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Adam K. "adam k" (London, London United Kingdom)

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Dexter - Season 6 [DVD]
Dexter - Season 6 [DVD]
Dvd ~ Michael C. Hall
Price: £11.99

3.0 out of 5 stars Far from the best, but still good viewing., 23 Mar. 2015
This review is from: Dexter - Season 6 [DVD] (DVD)
A duo of holy-rolling end-time killers are staging elaborate murder scenes to presage the coming apocalypse. Dexter, meanwhile, is having some close brushes with faith and religion himself and is considering his place in the world in relation to God (or not). Debbie, a pawn in a political game, finds herself promoted and isolated, Quinn struggles with rejection and Batista struggles with Quinn.

While far from the best of Dexter, this still proves compelling viewing and, despite fairly regular head-slapping, I was hooked until the end. I watched this season after the series itself had ended, and by all accounts it has provided a sterling lesson in how NOT to wrap a series up.

So, yes, you can see the wheels start to come off in this, and flaws that were becoming evident back in season 4 have bloomed here like weeds: the implausibilities, the inconsistencies, the sheer size of the plot holes. For instance, it appears that Miami is a major city without any CCTV at all, anywhere, and the murderers of this season are able to stage their amazingly convoluted tableaux which are only seen when dramatically convenient: Remarkably, nobody ever works out where these horses mounted with mannequins and body parts have actually come from, or even what direction.

Dexter, meanwhile, has transformed into a super-sleuth the likes of Sherlock Holmes, and has taken to solving crimes the moment he steps through the door with a handful of observations, while the rest of the Miami Metro police force stand by open-mouthed. He's also pretty indestructible, and performs one of those "and in one bound he was free" escapes from certain death the likes of which haven't been seen since 1930s Republican programmers bit the dust.

I actually liked Colin Hanks in his role, but - yes - I could see the twist coming, and when it did I felt he could have worked a bit more at showing the inner conflict , especially when some of the murders are so close to home. The blandness that worked so well early on tended to undermine the character once the proverbial cat comes out of the bag.

The thing that really bothers me, however, is the behaviour of Dexter himself. The recklessness and tunnel-visioned selfishness that he displayed in Season 4, denying justice so that he could have his own kill, continues here, with him deliberately obstructing the police investigation strictly so that he can get there first. As a result of this, more people die than need to, just so he can get his kill (and, as in Season 4, it turns out he's woefully misguided, and here others pay for his arrogance with their lives). So we seem to have gone from the original concept, of Dexter filling in the vaccum where justice failed to Dexter actually creating the vacuum just to give himself something to do. It's a subversion of the original theme that I'm uncomfortable with, especially as he doesn't seem to even question the fact that his ego is sending people to their unnecessary deaths.

Still, there are some good things here: the theme of faith, with Dexter's relationship with Brother Sam and his son's attendance at a Catholic school strikes a nice balance to the looney-tune end-times killers, and I felt it was handled well. I liked Debbie's conflict with LaGuerta and the in-fighting and isolation that she felt ran true, although I could have done without her feelings for Dexter coming to the surface. The emergence of a possible new baddie in Louis the computer nerd is also an interesting development, although I'm puzzled as to where the whole Ice Truck Killer hand thing is going (I'm assuming this is picked up next season, but will be both pissed off and unsurprised if it's not, as Dexter has form for plot threads falling through seasonal cracks). As I say, though, the story rattles along and, despite the nagging plot inconsistencies (and sometimes outright stupidity) I found myself hooked. While I may have shrugged or thrown up my hands in despair, I kept watching, which counts for something, but I do wish the writers would take more care and remember what made this show so great to begin with.

Face The Music
Face The Music
Offered by Sent2u
Price: £6.50

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars I'll Face This Music Any Time., 29 Jan. 2015
This review is from: Face The Music (Audio CD)
This is one of the first rock albums I bought, back when I was 15 (I was a late developer) and I have many fond memories of this, mainly consisting of playing "air drums" to the opening track "Fire On High" (it's almost impossible NOT to!). Forty years later, and I listened to this on the way into work and remembered why I loved it so much. It's the perfect blend of pop and prog, with rocky nuggets to be found shining in the clear, flowing streams of music. While "Eldorado" verged on the slightly pompous (I love it, but as a wayward child) "Face the Music" seems to be the perfect tipping point, the fine balance between the adventurous and the pure fun. The opening track alone is worth the price of admission, with its eerie opening, backwards vocals (and, for those who can no longer play their vinyl backwards, here's what I wrecked my copy to find: "The music is reversible, but time is not. Turn back! Turn back!" You're welcome) right into its dramatic, epic choral singing and then...whack! snap! that acoustic twelve-string riffing like razor blades and then the thunderous drums kicking in. It's all exhilarating and thoroughly, heart-poundingly exciting. The sweeping, beautiful ballads are all here: "Waterfall", "Strange Magic" and the perfect fade-out of "One Summer Dream", as well as the ass-kicking, rock riffing, "Poker" and the poptastic "Evil Woman" and "Night Rider". Hell, I'll even stick my neck out and say that I LIKE "Down Home Town", which sounds like they're all having a huge amount of infectious fun.

Praise, while I'm at it, for the extended version and the notes that revealed one of the backing singers to be the legendary Ellie Greenwich, co-writer of such stone cold classics as "Mountain Deep, River High" "Leader of the Pack", etc. What she's doing lending uncredited vocals to this is anyone's guess, and I can't believe I had to wait over thirty years to learn this.

For a long time this album was hard to find, and seemed unfairly overlooked. I suppose because it was after this that they finally tipped over into the processed cheese that they become much better known for and started selling out stadiums, but this scintillating piece of beauty captures them at their best, as far as I'm concerned: you can still hear the sense of adventure, the exciting juxtaposition of classical instruments and rock (witness the sinuous violin line on "Fire on High", which always sent a shiver through me) and that fine, fine balancing act they pull off here.

The City & The City
The City & The City
by China Miéville
Edition: Paperback

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars A decent idea scuppered by appalling writing., 3 Jan. 2015
This review is from: The City & The City (Paperback)
This was my first China Mieville experience, and he's an author I've long been intrigued by from what I'd already heard. This was an Xmas gift from someone who also figured we'd be a good match but....well, this may also be my last Mieville experience.

The author sets up some interesting ideas, if a little derivative (a pinch of Philip K Dick, a soupcon of Steve Ericson) and the initial scenario of a "split" city shows great promise. Unfortunately, he expends a lot of energy setting it up (and the seen/unseen schtick runs from baffling to intriguing to irritating very fast) but then merely uses it as a backdrop to a run-of-the-mill murder mystery with little or no resonance. The crime is resolved, the end, and greater questions about the city within a city remain unexplored and mere set-dressing.

The major problem, however, is that - on the evidence of this work - Mieville can't write for toffee. His prose is flat, dull and clunky, and the dialogue (much of it expository) lacks any character whatsoever. There's no flow at all, and for most of it I felt as if I was chewing on cardboard. His fans (and, apparently, the author himself) have declared that this is on purpose, as homage to the classic crime thrillers. Writers such as Chandler, however, managed to evoke much with the most sparing, economically evocative prose. Mieville falls far short of that, and instead just trundles on, clumsily, with blank characters exhanging whole chunks of information to the point that it's often impossible to tell who's even talking.

That's for 90% of the time. The problem is it gets worse, with Mieville dropping painful prose clunkers.

"He sighed and sat down again. It was unimpressive, his lacklustre up-down"

It was...what? How? How is sitting down and standing up "lacklustre"?

"I stared at him for some time. He was overcoming something".

A stammer? Shyness? Wind?

"I felt a something-stretched-out over the night streets".

"He watched my researches, as well, certainly, as ensuring I did not email anyone".

There are dozens and dozens of these little, painful nuggets scattered throughout the book, each as painful and as terrible as it can be. Surely somebody, somewhere, would have said, at some point "Mr Mieville, I realise what you're aiming for, but...this is barely readable".

Several times the pain and boredom almost overcame me, and I was tempted to give up, but I persevered to the bitter end, just to know who dunnit (and when one of the villains was unmasked, he'd been so poorly evoked in the first place I had absolutely no memory of who he was) but also to make sure that there was very little chance I'd risk exposing myself to Mieville again.

Sum Of The Parts [Blu-ray] [2014] [NTSC]
Sum Of The Parts [Blu-ray] [2014] [NTSC]
Dvd ~ Genesis
Price: £15.42

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Disappointingly, almost distressingly, wasted opportunity., 19 Nov. 2014
Crikey, did they really release this? As an old-time Genesis fan (I drifted away during the Collins years) I eagerly watched this when it was broadcast and was bitterly disappointed. While it was great to see them, briefly, all assembled in one room, for the most part they all looked rather bored and fed up and there was precious little chemistry for a band that had known each other for so long. At times, such as when Hackett joked about his decision to go solo, the atmosphere felt positively strained and awkward. There were some nice insights into their early years along with some nice photos and footage, but it all fell apart rather quickly through lack of perspective. Apparently, they had no other drummer before Collins (couldn't they even dig up Chris Stewart?) and there was no mention of "Calling All Stations", so it seemed the band began and ended with Collins. Hackett, meanwhile, appears to have had absolutely no solo career whatsoever and his guitar playing is sneerily dismissed at one point by Banks, who comes across as a dull snob.

It was all a terribly wasted opportunity, and frankly this ran the risk of actually putting me off the band as people altogether. Do yourself a favour and let the music do the talking. And remember them as they were...

Super Hunkydorey Blue Gel Silicone TPU Case Cover for Samsung Galaxy S3 Mini i8190 with Screen Protector and Cleaning Cloth
Super Hunkydorey Blue Gel Silicone TPU Case Cover for Samsung Galaxy S3 Mini i8190 with Screen Protector and Cleaning Cloth
Offered by accessories-4-mobiles
Price: £2.69

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Protecting your phone with a bit of style...., 11 Nov. 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
While I love the colour of my Samsung S3 mini (I went for the pebble blue) as an object it's impractical - somebody else here accurately and nicely described it as like holding a bar of soap. So, having once got my first smartphone, I decided a little care needed to be taken with it and I ordered this. It's great - unfussy, nicely tactile, still provides easy access to everything you need. A nice little design on the back, too, which makes it look sleek without being slick. It slips on and off easily if you need it to but won't just drop off accidentally.

Every now and then I'll admit,I slip it off and roll the naked phone around in my hand, but then I think, "Nope, this is silly" and get it dressed again. An excellent and stylish addition to my phone.

Usb Data Cable for Samsung Monte Slider E2550 - Premium Quality. Guaranteed Optimum Performance. CE & RoHS Certified
Usb Data Cable for Samsung Monte Slider E2550 - Premium Quality. Guaranteed Optimum Performance. CE & RoHS Certified
Offered by izzibuyer
Price: £1.45

4.0 out of 5 stars It works absolutely fine with the right software, 11 Nov. 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
I didn't even know there WAS a USB data cable for this phone. Being an old-fashioned, non-smartphone type of creature, the thought never occurred to me. It was only when I upgraded to a smartphone and Vodafone, despite their claims, made a complete hash out of transferring all my data - texts, photos, etc - over to my new phone that I thought about this. It works absolutely fine, but think - as I naively did - that plugging your phone into your computer with it will automatically give you access. Unless you have the right software (after a lot of futile and false starts with free and shareware I ended up buying something called MOBILedit) all it does is work as a charger. Once I got the software, though, it came into its own. So it's practical, it works and it was a decent price. I'm not going to get overly excited over it, but it certainly helped.

Porto & the Silver Coast Travel Guide: Attractions, Eating, Drinking, Shopping & Places To Stay
Porto & the Silver Coast Travel Guide: Attractions, Eating, Drinking, Shopping & Places To Stay
by Lily Atkins
Edition: Paperback
Price: £5.95

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Worthless - Go Your Own Way, 28 Sept. 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
Dreadful, useless book. Slender volume with sparse text, a handful of dreary black-and-white photos, no map and hardly any information. We took it with us, realised the pointlessness of its existence, and dumped it in the hotel bin. Probably the most staggeringly bad purchase I've ever made on Amazon.

Atlas Shrugged Part 1 [Blu-ray] [2011] [US Import]
Atlas Shrugged Part 1 [Blu-ray] [2011] [US Import]
Offered by Moref Designs
Price: £8.20

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Missed opportunity, 4 Jun. 2014
I'm no Randite - quite the opposite - and while I'd never say the novel is in any way great literature, it has its moments. It was never going to be an easy beast to adapt, with its turgid proselytising and cartoon characters but even I, while laughing at the politics, could see that there's something at the heart of it that would make a neat little dystopian flick. Unfortunately, this film, despite its good intentions, misses pretty much every target.

Firstly and most fatally, they update it. In doing so, the whole concept of railways as the lifeblood of America falls flat on its face. When the novel was written the railways were a vital part of the transport network, but even by the Seventies the rail system had declined into farce, and a brief prologue trying to justify the reinstallment of it as the prime mode of transportation is unconvincing. Meanwhile, the update takes away almost all of the atmosphere that Rand generated. As someone else mentions, why not go for a 1950s alternative universe kind of thing and keep the film noir feel that worked so well in the book? This film screams out for a retro look, a kind of "Brazil" vibe that would give it real atmosphere and a touch of class. As it is, with all its mobile phones and computer screens, it looks dull and common place.

Which is a further problem. It looks dull and common place, it really does, with all the atmosphere and feel of a made-for-TV film. Sure, the budget wasn't great, but a little imagination would have gone a long way. It looks as if they've updated Dynasty or even Knots Landing, and turned what could have been an interesting political thriller into a boardroom soap.

According to the Trivia section, the director was brought in at very short notice, which I guess is something of an excuse, but he really wasn't up to the task. The pacing is slack, the cinematography is flat and unimaginative and the actors rarely engage with each other - they talk a lot at each other, but don't actually engage. They hang around offices, bars and corridors, awkwardly, spouting exposition at each medium shot and never generating any chemistry or sense of urgency. Most of the acting is merely serviceable - Jon Polito and a rather haggard and subdued Michael Learner, both excellent actors, merely go through the motions - while some don't quite reach that level. Taylor Schilling, in particular, is no Dagny Taggart, with none of the steel or presence required, and looks uncomfortable and very much out of her depth, like a high school cheerleader trying to play Medea.

The major failing, however, is the adaptation itself. While it hits the major plot points, it seems to purposefully avoid any drama, and each scene plods along, one after another, with all the life and drama sucked out of it.The climactic maiden voyage on the John Galt line, which should be a moment of major triumph is...well, a train ride. The preceding scene with the union official is abrupt and poorly staged, the vital moment where, having asked for volunteers, Dagny finds a whole office of willing engineers is missing altogether, and instead it skips right to Dagny and Hank standing in the cab behind the one driver (who looks like an air steward) as if...well, as if they're merely standing in an office watching TV. There's not even a sense of motion evoked, and at the end they smile and hug each other as if to say, "Wow, what a great ad break!". The party scene at the beginning is completely botched, with none of the social and political dynamics of the novel, and the telling moment of the Rearden bracelet, so wonderfully awkward in the novel, is completely thrown away.

There are many other examples, and I'm shocked to find myself defending Rand's writing quite so vigorously, but the film is just scene after scene of people walking around, talking, in generic sets or generic backgrounds (Wisconsin, Wyoming, Colorado and Mississippi all look strangely identical) as if they're just killing time until the next plot point comes along. There's no tension, no forward momentum drama. Oddly, the film does end on a striking image, with Dagny, her back to the camera, framed against the flaming ruins of Ellis Wyatt's oilfields (sorry, is that a spoiler?). It's a pretty good moment, unfortunately preceded by an exceedingly stupid one, but I did find myself thinking, "Why couldn't they have shown this flair before?"

From the trailer I've seen, it looks as if they handled the casting a bit better in Part II, but I'm not holding my breath for Part III.

LATER: I feel I should add that I have, since writing this review, been watching Taylor Schilling in "Orange is the New Black" and - in that - she's brilliant, with some wondrous comedic skills. So, I don't wish to cast aspersions on her as an actress at all, but she is just done a disservice in "Atlas Shrugged" by being so badly miscast. I hope that she finds other roles in which she can show off her abilities.
Comment Comments (5) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Oct 2, 2014 12:04 PM BST

None of the Above
None of the Above
Price: £12.17

2.0 out of 5 stars Nadir's Nadir., 8 April 2014
This review is from: None of the Above (Audio CD)
When I started looking back at Hammill's Nineties work, I always knew this moment would come. When I started writing the reviews for the albums, I knew I'd have to write this one. And, believe me, it brings me no pleasure.

"None of the Above" appears to be based around the themes of love and loss, and consists of a series of contemplative, generally slow-paced songs. One could call it a "mature" album. One could equally call it maudlin, morose and middle-aged. All the songs drift along, barely coalescing into anything approaching a tune, instead building up to nothing more than slow, ponderous meanders around a subject matter. These range from the enigmatic to the blindingly obvious, with occasional stops in the nauseatingly sentimental. For the latter, there's "Naming the Rose", whereas "How Far I Fell" and "Tango for One" belongs to the former. You've also got the shallow "Somebody Bad Enough" which employs a rinky-tink tune and some simplistic lyrics to explore stalking, and ends up a regrettable mistake in which nothing works at all. The album is lifted, significantly, by the energy of "Like Veronica", but even this includes very heavy-handed lyrics (no, absolutely no pun intended) and adds little to the subject of domestic abuse. The album then continues to wind down with the shapeless "In a Bottle" and signs off with the icky, twee "Astart", which sounds for all the world as if he'd written it with a boy band in mind.

I thought - I'd hoped - that re-visiting this album would give me a fresh perspective on it, that I might discover some hidden joys and decide it wasn't as bad as I remembered. Unfortunately it is, and renewed listenings only confirm what I'd felt the first time around: that "None of the Above" stands as arguably Hammill's worst solo album so far. Let's hope that it retains this title.

Price: £11.27

3.0 out of 5 stars So Very Nearly Great. So Very Nearly., 7 April 2014
This review is from: This (Audio CD)
"This" is a strange beast: when it's good, it's very, very good, but when it's bad it's....well, forgettable. It starts out brilliantly, with the brief instrumental "Frozen in Place" giving way to the fierce, stomping, guitar-riffing "Unrehearsed", a remarkable piece of music delivered with passion and commitment by Hammill in his trademark voice, swooping from the croon to the roar in a single song. Next up is "Stupid", a chugging, rhythmic and actually quite amusing piece of self-laceration that should be the anthem for the Darwin Awards. Things slow down for "Since the Kids", a heartfelt lament of many a parent suffering empty-nest syndrome. It's got intelligence and even wit going for it, but tends towards the morose, and has the misfortune of being followed by two further ponderous numbers, "Nightman" and "Fallen (the City of Night"). Confession: I've had this album since its release, and I can never remember the tune to either of these. I listened to the whole album this morning, quite enjoyed these pieces but now, only a few hours later, I'm looking at the lyrics and cannot for the life of me remember how the songs go. I seem to remember the former has great violin accompaniement from Stuart Gordon, while the latter ends with some stonking, stomping piano chords but.,.that's about it. While there's nothing wrong with varying the tone, having three songs in a row like this is in danger of breaking the spell set by the energetic openers, but the pace certainly picks up with a vengeance for "Always is Next", a bone-rattling, down-and-dirty song about making the beast with two backs that is both scabrous, menacing and delightfully fun with its driving, insistent beat, Jackson's sax and Hammill's usual eloquence and power. It all adds up to one of the best, most fascinating pieces he's ever written.

And then...and then comes "The Light Continent". This starts out slowly, almost ambiently; a soundscape rather than a melody, with Hammill's lyrics - when they finally appear - sung gently over a wash of sound. And that's it. For 14 minutes. It never shifts or varies its tempo. It just grinds along, semi-consciously, just like that, for 14 minutes. Take that as a warning. Coming back to these Nineties albums after so long has found me rediscovering and re-evaluating a lot of this material, but even after all this time, I still find "The Light Continent" boring and uninvolving. Listening to it this morning, I ended up tuning it out entirely, and it took me a minute to realise when it had actually finished. It's obviously an experiment, and one could - if one was feeling particularly generous - call it an "ambitious" experiment or even an "interesting" one, but the fact is that it drones on for 14 minutes without a break, and doesn't really go anywhere.

So, a potentially great album, here, scuppered by an uneven pace and, ultimately, a rather dreary mis-step. It could have been worse, but it should have been so, so much better.

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