looking) bizarre (even the chief villain, King Koopa is disturbingly portrayed as a human), raptors, exploding flameguns, and some totally ridiculous concept called "de-evolution." The nasty goombas are transformed from puny mushroom baddies into hulking lizards, and Yoshi, the beloved dinosaur sidekick of Mario, becomes a cuddly but woefully fake-looking baby T-Rex (and get this--he's Koopa's pet!). The whole atmosphere of this "Dinohatten" is too weird, chaotic, and cold to be engaging.

      This may sound bad enough, but the movie's biggest mistake is its failure to provide anything in the way of a coherent (or compelling) narrative. The plot is a jumbled mishmash about meteorites, alternate universes, and fungus that spends too much time indulging in its own stupidity rather than offering some intelligence. The movie's action sequences should provide spark and energy, but here they come across as strangely pointless and uninvolving. Despite the clamor occurring in the scenes, the viewer feels a strange sense of detachment to the whole thing. This makes the movie as a whole a major chore to sit through, as if there aren't any duller moments to bore viewers to death (such as a slow, inactive sequence where Mario and Luigi escape from a goomba-infested elevator). Matters are not helped by the ridiculously cheesy special effects, which are so fake that they come across as laughable.

      Even the aural aspects of the movie are displeasing; the soundtrack starts out promisingly with an electronic-sounding ditty of the classic MARIO BROS. theme, but aside from that, we got a fully-orchestral score (from Alan Silvestri) which is distressingly un-MARIO like. The same is true for the throwaway rock-and-roll songs, which were obviously slapped on for commercial reasons. The overabundance of screaming and overloud sound mixing is tempting enough to make one turn the volume down.

      To its benefit, however, SUPER MARIO BROS. does support a high-quality cast — which is quite surprising given that this is hardly the kind of movie that demands one. Bob Hoskins and John Leguizamo work chemistry as the brothers, even if they are nothing like their video game counterparts, and Samantha Mathis holds her own ground as the pretty Princess Daisy. Dennis Hopper's portrayal of King Koopa, on the other hand, is disappointingly uncharismatic and spends more time chewing the scenery than creating a character worth rooting against; Fiona Shaw is more effective as his dastardly secretary. All seem to take on their jobs with a good-natured attitude and do what they can with the mumbo-jumbo material.

      But even that isn't enough to qualify a good recommendation for SUPER MARIO BROS. as a movie. It's too unfaithful a recreation for MARIO fans, too noisy even for action-buffs, and too preposterous to reach a smart audience. The only "entertainment value" that comes from this movie is because of its own dubious quality. So if you want to sit through a convoluted, incomprehensible action-flick that blatantly disregards its source material, then this is the movie for you. Otherwise, SUPER MARIO BROS. is not an example of great film-making, much less adapting a video game into a movie.

      Update: I found out recently that the reason why this film turned out the way it did is because of its rather messy production period, with directors and actors clashing on set, constant rewrites, and conflicting ideas on how the film should be. It really is no wonder, as the final result clearly shows.


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    • Eragon (2 DVDs) / DVD / 0 Readings / 0 Ratings
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      23.09.2014 05:07


      • "Some good performances"
      • "Spectacular special effects"
      • "Great music"
      • "Great cinematography and production design"


      • "Not satisfying enough for a demanding audience"
      • "Uneven performances by everyone else"
      • "Undefined characters"
      • "Too fast-paced and rushed"

      Well-intentioned but flawed attempt to make another fantasy franchise.

      The genre of fantasy has always been a shaky area as far as cinema is concerned. While there were have been some truly magical (or at least entertaining) efforts such as WILLOW, CONAN THE BARBARIAN, THE DARK CRYSTAL, and THE PRINCESS BRIDE (I apologize if I forgot to mention anything else), audiences have been mostly treated to trashy dreck such as THE SWORD AND THE SORCERER, DEATHSTALKER, and the DUNGEONS AND DRAGONS movie. It wasn't until the phenomenally successful theatrical releases of HARRY POTTER, the LORD OF THE RINGS, and THE CHRONICLES OF NARNIA: THE LION, THE WITCH, AND THE WARDROBE that fantasy in cinema really seemed to find its peak. Perhaps because of this, other studios sought to catch the fantasy wave.

      That was certainly true of the newly released ERAGON, which, as with HP, LOTR, and CoN, is based on a popular (although not necessarily legendary) book trilogy called "Inheritence". Interestingly, the story was penned by a seventeen-year-old named Christopher Paolini, and this movie is based on the first book of his series. Unfortunately, audiences expecting the movie of ERAGON to be in the same caliber as HARRY POTTER, LOTR, or NARNIA, are bound to be disappointed, for, while the movie shows potential in many areas, it does not come anywhere near close to excellence.

      Not having read the books at all, I cannot remark on what changes have been made from the source material, so I won't make any comments about that. It has been declared, however, that the story — in which a young farm boy discovers a magical stone which turns out to be a dragon's egg, and, with the aid of an old sage and his talking dragon, aspires to overthrow a medieval tyrant and his court wizard — is a rip-off of STAR WARS and THE LORD OF THE RINGS. Yet one can make the same argument about fantasy tales in general — as a huge fan of the genre I recognize that no tale is totally, 100-percent original (I could go on with comparisons on how the aforementioned HP, LOTR, and CoN all share similarities, but that's irrelevant); what ultimately matters is whether the end result is good or bad.

      For the most part, newcomer director Stefan Fangmeier handles the all-too familiar material fairly well. The movie is highlighted by beautiful cinematography, and there are many breathtaking panoramic helicopter shots and intricate production design sets that bring a fun, but underdeveloped fantasy world to life. Patrick Doyle's impressively grand music is also a plus--very epic in style and scope. As one might expect from a fantasy movie, ERAGON is loaded with special effects, and the majority of them are spectacular. Particularly noteworthy is the hero's dragon companion, an impressive beast named Saphira. As with DRAGONHEART, this purple-scaled giant — fully realized by computer-generated-imagery and a gentle, edgy voice supplied by Rachel Weisz — is the central attraction of the movie.

      Not that there aren't any good performances from the human cast in ERAGON. Jeremy Irons (who unfortunately portrayed an oh-so-over-the-top villain in the ill-fated DUNGEONS AND DRAGONS movie) is excellent as the old sagely figure, Brom, (a sort of Obi-Wan Kenobi type character) bringing both a dramatic presence and credibility to a role that would otherwise come across as cardboard cut-out. (And for those of you who dreaded him in DUNGEONS AND DRAGONS, he doesn't overact here.) Just as good is Robert Carlyle as the evil wizard, Durza, a dead-on impersonation of Brad Dourif's Wormtongue in LORD OF THE RINGS.

      The film moves along at a breezy pace and is never boring — except this also proves to be one of ERAGON'S major faults. Through the movie's 98 minutes, the tangled plot comes across as very rushed; characters like a princess and a Han Solo-like rogue figure jump out of nowhere, and, as such, come across as superfluous and uninteresting. An extra thirty minutes worth of character building wouldn't have hurt. I also felt that Saphira's growth from a cuddlesome baby to a magnificent beast happened too quickly, even for a fantasy story.

      My other quibbles: newcomer Edward Speleers as young hero Eragon sticks out like a sore thumb. When he's thrust into action sequences, Speleers is decent, but for the majority of the movie he comes across as flat and emotionless (although not as much as, say, Hayden Christensen's Anakin Skywalker in STAR WARS EPISODE II). Furthermore, John Malkovich as the real bad guy only shows up for scanty scenes, and consequently, his character never develops into anything. Because of this, I was unable to evaluate his acting to get enough of an opinion about his overall performance.

      As mentioned, it is probably unrealistic to expect every fantasy story to be totally original, and the occasional nods to STAR WARS (the hero's uncle is killed by an enemy attack, and later Brom meets a similar fate) and LORD OF THE RINGS (Durza looking down at an army of stripped-down orc imitations) don't really pose much problem. But the script doesn't do much to make the entire adventure fully satisfying for a more demanding audience. These flaws bring ERAGON down from its potential as a worthy new franchise and turn it into a fun but uninspired and too rapidly paced action flick.

      In short, ERAGON is passable although not stellar — certainly more watchable than most sword-swinging dreck, but weaker than its more superior counterparts. The movie promoted itself as the beginning of a trilogy, ending with the promise of a sequel to come. Sadly, the poor box office performance and even worse reception from the public have dampened any chances of that happening. Such is the unfortunate fate of half-finished films.


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    • Home On The Range (DVD) / DVD / 1 Reading / 0 Ratings
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      23.09.2014 04:59


      • "Practically nothing"


      • "Annoying characters"
      • "Pedestrian animation and music"

      Worst. Disney. Animated. Feature. EVER.

      HOME ON THE RANGE is rock-bottom Disney animation. It's amazing to believe the studio that produced memorable classics could turn out a movie as bad as this (yes, it's worse than HERCULES and TREASURE PLANET). The wire-thin storyline, which involves barnyard animals on the trail of an outlaw who can hypnotize animals by singing (huh?) is needlessly stretched out for 76 minutes (which is 70 minutes too long) with forced, unfunny gags, frantic but lifeless sequences and lame characterizations. The animation, usually a high point in a Disney feature, is both pedestrian and unappealing to look at. Alan Menken supplies the music, but like the movie, his tunes are banal, insepid, and unappealing, even weaker than his work for HERCULES. Failed Disney cartoons don't have to be this horrific; case in point: THE BLACK CAULDRON and ATLANTIS-THE LOST EMPIRE fell short financially and were flawed, but both movies made an attempt to be something more complex and adult-oriented than typical Disney fare (I actually liked both of those films). This film, on the other hand, is a big step backward, and the hectic, pedestrian execution ultimately cripples it. It was disheartening that this was declared at the time to be Disney's last traditionally animated feature, and even more unfortunate that they chose to go out with a flop as insidious as this. Uncle Walt would surely turn over in his grave if he found out his studio ever produced this film. Luckily, John Lasseter would salvage the Disney animation studio's reputation with better titles, as HOME ON THE RANGE, hideous as it was, proved not to be the final nail in the coffin for Disney after all. (Sadly, that title was passed onto the underrated PRINCESS AND THE FROG.) In the meantime, DON'T waste your time with HOME ON THE RANGE. Avoid it at all costs.


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    • Tangled (DVD) / DVD / 0 Readings / 0 Ratings
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      23.09.2014 04:56


      • "Mother Gothel"
      • "Great music"
      • "Several beautiful scenes"


      • "Useless side characters (the bandits)"
      • "Too much comedy"
      • "Idiotic title"

      Some magical moments, but no match for Disney's better films.

      Disney animation certainly hasn't been what it used to be. After a share of mediocre to bad animated movies, they churned out an instant classic with the traditionally animated THE PRINCESS AND THE FROG. But that film didn't catch on with the public as much as it should have (of course being released around the same time as the mega-super hit AVATAR didn't help matters either). Blaming the underperformance of their film on an assumption that boys were turned off by the phrase "princess", Disney decided to rename their subsequent feature, RAPUNZEL, a similar fairy tale in digital 3-D CGI. This name change is something that I still can't shake my head over. I realize the motivation was to try and attract more people, but c'mon, TANGLED? Sounds more like self-parody if you ask me!

      As expected, RAPUNZEL -- OK, OK, TANGLED -- is a very loose retelling of the famous Brother's Grimm tale. The title character is a young woman with the largest amount of golden hair imaginable shut away in a tower deep in the forest. Her only guardian is Mother Gothel, who stole the child away from her parents when she was very young. Rapunzel's hair has magic powers; it can heal cuts and make even a centuries-old being still appear young. It is for this latter reason that Gothel keeps Rapunzel captive, although of course our blonde heroine is told by her "mother" that the world is a dark and scary place and that she should stay in the tower. (If this doesn't give you echoings of Disney's HUNCHBACK OF NOTRE DAME, then what will?) Of course, Rapunzel yearns to explore the outside world, namely to attend the "festival of lights" held once a year on her birthday. One day, Flynn Rider, a runaway thief who has just stolen a jeweled crown, sneaks into the tower to hide. Knocking him out cold with a frying pan, Rapunzel forces Flynn to take her to the Festival in exchange for the stolen crown. At first Flynn tries to weasel his way out of the deal, but as he falls in love with her, his motives naturally change. But Mother Gothel wants Rapunzel back at all costs....

      There are many moments when TANGLED truly shines, mainly anything involving genuine heart or magic. In the latter half of the film there is a breathtaking moment where glowing lanterns literally float up into the night sky while Rapunzel and Flynn sing the obligatory love song, "I See The Light". This is a truly colorful and imaginative sequence that ranks among the best at Disney. Similarly inspiring is when Rapunzel uses her enchanted hair to heal a cut on Flynn's hand. And the last half hour offers some powerful drama and heartbreaking emotion on the way to its happy ending (surprise).

      Arguably the triumph of the film is Mother Gothel, who ranks as one of Disney's finest villains in a long time. She has shades of Lady Tremaine from Cinderella, but there is also a little bit of Frollo from HUNCHBACK OF NOTRE DAME. She's selfish, manipulative, greedy, and deceptive in every way imaginable. The dynamic between her and Rapunzel is both one of the strongest points of the movie and reminds one of the Witch/Rapunzel relationship from Steven Sondheim's dark fairy tale musical INTO THE WOODS. In fact, Gothel's signature song, "Mother Knows Best", one of many to be written for this film by Alan Menken, is strangely reminiscent of a Sondheim song. (The score is another highlight of TANGLED; Menken's songs are very pleasing to the ear, with some emerging as true stand-outs.)

      Unfortunately TANGLED falls short of Disney classic status for the following reasons. One of them is the overemphasis on slapstick comedy for much of the first two-thirds of the film. Most of this consists of Flynn getting whacked around by Rapunzel's frying pan, comical sight gags, and LOONEY TUNES style goofiness. This gets pretty tiresome quickly after every five seconds. Other sources of comedy comes from Rapunzel's chameleon sidekick, Pascal, as well as a gang of burly bandits who break into song at one point in the film. Both are absolutely useless in that they don't contribute anything valuable to the plot. The bandits, in particular, only show up in one scene that by the time they reappear again toward the finale, I forgot who they were! Pascal seems to be mostly the typical Disney cartoon sidekick intended to provide laughs and/or lure kids into the theater, because that's exactly what he functions as. He doesn't even do anything during the finale.

      As far as the lead characters are concerned, Rapunzel is an appealing enough heroine, free-spirited and alternatingly schizophrenic (her various mood swings when she ventures out of the tower for the first time, for instance), while Flynn starts off as a smug, self-centered rogue who has a change of heart as he learns about Rapunzel's past. But while they both have a solid chemistry, there isn't enough of it in the film to emerge as emotionally impactful as it could have been. (Consequently, the climactic moments of the film, while otherwise very strong, don't resonate as dramatically as they would have with better realized leads.)

      Had the comedy level been cranked down by several notches and the story much tighter, TANGLED would truly be worthy of being Disney's 50th animated feature. THE PRINCESS AND THE FROG was a much better production to earn that status. I did enjoy TANGLED overall, but I don't think it's one of Disney's greatest.


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    • Tales From Earthsea (DVD) / DVD / 0 Readings / 0 Ratings
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      23.09.2014 04:46


      • "Hare and some of the vocal performances."
      • "Gorgeous animation and music"


      • "Forgettable characters"
      • "Confusing storyline"
      • "Uneven acting in both languages"

      Miyazaki Jr's Debut Feature... beautiful, but flawed and confusing epic tale.

      Even a prolific animation studio like Ghibli can turn out a lesser effort. Hiroyuki Morita's THE CAT RETURNS was my personal least favorite Ghibli movie (at least until this), but that film, simplistic and shallow as it was, seems to have much more accolades than 2006's TALES FROM EARTHSEA arguably one of the first productions from the studio to split audiences and critics alike.

      Ironically enough, the controversy actually began prior to the film's release. It has been stated that Hayao Miyazaki had expressed interest in directing a film based on Ursula K. LeGuin's famous fantasy novels, but the author, displeased with previous attempts, declined... until the success of Miyazaki's HOWL'S MOVING CASTLE (arguably one of the director's least excellent but still brilliant efforts). However, it was ultimately decided that the film would be handled by Miyazaki's own son, Goro, under the persuasion of producer Toshio Suzuki. Miyazaki Senior was most displeased by these turn of events and it is said that his relationship with Goro became strained during the production period. Perhaps Hayao had reason to fear that his son was not ready to tackle such an ambitious story; although TALES FROM EARTHSEA performed well financially, it was attacked by critics and even fans of the books. In fact, Goro received the "Worst Director" Golden Raspberry Award for his first attempt. All of this sounds like a cruel, undeserved fate for the debut of the son of Japan's most respected animator, but even author Ursula K LeGuin has been disappointed with Goro's film. In fact, TALES FROM EARTHSEA would not even see a release in the United States for another five years.

      The criticisms TALES FROM EARTHSEA has received are not without merit. Anyone expecting another PRINCESS MONONOKE or CASTLE IN THE SKY will probably be disappointed, for, while this film shows moments of brilliance and imagination, it falls short from the upper echelon of those films. The problems lie in the storyline and characterizations.

      Fans of LeGuin's books will probably be even more let down by this movie. It is based heavily on the third book, "The Farthest Shore", but while most of the situations and characters survive the transition to the screen, Goro attempts to incorporate elements from the other books into the film. But he does so in a way that only results in a tangled, confusing plot which not only feels rushed, but very incomplete and disorganized. Sometimes events happen without explanation, and what little explanation we get is unsatisfying; maybe fans of the books will grasp what Goro's intentions are, but others will find themselves asking questions which unfortunately, never get answered.

      The film gets off to a promising start with a stormy sequence in which a ship at sea witnesses a bloody clash between two dragons. It's exciting and intense, with a brief flash of gory violence that brings one to mind of the similarly graphic moments from PRINCESS MONONOKE. TALES FROM EARTHSEA is still on that fine start when we see Arren, a teenage prince, inexplicably murder his father and escapes into a desert. He is rescued from wolves by Sparrowhawk, a kindly sorcerer with a scar on his face (for reasons that readers of the first book "Wizard of Earthsea" will recognize). Sparrow's mission is to restore the balance that has been disrupted in the mystical land of Earthsea.

      However, when these two adventurers cross paths with other characters such as a moody, introverted “slave” named Therru, a warmhearted farmer, and an evil wizard intent on gaining (predictably) eternal life, it becomes evident that Goro is trying to cram too much story worth of at least four books into a two hour film. Aside from giving the characters little time to fully develop into fleshed out personalities, the film works in a very confusing and frustratingly murky subplot about a shadowy “clone” of Arren that shows up from time to time to torment the youth. This is handled very awkwardly, with zero foreshadowing and the whole “explanation” behind the whole thing leaves questions instead of answers. I was also very unclear about the climactic finale in which a girl transforms into a dragon; again, this is done with no explanation, that it only makes the audience baffled instead of thrilled.

      Perhaps another big issue with the film is the pacing; as mentioned, the film’s best sequence is the opening dragon fight, but such action moments are rather scanty throughout the rest of the movie, resulting in long, extensive stretches where nothing really happens. For instance, at the halfway point, there is a long sequence in which the characters end up working on a farm. Although intended to provide character development, this sequence only slows down the film and feels more like padding than anything else. Brief moments such as Sparrowhawk and Arren talking about blistered hands after helping to plow the field feel strangely detached from the rest of the plot instead of anything else. The real areas in which Goro shows strength as an animator are the dream sequences — and there are quite a few in this tale — in which the characters find themselves standing on sunlit landscapes with luscious colors one moment and nearly drowning in an ooze-infested lake the next. These are actually far more interesting than much of the talkier scenes in the movie.

      The lack of compelling characters is another major shortcoming with TALES FROM EARTHSEA. Sparrowhawk, for instance, is nobility personified, and as such, is pretty boring. Arren could have been a compelling troubled hero — sort of a darker version of Ashi-taka from MONONOKE, but his character development comes across as rather hazy to be interesting. The slave girl Therru, despite showing some backbone and the bitterness of San, isn’t much more endearing than her co-stars. Cob probably ranks as the most disappointing villain in any Ghibli film; oh sure, he’s creepy and acts evil, but he doesn’t have much of a personality, and lacks the charisma of, say, Muska from CASTLE IN THE SKY. That he doesn’t get much to do in the film is also a letdown. Cob’s slavetrader captain henchman, Hare, is much more effective as a badguy, and arguably is the only interesting character in the whole movie to display any personality. He sneers, cackles, rasps threats, and is remorselessly ruthless. It also helps that he is voiced by Cheech Marin in the Disney-produced English dub... who naturally gives the best performance in the whole film!

      Speaking of the dub, this is probably one of my least favorite of the Disney Ghibli dubs, not because it is badly done — Disney has never produced an unlistenable dub as far as I’m concerned; their past dubs have all been fantastic (except for the recent THE WIND RISES, which is too flatly acted in many places for my tastes), contrary to what others may say (yes, even the ones with extra dialogue and music). Perhaps because of the murky nature of this movie, it is difficult for the dub to be as effective, despite the efforts of everyone involved. Still, the performers and voice director Gary Rydstrom do their best: As mentioned, Marin plays the part of Hare perfectly and steals the show. Timothy Dalton does an excellent job as Sparrowhawk, embuing him with wisdom, warmth, and subtlety. Mariska Hargitay is also very good as the kindly farmer Tenar. Matt Levin as Arren is a bit of a trickier issue: he starts out somewhat flatly, but he gradually improves and gets especially good at the end. On the other hand, Blaire Restaneo’s Therru is the least effective of the voice cast; she shines brilliantly in singing the film’s only song, a melancholy acapella solo originally rendered by Aoi Teshima and does all right in the tense scenes, but I wasn’t so sold on the rest of her scenes. Willem Dafoe’s Cob works best in the climactic scenes where he rasps his way to the tower, but otherwise spends most of the time talking in a very soft, monotonous voice. I don’t know if it was supposed to convey darkness or not, but I didn’t find it particularly effective (in fact, I was chuckling upon hearing him speak for the first time) and I’m still not sure if he was the right choice for the character. Simply put, he’s no match for Mark Hamill’s Muska. The rest of the voices are fine, although they’re not nearly as memorable as in any of the other Ghibli dubs. Even purists who insist on watching the film in Japanese will probably be disappointed, as the voice acting, or at least what I’ve heard, isn’t much more effective than that of the dub.

      Probably the most pleasing aspect of the film is its musical score contributed by Tamiya Terashima. Ghibli films have excelled with gorgeous soundtracks, and this is no exception. Using melancholy melodies and a full orchestra and chorus reminiscent of Hans Zimmer, Terashima provides a gorgeous and poundingly dramatic symphony that compliments the mood of the story perfectly. (As mentioned, Therru’s song midway through the film is a haunting highlight.) And of course, the animation is as richly detailed and beautiful as any Ghibli film.

      There are moments where TALES FROM EARTHSEA does exude some haunting visuals, but all in all, it’s probably the weakest of the Studio Ghibli movies by far. Had Goro Miyazaki opted for a less daunting storyline, then maybe he wouldn’t have received so much backlash for his debut feature. As such, the obvious failings of EARTHSEA shows that he is not yet ready to fill his father’s shoes. But even with all that said, is this movie still worth watching? Absolutely, especially if you’re a Ghibli completist. Even with its faults, TALES FROM EARTHSEA still has its share of high points to make it worth a look. But don’t expect another instant classic; on that level it falls short.


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    • The Black Hole (DVD) / DVD / 0 Readings / 0 Ratings
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      23.09.2014 04:34


      • "Maximillian Schell's performance"
      • "The robots"
      • "Great music"
      • "Solid visual effects"


      • "Revealing wires"
      • "Laughable science inconsistencies"
      • "Confusing ending"
      • "Droningly slow"
      • "Flat acting"

      Visually impressive but incoherent and ultimately boring space Disney misfire.

      It's supposed to be about a black hole. It's not supposed to BE a black hole. Produced two years after George Lucas's space opera adventure STAR WARS conquered the box office, this 1979 Disney feature was made as an answer to that film. It was budgeted at a then staggering cost of $20 million, and boasted superior special effects as well as spooky production designs, and to this day they remain among the highest points of THE BLACK HOLE.

      Which is more than what can be said about the movie as a whole. For a production designed to be an outer space epic, THE BLACK HOLE -- which involves a crew (accompanied by a floating and talking robot, V.I.N.CENT., voiced by an uncredited Roddy McDowall) trapped in an impressively immense vessel called the U.S.S. Cygnus perched dangerously on the edge of the titular mass -- plays out very much like Disney's own 20,000 LAEGUES UNDER THE SEA in space. In particular, the commander of the Cygnus, played with scenery chewing glee by Maximillian Schell, is very reminiscent of James Mason's Captain Nemo from that film, only with zero redeeming qualities.

      Contrary to that Disney production about the travels of the Nautilus (and, yes, Lucas's FLASH GORDON-style space romp), however, THE BLACK HOLE is narrowly devoid of many important qualities required to even make it a near classic. The concept of exploring a terrifying force in outer space is an interesting one; however, the script handles it clumsily not only in numerous grievous errors in terms of space logic (Did any of the writers know that you CAN'T survive in outer space with no suit on?) but with the lack of a compelling or interesting narrative to drive the whole show by. In particular, the secret revelation about the Cygnus and its captain are not hard to guess.

      Incidentally, although Disney commissioned a high-profile cast with names such as Schell, McDowell, and PSYCHO's Anthony Perkins, few turn in anything in the way of an inspired performance (Schell and McDowell fare best, but Perkins, along with his co-stars, is surprisingly stiff and lifeless). As such, the audience does not connect with the crew or even feel more hatred for the villain, despite Schell's commanding performance.

      The only characters to rise above this exception are the robots, particularly McDowell as the heroic and kitschily named V.I.N.CENT and Schell's ominous, scarlet-colored giant dubbed, funnily enough, Maximillian. Although much of the dialogue V.I.N.CENT spouts consists of groan-worthy one-liners, he and his companion, battered up Old B.O.B., liven up the screen with more personality than their human counterparts. (Although there are those who found them to be pretty cloying; my real issue is that they look like Fisher-Price toys!) Arguably more so than his master, Maximillian proves to be a frighteningly nasty and formidable villain, his presence invoking terror to the audience. A scene where he attacks and murders one of the crew members is still disturbing today (it's not bloody, but it's still quite intense for a Disney film). That he doesn't say one word in the film makes him all the more menacing.

      It is widely agreed by many that the special effects I mentioned earlier are what hold THE BLACK HOLE together, although some of them reek of age, particularly some bad matte painting, but aside from that and the robots, the only other positive is the foreboding musical score provided by John Barry. Although repetitive at times, it suits the dark tone of the film very well and is hard to forget.

      The real problem with THE BLACK HOLE is that it's droningly dull for more than two-thirds of its ninety-something minute running time. Much of that time is spent exploring the Cygnus with the cast spouting stiff, uninspired dialogue. Things finally pick up in the latter third, but again, there are some serious flaws in the conception of several action scenes. Most notably ridiculous is when a giant asteroid crashes through the hull and rolls down a massive hallway. While this sequence is very memorable, it only serves as yet another example of the incompetence of the writers' lack of knowledge about outer space. More detrimental are the noticeable use of wires to make the cast look like they're "floating". Apparently the Disney crew forgot to matte them out, but it's still very distracting and unintentionally humorous. As I mentioned, too, the scenes where the crew members are exposed to the atmosphere of space WITHOUT any space suits are utterly idiotic. I can handle the robot V.I.N.CENT. floating outside the crew's ship to repair a panel and save himself from being sucked into the hole. He is, after all, a robot, and characters like these do require a "suspend your disbelief" approach on the part of the viewer. But a scene toward the end of the movie when a crew member is lifted by gravity off the exterior of the Cygnus and almost topples into the hole itself really should have been cut. It is stupid, and as mentioned, only highlights the ineptness of the production staff's knowledge of space... or lack thereof.

      When everyone finally descends into the black hole itself, we get an extensively long, powerful sequence involving Heaven and Hell. It's surreal and vaguely similar to the climax of Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY, but while it's an engrossing highlight, the whole sequence comes completely out of nowhere. Worse still, it sadly undermines the epic premise and provides for a very baffling and frustratingly unexplained conclusion. (The slow-motion sequence in which the crew is revolving inside their ship while hearing echoing soundbites from the cast is also very confusing; I get that it's supposed to be the surviving crew reflecting on their past experiences, but it still feels weird and very bizarre.)

      The special effects, robots, and music prevent THE BLACK HOLE from being a complete waste of time, but considering how this movie was Disney's response to STAR WARS, it's unfortunate that it fell so short of potential. Had it been in more experienced hands, who knows how THE BLACK HOLE would have turned out? Apparently Disney recently green lighted a remake for this film. Hopefully the production team involved can rectify the egregious errors that this film commits. As it is, THE BLACK HOLE is more of a curiosity than anything else.


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    • Nurofen Plus / Pain Relief / 1 Reading / 1 Rating
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      23.09.2014 02:55
      Very helpful


      • "long lasting"
      • "fast acting"


      a great relief from pain!

      After having a dentist make a complete mess in my mouth a few months back i was in serious need of some decent pain killers as paracetamol and ibrophen on its own just werent cutting it anymore.

      I asked at the pharmacy for advise and they recommended these; they are available to buy over the counter from most pharmacies but they will ask you why you want them and if you have taken them before. They were fairly pricey as pain killers go, i paid around £6 for a box of 16 but boy they were worth it!

      I took two with water and after 20 minutes they had well and truly kicked in getting rid of any of the pain i had had in my mouth. The added boost of the codiene (be it a small amount) really seems to work and because there is no paracetamol product in these you can also take those on top although i never needed to, i did however alternate with paracetamol as too much ibrophen isn't great on your tummy; thats another thing you should always take these with food!

      The pain relief lasted a good 5-6 hours before i needed to top it up which is pretty good going seeing as from just paracetamol i was getting 2 hours if that!

      The tablet size was fine, about the size of a normal caplet so i didn't find them at all hard to swallow and they are sugar coated so no nasty taste left in the mouth either which is always a bonus!

      I would really recommend these if normal pain killers aren't working but do make sure you read the instructions as they aren't good for prolonged use- use them safely!


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    • Natures Menu Dog Food / Dog Food / 0 Readings / 0 Ratings
      More +
      23.09.2014 00:40


      • "Minimum of 55% meat content"
      • "Gluten free"
      • "No artificial additives"
      • Wholesome


      • None

      Natures Menu is one brand of wet food permantly on my shopping list

      I have always fed my dogs a mixture of a well-trusted, hypoallergenic kibble and small amounts of meat from another good brand; and occasionally some poached, white fish.
      That is until a few weeks ago, when visiting the vets I discovered Natures menu and decided to try it out, cautiously buying one can, so as not to waste too much should they not like it, or it upset their stomachs.
      I also bought another brand recommended also by vets as being excellent food for dogs, but that is another review.
      Natures menu

      Is a brand name for menus designed for pets; the company produce raw menus, said to be the healthiest for dogs, they also produce 400g canned menus and 300g pouches of cooked contents. These are complete meals, not requiring the addition of mixers or kibble.

      The first three canned menus; Chicken ; Lamb and Chicken, and Beef and Chicken also contain potato, peas and carrots. The fourth canned menu, Chicken and Salmon contains rice, peas and carrots.

      There are different ingredients in the pouches and raw menus, none of which I have given my dogs as yet.

      The complete variety of meals they produce for dogs and cats can be found on their website, www.naturesmenu.co.uk,


      Many pet foods produced contain less than 20% of meat and the rest made up with additives and preservatives.
      Natures menu claim their menus contain no artificial flavours, colours or preservatives. They are Gluten free, are made with natural ingredients and contains natural chondroitin and glucosamine (for healthy joints)

      The minimum meat content is 55% that come from whole cuts of meat, not re-constituted meat from scraps and the food contains the “correct balance of vitamins and minerals, to help maintain a healthy life.”

      One 400g can cost me £1.55 from my vets, which compares favourably to the prices found on line. The pouches are slightly cheaper and the raw menus more expensive

      The dogs decide.

      I noticed when opening the can, there was no discernable smell. Pieces of potato and carrot were visible within the homogenous mix.

      I mixed some of the food with Kibble, not that kibble is necessary, but just because the dogs likeit.

      It did not take long for the meal to disappear and their furiously wagging tails spoke of their approval, telling me all I needed to know.

      A few days later once they had eaten all of Natures menu, I reverted to their previous diet, since I had a stock of it to finish. My Yorkie ate hers, she will eat anything, but My Collie Cross point blankly refused, giving me a look that said. “Do you really expect me to eat this?” Eventually he, albeit reluctantly, did eat the offering, but there was no wagging tail of approval.


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    • Rolls-Royce Silver Spur II / Car / 2 Readings / 2 Ratings
      More +
      22.09.2014 23:10
      Very helpful


      • "Very Comfortable"
      • "People Often Look Up To You"
      • "No Significant Issues with Engine "
      • "Runs Smoothly "
      • "Provides a Feeling of Charisma"


      • "Handling Isn't Terribly Brilliant "
      • "Emits Thundering Noise When Running"
      • "Fuel Efficiency is Fairly Bad - 16mpg"
      • "Fuel Costs are Relatively High"
      • "Requires Extensive Maintenance "

      A Truly Splendid Legacy Left Behind by Rolls Royce - Charismatic in Every Form

      After Rolls Royce was bought out by the German car manufacturer BMW, the sleek classical look that we can all remember soon disappeared. In replacement, Rolls Royce was completely modernised in order to adapt and meet the requirements for the modern auto mobile. However, Rolls Royce did leave behind a great legacy. The Silver Spur, the long wheel base version of the Silver Spirit, provides us with an immediate feeling of charisma and bliss. Just being in the presence of one of these astonishing contraptions is an absolutely magnificent experience, indeed, a pleasure. As a young teenage car fanatic, I am set upon maintaining and preserving my grandfather's much beloved possession that, of which, he has had for some considerable time now. Without the risk of sounding snobbish, I will say that when your fortunate enough to travel in one of these truly wonderful cars, you feel somewhat important. Driving smoothly at 40mph down the dual carriage way is breathtakingly brilliant - It's as if you're the only person of significant importance in sight and the fact that other road users simply move out of the fast lane to allow you to glide along is absolutely amazing. Its safe to say that Rolls Royce does not stand for snobbery. It stands for taste, inspiration and a true sense of motor vehicles.

      If you are considering the purchase of a Rolls Royce Silver Spur, then think wisely and carefully. Factors that must be considered are the running costs such as fuel, servicing, M.O.T's and urgent repairs. It is, without doubt, that these cars do require extensive maintenance in order to preserve their running capability and without the commitment of the user, they will enter a state of either complete disrepair or repair that will require large investments in order to restore the running capability of the car. Also, it goes without saying that these vehicles specifically are not fuel efficient. The average overall fuel efficiency of these vehicles is approximately 16 m.p.g (miles per gallon) which of course must also be considered with thought as running this vehicles would prove quite costly with fuel alone, leaving out the maintenance costs. I will advise that before purchasing this vehicle, ensure that it has been serviced and if it hasn't then do request that the seller obtains one before you make the purchase. Be sure to check that there are no issues with the vehicle and if there is then do check before making the purchase to see how much these problems will cost to be rectified. You could end up in a state of almost bankruptcy if you're not careful.


      What do you get with this vehicle?
      Well, the simple answer to this is that you are presented with a late 20th century masterpiece. A car that has been hand crafted to deliver only the best luxury for the buyer. Leather seats, wooden dashboard, upholstered carpets, an interior that smells of purity and an exterior that is simply, a work of art. The engine itself is very different to the car itself. A 6.75 litre engine sounds terribly inefficient on both the environment and your pocket. However, it sure does provide a huge amount of power. This car does not drag, despite the weight and size. Instead, this gentleman's conveyance is able to glide at a surprisingly fast pace. The one negative which is a real shame is the sound of the engine. Despite maintaining the car to the best your ability, the competence to be able to reduce the thundering noise this car emits is indubitably gruelling and problematic. The handling isn't the best and you do need to be 'on the ball' when in control of one of these vehicles. However, comfortability is no problem whatsoever.

      Overall, this vehicle is magnificent, as stated at the beginning. As a buyer, you receive a first class standardised gentleman's car that delivers and meets many driver's requirements. The exterior appearance is stunning and for some reason, the front design is the most likeable part of the vehicle in my opinion. The interior is simply a work of art in it's form of fine beauty. There are not really any major issues that this car experiences. It just needs to be maintained regularly in order to successfully uphold the fine running of this vehicle. Personally, I would choose this car over a brand new Rolls Royce Wraith.


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    • Vegetarian / Recipe / 3 Readings / 3 Ratings
      More +
      22.09.2014 22:37
      Very helpful


      • "Very few ingredients"
      • Easy


      • "Oven roasting time"

      Simple Standby Pasta Sauce

      We generally eat in two 'sittings' in our household, so I much prefer meals that are simple to prepare and can be left to their own devices whilst I'm doing other things.

      This sauce is my favourite store cupboard standby, including a tiny handful of ingredients which are basically left to roast in the oven and then served with freshly cooked pasta. It really couldn't be simpler.

      If cooking for two people, I simply quarter a medium sized peeled red onion and then place this in a small pyrex dish with a generous drizzle of olive oil. Roast for 15 mins at 200 degrees then flatten out the onion pieces. Add a whole tin of tomatoes and break down roughly. Stir in one and a half Kallo vegetable stock cubes - really crucial as these add a fantastic flavour without being too salty- and mix in thoroughly. I also normally add a couple of crushed garlic cloves.

      This mixture then goes back into the oven for a further 20 minutes. The ingredients are really basic, cheap and readily available but the results, thanks to the oven roasting, are simply divine. The roasting makes the tinned tomatoes slightly more concentrated and richer tasting and the onions add a lovely sweetness to the sauce. No additional liquid is needed and I don't feel the need to add any extra seasoning either because the stock cubes add plenty of flavour.

      This sauce coats any style of pasta perfectly but I usually go for some nice farfalle so that the tomato and onion pieces fit into the twirls. Add a dash of parmesan if desired and serve with garlic bread and/or salad. Enjoy!


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    • Safestyle UK / Local Service / 2 Readings / 0 Ratings
      More +
      22.09.2014 22:36


      • "Flexible on price "


      • Abrupt
      • Intimidating
      • Rude

      Don not invite them in your home!

      I recently contacted safe style after receiving a quote from a rival company. The salesperson was friendly enough on arrival and explained in detail the quality of the doors and discussed my requirements. After the quote was given (minus the 55% discount) I explained that it was too high. He then proceeded to call his manager who managed to knock a further £700 off as long as we had the doors installed on a certain date and had an advertising board for 28 days. When I explained that I needed time to consider, he turned rude and pushy and told me that I needed to give a yes please or no thank you. He was abrupt and intimidating and kept saying that I needed to say yes or no then and there in order to get the discount. After saying no, he then spoke to his manager (who he kept on the line) to say that I had said no and that I had not given him a reason why which was untrue. All in all it was an unpleasant experience and I was glad that my husband was in the house or I have felt very uncomfortable and intimidated. I would not let them in your house (particularly if you are alone). I wouldn't have used them if they were half the price of my previous quote.


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    • Labrador / Pet / Animal / 2 Readings / 1 Rating
      More +
      22.09.2014 22:27
      Very helpful


      • "Patient "
      • Clever
      • "Devoted "
      • Loving


      • "Susceptible to putting on weight"
      • "Health Issues"

      Labs invented puppy dog eyes

      Labs are truly wonderful dogs, many people are just lab people and they would never have another breed. They are widely considered to be among the best family dogs, strong loving and patient, do be aware they can be very bouncy as puppies and young dogs and could easily knock a child over.

      They are generally characters, I remember many a lab from my childhood who got up to all sorts. One particularly fat fellow would travel everywhere with a stick in his mouth, he was forever bring new ones home to his owners and would come a take a dip in my neighbours pond which the goldfish didn't like much.

      They come in three varietys, golden, black and my own personal favourite, chocolate. They enjoy exercise but can get very lazy once they reach adulthood and are very susceptible to putting on quite a lot of weight this is bad news for every dog but labs really can't hold it. If you are considering getting a lab make sure that the dam and sire are hip scored, hip dysplasia is unbelievably common in the breed, it causes pain and discomfort for the dog. Everyone at some point has seen a lab who sits a liitle odd, with his back legs to one side, this is because it is painful for him to sit normally. As well as this labs can also have heart problems so make sure you get your lab out exercising and take it easy on the treats.

      A true classic, such reliable dogs, you really can't go to far wrong with a lab.


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    • German Shepherd / Pet / Animal / 1 Reading / 1 Rating
      More +
      22.09.2014 22:08
      Very helpful


      • Protective
      • "Loyal "


      • "Health issues"

      Lovely dogs

      One of those breeds that is loved by everyone. GSD's are loyal , protective guardians who love their families. They are pretty good with kids although maybe not so good around smallies due to their large size but that really depends on the dog.

      Your GSD will require a decent amount of exercise, they are not a dog for the couch potato, they have a strong work ethic and enjoy having a job, they are used in police forces and armies all over the world because of this. As pets they excel at Shunzhund and Agility, it's well worth looking locally for a club to train with, your dog will get great enjoyment and stimulation out of it and many owners end up enjoying it too.

      They have a pretty thick coat that will require brushing out on a regular basis to get rid of dirt and debris. They are now common in three colons, white, black and sable and black which of course is the most common.

      In recent times the show circles have begun breeding the GSD for a "sloped back", you can google pictures of this. The sloped back appearance might be desirable in the show ring but it very detrimental to the GSD's overall breed health. Hip dysplasia is rife within dogs bred for showing, a painful disease in which the dogs hips come away from the joints. Hip dysplasia is expensive to treat as the dog will be on supplements and pain medications, surgery is also a possibility. Within working lines the sloped back is not considered desirable, for this reason hip dysplasia is not as large an issue. Regardless of whether you buy a puppy from a show line breeder or a working line breeder I would not buying one without seeing the dam and sire hip scored, it is too much of a risk to take.


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    • London & Country Mortgages / Mortgage / 0 Readings / 0 Ratings
      More +
      22.09.2014 22:01



      Great service

      Matt has been brill, particularly around communicating with me quickly and clearly and in a way I could understand! Originally I was assigned one of his colleagues but comms were so poor I had to change. Matt, however, has been efficient, friendly, professional and committed - very grateful indeed! Andrew was very quick at chasing and turning round documenation(M1742225)


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    • HP 650 / Laptop / 3 Readings / 3 Ratings
      More +
      22.09.2014 21:39


      • "very easy to carry on"


      • none

      good hp notebook

      Let us start-off using the design. And this notbook is constructed from plastic.
      Though the palm rest and the back have a finish that provides a pleasant sense to it. Include to that Gray and black's two tone colour that's a fine inclusion to the design. However, it truly isn't slim and light as an ultrabook. Let us move to the notebook keyboard and track-pad. This notebook includes a fine chocolate designed keypad. And also the keys are truly simple to push, therefore that is a factor that you despise or might love. but personally, i don't have any trouble with it. Because I do not get exhausted when I am helped by typing about it for for a long period and it helps me typing quickly. The trackpad is excellent, considering I had been using a little, none multitouch dell latitude d630 track-pad. The HP 650's one is not small enough plus possesses a pleasant design of dots with utilizing it, and yes it includes just a little dimple that turns away it having a double-click when it isn't needed by you. Multi touch is supported by it nicely, so you could pinch scroll using two hands and to zoom. The IO is a key matter about Computers generally. Along with the hp 650 laptop is having the right side a dvd-player and two USB 2.0 ports . To the left-side,there's A sd-card slot, 3.5-mm head phone jack, a mic jack, A USB 2.0 interface, an HDMI outside, an ethernet interface and a tv out. No blue tooth which means you can-not connect your wireless add-ons, although connection wize, the 650 has wireless fidelity. Next up is audio and display. And this notebook has A-15 inch 1366 by 768 resolution led-backlit display, with anti-glare. So that it features a matt finish that helps with outside awareness. It important flaw is watching sides, they're lousy, so you need to adjust the joint to find the very best viewing position. But the greatest thing relating to this notebook is the speakers. They're stereo, front-facing And they seem incredible and they haven't any distortion when they do. One other important things about computers in common is performance, this laptop has a dual-core intel core i-3 cpu clocked at 2.2 ghz alongside with 4gb of memory and Intel HD 3000 images. It manages most matters without busting a swet although it does not appear top quality. You could also do some video-editing that is high definition that is mild onto it and it may run mild 2010 tiltles reasonably nicely, in case you'd like to do gambling on it. The 650 also offers a 500gb hard disk drive, it should be good to save applications and your documents but while it really isn't as rapidly as an SSD, it's as virtually every thing in this notebook computer upgradable. You purchase a laptop for its portability and the battery life is a huge part of that,if you buy it.
      This laptop has a battery it operates up to 6 hrs of average use, which isn't bad. Who this notebook is for? Should you not possess a notebook and you require one for college, or you would like a primary functioning machine-but a good deal travels,and you also don't wish to invalidate your billfold, this notebook is mainly for you.


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