Monday, 3 August 2020

Review: A walk in the woods

Gentle if slightly dull comedy about the best-selling author Bill Bryson (Redford) hiking the Appalachian trail with an old travelling buddy (Nolte).  There's no earth shattering epiphanies on offer - just two blokes making fairly obvious observations about life and having entirely expected encounters.

What lifts it about the mediocre are Nolte & Redford's performances - and Nolte's in particular. The scenery is also beautiful although I had a strong suspicion some scenes were filmed on the same parts of the trail - despite being at different parts of the movie.

Currently free to watch on Amazon Prime.

Overall:  The very watchable Redford & Nolte can't raise enough of a laugh.

Review: Knives Out

Knives Out is an amusing murder mystery which plays with and subverts expectations in a variety of ways making for an appealing watch. It starts off conventionally if knowingly enough: a famous murder mystery writer has been found dead with his throat slit - and a famous detective has been engaged by someone unknown to investigate.

Cue a parade of ghastly relatives who are all hiding something drawn from a surprising cast (eg Curtis, Johnson) who will look familiar and rather older due to a hyper-real cinematography which picks out every wrinkle in faces and detail in the house. Re-watchers who like to focus on background details will find much to enjoy in this well stocked house of curios and crime artefacts.

Unintentional humour is provided by detective Craig's wandering southern accent which is pure KFC seasoned with a hint of Bond.  But for me, it just added to the delicious fun.

Currently free to watch on Amazon Prime.

Overall: Enjoy picking out all of the murder mystery tropes. 

Saturday, 1 August 2020

Review: If You Tell: A True Story of Murder, Family Secrets, and the Unbreakable Bond of Sisterhood

 If You Tell If You Tell is a grim - on more than one level - choice for our Book Group this month.  Essentially, it's a shlock true crime show spewed into book form.   Not a genre I'm particularly familiar with - and if I'm honest, probably not one I will return to.

I was initially distracted by some truly lurid prose and odd sentence construction in early chapters. But it did settle down to become a straight forward retelling of a case of child and adult abuse, neglect and murder which I was previously unaware of.

The incidents contained within are truly nightmarish and if you have any unresolved trauma in a related area, possibly best avoided. On the plus side, it has a certain pace to it - and felt like chillingly accurate in its description of reality distortion, gas lighting and other forms of coercion employed by malignant individuals.

I'm also uncomfortable with the book structurally as a sizeable majority focuses on the grim detail - rather the police investigation, court case or even wider fallout on the three daughters and how they coped, insights gained etc.  The absence of the last of these is a great pity, because I suspect the sisters have a lot to say about resilience.  Also disappointingly, the main antagonist has no real contribution to make to the book and so their motivations, origins of their mindset etc remain a mystery.

Currently free to read if you have Amazon Prime.

Overall:  Hard to recommend.

Review: Radioactive

Good biopics tell you story of someone's life, great ones often pull out insights which give you cause for self-reflection.  Satrapi's take on radioactivity discoverer and Nobel prize winner Marie Curie doesn't quite fall into the great category, but it is an absorbing if science lite watch.

Told in primarily in flash back but punctuated by fever dream like excursions into the future to see the consequences of her discoveries and always giving a Grimshaw like feel to turn of the 20th century Paris - it never looks less than wonderful. I was also really taken by the soundtrack which felt distinctly Vangelis-like at times.

Pike and Riley give solid performances as the couple Curie. They are only slightly hampered by a rather declamatory script. But one senses that the pair might well have been like in real life - awkward and brilliant, but ultimately enviable soul mates.

Overall: Satisfying biopic

Sunday, 26 July 2020

Review: Midway

Epic World War II movie covering a key battle in the Pacific as well as a few other skirmishes leading up to it.  The action is thrillingly staged and improvements in CGI since Pearl Harbour makes it a much more involving and tense watch.  Unlike many war movies covering the era, it does make a bit of an attempt to cover the other side's perspective.

Interestingly, it does not have any standout casting - but plenty of recognisable faces from a variety of TV and films - often looking rather older and craggier than usual.

Some plot lines are not especially well wrapped up suggesting that an even longer version of the film likely exists. There are a few other oddities like this. For example, I did not manage to put a name to one of the main characters - square jawed hero, Dick Best (yes, really!) until a good way into the film.

Overall: A few awkward elements aside, this was a decent watch.

Saturday, 25 July 2020

Review: The Adjustment Bureau

Apparently inspired by a Philip K. Dick story, The Adjustment Bureau certainly captures the essential vibe of his work. Damon plays something like the everyman in this story whose life is turned upside down one day by the discovery that his and everyone else's life are subject to manipulation by hidden forces - which may or may not be angels working at the behest of a deity.

The film does a great job of showcasing New York although central park is conspicuously absent.  Damon is as solid as ever, and has great chemistry with Blunt - a chance encounter with whom risks everything.

In a nutshell: If you've ever wondered if the world revolved around you...

Saturday, 23 May 2020

Introducing Keep to Time

A few months ago, an old friend of mine came up with a new meeting management tool - a nifty timer - and asked me to help him get it ready for launch. After trying it myself, I thought it had real potential. It's especially useful for those meetings where time is short, but you have a lot of agenda items to get through. I've successfully used for meetings where I've had to cram as many as a dozen different agenda items into fifty minutes.

A few UI tweaks and further testing later, it is finally ready for others to try out:

It's been a few years since I last worked on the development of website and this was a lot of fun. 

Drop us a line with any comments.