Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Life of Pi Review: Part 1: Lonliness

My experience of Life of Pi needs to be written in three parts. This is the first.

I cannot recall a single time before tonight that I have gone to a movie on my own. I can recall lying on the couch and watching movies on my own. I can recall lying in bed and watching movies on my laptop on my own. But never going to the cinema on my own. And for me, it was a bit of a daunting experience.

I came home from work this afternoon, and going to watch a movie was the last thing on my mind. But then Grant announced that he was going to be going to a braai this evening. And it's not that I wasn't invited to the braai, it was more that I was torn in two minds - part of me wanted to get out of the house, while the other part really did not feel like spending the evening making small talk with people that I had little in common with. So, for me, the braai was out. But I still didn't want to stay home, so I decided to go to a movie. I had seen that Life of Pi was showing, and I was pretty keen to see it, so I went through my list of friends remaining in Grahamstown, each of whom had other things planned or just did not feel like a movie night. Which is fair enough. But it left me in a bit of a conundrum. Do I brave the cinema on my own, or do I give up on the idea and spend the night at home.

The idea of going to a movie on my own scared me somewhat. It separates you from all of the couples, the groups of friends, the groups in general. I could picture myself walking up to the counter and booking a seat for one, only to receive blank stares from the cinema goers around me. "One," I could hear them whisper, "Is she mad?" I would walk up to the snack vendor and be sneered at as I ordered a single popcorn, just big enough for one, an individual pack of smarties (because you can't have one without the other) and a solitary cold-drink. I would enter the cinema itself and find myself alone amidst couples making out on either side of me, segregated, separated and alone.

And then I remembered... this is Grahamstown.

I pitched up at the cinema and ordered my ticket. Aside from myself, the man behind the counter, the snack vendor and the ticket taker, there were exactly three other people in the room. Once I had purchased my snacks, which were gladly given as the snack vendor doesn't see much business in this town, I made my way into the cinema, only to find myself completely and utterly alone. No couples lining the aisles. Just me, all on my lonesome. As the previews began, people starting coming in in drips and drabs, but I still had the row to myself and exactly two (platonic) people in front of me. In fact, when they took their seats they were even kind enough to ask if they were getting in my way by sitting in front of me and offered to move. I didn't let them. There being other people in the cinema made it feel more like a real movie instead of a DVD at home.

And there was no more to it. My first lone movie-going experience was completed. The movie commenced, and when it was over I climbed into my car and drove home. Far from the ordeal that I was expecting. And yet, I have a feeling that when I have the option of seeing a movie alone again, I will not take it.

While the experience was far from terrible, movies to me are a social activity. One of the best parts of the movie-going experience is to sit beside a friend or loved one and make idle chitchat while you wait for the previews to start, to discuss what you think of the up and coming movies and to make inside jokes during the movie itself, exchange knowing glances and know that you both saw the sane thing at the same time that makes you giggle a little inside.

Anywho, now that is over... the next part of the review is going to be of the Roxbury/Movie-Cine cinema itself in Grahamstown. Part 3 will cover the movie itself. Be prepared.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Review: Wreck It Ralph

I so rarely go to watch movies in Grahamstown, because the cinema here is so small and only shows 2-3 movies each week. If those movies are not ones that I enjoy, I would rather wait to watch movies that I actually want to see in the comfort of my own home. It doesn't help that Grant hates going to the cinemas either, since it usually means that if I want to watch a movie, it will have to either be with friends or on my own. But every once in a while, Movie Cine will bring in a movie that we are both dying to see, and that happened last week.

Grant and I have been waiting with bated breath to watch Wreck-It Ralph ever since we saw the trailers for the movie mid-way through last year.We are both big fans of animated movies, but this one especially appealed to us, since it was all about video games. The trailers all looked awesome, the sound track was enough to rile us up and we heard really good reviews for it when it came out in the States. So, we just needed to wait for it to come here. Which took FOREVER!! By the time it did actually come to South Africa, Grant was so excited to see it that he even agreed to come and watch it with me at the cinema.

One good thing that can be said about a small cinema is that it's really cheap compared to Ster Kinekor or Nu Metro. The tickets themselves were R15.00 each (because we went on half-price day... normally they are R30.00 each) and popcorn was only R20.00 for a large. Normally you would pay R50.00 just for the ticket, nevermind the popcorn and coke. The seating at Movie Cine is first come first sit, and we managed to find some good seats in the middle of the third row from the back without a problem. I thought that the cinema was going to be pretty dead because the movie had already been showing for a week by the time we found out about it, but there actually ended up being quite a few people there, but not enough for it to be packed and uncomfortable.

The thing that I love the most about seeing movies at a cinema is not the big screen, but actually the trailers. I am one of those weirdos who actually enjoys watching trailers and seeing what's coming out. There was also a pre-movie animated short film for Wreck-It Ralph which was called Paperboy and was really beautiful. There was no speaking throughout the short film, but it was wonderfully animated and I laughed loudly (possibly too loudly) more than once and really enjoyed it.

Once the movie itself started, I found that Wreck-It Ralph was a lot of fun. Being about video games, it brought up a whole lot of references about older games that I found really awesome, and as much as video games may be becoming outdated in favour or computer or xbox games, you didn't really get that sense too much from the movie. Sure, it was referenced to, where it was mentioned that if a game wasn't working properly they would retire it, but the arcade that the movie is based in was always full of kids, and I thought that was great and really hope that it's the case. I really enjoyed going to the arcade when I was a kid (and still do now) and hope that it's something that will stick around for a lot longer!

The animation for the movie was really good and fit very well with the arcade theme. Certain of the games were portrayed in bright, over the top colours, others in darker worlds, some in 8-bit, a lot in more detail. The storyline I also felt was great and, though Grant says that he got the twist earlier than I did, I found the twist to the movie to be a great surprise. What I also liked is that  you didn't need to know all of the game references to get the movie. I didn't know a lot of them, while Grant did, and I actually think that it made it better for me in some ways, while Grant really loved the references themselves.

Grant claims that Wreck-It Ralph is the best animated movie that he can remember seeing, while I say that it is amazing, but not the best out there. I would highly recommend it for anyone who does like animated movies though because it is great fun to watch!!

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Gobii vs. Kindle

For my birthday two years back, my wonderful boyfriend got me one of the best gifts I could have asked for or imagined. He got me a Kindle. For a year and a half it was one of my most prized possessions. I would use it on a nightly basis and took it with me on all trips. Being small, compact, light and easy on battery, it was the perfect travel companion. But sadly, around 6 months ago, my Kindle met an unfortunate end.

So, for Christmas, that same wonderful boyfriend bought me a replacement. Only this time, he decided to go for a South African alternative and bought me the Gobii. So, having used the Gobii for a month, I thought that I would do a quick comparison between the two.

Let's start with the look. The two are of comparable size, but the Gobii is a little thicker and has a smaller screen. While the Kindle that I had was an older version with a keyboard, the Gobii only has 7 buttons on it - Menu, Font, Play/Pause, Back, Joystick/Select, Page Forward and Page Back. While this is convenient for keeping the Gobii's look clean and tidy, I did also find the keyboard on the Kindle very handy for search functionality, and it has been something that I've had to get used to.

The screen itself is very different on the Gobii. The wonder of the Kindle and the reason for it's energy efficiency is that it is entirely e-ink. This means that it uses very little power to change pages and uses no power at all while on a page, so the battery can last for months without needing to be charged. The Gobii is not e-ink. It is a normal screen, which can be damaging to your eyes if you stare at it for long enough, the same way as a computer screen would be. I have turned down the brightness of the screen to make it as easy on my eyes as possible, but in some ways I definitely prefer the Kindle screen. On the other hand, the Gobii can also be used for storing photographs and watching videos, which the Kindle could not do, and that is a very handy addition, particularly in terms of storing photographs as it would mean that I could bring it along to photography meetings and be able to have a portable digital portfolio that is a lot more convenient to carry than my laptop. The Gobii also has a colour display, which is more handy than the dull grey of Kindle.

Then you come to the support for each of the readers. The Kindle supported a number of formats including PDF and .mobi. The Gobii supports a smaller range of formats for books. Thankfully, I have got a program called Calibre which allows you to change the format of your books to support any ebook reading device, but it is a bit of a pain having to change the books before being able to put them onto the Gobii. Then you come to the Kalahari vs. Amazon debate. Gobii is supported by Kalahari where Kindle is supported by Amazon. Amazon definitely has a wider range of ebooks available and at a lower price, but they are all in dollars where the Kalahari alternatives are all in Rands. While Amazon has specials on ebooks often making them a lot cheaper, Kalahari offers more South African fiction and more payment options - cash payments, electronic transfers, credit card or any number of loyalty programmes such as eBucks and more.

Overall, I think that I prefer the Kindle because of the long lasting battery and the fact that after a year and a half, I got very used to using it. There were little things about it that I just preferred, like having page buttons on either side of the device where the Gobii only has them on one side, making lying on your right shoulder more uncomfortable in terms of turning pages. On the other hand, the Gobii is a good effort and has a number of features that the Kindle did not include. I am very happy with my Gobii and hope that I will get more used to it the longer I use it.