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Nick D. "Historical novel fan" (London)

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Welcome To The Punch [DVD] [2013]
Welcome To The Punch [DVD] [2013]
Dvd ~ James McAvoy^Mark Strong^David Morrissey^Peter Mullan^Andrea Riseborough^Daniel Mays^Elyes Gabel^Daniel Kaluuya^Johnny Harris^Robert Portal^Jason Maza^Dannielle Brent
Price: £2.49

5.0 out of 5 stars Good solid entertainment, 18 Aug. 2013
Contains spoilers.

This is an excellent thriller. I liked it because it sets up Sternwood (Mark Strong) as a despicable villain only to change your perception of him as the film progresses. I didn't find Max (James Macevoy) weak or unconvincing as other reviews have suggested. instead, he ignores the typical hero stereotyping. His broken cop comes across as vulnerable and human.

I didn't find the plot predictable. it kept on surprising me.

Andreas Risborough is definitely a rising star.

In short, don't trust the negative reviews.

Maggot Moon
Maggot Moon
by Sally Gardner
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £10.99

23 of 29 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Voyeuristic horror story for adults not literary fiction for children, 7 May 2013
This review is from: Maggot Moon (Hardcover)
I am reviewing this book, not because it is controversial, but because I think it has been over-hyped in a way that is misleading and potentially damaging. I blame the publisher for mis-positioning it, for suggesting it is something that it can never be: a children's book.

Maggot Moon may be praiseworthy for exposing the evils of a totalitarian regime, and for a fluent writing style, but you cannot dress-up torture, abuse and murder as entertainment and call it children's literature. Anyone who thinks this is appropriate reading for a child under the age of 16, needs to seriously question their judgment. Maybe this book has a place among university reading lists, but not in a secondary school among young impressionable children.

I believe that the subject matter of the book would be more acceptable if it had been described in a factual account, rather than graphic fiction that leaves nothing to the imagination. I don't enjoy reading about human suffering for entertainment. Perhaps contemporary TV and cinema have sensitised us to the point where violence has lost its power to shock us, but that should not blind us to its potential to normalise violence for future generations.

I am not an old fart, just a parent who wants the best for his kids. I fully accept that we cannot wrap up our children in cotton wool, or hide the truth from them, but we can at least protect them from the horrors of human nature. until they have developed the maturity to understand it.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jun 21, 2013 9:19 AM BST

Apple 13-inch MacBook Pro (Retina Dual-Core i5 2.5GHz Processor, 8GB DDR3 SDRAM, 256GB Flash, HD Graphics 4000, Launched Oct 2102)
Apple 13-inch MacBook Pro (Retina Dual-Core i5 2.5GHz Processor, 8GB DDR3 SDRAM, 256GB Flash, HD Graphics 4000, Launched Oct 2102)

11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The best 13" Laptop available as at December 2012, 1 Dec. 2012
I just bought this machine. I am simply blown away by it.

Think of it as a 13" MacBook Air with a better screen. In fact, this machine is all about the display. The retina screen is gorgeous, perfect for using MS Office, viewing movies and surfing the web, it is produces rich colours with pin sharp perfection. it takes working on a laptop computer to a completely new (and higher) level.

Some people have complained about the lack of a discrete graphics GPU. My previous 2009, 13" MacBook Pro was much inferior in terms of spec to this latest Mac model, but it still managed to play Call of Duty 4 without too much trouble. This new machine has a better graphics processing capability. So ignore the naysayers.

Overall, it weighs very little more than a MacBook Air so is equally portable. It is much easier to carry than the 15" MacBook Pro with retina display. Although this is due to its form factor as much as its weight. The footprint is identical to the 13" Air.

If you're stuck between choosing this machine and a 13" Air, it boils down to screen resolution. If having a high quality display is important to you - which it will be if your work requires you to spend several hours a day in front of your computer, then the retina macBook Pro is the machine to go for.

Battery life is exceptionally good due to it having a larger battery than the Air. I worked for 7-8 hours without plugging it in. The machine is very efficient and switches itself off when unattended. You can immediately return to where you left off and, as i say, you really don't need access to an electrical socket for an average work day. You should easily get 5-6 hours of continuous use from it. Certainly, its a step-up versus the original 13" MacBook Pro in this area.

I would recommend getting your MBPr with a 512 GB hard drive. The standard SSD drive at 128 Gb is too small, and even 256 GB just isn't quite enough these days, especially if you like to download movies. This obviously adds to the cost, which brings me to the only serious negative about it: the price. The 13" MacBook Pro with the retina display is expensive.

Overall, I cannot praise this machine enough. Sure, there'll be a new model inside 9 months, but this has enough advantages to last you for at least five years. I think it is absolutely right to say there is no better machine on the market right now.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Dec 2, 2012 11:54 AM GMT

LEGO Architecture 21009: Farnsworth House
LEGO Architecture 21009: Farnsworth House

20 of 21 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Lego doing what Lego does best - buildings, 4 Feb. 2012
I am a great fan of modern architecture and an equally avid supporter of Lego, so, when I saw this new architecture series from Lego, I was immediately hooked.

This isn't a difficult building to construct, nor is it too simple. What my daughter and I liked about it was that it revealed the cleverness of the design of the real Farnsworth House on which it is based as well as the cleverness of the Lego designer who translated its many features into a miniature model.

I thought it was a bit expensive for what it was, but it has become one of my favourite Lego models. In many ways, Lego's architecture series is a welcome return to Lego's roots - buildings. It makes you appreciate what an incredibly clever and flexible building system Lego is. The result is a thing of beauty that can be satisfyingly displayed.

I look forward to other models in this range very much. Thank you Lego.

Bose ® AE2i Audio Headphones - Black (discontinued by manufacturer)
Bose ® AE2i Audio Headphones - Black (discontinued by manufacturer)

20 of 24 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Head and shoulders above other headphones, 4 Feb. 2012
Got these gorgeous headphones from by equally beautiful other half as a Christmas present. I couldn't have been more delighted.

These are brilliant headphones. Period. Bose has a knack of building stuff that works reliably and beautifully. If you searched, i am sure you could find alternatives that worked just as well for a lesser price. With Bose, however, there is no risk of mediocrity. You just know that they will deliver. The rich base, well separated high end notes, and a stunning stereo effect are exactly what you need and expect for a premium listening experience.

I use my AE2is with a MacBook, iPad and iPhone. They work seamlessly with all three devices. Indeed, i can use the in-built microphone to make calls with my iPhone and for speech input on the Mac.

Perfect for travel, especially on aeroplanes, I like the over-ear design. This seems to ensure overall sound fidelity while preventing any outside noise from interfering. These are not noise cancelling headphones, so ultimately don't provide the last word in cocooned listening. But they don't need batteries or weigh heavily on your head. In fact, I like the lightness very much.

Ultimately, when you compare the combination of these headphones connected to an iPod with a Sony walkman and the ear buds we all used to wear a few years ago, there is no comparison. Bose is light years ahead.

Hope you get as much out of yours as I get out of mine.

Drive [DVD]
Drive [DVD]
Dvd ~ Ryan Gosling
Offered by best_value_entertainment
Price: £2.53

0 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An achingly cool and compelling movie, 4 Feb. 2012
This review is from: Drive [DVD] (DVD)
This movie is well worth the price of admission. Classy and well-judged, it is a modern cautionary tale. Gosling delivers an impressive turn as the driver and Carey Mulligan makes herself believable and irresistible as the love interest. Their on-screen chemistry sucks you into the plot and makes you very much care about what happens to them. The plot unfolds through deft visual storytelling with a pace that builds nicely. Though a thriller in the classic sense, all the characters invite deeper analysis of their motives and personalities, which gives the movie an unexpected depth. And, oh, it has one other great element: awesome music.

(This bit contains spoilers)

I have two minor complaints about Drive. Sometimes Gosling just doesn't have the physical presence or raw malevolence to be as violent as his character is forced to be on occasions, so scenes where he deals with bad guys aren't always convincing. The other problem i have is with the actual level of violence. I just don't need to see someone getting their head crushed. I don't think the graphic nature of the killings is either necessary or entertaining. Perhaps a toned-down level of violence would have been more appropriate to Gosling's character. Having said that, I can see that the director has deliberately contrasted the outward veneer of niceness with an inner darkness. In the end this undermines our empathy for Gosling's character that earlier scenes have built so well.

All in all, though, this film is an impressive work that bears repeat viewing.

Apple 13 inch MacBook Air (Dual-Core i5,1.7GHz,4GB,256GB Flash,HD Graphics)
Apple 13 inch MacBook Air (Dual-Core i5,1.7GHz,4GB,256GB Flash,HD Graphics)

61 of 64 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Who needs a MacBook Pro now?, 26 Sept. 2011
I reviewed the latest 13" MacBook Pro shortly after it came out in February of this year and pronounced it the best 13" notebook computer money could buy. Well, its reign at the top was short-lived and the time has come to hand over its crown to its younger brother, the latest 13" MacBook Air.

Using Intel's advanced Core i5 and i7 Sandy Bridge processors the new Air is incredibly powerful. These chips give it more than enough horsepower to comfortably outclass anything other than the early 2011 MacBook Pros. With Solid State Drives, the perceived speed of the new Air is faster than the MacBook Pro. Boot times are lightning fast. The Air only lacks power when asked to perform resource hungry work like digital editing. For all routine tasks, the latest Air demolishes my previous 2010 13" MacBook Pro. It's fair to say that it is all the computer that 99.9% of users will ever need.

Despite all this power, it doesn't get too hot. All in all, it is very easy and comfortable to use. Hard core gamers may bemoan the lack of a discrete graphics processor, but the inbuilt Intel GPU is perfectly adequate and it is certainly no worse than the previous generation of MacBook Pro which was a respectable gaming platform. Call of Duty 4 and Civilization V can both be played without enduring intolerably slow polygonal rendering. Screen quality is excellent.

The 13" Air runs MS Office flawlessly. It's great for surfing the web, watching movies, managing pictures in iPhoto and video chatting. The way in which you can perch it on your lap while sitting on a sofa makes it ideal for writing, reviewing email and doing countless other stuff in a relaxed way. It really makes you wonder why all computers aren't built this way. Since the form factor hasn't changed since 2010, suffice it to say that the Air's ergonomics are peerless.

There are two downsides. One is that the hard disk is only 256 GB in size. I think the minimum acceptable size is now 500 GB and ideally 1 TB or 2 TB. If you own a lot of media, this machine may run out of memory quite quickly. I am very surprised that Apple hasn't made a 500 GB SSD available as BTO upgrade for the Air as it has for the 13" MacBook Pro. I guess this is due to cost.

The other problem is that battery life seems less than the late 2010 model, I got 7 rather than 8 or 9 hours. This is a disappointment, but isn't a deal-breaker. You expect a certain loss in battery life when you get a much more capable chip.

In short, this is a truly great personal computer. It marks the fact that we've now reached a point in time where processor power is no longer dependent on chip size. The latest processors are capable of being squeezed into the thinnest enclosures, allowing small and light machines to perform tasks that only a few short years ago would have required a slab of plastic and metal weighing almost 10 lb. This is progress.

The OSX 10.7 Lion operating system is a work of genius. Launch Control, which enables you to review and launch all Apps via a single click, is a very clever refinement. So too is Mission Control, which replaces Expose and allows you to wade through a mass of open windows and applications to find the one you need. Lion also comes with a new Apple email programme which works well. In Safari, I like the way you can now slide pages with your fingers just as if you were turning pages in a book. Nice touch. Hundreds of other interface tweaks make this a no-brainer upgrade.

I'd go as far as to say that the latest 13" Air is so good, it makes the 13" MacBook Pro redundant. It is definitely the benchmark for future systems to beat. When you get as much power in a machine this slim, the incremental power you get in a 13" MacBook Pro doesn't seem worth it toting around in a machine that weighs so much more.

If you need a new machine now, this is undoubtedly the one to buy.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jun 25, 2012 9:02 AM BST

LEGO 10210  Imperial Flagship
LEGO 10210 Imperial Flagship

8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Shipbuilding has never been more fun, 26 Sept. 2011
This review is from: LEGO 10210 Imperial Flagship (Toy)
With children approaching their teens, lLego has become an extremely popular activity in our home. Whether it is Harry Potter the excellent City series, or more adventurous models like this one, all of the latest models exude a quality and charm that makes this an ultimate toy and unparalleled play experience. Best of all, it is something that parents can enjoy doing with their children.

In case it's been a while since you last played with Lego, it has come a long way in the last decade. It is still an extraordinarily clever building system that can be used to construct a multitude of different structures, vehicles and other objects, but it has evolved into a number of kits the construction of which results in stunning models. They take time and effort to complete now. And when you're finished the sense of achievement is extraordinary. So much so that you'll be very reluctant to de-construct the resulting models. If you do, you'll be able to re-assemble them as many times as you need. The design and fit of individual components is superb.

This amazing ship is one of the very best examples of Lego construction kits. It has a number of custom parts as well as the usual range of bricks. Obviously, the pieces don't need to be glued together, but the process of construction is complex. It will take days rather than hours to complete. I strongly suggest you create a special area for building it - well away from small children and kitchen tables that need to be cleared for lunch and tea!

As the ship takes shape, you will marvel at the many details it includes, from the Captain's cabin, the cannons, the figure head and the rigging. The way in which the model has been engineered is a marvel to behold. The assembly instructions are equally well thought- out. During construction, you may think that a particular piece is missing, but in all my many years of buying Lego no unopened box has ever been lacking in a single component. Just check the plans and you'll see what is needed.

You do need to be fairly systematic when you start building it otherwise the many pieces may confuse you. Best only to assemble it bag by numbered bag according to the instructions, but also to divide each bag into colour-coded parts before you start. A couple of times my daughter thought Lego had got it wrong. They had not. We were mistaken. Interpreting the instructions correctly and overcoming various problems you encounter is all part of the 'fun'. When we first started the massive number of pieces made the project seem daunting. When we finish, we felt hugely proud to have built such a work of art. The completed model is a thing of great beauty. (Just don't see if it floats in the bath!)

Congratulations to Lego for producing a simply amazing product. It was expensive, but worth every penny. More like this please.

How Starbucks Saved My Life
How Starbucks Saved My Life
by Michael Gill
Edition: Hardcover

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant tale of redemption and humanity, 17 Jun. 2011
Michael Gill's story is remarkable. He had everything a man could ask for: a stellar career in advertising, a wonderful home and family, and the kind of life we all dream of. He is someone who could have come straight out of the TV series "Mad Men", but is a real character not an invented one. Despite achieving great success, he took everything he had for granted. He was selfish. He was arrogant. He wasn't there for his kids. He cheated on his wife. Then, just as he was reaching the age when everything usually turns right in your life, he lost his job, his wife divorced him and he became very sick. Thanks to a chance encounter, Starbucks saved his life. Literally. I don't want to spoil the story, but it not only gave him a job when he reached rock bottom but crucially access to medical care that saved him from a potentially fatal condition.

The facts of Michael Gill's rise and fall are fascinating, but what makes this a compelling and heartwarming tale of redemption is his brutal frankness and humility. If he had been a detestable character before, he became someone profoundly changed and worthy of respect despite the lowliness of his subsequent position. This book reminds me in many ways of Tom Wolfe's "Bonfire of the Vanities" except that this is no fiction.

It is being turned into a movie with Tom Hanks. If it is half as good as this book, it may get an Oscar.

The Otterbury Incident (Puffin Books)
The Otterbury Incident (Puffin Books)
by C.Day Lewis
Edition: Paperback

5.0 out of 5 stars Best of British Children's Fiction From a By-gone Era, 25 May 2011
This is a wonderful and charming book that is beautifully descriptive of post war Britain. The story is about two rival gangs who join together to help one of their number raise money to pay for a broken school window. The story is a simple yet interesting tale that illustrates the lives, values, hopes and dreams of young teenagers at the time. Lewis weaves the components together with rare skill - his writing is absolutely superb. His characters seem so real that you can only feel a natural and powerful empathy for them. He also injects real pace into the book which this builds into a crescendo of dramatic action when thieves steal the money that the boys have raised. The book isn't long, so is an easy read. It is somewhat dated now, but a worthwhile book that any young lad will enjoy. All in all, this a jewel in the crown of British literature, a simple tale, brilliantly told.

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