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Iset (London, UK)
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Yankee Candle Snowflake Cookie 22oz Large Jar - NEW For 2013!
Yankee Candle Snowflake Cookie 22oz Large Jar - NEW For 2013!
Offered by Casa Candles
Price: £13.64

5.0 out of 5 stars Sweet and foody scent, 27 Nov 2014
The scent was actually more subtle than I expected, it's not overpowering at all, just a nice subtle hint of freshly baked biscuits. If you like sweet foody scents, this may do the trick. It burned cleanly, no smoke, and the wax leftover was absolutely minimal.

Bomb Cosmetics Scented Candle Tin, Starry Starry Night
Bomb Cosmetics Scented Candle Tin, Starry Starry Night
Price: £7.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Soothing scent, 20 Nov 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
Burns cleanly without smoke, and lived up to its posted burn time of 35 hours. Frankincense is definitely dominant in the scent, but it's a muted frankincense, so it's not as spicy as you might expect. It's kept understated and soothing by the vetiver, which gives the fragrance an earthy element. A very nice relaxing scent.

Bomb Cosmetics Scented Candle Tin, Arabian Nights
Bomb Cosmetics Scented Candle Tin, Arabian Nights
Price: £7.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Arabian Nights, 17 Nov 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
Lasted about 36 hours in total, burned with a clean flame, no smoky residue, and there was zero wax left over. As far as the scent goes, I like it, but it isn't my favourite from the Bomb Cosmetics range. The cedar and fig seemed quite dominant, and the lily and jasmine were undetectable. The fragrance also had a powdery quality that I didn't expect from the blend of oriental notes and woods.

The Woman Who Would Be King
The Woman Who Would Be King
by Kara Cooney
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £16.97

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An opportunity for fresh debate, 14 Oct 2014
From the beginning, Cooney sets a very modern slant on the biography, questioning why Hatshepsut’s story is so little known when she was one of the very few successful female rulers in the ancient world. Kleopatra VII’s name is far more widely recognised, globally. Why is this? Cooney proposes that this is a result of an extensive human history of patriarchy and misogynistic gender roles; Kleopatra VII, so often unfairly stereotyped as an insidious seducer using her feminine wiles to secure her grasp on power and oriental opulence, fits into a patriarchal narrative of an ambitious woman who dares to go out of her perceived place as a woman by reaching for power, and ultimately getting what she deserves; whereas Hatshepsut does not neatly fit into this narrative because she was a wholly successful female ruler for twenty-two long years, little opposed, widely supported, and lacking a lurid sticky end. So argues Cooney. Cooney has a strong case, and this new modernist perspective on both Hatshepsut herself and how Egyptologists in the past have interpreted her story, sheds some long overdue fresh light on its subject. However, like so many things in history, I would point out that there are multiple factors why Kleopatra VII is remembered more than Hatshepsut – Hollywood’s big budget movie starring Elizabeth Taylor being one of them, another reason being that the ability to read Latin, and thus Roman authors’ hostile accounts of Kleopatra VII, has never been lost, as opposed to Egyptian hieroglyphs which remained an opaque mystery until Champollion’s decipherment in 1822.

Cooney further argues, in relation to Hatshepsut’s relative obscurity, that the monarch provided a puzzle to historians and Egyptologists who first attempted to tell her story, and even amongst many of the general public today. Cooney explores at length Hatshepsut’s enormous propaganda campaign to facilitate her unconventional assumption of kingship. Monumental and religious building works proclaim Hatshepsut as a pious daughter of the god Amun, assuming power only in his name, because the god himself chose her to rule. Reliefs depicting the expedition to faraway Punt advertise Hatshepsut’s success as a ruler, bringing exotic bounty and riches to Egypt – surely a visible sign of the favour of the gods.

As for Hatshepsut’s love life, it should be noted that whilst Cooney believes Hatshepsut had ample opportunity to pursue a private arrangement, there is in fact no evidence of such a relationship, or who might have been her romantic partner. The Egyptologist community has widely discussed Senenmut in such a role in the past; a man of obscure family origins who surprisingly rose to astronomically high office under Hatshepsut’s auspices, Senenmut was also permitted to depict himself on monuments as being especially favoured by Hatshepsut, and having a close connection with the royal family through his role as tutor to Hatshepsut’s daughter Neferure – some have even suggested that Senenmut, not Djehutymes II, was in fact the girl’s father, though Cooney rubbishes this idea. But despite these obvious signs of favour, ultimately a romantic relationship cannot be inferred. Useramun, a vizier of noble birth, was permitted by Hatshepsut to inscribe the sacred Book of Amduat in his tomb, something usually reserved only for royalty – from which we might equally suppose a romantic relationship, but with ultimately just as much lack of definitive proof aside from Hatshepsut’s extraordinary favour. Ancient Egypt enthusiasts may be scratching their heads wondering about that rock graffiti at Deir el-Bahri that’s supposed to depict Senenmut and Hatshepsut in the carnal act, carved by some gossipy workmen. The simple fact of the matter is though, as Cooney points out, neither figure is labelled with a name, nor is the subservient figure in the scene adorned with any of the symbols of office of kingship. Cooney not only provides a more social, modern history of Hatshepsut, but she devotes time to busting old myths that have long been discarded by the Egyptological community but still persist in the popular imagination; among them, the idea that Hatshepsut set out to steal the throne from her nephew’s rightful claim, or that Djehutymes III set about destroying her monuments in a fit of righteous anger after her death.

Cooney adds that so much evidence is lost from this period, or exists only in the official propaganda of monumental building works, that in recent times Egyptologists have focused too much on a history of Hatshepsut’s monuments rather than the woman herself, reluctant to fill the gaps in history with speculation about Hatshepsut’s motivations and opinions and turning instead to the tangible but unrevealing evidence of the monuments. I have to say, I agree with Cooney on this, even though I admit to being professionally reluctant to ascribe to ancient individuals thoughts and feelings that are ultimately unknowable, and I feel that this new social history with a gendered consideration of Hatshepsut’s life is just what the subject needs. From the perspective of a reader and an Egyptologist, I prefer the social approach, and at the very least, even if this book is not well-received by the Egyptological community (I await the reaction of my colleagues with baited breath), I think most will welcome the fresh take on Hatshepsut and the opportunity for fresh debate in this area.

The text is filled with Cooney’s postulations about what Hatshepsut’s reasoning may have been for this decision or that decision, or what she may have been thinking when this or that event happened in her life. Reading the text I don’t think anyone would mistake that Cooney is saying Hatshepsut did think this or feel that, but she will receive criticism for hypothesizing in this manner. Indeed, as an Egyptologist I feel ethically obligated to stress what Cooney admits openly – these scenes throughout the book are supposition and should not be taken as the final word on the character or nature of Hatshepsut. That disclaimer out of the way, I’d like to applaud Cooney for being bold enough to make use of such supposition. Whilst there’s no way to know for sure, such speculations are not just plucked out of thin air, rather they are reasoned and considered possibilities built on the foundation of what we do know about Hatshepsut and the environment and circumstances in which she moved, and thus are supported by a certain degree of likelihood, even if they’re ultimately unprovable. Nevertheless, as such, I personally feel that this approach is a worthwhile and valuable contribution to the Egyptological community, since it has the potential to fuel healthy debate and bring us closer to our subject, and that overcaution in such matters may be ultimately limiting to the field as a whole.

Whether The Woman Who Would Be King is well-received by the rest of the Egyptological community remains to be seen, and may be a matter for personal ideology in regards to how we approach archaeology and ancient history. However, I have no doubt that it will go down well amongst a wider readership. Cooney’s writing style is fluid, lucid, and engaging, making it a perfectly enjoyable read for a mass audience, and her subject, Hatshepsut, is not so obscure that the casually interested history enthusiast won’t be drawn in to this book.

The Virgin Queen - BBC [DVD]
The Virgin Queen - BBC [DVD]
Dvd ~ Tom Hardy
Price: £14.00

3.0 out of 5 stars The Virgin Queen, 13 Oct 2014
This review is from: The Virgin Queen - BBC [DVD] (DVD)
This is a reasonable reimagining of Elizabeth's life, but I have to say it isn't my favourite. Anne-Marie Duff is an excellent actress, but somehow for me she never clicked in this role. I just couldn't wholeheartedly believe in her Elizabeth. The rest of the cast also performs well, particularly Joanne Whalley, Tom Hardy, and Hans Matheson, but it was difficult to empathise with any of their characters, anyone that I could really root for.

As far as production values goes, I felt it was middle of the road. It's very obviously not a big budget production, but neither did it feel low budget either. The costumes are for the most part impressive, and at least they could muster a sizeable crowd for the Armada speech scene - though that still felt a little silly, since fifty or so extras was still not enough to make up the numbers needed. Others have pointed out the bad prosthetics and wigs. In the cases of the old Elizabeth and Lettice, one can let this go with the excuse that they're supposed to look a little desperate, clinging to the appearance of youth with bad wigs - but unfortunately it was easy to spot young character with bad wig jobs too, so that explanation doesn't really wash.

The history is a little on the patchy side. It's forgivable that the series leaves a lot out, since time constraints naturally mean they can't cover everything, but there are a few gaffes here and there as well, such as Robert Cecil referring disparagingly to Elizabeth's mother, or the coronation ring featuring the Union flag, which of course it wouldn't have back before the Union. In addition I personally wasn't a fan of the series' soundtrack, a blend of choral music and electric guitars which felt incongruous.

All in all, reasonably well acted, reasonably well costumed, reasonably well set... but just not compelling enough for me to watch again.

Vanity Fair [DVD]
Vanity Fair [DVD]
Dvd ~ Gabriel Byrne
Price: £2.75

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A reinvented Regency, 12 Oct 2014
This review is from: Vanity Fair [DVD] (DVD)
If you're expecting a film adaptation that's 100% faithful to the source material, or a Regency romance in the model of Jane Austen then you won't find it here, but you may still find an unexpectedly compelling, bittersweet life adventure story.

Becky Sharp is a penniless orphan with nowhere to go, except wherever her wits can manage to take her. She is totally unashamed about using those wits and charm to inveigle herself into the affections of society’s more fortunate, or to win herself a husband with money and prospects. Her manipulation is quite obvious, and yet it’s difficult to dislike Becky. She’s been dealt a rotten hand in life and yet she works hard to improve it – something we can all understand – and the disapproval she faces from high society due to her low birth belong to a bygone era, making her sympathetic to a modern audience. Becky deliberately sets out to climb the social ladder, and make money off the elite, and yet she still remains a sympathetic figure – she’s not without certain scruples. With her unique charisma the scales the highest rungs of society, coming to the attention of the Prince Regent, but at the end of it all she’s still at the mercy of fickle high society, who make sure she falls as quickly as she rose when she angers powerful people.

All this is set against the backdrop of a very cosmopolitan Britain, at a time when the British Empire spanned the globe and British forces were engaged in a decisive struggle against the Napoleon. No small country gentry setting for Vanity Fair. This is a Britain awash in vibrant colour as the luxuries and fashions of the empire flooded into the country from India, Africa, the Americas, and trade with China and Japan, replete with exotic sights and smells that were all the rage during the Regency. Becky Sharp embodies the spirit of the age; avant-garde, daring, garish, sometimes shocking, at a time when power was shifting, opening up heretofore undreamt of possibilities and opportunities to the general populace on a massive scale. Her story however is ultimately neither a tale of a scaling that ladder nor of the eventual tragedy of Becky’s fall. Rather, it is a vivid tale of the life that happens to us all as we struggle to achieve our dreams and ambitions. Vanity Fair takes us on this journey with her, and does so with surprising nuance and perceptiveness. This is a timeless tale.

Huge plaudits must go to the cast and crew. Everything comes together in the perfect storm. Every actor played their part to perfection – not once was I aware of the acting; these characters were real people – and Reese Witherspoon was absolutely magnetic as Becky Sharp. Mira Nair directing judges every scene to perfection. There’s a touch of the stiff, staid Regency social minutiae we’re familiar with, but the world is more real, more tangible, more colourful than the typical image of a Regency period piece. This isn't an attempt at a romance, or a love story. Nair makes is very much the story of one individual's life struggles. There are real consequences, devastating consequences, and every single one of the characters is deeply flawed in their own way – Thackeray is largely responsible for this of course, but Nair succeeds brilliantly in conveying all this to the screen without losing any of its subtlety and potency. There are changes from the book - which I shan't discuss in detail for those who haven't yet read the book or seen the film - but comparing the two, one has to concede that the book creates an altogether darker Becky, and avid fans of the book may be disappointed. However, I for one still enjoyed the film's ending - this is still a tale of triumph and tragedy, but true to life, life marches on whilst we put the past behind us.

Tristan And Isolde [DVD]
Tristan And Isolde [DVD]
Dvd ~ James Franco
Offered by rsdvd
Price: £3.58

2.0 out of 5 stars Great effort, just not my cup of tea, 11 Oct 2014
This review is from: Tristan And Isolde [DVD] (DVD)
This film has just never worked for me. There are certainly points to recommend it, but on balance these were just barely outweighed by the negatives.

Watching the “making of” documentary it’s clear that a lot of people put a lot of effort into this production. The script writer was clearly inspired, and quite obviously the director and co-producer – Kevin Reynolds and Ridley Scott – had been thinking about doing this film for years. The fight scene choreographers clearly know what they’re talking about, everyone praises the costumers who made all the costumes from scratch on a very low budget, and it’s even explained at one point just what lengths they went to to conceal the relatively low budget – for examples, switching camera angles forwards and reverse in a fight scene and re-using the extras, just to make it seem like the battle is bigger than it really is. I have to praise their efforts; tricks like this undoubtedly helped mask the low budget, and the costumers really did do a good job; the dark age clothing really does look interesting and authentic. Except for when James Franco sails away from Ireland wearing something that looks like it’s out of a high street brand catalogue’s autumn fashion knitwear collection. But something about the whole film feels off, to me. So where does it go wrong?

The cast certainly features the requisite big names that you’d expect of a well-made production. Rufus Sewell as King Marke (Pillars of the Earth; Charles II), James Franco as Tristan (Rise of the Planet of the Apes; 127 Hours; Spider-Man), Sophia Myles as Isolde (Spooks; Doctor Who), Henry Cavill as Melot (Immortals; Man of Steel; The Tudors), Mark Strong as Wictred (Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy; Sherlock Holmes; The Young Victoria), Dexter Fletcher as Orick (Band of Brothers), Thomas Sangster as the young Tristan (not big back then of course, but nowadays the face of Jojen Reed in hit series Game of Thrones). Sewell undoubtedly gives the best performance of the lot, as a nuanced King Marke who is simply trying to be a good king and a decent guy; heck, he’s even considerate of his new wife and in the end takes pity on the doomed lovers even though they’ve nearly destroyed everything he’s worked his life to build. For a warlord in the Dark Ages, he's pretty enlightened. Mark Strong, whilst another consistent actor, is simply given dross to work with in the unrelentingly villainous Wictred, and can’t do anything to save the character. Fans of Henry Cavill may have preferred him in the role of Tristan – but as Melot he’s woefully underused and then towards the end of the film shoved into a fool’s errand as a traitor with little set up behind this character’s sudden change of personality. However it’s our two leads, Sophia Myles and James Franco, that are the biggest problem here.

Myles doesn’t necessarily feel miscast as Isolde, but the character is so passive and vapid it’s hard to empathise with her. An attempt is shown to make her seem smart and strong, through her reading books and her defying strictures to heal Tristan and then conduct an affair with him; but when it really counts the character proves herself to be just the opposite. She pulls back from her one real chance to be bold – leaving Ireland with Tristan shortly after they first meet – because reasons? This after her father has made it clear that she is little more than a pawn to him and betrothed her to a brute she despises, all the while she sighs wistfully claiming that she wants more in life. She says nothing to explain the situation to Marke before they are wed, and then she allows herself to be bullied by Tristan’s accusations that she doesn’t love him anymore back into his arms. Meanwhile Franco just doesn't wash as the romantic lead at all, though it's unclear if it's his acting that's the problem or if he's hampered by the script. His character was inscrutable and gave no indication of being in love with Isolde, and the couple lack any chemistry - Isolde and Marke had more spark. Then Tristan acts little better than a sullen, angsty adolescent, before passive-aggressively guilting Isolde back into bed with him, after which he becomes insufferably arrogant, brushing of matters of state he's worked towards for years and behaving like a jerk to his best friend. By the time he tries to make amends I had no sympathy for the character.

I just didn’t feel any romance between these two. A combination of utter character foolishness, and total lack of chemistry, and the whole romance fell flat. Just because the girl is pretty and the boy is passably handsome, and they roll around a bit, does not a romance make. This is undoubtedly the film’s biggest failing, but it’s a combination of factors that bring it down. The low budget does show, despite the best efforts of the crew. The promotional material for the film promises viewers epic battles. Of that there are none, and sad to say despite the attempts at visual trickery, even the film’s big set piece showdown looks like about two dozen guys hacking at each other in a well-choreographed sequence. The film moves at a rather ponderous pace throughout, with little momentum or tangible direction, and there are a few plotholes here and there that are distracting. Why is there a random hidey-hole in the great hall in the beginning? How come after years of living there no one else has noticed the secret tunnel in Marke's keep when the trapdoor is so poorly concealed? How convenient is it that the slave wagons stopped right in front of the leaf-covered pits, and that the runners didn't get shot?

Ultimately, I just didn't get on board with this one. The crew obviously put a lot of effort in, the big name cast gave their best, but the film founders on the failure on the romantic chemistry, and combined with other points like the odd pacing, a few stray plotholes, and a bit of a low budget, it was just enough to make it more of a miss than a hit with me. Just my personal reaction; obviously many people enjoy this one.

The Other Boleyn Girl [DVD] [2003]
The Other Boleyn Girl [DVD] [2003]
Dvd ~ Natascha McElhone
Price: £2.45

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Low budget, but more coherent, 10 Oct 2014
Naturally it's impossible not to compare this version with the Hollywood film. This version is slightly better than the Hollywood one in terms of accuracy - Mary Boleyn is restored to her correct place as eldest of the siblings, and thankfully there's none of the marital abuse here that was inexplicably included in the Hollywood film when it wasn't even in the book. However, this version does keep the incest in, which the Hollywood version pulled back from. But, again in this version's favour, it's actually explained what happens to Mary's first husband, and here there's no Mary Boleyn stealing the future queen of England at the end. So the narrative is definitely more coherent, even though the adherence to the source material is another matter for debate entirely.

This version is unmistakeably the poorer cousin of the Hollywood film, quite literally. It's quite obvious that this was made on a shoestring budget. The costumes are cobbled together, the cast never seems to number more than 20 at most, the scenes clearly make use of whatever grand country houses will let them borrow a room or a corner of the gardens and in some cases just seem to be a set dressed with a curtain and a few candles, and the entire thing is shot on a handy cam. To be fair, the handy cam may have been a stylistic choice - the whole piece feels like it's trying to recreate a The Blair Witch Project "found footage" feel, and throughout the footage is covered with a grainy filter, and at times the Boleyn sisters break the fourth wall by sitting in a "confession" room where they look straight into camera and talk directly at the audience. Perhaps the director was trying to bring some immediacy into the story by shooting it in this way, but unfortunately it doesn't pull it off. It feels strange and incongruous throughout. The Hollywood version definitely wins this battle - silly it may have been, but visually at least it was gorgeous, with all the production values you'd expect from a big budget film.

It's a wonder on a budget this low that the film managed to get the cast it did; Jodhi May as Anne Boleyn, Jared Harris as King Henry VIII, and Philip Glenister as William Stafford. Natascha McElhone is miscast as Mary Boleyn simply due to her age - Mary of the book is a mere teenager, and historically barely in her 20s - but she does her best with such abbreviated screen time and not much to work with. Likewise with Philip Glenister and Jared Harris, who fit much better into their roles but simply don't have enough time to develop them that much. Jodhi May is the best of the lot, with a passing resemblance to Anne's portraits and giving the role a certain verve and sparkle. She's certainly a sight better than Natalie Portman's Anne. Unfortunately these decent performances can't save the production.

So where does it stand? The Hollywood film certainly wins out on visuals and production values, no doubt there, but this version just tips it overall, with better performances and a more coherent narrative than the Hollywood film. However, it's brought down by the wince-inducing low budget which tells in everything from the sets to the style of shooting to the woefully small cast, and it ultimately feels unsatisfying.

Stoneglow Candles - Water Lily Twinkle Twinkle Tumbler Scented Candle
Stoneglow Candles - Water Lily Twinkle Twinkle Tumbler Scented Candle
Offered by Three Little Bears Shop
Price: £9.00

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Sweet floral fragrance, 30 Sep 2014
As far as scent goes, this is sweet and very floral, and has a lot of throw and potency. It didn't give off any smoke for me either, and quite easily created a wax pool which meant there was little to no waste. It's a little pricey since the star-filled gel takes up a fair bit of the tumbler, meaning there's less candle, but if you don't mind that it is pretty and the fragrance is beautiful.

Woodwick Petites - Water Garden
Woodwick Petites - Water Garden
Offered by ZB Direct
Price: £5.33

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Water garden, 27 Sep 2014
A really gorgeous scent that really does smell like water lilies in an aquatic garden. The wood wick very easily melts the whole diameter of the candle into a wax pool, so there's absolutely no wax wastage. It also gives off a small, constant wisp of smoke, though I didn't notice any smoky smell, but it was visible. The wood wick also gives off a rather tall flame, so be aware of where you put this candle.

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