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Love Hina #4 (Love Hina): v. 4
Love Hina #4 (Love Hina): v. 4
by Ken Akamatsu
Edition: Paperback

4.0 out of 5 stars A riot, 25 Jan 2009
After Naru and Keitaro return home from their Kyoto / Okinawa (mis)adventure, one would think that things would settle down at the Hinata-so. But no! The fun and games only just starting..

Motoko has a crisis of confidence, seemingly brought on by both Keitaro and Tama-chan, the turtle given to Keitaro and Naru by Mutsumi.

Keitaro finally manages to land a job as an assistant to an archeology professor at Todai, but all hell breaks loose when it turns out that he is Seta-san, Naru's old cram tutor. And crush. How's Keitaro going to cope with that? And how is Kitsune going to make sure Naru doesn't find out?

This probably isn't one of the very best volumes of the series (I think 3, 10 and 14 win there - all of them fairly Mutsumi-heavy I must admit... :D) but it is never less than very good indeed. Love Hina ia a wonderful series: at turns full of slapstick comedy, wild farce and warmly romantic relationship observation. The quality is OK, with not much by way of extra material and annotation, unlike the later and more polished Mahou Sensei Negima (not on Tokyopop). But the important thing is the story, which is fantastic; this volume pushes the story along just fine and is worth the read for that reason.


Zack And Miri Make A Porno [DVD]
Zack And Miri Make A Porno [DVD]
Dvd ~ Seth Rogen
Offered by HarriBella.UK.Ltd
Price: £2.65

10 of 22 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Jonathan Ross won't like this. Meh., 19 Jan 2009
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
Most people have a fairly fixed idea in their minds about what a rom-com is; this isn't what most people would have in mind. But a rom-com is what this movie is in the end; if you accept that pretty early you will find it much easier to enjoy than the rather mixed critical write-ups have perhaps suggested. But bear in mind, this is a rom-com filtered through the eyes of Kevin Smith, so if you don't like a geek-filled swearfest, be warned :)

Zack and Miri have been friends since first grade. They live together in an apartment in Monroeville and struggle through dead-end jobs to make ends meet, though the unpaid bills are steadily piling up.

Things come to a head on the night of their high-school reunion (the night before thanksgiving), which begins with their power and water being cut off. It doesn't help that Miri has already become an unwitting viral internet video star, because of her `granny pants'. Once at the reunion the pair are reminded of their less than happy and stellar high-school careers, especially when Miri crashes and burns spectacularly in trying to proposition her teenage crush, Bobby Long. He turns out to be not only gay but there with his partner, a gay porn star. It's he who first puts the seed of making a porno film in Zack's mind.

Faced with being both homeless and destitute at thanksgiving, both Zack and a reluctant Miri decide that dignity is no longer an option for them, and that they should try making a porn film to make some money.

So it is that Zack and Miri round up a motley crew to finance and star in their movie. Zack's coffee shop workmate, Delaney, fronts some money and acts as producer on a promise of 'seeing some titties'. They also find cameraman Deacon; Bubbles, who has a neat trick learned for bachelor parties; Lester; pole dancer Stacy and Barry, who certainly comes out of his shell as the film progresses.

After some deliberation the gang find a studio and prepare to make their magnum opus: Star Whores, before disaster strikes and their set is demolished just as they are about to begin. After much agonising Zack realises (as happened in real life as Smith filmed Clerks) that his workplace is the perfect setting for a porn film and, even better, is a low-cost solution to their problem.

And everything goes fine until Zack and Miri have to film their scene together. That's when the complications start...

The first thing to be said is that if you don't like Kevin Smith's other stuff, it's a fair bet to say this film won't light up your world. If you do, you'll love it. It has all of those Smith elements in spades: great dialogue, all those geek references and potty-mouthed and puerile humour. Underneath, however, is a rather sweet rumination on male/female friendships. Superficially, it looks as if the relationship between Zack and Miri is ridiculous and not believable, especially because Miri is very attractive. However, fairly early on it is established that these two have been together as friends through some difficult and traumatic childhood and teenage years, so they have an extermely strong bond between them. Rogen and Banks do manage to translate that chemistry: it really does work and you really do want them to just admit that they should be together. Jason Mewes is a riot as Lester, the instantly and permanently priapic satyromaniac and Jeff Anderson, who is on the end (no pun intended) of a truly gross and hilarious anal sex gag (possibly the movie's single biggest laugh).

This film won't change the world, but supplementing the stock Smith crudity and proilixity, there is a rather sweet and touching film. I loved it.

Oh yeah, and if you watch it, make sure you watch *right until* the end.


The Love Guru [DVD]
The Love Guru [DVD]
Dvd ~ Mike Myers
Offered by Springwood Media
Price: £2.75

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not quite the car crash you may have heard about, but not that great either, 12 Jan 2009
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: The Love Guru [DVD] (DVD)
Some things are obvious. Like sneaking out a DVD just into the New Year with not a lot of fanfare. This is the usual indication that the movie in question stinks in a way that only, say, an extremely runny Camembert can. So it seems to be with The Love Guru, which I bought and have now watched. Is it really that irretrievably awful? No, actually, it isn't. It is not, however, anywhere as good a film as it should have been. Why not? Well, I think the greatest problem lies with Mike Myers himself; it's not entirely simple to explain, but I'll try.

Myers has made his reputation on the basis of character comedy, both with and without partners. In the two Waynes World films he worked well with Dana Carvey, while in the Austin Powers films he manages to carry the film along on his own, albeit with strong supporting casts. In both of these cases, the principal character is quite a strong one: most teenage boys or those in their 20's could understand Wayne Campbell to some degree, even it was an exaggeration of the truth. Austin Powers, of course, played on a number of levels: American perceptions of Englishness, the Bond movies (and the Derek Flint films) not to mention the filtering of the 1960's through the eyes of a modern, irony-sensitive audience. The most interesting Myers film, though, is his first: So I Married An Axe Murderer. It's a film with a great supporting cast and one where Myers' character is better developed than in later efforts.

All of these points of recognition are almost universal for audiences in the West. Ufortunately, the same doesn't really apply to the character of Guru Pitka. Because there is less understanding on the part of the audience it's that much more difficult to go with the gag, especially in these more politically correct times when such fun-poking can be seen as rather lazy racial stereotyping. I don't think Myers (quite) gets there, to be fair. His accent does drift alarmingly, however. To get around this lack of understanding of the character he has to work harder to give him a back story, which I think explains things just a bit too much. And it's annoying because there are the foundations of some very good gags, both running and one-off. I also think that some of the deleted material should have stayed in, because it was an improvement on the edits that made it mostly.

One other major problem was that the movie cosied up too much to a target that could have been speared: the remorseless tide of self-help, actualisation, guru-style media floating around in the US (and becoming more popular here). The fact that this film actually had a Deepak Chopra cameo pretty much exemplifies the problem. If the film really had properly skewered the whole Hollywood self-help guru circus, we wouldn't have seen Chopra for the smoke. Myers' own real-life flirtations with such matters probably have not helped him apply his critical faculties to the situation fully, seeing as one could reasonably claim that he's actually a part of it himself.

Those are the film's two major problem. But there are more. To a lesser degree, some of Myers' gags are not as strong as in previous outings. And he does have a tendency to push an idea to its limit (and on occasion past it) to extract the maximum amount of laughter. It doesn't always work this time. But sometimes it does, especially where he uses Verne Troyer well.

Many have also complained about Ben Kingsley 'demeaning himself' playing Guru Tugginmypuddha. I disagree. He's clearly having fun and this is the kind of dumb, puerile humour (not a complaint) Myers does best. The 'Stink Mop' sequence is a riot. In fact, the longer version, complete with Omid Djalili as Guru Sachabignobba, is one of the deleted scenes that should have stayed in the final edit. The top and tail musical sequences aren't bad, though I think the '9 to 5' number worked a little better at the start.

Justin Timberlake does himself plenty of favours as he does seem to have an ability to play comedy. His turn as Jacques 'Le Coq' Grandé is a good one. I also really liked the commentary booth moments with Trent and Jay. The deleted scenes scenes for these two contain a couple of fantastic moments, particularly at one point where Jay is dragged out of the box and shouts a very interesting expression in German (if you've ever read any Robert Anton Wilson) as the security guards haul him away.

In the end, this film is not the car crash you may have heard about. Neither though is it all it should have been. A sadly missed opportunity.


Buso Renkin Vol.1 [DVD]
Buso Renkin Vol.1 [DVD]
Dvd ~ Takao Kato
Price: £17.67

3.0 out of 5 stars Odd, but not bad, 30 Oct 2008
This review is from: Buso Renkin Vol.1 [DVD] (DVD)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
I was never a reader of the Buso Renkin manga, so didn't know anything about this when it arrived. And the fact that this appears to be the second volume in a series set made catching up with who characters were harder than it could have been I have to say that I quite enjoyed this.

Checking back with the manga afterward showed it to be relatively faithful to the manga story arc (not always a guarantee in anime crossovers). Options for subtitling and voice tracks is limited, with only an English dub available. The dub is not bad though, doing a better job than some other efforts we could mention :) Picture quality is acceptable, if not earth-shattering/. there are very few extras of any consequence.

If you're a fan of the manga then this probably won't offend you and it's not too bad for the casual viewer anyway. I was mildly diverted at least.


Movies on iPod 2 (PC)
Movies on iPod 2 (PC)

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Not exactly a worldbeater..., 30 Oct 2008
This review is from: Movies on iPod 2 (PC) (CD-ROM)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
I use a Mac and a PC and own an iPod, so the attraction of being able to automate all of the video transcoding and ripping I'd been doing as a technically proficient user on the Mac using products like Handbrake, VLC, MTR and ffmpegX seemed, if not irresistible, then pretty powerful.

The install was, as one might expect from most modern software, pretty much painless. It took only a minute or so to install on a Mac Mini running Vista Ultimate SP1 in a dual boot.

The primary interface is best described as functional, if a little clunky. Section titles are slightly misleading and don't make it clear quite whether the functions are for transferring from the source disc or the hard drive. Nothing major, just that the wording is a little unclear.

But that is as far as I got. Any attempt to do anything meaningful with the software, like opening (non-DRM) clips from hard disk to preview (and not huge ones either) met with a leaden unresponsiveness, a steadfast refusal to do anything and an insistence on just hanging. It carried on in this vein even after a couple of reboots, so now I have uninstalled it and written it off as a loss. I didn't even get as far as trying to open a DVD with it.

Your mileage may vary of course, but on the strength of my machine I couldn't recommend this.


Dig Out Your Soul [CD + DVD]
Dig Out Your Soul [CD + DVD]
Offered by b68solutions
Price: £4.99

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Faintly surprising, 10 Oct 2008
Ever since the time of (What's the Story) Morning Glory? every Oasis album has been hyped before release with the promise of it being a 'return to form', usually ending in a form of mild disappointment when the album turns out to be good, but lacking the urgent punch and rawness of Definitely Maybe. Don't Believe the Truth was the last such album to suffer from such comparisons. Is Dig Out Your Soul going to fare any better?

Probably not. But that's not because the album's no good. Far from it. Oasis today are not the same band they were in 1994 (in the case of Andy and Gem, quite literally). However, to cut off any sneering gainsayers, 14 years after this debut, they're still here and sound surprisingly energised and fresh. There's nothing in similar vein to the knowing Kinks-ness of The Importance of Being Idle, the highlight of DBTT, but plenty to like all the same.

The good news is that there's nothing embarrassing on this album, pretty much everything passes muster from a quality control point of view. And The Turning, a decent song with a nice Chemical Brothers-style drum break in the intro, is the album's longest song at a touch over 5 minutes. None of the overindulgences of Be Here Now then! A song by song rundown would probably be too dull so I'll pick out a few high spots as far as I am concerned.

First up is Bag It Up, a rollicking stomper, with a distinctly Oasis sound.
Waiting for the Rapture, with a nicely dirty riff to carry the song along, is my current favourite. The Shock Of The Lightning is also a good choice as an opening single as it is a strong effort.

I'm Outta Time is a rather sweet and wonderful thing, complete with John Lennon's voice in the outro, taken from the Andy Peebles interview days before his death.

To Be Where There's Life is even more 60's-vibed, with great swathes of Tomorrow Never Knows swirling and soundscape.

The other songs have yet to grow on me as much as the ones indicated, mainly because I've only had a day to listen to it so far. It is clear the Beatles fixation is still there, with lots of vocal and harmony tics nicked straight from them. However, the overall sound is much more woozy, muddy and generally late 60's psychedelic than at some times previously. It's actually a very nice vibe and makes the album hang together better as a whole than anything in this decade. In addition the compression has been ramped back a little and the sound is an improvement over some earlier albums. The ambiance actually reminds me of the track Liam did with Death In Vegas, Scorpio Rising (but not in a Quoasis way).

Obviously the fans will go and buy it, but it probably worth a look for casual listeners too, who might find some nice surprises.


Radio K.a.o.s.
Radio K.a.o.s.
Price: £7.99

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A mixed bag, 1 Oct 2008
This review is from: Radio K.a.o.s. (Audio CD)
The year 1987 must have been a tough time for Roger Waters. As this album was released, his ex-bandmates were releasing A Momentary Lapse of Reason and embarking on the planet-shagging tour that told the world that the Floyd (or at least a version of it) were back.

Into this maelstrom of litigation and vitriol this album was pitched, which veers from the ridiculous - the underlying concept, for example, to the sublime. It's difficult not to feel more than a little brow-beaten by the polemic of a multi-miliionaire rockstar, with the consolation that, whatever else, his heart is definitely in the right place. The style is distinctly Waters, focusing on the discursive and with musical virtuosity mainly stripped back to basics, rather like his previous The Pros and Cons of Hitch Hiking. Indeed, this style reached its peak on the next album, Amused to Death, which this seems in some ways to be just a progression toward.

Where the music is used though, it really is quite beautiful, like the use of choir on The Tide Is Turning. It is, however, a very distinctly 80's album, showing the same production style as much other output of the time: a rather sterile and over-polished sheen pervades throughout.

There is plenty of good about this album, in spite of all these criticisms. Radio Waves is a storming opener, at once poppy, angry and ever so slightly soulful with its backing vocals. Both 'Who Needs Information' and 'The Powers That Be' are filled with trademark Waters bombast and bile. The final track, The Tide is Turning is affecting and uplifting, even if the political tone is somewhat facile. He's not a political correspondent after all.

It's not without its charms but is likely to have a Marmite effect on many: you'll either love or hate it. I veer towards the former, though it's a slightly flawed diamond.


Death Magnetic
Death Magnetic
Offered by The Music Warehouse
Price: £9.18

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Heavy, Heavy, Heavy!, 18 Sep 2008
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Death Magnetic (Audio CD)
Back in 2003, Metallica looked (and sounded) like a spent force. St. Anger was the sound of a band imploding, devoid of spirit and direction. In short, it managed to both suck AND blow at the same time. And metal fans were sad, because many of them had grown up with the mix of the bludgeon and the rapier that the band had as their trademark. Would they ever recover? Could they?

So, here we are in 2008 and the new Metallica album has seen the light of day. Is it any good? In a word: yes, with a big caveat.

Having only had the chance to listen to it a couple of times since taking delivery, the first thing I notice is that it's less immediate than the black album's mainstream, Bob Rock-produced sheen. There are fewer melodies that stick in the head immediately (though that's likely to change after a few more listens I think). The other is that it's HEAVY. Not just that, but it's a real blitzkrieg of an album. Lars' drums sound positively thunderous and the riffs and solos (of which there are many) sound like Metallica again; brutal and breakneck. Also, it seems that Hetfield's voice is once again a primal, vital instrument; it is assertive and full of barely caged anger, though very effectively reined back more in The Unforgiven III. Right now, the standout for me is the magisterial 10 minute instrumental Suicide and Redemption; a thing of savage beauty. The Day That Never Comes, at least for the first minute or so, has bizarre echoes of 'Classical Gas' which I can't now get out of my head.

I'm more than a little ambivalent about Rick Rubin's production, where The Day That Never Comes, for instance, sounds like the mastering was off and is clipped to hell. And it's not just that song. Most of the album suffers from the same problem. Perhaps this roughness is even partly deliberate, to give the record a rougher edge and counteract the lustre of earlier albums. It does grate though. A lot. So much so that it nearly ruins the whole album for me. Nearly, but not quite.

The most important thing Rubin does do here is the same thing he did for both Johnny Cash (American Recordings et al) and Neil Diamond (12 Songs): he makes Metallica sound like the distilled essence of Metallica. In fact, in terms of style it could easily fit in the period of Ride The Lightning, And Justice For All and the black album. But it doesn't sound dated or old-fashioned. Quite the opposite; this is the sound of a band who sound hungry and vital; a band who have rediscovered their spark and, more importantly, are enjoying it again.

Metallica are back!


Nation
Nation
by Terry Pratchett
Edition: Hardcover

42 of 48 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Jaw-dropping, 10 Sep 2008
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Nation (Hardcover)
One of the funny things about Terry Pratchett is how easy it is to take him for granted. It's probably a truism to say that he hasn't really written a truly bad book. It could be levelled at him, however, that during middle-period Discworld books like Jingo, he was running on autopilot to some degree. All that changed around the period of The Truth and Thief of Time, where suddenly he seemed to find another gear entirely, which has given us wonderful Discworld novels such as Night Watch and the sublime Going Postal, not to mention the series of related Discworld stories starring Tiffany Aching and the Nac Mac Feegle.

Nation is a product of this later, and ongoing, period, but it is something of a departure. It isn't even a Discworld novel. Instead, it appears to take place in our own world, or some parallel version of it, with a distinctly mid-Victorian feel.

The root of the story is The Wave and how it is seen from the viewpoint of both Mau and Ermin...sorry, Daphne (don't worry, it gets explained later in the book). Mau is the sole survivor of The Nation, returning from the ritual exile that begins each boy's initiation into manhood to find his whole society has been wiped out by The Wave. At the same time, the ship in which Daphne is travelling, the Sweet Judy, is wrecked upon the same island during the same [literally] cataclysmic storm.

Apart from just trying to stay alive in the first place, Mau also seems to have to contend with the voices of The Grandfathers calling out to him; actually, ordering him around might be nearer the mark. Survival in these conditions isn't easy, from finding something to start a fire to worrying about the predations of the Raiders. And then there's the Ghost Girl, who wears trousers and carries the portable roof. How do you keep The Nation alive from there? Against the odds, Mau, the Ghost Girl and the others who gradually begin to arrive seem to start making a good fist of it. But there are still enormous obstacles in the way...

Nation is a book overflowing with ideas and, in the end, is one of a more humanist inclination. That is not to say that it is not a spiritual book: quite the opposite. Spirituality is talked about an awful lot, as is the need to be curious and to ask questions about the world around you. Indeed, along the way, the reader gets a more than adequate (and cunningly insinuated) grounding in the workings of scientific method. There is also no cliched happy ending, just a real one, with a rather nice epilogue as it happens; it's nice not to have a cop-out.

For me the standout part of the book is its beginning, and the aftermath of The Wave. Rarely has Pratchett written so powerfully, or indeed so bleakly. There is real emotional force and sadness in his description of Mau's return to his destroyed village home. This is the starting point for another of the book's wider themes: the change from childhood to adulthood, from innocence to knowledge: adolescence. Here, Nation reminded me a great deal of Philip Pullman's his Dark Materials (particularly The Amber Spyglass ). Indeed, like HDM, I would say that Nation isn't a "children's" book at all, just a book that both children and young adults would enjoy reading.

As one would expect from TP, none of this is done in a pompous or po-faced way. He rather has the habit of sidling big ideas like these into his books under cover of gags. After all this time, it's fairly safe to say he hasn't lost his touch. I'd even go as far as to say that, especially because of its beginning, this may be the finest thing he has written (and this, remember, is the author who was responsible, with Neil Gaiman, for the wondrous Good Omens). Given his track record that is saying something, but I think it may be true.

Unreservedly recommended.
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We're British, Innit: An Irreverent A to Z of All Things British
We're British, Innit: An Irreverent A to Z of All Things British
by Iain Aitch
Edition: Hardcover

0 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Funny, but not as funny as it would like to think, 1 Sep 2008
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
No book could hope to be the definitive guide to British culture and simply being British. Which is just as well, because this book isn't it. To be fair it never pretends to be, though it does set itself up as some kind of alternative 'Citizenship Test' in its introduction.

The problem with books of this sort is that there are always omissions that seem glaring to at least some of its readership. I don't understand how, for example, digestive biscuits, public transport, Yorkshire (People's Republic of), class or the north-south divide don't get a mention. It's not because you can't think of plenty of funny stuff to say about them. Unlike others though, this book actually gives you chance to do something about it, providing you with an email address to send your entries.

And in general it is quite funny, though perhaps not quite as funny as it thinks it is sometimes. This gives it an unintentional impression of being rather pleased with itself. It does, however, hit on some gems. One such is the entry about the word crumpet and the varying usages of associated words like 'muffin' or 'stottie' across the country. It's one of the few times where there's an admission of regionalism at play in the nation.

In short, this is a fun book and one that you shouldn't take too seriously. It's certainly fun to dip in and out of and is probably a great book to keep in the loo for those moments when you are at an otherwise loose end.


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