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Audition [DVD] [2001]
Audition [DVD] [2001]
Dvd ~ Ryo Ishibashi
Offered by The Happy Zombie
Price: 14.18

7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An innovative Japanese horror, 28 May 2004
This review is from: Audition [DVD] [2001] (DVD)
Japanese cinema is becoming a well-acclaimed source for novel films, and the best thing about them is that they don't necessarily look to the US to re-tread the cliches. I remember seeing this film a while back, but some of it still returns to haunt me. I don't think there are that many US films that could do that....
The story is of a middle-aged widowed man, who seeks to find love again. Encouraged by a friend, they hold a faked 'audition' to find him the right girl. However, despite the young girl's beauty and apparent timidness, there is very little known about her.
If you are an impatient horror fan, this film will not be for you. The majority of the film has its focus on developing the story, and the intrigue. Without this, the payoff will seem bland and unexciting. To those, however, who are willing to take the time to allow the plot, characters and intrigues to develop at the pace dictated by the film, the rewards are substantial, and plentiful.
When the payoff does come, it is pretty brutal, not just physically, but mentally too. Like the closing scenes of a David Lynch film, you're left reeling, questioning what you've just witnessed. What really sets the film apart though, is the false sense of security that the film sets you in before hitting hard!! All in all, it is a hell of a shock.
What's even more disturbing is that unlike most horror films, which require an element of supernature, "Audition" is a film that feels real. The characters are very down-to-earth. No psychic powers, reincarnations or undead flesh-eaters. Just a few ordinary lives in mostly ordinary circumstances.
A recommendation to those who appreciate that a good horror doesn't have to be full of hockey masks, shocks, or implausable evils. Of course, however, if you want gore galore, there are a couple of Troma films that I could always recommend....

Life of Pi
Life of Pi
by Yann Martel
Edition: Hardcover

6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Who said Zoology and Theology don't mix?, 24 May 2004
This review is from: Life of Pi (Hardcover)
I was slightly unprepared for the tale of Piscine Patel and Richard Parker, but picked up the book on a recommendation. I'm pleased that I did!
Pi's character is complex, yet clearly defined. His formative years, where he learns of religion (taking on three diversifying religions at the same time), and his more harshly-imposed lessons on the true nature of animals is an enjoyable read in itself.
The majority of the book is set on a lifeboat, lost in the Pacific ocean with nothing but a handul of animals on board. It was here where I was expecting either a boring narrative where every second sentence made a banal observation to God (almost like those Richard Bach novels), or would develop into a surreal metaphysical discourse with the animals. I am again pleased to say that neither happened. The book maintained a strong foothold in reality despite the bizarre situation that Pi found himself in. The tale of Pi's survival on the lifeboat, and finding his strengths and hindarances from the animals on board was again, pleasurable reading.
All in all, "The life of Pi" is a bittersweet tale of loss and salvation, simply told and easily absorbed. There is nothing heavy-handed about any of the ideas in the book, and the writing style flows along.
Unfortunately, I did not feel that it is one of those books that begged a second reading, rewarding as it was. However, it is still a recommended read to both those seeking an intelligent book, filled with questions, as well as those simply seeking a light afternoon's escapism.

Final Fantasy X-2 (PS2)
Final Fantasy X-2 (PS2)
Offered by Startup Media
Price: 13.25

2 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Worth every penny...., 17 April 2004
I doubt very much that anyone who has ever enjoyed a Final Fantasy game will have cause for complaint with Final Fantasy X-2, particularly if you were a fan of Final Fantasy X.
The story is set once again in Spira, two years after the events of FFX. Yuna, the high summoner has ditched her summoners robes and is travelling around Spira in search of 'spheres' (small recordings of Spira's history in spherical form). Accompanied by her pals Rikku and Payne, they go up against other sphere hunters, and the new powers of Spira to find these lost artefacts. For Yuna's gang, it is just for fun, but for her, there is a more personal reason.
Of course, it is not a pre-requisite to have played FFX, but most likely, in order to get the full story, it might be worth buying the first installment, which is also a lot of fun to play.
The story is a lot less linear than it was in FFX (which was one of FFX's downfalls). Here, Yuna can travel to any destination and perform different tasks to gain her spheres, right from the start of the game, and there is something to do in almost every location.
One thing that put gamers off many of the Final Fantasy games was the gameplay itself, which could become very stale over time. Namely, the battle system is a love/hate type of gameplay. One minute you would be walking along a path, then the screen 'fragments' and you are faced with an enemy to defeat. Destroy it, carry on, and eventually, the screen would fragment again, queuing up the next battle...repeat...repeat etc.
One thing that FFX-2 gets right gameplay-wise in my opinion is that as well as the battles, there are also many hidden games and tasks for Yuna & co. to perform, which do provide a welcome distraction from the norm., and prizes to be won along the way that further your characters and make battles easier. In addition, the battle system has been overhauled to make battles more action-packed, while the new power-up system of the dresspheres means that tactics can be deployed with harder enemies as easily as changing clothes
Graphically, not much has changed. The landscapes of Spira in FFX-2 are almost exactly the same as FFX. However, more areas are opened as Yuna has the ability to jump and climb around, so exploration is a lot more fun. Of course, the CGM and character animation graphics are top-notch and wholly immersive, with only a few duff moments when the scenes change. Also, as is the style of FF games, unleashing a powerful magic attack is a spectacular affair of pyrotechnics of great magnitude.
Final Fantasy will definitely appeal to fans of the genre, but some may find the repetitive gameplay boring, even with the mini-games included here. However, FFX-2 is a title that combines all the best elements of the previous FF games, and introduces a few neat ideas of its own, and if you want a game that will keep you entertained for a longer period of time than just a month, FFX-2 will be worth every penny.

The Dark Tower Boxed Set (Books 1-4)
The Dark Tower Boxed Set (Books 1-4)
by Stephen King
Edition: Paperback

100 of 103 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Dark Tower Box Set, 13 Feb 2004
I have been a fan of Stephen King's "Dark Tower" series, ever since the first line of the first book. The series, which was first released almost 20 years ago is finally drawing to a conclusion, and many who, like me, picked up a copy of "The Gunslinger" two decades ago will breathe a sigh of relief as next year, the final two books of the series are being released.
For those who have never heard of Stephen King's opus, the tale is of a Gunslinger, Roland, who must journey through a world that is not quite our own, to reach the Dark Tower, a building which stands at the nexus of all worlds. Along the way, he draws three people from our world to aid his quest, and has encounters with several enemies who would rather he never completes his quest.
The Dark Tower is a mixture of Arthurian Legend, Spaghetti-Westerns, Post-Apocalyptic horror, Time-travel science fiction, and other-worldly fantasy. Magic, vampires, demons, gunbattles, insanity and the wheel of destiny (also known as ka) abound in this series of novels. The ardent Stephen King fan will take great pleasure in spotting all the links to his other books (of which there are several).
Characterwise, Stephen King does a brilliant job. Yhe gunslinger is an enigmatic but fascinating character, who seems to have many skeletons in his closet, and many stories to tell. His companions on the journey are equally as fascinating, and their interactions with eachother to overcome adversary is one of the features that makes the books so gripping.
While the first four books in the series throw a lot of questions ("Who is this gunslinger?" "Why is he on this quest?" and even "Will he ever get there?" are just a few that crop to mind), the books have fuelled discussion and intrigued millions.
While the box set only contains the first four books in the series, the main feature is the revised first edition, which has been edited and re-written completely in some places to fit in with the rest of the story, particularly in the fifth book, and the references to "19". It tells of the first part of Roland's journey, and serves partly as introduction to Roland and his world, and partly implants a crucial plot point or two that remain constant throughout the series.
The second book sees the introduction of new characters and the first indications of the links between Roland's world and ours.
The third book sees the journey begin again, with some gripping sequences, and ending with one of the greatest cliffhangers in modern fiction. (Bear in mind, when it was first released, it took 6 years for the next book to come out)
The fourth book mainly focuses on the gunslinger's past, and more intrigues develop on the road to the tower.
The box set is recommended to both the casual reader who enjoys a change, and to the ardent Stephen King fan alike. While it would be more appropriate to have seen all seven books in a box set, the four books are ample reading, and the best thing is that you don't have to wait for five years for the next book to come out. (Book V is already released in hardback, and books VI and VII are both released next year). Old fans can relive the story after their dog-eared original copies have rotted, and readers new with the DT series won't have to wait 20 years for the next books in the series.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Apr 17, 2008 9:15 AM BST

Identity [DVD] [2003]
Identity [DVD] [2003]
Dvd ~ John Cusack
Offered by DVD Overstocks
Price: 5.38

5.0 out of 5 stars Not a film to be overlooked!, 24 Jan 2004
This review is from: Identity [DVD] [2003] (DVD)
What made this film so great for me was that even up until the end, you weren't sure what type of a film you were watching. As the film progresses, the viewer isn't sure whether they're watching a slasher film, a whodunnit or a supernatural horror film.
A group of strangers, through a series of bizzarre coincidences, find themselves trapped in a motel in the pouring rain. Cut off from the outside world, the group begin to discover a few more inexplicable oddities, while one by one, they die in a pre-destined order, either by being murdered or by accident. Meanwhile, somewhere else in the same storm, a midnight court trial is trying to determine the innocence of a convict who will be electrocuted in 24 hours.
The plot is designed to keep you guessing, as each plot twist throws up another series of questions and seemingly inexplicable situations. What is the relevance of the court case? How come keys are found by each body as the death toll mounts? Who is innocent and who is guilty?
Here is a thriller that not only buckles the formula, but almost completely demolishes it. Each actor does a superb job of maintaining the suspense. I still feel that John Cusack is better suited (though maybe too old)to zany comedies in high schools, but his performance here is admirable. So too, among others is Ray Liotta's cop, and Ray Busey playing a prisoner who's very presence is menacing.
Some of the set-ups are incredibly creepy, and will jangle the nerves, just like the old urban legends stories that are told around campfires.
Finally, a comment on the ending. Due to the nature of the film, the ending may be fulfilling and gratifying for some, but a dissapointment to others. As with any movie, the audience is asked to suspend belief so that the tale can be told. Personally, I enjoyed the film and the ending, but anyone who goes to watch a film and isn't prepared to go with the plot will probably dismiss the film based on the ending.
To those who do, all I can say is that you're missing the point, and you're missing the fun.

Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl [DVD] [2003]
Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl [DVD] [2003]
Dvd ~ Johnny Depp
Offered by DVD Overstocks
Price: 2.90

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Great family viewing, 30 Dec 2003
There's nothing like a good yarn during the Christmas season to perch the family in front of the TV and lose a few hours. POTC fulfils that category perfectly.
From start to finish, it is a great action-packed pirate romp, with swashbuckling duels, daring escapes, conniving baddies and treasure aplenty. The plot may be a bit on the predicatable side, but the film is nothing short of a fun experience for all ages (although some scenes may be a bit frightening for the very young)
Johnny Depp in particular plays a great role in the movie as the very eccentric captain Jack Sparrow, whos quest to get his ship back is entwined with the fate of William Turner (Orlando Bloom). Together, they take on hordes of some of the nastiest pirates ever portrayed on celluloid, as well as avoiding the navy , not to mention a rescue bid on the kidnapped governor's daughter.
I have yet to see a film with Johnny Depp in it that I did not enjoy, and his staggering, swaggering, but crafty on-screen characterisation of captain Jack Sparrow is endearing and of special mention. So too is Geoffrey Rush as the villainous Captain Barbossa. Special effects are quality, and the plot is brilliant and perfectly paced.
Settle down in front of the telly with the family, crack open a bottle of rum, and enjoy....

Lost Highway [DVD] [1997]
Lost Highway [DVD] [1997]
Dvd ~ Bill Pullman
Offered by WorldCinema
Price: 19.99

2 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Twisted Road Travelled...., 28 Dec 2003
This review is from: Lost Highway [DVD] [1997] (DVD)
It has to be said, nobody can make suburban America look as interesting as Lynch can. A whole mix of retro-'50s props shot with a dull, washed-out lens and an atmosphere that mixes film noir with a touch of the surreal.
Lost Highway is a confusing film about identity and losing touch with reality. However, that's not necessarily revealed exclusively by the plot. Like Mulholland Drive, the actual storyline is just beyond grasp, but is represented both by symbolic scenes and characters, and in just a few places, glimpses of reality.
Initially, Lost Highway tells two stories that seem to be linked by familiar faces, and unusual character transformations. The first story being of a Jazz musician becoming suspicious of his wife, and through a series of mysterious videotapes, is implicated in her murder. The second being of a young car mechanic being seduced by a violent gangster's moll (who is the same actress, Patricia Arquette). Both these tales are tied in many metaphysical ways, such as an odd man who can simultaneously be in two places at once, and a cabin out in the desert.
Anyone who likes their movies to have a tangible ending will be disappointed. Lynch movies are typically open-ended, but not to the point where the viewer feels like the experience is a waste of time. The viewr is invited to interpret what is going on, and that is as satisfying as the film itself. Whether or not you choose to puzzle over its symbolism or storyline, it is very well-shot, with scenes and characters that are dark, interesting and atmospheric, to a point where even if you can't (or don't want to) participate in the film's mindgames, you still come away with a sense of enjoyment, but also a sense of unease and disquiet.
The reason for this film not being given 5 stars in the review is due to the lack of extras on the DVD that would have made it worth purchasing over video. Otherwise, it's a good recommendation to anyone who likes their films slightly unconventional and unformulaic.

The Da Vinci Code
The Da Vinci Code
by Dan Brown
Edition: Hardcover

10 of 14 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Entertaining, but smug, 14 Dec 2003
This review is from: The Da Vinci Code (Hardcover)
"The Da Vinci Code" is undoubtedley an action-packed escapist romp. Set in London and Paris over a 24-hour timespan, the book sets off at a cracking pace, and doesn't let up. The book takes the form of a treasure hunt, sparked off by the murder of the curator of the Louvre, and ends up with the hero, a Harvard symbiologist Robert Langdon and a shapely Cryptologist Sophie Neveu on the run from the authorities and on a quest for the Holy Grail, guided by the works of Leonardo Da Vinci.
Dan Brown isn't exactly an accomplished writer, however. One of his main tricks is to use phrases like "What he discovered would change the course of his life forever", and he uses this trick ad nauseam. It is a poor way to develp intrigue, considering that he is fluent with his subject matter. He has clearly researched his book well, and the reader will be encouraged to view Da Vinci's works in a new light.
The puzzles within the story are well-constructed, and are part of the fun of the book. The reader will also be puzzling it out with the fugitives, and this adds to the entertainment. Additionally, the historical backbone of the story, the tale of the knights Templar and the church's suppression in history of other religions is fascinating.
What does let the story down is the story itself. It is fast-paced, but becomes more ludicrous towards the end as a wildly improbable twist or two is added to the whole affair, and it becomes a bit of a 'Hollywood Blockbuster'. Also, while the puzzles are challenging enough, they are not impossible to solve, and if the reader does see the solution, they will have to frustratingly read how a Harvard professor and French police agent muse out the solution (not very thrilling)
The Da Vinci codes is not a bad book by any stretch of the imagination. It just had the potential to be so much more.

Dark Tower: Wolves of the Calla v. 5
Dark Tower: Wolves of the Calla v. 5
by Stephen King
Edition: Hardcover
Price: 17.34

9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The wheel of ka turns once again...., 15 Nov 2003
As King constantly reminds us, this Book is part of a larger work that may possibly be his swansong, but really should not be reviewed merely on its own.
To those unfamiliar with the Dark Tower, I would strongly recommend picking up a copy of the previous books in the series. Very few King fans will be disappointed. Those familiar with the Dark Tower series will know what to expect.
Roland and his ka-tet have reached the town of Calla Bryn Sturgis, a quiet farm town that has a serious problem. Most children born here are twins, and every generation or so, a gang of "Wolves" kidnap one of each twin, returning them a few days later physically and mentally destroyed. This episode of Roland's quest also contains other sub-plots relevant to the ongoing story of the Tower as well, of course, in particular the story surrounding a rose growing in a vacant lot in downtown Manhattan, and one of his gang, Susannah, falling pregnant with what could be a demonic offspring.
Of course, to better understand the characters and complexities of the plot, it is essential by now to have read the other books in the series, but the plot alone is well worth the trouble. The characters are still incredibly portrayed and the scenes are rich and vivid. Stephen King is a fine writer, and this book is no exception. Within the book, he makes several Dickensian references to fiction and coincidence, and brings other characters from other books that he has written into play (most notably, Father Callahan, who was last seen leaving Salem's Lot on a greyhound bus).
The ending may dissapoint some, or delight others in speculating what the tower is, and who (if any) will reach it. However, as I have stated, this book should not be judged as a stand-alone novel, and only time, and the final two books, will tell if the entire series was worth it. However, if they are this well written and well paced, it is likely that the Dark Tower series will be King's finest work! If you have enjoyed any of Stephen Kings' novels in the past, then this book, and the others in the series is highly recommended.

Wizard and Glass: 4 (Dark Tower)
Wizard and Glass: 4 (Dark Tower)
by Stephen King
Edition: Hardcover

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Roland's Twisted History Revealed, 8 Nov 2003
With the fourth book in the series, it is becoming increasingly impossible to review the storyline of the Gunslinger's journey to the tower without taking the other three books in context. If that was the case, I would have put a glowing 5 star rating and talked about a fantastic plot involving parallel universes, post-apocalyptic gun battles, demons and wizards.
For those who have yet to read one of the Dark Tower series, I would thoroughly recommend starting from volume one, and working through as intended, as much of the character development and plot background is covered more intrinsically, and will make the fourth book in the series all the more satisfying. However, with the exception of the first, and last few chapters, "Wizard and Glass" can be read independantly of the other DT books.
In "Wizard and Glass", after Stephen King resolves the cliffhanger of Blaine the Mono and his riddles in a spectacular and highly readable manner, the journey to the tower slows, as Roland reveals a fascinating and horrific episode of his life to his fellow travellers. This helps to paint a more complete background on one of the most mysterious and enigmatic characters ever to be written about in popular fiction, and also provides a proper introduction to Cuthbert and Alain, who up until now, have been mentioned but not put in any real literary context in the series.
Whether this whole episode has any relevance to Roland's journey to the tower remains to be seen. King does introduce new conceits to the story, such as "Maerlyn's Grapefruit", a crystal ball that somehow ties in with the guardians of the tower, and does a great job in developing Roland's character and his first steps on his journey towards the tower. At this point, though, while Wizard and Glass is a good read, I do not feel that it is a necessary addition to the series, and would have sooner have read about Roland, Eddie, Susannah, Jake and Oy travelling further on and becoming subject once again to the mysterious forces of fate and coincidence that is their "ka"
Finally, a minor criticism to an epic and enjoyable work of fiction. It is becoming increasingly confusing to follow all the characters, in particularly the villains. The ageless stranger, for instance, has so many names, so does the Man in Black. Even Susannah, with her split personalities goes through a name-change (an incident which apparently will be repeated in DT 5)
At the time of writing, I have DT5 - "Wolves of the Calla" being sent to me from Amazon, and I know that I will happily lose much of my social life once again. For those, like me, who started the journey with the first publication of "the Gunslinger" many years ago, be thankful that you will not have to wait yet another six years before the next book in the series.

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