Monday, 31 August 2009

An injection of culture

Sunday, not much happening, I decide to get out of the house, but don't want to spend money. So where to go? To our center of culture, Te Papa! I wandered around, taking as much time as I did, or didn't, want to spend, poking around, seeing this, seeing that. Actually, can't honestly say that I was that injected with culture, but at least I did go somewhere more notable than the book store. And yes, I saw the Colossal Squid! Also took in Art of the Nation (very interesting Cloud exhibit [that video was playing, and I saw the square with no words, just dots!]), Precious Metals, Passports (managed to captain a migrant vessel successfully), Scots in New Zealand, went to The Marae, Blood Earth Fire, and walked around Bush City (although the weather wasn't nice for outside activities). And that wasn't everything there!

Wasn't that packed either, so if you have some free time, why not pop on in?

This was playing in the Art of the Nation section. Note that the original music was lost, so the poster added their. Up to you if you want to hear their version, or as Te Papa plays it silent. Join me in this cultural video: Tusalava.


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Sunday, 30 August 2009

HC Again

We continue where we left off, by planning to kick the cult Day of Living Kind's ass. Although, this group, being this group, had to investigate some things first. Fortunately we avoid going to England. Unfortunately, we have to spend a lot of time planning and getting to the skull mountain thing itself. And, it turns out, getting there was more challenging that the actual cult dealings... LAME MODULE. Threshold continued.


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Saturday, 29 August 2009

Just not trying

I get a large amount of spam in my email. This is the latest example.

Date: Fri, 28 Aug 2009 06:52:05 GMT
From: Jamie
Subject: {%SUBJECTS%}

IF you follow this link you may never look at online income the same way again.


Less than a $3 investment has already lead Millions to becoming their OWN BOSS again.

Really? %SUBJECT% and %REDIRECT%? They couldn't even be bothered to make sure their bulk emailer worked enough to replace those with rubbish crap (which I would either filter or delete anyway)?

Or maybe this is some form of reverse psychology? "No one could be that dumb, maybe I will check this out! Hey, wow, that's so original, I think I'll try that link..." Well, should I make up a place myself? Or just go to a virus vault, grab something an infect my own computer? (Or just looking up Jessica Biel should do.)

Come on, people! Where's the social engineering? At least other spam promise me berries, watches, or the ability to impress women!


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Friday, 28 August 2009

Spooked? by the Capital Times

There's an article in the latest Capital Times (you'll be able to spot the issue, it has Casper on the front), where Dawn Tratt joins others in investigating strange occurrences at the Museum of Wellington City and Sea.

Now, to be clear up front, she did not experience any strange things herself, and points out the scariest moment was when one colleague there mistook another person for a ghost. (And how often is that a reasonable explanation?) There were strange things reported by others... after she left. And without, she notes, photographic evidence. So, not a piece about "ghosts, ghosts everywhere" as some programs would have you believe.

Standard equipment seemed to be in force. "Headmounted torches, EMF (Electro Magnetic Field) meters, cameras, video cameras, night vision binoculars, pens and pads." I wonder what would happen if equipment to detect infrasonic sound had been used? (Richard Wiseman has conducted experiments that show that people think a place is more haunted if such sounds are present.)

The Museum thinks this will help publicity, and this may well happen. They are looking at bringing back "paranormal tours". Might sign up for one myself...


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Thursday, 27 August 2009

Any sign you need

There are so many sites out there that can take an image and put text on it (or a squirrel or a bird). There are also many, many sites that will generate an image wholesale. These are some I created for the Heroic Cthulhu game.

From Warning Sign Generator:

And from Official Seal Maker:


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Wednesday, 26 August 2009

HC Again

More exciting adventures. I feel like we are dealing with the leftovers of others' adventures as we pick up a dangling plot thread once more. Eh, I'm not sure I can get that excited. Reminded me of the mod we did over Christmas. To be continued next week.

The Thing at the Threshold.


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Ijjer's Tale, Story Six

With the dragon defeated, we were done! Or maybe not. We head back to Que-She to find it still ruined by something dragon-ish, and without use. We then head to Que-Kiri, and it similar. However, there were still people here, including bad draconian-things. Unsurprisingly, we fight. They had interesting fighting style in that they die and explode, splashing acid on others, including selves and leader. See potential fighting problem right there (however, unable to fit any of them myself).

[The entire night, my best attack roll was... a 7! The dice weren't with many of us tonight.]

With them ended, we head to Solace to find fate of tree-city. Fate bad. Garrison of troops, all lead by Fewmaster Toad. Our inn was partially destroyed, with many taken away to the south. In the inn, we meet up with barmaid Tika, and there's also some Elven person. Who provokes a fight against draconians. Bad, very bad.

Fight goes on long. Very long. [See dice luck above.] They yell for help, and takes us far too long to put them down. By time done, inn surrounded by forces. I try to pretend we follow dragons, no luck there. We are captured. Druid tries to get away. Isn't successful. Unfortunately, he was killed trying to sneak platinum discs away.

We put in wagon (our weapons in other wagon), were we meet mad wizard called Fizz-Bang or something, and a Half-Elf bard called Forin Kanan. We are dragged south, there is a failed ambush by a smithee friend of elf we met in inn, and life outlook is grim...


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Sunday, 23 August 2009

What do you see?

This is something I came across while out and about in town one afternoon.

Hang on a minute... are those Chinese characters? I don't know the images, but they do look kind of like the more complex symbols. I've got more hidden away (click for the full post), but what are they really?

Hint: Reflection!


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Thursday, 20 August 2009

Dis Trict 9

District 9 is heralded as the best science fiction movie this year (and it is August!). That said, the bar isn’t that high as there haven't been good science fiction movies this year. Until now. This is definitely a good movie. A great movie?

Fine, I'm tough to impress. Great performances, certainly, including the CGI-actors. And, with "proper" science fiction, it is really a cover for a different tale, namely race differences (no spoiler there), and indeed it was well made.

And yet, it was a science fiction movie about race relations. Um, not exactly the most nouveau of ideas. Still a lot to be said, and it's still an issue, sure, but this movie doesn't really say more than the more superficial of comments. I like a good story, and although the production values are great, this movie should be above bad action feasts like GI Joe and Transformers.

But yes, the production values are amazing. The CGI actors are amazingly well integrated into the scene, and I have no idea what was CGI and what was practical. Sharlto Copley does good acting, although I'm not sure I entirely buy his character arc. The camera work was interestingly documentary style mixed with shaky cam with standard... I'm entirely sure which genres this crosses.

Ultimately, go watch this movie. It's a great example of what you can do when not trying to make a toy or computer video game commercial...


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Wednesday, 19 August 2009

Escapist didn't

Finally have my Escapist Magazine connection issue resolved. How? By telling my computer the DNS of the website. Only, not just one website, but also and also for, and variants on that. All because there are too many aliases or not enough lookups or something.

Anyway, for the record, I edited my hosts file to include the following:

(And editing wasn't easy either, as I am in Vista. I use Yikes, but the key point is to right-click on the icon and run as Administrator, or you can't edit the hosts file at /WINDOWS/system32/driver/etc )


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Ijjer's Tale, Story Five

We need to infiltrate a dragon den, not something wisely done. Fortunately, we none too bright. We could go for distraction, we could use dwarfs, we could just go for it... yeah, there are two patrols, most likely everyone on patrol, so we just follow one around until we get to den.

Unfortunately, we as subtle as cats in garbage cans, and immediately are set upon. Once again, I am brilliant and kill off many of them, and also deal the final killing blow to the last one. However, they explode, so those nearby not too happy, but I make it through the fight without being hit, so that's all right.

We sneaky-sneaky up to the dragon den, and head in through the barracks, which look to be regal place of old, complete with statues and stuff. We find neat stuff for the druid, but otherwise not a lot. Except for the captain type person, who single handly keeps us busy. Still, I continue to not be hit, which is good. I do provide a lto of help keeping up with it, with a recently acquired ability to give flying ability when I go. As we finally put it down, it had just reached the door to the dragon horde, and as it died it blew them open.

Oops. Dragon. The fighters get in there (I don't), but Lukan knocked her down. Continously. And often. Which helped the fighters. No so much me with my distance attacks. I do go in to help others survive, but was breathed on! Waagh! But, once again, guess who gets in killing blow? (And, amusingly, knocked it down once again...) However, Goldenrivermoon woman also attack dragon, and went out in blaze of glory. Ood. Her staff go away as well, which I would like, although I can't use it, but still...

Speaking of staff, we find Staff of Winter in pile o' treasure. Woot! It mine now! However, we had killed load-bearing bad-guy, so everything starts collapsing. We run, run away. Getting out, we find Goldmoonriver waiting for us. She cleric now, and somehow the gods are back. Not sure what up there. But apparently we did good. Somehow, I think there still more to do...


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Tuesday, 18 August 2009

Monkey's Shadow

Finally made it to another WARGS meeting. Been a while since I attended a full session. For a while it looked like it wouldn't be that well attended, possibly due to the Wellington Boardgame convention being on at the same time, but we ended up with quite a few people around.

And we also got in a game of Shadowrun, in particular the adventure Monkeywrench. A nice simple mission, what could go wrong? I had my designed character, a Face Adept, that didn't really have a lot to do during the adventure, other than negotiate up the fee and get some good monies selling stuff at the end. The combat people had more to do, but that's the way these missions go. Still fun as ever, with Grant in charge, and here's the next month's session!


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Monday, 17 August 2009

HC Again

We had the recombination of the usual crew of Pete, Travis and myself, with another regular player Shawn joining us. This continued Shawn's arc of his trying to marry his wife, while Travis had other plans that he forced into action, with Shawn not really liking any of it. Annoyance abounds in More Wedding Bells.

Then we enact a "brilliant" plan of Macca's, that goes as wrong as one would expect when in the Logan verse. This also slides into a semi-ongoing mission that's hard to read what's going on, and I didn't really care that much. KBC Hug Day.


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Some similarity

"You got your drama in my comedy!" "You got your comedy in my drama!"


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Friday, 14 August 2009

Does it really need to be said?

"A Christian faith-healing clinic has opened in Christchurch offering to cure cancer, broken bones and mental illness through prayer."

Faith healers attack cancer with prayer.

Really? Of course "Patients were not charged and were counselled to not stop regular medical treatment." (We won't mention 'donations are encouraged'.) Well, that's convenient. If the science works, guess who woudl still get the credit? Not to mention the easy escape clause of 'it's God's will'.

The only way to test this is with science. But that would involve people not receiving regular treatment, which is unethical.

Interestingly "The patient did not have to convert to Christianity and did not even have to be a believer, he said." Which raises question like: what else doesn't have to be true for this to work? What if the treatment was only 'enthusiastic' instead of "aggresive"? Do you need every healer involved to pray? Does the length of the prayer matter? What if the person being healed actively prayed against being healed?

Scientific studies have should NO EVIDENCE of prayer helping. The best you get out of this is hope, which can aid recovery, but let's not pretend that anything is actually being cured here...


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Wednesday, 12 August 2009

Ijjer's Tale, Story Four

The teleporter in the bank allowed us to get to city, but we don't know where in city. We wander around, trying to find big plaza, and find a barracks instead. With Draconians. Being the subtle party that we are, the barbarian charges! What started as two Draconians became four, then another big bad came in, followed by another three! Big fight! Really became hard battle for us, knocking more than one of us down for the count. (Not me, fortunately. Did get attacked though, not good. Still, who got the final killing blow on the big bad? The goblin sorcerer of course! Go me!)

Continuing on, we find big plaza which contains dragon. We pull back, and try to find the dwarf creatures we came down with. We take back route and get to where they would be. We encounter one dwarf, but his inanity pained us. We also find secret door to secret room contain a bed and hats, many many hats. Not sure why, not want to know. Do discover a map of area with link from one building to place of dragon's treasure. Oh, that's for us!

We go to building, and head down connecting pipe. Encounter big beetles in pipe, but fortunately I get through unhurt. Blackwind goes on to find nothing else in pipe, but when we back out we find that Draconian guards have been alerted and are patrolling around. We try to pull back, but the barbarian is caught and nearly killed before we got involved. I got knocked out, but got better. My abilities not so useful in this fight, but the fighter and the barbarian and happy in the beating up of our opponents. Once that done, we skillfully get back to the bank teleporter thingy.

While we hunker down to rest, we know that we need to siege the base tomorrow to get thsoe platinum disks...


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Tuesday, 11 August 2009

TW: The House That Jack Built

The last of the set, and it definitely is a set, is The House That Jack Built by Guy Adams.

More of a concept book, in that there is a House where weird things are happening... and that's about it. The author pads things out a little by retelling sequences from different character's perspectives, but it's mainly about coping with the surreal house (and not to give things away, but Jack didn't actually build the house in question, just some remodelling). Fortunately, I like weirdness, so am willing to give it a go.

The story is more about how people react to the weirdness, so Guy gets to spend time inside people's head, giving us passages of reaction without needing to actually move the story along. That said, given the thinness of the actual plot, I can see why.

Rob and Julia are an attempt at a typical couple with problems, although Rob doesn't ever make us care about his point of view. Alexander Martin is just annoying. The rest of the Torchwood crew again don't get development (even Jack, although it's a lot about him), and just are there to be in the story.

By the way, these authors did have at least some chat between each other. Alexander was introduced in the previous book, and Nina Rogers makes a cameo appearance here, and there are references to the previous stories, including an older book. Huh.

A decent enough book, gives it a good go, doesn't quite reach epic heights though.


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Monday, 10 August 2009

Yo Joe!

So, I have now seen the latest advertisement for Hasbro toys. Eh, I'm not impressed. Have to say that I really think anything's been added to the oeuvre of "high-tech military outfit fighting another high-tech military outfit... based on toys... by Hasbro". I think the fields already saturated by now.

And what does it teach us about life? Firstly, don't put the guy in charge of the mission where he has to kill his love, 'cos that's going to ruin the mission. Secondly, you can indeed bug women enough to make them like you. Not to mention, thirdly, white guys are better than Asian guys. Oh, and fourthly, it's okay for lots of destruction as long as the people who suffer are French. (Fifthly, it is possible to have a base in the sand without any hint of sand in the base itself.) [Sixthly, people can have expository flashbacks at the drop of a hat.]

I mean, really, lots and lots of things blowing up, cars flipping over, etc. Now, because this is for the kiddies, there is no blood, dismembered limbs, people spread thinly on the road, etc. The good guys trying to beat the bad guys created more death and destruction than the bad guys do!

At least we have Christopher Eccleston, putting on a really broad Scottish accent. And Jonathan Pryce! And cameos by Arnold Vosloo and Kevin J. O'Connor. And Sienna Miller and Rachel Nichols have a cat-fight (although Karolina Kurkova is prettier). On the other hand, there is a Wayans brother involved...

I'm sure people are clambering for a sequel, although I'm not sure the audience is. I think this movie has pretty much run its course. So... how long until the S.H.I.E.L.D. movie?


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Sunday, 9 August 2009

It's Relativity, Captain, but not as we know it

This was a pilot for a new series that Gerry Anderson proposed between series one and two of Space 1999. It's The Day After Tomorrow, and it was originally going to be a special educating children about Einstein's Theory of Relativity! However, in order to generate a new series, Gerry made a few changes. This means that it's hard to tell if the numerous errors are Johnny Byrne's fault (the original writer) or Gerry's. But there are indeed numerous errors. Every time you spot one... drink!

Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5.


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Saturday, 8 August 2009

TW: Bay of the Dead

No-one say the Zed word! This book has one agenda and pursues it relentlessly. Bay of the Dead by Mark Morris.

Zombies, man, zombies! Zombies everywhere! This is a straight out action book featuring creatures you might be able to guess at. I like this, a refreshing approach, no hundred and ten different supposed characterisations, no lots and lots of random characters for us to care about, just zombies, and running around, and more zombies! Yay!

The reason for everything is very obvious, but then this isn't the story for deep and complex. We just need an excuse for Zombies, and away we go! Even given that, the reason for the Zombies is pretty stupid, and the solution isn't that great either. Fortunately, the all Zombie action is fun enough I can overlook that.

The Torchwood team get to be on the run, and yes there are extras that meet and often suffer at the Zombies' hands... and PC Andy! Eh, but he doesn't quite come across properly in print. Just not the same without Tom Price. Whatever. Go Zombies!

I enjoyed it. Not a challenging read, but a fun one.


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Friday, 7 August 2009

The Diamond Necklace Affair

A friend of mine is putting on a play that he wrote! Woo! It's "The Affair of the Diamond Necklace", and he even gets a small role in it that includes dancing!

To quote details:

The evening
Upon your arrival, you will enjoy refreshments and mingle with other guests, then proceed to a lavish seated banquet in the style of old Versailles, where the drama will unfold. Afterwards, dancing and entertainment will continue until late.

The Affair of the Diamond Necklace is a world first experience of interactive theatre. Talk with Marie Antoinette, Louis XVI and other central figures in the affair. As the mystery of the necklace develops, you will be involved: revealing secrets, uncovering lies, and influencing the fate of all France.

It's a one-shot deal, 15th August on at the St James Theatre.

Yes, you do get an unusual experience, and get dinner, but at $145 it's somewhat out of my range. Bon chance, mon ami!


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Thursday, 6 August 2009

Dragged Me To Hell

This was a very odd movie. The opening scene made me wonder what I was watching: horror or comedy? And it didn't help that the volume was turned up to 12. And then I saw Sam Raimi's name. Ah, that explained a bit...

However, the problem continued. One second it could be horror, and the next it was comedy. Really, it changed on a dime. Without, and this is the important part, any sense of transition. Raimi isn't exactly a stranger to the combination of horror and comedy, but never before has it been so jarring. Basically, I felt that it needed another pass to smooth it out.

The plot is not exactly complicated. Woman gets cursed by a gypsy, and is thus scared over the next few days before the devil finally comes a calling for her soul. Who hasn't seen that before? She struggles against her destiny, and has hilarious run ins with the gypsy woman time and time again. It's a laugh riot that'll make you jump out of your seat.

Alison Lohman suffers the Raimi treatment well, and Lorna Raver gets to have a lot of fun tormenting her (although probably was really uncomfortable in weird rigs). Dileep Rao has the next memorable roll, and even David Palmer out-acts Justin Long. As ever, though, the big stars are the special effects team.

It's a disconcerting movie, and thus hard to completely recommend. Certainly in the Evil Dead vein (and was written at the same time). While some moments you don't see coming, the overall story isn't that original, and I saw the ending coming a mile away. I leave the decision to you.


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Wednesday, 5 August 2009

HC Again

I was in charge on Saturday (Friday game), but I wasn't the lead. Instead Logan ran a module I already knew (having seen the episode on which it was based), so I got to stick someone else in charge. The character Valerian is everyone's butt monkey in so many ways and continued to be so in this mod. And yet, he persists. Big Redoux.

Then, surprise, I got in on Sunday's game! The sharks weren't swimming. There was a "Big Mod" Logan wanted to run, but it wasn't working out, so the other guys dropped it, and I'll face it later. We tried other stuff, but couldn't really get a good head of steam up over any of it. We Evo-ke the Building and visit the Swamp Temple.


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Ijjer's Tale, Story Three

For some reason, a Fighter Elf named Lukan came searching for Blackwing. Think something strange about that relationship, but Elfs weird like that. [Yet another classic 'oh, here's a new party member moment!]

We follow the small dwarf creatures down into the temple, and immediately there problems. They argue about which way to go, so we must make decisions. We decide, which works out well until we hit room with no floor [called 'The Floorless Room']. Much danger and excitement as we climb across, but then we get the 'downy chute'! Much hilarity of tube-riding ensued, with us all bunching up to the guy in front. At end of ride, we fall into room (I nearly dead at that point), and find room to be already inhabited by spiders. Argh! I stay out of way best I can and let others stomp spiders [my rolling is terrible].

After spiders go squish, we head into more sunken temple, and poke about. 'Down' is the direction of choice, but weirdly there are ghosts around, doing their own thing. Not bothering us, so good. We find more street that leads to waterfall. Very big waterfall. We don't go down that way, but look down to see large plaza we were told about that dragon likes to sit in. No dragon at the moment.

We also near large bank, which we decide to investigate. This also contains ghost, who insist Lukan is old dead human that needs to pay debt. Lukan not agree, and we end up in fight with ghosts. There river in front of bank that goes to waterfall, and I nearly go down, but survive to tell that tale. Surprisingly, despite our initial ideas to run from ghosts, we end up defeating them. We then find bank has teleporter to somewhere, but decide to secure ourselves in the bank for the night.


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Tuesday, 4 August 2009

TW: Into the Silence

The first book in the next set of three is Into the Silence by Sarah Pinborough.

This is a book of two halves, the first half being 180 pages, the second half being 50. In the first half, an alien attacks people. Again and again and again. And again. All the while Sarah Pinborough is introducing people, spending pages on their lavish introductions and setting them up so we get to know them and their lives and we care deeply about their imminent death... yeah, that’ll happen. Basically, read "padding". A lot of padding. Until finally, in the last fifty pages, all of a sudden Torchwood decide to do something, and we get resolution! Which is a level of brutal we haven't seen in a while, although this book does take place before Children of Earth and it's not that brutal.

This means that most of the Torchwood team are sitting around, kicking their heels, until they finally do something. This might lead to characterisation of them in their off-time or in their 'we don't know what to do' time, but all that potential characterisation is given to the victims. There is a last-second hint of something for Jack, right at the end, but on the whole the team are just 'there' rather than being meaningful people.

Not that the new people are that interesting. Aside from the victims, the other main characters are made to be unpleasant or at least severely broken. This might be a realistic view of many of the people in Cardiff, but doesn’t endear me to want to read about them.

This book is not light reading, in fact 'slog' might be a better term. Skip it until you really want to read them all.

Order: Before Children of Earth.


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Monday, 3 August 2009

She's Celebrationing

There's a new Madonna album coming out. Which is not new. Or rather, is a collection of previous releases (like she's never done that before!). Available in single or 2-cd version.

And, like other collections, she has some new songs on this one. The first one released is Celebration (video below, of the Paul Oakenfold remix, is working at time of posting, will see how long it lasts...). It's... not brilliant. It's poppy, without any real substance, does slowly grow, not one of her better pieces.

Will I pick up the album, or at least the new songs? Not sure right now, have to say. What do you think of it?


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Saturday, 1 August 2009

That Half-Blood Prince

Yep, had to come sooner or later, I finally saw Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, aka Hogwarts: School of Angst. Did we ask for hours of characters yearning for each other, which we care not about? From watching this movie, I guess we did!

As an adaptation of the book there are huge chunks cut out. However, considering the book was largely exposition, I'm not sad. That said, as a movie, there was a lot of glossing over events that only made sense given what one knows from the books. And as for the "added scene", I prefer that to what we had in the book, as it kept the movie focused on Harry and co. However, I do agree that the ending was badly handled.

Have to confess that I rather liked Daniel Radcliffe's performance in this, especially during the "drug" scene. He's come a long way. The others are alright, but of course you have to give applause for Jim Broadbent. Woo! Go Jim!

As for my recommendation, I think most people have already decided if they will go see this or not, so there's not much point in me saying anything about that.


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