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Tim Wilkinson Lewis (Cambridge, England)

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Doctor Who - The Complete Series 8 [DVD]
Doctor Who - The Complete Series 8 [DVD]
Dvd ~ Peter Capaldi
Price: 36.75

45 of 66 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A long-forgotten gem, 29 Jan 2014
Imagine the thrill that must have gone through the circuits of the World Service's aerial archivoid drone when it spotted an old-style analog "digital video thing" frozen in antarctic permafrost. This season has been on Doctor Who fans' "most-wanted lost serials" ever since its accidental loss in a routine vaultpurge in October 2088, and now at last it has been found!

Highlights include: the famous Terrible Zodin two-parter - recently named DWM's least worst serial of the first 100 year of the show; the Ice Warriors' feeble Christmas pantomime; the first appearance of the new TARDIS interior (smaller on the inside, that goof having FINALLY been corrected); and the famously horrific Easter special "Revenge of the Dinosaur", in which the Doctor is teleportally merged with previous companion Jamie McCrimmon, now aged 146. Plus, we can finally see the surviving "Young Davros" speech in its proper (and sexy!) context, in the powerful season finale "Time-Swim / Elephantiasis of the Daleks".

As with many of these old BBC digidisks during the Moffat era, there are menu options to switch off the female characters.

NOTE: Although most of the actual episodes survive in colour, Peter Capaldi himself is only in black & white, and Gemma Louise-Colman has had to be reconstructed from stills.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jan 31, 2014 8:53 PM GMT

Dominion Dark Ages
Dominion Dark Ages
Price: 28.90

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars It's time to take in the trash, 27 May 2013
= Durability:3.0 out of 5 stars  = Fun:4.0 out of 5 stars  = Educational:2.0 out of 5 stars 
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Dominion Dark Ages (Toy)
'Dark Ages' is (hang on hang on) the twenty billionth expansion for Dominion. So my hopes for it weren't particularly high. But I'm evidently a simpleton, because it's great!

Most of the new Kingdom cards are gleefully demented and sadistic. My personal faves are:
- Death Cart: which gives you a massive cash bonus for the turn, but forces you to trash Actions, and also packs your deck with garbage.
- Cultist: a bit like the Witch, except that instead of giving Curses it gives Ruins, and - here's the fun bit - it allows you to immediately play another Cultist, so you just chain the blighters together.
- Rats: when you play this, you trash something else and gain another Rats. So if you start buying and playing Rats, they rapidly eat your entire deck until you're left with nothing but Rats. God knows what you're supposed to do then, but it's pretty funny while it's happening.

There are also various new card types - Knights, Mercenaries, Hovels, Ruins, Spoils - all of which are a bit "fiddly" in how you use them. We had a taste of this kind of thing in 'Cornucopia' with those daft Tournament prize doodads. The new card types in 'Dark Ages' work well enough; it's just a shame that the same gameplay effects couldn't be accomplished within the existing rules frameworks. Retrieving cards from the Trash still feels wrong to me. (Normal humanoids of course will not care about this.)

So, those new card types smack of the designers' desperation to find ways to shoe-horn new gameplay in; but it doesn't matter because the old-style stuff in the box is just as good as ever and there's a lot of it. 'Dark Ages' delivers exactly what y'oughtta want from a Dominion expansion: a STAGGERING pile of interesting new Kingdom cards to stir into the existing pot.

City Of Lost Children [DVD]
City Of Lost Children [DVD]
Dvd ~ Ron Perlman
Price: 6.37

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Scattergun brilliance, 26 Nov 2012
This review is from: City Of Lost Children [DVD] (DVD)
Drifting circus strongman One (Ron Perlman) and orphan-pickpocket Miette (some small French actress) blunder into the insane schemes of a group of deranged cloned scientists who live on an oil rig and steal children's dreams. The action wanders through an extremely entertaining cityscape of grotesque characters, bizarre schemes, and steampunk technology; but ultimately it's a rather unfocussed affair, and it could have done with one or two 'access' characters, with whose struggles the viewer could more easily identify. One and Miette ALMOST fill this role - but not quite.

The film is filled with brilliant images: a brain-jar with a retro-camera-shutter for an eye; a staircase which acts as an organ keyboard; leaky dream-canisters; shots from a flea's point of view; and the use of a rat with a magnet on its tail to retrieve a key from the far side of a locked door. But the plot often seems to slow down, indulgently; in one or two cases the narrative goes completely out of the window in order to show some absurd chain of lurid coincidences. These are good fun, but not as essential to the theme as the equivalent sequences were in Gilliam's 'Brazil' (which is a huge influence here).

The result of all this steampunky organ-grinding is that secondary characters are quite loosely sketched. The villains, and indeed most of the adult characters, are implied to have a lot of fascinating backstory, but it's barely explored - which is a shame as it would have been nice to put all the whimsical, seemingly-arbitrary events of the film into some kind of context - and it is all revealed to the viewer quite separately from the main characters' own discoveries. So, City of Lost Children is worth watching, but ultimately it's a fairly superficial film.

Oh and (of course) the dub on this DVD is awful; try to get hold of a subtitled version instead.

BIC For Her Medium Ballpoint Pen (Box of 12) - Black
BIC For Her Medium Ballpoint Pen (Box of 12) - Black
Price: 14.77

318 of 325 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Hopeless, 18 Aug 2012
As a MILLIONAIRE AUTHOR of BESTSELLING TECHNO-THRILLERS, I have to say that I was very disappointed with this pen. Whenever I tried to write punchy, in-your-face prose about the nuclear payload capabilities of the B-2 Northrop-Grunmann stealth bomber, I found myself instead writing about shopping, cocktails and friendship. And when I tried to write the title 'OPERATION CRISIS POINT' at the top of the page, I found myself writing 'DIARY OF A THIRTYSOMETHING' instead. Is Jeremy Renner gonna want to star in the movie adaptation of that? IS HE HECK.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Nov 7, 2012 7:48 PM GMT

Raw Meat [DVD] [1973] [Region 1] [US Import] [NTSC]
Raw Meat [DVD] [1973] [Region 1] [US Import] [NTSC]
Dvd ~ Donald Pleasence

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Mind the gaps, 17 Aug 2012
'Raw Meat' - aka 'Death Lines' - has what is (probably) the best plot premise ever: railway workers became trapped in collapsed tunnels during the construction of the London Underground, and a century later their inbred descendents have become cannibals that prey on commuters. SUPERB. I was really prepared to like this movie, even though I knew it couldn't possibly be as good as 'The Wicker Man', or even as 'The Blood on Satan's Claw'. And, yes, many of the ingredients often found in classic 70s horror films are also found here; namely:

a) Donald Pleasance,
b) a female lead whose blouse is gratuitously ripped open in the final act, thus cheapening the whole movie, and
c) Christopher Lee.

Now, ingredient (a) is very entertaining, as always. This time, he's a sarcastic working-class police inspector. But (first problem) you'll find yourself wondering why he gets so much screen time, given that by the time he works anything out, the viewer has already known it for ages. Someone seems to have had the bright idea that the story should begin as a police-mystery-thriller, and delve into horror in the second half, as the perpetrators of the bizarre killings are gradually revealed. But for some crazy reason, the concept of "degenerated Victorian tunnel-ghouls" is introduced early on; and it's info-dumped on the audience in such a way as to leave us with no doubt that it will turn out to be true, simply because it would never been shoehorned in so clumsily otherwise!

The film's other two main characters, a student and her annoying American boyfriend, are generic monster-fodder - they just get chased around. But it's hard to care much, and the movie simply isn't all that scary! There are a couple of sudden shocks - literally, there are two - and the tunnel-cannibals' crimes and their revolting underground lair occasionally disturb as the camera lingers on lovingly-gnawed human remains - but the chief ghoul just seems like an angry tramp, only becoming really grotesque very late in the film; and there's very little 'escalation' in the threat or horror.

'Raw Meat' squanders most of its running time on a redundant police investigation, a startlingly-abortive subplot about MI5 meddling in the case, and irrelevant vignettes from the characters' domestic lives. Meanwhile, the great Christopher Lee has only one scene, and the credits roll just when things were getting interesting. In summary: Pleasance's sarky cop character oughtta have his own TV show, in which he can spent half an hour crackin' wise without slowing everything else down. Then the cannibal-underground-workers story oughtta be a totally separate movie from that, with a whole other act added on the end.

Man, I wish this film was good; I really do.

The House of Silk: The New Sherlock Holmes Novel (Sherlock Holmes Novel 1)
The House of Silk: The New Sherlock Holmes Novel (Sherlock Holmes Novel 1)
by Anthony Horowitz
Edition: Hardcover

9 of 13 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Anatomy---accurate, but unsystematic., 31 Jan 2012
'Horowitz'? I do not recall the name, Watson. Pass me down my index from the shelf - let's see what 'H' has to tell us.

Let's see... here's 'Hardwicke', the old stalwart; and 'Hart', who did a good job for me once or twice. 'Hack' - see Moffat, Steven. 'Hand-cuffs' - see the same. 'Hollywood' - has treated me well enough, but did you a disservice. 'Hammer' - who bred a solid Hound, but nothing special. 'House, Dr. Gregory' - faithful in his way. 'Holmes of Baker Street' - by that nuisance Baring-Gould, which I must re-index under 'hatchet-job'. Here we have 'Hugo Award' - you remember that knave Gaiman, and his emeralds? 'Holocaust' - the grim connection in the case of the orphan, the railway song and the trained parrot. 'Horror, Deptford' - one of Carr's flawless efforts. 'Horror, West End' - an earlier and more comical effort, by old Meyer. We're getting warm. Ah, here's our man. 'Horowitz, Anthony' - forger.

Dear me! "The New Sherlock Holmes Novel"? When a man of letters invokes the definite article in such a way, one cannot help but take the view that he's putting on airs. I am not the most ardent admirer of your literary efforts, Watson, but if pressed I will admit that I prefer the briefer accounts, and even your longer reports were usually mere frames for a substantial embedded narrative. Simplicity, not complexity, is the heart of my trade; my simplest cases have been my most instructive. As a longer chain of reasoning is more likely to have a weak link, so an extended narrative is more trying to the reader's attention. It's a brave author who tries to measure up against the rare triumphs of the Baskervilles and Sholtos. One quality with which we may credit you, Watson, is economy of style - a sentence or two is all it takes you to invoke the dismal smog of the Metropolis or the russet slopes of such-and-such. Horowitz, sadly, is not in your class. His atmospheric descriptions ramble on somewhat - he is a fair imitator, but he doesn't know when to stop. The same might be said of his plot - or even of his attempts to reach the emotional depths. You yourself are not misrepresented, Watson, but I dare say that I am sketched as a little to broody and affected - a product of the author's apparent desperation that his book must plumb abysses hitherto unplumbed. Mr. Horowitz throws the two of us into many situations for which you and Dr. Doyle never provided an original - and it is telling that these situations are the least persuasive. The book is a passable forgery - but not an exceptional one; future coiners would do well to remember that 'more is less'.

As an example, see 'House of Silk'... an entry for the House itself - good old index, it doesn't disappoint! Here we are. 'The House of Silk was a criminal organization involved in...' - but we mustn't provide facts outside of their correct sequence. Suffice to say that it's a uniquely, grotesquely villainous establishment. The author frames the book as "a tale for which the world was not yet prepared" - a fair conceit, but the reader may find that the book's horrors to be too directly drawn from a few fears of the modern age. The grotesquery feels a little jarring, and will particularly surprise those who expected the story to inhabit a 'young adult' milieu.

Here I spy a note in the margin, drawing our attention to a further difficulty: "See also - Heavy-Handed, Allusions That Are Somewhat". Mr. Horowitz has a habit of distorting his narrative in order to nod and wink at the reader with more than tolerable smugness. Here, a long passage has you - yes, YOU, Watson! - accepting discreet aid, on my behalf, from none other than Professor Moriarty! Are we to give serious consideration to such preposterous developments? An extended cameo appearance by the late Professor - like many of the devices in this book - won't mean much to those who are unfamiliar with your own accounts of my cases - and those who CAN be expected to smile in recognition may instead balk at the contrivance. The horror at the climax leaves one with the distinct impression that the author couldn't quite decide on the tone of the book - swinging as he does between a winking pastiche in the manner of Meyer, and a grim, unromantic crime story of a type that Doyle never really attempted.

No, it won't do. As fare for the hungry Sherlockian, it is digestible enough - but commonplace.

Back to the shelf with it, Watson, and pass me down a volume of Klinger! If any other questionable texts should happen to come your way, I will be happy to give you one or two hints as to their veracity.
Comment Comments (5) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jun 22, 2012 8:11 PM BST

The King's Speech [DVD]
The King's Speech [DVD]
Dvd ~ Colin Firth
Price: 2.99

9 of 15 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars So you're making a historical prestige picture, 18 July 2011
This review is from: The King's Speech [DVD] (DVD)
With our patented technique, anyone can churn out a three-act crowd-pleaser about the Royals. Follow the steps below and your milkman will be delivering your Oscars before you know it.

1. Opening a GCSE history textbook at any page. Whatever period is described, that's your setting. Skim-read the page if you feel like it.
2. Throwing a dart at a Windsor, Saxe-Coburg or Plantagenet family tree. Whoever it hits, that's your protagonist.
3. HM the Protagonist must be struggling with a serious political, moral, or medical problem. The exact nature of the problem should depend on the century. Here are some suggestions: 9th Century: Vikings. 10th Century: Blindness. 12th Century: Archbishop of Canterbury just will not behave. 17th Century: Gender roles. 18th Century: Madness. 19th Century: Sex. 20th Century: Stuttering. 21st Century: Hypocrisy. 22nd Century: Mice.
Mandatory scenes for this act include: large state occasion at which something is not quite right; fireside/bedroom scene of royal family member providing emotional support.

It is now necessary to add the following secondary characters:
1. A historical figure who is concerned about the protagonist's problem for political reasons. Prime Ministers are best. Casting should be obvious based on body shape. Disraeli: Sher. Baldwin: Jacobi. Churchill: Spall or McNeice. Most British thesps have recently returned from a harrowing tour of duty on the faculty of Hogwarts, so are desperate to re-integrate into more respectable cinema.
2. A succession of eccentric middle-aged men who propose outrageous solutions to the protagonist's problem. These solutions must be non-specifically historical and absurd: mesmerism, spoonful of mercury before breakfast, leeches, Powder of Sympathy, horoscopy, invading France, and so forth.
3. Third, a non-establishment character who appears to be a crank but is actually the only one who understands the protagonist's plight. This character becomes a Mentor.
Mandatory scenes for this act include: montage of sinister marching feet, rolling wheels, stormclouds; protagonist behaving uncharacteristically for one scene - for example, swearing and getting angry; character ironically expressing utterly doomed sentiment, e.g. "Cromwell wouldn't dare" / "Rhodes will never make it big" / "That Hitler seems like a corking chap" and so on.

Secondary characters mill around in staterooms, grumbling about whether or not problem has been resolved.
Turns out it has. Crowd cheers. Other royals cry with joy and grin with uncharacteristic glee. Protagonist turns to Mentor; is rewarded with sagely nod.
Fade to black screen; caption: "HM the Protagonist returned to public life and became hugely popular. Mentor returned to America but the two remained close friends. Protagonist never spasmed again. The End."

Congratulations! Your movie is complete. If you've followed the steps correctly, your movie has high production values, excellent performances, comic cameos from the British a-list, and absolutely no surprises whatsoever. A dose of cinematic anaesthesia, predictable and formulaic and inoffensive in every detail, free from all dissent, subversion, or opinion; satisfying us, but saying nothing; suffused in that conveniently indefinable quality we call "charm" - the prerogative of pornography throughout the ages!
Comment Comments (3) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Mar 26, 2014 11:56 PM GMT

Nightingales [DVD]
Nightingales [DVD]
Dvd ~ Robert Lindsay
Price: 11.15

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars There's nobody here but us chickens..., 15 July 2011
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Nightingales [DVD] (DVD)
Strange, theatrical, silly, absurd, mysterious, aimless, and philosophical - Samuel Beckett never wrote a sitcom, and this is it.

Paul Makin's 'Nightingales' is fascinating, and it's a shame that it's not better remembered nowadays. At a glance, it looks like a very traditional sitcom, but it isn't. It's unique. Some people "get it", and others don't. Here's why I think it's one of the best TV shows ever made.

The premise does seem like standard stuff: three security guards stuck on a night shift in an empty office block, getting into all sorts of ridiculous scrapes. There is plenty of daft farce - but there's also a unique (and very weird) allegorical aspect. The main characters - Carter, 'Ding-Dong' and the Sarge, each a very distinct type of idiot - are ruled over by the whims of their faintly-sinister and unseen employers, and forced to contend with a succession of strange visitors who seem to infect the series with unwanted plots. When a tyrannical security chief is sent to keep the men in line, the episode gradually transforms into a sea story about bloodthirsty mutiny, complete with flashes of lightning and punishment by cat-o-nine-tails. A cop tries to use the building as his base for a surveillence operation, and our heroes seem to feel illogically compelled to take on the roles of the criminals whom he describes. And Carter and Ding-Dong frequently slip into "Shakespeare mode" - hunched backs, dry ice and sneering verse - as they plot to remove poor old Sarge from the throne.

That's the series' distinctive theme: three confused goofballs stuck in limbo, casting about for something to BE, as well as something to do, and unable to resist any new idiom which walks in the door. There's a lot of other throwaway strangeness too - hypnotism, werewolves, heart surgery, doppelgangers, a woman who gives birth to electrical goods, and a silverback gorilla with a particular interest in the poetry of A E Housman - but it's real absurdism, proper surrealism, rather than just contrived wackiness. Scenes pass without any advancement of the plot, and without any punchlines. Continuity - even reality - is non-existent from one moment to the next. And all of that is fine by me, because we're meant to be laughing at the all-encompassing joke that the human condition is really just a lot of nonsense. The final episode - "Someone To Watch Over Me" - is a special triumph, and is waaaay more than just 'situation comedy'; it has moments that actually send shivers of existential dread down my spine.

The title of this review is a quote from the show; it's how the main characters always reply - in unison - whenever someone asks "Is anyone there?". This is the closest thing that Nightingales has to a running gag, and no-one in the show - or in real life - seems to have any idea what it means. Isn't that great? Watch it late at night. Five star.

Twilight Imperium 3rd Edition [Toy]
Twilight Imperium 3rd Edition [Toy]
Offered by Buy-For-Less-Online
Price: 65.26

50 of 52 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars You may think it's a long way down the road to the chemist's, but that's just peanuts to Twilight Imperium, 2 Jun 2011
= Durability:3.0 out of 5 stars  = Fun:4.0 out of 5 stars  = Educational:2.0 out of 5 stars 
One of Fantasy Flight Games' flagship products. 'Flagship' is a particularly appropriate term in this case because the game's box is probably big enough to count as an oceangoing vessel and could easily be used to paddle quite a few people to shore if the game happened to be on hand during a shipwreck.

Twilight Imperium is an immense and sprawling strategy game; a Fall-of-the-Roman-Empire-simulator patched together from Herbert's 'Dune' and Asimov's 'Foundation', and wrought in a million tiny little plastic spaceships. Big chunky hex-tiles form a random galaxy of planets, wormholes, asteroids, and supernovae, scattered around the ancient throne-world Mecatol Rex. Each player is a fledgling species with a home planet, a fleet of ships, a stack of technology cards, and one or two weird alien abilities. Every turn, each player selects one of the eight role cards - thus choosing their 'priority' for the turn - and spends command counters on researching new technologies, constructing ships, moving fleets, trading, invading other players' planets, treachery, espionage, betrayal, etc.

The rules are complicated. The command system seems elegant at first, because you're placing one type of counter to do pretty much everything... but there are so many exceptions to how the system works that the elegance is wasted. There are a lot of cards, a lot of special counters, and a lot of plastic models representing various types of ship, with look-up tables telling you each ship type's stats. So it's not one for lightweights. Or for children. For most kids, this boardgame would be more complicated than their actual lives and could throw them into an existential crisis. You don't need that.

Another minor flaw is that the game is lousy at deciding who wins. The 'Imperial' role card gives you two victory points when you take, out of the dozen or so that you need in order to win. If any player tries to take this card, the other players have to also try to take it when they can, because otherwise it'll be difficult to catch up by getting victory points some other way. Players can fulfil public and secret objectives in order to gain more points, but who makes it to the win condition first often ends up pretty arbitrary. Most player groups quickly institute a house rule that the Imperial card only provides one VP, not two - but even this doesn't completely fix the problem.

But here's the crux: it doesn't matter. It really doesn't! Don't play it to win; decide your own crazy goals! It's blisteringly huge and freeform, full of unexpected changes of fortune, and you can pull all the outrageous stunts that scheming galactic empires always pull. Usurp the chair of the galactic senate, buy and sell votes, enact grotesquely unfair laws, renege on trade agreements, steal technologies, launch sneak attacks and huge invasions, drive species to extinction, bombard planets, see mighty space fleets annihilated, and pointlessly stab your allies in the back during important council meetings. If any of that sounds like your idea of fun, then you should order this gigantic ultra-game and invite some strapping, muscular friends round so that they can help you carry it into the house when it arrives. The question of which player happens to fulfills some daft victory condition at the end of the game is pretty irrelevent. A good game lasts for hours anyway, so the chances are that it'll end because someone else wants to use the dinner table.


P.S. Dear Fantasy Flight Games: I notice that HALF of the box's content is packaging. Once I'd punched and pressed out all the components, I was throwing away more than I was keeping. Not very environmentally friendly. On the plus side, the half-empty box is sufficiently capacious that I can easily curl and sleep in it when the game goes on longer than a day.

The Amazing Screw-On Head and Other Curious Objects
The Amazing Screw-On Head and Other Curious Objects
by Dave Stewart
Edition: Hardcover
Price: 9.45

7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A screw loose, 20 Oct 2010
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
Difficult to know quite what to make of this one. It's as mad as all outdoors.

Mignola's art is magnificent, as usual. But most of the volume is concerned with parodying the man's own work and the pulp fiction which has influenced him. The result is a disordered pile of shaggy-dog stories - classic Wierd Tales which start out as traditional pulp adventure, but quickly twist themselves into knots, descend into slapstick farce, or just cut off in mid-stream.

The main feature, 'The Amazing Screw-On Head', is the most developed story, but even it comes to a rather abrupt end. I laughed like a crazy fool all the way through it, but mostly because I appreciated it as "Hellboy, but much sillier". The same goes for the backup feature 'The Prisoner of Mars' - it's a farcical mash-up of H.G. Wells, Clark Ashton Smith, David Lindsay and Edgar Rice Burroughs, about a Victorian scientist who dies, is transported to Mars as a ghost, gets trapped in a robot body, inadvertantly teaches the sneaky Martians all sorts of useful things about the Earth, and is eventually saved from his predicament by a series of huge explosions and a big talking shrub. In short: a non-stop barrage of ridiculousness, expressed entirely through early 20th-century sci-fi tropes. The question is, does that sound like your idea of fun?

'The Magician and the Snake', 'Abu Gung and the Beanstalk' and 'The Witch and her Soul' are tiny fairy-tales which are just as ludicrous, but which feel slightly less conceited. All three give off the same air of incomprehensibility as the shortest, most baffling Hellboy stories, and they seem like good examples of Mignola's notion that a proper supernatural story ought to include a few elements which are slightly beyond human understanding. What are the moral lessons we're meant to learn from these tiny, demented fables? No idea.

So if you appreciate how ironic and self-defeating and absurd it all is, and recognize the idioms and pulp modes that are being sent-up, this collection is wonderful. But newcomers unfamiliar with Mike Mignola's other comics, or with the sources for the torrent of inky pulp freakiness, might not know what to make of it. It's all very daft and cheerful, but you may need to unscrew your head a little bit first.

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