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Mr. S. K. Mackie "seanmackie" (NW England)

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Philips NT9110 Nose Hair Trimmer
Philips NT9110 Nose Hair Trimmer
Offered by choicefullbargain
Price: £21.02

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars In a word - Bargain, 17 Feb. 2011
If, like me, you suffer from overgrown hedges around those dark caves, you need look no further than this Philips Nose Hair Trimmer. After my first 2 minute battle, I can not only breath better than I have years, but I needn't keep scratching it... Because its no long tickles!

Add to this that the unit is waterproof [so you just dip it under the tap] and the single AA battery lasts forever, this is an excellent value product that has not once failed on me.

Only downside - many a doctor will tell you that, since nose hairs control the flow of bacteria and other 'rubbish' thats been exhausted from your bodily glands, ditching the hairs will give you more colds. Can't say I've noticed, but then it doesn't help I bought this during the winter...

Don't hesitate to purchase.

Talking Back To The Night
Talking Back To The Night

1 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Winwood-Cheese is a real Cracker!, 11 Feb. 2011
Excuse the analogy, but Steve Winwood was possibly one of the first music artists to 'abuse' an instrument. Its 1982 (not 1987 as Amazon suggests) and 'Talking Back To the Night' is a simple affair that demonstrates all the right and wrong ways to use a Casio synthesizer. Don't let my pedantic attitude put you off however - this album is a steal for less than a fiver.

Afterall, 'Valerie' is worth the purchase alone. Few realise that, after Eric Prydz decided to sample the song for what would eventually become hit single "Call On Me", Winwood was so delighted with the demo that he granted Prydz with access to the original vocal recordings. Talk about an embarrassing affair; Prydz's track contains half the replay value, and yet Winwood thought it superior to his own work!

Never the less, Valerie is one of just nine tracks here to be saturated in 80's synthesis. The remaining work is highly listenable - if lacking in the mythical 'hook' value - but deters from ever being overly commercial. In fact, the whole album sounds like a lost relic.

'While There's A Candle Burning' is easily the highly of the album, and dare I say it, influenced by one genius himself Stevie Wonder (damn, now I've said it...) but of course lacks the musicianship of the former artist. So programmed are such songs that, no matter how much they try to sound natural, there's no escaping they're of their time.

It's certainly not everyones cuppa', but if you can disengage your brain for just an hour or two (just as you'd do with the film Armageddon), you're actually in quite a treat.

M-Audio Keyrig 49
M-Audio Keyrig 49
Offered by The Disc DJ Store
Price: £69.00

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Usual M-Audio Offering, 6 Feb. 2011
This review is from: M-Audio Keyrig 49 (Electronics)
Its a common situation with keyboards and pianos - there is nothing like first hand experience before making purchase. This is partly the problem when you're encouraged into the sale of, what at first seems like, a very good valued interface that on some editions (though Amazon doesn't say) even bundles a copy of Ableton Live 6 Lite - an incredibly competent release of the big daddy 'Ableton Live'.

What we have here however is M-Audio's bargain-bucket range - a selection of keyboards that whilst look good, aren't going to play as comfortably as that of something for twice the price. You shouldn't expect any kind of descent after-touch, for this is just a standard spring-loaded keyboard with no additional qualities (at least to that of a keyboard almost three times the price). Because of this awkward response, the 49E is best suited for MIDI editing where one merely aims to produce demo's or is willing to experiment, rather than compose melodies fluently. I have actually found that the stiff tactile response is better suited to percussion software instruments, as the keys feel hard wearing.

As with most interfaces these days, you can connect the keyboard via USB and your DAW software will recognise it no problem - be it Logic Studio or Ableton Live. Sadly, the keyboard only offers MIDI Out, meaning that you can't use it as an additional interface to other MIDI instruments, such as a synthesizer. This is disappointing as I have no doubt that it would make a great extension to other MIDI equipment, and as I have often found, it is only newer products that seem to lack both MIDI In and Out ports.

However, while the product may not be perfect, it definitely has a market and is ideally suited to the amateur musician who seeks only to input MIDI. As for practicing your keyboard playing, you could do a whole lot better and for a little more cash, get a much softer/accurate after-touch from Yamaha or Roland.

The Way Back [Blu-ray]
The Way Back [Blu-ray]
Dvd ~ Colin Farrell
Price: £4.05

12 of 20 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Worth watching (spoiler), 25 Jan. 2011
This review is from: The Way Back [Blu-ray] (Blu-ray)
Seven years since directing the Oscar winning adventure Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World, Peter Weir makes his long awaited comeback to film-making with another adventure film The Way Back, that again proves to be blazing and epic as you could expect from a man like Weir. His films have never always endeared to me though Witness (1985) was an enjoyable experience. However his newest film stretches the production to an all-time high with this fascinating story adapted from The Long Walk.

Based on a true story, we are taken to the cold environment of Siberia in 1940 where Polish rebel Janusz (Jim Sturgess) is imprisoned for bad-mouthing Russian leader Joseph Stalin. He is sent to one of the toughest settlements in the world in Siberia where he tries to survive amongst other men of different nationalities who have also been punished. However he seeks to escape from the place to be reunited with his wife and ends up hatching a plan with other men including American veteran Mr Smith (Ed Harris) and notorious murderer Valka (Colin Farrell) to get out. Altogether seven men manage to escape the prison and soon they face the difficult task of trekking from Siberia, on a 4000 mile journey across many mountains and deserts to reach India. Along the way they are joined by a young woman named Irena (Saoirse Ronan) whose family are communists but she soon settles in with the group and becomes friendly with Mr Smith during the journey. However it is the forces of nature which threaten to affect the quest as the group encounter tough conditions as well as avoiding capture from other people, but they continue on leading to the film's satisfying conclusion.

From the film's opening shot, we are made aware of the fate of those involved in the story but the plot allows us to be drawn to a perilous and extraordinary journey that these men went on in order to survive by escaping their prison but then facing the forces of nature whether it be hot or cold. We know there some of the escapees won't make it but it becomes a question of when and how they'll fall which does happen towards the final third of the film. Of course it has you captivated for the entire journey to which you connect with the characters within it, so much so you experience their emotions with them. The variously aged cast does a solid job which allows us to follow their predicament and make us realize what troubles they had to go through. Jim Sturgess continues his prominence as an effective actor playing the troubled leader of the group. Veteran actor Ed Harris adds warmth as the reluctant prisoner who has been through tough times before his involvement in prison and forms a nice partnership with rising actress Saiorse Ronan who continues to develop her CV in film with another strong role. Probably the most surprising positive from the cast is Colin Farrell who adds bark and no-nonsense to his character with a flourishing Russian accent in a performance that is miles better than his recent cockney gangster role in London Boulevard. Also like most Weir films, this particular one is breathtaking as a visual masterpiece with the gorgeous cinematography focusing on Siberia, Mongolia and India. It is all beautifully shot with the setting whether it be in the woods, the mountains or the desert, reminding us of classic epics like Lawrence of Arabia.

The sloppy aspect of the film mostly comes from the writing in some ways with Sturgess, Harris and Ronan being the only actors whose characters are given a back-story. There is a lack of detail for the lesser known characters, as the other men and the actors who play them aren't given as much focus as the more recognisable names. One major example being British actor Mark Strong who is only involved in the first quarter of the film as a fellow prisoner and becomes underused. The story factor isn't helped either by us knowing the fate of at least three of the survivors at the beginning which does end the film a little predictably but it still makes us gracious of how far they came. It also reminds you in some ways to Edward Zwick's recent war drama Defiance (2008) with how these characters try to survive in tough circumstances but the true story factor proves crucial. It would be nice to think this film does deserve award attention though technical recognition might end up being its only reward which would be a shame for Weir who worked hard to make such a big triumphant story get to the big screen. Nevertheless the political explaining ending really does reflect the real life journey of those men involved and what it did for their politics, for them especially it really must have been the great escape....
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Nov 25, 2011 8:15 AM GMT

The King's Speech [DVD]
The King's Speech [DVD]
Dvd ~ Colin Firth
Price: £2.48

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Top class (spoiler), 25 Jan. 2011
This review is from: The King's Speech [DVD] (DVD)
Every year there always seems to be one great British film that comes out and truly dominates and entertains us. This year has been no exception thanks to the fantastic line-up of films nominated for British Film at the upcoming BAFTA awards. The one big film though that leads the pack is historical drama The King's Speech which introduced me to the courageous story of a royal monarch frightened of his own destiny of becoming future king and relying on the support of those close to him. This story however not only deals with the monarch's destiny but mostly focuses on his bid to overcome a crippling stammer which required his patience and the firm help of his family to gain confidence as the future king of England. Like previous uplifting British films such as Chariots of Fire (1981), The Full Monty (1997) and Slumdog Millionaire (2008), this latest piece of marvelous British film-making allows us to sympathise with the leading characters and let us cheer spontaneously as proven by the mass elderly audience who watched it with me, enchanted by the light-hearted yet inspiring story told before them.

The opening scene introduces us to the Duke Of York (Colin Firth) who fails to give a speech on the radio because of his life-long stutter. Years later, after trying and failing with different doctors to help him, the Duke (titled as George VI) refuses anymore help, yet his supportive wife Elizabeth (Helena Bonham Carter) continues to seek outside help and gets it from experienced Australian speech therapist Lionel Logue (Geoffrey Rush). It proves to be a long winding process as George shows reluctance in getting help from Logue but over the course of the film, they become closer as men and understand what the other goes through. Soon George gains the confidence to start speaking more clearly at public speeches but his royal destiny becomes a burden for him firstly with the death of his father (Michael Gambon) and then his brother Edward (Guy Pearce) taking over as king only to resign from the role because of his ambition to marry a divorced American woman. This leaves George with the added pressure of being named as King of England despite not having fully overcome his speech impediment but the courageous support of Logue and Elizabeth leaves us wondering if he'll pull through and prepare his country for dark times ahead.

Feel-good is one of many words to describe this special film which continues to allow British films to be made with such a credited set-up whether it be through the writing, the directing, the acting or the production design. But it certainly has all that, and pulls it off wonderfully well through its clever combination of comedy and drama. As a narrative it lets us take a look at a well-known royal family and gives a rare glimpse into the lives of people we wouldn't otherwise observe up close, we are more sympathetic of this royal family then we were with the one in The Queen (2006). Little known director Tom Hooper escalaltes his reputation as a rising director with ambition thanks to another fine piece of film art. Having directed the solid The Damned United last year, he again continues to focus his film on history this time going a few more years back and working with some fine actors who are on the top of their game here. Firth as the struggling monarch has played underdog men before, but his performance is distinguished through his extraordinary physical constraints. His stammering alone is heartbreaking to watch and listen to. Yet the way Firth struggles with his own body, trying to wrench the words out from his lungs, is what makes his work truly powerful and surely is set to land him this year's Best Actor Oscar. Rush though is equally as good giving great support to Firth as the sarcastic but determined therapist adding wry humour and pushiness during his duo scenes with the other. Bonham-Carter shines too with a sweet and loyal performance that is less loud or energetic as her roles in Harry Potter and Alice In Wonderland. The rest of the supporting cast do an impressive job too with Guy Pearce giving a small but effective performance as George's selfish brother Edward with Timothy Spall, Michael Gambon and Derek Jacobi involved too. One other important element that adds to the beauty of the film is Alexandre Desplat's delicate score, which combines his own compositions with fantastic pieces of classical music that really work well to enhance the emotions of the story.

Criticism is hard to come by with this film though the fact it is shot like a television movie adds to that factor which cases to wonder whether it suits being on the small screen or not. It also tends to drag but that shouldn't put people off watching it though the sad reality is it only appeals to a more elderly audience as proven at the cinema I watched it at. Summing it up though, the human aspect of the film makes us realise how important it was through the emergence of a deep friendship out of a professional relationship between two men who would otherwise never have socially interacted. The entire movie is a perfect blend of history, personal and family unity drama, with broader themes of defiance and overcoming struggle which give it a timeless appreciation that should become beloved for years to come. Long live the king!

Inception (Two-Disc Special Edition) [DVD] [2010]
Inception (Two-Disc Special Edition) [DVD] [2010]
Dvd ~ Leonardo DiCaprio
Offered by best_value_entertainment
Price: £2.70

2 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A must see (spoiler), 4 Jan. 2011
'The dream is real' was the tag line accompanying the title of Christopher Nolan's latest mind-boggling and surreal masterpiece which enables those who watch it to realize how the mind can become involved in a crossroads through what we can imagine in our dreams. From the very start, Nolan's plot (written by himself as well) opens up the film through introducing us to the methods of which, our dreams can be formed together and extracted as Leonardo Di-Caprio's character Cobb finds himself with in his profession. The world itself is futuristic and it allows technology to enter the human mind through the mind being invaded. Cobb is a highly skilled thief who enters people's dreams and extracts them in order to create semi-consensus and to allow these dreams to become reality. One last job could give him his life back but only if he can accomplish the impossible-Inception. Instead of the perfect heist, Cobb and his team of specialists have to pull off the reverse: their task is not to steal an idea but to plant one. If they succeed, it could be the perfect crime.

Cobb forms his team of specialists to help him with a task considered impossible, assisted in the film's beginning by naive Arthur (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) and defiant but suspicious Saito (Ken Watanabe). However Cobb himself holds the key to succeeding with this mission but he is a complicated character who from the opening scene, can be seen as having a dark past and is eager to get the job done but ends up recollecting with guilt about the mysterious death of his wife Mal (Marion Cotillard) who was also a dream thief. This guilt stops Cobb from trying to forget the circumstances surrounding her death and instead affects his job of trying to complete this task so he can be reunited with his two children. As the film progresses Cobb is also able to hire student Ariadne (Ellen Page), who becomes a key catalyst with discovering more about Cobb's past, Eames (Tom Hardy of BRONSON fame) and businessman Robert Fishcher (Cillian Murphy) who becomes the key person with trying to take part in the dream-within-a-dream-within a dream method that holds the story together. The group come across several paradox situations which threaten to complicate the mission through the visual and surreal spectacle of the film including an imaginary freight train which barges through traffic in one of the alternative dreams in Cobb's mind, the gravity inducing fight between Arthur and a group of projective agents and the best visual part of the film, the three way dreams coming to an end in such visual amazement.

As stated earlier, there is a great sense of familiarity about Di-Caprio's character and his personal predicament that is recognizable with another one of his films released earlier this year; Martin Scorsese's psychological drama SHUTTER ISLAND, where his role as Teddy Daniels shows him as another complicated man with an even darker past that also involves other family members. That was one particular feeling I thought which denied this film the perfect five stars being that the central character's background is almost too similar to Scorsese's film. This being further complicated by the lack of major sympathy towards Cobb and Mal's relationship while nothing is really drawn out more about Cobb's children. However Di-Caprio's star persona continues to get better and this being his first major action film since TITANIC (1997) has enabled him to gain more various roles whether it be action or drama. Ellen Page also adds naivety to her role which despite the bizarre name is still able to add her maturity to the character and show that she too, can move away from teenage girls films. The secrecy around Cotillard's character doesn't detract the beauty of the French Oscar-winning actress who adds trauma and complacency to her character. Gordon-Levitt is also another actor able to vary his roles and is continuing to become one of Hollywood's rising stars where his commitment to helping Cobb's team is proven. Small roles for Michael Caine, Pete Postlewaithe and a first major film role in nine years for Platoon's Tom Berenger also add experience to the film's terrific cast accompanied by the productive writing of Christopher Nolan.

Once again Nolan has come up trumps with his surreal phenomenon adding to the successes of his crime drama MEMENTO (2001) which also messes with the mind and of course the two recent Batman films which if assisted by a third film may feature a couple of actors from this film that will continue Nolan's strategy of casting well known and talented people to his films. Hans Zimmer's music also deserves praise for its brass but thumping score that sets up the tone for digging deep into the mind. Come the ending of Inception, there is a more satisfying feeling about the ending though like Shutter Island, has a climax which leaves the audience to decide whether it's real or not. The choice as to whether we can remember our dreams will surely become a factor for us upon watching this and if we can even think of what was going on in the dreams we had last night, it would be hard for us to think where to start......

The Dark Knight (2 Discs) [Blu-ray] [2008] [Region Free]
The Dark Knight (2 Discs) [Blu-ray] [2008] [Region Free]
Dvd ~ Christian Bale
Offered by DVD Overstocks
Price: £4.47

4 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Epic (spoiler), 4 Jan. 2011
Having officially opened my film criticism blog with Christopher Nolan's heist epic INCEPTION (2010), I decided to begin a Best Of My Favourite Films series and decided that while on the subject of Mr Nolan, I only had one of his other recent films I had to look at. Expectations were made back in 2007 when production began on the film with Nolan's first edition of the Batman franchise BATMAN BEGINS (2005), having been a major box-office and critical success, which helped revive the series eight years after Joel Schumacher's version of BATMAN AND ROBIN (1997) had flopped. What Batman Begins got right was that it was written so consistently by Nolan's younger brother Jonathan, that most audiences thought they were watching a crime thriller (without the Batman merchandise). That and a superb cast including Michael Caine, Liam Neeson, Gary Oldman and Morgan Freeman which probably not many people could picture in a superhero film. And even though Christian Bale's role as Bruce Wayne/Batman had been criticised by many for the gruff voice, that still didn't put people off enjoying the film and heralding it as the best superhero film ever. However with Dark Knight, Nolan went one better.....

In this installment of the franchise, Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) continues to haunt and stop the thugs of Gotham City from committing crimes with his presence as Batman and after finally tracking down Doc Crane (the villain from Batman Begins, played by Cillian Murphy), it would seem that fear is stopping these villains from trying to perform their crimes. This is with new district attorney Harvey Dent (Aaron Eckhart) and Lt. Jim Gordon (Gary Oldman) combining with Batman to keep Gotham City at piece. Unfortunately a new villain is in town as proven in the ending of Batman Begins with Gordon presenting Batman with a calling card from this mysterious person. This villain is of course, The Joker (played in maniacal and riveting form by the late Heath Ledger) whose entrance into the film during the opening bank robbery scene is up there with the likes of Darth Vader and The Wicked Witch of the West, as one of the great introductions into film by a hero or villain. The Joker is a sociopath who pulls no punches but does produce many tricks that associate with his representation, the pencil trick moment is one of shocking but applauding magic that adds to the fun of Ledger's portayal of the character. The Joker's aim is to cause mayhem in the city e.g. going through many of the major cops and attempting to assassinate the major of Gotham in the parade sequence. He is a crazed man which he wouldn't admit in the film but is clearly disturbed with Ledger having based his role as the Joker on Alex DeLarge in Stanley Kubrick's A CLOCKWORK ORANGE (1971). The haunting performance by Ledger, months after his tragic death from a drug overdose earlier that year made him become acclaimed as well as even emulating Jack Nicholson's superb OTT role as the same character in Tim Burton's version of BATMAN (1988). This was further added by how loved he was particularly in Hollywood which saw him storm through the awards seasons before comfortably winning the Best Supporting Actor Oscar, picked up by his family and being the perfect end to Ledger's career, so tragically lost at a young age who was able to be remembered for his talent.

Nonetheless in the film, The Joker's significant aim is to confront Batman and attempt to defuse him with repetitive sayings and wanting to make him break rules such as finally revealing his true identity. As Michael Caine's character Alfred says to Bruce Wayne later in the film, some men just want to watch the world burn, a case in which Joker does not want it all for wealth but to see society tear itself apart. Bruce's conscience about finishing his role as Batman is further pushed by his love for his childhood friend Rachel (Maggie Gyllenhaal) who is dating Harvey Dent. She persists in Bruce giving up the Batman duty but following a tragic twist in the film, he then realises that he has to go very far to try and avenge the situation and stop the Joker from creating more tyranny. However complications are made when Dent who has helped Batman throughout the film is brainwashed by the Joker to take vengeance on those responsible for this same incident which has now seen him scarred and earning the nickname 'Two-Face', this forcing him to confront cops including Gordon in the build-up to the film's climax. And after the film's bittersweet ending with Batman having to go on the run from the police only adds to the internal struggle and sacrifices that he has to take in order to avoid having one character's reputation being damaged, as Gordon tells his son in the prologue about him being a watchful protector.

What Christopher Nolan gets right with this sequel is that from when the trailer of the film was first released to the Oscar success for Ledger, the hype surrounding this film became uncontrollable and thus made it become of the great sequels of recent times just like EMPIRE STRIKES BACK and GODFATHER PART II. Firstly the acting side is beneficial and having spent a large paragraph in awe of Ledger's performance, kudos must also go to Aaran Eckhart who is almost as good with his role as a major figure in Gotham threatened by The Joker before he too is corrupted by the depths of society through his transformation to Two-Face. Gary Oldman also adds warmth to his reprisal as Jim Gordon whose role in trying to protect Gotham is also in endangered when Two-Face takes his family hostage. Michael Caine and Morgan Freeman are not given much to do in the film other than lend advice to Bruce Wayne with his attempts to save Gotham but their acting experience is key to the film's appeal to great actors being in the franchise. If there is slight criticism towards the film for me was Bale's gruff attempt to make Batman sound intimidating but as I pointed out with the Batman Begins part, it doesn't deter the secrecy of Wayne's character, while Maggie Gyllenhaal, while a talented and underrated actress doesn't really add much to what Katie Holmes did in the first film, hence my belief that Emily Blunt or Rachel McAdams would have been better casted in the role.

From the very first shot of this film, Wally Pfster's glorious camera set-up (perfection to watch in the IMAX) shows us a shining building in Gotham City which within a few seconds, lets off a small explosion that introduces us to the henchmen of the film's villain who most people (including my fellow long-suffering uni film buffs) wouldn't miss a mile off. The first several minutes puts the audience through an exhilarating focus on these henchmen attempting to pull off the perfect heist in a major bank but despite their success in getting things done in order, they end up bumping each other off before the introduction of The Joker himself. That becomes the pinnacle for what we are about to watch for the next two hours and fifteen minutes. The film is gloriously shot in dark visual beauty to highlight the grittiness of the film's setting and does well not to use much CGI to make it more action-packed. Many scenes steal the film such as the exhilarating freeway sequence with the truck spinning in the air, the crucial set-up from the Joker to put pressure on Batman involving two ships with innocent people on one ship and dangerous criminals on the other (which one to save and which one to destroy) and the prison cell encounter where both minds go head to head in stirring dialogue and physical confrontation. It is also cleverly edited to add to the fast-flowing tension of the film's dynamic story which adds to the quality in which it is made, while Hans Zimmer's musical score shared with James Newton Howard gives a stirring advantage of also highlighting the tension of the film e.g. the Joker gatecrashing Bruce Wayne's party.

Overall The Dark Knight truly is a modern masterpiece that excites and wows those who watch it, from beginning to end, it makes us appreciate the superhero genre even more and gives a dark feel to how we can enjoy an action film without the CGI spectacle but having to be in awe of the characters, the acting, the technicality of it and the set-pieces. I watched it twice in the cinema, the first time at the IMAX with my dad on the opening day and we, as well as the rest of the young audience were captivated by its sheer splendor, it is one of the most quotable films possible and if a third film is eventually made then it will hopefully show that the dawn is coming with how masterful it will be and how great it will be for film audiences everywhere.

Toy Story 3 (2-Disc Blu-ray + DVD)
Toy Story 3 (2-Disc Blu-ray + DVD)
Dvd ~ Tom Hanks
Offered by Venture Online
Price: £4.75

1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A must see for anyone! (spoiler), 4 Jan. 2011
In most circumstances with a film franchise, there are many who believe that a 'third' film in a franchise simply doesn't work e.g. THE GODFATHER PART III (1990), SHREK THE THIRD (2007), SPIDERMAN 3 (2007) but then there are the rare few 'third' films that have worked in cinema in the greatest retrospective including INDIANA JONES AND THE LAST CRUSADE (1989), RETURN OF THE KING (2003) and yes even SCARY MOVIE 3 (2003) who have all succeeded with gaining popularity with critics and audiences. However when Pixar announced plans to make a third Toy Story film, there were some who doubted that they could pull it off. This came from the same uncertain people who thought that TOY STORY 2 (1999) wouldn't work either after the first one was such a colossal hit yet they were proved wrong by its charming story and its more poignant themes e.g. Jessie's story. However Pixar's gigantic movie-developing empire just doesn't seem like it will be stopping anytime soon after Toy Story 3's release last week and having dragged myself out of bed on Sunday morning to watch it with the family, it certainly was a riveting experience that alongside my viewings of the LORD OF THE RINGS films and THE DARK KNIGHT (2008) will never be forgotten. Toy Story 3 is a marvelous, emotionally-charged, hilarious and solid installment of film mastery by Pixar that once again excites audiences young and old to enjoy another epic adventure with Woody, Buzz and the rest of the gang! When you first see the familiar Pixar logo of the live-action lampshade bouncing up and down on top of the letter 'I', the gentle warmth is acknowledged by us knowing that we are heading into familiar territory and that is demonstrated even further by the cracking opening action scene of the film where Woody (Tom Hanks) and Jessie (Joan Cusack) are trying to stop Mr and Mrs Potato Head (Don Rickles and Estelle Harris) from crashing a train into a quarry below and with the help of Buzz Lightyear (Tim Allen), they attempt to thwart the Potato couple leading to an epic showdown involving a giant Rex (Wallace Shawn), Slinky (Blake Clark) as an electric grid, Hamm (John Ratzenburger) as the dastardly pig in the sky and thousands of red stick monkeys.

Of course, the reality is that the toy's young owner Andy (John Morris) is playing with them with the usual toy battles that have been set up dramatically by Andy in his younger years. Then as expected, the upbeat Randy Newman music appears in yet another classic montage (another successful technique used in Pixar films) with several images showing the familiar faces being played with by Andy as the song "You've Got A Friend With Me" is used once again until it eventually drowns out abruptly just after the lyric "A friendship will never die", showing that times are about to change for the toys. Their owner Andy is now seventeen and is preparing to go to college, and finds himself in a predicament that so many young people heading towards their adult years have to go through when it comes to taking sacrifices with childhood memories and possessions. The storyline for all three Toy Story films does share similar plot lines in fearing the possibility of being discarded and unwanted when one turns old, or to obsess with the thought of being forgotten and unappreciated, and sometimes always comes with a distance to conquer. Over the years since the end of Toy Story 2, it is clear that many toys have had to be given up or being thrown away, including Wheezy, Sketch, The Green Army soldiers and quite surprisingly Bo Peep. However this had potentially been the difficult decision as well for the producers and writers of the film in order to introduce new characters that could become popular with young audiences hence the changes. Of course, the usual suspects have survived as well as the three-eyed alien triplets, Bullseye and Barbie (Jodi Benson who voiced Ariel in The Little Mermaid) and they all believe their time has come to be thrown out as garbage. Woody thinks otherwise though he is be taken to college with Andy leaving the other toys to be left in the attic. Andy's own sister Molly has even outgrown the toys while their pet dog Buster is too old and overweight to run anymore. However a mix-up involving Andy's mother sees the rest of the toys accidentally placed in the trash and although they get out they decide enough is enough and choose to be taken to the Sunnyside Daycare Centre where they hear that the young children there will play for them for a long time. Woody too hitches a ride with them to the centre where they are unveiled to the current ones situated in the place as "new toys"!

They are greeted by the new toys who are led by the chief toy of the place Lotso (Ned Beatty) but Sunnyside Daycare Centre proves harder then expected for Buzz and the rest of the gang when the kids who roam the place are young but wild as they throw the toys around and leave them shaken. Things then become more sinister when it emerges that Lotso and the other chief toys are controlling of the place, turning Buzz against the others through fiddling with his batteries and having the other toys locked in baskets (representing prison cells). This is when the film turns into a cross between THE GREAT ESCAPE (1963) and THE SHAWSHANK REDEMPTION (1994), but nonetheless becomes an instant thrill-ride with Woody attempting to break the gang out of the place and attempt to reunite with Andy before he is due to leave, however there are obstacles on the way that become highly charged and effectively an emotional roller-coaster ride.

The final fifteen minutes prove that theory right and Pixar has always succeeded with beautifully emotional moments that can make a grown man cry such as Jessie's story in Toy Story 2, Wall-E's playback of the Hello Dolly romantic music in WALL-E (2008) and obviously the opening montage in UP (2009). However when the lives of those group of characters in the Toy Story films are placed in startling danger (no major spoilers here), we are placed on the edge of our seats by the possible consequences that are about to happen and whether they can survive, with a superb moment of friendship and togetherness being displayed through that particular moment. The final scene too, is emotionally tough especially for those who can't bring themselves to part with things they have cherished from their younger years but that adds to the realistic theme that Pixar has orchestrated since their first short back in the 1980's. To analyze the film in perspective, the story is truly entertaining and I really hope that many audiences young and old have enjoyed it. Normally reviewing voice acting isn't a major thing with more bigger film critics but again the use of Tom Hanks and Tim Allen as well as the other voice actors again add emotion and strength about each other that they have clearly displayed over the past fifteen years. Ned Beatty as Lotso is a breath of fresh air with his gentlemanly manners but dark background while Timothy Dalton and Pixar favorite Bonnie Hunt also play their roles to perfection and even John Morris who played Andy in the other two films gives more compassion to him as a young adult who struggles to give up the possessions that have been part of his life. Michael Keaton however deserves a lot of credit for the way he settles into his character Ken, who despite his good looks is clearly presented as metro sexual and you can tell he enjoys playing him in an exaggerated and feminine way. Many funny moments dominate the film as well such as the clapping monkey, Mr Potato Head becoming a tortilla (reminding me of Peter Griffin having a stroke in Family Guy), the ending credits and of course, Spanish Buzz Lightyear! Plus the Big Baby doll is just too cute even if a little creepy!

If there is something wrong with the film, then it is only minor. The Lotso character though given a reasoning behind his sinister side and produces a couple of moments of pure evil but is almost too similar to Skinky Pete from Toy Story 2 with wanting independence of being a leader and even gets a familiar exit while there is a cool cameo from another Toy Story villain with Sid but in my opinion could have been made better e.g. him seeing the toys alive again. And there is the 3D side which really doesn't add much too the film's visual splendor and is spectacular to watch even as a 2D film on your I-POD (though something I haven't always agreed with). Aside those minuses however, the story-arc is mesmerizing and action-driven and the climax is a perfect way to end the Toy Story trilogy which has entertained us with memorable moments and delightful characters which will carry on for many generations to come. A magnificent trilogy which has been a journey to infinite and beyond!
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jan 10, 2011 4:30 AM GMT

Bronson [Blu-ray] [2009]
Bronson [Blu-ray] [2009]
Dvd ~ Matt King
Price: £5.95

2 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Very good (spoiler), 4 Jan. 2011
This review is from: Bronson [Blu-ray] [2009] (Blu-ray)
Since 1974, Britain's prisons have had to put up with one of their most notorious criminals during those 36 years; his real name is Mickey Peterson, his alter-ego is Charlie Bronson (hence the film's title). The film is a true-life account of the journey into aggression that Bronson (Tom Hardy) goes through from when he was first put away in prison in the 70s for robbing a post office to the many brutal fights he incurred with prison guards and inmates and although he was briefly released back into society, he would make a swift return inside. Danish director Nicolas Winding Refn delivers a gritty and arty film focusing on the events that made Bronson become feared across the country by its own government and the justice system but the brutalization of prison life adds to the harshness of what he has to go through (a plot that familiarises with Stanley Kubrick's A CLOCKWORK ORANGE (1971)). Nevertheless what Bronson's motives are throughout the film are taken into question as to why he did what he did e.g. damaging his chances of escaping prison. We learn about his younger years being brought up by doting parents only to get involved with the wrong people before having his own family led to what he had to do in order to survive the tough times during 1970's Britain. Chaos though was his main objective during that time which saw him transferred to many prisons across the country but not being swayed by the toughness of the places even stating they are 'worth a visit'.

British actor Tom Hardy, who is slowly developing himself as a strong actor who can conquer both sides of the Atlantic, is brilliantly cast as the disturbed sociopath who takes great pride in complicating his reputation and trying to stamp that reputation amongst those around him. He is a complicated and psychotic character, as shown from the start where his first of many naked fights with prison guards shows that he believes he can take on the world, this further told through his dream sequences of expressing his enjoyment of prison life to an audience, as if he is the entertainer. The physical energy displayed by Hardy shows how hard the character must have been to play but he manages to keep the audience on edge with his lengthy stares and his calm but threatening attitude towards certain characters especially the guards. The many confrontations with prison guards would eventually lead him to be placed in a mental asylum that looks as harsh as the environment Jack Nicholson finds himself in during ONE FLEW OVER THE CUCKOO'S NEST (1975), and clearly being labelled as mad which was something Bronson didn't want to be known as. He would do anything to avoid suffering with people clearly more disturbed then he was which became a pinnacle in one scene where he attempts to kill a fellow inmate in order to be back in prison. However there is a softer more child-like innocence to Bronson when he is released from prison halfway in the film and attempts to redeem himself by getting romantic with Alison (Juliet Oldfield) only to go to desperate measures in order to win her and ending up back in the place he has called 'home' for over 30 years. Being as it may, Bronson never killed anyone but yet was still fierce in his brutality towards those he did attack but would normally present a more poignant reason for it e.g. the film's climax which involves him taking an art teacher (James Lance) hostage but using him as part of an art project to display his taste in art, beautifully orchestrated by the use of classical music.

As discussed before, director Refn clearly makes the film as a homage to A Clockwork Orange through many devices; Bronson's taste for ultra violence and classical music which is similar to Alex in Kubrick's classic, the inclusion of dark colours in a gritty environment and the law abiding steps Bronson has to take when back in society. The music especially adds to the beauty of the film's hallucinating atmosphere especially in the mental asylum sequences but also modern music including Pet Shop Boys. Technically the film is well shot to add the grim effect of life not just in prison but outside of it as well, the use of shadows to hide Bronson during the stand-up scenes and when bloodied resembles Colonel Kurtz's first scene from APOCALYPSE NOW (1979) to add to the mystery that surrounds his body language and it also gives a claustrophobic feel to how he could cope in such closed down spaces for over three decades. Negatively the film does suffer through simple holes in the story that are not proper focused on such as not focusing on whether Bronson had bothered to see whether his child had actually grown up over the years, the more actual reasons for his re-arrest halfway in the film that was because he wanted to show a more personal reason for being back in society and the unknown support cast which struggles to better Hardy's phenomenal performance that completely overshadows them. However as a storming biopic, it is an impressive first major film for Refn in mainstream terms, technically well made and further boosted by the impulsive role delivered by Tom Hardy that has been rewarded with upcoming Hollywood films including INCEPTION (2010) and MAD MAX (2010). For Bronson himself, Britain's most violent criminal, he himself can be pleased with how the film focused on his harsh environment but presenting himself as the celebrity he wanted to become, but not the one most people would associate with!

Who Framed Roger Rabbit (Special Edition) [DVD] [1988]
Who Framed Roger Rabbit (Special Edition) [DVD] [1988]
Dvd ~ Bob Hoskins
Offered by FREETIME
Price: £2.97

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Must see (spoiler), 4 Jan. 2011
Who would have thought of a situation where Mickey Mouse and Bugs Bunny, two of animation's most quirky characters, would be helping each other on the same screen together? That was exactly what happened in Robert Zemekis' wacky live-action family adventure WHO FRAMED ROGER RABBIT (1988) which made a crucial breakthrough in film with the idea of combining live acclaimed actors with lovable cartoon characters and changed the motive of combining these two different species together. It blends comedy, film noir, romance, drama, horror, and any other style you can think of into one, leaving you gripped. The plot is very reminiscent of the classic 1940s/50s film noirs of suspicious detectives and seductive femme-fatales that was most superbly done in Roman Polanski's acclaimed if slightly overrated masterpiece CHINATOWN (1974). However when this film opens, we are introduced to a simple and over-the-top cartoon involving the main character, a rabbit named Roger (voiced by Charles Fleischer) and an adult-talking baby named Herman (voiced by Lou Hirsch) participating in the cartoon which is being filmed by a crew similarly to any other film set-up. We then find ourselves in the year 1947, where the humans occupy the brass and colourful world of Los Angeles. However the only difference here is that Toons (combined of Disney and Warner Bros characters are living, breathing creations, that interact with the humans. The Toons live in Toon Town (obviously) but also come out to play in our world, and also to make a living in the glitzy world of showbiz. Roger Rabbit though is the focus, being the main star of Maroon Cartoons but things aren't going well for him as he is suspicious about his sexy and large-breasted wife Jessica (voiced by Kathleen Turner) getting involved with singing and dancing at a nightclub with owner Marvin Acme (Stubby Kaye). Hard nosed private detective Eddie Valiant (Bob Hoskins) is hired by Maroon Cartoons owner R.K Maroon (Alan Tilvern) to try and take pictures of Jessica and Marvin's infidelity (or patty caking as Roger would put it) and reveal them to Roger. Valiant is an alcoholic who since the murder of his detective partner/brother has become bitter towards the Toons as one of them was responsible for the death. Valiant's approach to the situation takes shape when he is stunned by Jessica's seductive beauty but he still decided to do his job in taking the pictures. After they are revealed to him, Roger is devastated and in typically hysterical fashion runs off determined to be 'happy' again with Jessica.

Valiant's belief that his job is complete doesn't work out as hoped for as he is called to Acme Warehouse the next morning to investigate Acme's death by piano (similarly to Eddie's brother), with all the fingers being pointed to Roger. However Valiant finds himself competing with the mysterious but cynical Judge Doom (Christopher Lloyd), who along with his dastardly weasels wants to prove a point to the Toons who commit crimes what the consequences could be for them with the use of a deadly source. Valiant however is forced into the case properly when Roger hides out in his office and the detective relucantly is forced to help Roger with discovering what could have happened to Acme. More suspicions are made from Valiant when it emerges that Acme left a will leaving Toon Town to the Toons themselves, but it has gone missing. With the help of Valiant's former lover Dolores (Joanna Cassidy), she keeps Roger safe but only briefly when Doom almost gets his man (or Toon) which eventually leads to both Valiant and the cartoon rabbit going on the run together. As Valiant and Roger try to unravel the case, they realise that Jessica was set up, and Doom has some diabolical plans up his sleeve. The pair attempt to work quickly together (when Roger isn't getting himself into trouble, that is) to try and save Toon Town before Doom's shocking plans become reality.

The succession of Roger Rabbit as a film is not just the cleverness of combining live-action with animation but with a slapstick script that mixed comedy and action with drama together brilliantly. Zemeckis who also made the BACK TO THE FUTURE trilogy (1985-90) and the Oscar winning FORREST GUMP (1994) proves his credentials as an all round director well again here in a film that adds originality to its adaptation of a typical detective story which adds satire and farcical humour very well. Its blend of characters provide the catalyst for the plot and is driven well by its impressive cast. Bob Hoskins, pulls off his booming American accent sublimely and provides a sour man struggling to overcome his personal tragedy and attempt to work with the Toons in solving the case, even leading to cartoonish antics from himself. Christopher Lloyd, best known as wacky but supportive Doc Emmet Brown in Back to the Future, plays another wacky character here but much more sinister and terrifying (his climactic scenes are the ones that will stay with you long after the film has ended) and works well to make an impact in each scene he's in. Joanna Cassidy is underused but adds warmth to Valiant's love interest Dolores while the rest of the support cast do the odd job they need. However the main applause goes to the vocal performances particuarly Roger and Jessica, both voiced well by Fleischer and Turner. Fleischer turns Roger into a manical character who has a good heart but fails to always do as he is told, while Turner's contribution to Jessica is speaking sexually to the main characters especially Eddie and Roger and (with the assistant of the cartoon makers) turned her into an unlikely sex symbol, even being named in FHM's 500 Sexiest Women of All Time in 2004. Her "I'm not bad, I'm just drawn that way" line adds irony to how certain characters are made to be how they speak or through their body language and Jessica Rabbit certainly deserves that accolade.

As earlier noted, the mixture of characters and actors is well orchestrated, as well as Valiant and Roger's lines together; Mickey, Bugs, Goofy and the rest of the cartoon clan are used to good effect as well such as Daffy Duck and Donald Duck having a piano face-off in the nightclub and Tweety-Pie treating Valiant badly when he is hanging from the pole of a skyscraper. The scene of Valiant's journey into Toon Town is mixed in well, in such a crucial part of the film with how the setting is edited with such careful precision (particularly with its Oscar winning special effects), it's a thing that many young audiences had waited to see for many years to see humans and cartoons in the same shot. The scenery for 1940s Los Angeles is also well made with the right props similar to Chinatown and the Toon's appearance together in the final scene of the film plays up to a fitting finale. To criticise the film in my usual manner would be to highlight the surprise use of innuendo and dark humour in a PG based film which probably would have been a 12A if released now. The sexual references including Jessica's appearance and Dolore's joke to Eddie involving Roger hiding in his raincoat is funny but shocking for a family film while supposed urban myths involving Jessica as well as the possible use of a racist word in the Duck piano face-off takes away the delight of the film and leaves something a little distasteful when watching those particular scenes over and over again (damn those DVDs controls haha). But to conclude the film however, despite that slight controversy, Who Framed Roger Rabbit is a family classic, which has been loved by many over the last 20 or so years, visual effects superbly used to clever effect with how we could watch a film with humans and cartoons appearing together and mixing various genres and characters old and new to the maximum. As Porky Pig would say "That's all folks!"

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