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Gavin Wilson

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Skechers Men's Shape -ups Biathlon Walking Shoe
Skechers Men's Shape -ups Biathlon Walking Shoe

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not sure this product isn't a joke..., 5 Aug 2010
There can't be many items of footwear that come with their own DVD, but these 'Shape Ups' do. And the DVD is an instructional video that teaches you ... how to walk! And of course it's American, with lots of encouragement telling me how well I am doing in copying their movements. (How does the woman know?!)

And that brings me to another point: the whole package -- the brochure, the leaflet, and the DVD -- is very female-oriented. All the photos are of women. Both instructor and student in the video are women. Is this footwear really for men?

And another point: all the images are of women walking on flat surfaces -- typically asphalt or, indoors, tiled flooring. There is the occasional shot of a woman 'doing' stairs, but none of anyone on an inclined surface. Woe betide anyone who attempts a bumpy surface. I still feel a bit shaky on my Shape Ups -- not so much the backward-forward rocking that you might expect; it's the lateral shakiness that worries me more. Maybe my ankles will get stronger.

I don't think anyone is pretending that these are running or vigorous sports shoes: I wouldn't want to risk a game of tennis or squash wearing these.

The sales blurb claims that these shoes promote weight loss, tone muscles, firms buttocks and improve posture and circulation. But frankly this is what walking in almost any type of shoe can achieve. Which brings me back to my original point: this product is aimed at those gullible enough to believe that they need a video teaching them how to walk. The general public may be a bit dim, but they're not that stupid. Surely?

Hasbro Risk Balance Of Power Boardgame
Hasbro Risk Balance Of Power Boardgame

4 of 9 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Takes far too long to set up, 29 Dec 2009
= Durability:3.0 out of 5 stars  = Fun:1.0 out of 5 stars  = Educational:2.0 out of 5 stars 
The Risk franchise is broad today, various film-linked versions of the basic board game, a dice game, and now these variants on the original. No doubt at least 90% of the buyers of this game will know the original Risk.

But I think there's an enormous difference between the game-players of 40 years ago and today. Then we were desperate to fill the hours of boredom; today's kids expect to get playing the game as soon as they've opened the box. Alas one player setting up any of the Basic Training missions could easily take 20 minutes to arrange all the pieces. And then there's the frantic reading of every section of the rules to check that the rules of attack and defence, troop movements and additions, are basically the same as before.

The cover of the box depicts a Lord of the Rings type of spears-and-swords battle, but the rules inside talk about 'Satellite Centres' -- surely some anachronism there? And one fundamental rule -- that one player decides how both armies will be laid out, then the other player decides which colour they will be -- has no basis in the reality of warfare whatsoever.


Glittering Prizes [DVD] [Region 1] [US Import] [NTSC]
Glittering Prizes [DVD] [Region 1] [US Import] [NTSC]
Dvd ~ Tom Conti

4 of 9 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Watchable but slow-paced for much of today's audience, 29 Dec 2009
I have to say I was slightly disappointed by the six episodes of this series. The links to Cambridge are tenuous at times -- it's more like a collection of six individual 'Play for Today's in which some of the same characters reappear.

I just missed the series when it was first shown in 1976, went to Oxbridge myself, then read Raphael's novel, which I now realise had a greater consistency than the TV programmes. (In the accompanying documentary, Raphael seems pompous indeed. He focuses more on philosophy than I expected.)

The BBC make-up department has a tough job depicting Conti and his colleagues as Cambridge students in the early 1950s then middle-aged people in 1976. The dialogue is theatrical rather than realistic.

It's good to see actors that I would later know as Zaphod Beeblebrox (he actually quotes the number 42 in episode 6!) and the Snow Queen from the 1980s BBC production of Narnia.

Sound and picture quality, apart from the glitch in Episode 1, is pretty good. More is done in a studio than would be done today, so the background silence seems unrealistic.

I watched to the end, but I didn't feel I gained much insight into mankind or the Cambridge experience as a result.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Dec 2, 2010 2:52 PM GMT

GBH [DVD] [1991]
GBH [DVD] [1991]
Dvd ~ Julie Walters

6 of 9 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars They wouldn't make it like this today, 15 Aug 2009
This review is from: GBH [DVD] [1991] (DVD)
In a revealing interview, Alan Bleasdale reveals how GBH emerged from what was originally going to be a drama about a family vacation -- the Great British Holiday. There is a certain degree of kitchen-sinkery about this drama, which lacks focus at times. The holiday is irrelevant to the main plot. His philandering poet friend and his pregnant wife are also irrelevant to the plot. The pace is often slow by today's standards. And yet some of the plot twists are inadequately explained. Why on earth does Michael Murray need to appear at the meeting to expel Jim Nelson from the Labour Party? Why does Barbara fall for Michael? Why is Michael eventually arrested? Why does he need to shred so many official documents? The final episode is very poorly edited, with switches between individual stories that defy explanation.

Yet there is much to enjoy here, particularly the seduction scene against the background of a Dr Who convention. Robert Lindsay is brilliant throughout, and far more sympathetic a character than Derek Hatton could ever be. It would have been nice to know a little more about the shadowy right-wing organisation that funded and choreographed the insurrection. The madnesses exhibited by the two lead characters contain highly realistic elements: Nelson's urge to go naked and his fear of drops, Murray's uncontrollable left-arm salute.

There's a slight whiff of the Dennis Potter fan club about the drama, but we'll forgive that.
Comment Comments (3) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Nov 25, 2012 9:49 PM GMT

Price: £7.99

10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars How did I overlook this one?, 22 Jan 2009
This review is from: Upojenie (Audio CD)
I must be on the wrong mailing lists, because I only found out about this album last week, despite being a Metheny fanatic since 1977's 'Passengers'.

All I can ask is why did it take a Polish group to do the inevitable and turn Pat's melodies into proper songs? To my mind, many of Pat's compositions, particularly the earlier ones, belong in the great American songbook, as indeed do some of Keith Jarrett's, so this album gives them some of the recognition they so richly deserve.

It goes without saying that attempting to update such a 20th century classic as 'Are You Going With Me?' takes some courage, but the band is clearly having a ball, and it works on every level.

Pat Metheny's original ECM compilation, 'Works', is my standard CD loan to any friend as a test of whether our musical tastes stand any chance of overlapping. I've got half a mind to switch to this album!

Starter For 10 [DVD] [2006]
Starter For 10 [DVD] [2006]
Dvd ~ James McAvoy
Price: £3.57

2 of 7 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Good actors let down by dismal writing, 28 Dec 2008
This review is from: Starter For 10 [DVD] [2006] (DVD)
I sensed that the writer had taken as many ideas from his shoebox collection, mixed them in with bits he liked from 'Notting Hill', 'Gregory's Girl' etc, and then combined them with all the University Challenge horror stories (e.g. the abysmal recruitment at New Hall, Cambridge, when only five girls applied to be on the team). He hoped for the best, but the resulting, incoherent mess is just a ragbag of undeveloped ideas. If just one more writer had been added, the sharpened-up plot could have been at least 50% better, with the result that the contributions of many decent actors wouldn't have been wasted. This plot was crying out for Andrew Davies to come in and do the improvement job he did for 'Bridget Jones', and his experience with the university comedy 'A Very Peculiar Practice' would have been invaluable.

Very little was made of Macavoy's father dying. The only point seemed to be to get a reaction shot as he found his mum in the bath with another man.

Much more could have been made of his getting into Bristol University, a tier-one institution for most subjects. (Was it that the production team really wanted him to get into Oxbridge, but none of the colleges would be associated with the film?) It just didn't seem credible that only five students would want to represent Bristol on University Challenge.

Why did he cheat? What happened to the team after the match depicted here?

My final complaint is that by setting this story in 1985, rather than in the sixties or seventies, the production chose the worst decade in history for contemporary popular music. Yes, it's nice to hear the Cure again, but they're hardly the summit of musical achievement, compared to Elvis, the Beatles, Stones, Zeppelin etc, are they?

Please, please, no more British films plotted by a solo writer with insufficient experience of film and TV. A terrible waste.

Shine A Light [DVD]
Shine A Light [DVD]
Dvd ~ Mick Jagger
Price: £5.61

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Nicely filmed but lacking soul, 27 Dec 2008
This review is from: Shine A Light [DVD] (DVD)
I'm not a typical Stones fan. Although I have a number of their CDs, my favourite is 'It's Only Rock and Roll' for the sleazy funk of 'Fingerprint File'. I can still recall Mick strutting down the aisle in his pink suit for 'Brown Sugar' on Top of the Pops. I have a number of friends who have seen the band in concert, but they've never been highest on my wish list. So this DVD represented an inexpensive way for me to see what I've been missing.

However I sense that this wasn't a proper Stones gig. Attractive girls populated the entire front row. The Clintons and their 30 guests were in the audience. The venue, the Beacon in Manhattan, is not enormous. Scorsese's cameras cannot have been unobtrusive. Behind the band are loads of men doing little -- presumably the band's normal production team plus Scorsese's. I sense this is more 'An Audience with Mick' (with the requisite guest appearances) than a Stones' stadium gig. Christina Aguillera, by the way, is superb for her one song.

Mick is clearly energetic, but I imagine that as soon as he's off the stage, the enthusiasm and the commitment are instantly switched off. It's just a business, it's just the 40,000th rendition of 'Satisfaction'.

Wonderful cinematography, but a big shame that Scorsese couldn't have filmed this in the 1970s, when there really was a Stones ethos whether they were on or off stage.

The DVD extras, incidentally, are minimal.

Fire: The Anthology
Fire: The Anthology

2.0 out of 5 stars So much dross, 24 Dec 2008
This review is from: Fire: The Anthology (Audio CD)
One of the biggest rock tragedies of the 1970s was that the band which created 'Journey' broke up. It is an extraordinarily good album -- up there with 'Focus III', Golden Earring's 'Moontan', and Magma's 'MDK, all from the same year. I wasted a lot of my time (not very valuable then) and money hoping to find another Arthur Brown album as good, but without success. 'Galactic Zoo Dossier' was at least interesting, but the 'Kingdom Come' LP that followed it was a real stinker, and made me question Brown's judgement. I wasted another £2.50 on 'Dance' and that was the end of my affair with Arthur, although of course I bought other albums on which he guested, most notably 'Tales of Mystery and Imagination' (sadly not featured on this compilation) and 'Captain Lockheed', which has surprisingly stood the test of time.

By the time CD arrived in the 80s, a US band was calling itself 'Kingdom Come' and Arthur appears to have lacked a label or a lawyer willing to challenge this theft of his band's name. Polydor was never the quickest label to release back-catalogue onto CD, but the US band's arrival cannot have hastened the appearance of the original Kingdom Come's albums on the medium.

Brown seems to have had an on-off affair with Christianity: off at the time the CD inlay notes were written, but clearly on when recording some of the poorer tracks featured on the compilation.

Personally I would recommend ignoring this album. If you only buy one Arthur Brown album, it has to be 'Journey'. In fact, every rock fan ought to have a copy of that CD. For your next, it's a toss-up between 'Crazy World' and 'GZD'.

Risk Strategic Conquest Game
Risk Strategic Conquest Game

47 of 49 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Another re-design for the world's greatest proprietary board game, 15 Nov 2008
= Durability:2.0 out of 5 stars  = Fun:5.0 out of 5 stars  = Educational:4.0 out of 5 stars 
This review is from: Risk Strategic Conquest Game (Toy)
Ever since playing this with my cousins and brother back in the 1960s, I've always thought this the greatest'Waddingtons' board game of them all. But of course it's not made by Waddingtons any more.

Over the decades the game has been updated, to persuade me to buy another copy. In the 1980s, the Parker Brothers variant introduced Objective cards whose content you only disclosed at the moment you were claiming a win. For this new version, the idea of objectives have been retained, but all players can see them, and you only receive the objective when you've actually achieved it. We need not bother with all the film tie-in versions: Narnia, Lord of the Rings, Transformers, Star Wars etc.

I like it. As other players have observed, the game is over more quickly than previous versions, although set-up can take a long time, particularly the introductory game. My biggest gripe is with the arrow pieces which are not an improvement over the plastic triangles, blocks and beads in earlier variants. I can see that the arrow metaphor works well as an idea, but in practice they're a bit of a bugger to pick up.

The game retains the world map of the original, along with the same continental values -- which means that North America still has an unnatural advantage, and Asia is rarely captured until close to the end of the game. However the game does travel in different directions compared to the original version where world conquest was the only objective. In particular, you need to protect your capital. Hanging on to this is even more important than blockading all the entry points to your continent.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Nov 28, 2010 4:06 PM GMT

Flags of our Fathers & Letters from Iwo Jima (2 Disc Special Edition) [DVD] [2007]
Flags of our Fathers & Letters from Iwo Jima (2 Disc Special Edition) [DVD] [2007]
Dvd ~ Ryan Phillippe
Price: £6.00

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Great 'from both sides' idea, 8 Nov 2008
The presence of Spielberg on the production list means that this pair of films will always receive comparison with 'Saving Private Ryan'. However the battle action isn't quite as intense.

The first film is less of a war film and more of a film about celebrity and its temporary nature. Whereas the Europeans make memorials to the unknown soldier, the Americans made a big mistake in focussing on the personalities of the particular soldiers involved, even if they weren't the right ones, and even if they had done nothing more than hoist a flag in battle.

In comparison, the second film is riveting. The first is constrained by the book on which it is based; the second is required only to reflect the various meeting points between the two sides -- and indeed, a few of the same action scenes turn up in both films. But the Japanese are depicted far more humanely than I have ever seen before in a WW2 film, and more heroically too. The general who leads his troops is depicted consistently as a truly great man.

Beware the language settings on 'Iwo-Jima': there are sub-titles, but no voice-over for the Japanese dialogue which makes up over 90% of the film. There is an English descriptive channel for those hard of seeing, but I found it distracting, and quickly got used to the subtitled version.

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