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A. Hinsley (England)

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The Medieval Military Orders: 1120-1314 (Seminar Studies In History)
The Medieval Military Orders: 1120-1314 (Seminar Studies In History)
by Nicholas Edward Morton
Edition: Paperback
Price: 16.39

5.0 out of 5 stars A wonderful introduction to the subject, 20 Nov 2013
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For the benefit of those who have had the pleasure of being taught by the author, this is indeed as engaging as his lecture and seminar work!

This is a wonderful introduction to the magnificent subject of the Medieval Military Orders. Covering the Knights of the Hospital, the Teutonic Order and of course the Templars, this is an in-depth general survey text that offers a comprehensive knowledge of the military orders without slipping the a self-indulgent style of writing many scholars of this subject often lapse into. It is a wonderful study that serves as an excellent opening gambit for the subject, and is thoroughly referenced - it also includes a number of primary sources for our own entertainment.

Highly recommended if you are new to the topic, or, indeed, if you are a specialist looking for a simple overview of the MMOs. 5/5.

Mechanical Bull
Mechanical Bull
Offered by MediaMine
Price: 8.99

5 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The dust has settled... the results are in!, 20 Nov 2013
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This review is from: Mechanical Bull (Audio CD)
The album has been out for the best part of two months, and we can now agree the dust has settled. The initial hype has died down - as have the usual criticisms that the band have sold themselves out - and I feel we can now subjectively look at what is, in truth, a very good album from Kings of Leon.

The album opens with a traditional KoL radio-friendly stomper - "Supersoaker". It is essentially a hyped-up rewrite of Radioactive, the lead single from the previous album, but it's poppy demeanour and fun-sounding energy mean it could quite happily slot anywhere amongst the band's material from 'Because Of The Times', which remains one of their most-loved records. It's definitely a stadium-designed song, and the sing-along chorus will ensure it asserts itself as a fans favourite in very little time.

It's a strong opener which then slips into track two: "Rock City", a bluesy number that echoes of the band's earlier work. Following this is one of the album's definite highlights: "Don't Matter". Distinctly heavier than the vast majority of the band's previous work, this is an absolute stomper that will get the crowds going. It's an eloquent mix of Sex Pistols-meet-Queens of the Stone Age punk, and it boasts some of the best guitar work we've had the pleasure of hearing from the talented Matthew Followill. Caleb, the lead singer, sounds absolutely evil in this song. It ranks amongst the band's most enjoyable songs yet.

"Beautiful War" follows; a song which is arguably the best of the lot as far as KoL are concerned. It is a slow number that echoes "Use Somebody" from 'Only By The Night', but the driving bassline and haunting backing vocals create a successful homage to a lot of U2's best material; indeed, the rhythm section shares a resemblance to "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For," which, let's be fair, is certainly no bad thing.

Track five is "Temple", which is pleasant enough without being particularly memorable. Just when you think that the album might just follow the same path as "Come Around Sundown" and slip into mediocrity, it is rescued by "Wait For Me", another "Use Somebody"-esque anthem that features some ethereal guitar parts akin to "Manhattan" from the band's fourth album. It's the third major highlight of the album, and is most definitely likely to gather commercial success when it is inevitably released as a single.

The album only continues to improve - whilst previous KoL records have come unstuck with mediocrity plaguing their good work at the mid-way point, this album goes from strength to strength with "Comeback Story" and first "Family Tree". A Steve Wonder-inspired number, Jared's funky bassline acts as the backbone to a song sure to get the crowd moving, whilst it is another paint-by-numbers sing-along chorus that you can imagine being sung back to the band by a stadium of 50,000 beer-drinking fans! "Comeback Story" is a nod to the wonderful "Back Down South" from the previous record: it is a country tune which also features a beautiful orchestral composition during the chorus. It's a wonderful piece of work and represents the band doing what they do best; having fun - indeed, the lyric "I walk a mile in your shoes/ and now I'm a mile away/ and I've got your shoes' is a nod to KoL being at their mischievous best.

"Tonight" is track nine, and it echoes "The Immortals" from the last record. You can argue this is more of the same from the band, but it is a positive arena-friendly song that at least makes for pleasant hearing. "Coming Back Again" follows, which is a high-octane stomper akin to "Don't Matter", but with its abundance in "oh-ohs" during the chorus it'll serve as a crowd-pleaser without a doubt.

The album closes with the country song "On The Chin"; a strange choice to end on considering how pumped-up this album is in comparison to the mellowness of "Come Around Sundown", but it is another radio-friendly number that acknowledges the band's southern roots.

Bonus tracks include "Work on Me" and "Last Mile Home". You can see why they weren't included in the original release as they are pretty standard KoL works, but again, they make for pleasant listening.

The bottom line is that this is most definitely a very listenable album from the band. Yes, it is largely radio-friendly, but the diversity between some of the mellow country songs to the sheer hysteria of the likes of "Don't Panic", and to stadium stompers like "Supersoaker". The range of song styles is great without offering anything particularly new; but if it ain't broke, why fix it? Overall this represents a return to form for the band, offering their most complete record since 'Only By The Night', but perhaps their most revolutionary work since their third record was released, way back in 2007. It is an album that does have a few forgettable moments - the ending is a little inconspicuous, and whilst songs like "Temple" and "Rock City" are listenable without being particularly memorable, the abundance of high points - "Supersoaker", "Don't Matter", "Beautiful War", "Wait For Me", "Comeback Story" and "Family Tree" are sure to become staples in the band's live performances for many years to come.


Microlabs Fc360 Speaker
Microlabs Fc360 Speaker
Offered by LambdaTek ComponentShop
Price: 64.20

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The best budget speaker system you can hope for!, 13 Sep 2013
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Simply brilliant. I would run out of superlatives if I was to attempt to disclose just how good this system is. The clarity of sound is sublime, and the sleek, modern design (which is a leather-effect surface) means it doesn't look out of place whatsoever.

One thing that should be pointed out is the size of the sub-woofer. It's freakin' huge. It's a 25cm-by-25cm-by-25cm cube of epic proportions. It can look a little bit silly on the office desk due to the size, but in reality it is supposed to be put on the floor!

The set consists of the aforementioned sub-woofer, two speakers, and a "control box" which has the volume and bass control knobs, as well as an auxiliary-in jack, and a headphones jack. One customer commented his headphone jack didn't work - that must be a one-off; as mine works fine!

Overall this is a fantastic purchase and one I would - and already have - recommend to friends. For the price, you genuinely can't ask for more. Microlab might lack the big-name reputation of Sony et al., but in terms of sound quality is packs a punch equivalent to anything any of the major brands could offer, especially when you consider the price. The bass is powerful and the treble is detailed; meaning this will serve its purpose for standard office use, but you will really make it worth the investment in using it for gaming, or as a mode of playing music.

5/5. Couldn't recommend any higher! Obscenely easy to set up, and the outcome is a brilliant deliverance of system sound.

Black Zipper Closure Nylon Glasses Eyewear Case Holder
Black Zipper Closure Nylon Glasses Eyewear Case Holder
Offered by sourcingmap
Price: 4.32

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant for the price, and very useful in the workplace., 13 Sep 2013
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Being both a university student and a bartender, I'm forever in busy environments, and if I had a dime for every time I lose my glasses, well... I wouldn't be working in a bar, put it that way!

This glasses case is fantastic. Sure, it's a little big for regular spectacles - its more designed for bulky sunglasses, but serves well nonetheless - but the padding gives you a heck of a lot of protection should you (like me) find yourself knocking your case all over the place!

Overall a very useful purchase - it's too big for a ladies' handbag, but it's certainly very practical for the office and even the home environment. Highly recommended.

Chelsea FC - Season Review 2012/13 [DVD]
Chelsea FC - Season Review 2012/13 [DVD]
Price: 12.66

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Underwhelming - but we shouldn't even be surprised..., 11 Jun 2013
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They say you shouldn't judge a book - or a DVD, in this case - by it's cover. But when a football club as big as Chelsea FC releases a "season review" with a dodgy cover, it is a bit embarrassing.

Look very closely at the picture of Petr Cech in the top-right-hand-corner. It might look like the top of his picture has been faded-out, but the reality is this cover is a Microsoft Paint job. Someone's cut off half of poor Petr's head, and, without any remorse, simply clicked the "fill" option and added a block of black paint in the hope no-one would notice.

A pretty laughable attempt that certainly points the way that this release is heading in.

"Bare-bones" - a word I've used to describe the last two major media releases from Chelsea Football Club.

Sadly, it is a word that will again be utilised in the description of the club's latest season review attempt.

My major gripes with the reviews from last season - Chelsea FC - Champions of Europe 2012 [DVD] and Chelsea FC - Double Champions! Season Review 2011/12 [DVD] - included the incredibly limited content, the poor visual quality, and the poor quality of the commentary (in terms of Chelsea TV's own Mickey-Mouse coverage as opposed to professional ITV/BBC/Sky Sports/ESPN commentary.

One of these aspects has been (partially) covered - the commentary of matches is now mixed; the majority of Premier League games sees official commentary lifted from official coverage of the matches, but most European games continue with Chelsea TV's coverage. It is a step in the right direction, at least - but the best thing here is that with a variety of commentators, listening to the same old voices rattle on all the while doesn't become such a repetitive chore.

My gripe about quality isn't such a massive one, but having watched live match coverage, plus Match of the Day and other highlights shows, all in HD for the last five years or so, isn't it about time these season reviews were recorded and delivered to the same standard? Live sport is probably the best exemplar in the difference between standard- and high-definition viewing. Again, sadly, we are left pondering as to which pixel the ball is! Okay, it isn't that bad, but the difference in clarity IS visible.

Finally comes my major concern. Yet again we've been "done" in terms of there being NO special features whatsoever. No post-season interviews or Goal of the Season reels. Not even a nod to Frank Lampard becoming the club's top goalscorer - you'd perhaps have thought that his 203 goals might have been put on as a half-hour-long bonus featurette? No chance. That cash-cow will inevitably be released when Frank eventually retires, or moves on.

So, once more, we are left with this "bare-bones" product. Yes, we want all the goals from all the games, but a bit of behind-the-scenes footage wouldn't hurt! What about those times when we've had full matches (such as the 2-1 win over Liverpool at the end of the 02/03 campaign, the famous Champions League win at Highbury in 2004, the 2007 FA Cup Final...) all in FULL as bonus features? The times we've seen behind-the-scenes footage from the training ground, and even pre- and post-match interviews? Well, there aren't many of those here at all.

Buy this if you HAVE to or, if you're like me, simply want to add it to your collection. But if you're looking for something that commemorates the wonderful achievements of an historic Europa League win (AND finishing in the Champions League spaces at the expense of Tottenham YET AGAIN), and then Frank Lampard's 203 goals, you're better off looking for better-quality highlights on YouTube.

This is not a "season review". Going by the Trades Descriptions Act of 1968, a "review" should include some actual reviewing, right? This is a grandiose goals reel.

Overall - 3/5 - the intermittent professional commentary just about salvages this DVD. It is a case of being a shade either side of cash-cow mediocrity - I'll leave it up to you whether it's closer to horse-sh*t or brilliance.

The truth is these reviews are getting worse and worse. A very underwhelming effort.
Comment Comments (3) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jul 7, 2013 8:18 PM BST

FA Cup Final 2012 - Chelsea 2 Liverpool 1 [DVD]
FA Cup Final 2012 - Chelsea 2 Liverpool 1 [DVD]
Dvd ~ John Terry
Price: 14.99

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars The FA Cup Final - and that's it., 19 April 2013
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Don't expect too much bang for your buck here, folks. This is the FA Cup Final and very little else. Yes, there are a few post-match interviews and of course the match is presented in full, but there aren't even highlights of either club's road to Wembley - very disappointing as there were some very memorable matches, including Chelsea's 5-1 demolition of Spurs in the semi-final.

You'd expect a little more considering the money this costs. Disappointed by the lack of special features - this is another bare-bones compilation, sadly.

Spartacus:War of the Damned [DVD]
Spartacus:War of the Damned [DVD]
Dvd ~ Liam McIntyre
Price: 19.15

73 of 79 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An epic finale to one of the great television series, 9 April 2013
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So, Spartacus nears its ultimate conclusion. We are but days away from the very last episode of what has been - for my money at least - the best of all four series of Spartacus.

The first we saw of Spartacus was the long-haired Thracian who became Capua's greatest champion. Andy Whitfield was perfect for the role; the kind-faced, big-hearted man who was full of such bubbling rage come the end of the series. There was sex, violence, a little more violence, plenty of political intrigue, more sex, more violence, some wonderfully-created characters and most importantly of all, a killer script.

When Whitfield's health declined, a prequel series aired, starring Dustin Clare as Gannicus; the greatest champion that the ludus of Batiatus had possibly ever produced earning his freedom - and title as a "God" amongst gladiators - on the sands of the new arena.

Both seasons were quite frankly magnificent. The casting was superb, and the writing was even better. But the sad news came that Andy Whitfield had tragically passed away, and there was the need for a new Spartacus to be cast. Enter the relatively unknown Liam McIntyre; at first a little wooden, but he soon grew into the role. He portrayed a different Spartacus; a man so utterly hell-bent on spilling Roman blood that he seemed unrecognisable from Whitfield's earlier portrayal.

And so McIntyre lead an ensemble cast in the third series; Vengeance. It was Blood and Sand on a wider scale - there was even more violence, even more sex, and this time we saw countless battle-royales between Spartacus' rebels and the hired mercenary gladiators under the scheming Syrian Ashur. We had villains left, right, and centre - Craig Parker's Glaber was a fitting lead bad-guy, but with his serpent-like wife Illithyia, the psychotic Lucy Lawless as Lucretia, and the aforementioned Ashur at his side, those dastardly Romans were a force to be reckoned with.

But the main thing missing from season three was a PROPER baddie. I'm talking about someone like Batiatus, here. I have never been a massive John Hannah fan, but he played the role perfectly. At first he was in over his head, but this man had an eye for a shrewd political manoeuvre and became increasingly and surprisingly violent in his execution of his plans. It made for good drama, and Spartacus had to overpower his master both physically and mentally. With Glaber and company, it was more of an extended battle sequence, separated by scenes of running through a forest, with a major rebel character being killed every now and then along the way. The inspired decision to bring back Clare's Gannicus abated the fans, but Vengeance - despite being a good follow-up to the refreshing original series and its prequel - lacked the same cutting edge. The dialogue was as good, the acting still as brilliant as ever, but the lack of any real deep plot-line left us feeling very slightly cheated. Yes, it was all about "Vengeance" - the titular character wanted Glaber's head; Naevia and Crixus wanted to address the wrongs Ashur had committed against them; Lucretia desired to assert herself over Illithyia once again; Agron wanted to avenge his brother, and so on, and so on. But that is moreorless all it was - fighting, fighting, fighting.

So with season four announced as the culmination of all that running and fighting, the producers had to make amends. The most important change was to bring back a proper villain of the ilk of Batiatus - or even Tullius in Gods of the Arena. Step forward the man to eclipse them all - Simon Merrells as Marcus Lucinius Crassus. With a supporting arc including his devious son, Tiberius (brilliantly portrayed by Christian Antidormi as the boy you absolutely love to loathe) and the simply superb Todd Lasance as Julius Caesar (in an interesting take on the Ciaran Hinds-played elder Caesar of HBO's Rome, we see Lasance play a far younger Caesar under Crassus' leadership, who promises to elevate the young general by nurturing his own political nous), Spartacus finally has a villain who can match his own under-estimated intelligence. Maybe, on reflection, Glaber and company were dumbed down to make Crassus appear the wealthy genius he supposedly was. Either way, it was a piece of inspired casting and Merrells' portrayal ranks alongside Lucy Lawless' performance as Lucretia as the best across all four seasons.

And so, the scope widens further. Spartacus now has a full-on rebel army, and he is winning battle after battle. The title - War of the Damned - suggests a gut-wrenching finale that is sure to lead to the deaths of so many of our favourites, as the history of the Third Servile War would support, but such is the grandiose scale of this season that you feel it will not have been in vain. Spartacus' ultimate victory is a moral one which has echoed through legend for millennia. It is something that the show manages to capture quite wonderfully and emphatically translates it onto the screen. War of the Damned will quite certainly be remembered as the biggest, most bad-ass, and certainly the best of all four seasons. To give credit where it is due, McIntyre also comes into his own in this season, also, but the most touching Spartacus moment is the very final montage where we see Andy Whitfield screaming "I AM SPARTACUS!" - a most fitting ending.

For the reasons cited above - the return of a brilliant cast (including a match for Spartacus in the genuinely-fantastic triumvirate of villains) and a killer script - this time WITH direction - makes for one magnificent spectacle. It comes with everything you might expect - the CGI is as good as ever, the sets are breath-taking, and quite frankly, this is as good as it gets.

This season is bigger, better, and basically more brilliant in every possible way than the previous seasons. Starz have surpassed themselves, and I don't think they will ever match this effort. 10/10 just about gives this series justice.


I do have to be a little critical of the DVD release in the UK, however. The set is a barebones release with NO extras, and again there are no subtitles. Whether Starz are just being lazy and rushed the release to the UK market (possible as the US release isn't out for a few more weeks) or they really exhausted all possible avenues of special feature on the previous sets, it is a little disappointing.

I would therefore revise this review to suggest 10/10 for the series, and 5/10 for the release.
Comment Comments (13) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Nov 23, 2013 7:51 AM GMT

Wrath Of The Titans (DVD + UV Copy) [2012]
Wrath Of The Titans (DVD + UV Copy) [2012]
Dvd ~ Sam Worthington
Offered by Venture Online
Price: 4.28

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars High-octane family fun!, 4 Jan 2013
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Let's not go over the top - this is a standard 7/10 movie, but it does have its perks.

The original film wasn't bad at all. It had something resembling a storyline to it, and some brilliant creatures as sidekicks to Perseus, including Draco and Sheikh Suleiman. The baddies were generally better as well; Calibos was a scary antagonist, Medusa was brilliantly done and the Kraken was fantastically designed. Overall it was a sound film with a good ensemble cast.

The sequel invests heavily on thrills and spills... and even more thrills and spills. There is very little plot besides that fact Ares and Hades have imprisoned Zeus in order to free the evil Titan Kronos from the impenetrable prison Tartarus, and Perseus must rescue him. That's about it. Just battle a million other monsters and giants and cyclopes in the process.

There are the obvious self-indulgences - an over-reliance on CGI being the main one. Liam Neeson and Ralph Fiennes do a damn good job here, and the scene where the two of them take to the battlefield alongside each other is the most visually stunning of all the scenes in the movie. Yet what the film builds up to is Kronos being released from the Underworld, and his escape is immensely anti-climatic. It is what spoiled the film. Rather than have him escape and lay waste to the world and have the audience think there can be no hope of victory before Perseus suddenly overcomes the Titan against all the odds at the film's end, the hero simply flies on his Pegasus into the bowels of the beast to destroy him with the Spear of Triam. It is an overly brief encounter... I don't want to use the word 'contest' because there isn't one, and it leaves the film feeling just that little bit hollow.

The supporting cast do well, once again. Rosamund Pike and Toby Kebbell offer sound performances, and Bill Nighy is absolutely superb. Edgar Ramirez as Ares was a good piece of casting, and he should have been given even more screen time. Sam Worthington is sound as the lead choice as well.

Overall, this is a fun and light-hearted film. It is visually stunning and has enough to entertain all the family. Whilst it lacks of thrills and spills, there is enough for everybody here. It isn't a bad film at all.

Chelsea FC Official Calendar 2013
Chelsea FC Official Calendar 2013
by Danilo
Edition: Calendar

2.0 out of 5 stars Gorgeous but seriously flawed design, 27 Dec 2012
The new calendar is visually stunning - the design is absolutely fantastic. The images of the players look fantastic and it is no less than what you would expect for the European Champions.

But this lacks the basic functions of a calendar. The actual dates are squeezed into the bottom corner and are barely visible on some of the bright blue backgrounds. The design means you can't even write even the smallest details next to the specific dates - what is the point of a calendar you can't even use?

They have got it horribly wrong this year, sadly. It looks beautiful. But function must be held in equal regards to aesthetics.


Princess of China (Acoustic)
Princess of China (Acoustic)
Price: 0.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful rendition, 25 Sep 2012
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The original from Mylo Xyloto is a furious effort determined to be chart-worthy. This is a stripped-down, acoustic ballad that is an emotional whirlwind.

"You really hurt me" - you can almost feel the angst of this lyric at the song's close. With the synth backing, the original almost sounds like an angry exchange, whereas this acoustic version screams out about heartache and loss.

It is the antithesis of the Mylo Xyloto rendition and for that reason makes it such a beautiful song. Princess of China is totally different to anything Coldplay had done previously - yet this version sounds a little more familiar at the same time as totally revolutionary.

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