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G. Thomas (Canterbury UK)

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Sunshine Cleaning [DVD] [2009]
Sunshine Cleaning [DVD] [2009]
Dvd ~ Amy Adams
Price: £2.70

4.0 out of 5 stars Charming and life-affirming, 8 Dec 2009
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
"Sunshine Cleaning" is a gentle, easily paced film about a modern family who are possibly much stronger than they ever thought they were.

This is a nicely observed and mildly humourous story of two (slightly at odds) sisters who both lack the confidence to see beyond their respective negative self-images. They go into business together as a firm of crime-scene cleaners. One to fund her son's education and the other just to have something tangible in her life.
Really there is little beyond that which needs much elaboration.

Lead performances are strong with Amy Adams possibly outshining everyone else. It's not a testing role but she is utterly convincing and hugely sympathetic. Emily Blunt is good but slightly underused as the slacker/wastrel sister who finds purpose through the discovered belongings of the dead. Clifton Collins Jr is also thoroughly worthy of recognition in the role of Winston who initially helps the women navigate the minefield of regulations in an unfamiliar business. Finally Alan Arkin provides his usual high-quality rough-round-the-edges-but-endearing-elderly-relative supporting role but ultimately this is Adams' film.

The slightly meandering moral of this film seems to be that there's absolutely no shame in just being who you are but it's not rammed down your throat with anything approaching mawkish gusto. Ultimately this is a "personal journey" movie but one that is handled with restraint and intelligence.

Neet© - 3 Port HDMI AUTO SWITCH 3x1 Mini Hub Box (3 way input 1 output) 1080p Full HD v1.3b HDMI Switcher
Neet© - 3 Port HDMI AUTO SWITCH 3x1 Mini Hub Box (3 way input 1 output) 1080p Full HD v1.3b HDMI Switcher
Offered by Neet Cables
Price: £24.95

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Superb, 4 Dec 2009
Woe is me......

......I have a PVR, Blu-Ray player and Games Console but only 1 HDMI port on my ageing LCD TV.

So-called experts had always warned off auto-changers when I had 4 scart connections and only 2 scart sockets (I ended up using a manual switching unit which quite frankly was a chore). When the same problem recently reared its ugly head again but this time with HDMI leads I was in somewhat of a quandary.
I threw caution to the winds and decided to believe the 50 or so positive reviews for this item. Consequently I also find that I'm absolutely delighted with the product.
Fast delivery, minimal packaging, 3 cables in, 1 cable out (to the TV) and now whichever piece of equipment I switch on last will take precedence over the others.
There is no flickering, no loss of quality and best of all it's made one lazy old man very happy indeed.

Webroot Window Washer 2010 (PC CD)
Webroot Window Washer 2010 (PC CD)

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Obsessive, 21 Nov 2009
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
As already stated this is a remarkably fast and easy to use tool for removing clutter from your PC.
I only managed to free up just over half a gigabyte but even that surprised me as I'm usually pretty efficient at hard-disk housekeeping. I certainly wasn't aware how much clutter I'd been accumulating in out-of-the-way places.

I haven't noticed any discernible difference in performance but just getting rid of that much trash is actually strangely satisfying in an obsessive-compulsive sort of way.

Basically you put in the CD and after a couple of minutes installation a little squeegee icon appears in your system tray and you can run all functions from a simple right-click. You have the choice to "wash" either the recommended default areas (based on an automatic analysis of your hard-drive) or user defined ones including free-space areas too. This caters to the novice and those with a little more knowledge too. You only have to get as involved as you feel comfortable or capable doing.
All options appear in a simple tick-box form and the information is set out very clearly. Load on windows boot or manually, shutdown after wash or minimize to tray, password protect, warning if browser is open and of course a full range of update options are just some of the basic program settings. It really does seem as though nothing potentially useful has been forgotten.

There are a further set of options to "bleach" the files that are being deleted meaning that all trace is allegedly removed making them non-recoverable. Certainly a useful and reassuring feature for those who are maybe a little paranoid about their privacy seeing as you can set the "bleach" to make up to 35 passes on the same area.
Of course none of that bothers me because I have nothing to hide ......honest.

There are comprehensive settings which allow to you to schedule "washes" according to various self-defined criteria or just at the same time every day/week/month as you please.
Another feature which would be useful if you're selling your PC or even just junking it is the "System Eraser". This option allows you totally wipe your hard drive effectively by creating a boot disk which will instigate the wipe when inserted.

Having initially installed and run the product on it's most basic settings (as a novice perhaps would) I can vouch that nothing was removed which shouldn't have been. All passwords and form-filling are still intact and you can also adjust cookie settings with the "Cookie Keeper" function.

All in all Window Washer is almost a oneclick solution to junk file removal and the free support 24/7 for 1 year puts my mind at rest in case I ever encounter any problems.
A simple user-friendly piece of software for the novice or even the terminally lazy.

Hordes of the Things (BBC Audio)
Hordes of the Things (BBC Audio)
by Andrew Marshall
Edition: Audio CD
Price: £13.25

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars I was glad when it ended, 13 Nov 2009
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
There really isn't that much I can say without just repeating "nearly" everyone else's reviews.
This is an ill judged and poorly written comedy which is only ever barely amusing. There are a few good one-liners but overall it just sounds very amateurish, embarrassingly unfunny and incredibly dated. I found the whole thing an absolute chore to listen to..hence the relatively late review.
The performers do as well as they can, given the material, but even Paul Eddington's wonderfully hapless king routine starts to wear thin before you're halfway through the whole set.
I did almost enjoy the highly-predictable downbeat ending but honestly couldn't say whether it was actually just because it was the end.

On a positive note the packaging shows a little more effort than usual which should always be commended.

Ghost In The Shell 2.0 Redux [Blu-ray]
Ghost In The Shell 2.0 Redux [Blu-ray]
Dvd ~ Mamoru Oshii
Price: £7.90

0 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A new lease of life, 5 Nov 2009
Now I'm afraid that I'm going to have to go out on a limb somewhat and disagree with the majority view here.
I have seen both the original and the 2.0 versions of "Ghost In The Shell". I first watched the original when it was just released, still fresh and very much a cult "must-view" piece and I finally bought this new version only last week.
All in all I enjoyed this redux version far more than I think I ever enjoyed the original.

Looking back at the 1995 version it now seems rather crude and looks very dated. Let's face it; compared to the visual brilliance of "Akira", even all those years ago, "Ghost" already looked half-baked and almost a poor relation. Of course the story was and still is a brilliant, thoughful and complex piece of work which is now only enhanced by the glorious graphical update on offer within this Blu-ray.
The supposed jarring difference between old and new animation techniques is noticeable but because nearly all of the film has undergone a cosmetic update (some parts more than others) this does not ruin the experience, change the meaning or spoil your enjoyment in any way. Even the less tinkered-with sections feature some enhancements and a distimctly spiffy visual sprucing up.
The use of soundtrack is absolutely genius.

I think any nitpicking or dissatisfaction with this release is a "can't see the wood for the trees" issue with some people possibly a little too close to the trees for their own good. Sure, it's not absolutely perfect but it's not definitely not ruined either.

This update has made me revisit a true modern masterpiece and enjoy it all the more.
I don't honestly see how that can ever be a bad thing.

George Carlin - It's Bad For Ya [DVD] [2008]
George Carlin - It's Bad For Ya [DVD] [2008]
Dvd ~ George Carlin
Price: £6.50

2 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Hats optional, 24 Oct 2009
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
It's entirely fair to say that George Carlin's last recorded HBO special is not necessarily consistently laugh-out-loud funny. What it is though is thoughtful, amusing, insightful and at times very funny indeed.

Breaking several modern day taboos and with an air of old-man's intolerance Mr Carlin deconstructs the pointlessness of modern attitudes and the lies that hold society together. He is most probably preaching to the converted but it's nice to see his views on "Governor" Bush can still draw a modicum of dissent from his audience.
I found myself nodding in agreement and chuckling throughout the whole show.

The culture of self-esteem, child-worship, pointless patriotism and the basic contradictions of world religions are all savagely exposed in an "everyman" straight talking style which practically defies disagreement. It's impossible to deny that having a child is indeed just "pumping out another unit" whether you like the idea or not.

The final cleverly constructed wordplay on our supposed "rights" and our fundamental misunderstanding of same is a masterful piece of structured comedic construction. It blends shameful U.S. history with common sense and logical indignation that eventually strips away the facade of a fair deal for all in today's world.

A true master at work who most definitely will not be "smiling down on us from above".

Kitaro [DVD] [2007]
Kitaro [DVD] [2007]
Dvd ~ Eiji Wentz
Offered by SweetBuzzards
Price: £1.52

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Oddly entertaining, 13 Oct 2009
This review is from: Kitaro [DVD] [2007] (DVD)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Kitaro lives in a kind of beach-hut treehouse with Cat Girl, Sand Witch, Cry Baby and Daddy Eyeball (yep..his father is a walking talking eyeball) and unlike most yokai he feels sympathy for the plight of humans. Enter Mika, Kenta and their father whose apartment block is being haunted by ghosts in the employ of the devious Rat Man and a heartless property developer. Unbeknownst to everyone the Earthly Fox-spirits have been woken up and are not happy......

....So where do you go from here?....well obviously into a chaotic rambling story about good and evil, love, death, family, sacrifice, ambition and greed. This film is almost like Scooby-Doo meets the Power Rangers but rises above both due to its constant weirdness and unflagging inventiveness. I am not familiar with the original manga but certainly recognised many things from my limited knowledge of Japanese folklore. The mythical creatures range from the simply comedic to rubber-suited blank-eyed-gawping demons who may well turn up to haunt me after any future late-night cheese consumption.

At its very best "Kitaro" reminded me of the films of Hayao Miyazaki but sadly this wasn't sustained for any length of time. Having said that it's still enjoyable and is most definitely aimed at a family audience.
A curiosity certainly, with Daddy Eyeball, Wheel Monk and Mrs Spiral Neck being worth the price of admission alone but I do feel Kitaro will really please neither casual viewer nor hardcore manga enthusiast.

I was left feeling entertained by the sheer good-natured oddness and the poignant ending but also slightly disappointed by the lack of any true weight and/or depth.

Beasts! Book Two (New Modern Now Library)
Beasts! Book Two (New Modern Now Library)
by Jon Vermilyea
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £21.97

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Inspired, beautiful and occasionally disturbing., 30 Sep 2009
I ordered this at the same time as Beasts! Book One (New Modern Now Library) and thankfully this is more of the same. Possibly even more inspired, considerably more impressive, varied and beautiful than its predecessor; 90 artists interpret 90 new and different mythical beasts in distinctly imaginative ways with a small amount of accompanying text.

Everything I said about Book One (in its own review) is similarly valid for Book 2. Art ranges from the raw and primitive to highly detailed and lovingly painted re-imaginings of beasts you may already know and plenty you'll never have heard of.
Peg Powler is a particular favourite of mine. A Bean-Fionn (drowning fairy) who lives in the river Tees and drags children who play close to the river into her lair where they drown or are devoured. A light green scum on the river portends her approach. Although in 1967 the building of the Cow Green reservoir destroyed her habitat so reports have decreased significantly in recent years. A terrific blending of old wives tales and child safety concerns create a monster to truly fear.

This book is an absolute joy and a constant pleasure to pick up and browse. You can always find something surprising and new that you missed last time.

Get this and Book One. I seriously doubt that you'll be disappointed.

Beasts! Book One (New Modern Now Library)
Beasts! Book One (New Modern Now Library)
by Covey
Edition: Paperback
Price: £18.00

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wildly imaginative, vivid and colourful., 30 Sep 2009
This book is a complete and utter joy and should please all age groups. I remember ravenously reading and re-reading a similarly themed but smaller book when I was a nipper. If this had been available back in the early seventies it would have surely become my bible.

90 separate artists (using all types of media) have turned their particular skills to representing 90 different legendary and mythical beasts. These are not just the already accepted (dare I say mundane) images of said creatures but they are in fact wildly imaginative, vivid, colourful and tremendously exciting versions. I think interpretations is possibly a better description. Some are funny, some sad and several are downright disturbing. Don't expect to find your usual airbrushed-adolescent-fantasy-art stereotypes here this is something refreshingly different.

Each picture has a paragraph of accompanying text on the opposite page which neatly sums up the basic information and mythology of each creature. Perhaps a little more depth would have been nice but the often inspired art-work more than makes up for it.
It's good to see so many of the bizarre beasts from around the world represented here, including some of the UK's lesser known lurking dangers and it's equally wonderful to see this niche subject treated with such flair, wit and vision.

Great value and highly recommended this book is certainly one that I'll treasure for years to come.

Here's The Tender Coming
Here's The Tender Coming
Price: £12.92

30 of 34 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Here's the Third Coming, 27 Sep 2009
I admit I was concerned.
Possibly the greatest musical awakening of my life was down to Rachel Unthank and the Winterset. "The Bairns" was so utterly and triumphantly eye-opening that I was anticipating any new release with equal amounts of excitement and trepidation.

It seems there is no need to worry. The creative wellspring of the Unthanks obviously runs pretty deep. They have produced another finely balanced collection of songs which both delight and inspire. Even though they now have more members and instruments contributing to the overall sound these songs still exhibit the sparse beauty of arrangement which I loved so much in "The Bairns".
Yet again Becky's voice raises the hairs on the back of my neck with alarming regularity but now this can also be triggered by the occasional introduction of a measured and sometimes superbly dischordant brass section lazily emerging from the rich soundscape and then sinking gently back behind the voices and strings.

All 13 tracks exude their own distinct charm mixing the traditional with the slightly more contemporary but none seem out of place. Tunes range between the joyous to the terribly poignant with "The Testimony of Patience Kershaw" and "Nobody Knew She Was There" being particularly affecting.
The band has been quoted as saying they didn't want to make another "Bairns" and they certainly haven't. They've created, at bare minimum, an equal, albeit a close relation, one with the same heart and soul intact which was something I foolishly doubted would ever be possible. The more I listen and the further I fall under its spell I'm beginning to think that they have in fact surpassed the impossibly high standard already set.

This is a fantastic album, an absolute testament to "The Unthanks" various talents and overall creative genius. "At First She Starts" is shaping up to be the standout track for me so far.
I'm also glad, listening to Betsy Bell, to discover that we can still look forward to some more clog-dancing at the live shows.

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