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Paul Stevens (Southampton, UK)

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The Somme - From Defeat to Victory [DVD] [2006]
The Somme - From Defeat to Victory [DVD] [2006]
Dvd ~ Ben Goddard (II)
Price: £11.30

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Powerful, informative and beautifully made, 31 Dec. 2011
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
I've long had a minor interest in military history and recently decided to do some more reading up on the First World War. As I result I brought this DVD since the Amazon recommendations alluded that it was worth watching, glad to say I wasn't disappointed.

A well made and very informative documentary that covers the Battle of the Somme superbly. The cast acting, although not award winning, was certainly believable and added greatly to the feeling of drama. I'm not an historian so can't speak for the accuracy but assuming it is accurate it's certainly informative.
My only real complaints are that I felt it could have been longer, at 60 minutes it did feel a bit short and that they only covered a few units (British and German). It would have been nice to have a broader perspective of the whole battle.

All in all an excellent and beautifully made documentary and one worth purchasing if you're looking for information about the First World War.

Rise of the Planet of the Apes [DVD] [2011]
Rise of the Planet of the Apes [DVD] [2011]
Dvd ~ James Franco
Price: £1.26

5.0 out of 5 stars Superb, 30 Dec. 2011
It's not often I come across a film these days that instantly falls into my category of favourite films, this one certainly fits the bill nicely.

I was never a fan of the original "Planet of the Apes" movies and only bothered watching this in the cinema as the trailer peaked my interest. Fortunately for me it turned out to be a gem. A well crafted revamp full of drama, emotion and meaning but without the annoying actors in ape masks.

The acting is excellent, particularly Andy Serkis who's performance was nothing short of Oscar winning (in my opinion anyway) and portrays the persecuted minority superbly. As a former victim of long term bullying I've always had a weakness for the "bully victim turns avenger" type of plots and the storyline in this film captures that nicely, although in this case you have intelligent apes rising up against their human oppressors. The plot develops in such a way that you can easily sympathise with the position of the apes and the bullying of Caesar while in captivity will likely have you routing for their cause. As an added plus I was also particularly impressed with the soundtrack which I thought complimented the drama nicely.

My only slight complaint was that at times I thought the CGI was overdone, there were a couple of occasions where it felt more like watching an animated film rather than a live action. Obviously the technology still needs work and is hardly perfect but it is a minor annoyance.

All in all a wonderful film that has now entered my personal list of favourite films of all time. I'm very glad to recommend this one.

Sony NWZE464B.CEW Series 8GB Walkman - Black
Sony NWZE464B.CEW Series 8GB Walkman - Black

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars It's good, but does have a few flaws, 30 Dec. 2011
I don't usually review electrical items but thought I should for this one, only to give people a heads up about a couple of issues.

Got given this for Christmas as my old MP3 player was starting to fail and on paper this one seemed ideal as a replacement. Sadly it does have a couple of issues which, although not a great deal, were a bit disappointing.

Firstly, as mentioned in another review, although it's advertised as an 8GB MP3 player the actual amount of memory which you can use to upload music is only about 6.7GB's and that's only after you format the player. In other words the actual memory falls short by 1.3GB's from that advertised. An annoyance to be sure and debatably false advertising.
Secondly the location of the power button and the ability to switch the player on by pressing any button is a bit of a design flaw in that if left in a tight pocket, such as a jeans pocket, it's likely you'll inadvertently switch it back on. You can switch on the hold function while the player is off which will prevent the player from playing music but it still means you'll likely run the battery down a bit quicker since the display will keep coming back on.
Finally, although not bad, I feel the sound quality could be better. Compared to my last player it doesn't sound quite as good.

On the plus side the battery life is excellent; I've so far played it for 8-9 hours straight without there being any drop in the battery charge display. Also the player is nice and easy to navigate and to be fair the sound quality isn't bad, even if it could be better.

It's not a bad MP3 player by any means but I felt I should do a review to give potential buyers a heads up to those issues. Hope this review helps.
Comment Comments (3) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jan 9, 2012 6:54 PM GMT

Frontlines: Fuel of War (PC DVD)
Frontlines: Fuel of War (PC DVD)
Offered by Satsumo
Price: £2.72

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Unoriginal and a bit "run of the mill", but good fun, 28 Dec. 2011
Before I start my review I'll just quickly state that I do not touch multiplayer games. If you're looking for a review of the multiplayer parts to this game you'll be best looking at one of the other reviews. This review will be solely about the single player campaign.

Not exactly an innovation in gaming and it is a little "run of the mill" for a shooter but I did find it a lot of fun.

On the plus side, as I said, although it isn't much new the gameplay is surprisingly good fun. You get to play with some interesting gadgets, such as remote controlled explosive cars and remote controlled missile firing helicopters. The action is usually a lot of fun even if it isn't often very intense and although the campaign story isn't great it does have just enough drama to keep you interested. As an added bonus the tanks can also be a lot of fun to drive.

On the minus side, like most of these multi player games, the campaign could be better; it isn't as intense or engrossing as say Crysis 2 or Half Life 2. The game has more than its share of bugs including clipping and minor graphical errors. Also friendly units have the strange habit of appearing out of thin air at machine gun posts and friendly tanks magically appear in front of you when objectives are completed. The graphics in general are bit below par for a game that's only 3-4 years old. Also the controls for the attack helicopters are terrible and very confusing which will probably result in you crashing before seeing any sort of action while using them.
My only other complaint is that many of the weapons lack oomph; you'll probably find yourself firing entire magazines into an enemy soldier unless you manage get a head shot, not a great deal but it is a slight annoyance.

Despite those flaws I did enjoy this one. If you're a fussy gamer you'll probably want to give this a miss since I suspect you'll find the flaws frustrating. If, like me, you aren't so fussy and are looking for a game that'll kill a few hours then I'd suggest at least considering this one. Regardless of its negatives I found it to be a lot of fun.

P.O.W. [DVD][2003]
P.O.W. [DVD][2003]
Dvd ~ James D'Arcy
Offered by Global_Deals
Price: £24.98

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A surprisingly good little series, 22 Dec. 2011
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: P.O.W. [DVD][2003] (DVD)
Got this for £1 from a charity shop on a whim, turned out to a lucky find and an absolute gem.

Not quite BAFTA winning but filled to the brim with excellent storylines, acting, setting and drama. The series was obviously based on some of the classic P.O.W films of the 60's and 70's and follows their example nicely.
There are several gritty subjects which are covered at various points during the series and make for surprising plot twists (I won't risk spoiling things by going into detail). The acting is often very good, even if it isn't quite up to BAFTA award standard, and certainly adds nicely to the drama.

The only minor complaint I have is that there are a few moments which drag a little, not a big deal but did give me the urge to reach for the FFWD button.

This is one TV series I am very happy to recommend.

Fallout: New Vegas (PC DVD)
Fallout: New Vegas (PC DVD)
Offered by Niceandquick
Price: £3.95

0 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Another Fallout 3 but with more, 19 Dec. 2011
Title says it all really, that's how I'd best describe this game anyway. That's not to say it's bad by any means, in fact I prefer it to Fallout 3, it just isn't vastly different.

On the plus side although it's very similar to Fallout 3 there is more to do and there are a few minor differences. It has a much larger variety of weapons and weapon calibres which is exactly what I thought Fallout 3 was lacking. Also there are more locations to explore, more side quests and generally more to do. Most of the side quests are great fun with plenty of intrigue, variety and action. New Vegas also has much more depth to it then Fallout 3 with more factions and alliances to play around with. Add to that some new equipment (such as Doctor's Bags for treating limbs and Weapon Repair Kits) and in all you get a bigger game.

On the minus side, to start with, it is a Steam game and I despise Steam. The main quest isn't nearly up to the standard of Fallout 3 and very much lacks it's depth and emotive feel. Also I'm a little annoyed by the change in using food or drink items which mean you now only get a temporary boost to your health rather than the permanent boost you got in Fallout 3. Plus I'm disappointed in the Weapon Repair Kits since you only get a slight improvement to your weapons condition when using them which is a letdown considering they are very rare to come across. Add to that a few annoying bugs at various parts of the game which, although not a big deal, can be an inconvenience.
My only other real complaint is the casting of Matthew Perry as a bad guy. I like Matthew Perry as an actor, he's been good in a few things and I am a fan. However I thought his casting in this game was wrong, he doesn't make a very convincing bad guy and didn't seem particularly committed to this role. He'd have been better voicing a good guy in my opinion.

All in all I prefer New Vegas. That's not to say I didn't like Fallout 3, but New Vegas has so much more to it. Although the main quest is not up to the standard of Fallout 3 the game makes up for it with its general depth and variety. If you liked Fallout 3 you should also find New Vegas to your liking.

Captain America - The First Avenger [DVD]
Captain America - The First Avenger [DVD]
Dvd ~ Chris Evans
Offered by 247dvd
Price: £9.97

0 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Cheesy but entertaining, 14 Dec. 2011
I wasn't originally planning to bother with this film, mainly because I had no interest in the Captain America comics and am losing interest in comic-book movie adaptations. However after seeing the trailer I decided to give it a shot.

It's quite good, not the best film ever but not bad. On the plus side it starts well and the story does get good in places, as a former bully victim I can always well appreciate the "bully victim transforms into tough guy" type of plots. The visuals and general ambiance of the film are also well done and the action can be quite good in places. Plus it's always a pleasure to see Tommy Lee Jones and Hugo Weaving in role and Hayley Atwell is nice as the bit of eye candy.
On the down side the action and the story as well as the dialog are often cheesy in places (to the point of being cheddar). As much as one should probably expect from a comic book adaptation. The action was at times over the top and slipped into silly. Also there were a few cringe worthy moments such as the relationship between the main character and the main love interest which at times got a bit soppy. Not a horrendously big deal but it did get a little silly.

Not a bad film by any means, all in all I liked it. In some ways it was quite uplifting, in a strange way and was certainly for the most part entertaining. The ending was an interesting surprise.
Much of the film reminded me of the recent Wolfenstein (2009) game due to the eerie blue power sources and general appearance of the enemy. Not sure if that part of the film was based on the game or vice versa, or perhaps it's just a coincidence.

So long as you aren't expecting an intelligent or serious action movie then I can see no reason to avoid this one.

Before I Forget
Before I Forget
by Fiona Phillips
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.99

4.0 out of 5 stars A pleasant read, 13 Dec. 2011
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Before I Forget (Paperback)
Firstly before I start reviewing the book I'll quickly warn anyone reading that this is not a book specifically about Alzheimer's.
Fiona does talk at length about her experiences of having both her parents suffer from the condition, in fact there are several chapters on her mother and the behaviour she displayed as her condition developed and worsened as well as a little about her father. However this is Fiona's biography so if you're looking for a book specifically about Alzheimer's then this won't be for you.

I got motivated to give this book a try because Fiona spent her teenager years growing up in the same area I did and we both went to the same secondary school (albeit with a 20 year age gap). I was curious to see what she remembers of the area and the school. It's no surprise to me that she seems to remember it pretty much as I always will.

The book makes for a nice enough read. Not my usual cup of tea but if you're someone who likes biographies then I can't think of any reason to avoid this one. It's always interesting to take a look at another person's life and experiences if nothing else. If anything I can certainly say her book gave me an insight into what it's like to watch a family member deteriorate while suffering Alzheimer's since It's not a condition I've ever had any personal experience of. I will stretch to agreeing with a couple of negative reviews that she does overindulge in the self pity just a tad.

As a footnote I'll add that I never understood this anti Fiona Phillips hate campaign which was going around a couple of years ago, and still seems to be something of an issue today. Granted I'll admit she's irked me on occasion with comments she made on GMTV and in her column for the Mirror. I don't always agree with her politically.
I hardly think any of it was worthy of a hate campaign though. It makes me think of the bizarre Facebook hate campaign aimed at Edith Bowman a couple of years ago simply because she "annoys" some people. It's pathetic and childish. If you want to start hate campaigns go and find a paedophile, a local gang leader or someone else truly worthy of it. A few careless comments from a TV presenter hardly qualify.

I didn't love this book but certainly didn't hate it and can't think of any reason why anyone should avoid it.

Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind [DVD] [2004]
Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind [DVD] [2004]
Dvd ~ Jim Carrey
Offered by Todays Great Deal
Price: £2.57

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Artistic, trippy and weird, 4 Dec. 2011
Got badgered into giving this one a go.

Definitely among the most unusual movies I've ever seen. It's an indie-romance type of film but is very well made with some excellent performances by Jim Carrey and Kate Winslet. In fact I found Winslet's character strangely attractive throughout, probably because of her impulsiveness. Could have done without the sight of Jim Carrey masturbating though.
I wasn't so impressed by Kirsten Dunst's role; her potential I thought was wasted throughout most of the movie. Also I wasn't a fan of Elijah Wood's character as he was just plain creepy.

The general ambiance of the film is one of trippy artisticness which can get confusing in places and plain weird in others but at the same time it makes up for it by its trippy artisticness (if that makes sense). The plot is somewhat unrealistic but with a few excellent twists. The plot twist at the end I thought was particularly well done. Also some of the soundtrack was well suited and pleasant, particularly a version of "Everybody's gotta learn sometime" by Beck.

As I said it's a romance film so if you're a bloke you might find it a little too soppy and romantic, it is a little chick-flicky. If you're a girl who's into well made romance then this one will be more your cup of tea. I found it a bit too soppy for me but it made up for it by being touching and thoughtful. Despite its weirdness it does get gradually easier to follow after about the first 30 minutes and I thought the weirdness added to its appeal (no doubt some would disagree).

Not the best movie on the planet but, depending on your tastes, not necessarily one to avoid.

PERVERTING THE COURSE OF JUSTICE: The Hilarious and Shocking Inside Story of British Policing
PERVERTING THE COURSE OF JUSTICE: The Hilarious and Shocking Inside Story of British Policing
Price: £2.32

4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Spot on, again!, 2 Dec. 2011
The follow up to "Wasting Police Time" by David Copperfield only this time written by an anonymous frontline Inspector. I won't bother detailing my personal background in this review since that can be found in my review for "Wasting Police Time".

Just as I did while reading "Wasting Police Time" I spent much of the time reading this book either laughing at Inspector Gadget's sense of humour, nodding my head in agreement at his comments or even on occasion clapping. He also gives us a realistic perspective of the police and the flaws of our criminal justice system, as opposed to the naive theories and tiresome propaganda which I've found frustratingly common from some quarters of the left (if I sound bitter and angry it's because I am).

There are a few particular points he makes for which I'll highlight here, although I'll try not to go off on too much of a rant.

Firstly he makes some excellent comments about prison and the belief that prison doesn't work. The reason the current prison system doesn't work is because the criminally inclined aren't in prison long enough for it to make a difference. The idea of abandoning the prison system in favour of community service and rehabilitation centres is not only foolish, it's also dangerous. Firstly while they're in prison they can't harm the people or community for which they were put in prison for in the first place. Secondly as Gadget very rightly points out the rehabilitation side doesn't work because they aren't inside long enough for it to make any real difference. And thirdly the bafflingly light sentences are no deterrent to make them think twice about committing the crimes in the first place.
Let me make clear that I am not in favour of capital punishment (too much risk of executing an innocent person), I am not advocating corporal punishment (although it is very tempting at times) and I am certainly not against rehabilitation. In fact I've long held the view that if they can be rehabilitated then all efforts should be made to do so, it's better to steer as many as possible away from that life style wherever possible. However rehabilitation only happens if they actually want to rehabilitate, if they don't they will simply go through the motions to look good for the parole board, and it only happens if there is no pressure or temptation to get back into that life-style (peer pressure for example). Also I strongly believe that some are so indoctrinated into that life-style that rehabilitation will never work regardless of how many programmes you put them through, in which case long term prison seems to me the only option. I'd also like to make clear (before I get grumbled at) that I'm not against social reform or social equality either, in fact I'm convinced it'll happen sooner or later anyway (probably later) but certainly not overnight.
I'm only highlighting those two points to pre-emptively counter any hysterical, childish, inaccurate and tiresome accusations of right wing fascist or "Daily Mail reader" insults (I haven't read a Daily Mail in 9 years) that frequently come up when opinions of crime are voiced which aren't compatible with some left wing fanatics' views.

Anyway moving on, he also has some excellent criticisms about the CPS, defence lawyers and the legal loopholes that many use to get their clients off with light sentences. I have no doubt about, and am not disputing, the need for defence lawyers. Obviously it's necessary for a fair trial and many an innocent person would be imprisoned without them. However we've reached a point in our judicial system where not only are there so many loopholes to exploit that prison is a rarity in a criminals career but that many defence lawyers are clearly more interested in winning cases then in finding appropriate justice for the crime committed. Even if it means that a particularly nasty crime gets let off with a proverbial tap on the wrist. The system is clearly long overdue for an overhaul and has far too many holes for people with dishonourable intent to exploit. I'm not for one minute suggesting completely removing legal defence (before some hysterical idiot suggests otherwise) but I am highlighting the desperate need for a revamp.

Finally he also makes good points about the age old "it's not their fault, they come from disadvantaged backgrounds" or "they've had traumatic childhoods" arguments. Another common theory which particularly irks me. Firstly not all criminally inclined are from disadvantaged backgrounds; in fact many are from good backgrounds and are not exactly crippled by poverty. Secondly plenty of other people come from poor backgrounds or bad childhoods and don't turn to lives of crime or gang culture. I myself had a very rough childhood including 13 years of bullying and didn't go down that route. My best friend also came from a bullied background, complete with little money, and again also didn't go down that road. Mr Gadget mentions that one of his constables spent most of his childhood in care. There are thousands of examples out there of people from traumatic childhoods or poor backgrounds who don't resort to a life of crime. That whole argument is very weak and only serves to divert responsibility away from the offenders by suggesting that they somehow aren't really responsible for their actions.
Interestingly enough often in the cases of vigilante action that argument suddenly becomes null and void from among its usual proponents, regardless of how far the vigilante was pushed or for how long they were on the receiving end of harassment (the Linda Walker and Tony Martin cases for example).It seems that personal backgrounds and trauma are acceptable defenses only in some politically convenient cases.

Just as with "Wasting Police Time" my only real disagreement with this book is his use of the term "underclass". I don't consider the problem to be defined in those terms since criminally inclined people are found from all walks of life and from all sorts of backgrounds. Also I think the problem is far too complicated to be defined within just one or two specific terms, such as class background.

I apologize if I've gone off on an excessive rant. This is a subject for which I am particularly angry about and as a result have particularly strong views.
I have long held the view for a number of years now that with the way things are going in this country regarding our law and order problems that we are gradually moving towards an emergence of vigilante gangs or an increase in vigilante action. I'm not saying I want that to happen, I'm well aware of the risks of vigilante gangs and how they can easily go out of control. However the law abiding public won't put up with the current situation forever and someone somewhere is bound to say enough is enough. You'd have to be fairly naive or a little deluded to think otherwise in my opinion.
Time will of course prove me right or wrong.

To sum up, an important book and one for which I hope people will learn lessons from (although that's probably wishful thinking). At times it becomes quite emotive, particularly when Inspector Gadget talks about traffic accidents and the fatalities that occur as a result. A book I gladly recommend to anyone concerned about the current state of law and order in this country.

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