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J. T. Houlston-hope (England)

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Interlocking Gym Garage Anti Fatigue Flooring Play Mats 32sqft D-Easimat Branded
Interlocking Gym Garage Anti Fatigue Flooring Play Mats 32sqft D-Easimat Branded
Offered by Far East Direct Ltd
Price: 39.99

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not bad as a gym mat, 5 Sep 2012
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
The practical value of this product really depends on what you want it for. I have built a home gym in my garage and decided to put these under foot. They are easy to link together, comfortable, create a nice finish and certainly protect the floor from the resting weights. However, you will not be able to throw your bells/bars down at the end of a lift (hence reach your fail point) as you will tear the matting right open. You need a much thicker surface for that, and much thicker padding is much more expensive. It's a matter of a trade off against what you want to achieve against how much you want to spend. If you are leaning on the costs sensitive side of the fence, and are prepared to treat this surface with a little respect, it will last you for years with only the occasional permanent indentation or tear.

The mats are also fine for general stretching when you warm up/down (streets ahead of a normal floor at least), and they hold well to the floor, but they are a little slippery under foot. I doubt they would be suitable for an aggressive cardio workout. You'd be on your backside more often than not. You want something with a little more traction for that.

In summary- good for the price. But this is a home product, not a commercial one. It is an economic solution and a compromise for any purpose, and should be viewed as such.

Kindle Touch 3G, Free 3G + Wi-Fi, 6" E Ink Touch Screen Display, 3G Works Globally
Kindle Touch 3G, Free 3G + Wi-Fi, 6" E Ink Touch Screen Display, 3G Works Globally

9 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars THE BEST KINDLE YET, 24 April 2012
Cry foul, if you want to, at the bad luck we've suffered in the UK when it comes to Amazon's corner stone devices. There's still Kindle Fire for us (for the time being at least), and it does seem remarkably unfair after all the razzmatazz of the roll out last year that we were bluntly told "not for you!" by the powers that be. It's hard not to feel like the middle child about it all, but whatever the justification (compatibility issues/copyright issues/marketing issues/take your pick) these problems have at last been been overcome and the Kindle Touch has arrived to buzz our collective newtechlovebuttons.

In protest at the long wait, I was minded to turn my nose up at it, or perhaps just order one early from the US (there are ways this can be done) but then I started hearing bad things from over the pond. Not enough border to hold the device properly, I heard. Regular inadvertent commands from accidently touching the screen, I heard. Page turning issues, I heard. It was enough to hold me back and I bought a Kindle 4 instead. I thought that was good enough. But now I have the kindle touch, and I can see the complaints I heard were wrong in almost every regard. The Kindle touch is in fact almost the perfect reader.

So what makes it so good (and why do I only say almost)? Well... most obviously with this generation of Kindle, out of the box- the keyboard is gone. And it's better without it. Simple as that. All that space for a QWERTY? Wasted space. Typing in your search terms on the kindle touch is just as easy as using the keyboard of yesteryear and the saved material/weight (not to mention the dramatically improved aesthetic) is ample pay off. Some (some) people may struggle, but that's no argument to halt product development. We'd still have quill and parch instead of ipads by that rationale. The whole thing is lighter, trimmer and smaller. It fits in your pocket and the screen is the same size as before- so I can still lose myself in the words. Job well done, I say, and I'm more than happy so far.

Next- The (free) 3g function is also still intact. Now- I've always been on the fence about 3G on reading devices. People way disagree, but its always struck me as an unnecessary luxury at best. A novelty, even (if I dare say it). And before you cry out as one that I've gone mad- I still think I believe that 3G on a ereader equals more hardware, weight and expense for a function that will do little more than (one day) let you say something like "I downloaded a book in the Seychelles on the beach when I was miles from anywhere! Aaaaaaamazin!" But is this really so much better than going back to your hotel on that same desert island and piggybacking the wireless? I'm not so sure. The truth is I think I've genuinely needed access to 3G maybe once or twice in forever, and I expect most people reading this can safely say the same. Its different for mobiles of course, but a mobile the kindle is not. I downloaded almost every book I ever read when I was at home or at work. For the small residue of downloads that fell in-between, I don't think I've ever found myself in a hotel/cafe/restaurant anywhere in the world where I couldn't hop onto a connection. I think this is why it is missing on the Kindle 4 as one of their space saving devices. Anyway, and even with all of the above said, I can't deny its nice to have is back again (after the kindle 4.) Nice enough for me to eat my words. Its lovely and easy and I don't have to check my wireless is on and I can take it anywhere (almost, anyway) so yay for 3g, I guess. Is it essential- absolutely not. If you don't have the money for the 3g version- don't sweat it. Is it fun and a little bit of thrill if you have the spare cash? Absolutely, but that's all it is.

The speaker is also still there. This issue is a bit more sensitive, as it effects the visually impaired who may have a different view, so I will tread carefully. But I think the speaker should sling its hook come the next gen unless there are vast improvements. What does it really offer? 1. The `text to speech' function, which I think is as good as useless anyway. The technology isn't there yet and the pronunciation emphasis is all off. It's unbearable for more than a few minutes and is no loss at all. 2. The audio book function. But is that so great? The kindle is designed to operate as and replace books. People may shout out "I love audio books on my kindle!" but here's a reality check: If you want to listen to a story being read to you then that is much, much better served on the dedicated audio device you already own (i.e. your iPod or CD player.) I like audio books as much as the next person, for long drives or lazy days, but I have never, ever even considered putting one on my kindle. Why turn your sleek ereader into the world's most awkward walkman? Suffice to say, I love my new kindle, but I will not be making use of the speaker.

But enough of the superfluous gripes. What we've basically got here is a lean, good looking, touch screen device that does everything you (or I, at least) ever really wanted from an ereader: the ability to buy, read and store books. It also does it at a competitive price. If offers amazing battery life (two months of regular use if 3g is off) and can be seen well even in bright sunlight. All in all then, you may come to share my view that in the Kindle Touch 3G, Amazon have produced their best ereader to date, and one of the best, best focussed e-devices on the market.

Or maybe not.

I like it, at least. Well done Amazon.

Castlevania - Lords of Shadow (Xbox 360)
Castlevania - Lords of Shadow (Xbox 360)
Offered by S6 entertainment
Price: 8.95

4.0 out of 5 stars God of War meets Dracula..., 26 Oct 2010
= Fun:4.0 out of 5 stars 
In the interests of keeping this readable, I will (unusually for me) be brief. This game has nothing to do with Castlevania as you know it. What it is, though, is a passable God of War clone for xboxers, with environments no less grand or lush. PS3 owners will be forgiven for passing the title up, but for the rest of us it is almost a must have. Let's face it, god of war is never coming our way. But we have this instead. I am sure it will sell shed loads of units when people cotton on to what it offers, and stop griping about what is imitates. It is plain and simply, a good, beautiful, third person beat-em-up. You won't be dissapointed.

Booky Wook 2: This time it's personal
Booky Wook 2: This time it's personal
by Russell Brand
Edition: Hardcover

68 of 69 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars It's Okey Doke..., 23 Oct 2010
... which is to say I'm very much on the fence about Booky Wook 2. I certainly don't think it punches at the weight that Booky Wook (1) managed. Book 1 was a real treat. Absolutely hilarious, searingly honest, well written and warm. The person you glimpsed behind the words had recovered from a terrible part of their life with kindness and decency intact, and you wanted them to be your friend. Sadly I get none of that with Booky Wook 2- it is very much missing the 'warm.' The first time he harped on about how deserved and inevitable his propulsion to the lofty heights of stardom was, I thought, 'good for you, Russell. No false modesty here. You worked for it- you should be proud.' The second time he devoted a flowery paragraph to the same subject I frowned. The third time I grimaced. The twentieth time I was starting to think I didn't like him after all. Yes, he always said he was egotistical, but what actually came across was a man humbled by life and grateful for acknowledgment. It seems hollywood has eaten that away and convinced him he's the best thing ever. This is just my opinion, of course, by it's a shame, innit?
I'm also not fond of the brown-nosing he lavishly applies too all named celebrities. Name dropping I can live with, but waxing lyrical on how they're all so bloody kind, gentle and wonderful just sticks in my throat. Not cool.
Last of the downers is that I don't think its as well written as book 1, either. The more ambitious sections of Book 1 were always hit and miss anyway, but some parts had a certain grace to them. Similar sections in Booky Wook 2 feel a bit too forced for me, and read like a considered exercise in verbose, creative prose- which he's actually not as good at as he thinks.
It's not all bad news though, because the book's saving grace is that it is absolutely hey-larious. I don't like his 'listen to what my friend said' sections, written in script form (in fact not one of those made me laugh) but when he casually throws a joke at a normal paragraph it hits you cross wind and kills you. In my opinion he's at his best when he not trying to be a writer and is just telling you about his life and jibbing around it. The stuff about Saint Francis marching up to someone and declaring he is "well religious" just ruined me. As did his thoughts of voodoo in prison. If you want to laugh out loud like a donkey and annoy all the people around you, this is the book for you.
So what am I complaining about? Well.. I guess I'm just a bit sad that I didn't emerge from this book feeling as warm and fuzzy about Russell Brand as I did before. I still like him and all, but just not quite so much. Maybe with the next book he'll win me back, not that he needs me. Anyway, if you want me, Russell, I'm ready and willing (wink, wink).
Comment Comments (3) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Feb 21, 2011 1:25 AM GMT

The Good Man Jesus and The Scoundrel Christ (Myths)
The Good Man Jesus and The Scoundrel Christ (Myths)
by Philip Pullman
Edition: Hardcover
Price: 14.99

17 of 21 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars PULLMAN NOT AT HIS BEST, 13 Jun 2010
Verified Purchase(What is this?)

I love Phillip Pullman, ok? I think that His Dark Materials was an utter master-class. Possibly the best in it's genre of all time (notwithstanding LOTR.) The religious over tones of those books are also fairly obvious, so I was very much looking forward to Pullman broaching the subject of religion (specifically the life of Jesus and the new testament) head on. However, having now read the book this weekend in barely one afternoon, I am curiously disappointed.

First off (and this is more of an observation than a criticism) it is very short. I was planning to take this book away on my honeymoon next week, but just a few hours last night and today saw it off. The font is comically large in order to make it plus 250 pages and justify the hardback price tag, but make no bones, it is roughly 35,000 words at most. That's shorter than average for books aimed at 8-12 year olds. Assuming the plot was properly story boarded it would take an experienced writer about a week and a half to knock this out. I have to wonder why Pullman did this. The New Testament is not an exercise in brevity and I struggle to see the writer's motivation beyond that. Again, it is just an observation, but I do feel a bit short changed and take particular umbrage with publishers triple sizing font in an effort to make a book look larger than it is. Be honest about it, I say. Save the trees.

Secondly, the central message that the gospels reflect personal and political goals of the writers and not the true words/acts of Jesus, is hardly a revolution. That argument is known as "form (and/or) redaction criticism" and is as old as the hills. This, however, seems to be the sole message and purpose behind this work, and it is achieved within the first 50 pages. The vast residue of the book simply reads out as a fairly uneventful support structure to this one, core idea. Plus, the huge words on the back of the book saying "this is a story" strikes me as a bit obvious and low brow. There's no head scratching going on here, Phil, but thanks for the heads up anyway.

Pullman adopts his well known simplicity of prose throughout, and I was waiting for this to build up to the usual, subliminally vivid canvas. What you can say for Pullman is that he uses simple words and language to spell out deceptively complex emotional responses. But sadly I didn't get there here- and I'm wondering why not. I think it's because if you are adopting that sort of style you need a lot of space to achieve it. i.e. simplistic prose on mass creating a very complex whole. When you instead have simple prose in such short form all you really get is a simple story. Don't get me wrong; it is elegant enough, and well written, and clearly designed to mimic the feel of the gospels themselves, but if you are not moved by the story of Christ itself, you may find the expected depth of resonance from a usual pullman book notably absent come the final page.

In closing, despite what I have said above I do still think that people who are unfamiliar with the gospels, or the arguments against their content, should certainly give this a go. It will open a lot of eyes to the well established concepts already out there. However, If you have stuck with my review to this point you will already have gleamed my overwhelming impression that this book is a fairly lazy, unoriginal and unambitious undertaking. It will do very well commercially, but this is purely off of the back of Pullman's fame, his existing links to religious controvesy and the subject chosen. I find it slightly worrying, almost as a demonstration of this fact, that the most popular overall review is from a xtian saying little more than that they don't think the book is an affront to god. That reviewer seems to have got 300 pats on the back. I think we should review the book instead, and recognise that it falls short in several areas.

I am sure the Pullman faithful will destroy my review for this, but I think it could have been much, much better.
Comment Comments (5) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Sep 2, 2011 4:12 PM BST

Avatar [DVD]
Avatar [DVD]
Dvd ~ Sam Worthington
Offered by streetsahead
Price: 5.87

10 of 16 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Cinematic Classic- but Televisual Treat?, 16 April 2010
This review is from: Avatar [DVD] (DVD)
"Avatar" marks the big spending, highly anticipated return to the screen for Director James Cameron, the lord of the cinema last seen smashing box offices records with "Titanic" over ten years ago. You would have had to be living on Pandora for the last year not to know that Avatar has romped the box office, following a wave of publicity leading up to its release, and is roundly considered one of the few big budget sci-fi films in recent memory to deliver on its hype. Few would argue that the three dimensional element was a genuinely enthralling experience at the cinema and the Nav'i (the aliens of Cameron's alien world) were life-like and convincing. Even the plot (if at times comically similar to Pocahontas) was decent enough with a clear (anti-war) message. All in all, and if you can put aside it's trouncing by the excellent low-budget-but-pro-American-foreign-policy "Hurt Locker" at the Oscars, it has been a run away success from start to end.

Loosely, the plot focuses around Jake Sully, a marine drafted to the distant planet Pandora to assist in mankind's efforts to mine a precious mineral that is (ridiculously) called "unobtainium." The problem is that there is an indigenous population, "the Nav'i," who are not too thrilled with mankind's efforts to pillage their world. The solution from the humans is twofold: the potential of a military response preceded by a diplomatic one. The diplomatic effort is to clone hybrids of the Nav'i in giant tanks, transfer the consciousness of various humans into these clones and then try to negotiate/learn from the Nav'i directly. Jake finds himself part of the diplomatic response and makes his way into Nav'i culture with his own avatar. Very quickly, and somewhat predictably, he makes friends with his new alien clan and starts to question his allegiance. And he knows a war is coming.

So, now we find ourselves at DVD/BLuRay release time, and the only big question left unanswered is how the film translates to the small screen. The answer, unfortunately, is so-so. The real majesty of this film was its ability to almost literally transport the viewer to a distant world. I remember watching it at the cinema and having the very honest sensation of being on some kind of alien safari. As if to confirm this, a very old lady sitting behind me with her grandson (who brought boiled sweets. Grrrr!) was in floods of tears throughout. As the credits rolled she was saying over and over again how thrilled she was to have lived long enough to see something like that. Honest truth. It takes a special film to elicit that kind of response. The 3d was a genuinely magical thing.

But six months down the line and I don't think it unreasonable to say that the DVD release suffers in its absence. On the small screen, and in 2D, the overall impression is just not as effective. The world Cameron created is of course still beautiful and the cast are still pulling their weight, particularly Sam Worthington who is living up to his hot-ticket status (it is of course still exactly the same film), but the film as a whole very much suffers in the down scaling. What was an immersive, wholly convincing environment at the cinema becomes merely a very good-but sometimes slightly "computer gamey"- film on the television.

But perhaps I`m being unfair. A very good film is still a very good film. And certain successes of the special effects are not lost. The absolutely pivotal thing is that the Nav'i still come across as living, breathing creatures. The vitality Cameron's effects team breathed into these CGI beings (particularly through their eyes) is astonishing and not lost in two dimensions at all. Furthermore, the jungle environment is also still completely convincing and indistinguishable from real footage.

I think the real problem is that the cinematic version set the bar so high that it was impossible to go any where but down when the DVD version followed on. A more sensible and balanced appraisal, then, might be to say that if you haven't seen this film before, you will be blown away by it. It's a tour de force of imagination by a master of the craft who has spent years polishing and perfecting his new creation. Conversely, if you have already seen Avatar in 3d at the cinema, and are going to buy it come what may in light of that experience, then its best to readjust your expectations now. The DVD of avatar is a very good sci-fi film, but not quite the revolution you may remember.

7/10 (for the DVD).
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Apr 17, 2010 8:32 PM BST

Batman: Arkham Asylum (PS3)
Batman: Arkham Asylum (PS3)
Price: 13.99

70 of 78 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The first great Super Hero game, 2 Sep 2009
= Fun:5.0 out of 5 stars 
Batman-Arkham Asylum is a pretty special game. It came out of the gates with the sort of demo that sprung from the shadows, grabbed me suddenly around the waist, shoved a bat mask onto my face before I knew what was happening and firmly insisted in a gruff voice on being played through at least 25 times, or else. So I did. And it was good. Very, very good. By the time I'd played it through only 10 times I had already fetched my childhood bat cape from the attic, dusted off my Michael Keaton/Kim Basinger posters, smashed up my favourite piggy bank and separated out the silver into a clearly marked plastic bag entitled "the bat fund." I was mildly excited.

Lucky for me then that the full Batman game turned out to be a true gaming treat. Great character models, flawless voice talent (care of Mark Hamil et al from the last animated series), inspired mood, lighting, and atmosphere, all tied together by a fluid, intuitive control system. We finally have a super hero game that not only doesn't suck, but that can proudly stand shoulder to shoulder and head held high with the truly great titles of this generation. But it does so with a little borrowing. Regular gamers will immediately sense the influence of other popular titles at work here. The artwork, presentation and atmosphere are heavily influenced by the classic first person-shooter Bioshock, as is the sense cultivated throughout of a world gone slightly mad. The regular use of the Joker's voice on the intercom to taunt you and comment on your progress also harks back to bioshock's Fontaine. No bad thing. Metal Gear Solid throws its hat in the ring next, being the clear model behind the stealth action (albeit with the fantastic twist here that the gunmen know you are around somewhere and are terrified of you, becoming more terrified as you pick them off). The intuitive control system has a distinct sense of Gears of War, and finally, at a stretch, you can even pull out gaming elements and level design from God of War (particularly in the fantastic fight with Scarecrow.) Of course, all of these comparisons are to top drawer, best of their generation titles. The fact that Batman pulls to mind the very best elements of these games speaks volumes for its class, and at worst it certainly presents an overall experience unlike any you will have had before in gaming.

The fact that this is a "Batman" title doesn't unduly carry the game through its ills, either. Yes, its great to have these characters to hand, but the story line that guides you along the game is well written and engaging in its own right (although I won't ruin it by going over it here). The character interpretations are also spot on. A Comic book look rather than photorealism has been adopted, but coupled with the grimy, frightening, brutal design of the Chris Nolan Batman films. There's less spit-shine and "Kabblams!" here than there is blood, violence, death and madness. Of course, whilst this may heartily stoke the excitement of older gamers, do bear in mind that this sort of game may not be suitable for your Bat Youngadult. Its important to look beyond the pointy ears and note that this game has been given a 15 rating for a reason. Uncertain parents should have a quick play themselves first and see what they think.

Other than that there's little else to say. If you grew up with Batman like me, you will love this game. And even if you didn't, well... you will still love this game. Its too good not too.

Comment Comments (4) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jan 13, 2011 2:01 AM GMT

The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button [DVD] [2009]
The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button [DVD] [2009]
Dvd ~ Brad Pitt
Price: 2.99

12 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Cinematic Landmark, 27 Feb 2009
"The curious Case of Benjamin Button" roundly marks a second masterpiece for Director David Fincher (yes- he of "Fight Club" glory) and charts the difficult (and curious) life of its title character, played by Finchers "Fight Club" protagonist- Brad Pitt. The hero of this piece has the unique affliction of aging backwards, which is to say he is born with failing muscles, skin and bone, proceeds to "grow" into a elderly gent, and from there reverse-ages over the course of 70 years back to new born infant. The story takes the opportunity to poignantly replay much of American history through Benjamin's eyes (a la Forrest Gump) as he grows ever younger (Physically, at least) and gives Pitt the opportunity and scope to set down a masterful and subtle performance throughout. Pitt was rightly nominated for a variety of awards in light of this and frankly should have won more. Benjamin Button is arguably Pitt's most mutli-layered and fascinating creation, even more so than Tyler Durdon. In years to come people may wonder why his name is not attached to an Oscar for this film.

The crux of the story is Benjamin's relationship with Kate Blanchett's character, Daisy. Blanchett plays Benjamin's great love and (of course) more than holds her own in counter-balancing Pitt's performance, constructing their interaction deftly and powerfully as both characters approach the "sweet spot" where they will, for a time, be approximately the same age. Fincher does an excellent job of managing the difficulties and joys of their unique relationship, presenting the twists and turns at an underplayed and a steady pace, rather than shoving it by the spoonful into the audience's throat. Case in point of this is the way Fincher frames Blanchett's death bed story to her child, which serves as the narration of the plot. There is no golden sunset or rousing score on call to drag a lump into your throat and remind you what a magical time it was form them both. We instead find discordant strings, a grey colour tone and a building hurricane outside the window as our backdrop. Fincher has a rare faith in his audience to unravel the crux of his tale for themselves (that of loss, and transition, and fleeting joys), and that faith makes for a consistently more powerful piece throughout.

To focus on the plot alone however, is to entirely miss what it is that makes this film such an important piece of cinema. The talk of the town, and the technological breakthrough it heralds, is the way Blanchett and Pitt are aged throughout the film. To say it left me agape is something of an understatement. I can count on two fingers films I considered a leap of technology, offering the viewer something genuinely revolutionary (Jurassic park and the Matrix) but Benjamin Button is now the third film in that category. To watch Blanchett as a fresh faced 19 year old (devoid of hips or bust and dexterously dancing on a make shift stage) is truly a thing to behold. When you then see Pitt (and this being the "Money shot") as a floppy haired, skinny 17 year old, noticeably younger than when he was in Thelma and Louise... well- it takes the breath away. It was so perfect as to be almost miraculous. The possibilities for actors in their 40-60s to revisit the glories of their youth are suddenly readily available and endless.

But to the credit of the production team the technology on display here is never made the central pin of the story. Those that wish to notice and admire it are invited to do so (and how) but should this pass you by, there is still a wealth of scenery, performance and round accomplishment to digest. Its a triumph in every regard. I don't think it goes too far to say that this is one of the greatest films ever put to screen, for a variety of reasons, and to miss it while it's fresh and clean would be a crime. Watch it now. Or soon. Before everyone knows its a classic.

Star Wars: The Force Unleashed (Xbox 360)
Star Wars: The Force Unleashed (Xbox 360)
Offered by Platinum Games
Price: 21.99

106 of 113 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars The Force unrealised, 21 Sep 2008
= Fun:3.0 out of 5 stars 
At first, it's impossible not to like this game. The hype has been overwhelming and the prospect of playing as Darth Vadar before stepping into the shoes of his secret apprentice is a thrilling thing for even a half-baked star wars fan. The intro is great- the rousing John William's score, the scrolling text, and then a pre-rendered, high definition intro. Good times.

However, even a few minutes into the game, the initial thrill begins to wane as the limitations of this new release start to unravel. Sand box this ain't. From the off you can move ten feet to you left and ten feet to your right and it is immediately clear that the only direction you are meant to (and allowed to) go is straight forward. This rapidly establishes itself as the overriding rule of the game, and it is not much of an exaggeration to say the environments are almost as restrictive as the old crash Bandicoot games. Remember them? Replace Crash with Sith and you're not in a galaxy far, far away from this. No sense of a leap forward in gaming technology here, then.

So on you plough, blasting things out of the way with force push, swinging your light-saber wantonly, rolling past huge wookies and bumbling stormtroopers. There's no doubt that using your force powers to hurl adversaries out of your path and over cliffs is great fun. This is strongest and best aspect of the game, so starting with Vadar at the height of his powers is a master-stroke.

Eventually, after a surprisingly short introduction level, you find your way to an expanded area, which, were this two generations ago, you would assume were designed to facilitate a generic end of level boss. You know the type of boss I mean- from Playstation one/two games. The type of boss that attacks you with repetitive moves, the aim being to learn this repetition and exploit the weak spots. Imagine my surprise, then, when exactly this type of boss strolls into my field of vision and battle ensues. His techniques are learnt, he is overcome, we proceed to the next level. And repeat. And repeat. And Repeat. In fact, by level five it is quite clear how bereft of ideas this game is. The core purpose of every stage (save for a very few token gesture later levels at Cloud City and other venues) is to stroll down a narrow predetermined route, dispatching poorly matched hordes, before arriving at end of level boss venue and duking it out. Plus, the levels are disappointingly short throughout and, as the game progresses, less and less interesting. Awards for game play and level design will not be on the shelves of Lucas Arts this year.

What you can say for the game, at least, is that it looks incredible. The graphics are first rate and the sense of being part of a larger struggle never leaves you. Look over a cliff, there's a huge star destroyer hovering forwards. Looks out a window and there's a brace of tie fighters deep in a dogfight. Magic. And no matter how limited the game play there's an impossible joy when bumping into familiar characters and (superficially) exploring familiar worlds. This is star wars- and its clear no expense has been spared.

But at its root that is the beginning and end of the problem. This game suffers precisely the same ills as episodes 1-3. Fantastic to look at but very, very, oh so very little underneath. How George Lucas can keep making this same mistake over and over again fills me with as much disbelief as it does rage. But that's a different subject altogether.

Bottom line is, if you like Star Wars, You'll be thrilled with the eye candy this game has to offer. But once you've finished it, the day after you bought it, it will go back into your draw and never bother GTA4 again.

7 out of 10 at best.
Comment Comments (7) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Nov 14, 2009 1:32 PM GMT

The Golden Compass [DVD] [2007]
The Golden Compass [DVD] [2007]
Dvd ~ Nicole Kidman
Price: 2.00

117 of 145 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Far from golden, 16 April 2008
Watching the first adaptation of Philip Pullman's excellent trilogy is one part admiration and two parts disappointment. First off, you have to admire the courage of director Chris Weitz, who took in the scope and ambition of these novels, stepped forward from the pack and bravely took the wheel of this vehicle into his hands. Unfortunately, once we were done patting him on the back for that, there's no avoiding the bitter disappointment of realising that our drive has bitten off far more than his ability can chew, and we are being catapulted, arms up and screaming, off of the road.
The truth is that there is so much wrong with this movie that its hard to keep your chin up for it. First off, Ian "if its fantasy I'm compulsory" Mckellen is disgracefully miscast as key character, Iorek Brynison. As Pullman presented him, Iorek is a young, energetic prince that has lost his way, desperately in need of the inadvertent guidance Lyra (our heroine) offers. Mckellen (inevitably) presents Iorek as an aging, disposed king looking to reclaim his long-lost kingdom. This is far enough off the mark to make the character practically unrecognisable to fans of the book (or at least to me) though this of course will not be an issue for those coming to the film without preconceptions.
Secondly, the script is just awful. Hollywood fat-cats only know how several previous rewrites were discarded in favour of this nonsense. Granted, there are a sea of concepts to convey, but so much of the dialogue is descriptive that any attempt to suspend disbelief is broken long before it can gather steam. For example, Lyra bangs her knee and her daemon, Pantalaimon, protests "Careful Lyra, Don't you know that if you get hurt, I hurt too!" Of course she bloody knows! She's twelve years old!! Is this the first time she's experienced any sensory perception whatsoever!!? honestly. This sort of thing could have been done so much more subtly and the film is so rife with similar examples that by the time two hours was through I was raw from it.
Needless to say this has a direct effect on the performances, which despite the talent on show are almost uniformly wooden and poor. The audience in the cinema were made so uncomfortable watching the cast wade through this verbal tripe that my first viewing of the second matrix film was brought to mind. The actors on the screen before you so clearly don't believe in their dialogue or environment that you are left with a brutally clear perception of a series of short set pieces. As the camera fades from each moment you can almost here the director screaming "Cut! Alright lets do it again." In short there is no fluidity at all and no possibility of getting swept along in the performances.
Finally, even the direction manages to strip Pullmans' world of much its grandeur and scope. You get no sense of the majesty, spritualism and influence of the witches (the actually well cast Eva Green is criminally underused as Witch-Queen Serefina Pekkela) and the set piece battles lack any urgency or sense of scale whatsoever. Remember when the orks marched on Helm's deep in the two towers? It was absolutely terrifying. I was crawling up my chair. Contrast that with the battle at the end of the Golden Compass and its easy to see how far this film has fallen from the required mark. The battle here lacks any sense of scale, importance or consequence. Worst of all the frame is so sparsely populated, driven and focussed that we are sadly given the sense that this is more of a mere skirmish, helping Lyra to escape. It looks like a fight in an alpine pub car park. Again, bitterly disappointing.
I won't even get started on the decision to play down the religious aspects or how on earth the producers intend to make this work in the second and third books where this emerges as the overriding drive of the plot. How on earth the death of god and the acsendancy of Metatron can be reinterpreted escapes me entirely. I sense an almighty fudge coming.
Its sad because there is otherwise much here to be admired. Lyra's world is for the briefest of moments through out the film beautifully realised and the animation of the daemons at least is a triumph. There's no doubting the effort. Casting man of the moment Daniel Craig was also a clever decision and hopefully he and Nicole Kidman can combine for something of a success story in the second and third films- assuming they are ever made.
The truth is that this film has been on it way for years, riding a fever pitch of anticipation, and there is no hiding the sadness and disillusionment of the Pullman faithful to see what has become of the first instalment. Forget lord of the rings- think phantom menace. And how sorry I am to say so.
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