review

Lorde at The Fillmore

General admission. Standing room only. A combination I do not  look forward to in a concert. But if the artist and venue are right, I will endure. And Farrah and I did endure this combination, at The Fillmore, to see Lorde. 

I was lucky enough to snag two tickets back when they went on sale a few months ago, before  Royals  was getting regular mainstream radio play. I don't know if I'd be lucky to get tickets now seeing how big Lorde has become.  Funny thing was, when they went on sale, they seemingly sold out immediately. But I persisted for a few minutes and was able to grab two tickets. 

We arrived a few minutes late to The Fillmore. Friday night traffic going up to San Francisco was ugly as usual. We caught a few songs from the opening act, Until the Ribbon Breaks. They sounded great on stage, so I immediately added a few tracks to a Spotify playlist. After their set people milled around as usual waiting for Lorde to take the stage.

The crowed started to fill up as Lorde's set time was getting closer. The crowd was a good mix of ages, as The Fillmore can be depending on the performer. We were situated in a good spot, center and further back on the floor. Unfortunately, to Farrah's left a group of unruly 20-somethings decided to talk and bump around people through the whole performance. One couple just wanted to make out all night.  In front of us was an older couple, probably in their early to mid 50's. Made me wonder how many concerts do they attend?

Getting back to Lorde -  she performed well for someone who hasn't performed often on tour. She sounded well, though the bass was on the heavy side, making her voice sound muddled. From another review of the concert it seems it was her idea to crank up the bass. She had energy, working the stage very easily. She talked between a few songs, using   Thank you San Francisco often, which elicited approval from the crowd.

Her set was short, about 12 songs or so, lasting a little over an hour. They was no encore with the lights coming up after her last song. I thought she could have done a few more songs, as her album came out that day in some places.  

The annoyances of the general admission crowd is worth it sometimes, especially when seeing an up-and-coming artist. It is always nice to see an artist on the rise, seeing them before they get too big, in an intimate place like The Fillmore.

Other reviews of the show are at SF Gate and San Jose Mercury News and SF Station.

 

My Gazelle.com Experience

I just sold a somewhat old gadget to Gazelle.com. It is the first time I've tried selling back an old electronic device - that still had considerable value - to an online service. I've heard good words about Gazelle.com. I am hoping I won't be disappointed.

It was easy enough to find the item I was selling to them on their website. They previously would take almost any electronic item, but they now have narrowed the selection down to mostly Apple products. Trying to find the configuration of my product was fairly easy. I put in the condition I thought it was in, the additional components that came with it, and bam! up popped up the price they were willing to pay me. It seemed reasonable (comparing it to Amazon.com's trade-in service). So I pressed on.

I got an email shortly after, giving me instructions and a shipping label. About an hour after that email I received another email from Gazelle saying my shipment option has been updated. Instead of me packing my item to ship back, I could simply go to a FedEx to have them pack it for me free of charge. Way cool!

I have to say my FedEx experience was a bit unnerving. I went to the shipping counter. They took my item to the back where I could not see the pack it. They then brought it back up to label in front of me.

I had to ask, "Was [the item I was selling] in this box"? After-all I didn't seem them place it in the box.

"Yes it is", she replied. How could I continue to doubt her without sounding like a douche.

And then a co worker of the girl who packed my item proceeded to put a label on the box. The wrong label! Luckily she caught her co worker's mistake. I eagle-eyed the correct label was applied to the package. The item is now out of my hands. The waiting game starts.

One Week Later

I was able to track my package though a link from Gazelle's website - which leads to FedEx of course. Once my package was received, Gazelle emailed me. Once they examined my item they emailed me again saying, "Hey guess what? Your item is in better shape then you thought it was. We're giving you more money!" Seriously? I chose my pay out option to be an Amazon gift certificate which gives you a 5% bump. Since my item was in much better condition than I thought it was they simply increased the gift certificate amount.

It's nice to know they were honest about the assessement. They could have easily gone with my assessment but did not. This "honesty" makes me want to use their service again - if I ever have anything else to sell.

My Short Review of X-Men Origins: Wolverine

It's Wolverine, bub!

First off, I hated the title of this film.  It's more suited as a comic book title then a film title.  I think they could have gotten away with Wolverine.  Non-fanboys would have known who Wolverine was, at least I think. I know he's no Superman or Batman, but the target audience knows who Wolverine is. Well, onto the film itself.

As an origins story, it provided pretty minimal grit to understanding the man who is Wolverine in all the X-Men films. The story starts off with James / Logan as a boy and by the end of the opening credits he's a man.  The opening credits helped the film along similar to Watchmen, covering enough history to get to a fair starting point for the story.  Well, what there is of a story.

I found the story weak and confusing at times. There are too many characters and story points to be compressed within the 107 minute for the film. You can't grasp any sense of who these characters are and why you should hate or care for them. It's cool to see Gambit and Deadpool on the big screen, but it'd just as interesting to play them in a video game then watch them in this film again.

The fight scenes were on par with other X-Men films.  But oddly the special effects seem to be worse.  I would say the original X-Men film had better special effects than some of the scenes in this film. If you can wait for this film to come out on DVD, I'd say do so.  It should be out by the end of the year.

Rating: Rental

My Short Review of Star Trek

The crew of the Enterprise 2009

I tried to set my expectations low for this movie, hoping it would be good. Looking back I didn't need to do this, as the movie succeeds on many levels.  This incarnation of Star Trek is accessible to both those familiar with and those new to Star Trek.  The story involves time travel - of course it does, it's Star Trek and J.J. Abrams - Romulans, Vulcans, and everything else in between.  I think the only thing that was missing was a Klingon.

The casting worked brilliantly, even having Winona Ryder as Spock's mom worked.  The special effects helped, not hindered, the story's progression.  There were to things that annoyed me: (1) the amount of lens flares in the movie, and (2) Pavel Chekov's accent. The latter annoyed me only because of the amount of lines Anton Yelchin, who plays Chekov, had to speak.  I would have preferred more lines from Simon Pegg, who plays the lovable Scotty.

Rating: Full Admission

Marely & Me - My Short Review

Puppies. Evil puppies.

Another one of those feel good movies.  But if you know your dog movies, then you know what'll happen. Yeah, it happens, but not after Marely gets a hold of your heart. Wow, did I just write that? If you've seen the trailer, then you've pretty much seen the whole movie. Jennifer Aniston and Owen Wilson are likable, but there characters, and the story, really don't go anywhere. The movie won't rot your brain, but it won't stimulate it either.

Rating: Cable TV

Redbox - A Review

Hello Red. What are you doing here?

You may have seen Redbox in your local grocery store, Wal-Mart, or even your local McDonald's. It's a DVD rental machine. You get a DVD for $1 dollar for one day. Not a bad deal considering your other brick and mortar options (e.g. Blockbuster). I went to their website to see what movies they had to offer.

The site is easy to use. After creating an account, you can access their DVD catalog. Registering only requires an email address. Search is easily done by movie title, release date, category, or even by the Redbox closest to you. I was disappointed by the amount of titles offered. I wanted to watch The Reader, since it is listed as Long Wait in my Netflix queue, but Redbox doesn't offer this movie.

When you find a movie you want to rent, you can reserve it online with a credit card. The DVD is reserved for about 24 hours. If you don't pick up the DVD, it will be released for rental and you'll still be charged. After reserving, go to the machine's location (listed on the site), and swipe the credit card you used on the website. The DVD will pop out encased in a firm plastic case. It's that simple.

It appears Redbox may start offering blu-ray titles, but there doesn't appear to be a start date for this. If they offer blu-ray, and a broader selection of DVD titles, it could prove to be successful alternative to my Netflix habit. If they continue to only offer limited titles, they may not make a significant dent in my rental habits.

Slumdog Millionaire

I think there's something on your face.

I finally watched the Oscar-winning-feel-good-movie-of-the-year on DVD.  Yes, the actors are likable. Yes, the story is predictable. Yes, I'll watch it if it's on cable television, but I don't think I'll buy the DVD or rent it again.  If you have two hours to spend on a movie, this isn't a bad choice.  You won't have to think about the plot points too much, and it'll make you, well, feel good.

Rating: Cable TV

Australia

Watched Baz Lurman's Australia on blu-ray this weekend. The movie seemed to be two movies in one. The first part was light and breezy. The second half had a more serious tone. Fair acting by most of the cast. Some of Nicole Kidman's hysterics were getting on my nerves though. The film is beautifully shot, with gorgeous scenery throughout the film. If you watch it in HD or blu-ray you may enjoy it more.

Rating: Cable TV

How I Rate Movies

I'm changing the way I rate movies reviews on the site. I started with an old standby - the letter grade. I recently moved to a liked it slash didn't like it scale, but I found that didn't have much flexibility. It was too black and white. Now, I'm moving to actually a scale Farrah and I use in the real world. The scale, which I am sure is used somewhere else, is based on how much you are will to pay to see a movie.

The scale is as follows:

  • Full Admission - Willing to pay for a full price theater ticket, especially on a crowded Friday night.
  • Matinee - See it in a theater, but do it as cheap as possible.
  • Rental (DVD, Blu-ray, whatever media you choose) - See it right when it hits the retail market.
  • Cable TV - You can wait until it shows up on cable to watch.

I'm sure there are other ratings that can be placed in there (e.g. cheap theaters, broadcast television) but I don't find those ideal situations to watch most movies. Plus I don't have a cheap theater near me and broadcast television has too many commercials to suffer through.

Here are a few samples of movies I've reviewed and how I would rate them on this new scale:

  • Full Admission - 300, The Dark Knight, Wall-E, Juno
  • Matinee - Quantum of Solace, Grand Torino, Knocked Up
  • Rental - Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Transformers
  • Cable TV - Nights in Rodanthe, Spider-Man 3

This makes sense, right?

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button - Quick Review

On a previous version of janella.com…

…when I would write a movie review it would long. Time is short, so my new movie reviews - when I have a chance to watch a movie - will be short. It won’t be extremely insightful, but it will convey what I feel about the movie.

For The Curious Case of Benjamin Button:

Brad Pitt grows young while Cate Blanchett grows old. Acting done well by both, and Fincher’s direction was spot on. But the ending left me unsatisfied.

Grade: C-

The Bridge Benefit 2008

Farrah and I went to the Bridge School Benefit concert this past Sunday.  The lineup for the concert on that day was:

We chose to go on Sunday the day the Smashing Pumpkins were playing.  We would have liked to have watched Sarah McLaughlin, who was only playing Saturday, but Farrah had never seen the Smashing Pumpkins in concert. They didn’t disappoint.

I’m wasn’t familiar with Cat Power’s or Wilco’s music, but enjoyed their sets. Death Cab for Cutie had many fans in the audience, all enjoying their performance.  I recognized three of their songs, “I Will Follow You Into the Dark”,  “Soul Meets Body”, and “I Will Possess Your Heart”.    I walked away from their performance wanting to listen to more of their songs.

Smashing Pumpkins were up next.  They came with two pianist, a trombone and trumpet player, a dual-violin player, and the regular core band.   I didn’t recognize most of the songs, some of which I think were new.  Josh Groban came out to sing “Disarm”.  It was a good performance, through he did forget some lyrics.

The Josh Groban set was difficult to get into, though you can’t deny he has a strong voice.  Norah Jones had her (somewhat) new short hair cut.  She put a country vibe to her standards, and also sang a couple of Johnny Cash songs.  Jack Johnson’s set got the audience on their feet with ‘Bubble Toes’, “If I Had Eyes”, “Good People”, and “Banana Pancakes”.  His set had the overall crowed more enthused then anyone else that performed before him.  I can’t say how Neil Young’s set was since Farrah and I left right after Jack Johnson finished.

We did get to see Neil Young perform several times during the show.  He came out to beginning the whole shindig.  He subsequently came out to perform with different artist at the end of their sets, most notably with Josh Groban, Norah Jones, then Jack Johnson.

Other things to note:

  • Shoreline didn’t charge for parking. Does anyone know why they don’t charge?  It seems like a money maker for them, but heck it saved me an expected $20.
  • They charged $9 - $12 for a beer!  Robbery.

Overall, the concert was a nice mellow affair.  The concert began on a warm Sunday afternoon, that subsequently turned into a cold windy night (part of the reason we left early).