Posts Tagged ‘fourpandas’

Fury (2014)

Tuesday, October 21st, 2014
What makes a hero? Not murder.

What makes a hero? Not murder.

Synopsis:
Man’s inhumanity to man. (Robert Burns)
War is hell.  (William T. Sherman)
War makes monsters of us all. (George R.R. Martin)
Any of these famous quotes fit Fury perfectly.
This movie is a no holes barred, brutal take on war. What it does to people and what people do to each other. Set during the last days of WW2 in Nazi Germany, we follow the crew of Fury, an Abrahams Tank and what it means for them to be in the midst of the fighting.


Pluses:
The characters are multifaceted. The heroes are not heroes.
The writing is brilliant with the story development and clever use of back story.
Amazing acting.
Clever camera work, creating a feeling of claustrophobia.
Astounding cinematography and set design.
Use of archival footage.


Minuses:
Realistic battle scenes and post conflict imagery.
Did I mention realistic?
Use of archival footage. This left us even more broken.


Overall, this movie was brilliant. But it was as harrowing as it was brilliant.
It is not a feel good movie.
It is not a date movie.
If you want to have hope in your fellow man, avoid. I wouldn’t recommend this to anyone with a generous heart.
howmanypandas.com 4
#4emotionallybrokenpandas

Review – Star Trek – Into Darkness (2013)

Thursday, May 9th, 2013
Was I the only one to see a Star Wars image in this shot?

Was I the only one to see a Star Wars image in this shot?

Synopsis
After a terrorist attack on Earth, the crew of the Enterprise form up and head off to try and catch the culprit – who is harbouring more than one game changing secret –  all while dealing with oh so much lens flare.

Pluses:
Witty banter – there was some truly great dialogue in this instalment.
Good use of supporting characters.
Spot the cameos.
Cumberbatch fighting when he was way outnumbered.
Some great wide angled shots.
Hat tips to the original series/film franchises except one (in cons).

Minuses:
One particular scene’s dialogue – I won’t give it away – and while there was the odd titter at the exchange, it was totally unnecessary.
The over complexity belying one contact point on of a piece of equipment.
Not enough Cumberbatch.
Too many male tears feeling somewhat disingenuous.
A reverse of a classic scene from the original movie franchise.
They hung so much light on one plot point resolution that I can’t imagine anyone not seeing it coming.
Vulcan hair styles are not designed for running.

Overall, it was a very enjoyable flick. I didn’t realise I was seeing the 3D version (I try and avoid them like the plague), and while there were the usual 3D designed scenes, some went past so fast as to not “get” the 3D experience.
Did anyone else think the StarFleet uniforms looks a bit like the SS just in grey and without skulls and bones on the hats?
PS. There’s nothing at the end of the credits, so if you don’t feel like sitting through them after the 3D candy ends, you won’t miss anything.

howmanypandas.com 4

 

 

 

#fourlensflaringpandas

Review – The Imposter (2012)

Monday, March 11th, 2013
The Imposter - Close Up

When is the truth really the truth when not even those who know can tell it.

Synopsis

This documentary with reenactments won a prize at Miami International Film Festival as well as being a Grand Jury finalist at Sundance, so I was interested in seeing it. If I had of just seen this as a fiction based on a true story, I would never have believed it. We are such odd creatures, driven by motivators others do not, cannot, possibly hope to understand.

The Imposter tells the true story, with interviews from the key players, of a young french man who pretended to be a missing American teenager in the late 90’s who had been missing for a few years. What follows raises questions you desperately want to ask but also don’t want answered. That such a fraud was able to be perpetrated at all asks still more questions, but in the end, all you are left with a feeling of profound sadness. A beautifully crafted but incredibly profound sadness.

Pluses

Fantastically edited making you reconsider your own assumptions.
Reenactments are not overdone and edited tightly with the interviews.
Real people are often far more compelling than anything fictional.
The twists and turns of truth.

Minuses

The constant disbelief, even though you know it is true, leaving with that sadness that continues to resonate.

This negative is actually a very strong reason to see the film – because of its challenge to you and how your feelings towards to participants change throughout the film.

 howmanypandas.com 4

 

 
#FourPandas

From non-cyclist to bike owner via CityCycle – a 2 year journey.

Thursday, November 1st, 2012

 

00001. Numero Uno of CityCycles

Take one non-cyclist.

Add one much maligned bike share program.

Include a healthy dose of passive aggressiveness.

That’s me.

Even before CityCycle  started, I was sold. The more people dismissed it, the more I wanted to do it, to prove them wrong.

What did I know about cycling though?

I believe the technical term is: Jack.

I hadn’t cycled as part of commuting since high school (a very nasty fall due to some road works saw me keep off a bike for many, many years). I did spend a few hours on a bike on a holiday overseas a few years back, but riding in Brisbane? Forget it. Everyone knows just how dangerous it is!

Yet here I was. Committed to CityCycle to prove to people that you could use it as part of your day.

That I did.

I battled through the roll outs and the station that still hasn’t opened close to my home… I pushed through and ended up selling my car, because I rode everywhere. When I went out of the CityCycle network, well there is Translink for that. When I really needed a car, I just hired one. I would CityCycle to and from the rental agency. Too easy and oh so much cheaper than owning.

Weekend on the Coast? Don't forget the bike!

Living and working in the inner city meant that I could get away with not needing a car, with jumping on a CityCycle and getting to where I wanted to go. Free helmets saw me use the bikes even more – because on the odd occasions I didn’t have my helmet with me, I could jump on one and just ride. I mean why walk 10 minutes when you can ride it in 2? Need to get to a meeting (or a coffee) a few blocks away? Jump a CityCycle. It is just so easy.

Over the course of 2 years, I went from pavement and bike path only riding, to being a confident (and law abiding) road based cyclist.

CityCycle did exactly what it is purported to do, for me at least. It got me out of the car, saw me opt out of much public transport (or at least incorporate it for shorter distances), increased my cycling confidence, improved my fitness, and transition into a bike owner.

A few months ago, I took on a new role, located way outside the CityCycle network. When I looked at the job and the location, I didn’t worry about parking, I checked public transport (as a back up) and how it was for riding to and from work. This of course meant I would have to buy a bike. So my CityCycle journey was complete.

I currently ride to and from work daily. If it is a lovely day, I come home the long way along the river, to truly enjoy the city. I love my town and I love riding. I plan weekends around where I can cycle and explore. I have met a whole new group of people – cyclists! Who would have thought that a few years ago this would be me? I would have laughed at you for suggesting it.

 

Yep. That's me. The cyclist.

Yet here I am.

A cyclist.

Post Script:
I have been asked quite frequently since buying my bike if I will be keeping my CityCycle membership. You know what? I will be. I still think CityCycle is the best option for one way trips, or if I want to go somewhere I don’t feel confident about locking my bike up unattended for hours. For $60 a year, I truly believe it is best option out there for many people… you just have to commit to not only trying it, but sticking to it.

Review – Community – Biology 101 (S03Ep01)

Wednesday, September 28th, 2011

Little dry there Abed?

This week:
The gang is back for class after the summer off. Greendale will always be Greendale no matter how normal Jeff may wish it (through song) to be. Abed discovers British TV – including Cougarton Abbey.  Jeff learns about himself, we meet some new characters, and some old ones go on new journeys.

Pluses:
The forementioned Cougarton Abbey.
Chapstick!
Pearch and Jeff dynamic.
Chimpanzzzzzzz (LMFAO).
Jeff post Chimpanzzzzzz.
OMG the Vice-Dean!
Matching outfits!
Starburns!

Minuses:
No John Oliver.
I love Community – you all know that. This was a great entre back into the show. It wasn’t a big set piece like some previous episodes, but it nicely set the scene for the year to come, while getting us up to speed on the Summer and the new characters (or changes in direction for existing ones).

#FoursolidCommunitylovingpandas

Blue vs. Yellow – A Comparative Look at CityCycle and Melbourne Bike Share

Tuesday, July 19th, 2011

Early morning ride time in Melbourne.

So I went back to my old home town of Melbourne for the first time since Melbourne Bike Share and CityCycle launched.

When I lived there 10+ years ago I would never have believed you if you had told me that I would be riding bikes through the centre of Melbourne, let alone riding almost every day in Brisbane. I didn’t ride. Period. In fact I didn’t ride until October 2nd, when CityCycle launched last year.

Cut to today. Last month I clocked 97 trips on CityCycle, ride to and from work most days and use a bike share program as my primary form of transportation. Therefore, it made sense to spend my weekend back in Melbourne riding around town on the blue bikes that make up Melbourne Bike Share.

Rugged up to ride in Melbourne

Melbourne Bike Share (MBS) and CityCycle (CC) are from two different players in the Bike Share market. One, Bixi possibly best known for the Boris Bikes in London and the other is JCD, best known for the Velib program in Paris. Both are successful systems in their own right (except here in Australia – insert helmet argument here if you like). Their bikes and their programs, while both “bike share” are quite different.

So how did the two compare? I will break it down to categories and decide which won what. If you don’t feel like reading the whole thing, just scan for colours – Melbourne Bike Share is blue and CityCycle is orange because yellow is too hard to read. You can see which scheme won each area by the colour, or if it is a tie there is no colour. The one with the most colour wins. Very scientific, I know.

Let’s take a look at the bikes first:

Frame:
The first thing I noticed with the blue bikes was that they were higher. The frame is larger, the step through lower and it is MUCH lighter – I did expect MBS’s frame to be better given that it doesn’t hold a locking mechanism or the rack bar like CC, where much of its weight is located. MBS has a thin piece of metal that sits under the basket to rack and no lock (more on that later) making it a better frame given its lack of heaviness. One to Melbourne Bike Share.

There was a distinct lack of consistency across the bikes in Melbourne.

Gears:
The same gears are on both bikes, however I found more variation on the bikes with MBS and also thought that they were geared lower, so even less likely to build up much speed. Perhaps it is because the CC bikes are newer but they are more consistent and better for riding. One to CityCycle

Brakes:
Not sure if they are the same, however I found the tension on the brakes on the 8 different bikes I rode in Melbourne to be wildly different. Again, this could be age and or use, but going with CityCycle for consistency again as while there is some variance, it is nothing on MBS.

Me bruised and my bag bent. Taez says no to the basket in Melbourne

Basket:
I was super excited that MBS had a basket with a strap. After watching their video I realised it didn’t have sides but figured it would still be ok. Nope. The amount of tooing and froing to get the strap over is a pain, I have more than one bruise on my wrist from it. The elastic was so stiff, it even bent my bag. Compare to the wire basket on the CityCycle, you just chuck your bag in and ride. I got so fed up with the MBS system I just rode with my bag over my shoulders.

Lock:
MBS has a handy “loop” that you can run your own lock through. Personally, I don’t want to be carrying around a lock, and have used the CityCycle lock a total of twice. So do I want the option of less weight but less convenience, or more weight and more convenience? In the end, I have decided that since the two times I needed a lock were spontaneous (a cider pick up and a bathroom break – not related), convenience wins – this one to CityCycle.

Brilliant yet simple design on the seat post and clasp. You can also see the loop for your own lock.

Saddle (including height adjustment):
As far as my bottom could tell, it was the same saddle, however how the seat post and clamp on the MBS was far superior to that of CityCycle. While the clamps are both lever actioned, MBS releases a circular grip making raising and lowering the seat post a breeze. It also meant that I didn’t have to almost bend my hand back to move the clamp as I do on the CityCycle. Also with MBS they have numbers on the side of the seat post. So rather than measuring with my hand and often getting rust or oil on it, I can just visually set it. Melbourne Bike Share – this was awesome!

Handlebars and Grips:
As people who follow me on Twitter know, my hands are prone to get all owies when I ride the CityCycle too much because of the raised pattern of the grips. As such I bought a pair of gel gloves (yeah yeah I know, shut up). I packed these (along with some unpadded full gloves for the cold in Melbourne) for my weekend of riding, and imagine my surprise when my hands clasped soft and smooth grips! I only used my bike gloves once. The handlebars were also higher than the CityCycle, thereby creating less pressure on your hands. Consequently, the comfort on the Melbourne Bike Share bikes was far superior to CC.

Dump and go - the ease of the Brisbane basket.

Tyres:
Given that I am not the most confident of riders, I have often had a mini freakout when the tyres of the CC get caught in a edge of the road or slight raise going from the road/grass to pavement. The tyres on the MBS are not only larger (less energy expended) but they are wider with what appeared to be off road ridges on them – totally different to the dinky little CC tyres.  I loved the tyres, and didn’t have a single moment where I was worried I might come off because my tyre caught on something. All you Melbourne Bike Share.

Manoeuvrability:
I used to think that the CC had the manoeuvrability of a battleship, but compared to MBS bikes, it is like a hummingbird. The lack of range on the MBS was staggering. I noticed it when I went to take out my first bike. I went to turn the handlebars and they just stopped. I can’t imagine how the bike goes up a disabled or bike ramp, but then again I guess you can’t ride on the disabled ramps in Melbourne anyway. This was one of my main dislikes of MBS. Another one to CityCycle.

Now the ease of use of the program:

Umm that is a lot of information!

Hiring a Bike:
In Brisbane we have the yellow cards that we swipe, enter a pin number, select a bike, release it and go. In Melbourne they have chipped keys that you slot into the rack next to the bike you want, wait a couple of seconds and the bike is released. Done. For ease and speed, MBS has it hands down, though the convenience of putting a credit card style card in your back pocket is pretty good, but this one stays with Melbourne Bike Share. MBS also has a casual, daily and weekly instant hire process. I didn’t try it, but it is there, all be it involving way too many steps for me to want to utilise it when $50 a year is so cheap.

Finding Stations:
Say what you like about the bright yellow of the CityCycle and stations, but I will say this, they are MUCH easier to find than the MBS stations. MBS is deliberately unobtrusive, often sitting back off main roads. I found the Melbourne stations quite tricky to pin point, and would be stopping to check the app frequently, swivelling my head around trying to find the station. Bright yellow may be harsh and the advertising a pain, but you can spot a station easily. Unobtrusive is good, but being able to find a station is better – this one to CityCycle.

Access to the Stations:
Brisbane City Council has done a fair bit of work in recent months to put in directional ramps to the stations for ease of gaining access to the pavement as well as getting off the pavement to the road. Melbourne doesn’t have this at all and some stations are in the middle of the block, so no easy access. All CityCycle.

Love love love the maps attached to the stations in Melbourne.

Locations:
Brisbane has twice as many stations, so it is easier to find a station close to where you want to go. I will say though, that MBS had a station within a block of almost everywhere I was going, and Brisbane currently lacks stations at key areas, though this is supposed to be addressed in phase 2. It also felt like MBS was more for getting around once you got into town, where as I feel as though CC is designed to move people in and out of the city. As it stands, for how I used/use the system, it is a tie.

On Road Station Maps:
The maps that CC have at their stations can best be described as decorative. In contract, the maps for MBS show the stations and also helpfully say “you are here” as well as point out where helmet vendors are located. As a tourist (even though I lived in Melbourne for 8 years), I found myself plotting routes with the station maps and the app. Together they worked so well. It made picking my path and working out where the heck I was when I just went exploring so much easier. Well done Melbourne Bike Share.

The owie grip and the heavy lock on the CityCycle

Road Cycling:
The quality of the closest metre to the curb in Melbourne is much better than here in Brisbane. That alone made riding much more enjoyable. However, add to this the fact that Melbourne turns some parking on the sides of roads into Bike Lanes (enforcing the Clearway too) and it just gets better. Then you also have the unofficial bike routes – on the roads predominately set up for trams and come commercial vehicles. Apart from me really pissing off a couple of tram drivers (sorry I couldn’t go any faster no matter how many times you rang your little bell), it was great to have a a grid through the city without all the cars. The only problem I had was that some areas became tram only so you had to get off the bike and walk it on the pavement – though I seemed to be the only one who followed the signs. This one goes to Melbourne Bike Share.

Off Road Cycling:
I love riding through the parks in Brisbane. I frequently divert on the way home to ride through the Botanical Gardens, or I cut through King George Square. In Melbourne though, there is no riding on pavements, cutting through parks etc. Also there are far less off road bike paths (that I could find anyway) than in Brisbane. I found this quite annoying while in Melbourne, but I followed the rules. Brisbane has this one – CityCycle.

No more "but I can't be spontaneous because I don't have a helmet"

Helmets:
Yes, it is the law in Australia that we must wear a helmet when we ride. Some of us are for it, some of us are against it and some of us just think you should be able to make up your own mind. To find a helmet vendor on CC’s webpage you click on a link and get a list (not mapped) of 14 companies that will sell you a helmet outright. With MBS you have lists and maps that show stacks of 7/11’s that sell the ($5 each and you get $3 back when you return it) as well as two vending machines that dispenses them for the same price all conveniently located on each station map. Melbourne Bike Share gets another.

Cost:
Both models have an increased scale for keeping bikes longer than the prescribed amount of time. MBS costs $50 for the year and CC costs $60. However, with an annual subscription with MBS you get 45 minute trips and can borrow bikes 24/7, unlike CC which has a maximum free time of 30 mins and are only open from 5am till 10pm. Another win for Melbourne Bike Share.

Webpage:
Hands down this goes to Melbourne Bike Share – it is easy to use and navigate. Whomever designed and signed off on the CityCycle page should be performance managed.

Customer Contact Centre:
I haven’t had any problems (less the current incorrect expiration date on my account) with Melbourne Bike Share so I can’t comment on how it compares to CityCycle’s hit and miss with their call centre. So this one is currently even.

CityCycle Station - clean design but lacking in functionality.

Registration:
I had no problems registering with either program, but it took me multiple times for the activation page to come up for Melbourne Bike Share and as I mentioned it is currently showing the incorrect dates. So this one to CityCycle.

Communication:
This has been a major bugbear with me and CityCycle. They are TERRIBLE at it. It is as though they are doing the exact opposite of Melbourne Bike Share who actively engage with their riders on Twitter and Facebook. I have received personalised emails that actually relate to what I asked in a timely manner as well as receiving updates on how my “key” was going. This one is all Melbourne Bike Share.

Mobile App:
While CityCycle’s helpfully named AllBikesNow is functional to a point, I have many problems with it not displaying live data and its inability to communicate anything other than bike and rack numbers. AllBikesNow meet SpotCycle (again an amazingly unhelpful name). Not only can you change the display style, but it also has a timer and best of all it shows the cycle paths, lanes and unoffocial bike ways. SpotCycle takes AllBikesNow and laughs at it.

Problems with a Bike:
If you have a problem with MBS you follow the accepted practise of turning the seat around. We do the same here in Brisbane, however if there is something particular, we can record the number and advise CC. I am not saying this is a perfect system, it isn’t and I have spoken about its drawbacks before, but it is better than MBS as MBS has no numbering system I could see or means for reporting a faulty bike (I may be wrong and am happy to be proven otherwise). This one goes to CityCycle.

So who has the better bike?
5 : 4 to CityCycle.

Which is the better program?
8 : 5 to Melbourne Bike Share.

Overall, Melbourne Bike Share wins. 12 : 10. Neither scheme is perfect. Some things I can’t stand on one, I love on the other. I could have broken it down further, (ie the stands for MBS are wussy any my bikes kept falling over, or just how crappy both their bells are – same style of bell mind you, the lights etc), but theses are the main things I find important in my day to day riding. It begs the question though, why isn’t Melbourne Bike Share more successful? They have the helmets, they have a casual hire option, yet for my weekend away I never saw another blue bike in action. I didn’t see movement on my local racks. I even could draw a line in construction dust on some of them. For all the naysayers about CityCycle (and yes it has its challenges), it is being used more than Melbourne Bike Share.

 

 

 

#fourbluepandas

 

Review – The Way Back (2010)

Sunday, April 10th, 2011

How far would you go to be free?

Synopsis:
World War Two is raging through out Europe. Sent away to Siberia for crimes (real and imagined) our unlikely band of heroes plan their escape, which sends them on a journey across Eastern Asia. Based on the true story of one of three men who walked out of Siberia and into India.

Pluses:
Amazing acting (though I admit when Farrell said his first line I groaned, but quickly forgotten).
Incredibly journey, physically and spiritually.
Always nice to see Saoirse Ronan in a movie that doesn’t suck.
The scenery.
The pace was nice and even.
Love the combination of the wide shots with the close ups for urgency of their situation.
Beautifully shot and executed.
I admit I cried.
Would have liked to know what happened to the other characters who made it out.
The ended – I know it was cheesy but I was totally bought in.

Minuses:
I thought the beginning was a bit stereotypical.

This movie will lift you up, drag you down and leave you exhausted but revelling in the experience.

#fouremotionallyexhuasedbutrewardedpandas

 

Review – Nikita – Covenant (S01Ep17)

Sunday, April 10th, 2011

Not even a bruise and a beret can make me look bad.

This week:
OMG! We pick up right where we left off before the break with that OMG moment.  Michael blackmails Nikita. Nikita plays Gogle. Percy plays everyone.

Pluses:
The wrap up of Michael’s back story.
Michael and Nikita in the same room not trying to kill each other.
Cross and double cross.
Not too much fighting – very character driven episode.
Not too much Alex.
Percy and Michael.
Really fast paced.

Minuses:
Was totally sucked in and full on during the episode, but now thinking back there were only a few key parts to this episode.

This week’s adventure plus Nikita’s continuously strong season must surely guarantee that we will see her finally take down Division over the next few seasons. To not do so would be almost criminal.

#fourthrilledtobitspandas

Review – Breaking In – Pilot (S01Ep01)

Sunday, April 10th, 2011

 

We get paid to be bad... I'll allow it.

Synopsis:
Cameron Price (Bret Harrison – V, Reaper, The Loop) has Uni all figured out. After hacking the computer system, he has made it his bitch. Along comes  Oz (Christian Slater) and his team at Contra Security (a company that is hired to put security to the test), and Cameron’s life will never be the same again.

This week:
Pilot so a lot of introductions and scene setting. Cameron has to steal an expensive car as his first case while getting constantly harassed about office birthdays and pranked as the newbie. What could possibly go wrong?

Pluses:
OMG LEX LUTHER IN UGG BOOTS!!
Boom goes the dynamite. Awesome pranking.
I’ll allow it.
Sky Mall.
Snappy dialogue.
Heaps of fun.
Good running gags that didn’t lose their impact.
Slater gets to continue his love of all things Star Trek.

Minuses:
A little stereotypical.
Lot of pressure on the case of the week scenario to keep it so engaging.

This was a remarkably enjoyable romp. I will certainly be continuing to catch this. It reminds me a little of Better Off Ted in its style and dialogue.

#fourgigglingpandas

Review – The Vampire Diaries – Know Thy Enemy (S0217)

Saturday, April 9th, 2011

If you go down to the woods today, you're in for a big surprise.

This week:
After an agonising break due to poor weather, we are back! Jenna gets the shock and betrayal of her life. John gets a wake up call. Bonnie is still annoying. Jeremy is still a puppy dog. Damon and Stefan get a secret weapon and our heart breaks for Caroline.

Pluses:
OMG The Caroline arc!!! That was just brilliant. Heart breaking while really changing the dynamic of the story.
Jenna (Sara Canning) did some nice acting there – always good to see that the cast actually can act.
Plans come crashing down for everyone.
Getting compelled sucks if you are a vampire.
Nice little Klaus twist.
Seeing twitter go nuts when Damon took off his shirt in each time zone.
Cross and double cross.

Minuses:
Bonnie and Jeremy.
Wanted to see more of Jenna.
Very busy episode after the break, so lost some momentum going in (I think watching it back to back it wouldn’t be noticeable).

It was so nice to be back in Mystic Falls. This season is really building up to a lot of conclusions, major and minor arcs alike. I can’t wait to see how it all pans out.

#fourgrinningpandas

PS. And a special treat for all the younguns looking for pics of Damon when he takes off his shirt.

Settle down teen girls.