Sunday, 26 February 2012

AFI 100 Movies #10 Singin' In The Rain (1952)

I must confess, I have been putting off watching the musicals in the AFI 100 list, as I'm not really a fan of the genre.

In this film's favour, there's a lot of humour, and the dance routines are nothing short of spectacular.

Gene Kelly, Donald O'Connor & Debbie Reynolds are all very likeable in their roles, and Jean Hagen is very good as the squeaky voiced drama queen Lina.

My personal highlights are the routine for the title song, and the drop dead gorgeous Cyd Charisse in the  Broadway Melody section.

I'm still not sold on musical films, but this is one of the better ones that I've seen.

Sunday, 19 February 2012

The Muppets (2012)

In a break from the theme of the latter muppet movies, The Muppets is an original story, rather than an adaptation of a classic novel, which, as much as I love The Muppets Christmas Carol, was a wise move in introducing these wonderful characters to a whole new generation of movie goers.

Thankfully the creative team decided not to go for a basic reboot, choosing instead to acknowledge that the old gang hasn't been around for a long time, getting close to fading into obscurity.

Gary (Jason Segel) and Walter (Peter Linz) are brothers who grow up watching the muppet show on TV, fast forward several years, and they're still living together in Small Town, Gary has planned a vacation in Los Angeles with his girlfriend Mary (Amy Adams), to celebrate their 10th anniversary, and Walter is invited too, as he has always wanted to visit the muppet studios.

This would all seem a bit odd, if it weren't for the fact that Walter is himself a muppet. Now, I don't want to put images in your head, but was one of their parents human & the other a muppet? and if so, was it Mum or Dad? either way I suppose felt is a soft material!

The long and short of the plot is that an evil oil magnate, Tex Richman, plans to knock down the old muppet theatre in order to drill for oil, and the only hope the muppets have in stopping him is to get the old gang back together and perform one last muppet show in order to raise the $10 million needed to stop his evil plans.

The film really goes back to their roots, allowing them to do what they do best, they bring all the usual muppety goodness to the fore, they're funny and not averse to a bit of lampooning, there are some great songs, which as someone who doesn't really appreciate musicals, is really saying something. There are also some very emotional points in the film, which play out really well, I must be getting soft in my middle age!

The humans in the cast are very good, Jason Segel, who I've seen in the occasional episode of How I Met Your Mother, is a very good lead actor (he also co-wrote the script, and in various reports nagged the studio into making the film). Amy Adams is perfectly cast as Mary, she gets a chance to do her own song and dance number, and does it very well (great legs!). Chris Cooper, who I've only seen in one other movie (American Beauty) is fantastic as Tex Richman *maniacal laugh*.

A muppet film wouldn't be a muppet film without an array of stars making cameos, and the film doesn't disappoint on that score, I won't reveal who they are, as I feel that there is a certain joy to be had from spotting them as you watch the movie.

I grew up watching the muppets as a kid, and this certainly brings it all back, and although it is a bit of a nostalgia-fest, there is enough here for kids of any age to enjoy without having to know anything about the muppets' previous exploits.

One final thought, if you're ever headed out towards Reno, don't get suckered into seeing the moopets by mistake.

Friday, 10 February 2012

Panasonic RRXS400 Digital Audio Recorder Review

As a fledgling podcaster, a lot of the recordings that I make will be at home, which my trusty Blue Snowball microphone can handle with ease. However when you need to go out and about in order to record, it's not always practical to be carrying laptops and microphones with you.

There are many digital audio recorders out there in the marketplace, I opted for this model, as I work at a Panasonic dealer, and have found the quality of their recorders over the years to be very good.

This recorder stands out from the entry level models in the range as it offers extra functionality and a higher standard of recording quality compared to the basic recorders.

The RRXS400 has numerous recording modes, giving MP3 quality ranging from 32kbps to 320kbps or the option to record in linear PCM (Pulse Code Modulation) for higher quality again, with 44.1kHz and 48kHz recording modes on offer.

Of course recording in higher quality takes up more recording memory, the internal 2GB memory can store up to 3 hours of recording in PCM 44.1kHz mode and up to 135 and a half hours in 32kbps mode. If you want to expand the memory there is a micro SD card slot that allows for up to 16GB of extra recording space to be added.

The recorder has a built in stereo microphone, and there are line in and headphone jacks for connecting to external devices. The RRXS400 also has a USB connector (which also acts as a charger) to enable copying to and from a Mac or PC, as the machine supports WMA and MP3 playback it also doubles up as a music player.

There are options to edit on the recorder itself, which might be handy, you can divide, join and erase segments, but I think I prefer editing on the Mac.

Having had a brief play with it, I am really impressed with recording quality, it's hard to judge the recording quality through the recorder's in built loudspeaker, but when played back on the computer the results are excellent.

This will be a very handy little gadget to take when I have to travel in order to get my footage, and at £49.99 I think it's a real bargain.