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Mr. J. Ryden (In your mind, in the part you've forgotten about.)

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Apartment 143 [DVD]
Apartment 143 [DVD]
Dvd ~ Francesc Garrido
Offered by Leisurezone
Price: 4.99

1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Decent cast let down by a 'flat' plot, 12 Nov 2012
This review is from: Apartment 143 [DVD] (DVD)
I suppose it's only appropriate that I should top-off a weekend of sub-par films with, well, a suitably lacklustre cinematic experience. The latest addition to the phantom-themed found footage genre sees our team of paranormal investigators called to an apartment where father and two children are being harassed by otherworld entity. A move from their previous residence has done little to dissuade this tenacious terror. It's almost as if they're being, um, haunted.

The ghostbusting team are actually rather likeable; the head parapsychic is inadvertently comedy gold as the aloof, laconic investigator with a penchant for contradicting his client. 'Are we being haunted then?' is met with 'No, and i'm going to explain very slowly as if you were a child why you're wrong'. Or words to that effect. The remaining trio are comprised of the chatty tech expert, and a glorified receptionist (sexual chemistry between the two adds a seperate but unexplored thread to the plot).

The family is comprised of father who's at his wit's end; a teenage daughter with a seemingly unfounded and undisguised hatred of him; and the cute young son. Mother met an untimely demise some time hence. Hmmm, perhaps there's a correlation here that no-one has thought of.

So the majority of the film is spent trying to establish whether there is a ghost of whether the occurances are the projection of a family member's anxiety, with the help of an impressive range of gadgets and gizmos. Which brings me to the scares (of which there aren't many); there's a great scene involving an ion-emitting ghostie-spotting box which can interfere with their electromagnetic pulses which, in turn....well, it makes 'em appear, okay? Silent save for the intermittent pulse of the gizmo; it's a protracted scene which cranks-up the tension to the inevitable fright. Equally, there are a number of scenes where you 'expect' something to happen, which don't.

On the downside, the primary focus of the film (the daughter) takes the sullen obnoxious teenager theme to the nth degree so I was instead sympathising with the father. Similarly, there just wasn't enough in the scares department to keep me interested. For me, the biggest problem was the plot inconsistencies; salient points aren't fully explained followed by an unforgivable cop-out of an ending.

In short Apartment 143 is yet another shaky-cam horror film to add to the existing sea of dross out there whose only saving grace is a largely well-acted cast which prevent it from being a complete mess.

Chernobyl Diaries [DVD]
Chernobyl Diaries [DVD]
Dvd ~ Jesse McCartney
Price: 5.00

4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Chernob'll Fallout, 11 Nov 2012
This review is from: Chernobyl Diaries [DVD] (DVD)
Fad for extreme tourism (nod to equally lacklustre Urban Explorers) sees six tourists led to their impending doom by uber-cool Ukrainian tour-guide Uri. Chernobyl Diaries starts off in the mould of Hostel; care-free American backpackers gaily making their way around Europe. As an aside, they could have shorn a few quid off the budget by not filming on location in London, Venice & Rome for the sum of 5 minutes running time.

Shortly before embarking to Pripyat our man Jesse McCartney digs out an engagement ring with which to propose to his long-term girlfriend Natalie (whom provides two ample reasons...) when they get to Moscow. Uh-oh, I think I know where this is heading. That's akin to the WWII pilot reminiscing about the gal he's about to marry. If he could just survive the next sortie.

So thence to the long-deserted town of Pripyat, abandoned (or is it, mwah-ha-ha) by the thousands of her inhabitants in the wake of the Chernobyl disaster. The location is undeniably impressive with a whole town perfectly captured in stasis; daunting Soviet-style tower blocks lie vacant, while a ferris wheel and bumper cars hint at children's frivolity.

Unfortunately, the group are nigh-on impossible to sympathise with; the primary method of communication being the 'whine'. Suffice it to say, due to some totally unforeseen event the group are stranded in the still-radioactive town. What follows is an impressively pathetic catalogue of poor decision making and naff script continuity. My favourite of by-the-numbers horror films is how the length between day and night bear no relation to each other. So, despite being only five minutes away, the group can't get back before night falls.

Equally, individual decision making is laughable in the extreme. This is yet another of those horror films where the director has a fixed start and end who's determined to get the plot from A to B, no matter how credible the characters' decisions are.

Speaking of characters, the only ones who engendered the slightest bit of empathy were Uri and the Aussie tourist (who at least had a braincell at his disposal). So after an hour or so of running around comes the ending. Ooh, here comes the twist ending, bet you can't guess what happens?

In short, an underwhelming knock-off of the Hills Have Eyes. Heck, watch the Hills Have Eyes instead.

The Kentucky Fried Movie [DVD]
The Kentucky Fried Movie [DVD]
Dvd ~ Donald Sutherland
Offered by qualityfilmsfromuk
Price: 8.99

1 of 4 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Laugh? I almost smiled, 9 Nov 2012
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
Oh dear, I only bought Kentucky Fried Movie due to the overwhelmingly positive reviews (4.5 star average) on Amazon. So, there I was, the missus was out on a Friday night so I had a few hours to kill. Cue the usual agonising over what DVD to watch next; with the toss-up of a brutal horror film or an acclaimed comedy I figured i'd opt for the latter.

Now, if anything else, KFM is a salutary lesson in how comedy doesn't always age very well. Being almost 35 years old I don't want to be overly critical but the fact remains I didn't laugh once during the 'film'. Smiled on occasions, perhaps. Then I think of true comic genius like Richard Pryor of the same era; now there is comedy that is arguably timeless.

Anyone familiar with the Zucker, Abrahams & Zucker brand of humour will be expecting lots of visual gags and innuendo which KFM delivers by the spade. The format is a series of short sketches with a lampoon of Enter the Dragon (aka A Fistful of Yen) in the mid section taking-up the majority of the running time. Granted, there are some genuinely original ideas and no doubt introduced the theme of lampoon. Plus there are a number of decent cameos, including Donald Sutherland, which is no mean feat considering this was their first film.

The problem I found was that it just wasn't that funny. To be fair i'm not a massive fan of visual comedy so perhaps that's the problem. In short, certainly worth a watch as curio and will suit those that prefer their brand of 'zany' humour.
Comment Comments (3) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Feb 22, 2013 2:34 AM GMT

Red Lights [DVD] (2012)
Red Lights [DVD] (2012)
Dvd ~ Cillian Murphy
Price: 5.55

3 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Psychics and sidekicks, 5 Nov 2012
This review is from: Red Lights [DVD] (2012) (DVD)
At a little shy of two hours running time, Red Lights had the potential to be dragging at times. On the contrary, the director (as with his previous offering, Buried) is adept at slowly ratcheting-up the tension to unbearable levels; to the point where it would have been a calculated risk to ditch the damp squib ending in favour of a longer film. I haven't been a great fan of De Niro's later works (step forward horror-by-numbers Hide and Seek and the underwhelming Analyze This/That which scream 'thanks for the paycheck') though here he is brilliant as the quietly menacing psychic Silver who has an uncanny knack of silencing his critics.

Weaver is at her usual standard in a role which I daresay didn't tax her overly as the logical doctor who seeks to debunk all things paranormal; aided and abetted by an equally decent Cillian Murphy as her earnest assistant. Elizabeth Olsen provides little more than eye-candy for the teenage audience in a largely superfluous role as Murphy's quasi-intern and love interest (hello, code of practice anyone?).

Of course, the central premise of Red Lights is the cat-and-mouse dynamic as the debunking team seek to expose Silver for the fraud they're convinced him to be. Throughout, until the finale, the viewer is never absolutely certain whether he wields these powers or is simply a very effective showman; which goes along way to keeping the film ticking-along. De Niro exudes an air of invincibility further augmented by a legion of believers and his personal retinue. The fact that he's seemingly untouchable adds a layer of hopelessness to the scientists' cause.

I felt the ending itself to be a bit of a let-down in comparison with the well-developed preceding hour or so. Sometimes loose ends can be to a film's benefit, I think Red Lights could have done without the neat tying-up of the various strands and instead left it to the viewer's interpretation. Ironically, the biggest sin was the number of plot holes that the ending then threw-up.

In short, not a bad film at all though the sum of its parts is stronger than the end product.

The Last Horror Movie [DVD]
The Last Horror Movie [DVD]
Dvd ~ Kevin Howarth

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Overly knowing exercise in pretention, 28 Oct 2012
This review is from: The Last Horror Movie [DVD] (DVD)
Quick review as follows: watch Man Bites Dog instead.

I'm not quite sure where to begin after surveying the wreckage of this film. The Last Horror Movie fails on so many levels. Any gore hounds are going to be left wanting as the on-screen violence is actually pretty tame in comparison to other offerings in the torture-porn genre. Nay, it veers into the slapstick at times (frying pan to the back of the head).

Overall though it was the self-referential, pseudo-expose of the viewer's blackened heart which I baulked at. I don't mind violence for the sake of violence but here the film seeks to justify its existence by attempting to make the viewer complicit; rather like Natural Born Killers but so much so maladroitly.

"Dahling, I want you to break the fourth wall; immerse the viewer!"

The lead actor does a reasonably good job of it as the urbane, unassuming serial killer, and I like to think his soul died a little more inside with the delivery of such ham-fisted lines 'would you sell your TV to save the life of an African child'. Equally, the intro to the film (premise being that he had taped over an existing horror film of the same title with his visual autobiography) was very well observed and shows the director has some talent, albeit wasted.

Mercifully, the running time is very short at around 75 minutes.

Seriously, if you haven't done so already I would recommend the Belgian flick Man Bites Dog, shot a full decade prior to this, which actually succeeds where this film fails.

The Pact [DVD]
The Pact [DVD]
Dvd ~ Caity Lotz
Price: 4.00

3.0 out of 5 stars A reasonable haunted house horror, 23 Oct 2012
This review is from: The Pact [DVD] (DVD)
Watched The Pact primarily off the back of the recent TV ad promotion; it certainly gave the impression of an indie-horror which would offer something out-of-the-ordinary. In hindsight, the marketing men had done their homework splicing-up the film's best bits which only flattered to decieve.

Where the film does work is the palpable sense of dread and foreboding as the camera pans around the tight confines of the deceased mother's house; even where nothing goes 'bump in the night'. A simple, lingering shot of a pitch black closet did far more to induce fear than when the scares proper occur. With this in mind, the first ten/fifteen minutes of the film were by far the most effective. There was a lovely scene involving web-cams near the start, reminiscent of another US horror film, which set the tone nicely.

The cast are all solid in their roles though I thought insufficient screen-time was given to a couple of key characters which felt like the script writer had simply written them off as inconvenient to the plot progression. On the other hand, it was good to see Starship Troopers heart-throb Casper van Dein making a reappearance as the skeptical detective.

Where it doesn't work so well is that the overall plot felt a little disjointed. The biggest bug-bear for me was the reveal near the end; once they introduced that angle I really lost interest as I then began to think of the implications; 'What, you mean to tell me that for all that time....?'. Equally, the aforementioned characters getting wiped from the script; take the young girl, she's introduced to the film for all of ten minutes then she's never heard about again. Really? I'd like to know what happened to her. It smacked of sloppy script-writing.

However, the supernatural whodunnit element did work for me as the spirit seeks to communicate. Similarly, the Entity-esque special effects were done very well. Again though, not enough focus was given on this thread as the film tried gamely to juggle too many balls which only served to undermine the sum of its parts. What was the mother's part in all this, for instance? Was she complicit?

Not a bad film by any stretch of the imagination but could have been a lot more effective.

Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning (Xbox 360)
Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning (Xbox 360)
Offered by Mayflower Stores
Price: 19.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Free roaming hack 'n' slash RPG par excellence, 12 Oct 2012
= Fun:5.0 out of 5 stars 
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
Phew, after more than 60 hours of gameplay I have finally managed to get through the majority of what KoA has to offer. Well, bar three cheevos which i'll get in my next playthrough (yes, my name is OCD; nice to meet you). If you played and enjoyed Lord of the Rings: War in the North, this game is like the more sophisticated and better looking sibling.

What I like about hack 'n' slash RPGs is that they have a little more universal appeal than a true RPG which is no bad thing. So while playing KoA you won't be agonising over algorithms based on D20 rolls and optimum skill-points; instead it's more of a pick-up-and go fantasy game which will keep you entertained while not taxing the grey-matter overly.

In fairness though there are traits of the traditional D&D type game; primarily the choice of class specialization (Mage/Warrior/Rogue) and, even better, dual classes available should you be so inclined. That's never been my bag to be honest as I often prefer a pure class. It's also worth noting that stealth in KoA is pretty much redundant which renders the rogue class nigh-on pointless as there isn't much opportunity for back-stabbing and the like. So, mage or warrior all the way in my opinion.

Also, the talent trees for each class are very impressive and expansive (not to mention creative) which makes a change from the rather insipid 'talent trees' i've seen in other console-based RPGs - oh, great, +1 armour that's inventive. Further, the armour/weapon/accessories customization provide hours of fun in themselves with 'sockets' available in rarer items to augment with gems (either bought or created using the Sagecraft skill). The skills themselves are decent; the most helpful are sagecraft, alchemy and blacksmithing. You'll need persuasion, lockpicking, detect hidden, stealth & dispelling if only for related achievements otherwise a little bit 'meh'. Mercantile? Who cares; anyone fond of RPGs know that around the half way mark you'll have too much currency to know what do with.

The missions are all your standard fare so no massive surprises there; main plot-line, faction/guild quests and a vast abundance of side quests. Go-and-fetch quests, clear out cave quests, speak to x quest etc etc. But that's fine; it's not so much the missions that make a game for me but the sum of its parts.

Oh yes, the Reckoning mode feature in KoA is a pretty cool touch. Essentially, kill enough ne'er-do-wells to fill up your reckoning meter. Once it's full pull the R & L triggers then unleash Matrix-esque/May Payne 'bullet time' fury. Everything gets covered in a purple-hue; time slows down and your attacks get stronger. In the limited time it's active go round the immediate playing area and mow down as many as you can. Once they are all incapacitated, press the A button then a few button mashes later - hey presto - up to 100% extra Exp points.

Speaking of which, your level is capped at a max of 40. Despite doing every single faction/main quest plus scores of side missions I finished the game only reaching level 37 so you'll have no fears of power-levelling too early.

All in all, a great game with lovely graphics; a straightforward battle system; and bags of fun which kept me entertained for many an hour.

French Phrase Book (Eyewitness Travel Guides Phrase Books)
French Phrase Book (Eyewitness Travel Guides Phrase Books)
by DK DK
Edition: Paperback
Price: 3.89

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars It's a French phrase book, 8 Oct 2012
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
I do like the DK range of travel phrase books; i'm sure there are others out there which are equally novice-friendly for the aspiring polyglots, but i've always gravitated towards their phrase books when on a weekend jolly somewhere.

Their French phrase-book is no different, easy to use phrases with phonetics and pronunciations. Phonetics are a big one for me as it's no good knowing the order of the letters if you can't pronounce them properly (after an ill-fated trip to Budapest)! Indexed into key sections for the casual traveller, this phrase book will help you get around and ensure you're understood at the very least, even if you're casually murdering their language, one mispronounced word and misconjugated verb at a time.

Pro-tip: Where possible, rehearse what you mean to say (ie buying a train ticket) in detail, including your best attempt at pronunciation. Clear your throat then impress the foreign speaking world with your multi-lingual skills. The lady in the kiosk will smile approvingly and your family at your side will swoon imperceptibly out of admiration. The lady then asks you a question which you haven't accounted for, uh-oh. A few options here: eloquently say 'Oui' whilst nodding sagely then walk off, leaving them in confusion; revert to blustering English then open your trusty phrase-book while jabbing your finger at what you hope is the correct topic; or get the wife to interject therefore crushing what respect you had cunningly built-up.

Always go for the first option.

On a more serious note, I find it at least courteous to learn the bare basics of the host's language. Even if you're killing their language I find most people will tend to appreciate the attempt. It never ceases to shame me when I hear people complain 'they don't even speak English'. The answer is, they probably do but certainly won't do so if you can't engage the old grey matter.

Offered by RevisionNet
Price: 5.79

4.0 out of 5 stars The boys hit the right notes again, 8 Oct 2012
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Truant (Audio CD)
AAF's debut album AnThology was a cracker (well, technically their second) and one which still gets a regular playing on my iPod. Tight and irreverent rock at a time when Nu Metal seemed to be the music du jour. Belatedly, by many years, i've finally managed to pick up their follow-up album Truant and, boy, is it also a cracker in very much the same mould.

I've already heard the more popular singles a la dub-style Never Meant, furiously rockin' These Days, and the irrepressibly funky Glow. Thankfully, there's more to Truant than these singles; as with Anthology there are an eclectic mix of styles here. Admittedly, I was rather underwhelmed with the opening track. I can see other reviewers have raved about 1000 days but they could have chose a better track to sock it to their listeners. But, hey, that's just me.

Drifting Apart comes on the heels of the opener; a proper rock tune with a Black Sabbath-esque riff end the ever-present AAF theme of relationships break-up. Sarah Wynn is a solid rock tune with another classic riff. Quiet is another belter that demands turning the volume up. Then you have Tia Lupe with an almost Latino feel. However, the standout track for me was SS Recognize, a bass-heavy, swaying and thundering rap-metal tune with brilliant nautical-themed lyrics: 'I'm getting scurvy bad'. Hope and Words are slightly weaker in comparison to the quality track laden middle-album. Still, a decent addition to the AAF discography.

The Dark Hour [2005] [DVD]
The Dark Hour [2005] [DVD]
Dvd ~ Jorge Casalduero
Price: 9.99

3.0 out of 5 stars Post-apocalyptic shenanigans, 7 Oct 2012
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: The Dark Hour [2005] [DVD] (DVD)
It's the end of civilisation as we know it. One half of the world sought to obliterate the other in the name of religion; nuclear warfare forces pockets of surviving mankind to retreat to subterranean shelters in the hope that, one day, it will be safe to return to the surface.

The film starts without any back-story, instead thrusting the viewer straight into the present day via our central protagonist and quasi-narrator; the rather aptly named Jesus. From here we are introduced to the cast and remaining survivors; it's hinted at that it was a much larger community slowly whittled down to the remaining rabble. Tid-bits of information pertaining to the apocalypse are drip-fed through the plot; not to mention the since redundant Cold War-esque state news feed advising how to survive the nuclear winter and a propoganda device demonising the unnamed opponent,

Where The Dark Hour works well is it's a largely character-driven plot which fleshes the cast out as far as possible. On the other hand, it's a predominantly one-location feature so can feel, at times, rather monotonous. As with many sci-fi flicks, there are some lovely original concepts; the Cold Hour in particular which introduced one of the two main 'baddies' was a great idea and, at times, induced the necessary chills. Later on it segues into a more all-out action flick which raises the tempo as we're confronted with the other antagonists, The Strangers.

In terms of scares there isn't that much in the way of genuine horror instead opting for a more character-led study of societal disintigration. And then there's the ending, boy, is that a cracker which only hints at the actuality before hitting you with the credits.

The Dark Hour is certainly an original film with some genuinely fresh ideas which could have benefited from a larger budget and a better explanation of some of the film's key plot elements; firstly the ending and the actions of the equally aptly-named Judas, which frustratingly hint at a bigger picture.

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