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Nintendo Wii U 32GB Premium Pack - Black
Nintendo Wii U 32GB Premium Pack - Black
Offered by Yachew LTD
Price: 229.99

16 of 21 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Not quite there yet, but having a ball... (Updated), 16 Dec 2012
= Fun:4.0 out of 5 stars 
I originally uploaded this review in 2012 and updated it early this year. I've decided to rewrite it again to reflect some of the new features and games made available as well as a significant system update released to improve stability and performance. I've retained a score of 4 stars and most of the original text (01/06/13).

The Wii U has been available for about 6 months and it hasn't had the easiest of starts. A lack of consumer awareness (or indifference) has resulted in lacklustre sales, the hardware has been derided as current-gen (as opposed to next-gen) and software support has been thin on the ground. Despite this, I think it's fair to say all new consoles suffer teething issues and personally I've been quite happy with my purchase so far.

Despite the name, the Wii U is not an extension to the existing Wii hardware but a new standalone system. For the first time, Nintendo games can be played in 1080p HD and although Wii U features full Wii backwards compatibility, it also introduces new gaming experiences thanks to the tablet-like gamepad.

The big USP is the gamepad and the secondary screen it features that is designed to complement the action on the TV. Nintendo has promised to deliver new, accessible ways to play via this setup and hopes to have as much impact on the end user experience as what motion control achieved on Wii. The touch screen can potentially act as an input device, using gestures to control on-screen action or as a gameplay tool, with maps, inventories, formations etc. available immediately to manipulate, providing instant responses as opposed to having to access these features via the pause menu.

Basic vs. Premium

A few configurations have been made available since launch but the two main packs come in the form of the 'basic' bundle and the 'premium' bundle.

The basic bundle includes a white console unit, white gamepad, the applicable chargers, Wii sensor bar and an HDMI cable. No game is included and the unit contains 8GB of internal storage. For an additional sum you can purchase the premium bundle, containing a black console and gamepad, chargers, Wii sensor bar, HDMI cable, stands for the console and pad, a charging cradle for the pad (very useful), the Nintendo Land game and 32GB of storage. The premium bundle also allows access to the 'Nintendo Network Premium' scheme that is valid through 31/12/14. The scheme rewards users with points obtained by making digital purchases in the Wii U eShop that can then be redeemed against future digital purchases.

Recently, the price of both sets have fluctuated. At one point the basic bundle retailed at half the price of the premium making it better value for money (you can buy an external HDD, game and extra controller for the difference). Prices have since levelled and I would argue that the premium bundle usually represents the better deal.

Setting Up

Setting up the Wii U was straightforward. The console can be placed flat down or on its side using the included stand. I prefer mine flat down and it is currently sat next to the TV. The power pack is the biggest I've seen for a Nintendo console but not too obtrusive. On hooking up the console, setup is initiated through the gamepad that arrived with a limited charge. Here you can adjust your resolution, create/register a Mii avatar and set up online functionality via Wi-Fi etc.

The gamepad requires a separate charge to the console and this should be considered if you already use a number of existing devices around the TV or do not have access to a nearby supply. The console does not include an Ethernet port although a USB to Ethernet adaptor can be used. A mandatory (about 1GB) download was required out of the box in order to use much of the online functionality. This took about an hour and a half to download and install. Additional updates have since been released, one of the most recent (April 2013) took about 45 minutes to complete.

After setting up an account, you access the main interface that comprises the Mii Plaza on the TV and an application grid on the gamepad (although these can be switched). If connected to the internet you will see other user Mii's and posts uploaded to the Miiverse (see games and applications below).

I was able to transfer data from my Wii to the Wii U by connecting both devices to the internet and using the system data transfer tool and an SD card. This allowed me to store Wii saves and purchased content on the Wii U console. I found this process to be pretty convoluted, experiencing error messages that I was eventually able to overcome. To play Wii games you must boot into an original Wii menu that resets the Wii U. The April 2013 update does allow the user to boot straight into Wii mode on powering up the console, Wii U specific peripherals cannot be used in Wii mode.

The Console

The base unit is approximate in dimensions to the existing Wii but longer in length. It's a sturdy unit with good build quality. The glossy finish is something of a fingerprint and dust magnet (similar to older PS3 units), and light scratching is inevitable after you've cleaned it a few times.

The console includes 4 USB ports (2 front and 2 back), an SD card slot, HDMI/component ports that can output resolutions of up to 1080p, built in Wi-Fi and a slot loading optical disc drive which is always a classier touch than top loaders.

It is necessary to hook up the sensor bar in order to use existing Wii peripherals and internal storage can be supplemented by attaching an external HDD. The extra storage is a must if you pick up the white unit and plan to download games and demos from the store. An external drive used by the Wii U cannot be shared with other devices after formatting. An SD card can only be used to save Wii data if you intend to utilise the backwards-compatibility.

The console uses proprietary media offering about 25GB of storage. DVD's and CD's cannot be played but the Wii U is fully compatible with existing Wii discs. The console can accommodate multiple accounts and can be configured to download updates automatically when powered down on standby.

The Gamepad

The gamepad looks to all intents and purposes like a tablet, with controller gubbins either side. The 6.2 inch capacitive touch screen is built on DS hardware and can be used using either your finger or the included stylus that slots into the top of the pad. The screen is not multi-touch and so gestures like pinch-to-zoom are not possible. I found the screen to be responsive and intuitive to use, brightness can be adjusted and plugging the pad to a power supply allows for an additional setting. Volume can also be controlled using the slider.

Nintendo have pretty much thought of everything as far as functionality is concerned, with a built in microphone, headphone slot, front-facing camera, accelerometer, gyroscope and near field communication (NFC) support. The latter will allow for interaction with items such as figures or cards. The usual Nintendo inputs are also here, the D-Pad, A, B, X and Y buttons, triggers/shoulder buttons, a home button, start and select (+ and -) and dual analogue sticks. The pad can be configured to act as a TV remote and this was simple to set up on an LG TV.

It should be noted that this is very much a controller and not a standalone tablet. To use the pad, the Wii U must be powered on and you must be in range to receive a signal on the touch screen. A number of games (though not all); allow the user to play off screen via the gamepad using the touch screen as a display. This can be handy, if for example someone is watching something else on the TV, providing the Wii U itself is switched on you can continue to play the game.

The pad lasts about 3 hours before requiring a recharge that takes about an hour or so. You can use the pad when it is charging although it cannot be charged via the console, the pad must be plugged into a separate power supply either directly or using the cradle. Battery life is an issue, reducing screen brightness and speaker volume will prolong a charge but at a slight expense to the overall experience. Nintendo are due to launch a more powerful battery pack in Japan that will boost battery life to around 8 hours. It is likely that this will be released in the West shortly after and should resolve this issue.

Games & Applications

Several games were made available at launch with ZombiU and New Super Mario Bros. U being the best of the exclusives. ZombieU, a survival horror game, makes great use of the gamepad, whilst the Mario game is undeniably the best in the series so far. Assassin's Creed III, Call of Duty: Black Ops II and Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed are also worth considering, although they are also available on other consoles.

Nintendo Land, the boxed in title, was hyped as a spiritual successor to Wii Sports, a title that would highlight the various features built into the gamepad. The games are a mixed bag but it's easy to appreciate how much fun some of these are. In single-player, Donkey Kong's Crash Course and Yoshi's Fruit Cart are a blast. Luigi's Ghost Mansion is a multiplayer favourite and co-op Zelda Battle Quest has much going for it as does the Mario Chase game. Existing Wii peripherals are necessary for some Nintendo Land games and this can be an expensive proposition if you don't already own these. This game works better as a party title than a single-player experience

Although the launch line up offered a number of games, there was no real system seller and releases have been thin on the ground so far in 2013. Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate, the excellent Lego City Undercover and Injustice: Gods Among Us should all be considered, and the forthcoming The Wonderful 101 and Pikmin 3 look promising. Mario Kart, 3D Mario and an HD remake of The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker are due later in the year. The better third party titles announced include Rayman Legends and Watch_Dogs.

Applications include the Miiverse, that allows users to post comments on games that are then uploaded to forums, the eShop that can be accessed to download full games, indies, demo's and apps and TVii that is due to launch later in the year and will integrate various TV and video services. There are apps for both Netflix and LoveFilm, YouTube and a Google Street View app called Wii Street U that makes novel use of the gamepad by allowing the user to pan around areas using the gamepad.

Verdict

Nintendo still has work to do in order to make the Wii U a definite recommendation. So far I have been pleased with the console and am optimistic that the forthcoming raft of Nintendo developed titles will make the purchase worthwhile.

The good points? The gamepad is a joy to use and off screen play can be really handy. It also makes great use of asymmetrical gameplay that gives an edge to some titles such as Call of Duty: Black Ops II and Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed. The interface is easy to use, Miiverse is a great way to connect with other gamers and Netflix and LoveFilm both work a treat. The eShop is improving every month and the vast majority of Wii games and peripherals can be used. Something that may end up going in Wii U's favour is the fact that the console does not need to be online to play and supports second hand games. It is rumoured that the other next-gen consoles may place restrictions on the user in these respects.

The bad points? It can still be sluggish to access and exit apps although this has largely been addressed by system updates. The gamepad battery is also lacking but an improved battery pack (that can be purchased separately) is due to be released later in the year. The two biggest issues are the lack of releases and system capability. The former will undoubtedly be addressed on the first party front by the end of the year, but third party support is, and is set to remain, woeful. The Wii U certainly doesn't feel next-gen in the way the future Xbox One and PlayStation 4 appear, but then Wii wasn't as powerful as its contemporaries and that didn't stop it from hosting some of the best games of recent years.

The lack of connectivity between Wii U and 3DS is also a missed opportunity. The eShops on both systems should be unified at least but I remain hopeful Nintendo will address this oversight in future software revisions.

The Wii U will gain momentum when the big titles (Mario Kart, 3D Mario, Zelda etc) hit. It is looking like the basic bundle will be phased out and a sub-200 price cut is inevitable when the other new consoles launch. This will hopefully drive sales and tempt the likes of EA back to the console with their franchises. With that in mind, I believe anyone who has previously purchased and enjoyed a Nintendo console will find much to appreciate in the Wii U. Those sitting on the fence are best advised to wait a little longer for the gaming events of 2013 to pan out but I'm sure will not be disappointed long-term with a purchase of this console.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Dec 17, 2012 5:23 PM GMT


Pure Dylan-An Intimate
Pure Dylan-An Intimate
Offered by MEGA Media FBA
Price: 17.76

41 of 42 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A great selection of tracks but the price is a bit of an issue, 10 Dec 2011
This review is from: Pure Dylan-An Intimate (Audio CD)
Given the number of different Bob Dylan compilations already available it was something of a nice surprise to learn of this European import, released to coincide with the great man's recent tour with Mark Knopfler of Dire Straits fame.

Nice because of the track listing, featuring lesser known songs taken from across Dylan's five decade oeuvre along with a few rarities previously unreleased or difficult to obtain on CD:

1. Trouble in Mind - previously unreleased on CD
2. Girl From the North Country
3. Most of the Time
4. She Belongs To Me
5. Billy 1
6. Shooting Star
7. Sugar Baby
8. You're Gonna Make Me Lonesome When You Go
9. Tomorrow Night
10. Every Grain of Sand
11. Percy's Song
12. Born In Time
13. Boots of Spanish Leather
14. This Dream of You
15. Spanish is the Loving Tongue - previously available only on (the now deleted) 'Masterpieces' compilation
16. If You See Her, Say Hello
17. Moonshiner - previously available only on Starbucks exclusive 'Live at The Gaslight 1962'

Packaged in a rather tasteful digipak case with brief notes by Hanns Peter Bushoff, the whole thing makes for a very pleasant listening experience and is something of a must for die-hard fans.

List price is however an issue (it seems to fluctuate but I paid over 20). As such, it would be difficult to recommend to those looking to get into Dylan who will be better served - at least initially - by the 'Essential' or 'Dylan' compilations.

It is however fair to assume that doesn't appear to be the target audience. The hardcore will undoubtedly lap this up for the rare tracks alone...
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jan 2, 2012 10:02 AM GMT


Married With Children : Season 1 (Complete) [DVD] [2007]
Married With Children : Season 1 (Complete) [DVD] [2007]
Dvd ~ Ed O'Neill
Price: 7.25

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Comedy for the ages, 6 April 2009
Al Bundy (Ed O'Neill) is a Chicago shoe salesman who pretty much hates his life. He has a crummy, minimum wage job, a wife (Peggy) who spends all day watching chat shows while gorging on bon bons and two kids (Kelly and Bud) who appear to have more respect for the family dog than him. Al's claim to fame was his four touchdown feat in a college football game that he constantly reminds everyone of, which only serves to make his current situation appear more tragic.

Life isn't made much better by living next door to the Rhoades; Steve and Marcy who represent the parallel to Al's life. Happily married and successful, Steve and Marcy's self-aggrandising and moralising serve only to wind Al up even more.

What makes Married with Children still feel contemporary is the sharp, cynical, almost satirical humour that feels as fresh now as it did when the show debuted back in the 80's. This is the anti-sitcom. There are no fluffy endings; nothing works out right for the hapless Al and on no occasion do the family come together to work things out. Al and Peg (played wonderfully by Katey Sagal) spend much of the episodes bickering, playing off each other in the insult stakes.

The show served as the precursor to the likes of `The Simpsons' and `My Family'. The writers had no intention on playing it safe and that is why, some 22 years on, MWC still remains an influential comedy.

The show ran for 11 series, 2 of which are available to buy in the UK. Series 1 contains 13 episodes and having the pleasure of watching all 11 series (thanks mainly to importing foreign DVD's); I would say that the early ones are the best. Ed O'Neill himself has stated that the show became less realistic as the years progressed, relying more on slapstick and physical comedy. It is fair to say that later series lack the consistency of the earlier years, there isn't a stinker in sight here...

Features are sparse, it would have been nice to hear some commentaries however you do get the reunion special which was filmed a few years after the show was cancelled and is a nice bonus.

I recommend series 1 of Married with Children. If you watched the show during its original run and remember it with fondness you won't be disappointed.


Sid Meier's Civilization: Revolution (PS3)
Sid Meier's Civilization: Revolution (PS3)
Offered by Bargain Games UK
Price: 14.99

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Civ, but not as you know it, 18 Jun 2008
= Fun:4.0 out of 5 stars 
I greeted the news of this first Civilization game on consoles since the PS1 days with something of a reserved excitement. After all, Sid Meier himself was on board (usually a sign of quality) however there remained in me a fear that a console specific Civ game would be simplified for the sake of being a console game. As suspected, I was right to expect a more streamlined game however I must say that I discovered by removing a lot of the micromanagement and complexity, Firaxis have succeeded in making a more focused game, easier to penetrate and a great multiplayer one to boot as well.

For the uninitiated, Civilization is a turn based strategy game. You begin with a small group of settlers based on the great Civilizations (Rome, Greece etc) and strive towards building a vast empire, growing by expanding your culture, developing scientific advances, creating new units and wonders and of course destroying your enemies.

The series began on the Amiga in 1993 and has spawned several sequels and add-ons over the years. With each successive instalment the game has increased in complexity adding new layers that present fresh challenges. Civ 3 and 4 are so in-depth that you could literally spend weeks playing just one game. The scope of the game is truly massive, encompassing all the ages and centuries. Games are played against a variety of other Civs (either AI or player controlled) and various factors can determine the winner; cultural, diplomatic, winning the space race or annihilating your opponents amongst them.

Civilization Revolution differs from its PC cousins. There are fewer units to build, fewer scientific advances. Gone are the complex negotiations you would carry out with other leaders and concepts like vassalage and unbreakable alliances. To give an example of how limited micro-management has become I can point out that workers are now automatically generated when you build new cities, and roads are simply purchased (and automatically built). The whole game has been stripped from the opening screen onwards. For example you now select your Civ and difficulty setting. You cannot choose the amount of opponents, map size or other variables. Real hardened fans may find this too simplistic, those coming into the series for the first time will find it perfectly balanced and not as intimidating as later Civs can prove to be on PC.

The interface is clean and has been cleverly designed around the PS3/360 pad. The developers have taken care not to utilise every button on the pad and this makes it easier to navigate. Selecting units, entering a city screen or engaging in diplomacy is all straight forward and players will adapt after a few turns. The game itself runs at 1080p and looks impressive for a strategy game, the humorous caricatures capturing the essence of the historical people they are meant to portray. The sound is inoffensive and forgettable, the simish speak grating after a while.

The average game lasts about 3-5 hours and those who enjoy the game on the easier settings will be eager to beat the more difficult settings. There are also scenarios, a game of the week mode and online multiplayer to add to the longevity of the title.

So is this worth getting? If you haven't experienced turn based strategy before then this is a great starter, if you absolutely hate strategy games then it is unlikely to convert you. For Civ fans I would say yes to all but the die-hards who must control every aspect of the game, they may find this too condensed for comfort. Others I believe will find it a breath of fresh air.


A Musical History [5CD + DVD]
A Musical History [5CD + DVD]
Price: 57.98

11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars The Band boxed up, 18 Jun 2008
The Band emerged in the late sixties as part of the roots movement that would come to counter the psychedelic influence that had taken a grip on popular music. This group of four Canadians and one Arkansas musician, who once backed Ronnie Hawkins and Bob Dylan, exploded onto the scene with arguably two of the greatest albums of all time - Music From Big Pink and the self-titled second album. Rustic and encompassing various genres, performed with musicianship of the highest order and with a great trio of vocalists in Levon Helm, Rick Danko and Richard Manuel, the albums are like timeless storybooks, documenting a long-gone era with nostalgia, bitterness and regret.

Flanked by a guitarist of the highest order in Robbie Robertson and the almost mythical layer-adding Garth Hudson, these are soundscapes like no other. Songs like The Weight, Whispering Pines, Lonesome Suzie, The Night they Drove Old Dixie Down and King Harvest represent a group in full mastery of their abilities and are rightly regarded as classics.

The problem with The Band is that they peaked too early. The dirty habits of the rock and roll life style set in, drugs and alcohol the corrupting influences that saw the group decline after the third album Stage Fright. In addition to this, Robertson has also alluded to the pressures of being on the road that only served to exasperate the issues facing these talented musicians. By the early seventies, Manuel, once the main songwriter for the group, could no longer pen material. His voice remained entrancing but onstage he could barely perform beyond a few numbers.

The Band would continue to show sparks of their former selves throughout the remaining seven years they spent together. Moondog Matinee, a covers album, is pretty fine and there are a few nuggets to be found on Northern Lights-Southern Cross, one of the original setup's final albums. By the time they called it quits following the Last Waltz they were burned out. Robertson could no longer tour and Manuel would tragically take his own life in 1986. A reunited Band in the nineties (minus Robertson) was unable to capture the magic, with very little new original material penned.

The last decade has been kind to fans of the Band. First Capitol reissued all the original albums, re-mastered and with bonus tracks. Then we were treated to a fantastic DVD edition of The Last Waltz the 'farewell' rockumentary directed by Martin Scorsese. A couple of years back we were also presented with this: A Musical History, an epic box set featuring 5 CD's, 1 DVD and a coffee-table type hardcover book that set out to encompass the entire career of the original line up of The Band.

And the music is for the most part superb. Earlier Hawks (the Bands original guise) material shows up at the start. This begins with Ronnie Hawkins tunes like Who Do You Love? and Further On Up the Road. We then get Levon and The Hawks (sans Hawkins) performing a few meek numbers like the incredibly cheesy The Stones I Throw. Robertson at this point was a growing songwriter and these early tracks serve to showcase his development. We then get Bob Dylan and The Band, represented by a few tracks that have previously been released on Dylan albums before The Band material itself.

For the sake of space, I won't go into a breakdown of each album and what has/should have been included or omitted. However, I will conclude, like many I believe, that any great album should be listened to on its own merit, with all tracks present and in the correct sequence. For the iPod generation, greatest hits packages are something of a necessity and the material that is presented here does stand up. The Weight for example is a great tune, it belongs here, but nothing beats listening to a song like this within the context of the original source.

And therein lies the problem with this set. Who is it aimed at? Fans of The Band will own pretty much most of this material. The reissued albums contain pretty much all the unreleased bonus stuff that could be found. A few slipped gems got away and are included here including a fantastic Robertson only sang Twilight, but do these extra morsels justify the high price point? Maybe not. I was a bit perplexed at the choice of material selected from the Dylan/Band eras of 66 and 74. With so much unreleased live and studio tapes wouldn't it have made more sense to include tracks that have not yet officially been released? Beyond the CD's, you do get the book that houses the discs. This is quite sumptuous, including lavish photography of The Band and key players as well as a solid write up by Band historian Rob Bowman. This is of course, a Robertson sanctioned biography so the nineties incarnation are skipped over.

I should point out there is no post-Robertson material on the CD's themselves. Solo material is also lacking and I would urge those interested in The Band to seek out efforts from Levon Helm, although to be fair, his recent, best work does post-date the release of this set. Sadly Levon Helm passed last year. Rick Danko died in 1999.

The DVD is a wasted opportunity. I believe the Rock of Ages concerts were filmed but instead of getting a full performance we get a ragtag selection of specific performances recorded throughout the duration of the group, stuff you can see on YouTube I suspect. Despite this, it is worth highlighting Manuel's rendition of Georgia on My Mind that is absolutely heart-wrenching.

Newbie's who are intrigued and want to pick something up to get a taste of The Band would be better off paying a fiver or so for the superior studio albums, if they then choose to delve in I would argue this set is a worthwhile consideration (it saves buying Cahoots which is a positive in itself). Aside from them, completists or those with a bit of cash to spare could do a lot worse with 50+ than this. Hardly indispensible but the music is fantastic.

Update (06/01/13)

I have updated the content of this review but have retained the original rating. I stand by this but would easily recommend the 4-disc digital download currently priced on Amazon at 7.49. This is terrific value for money and serves as a great career retrospective. The download version is condensed and there are tracks missing but most of the key material is present. There is also a fantastic live I Shall Be Released that is not featured in the original box-set.


Shoot 'em Up [DVD]
Shoot 'em Up [DVD]
Dvd ~ Clive Owen
Offered by best_value_entertainment
Price: 2.57

1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Forgettable gun porn, 18 Jun 2008
This review is from: Shoot 'em Up [DVD] (DVD)
I'm not quite sure what to make of Clive Owen. He was pretty ordinary in King Arthur but pulled off a superb turn in the 5 star Children of Men. It must come down to his choice of roles. Unfortunately I wouldn't say Shoot'em'up is one of his better picks.

The paper thin plot involves Owen as Smith, all British chic, trying to protect a baby by blasting up corporate bad guys headed by comic book villain Paul Giamatti who is so deluded; he will shoot his own men to prove a point. I would give away more plot points but I would be basically relaying the whole film in one paragraph. With the awesome Monica Bellucci as his super-model side kick we are taken through scene after scene of sub-Woo bullet-ballet action. Even at a paltry 80 or so minutes the action wears thin early on. There is I believe a satirical message underlining all this with regard to the weapon industry but this will be lost on most viewers, your brain will literally have turned off by the conclusion.

So is this fun? I suppose, I certainly don't mind dumb action films, being a particular fan of the 80's Arnie schlock fests but it is disappointing to see Owen move from something as engaging as Children of Men to this. As a rental this is maybe worthwhile, only die hard Owen fans or those who spot it cheap on DVD should consider a purchase.


The Tudors: Complete BBC Series 1 [Blu-ray] [2007] [Region Free]
The Tudors: Complete BBC Series 1 [Blu-ray] [2007] [Region Free]
Dvd ~ Jonathan Rhys Meyers
Price: 12.00

6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Silly, but great fun nonetheless., 11 Feb 2008
This Showtime (a US rival of HBO) series is set during the early part of Henry VIII's reign. Henry (Jonathan Rhys Myers) is still married to wife Katherine of Aragon who has been unable to provide England with the male heir he obsessively desires and his attention is now drawn to Anne Boleyn. Over the course of the 10 episodes we find Henry courting Anne, much to the detriment of Katherine. In the background Cardinal Wolsey (Sam Neill) labours to gain an annulment to Henrys marriage from the Pope so he can marry Anne. Others plot against the Cardinal. The rest as they say is history...

There is much to like about this series. The costumes, settings, even the liberal use of CGI work well to capture the essence of this period. The acting is also pretty solid. Neill of course waltzes through the series adding gravitas to the proceedings. Rhys-Meyers does admittedly take a few episodes to warm to (he doesn't look anything like the Henry Tudor we know from paintings of this period); he does however come to capture the menace of Henry and certainly builds presence by the time the series comes to a close. Natalie Dormer is beautiful as Anne, devious yet irresistible. Jeremy Northam provides a good interpretation of Thomas More. I look forward to his participation in the forthcoming second series.

It was also refreshing to find the series focus on other aspects of Henrys reign. The field of the cloth of Gold, his rivalries with Francis I of France and Charles V, King of Spain and the Holy Roman Emperor. The religious conflict brought on by the rise of Lutheranism is also touched upon; this I would imagine will play a greater part in the next series.

Okay so the bad points. In truth I found the constant use of strong sex scenes a bit too much. Almost as if they were spliced in to generate controversy and attract ratings. These scenes are necessary on occasion but the character of Charles Brandon seems to have been written in purely to provide the token sex scene in every episode. The series also messes with history to suit its own means and those that have studied the Tudor period will find much to nitpick.

Some of the characters are also very one-dimensional. There is little to like in the characters of Thomas Boleyn and the Duke of Norfolk. I would like to have seen more subjective portrayals of these important historical characters.

Overall I did enjoy this in an escapist, guilty pleasure way. The series is spread over three Blu-Ray discs, features are limited and the picture quality is superb which is typical of this format. Recommended.


Whispering Pines: Live At The Gateway 1985
Whispering Pines: Live At The Gateway 1985
Offered by Blind Owl Records
Price: 17.95

9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Richard Manuel 1943 - 1986, 31 Aug 2007
Unlike the other members of The Band Richard Manuel never released a solo album during his lifetime so when I heard of this release a few years back I was quick to snap it up on import. The CD captures a performance at The Getaway Club in upstate New York in 1985. Musicians supporting Richard include Band members Rick Danko and Jim Weider (who would form part of the reunited Band). Richard's voice was passed it's prime at this point but he still manages to deliver an incredible performance singing Band hits such as `The Shape I'm In' and `Across the Great Divide' and standards like `You Don't Know Me' and `Georgia On My Mind' faltering only on (ironically given that he wrote them) Tear's of Rage (Rick Danko has to step in) and Whispering Pines (he forgets some of the lines). However it is clear this was not meant as a commercial release but still manages to come across as a warm and intimate affair with some great banter between Richard and his audience.

The sound quality is fine and even though the electric Piano sound does grate after a while Manuel's vocal performance alone makes this worthwhile for Band fans. Sadly, not long after this was recorded Richard Manuel took his life and the world of Rock lost one of its great vocalists. I whole-heartedly recommend this album.


I Claudius - Complete BBC Series (5 Disc Box Set) [DVD] [1976]
I Claudius - Complete BBC Series (5 Disc Box Set) [DVD] [1976]
Dvd ~ Derek Jacobi
Offered by WorldCinema
Price: 34.40

20 of 21 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars By Jove!!, 21 Oct 2006
The glowing reviews you'll read here are thoroughly deserved by this, arguably the jewel in BBC drama's crown. From Brian Blessed's towering Augustus through George Baker's self doubting and ruthless Tiberius, John Hurt's insane Gaius (Caligula) and finally Derek Jacobi's unfortunate Claudius, this is a perfect history lesson on arguably the most famous and powerful dynasty in history. Everything is top rate, from the acting, costumes and sets. It can be said that the female characters are perhaps a bit too one-dimensional however the focus seems to have been more on the Caesar's whose reigns are so wonderfully documented. Perhaps looses some of the humour and satire found in Grave's novels but nonetheless this is not to be missed. Essential viewing for history buffs and those looking for a soap opera with brains. The DVD isn't bad too with a solid documentary and footage on an aborted Hollywood movie this set is worth every penny.


Buffalo HD-HB250U2-1 USB 2.0 Drivestation 250gb External Hard Drive
Buffalo HD-HB250U2-1 USB 2.0 Drivestation 250gb External Hard Drive

19 of 21 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Avoid, 21 Oct 2006
I purchased one of these drives to compliment my exisiting hard drive, I didn't fancy opening the P.C. and was tempted by the price. However after some 3 weeks the thing stopped communicating with my computer (it seemed to have corrupted) and I lost a great deal of data. The fact that there was sensitive data on the drive has stopped me from returning the product and I have been able to re-format it but have lost all confidence in using it. An expensive doorstop if ever I needed one.


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