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Pimsleur Japanese Level 1 CD: Learn to Speak and Understand Japanese with Pimsleur Language Programs (Comprehensive)
Pimsleur Japanese Level 1 CD: Learn to Speak and Understand Japanese with Pimsleur Language Programs (Comprehensive)
by Pimsleur
Edition: Audio CD
Price: $293.25
26 used & new from $55.00

31 of 39 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars It's ok. Not worth the ridiculous price., February 20, 2004
I've bought tons of Japanese-learning material, both book and software, and most of it at least partially disappointing regardless of price point. Pimsleur, despite its lofty hype and even loftier cost(!), is no different. It's ok, but it's not the holy grail that most reviews would have you think it is, with my own reasons summed up thus:
1) You don't learn as much as you think you do. Yes, the method is sound, with the interspersed repetition and gradual introduction of new material, but the actual amount of language knowledge attained by the end of it is a LOT lower than one would hope.
2) The method (any method, in fact) NEEDS written material. I know it is a "selling point" of Pimsleur that it is audio-only, but in fact the course narration and design subtly discourage the student FROM writing things down or using other written material in conjunction with the course. I won't belabor the "why" since it's just plain common sense, but the bottom line is that some written material helps learning. Period. These courses are in bad need of some quality manuals/workbooks/whatever.
3) The speakers aren't very good. On Pimsleur I, for example, the female doesn't sound native in her pronounciation, and the male speaks WAY too quickly...ridiculously so! It's one thing to speak at a natural speed to get the ear "used" to what one hears in a natural Japanese conversation, but when the speaker speaks so fast that he practically mumbles half-sentences, that's an entirely different story. Despite everything else, this was my single biggest beef with these products, and lest the importance of this shortcoming escape you, remember that this is pretty much an all-audio course(!). The quality control on such a fundamental aspect of the product is pathetic.
4) The cost is way, WAY too high. Successful (and not successful) as this method may be, you know that it's too expensive before you even buy it, hype-to-high-heaven notwithstanding. Take my word, it's simply not worth the insane price. It is simply not THAT much better than other available material that it's worth spending several factors more for. If you're able to get it for less, then yes, you'll get some learning value out of it, but bear in mind the above is very over-hyped, and even more over-priced.
Comment Comments (3) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Mar 17, 2013 11:53 AM PDT

The Animatrix
The Animatrix
DVD ~ Dane A. Davis
Offered by Surplus DVD Source
Price: $9.99
374 used & new from $0.01

14 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An amazing project., May 10, 2003
This review is from: The Animatrix (DVD)
Having been lucky enough to have seen the 9 episodes, I can say that the Wachowskys are the best thing to happen to movies in a long time, and this generation's creativity icons in Hollywood. That they could take The Matrix's success and share the wealth with this incredible project, giving so many people a chance to showcase their talent while giving the world of The Matrix an exciting new medium in which to express itself, shows their brilliance, and that they are no one-trick ponies.
I'll start by commenting on the overwhelming rave reviews for "Final Flight of the Osiris". In truth, with all the hype, when I finally did see it, I was sorely disappointed. Technically, yes, it is brilliant, as I feel is the usual with Square's work (definitely including the Final Fantasy film). But the execution is way too juvenile. The initial fight scene and the pipe acrobatics (while the fate of humanity is ticking) scene are so ridiculous and juvenile that they are almost embarrassing to watch. You'll know when you see them. Suffice it to say that everyone will be awed by the CGI quality, but its overall appeal will only lie with the pre-teen crowd. Good action, fabulous animation, but disappointing plot execution.
The best of the 9 are, in my opinion, the two Second Renaissance parts and Kid's Story. They are the most entertaining, bold, intelligent, and artistically brilliant of the bunch. The dark Second Renaissance will bring chills down your spine, and the touching Kid's Story takes a basically action-oriented short and enhances it with brilliant artistic shifts and terrific music.
The worst of the bunch is, without hesitation, Program. It is the one regrettable mar on an otherwise brilliant DVD. Very derivative and juvenile, both artistically and plot-wise, it's the only one that wasn't brave enough to examine The Matrix's world in any real is just a very weak, over-the-top Samurai fight scene that just happens to take place in a Construct program. It's nothing that isn't dime-a-dozen with TV-cartoon-quality anime, and the fact that the Program team wasted the incredible opportunity to push the envelope (that the other shorts took advantage of), is a real shame. Program does not belong on this DVD.
That aside, however, The Animatrix is one of the most exciting and different projects to come out of the Hollywood machine in a long time. It is incredibly entertaining, often brilliant, and vrey reasonably priced. And as an aside, the Wachowskys and the incredible anime talent they shared their good fortune with, all deserve your support. This is the no-brainer purchase of the year, especially (though not only) for anime and Matrix fans.

Roman Holiday (Special Collector's Edition)
Roman Holiday (Special Collector's Edition)
DVD ~ Gregory Peck
Offered by Van Buren Boys Entertainment
Price: $8.19
153 used & new from $0.01

4 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Thank you, Paramount!!, February 19, 2003
Finally, someone understands that the best "feature" for a DVD is the movie itself! In this age of one money-grab DVD release after another, each with a less and less relevant set of "extras" than the last, it is a pure joy to find a true Collector's Edition that puts all of its focus squarely where it should: on the film itself (and what a film!). Roman Holiday is a wonderful movie, a no-brainer purchase by default for anyone who loves Audrey Hepburn (which I believe would be anyone who's ever seen her, but I'm biased), but it is the meticulous and caring restoration of it that makes this DVD so spectacular. Instead of just slapping a visually tired print onto DVD media and throwing in completely inane extras that no one would care about (like having people "comment" incoherently and meaninglessly over the length of the film, or having scans of every doodle that anyone on the team ever casually scrawled out on a cocktail napkin, etc. ad nauseum), Paramount did the right thing, and devoted the time, money, and skill to restore this classic film back to its gorgeous original visual form. As for the extras, what is included is more than fine with me. They are made up of a selected handful of relevant, watchable content, intead of the usual avalanche of meaningless garbage that most DVD "extras" lists are comprised of lately. The only thing I could have asked for is more footage from Audrey's screen test if possible; she is as mesmerizing in it as she is in the film itself.
If I do have one beef with this DVD, it is the tiniest: I don't like the artificial coloring that was used for the packaging. It doesn't look very good, for one thing, and, by implication, it slightly cheapens the homage that the restoration work pays to this classic Black & White masterpiece. Otherwise though, I can't rate this product highly enough.
It would have been easy for Paramount to take the low road, as most other companies (with the exception of Criterion, seemingly) choose to, but they didn't, and as a result, we are all lucky enough to have this all-but-perfect version of Roman Holiday available. It's one of the very rare DVDs that is obviously a labor of love, and you owe it to yourself to own it. Not only is it worth more than its reasonable price, but Paramount very much deserves the gratitude of this film's fans and our votes with our dollars. Thank you, Paramount, for really GETTING it, and for giving us Audrey's breakthrough film at it and her most radiant!

Audrey Hepburn: An Intimate Portrait
Audrey Hepburn: An Intimate Portrait
by Diana Maychick
Edition: Hardcover
127 used & new from $0.01

13 of 15 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Diana Makesick might be more accurate., February 17, 2003
What's to say that hasn't been said already, and in a way, there's little point since this piece of garbage has thankfully all but disappeared from the market (and one can hope, circulation in general). However, it got me so infuriated in reading it that I have to add my two cents, for others who come across this book or these reviews.
Until now, I've known little of Audrey aside from that she was my favorite actress, and probably one of the classiest, most beautiful human beings to have graced this planet. As it happens, I stumbled across a copy of this book in the library, entirely by chance, so I decided to check it out and see if I could learn more about this wonderful woman. Well, before I was halfway through, even with my limited knowledge, I was disappointed and angry at what I was reading, though I couldn't entirely put my finger on it. Yes, there were the mistakes with describing the movies. There was a lot that was not only unflattering but didn't ring true, not only about Audrey but those in her life as well. There was the ongoing "posing" tone in it, where the author tries to come across as Audrey's confidant and close friend. The whole thing smelled somehow, and left me with an uneasy, angry feeling, and I didn't quite know why.
It was at that point that I decided to look into information and reviews of the book on the Internet, only to discover that it was even worse than I suspected. As it is, this book is full of mistakes, full of what is likely complete fabrication, and full of something else that shall go unmentioned (with which I'd say Diana Maychick is similarly afflicted). It is a slap in the face to the intelligent reader, an affront to anyone who loves Audrey Hepburn, an insult to her, and a disgusting testament to what some people will sink to in chasing a dollar.
In any case, if you do run across a copy of this tripe, don't waste your time and stress level with it...from what I understand, there are several other good sources of information on Audrey, any of which would be better. If there's one good thing that's come out of my encounter with this book, it's that it's at least given me the impetus (out of anger if nothing else) to dig up quality information on this marvelous woman. This "book" isn't even worth using as a Bathroom Reader replacement.

Command & Conquer: Generals - PC
Command & Conquer: Generals - PC
Price: $49.99
37 used & new from $6.38

70 of 112 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Enough is enough., February 13, 2003
This is 2003, and I for one have completely had it with Westwood's ridiculously bad AI. We took this kind of unit stupidity in 1992 with Dune 2 when the RTS genre was new, but when is Westwood finally going to wake up, smell the coffee, and realize that they can't just keep putting new graphics on the same game, give a minor gameplay tweak here and there, ignore the AI and corresponding strategy elements, and expect us to dutifully keep swallowing it and shelling out the bucks?
What was the original C&C's gameplay like? Click click click click, build build build build, then click to attack (or defend) with your hundreds of units. Repeat. And repeat. Until someone edges out a win because they clicked slightly faster, or the tiberium is done and a victory is squeaked in via attrition. Now fast forward to 2003 and C&C: Generals. What's the gameplay like? Click click click click, build build build build, then click to attack (or defend) with your hundreds of units. Repeat. And repeat. Etc ad nauseum.
This isn't strategy. In fact the so-called "Real-Time Strategy" has never been about strategy at's just a marketing term to give a very rote, very brain-numbing kind of gameplay more of a cerebral spin. Well a lot of us tolerated that lack of strategy and AI, with the hope that as the genre matured, Westwood would have enough vision (if not common sense) to finally put in a worthy AI and make these games a truly fun, strategic challenge to play. Well they never did, and with what we're seeing, it doesn't look like they ever will...all they do is spend all of their resources - ALL of them - on graphics. The computer "opponents" and units are all as stupid as ever, and once you learn the units and the rote action, gameplay is also just as coma-inducing. :P
Save your money and your time. You haven't just seen this before, it's practically all you've seen if you've followed Westwood games, and anyone expecting this game to finally start using the immense amount of potential computer intelligence available to us with modern PCs, will be very disappointed indeed. "C&C: Generals"? More like Mindless Clickfest 2003. Pass.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Nov 28, 2012 4:29 AM PST

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13 of 122 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Hayao does LSD on celluloid., January 5, 2003
As someone who saw Princess Mononoke 4 times in theatres before it hit mainstream awareness, helped petition for the improvements in the DVD release, and watched it at least another 5 times at home, to say that I was looking forward to seeing this film is an extreme understatement. After a year of desperately trying to find a local showing, I finally just got to see it, and I left the movie in a daze, in disbelief that I could actually dislike a Miyazaki work.
This movie is beautifully crafted in terms of its animation, yes, but it's a disjointed collage of crazy imagery and characters, with little rhyme and even less reason behind any of it. Think Japanese version of Alice in Wonderland. Made by an insane person. On acid.
I'm a big Japanese film fan, I love intelligent anime, and I thought I was a big Miyazaki fan, but "Spirited Away" was a huge disappointment. However, I will grant that a big part of its confusion might be due to cultural translation loss, and that I personally just don't "get it", since so many people seem to adore this film. Ah well. However, I did hear one person comment in the line leaving the theater, "Ok, what in God's name was THAT!?", and the group erupted in laughter, so I know I can't be entirely alone in this thinking, at any rate.
1 star for the lovely animation, an extra star for benefit of the doubt since the film seems so universally hyped, but that's sadly all. To me, "Spirited Away" is just an incoherent if beautiful mess. If you're not big on silly things like comprehensible plot and characters, or need a cheap alternative for a narcotic fix, this film will probably be worth the time and money for you. Otherwise, spare yourself the disappointment and stupor...Timothy Leary had nothing on this crazy movie's trip. :)
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Nov 27, 2012 5:18 PM PST

DVD ~ Ryo Ishibashi
Offered by MAMBO-MIKE
Price: $24.95
26 used & new from $0.85

5 of 21 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Gratuitous, disgusting, and ultimately empty., November 27, 2002
This review is from: Audition (DVD)
Don't kid yourself...this movie is just shock-value trash. The violence is extreme, but that in itself isn't the problem. The real problem is that the violence and gore is plainly gratuitous and beyond. Yes, certain maladjusted fools get their bit of thrill by hyping things that they know is inherently offensive (in fact specifically because of it), but the truth is, this is bottom-of-the-barrel horror cinema. Those who genuinely enjoy it (more specifically, its final torture sequence) on any level above that of detached slasher-film thrills, likely need help. Those who believe the film and its disgusting visuals are really about "sexual politics" or any other innocuous-sounding "justified cause", have issues and may well be beyond it.
I love Japanese cinema, and intelligent thrillers. This is neither...just shock-value garbage that passes itself off as avant-garde. Unless you have some kind of deep-rooted sadism or misogynistic anger that you're lugging around, spare yourself the aggravation and don't bother.

The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (Four-Disc Special Extended Edition)
The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (Four-Disc Special Extended Edition)
DVD ~ Elijah Wood
Offered by mjcafass
Price: $99.90
35 used & new from $12.55

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Spectacular. Far, far more than just a money grab., November 13, 2002
This may well get lost amid a flood of reviews, but I feel compelled to post it. The DVD industry has become notorious for its constant moneygrab "editions", with rerelease upon rerelease, "Collector's Edition" this, and "Platinum Version" that, and for the most part that notoriety is is shameful, transparent, and valueless in the majority of cases. But not in this one. Beyond expectations, this extended edition finally, finally provides a version of the movie that is worthy of the legendary kudos that have been heaped on it. Allowing Jackson to provide it is the best thing New Line could have chosen to do; financially for them, creatively for Jackson and his team, and entertainment-wise for us. It's a rare win-win-win.
I have to say, I was not one to agree with the raving over the original theatrical release. I may be called a "purist", though I certainly would not have characterized myself as such, but I unapologetically take offense at the thought of taking creative liberties with a license and set of literature of the level of unmatched brilliance, scope, and endurance as Tolkien's. As such, things like Arwen replacing Glorfindel, the editing mockery imposed on the Elrond council, the reduction of the Hobbits to comic relief, and so on, compounded each other and drastically reduced the movie's value for me. I thought the film was ok, but for this passionate fan of the books, it was ultimately more disappointment than pleasant surprise.
However, beyond belief, I have to say that this extended edition redeems the film in ways I could never have imagined 30 extra minutes doing. The better pacing during travel sequences, the darker menace of the battles, the enhanced majesty and relevance of the Lothlorien sequence, the extra character development (e.g. Boromir, Frodo, Gimli), a much more powerful, intelligent's hard to fathom that individual example improvements like these could make such an incredible difference. But they can and do, to the point where this is practically a new film altogether. The added scenes were masterfully selected, and the new scores for them are marvelous. Not only has Peter Jackson used the lack of time constraints to excellent advantage, but he has actually gotten better at his editing choices as well, to the point where I feel this film really does reflect Tolkien's original vision better than the original theatrical release.
In short, this is the version of this movie that deserves all the raving. It seems that the world's embrace of the first film has hopefully given Jackson and his team the liberty and confidence to more fully realize Tolkien's vision, and I now feel more encouraged than before by the potential of the next two films (and perhaps even moreso by their own extended editions, if they are planned). There are still some things that will never be "fixed" per se (Arwen being one example), but otherwise, this is a true marvel of a re-release and is more than worth the money. The extras (and they are excellent in their own right) just make it even more of a no-brainer. An absolutely spectacular offering.

The Game
The Game
DVD ~ Michael Douglas
Offered by Efficient-U
Price: $19.99
42 used & new from $2.70

28 of 72 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Insanely stupid ending=insanely overrated movie., November 10, 2002
This review is from: The Game (DVD)
This film was living up to its hype for most of it, until the ending, at which point it all fell apart in what must be one of the most senseless, absolutely moronic and ridiculous endings I've ever seen. To go into detail would be to spoil it, so I'll just say that thanks to the ending, what could have been a good film is completely undone, and the viewer (the intelligent one, anyway) is left insulted.
David Fincher knows how to put together a good-looking film, with all the requisite entertainment elements, but what he just doesn't get are the concepts of plot coherence, reasonable limits of suspension of disbelief, and anything approaching feasibility. This movie ends up being just a meaningless two-hour joyride, with a last few minutes that negates those two hours with a level of stupidity that few films in history have ever matched.
I was wondering how such an apparently hyped movie, with such a stellar cast, could have had such a low profile. Now I know.

God's Debris: A Thought Experiment
God's Debris: A Thought Experiment
by Scott Adams
Edition: Hardcover
73 used & new from $0.01

19 of 31 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars This book is probably stupid., May 19, 2002
I wanted to like this, I really did. I enjoy Dilbert, and I enjoy "thought experiments" that force me to think differently. However, as one of those said experiments, this book is a dismal failure. Its basic tenets are so ridiculous that it ceases to cultivate critical thought as it unravels them, and instead becomes an exercise in semantics and outright silliness.
Probability, which is nothing more than a mathematical tool of sorts, necessitated by our own limits of perception, is in fact supposedly one of two main components of the universe. We're all the other component, and we're basically all pieces of a God who blew himself up because he was bored. Gravity supposedly also doesn't exist as a force and things don't "move", merely appear and disappear from one spot to it is merely that the "probability" of you appearing successively closer to the Earth after jumping off a mountain is higher than "appearing" on Jupiter or something. And things don't "collide", they merely change their probability, so billiard players are not really careening balls off one another, merely altering their "probability" to appear closer (and eventually into) the table pockets. When you're running, you simply increase the probability that you'll appear further in that direction, instead of somewhere in Zimbabwe, and when you're sitting down reading this book, you merely are increasing the probability that you will keep appearing in your seat getting increasingly disappointed and bored instead of suddenly finding yourself appearing as some octopus in the Atlantic.
Now if this kind of goofy, incredibly contrived "wisdom" is your idea of deep thinking, then knock yourself out...this book'll be a smorgasbord. Otherwise, decrease the probability that you'll buy/read it, and your probability of satisfaction (not to mention saved money and time) will increase drastically.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Apr 9, 2011 12:08 PM PDT

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