Posts tagged with "Review"

Jonathan Reed

Bruce Ruminates on Grief, Loss and Life in the ‘Extended Album’ Film ‘Letter To You’ (Apple TV+ Review)

A heavy-headed Bruce Springsteen opens ‘Letter to You’, the new documentary film on Apple TV+, with an ode to his long, almost half a century ‘conversation’ with his bandmates and us, the fans. He talks of his need to communicate and that he doesn’t why.

It’s a very sombre and reflective way to open a film about possibly the greatest rock star of all time. Still, it sets the tone for a film that’s deep in emotion, memories, grief and also, celebration and gratefulness.

It should be said that I’m a Springsteen fan. I own several of his LPs on vinyl. More than any other artist, save my all-time favourites, Eels. This is also important in judging my enjoyment of the film. If you’re not a fan of the man, then this isn’t going to be your sort of film.

It should also be said that this is very much an accompanying film to his latest LP, Letter to You. To be fair, that’s the title of the film AND the album so we maybe shouldn’t expect more, and for the most part, what the film does is add more depth and weight to what is already a defining album.

What comes across the most is Bruce’s gratefulness. Grateful for the career he’s had, the people he’s met and most of all the band he’s been able to play with all these years, The E Street Band.

This is the first album where The E Street Band and Bruce have all been together playing in the studio simultaneously since ‘Born To Run’, 25 years ago. So what we really get is like a concert album. We hear all the tracks and see the band playing together as one. As a fan, it’s a fantastic experience.

In between the tracks, Bruce talks about his career growing up, from his start in The Castiles to early albums and phone calls from Bob Dylan. Again, very reflective.

Whether the film is a success depends on what you’re expecting and what you want. If you’re expecting a film that’s going to celebrate the history of Bruce and the E Street Band without going into too much depth, then you’ll be pleased. If you want a profound look into who Bruce is as a person and the troubles and successes along the way, you’ll be a bit disappointed.

However, I don’t think that’s a criticism. It doesn’t try to be anything else than a nostalgic reminisce and celebration of who Bruce and the band are. That being said, Bruce’s introductions to some of the songs add real weight to their meaning (pro-tip: turn on subs during the songs). As a band that’s still hurting from the enormous losses of Danny Federici and Clarence Clemons, the performance of the song ‘See You in my Dreams’ is particularly heartbreaking. Only adding to that is the sight of producer Jon Landau visibly breaking down while listening back to it.

These people have come a long way and been through a lot.

Closing out the film (over more beautiful shots of snowy New Jersey), Bruce considers how fragile and finite life is and how we only have so much left; how lucky we are to be alive and be able to do what we can do. Bruce Springsteen is someone who has represented the average American throughout his entire career. He’s someone who has sung about the hardships and triumphs of ordinary life: finding a paycheck, finding love, losing love, watching your community struggle around you and the triumphs when people succeed. Even in a film which is essentially an extended version of an album it carries weight. It’s emotional, celebratory, reflective, and most of all, grateful. Oh, and it has some great music.

Jonathan Reed

It’s Easy to be Charmed by Apple’s Lightweight, Tiny World

Tiny World, on Apple TV+, is charming but ultimately aimed at the wrong audience.

“He’s not the greatest dancer... but at least he’s... staying alive.”

That’s one of the actual lines Paul Rudd says in Tiny World, the new nature documentary/non-fiction story series from Apple TV+.

Here’s another one: “Where there’s a will and some nuts, there’s a way.”

So, unless you like cheesy Dad jokes, this may not line up with your expectation of this series as Apple’s contribution to the fine world of nature programming. An area which is dominated by the quite extraordinary work created by the BBC with Sir David Attenborough.

However, that is my main criticism of this show: expectations. Apple, wanting to get in on this increasingly popular genre, has pitched this along with their other main programming as something of an equal to Sir David’s work. It isn’t. This isn’t a criticism, though. It’s a lovely little show, but for a specific audience.

Tiny World is six episodes long at around 30 minutes each. Each episode focuses on a different area: Savannah, Jungle, Island, Outback, Woodland and Garden. They tend to follow one main creature’s journey through this part of the world, turning off slightly to briefly focus on another animal that our main character comes across.

That’s also the keyword here: brief. Covering 5/6 creatures per episode, it doesn’t have time to focus on the real details of each one. So it avoids explicitly (almost) any negative focus on death or real struggle. It also completely avoids any mention of environmental threat which Sir David’s shows are now increasingly focused on.

It’s almost as if it’s not aimed at people like myself. This is my point.

Tiny World is a wonderful show for kids to watch.

Tiny World is a wonderful show for kids to watch. Sitting down on their own, or even better, as a young family, this show is perfect for kids aged 2 upwards, to about 11. It doesn't show anything that’s really going to scare or upset them, but it really gives a great perspective on these critters with some lovely, small scale, low to the ground photography. It would have been a fantastic addition to the Kids section on Apple TV.

Paul Rudd is a reasonable narrator but ultimately a strange choice. I’ll happily admit to having a massive man-crush on the man, but this would have been better with someone a bit lighter or, here’s a crazy thought, a woman!

The show isn’t completely devoid of threat; at one point a poor ant get’s eaten by some sand-dwelling bug, but not before a valiant friend tries to save it. A garden bird gets pounced on by the hawk and eaten, but we only see the hawk land on the camera and then afterwards with some feathers in its mouth.

These are rare moments, though. The show is primarily focused on the heroic struggles and frequent victories of these tiny creatures. The photography is up close and personal with occasional flourishes like a shot dropping from the clouds, straight down into a termite mound or some great tracking shots of gliding birds. This means if you’ve got a big TV, you really see the detail in incredible 4K. My kittens were completely hypnotised throughout the whole of one episode!

So if you have young children, sit down with them to watch this show. They’ll be amazed by what they see and will likely pique their interest in the natural world. Then it’s time for Sir David to blow their minds.

Tiny Worlds complete season 1 is available to stream now on Apple TV+.

Sigmund Judge

Review: Twelve South AirFly Pro Bluetooth Transmitter

Review: Twelve South AirFly Pro Bluetooth Transmitter

I love my surround sound and after ten years my cinema surround system continues to make up part of my premiere movie viewing experience. When I finish working for the day, I sit back on the sofa with a cup of tea and ask Siri to play something from my movie library or queue up one of the copious amounts of new episodic originals. It’s time to relax and immerse myself in story.

Here’s the thing: whilst I love the satisfying thuds and thunder from my system connected to the Apple TV, for my co-habitants and neighbours during the twilight hours its often to much; even when reducing loud sounds. So late night, I often revert to a discreet viewing experience through my AirPods. It’s a great feature let down by the limitation of only being able to pair one set of Bluetooth headphones at a time.

The lack of audio-sharing on Apple TV is disappointing; a feature shipped with iOS 13.1 that allows users to share the audio they are listening to with a friend by connecting two pairs of compatible Bluetooth headphones to a single supported Apple device. It’s a feature many have been crying out for on Apple TV but it’s an omission that Twelve South have inadvertently solved with their AirFly Pro and AirFly Duo accessories provided your TV has a headphone jack or is connected to a sound system that does.

Originally touted as a way of connecting AirPods to in-flight entertainment systems on aeroplanes, Twelve South’s AirFly accessory had long been on my radar, so when the AirFly Pro Bluetooth adapter dongle became available to purchase at my local Apple Store last week I couldn’t resist.

The premise for their original AirFly was simple: plug AirFly into the 3.5mm headphone jack, pair your Bluetooth headphones, sit back and listen. Two years later and AirFly Pro sports Bluetooth 5.0 allowing two simultaneous Bluetooth headphone connections and the ability to send audio the other way at the flick of a switch.

Given this device will work with literally anything with a traditional 3.5mm jack, I wanted to test how well AirFly Pro would work with Apple TV and two sets of AirPods Pro set to transparency mode. The kind of setup perfect for my friends who are in the early stages of parenting – offering a balance of not waking the new born but being aware should the new mum or dad be called to attention.

AirFly Pro comes with a handy Keychain cap (though I’d replace it pretty pronto as its not to robust), a USB-C to USB-A charging cable, a tiny travel bag, quick start guide, owners guide and one years limited manufacturers warranty.

Setup is relatively straightforward and happens on-device with no additional software to download. Just press and hold the power button for 4 seconds to put AirFly Pro in pairing mode, after which, simply put your Bluetooth headphones into pairing mode and wait for both to pair to one another; indicated on AirFly Pro by a tiny white light. You can add an additional pair by pushing the power button twice to repeat the pairing process. Then you just stick the dongle into the headphone jack and you’re set.

In my few days of testing, AirFly Pro offered a stable bluetooth connection with next to no difference in audio quality, interference, signal range or latency compared to pairing my AirPods Pro directly to Apple TV 4K.

Playback time was the advertised 16 hours from a 2 hour charge whilst paired with one set of AirPods Pro – dropping to 10 hours when connected to two pairs.

One downside to using AirFly Pro to connect AirPods indirectly to your device is that you do lose the ability to pause playback when taking out one AirPod or by pressing its stem. It’s a small gripe, however if you occasionally fall asleep whilst watching TV you may find your Up Next queue is cleared by the time you wake.

I’ve used AirFly Pro successfully with gym equipment, my Nintendo Switch and some legacy iOS devices that don’t support iOS 13’s audio sharing feature, and I’m looking forward to trying it out on my next long-haul flight (hopefully to WWDC20).

Better yet whilst the Apple Store feature editorial specifically highlight AirPods and Beats wireless headphones, AirFly’s product doesn’t restrict you to using the feature with Beats or Apple headphones equipped with H or W wireless chipsets. I tried Bluetooth headphones from Bose, Sony, Samsung and Bang & Olufsen and all worked great!

I favour AirPlay 2 at home and paired with the fact that I don’t drive (god bless Transport For London) AirFly Pro’s AUX IN feature which is best used for “hire cars, boats and non-Bluetooth speakers” is a nice feature I probably wont use.

Had the cheaper AirFly Duo been given the same global distribution I would have opted for that instead of AirFly Pro for my use case.

AirFly Duo offers 20+ hours of playback and has a simpler pairing process with dedicated pairing buttons for both sets of wireless headphones.

Twelve South’s AirFly Pro comes recommended. It’s versatility justifies its price, fitting into so many different use-case scenarios.

As winter draws near, I’m looking forward to collaborating on playlists and sharing a casual walk along London’s SouthBank with an AirFly Pro in tow. Here’s to finding a Keira Knightley to my Mark Ruffalo.

AirFly Pro is available globally at Apple Stores and Apple.com whereas AirFly Duo can be purchased directly from Twelve South. AirFly Pro is currently listed at $54.99 with AirFly Duo priced at $49.99.