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Friday, Dec 7, 2007

This came out of nowhere, eventually taking a place as one of the most fun Wii experiences of the year.  It’s not going to win any awards, given the lack of memorable characters and the fact that, well, fishing might not be everyone’s idea of an exciting gaming experience.  Still, not even The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess, to date the most fun a Wii owner could have with a fishing pole, managed to replicate the thrill of a catch quite like Fishing Master does.  The general idea is this: You travel from place to place all over Japan, entering fishing tournaments, honing your skills, and trying to catch the rarest fish out there.  The thing is, it’s not just exciting when you catch one of these rare treasures, though the payoff of seeing the beautiful thing for the first time is addictive.  Even so, it’s almost as exciting just to catch a tin can, which happens quite frequently because, well, they don’t move around quite so much as the fish.  Those trapped inside for the winter might appreciate the zen that a good fishing experience brings as well, so go ahead, let your quest for the rarest fish—and, if you’re into it, the largest boot—begin.


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Friday, Dec 7, 2007

There are actually two Stax Records stories. The first is of the mid-‘60s, when they defined soul music before tragedy and a sudden collapse. The second is of their rise up from those ashes to become a player in the post-Black Power funk era, and of a second, crippling financial controversy. This Samuel L. Jackson-narrated doc, although a little sketchy on some of the details, delivers both stories with vibrant interviews, including label co-founder Jim Stewart and Otis Redding’s wife Zelda. But feel free to skip the history lesson and enjoy the steady stream of rare concert and TV footage starring Redding, Sam and Dave, Isaac Hayes, the Staple Singers, and many soulful more.



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Friday, Dec 7, 2007

It seems David E. Kelley brought out a magnifying glass on a sunny day and held it close and steady over the iconic American town of his quirky imagination, Rome, Wisconsin until all the nation’s cultural politics, circa 1992, caught fire. Its cast of somewhat nutty characters feel the heat and respond in believably human ways. There are no heroes, here, but there’s always a point. If you’re not laughing at each episode, your brain must be fried.


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Friday, Dec 7, 2007

Our life is not a movie, but maybe it has cinematic elements that piece together splintered images. If there’s love, it’s “a spot against the sky’s colossal gloom”. Like the National, Okkervil River impart to the listener the sense that they are privy to a vital revelation, though the immediate meaning of the words may remain a mystery. If Will Sheff’s characters are more fully-formed than Matt Berninger’s, they are also more cracked, tougher to get through to. On The Stage Names, the band have once again shown themselves to be expert at creating this undeniably sad and powerful indie rock. It’s one of the year’s essential albums.


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Thursday, Dec 6, 2007


For the weekend beginning 30 November, here are the films in focus:


Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead [rating: 8]


Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead is kinetic. It’s dynamite laced with electricity. It’s a perfectly played puzzle that’s final images make for an astoundingly satisfying statement.


Sidney Lumet has made some of the greatest films of the modern era, stellar works with titles like Serpico, Dog Day Afternoon, Network, and The Verdict. He’s also hacked his way through some undeniable garbage including The Morning After, A Stranger Among Us, and the god awful Gloria remake. With his last significant film being the uneven Vin Diesel vehicle Find Me Guilty, many believed his best days were behind him. After all, at 83, the one time master of the TV drama had come a long way from the medium’s Golden Age. Bowing out gracefully was obviously not in the cards - until now. Even if he never makes another film, Lumet has relit his fading limelight with the amazing thriller Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead. Fragmented and ferocious, it’s one of the best efforts of his often uneven career. read full review…


The Savages [rating: 7]


Walking precariously between real world gravitas and the far too isolated and idiosyncratic, The Savages is a wonderful premise undermined by some unnecessary pretense.


It’s a crime how we treat the elderly in America. Disposable, burdensome, and no longer warranting dignity, we warehouse the old in an odd attempt to master our own fleeting mortality. We create buzzword balms like “assisted living”, “retirement community” and “senior hospice”, all in an attempt to avoid the more scandalous label “nursing home”. Adult children caring for their enfeebled parents have become a post-modern social phenomenon, a glorified gut check for often distant siblings and their inadvertently affected families. In her latest film, writer/director Tamara Jenkins explores the effect that infirmary has on The Savages - a brother and sister whose abusive father is slowly succumbing to dementia. Yet instead of investigating only the comic or dramatic possibilities of the story, the filmmaker falls into some often unnecessary quirk, rendering important themes and issues slightly surreal.  read full review…


The Golden Compass [rating: 6]


The Golden Compass has to do a lot of Pullman and Dark Material‘s heavy lifting. Sadly, it can’t handle it all.


Have no fear, Tolkien lovers - Phillip Pullman is not about to steal the big screen title from our beloved Lord of the Rings. The greatest trilogy of all time is still safely sitting in first place, having vanquished previous pretenders to the throne such as The Chronicles of Narnia, the awful Eragon, and the recent The Seeker: The Dark is Rising. All hoped to become future franchise epics. All fully failed to achieve said sense of scope. While there will be a second installment of C. S. Lewis’ veiled theological tall tale, the search for the next big flight of fantasy continues. The latest installment comes from New Line, the company that took the risk on Peter Jackson and wound up winning. Sadly, The Golden Compass feels more like an afterthought than a solid cinematic challenger. While it strives to be the all-inspiring spectacle the genre requires, its universe is too self-contained to truly connect with audiences. read full review…


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