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Mark Hilton (U.K)

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Mass Effect (Xbox 360)
Mass Effect (Xbox 360)
Offered by games.empire
Price: £19.95

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Oblivion in space. Wonderful., 21 Feb. 2008
= Fun:5.0 out of 5 stars 
How would you feel, if you had two friends, and you had to send one of them on suicide mission, for which there was no hope of survival?
These are some of the decisions you will have to cope with in 'Mass Effect', one of the single most impressive games i've ever experienced. Sure, everyone is entitled to their opinion (as some of the back-biting comments sent to me have proven), but how some players have garnered this masterpiece with a 1 star rating is beyond me.

Honestly, whatever kind of player you are, Mass Effect adapts for you. Honest to goodness pacifist? Trigger-happy maniac? Whatever. You do things your way. With a squad of marines from various species, you are charged with stopping a rogue commando from bringing the galaxy to it's knees. But how you do that, is up to you.

There have been reports of gamers completing this game in under 10 hours. Talk about missing the point completely. Mass Effect is about exploring the various worlds (of which there are many), building your team up to rock hard status and slowly unravelling the story toward it's thrilling climax. Rushing from mission to mission is just demented, when there is a whole galaxy to explore.

And then there are the graphics. Wow. I've never been a graphics over gameplay sort, but credit where credit's due. The likeness of the characters is, quite frankly astounding. Honestly, you'll have to see it to believe it. And the music and atmosphere just rocks. Oh hell, i've said enough. You go buy.

Assassin's Creed (Xbox 360)
Assassin's Creed (Xbox 360)
Offered by 6 Hungry Weasels
Price: £10.39

0 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Lots of fun, but quite repetitive., 21 Feb. 2008
= Fun:4.0 out of 5 stars 
Jerusalem during the crusades, you play as Altair, a feared assassin who works for a shadowy network of criminals and killers. From the outset, it's impossible not to be impressed with Assassins Creed. The graphics are quite frankly incredible. There is total freedom of movement, and there is obviously a lot of fun to be had playing such an immoral hard-ass as Altair.

As I said, it starts extremely well, as you haunt the city streets looking for clues to expose your soon-to-be unfortunate victim. The areas are massive, I mean huge. And the best part? If you can see a building, you can climb it. Seriously, this guys like spiderman when it comes to vaulting from rooftop to rooftop. You'll float around the cities with an athleticism and grace not yet seen in computer games.

But, and it's a big but. After about 4 hours, you will suddenly start to see chinks in the impressive armour of Assassins Creed. Whilst initially you appear to have total freedom, the actual missions offer no variation at all. You'll quickly develop a rinse and repeat strategy to the proceedings,ie; pick someones pocket, listen in on a conversation and interrogate some poor sod. Then you'll have your target and it's a simple matter of disposing of the scumbag. Hmmm. Fair enough, if your into quick fixes of enjoyment with your computer games. And yet, in todays world of open-ended games like 'Oblivion', this comes across as disappointing.

Don't get me wrong, I enjoyed this game a lot. The counter kill engine works extremely well, and there's an amazing feeling of satisfaction when you silently take out your target with no-one noticing. So 4 stars then. A solid gaming experience that just falls short of greatness.

Blue Velvet (Two-Disc Special Edition) [DVD]
Blue Velvet (Two-Disc Special Edition) [DVD]
Dvd ~ Isabella Rossellini
Offered by 247dvd
Price: £5.50

1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Absolutely brilliant., 21 Feb. 2008
First up, the DVD quality. Appalling. Terrible. No better than VHS. I've read most of the preceding reviews, and everyone seems to have a problem with the picture quality and not the film (rightly so). But seriously, any DVD collection without 'Blue Velvet' in it, quite frankly isn't a collection. This movie is solid gold brilliance from one of cinema's true originals, David Lynch. Lynch took horror movie conventions (make things familiar, then twist them)and ran out of sight of the competition.

On the discovery of a severed ear, our young protagonist Jeffrey (Kyle Maclachlan), decides to turn detective. He quickly realises that nightclub singer Dorethy Valens (Isabella Rossallini) is in serious trouble with some very nasty people. And in the performance that resurrected his career, Dennis Hopper arrives as the nuttier than squirrel poop psycho killer, Frank Boothe, who shows Jeffrey the darkness within himself.

By this point, suspend your disbelief and throw logic out the window as David Lynch piles on the bizarre images with reckless abandon. Severed ears, amyl-nitrate toting facemasks, Roy Orbison and one of the most bizarre death tableaus you'll ever see (no I won't tell you, you'll have to watch).

Every performance is terrific (particularly Hopper's), the 50's inspired visuals are beautiful and look out for Quantum leap's Dean Stockwell in a remarkably creepy cameo.

So don't let the rubbish picture quality put you off. This is way up there with the 80's best.

Persona [1966] [DVD]
Persona [1966] [DVD]
Dvd ~ Bibi Andersson
Offered by Rapid-DVD
Price: £21.07

10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Troubling, abstract and essential., 21 Feb. 2008
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Persona [1966] [DVD] (DVD)
One of Ingmar Bergman's most radical films, 'Persona' can be viewed as a journey in which personality, meaning and individuality blur between fantasy and reality. The tale of a famous actress Elizabet Vogler (Liv Ullman), who inexplicably stops talking, and the young nurse Alma (the astonishing Bibi Andersson) who cares for her at an isolated seaside cottage, this 1966 offering is for many, Bergman's finest film.
Pouring her troubles onto her charge, Alma appears to be strong willed and level-headed, slowly taking charge over her silent counterpart. But faced with this enigmatic patient, her cool facade slowly starts to crumble and she realises that nurse and patient aren't so very different.

The thing with Persona, is that it may baffle film fans who are new to Bergman's work. Recurring motifs like the image of the spider (God), lamb to the slaughter (Christian legacy), and the young boy in a cold room (the boy from 'the silence' 1963) may not mean much to people who haven't seen much of Bergman's work. So as a starting point to Bergman's films this may be too much (and for those who haven't seen any Bergman films, why?), but for any serious film fan, this is essential.

This was the film that cemented Bergman's reputation as not only a film maker, but as an artist. For many, the late, great nordic master comes across as too despairing, too bleak. No argument here. But viewed as a visual poem, this ranks high in the running with the world's best. Bergman's use of isolated location, taboo breaking content and technical wizardry (the two women's faces merge in one extraordinary shot), mean this is baffling, brilliant and at times, beyond words.

Pickpocket [DVD] [1959]
Pickpocket [DVD] [1959]
Dvd ~ Martin La Salle
Price: £18.28

5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A masterstroke in understatement., 12 Feb. 2008
This review is from: Pickpocket [DVD] [1959] (DVD)
Robert Bresson's quiet, understated tales can take a little getting used to. Don't expect any loud explosions, character development, or in some of his cases, any kind of closure at all. A leap of faith is needed, and ultimately rewarded, and 'Pickpocket' remains one of the French master's finest films.

A young man named Michel (Martin Lasalle) becomes disaffected with life and embarks upon a pickpocketing crime spree. After several botched attempts, he hones his skills to perfection, performing several wallet heists so audacious, they would have the artful dodger green eyed with envy. But soon he attracts the eye of not only the law, but a local crime syndicate as well, and the prison bars are hovering too close for comfort.

Pickpocket's true masterstroke is how Michel becomes almost sociopathic in his ventures. By the end, stealing for the thrill instead of financial gain, he seemingly invites the police to come and find him. And the scenes of pickpocketing are truly breathtaking. Michel may be a criminal, but you'll be behind him all the way, desperate for him to not get caught. His canny, virtuoso techniques will have you on the edge of your seat, putting all of Hollywood's derivative action movies to shame.
And by the end, his nimble fingers can do no more good, and a woman's love may be his only salvation.

Received rather poorly in its heyday, Pickpocket stands the test of time with distinction. At only 73 minutes, this absolutely flies by, leaving you desperate for more. And Bresson, ever the master, refuses to let the proceedings get bogged down with sentimentality. Truly one of the greatest films i've ever seen, and you should see it too.

The extras are ace as well. A wonderful 5 minute interview with Bresson sees him answer difficult questions with an intelligence clearly years ahead of his time. Plus tons of retrospective interviews with the original cast and various perspectives on the film itself. Absolute gold.

Dark Side of the Moon
Dark Side of the Moon
Offered by DVD Overstocks
Price: £8.99

3 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars 40 million people can't be wrong., 5 Feb. 2008
This review is from: Dark Side of the Moon (Audio CD)
Whilst Pink floyd are widely regarded as one of rock music's all time legends (i'm still to meet anyone who has a bad word about them), the jury still seems to be out on 'Dark Side Of The Moon', regarded by many to be their masterstroke, and yet still denounced by some (as a few of the preceding reviews will tell you).
But, as with all great albums, DSOTM has inner steel. First time listeners may wonder what all the fuss is about. Too true, there are only 9 songs, 3 of which are musical interludes with no words whatsoever! But on repeat visits, it becomes clear that Pink Floyd were far from your average band. The true resonance of DSOTM is that it is virtually impossible to classify. It's neither rock, blues, jazz or soul, and yet it's all of them. But what lifts it to the realm of all time immortals, is just what a refreshing change from the norm it is. Who but Pink Floyd would have the sheer cheek to play musical interludes for minutes on end, without any need for vocals?

But when the lyrics do come, Roger Waters doesn't hold back. The three stone cold classics from this list, Time, Money and Us And Them, hit with a potent mix of anger and poetry:
"The sun is the same in a relative way but you're older. Shorter of breath and one day closer to death".

Like a fine whisky, DSOTM simply gets better with age. And no matter what the opinions of others, there is no denying the importance of this album in the history of Rock music. 'Dark Side Of The Moon' took Rock and Roll conventions and gave it the maturity it needed to become Progressive Rock. It was that important.

Released in America in 1973, it stayed on the U.S billboard chart for an astonishing 13 years (a world record by a country mile), and has since sold over 40 million copies, making it one of the top 10 selling albums of all time. So now, it's time to see what all the fuss is about. Buy the CD, switch off the phone, ratchet the volume up and let Pink Floyd take you on a journey like no other. You will not regret it.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Oct 22, 2009 2:45 AM BST

Ran [DVD]
Ran [DVD]
Dvd ~ Tatsuya Nakadai
Price: £9.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the great films of all time., 2 Feb. 2008
This review is from: Ran [DVD] (DVD)
Akira Kurosawa was a sprightly 75 years old when he made 'Ran'. After years of struggling to fund projects, and out of favour in his own country (hang your heads in shame), he formed an agreement with French producer Serge Silberman, to do a 're-imagining' of Shakespeare's play, 'King Lear', with European money. Thank God!

Arguably Kurosawa's masterpiece, 'Ran' is a personal meditation on the absolute folly of war, and man's inhumanity toward man. With a painter's eye and the precision of a zen-master, Kurosawa cemented his reputation forever as one of cinemas all-time Godfathers.

Warlord Hidetora Ichimonji (Tetsuya Nakadai), wants to retire and split his domain beween his three sons. When Saburo the youngest, voices his concerns over the idea, he is promptly banished. But absolute power corrupts absolutely, and the two elder brothers are soon vying for total supremacy, with their Father firmly on their hit-list. Not only that, but the vengeful Lady Kaeda (Mikeo Harada), vies to destroy the family from within...

With battle scenes that have yet to be bettered (no 'CGI' rubbish here), performances that range from the sublime to the ridiculous (especially Mikeo Harada's 'Lady Kaeda'), and Kurosawa's beautifully distilled camera work capturing the utter futility of war, 'Ran' is, and remains, one of the great films of all time. Watch it, take a shower, and watch it again.
Comment Comments (3) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Feb 24, 2008 1:02 PM GMT

Céline and Julie Go Boating [1974] [DVD]
Céline and Julie Go Boating [1974] [DVD]
Dvd ~ Juliet Berto
Price: £7.75

12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Soft, strong and very, very long., 2 Feb. 2008
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
Even by the French New wave's standards, director Jacques Rivette's films come across as, shall I say..'Unique'.
Which is probably the reason he isn't as well known as the other New Wavers, such as Godard and Truffaut.

Yet surely fans of the French New Wave are actively looking for films that are a little strange and obtuse aren't they? If that person is you, then I wholeheartedly recommend that you give this film a try.

Celine and Julie meet for the first time at Montmartre. They suddenly end up sharing everything, life, flat, fiance, job, everything. On discovering a magic sweet, they find themselves participating in a film within a film. A young girl has been murdered and the duo must piece together the clues to find the culprit and save the girl. (if that plotline isn't the embodiment of genius, I don't know what is).

Apart from the baffling, magical plot, Celine and Julie works due to the natural chemistry of its leading ladies, Dominique Labourier and the late Juliet Berto. Just watching them impersonating each other during several awkward moments is a joy to behold.
But what resonates most is how Rivette's camera seamlessly enters these characters lives. The viewer almost becomes a third member of this team. As they piece together the plot, we are just as confused as they are.
Then there are the visuals. All hazy loveliness and sweet dreams, this is a place that lies somewhere past the end of the rainbow.

They sure don't make them like this anymore.

The Jean Vigo Collection (2 disc Collector's Edition) [DVD]
The Jean Vigo Collection (2 disc Collector's Edition) [DVD]
Dvd ~ Jean Taris

33 of 34 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Sheer beauty from start to finish., 28 Jan. 2008
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
Some reputations in cinema are over-flated. So what of Jean Vigo, whose career output consisted of three shorts and one feature?
Widely considered one of the all time great film directors, is his legend really deserved on the strength of one full length film?
Oh yes and then some! His short montages 'A Propos de Nice', and 'Taris', a beautiful portrait of champion swimmer, Jean Taris, show a delightful touch and grace of a film-maker still developing his craft.
But it was his anarchic boarding school short 'Zero de Conduit', that truly showed the world that he was a major talent to watch. Unbelievably fearless for its day (full frontal nudity and swearing), this took the youth versus authority storyline to spectacular new heights and spawned a major (and inferior) remake with Lindsay Anderson's 'If'.
However, it was 'L'Atalante' that sealed Vigo's reputation forever. It was hard to believe that Vigo was only 27 when he made it. The greatest ode to heterosexual love that cinema has ever seen (sorry Dr Zhivago), this is a work of delightful playfulness and subtle erotism. A young couple aboard a floating barge find their honeymoon besieged by fighting and fluffy cats (don't ask). The purity of Vigo's film-making is breath-taking in its purity. If you love cinema in any way, shape or form, you simply have to own this.
Not only that, but the second disc is bursting with goodies. A massive documentary on Vigo covers his life, times and films, a look at the various versions of L'Atalante, interviews with key-players, a biography, posters and more! I just hope one day all DVD's are like this.

Bioshock (Xbox 360)
Bioshock (Xbox 360)
Offered by Netro Enterprise
Price: £17.15

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wow. Colour me, impressed!, 28 Jan. 2008
= Fun:5.0 out of 5 stars 
This review is from: Bioshock (Xbox 360) (Video Game)
This is one hell of a first person shooter. No lie, this could possibly change your perspective on shooting games forever. You'll find yourself thinking in ways you never have before. Looking for ways to trap your enemies, using oil slicks and puddles to create maximum carnage and looking for inventive ways to take down 'Big-Daddies'(no mean feat).
Not only that, but the game is huge, the graphics awesome and the storyline is totally immersive (pun intended).
Games of this magnitude are a rare bird indeed, and even in a massively over-saturated genre like shooting games, this stands out. Well worth checking out.

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