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Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles, Season 1
Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles, Season 1
DVD ~ Lena Headey
Offered by kylakins
Price: $11.42
132 used & new from $2.01

110 of 119 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Slow to start, but a good answer to the movies, February 29, 2008
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It's a rare thing that a TV series based upon a movie's premise ends up being as good as the show's origins: while slow to start, with a dreadful pilot and many sub-par episodes, the first series of Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles, over-all, became something that arguably lived up to that standard.

The show follows Sarah and John as they try, again, to prevent Judgement Day. The show follows on from the original two movies, generally ignoring the third (thankfully.) Much of the plot surrounds the character of Cameron, a female terminator sent back from the future to protect John. The show, so far at least, has eschewed predictable cliches involving the character, and often takes the viewer by surprise, from displays of dark humor to dragging the viewer through alternate displays of coldness and humanity.

Episodes I particularly recommend include "Dungeons and Dragons" and the jaw-dropping follow-up "The Demon Hand". Performances are variable. Lena Headey doesn't match Linda Hamilton's portrayal of the title character, reflecting more the post-La Femme Nikita (Dark Angel, Bionic Woman) obsession with angsty heroines. Thomas Dekker either gives the best or the second-best performance as John Connor, depending on whether you're familiar with the Director's Cut of Terminator 2. It's a good performance. The best performances are arguably by Summer Glau and Richard T Jones, as Cameron - a Terminatrix sent back to protect the Connors - and James Ellison - the surprised FBI agent chasing Sarah Connor - respectively. Glau's performance, while initially confused, provides depictions of humour and coldness that surprises or shocks the viewer every time.

This DVD set is reasonable for what you pay for, reflecting the short nine-episode run of the first season, cut short due to the 2008 Writer's Strike. The set includes a few commentaries and cut scenes. The aforementioned "Demon Hand" episode is complemented by a "rough-cut" of an alternative version, though the jarring changes in visual and audio quality make it somewhat difficult to enjoy by itself. Over-all, visual quality is excellent, I doubt you'll get much more enjoyment out of the less portable Blu-ray edition.

For all of their qualities, the original two Terminator films - at least, as released theatrically - were basic killer robot fantasies with their depth being limited to surface level discussions of time travel and anthropomorphism. Some would argue that the Director's Cut of T2 was a considerable step above this and I'd agree with them. But regardless, the first series of The Sarah Connor Chronicles managed to rise above the Theatrical versions of the movies: what seemed like another attempt to cash in on a pop-culture classic turned out to be a smart, entertaining, thought-provoking science fiction series. This DVD set is definitely recommended.
Comment Comments (6) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Nov 13, 2012 8:50 PM PST


Samsung DVD-R130 DVD Recorder
Samsung DVD-R130 DVD Recorder
3 used & new from $129.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Unimpressive, November 9, 2007
The DVD-R130 is a DVD recorder designed to record standard NTSC video. It can take S-Video, composite, antenna/cable, or Firewire feeds. It has multiple levels of quality. Outputs include composite, S-Video, and component, and the recorder can output ED (progressive scan) signals via the component outputs. Use with a regular TV that has only antenna/cable inputs requires the use of a modulator.

As this is my first DVD recorder, I don't have much to compare it to directly, but I can make a number of obvious comments:

As a DVD player, the player is clunky and poorly spec'd. There are three menu buttons on the remote, and two information buttons, one of which, apparently as a joke, is labeled "ANYKEY". This is the first player I've ever come across that doesn't play PAL discs. Cheap no-name brand DVD players generally do (if either the disc or player is region free), and will even convert it for use on an NTSC set. The Samsung's lack of support for PAL is all the more surprising given the move over the last few years from NTSC TVs to HD TVs (that generally accept most scan rates.)

As a recorder, the player is unreliable. I tried three different media types before getting anything to record successfully. The first disc I tried the recorder "recorded" on to but missed the first twenty minutes of the program being recorded, the twenty minutes playing as a black screen with occasionally bursts of audio. The second, an Imation DVD-RW, was unrecognized by the player (A second disc from the same pack was recognized, but reluctantly - the player generally takes two minutes to figure out it has a DVD-RW inserted.) The third, a Fuji-film DVD-R, was recognized in less time and the recording appears to be successful.

The user interface is also clunky. As an example, title renaming is done via an arrow-key operated "keyboard": it takes around five minutes to enter something as simple as "FAMILY GUY - BLUE HARVEST". I found frequent occasions that navigating from one menu to another involved hitting the same button twice (by design, not because of the usual remote control problems.) The device suffers also from those problems you'd expect to go with DVD recording - it's just not as simple as "hit record, hit stop, you have your recording" - you have to go through the trouble of "finalizing" discs (even with DVD-RWs where this could be automatic.)

On the plus side, the support for Firewire input (though this is documented as being a camcorder specific thing, I have no idea if it works with anything but camcorders) and S-Video is good, as is the support for four levels of quality, allowing up to four hours of video on a single layer DVD-R, is good.

In the end, I'd recommend using a separate DVD player to play your DVDs, and to use this strictly as a VCR replacement. And don't buy it for your stereotypical grandma, she'll never use it.


Monster
Monster
DVD ~ Charlize Theron
Offered by Just Pawn It
Price: $4.99
346 used & new from $0.01

4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An film about human character, March 8, 2004
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This review is from: Monster (DVD)
A real life prostitute who flips and kills six people seems perfect TV-movie material, but not for a genuine attempt to interpret the character with anything other than the most cynical, shock-laden, exploitative eye. Monster, about the killings of Aileen Wuornos, proves otherwise.
Using a simplified narrative, and pseudonyms for all the characters except Wuornos, Monster covers the penultimate period of Wuornos's life where she killed six people before her 1991 arrest. The film begins with a portrayal of someone on the verge of suicide. From there we see her find love, nearly lose everything (in one of the few genuinely harrowing scenes in this film) to a murderous rapist, and, apparently change from a victim into a flawed avenging angel. There's some clever use of irony and artistic license here - one implication, for example, is that the first person to die at the hands of Wuornos intended to kill Wuornos after raping her, implying that he would have ended up being a serial killer had he succeeded.
Much has been made of Charlize Theron's Oscar winning performance as Wuornos, a credit she certainly deserves. Without her delivery and her control over the character, writer and director Patty Jenkins would not have made as powerful a case as she has. Wuornos's powerful personality, outer strength, and inner insecurities, are masterfully portrayed. I'm lead to believe by people I know with connections to Wuornos that Theron's Wuornos persona was spot on. Theron is able to make us feel sympathetic towards the character even in the midst of some terrible crimes, where you feel like screaming at her to stop, for her sake as well as her victim's.
Not having heard of Wuornos before this film's release, I wanted to know where Jenkins got her story from, and mostly drew blanks. Looking on the 'net you could be forgiven for believing a conspiracy exists to hide who Wuornos was. The media and police needed a serial killer and presented Wuornos as one. When problems with her conviction for the murder of Richard Mallory became apparent, advocates for rape victims and victims of prostitution intervened portraying the somewhat sociopathic six times killer as an almost innocent victim of a justice system biased against women. To death penalty advocates, she was a convenient embodiment of evil to use to demonstrate the justice executions supposedly serve. Everyone, probably including Jenkins herself, seems to have their own Aileen Wuornos around, a canvas to settle an argument or prove a point.
Wuornos wasn't simply a "highway prostitute" as described by the movie, she also took part in a variety of crimes before meeting her partner three years before Mallory's 1989 death; she even served prison time in 1981 for an armed robbery. Wuornos's claim that the killing of Mallory was self defense was initially met with skepticism, but with Mallory's record - never revealed to the Jury and involving a ten year sentence for a violent rape - and with inconsistencies in her original, dark and unhinged, explanations for the death, it's possible that Mallory did indeed attack her. But it's also hard to believe that the need to kill, in self defense, arose six times in the space of a year.
It is believable that, as Jenkins describes, a defensive killing during a horrific attack may push a very insecure, amoral, and frustrated woman over the edge. In this respect, regardless of the specifics of the Wuornos case, Jenkins has made a believable and informative film about human character and the choices we make. Whether it is an accurate portrayal of Wuornos though is something that can only be answered by seven people no longer alive to tell us.
The story may not be historically accurate, but it doesn't matter. A powerful performance, well paced script, and decent direction makes this a compelling and thought-provoking film. Well worth seeing.


The Animatrix
The Animatrix
DVD ~ Dane A. Davis
Offered by HideAwaysDVD's LLC
Price: $9.50
560 used & new from $0.01

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A visual and audio treat, February 5, 2004
This review is from: The Animatrix (DVD)
The Matrix was a film that appealed to many different groups of people for many different reasons. For some, it was a masterful tribute to video games and martial arts movies. For others, it was a populist gateway into a branch of philosophy by a couple of outstanding visual artists. It left many of us in awe, a visual and mentally stimulating treat.
Animatrix is a collection of eight or nine ("The Second Renaissance" has been broken into two halves) animated shorts which explore various aspects of the Wachowskis' Matrix universe. Some come across as "fan fiction", featuring some of the stars from the first movie; others are designed to prepare the viewer for the two sequels Reloaded and Revolutions, others still simply explore the world itself or the consequences of its philosophy.
Three of the most interesting pieces are The Second Renaissance, Beyond, and Matriculated. The latter turns the Matrix universe upside down and explores the idea of putting a sentient robot into a virtual universe to instill in it an empathy with humans. There's some very surreal imagery in this thoughtful, witty, piece. "Beyond" explores a "what if" situation where a part of the world simulated by the Matrix has been corrupted. It's a very sweet story about a woman and some children who play in a "haunted house" before the bug is detected.
Most dramatic is "The Second Renaissance", a pseudo-history of the events that lead up to the machine's enslavement of humanity. This is stunning graphically, and covers a story that falls outside traditional shallow Hollywood story telling. At a time culturally when self-criticism sometimes seems to be considered a form of treason, the story describes a decadent humanity which creates a new sentient life form and fails to respect it, moving through a path variously of exploitation, vengeance, fear, desperation, and finally submission. Directed by Mahiro Maeda, and with a stunning score from Don Davis, the piece uses humanoid robots and strong external references to overcome the viewer's natural disattachment to the machines.
Animatrix contains many scenes which may be unpleasant to the young, and - perhaps I'm over-reacting - but knowing the kind of emotional and mental impact The Matrix series has on many people, I was a tad concerned about the potential affect one of the pieces, Kid's Story, might have on a depressed teen. Those who enjoyed the Matrix series for the action may find themselves disliking a substantial portion of Animatrix, as with one or two exceptions they're not those kinds of stories. It's worth noting that all the films are fairly short, averaging less than ten minutes each.
I do wish I'd watched this before seeing Reloaded. Either way, I suspect most people who loved the Matrix in some way will find something in this to enjoy. There's some highly intelligent, thoughtful, beautifully scored, provocative visual masterpieces on this DVD, it's certainly worth a look.


Belkin WIRELESS ACCESS POINT ( F5D7130 )
Belkin WIRELESS ACCESS POINT ( F5D7130 )
Offered by Dominic's Warehouse
Price: $38.36
11 used & new from $9.99

12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Does what it says on the tin, July 28, 2003
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
There's a firmware update at Belkin's site (you need to navigate the site directly rather than use the automatic check built into the box) which brings full 'g' compatability plus some sophisticated relaying and encryption features.
What's it like to use? Well, it's pretty simple to set up. It needs a Javascript enabled web browser - so Linux, Mac, and PC users will have no problem setting it up. Follow the instructions and you can't go wrong.
This box is intended for use with an existing network - machines connecting wirelessly will act as if they've been plugged into your network directly. For the more technical of you, the wireless MAC addresses appear as standard Ethernet addresses which means you can use your existing DHCP servers, etc, to administer your network. Security features offered includes a MAC whitelist, WPA and WEP encryption/login standards, plus the ability to hide your network so it doesn't automatically appear on network selectors. The system is fully compatable with Apple's AirPort (and presumably AirPort Extreme) cards as both use the same 802.11b and 802.11g standards. Range is difficult to test in my apartment - certainly, it is powerful enough to cover my home and half of an adjacent/one floor up apartment with a strong signal when situated on a bookcase in the middle of mine, without any tuning on my part to get it to an ideal position.
It isn't a router (except between the wireless network and the wired network.) You cannot (usually) plug it into a cable modem or DSL modem directly. Belkin has a seperate box available that will do this that also incorporates the wireless functionality. More sophisticated boxes, such as Apple's AirPort hubs, include features like printer servers - this doesn't, it's just a wireless access point, something to connect your 802.11b/g devices to your Ethernet network.
The device is a large plastic box, resembling a TV dinner you'd put in the Microwave. It has two positionable antennae permanently attached to the outside of the box but no socket to plug in a more powerful antenna. It comes with a mounting stand that allows you to position it vertically, or you can sit the thing down flat. Or you can put two screws in the wall and hang it from that. Happily the power supply is not a "pregnant plug", but a small box into which you plugged an A/C cable and out of which came the standard DC line.
What's more to say? It's exactly what it advertises itself as being. It's inexpensive, at the time of writing, I have no qualms recommending it.


The Mind Pool
The Mind Pool
by Charles Sheffield
Edition: Mass Market Paperback
129 used & new from $0.01

8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Flawed, often hard to get into, but a must-read, June 21, 2003
Charles Sheffield's The Mind Pool is a rework of an older novel, The Nimrod Hunt. Centered around the hunt for a renegade artificial life-form, the novel paints a mixed picture of the future, with humans living in harmony with alien species, genetic engineering rampant and uncontrolled, a divided, violent, and irrelevant Earth, and a militaristic outer system.
This is a difficult book to get into. Initial chapters are tedious and there are a lot of key characters who inter-develop as the the book continues which devolves quickly into a confusing mess. Sheffield's humour barely holds the story together as empathy with the main, distant and too many, characters seems close to impossible, and the reader is expected to take in a little too much, from different technologies to the behaviors of three wildly different species. The book, initially, also seems to live up to its back-cover synopsis, which in science fiction can be a bad thing, especially if the synopsis seems to be written to appeal to John W Campbell.
The novel is saved by a number of factors: Sheffield's humour, naturally, helps. Certain characters become fleshed out and sympathetic. Some time about half way through the novel the pace and understandability of what is going on becomes quicker and easier. And then there's an absolutely beautiful twist concerning the very subject of the novel - and I say beautiful not just to describe the twist itself but the subject matter and the novel at that point, which just turned my opinion of the book on its head.
This is a flawed novel. You should read it anyway.


The Songs of Distant Earth
The Songs of Distant Earth
by Arthur C. Clarke
Edition: Mass Market Paperback
Price: $7.19
290 used & new from $0.01

7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Provocative and magical, November 17, 2002
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Arthur C Clarke is one of science fiction's most prolific writers, and also one of its most variable, both in style and quality. In The Songs of Distant Earth, Clarke has created something remarkable, a deep, easily read, thoughtful, beautiful and provocative picture of the future.
Nominally about a meeting of civilizations - one utopian, one tainted by human flaws and the memory of a home destroyed, Clarke uses the opportunity to sketch out a vision of how humanity might improve itself, what space travel might actually entail, and even a glimpse of alien evolution. Clarke draws a world, Thalassa, created from Earth as an opportunity to begin again anew without human memories or faults. Built by robots, and seeded rather than colonized, Thalassa's society is everything humanity would like itself to be, civilized and untainted by so many millennia of hatred and violence. Earth's motive in creating this world is to ensure the survival of humanity - the Solar System is to end. And from the ashes of Earth flies a refugee ship with the million or so survivors, flying to a third planet in order to begin again, but passing by Thalassa in need of help.
This is not an action packed novel, but a slow, thoughtful, discussion of the issues involved. Clarke resists the temptation to exaggerate either his near-perfect Thalan society or the faults of the refugees. Characterization, never Clarke's strong point, seems better than usual, certainly not cardboard. The book's scientific contribution is in part what it does not do. There is no faster-than-light travel for example: ever the scientist, Clarke prefers to hang his hat on what relativity actually tells us, and what the consequences of relativity's laws are on long distance space travel.
Not all Clarke fans will enjoy this book - it is not typical of his more popular works, closer to The Fountains of Paradise than 2001: A Space Odyssey or Rendezvous with Rama. Clarke will upset the fundamentalists with his attacks on religion; his provocative stance on what he sees as damaging superstition in many ways weakens the book, not because he is wrong on the evils (he's not wrong) but because of an optimistic view that we are close to throwing such baggage away, which does not feel likely in these newly hyper-religious times. But one can hope. Another criticism one might make is that Clarke is never subtle, his attacks are always spelt out either editorially or by a character. Finally Clarke's description of the sexual escapades of the Thalans will probably upset one or two puritans.
Whether Clarke is right that such a paradise as Thalassa is possible is open to question. But this book paints a beautiful picture, pushes a whole set of buttons, imparts a whole range of ideas, and stimulates the imagination. This magical book is highly recommended.


Holst:Planets
Holst:Planets
6 used & new from $29.98

6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Nice performance. But..., October 24, 2002
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This review is from: Holst:Planets (DVD Audio)
There were, at the last count, nearly 8,793 different versions of Holst's "The Planets" out there, of which at least 462 can be found at your local music store. It stands to reason that if you're in the "Holst's Planets" business - a billion dollar industry full of cut-throats and shady deals - you need to find a way to distinguish your version of The Planets from everyone else's. Typical ways include putting something other than the solar system on the cover, adding a "Best of Mussorgsky's Pictures at an Exhibition" track, or putting a gold stripe at the top with the words "Collectors Edition" beautifully italicized upon it. More cynical Planet's Producers have even gone so far as to have their performance conducted by a decent conductor, or include other works from Holst - a risky tactic, as buyers, having heard some of "Beni Mora", may want more.
And another option is some sort of gimmick. You can encode a compressed data track as "music" on a CD, and a CD player will normally choke and protest. But if the player is hooked to a digital receiver, the receiver will try to make sense of it, and play it. And if that compressed data is, say, in DTS Surround Sound format, well, the decoder may just use all of its 5.1 speakers to play the music. And voila, another way to distinguish your version of The Planets is born. Well, that's the theory.
Actually this isn't bad. The LSO is conducted by Andre Previn, and Previn's a pretty reliable conductor, and he shows it here, and the LSO is a well respected orchestra, and they show why with this performance. Previn doesn't surprise, but he plays at a pace that is appreciative of the music and lets a listener drink in and enjoy the work. Some conductors treat, for example, Mars, as a race, trying to get to the end as fast as possible. Fortunately there's none of that here, the drama in that movement especially is allowed to speak for itself. It's a good performance. It's worth listening to.
The DTS surround sound is somewhat less exciting. The music surrounds you, but it's not as if there's any obvious benefit to this. You don't imagine you're in there conducting it. You don't hear a flute to the front left and a violin next to your right ear. It's classical music - the performers are sitting down. The recording was originally made in 1974, and recorded for the then exciting new quadraphonic systems - that's for four speakers, not five and a subwoofer; many of the instruments sound muffled. A problem with my CD/decoder combination (actually a cheap Apex DVD player hooked up to a low-end Kenwood receiver) was that the last track, Neptune, wouldn't play at all.
At the end of the day, it's a strangely encoded disk that offers few benefits over a standard CD - an audiophile with top-end equipment may be able to discern major improvements, but I wasn't. It will not play in a standard CD player. If you can find this performance in a more normal format (er, B000002RNA looks like it - enter that code in Amazon.com's search box), or even on a DVD Audio disc or SACD, you're probably better off going for that. This will not be a great demonstration of DTS's capabilities. But it is a nice performance.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Dec 12, 2012 11:47 AM PST


Shostakovich: Symphony No. 8
Shostakovich: Symphony No. 8
15 used & new from $0.01

10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A superb indictment of war, July 31, 2002
After his 7th Symphony, partially written from within the crumbling walls of Leningrad as it valiantly defended itself against Hitler's armies, Shostakovich turned his attention to the subject of war itself. The eighth symphony is the result, a profoundly angry and disturbing piece which rails against the voices of conflict, the unstoppable war machine, and the inevitable results. Needless to say, this intelligent attack on the belligerent mindset and furiously negative look at the consequences resulted in the composer being denounced - again - by Communist Party officials.
It's a wonderful piece of music. Shostakovich is, as usual, original and inventive, and composes a very accessible, moving and emotional symphony. This is music that sweeps you up, only to shake you angrily, demanding you open your eyes to the nightmare that surrounds you. Shostakovich's horror at the war that surrounded him in 1943 is clear, and there is no triumphant or hopeful ending to this piece.
Bernard Haitink conducts the Concertgebouw Orchestra for this performance, which captures with some gusto the themes of the symphony. I sensed some minor glitches on the CD, but can't determine if these are audio problems or just players out of breath. Haitink, as usual, is at his interpretive best, I honestly have not heard another conductor with the gift for interpreting Shostakovich that Haitink has. It is a superb performance of a brilliant symphony, and I certainly recommend it


Murder at the ABA: A puzzle in four days and sixty scenes
Murder at the ABA: A puzzle in four days and sixty scenes
by Isaac Asimov
Edition: Hardcover
114 used & new from $0.01

9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Entertaining, light, Asimov, June 22, 2002
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Asimov was such a prolific and varied writer that it's not difficult for committed readers to treat him almost as a personal friend. As well as literally hundreds of science fiction novels and stories, he wrote articles and books on almost every subject from physics and evolution to biblical commentaries, and occasionally, just occasionally, would insert himself into the thick of things. Which means that there are two types of reader who will approach Murder at the ABA in two entirely different ways. Those who have not reached that oneness with Asimov will probably read it, and reach the end in bewilderment. At least, that's what one has to assume from the generally negative reaction ABA received.
But those of us who worship at the Cult of Asimov will treat it differently. For this is a tremendously odd, readable, and funny work, and while the in-jokes may be lost on Asimov novices (they were on me), the book's other strands of humour, from the depiction of the victim (right down to the sexual fetishes) to the author himself, make this a hilarious and enjoyable read.
Murder at the ABA concerns an entirely fictional (honest) author, Darius Just, who attends a convention of the American Booksellers Association, only to find a colleague dead in his hotel room. Police and the hotel believe the death was accidental, but Just suspects otherwise, investigating the events that lead up to the death and finally catching the culprit.
Whether this is a book for the devoted detective novel reader is open to question, and it may be Asimov but is certainly isn't science fiction. It is, however fun, light, satire and damned readable with it.


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