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Craig Skinner "{insert your own joke here}" (Sheffield, UK)

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Rise of The Fenix (CD/DVD Deluxe)
Rise of The Fenix (CD/DVD Deluxe)
Price: £11.55

5.0 out of 5 stars I won't be lasering off my D tattoo any time soon, 23 Jun. 2012
The long-awaited third album from the brothers D is by far their strongest and most accomplished, musically and lyrically in my opinion. Having been a huge D fan for a long time, I did hope that this album wouldn't disappoint and it certainly doesn't - if you're already a fan then this is more great comedy rock (although with more emphasis on rock and less on comedy this time around) to indulge in, if you're not familiar with Tenacious D but are a fan of Jack Black's style and delivery then I urge you to listen to this album.
The more listens I give Rize of the Phoenix, the more I like it and the more I get the songs stuck in my head: this album is even better than the previous two. Yes, you heard right.
The whole sound is a lot more mature, with greater compositions and more complexity in the songs. Black's vocals are more experimental on this album and lyrically the D really seem to have grown up (whilst still remaining funny) as noted in songs such as `Roadie': a quite emotional tribute to underappreciated guitar and lighting techs, `Throw Down': a swipe at the `big 3' organised religions, and `39': a genuinely moving but funny song obviously dedicated to Black's wife Tanya Hayden.
Production is second to none which is great on an album which could easily be written off as another comedy rock album and Konesky (guitar), Spiker (bass) and Grohl (drums) are the perfect line up to bring the music to life.

Whilst on the bonus edition of the album it is great to have the additional tracks, it does spoil the flow of the album when the songs are simply tacked on to the end in the way they are. `39' is a great song to end on but `Quantum Leap' (first heard in a different form at the end of the Complete Masterworks 2 DVD) and `Rivers of Brown' do bring the album to a rather awkward end despite being great songs in their own right. I'd much prefer either the classic `hidden track' or a separate disc of bonus songs (of which this already has one, a DVD, so I shouldn't complain too much!).

Offered by best_value_entertainment
Price: £3.15

4.0 out of 5 stars Grimy..., 19 Feb. 2012
This review is from: Showtime (Audio CD)
With sparse - and often almost discordant - beats, coupled with Dizzee's LDN style aggressive rapping, this is certainly grime at it's best.

I do feel it's a shame there's the odd 'cheesy' moment like the 'Happy Talk' sample in 'Dream', but then again Dizzee's vocals and lyrics are strong enough for the track to maintain it's credibility (besides, I don't think he's taking himself too seriously on that particular track!).

'Showtime' is not quite as accessible as you might hope for the 2nd album from a Mercury Music Prize winner but does grow stronger and more enjoyable with each listen.
Singles "Stand Up Tall" and "Graftin'" stand out as a little more mainstream in their delivery and do actually serve as a good introduction to Dizzee Rascal's work and this album. However, do expect the album to be a little darker, musically and lyrically, compared to the singles.
Personally, I always hate the first few listens of most albums; while the tracks are still unfamiliar I just can't get in to them. However, as the lyrics become more discernable and different layers of sound emerge and become clearer with every play, this album will be one I'll keep coming back to for my grime fix.

Stereo Typical
Stereo Typical
Offered by best_value_entertainment
Price: £3.94

5.0 out of 5 stars Not so typical., 19 Feb. 2012
This review is from: Stereo Typical (Audio CD)
I was highly anticipating this album before I heard it in full - 'Down With the Trumpets' is one of my favourite tracks of 2011, and I'd watched all the videos on YouTube more times than I can count (actually a little surprised more of the 'covers' don't appear on the album - 'Price tag', 'You need me', 'Fly me to the moon' etc).

'Stereo Typical' doesn't disappoint, however.
Rizzle Kicks are two young lads from Brighton, rapping and singing about life through their eyes (drinking, smoking, girls and life in general, intertwined with that essential in rap and hip-hop: cockiness), over some really cracking music (and these are varied beats too, from quite guitar based to oldskool 80's to jazz). It's as simple as that.
For me, some tracks are not as strong as others; 'Demolition Man' and 'Travellers Chant' don't stand out as the best examples of RK's work. Tracks like 'Stop With The Chatter' and 'Homewrecker' are where RK really come alive and show us their skills both as songwriters/lyricists and rappers.
But on the whole 'Stereo Typical' is a great debut album; fresh sounding, exciting and intelligent (without being preachy) whilst at the same time managing to be pretty laid back. It will remain in my CD player for some time.

Black House
Black House
by Stephen King
Edition: Paperback

5.0 out of 5 stars A very worthy sequel, 19 Feb. 2012
This review is from: Black House (Paperback)
I first read Black House not long after it's release. I can't remember how I came into possession of it but I hadn't heard of it before, and given the title of the book does not allude to the fact it is a sequel to King and Straub's first collaboration, The Talisman, I read it without any prior knowledge of the first book. In fact, it may actually have been the first King book I read; he has now gone on to become one of my favourite authors.
I remember thoroughly enjoying it and only realised I was missing some information on Jack Sawyer's past a way into the book; "I've got this far, I may as well finish it", I thought.
It does almost work as a standalone novel; a credit to King and Straub's work.

Some time later I discovered The Talisman, and everything became clearer.

Black House (and The Talisman) are a part of King's Dark Tower world but if you're not familiar with that, do not fear, there is no need to be familiar with it. The story merely takes place in the same 'universe', so to speak. In effect it is a separate story containing some of the same elements from The Dark Tower series.

As a sequel to The Talisman, Black House is a very different story. There is far more input evident from Straub - indeed as stated by another reviewer, the use of Straub's home territories (pun!) of Wisconsin as the setting for our adventure as a pose to King's usual Maine locations is a big indicator of this.
Some of the prose is a little 'wordy' for my liking, and at a couple of points I find myself willing the narrator to just get to the point. Not being familiar with Straub's other work, I can only attribute this to his style of writing. Whilst this is not necessarily detrimental, some passages do stand out as being different to others. This, I imagine, is the nature of two authors working together.
The Talisman sent us on an adventure across The United States, where young Jack Sawyer gets into many a scrape, to put it lightly, along the way. It almost feels like there are endless possibilities, endless exciting events that could take place while on this journey... Black House focuses on a small area in 'Coulee Country', Wisconsin. Events feel almost contained within an invisible boundary. We get to see characters and their relationships more in depth. If The Talisman is free flowing, then Black House is concentrated.

Having re-read Black House recently I did find it hard going at first, again I can only attribute this to a greater input from Straub, However, once the scene is set, characters introduced and the story is fully underway it takes off like a rocket and I found myself unable to stop reading, snatching the odd minute wherever I could just to sneak in a page or two.
Without going into an in-depth character/plot analysis, I did find it hard to reconnect with Jack at first - I begun reading Black House immediately after finishing The Talisman, whether this helped or hindered, I don't know - but by a third of the way in it seemed to click for me, and there was the same boy/man who'd trekked across America some 20 odd years before.
Charles Burnside also makes for a great villain, and like all the best villains, manages to bring a little comedy to some horrific scenes.

I'm sure fans of King's other work (be it Dark Tower or not) will enjoy this great sequel which also serves as a nice little introduction to the Dark Tower universe.

Labyrinth (Collector's Edition) [DVD] [2004]
Labyrinth (Collector's Edition) [DVD] [2004]
Dvd ~ David Bowie
Price: £3.00

3 of 7 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Okay, it's not as bad as I remember it..., 19 Feb. 2012
Being a child of the 80's I had of course seen Labyrinth when I was younger. In the intervening years I developed a slight phobia of "creepy 80's puppets" for some reason. Jim Henson has a lot to answer for (although Sesame Street, lacking in rubber faces, is acceptable, as is Fraggle Rock, at a push).
My young mind had interpreted Labyrinth as a dark, rubber-faced, thing with a creepy 80's atmosphere.

So I had avoided this film for as long as possible until this Christmas when my wife received it as a present.

It was inevitable. I would have to face my fears.

...and it wasn't that bad. Yes, there's creepy 80's puppet's aplenty, and even more disturbingly; creepy 80's David Bowie's meat and two veg, but other than that it was relatively entertaining.
There are a lot of downfalls - the script seems a little wishy-washy in places, particularly the first 15 minutes and the ending - but however much of a cult following the film has nowadays it was written ultimately as a children's film and therefore the same standards of critique can't be applied to it. Taken in context, Labyrinth is an entertaining watch, but I won't be in a hurry to see it again for some time.

Horrible Bosses [DVD] [2011]
Horrible Bosses [DVD] [2011]
Dvd ~ Jason Bateman
Offered by MusicnMedia
Price: £2.43

1 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Proof that Hollywood can still actually come up with something relatively original., 19 Feb. 2012
This review is from: Horrible Bosses [DVD] [2011] (DVD)
I'm sure most people are aware of the stagnation in Hollywood filmmaking in recent years. I'm talking about, of course, the dreaded re-make. Or the equally as worrying prequel. Or sequel. Or the superhero rehash...
Whilst Horrible Bosses is not groundbreaking cinema, it is at least none of the above. As the plot is relatively simple, which is definitely not to say it is boring, it allows us to appreciate the characters in their entirety.

The three protagonists are acted well, Charlie Day standing out as a great comic actor. However, the characters that really make this film shine are the 'Bosses' themselves, played by Jennifer Aniston, Colin Farrell and Kevin Spacey. Aniston and Spacey are great in their respective roles without being too over the top, but Farrell's 'Bobby' is the high-point of the film for me, complete with comb-over and paunch, showing Farrell isn't taking himself too seriously. It's a shame not more screen time is dedicated to the coke-head jerk.
Jamie Foxx also adds another layer of humour to the mix as the 'hit man'.

As I said above, this is not groundbreaking in terms of plot but it's well written, directed and extremely well acted. It doesn't take itself too seriously, delivering plenty of black humour, and afterwards you will be left feeling pretty satisfied with your own job.

Baby Einstein Discover & Play Activity Gym
Baby Einstein Discover & Play Activity Gym

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Our little girl loves it!, 12 Sept. 2009
If you're looking for a play mat/gym to keep your little one occupied for a long time then look no further!
It comes with a number of fun toys and attachments, is very bright and colourful, very easy to put together and the base mat itself can be washed easily in the washing machine.
The best part of the gym though has to be the star that straps to the arches - it has a nice smiley face to get your baby's attention, lights up and plays a few classical tunes that, as far as baby's toys go, aren't too annoying for the parents to put up with hour after hour! Our 7 week old little girl lays staring at the star for ages with a big smile on her face!
This is definitely worth every penny - I highly recommend it!

Nothing But Blue Skies
Nothing But Blue Skies
by Tom Holt
Edition: Hardcover

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars The only book I've never been able to finish., 1 Sept. 2009
This review is from: Nothing But Blue Skies (Hardcover)
I'd not heard of Tom Holt before reading this book, and I certainly won't be checking out any of his other titles in the future.
As the title of my review states; this is literally the ONLY book I've never finished - and I've read a lot of books in my 27 years.
The plot sounds relatively bizarre and amusing but Holt's writing style is absolutely abysmal. I managed to read maybe a sixth of the book before I couldn't take it any more, and the whole time I was reminded of something that I couldn't quite place... eventually I realised what it was: all the failed attempts at 'writing a book' I made between the ages of about 9 and 14. The characters are awful and all extremely irritating in their actions; there is little or no development of these characters, the focus is just on whatever series of events is taking place (and this just goes on and on getting nowhere). The sentences are long-winded and almost seem to suffer from bad grammar (I know mine isn't perfect but this is supposed to be a published book for god sake!). As for comedy, I certainly didn't see any. The whole thing just has such an immature feel to it that I wonder if Holt, during a period of writer's block, didn't go back through all of HIS failed attempts at writing when he was a teenager, found this and hand it in to his publisher!
And I didn't give up easily - I really forced myself to read on, determined to find something I liked about it. It almost makes me mad - no, infact it DOES make me mad - that I wasted a portion of my life reading this appalling piece of writing when I could have been reading something so much better, i.e. anything.

Baby's Very First Book:Faces
Baby's Very First Book:Faces
by John Fordham
Edition: Rag Book

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Nice little book., 31 Aug. 2009
Our little girl is nearly 6 weeks and has enjoyed this book since she was 2/3 weeks old. Like all high contrast images it quickly distracts her and can keep her entertained for a good few minutes at a time. The mirror on the front also provides another bit of entertainment, although I'm not sure how much of herself she can really see in it as it's a bit flimsy and looks like a funhouse mirror when I look into it! The patterns and faces inside are what she really enjoys looking at and I'm sure as she gets older the words and 'crispy' pages will entertain too!
I would also recommend Art for Baby: 0 if your baby enjoys these high contrast images.

Pushing Daisies - Complete Season 2 [DVD] [2009]
Pushing Daisies - Complete Season 2 [DVD] [2009]
Dvd ~ Lee Pace

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Such a disappointing ending..., 31 Aug. 2009
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
I'm not going to give an overall description of what exactly Pushing Daisies is, who's who and why's why - if you're looking to find out what Pushing Daisies is all about then you should be starting with Series 1, otherwise you won't keep up... This review is aimed at those of you who enjoyed the first series (or to use the Americanism - Season, as we're seemingly calling them more and more these days!) and haven't yet bought the second.
Of course, it's outstanding; visually it's as much of a joy to watch as Series 1; the music never fails to set the right mood; the script is fun and witty; the direction is great; and of course the main cast are all fantastic in reprising their roles.
So, why four stars and not five?
Simple - it's the ending. Well, the last episode to be more accurate.
As I'm sure you, whoever might be reading this review, are aware Pushing Daisies was cancelled after this series with no signs of being resurrected (talks of a possible movie seem to have come to nothing). As such, Bryan Fuller and the writers obviously wanted to try and tie up some loose ends to give us the viewers some kind of closure. Unfortunately this is all done within the last 60 seconds of the final episode - don't worry I'm not going to give anything away and spoil it though - but if you have reached the last episode and are panicking that nothing is going to be resolved, don't worry, SOME THINGS will be, but it will ultimately leave you disappointed and angry at the Big American TV Execs who cancelled such an amazing program!
More on that last episode though; the whole thing felt rushed (not just the ending) and some of the editing was appalling to say the least: sentences cut off halfway through for example. And the CGI shark will make you cringe for all the wrong reasons.
But if you loved the first series you will love this series and I highly recommend you buy it.

On a final note, the series is littered with innuendo, some of which might fly over your head unless you're really paying attention - look out for the Norwegian M.I.L.F. - how did the writers managed to sneak that one in!

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